Nathan & Nora’s Infinite Playlist

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I just started watching “Upload”on Amazon. It’s a sci-fi comedy series set in a completely automated future in 2033 centering around Nathan Brown, a handsome and eccentric coder who meets his untimely death in a self-driving car accident. In this universe, in lieu of dying, people can choose to “upload” themselves and their memories online to an afterlife-like cloud game owned by super-corporation, Horizen. You essentially live in this afterlife universe where you can “buy” In-N-Out combo meals, talking therapy dogs, and live in elite lake view accommodations, with the appropriate funds, of course, and “live” amongst other fellow upload-ers and still communicate with the living (and have VR sex with them, too). Every uploader has a Horizen-employee handler “angel” that assists them whenever prompted. Nathan’s “angel” is Nora, a helpless romantic from New York who is falling for Nathan, hard. And it appears, Nathan might be falling for her, too, despite having a still-alive super-controlling girlfriend, Ingrid (who is solely responsible for Nathan’s account and honestly is just terrible). To avoid anymore spoilers, I won’t go into it anymore, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Portland just experienced its first weekend of summer-like weather, and I’m just not ready for it. I’m still enjoying the mild 60s temps where I can wear a peignoir to bed, but still have a light blanket if needed. Just before we hit near 90-degree weather, I cooked up this rich chocolate zucchini cake with creamy two-ingredient chocolate frosting. I stan this cake and Nathan and Nora’s VR relationship.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake w/ Chocolate-Coconut Frosting
Yields two 9-inch cakes
Recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour

FOR THE CAKE

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup gluten-free almond flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3 cups zucchini, grated (about 2 large zucchini)
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1 3/4 cup coconut sugar
4 flaxseed eggs (4T flaxseed + 10T water)
1/2 cup non-dairy yogurt
1 1/2t pure vanilla extract
1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips

METHOD
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift and combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Place grated zucchini in a blender and blend till creamy.

In a large bowl, cream the sugar and oil then add in the blended zucchini. Add in the flax eggs, yogurt and vanilla. Cream till fully incorporated.

Gradually stir in the dry ingredients without over-mixing. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the batter into the two pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, depending upon your oven’s settings.

FOR THE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS
1 cup whole-fat canned coconut milk
1 package (10 ounces) vegan chocolate chips I like these
1/2t kosher salt

METHOD
Place the coconut milk and chocolate chips in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Mix with a rubber spatula till completely melted and incorporated. Add in the salt. Place melted chocolate mixture into a bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator. The frosting is ready to whip when it’s no longer pourable (from 1.5 to 2 hours).

Once the mixture is ready for whipping, place it in an electric mixer and whip till light and fluffy (about 5 mins). Frosting is ready to use (or lick from the spoon, your choice)!

Present & Company

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I recently went down a Jane Austen rabbit hole, all in thanks to peanut butter frosting. Yes, peanut butter frosting. Stay with me, I’ll explain.

Whilst making peanut butter frosting for some cupcakes for a friend of a friend, my spice grinder overheated and broke. (I make my own powdered sugar which is very easy to make at home, if you have the proper equipment, that is.) I did not have enough powdered sugar to create the consistency I needed for the frosting and made several attempts to “fix” the frosting I had, to no avail. In COVID-19 times, a “quick trip” to the market for new equipment or a box of powdered sugar was out of the question for me.

When I finally threw in the towel, my kitchen resembled that of one Bridget Jones during the famous birthday dinner scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary where her kitchen is turned completely upside-down thanks to blue soup, omelet with caper berry gravy and a dessert that tastes like orange marmalade. I couldn’t help but feel like poor Bridge—so helpless and so quick to reach for the bottle of booze. Her surprising visit from Mark Darcy (ding dong!) to help save the day (and win her heart!) was a dreamy rom-com narrative, but this story doesn’t quite end like that, sadly. Though I’ve spent many a times thinking about it. As well as that scene where Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy emerges from a pastoral lake after a swim in Pride & Prejudice. (Ding fucking dong!)

I hate throwing away food. Instead, I saved the remnants of the unstructured (yet quite delicious) frosting and put it in the fridge for a later time. Then I continued thinking about Jane Austen, as one does when you’ve been dissecting her work since you were a teenager. I had long wished to watch the TV series adaptation of her final and unfinished work in Sanditon (Available for streaming on PBS with a subscription or via Amazon.) but never had the time to. And oh, well that is no longer an excuse, is it?

I signed up for the week-long free trial subscription with the goal of watching as much content as I can within that time. I binge-watched Sanditon, finishing in a day and a half, and then that turned into watching Northanger Abbey followed by Love & Friendship. In the middle of this Austen-adaptation marathon, I decided to use the leftover frosting and make something to snack on while I binged on the couch. (The bottle of wine needs pairing company, you know.) And then the idea came upon me—the answer is Mr. Darcy. What goes better with peanut butter aside from jelly? Chocolate! And what pairs well with chocolate? Wine! It’s a win-win.

(Side note: This isn’t my first foray in deconstructing Austen’s adaptations work in this blog. Check out this post for more Bridget Jones’s Diary fun.)

I altered the chocolate cupcake recipe I had originally used to make a Ding Dong. The peanut butter frosting doesn’t have the same marshmallow-like consistency of the original Hostess treat, but what this cake snack lacks in that filling texture well makes up for in flavor. Trust me when I tell you these “Ding Dong”-like treats are the belle to any Regency ball.

As with all of my more recent recipes, this is vegan and gluten-free. You most certainly can make this with gluten by subbing the GF flour with pastry flour.

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Peanut Butter Ding Dong Cakes
Yields about 6 cakes (with leftover scrap pieces for even more snacking!)
Complete Recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour
Cake recipe slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker

FOR THE CAKES

INGREDIENTS
2 flaxseed eggs (2T flaxseed + 5T hot water combined)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy in this with wonderful results)
3/4t apple cider vinegar
1.5t baking soda
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup applesauce
1/2t pure vanilla extract
1/4t Kosher salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup GF oat flour
1 cup GF blend flour

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch non-stick square pan like this and a 9″x5″ loaf pan like this one with oil and dust with some GF flour. (If you have a pan large enough that fits 6 cakes, go for it!)

Combine the flaxseed egg ingredients  in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the milk and vinegar in a separate large bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes while you gather the rest of your ingredients. (This will give your milk time to curdle.) Then add the baking soda to the milk-vinegar mixture.

Add the flax eggs, sugar and molasses to the milk-vinegar mixture. Mix to combine. Add the applesauce, coconut oil, vanilla and salt to the mix, stir. Sift in the cocoa powder. And then mix in the flours. You should get a nice thick batter.

Distribute the batter to both pans evenly. Bake for about 30-35 mins or until the cake is done. Once done baking, set aside to cool.

FOR THE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup vegan butter (I like Miyoko’s or Earth Balance)
1/2t pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup soy milk

METHOD
In a hand-held or stand mixer, cream the peanut butter and vegan butter together till light and fluffy. Slowly add in the vanilla extract and mix till combined. In 1/4 cup increments, add in the powdered sugar, alternating with a bit of the soy milk every time. Set aside.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE COATING

INGREDIENTS
1 cup vegan dark chocolate
1T coconut oil

METHOD
In a double-boiler (a heatproof glass bowl over a pot of boiling water) melt the chocolate. Turn off the heat and then add in the coconut oil.  Stir to combine.

ASSEMBLY
Once the cakes are cooled down, use a circular cookie cutter to punch out six cakes. I have (and love!) this one. Carefully remove the scraps and set aside for a later project or in-between snacking.

With a piping bag and 1M star tip,  flip the cake over and pipe a bit of the frosting. Repeat with the rest of the cakes.

Set up a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath and take your melted chocolate bowl and place a cake (one at a time) in the melty chocolate. Flip it over to fully coat each side. Carefully remove the cake and set on the cooling rack top side up. Repeat till all cakes are nicely coated. Take the cooling rack/sheet tray to the refrigerator to set the chocolate, about 30 mins to an hour.

The cakes are ready to eat once the chocolate has completely dried and no longer leaves a thumbprint when you touch the chocolate.

Enjoy with a bottle of wine and your favorite Jane Austen book or film!

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A Love That Spans Centuries

Photo by A Streetcar Named Devour

Original photo by Aimee Spicks/STARZ

I stan a ride-or-die couple. And I’m currently obsessing over Starz-streamed series, “Outlander.” If you haven’t watched yet, the story revolves around our two main characters, Claire (a time-traveling WWII nurse from England), and an 18th Century Scottish Highland warrior named Jamie Fraser. I won’t delve too much into the storyline, but these star-crossed lovers will do whatever it takes to protect each other. It’s a love that spans centuries.

The Linzer Torte (the original form of this tasty treat) is actually much older than our fictitious Scottish Jacobite, and dates as far back as the 17th Century in Linz, Austria. (The oldest known recipe is from 1653!) The name originated as “Helle Linzer Plaetzchen”  which in German literally translates to “bright Linzer cookies.” The much easier to make version is the sandwich cookie, with its characteristic cut-out shape exposing the fruit jam and is lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. This version is gluten-free and vegan.

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Gluten-Free + Vegan Linzer Cookies

Recipe slightly adapted from About to Sprout
Recipe yields about 8 cookie sandwiches 

Photo by A Streetcar Named Devour

INGREDIENTS

2.5 C almond flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

4T coconut oil, melted

1/4 C date syrup

1/2t fresh lemon juice

1ea lemon, zested

1t pure vanilla extract

1/2t Kosher salt

1/4t Baking soda

1C Jam, fruit preserve of choice (my fave store-bought are from Crofter’s)

1/4C powdered sugar for dusting

METHOD

Combine all ingredients into a bowl. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in a bit of almond flour till it’s pliable but not too dry.

Mound dough onto a flat surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 20 mins.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line 2 sheet trays with parchment paper.

Once dough is chilled, unwrap and place between two pieces of parchment paper.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out 16 cookies (using a large heart-shaped cookie cutter) and place 8 of those cookies on the parchment-lined sheet tray. (You may need to re-roll your dough to get more cookies.)

Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter inside the larger hearts. If you don’t have a smaller cookie cutter you can free-hand it like I did.

Place onto sheet tray, making sure cookies don’t touch (they’ll spread a little).

Bake for 8-12 mins depending on your oven. Mine were done at 8 mins, so keep an eye on them and pull out once they’re a nice golden brown.

Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

TO ASSEMBLE
Line cookies with the base of the cookie bottom sides up and spoon about 1T of fruit preserve. Top with double-heart cookie half to expose the jam.

Top with a light dusting of sugar.

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The Kids Are Alright

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Holiday get-togethers can be a bit challenging for us folk who have food allergies. It is sadly true. We are the ones who come to birthday + holiday parties, weddings, showers, potlucks, sulking at the buffet table full of food that we simply cannot eat. We stand there and salivate over all the pies, pizzas, bread, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, cheese plates, etc., that are hands off. I mean, we *can* eat them, sure, but that would mean we want to:

A) Die

B) Get rushed to the hospital 

C) Be stuck on the toilet for the next week, wishing we were dead 

D) Be stuck lying on the floor next to the toilet in the fetal position, wishing we were able to physically get onto the toilet 

It’s not fun. For us or for our loved ones who have to deal with it. I once accidentally ate a few bites of risotto at a “build your own risotto bar” at a wedding thinking that all the cheeses that were placed in separate bowls at the build-your-own bar were my signal that the actual risotto base didn’t include cheese. I was wrong. I was so deeply wrong. My body made sure to tell me how wrong I was. I was sick for a few days after that, and have avoided “build-your-own” risotto buffets ever since.

For holiday parties, and actually, any party all year round, I love making this Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe and bringing it to parties because it’s so dang delicious, moist AF, and is gluten-free, vegan AND nut-free. It’s perfect for adults and kids with food allergies.

I hope you try out this recipe, and if you do let me know how it turns  out.

xo Kelly Rae

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free

Recipe slightly adapted from Kitchen Confidante

INGREDIENTS

1 C brown rice flour

1/2 C potato starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup or agave syrup

1/4 cup vegan butter or coconut oil, at room temperature

1 flaxseed egg (1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal + 2 1/2 Tablespoons water, mixed together in a small bowl)

1/2 cup “vegan buttermilk” (coconut milk plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, mixed together)

3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork 

1/2 dairy-free chocolate chips (I’m a die-hard Enjoy Life bittersweet chocolate fan!)

METHOD 

Preheat oven to 300°F. 

Grease your loaf pan with coconut oil, olive oil or vegan butter and line the base of your pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in the flax egg and then the bananas, and lastly adding the vegan buttermilk. Slowly add the dry ingredients and then the chocolate chips and mix till just incorporated to avoid over mixing.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. If in doubt, do the toothpick test.

Why do you build me up? Buttercup?


Desserts in teensy weensy jars and ramekins are so darn cute. This veganized recipe doesn’t require any baking–it’s foolproof and just needs about 2 hours in the fridge to set. That’s right. No butter. No cream, eggs. Nada. You might ask, how does this taste so good without all the dairy? And I’ll say, you won’t even miss it.

Xx Kelly Rae

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Chocolate Vegan Pots de Creme with Gluten-Free Graham Cracker Crumble
Serves 8
By Kelly Rae — A Streetcar Named Devour

FOR THE GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBLE

INGREDIENTS
1 cup cashews (or whatever nut variety you have in your pantry)
1/2 cup pitted dates
1 Tablespoon coconut flour
1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

METHOD
Pulse together in a food processor till crumbly.

FOR THE POT DE CREME

INGREDIENTS
2 cups silken tofu (do not use firm tofu)
8 ounces dairy-free dark chocolate, melted (I use Enjoy Life)
3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 Tablespoon espresso powder (King Arthur Flour makes the best! I got mine via Sur La Table)
1/4 cup cashew milk (or any plant-based milk of your choosing)
1-3 Tablespoons maple syrup (optional, if you like a sweeter pot de creme)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted and for sprinkling

METHOD
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, making sure not to burn it.

Place all ingredients into a blender and zap till thoroughly blended.

Divvy up into different-sized ramekins or Mason jars, depending on how many portions you need. Layer the graham cracker crumble in between layers of the chocolate puree.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to fully set.

Serve with toasted shredded coconut. Boom.

Mint Condition

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Quick question! What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Mine?

Mint + Chip.

Why?

‘Cause it’s double the coolness factor. Frozen in temperature and cooling in flavor. It’s next-level sensory overload. All of your senses are tested:

You SEE the bright green color
You SMELL that crisp scent of mint
You FEEL that cold, refreshing cream melt in your mouth as you bite into those chocolate chunks
You TASTE that creamy delicious mint packed with that bittersweet chocolate

And well, HEAR? If you’ve ever sat next to me while enjoying said ice cream (or pretty much any food I thoroughly enjoy), you’re sure to hear lots of “MMM” sounds. Sorry not sorry.

This year we started a garden on our balcony. It’s taken off and has done considerably well. Even with the sudden drop and rise of temperatures all summer long, most of our plants have been pretty happy. Our mint plant, which we originally planted next to thyme and lavender, took off immediately and spread throughout the entire planter within a week! That was an amateur mistake on my own part ’cause I knew that mint likes to take over EVERYTHING. And she did. So we uprooted her and placed her in her own good-sized planter where she was able to stretch and relax without bothering her next-door neighbors.

Having an abundance of mint isn’t a bad thing, either. I decided to harvest a few bunches and steep them into heavy cream as a base for this amazing ice cream recipe I found through David Lebovitz’ book, The Perfect Scoop.

The recipe was originally written for a Chocolate Malt Ice Cream flavor, so I made some adjustments to the recipe, and omitted the cocoa powder, replacing it with a snack-sized box of crushed Whoppers candy and chocolate sandwich cookies like OREO’S. I also added more heavy cream (using one of my local favorites from Sunshine Dairy). The resulting flavor is intensely rich, creamy and so silky smooth. Try it.

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Malted Mint Whopper Cookie Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart
Recipe via The Perfect Scoop

INGREDIENTS
3 cups heavy cream, divided
2 cups fresh mint leaves, packed
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup malted milk powder

METHOD
Heat 1.5 cups heavy cream with the mint in a medium-sized saucepan. Once brought to a boil, whisk vigorously and lower heat to a low simmer, continuing to whisk. Remove pan from the heat and strain into a large bowl the rest of the heavy cream into a large bowl, combining the steeped minty cream together.

Gently warm the milk, sugar and salt in the same saucepan. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the yolks and temper the eggs by slowly adding the warmed milk to the  yolks, continuously whisking and scraping the now tempered egg yolk/milk mixture back in the pan.

Using a rubber spatula continue to stir and scrape the combined mixture over medium heat, making sure not to “cook” or “curdle” the eggs. Once the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spatula, immediately remove from the heat and pour through a strainer and into a shallow pan or bowl. Add the vanilla extract and malt powder. Cool the mixture by placing it into the refrigerator till chilled, overnight is preferred.

Once ready to churn, operate your ice cream maker and add the crushed Whopper candy and cookies toward the last five minutes of the churning process. Place the ice cream in the freezer to further freeze. Enjoy! (Or have a quick milkshake. Your call.)

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A Miracle Worker

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I don’t get sick too often. Maybe once or twice a year, tops. So when I do get sick all hell breaks loose. I simply hate getting sick and avoid it like, say, the plague.

Blame it on over-exhaustion, not getting enough sleep, working too much. Whatever week-long illness it was, it was completely unbearable. I had this unstoppable cough that seemed to worsen at night while in bed trying to sleep. The incessant coughing led to a sore throat and muscle pains in the abdomen; it was like I was doing nonstop crunches, but no 6-pack to show for.

What I needed was a miracle. Or Miracle Max.

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My regimen to nurse these ailments included daily vitamins, Emergen-C, so much orange juice, a hot elixir comprised of honey, fresh lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric. (It does the trick and nicely coats the throat.) But what really helps is a chicken soup of some kind. I had purchased a whole chicken and decided to make this Peruvian Aguadito soup quite reminiscent of the ones I used to enjoy at the L.A. Peruvian mini-chain, El Pollo Inka, that I used to frequent. The soup only gets better with a squeeze of the restaurant’s cilantro-chile sauce.

This Aguadito is a miracle worker, a magician, or brujo–the Miracle Max of soups. It has magical powers, I think, bringing you back to life. So much so that I felt increasingly better every time I consumed it (I ate the whole thing over the course of a week).

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I butchered the whole chicken into 10 pieces (halving the breasts) and kept the leftover bones to make stock for another time. The base of the recipe is usually mild, but I needed an extra kick of heat to help clear my nasal passages, and replaced with whole jalapeños for the typical serrano.

Make this the next time you start to have the ill feels. And once you start feeling better, have fun storming the castle.

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Peruvian Aguadito Chicken + Rice Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
Serves 4-10

INGREDIENTS
2 bunches cilantro, stems discarded
12 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium-sized jalapeños, stems discarded
10 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken, skin-on and bone-in, butchered into 10 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 breasts halved into 4 pieces)
1 medium-sized red onion, julienned
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/3 cup long grain rice
1 can corn, drained
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

METHOD
Purée the cilantro, garlic, jalapeños, and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock in a food processor or blender.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down and season with salt and pepper, cooking for 5-10 minutes or till lightly browned. Turn and sear the other side for an additional 5 minutes. Once all sides are nicely seared, remove from the pot and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add the onions and sauté till translucent. About 5-7 minutes. Add in the cilantro-garlic and jalapeño purée. Stir for 3 minutes to incorporate. Add in the rice, cumin and cayenne, stir for 2 minutes.

Slowly pour in the stock, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil, then add in the chicken pieces. Turn down the heat to low, add the corn and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Finish with the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Act III Communications and Twentieth Century Fox.)