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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Pepto-Bismal and Prosperi-Tea: Talking About Guts

This post is about guts. How many times have you had an upset stomach and reached for the magic in pink, Pepto Bismol? If you are anything like me, I grew up with this cooling, pink, minty elixir. Not a clue as to what is was. I just knew it was medicine. And that it worked.

Fast forward to the present. Every so often, you have one of those days. Days where you know you really do not need to eat a certain something (or really should not)… you really, really don’t… but you eventually munch it down anyway. For me, this usually involves gluten, because I am a sucker for sweets (if you did not know).

Of course, afterwards, I am in serious gut trouble. However, I do not reach for the nearest pink bottle of Pepto anymore. Instead, I’ve found a lovely solution for that bloating, awful feeling when the world seems much too round. Tea.

Yes, tea. You will note that these look a little oddly packaged. These are not ordinary, they are medicinal teas. Prepared properly, you can enjoy a world of soothing comfort from peppermint leaves or a little boost from cocoa extracts.

Now please note, there is no way I am promoting this chocolate tea as a chocolate alternative. It is flavored hot water. Let’s be real. However, I do enjoy the sweet flavor of the chocolate tea. It is also a “laxative” and while I do not think of tea as a “strong cure,” I do believe this tea gently re-engages the bowels. Off and on constipation problems? This is a more natural way to handle that.

You may be thinking, but what if I do not like tea? Sometimes, something sweet can be a little more appealing. Not a light, airy sophisticated sweetness, but a real blast of sugarcane. For times like this, I add my favorite sweetener.

Did I mention it is locally made in Arizona? Healthier than sugar? Gluten free? Oh yes. And as you can see, it comes in flavors! My favorite is in the picture. Vanilla Creme brightens my coffee, my tea… I love it.

SweetLeaf produces quality too. A few facts from their site:

  • SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener does not use chemicals, alcohols, solvents or enzymes at any stage of the extraction and purification process.
  • SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener contains only two ingredients: stevia leaf extract and inulin, a soluble vegetable fiber. Inulin is a naturally occurring prebiotic that nourishes the body’s good intestinal flora, supporting good digestive health and immune function.
  • SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener is ideal for everyone, including people watching their weight, managing diabetes and fitness enthusiasts who embrace clean eating.

I highly recommend trying the liquid sweetener for iced tea too. One thing I do not recommend it for is a sugar replacement in baking. Of course, for our purposes, it is golden. 🙂

Q: For all those bloated, ick days out there, I no longer rely on the pink bottle. What do you do? Are you willing to try a medicinal tea? A liquid sweetener?

image source: food craving, cookies!

Life & Chinese Cooking

Can I let you in on a secret?

I’ve been putting together an experiment.

No really, I’m serious. For the past three weeks, I have been coordinating and communicating with students, professors, and a board member to submit a research team proposal.

We are talking seriously nerdy here. Behavioral economics, wuurrrrd.

Haha. Yeah. Too cool.

This is why my posting has dwindled below the point of New Year’s resolve. Much too busy to do the fun food stuff I did have plans for. For instance, using the coolest cookbook I found a few weeks ago!

This is what I hinted at in a tweet before the experiment proposing took priority. I have reasons for thinking this book is so special…

1. As far as I can tell, this book is authentic. Let me qualify more (before you quit reading): I lived for a few months in Hong Kong and visited mainland China. I made tang yuan (say it: “tone-g you-ehn”) with HK friends. I love certain traditional dishes, and this book includes recipes for many of them. Therefore, since I can only work with deductive reasoning, I’m convinced this is legit. Phew. Lots of explaining.

2. Chinese traditional cooking is rice based (gluten free. BOOM.) and does not use milk products (dairy free. BOOM.). Non-western yummy. Now to raid my favorite place for Lee Kum Kee sauces (many of which are gluten free).

3. The greatness that is Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket! Have you been? If not, I am making a YouTube video guided tour in the near future. If you simply cannot wait for that, go! Your inner snack affectionado will discover at least one heading… “Japanese SNACKS.” *swoon*

Basically, half of the thrill purchasing this giant Chinese cookbook was so that I could learn new ways to make delicious food… the other half was having an absolute need to be raiding Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket on a regular basis. 🙂 I love local business.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I have been working on an experiment! Starting next week, I will have a chance to plot some Chinese cooking. Until then, you are at the mercy of my idea of  stir fry for the allergy free crowd. Coming sometime this weekend.

Q: Where do you like to shop for special foods? Have you been to Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket?

Tough Week Inspiration & Snack Olympics Recap

So much has gone on this week, would you not agree? Between SOPA, PIPA, and ASU getting hacked, the internet has been a crazy place.

Instead of venturing into my growing collection of allergy friendly office lunches, I thought it would be nice to recap the results of the gluten free dairy free snack Olympics and highlight some other strong contenders…

1. Roasted Seaweed (crunchy salty) 2.Bumble Bar (chewy savory) 3. Fruit bar 4. Fruit in a Jar 5. Blueberry Muffin Larabar (chewy sweet) 6. Sunflower seeds (chewy protein filler) 7. Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte (chewy chocolate chip) 8. Baked Snap Peas (chip-crispy veg) 9. Dark Sweet Cherries (chewy sweet)

Bumble Bar is a new addition, but one I luckily discovered. When you lose staple snacks, branching out is no longer an option. It is necessary. Though I thought I would completely hate a sesame-based product, Bumble Bars changed my mind. Cherry Chocolate is my favorite, with the Original flavor a close second. Do try this bar at least once.

The two fruit snacks I added were to jazz up a usual snack. I love bringing in raw fruit, but you can get bored (and unmotivated) with an apple. Instead, bring in a frozen version like frozen grapes or icicle pops made from local fruit. Another idea is to re-use an empty jar and fill it with chopped up favorites. Mix in dried fruits for a texture combo. Just be sure to keep it local and get quality produce on the cheap at your farmer’s market. 😉

There is the recap for you. I am always interested in suggestions though, so twitter me!

Q: Share the top 4 items in your internship or office food stash!

PS- I also thought I might share a really neat idea I found browsing the web. I’ve had free time since the ASU network is still unavailable and I cannot access half of my classwork. (Hooray?)

Washi Tape your keyboard! For anyone with white keys at home or at the office, it is removable, simple, and fun. There is even a local AZ Etsy Store to get cheap deco tape from!

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?

Larabars and Snap Peas

Today, I have another internship story for you and more sweet success. Which would you like first? Let’s talk food first.

You might have seen this in my twitter, but this Larabar flavor tastes just like a lovely blueberry muffin. No lie. I loved each bite. My co-worker W had not heard of Larabars before. I think I may have to bring some to share, since both he and his wife are interested in health food. W, as you will hear about later, is a great person to work with.

I’ve also been munching on these lovely baked snap peas. At first, I could not figure out this purchase from Trader Joe’s. I mean, these tasted like snap pea cheerios. What do you do with something as peculiar as that? A neat way to gravitate towards actual green vegetables, perhaps, but I’m afraid in our first dairy free gluten free snack olympics, this rookie fails to make the cut. Tough competition.

Now for a story. Another internship moment of brilliance, and why my co-worker W is such a neat guy.

Starting around 8:30am, I began updating our firm’s data collections with fresh numbers from the Federal Reserve, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc. Updating spreadsheets of data then allowed me to update all the files associated with the data. This took a number of hours and as I munched through some lunch at my desk, I wanted to make sure I did not miss anything before announcing to W that I finished. My co-worker W had been training me and telling me where to find data and how to update it appropriately. Since he had been so nice about a large amount of questions, I wanted to make sure I had done everything he asked, and well.

But I had nothing to announce. The computer folders I worked with showed no modifications made since December, according to the “date modified” tab. I told W the news and we both tried to figure out what happened. He believed me, but thought it was really weird. I determined that I would find proof of my work in five minutes or redo everything as quickly as possible. So many prayers rocketed skyward as I tried to search the computer for anything that might show my work.

Some things demand attention because they are simply gigantic. Unlike this rather obnoxious headband I found at Nordstrom, my mistake was small and unfortunately significant. I saved all of the data to the wrong drive without knowing it. The computer tracked down the changes I made once I searched the entire system for Wednesday’s modifications. I discovered my “recent work” attached to folders with the exact same names as ones I worked on, but in the completely wrong place. Lesson learned! W treated me with respect throughout the entire thing, which makes him the most amazing co-worker ever.

Q: Have you tried baked green vegetables? Have you had a co-worker W experience (or a gigantic headband like this one)?

Gluten Free Dairy Free Snack Tryouts – Olympic Style

This will be my first week of work as an intern. Yes, I am nervous. What does an economist intern do? Is it hard to learn? Is it a competition for becoming America’s Next Top Copy-maker? I have no clue. We’ll both just have to find out tomorrow. Meh.

In the meantime, I wanted to start off with a whole lot of tasty pictures, but Olympic style. We have our returning champions from Trader Joe’s…

Dark sweet cherries (no sulpher, no nada!), sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate! I read the label and the dark chocolate truffle has no milk listed. I think it is smooth and safe for us dairy-free folks. I am new to this though, so check to be certain.

Each of these have been quite lovely to munch on in the afternoons, so I am taking them with me to the office! As for the newbies, I turn to some hidden (and remarkably cheap!) promising individuals…

You are looking at: two (new for me) flavors of Larabar (Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte)… one new Justin’s packet flavor (Honey Almond butter)… and the complete newbies – roasted seaweed! I looked at them and thought to myself… health benefits! how cool would I be to eat these and like them?!

Yeah. I went there. Feel free to judge.

In this Olympic style tryout, the rules are simple. Fill me up, be noms-to-the-delicious, and be portable. Since each of these are pre-packed, I think that last one is covered. We will see how these turn out taste-wise later this week! I am also working on a lunchtime version as well. I’ll sneak-tweet those results most likely, so follow this little bird as I wing out this week.

Q: Do you have New Years Resolutions with trying new stuff? Do you have office go-to snacks?

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