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 toaster oven PIZZA pockets!

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Time to make: 15 ish minutes

Time to bake: 5-10 minutes

Skill level: Baby

Recipe and photos by:  Alex, The Hungry Wolfe*

If you've ever read the "Meet Alex" page on this site, then you already know I've been a veggie since the age of 7.  But not a healthy one, not even close.  In fact, I literally didn't eat my first real vegetable (for the purpose of this story, carrots and french fries are not vegetables) until I was about 20.  Friends were gobsmacked by the concept that I, a self-proclaimed NON-meat eater, was also a self-proclaimed veggie HATER.  Say what?  So what do you even eat?

Cheese.

Lotsandlotsandlotsa

C-H-E-E-S-E.

So much so that I had no idea it wasn't normal to need a nap after every meal.  But of course not until after I laid in a corner in the fetal position whining to no one in particular, whyyyyyy?  

I loved cheese.  No, I lived for cheese and my biggest fear when I agreed to eat a plant based diet for 90 days (after attending an all vegan wedding and being offered to watch an eye-opening documentary Forks Over Knives) was as much about giving up cheese as it was taking on veggies.  

I mean, we had zero relationship, me and veggies.  I was so awkward around veggies and veggies were all confident and robust and I felt like a 13 year old boy on a first date.  Where do I put my hands?  Should we just talk about our hobbies this first meeting and try mouth to mouth on the second date?  I was nervous, because tolerating veggies was the only way to survive these 90 days and I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  But I promised myself.

Of course, veggies and I are madly in love now.  I also know veggies have so much more to offer than they're given credit for.  Little miss veggie has so much more to her than her rough skin and tough crunch.  First off, I learned some of the basics, like roasting.  I would just cut up a bunch of colorful finds from the farmers market, massage them in olive oil, salt and pepper 'em, then roast a whole cookie (mmm cookies) sheet worth and be set for the next couple of days.  For the longest time roasted veggies and some grains (like quinoa or rice) were my go to.  I was like "look mom, I'm eating veggies, I'm basically Iron Man."  But I was getting capital B BORED.  That's when I began reading cookbooks (mostly vegan, but some others too, for inspiration) voraciously.  I learned how to cook tofu.  I learned how to cook beans and lentils.  (All of these are staples in any vegans kitchen, mine included).  

HOLD THE PHONE, who even cares about beans and lentils, still totally bored, aren't we?

Then one day I was reading Isa Moskowitz's Isa Does It and there's a section called ABS.  And I was all ewww ABS in a cookbook?  And then I was like, oh wait that's IBS.  What's ABS?  Turns out it's the best advice I ever got, and my whole vegan world changed forever: 

Always

Be

Soaking.

Soaking what?  NUTS, betch.  Cashews in particular.  Most homemade vegan healthy cheeses are made from blending soaked cashews with spices and things like...

Nooch!

What the fuck is Nooch?  Right, it's vegan for Nutritional Yeast, which can be found in the aisle where Bob's Red Mill products live (if you are shopping at a regular old grocery store and not a whole foods or other health food market - if you can't find it just ask.  Or, you can order it here).

My world was expanding and I was no longer limited to rice and beans and veggies (ironically, still one of my favorite go-to meal options.  Probably, because I also have other options now).  The 90 day challenge of being vegan is still going...six years and 41 days later, and I have never once looked back.  People ask me if I miss cheese, me the cheese-a-holic who literally ate nothing else but cheese, and the answer is HELL. FUCKING. NO. WAY.  I feel better, I look better, and most importantly I'm not contributing to the suffering of animals (PS. this is putting it so lightly it's almost animal cruelty).  Every day that I cook myself an elaborate vegan meal I marvel at what I've made and where it came from.  It just keeps blowing my mind in the best possible way.  I'm glad to be on, what I believe, is the right side of history.  Come have some "cheesy" pizza pockets with me and see if you're ready to make the change today.  And if you're already there, HOW GOOD ARE THESE VEGAN CHEESE POUCHES?  Comment below, like, and share so we can show people how easy, inexpensive and delicious this lifestyle is.

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices vegan Bread (White, Wheat, Sourdough, or Multigrain should work well here)

4-6 slices vegan cheese (I used Chao by Field Roast.  Other options include: Daiya, Kitehill, Violife, Follow Your Heart, Miyoko's, Go Veggie ... need more options?  Email me!)

Vegan pepperoni slices (or you can substitute grilled onions and peppers or mushrooms or other veggies).  For a gluten and soy free option I use Yeah Dawg Vegan sausages and cut them into pepperoni slices - If you live in a remote area, looks like you can order them in bulk on line!

2 heaping spoonfuls of pizza/marinara sauce

1 Tablespoon all purpose gluten free flour blend 

Water

DIRECTIONS:

I used a large circular cookie cutter to cut the 4 pieces of bread into rounds, but you can also use a regular kitchen knife to cut the crusts off.  Your pockets will just be rectangular instead.  Cool!  

Next, add a dollop of the marinara sauce and spread around the bread leaving a half inch space around the edges.

Add 1-2 slices of cheese (you may need to break it apart if you're not using shreds, to account for that 1/2 inch edge we need).

Lastly, put the pepperoni slices on top of the cheese.  So far your pizza should look like the first picture.

Now, in a small bowl mix the flour with just enough water to form a thick paste.  

Using your finger, take the paste and line that 1/2 inch edge all the way around.  Take your other piece of matching bread and gently place on top.  Again, using your fingers, pinch the edges so they lock shut.  

Sprinkle some oregano on top if you have it.

Your pizza pocket is now ready for:

A toaster (medium setting to start, making sure to check it periodically; you want to make sure the cheese doesn't melt into your toaster, so keep your peepers on it).

Toaster oven (350º for about 10 minutes, flip sides in the middle)

or a non-stick pan (same as toaster oven).

*Recipe inspired by @jungletwisted

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.  

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:

 

Puppy Chow

©Alex Wolfe Photography

INGREDIENTS:

1 box of Chex Mix Cereal (you can get rice, corn, or both!)

1 bag of semi-sweet vegan friendly chocolate chips

1/4 plus 1 heaping TBSP of Earth Balance vegan butter (or you can make your own!  Look under "Trusty Resources" tab and find out how!)

1 cup of peanut butter 

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

This is classic Puppy Chow.  No making it healthy, no fancy nut butters (though feel free to try it using almond or sunflower butter); like straight up 1999 party snack, heart attack in a brown paper bag.  You might remember this as the night you got diabetes.  So, just know that.  And if you feed this to your kids they will probably sleep again sometime around...never o'clock.  So know THAT, too.  This is great for a party, after a bad date, or just when your sweet tooth can't be satiated because you just smoked a fattie.  No joke, I've eaten so much of this I've puked. And I don't just meant that ONE time either.  

Part of the danger here is that it's just too easy to make.  So, let's promise each other something right now.  Repeat after me:

I, Alex (you, ________)

Solemnly swear

to only make this stoner stack

once a year

or as a gift for someone special

so long as there isn't too much time between the making of it and the delivering of it, otherwise I know I can't be trusted to be in the same room with it.

How to do?  Easy, peasy.  In a large bowl, gently dump the contents of one whole chex box. Put aside.

Next, in a medium size bowl add the peanut butter, chocolate and "butter."  Microwave for one minute and thirty seconds on high!  Then stir until melty and combined.  You can also do this on the stove top over medium heat; should take about two to three minutes (this would be preferable if this snack wasn't already designed to just kill you, so....)  Pour the chocolate mixture over the chex mix, tossing intermittently so that the cereal is evenly coated.  Don't be afraid to get your hands in there.  (That's what she said).

Lastly, dump the cereal mixture into a large brown paper bag (I used a Trader Joe's bag, and I think that might be gross?  But I wasn't sure, so I just did it.  I wasn't gonna tell you, but now I'm telling you and I feel a little vulnerable, so don't go shaming me or anything.  Please and thanks).  Once in the bag, pour about a whole box of powdered sugar (be sure to make sure it's vegan; non-organic sugars are often processed using animal bone char - blech!) . Close the bag and then shake it.  Shake it not so much like a polaroid picture, but rather like you're NOT supposed to shake a baby.  Hard and fast. (Oh, boy that's what HE said.  They are out of control, am I right?)

Transfer contents of bag to a baking dish and let cool.  

Eat SPARINGLY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.  And don't forget our promise to each other ; )