Friday, July 05, 2024

Cookie Monster Protein Cookies


This is a recipe that I saw on Petite Pancakery. I modified it, to simplify and get cookies that are very cakey instead of fudgy, but they were great! I doubled the original recipe, which is what I am writing below with my modifications, and I got a total of 8 cookies. (I you want really precise measurements and macros, go to the original post, but I was making this in my home kitchen for a quick dessert without buying any special ingredients.)

¾ cup (90 g) all-purpose flour (my notes say I added about ¼ cup more after this)
50 g vanilla protein powder (I used Cornerstone Wellness, which has lactose-free whey)
4 tsp. of blue spirulina powder (this weighed 10 g for me)
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
120 g unsweetened applesauce
2 large egg whites
40 g monkfruit sugar (I used evaporated cane juice sugar)
30 g white chocolate chips + more for the top

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a baking sheet with a slipat or parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Whisk together applesauce, egg whites, and sugar. Add in the dry ingredients and watch the blue color come to life! Combine to form a thick cookie dough. Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide into balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Gently press balls to flatten (if dough is a bit sticky, lightly wet fingertips or back of spoon); top with additional white chocolate chips.

Bake 8-9 minutes (the original recipe said about 8, I baked mine 9). The cookies will "puff" up a bit while cooking, but should deflate when cooling (assuming you haven’t added the extra flour like I did). Once fully cooled, stuff your face like Cookie Monster!

Kale and Sweet Potato Salad


I loved this kale and sweet potato salad for lunch! I wrote down my modifications below – the pumpkin seeds may have been the best part about this recipe. And with some leftover kale, I made myself a kale banana smoothie the next day!

1 ½ cups diced sweet potatoes
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. paprika (I used 1 tsp.)
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
olive oil, to taste
½ cup pumpkin seeds
2 tsp. chili powder (I used a generous pinch of Korean pepper)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup, divided
½ cup tahini
1 ½ Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. water
1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces
3 cups cooked quinoa
½ cup finely diced red onion (I omitted it)

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

Add the sweet potatoes to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Toss until the sweet potato is well-coated in the spices, then spread in an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, or until tender.

In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin seeds, chili powder, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a pinch of salt (I also used 1 tablespoon of olive oil) and mix until well-coated. Spread the pumpkin seeds out on a separate baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven with the sweet potatoes and bake for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through, until toasted.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine the tahini, remaining tablespoon of maple syrup, the lemon juice and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Mix well, then add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until your desired consistency is reached.

In a large bowl, drizzle the kale with olive oil. Massage with your hands until the kale is tender and has reduced in volume by about a third. (Honestly, I never do this part!)

Add the quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, red onion, and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with about half of the tahini dressing and toss well. Serve with more dressing, if desired.

Batch of links

- I was surprised to find out that some ground spices, like cloves and star anise, can dissolve plastic and should therefore be stored in glass containers.

- Do you know where pasta carbonara was invented?

- Did I link to the The Official Seinfeld Cookbook yet? Pretty cool how a show about nothing managed to produce 60 recipes!

- I really enjoyed Julia Turshen’s essay about what counts as cooking.

- I’m pretty sure this at-home salad bar wouldn’t work for my lifestyle, but I love the way it looks!

- Some people are genetically predisposed to being vegetarians.

- I am sick and tired of being given a QR code instead of a menu, and thankfully, Anne Thériault feels the same way.

- Have you heard about the breakthrough study using Xolair to treat food allergies?

- In somewhat related news, food sensitivity tests can be dangerous for kids.

- Glad I’m posting this in time for the Olympics – an episode of The Burnt Toast Podcast about how we have only recently acknowledged that female athletes need to eat, and it turns out that the keto diet and intermittent fasting are not as effective for women as for men (but those diets are still recommended to women so often!).

Giraffe Cake

Here’s a quick roundup from March (I don’t know how I fell so far behind, but here we are). My parents came to visit, for the first time in exactly five years, and it was great having them over! My mother and I went to see a mask exhibit at the Parman Library – it was nice, albeit a bit underwhelming. I think I would have liked more explanations about the various types of masks on display; they did have a nice variety, though, with masks from 3 continents!

We also took a little day trip to Seguin, where we saw the world’s largest pecan (also a bit underwhelming). My parents, who are francophone, still cannot pronounce Seguin the way the locals do – as you can see, I find that hilarious.

Finally, it was the Fox’s birthday, and he said that he wanted a giraffe cake. My cake-decorating skills are limited, so after much googling, I settled on this method, and it was a success! I made a chocolate sheet cake from Baking Illustrated along with this vanilla crusting buttercream, reducing the amount of powdered sugar from 4 pounds to less than 2 ½ pounds (I used a bit less liquid to compensate, and it was definitely sweet enough for me). I used Tootsie Rolls for the spots and other details, and the cake board is simply a cardboard box that I deconstructed and covered in extra-wide aluminum foil. This was a hit!

Cashew Cream Pie


I tried making grain-free, refined-sugar-free coco-fudge cookies (some of them I topped with coconut, but some I left plain). We agreed that we liked the plain ones better, but even then, they weren’t great. Then I made this cashew cream pie, and it was great! Not too much sugar, but still very rich (a lot of calories for sure). For some reason, the kids weren’t too fond of it, so it lasted longer with just us grownups eating it. And it’s so easy to make, too!

1 ½ containers So Delicious Dairy-Free CocoWhip Topping
1 ½ cups cashew butter
1 premade pie crust (gluten-free if you wish)
1/8 cup vegan chocolate chips (mine were miniature)
2 packages nut butter or sunbutter cups

Place packages of sunflower butter cups in freezer to harden for 10 or 15 minutes.

Combine So Delicious Dairy-Free CocoWhip with cashew butter until well mixed. Pour mixture into pie crust and smooth top with a spatula.

Remove the sunflower butter cups from the freezer and then from their packaging. You should have 4 total (though I'm glad I had a few extra since a few didn't cut correctly). Turn each sunflower butter cup over so the larger side is face down. Use a very sharp knife to cut each cup in half.

Place one sunflower butter cup along the edge of the pie crust and gently press it into the pie so that the cut edge disappears. Place the next directly across from the first. Place the next two at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock on the pie, and then place the final four in between each of the first four halves.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on to the pie evenly. Add additional icing decorations if you want to do so. Cover and store in the fridge.

Warm Tofu Chop Salad

I adapted this recipe from Gema Hamshaw’s Power Plates. I used raw sugar snap peas instead of cooked snow peas, raw spinach and baby kale, and Right Rice instead of rice. I’d make my dressing more liquid next time, but this was really good!

For the salad
¾ cup (150 g) short-grain brown rice, cooked
1 ½ cups (100 g) snow peas
1 Tbsp. neutral vegetable oil
1 (15-oz or 425-g) block extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into ¾” cubes
3 cups (90 g) firmly packed baby spinach
3 Tbsp water
Tamari, for seasoning
3 carrots, shredded or cut into thin strips with a julienne peeler
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped

For the dressing
¼ cup (60 g) smooth peanut butter
1 ½ Tbsp. tamari
2 tsp. agave nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated
2 tsp. minced or finely grated ginger
3 Tbsp. hot water

For the optional toppings
sriracha sauce, lime wedges, chopped scallions, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped roasted peanuts, black or white sesame seeds

While the rice is cooking, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the snow peas and blanch for about 2 minutes, until bright green and crisp-tender. Drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes, then coarsely chop if desired.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the spinach and water and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the spinach is just wilted. Stir in a splash of tamari.

Transfer the tofu mixture to a large bowl. Add the rice and let cool for about 10 minutes. Add the snow peas, carrots, and bell pepper.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake until everything is combined.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Serve with toppings of choice.

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins


Like Deb Perelman, I can’t help but notice the difference between the muffins I make and the big, sweet, fluffy confections that my kids beg for at the grocery store. I mean, yeah, my muffins tend to have whole grains and less sugar and all, so I can see the draw of the commercial ones! I decided to make this Smitten Kitchen recipe as a treat. Even then, the Fox decided that while he only likes muffins with chocolate chips, the batter must be vanilla, not chocolate. You know, because you’re either particular about your food or you aren’t, and, well, he is. The rest of us loved these muffins!

½ cup vegetable oil or melted lactose-free butter
2/3 cup (140 g) light or dark brown sugar
½ cup lactose-free milk (any kind, or even water or coffee, apparently)
1 cup (225 g) plain lactose-free yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ cup (60 g) cocoa powder (any kind)
1 ¾ cups (230 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups (225 g) chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Either coat a 12-cup standard muffin tin with butter or nonstick spray, or line with paper liners. (I had a total of 15 muffins.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Whisk in eggs. (At this point, I admit that I mixed all my dry ingredients together before adding them to the wet ingredients; that’s just how I roll.) Sprinkle salt and baking soda over the batter and whisk thoroughly to combine. Stir in cocoa powder, whisking until any lumps disappear. Stir in flour and 1 cup of the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the 12 muffin cups; don’t worry if it goes all the way to the top. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup chips over the tops of the muffins. Bake muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin comes out batter-free.

Wednesday, July 03, 2024



Last month, I went on an amazing trip to Japan. Most of it was technically a business trip, with guided tours, so I’m not in the best position to tell you how to get from point A to point B except for the two days I spent on my own. I wrote about it for my organizing blog, but suffice it to say that I highly recommend visiting Kyoto, especially a href="">Kinkaku-ji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera, and the Gion district. I also highly recommend a day trip to Nara, to see the deer and Todai-ji Temple! We took the Shinkansen to Tokyo, and I made sure to sit on the left side so that I could get a good look at Mount Fuji! (You can also see it from other locations, including from many towers in Tokyo.)

I attended a two-day seminar in Tokyo, then spent two days visiting on my own. Japan is beautiful, culturally rich (I mean, they have Shintoism, samurais, and Hello Kitty?), very safe, with great public transit, and kid-friendly; it’s much more affordable than I thought; the people are very nice and helpful with tourists. Japan has really good food, especially as souvenirs (and I recommend Don Quijote for the maximum variety of Kit Kats and other kitsch souvenirs); there are also non-kitsch souvenirs in Tokyo. Here are some general tips before you go, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the washlets. I mean, I got used to them very quickly, and now feel like North America is a bit inferior with its analog toilets! We are planning on redoing our main bathroom in a few years, and I am seriously considering having a washlet installed.

I had read a lot of online guides beforehand (like this one or that one, and obviously relistened to the Spilled Milk episodes (306 and 584) about Tokyo. In the end, I decided to only see the highlights, so that I could spend a day visiting Kamakura (I read two novels by Ito Ogawa about a public writer living in Kamakura and couldn’t resist); see here for an itinerary suggestion.

On the two days I was on my own, I went to Kamakura and visited some of the sights in Tokyo. Getting to Kamakura Station by train is pretty easy, and it’s roughly a 1-hour ride from Tokyo. The public transit system in Tokyo is very well integrated with Google Maps, which is helpful if you are lost. (The downside is that someone like me would prefer to stay on the same subway line instead of taking 3 different ones even if the latter is faster, so Google Maps doesn’t always show the “best for me” route.) All the subway lines have a color and letter, and each stop has a number as well as a name, so it’s easy to figure out where you are even if you don’t read Japanese!

Once I was in Kamakura, I walked to Kotoku-in Temple to see the Daibutsu, or great Buddha. It was beautiful! Exiting the temple, I made the mistake of assuming I could take a cab to my next intended destination (Hokokuji Temple), but there were no cabs to be found, and it turns out there are no Uber cars in Kamakura! Since I hadn’t studied the bus route ahead of time, I ended up just walking that day, and honestly, it was too much. I still recommend the visit, just figure out transportation first!

I walked west and, once I got to the tori gate on (according to Google Maps) Wakamiya oji, I walked north to Hachimangu Temple and visited a bit. Then I kept going west to Hokokuji Temple, to see the bamboo forest. I loved it! It was beautiful and so peaceful. They also serve matcha tea in the gardens, but I recommend getting a reservation for that, as it can sell out. Then I walked back to Hachimangu and turned south on Komachi Street, a nice pedestrian street with restaurants and shops. I had the most delicious ramen of my whole trip! I slowly made my way back to the train station, and back to Tokyo.

I took a detour to see Shiba Park and Tokyo Tower on the way back to my hotel; I stopped by a konbini to get some snacks for a girl dinner, since I was too tired to go back out. Good thing the next day had a lighter program!

Obviously, I had to walk in Shibuya Scramble Crossing and see the Hachiko statue, which was the perfect place to meet one of my new friends! We walked to Don Quijote, where I bought 13 kinds flavors of Kit-Kats and other souvenirs! From there, we went to Chiku Chiku Cafe to pet some hedgehogs with a third friend, then met up with a fourth friend to walk around Minato Ward and Harajuku.

Once home, we had a taste test of all the Kit Kats I brought back – I really wish we had these flavors regularly available in North America! Think green tea, orange, peanut butter, salted caramel… They also had a flavor called Gold, where the bottom layer is as in the original Kit Kat, but the top layer is caramel; of the “cookie” flavor, which had whole wheat or barley (based on my Google Translate app). They were great!

I had an amazing time in Japan and I highly recommend visiting if you can!