Vegan Blondie Bars

I love a solid baking or cooking challenge – veganizing and freeing of gluten are two that I do frequently.  With food allergies and diet preferences abundant in my circles, I have come to embrace this style of preparing food.


I made these during the month of crazy-busy April.  I wrapped up a grad class, an art class, a presentation at work, and working on some other big changes all in one month.  I made time for some fun around Eric’s birthday weekend though.  We got together with some friends to grill out one evening, and I brought these lovelies along for dessert.  The swapping of a few ingredients made them no less delectable, I promise!


To make these vegan, I swapped out butter for coconut oil and chia seeds for eggs.  I decided that while I was it, I may as well swap out the brown sugar for coconut sugar.  It made them a little less sweet tasting but kept the chewy goodness.


This is the fantastic meal prepared by our friend, Ben, which preceeded the dessert.  I’m drooling just looking at this image – please start a food blog!


Q proceeded to work on his tag – making these diagonal pink lines all over the sidewalk, steps, hose, himself… Yup, those are my wedding shoes, they are still going strong.  More on the rest of April later – I have been busy creating, just not posting/sharing busy.


Vegan Blondie Bars – adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

  1. In a small bowl combine: 2 tablespoons chia seed with 6 tablespoons water.  Stir and allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour or till thickened and gel-like.
  2. Grease 13x9x2 inch baking pan with dairy-free shortening.  Microwave 2 cups coconut sugar and 2/3 cup coconut oil until oil is melted.  Stir until mixture is smooth.  Cool slightly.  Combine with chia seed and water mixture and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  3. Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups Cup 4 Cup mix, for gluten-free option!), 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.  Mix in 1 cup semi-sweet, vegan chocolate chips.
  4. Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly.  Cut into bars while still warm.

Easter Brunch 2016

Easter was a little while ago, I know.  However, I have been busy taking two classes, testing the waters for big and exciting changes coming soon.  I actually started this post just after Easter and it has been sitting as a draft since then.  I have quite a few artwork drafts sitting around right now too, waiting for my classes to end.  More on those later.

coffee.cakeI have been raised on good coffee cake, however, it wasn’t until recently that I was given the best recipe on earth – my maternal grandmother’s recipe.  She was famous for this recipe – she worked in a diner and regular patrons would come in asking if she was working that particular day, and if so, had she made her coffee cake yet.  I have an adapted version of her recipe in this post, see below.

I love the Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour for all my baking needs.  It is as close as you can get to typical gluten baking, and I have tried quite a few different kinds.

The struesel in this cake is perfect – due to mixing the sugar, cinnamon, and flour with melted butter, rather than cutting the butter in.  It creates the best and most even struesel I have had.

This Bagel, Lox, and Egg Strata  from Better Homes & Gardens, was a keeper – I will be sure to make it again soon.  We swapped out the regular bagels for gluten-free, found in the freezer section at The Fresh Market (one of my favorite stores from Greensboro that recently opened here in Des Moines!)

Notice the difference in egg color, above?  The brighter ones are from our friends’ farm, Lipes Family Farm, outside of Iowa City.  We have been buying eggs and meat from their monthly buyer’s club here in Des Moines for more than a year now.  If you are in the Des Moines Metro area, sign up for their e-mail list to join!

img_9591Brunch was delicious – smoked salmon, bagel, & egg casserole, fruit salad, mixed greens salad with lemon vinaigrette, and bacon from our friends at Lipes Family Farm.  Some of the best, I have been told, as I am no bacon expert!

img_9586I kept the kids busy and entertained during brunch prep with assorted washi tapes.  These are the best thing for my creative  & busy kids – they can tear off whatever size they like, and stick them everywhere.  The tape peels off of all surfaces easily and it comes in glitter, patterns, and bright colors galore.  The rolls are small enough to easily fit in my purse and take along for on-the-go fun anywhere.


Gluten Free Struesel Coffee Cake

For struesel topping, combine: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour, 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

For cake, combine: 3 cups Cup 4 Cup gluten free flour, 6 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and  1-1/2 cups sugar. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles cornmeal. Blend in 1 cup milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla.  Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan.  Sprinkle struesel topping over top.  Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes, or till knife inserted near center comes out clean.


Gluten Free Blackberry Orange Cake + Mother’s Day

I made this gluten-free cake, with Greta’s help, a couple weekends ago to take to dinner with Eric’s family.  It is a simple cake and the addition of yogurt makes it moist and dense.  It was a nice ending to a family meal with a just a hint of orange to the tangy blackberry.  Scroll down for the recipe.

I simply served it plain without any topping.  Though a glaze or a berry sauce as a topping would be quite good.  It makes a single layer 8 inch cake and so it went fast.  I even caught Eric toasting a slice and eating it for breakfast one morning.

For Mother’s Day weekend, we traveled to Minneapolis to see my sister and her new baby girl, Dylan.  It just kills me that the cute little newborn dress my new niece is wearing was once worn by Greta.  Greta enjoyed her time meeting her new cousin and hanging out with her aunt and uncle.  In this photo she is still holding an armload of toys that belong to her cousin – she was trying to work with Dylan on grasping toys.  We explained it would be a little while before that could happen.  In any case, I think Greta is going to be an excellent big sister and extremely helpful.  I am not even sure how many times she told my sister, “I help!”

Sunday morning we ate at a lovely cafe, The French Meadow Bakery & Cafe on Lyndale in Minneapolis.  They specialize in organic, vegan, gluten-free, and slow foods.  I had the two egg breakfast which came with sourdough toast.  Eric had the chicken chorizo Cajun hash browns, which he reported were spicy and chock full of garlic cloves.  As you can see, we had the place to ourselves on this Mother’s Day Sunday.  Although, we were there by 7 AM – we are all early early risers on trips.

After a perfect breakfast, we headed off to Lake Calhoun for a walk.

Greta and Eric practiced their soccer skills lakeside.  Greta picked up quite a few ball handling tricks right away.  Maybe we have a future futbol girl on our hands.

Other than visiting family and work we have been just laying low.  I am enjoying seeing lilacs in bloom for the first time in 9 years.  The scent is just heavenly and lilac is not a plant that grew very successfully in Greensboro.

Greta has a new-old sandbox that was once mine.  I am impressed it is still in one piece, considering the abuse it endured from my sister, friends, and myself as a kid.  Greta has been putting it to good use in the mornings before I head off to work.  I am trying to soak up as much relaxing time and one-on-one Greta time as I can with a mere 8 weeks to go until baby boy arrives.

Gluten Free Blackberry Orange Cake – serves 8. 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan and dust with gluten free flour, knocking out any extra.  Stir together 2 cups gluten free flour1-1/4 cups sugar1 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together 2 large eggs1/3 cup vegetable oil1 cup plain low-fat yogurt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a bowl.  Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.  Add the zest from one orange and 1 cup blackberries (fresh or defrosted), fold into batter.

2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top of the cake is light and golden and a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. 

3. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes in the pan.  Then, place on a wire rack too cool completely.  

4. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in cake keeper for 2 days at room temperature. 

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

I first made these vegetarian and gluten-free burgers back in January when we had some friends over for dinner, and forgot about them until now.  I decided to make them again, according to my scribbled notes, I was pleasantly surprised at their end result.  It is a recipe I originally made up as I went – not always the best idea when company is coming over.  However, I did have some frozen veggie burgers on hand, as a back-up plan.
The second time I made these burgers, I mixed everything the night before and popped it all in the fridge overnight before cooking them.  This recipe is so easy to whip up – it will no doubt become my go-to veggie burger recipe this summer.  I can’t wait to try it on the grill!  

I used the trusty Baby Bullet to puree half the beans, half the carrot mixture, the scallions, and eggs.  If you wanted to make this recipe egg-free, you could replace the 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, or just simply increase the amount of panko as a binder.

Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or till done.

They should be a nice golden-brown and firm all the way through.

This photo shows a buried veggie burger – just the way I like them – covered in mustard, spinach, and on a big crusty bun.  This just so happened to by a lunch at work one noon hour.  The orange dotted thing is one of those nifty reusable sandwich bags.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

1. In a small bowl combine: 2 grated carrots, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a food processor or blender puree: 1/2 can of black beans, 4 tablespoons chopped scallions, 1/2 the carrot mixture, and 3 eggs.

3.  Transfer puree to a medium mixing bowl.  Combine with puree: remaining 1/2 can of black beans, 1 tablespoon chia seeds1 cup gluten-free or regular panko, and remaining carrot mixture.

4. Fry on griddle or pan over medium heat, 3-5 minutes per side or till done.  Serve with toppings and bun of choice.

Baby Shower + Gluten Free Dairy Free Waffles

Last weekend I hosted a baby shower for my sister, Caroline, and another childhood friend, Hannah.  Sadly, the few photos I took of guests turned out a hot blurry mess (trying to juggle too many tasks, methinks) and I don’t have one of Hannah.  So, Hannah, or the moms, if you have one of the three of us, I’d love to see it!  I don’t even have a photo of my sister, mom, and myself.  I failed miserably on photographing once people arrived.  😦

Due to my undying, pregnancy love of waffles, I opted for a waffle bar at this brunch.  This is a naked waffle, however for this brunch, a wide array of toppings were available.  These waffles are gluten-free due to the use of Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose baking flour and dairy-free due to my dairy-free buttermilk recipe.  

The first batch I made, the weekend before, had 1/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut thrown in.  I personally really liked the subtle coconut flavor and think that perhaps baby boy likes coconut, as I am not usually a coconut fanatic, but seem to be leaning that way these past few months.  I left the coconut out for the baby shower, instead using it as a topping.

The topping bar consisted of: sliced strawberries, sliced bananas, mixed berries, jam, honey, maple syrup, almond butter, Nutella, sliced almonds, sliced pecans, cinnamon, unsweetened shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and whipped cream.  I had every intention of making this topping bar look prettier, but alas better judgement of overdoing things outweighed my nagging sense of Pinterest style.

We set up a couple of extra tables and chairs to accommodate 12 guests.  Each table was dressed with vintage linens, china, silverware, and a floral centerpiece.
I made a delicious punch from juice and coconut ice cream – more on that later.  The glasses were a mismatched set – a thrift store find.

I sewed simple garlands of strips of paper and hung them from the chandelier as decor.

One grandmother-to-be, Katie, created these fun and funky paper flowers as decor.  They are so bright and cheery!  The cupcakes were gluten-free spice cake and oh so tasty!

This grandmother and grandmother-to-be enjoyed nabbing my on the go child for a quick and blurred photo.  Greta enjoyed the guests giving her gift to her future cousin.

Caroline and two of her childhood friends, Sami and Hailey, are pictured here.

I ate my fair share of topping drenched waffles at this brunch before we retired to the living room for a couple of shower games

This game I prepared for the shower.  One thing I forgot to specify before beginning this game, and we ended up flipping a coin for: highest or lowest points win?  As Eric pointed out, have a trash can ready for the people like me who carry their entire life in their bags!  You buy a digital download of in my Etsy shop.

 Our friend, Hailey had a nursery rhyme trivia game and an old wives tale trivia game prepared with cute children’s picture books as prizes.

Greta slept through the gifts, but ended up enjoying the wrapping and filling of the gifts upon awakening.  We are still finding these lovely bits of crimped paper all over the house.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Buttermilk Waffles – makes 6 – 8 waffles, adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1975

1. Sift: 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour1/4 teaspoon baking soda1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 tablespoon honey1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free xantham gum. Add 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, if desired.  

2. Beat in a separate bowl until light: 2 egg yolks.  Add and beat 1-3/4 cup buttermilk replacement6 tablespoons melted margarine

3. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients with a few swift strokes.  Allow to sit while preparing egg whites.  Beat until stiff peaks form, but not dry: 2 egg whites.  Fold egg whites into batter.  Cook according to waffle iron and preferences.