Theo, Cocoa, How I Heart Thee

Sends the Green & Black’s running. (What doesn’t? I’m done with wax.)

Beats the socks off of Dagoba bars. (A veritable foe.)

Leaves Enjoy Life speechless? A must see.

Theo 70% Dark Chocolate. New bliss and new favorite.

Vegan. Gluten free. Soy Free. Fair Trade. Organic.

Q: What is your favorite chocolate brand?

source: choco pic

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Like a Good Blogger…

Aside

Good friends share. Like a good friend, I’m sharing a SWEET recipe. Ready?

1/2 cup Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk ice creams

+ 2 T Sunflower Butter

+ a MAD DASH cinnamon =

… Tuesday!

Nom nom nom.

Q: What’s your flavor combination?

My Cupcake Affair

Friends, I am very excited about this post.

I am also very concerned about this post, so please know that I do actually eat healthfully. I really do. Promise.

I’m turning this post into “Picture Monday.” Cupcakes, go!

Birthday Cake cupcake - sprinkles!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate cupcake - just look at that luscious frosting...

Espresso cupcake - not as pudgly as it looks, promise

Vanilla Bean cupcake - simplicity is often bliss, and this was

Each of these photos came from The Coffee Shop. On random days, I enjoy popping into The Coffee Shop and asking if gluten free cupcakes are available. Every day there are vegan (read: dairy free) cupcake options, but gluten free versions appear on random. I think it is always worthwhile to ask. Why? Allergy friendly cupcakes on demand and locally made, no less.

Support the community – check. Support my cupcake addiction – double check. 😉

The frosting especially is worth every penny. I love that stuff. There is one issue I do think I should mention. If you order the gluten free cupcakes, I sometimes find that they are dry inside. I think this is because I get the last ones of the batch, which have sat out for longer. Real food generally lasts less than forever. Surprise, surprise.

I am in love with Cruelty Free Cupcakes. Visit The Coffee Shop, enjoy the coffee, and tweet me if you find they have gluten free options!

Q: What is the most amazing cupcake flavor you have seen or had?

A Tale of the Little Vegan Gingerbread

This weekend, as announced, I went for it. Gluten free gingerbread house or bust baby! I even found the sacred sorghum flour. Never used the stuff before. I always used oat flour as a substitute because it was easier to find. Well not this season!

On Friday I planned to bake my little heart away and begin the serious academic studies on Saturday morning. Not so. Like most of my semester, I have had constant, fresh reasons to add more to my schedule. Boo. Friday multiplied into three student meetings, an additional paper, and more meetings scheduled for Christmas break. Lame sauce. I had no time to bake a thing.

rediculous. pugs.

Saturday morning, I realized I could procrastinate postpone study until Monday since final exams mean no classes. I also found out I had three interviews for positions next semester! Good vibes to work from.

Then my dough crumbled. And crackled. And miserably failed. I did not know what I would do. Like a two year old, I threw the dough in foil, chucked it into the refrigerator, and left it. Spitefully. Who needs gingerbread! …I am so going to lose any readers I have after this.

For some reason Monday, I got spunky. I dragged it out wishfully, then plotted. Why not just pour a bunch of almond milk in? It’s not like things could get any worse! Like magic, the vegan gingerbread dough did a complete 180… but went sticky. Luckily, adding the other half of the crumbly fridge dough fixed both the stick factor and the dry factor. Saved!

From this experience, I have a few practical tips…

1) Seriously, use a silpat sheet. For the love of humanity, use a silpat. You’ll go crazy otherwise getting the shapes onto a sheet or off of a sheet without destroying the shapes.

2) Do not remove the cookie cutter before you tear away excess dough. And use a butter knife for the tricky parts. Particularly if you find sick pleasure in cramming as many cutters as possible onto the sheet. Guilty as charged, but then again, I’m an economist. I’m prone to maximizing output. Hehehe.

3) Believe in the dough. Believe and watch out for sticky. Karina low-balls the amount of almond/coconut milk in the recipe as far as my experience goes, so pour on! (that way you get cute little poombahs in the oven!)

From Karina’s lovely recipe, I managed the following: 4 regular-sized ginger people, 1 mini, four 5.5″ walls, and 24 mini cutouts! What a generous stash. I found those cookie cutters (in such fun sizes and shapes) for $5 at Michael’s. Complete STEAL.

The time it took to do all this certainly ate into study time, but I was prepared. Management materials are not so hard to memorize when you’ve written multiple class papers. Later that night, I finished reviewing, but not before I churned out one more culinary feast

…which I will tell you about in the next post! Savory, local Arizona produce plus a few key seasonings made total vegan comfort food. Perfect for the rain!

But you have to wait til next time to find out the dish’s name. 🙂

Q: What is the best part about rainy days? I love falling to sleep listening to rain.

*image source: baking bookie, pugness

Let’s Create: the Alternative Holiday Treat Magazine!

Wouldn’t you like to have a nice back-pocket reference for the holidays?

Perhaps you would like to share some new concoction that tastes simply divine!

Maybe you have the cure for a frazzled parent in need of a quick, safe solution.

Well here is my opportunity for you. This month I hope to collect your favorite recipes for cookies, bars, or treats centered around the holiday you celebrate, since both Christmas and Chanukah will be celebrated simultaneously this year (for one day, anyway). There are a few rules which I outline below…

1. The recipe must be gluten free. That’s the only strict rule I have.

2. Mark any other avoided food allergies in your NAME box. Please code as follows: DF (Dairy Free), SF (Soy Free), EF (Egg Free), TNF (Tree Nut Free), PF (Peanut Free), CF (Corn Free), and comment below if you would like to code something else. I’ll update! Example recipe name: “Nana’s Gooey Snickerdoodles (DF, CF)”

3. Remember, this will be open until the end of December. If I have the opportunity, I may send one lucky participant something special for providing others with their hard work! It may be super cute if you happen to be a lady. It will definitely have to do with the theme of this link up! 🙂

4. Click to get started! You’ll get to see the current collection too. I made sure we have pictures with each link! Yay.

Please, please share this with your friends. I have come to realize how hard it is for those with harsh food allergies, especially in the middle of December. To find yourself without easy access to safe treats can be so difficult, especially when this season focuses almost exclusively on special foods. Your generous recipes are appreciated.

NOM NOM Gluten Free

One thing I realize now is that I must end my dependance on Starbucks.

It is slowly killing the nutritional aspects of my grocery spending. Until recently, coffee really did not work for me. I loved the smell, but absolutely hated the taste. I would imagine such a great flavor and be completely shocked each time I tried another sip. Gross. Well, that was until I found the special versions with fancy names and holiday syrups at Starbucks. I have no clue if there is gluten in the syrups, to be honest, and I frankly do not want to know. Not til February. (Hee hee.) Call it strategic ignorance. (No substantial reactions yet…yes!)

On the other hand, I am in love with the caffeine. Never in my life have I felt so awake! In need of a little midterm paper motivation? BAM that coffee lights your world up like a Christmas tree! Fortunately, I do not have too many of those. I actually have a little happy thought to share with you. I studied to the loss of social life so well that I averaged the top scores in my hardest economics class this semester AND no longer have to take the final. The hardcore efforts over this semester actually allow me to indulge my other focus. Perhaps you’ve noticed…

hideous and adorable. pugs can do that.

One thing I have yet to get out of my system is the need to BAKE COOKIES. I have had plenty of encouragement though, do not assume this is completely my doing. Hee hee, it’s just mostly mine…

A close guy friend of mine in St. Louis was excited to tell me about his plans this past weekend for a cookie making class. As he described the complete selection of fancy names, delicious thoughts of chocolaty orange, buttery cranberry, and rich molasses got me thinking. I wanted to bake. I wanted to bake such delicious treats it made the batter jealous.

Certainly, those ideas sounded perfect and wintery to me. I mean, I am the girl who cannot wait for the Christmas cookie magazines to hit the stands. If I could actually eat the Wilton products without headaches, I would cover everything in pearlized, glittery, shiny products. Mmmm. Tis the season!

However, when I was thinking about this, I recalled the best wintertime activity of an elementary school student’s existence and changed my direction. Does anyone else remember (back long, long ago when healthy did not destroy the surplus of candy available to those 10 and under…) making graham cracker gingerbread houses out of milk cartons? We covered ours with as much frosting as possible so that more candy would stick! Heheh.

obviously this kid had supervision - multiply that candy by 10X please!

Ridiculous, but brilliant. No one could stand the “icing” or whatever that stuff was once it dried out. I mean, seriously, it held that graham cracker to the cardboard and year after desperate year, I failed trying to get that sucker off. Hard as a rock. Solid.

Well this year I am super excited to try out a legitimate gluten free gingerbread recipe from none other than Karina (seriously, her recipe stash = the Hail Mary to gluten free baking). BUT I want your opinion because I aim to make something serious. We’re talking big kid size.

Should it be frilly? Or maybe a little more EPIC. Should I try some detail frosting instead of focusing on the home itself? A more tailored appearance perhaps… Well, it’s up to you! Please comment with examples and as inspiration hits, I’m going for it!

We’re talking pictures. And details. And drama! The more ammo you give me, the better the results will be.

However, I am one to have a PLAN B. If all attempts fail, I have decided to create a gingerbread teepee and call it sustainable housing. 🙂 We will solve the environmental issues one gingerbread experiment at a time if necessary at my house. My brothers are behind this one hundred percent. How organic of them.

Q: Seriously, thoughts on gingerbread houses? Want to show off your creations? Funny stories or gingery drama? Tell me. That, and tell me if there are any Arizona-based products I should try to get my mitts on for decorating/baking purposes!

image sources: starbucks, pug, domo kun, frosting, school house, martha stewart house, teepee

Local Treats: Frost

I wanted to share a little treasure I found this past weekend with you. Consider this local frosty treat…

I believe it is gluten free (removing the wafer) and it is certainly dairy free. I chose a strawberry-champagne sorbet with, as the employee put it, a “sample” of limoncello sorbet on top. Generous “sample” and generous staff!

Jessica’s mom actually recommended this location after hearing word of my poor reaction to Cold Stone. I need not describe all the details, but I do believe I am lactose intolerant. (Six hours of nausea and intense stomach pain. Thanksgivings started rather poorly in the early hours of Thursday morning.)

En liu, the Frost Gelato Shop offers a wonderful selection of flavors for the lactose intolerant and those who can enjoy dairy! I believe I could taste the bubbles from the champagne in my sorbet. Really amazing. The texture surprised me the most since it was so creamy. Sorbet? Creamy? What a top notch alternative since my dairy days are over!

If you want to check it out, a Frost Gelato Shop can be found in Tucson or in Gilbert at SanTan Mall (where I went). The original store opened in Arizona, even though it has out of state locations. Please let me know if you go and try other flavors. I love recommendations and am curious about their sorbettinis and (hopefully dark!) hot chocolate and… well, I need to make a few more trips. 🙂

Q: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Do you have seasonal favorites?

*For those who may have noted: Yes, I am allergic to citrus (strawberry, lemon) and so I did pay for that sorbet later, but sometimes you eat the bad stuff. Particularly when you know the reaction isn’t as bad as a dairy or peanut reaction. Particularly when you are lamenting the loss of ice cream. C’est la vie. I live to tell.

Double Up Smores: Food Allergy Friendly

Curious about my whereabouts this Thanksgiving? I have been sneakily waiting for the after party (my own creation) and plotting how to rock the season sans allergies! I love you guys and want you to be super healthy and happy this season. Therefore, I am bringing you treats of all shapes and sizes, and none of which will encourage your waistline.

Tell me more! Tell me more!

How about the healthiest SMORES you’ve ever tasted and a fire to huddle around for starters? We need to show the build up, and then I’ll break down the specifics… we’re making two. (Come on, one smore SO does not cut it. Gotta get our fix!)

First, a gluten-free graham cracker that tastes just divine. Does not crumble easily, and therefore tis perfect. Compare:

GF = gluten free, DF = dairy free/casein free, SF = soy free, PF = peanut free, TNF = tree nut free. Wow. So much avoided and so yummy. You’ll notice the calories indicated, but I save my explanation for the end. Ignore for now. Instead, hooray for the Smorables’ ingredients list! It is 2 ingredients short of completely recognizable and therefore very body friendly. Points.

Next, we assemble the most important filling selection: the chocolate. I think these mini chunks taste terrific melted and even beat the usual. Once again, an ingredient list you can read. Comparison…

We have 3 squares chocolate per smore. I like a ratio of 2 parts graham to 1 part chocolate. Flambe marshmallow just bonds the two together of course. Hehe. One importance thing to notice is that Enjoy Life offers chocolate without dairy, nuts, or soy. Huge deal. Huge.

FINALLY the critical marshmallow. Your typical marshmallow is full of crazy.

And not just that crazy. You know there are crazy ingredients in them. However, a nice little switch in labels means the same great taste, the same results can be had, BUT made from natural ingredients. Marshmallows that love your bod. Is not life so good today?

Alright. A nommy set of smores for us. What about this calories business, right? Perhaps you could care less about the calories, but my calorie notes serve a purpose. Those calories indicate how much of your intake comes from that product. If the calories are majority junk, then your treats are needlessly bad for you. It’s the holidays! Let’s indulge in really good stuff. 🙂 Our waistlines can jiggle from laughter all year round since we made smores and could enjoy them too!

Q: Do you have any other ideas for using these marshmallows, grahams, or chocolate pieces? I do!

*images: Smorables, Honeymaid, graham crackers, marshmallows pink, Elyon marshmallow & cartoon, Jet Puff, smore pics, Hershey, Enjoy Life, mini chunks