The Most Important Meal of the Day

I’m not trying to pull a fast one here–it’s breakfast. As with anything to do with nutrition, there is conflicting evidence regarding the importance of breakfast to your general health. This must be the only WebMD article that doesn’t suggest you have cancer. WebMD is in favor of breakfast, as is Johns Hopkins. They both provide some background, health information, and a simple guide. Here’s HuffPo, in their characteristically snarky and cynical way, playing devil’s advocate. The problem is, nutrition science changes constantly. You’ve probably noticed it several times throughout your life. One day, eggs are bad for you, the next, they are the healthy option for breakfast. There are several reasons for this. Let’s make it easy, though. Think back to your 10th grade chemistry class. When you did an experiment, how many chemicals would you usually combine? Usually, you would use two; sometimes you’d combine three. Now think about how many chemical processes are happening in your body (and in your gastrointestinal tract alone!) at any given moment. Then think about the food you eat–even if you’re eating fresh, raw organic foods–and try to add up the chemicals involved. Trying to analyze the interactions of all of these chemicals in an incredible task. It’s difficult to isolate one food item or chemical when testing interactive capabilities with your gullet. Also, science is always sciencing. And Science’s science is to Science.

All of that aside, I’m a huge fan, and proponent, of breakfast. There’s another problem we have to consider, though. When you think of breakfast foods, what comes to mind? We’ve got Pop-Tarts, cereal, cinnamon rolls, waffles, pancakes, bagels, bacon, sausage, toast, any number of processed-as-fuck foods. Even if you’re eating granola with yogurt and fruit, you should look at the labels on the yogurt and granola to make sure you aren’t consuming too much sugar, carbs and processed blarga. Here’s a hint, you are. Fruit is already high in sugar. Ideally, you should be consuming fewer than eight grams of sugar per meal, if you eat four times a day. EIGHT! Now go pick up any random package of food in your kitchen and see how many grams per serving there are. It’s shocking.

So. With all of this conflicting information, what are we supposed to think of breakfast? Science aside, you’ve just slept around seven or eight hours and you’re probably hungry. I would highly recommend you schedule breakfast-making and breakfast-eating time into your schedule. Here’s the thing. You’ve just woken up. If you checked your phone for email and social media, you’ve probably encountered a fair amount of horribleness. You now have a choice: you can rush to get ready, thrust yourself into traffic and get frustrated, then arrive to work bitter and annoyed; or you can schedule time to yourself in the morning to cook something simple and delicious, eat it, feel rejuvenated, and arrived to work (traffic be damned!) with a cheery, can-do attitude. Yes, I believe a good breakfast is magical. Prove that, Science! If you enjoy eating, there’s no reason to skip breakfast. That’s the nub and thrust here.

I’ll share with you now a typical breakfast in my home. I tend to heavily favor vegetables over fruits and even grains for breakfast. Fruits and grains of your choice can easily be added to this sort of breakfast. Just make sure you are consuming fresh fruits and whole grains without any added junk in them. Here’s a handy chart of nutritional information about fruits and vegetables. This recipe is for two people.

1 c broccoli, chopped
1/4 c red onion, diced
1/2 c red pepper, diced
4 nice-sized button or baby bella mushroom, sliced
2 big leaves of kale
2 cloves of garlic, minced
black pepper to taste
tarragon to taste (all of it)
3 eggs (Please get eggs from a person you trust who raises hens. Otherwise, you can crumble some tofu in.)
4 T spicy hummus
1/4 of a green pepper, in 1/2-inch slices
1/2 of an avocado, sliced into 8 pieces

Step one: pour a drink! Maybe some juice or tea. Or a sassy glass of champagne if it’s the weekend. I’m not here to judge. Bring a few tablespoons of water to simmer in a nice, wide pan. Add the onion and pepper and let them cook for a few minutes, then add the broccoli. Overcooked broccoli is the armpits so you want to make sure the next few steps happen fairly quickly. When broccoli gets bright green, it’s trying to tell you that it’s fit for consumption. Next, throw in the mushrooms and stir them in. This is a good time to add any spices you want to use. Black pepper is a great standard. You could also use some cayenne or Tony Chachere’s, if you want a spicy breakfast. You could also squirt on some hot sauce at the end. QUIT THINKING OF HOT SAUCE AND FOCUS! Throw the garlic on top while you’re tearing the kale, ribs removed, into the mixture. Here’s the thing about garlic. It’s crazy good for your heart and for your liver but only if it’s raw. And raw garlic is…intense. If heart or liver health are your concern, just toss in the garlic at the very end. If not, let it cook for a couple of minutes.

If, at any point, shit gets reeeeeeeeeal sizzly, add more water. Water, as you may or may not know, is not a fat. You can add as much as you’d like. But you don’t really want too much left just before you add the eggs because gross. If you’re hosting a cooking show, you can scramble them in a separate bowl beforehand. But if you’re a lazy, sleepy, possibly hungover lass/lad, just crack them straight into the pan, rapid-fire, and use your spatula to swirl them around. Cook for about seven minutes or so, flipping, stirring, whisking, whatever your personal style, until you can see the egg isn’t shiny and raw but cooked and not trying to murder you with it’s raw egg-ness.

Divide that deliciousness up between two plates, throw on the hummus, green pepper and avocado and then eat it all with the lowest hole in your face. I dig it because it’s delicious. My paramour digs it because it’s lean protein and lots of veg. I also like to dice the avocado and put it on top of the vegetable mixture. If it’s sliced, you have more control over avocado distribution. Life is full of complicated choices. Be warned that when you eat cleanly like this, you may need to use the restroom faster than you’re used to. But it’s good! Let’s not be embarrassed: food goes in, food comes out. It shouldn’t take longer to come out than it did to go in. That’s all I’ll say about poo. This time!!! Duhn duhn duuuuuuuhhhhhhhhn!

You deserve a good breakfast. Because you’re awesome. I firmly believe that. Thanks for visiting my kitchen x

The Sure Thing

In my years as a part-time professional baker, I had the opportunity and creative freedom to make myriad different cupcakes and to meet many lovely people. I always enjoy trying to match a baked good with a personality. Does a person need delicate or bold flavors? Is the person outwardly shy but hiding a tangy, berry filling? I like to think I’ve done a very decent job of matching treats to people or events. But only one of these treats is guaranteed to get you real laid. [record scratch!] Back story? Back story: On at least two separate occasions and for two different people, I baked these tantalizing, rich cakes by request. In (at least) these two instances, the cakes were shared with a date and moments later…sexy times. This is how they got the name The Sure Thing.

It is a truth universally-recognized that peanut butter and chocolate make a delicious combination. I once knew a woman who claimed to dislike chocolate but this is only because I didn’t have adequate time to convince her. But what makes this permutation of America’s favorite flavor combination (citation needed) special is the richness of the cake and the unexpected, often unidentifiable flavor boost of molasses in the frosting. Enough foreplay!

For the cakes:

1 c unsweetened coconut milk
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1/3 c vegetable oil
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For the icing:

1/3 c shortening
3 T vegan buttery sticks (margarine is not vegan, by the way! I use Earth Balance)
1/2 c smooth peanut butter
2 T molasses
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 or 2 T unsweetened coconut milk (to achieve desired consistency)

15 (to be safe) cupcake tins and two cupcake pans

Step one: pour yourself a drink. I’m having my favorite, a champagne cocktail made with prosecco, gin and a little squeeze of citrus. Also, preheat the oven to 350.

Right. Pour the vinegar into the coconut milk and let sit to curdle a bit. While that is happening, combine all the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa) and whisk them together until the color looks uniform.

In a larger bowl (or your mixing bowl if you’re into that sort of thing, you lazy minx), whisk together the oil and sugar. Add the curdled milk to this and mix carefully–it will be splashy.

Stir in the dry ingredients in three sections, a little at a time. Your batter shouldn’t be lumpy but try not to over-stir it. Fill the prepared cupcake tins 3/4 of the way with the batter. This recipe usually makes a couple of extra cakes, which is handy. But if you don’t have an extra cupcake pan, don’t worry about it. Stick them shits in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Ovens vary quite a lot and can be more than a little temperamental. The way to know your cakes are done is to look at the tops. If they are puffy and you can see little bubbles that have popped on the surface, they are done. A smooth-textured cupcake will collapse when you take it out of the oven so be careful.

Whilst the cakes are baking, you can make the frosting. Whip the first three things, the fats, together until smooth and well-combined, then add the molasses. It will likely look a bit curdled and gross for a hot second but don’t worry, that goes away. Whisk in the powdered sugar in small batches. This is where you can pretend to be in potions class because the consistency is fun and tricky to achieve. Add powdered sugar and unsweetened coconut milk alternatively until the frosting is creamy and thick enough to stand up on its own when you pull the whisk out. Cheeky!

Let the cakes cool all the way before you frost them. This is the most annoying thing about baking, probably. But if you don’t wait, the frosting will melt and slide off and you will likely cry. So go ahead and let the cakes cool all the way before you frost them. Suriously. When it comes to frosting, you can be a fancypants and use a pastry bag and an exciting tip. But with The Sure Thing, I like to have that casual je ne sais quoi that only comes with the back of a spoon. DO NOT OVERFROST!!!!! Put about a tablespoon of frosting on the cake and then swirl it around with the back of the spoon. It may not look like enough frosting but it is. Don’t let Big Cupcake trick you into thinking you need a pound of frosting to enjoy a cupcake. They are probably hiding their weak cakes. Yeah! I said it.

Be careful who you share these with. You just may find yourself overcome with the vapors. Hera help us!

If you have any questions about this recipe, please let me know! Thanks for visiting my kitchen x

Rice Pudding Chris Traeger Would Love

If you want to skip ahead to the actual recipe, no hard feelings. I do that, too. However, if you’re the sort of person who appreciates context, here are some words. In English, for your convenience.

I’ve never liked rice pudding. My mother would make it when I was a kid and it always creeped me right the fuck out. It’s gooey/soggy, overly sweet and it has raisins in. And when made in a traditional manner (that is to say white rice, white sugar, whole milk, egg), it’s nothing but carbs, sugar, fat and completely processed junk. I wanted to change that.

Today, it’s been cold, rainy and overcast in LA. This meant I was 1. craving something cozy and 2. not willing to walk to the grocery store. I had the exciting ingredients of pumpkin puree, fresh raspberries and cream cheese leftover from making my birdle cupcakes a couple of days ago. After much consideration of how to squish these things together, I decided that if rice is involved, I could call it dinner and pretend to be a grown up(ish). The result was characteristically ugly, as rice pudding is wont to be, but also cozy, creamy and sophisticatedly sweet. Here we go!

1/2 c forbidden rice, uncooked
1 1/2 c unsweetened coconut milk (I use So Delicious–the green box)
1/3 c agave nectar
6 oz pumpkin puree
6 oz fresh raspberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Step one is always pour yourself a drink. At least, it is in my kitchen. If possible, you should schedule enough time to properly enjoy the cooking process. Even if you’re rushed, take some time to enjoy the creation of your dinner/snack/dessert.

Cook the rice: bring the uncooked rice and 1c of (preferably filtered) water to a boil. As soon as it boils, cover the pot and turn down the heat to low. Allow to cook for about 45 minutes, checking the moisture level here and there. If it gets sizzly and the rice sticks to the pan, just add a little more water and cover it back up.

Chill for 20 minutes. You could use this time to watch one episode of a sitcom, write a kind note to a pal you’ve been fondly remembering but haven’t spoken to in a while, or make a donation to http://www.kiva.org and find a group you want to support. There are many options.

Make the pudding: Heat the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. You want the liquid to simmer gently, not boil. The reason you don’t need an egg will become apparent during this step as the coconut milk thickens. This should simmer with regular stirring for 15 minutes. By the way, the raspberries will explode. And it will be awesome. Not as awesome as when cranberries explode but we can get to that in a different post. Just don’t be afraid when the berries fall apart.

After 15 minutes, the rice should be done also. Tump that rice right on into the pudding mixture and stir until it all looks uniform. Here’s the hardest part: let it sit for about ten minutes. I know. I KNOW. But trust me, it will thicken a bit as it cools and transform from a sad, orangeish soup disaster to a creamy, orangeish yummy pudding.

And there you go!! Black rice is a whole grain. A good general rule is the darker the rice, the better it is for you. That’s an oversimplification but a general rule of thumb. Coconut milk is very fatty but it’s a “good fat” which means it’s good for you skin, hair, heart and mood! Here’s more information from the BBC. I’m sure you’ve heard of the evils of white, processed sugar. Even The Simpsons covered this territory 12 years ago in “Sweets and Sour Marge”. There’s a lot of differing information on agave. Yes, it’s natural but it’s also processed. It has more calories than white sugar but you use way less of it. Hhhhhhhhhh whatevs. It’s fructose instead of sucrose so it won’t make your blood sugar spike as quickly and it’s easier for your diabetic friends to handle. Do you even know how good pumpkin is for you? It has ALL OF THE VITAMIN A and a bunch of fiber. Here’s a bunch of science numbers to illustrate.

So the long and short of it is, this is a less gelatinous, more healthful, fun and ugly rice pudding. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for visiting my kitchen x

A Welcome Note

Hiya! And welcome to my shiny, new blog!

You may know that I used to have a wee catering business called Sophia’s Place. Under this name, I fed residents of Jackson, MS the most delicious treats I could think of. Sometimes, this meant very standard things like vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. But, more often than not, I created provocative, unusual and sometimes zany treats. My favorite is still the beet cupcake with an apricot&local honey glaze. My most unexpected cupcake was arguably the cucumber, mango and cayenne cupcake topped with a tofu&brown sugar buttercream. Just trust me on that one. It totally worked.

Eating delicious food is important, obviously. But I think our first priority should be knowing what we’re eating and where our food comes from. This can be a daunting task at times. It can also involve learning very disappointing information. That’s just part of the process, though! Remember what G.I. Joe taught us, knowing is half the battle. I personally keep a vegetarian diet so most (if not all) of the recipes you find here will be vegetarian. Let me say now that vegetarianism is my choice FOR MYSELF and I am not here to convert anyone to anything. I will encourage you to try the recipes as written, though. At least once 🙂

The purpose of this blog is to encourage mindful, healthful, fully-enjoyable eating experiences. Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s gross. And just because something tastes rich and delicious doesn’t mean it’s automatically bad for you. Eating should be a full experience, not just consumption of energy. So let’s create an experience together! Thanks for visiting my kitchen x