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Healing My Gut on the GAPS Intro Diet

This blog is going to be about yummy recipes and funny stories – I promise! But I’m christening this blog with it’s very first post about my current struggle with food. It’s day 16 of the strictest diet I’ve ever been on – the GAPS diet. After years and years of abdominal pain, bloating, [noxious] gas, occasional skin rashes, food intolerance that seem to be increasing by the day and eating disorders, and so on, I was fed up!
So I went to a naturopath (because physicians kept saying it was stressed-induced and tried to put me on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills – no thank you!) And they sort of help nudge me in a right-ish direction lol. They put me on a Low FODMAP diet, which helped reduce my symptoms a lot, but a life without onions, garlic, many fruits, BREAD, etc. was no life at all… So I scoured the internet for a more long-term healing solution, and I came across the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet. Long story short, I don’t agree with a lot of what the author, Natasha Campbell, says BUT I was desperate and willing to give anything a try.
On January 9th, 2020, I embarked on a health-seeking journey. I started the GAPS diet (a super-strict and labor intensive meal plan) as well as Henry’s Internal Cleanser (and boy, was I cleaned out, if you know what I mean…)

yup… that’s chicken feet

mush topped with sauerkraut

mush topped with kimchi and egg

yummmm… *gag*

the one where I put too much turmeric in the soup and it stained everything

“meatball water” lol

GAPS pancakes (squash + eggs + peanut butter)
I literally ate so many of these when I moved onto this stage bc I was like, “OMG SOMETHING FINALLY HAS FLAVOR!”

egg drop soup made with bone broth

look at this creation – yogurt made just from a can of coconut milk and a probiotic!

this is what rock bottom looks like… jk, this is what separating the broth for drinking and the meat from the bones for eating looks like

this was a later stage when baked nut rolls were allowed. ground nuts + squash + butter + eggs. they were gross, but that was probably my bad.

here we have a specimen of some chicken and veg topped with sauerkraut. this became the staple towards the last week and a half.

a typical breakfast in the last two weeks. looks like real food lol but they don’t taste like ihop pancakes, that’s for sure.

when I finally got to bake my chicken instead of boil it to the point just before jerky… that was a nice change.

breakfasts of the last week of the diet were when I treated myself 😉 scrambled eggs topped with dill and avocado. cucumber slaw (made in my experiment about how to cook with salt) washed down a glass of organic carrot juice.

the best for last? well, the best of the worst you could say. this “winter squash cake” from the GAPS book is made of eggs + squash + honey + butter + ground almonds + apples. It was so freaking good after a month of blech-food. would I ever make it again? lol no.

As I am writing this final part, it is now February 8th, 2020. I survived 30 days on the GAPS Intro Diet, with zero cheats or deviations from the strict protocol. Today was my first day off the GAPS Intro diet (and no, I am not switching to the Full GAPS Diet for like one to two years…) It was a mountainous test of discipline, but the hardest part for me was the time and effort to cook about every two to three days the labor-intensive dishes. The bone broth took about three hours in total since I made it in the Instant Pot. Sometimes the other food could be cooked in tandem, but especially in the beginning, I had to use the broth in the soups. So total cooking time in one night would be like six hours. SIX HOURS.
Would I recommend the diet for everyone? Heck no. It’s a ton of work and it’s probably best to do it under the supervision of a GAPS-trained specialist; I ended up losing 11 pounds over those four weeks, which is no bueno because I’m already pretty petite.
I would however recommend Henry’s Internal Cleanser from Greenline Organic Health for most people. This stuff is legit. It cleans out your digestive tract and helps with nutrient absorption & detoxification. Just be prepared to be in very close proximity to a restroom for like the first week…

Today was my day of celebration for completing the GAPS Intro Diet as well as the first day of cautionary testing of my [hopefully healed] gut! In the morning, we went to the farmers market downtown. We saw the coolest parsnips ever, tasted all sorts of things from cayenne popcorn to coconut oil blueberry chocolate. And I just couldn’t resist getting a jar of Ground Up‘s coconut cardamom w/ chia seed almond & cashew butter… sooooo yummy! I spread it on Pacific Rose apple slices we also got at the farmers market 🙂

I ate my first meal out at a restaurant in a month! Woo hoo! We went to Shalom Y’all and actually I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t get the lamb shakshuka since it was between the brunch and dinner times, but I got the delicious Shalom Y’all Plate (falafels with lemony green sauce. hummus. labneh. coleslaw. a hella tangy pickle. the softest pita bread ever. what’s not to love?) I have been wanting to try labneh, and I finally got the chance – it is so good! I think I like it more than yogurt! And about eight hours after eating it, I still don’t have a tummy ache, so I am so excited and hopeful that I really did do some healing action on my gut! 😀

I was so hungry & excited, I forgot to take a photo until halfway through lol
Aww the love of my life!!!

After the biggest meal I’ve eaten in a month, we needed to walk around a bit. We wandered into this cool vintage and antique home store and played with all the random stuff. It was such a great day to spend with Abdulla & my new gut! hehe 🙂

Grandma’s Korean Bulgogi Tacos

Grandma makes the BEST bulgogi!

My Grandma brought incredible stories and delicious recipes from her childhood in North Korea and her young adulthood in South Korea. She makes sure these traditions and wisdom are passed down so we don’t forget where our ancestors come from. Her most notorious recipe is her bulgogi, which is thinly sliced beef marinated in a sweet and salty sauce and grilled. You can eat bulgogi with rice, in noodles like chapchae, or in Grandma’s Korean bulgogi tacos!

My Grandma moved to America from South Korea after she fell in love with my Grandpa. How romantic! When they met, my Grandpa was in the army and stationed in South Korea. One of my Grandma’s family members worked with the U.S. army and was invited to a dance/dinner party, and he brought the whole family along. That party was where my grandparents first laid eyes on each other.
My Grandpa pursued this Korean beauty and she eventually agreed to go on a date with him. Over the course of several months, they explored the city, went to the movies and when out dancing together. Eventually, my Grandpa popped the question! But since they were both underage, they had to gain permission from their guardians to marry.
Long story short, nearly sixty years later they are still married. And they’re two of my favorite people in the world.

How to make bulgogi

My Grandma doesn’t really measure ingredients. When I ask her how much sauce to marinate the beef in, she says, “Oh, you know, just enough so it tastes good, but not too much of course.” Right. My Grandma’s bulgogi has evolved over the years to adjust to the ingredients and time available to her now. For this bulgogi that we made together, she bought maybe two pounds (or more?) of thinly-sliced beef. We stood cooking it together for an hour because we were making enough to feed our family of eight at dinner that night!
Basically, just buy the most thinly sliced cut of beef you can find – the closer to paper, the better. My Grandma mixes together a sauce comprised of two types of Korean bulgogi sauce – one is sweeter and one is saltier to get the perfect blend of flavors.

Here are some recipes for bulgogi that are really delicious & simple to follow:
1. Damn Delicious – Korean Beef Bulgogi
2. My Korean Kitchen – Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)
3. Maangchi – Easy Bulgogi

Korean tacos are one of my favorite ways to consume bulgogi because, let’s face it, tacos should be an essential food group. I LOVE TACOS. Check out my Thai-style tacos, full of peanut sauce and curry chicken. Grandma’s Korean bulgogi tacos are served in a lettuce shell, similar to chicken lettuce cups! They are so delicious, so let me know if you give them a try!

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Grandma’s Korean Bulgogi Tacos

These bulgogi tacos have it all! They are salty, sweet and spicy with Korean BBQ bulgogi, crunchy water chestnuts and chewy brown rice all topped with bibimbap sauce! These are a healthier taco, served on a lettuce cup instead of a tortilla. Enjoy!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Keyword beef bulgogi, bulgogi, bulgogi marinade, bulgogi taco, dairy free, gluten free, gluten free diet, Grandma’s Korean bulgogi taco, Korean BBQ meat, Korean taco, lettuce wrap recipe, lettue wrap
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • cups sliced cooked bulgogi
  • 1 cup brown rice (measured when dry), cooked on the stove or in a rice cooker to your desired texture
  • 8 oz canned water chestnuts in water, drained and diced
  • 1 head lettuce (I love butter lettuce) with the leaves separated, rinsed and patted dry
  • 5 Tbsp bibimbap sauce (or your sauce of choice)

Instructions

  • Grill or pan fry the marinated bulgogi. See post above for recipe suggestions for marinade ingredients and cooking times.
    Cook the rice on the stove or in a rice cooker to your desired texture.
    Drain and dice the water chestnuts and put them in a bowl.
  • To assembly your bulgogi tacos, take one lettuce cup in your hand.
    Add a generous spoon of brown rice, a sprinkle of water chestnuts and a generous portion of your bulgogi. Add a bit of bibimbap sauce (or any spicy sauce of your choice) and enjoy!
  • If you have leftovers, put everything in separate air tight containers in the fridge. Reheat the rice and bulgogi in the microwave and assemble more delicious tacos!

Chewy Corn Flour Cocoa Cookies

Whale hello there! How is your Spring season going? I hope you are soaking in some vitamin D on the sunny days! We just had about a week-long streak of cloudless skies and 80-degree weather here in Oregon! But the faithful clouds have returned and the temperature has dropped a bit. Which makes it the ideal weather for baking cookies!! I still have a gigantic bag of corn flour from when I made homemade tortillas for Thai-style tacos & quesadillas. I was researching other ways corn flour can be used, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that it can be added into baked goods to lend a more chewy texture. So, welcome to center stage, chewy corn flour cocoa cookies!

And I love love love the texture of these babies. They are so soft and chewy. The dough doesn’t flatten and spread in the oven out like most cookies, so they stay plump and chubby, just the way I like them. I added cocoa powder to give them a more chocolatey taste, and the earthy, sweet taste of the corn flour still shines through.

These chewy corn flour cocoa cookies last several extra days in an air-tight container, because they don’t dry out as fast as most other cookies. But that probably won’t matter, because they’ll be all eaten up within minutes!

Corn flour in cookies has been increasingly popular these days thanks to Milk Bar. But corn flour has actually been around for THOUSANDS of years. In fact, corn was first domesticated in Mexico around 10,000 years ago. If you mix corn flour with just a little salt and water, you can make the best corn tortillas. But corn flour is not just dried & ground up corn, as some may assume. A chemical process called nixtamalization helps make the nutrients of corn more readily available for our bodies. Native peoples thousands of years ago really knew what they were doing with their food.

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Chewy Cocoa Corn Flour Cookies

To get the chewiest cookies, add corn flour! These cookies taste decadent and chocolatey while the earthy sweet taste of the corn flour still shines through.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword chewy chocolate chip cookies, chewy cocoa corn flour cookies, chewy cookies, chocolate chips, chocolate cookies, cocoa powder, corn flour, corn flour cookies, gluten free baking, gluten free chocolate chip cookies, gluten free cookies, gluten free desserts, gluten free flour
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 cookies
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 cup gluten free baking blend flour or all-purpose flour (I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Blend Flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick) softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup milk (dairy or non-dairy, of your choice)
  • cup chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together to corn flour, gluten free blend or all-purpose flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In another mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter and sugar.
  • Add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar and add in the milk.
    Mix everything until there's no dry flour visible, then fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Form the dough into 12 even-sized balls and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.
    Enjoy!

Simple Vegan Chickpea Stew

Hello! It’s getting warmer and warmer as Spring comes into full bloom! This weekend in Portland, Oregon, it’s in the 80’s! YAHOO!! I cannot wait for beach days, late night bonfires and tons of pool time this summer! But Oregon has this abominable little habit of tricking us into thinking that warm days are here to stay. Do you live in a sneaky little place like this too? This weekend holds the first 80-degree days of the year, and the traffic to get to the beach is insane! But next week it will be back down in the low 60’s. But it’s all okay, because we know that summer is on the way (just not quite yet) and it gives us more time to enjoy the comforts of cooler weather, like a healthy and simple vegan chickpea stew.

This stew is cozy, delicious and uber-nutritious! It’s packed full of veggies and vitamins along with chickpeas for a clean source of protein. Sweet potatoes give it a sweeter flavor, which to me makes it even more comforting, like a warm hug in a bowl. If your weather is still cool like ours, give this a try! Or if you’re already in the throes of heat waves, tuck it away for a colder day! This simple vegan chickpea stew is the perfect meal on a cool day, but if you don’t like chickpeas, try miso lentil stew or Ghanian groundnut stew!

The recipe for this delicious stew was inspired by an old German cookbook I found in my parent’s kitchen. The German name for the stew is Kichererbsenemüse, according to the book. This is my vegan take on a classic.

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Simple Vegan Chickpea Stew

This stew is cozy, delicious and uber-nutritious! It's packed full of veggies and vitamins along with chickpeas for a clean source of protein. You'll have a comforting and healthy meal for four in less than an hour!
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine German
Keyword canned chickpeas, chickpea, chickpea stew, dairy free, garbanzo beans, gluten free diet, lactose free, leek, simple vegan chickpea stew, vegan diet, vegan protein, vegan soup recipes, winter stew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 leek, with the white part sliced (save the green parts to make stock)
  • 3 small zucchini, sliced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 can chickpeas (15 oz) drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup water or veggie stock

Instructions

  • Wash and sliced all your veggies.
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat.
  • Add the veggies, salt, pepper and paprika into the pot and sauté for about 15 minutes, until the veggies have softened a bit and the leeks are more translucent.
  • Stir in the chickpeas and the water or stock.
    Let everything simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the veggies are at your desired texture. If you like your veggies softer, cook them longer. If you prefer your veggies more al dente, decrease the simmer time.
    Enjoy!

Dyeing Fabric with Kitchen Scraps

This used to be a plain old white t-shirt. Now look at that beautiful pink color!!
Modelling my updated white V-neck tee with a gorgeous pink makeover!

Less Food Waste = A Healthier Planet

I have a mild obsession with figuring out ways to reduce food waste. Food is not only fuel for our bodies and minds. Food is the very thing that connects living beings with the earth. If we didn’t have the perfect elemental balance in our air and our soil, life wouldn’t be possible. If we weren’t floating in space on this green and blue planet at just the perfect distance from the sun, we’d either be an ice box or a blazing inferno. Say bye-bye to your avocado toast and smoothies because no food would be able to grow. What I’m really getting at here, is that we ought to be grateful for our food, and not let it go to waste. And one way is by dyeing fabric with kitchen scraps to make gorgeous crafts and update your wardrobe! Save money AND save the planet!

How to Dye Fabric Naturally with Kitchen Scraps

I made dyes from the last tiny bit of turmeric in an old jar and the remaining red cabbage after I made Thai-style tacos & quesadillas. Just these two kitchen scrap items created four amazing colored dyes!

Turmeric – Yellow
Red Cabbage – Purple
Baking Soda and Red Cabbage – Blue
Lemon Juice and Red Cabbage – Pink

I dyed an old white cotton t-shirt pink and I dyed strips of an old white cotton fitted bed sheet different colors and sewed them into little heart pillows that I hung on the wall as an art piece.

You can dye other things as well, such as Easter eggs or even other food like rice in beet mujadara or healthy vegan donuts to make it fun and unique colors!

How to Make a Heart Wall Hanging with Dyed Fabric

Prepare the Fabric to be Dyed

1. Wash the fabric you wish to dye. It’s best to use natural fibers (cotton, wool, silk, etc.) when dyeing with natural dyes. The natural dyes won’t adhere to synthetic fibers (such as polyester, rayon, etc.)
You want the fabric damp when you submerge it into the dye, so throw it in the washing machine but not in the dryer.

If you’re going to make a project like the heart wall hanging, you’ll want to cut your bed sheet into strips at this point, before dyeing them. I made a template for all the hearts with a piece of cardboard. I used this template to make sure the four strips of fabric were wide enough to later cut out the hearts.

Create the Dyes and Soak the Fabric

2. Roughly chop about two cups of red cabbage and measure out about ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder.

3. Fill one pot with about 4 cups of water and the turmeric powder.
Fill another pot with about 12 cups of water and the cabbage.
Bring both pots to a boil on the stove, then simmer both for 20 minutes.

4. Strain out the cabbage and divide the purple-dyed water into three pots. If you do not have three pots, just divide it evenly into three bowls for now.
In the first pot or bowl, add 1 tsp baking soda to turn the dye blue.
In the second pot or bowl, add the juice of half a lemon to turn the dye red/pink.
And in the third pot or bowl, just leave it plain, as the red cabbage alone is a gorgeous purple color.

Strain out the turmeric and return the yellow-dyed water to its pot and place it back on the stove.

5. Add one strip of fabric to each pot with a different color dye and simmer for 2 hours, then let sit overnight to soak (8 hours). Stir when you can to make sure all nooks and crannies of the fabric get saturated.

If you don’t have four pots to all be simmering at once, leave the dye in its own bowl until a pot is free to add the fabric and let it simmer.

Rinse and Dry the Fabric

6. Ring out the fabric and rinse in cold water until the water runs clear.

7. Hang your dyed fabric out to dry, then iron, as they’ll likely be very wrinkly.

Cut Out and Sew the Heart Pillows

8. Using the cardboard template from step 1, cut out hearts. I cut out a total of 40 hearts. I cut out 5 of each color fabric, and then 20 of the remaining white fabric I had leftover.

9. Pin 20 heart pillows together by pinning a dyed fabric heart and a white fabric heart together.

10. Sew each heart pair together, but leave about two inches of space, in order to stuff them like small pillows so they have a more three dimensional shape.

11. I stuffed each pillow with the scraps leftover from the fitted sheet and the dyed fabrics. You can also stuff them with other old strips of clothes, newspaper, plastic bags, or actual stuffing from the store or an old stuffed animal.

12. Sew the last few open inches on each heart pillow closed to secure them.

Assemble Your Wall Art

13. I hung mine on a large stick I found in the woods near my home along with some twine from the craft store.
Knot four long strips of twine to your stick, evenly spaced out.
Safety pin the back of each pillow to the twine.

Voila! An impressive, DIY heart wall hanging made from kitchen scraps and recycled materials!

Ultimate Lucky Charms Pop Tarts!

Confession: I LOVE LUCKY CHARMS and POP TARTS! I mean come on. I basically have never not been craving a giant bowl of Lucky Charms, or a hot pop tart straight out of the toaster! And I even made pop tart macarons! THAT’S how much I love those processed sweets. But these products have countless chemicals and preservatives stuffed in them. So the question was posed, how can I enjoy these delicious treats without pumping my body (and brain) full of preservatives? By baking some ultimate Lucky Charms Pop Tarts at home, of course!

If you love sweets *raises hand slowly, looking around to see if anyone else is admitting to being an addict* then you are going to LOVE these ultimate Lucky Charms Pop Tarts! They are the best “after school snack” or “I hate my coworkers & need a sugar high” break. Or make them for a scrumptious dessert to fancy-up any nighttime meal.

The pop tarts themselves were actually inspired by a kitchen experiment I did like 8 years ago! The recipe I followed was from the gorgeous Taralynn McNitt’s 12 lighter pop tarts. It took me over four hours to make them back then, when I had zero skills in the kitchen. These definitely won’t take you four hours to make.

What makes these the ULTIMATE Lucky Charms Pop Tarts

I tried to fit as many elements in these treats to give an homage to both the enticing magic of Lucky Charms and the delectable taste & texture of Pop Tarts.

Lucky Charms Cereal
In the pop tart dough, there is cereal milk, which is milk infused with the amazing flavor of Lucky Charms. There’s also pulverized crumbs of the oat pieces of Lucky Charms to replace some of the flour, for extra flavor of the cereal. And of course, these pop tarts are topped with even more Lucky Charms!

Marshmallow & Jam Filling
When I think of Pop Tarts, I think of marshmallow fillings (the s’mores pop tarts, omggg) and fruity jam fillings (like the classy & sassy strawberry pop tarts). So, I added both! Swiss meringue creates a soft and marshmallow fluff center. Fruit jam is swirled into the meringue filling to give a sweet fruity kick with each bite.

Health in Mind
These are not “healthy” if you’re trying to stick to a whole-foods, non-processed, no-fun-at-all diet. BUT I did make them healthier. The dough has minimal ingredients and it’s homemade. Compare this to store-bought pie or pastry dough, which usually has preservatives to extend its shelf life. And the filling is comprised of homemade meringue with no preservatives, instead of store-bought marshmallow fluff (who knows what is in that stuff).

Enjoy!!

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Ultimate Lucky Charms Pop Tarts

Combine the magic of Lucky Charms with the delectable texture and taste of Pop Tarts in this ultimate treat! It's homemade too, so there's less preservatives and artificial ingredients!
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword cereal milk, healthy pop tarts, homemade pop tart, homemade pop tarts recipe, lucky charms, lucky charms pop tart, mini pop tarts, pop tart, pop tart recipe, Swiss meringue buttercream, types of pop tarts, ultimate lucky charms pop tarts
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 8 pop tarts
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Lucky Charms Pop Tarts

  • 8-10 Tbsp milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled in the fridge
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • cup Lucky Charms cereal (just the oat pieces, no marshmallows), pulverizes into crumbs in a blender or food processor
  • cups Lucky Charms cereal
  • 1 tsp rainbow sprinkles

Marshmallow Meringue and Jam Filling

  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar (optional, but it helps the eggs have a more stable structure when they are whipped)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp fruit jam

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted (add up to ⅓ cup more, as needed, to thicken the icing)
  • 1 Tbsp milk (dairy or non-dairy)

Instructions

Make the Lucky Charms Pop Tart Dough

  • In a wide bowl, pour in ½ cup of Lucky Charms cereal and 10 tablespoons of milk. Let it sit to create delicious cereal milk while you proceed with the next steps.
  • In a mixing bowl, add the cubed cold butter and the flour. Rub the butter cubes between your fingers to smash them and distribute them through the flour. Each butter chunk should end up being about the size of half a walnut.
  • Mix in the sugar, salt, and crumbs of the oat pieces of Lucky Charms.
  • Drain the Lucky Charms cereal from your cereal milk. Start by adding 8 tablespoons of the milk to your dough and mix it in. If the dough is too dry to form into a ball, add another tablespoon of cereal milk at a time.
  • Form the dough into a disc (a slightly flat ball) and wrap it in plastic cling wrap. Refrigerate your dough for at least one hour.

Make the Marshmallow Meringue & Jam Filling

  • Make a double boiler by placing a heat proof bowl or your metal stand mixer bowl over the top of a sauce pan filled with about an inch of water. Ensure the bottom of the bowl isn't getting wet when it's on the sauce pan. Turn the stove heat to medium and bring the water to a simmer.
  • While the water is heating up, in the heat proof bowl or your metal stand mixer bowl add the egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar. Whisk until it's combined, after about 20 seconds.
  • Once the water is simmering, place the bowl with the egg white mixture on top and whisk continuously until you can no longer feel any grainy sugar, or when the mixture reaches 165°F.
  • Remove the bowl from the stove and whisk it with an electric whisk or in your stand mixer until it reaches soft peaks, after about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Add in the vanilla extract and continuing whisking until the meringue reaches stiff peaks.

Fill and Bake the Lucky Charms Pop Tarts

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and set it on a lightly floured work surface.
    Roll out the dough until it's about ¼-inch thick rectangle.
  • Cut straight lines to cut out the top and bottom rectangle pieces of each pop tart. I cut out a total of 6 pop tarts, but if you want to make smaller pop tarts, you can cut out 8.
  • Place the bottom of each pop tart dough piece on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
  • Add a generous dollop of the meringue to each pop tart bottom and swirl in a bit of the jam.
  • Place the top piece on each pop tart – you can stretch the dough a bit if needed.
    Use a fork to press on all sides to seal them so they don't leak out the precious filling.
  • Bake in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the sides are golden brown.
  • Set the pop tarts out to cool completely before icing them.

Decorate the Lucky Charms Pop Tarts

  • Make the icing by sifting the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl and whisking in the milk until it forms a thick icing. Sift in a few more tablespoons of powdered sugar at a time, as needed, to thicken the icing. You want it thin enough to drizzle, but thick enough so it's not opaque or too runny that it will just all slide off your pop tarts.
  • Drizzle giant blobs of icing on each pop tart.
    Top with extra Lucky Charms cereal and rainbow sprinkles. Enjoy!!!

Tulip Farm & Easter Cookies!

We got engaged!!!

On my birthday two weeks ago, we went to the Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon. It was an overcast and windy day, and the colors of the tulips really popped against the grey sky. It was still a bit early in the season for the tulips, so they weren’t all in full bloom. But it was the most beautiful and exciting day for me, because we got engaged!! My fiancé got down on one knee in an open field and asked me to spend the rest of our lives together! And I said “of course!” with tears in my eyes and the biggest smile on my face!! It was the first day of Spring and the first day of a brand new chapter in our lives. To celebrate, I wanted to share some of the photos from the gorgeous tulip farm & Easter cookies that are delicious & adorable!

Adorable Easter Cookies

For my birthday, my mom gave me a set of super cute Spring-themed cookie cutters. What more do you need in life than cookies shaped like bunnies, carrots, butterflies, eggs, tulips and baby chickees!? I have grown to love the meditative act of decorating sugar cookies with royal icing. I made my first batch at the beginning of the year, with Harry Potter sugar cookies.
However, I am still trying to perfect my royal icing game, because this time the icing was a bit too soft. After sitting out to dry overnight, the icing still smooshed in and moved when I touched it. But, practice makes perfect, and they still taste delicious!

The recipe for these sugar cookies includes cardamom and ground cloves to give it a more warm Spring-time flavor. You don’t have to add these spices, but I think it gives it an extra little KA-POW of flavor. Do you decorate sugar cookies in the Spring? Or dye Easter eggs? Or maybe engage in a little holiday baking?
Happy Spring!! Happy Easter!!!

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Easter Sugar Cookies

Celebrate Easter and the coming of Spring with adorable Easter sugar cookies! There are bunnies, baby chickees and butterflies everywhere!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Birthday, decorated sugar cookies, Easter 2021, Easter bunny, Easter crafts, Easter egg cookie, Easter eggs, Easter sugar cookies, holiday baking, proposal, royal icing, sugar cookies, Tulip Farm
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Easter Sugar Cookies

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves

Royal Icing

  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 – 8 Tbsp water

Instructions

Make Easter Sugar Cookies

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In another large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter and the sugar until it is smooth and a pale yellow color.
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract to the creamed butter and sugar and mix until it's all combined.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix them all together until it forms a wet dough and there are no dry pockets of flour left.
  • Form the dough into a disc (a flattened ball) and wrap it in plastic cling wrap.
    Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour, or overnight.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge. Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the dough until it's about ¼-inch thick.
    Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Cut out shapes using your cookie cutters and place the cut-out shapes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Once you cut out shapes in the rolled-out dough, form the dough back into a ball, roll it out again, and cut out more shapes.
  • Bake your cookies for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges start to turn the lightest shade of golden brown.
    Move the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire cooling rack and cool them completely before decorating them.

Decorate with Royal Icing

  • Sift the powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
    Add in the egg white and 4 tablespoons of water.
    Begin whisking with a hand mixer or begin mixing on a low speed with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer.
  • If the icing looks and feels too thick to be able to pipe onto cookies, add another tablespoon of water and a time, until it's your desired texture.
  • Add a few dollops of the icing into a small bowl and cover the rest of the icing with plastic cling wrap so it doesn't dry out.
    Mix in gel food coloring to your bit of icing that was separated into a small bowl. For my Easter cookies, I used black, purple, orange, yellow, green, pink and purple gel food coloring. For the white, I just didn't add any coloring, as the icing is naturally white.
  • Pour your dyed icing into a piping bag and go to town!
    Repeat with separating a few dollops of icing into a small bowl, dyeing it, adding in into a piping bag, and decorating your delicious cookies.

Slovenian Easter Buns

Easter Buns from my Dad’s Dad’s Dad

Easter is almost here!! Typically around this time of year, ovens are filled with hot cross buns. And usually, we are part of the hot cross bun entourage, making the home smell like fresh bread and icing them with crosses. But this year, I wanted to try something a little different. I still wanted to make bread, of course, because bread = life. My Dad’s Dad’s Dad (aka my great-grandpa) is from Slovenia and I’ve been researching different recipes from that region. There’s a lot of dairy (ouch, my tummy no likey) and a ton of pork (nooo thank you) in Slovenian cooking. But I came across these Slovenian Easter buns and thought, this is perfect!

My Grandpa’s Dad fought in World War I and when the army gave him money to go home, he faced a decision. Go home to Slovenia and work on his father’s farm for the rest of his life… or take the money and leave for the promised land of America. He wrote a letter back home saying good-bye forever and he took off for a new world across the other side of the globe. He began working in a coal mine in Montana and eventually made his way to Centralia, Washington to start his own farm. I wonder if he ever enjoyed a version of these Easter buns himself?

These Slovenian buns are heartier than hot cross buns, full of dried fruit and nuts. They have a texture closer to scones, being dense and chewy and so delicious! Thank you, ancestors, for creating these amazing bun buns!

Easter Traditions Around the World

There are so many interesting Easter traditions around the world. Go to France and you can enjoy a giant omelet! Or head to Brazil to be able to beat up a straw Judas doll in the streets. This year, I dyed eggs naturally with kitchen scraps!

Whether you have Spring traditions or none at all, these Slovenian Easter buns are super tasty and I highly recommend baking up a batch to munch on. They are delicious when warm with some butter and jam spread on top for breakfast. Or pack a few as a midday snack at work, on a hike or just in your living room.
The recipe for these is based on eCurry’s Velikonocni Kruhki recipe.

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Slovenian Easter Buns

Enjoy this delicious Slovenian Easter tradition – warm buns with nuts and dried fruit! They are delicious, comforting and perfect for any time of the day!
Course Breakfast, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Slovenian
Keyword Easter, Easter 2021, Easter brunch, Easter buns, Easter decorations, Easter greetings, holiday baking, nut roll, slovenian Easter buns, Slovenian recipes, yeast
Prep Time 30 minutes
Dough Rising Time 5 hours
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 10 buns
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped into raisin-sized pieces
  • 1 cup raisins (for sweeter buns) or dried cranberries (for a tart kick)
  • cup warm milk (or dairy free milk)
  • tsp active dry yeast (one envelope)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted in the microwave and set out to cool a bit
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup almonds, ground up in a blender or food processor until it forms a pretty fine mixture
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp water

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, cover the dates and raisins or dried cranberries (or a mix of dried fruit you like) with hot water and let them soak.
  • In another small bowl warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until it is the temperature of a warm bath. Stir in the yeast and granulated sugar. Let is sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is bubbly and the yeast has "bloomed".
  • In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the bubbly yeast mixture, flour, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, powdered sugar, melted butter, almond extract and salt.
    Mix it with a wooden spoon or a paddle attachment on a stand mixer until it forms a soft dough.
  • Drain the dates and raisins or dried cranberries and mix them into the dough along with the ground almonds and the juice and zest of one lemon.*
    *If you want your buns sweeter and less tart, only add the juice and not the zest.
  • Knead the dough for about 10 minutes by hand or about 5 minutes with the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer.
    If the dough feels sticky, add an additional tablespoon of flour and knead it in. The dough should feel stretchy and firm, not sticky.
  • Form the dough into a ball and cover it in the mixing bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Place it in a warm place, like in the oven with the light on. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size, for about 5 to 6 hours.
  • Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Lightly flour a clean work surface and dump the dough ball out. Knead it for about 3 minutes.
    Separate the dough into equal-sized balls (about 9 to 12 depending on how big or small you want them) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the egg yolk with the teaspoon of water. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash.
    Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the buns are golden brown.
    Enjoy!

Easter Eggs Dyed with Kitchen Scraps!

Let’s Welcome Spring with Bold Colors

Happy Spring!! The tulips and daffodils are blooming, the birds have a happy tone in their song and the sun is shining earlier in the morning and longer into the evening. This time of year is so special because new life is budding and blooming all around! And what better way to celebrate than with gorgeous colored eggs!? It’s the ideal way to get a bright pop of color while maintaining a solid protein intake. When I was a kid, we would dye Easter eggs with the boxed mix of dye tablets and stickers. But now, we can level up our spring decorations with Easter eggs dyed naturally with kitchen scraps! With natural dye, you can still achieve gorgeous bold colors without any chemicals, so they are safe to eat and super kid-friendly to make!

Color Options for Dyes

In order to dye eggs four gorgeous colors naturally, I used a leftover beet that I wanted to boil to eat, the last tiny bit of turmeric in a spice bottle, onion skins, and the remaining quarter of a red cabbage after I made Thai-style tacos.

Beets = Purple
Turmeric = Yellow
Onion Skins = Orange
Red Cabbage = Blue

There are a plethora of other food scraps you could use to dye eggs as well like avocados, blueberries or tea!

How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally

Dyeing eggs naturally is even more simple than peeling a hard boiled egg. Just throw some kitchen scraps in a pot with water and a tablespoon of vinegar. Let it all boil for half an hour. Then let it cool and soak the eggs in the dye until they’re the desired color you like!

1. Hard boil a dozen eggs

  1. Place a dozen eggs in a large pot and fill the pot with water to fully cover all the eggs. Put it on the stove top and bring to a boil.
  2. Once it reaches a rapid boil, turn off the heat and remove the egg-filled pot from the stove top. Let sit, covered with the lid, for about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the water and let the eggs sit out to dry and cool completely.

2. Dye a few eggs purple

  1. In a saucepan, add:
    – 6 cups of water
    – 1 peeled and chopped beet (or more if you want to boil some beets to eat later)
    – 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  2. Boil the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Add a few hard boiled eggs and the purple dye into a jar or air-tight container and let the eggs steep for 10 minutes to 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.

3. Dye a few eggs yellow

  1. In a saucepan, add:
    – 6 cups of water
    – 1 tsp turmeric
    – 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  2. Boil the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Add a few hard boiled eggs and the yellow dye into a jar or air-tight container and let the eggs steep for 10 to 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.

4. Dye a few eggs orange

  1. In a saucepan, add:
    – 6 cups of water
    – ½ cup onion skins (skins from about three to four onions)
    – 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  2. Boil the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Add a few hard boiled eggs and the orange dye into a jar or air-tight container and let the eggs steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.

5. Dye a few eggs blue

  1. In a saucepan, add:
    – 6 cups of water
    – 1 to 2 cups sliced red cabbage
    – 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  2. Boil the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Add a few hard boiled eggs and the blue dye into a jar or air-tight container and let the eggs steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.

Strawberry Pop Tart Macarons!

HAPPY NATIONAL MACARON DAY!!!! WOOOO HOOOO!!!
It’s national macaron day every March 20th here in the United States. And what better way to celebrate than with some amazingly delicious and unique strawberry pop tart macarons!?!

If you haven’t made macarons before, check out my own first attempt, along with a some helpful tips and a plethora of what-not-to-do‘s.
Macarons are the PERFECT sweet treat. They have a crisp outside when you first bite down. Then the inside of each macaron shell is chewy and rich. And the filling is soft and decadent and sooooo goooood! These pop tart macarons deliver on this mouthful of textures, flavors and magic. And the secret jam in the center is the ultimate gooey surprise!

If you’ve never tried a macaron, I encourage you to give it a whirl! And even better, take a whack at making them at home!

I tried to get as much “pop tart essence” into these macarons as possible. The macaron cookie shells themselves are not flavored with anything extra, so they maintain a nice biscuit-like flavor, like traditional pop tarts. The recipes for the macaron shells and the royal icing decoration are from my favorite bakery YouTube channel, Cupcake Jemma. The filling is swiss meringue buttercream and the recipe I followed for this is from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Swiss meringue buttercream gives the insides a little more of a marshmallow flavor, which I find abundant in pop tarts. There’s a also surprise strawberry jam filling in the center, just like in strawberry pop tarts! And to make it look like the real thing, I topped each macaron with a squiggly blob of royal icing and rainbow sprinkles!

How to Construct these Magnificent Morsels

Step 1: Find pairs for each macaron shell

It’s helpful to match pairs of macaron shells based on their size and shape. Some might of come out a little large or smaller and maybe a little more oval than perfectly round. Match them up with their soulmate so the sandwiches aren’t oozing out filling on one side.

Step 2: Pipe the swiss meringue buttercream filling

I dyed my frosting pink to more match the pink/red fruity center of pop tarts. You don’t have to dye yours, or you can dye it with beets instead of an artificial food dye!
Pipe circles but leave the middle empty for the jammy-jam center!

Step 3: Fill the center with strawberry jam

You can use any find of jam to fill the center, but I used strawberry jam to try and stay as close to the flavor profile and aesthetic of strawberry pop tarts.

Step 4: Press the macarons together to form delicious sandwiches!

Lightly press down on the top of each macaron sandwich. Don’t press too hard or else everything all the goodies inside will smoosh out!

Step 5: Pipe the icing on top of each macaron

Pipe white (i.e. non-colored) royal icing in an irregular squiggly blob shape. This is to add the look and that extra little sweet crunch on top, just like pop tarts!

Step 6: Add rainbow sprinkles

SPRINKLESSS! Throw sprinkles around like kindness! The rainbow sprinkles are the last and final touch to put the extra ooh-la-la on these adorable cutie pies!

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Strawberry Pop Tart Macarons

March 20th is National Macaron Day in the United States! To celebrate, I made deliciously amazing and unique strawberry pop tart macarons! The secret strawberry jam in the center is the perfect gooey surprise in this amazing treat!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, French
Keyword chocolate macarons, chocolate strawberry macarons, French macarons, gluten free, gluten free baking, gluten free desserts, Italian meringue, National Macaron Day, pop tart, rainbow sprinkles, royal icing, strawberry pop tart, strawberry pop tart macarons, Swiss meringue buttercream
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Macaron Resting Time 1 hour
Servings 18 macarons
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Macarons

  • 190 grams finely ground almonds (about 2 cups)
  • 205 grams powdered sugar (about 1⅓ cups)
  • 144 grams egg whites (about 4 to 5 eggs)
  • 190 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)
  • 60 mL water (about ¼ cup)

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 230 grams egg whites (about 6 eggs)
  • 400 grams granulated sugar (about 2 cups)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (1½ cups)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • tsp salt
  • tiny bit of red gel food coloring (optional, to make the buttercream pink)

Royal Icing & Sprinkles Decoration

  • 400 grams powdered sugar (about 3 cups)
  • ½ the egg white from one egg (or 15g powdered egg white)
  • 4 to 5 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

Bake the Macarons

  • Sift the ground almonds and powdered sugar into a large grease-free bowl.
    Add 72 grams (half the egg whites) into the bowl and mix it in with the almonds and powdered sugar until it forms a thick paste. Set aside.
  • Pour the granulated sugar and water into a small sauce pan and heat on medium-high heat until it reaches 212°F (118°C) to form a syrup.
    Meanwhile, in the grease-free metal bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the remaining 72 grams of the egg whites until they are frothy.
  • While the eggs are whisking on a low speed, slowly add the syrup from the sauce pan. Drip the syrup down the side of the bowl so it doesn't fall from the pan directly into the egg whites or on the whisk.
    Keep whisking on medium-high speed until it forms stiff peaks (now you have Italian meringue!)
  • Add a large dollop of the meringue into the flour mixture and mix it up to loosen everything.
    Then fold in the remaining meringue with a spatula. Keep mixing until you can drip an unbroken figure-8 back into the bowl from the spatula.
  • Fill the macaron batter into a piping bag. Pipe even-sized shapes onto a baking try lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Leave an inch of space between each macaron.
    Drop them from about a foot off the counter parallel to the counter about four or five times, to allow all the air bubble to come to the top and pop.
    Let the macarons sit at room temperature until they form a hard shell on them. If you run a finger along the top, it shouldn't feel wet or tacky anymore.
  • Bake at 330°F (165°C) for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bottom edges (the "feet") don't squish in when you poke them with a spatula.
    Leave out to cool completely.

Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Pipe it onto the Macarons

  • Fill a small sauce pan with about ½ to 1 inch of water.
    Situate a heat-proof bowl over the saucepan, but make sure the water is low enough that it doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Turn on the stove to medium heat and bring the water to a simmer.
    Pour the egg whites and granulated sugar into the bowl and pace it on top of the saucepan. Whisk the eggs whites and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved, when you can't feel any grains when you rub a bit between your fingers.
  • Transfer the mixture to the grease-free metal bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on medium speed until stiff peaks form (now you have Swiss meringue!)
  • If the mixture is at room temperature, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, let it sit until the meringue and the bowl of the stand mixer come to room temperature (so you don't melt the butter when you add it).
  • Replace the whisk attachment with a paddle attachment and begin mixing on a medium-high speed. Add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time. Let each bit of butter fully incorporate before adding the next tablespoon.
  • Add the vanilla, salt and red food coloring (optional to make it pink).
    Mix for about another 30 seconds to a minute, to create creamy swiss meringue buttercream.
  • Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe a circle onto every other macaron shell. (One half of each macaron pair will remain un-piped, since it will go on top of the piped macaron to create a delicious macaron sandwich).

Decorated with Royal Icing & Rainbow Sprinkles

  • Sift the powder sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
  • With the mixer on a low speed, add the egg whites and 4 tablespoons of water.
    Increase the speed to medium high and mix until there is no more dry powdered sugar and the mixture is creamy. If the royal icing feels too stiff (and therefore, it'll be too hard to squeeze through your piping bag) mix in the additional one tablespoon of water.
  • Fill a piping bag with the royal icing and squeeze out squiggly blobs on the top of each macaron sandwich.
  • While the icing is still wet, add the rainbow sprinkles on top so they stick to the royal icing.
  • Let the icing on the macarons dry completely, then it's time to devour them! Enjoy!

Milk Bar Crack Pie

Wait what? Milk Bar Crack pie? As in like crack is whack crack??
There’s no actual crack or drug of any kind (besides sugar) in this pie. BUT I promise that you will become addicted after the first bite, and you will be craving more. Eating this pie is like the best high in the world… it’s packed with caramelized sugar, butter and magic. No lie.
One slice is never enough. A second slice doesn’t quite satiate your appetite. That third slice was amazing but let me just get at it once more… And I’m pretty sure this is why the recipe from Milk Bar makes TWO pies. One is NEVER enough, my friends. Don’t believe me? Just try it. I dare you. You’re not scared, are you? Just kidding!

Milk Bar is one of the most incredible bakeries in the world, run by an innovative baker, Christina Tosi. They have cakes, cookies and pies inspired by the best parts of childhood – cornflakes, birthday cake and sprinkles galore.

For the full recipe of this undeniably decadent pie, check it out on Milk Bar’s website.

It’s on my travel bucket list to visit Milk Bar’s flagship store in New York City, where the magic all started. I mean, come on, soft serve ice cream that tastes like the last bit of sugary delicious milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl! WHAT?!
I made vegan cereal milk cookies inspired by Milk Bar’s notorious cereal milk, and they are freaking amazing. But this pie… *sighs in contentment* THIS PIE is something else.
It should come with a warning label: May cause excessive drooling and dreams lusting after this pie. Will cause paranoia that someone ate that slice you were hiding for later.

How do you make Milk Bar Crack Pie?

Step 1 – Make a giant oatmeal cookie and the magical pie filling

Step 2 – Break the giant oatmeal cookie into crumbs

Step 3 – Mix your oatmeal cookie crumbs with melted butter to make the pie crust

Step 4 – Smoosh the cookie pie crust into two pie tins

Step 5 – Pour the filling into each pie tin and smooth it out.
Bake these bad boyz until only the center is jiggly, then refrigerate them until they are set.

Step 6 – Marvel at the monstrous beauties you have created with your bare hands

Step 7 – Dust liberally with powdered sugar

Step 8 – Decide if you want to share this or hoard it all to yourself…
(this is a judgement-free zone)

Step 9 – Slice it up and devour this addictive pie, already!!

Vegan Black Bean Brownies with Chickpea Cookie Dough

Is it freaking you out to see Christmas-themed photos in March? TECHNICALLY it’s still Winter for one more week. Truth be told, I made these healthy vegan black bean brownies with chickpea cookie dough in November and I was SO STOKED to share them. But then I totally forgot about them and I was like oh, that’s okay, I can post these cuties any time… Until I looked back at the photos and I was like oh shitake mushrooms, I made a Christmas-themed brownie. *face palm* So here we are in March as the sun is coming back and all the pretty flowers are blooming, with a post filled with presents, snowflakes and hot cocoa.

This vegan treat is super easy to make and CRAZY HEALTHY! I mean, come on, it has both black beans AND chickpeas in them!!! BOO YAH! PROTEIN EVERYWHERE! GETTIN’ SWOLE!!
Each serving (one-ninth of the tin) of brownie covered in cookie dough is 335 calories and nearly 8 grams of protein. One whole egg contains 6 grams of protein, just to put it into perspective for you.

First, rinse and drain a can of black beans and puree them in a food processor or a blender. The smoother you can blend them, the smoother and fudgier your brownie babies will be.

Mix all the other ingredients. Then combine it with the black beans to create a delicious vegan brownie batter.

Pour your healthy vegan brownie batter into an 8-inch x 8-inch (or something similar) baking dish and bake them for about 15 minutes. Voila! You can eat them plain or decorate them however you like. I highly recommend topping your healthy vegan brownies with healthy vegan cookie dough because WHY NOT!? We are getting healthy and getting in our protein while indulging on brownies and cookie dough. Life doesn’t get much sweeter than this.

Pro Tip: When making chickpea cookie dough, it helps to remove the skins from chickpeas for the creamiest texture.

Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas, then spread them out on a clean kitchen towel. Gently rub the towel over the chickpeas to rub the thin skin off, then use your fingers to separate them. It will be worth your time and effort when you eat mind-blowing creamy luxurious delicious vegan chickpea cookie dough!!

And why not stock up on a few extra cans of chickpeas to make more vegan treats like sweet dessert falafel?!

Don’t let the tree lights and wrapped presents fool you. You can make these healthy treats any time of the year! Just ignore the Christmas decorations… or maybe it brightens your spirits? Maybe we need a little extra holly jolly spirit right now, ya know?
Let me know if you make these vegan black bean brownies with chickpea cookie dough!
I like to whip this up when I am craving something decadent but I still want to stick to my health goals (whatever those may look like for you).

The recipe for these black bean brownies is from Chocolate Covered Katie, so thank you, Katie, for putting these sweet morsels into the world for everyone to enjoy!

XOXO

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Vegan Black Bean Brownies with Chickpea Cookie Dough

Are you craving some decadent indulgence but you don't want to skimp out on your health goals? Then whip up these Black Bean Brownies with Chickpea Cookie Dough! They are vegan, gluten-free and packed full of protein!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword black bean brownies, chickpea cookie dough, dairy free, edible cookie dough, gluten free baking, healthy snacks, high protein vegan snacks, plant based protein, protein brownies, vegan, vegan black bean brownies, vegan chickpea cookie dough, vegan desserts, vegan protein, vegan snacks
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 9 servings
Calories 335kcal
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Vegan Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup chocolate chips [vegan]

Vegan Chickpea Cookie Dough

  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and dried with the skins removed
  • 1 banana, ripe with lots of brown spots
  • 2 Tbsp nut butter of your choice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chips

Instructions

Make the Black Bean Brownies

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-inch by 8-inch baking tin.
    Blend all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a food processor or a blender for a few minutes, until it is smooth and creamy.
    Stir in the chips by hand with a spoon or spatula.
    Pour the brownie batter into your greased baking tin.
  • Bake the black bean brownies for about 15-20 minutes until the top looks set and it doesn't jiggle anymore.
    Set the brownie tin aside to cool.

Make the Chickpea Cookie Dough

  • Blend all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a food processor or a blender for a few minutes, until it is smooth and creamy.
    Stir in the chips by hand with a spoon or spatula.
  • Set the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill.
    Either form the cookie dough into small balls and place on the brownies, or spread them over the brownies.

chocolate strawberry macarons

My very first attempt at making macarons

Helloooo, March! On this lovely weekend in the glorious third month of the year (because it’s my bday month, ayoo!) I decided to take a whack at something I’ve never made before – macarons. These illustrious French pastries have captured my heart and my stomach for ages. As you bite down, the outside is crispy, then your teeth sink into the chewy center of the cookie, and end in the creamy and luxurious filling. I wanted to see if I could make these myself, as they are pretty notorious for being tricky and finicky to create. I was emboldened with courage after my last success of making something off my “kitchen bucket list” – the Harry Potter sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. So, here I was, in a stand-off of bravery, just me, my stand mixer, and a whole lot of egg whites, ready to make chocolate strawberry macarons.

How the heck do I make macarons?

Macarons are so tricky to make because there’s a lot that can go wrong. If you whip too much air into your egg whites, there can be holes in your macrons. If you don’t whip them enough, your batter will be too runny and your macarons can become too thin. They might crack on the top (see below) or not rise properly to achieve the “feet” on the bottom, which is one of the trademarks of macarons.

There are many tips and tricks I found during my internet research to make the best chocolate strawberry macarons. Here are some helpful recipes and videos that explain what to do (and a lot of what not to do.)

1. Cupcake Jemma’s Macaron Master Class Video
2. Cupcake Jemma’s Chocolate Macaron Recipe Video (this is the recipe I used for the cookie part of these bad boyz)
3. Binging with Babish’s Mandalorian Macaron Recipe Video
4. Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Step-by-Step Guide to French Macarons
5. Tasty’s Macaron Recipe and Tutorial Video

You can test if your batter is mixed enough when you can drip the batter off your spatula long enough to form an un-broken figure-8, like the photo above.

A few tips and tricks

Pro Tip: If you’re new to macarons, use a template to make them all the same size. A template is a piece of paper or a silpat with equal circles already drawn/printed on it. I sort of winged it by eye and, as you can see, we have all sorts of sizes. This makes it much harder to pair them up to become sandwiches. (But it make a great excuse to just eat them fresh out of the oven ).

Pro Tip: Leave ample space between each macaron as you pipe them on your baking sheet. They will spread on the sheet, especially when you bang them on the counter. Yes, this part is necessary. Simply lift your sheet parallel to the counter, about one foot high. Then drop it down (this will be loud and may wake your neighbors.) Repeat three to four times. This helps any air bubbles rise to the surface and pop, as well as spread a bit more. So unless you want snowman macarons, give them some space.

Pro Tip: Allow your the tops of your piped macrons to dry out before putting them in the oven. When you run your finger on the top, they should feel dry and batter shouldn’t stick to your finger. This may take 30 minutes. This may take 3 hours. However long it takes, DO NOT put them in the oven until they’ve formed that nice shell on top. Otherwise, they’ll crack into a hot mess…

Filling macarons – endless possibilities

Macarons are centuries old, meaning they’ve had quite some time to develop unique flavor pairings. The macaron cookie itself can be any flavor you fancy – from chocolate or lemon, to coffee or red velvet! And the fillings are even more versatile, ranging from all sorts of flavors of buttercream, jam or ganache. You can paint real gold on them for a fancy touch, or roll them in sprinkles for a fun and festive flair.
I decided to keep it simple and fill mine with buttercream flavored with a few tablespoons of strawberry jam. Chocolate + strawberries = heaven, amiright?

Bonus: Macarons are naturally gluten free because they are made with super find ground almonds instead of flour. WINNING!

Let me know if you bake yourself some delicious chocolate strawberry macarons!!

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Chocolate Macarons with Strawberry Buttercream

This was my very first attempt at making macarons, and it turned out great! The chocolate macaron shell is rich, while the creamy strawberry buttercream filling is light and sweet. Give these illustrious French pastries a try!
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Keyword chocolate, chocolate macarons, chocolate strawberry macarons, cocoa powder, French macarons, gluten free baking, gluten free cookies, gluten free desserts, gluten free foods, how to make macarons, macaron, strawberry buttercream
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Resting Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 37 minutes
Servings 20 macarons
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Chocolate Macarons

  • 160 grams powder sugar (about 1⅓ cup)
  • 170 grams super fine almond flour (about 1⅓ cup)
  • 45 grams cocoa powder (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 splash vinegar (to wipe out a metal bowl, stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment to remove any traces of grease)
  • 144 grams egg whites at room temperature (from about 5 eggs)
  • 70 mL water (about ⅓ cup)
  • 210 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)

Strawberry Buttercream Filling

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
  • 4 cups powder sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk (or non-dairy milk)
  • 4 to 5 Tbsp strawberry jam

Instructions

Make the Chocolate Macarons

  • Sift the powder sugar and super fine ground almonds into a large mixing bowl. If your ground almonds aren't' super fine, blintz them in a food processor a few times.
    Whisk in the cocoa powder. Set aside.
  • Wipe a metal bowl with a paper towel and a tiny bit of vinegar to remove any grease from the bowl.
    Pour in 72 grams whites (from about 2½ eggs).
    Add the dry ingredients into the egg whites and mix with a spatula until it forms a thick paste. Set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, add the water and granulated sugar. Heat on medium heat, until the syrup reaches 245°F (118°C).
  • While the syrup is boiling, wipe out the metal bowl and whisk of a stand mixer with a paper towel and a tiny bit of vinegar. This will help the egg whites whip up.
    Add the remaining 72 grams of egg whites (from about 2½ eggs) to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until it forms soft peaks.
  • While whisking on a low speed, slowly and carefully add the syrup to the whipped egg whites by dripping it from the sauce pan down the inside of the bowl. Once all the syrup is poured in, turn the mixer up to high and whisk until it is glossy and shiny and it reaches stiff peaks – now you have meringue!
  • Add a large dollop of the meringue to the cocoa mixture and stir it in to loosen it.
    Fold the rest of the meringue into the cocoa mixture with a spatula, being careful not to stir it too vigorously and risk losing all the air whipped into the meringue.
    To test if the batter is mixed enough, scoop your spatula into the batter, then with the spatula elevated a few inches high, try to draw a figure-8. When the batter is able to slowly drip off the spatula and form an unbroken figure-8, it's ready to be piped onto the baking sheet.
  • Fill a piping bag with the macaron batter. Pipe it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or onto a silpat. A template helps to pipe evenly-shaped circles. Space each macaron at least 1 inch apart, because they will spread.
    Drop the tray from about one foot off the counter 4 to 5 times to release any air bubbles. You can use a toothpick to pop any lingering air bubbles on the surface.
  • Set the macaron-filled tray on the counter for 20 minutes or longer, until they feel dry and not wet or tacky on the top.
  • Preheat the oven to 330°F (165°C). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges don't squish in when you nudge it with a spatula.
  • Let the macarons cool completely, then lift them off the baking sheet.

Whip Up the Strawberry Buttercream Filling

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, beat the room temperature butter for a few minutes on medium speed, until it is creamy.
  • With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add 3 cups of powder sugar. Turn the speed up to medium and keep mixing until all the sugar is combined into the butter and it looks pale and fluffy.
  • Add in the vanilla extract and milk. Keep mixing until those are incorporated into the frosting.
  • With the mixer on low again, add another ½ cup of the powder sugar. Depending on how stiff you want the buttercream and how it's currently looking, either leave it as is, or mix in the remaining ½ cup powder sugar.
  • Finally, mix in the strawberry jam.

Assemble the Macarons

  • Match the macarons into pairs of equal sizes (especially if you piped without a template).
  • Add the strawberry buttercream to a piping bag.
    Pipe swirls of the filling onto one half of each macaron cookie sandwich.
    Gently press the other cookie on top.
    Voila! Chocolate strawberry macarons! Eat them now, or let them sit overnight for the best texture results.

Candied Cranberry Crepes

One Food for the Rest of Your Life…

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your entire life, what would it be? I would choose crepes every time. There are endless flavor possibilities with these French staples! If you’ve never had crepes before, they are like super thin pancakes with a much more sophisticated and richer flavor. Crepe batter can be made out of white flour, whole wheat, buckwheat, rice flour, etc. You can also add flavors into the batter, like spices or blended herbs. And the fillings?! Fruit with yogurt. Caramelized onions and mushrooms. Mediterranean-style, you name it! Whatever your heart desires can be rolled up or folded into a crepe, my friends. And for a little sour zing in my crepes (and to use up the leftover cranberries from my cranberry cinnamon roll wreath) I made candied cranberry crepes!

Breakfast in Bed with Crepes

Have you ever made crepe batter before? If not, it can be a bit finicky and tricky. But I usually follow a simple Betty Crocker recipe that turns out delicious crepes every time. The trick is all in the hand and wrist action to spread the batter thin and even on a hot skillet. Check out Jacques Pepin (the master of all things French) make crepes and after some practice, I’m sure you’ll be a pro!

Throughout my entire elementary school career, we would enjoy crepes together as a family on Sundays. My sister and I would climb into bed with my mom early in the morning as we heard my dad bustling away in the kitchen downstairs. Eventually, my Dad would come up to their bedroom loaded with a tray of fresh crepes and a birthday candle lit, and we’d all sing “happy birthday” to my mom. A birthday every single week celebrated with breakfast in bed? Not a bad life, if you ask me! Maybe I should start that tradition for my own self, starting with these candied cranberry crepes?

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Candied Cranberry Crepes

Add a little tart zing to the perfect breakfast-in-bed crepes! Candied cranberries add a pop of flavor and juiciness to these delicate and buttery crepes.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine French
Keyword Betty Crocker recipe, breakfast in bed, brunch, candied cranberries, cranberries fruit, cranberry, crepe batter, crepe filling, fresh crepes, simple crepe batter
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Time for Cranberries to Dry 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings 12 crepes
Author strawberryandcream

Ingredients

Candied Cranberries

  • cups fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Betty Crocker's Crepes

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk or non-dairy milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup yogurt or non-dairy yogurt of your preference
  • 1 banana, sliced

Instructions

Candied Cranberries

  • Rinse and dry the cranberries.
  • In a small sauce pan, add ½ cup water and ½ cup of the sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
    Stir in the cranberries to fully coat them.
  • Drain the cranberries from the syrup.
    Note: you can reserve the syrup for drizzling on top of your crepes!
    Spread out the cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for at least one hour, or overnight.
  • Roll the cranberries in the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Set aside to add in the crepes.

Betty Crocker's Crepes

  • In mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Beat in the milk (or non-dairy milk), vanilla and eggs until the batter is smooth.
  • Find a non-stick skillet that is the size of the crepes you'd like to make.
    With the skillet on medium heat, melt the butter.
    Pour the melted butter from the skillet into the batter and return the skillet to the stove top.
    Mix in the melted butter to the batter.
  • Take a paper towel and fold it into a square. Rub a flat end of the square inside the skillet, to mop up the remaining melted butter. In between each crepe, wipe the skillet with this buttered paper towel, to re-coat the skillet with a little butter and to remove any bits of batter remaining from the previous crepe.
  • Using a ¼ measuring cup (for 6 to 8 inch crepes) or a ⅓ measuring cup (for 9 to 10 inch crepes), measure out the batter and pour it into the skillet with one hand, while tilting the skillet in a large circle off the stove top with the other hand, to get the crepe batter spread out as thin and evenly as possible.*
    *See blog for YouTube link for further instructions.
  • After about a minute or two once the crepe looks golden brown, use a thin spatula to flip it over. Cook on the other side for another minute or two until it is also golden brown. Repeat until you've used up all the batter, wiping the skillet with your buttered paper towel in between each crepe.
    Stack each crepe as it is finished on a plate with wax paper between each one and keep them covered under a kitchen towel until they're ready to be assembled.
    To assemble these candied cranberry crepes, Lay one crepe on a plate. Spread a few dollops of yogurt in the center and layer on some fresh banana slices and a small handful of the candied cranberries. Fold the crepe in half, then roll it up. Voila!

I Let Buzzfeed Decide What I Eat For A Day…

I first found Buzzfeed in about 2012 and I quickly became enthralled by their quizzes. They are so random and unnecessary, and they are unnervingly entertaining. Most of the quizzes only take a few minutes, so you can quickly find out all sorts of things you never needed to know about yourself. For a fun little quest, I let Buzzfeed decide what I eat for a day based on my food-related quiz results. It was surprisingly fun and I ate things I may have never eaten, like pancakes with a million toppings! And things I haven’t eaten since childhood, like a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you are at a complete loss for what to eat, maybe try out a Buzfeed quiz and see where the whims of the internet take you.

Breakfast – Ravenclaw Pancakes

To decide what I was going to eat for breakfast, I took the quiz “Can We Guess Your Hogwarts House Based On The Pancakes You Make?
Obviously, I got Ravenclaw, because I am a ride-or-die Ravenclaw at heart. Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure, baby.
The quiz was comprised of a series of choices for a wide variety of pancake toppings. I picked banana pancakes with maple syrup, raspberries and blueberries, chocolate chips and Nutella with a side of fried eggs. It turned out to be one of the best breakfasts ever!
I’m not sure if they served these in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but I’ll be making them again because they are decadent and delicious!