Shrimp and Orzo

This post goes out to my friend Julicia, who asked me to share the recipe for shrimp and orzo a few weeks ago and had to suffer from my procrastination.

This one-pot shrimp and orzo is one of the best dinners I’ve made recently. It’s so easy, yet so delicious. I don’t know why I said “yet,” because in my experience, some of the simplest dishes are the most delicious.

The shrimp and orzo gets a big upgrade with from fresh parsley and lemon. Also, it helps to find the freshest shrimp possible. When you have good, fresh ingredients, you don’t need much else.

If you’re not an orzo fan, you could sub in rice, but I’d highly recommend that you give orzo a try. I love the texture, and it pairs well with the shrimp and herbs.

Here’s a song to get you started on your shrimp and orzo journey.

Shrimp and Orzo

Ingredients
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup orzo
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions


Combine the shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper in a large bowl. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to marinate.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the orzo and toss to coat. Stir the orzo frequently until it turns golden brown. Then add the second round of minced garlic and mix until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the chicken stock into the skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the orzo has absorbed all the liquid.

Once the liquid is gone, mix in the shrimp and cover the pot again. Cook for about another six minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Enjoy!

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How to Use Puff Pastry

When I post pictures on Instagram of puff pastry tarts I make, I always get a friend or two who texts me and says, “I can’t believe you made that.” I also talk to friends who are scared of puff pastry and don’t think they can make anything with it at home.

I have a secret for you: You absolutely can. I use frozen puff pastry and it works every time. Puff pastry is one of the simplest ingredients to bake with. It is so easy, but it yields creations that look like you spent hours in the kitchen or years at culinary school.

The trick to puff pastry is to invest in a really good product. I usually buy Dufour from the frozen aisle at Whole Foods. It’s very high quality at a reasonable price point. You might say, um, how is $12 reasonable for a frozen product? That’s fair, but you’re paying for quality. Dufour’s puff pastry is lightly, flaky, and perfectly buttery. It’s basically as close as you can get to the puff pastry that pastry chefs make.

If you don’t want to shell out that kind of cash, you could also try Trader Joe’s frozen puff pastry. I’ve used that a few times and it’s still good, just not quite as good as Dufour.

The next trick to using puff pastry is to let it defrost appropriately. NEVER, and I mean never, let puff pastry defrost at room temp. You will be left with a soggy crust that’s gummy and inflexible. Instead, the night before you’re planning on using puff pastry, put it in the fridge. Let it sit there until you’re ready to use it the next day. The Dufour box says to let the crust defrost for three to four hours, but I like to let it defrost longer than that because sometimes, depending on how cold your fridge is, three hours isn’t enough.

When you’re ready to use the puff pastry, remove it from the box and place it on a lightly floured counter or work surface. Generally, you’ll have to unfold the pastry because it comes wrapped and folded up. Be very gentle when you’re unfolding it because it could rip.

Once the puff pastry is on the counter, you can spread whatever you like on top and put on fruit, veggies, etc. It’s really a blank canvas. I made this Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart from New York Times Cooking earlier this week, and all I had to do once I unfolded my puff pastry was spread some custard on top, arrange asparagus, score the edges with a knife, and stick it in the oven.

Occasionally you’ll run across a recipe that asks for the puff pastry crust to be a bit longer and wider. It comes in a 13-by-11-inch rectangle, which is usually big enough, but depending on what you’re making, you might have to roll it out. Proceed the same way you would with a a pie crust, rolling it out on a lightly floured surface, but just make sure you don’t put too much pressure on the puff pastry with the rolling pin. That’s how it will start to spread too thin and rip.

A couple last pieces of advice: Generally, it’s good to score the tart before you bake it. You can do it around the edges using the tip of a sharp knife, or sometimes you can lightly score the bottom of the tart before you put on the topping. Just make sure there’s a way for some air to get out while the pastry, well, puffs.

Second, once the tart comes out of the oven, let it deflate for about 15 minutes. Don’t try to force it down with a kitchen utensil, even if you’re really impatient or hungry. Like many great things, puff pastry requires time and patience.

Here are some of my favorite recipes with puff pastry. Also, here’s a song to get you started on your puff pastry journey. Enjoy!:

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Fresh Strawberry Buttermilk Scones

Well…hi! I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for the past few months. The answer is, I’ve been here, but unfortunately, my kitchen has not.

Or maybe fortunately because now, it’s brand new and better than ever. My boyfriend Jim and I decided to renovate the kitchen last year after we both got sick of the old one. I picked everything out, we finally got the installer to come at the end of February, and this week, the last coat of paint went on. Here are before and after pics:

It’s pretty crazy to think about how far the kitchen has come. Right now, I’m savoring every minute. Everything is beautiful and new, but best of all, it’s functional, so I don’t feel like I’m cooking or baking in a cramped space.

Which brings me to these fresh strawberry buttermilk scones. They’re not the first thing I baked in my new kitchen; I actually made my oatmeal chocolate chip cherry cookies because they’re my go-to, and I like to have a batch in the freezer to bake at any time. But these scones are the second thing I baked, AND they’re a new creation…so I guess they’re right at home in the new kitchen.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love strawberries. I wait for strawberry season the way children wait for Christmas. I go to the farmers’ market every Saturday in April and May, hoping that I see the elusive berries. Last weekend, I finally saw a pint of strawberries and I could barely contain my excitement. I bought two and made these strawberry buttermilk scones.

A lot of scone recipes call for heavy cream in the batter, which is great. The cream produces a soft, pillowy scone, kind of like cake. They’re the kind most people are used to eating. But using buttermilk produces a whole different scone that’s craggy and imperfect on the outside, but tender on the inside. There’s also a slightly tangy flavor, which pairs well with sweet berries and sugar.

These scones are my new go-to breakfast item. The recipe is easy and you can sub in any fruit you like or that’s in season. I like to have mine with a cup of coffee in the morning, but they’re also good anytime…just ask Jim, or the trail of crumbs that appeared around the house throughout the day as he ate them.

Here’s a song to get you started on your fresh strawberry scone journey.

Fresh Strawberry Buttermilk Scones

Ingredients

360 g all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Large pinch of salt
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp (80g) granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
170 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and frozen
225 g fresh strawberries, sliced
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Scatter the butter cubes on top and use your hands or a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour mixture. When you’re done, the butter should be in pieces the size of small peas and beans.

Make a hole in the dry ingredients and add the lemon zest, buttermilk, and vanilla paste. Use your hands or a spatula to mix until the ingredients barely come together. *Do not* overmix. Add the strawberries and mix again lightly to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times until it comes together. Pat the dough into a circle that’s about 2 inches high. Cut the circle into triangles. Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake the scones for 25-30 minutes until they’re golden on top and firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then the rest of the way on a wire rack. Enjoy!

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Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Doughnuts

I’ve been on a roll with baked doughnuts lately. I think they’re my new creative medium for 2021.

The thing that I love about doughnuts is, they’re basically a blank canvas and you can do whatever you want to them. You can dip them in chocolate, glaze them with icing, put fruit or nuts in them, or, in this case, throw a bunch of poppyseeds in.

Lemon poppyseed is one of my favorite combinations because it’s bright, fun, and delicious. These doughnuts have *a lot* of lemon, to the point where your sour tastebuds activate when you take a bite. But that’s okay, because the doughnuts also subtly sweet, light, and pillowy, so the other flavors and textures balance out the zest.

You would never be able to tell that these doughnuts are vegan. Honestly, that’s how I judge a lot of vegan food. Can I tell that this is vegan? If the answer is no, that gives it high marks.

If you don’t have any almond or plant-based milk on hand, though, you can always sub in some dairy milk. I bet they would be just as delicious, but they may have a slightly different texture.

I ate two of these for breakfast and a third with tea for dessert after lunch. I can’t wait to have some more tomorrow. They’re great with a big cup of coffee.

Here’s a song to get you started on your lemon poppyseed doughnut journey.

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Doughnuts

Ingredients

for the doughnuts:
2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 2 lemons
2 Tbsp poppyseeds
1 1/3 cups almond milk
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup avocado oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

for the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1–2 Tbsp almond milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp poppyseeds

Directions

Grease two 6-cavity doughnut pans and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, and poppyseeds in a medium bowl. Mix the almond milk, lemon juice, avocado oil, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Use a piping bag or a plastic bag with a tip cut off to pipe the batter into the prepared doughnut pans. Fill them most of the way to the top, then bake the doughnuts for 10 minutes until the tops spring back to the touch. Let them cool completely.

While they’re cooling, make the icing. Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth. When the doughnuts are cool, dip them in the icing and then let them set for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

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Gluten-Free Banana Nut Muffins

There were three very sad, brown-spotted bananas on my counter this morning. So I decided to make these gluten-free banana nut muffins for breakfast.

Plus, I’m a firm believer that when the temperature dips below freezing (say, one degree F) and it’s a winter storm outside, AND it’s Monday, you deserve a home-baked breakfast. I slept in a little, and then I got up and started making these muffins.

My favorite part about these muffins is the texture. They’re light and fluffy, but also substantial with a hearty crumb. That happens in part because of the hazelnut flour, which is light but also rich and nutty.

The chopped walnuts also play their part and add a buttery texture. The walnuts combined with the honey, hazelnut and almond flour, and whole milk, create a muffin that’s decadent and healthy. You’ll want to eat them throughout the day. I just had two for breakfast, and I’m eyeing a third.

Here’s a song to get you started on your gluten-free banana nut muffin journey.

Gluten-Free Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup raw honey
3 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped
flax seeds and hemp hearts for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin and set aside.

Whisk together the almond flour, hazelnut flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mash the bananas and then mix in the vanilla extract, honey, milk, and eggs until well combined. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Use a spatula to fold in the chopped walnuts. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each space to the top. Sprinkle the tops with flax seeds and hemp hearts.

Bake the muffins for about 28 minutes, or until the tops spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool for 15 minutes before you eat them. Enjoy!

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier in the new year. I still have double chocolate chunk cookies every other day and make my weekly bakery trips, but at least once a week, I try to make something healthy for breakfast that will last for a few days, so I can eat well without much effort in the morning throughout the week.

These whole wheat blueberry muffins check all the boxes. They’re easy to make; they hold up well in the fridge for several days; they’re healthy; and they’re delicious. I made them for brunch on Sunday and I’ve had two for breakfast every morning since. I take them out of their silicone molds and warm them up in the microwave for 30 seconds at medium power, and it’s like they just came out of the oven.

If you have a little more time and want a really fresh tasting muffin, though, you could always freeze a bunch and then warm them up in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F. I’d give them about 10 minutes, but you can check them and see if they’re warm enough to your liking.

These muffins are delicious on their own, but they’d also be good with some butter and jam. I like to pair mine with a strong cup of coffee.

I used frozen wild blueberries in this recipe and they worked great. But if you have fresh blueberries, you could definitely sub them in. I’m sure they would be just as delicious, if not more. However, I really liked the wild blueberries because they tend to be smaller than fresh ones from the grocery store, and they pack more flavor.

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

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup quick oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (I bet vanilla almond milk would also be great)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup frozen wild blueberries

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a nine-cup muffin tin with silicone or paper liners, or just spray it really well with cooking spray.

Whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, quick oats, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the maple syrup and avocado oil until well combined. Add the almond milk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix together. Change the mixer attachment to the paddle, then slowly and gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until just combined. Fold in the frozen blueberries.

Fill the prepared muffin tin with the batter. I like to use a small ice cream scoop because it portions the batter well, and generally makes less mess.

Bake the muffins for five minutes, then lower the oven temp to 350 degrees F and bake for another 15 minutes. You may need to bake them a few minutes more after that; check and make sure the tops spring back to the touch. That’s how you’ll know they’re done.

Allow the muffins to cool in the muffin tin for five minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.

Leftovers keep well stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!

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Spinach, Egg, and Chorizo Breakfast Burritos

Every Sunday I make brunch for myself and Jim. I usually go the sweet route because I have a *huge* sweet tooth, and the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the promise of pastries. However, after my holiday sugar overload, I’ve decided to try out some savory menu items.

Cue: this spinach, egg, and chorizo burrito. It’s so good that it made me temporarily forget about sweet food. I’m going to have it on rotation now for brunch every month.

The star of this show is chorizo. I’ve always loved chorizo, especially in tacos, but it also pairs well with eggs and other breakfast-y foods. It’s spicy and crumbly, and it adds texture to a wrap or sandwich.

My other favorite part about this recipe is it essentially comes together in one skillet. You sauté the chorizo, then you scoop it out and place it in another bowl while you use the same skillet to sauté spinach and scramble eggs. Throw the chorizo, eggs, and spinach in a large tortilla with salsa and cheddar cheese, and you have a filling and delicious brunch.

Feel free to get creative with your fillings. I might try a version next time with tomatillo salsa, cheddar, and onions because that reminds me of a bagel sandwich I used to get for breakfast every Sunday in D.C.

Here’s a song to get you started on your breakfast burrito journey.

Spinach, Egg, and Chorizo Breakfast Burrito

Ingredients

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound bulk chorizo sausage
2-3 oz baby spinach
5 large eggs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
burrito-size flour tortillas
shredded sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salsa of your choice

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo and use the back of a wooden spoon to break it up into little pieces. Cook the chorizo, stirring as you go, for about eight minutes or until it’s cooked thoroughly. Remove all the chorizo from the pan and place it in a bowl, and set it aside for later.

Whisk the eggs together in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Put the same skillet over medium heat and add the spinach, stirring every so often until it wilts. Once it’s wilted, add the eggs and stir constantly until they’re almost cooked through. You want them slightly runny because they’ll continue to cook when you remove them from the pan. Remove the eggs and spinach from the pan and place in another bowl.

Heat the tortillas for a few seconds on each side over an open flame on a gas stove, or you can warm them in the microwave for 30 seconds. Transfer the burrito shell to the counter and fill with chorizo, eggs and spinach, and cheddar and salsa. Roll it up (here’s a great tutorial) and place on a plate. Enjoy!

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Blood Orange Cardamom Doughnuts

I’ve been wanting to make these blood orange cardamom doughnuts for a long time. It all started back when I saw a picture of blood orange pound cake. I loved the color of the icing, and I knew I had to use it on doughnuts.

Then I started thinking about other toppings. I have a bunch of dried rose petals and I love how those look on baked goods, so I decided to use them.

Initially I thought about doing a blood orange doughnut with blood orange icing, but that seemed like overkill. I decided instead to do a cardamom spiced doughnut with blood orange glaze on top and lots of rose petals, because why not?

The best part about these doughnuts, besides how good they taste, is how adaptable they are. You can use the base with almost any topping. Not a fan of blood orange? Sub another fruit juice in the recipe for the icing. Chocolate would also be delicious on top of these doughnuts. I’m thinking of a Mexican hot chocolate doughnut now…

Here’s a song to get you started on your blood orange cardamom doughnut journey.

Blood Orange Cardamom Doughnuts

Ingredients

for the doughnuts:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp almond milk
1 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp blood orange juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray doughnut pans with nonstick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon and ground cardamom. Pour in the almond milk, applesauce, melted butter, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl and give the batter a couple stirs with a sturdy spatula. You don’t want to see any flour in the batter.

Use an icing bag, a plastic bag with the tip cut off, or spoons to fill the doughnut pans most of the way full with batter. Bake the doughnuts for about 10 minutes, or until the tops spring back to the touch. Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes, then turn the doughnuts out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the doughnuts are cooling, make the icing. Whisk blood orange juice into powdered sugar until the icing is your desired consistency. You might need to add more sugar or juice depending on what you want. Dip the tops of the cooled doughnuts in the icing and top with rose petals, sprinkles, or anything else you desire. Enjoy!

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Eggplant Parmesan

Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of eggplant. It seems weird, given that I love most vegetables, but eggplant has always been on my “meh” list.

I think it has to do with the texture. I like when it’s mashed up into a dip or one of my favorite Indian dishes, baingan bharta. But I don’t like it when it’s grilled and the skin gets crisp, or when you sauté it and it gets slick and slippery.

Before I turn you off eggplant forever, let me tell you about this Eggplant Parmesan. It will make even skeptics like me eggplant believers. I made it the other night for dinner and my boyfriend and I loved it. It was even better the next day for lunch. The flavors had a chance to meld and the eggplant was even more tender.

I think the reason why I like this dish so much is it sets eggplant in the background. Yes; it’s a major ingredient, but the real star is the sauce and cheese. The sauce is made from tomato passata, which is kind of like tomato sauce but without all the additions and seasonings. You add those later. The recipe, which is from Mimi Thorisson’s “Old World Italian” cookbook, includes basil, garlic, and onion, so you get a lot of flavor.

For the cheese, I’d recommend grating a ball of Mozzarella instead of buying the pre-shredded stuff. There’s something about the flavor and texture of fresh(er) Mozzarella that is more authentic and Italian than the stuff in a bag. You should also opt for a higher-quality Parm. Paying attention to little details like this will elevate the dish to Italian restaurant status.

One other tip for making this Eggplant Parm: Try to get as much moisture out of the eggplant as you can before you start cooking. The recipe recommends that you slice the eggplant, sprinkle them with salt, let them sit for 30 minutes, then pat them dry. This works, but I think the eggplant would have fried even better if I left them in salt for an hour or more. Eggplant has *a lot* of moisture, so you want to get as much out as you can.

Here’s a song to get you started on your Eggplant Parm journey. It doesn’t really have to do with Italian food, but I heard it the other day and it really summarizes my perspective as of late.

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Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies

I love holiday eating as much (maybe more) than the next person, but there comes a time when my stomach/mind/body needs a break. Cue: these banana bread breakfast cookies.

They’re vegan AND gluten-free, they taste great, and they don’t make you feel like you’re missing out on anything. I made them for Sunday brunch and they were a welcome palette cleanser after days of nonstop chocolate and cake.

You can sub in peanut butter for almond butter in these cookies, and you can also use a different kind of gluten-free flour like oat flour. I really like spelt flour in these cookies, though. They give the crumb a little heft and the flavor pairs well with banana and cinnamon.

My favorite part of these cookies are the walnuts inside. They’re really only a small part of the recipe, but they give the cookies a little crunch and a buttery flavor when you bite into them. I’d highly recommend using them, but pecans wouldn’t be a bad substitute if you’re out of walnuts.

Here’s a song to get you started on your banana bread cookie journey.

Banana Bread Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
3 Tbsp water
1 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup mashed banana (I used 2 medium)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil

Directions

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

Combine the ground flaxseed and water and set it aside to thicken for five minutes.

Stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and sea salt in a large bowl. Fold in the walnuts.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the almond butter, maple syrup, banana, vanilla extract, coconut oil, and ground flaxseed mixture. Fold in the dry ingredients until the dough is just combined.

Use a cookie scoop to scoop the batter onto the baking sheet in rounded mounds. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on top. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes and then place them on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. Enjoy!

*Once the cookies are completely cooled, you can store them in an airtight container at room temp.

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