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Easy Yogurt Popsicles and Preparing for College Life

17 Aug
Dorm food has a bad reputation. Pizza, chips and candy, energy drinks, and Cup Noodles constitute the four major food groups of the college diet. So how does a teen food blogger, one who considers the Saturday morning farmers’ market the highlight of her week, navigate this daunting new environment?  
Well, for starters, I will live in an apartment-style dorm this fall. My two roommates and I share a kitchenette equipped with a refrigerator, stove, and (hopefully) a small oven. I have access to fresh produce and pantry staples from an on-campus grocery store, but everything I cook must be quick and simple. Healthy snacks are especially important because they keep me going throughout the day and dictate my energy level. 
Enter yogurt popsicles with granola and fresh figs. 
This recipe allows you to use whatever you have on hand, mixing and matching flavors, with no fancy equipment required. Layer granola, mixed nuts, and ripe fruit with dollops of yogurt in a glass vessel, pop the glass in the freezer for a few hours, and enjoy a specially-designed, portable snack.
Some of my favorite combinations include toasted coconut and blueberries, almond butter and banana, and mixed berries with jam.
In the coming weeks, I will chronicle every chapter of my dorm food adventure. I invite you all to share any recipes and tips with me in the comments box. I look forward to discovering creative ways to enjoy fresh food within the parameters of college life.
1/2 cup yogurt (I like the tanginess of Greek yogurt)
3 tblsp granola 
2 ripe figs 
2 tblsp fig jam 
Drizzle of honey 
Drizzle the sides of the glass with honey. Cover the bottom with a dab of yogurt. Layer bits of jam, figs and granola with the yogurt, sealing the top with yogurt. Stick a spoon through the center of the “parfait,” and freeze for at least five hours. To release the popsicle, run the glass under warm water and twist the spoon.  


Almond-Date Breakfast Bars

15 Mar

Are you someone who follows routines? 

In some parts of my life, I have developed a system for doing things and rarely do I deviate from my approach. Take writing newspaper articles for example. I email my sources, record my interviews and take notes for back-up, highlight the most important quotes, and structure my story around these quotes. It’s a methodical structure that produces solid results every time. But there are some tasks that I have not gotten used to, such as waking up before school every morning. I stumble out of bed at least 10 minutes after my alarm goes off, throw on my uniform, and sprint down the stairs. No matter how hard I try to maintain a schedule, going to school will always be an unpredictable scramble out the door.

This past week, however, I broke a routine that I have stuck to religiously: breakfast. Weekday breakfasts consist of three options: eggs, bagels, and granola. I craved a change- something tasty and special, but healthy enough that I would feel energized after my first meal of the day. 

Leave it to Deb Perelman to devise the perfect recipe to relieve my breakfast slump. These almond-date bars are nutty from the almonds and oats, and naturally sweetened with honey and chewy, plump dates. Their golden brown edges and slightly crumbly texture are features only attainable in wholesome, homemade treats. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, these little gems happen to be 100% vegan. It was only after I enjoyed my first bar that I discovered this fact. 

So, what are you waiting for? It’s not so bad to break routines once in a while. 

Recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 cup chopped dried pitted dates 
1 1/4 cups rolled oats 
3 tblsp barley or whole-wheat flour 
1/3 cup wheat germ*
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/4 cup almond butter 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup honey 
1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest 
1/4 tsp almond extract 

Yields 16 2-inch square bars 

*I did not have wheat germ on hand, so I substituted wheat bran instead. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square ban in one direction with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang off the sides a bit. Do the same in the opposite direction. This parchment “sling” makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan later on. 
2. In a large bowl, stir together the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ/bran, almonds, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond extract until smooth. Pour these wet ingredients over the dry mixture, and stir them together until the dry ingredients are evenly coated. 
3. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, pressing it firmly to the bottom, edges, and corners to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. Bake the bars for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the tops have a bit of color too. They will feel soft when you touch them, but will set up once completely cool. 
4. Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Once they’re cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If they seem crumbly, chill them in the fridge for an additional 30 minutes, then cut them cold. 

Big Cluster Maple Granola

8 Mar
Granola is my go-to snack; it is something I always have in my pantry and that I munch on by the handfuls. What makes it so delicious to me are the big, clustery chunks. I shamelessly dig through the bag in search of these precious clusters and rejoice upon discovering every oat-y, nutty clump. But after I have extracted all of them, the last thing I want to do is break out a spoon to gather the remaining scraps. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could find a granola recipe composed entirely of clusters

My wish came true when I received my copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Deb’s maple granola is subtly sweet, golden, and oh-so-clustery. I love the freshness and crisp texture of homemade granola, and the tart cherries offset the oats’ earthiness perfectly. An egg white is the secret ingredient though, the protein that binds everything together during the baking process. I love the aroma of oats, nuts, and coconut, glazed with maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon, permeating my house. Even though I want to dive right into the tray as soon as it comes out of the oven, it is crucial to let the granola cool completely so you can break it up into clusters later on.

Wrapped in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon, this wholesome treat becomes a simple and easily transportable homemade gift. It was a hit when I made it for my pop-up bakery at The Summer Opportunities Fair, and I am sure that it will be well-received by whoever you choose to give it to (if it even lasts that long in your kitchen). 

Recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut 
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped 
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ*
2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt 
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup (I use Trader Joe’s organic brand)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 large egg white 
1 1/2 cups dried cherries or other dried fruit of choice 

*I substituted wheat bran for wheat germ and it worked perfectly. I do not recommend omitting it entirely because small pieces help to bind the granola together. 

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Pour the wheat germ/bran onto a baking sheet and toast it in the oven just until aromatic, about 5-7 minutes. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour in the olive oil and maple syrup, coating everything evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir it into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. 
2. Spread the granola in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until it is golden brown on top and feels dry to the touch. Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Once the granola is completely cool, break it up into desired-size clusters. Sprinkle in the dried fruit. 

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan-Brown Sugar Streusel

4 Nov

This is not just any pumpkin cake. This Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Pecan-Brown Sugar Streusel is the first baked good I have made since submitting my first college application; and boy, did it taste sweet. Applying to college is like watching an action film: one moment you are energized and hopeful, a second later you become massively overwhelmed, and by the time the movie’s over, you’re so drained all you want to do is sleep. What better way to celebrate this whirlwind experience than with a little baking therapy? 

I baked slowly and leisurely, enjoying every moment of my return to the kitchen after a long separation. Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger and sprinkled with toasted pecans, this cake embodies fall flavors. The batter is perfectly moist with a pumpkin taste that is present but not overpowering. My favorite part of any coffee cake is the buttery crumb topping. This cake has not just one, but two layers of nutty, sugary streusel, which means double the goodness. Cut into generous wedges and served with a cup of coffee, it makes a wonderful breakfast or afternoon snack. I particularly enjoy sneaking into the kitchen and nibbling on it sliver-by-sliver.

Recipe slightly adapted from Home Baked Comfort 

For the streusel:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
Pinch of kosher salt 
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks 
1 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted for 10 minutes at 325 degrees F 

For the batter: 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp ground ginger 
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 cup light brown sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 cup pumpkin puree 
1/2 cup sour cream 

For the glaze:
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
2 tsp milk 
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Makes one 9-inch coffee cake.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan or a 9-inch cake pan with 3-inch sides. To make the streusel, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cubes of butter and, using a pastry cutter or fork, break down the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the toasted pecans. 
2. To make the batter, in a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture in thirds, incorporating on low speed. The batter will be quite thick.
3. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter. Spread the remaining batter over the streusel and top with the remaining streusel. 
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50-55 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove the sides from the pan and slide the cake onto the rack. 
5. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. 

Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars

22 Sep

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is 


1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut 
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds 
1/2 cup raw whole almonds, coarsely chopped 
1/4 cup flaxseed 
3 tblsp whole wheat flour 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/3 cup packed coconut oil 
1/3 cup honey 
1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks 

Makes 8-12 bars, depending on how big you cut them. 

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. 

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, shredded coconut, flour, flaxseed, sliced almonds, chopped almonds, salt, and chocolate chunks, mixing very thoroughly until combined. In a small bowl, combine honey and coconut oil, microwaving on high power for 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each increment, until coconut oil is melted. Stir vanilla extract into coconut oil mixture, then pour the entire mix over the dry ingredients.

3. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir until all of the ingredients are evenly coated in the coconut oil. Press the dough into the pan, pressing with the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature before placing them in the refrigerator for an hour to harden. Remove from the fridge and cut into squares. Serve immediately, or return them to the fridge for later consumption.
Now that reality has sunk in and school is in full swing, every day is a race from one class to the next, onto the yellow bus to tennis matches, and finally back home where I glue myself to a chair for long, treacherous hours of homework. In order to maintain my health and sanity in this crazy whirlwind of a schedule, I need snacks. And not just your run-of-the-mill sliced apples or suspiciously neon orange “flavor blasted” goldfish, but a hearty, satisfying, and delicious item that I can eat on the go. Enter Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars- a nutty, chocolatey, oat-y treat that is both satisfying and good for you. These trump my favorite store-bought granola bars in both flavor and freshness. They’re made from whole ingredients you can find in your pantry and that are easy to pronounce, unlike the mystery products listed on the backs of many wrappers. As hectic as my life has become in the past month, escaping to this nutritious homemade snack gives me the right boost of energy to keep going.