willow

 

I love when a great, new restaurant pops up in Brooklyn. Willow, a cozy spot in Bed-Stuy, serves seasonally-inspired food that highlights the restaurant's relationships with farms & producers nearby. The freshly baked pumpkin bread was a welcome change from your typical bread offered before a meal. I loved the unique use of winter vegetables in the carrot soup, radicchio salad & roasted cauliflower dishes. All were nicely balanced and very flavorful. I'm looking forward to returning to try their 7-course chef''s tasting menu offered every Tuesday for only $45! Please excuse the dark photos- lighting was scarce and I didn't want to use a flash!

 

carrot cake with coconut cream frosting

Carrot Cake is my all-time favorite dessert in the world- it was even my wedding cake! I love all the textures and flavors, and would really be happy eating it every day of my life. Everyone has their preferred way of making it- with or without nuts, raisins, pineapple, coconut, etc. After many trials and tastes, below is my version of the ultimate carrot cake! It's a denser cake that's full of tasty ingredients. I love the depth of flavor that toasted nuts & coconut add to this cake, along with spices like cinnamon & nutmeg. I wouldn’t call it a tropical carrot cake though, because you definitely won’t find pineapple in my version! Rolled oats add a nice textural component, but you may also sub out another type of flour (all-purpose works fine) if you prefer. I’m not the biggest fan of cream cheese, but I do enjoy the tangy flavor it lends to frosting in carrot cake. Alternatively, I’ve made a coconut cream cheese frosting using both coconut cream & cream cheese, making it a bit lighter & fluffier, but still creamy & delicious! If you use vegan cream cheese (or leave it out altogether), this cake is also entirely vegan & full of healthy ingredients like carrots, applesauce, nuts, and coconut oil, so feel free to indulge as much as you please! PS- I'm by no means a pastry chef, and am still learning ow to nicely decorate a cake in that perfectly precise way. Thanks to my husband for lending his technical skills!

Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting:

Cake:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded (plus extra for topping)
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted & chopped (plus extra for topping)
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted (plus extra for topping)

Frosting:

  • 2 cans coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 9” cake pans with non stick spray, line them with parchment paper, and then spray the parchment paper.

Make the coconut cream cheese frosting first. Remove the coconut milk from the refrigerator, and turn upside down. Open cans from the bottom, pour out the coconut liquid (save for smoothies!), and scoop out the solid coconut cream. Add to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk, along with cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whip the cream, starting slowly at first & gradually increasing your speed, until it’s nice and fluffy. Move frosting to an airtight container, and refrigerate to allow it to set.

Sift all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl (oil to vanilla), then add the two together until just combined. Fold in carrots, pecans & coconut last. Pour the cakes into pans, and bake for about 30 minutes. Allow cakes to cool a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack.

Once the cakes have fully cooled, you may even them out by removing any domed shape on top (this will allow them to stack more evenly). Place one cake on a cake stand, add a layer of frosting, then stack the second cake on top. Add a thin, “crumb layer” of frosting over the entire cake, then allow it to chill for 30 minutes to set. Now apply a thicker layer of frosting over the entire cake. Top with remaining carrots, pecans & coconut as desired. Slice and enjoy!

*Can be made with three 6” round cake pans to create a 3-layer cake. Increase baking time to about 35-38 minutes.

**Adapted from Carrot Cake in Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.


vedge

 

My best friend, Stephanie Hoban of Ripe Cuisine, just so happened to be in Philadelphia for work at the same time I was recently. We decided to go out to eat at Vedge for a delicious vegan meal! Stephanie is a vegan chef & registered dietician, and although I'm not vegan nor vegetarian, I love all things veggie! We were both seriously impressed with this dinner. I love when plant-based food is both creative & satisfying, and the food at Vedge is definitely both, all while making vegetables the star of the show. Here is just a sampling of what we enjoyed. I cannot wait to go back!

 

 

salt roasted gold beets, everything lavash, smoked tofu, crushed cucumbers

 

rutabaga fondue, today's soft pretzel, yesterday's pickles

 

 

 

wood roasted carrot, kimchee reuben, pumpernickel, sauerkraut puree

 

braciole, smoked & roasted eggplant, italian salsa verde, cured olive puree

 

 

 

hakurei turnips, turnip kimchee, refried farro

 

broccolini, smoked onion dashi, grilled shiitake

 

 

figgy cheesecake, fig jam & concord grape jam gel, madeira ice cream, "honey smacks"

 

miso caramel delite, kung pao pineapple, coconut-mac nut granola, kaffir lime sorbet

 

 

 

 

to finish, vegan millionaire bars

 

cafe colette

 

My husband and I love a late breakfast or early lunch on a quiet weekday, and one of our neighborhood spots is Cafe Colette. We almost always get the same thing too: the kale & butter bean stew is hearty & comforting, and topped with a fried egg, parmesan, & grilled sourdough bread. Derek gets it with an extra egg for added umph, and sometimes a side of sausage or potatoes. They make a mean cappuccino as well, which we occasionally double-up on. The team there knows us by now, and always make us feel right at home. 

 

gardner

 

I recently got to dine with my husband and parents at Gardner in Austin, Texas. It was on my list of new places to try, and we figured why not for a fun night out on New Year's Eve? They were offering a set tasting menu, which was just as delicious to eat as it was beautifully plated. I recently read that the owners are planning to close Gardner, and re-open a new project in the same space next month. I'm sad I won't make it back in time to try out the regular menu, but I will definitely check out their new spot next time I'm in Austin!

 

superfood balls

 

If you ever need something sweet, but don't want to indulge in a full-on dessert, these are a tasty, but healthy alternative. Whether it's an afternoon pick-me-up or an after dinner treat, there are great to have on hand and contain many superfoods like maca, chia seeds & cacao! Even better, they're super easy to make- just throw everything in the food processor, and that's it! Enjoy!

Superfood Balls:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates (about 10)
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp maca powder
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Pulse all ingredients together in food processor until well combined. Roll into balls. Coat in extra coconut or cacao, if desired. Makes about 2 dozen balls. These store well in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, or in the regrigerator for 7-10 days.