Halloumi, Date, and Orange Salad

I love Middle Eastern food. I think I always have, but my experiences traveling and living abroad increased my appreciation of it. In the town I lived in in France, there was a Middle Eastern bakery and tea shop that had the most exquisite pastries and delicious cups of traditional mint tea. I would stop by often, especially nights when I went to the bar across the street. There’s nothing better than starting (or finishing) a night out with pastries.

Then, I traveled to Israel for the first time eight years ago and I got to try more dishes. I couldn’t believe that people actually ate hummus and vegetables for breakfast. I learned how to appreciate savory dishes more at any time of day, not just at lunch or dinner.

I also had my first Halloumi salad. I couldn’t decide what to order in Jerusalem at lunch one day, and so I copied what an Israeli scout chaperoning our trip ordered. She got a halloumi salad that was light and filling at the same time, full of fresh lemon juice and lots of greens and herbs.

Over the years, I kept making Halloumi salads but I’d add ingredients based on what was available or depending on my mood. Last night, I decided to make a Halloumi, date, and orange salad. I got the inspiration from “Zaitoun,” a cookbook by Yasmin Khan that features Palestinian cuisine. I just bought it and I want to make everything.

Khan features an appetizer-like dish with Halloumi, pomegranate seeds, dates, and oranges. Unfortunately I can’t find good pomegranates in St. Louis this time of year, so I decided to nix the pomegranate seeds and add pistachios instead. I also added fresh farmers’ market lettuce as a base and avocado. I kept the dates, because I can find those at specialty stores pretty much year-round.

If you don’t have a grill pan, you can use a regular frying pan for the Halloumi. Just make sure you watch the heat because frying cheese in hot oil can get precarious at times.

This salad is the perfect blend of flavors and textures. It’s crunchy with pistachios, salty with grilled Halloumi, sweet with dates, tangy with oranges, and it also gets a kick from the pomegranate molasses dressing. Now that I’m writing about it, I want to make it again.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this song and the recipe.

Halloumi, Date, and Orange Salad

Ingredients

2 small oranges, peeled and sliced into segments with no skin
2 handfuls of quality lettuce
1 small avocado
8 oz Halloumi, sliced
olive oil for pan plus 2 Tbsp for the dressing
1/2 cup pitted dates, sliced thin
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses for dressing
flaky sea salt for garnish

Directions

To make the salad, first peel your orange, cut it at the top and bottom, and use your knife to slice off the skin. Then split the interior into segments, so you’re left with little pieces of orange. Prepare the avocado by cutting it in half, removing the seeds, scooping out the inside with a spoon, and chopping it or slicing it (your choice).

Heat olive oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Add the slices of Halloumi and grill them for about 5-8 minutes, or until one side is evenly browned. Once one side is evenly browned, flip it to the other side and cook until it’s the same color. Remove all the Halloumi from the pan.

To assemble the salad, place lettuce on plates and top with avocado, oranges, Halloumi, dates, pistachios, and mint leaves. Whisk pomegranate molasses and olive oil and pour the dressing over the salad. Garnish with flaky sea salt. Enjoy!

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Vegan Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins

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I decided to make these vegan cinnamon swirl banana muffins the other day when I had a lot of almond milk to use up, and two very ripe bananas. I was going to make banana bread, but I feel like that’s been a broken record baking project during the pandemic.

Plus, these muffins are more fun to make. You whip up the batter and then create a cinnamon sugar swirl mix (which is basically just sugar and ground cinnamon). You place a little batter at the bottom of a muffin line or greased muffin cup, sprinkle on some topping, swirl it with a toothpick or skewer, and repeat until you’ve used up all the batter and filled the cups most of the way.

I’ve had a couple muffins for breakfast with coffee every morning for the past few days and I’m still not sick of them. I know I’m offending a muffin god somewhere but I like to store mine in the fridge and warm them up in the microwave so they taste like they just came out of the oven.

My boyfriend liked these as much as I did, maybe more. They keep disappearing from the fridge, which is fine by me because I still haven’t finished the baking spree I started at the outset of the pandemic.

Here’s a song to get you started on your vegan cinnamon swirl banana muffins.

Vegan Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins

Ingredients

for the muffins:
2 large, very ripe bananas
1/2 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

for the cinnamon swirl topping:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp melted coconut oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper cups or grease it well. Set it aside.

Mash the bananas in a stand mixer and then mix in the almond milk, flaxseed, melted coconut oil, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.

Combine the ingredients for the cinnamon swirl topping in a small bowl. Place a little bit of muffin batter in each cup, then sprinkle on about a 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon swirl topping. Using a toothpick or a skewer, swirl the cinnamon mixture into the batter. Repeat with the rest of the batter and cinnamon topping. If you have any cinnamon mixture leftover, sprinkle it on top.

Bake the muffins for about 22-23 minutes or until they’re golden brown and spring back to the touch. Let cool for a few minutes in the tin and then remove to cool the rest of the way on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!

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Asparagus Enchiladas with Homemade Tomatillo Salsa

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The other night I made some really good Swiss chard and white bean tacos, but then I had a bunch of corn tortillas left over. I also had some asparagus from my last farmers’ market delivery, so I decided to make asparagus enchiladas for dinner Sunday night.

I know asparagus and enchiladas don’t really sound like they go together, but trust me, they do. For these enchiladas, you cut up the asparagus into semi-small pieces and then put them directly into the filling. You don’t have to cook them beforehand. If you did, the asparagus would become too soft and mushy. No one wants mushy asparagus.

I used shredded chicken in these tacos but you could use any kind of shredded meat including one from pre-roasted chicken. The idea is to get the meat very soft and tender beforehand when you roast it, and then it gets even softer as it bakes inside the tortillas. My boyfriend and I agreed that the chicken was one of the best parts of this dish.

My other favorite part is the sauce. You can use jarred or canned green taco sauce to save time, but if you have a little extra time, I’d highly recommend making it from scratch. I used a pound of husked tomatillos, white onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and garlic to make my sauce. I didn’t use any ground spices because the sauce had plenty of flavor on its own.

Make sure you save about half of the sauce to pour over the stuffed tortillas once you put them in the baking dish. Then you can cover the whole thing with a healthy portion of Monterey Jack cheese. I don’t often cook with Monterey Jack, but it’s perfect in this dish. The cheese melts down well and holds everything together. I’d recommend turning on the broiler for a minute at the end of baking the enchiladas so the cheese on top gets brown and bubbly.

Here’s a song to get you started on your asparagus enchiladas journey.

Asparagus Enchiladas

Ingredients

for the green salsa:
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound tomatillos, husked
1 white onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced in half
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, juiced

for the chicken:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, salted and seasoned 1-2 hours earlier and at room temp
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth or water

for the enchiladas:
small corn tortillas
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock, store-bought
chopped cilantro leaves
2 pounds shredded chicken breast
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Directions

First, make the salsa. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and spread the tomatillos, sliced onion, garlic, and sliced jalapeños on a prepared baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on top. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables and the juices from the baking sheet and put them in a food processor. Add the chopped cilantro leaves and lime juice and pulse until the mixture is salsa-like but still chunky. Set aside. Change the oven temperature to 375 degrees F for the chicken.

To make the chicken, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts in a tin foil-lined baking dish and season both sides with salt and pepper. Pour in the water or chicken broth and cover with foil or a lid. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and has an internal temp of 165 degrees F. Transfer the chicken breasts to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium until they’re shredded. If you do not have a stand mixer, transfer the chicken to a large, shallow bowl or cutting board and shred it with two forks. Put it in a bowl for later. Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook for about five minutes until it’s caramelized. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Sprinkle on the flour and then pour in the chicken stock, stirring the whole time so the mixture doesn’t clump. Cook over a low simmer, stirring most of the time, until the mixture thickens. Turn off the heat and fold in the shredded chicken, sour cream, and asparagus and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Warm the tortillas over an open flame over a gas grill or by reheating them in the microwave until they’re soft and pliable. Pour half the salsa into the bottom of a 9×13 pan and spread it out so it completely covers the bottom. Fill each tortilla with a little bit of the chicken mixture, sprinkle some cheese on top, and roll it up so it looks like a cigar. Place seam-side down in the baking dish with the salsa. Continue this process until the baking dish is full. Then pour on the other half of the salsa, making sure you cover most of the tortillas, and sprinkle on the rest of the Monterey Jack cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. If you want, you can broil it on high for a minute or two at the end to make the top brown and more bubbly, but make sure you keep an eye on it if you do. Enjoy!

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Earl Grey Morning Buns with Chocolate Custard Filling

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I’ve wanted to make these Earl Grey morning buns for a *very* long time, but I never got around to it, partly because they’re a commitment and partly because they require some difficult-to-find ingredients. For example, how many of us can readily find vanilla bean paste in the grocery store? Maybe you can, but then you’re luckier than I am.

However, shelter-in-place has actually been a boon to my baking because if I can’t find an ingredient in the store, I can probably find it online for even cheaper. Yes, it takes some digging and price comparison, but at the end of the day, I usually get what I need. I would recommend Amazon as a great source of ingredients. You can usually find what you need for cheaper than store prices and it ships to your house, so you avoid the store entirely.

I ordered some loose leaf Earl Grey tea to make these buns and cacao nibs for the filling and outside. I also got the aforementioned vanilla bean paste, which smells like heaven and makes me want to use it in everything.

Even though I love the flavor and texture combinations in these buns (fragrant Earl Grey tea, sweet chocolate and sugar, tangy and crunchy cacao nibs), they got me thinking about other combinations. I might do a lemon lavender bun soon because I think that would work well. My boyfriend wants buns with a cinnamon sugar interior, which I think would also be delicious. Honestly, the possibilities are endless. You just have to make minor tweaks to the dough and find or create another filling that works for you.

I like to store my buns in the refrigerator in an airtight container after day one so they keep longer. If you want to bring them back to day one status, just reheat them in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. The sugar filling on the outside will melt a little but they still taste as good. I ate one alone this morning and I made it last by taking apart each layer and eating it separately.

ANYWAY. Here is the recipe for the buns. The only note I’d have is to be very careful when you’re making the chocolate custard. The eggs and milk can curdle easily, so err on the side of using too little heat than too much. Also, stir the entire time so you further reduce the chance of curdling.

Here’s a song to get you started on your Earl Grey morning bun journey.

 

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Blueberry Cornmeal Scones from Sister Pie

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Some of my favorite recipes during shelter in place come from bakeries that I’ve visited or would like to visit. In lieu of serving customers, many bakeries are posting recipes for popular menu items on social media. These blueberry cornmeal scones from Sister Pie bakery in Detroit are a perfect example.

I saw the recipe on Eater yesterday after they wrote an article about how the bakery posted the recipe on Instagram. I immediately knew I had to make them. I love cornmeal in baking because it gives pastries a hearty, reassuring cornbread taste and some crunch. It’s good to have multiple textures going in most dishes but especially baked goods. No one wants a mushy scone.

These scones are basically like cornbread with a scone snuck in, but I’m totally okay with that. They have juicy blueberries scattered in, plenty of butter and sugar, and a touch of heavy cream to bind everything together.

My favorite part of making these scones was actually the labor-intensive process. Okay, you’re probably thinking to yourself right now, shelter in place is really getting to her. But seriously, making scones the old-fashioned way is fun and less stressful than taking out a food processor and stand mixer. You basically need two tools: your hands. You also probably need a big bowl and a bench scraper and pastry cutter, but those are good investments for any baker, anyway.

I was a little worried about how they would turn it, but luckily, the recipe from Sister Pie is very thorough. It even tells you what kind of pressure to use when you’re forming your dough. It’s approachable enough for any baker, even if you’ve never made scones before.

I had a scone fresh out of the oven and then I had another one this morning for breakfast with a pot of tea. My boyfriend has basically been eating them nonstop which is pretty par-for-the-course with whatever I make, but the faster something goes, the more I know he likes it.

Here’s a song to get you started on your blueberry cornmeal scone journey.

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Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Sea Salt

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I was going to tell you that these are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made, but that would be unfair to all the other ones I’ve made over the years. You can check out those recipes in my definitive ranking of chocolate chip cookies.

However, these cookies are delicious and probably one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made, by virtue of two things: Bourbon and vanilla sea salt. I’m a fan of putting bourbon in anything, but they have a special place in these cookies, which also have rye flour and big chunks of dark chocolate.

Also, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m a fan of putting sea salt on cookies. In this recipe, I mixed sea salt with seeds from a vanilla bean, so there’s an extra layer of flavor on top. I love the way the vanilla pairs with the bourbon.

A couple notes about making these cookies: One, you’ll need to chill the dough for a while. This can be annoying, especially when you want cookies ASAP (and, let’s face it, we all want cookies ASAP). But commit to the chill and you’ll be rewarded with soft, pillowy cookies that practically melt in your mouth.

Second, you’ll want to press down the dough balls a little before you put the cookies in the oven. This will allow them to spread more evenly and not become too dense. I used the palm of my hand and applied gentle pressure. Don’t slam your hand down on top because the dough is fragile from being in the fridge, and then they might fall apart.

My boyfriend and I have been eating at least of couple of these cookies a day since I made them the other night. He told me they’re better than the ones we sometimes order from a local pizza place for dessert, which was a high compliment because those cookies are delicious.

Here’s a song to get you started on your bourbon chocolate chip cookie journey.

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Sea Salt

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate wafers or chunky chips, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp bourbon
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp flaky sea salt

Directions

Pulse the wafers or chunky chocolate chips in a food processor until small pieces form. Set aside.

Whisk the AP flour, rye flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Then beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and bourbon and beat until incorporated. Reduce the speed and add the dry mixture until it’s incorporated.

Scoop balls of dough (1/4 cup worth) out of the bowl and put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the sheet and place it in the fridge for at least two hours and up to a day.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Mix the sea salt with vanilla bean seeds. Place dough balls at least 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and press down on the top gently to flatten them slightly. Sprinkle with the vanilla sea salt. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the cookies are golden brown around the edges but soft in the middle. Remove the sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool for a couple minutes, then let them cool the rest of the way on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

 

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PB and Jam Oats

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My breakfasts during quarantine have been…how do I say…eclectic. One day I’m eating an everything bagel with avocado, the next I’m having chocolate covered doughnuts. In a way, that’s really good because it breaks me out of my usual routine. In another way, it feels like the rollercoaster this time period is.

Either way, having more time in the morning has given me a chance to experiment more with what I make, so that’s positive no matter how you spin it. This morning I decided to make PB and jam oats. It looks like it would be time consuming, but it’s actually the easiest thing to make.

First, make your “jam.” I say jam in quotation marks because it doesn’t require all the usual work of jam but still has the same consistency and flavor. You take fresh or frozen berries, mix them with a little sugar in a saucepan, and heat it over low. If the berries are frozen like mine were, they’ll start to defrost and break down. Once the berries are completely thawed and breaking down, you turn the heat up a little, mash things down with a spoon, and stir for a couple minutes until the mixture has a jammy consistency.

You can make your oatmeal according to my recipe below, or you can use your favorite recipe. For the peanut butter topping, you just put a couple tablespoons of peanut butter (crunchy all the way…do not argue with me on this) in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it for 10 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the peanut butter has melted. Then, you ladle it on top of your oatmeal, add some of your jam, and swirl it all together.

If you’re a fan of peanut butter and jam sandwiches you’ll love this oatmeal. Or, if you’re a fan of oatmeal and you want to change up your usual routine, this is also a great option.

Here’s a song to get you started on your PB and jam oats journey.

PB and Jam Oats

Ingredients

for the jam:
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

for the PB topping:
2 Tbsp peanut butter

for the oatmeal:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup almond milk (or your choice)
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

First, make your jam. Combine the berries and sugar in a small saucepan and heat on low. Once the sugar has dissolved, give everything a stir. When the berries are completely defrosted (if you’re using frozen) and the fruit is starting to break down, turn the heat up to medium and stir for a couple minutes, mashing down berries with the back of your spoon. Remove from heat while you make your oatmeal.

To make the oatmeal, combine the rolled oats, milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat then turn down the heat to keep the oatmeal at a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oatmeal has the consistency you like. I like mine thicker. Stir in the chia seeds during the last couple minutes of cooking.

To make the peanut butter topping, microwave the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 10-second increments, stirring between each one. It took 20 seconds for mine to melt.

To assemble your oatmeal, pour the cooked oats into a bowl and top with your peanut butter and jam. Swirl with a toothpick or a spoon. Enjoy!

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In Defense of Salted Butter

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If you’re a frequent home baker and cook like I am, you’ll notice that recipes usually call for unsalted butter. There’s a reason for this. Most recipes, especially those for cakes, cookies, and other sweets, are formulated to include a very specific amount of salt. It’s usually added later when you’re making batter or dough, and it’s calibrated by taste. This means the person who made or tested the recipe adjusted the salt level to his or her palette.

Recently, I started reading “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat, a chef who teaches people how to cook by helping them understand the four main elements of any dish. I’d perused the book before and even made a recipe from it, but I didn’t read it front to back like Nosrat suggested because honestly, it’s a time-consuming endeavor. Now that I have plenty of time on my hands, I can devote some attention to it.

In the first chapter of the book, she talks about salt and how we usually under-salt a dish. She also talked about figuring out how much salt to add by taste. It’s trial and error, and it’s an intimidating process for most home cooks. But if you persevere and give yourself some time to make mistakes and learn, you’ll be rewarded with better tasting food.

I’ve internalized this lesson over the past year and I’ve found that there’s a huge difference in the food I cook and bake. It tastes better and less bland. It’s true that when you’re scared of salt (and trust me, it’s normal to feel this way), you err on the side of under-salting a dish, which in turn leads to food that is a little more flavorless. Salt *enhances* flavors and doesn’t hide them. If you mess up it can obscure them, but as Samin says, everyone makes mistakes.

Which brings me to salted butter. I’ve subbed it in some recipes that call for unsalted butter and then adjust the fine sea salt later. I also use it in the place of unsalted butter when I’m making food like the grilled cheese I’ve pictured above.

That particular grilled cheese was the best I ever made, and it wasn’t only because of the flavor components inside, although those were great. I had melted cheddar cheese, which has a little bite to it, fresh farmers’ market scallions and tomatoes, and sourdough bread that I’d baked the Friday before. But it all came together when I fried it in salted butter. The exterior of the bread became crunchy, golden brown, and slightly salty, kind of like the way the outside of a French fry tastes when you sprinkle some salt on it. It tied everything together and made the sandwich taste even better.

I think there’s a good argument to be made for using unsalted butter in recipes. After all, most people do it. It allows you to add salt in specific amounts later, which is generally easier and wiser if you want to taste as you go.

However, I’d urge you to take a chance on salted butter. I think it’s an under-appreciated ingredient. Try it in brownies or cookies, or even when you’re frying food. It will make your flavors pop even more and take your food to the next level. It might involve some trial and error, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably be like me and buy a pack every time you go the grocery store.

In honor of salt, here’s a song from one of my favorite salt-friendly bands.

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Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Levee Baking Co.

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The other day, I got really worked up about a piece in Esquire about how the restaurant revolution is ending. I’m not sure why, aside from the fact that it was a huge insult to anyone living in the Midwest and that it peddled pessimistic untruths about our society. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I should have let it roll off my back, but for some reason, I couldn’t.

Thank goodness for these cookies from Levee Baking Co. I’d reached a high point of anger and I was scrolling through Instagram in a semi-blind haze, looking for any and all distractions. I saw a photo with a recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies from Levee. “Done,” I thought. The recipe looked simple enough; it only involved one bowl and ingredients that I already had on hand.

I knew the cookies would be good because everything at Levee is delicious. If you’re ever in New Orleans, I’d highly recommend you check them out. Everything they make reflects the artistry and adeptness of the chefs.

However, I didn’t realize these cookies would be the best ones I’ve ever made. I know I say that a lot, but I’m telling the truth. The only cookies I like as much as these are my recipe for cherry chocolate chip cookies. These vegan chocolate chip cookies are packed full of ingredients including shredded coconut and rolled oats. My boyfriend said they taste a little like macaroons, which is true. They have that texture going for them, but they also have so much more: melted chocolate chips, sea salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

They’re rich and reassuring. Honestly, they’re the perfect self-isolation cookie. They’re also super easy to make, so you can do it when you have some down time. Although to be honest, we probably all have a lot of down time these days.

I’ve included the recipe below, but you can also find it on Levee Baking Co’s Instagram account.

Here’s a song that reminds me of these cookies.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Levee Baking Co.

Ingredients

53 g rolled oats
53 g shredded coconut
68 g brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp maple syrup
125 g natural peanut butter or other nut butter (I used almond)
5 g flax plus 3 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
49 g chocolate chips (vegan or not)
flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Mix the flax plus water and let it sit for a second. In a separate bowl, combine it with all the ingredients. Scoop dough on to the baking sheet, placing balls about one inch apart. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle on some flaky sea salt. Let them cool (if you can). Enjoy!

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

Spring is officially here in St. Louis. I took a couple sanity walks last week after finally securing a bandana and face mask. I stopped a few times to look at the beautiful spring flowers. I would encourage you to do the same. Step outside with a face mask and bandana and take a stroll around the block, making sure to stay far away from anyone else in the vicinity. Social distancing is real, and we all need to take precautions to make our community safer for one another.

That being said, there’s still plenty to enjoy. I know not everyone is enjoying consistent spring weather (hi, Boston), but eventually, it will be spring. Being in nature has always helped me recenter and concentrate on what’s important. In trying times like the ones we’re in now, it’s extra important to take a minute to clear our heads and focus on something that isn’t news or COVID-19-related.

Last night I drove to pick up a pizza curbside at Union Loafers, one of my favorite restaurants in town. It was an early pickup and so the sun was just starting to set as I drove home. Driving west on I-64, you eventually come up on Forest Park on the right. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the park, it’s the biggest one in St. Louis and usually a popular spot for locals and tourists.

It’s a little quieter now, obviously, but you still see people getting exercise on the walking and bike paths. To be honest, I wish more people were wearing masks, but that’s a separate issue. Yesterday when I drove by, I noticed that the trees in the park had fresh green-yellow buds that glimmered in the late afternoon sunlight. It seemed like almost overnight, the trees had burst into bloom. I saw bright pastel-colored flowers and branches swaying in the breeze.

In a way, it felt bittersweet because I can’t enjoy it as much as I usually would. But then, I realized this experience makes me appreciate it even more. Not being able to have something you usually take for granted gives you new eyes.

We don’t know what next year will bring in terms of next steps, but we do know that it will bring another spring. That’s reassuring to me. I hope that I can be out in nature more next year and go on more road trips and hikes, but for now, I’m content with my walks around the neighborhood and nearby parks. It still offers me the opportunity to appreciate nature and this sudden spring.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

I *love* this story about making a French omelette. The writer goes to cooking school in France and watches as a head chef chastises a student for his faulty attempts at making an omelette. There’s an art to it, for sure. Read more in this New Yorker story.

Can we talk about how adorable this story about puppies during the pandemic is? This is the content I live for. Read more about the recent uptick in puppy adoptions in this Boston Globe piece.

I think that even more than politically, we’re in an important moment culturally. I love this story about musicians playing on rooftops in Iran during the pandemic. It’s very inspirational. Read more in AFAR.

French people love their movies, so it’s no surprise that the film industry there is soldiering on during the pandemic. The government, the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), and Unifrance, an organization devoted to French films, are all doing their part to keep people in the industry informed and to share films with a wider audience. Read more in this IndieWire piece.

As usual, The Atlantic came through this week with a wake-up call. The magazine ran a sad but true story about how our lives won’t get back to normal too quickly after the U.S. reopens. The story is broken up into sections that cover different phases of the pandemic. “There is no going back. The only way out is through—past a turbulent spring, across an unusual summer, and into an unsettled year beyond,” writes Ed Yong in the story. I think it’s important to stay positive while realizing the hard truths of the situation.

Native Americans are responding to a food crisis during the pandemic. Getting food is often a challenge for individuals living on reservations, but now the problem is compounded. Read more about how people are creatively and resourcefully responding to the crisis in this New York Times story.

Kudos to Katie Lee Collier, a local restaurant entrepreneur, for making a shrewd business move during the pandemic, which has taken its toll on local businesses. Collier, who owns the wildly popular Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria with her husband, Ted, recently decided to pivot to selling frozen pizzas and pastas. So far, it’s been a huge success. Read more in this St. Louis Magazine article.

Last but certainly not least, food writer Jeff Gordinier wrote an article in Esquire about how the restaurant revolution as we know it is ending. I disagree. Read my response in my latest blog post.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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