Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Butter Pound Cake with Lavender Glaze

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a.k.a. Happy Birthday Ari Cake

Time to make:  20 minutes (plus overnight berry macerating)

Time to bake: 1 hour

Time to eat: 10 seconds

Serves: 8-10 people, 1 monster.

The memory is so clear in my mind, as my 8 year old self stood a bit nervously at her door.  My room was directly across from hers with a double doored bathroom linking us.  I had a little notebook with me.  All my friends warned me that older siblings didn't let you play with them.  (Little did I know at the time that 8 year olds played, 16 year olds hung out).  But I knew in my heart she was different, so I knocked and yelled (oops I overdid it), as she walked to the door I could hear her laugh getting closer.  Rachel opened the door, (who is this) and Ari was on the bed, like an easy-going, cool as fuck, a-n-g-e-l. 

Can I come in and play with you guys for a little bit?  (Turns out Rachel was her future bff - and still is to this day).

Not.  One.  Single . Eye Roll.  Just a cool and easy "Sure.  For a little."

In the few minutes she graciously allowed me to crash her "adult" party I learned that collecting Absolute vodka ads was the absolute coolest, anyone who knows anything wants their parents to buy them a 240SX for their 16th birthday, and that even if you have curly hair you always round brush the shit out of your bangs.  It may or may not have been 1992.

I left the room a bit dizzy and in love as I heard Rachel whispering "aw she's so cute," and feeling completely wowed by the very short encounter.  These were the women I looked up to.  The list of women also included Dusty, Mayu, Mom, Aunt Debbie, Danielle, Stephanie, etc... and then there was me, Alex, I was always the baby of the bunch.  Despite the next generation of babies that followed, I still always feel like the baby with this crew, in the best and most special way possible.

Every time I bake something I get to say I love you.  And there is no one in this present world I love more than Ari.  Biologically speaking Ari is my older sister of 8 years, but she is much more than that.  Given our age difference, we never went through the same thing at the same time, like ever, at all.  Even now our life experiences seem to travel on perpendicular paths, though as we get older the gap gets smaller and more parallel.  I think we're also just pretty different, and that's part of why we end up in such different spaces (Literally.  Metaphysically.  Technically.  Metaphorically.  ALL THE WAYS).  It's for this reason that Ari has been equal parts sister, mother, friend, and teacher.  Anyone who knows her will agree that Ari is loyal, consistent, kind and the most loving person they know.  She has a gentleness that is so rare in this modern world.  

  Ari enjoying dessert long before I was around, and long before I was baking her things.

Ari enjoying dessert long before I was around, and long before I was baking her things.

Some notable differences between us:

I'm loud and opinionated.  Ari is quiet and thoughtful.

I'm dramatic and hysterical (Hi, I'm an animal rights activist).  Ari is rational.

Ari is the one who taught me to love animals.  This one time she had picked me up from school and on the way back we noticed a rabbit had been hit and was laying on the side of the road.  She got out and cried for him.  Borrowed a rag and an empty box from the trunk and removed him from the threat of more traffic.  I remember hearing her say through muffled tears "silly rabbit, tricks are for kids."  To this day, I'm still charmed by the memory.  If you're a 90's kid, you'll get the reference from old cereal commercials.  It didn't make any sense then or now, but it was sweet.  And I knew it in my bones even as a kid.  

Ari is the one who fielded every sobbing 3,000 mile away phone call (on a per breakup case).  She even flew out to LA for a visit after a particularly bad one to help me through it.  

Ari was always the first to donate to my kickstarter campaigns, ya know...for whatever new creative masterpiece I was dreaming up.  

Ari was the first to say "I'm so proud of you."

Ari was the second to call on my birthday every year (mom always beat her to it with the story of my birth left in a voicemail, and this one ex boyfriend who always emailed at midnight).

But for our Jewish onset anxiety, keen sense of smell (especially for the negative), and a deep love for our parents, and our striking physical resemblance, we could not be more different.  And that has always made us closer.  Probably because of her kindness and my curiosity.  We just work as a team.  I can't believe she's my actual family.  If we weren't related I'm not sure how our paths ever might have crossed.  Luckily, we were swimming in the same gene pool.    

Now, Ari has two boys roughly ages 8 and 11, works full time, and is settling into her new home.  Which is to say, she's very busy, and yet she and my brother-in-law (also Alex, I know it's hard to keep track around here) agreed to come up to NYC to stay with Jason and me for a weekend of fun.  And we celebrated in perfect Ari fashion with this cake for breakfast!

INGREDIENTS FOR CAKE:

  • 1/2 cup Vegan Butter (I use Miyoko’s, because no palm oil)
  • 1 cup White Sugar (you can try date sugar as a refined sugar free substitute)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp Lemon Extract
  • 1/4 tsp Lavender Extract
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Pink Salt
  • 1 cup Vegan Buttermilk (Add 2 TBSP of Apple Cider Vinegar to 1 cup measuring cup and fill the rest with almond, coconut, soy or oat milk - Whisk vigorously and let sit for 5 minutes)
  • Zest of 2 small meyer lemons or 1.5 large lemons or really whatever you want (basically make sure you have 3 to 4  meyer lemons on hand for this recipe.  Can I just use regular lemons?  Sure, but you've obviously never had a meyer lemon.  It's a game changer, but they can be harder to find).
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh blackberries
  • note ~ you will need extra sugar, lemon juice and lavender extract to macerate the berries (best overnight, or at least for 1 hour.  Don't worry about amounts, just enough to cover the berries.  You can't really mess this part up).

INGREDIENTS FOR ICING:

  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/8 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 TBSP of blackberry lavender juice leftover from berries. 

DIRECTIONS FOR CAKE:

  • If you didn’t already prepare your blackberries the night before, now's your chance.  Take a bowl, put the berries in.  Squeeze one whole lemon over the berries.  Add 1 tsp of lavender and the sugar and 1/8 cup of water.  Cover and let saturate for 1 hour to 24 hours (the longer you keep them juiced, the more flavorful and tender they will be)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (Amerikah) and 180ºC (e’ryone else) 
  • Grease your bread loaf pan, or in my case I used a beautiful copper bundt cake mould that I bought for $1 upstate and then fugeddabouit.
  • Using an electric mixer cream the buttah and shugah
  • Next, add in all three extracts.
  • Sift your flour into a medium/large bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Stir to mix.  
  • Add the dry ingredients in small batches with the sugar/butter mixture and mix until combined.
  • In a separate measuring cup mix 2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar and then add your dairy free milk choice up to the 1 cup line. Whisk briskly. Then let stand for at least 5 minutes until it bubbles.
  • Pour milk mixture in with the other ingredients and mix until a smooth-ish dough forms.
  • Add in the lemon zest 
  • Lastly drain your macerated berry mixture (SAVE THE JUICE, you will use it for your glaze) and gently fold the berries into the batter.
  • Roll batter into pan and tap on counter to settle (use your spatula to smooth the top so it cooks evenly).
  • Cook for 1 hour.  Start checking at 30 minutes.  Depending on the color of your pan it may brown.  If it does, cover with foil and finish baking.  Just don't open the oven too much (checking it in 15 minute increments).
  • Cool COMPLETELY on a wire rack.  Like a couple hours if you can.  Otherwise once it’s mostly cooled (if you’re in a rush) stick it in the fridge for twenty minutes. This is so important so the top of the cake doesn’t stick when you pop it out.  

DIRECTIONS FOR ICING:

  • Using an electric mixture or by hand, combine all the icing ingredients and stir vigorously until combined and mostly smooth.
  • I used a ziplock bag as a piping device to make lines on the cake and then just sort of poured the rest wherever it looked like it needed some “extra.”

This cake keeps for several days, as long as you keep it sealed in an air tight container.  I use this for basically all my cakes because it doubles as both a storage option and carrying case for desserts-on-the-go.  Also, even if this cake dries out a little, I'll just pop it in the toaster over and smother it with coconut oil or vegan butter and hot damn!  

As always, if you make this bad boy, don't forget to comment and post and share so I can see your creations and how they turned out.  Especially if you make any substitutions.  Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Loving It Vegan

4-Tier Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake collaboration with Daniella from Chicky Treats

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It's not everyday you meet someone as salt of the Earth, funny, sincere and open minded as Daniella of the ever successful blog Chicky Treats and now youtube channel Chicky's World.  I started following D on instagram long before she blew up, looking for cake decorating inspiration as I was about to make my first wedding cake for my dear friends Sarah and Zach.  

  My first wedding cake for Sarah and Zach.

My first wedding cake for Sarah and Zach.

I was hooked.  I loved her clean and consistent tutorials and over the past couple of years I've learned a lot from her.  I would comment on her posts things like: '#drool' or 'you're a cake queen' or 'gimme' or 'holy fuck dayuuuum girl.'  And she would always validate my comments with a laugh/cry emoji and a humble thank you.

Does this chicky think I'm funny because?... I would really love to meet her and pick her brain and ask her how she went from a couple hundred followers to 21.4 thousand in the span of two years anddddddd so I asked her to coffee.

What.  A.  Creep.

But she was totally down, and I was totally stoked.  Dani is not a vegan, but she recommended we meet at Peacefood Cafe near Union Square.  She came all the way downtown to meet me at a vegan restaurant at 8.5 months pregnant.  We talked for a couple hours about food (obviously) and business, but then lots of life talk.  She promised (advice I've tired of hearing, but for some reason I believed her) that the best business decision she ever made for her blog was to be exactly who she was and to know her worth.  That advice never served me when I was an actor in the entertainment industry, so it's been frustrating and confusing to hear over and over.  But there she was with her big hoops and her messy top bun just like in her videos.  She was who she was and she was fucking successful.  We decided by the time we parted ways that:

1) We must have been best peeps in a past life

2) We were gonna collaborate on an exciting vegan treat.

Cue VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE CAKE with toasted hazelnuts, pretzels, peanut butter and white chocolate chunks.  

INGREDIENTS* (COOKIE CAKE):

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic white sugar
  • 1/3 cup organic light brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (we used her homemade coconut milk)
  • 1 TBSP ground flax seeds
  • 2 tsp *vanilla (Daniella only uses the best ingredients, which is why custom cakes are so expensive) 
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • Small handful of crushed salted pretzels
  • Small handful of toasted hazelnuts (chopped in thick chunks)
  • 1/4 cup of vegan white chocolate and peanut butter chips

But we wanted a fat, multi-layered cake party so we did some math and three days later we came up with this (one of my favorite tips I got from Dani is to take a piece of parchment paper and a sharpie and write your recipe out then multiply the ingredients to get the new measurements  G E N I U S)

For the four tiered cake you want these measurements:

  • 1 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cups organic white sugar
  • 1 cup light or dark brown vegan sugar 
  • 3/4 cup soy (coconut or almond) milk
  • 3 TBSP ground flax seeds
  • 6 tsp (which is also 2 TBSP) vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
  • Large handful crushed salted pretzels
  • Large handful toasted hazelnuts (chopped in thick chunks)
  • 3/4 cup combo vegan white chocolate and peanut butter chips

DIRECTIONS (COOKIE CAKE):

  • Pre-heat oven to 350º
  • In a medium bowl, beat sugar(s) and coconut oil in mixer
  • Add “milk” and flax, mix to combine
  • Add vanilla
  • Add half the flour mixture, salt and baking soda
  • Mix
  • Add the rest of the flour, white and dark chocolate and peanut butter chips, chopped hazelnuts and pretzel bits
  • Mix until combined
  • Next, take your giant dough ball and weigh it on your kitchen scale.  Take that number and divide by four.  Those are your weight measurements for each cookie dough cake.  Once measured, take each ball and gently press into a lightly coated 6” cake pan.  Repeat with each dough ball until you have all four cakes ready for the oven
  • Cook for 40 minutes (start checking at 30 mins.  The less time you cook it the softer the cookie cake will be #noeggsnoproblem)
  • Let cakes cool in their tins on a wire cooling rack until completely cooled.  Gently turn over cake tin and lightly knock the top to loosen (we put ours in the freezer after cooling in the pans for a couple minutes to speed things up and it worked like a charm.  Just watch ‘em)

We used a traditional buttercream frosting and vegan friendly food coloring to create a succulent cake.  We thought the orange-y hues of the crisped cookie layers were reminiscent of a desert scene.  

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INGREDIENTS (FROSTING):

  • 1 Bag of organic powdered sugar 
  • 3 TBSP Earth Balance (or Miyoko’s if you don’t use products with palm oil)
  • 4 TBSP “Milk”
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS (FROSTING):

  • Cream the “buttah” in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment
  • Add 1/2 a 12 oz. bag of powdered sugar and continue to mix
  • Now add your milk and vanilla
  • Keep mixin’
  • This is where you start to taste test.  Too buttery and not thick enough?  Add more sugar.  You want buttercream to be more creamy and less sweet.  In my opinion.  My magic number always seems to be 3/4’s of a 12 oz. bag

Now you can play around with colors.  Dani taught me some dope piping tricks.  For example, if you take a piece of saran wrap and lay it flat on your counter, gently spoon one color in a long line running the length of the plastic wrap, then next to it do the same thing with a new color, and then again with a third color.  Carefully roll the saran wrap so you have a three color log.  Take the ends of the plastic wrap and swiftly rotate so the plastic is tightly wrapped.  Cut the tip and insert into a piping bag.  When you pipe your flowers, the colors will look multi dimensional without bleeding together.   Mind.  Blown.  I know, we gotta get Dani to make a tutorial for you guys.  Dani?  

We made a time lapse video in perfect Chicky Treats style to show you how to assemble and decorate this beauty!  If you've ever seen a naked cake, that's originally what we planned, but we were laughing so hard we forget to press record.  So we sort of had to start over, which is why you'll notice the cake winds up darker than the first takes. Whatevs/nbd/lol/omg.

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*Original recipe by Isa Moskowitz and modified by Alex Wolfe and Daniella Da Silva

Healthy Ass Banana Bread made with gluten, oil and refined sugar free ingredients

Recipe and photos: Alex Wolfe

Time to make: 20 minutes

Time to bake: 45-55 minutes

Give yourself: An hour and half

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With summer around the corner we're all wondering how the hell to stop eating bagels and pizza and cupcakes and start eating salad because maybe we're over 30 and maybe we have beach plans and maybe chub rub is a thing.  So, I bring you this segue to summer favorite: HEALTHY AF BEANANNER BREAD.  I'll be honest, my first few attempts at testing this recipe produced a sort of sand like brick of tasteless poo.  But after some major adjustments, the banana and the maple syrup and the dark chocolate chunks really came through and my brick of sand turned into something

curiously subtle

yet flavorful

nutty

light

and not too sweet

crisped edges with a delicate center

A perfect end-of-winter-hello-sunshine balanced treat that will satiate even the most sweet-toothed monster (such as myself.  Oh, you too?)

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This shit is bananas

***QUICK PSA ON BALANCE***

It's like.  Supremely annoying.  How important.  Balance is.  

But it's so important.

For me, balance has interrupted so much intentional acting out and often times debaucherous good fun, reminding me to slow the fuck down, and return to my health.  Like myself, and my body.  Understand my body has limitations and needs breaks.  Good old fashioned down time.  And if we can tap into that by focusing on the valuable thing something gives us that we need and not just be impressed by how it delivers what we want then we start to enjoy the tastes and sensations of nutrient dense foods, lots of water, meditation, sex, dancing, maybe some temporary sobriety.  A checking in of sorts.  We.  Must.  Do.  It.  I mean, I'm telling you you can start small by making fucking banana bread, so it's really not that bad.  I love traditional banana bread with it's moist stick-of-butter vibe and cake like mouthfeel, but like me back it does not! What I'm offering you here is something different.  This is not junk food, so it won't taste like junk food and you may find yourself chewing and whining that this isn't smacking you in the face with a sugar-y blast of breakfast cakey-ness.  It will taste like the nutrient dense, salt of the earth, plant based goodness that it is.  It will fuel your day and it will serve you.  And I promise I made all the changes so that it does in fact also delight your taste buds, and no, not in the eating sand kind of way.  Enjoy eet.

INGREDIENTS:

2 Flax Eggs 

2.5 Bananas REAL RIPE (and by ripe I mean black and spoiled looking)

1 TBSP Almond, Soy or Coconut Milk

1 TBSP Pure Maple Syrup

2 TBSP Vanilla Extract

1/2  Cup Apple Sauce

1.5 Cups Almond Flour

1/2 Cup Coconut Flour*

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 Cup Lightly Toasted Pecans

1/2 Dark Chocolate Chunks (chips, or cacao nibs for totally refined sugar free option)

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DIRECTIONS:

★ Pre-heat your oven to 350℉ and lightly grease a 9x5 inch bread loaf pan.

★ In a small bowl, make your flax eggs (2 Tbsp + 1 tsp of ground flax seed mixed with 6 TBSP water)

★ Mash 2 whole bananas with a fork (or in a mixer) and add the flax eggs.  Mix well.

★ Add the "milk," vanilla and maple syrup and mix again until combined.

★ Add everything else minus the pecans.

★ Chop the pecans into bits and toast in a non-stick pan over low heat (approximately 5 minutes or until fragrant).

★ Lastly, mix in the chocolate and the pecans.

★ Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and using a silicone spatula (or metal spoon) smooth until even (you don't have to be perfect, just try and get it so it settles into a mostly even shape).

★ Bake in the middle rack for about an hour (start checking at 45 minutes by inserting a tooth pick in center until it comes out clean - I cooked mine for 55 minutes).

★ WHAT DO I DO WITH THAT OTHER 1/2 BANANA YOU MENTIONED?  I took some really cute teeny, tiny cookie cutters and cut star shapes out of banana slices.  After the loaf is in the oven for thirty minutes, gently push banana cut out into the top of the loaf (feel free to COVER it for more flavor and sprinkle with coconut sugar for a caramelizing effect).  

So yeah.  I added gluten free oats (about 1/3 cup whole and uncooked for some crunch).  You can basically add whatever you want.  Some ideas: Cinnamon, cardamom (a damn smidge or you'll ruin it ok?), pine nuts, dried cherries ... if you do add something definitely comment and let us know how it turns up!  Also, if you don't have coconut flour you can replace it with more almond flour.  Or you can use all purpose white flour if gluten free isn't a concern.

Spiced Dark Chocolate Hearts

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Oops!   Valentine's Day is around the corner and I forgot to give you guys something special to make whether it's for your kids, their teachers, your partner or your sworn enemy because I know, I know V-day is a big fat joke to most people - just another capitalist holiday to boost the economy, right?  But a morale boost?  I'm really not so sure about that.  For me, Valentine's day is all about my parents, in particular my dad.   Every year they showered my sister and me with gifts in the form of cupid pajamas, candy hearts and parental love notes.  Driving home that ever hopeful point that love is all you need.  Well, that and a 401k, if you can manage one.  Too bad neither of their children did manage one, but love?  We got that in spades.

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There's my given family with Mom, Dad, Ari, Alex, Leo, Max, Pepper, Dani, Stephanie, PJ, Tyler, Choo, Debbie, David, Zoe, Shawn, Sydney.  And there's my chosen family consisting of Hanne, Chloe, Sarah, Sarah, Sara, Zach, Chris, Kate, Anthony, David, Ashley, Buzzy, Cat, Amy, Grace, Travis, Graham, Aimie, Lowin, Gamba, Ally, Tim, Blair, Poppy, Fish, Jason's whole family, Craig, Dana, Tucci, Mona, Marissa, Jesmille, Jenny, Thomas, Daniella, Audrey, Devin, Sherry, Bob, Ella, Katie, Kimberly, Tarina, Michelle, and so on, and of course there's Jason, THE love.

But a girl's dad... well, that's its own sort of loving kindness.

And the lucky truth is there are more.  Like so many more, and I don't need no Feb 14th to remind me how much love there is in my life and in the world.  My dad, the calm and loving force in the Wolfe house, is an especially remarkable example of love and perseverance.  He was the middle child with one older and one much younger sister.  They grew up in a tiny tenement apartment in what is now called Alphabet City, and eventually they moved to a bigger shoebox in Jackson Heights, Queens.  Without being too crass, that family didn't deserve him.  If he didn't look so much like his dad I would have sworn he was adopted.  Maybe my dads tendency towards loving kindness and affection was a rejection of what he learned as a child.  He later had two daughters of his own, and like my mom, his only priority was to raise us up, up, up.  My dad, Phil, my hero, is the man who taught me how I wanted to be treated and respected and loved, especially by a man.  It's no big surprise that I found Jason, who shares the same affectionate, loving, gentleness as my pops.  I'm so honored to have both of them in my life.  I'm so honored to have all of the love that I have. 

So a day to celebrate all that?  I'm down.  But let's just remember if you don't have one particular someone, it might be a good day to celebrate all the others: the ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends who broke your heart, only readying you for the next great love of your life. Or God, if that's what you believe in.  Or your pet.  Or your teacher.  Or yourself?  Any day to practice loving ourselves is probably good.  Is definitely good.

Homemade chocolate is generally pretty tricky, not unlike relationships.  But if you don't fuss too much, and just kinda go for it, knowing that chocolate is generally good and hard to mess up then you'll have something tasty, even if imperfect.  I'm no chocolatier, but my research suggests that chocolate is temperamental, like literally.  Chocolate acts differently under different circumstances, so you gotta know what you're working with.  We will be using dark chocolate chips (69% cocoa) .  In this recipe, I add coconut butter which is high in fat and helps the chocolate keep shape after refrigeration.  With this recipe, you don't have to worry too much if it'll turn out in the end.  It just will.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 Cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips/morsels (or whatever brand you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of hazelnut extract (or vanilla if you don't have on hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a big ol generous pinch of chipotle powder
  • a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a double boiler, put the coconut butter in the pan and stir with a whisk until melty or soft and mixable.  If you don't have an official double boiler, take a small pot and fill with water.  Bring to a bowl, then add smaller pot so that it just rests in the bigger pots now boiling water and reduce heat.  This is important so the chocolate doesn't burn.  This is an official double boiler, this is what I have, and this is what you do if you have neither.  
  • Next, add the choco chips and stir consistenly over medium heat with a whisk, until melted.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the hazelnut, cinnamon and chipotle spice until mixed well.  
  • Now you need to quickly, evenly, and as smoothly as possible pour the chocolate into your mold.  I have this cute heart shaped one for Vagina Day.  I mean, Valentine's Day.  Whatever, same thing.  You can get one here, or any mold you have on hand will do.  I prefer the silicone, as it's a bit more forgiving to remove the chocolates once they're done.  
  • After, you need to take a scraper and smooth the top of the chocolates so there's an even line and they shape perfectly in the refrigerator.  
  • Place chocolate mold on cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum.  
  • Once the chocolates are ready, gentle pop them out of their mold and place on a flat surface.  Be careful not to handle them with your fingers so they don't leave a fingerprint.  
  • Mix the powdered sugar and however much cinnamon and chipotle powder you want with a fork in a small bowl.  Then take your duster and gentle sift over the chocolates.  
  • Best enjoyed dunked in your coffee or with a large dollop of peanut butter.  

I'll enjoy some of these while I think about how lucky I am that my dad sent me that card (above) for my birthday this year.  You're the flap in my jack too, Dad.  Peace and love e'ryone.  

Le Madeleine

 ©Alex Wolfe Photography

©Alex Wolfe Photography

This is not a political post.

Happy New Year, thank GOD it's 2018.  Amiright?  I think a lot of us could agree that the world has been holding her collective breath since that orange narcissistic turd muffin was elected into the highest official position of the not so United States of America.  (Sorry muffins, you really don't deserve to be compared to he who shall remain nameless). 

  • I mean, there was the tax bill (Oy).
  • Budget cuts to the E.P.A because, ya know, why is everyone so obsessed with science?  Quoth the ass-hat "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!" (OY TO THE VEY.  Palm to forehead).
  • The repeal of net-neutrality.  (OYYYYY FUCKKKK ING VEYYYY).
  • Harvey Weinstein and the rest of 'em. (Jeeeesus).

I have to stop, because I'm starting to grind my teeth. 2017 was rough.  The kind of rough that makes you want to gorge a bunch of cake and eat a million cookies and never EVER stop.  And you can do that with this simple madeleine recipe:

It's sweet and nutty

Cakey with a crisp outer shell

Small like a cookie, so you can have a hundred

Delicious with a hot beverage, they melt on your tongue.

But first, let's talk about all the things that happened in 2017 that were SUPER, because now I'm depressed:

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and here we are a year and a bit later, living and loving together.

Fun fact: Jason was the final and gentle push I needed toward the math and science behind turning my granola into something sell-able.  I am grateful.

  • I met that guy up there ON ELECTION NIGHT (Talk about having all the feelings).
  • Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in a stunning Alabama senate race.
  • A veteran Virginia state legislator who proclaimed himself the state's "chief homophobe" lost his bid for re-election in November — to a transgender woman. He'd sponsored a bathroom bill restricting access by transgender people to public restrooms.  More importantly, HER name is Danica Roem and she is FABULOUS.
  • Jessica and Derek Simmons saved nine people, including a couple of children, caught in a rip tide.  They  acted quickly and got 80 other people on the beach to form a human chain that could reach swimmers who were nearly drowning and brought them safely to shore.
  • Scientists made progress to treat Leukemia through immunotherapies and gene-altering methods, when at one time this type of cancer was an almost definite death sentence.  Today the survival rate for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia is more than 85%.
  • And one of my favorite memories of 2017 was the first (of many) peaceful protests across the U.S:  "The Women's March was a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women's rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers rights.  Most of the rallies were aimed at Donald Trump, immediately following his inauguration as President of the United States, largely due to statements that he had made and positions that he had taken which were regarded by many as anti-women or otherwise offensive. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. History."

.

.

.

And I was THERE.  It was absolutely amazing.  

Below are pictures that show the highlights of my day that day.  The picture of my dad, my sister and her best friend from high school is particularly meaningful to me, because in a lot of ways these peopled raised me, were my mentors.  Missing from the picture and from that day was my mom, Linda.  She couldn't be there because she was on day 28 at the hospital supporting my uncle while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong.  He had a lot of problems, the details of which are unimportant.  But I got to talk to them both that night and tell them how incredible it was and how much we missed having them (her, my mama, she my heroine and I her 'cookie') there with us.  He died not too long after.  Cause of death was an antibiotic resistant infection and, in his families opinion, loneliness.  I was so proud to know my mom stayed by her brothers side so he could go from this place feeling loved and like someone had his back.  I think that's something people really want to feel:

t h a t  s o m e o n e  r e a l l y  h a s  t h e i r  b a c k, no matter what. 

And so I got to march for her, and with her behind me.  Several months later I moved in with Jason, which meant I finally had the pleasure of dealing with my  ^%*#$@! storage unit.  In it, I found this old silver thingamabobber.  I almost tossed it, but it looked vintage and I'm a whore for used treasures.  I asked my mom about it and she reminded me it was Blanche's, my grandma. 

My sweet

sing-songy

always smiling

tough as nails

red-haired (did she really have red-hair?  In my memories...she has fiery red hair)

delicious grandma.

"Well what the shit is it?" I asked.  "For dusting powdered sugar on cookies," said mama.  AWWEEESSSOOOMMMMEEEE GRAMMA GEM!  Most of my memories of her are from when she was older and sick with Alzheimers.  But when I shake that duster I can smell and feel her vivacious younger self.  Blanche, and Linda, and Debbie and Ari, and Kate, and Hanne and Chloe and Jenny and Frances, and Eryn and the four Sara/h's (you know who you are), and Alissa, and Kali and Aimie and I know there are more:  you helped shape me into the woman I am today and I am so damn lucky to have known you and been loved by you. The reason for writing this post now,  is because we're on the heels of the next big march coming up Saturday, January 20th, 2018.  Grab your sister or your friend or your mom and GO.  You will not be sorry.  It's quite the empowering scene.

 

Now you can take your grandma's old sugar duster and lightly powder them to make 'em all purdy.  

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*Ok, it was definitely a political post. 

Stuffed Dates

"I'm sorry.  Does this crazy (albeit adorable) chick Alex think there's any chance I just smoked a fattie and now I'm suddenly craving fruit? Cuz....no."

I know that silly!  The reason this is being featured in the stoner snack section, is because I know you ate a whole bag of Oreos last weekend, and I know you felt like proper shit after - I know because I've been there...many, many times.  

"But FRUIT?  I mean.  For reals?"

"Yes, for reals.  You're addicted to sugar, and that's okay.  A lot of people are.  And Mary Jane, champion that she is, is not always the best culinary influence" (Agreed all stoners everywhere. Yeah, you know what I'm talkin' about.) Like, how many times have you woken up to remnants of last nights channeling of Bobby Flay only to find a half empty cup-o-soup, topped with sriracha and crumbled saltines (Oh my fucking God, that sounds delicious.  Shit).  MY POINT:  your body needs a break from all the terrible things you do to it on a daily basis.  If you live in New York City, like I do, just walking outside is bad for your lungs.  So take care of yourself in the midst of all your debauchery, deal?

This is a stoner snack, not because you'd find it next to the special section at the bodega dedicated to Aunt Little Debbie or Grandma Hostess, but because it's so easy EVEN A STONER CAN RALLY.  

Plus, these bites of pure health are bursting with flavor and a shit ton of that powdery white stuff we all know and love (not cocaine, but sugar, so actually same thing, k bye).  So don't worry, because you can still indulge your sugar high, we're just doing it refined sugar free style.  Au natural, as they say.   

Stuffed Dates:

 

Apple Cinnamon Italian Wine Doughnut Cookies

© Alex Wolfe Photography

My internet was spotty, it was raining outside, and I could not for the life of me wrap my head around the tragic news I had just received about a family friend.  All I could conceive of was numbing out with the usual suspects: TV, naps, COFFEE, and food.  But alas, my internet was down so no Netflix, there WAS no food, it was unjustifiably late for coffee and I'd been napping intermittently all day and wasn't tired.  I was pacing the hallway of my house as if I might find the answers under the rug or inside a closet.  How is it that life can be so painful and unlucky for some?  As I clawed at nothing trying to avoid the discomfort, it became clear pretty quickly that what I needed was to lean INTO the pain, not run from it.  Unbeknownst to me, I found myself in the kitchen pulling out the flour and the sugar.  I wasn't sure where I was going with this, but I felt compelled to create something beautiful.  Something happy and delightful.  My mouth would describe this treat as 'bread meets doughnut meets cookie.'  The wine gives it this slight kick that makes this dessert both savory (in a way) and sweet.  As I was rolling the dough into these small rings I couldn't help but look up and smile.  In the face of the unspeakable, the only thing I knew to do was pray for understanding and acceptance; and here were some answers being kneaded and rolled and shaped through my very fingertips.  Stay with me here, I know it's a stretch: a mother loses her son and a brother loses his only sibling - these are the facts that plagued my mind.  But as I shaped the little treats into their circles I was reminded that life is both sweet AND savory, that we are all perfectly imperfect, and we never know when or if our life circle will be cut short.  So if you have a biological/familial brother or sister please make a plate of cookies and send to them in honor of a brother lost.  If you yourself lost a brother or sister, please make a plate of these cookie and wrap them elegantly and purposefully and deliver them to someone whose spirit needs lifting today.  Now's your chance.  Make someones day. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of canola or vegetable oil (I haven't tried it, but I bet coconut oil would work, too!)
1 cup of riesling white wine
5 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 small red apple peeled and diced into very small chunks
1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon mixture (I recommend putting sugar in a bowl and then sprinkling in some cinnamon and mixing until integrated and a light brownish color).

© Alex Wolfe Photography

DIRECTIONS:

First, combine the sugar oil and wine and mix until sugar is mostly dissolved.  Half a cup at a time start adding the flour.  Halfway through add the baking powder.  Keep adding the flour until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic (but manageable in your hands, you don't want it too sticky and you don't want it crumbly either).  Cover the bowl with a towel while you prep the rest.  Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray lightly with cooking spray.

After you let the dough sit for about ten minutes take small amounts, roughly the size of a quarter (so smaller than you think, this is where I did NOT nail it the first time) and roll out into a skinny log shape about 4" long.  take a couple of those small apple chunk and shove them into the dough.  Roll the log in the cinnasugar mixture and then gently loop the log into a circle and press the ends together making a circle. Repeat until you have approximately 4 dozen cookies.  

Cook for 15 minutes or until golden brown on the top (don't let these babies burn - it makes a big difference, so keep your eye on them for the last five minutes in the oven).  Let cool, then serve.  I just enjoyed dunking one in my morning cuppa joe.  Store in an airtight container.  

Peanut Butter Banana Bon Bons

After a long day, and weeks of salads (an attempt at restoring my insides to sanity after all the crap I'd consumed on the road) I came back to my temporary home desperate for something sweet.  There's goddamn nothing in this kitchen.  But I knew that wasn't true.  There's always something, I just wasn't in the mood to have to think or invent.  But it turns out that wasn't true either.  All it took was spotting that jar of peanut butter which was next to the bananas which was next to the coconut flakes that got me really excited about the dessert my mouth was about to meet.  Dudes, this is my favorite new treat.  And pretty healthy to boot!  NOT TO MENTION SO EASY A CHILD COULD DO IT.  Seriously.  

INGREDIENTS:

Bananas

Peanut Butter

Vegan chocolate chips

Coconut oil

Agave

Vanilla extract

And if you've got 'em, coconut flakes.  

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the bananas into 1/4" slices, spread a healthy amount of peanut butter on one side, then sandwich together like this and place little sammies on some parchment paper, 'cause shit's about to get mess-ay:

©Alex Wolfe Photography

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over low heat, add the chocolate chips (about half a bag), 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, a small splash of vanilla extract, and a three second squeeze of agave.  I like to do it this way and taste as I go.  Too thick?  Add a tad more coconut oil.  Too watery?  More choco-chips!  Get it so it suits your buds...  Thickness should be just less than that of honey.  

Take the chocolate mixture and pour VERY LIBERALLY all over the 'nanner sammies so that they are completely covered.  Stick one coconut flake on top of each bite sized goody and then transfer to freezer. Set a timer for twenty minutes and check one.  They shouldn't be totally frozen as you want them to have that ice cream softness so they taste just like banana peanut butter coconut flavored klondike bars. Remember those?  Took me ten minutes.  I know you have ten minutes.  And I'd bet you have peanut butter.  

UPDATE:  Want a super easy "how-to-get-a-perfectly-dipped-nanner-sammich?"  You do?! First, get a piece of styrofoam.  Next, hold on to this guy and store with your other baking equipment.  Why?  Because styrofoam is TERRIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, and you should not make a habit of using it.  In fact, if you know of any other materials that poke easily, PLEASE let me know : )  Where were we?  Oh yeah...once you make the peanut butter and banana sandwich: next stick it gently with a toothpick.  Transfer your chocolate from the sauce pan to a small cup so as to create a kind of swimming pool of chocolate with some depth. Take the toothpick and fully submerge pea-nana (peanut butter/banana) in the chocolate, swirl until excess dripping stops, then turn over and push open end of toothpick into the styrofoam.  Repeat until finished, then gently put the whole styrofoam board into fridge for easy, mess free storage while the dessert hardens.  

Game. On. (or, lemon pistachio shortbread with coconut lemon glaze; vegan of course):

©Alex Wolfe Photography

These little bricks of amazingness are more salty than sweet, and go best with a fat glass of almond milk (or coconut milk!  Or really any non-dairy milk).  The best part of this “cookie” is that it’s made with olive oil!  That’s right, no shortening, no butter, JUST olive oil, which was inspired by a delicious olive oil cake I had at Elf Vegetarian Café on Sunset in Silver Lake/Echo Park, LA.  So I started experimenting!  And you should, too.  Feel free to be adventurous and use other flavors, such as rose water extract.  The local market didn’t carry it at the time I was so compelled to make these, but rosewater was initially intended for this yummy creation.  So let me know how that goes if you try it. 

INGREDIENTS (dough):

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cup organic (vegan) powdered sugar
½ cup of unsalted pistachios, chopped well (or salted if you want your cookie to be extra savory)
2 zested lemons
1 cup of olive oil 

©Alex Wolfe Photography

©Alex Wolfe Photography

INGREDIENTS (glaze):
more of that organic powdered sugar
coconut oil
vanilla extract (I recommend ohladycakes vanilla extract – www.ohladycakes.com -- it’s superb and homemade by an adorable cookie monster). 
lemon extract
6 Tablespoons of water (added one at a time)

DIRECTIONS (DOUGH):

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9x9 glass pan and set aside.
In a bowl, combine and mix together the flour, sugar, pistachios (you want these to be finely chopped, a couple big chunks are okay), and lemon zest.  Feel free to throw in a literal dash of lemon extract if you really want to taste the lemon.  Then add the olive oil and mix with your hands until well combined.  Press mixture into greased pan so that it’s even.  Pop in the oven and cook for about 55 minutes.  Listen up folks! (and this is important.)  Do yourself a favor and set the time for 40 minutes and start checking at 5 minute increments.  These bars of perfection can go to hell in a hand basket if you overcook em.  So keep a keen eye on these bad boys.  They should be golden and juuuuust firm to the touch.  

Let sit for 20-30 minutes before cutting.  You can cut them however you like; I cut mine into little squares.

DIRECTIONS (GLAZE):
Add all the ingredients together and mix until there are no lumps.  Add the water last, one tablespoon at a time for desired consistency (it should be thick-ish).  Don’t be afraid to whisk the sh&^#$ out of it.  Once the shortbread has cooled, drizzle or pour (depending on how sweet you want these – I like to do half really sweet, half a bit saltier and less sugary) and let sit another 30 minutes ideally.  

©Alex Wolfe Photography

Cinnamon Sugar Pillow Cookies

Ah!  What better way to celebrate July than with a nice holiday cookie in honor of the half way mark to Christmas!  Made these for my Argentinian family and they went crazy for them – couldn’t believe they were vegan … Recipe comes from a blog with lots of delicious ideas:
www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com Check it out for inspiration!

Seriously these are the dopest little pillow puffs of magical goodness – they will melt in your mouth.  Ladies, if you’re trying to impress your man in the kitchen, these are they.  And gentlemen, if you are trying to impress your woman, these are definitely they.  Happy baking!

Cinnamon Sugar Pillow Cookies
(makes 11-13 stuffed cookies)

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup (not packed) whole-wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour, or all-purpose. Readers say you can use a gf all-purpose mix if you add extra liquid so it’s not crumbly.) (120g)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup xylitol or sugar (55g)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-4 tsp milk of choice (8-16g)
3 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil (35g)
a bowl of equal parts cinnamon and sugar for rolling (Omit if desired.)

FILLING INGREDIENTS:

For the filling (which you can omit completely if you want regular, non-stuffed cookies): combine 2 tsp powdered sugar or Sugar-Free Powdered Sugar with 2 tablespoons cream cheese-style spread (I used Tofutti non-hydrogenated, but I’m sure other full-fat brands such as Follow Your Heart or Trader Joes would be fine.) Beat well, then set aside.

DIRECTIONS:

In a mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients and stir very well. In a separate bowl, combine all liquid ingredients and stir. Pour wet into dry and stir to form a cookie dough. Smush into a giant ball with your hands (or, as an easier trick: transfer dough to a plastic bag and smush into a ball once the dough is inside the bag). Now roll into 22-26 mini cookie dough balls, then flatten each and divide the filling among only half of the flat discs. Place the other discs on top, cinch the sides, then roll into balls. Roll the balls in the bowl of cinnamon-sugar, place on a baking tray, and chill for at least 30 minutes. (If you desire crispy cookies, you can skip this chilling step.)

Preheat oven to 325, and cook 11 minutes- they’ll still look a little underdone, but that’s okay. Important: allow cookies to cool at least 10 minutes before trying to remove from tray.

                   ©Alex Wolfe Photography 

In my humble opinion, I want to encourage you to avoid using artificial sugar.  I feel like it causes cancer (not that real sugar is great for you) but the point is this: baking is a treat.  You should have a little dessert and a lot of whole-grain plant foods in your life.  I am a firm believer in balance.  So if you’re gonna have dessert, let’s try and use agave and other natural sweeteners.  When a recipe calls for that old school white, unrefined sugar, just go for it!  The artificial stuff is just no bueno.  Not to mention it’s a little… gross?
Be advised I am not a doctor or a health consultant in any way.  I am a regular joe who does a lot of research by reading articles from an array of sources.  Most of my suggestions are based on personal experience and opinion.  Please consult your doctor if you have any health related concerns, because FOOD IS MEDICINE (if you eat the right foods!)

Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake

© Alex Wolfe Photography

This choco-cake with ancho chili powder was delicious and had the perfect kick to it.  Thin and light, I could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting (a crime I’m infamous for committing – next week we can all learn moderation together, this week?  We eat whole cakes for breakfast, and we ain’t scurred).

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup soy milk
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup safflower oil (I used vegetable oil because it’s all I had in the pantry, whoops!)
¼ cup unrefined sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

CHOCOLATE SAUCE:
1 cup soy milk
½ cup maple syrup
1 ½ cups vegan semisweet chocolate chips.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

When I cook, I like to get a couple of things straight in the kitchen first.

CLEAN!

I mean the dishes, the counter, no grocery bags hangin’ on the floor or table with no purpose – things must be orderly, or I go bananas (and not in the way that results in a dessert bread ; )

Next, I like to pull each of the ingredients that will be used in the recipe (as pictured above) – and if I’m really feeling Martha Stewart-y (and I pretty much always am) I even pre-measure them in my fancy kitchenware and put the giant bags of stuff back in their respective living quarters so all I have to do is dump and mix when the time comes.

The following instructions listed below come directly from the Candle*79 cookbook:

DIRECTIONS:

Makes two 9-inch cakes or 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush two 9-inch round cake pans with safflower oil and set aside.  If making cupcakes, brush a 12-cup muffin pan with safflower oil or line with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, ancho powder, and baking soda and mix well.

Oh, hi Kitchenaid.  You are so sexy and I love you more than life itself.   

© Alex Wolfe Photography

In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk, maple syrup, safflower oil, sugar, and vinegar and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans on wire racks.

S-N-A-C-K-B-R-E-A-K

Now, if you’re like me baking makes you hungry.  You know what they say about going to the grocery store when you’re hungry.  (For those of you who don’t, they say don’t do it).  Well the same applies to your baking.  Don’t bake a two layer chocolate cake and wait hungrily for it to finish and then make yourself a salad for dinner (or lunch or breakfast or whatever).  Why?  Because once the cake is finished the thought will arise: “I don’t really need to make dinner, I have this whole cake I can eat.”  So trust me, take a snack break and eat something healthy.  This way, your reasonably sized slice of delicious chocolate cake will satiate your sweet tooth without sending you over the edge.  And your body will thank you.

I made this salad pictured below.  It was yummy.  With massaged kale, brown rice and dill.  And guess what?  I only had 5 PIECES OF CAKE ANYWAY BECAUSE I HAVE A PROBLEM:

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Now where were we?  Oh right, the sauce!

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the soy milk in a saucepan over medium heat until very warm but not boiling.  Transfer to a blender.  Add the maple syrup and chocolate chips and blend until smooth.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Cut the cakes into wedges, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

A note from yours truly: the cake was a bit thinner than I expected, and so I decided to layer them for extra thickness.  Something you should know about me.  I am extremely detail oriented and wildly perfectionist (to a flaw) EXCEPT… when I’m not.  And that usually happens at random, for no good reason, usually out of laziness (a moment as I let the shame sink in).  So, alas.  Because I cooked these in a friend’s kitchen, using friend’s pans, I didn’t really bother to check the size of the cake pan.  Soooo, there’s a good chance those pans were bigger than 9” which would explain a lot.  Meaning, I hardly blame the recipe for flat cakes, delicious as they were, I can only blame myself for their consistency and shape.  But this is part of the fun of experimental baking.  When you were a kid and you accidentally drew with the red marker instead of the yellow (doh! How could you?!) you didn’t punish yourself – you rolled with it.  So I encourage you to do the same.