Thanks for the Memories… and the Coastal Kale Salad!

20140511-155415I spent my university years in Santa Cruz, California, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. How blessed I feel to have been able to call that wonderful gem land my home for nearly 5 years. Never before had I lived in a place for which I was consciously grateful every single day. The landscape of Santa Cruz is awesome, in the fullest sense of the word. Not only do you have the majestic ocean waves crashing up against the wondrous cliffs, the truly enchanting redwood forest, and the magnificent mountains. The beauty of Santa Cruz transcends nature and carries into the culture and society of the region. Santa Cruz is a hub for counterculture. Walking through the sweet little town feels like a time warp back to the Summer of Love. The community is socially and politically progressive, with a laid-back bohemian, beachy vibe. Basically, it’s a hippie haven.

Part of that wonderful hippie culture is a love and appreciation for fresh, local, handgrown, nourishing food. Farms and produce gardens take the place of flowers and lawns in many homes, and a visit to the local farmers market is community-wide activity. Many of the grocery stores even embrace this spirit of fair trade and sustainability by carrying goods from local farmers and craftsmen. One of my favorites was New Leaf Community Market.

This phenomenal neighborhood food market really lives up to its title. Aside from always providing cool, delicious products, the store’s atmosphere was always incredibly welcoming and inspiring, with creative seasonal recipes in the newsletter, exclusively organic produce, and an overall environmentally conscious, friendly and pro-sustainability aura. New Leaf even donates a portion of its profits to help fund nonprofits (Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, Clean Ocean Project, Save the Frogs, etc.) in the surrounding local community. It was this hippie-foodie mashup that got me hooked on New Leaf markets. And then there was the Coastal Kale Salad, which kept me always coming back for more. This prepared salad is one of those meals that make you feel clean inside. You know you’re getting what your body needs with nutrient-packed Kale, the seeds provide you with the protein that will keep you going strong, and the citrusy dressing brings a level of freshness that uplifts you.

I used to buy the biggest container of this salad I could find almost every single day when I lived in Santa Cruz, until I figured out how to make it myself. Now I continue to make this salad just about every single week, and it brings a little reminder to me of the love I have for my beautiful college experience in stunning Santa Cruz. It’s a very simple recipe that just gets better with time, so make a big batch in the beginning of the week, and eat up in health and style throughout.
COASTAL KALE SALAD
Ingredients: 
  • 10 ounces precut kale/1 bunch curly kale, stripped and cut into bite-size pieces.
  • 1/2 red onion-julienne cut
  • 1 oz. sunflower sprouts (optional, if you can find them)
  • 1/4 C. sunflower seeds-already shelled
  • 1/4 C. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/8 C. sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
-Toss all ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag.
-Close tightly and shake well to combine ingredients.
-You can massage the kale to tenderize it more quickly.

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Vegan Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cupcakes

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The other day I got home from a really long day of work, exhausted but in need of some groceries. This is, as everyone knows, a dreadful combination. There are unspoken rules in life. Like, “do unto others” and “keep to the right to let others pass” (a particularly important rule for NYC pedestrians!) and “never go to the grocery store hungry,” the last of which probably being the most important, amirite?

In the square-off between power of will and power of desire, my sense of reason and rationale was down for the count, as the wretched little sugar-happy id of my exhausted psyche won by a devastating knockout. I wound up bringing home a package of Double-Stuff Oreos, and I was somehow so out of sorts that, in spite of my exhaustion, I managed to concoct a truly impulsive treat: vegan cookies ‘n’ cream cupcakes. Clearly my id did some serious damage, as my super-ego was still out cold and unable to prevent further poor decision-making from occurring by the time we got home.

I decided to incorporate the Oreos in a frosting, so naturally I had to smother something ultra chocolatey with it. I opted for a vegan chocolate cupcake, and my oh my was that flavor combo grand! Melted bakers chocolate–as opposed to cocoa powder–let the richness of truly delectable chocolate come through, ground chia seeds served as a protein-poppin’ substitute for the eggs, and a homemade vegan “buttermilk” was made with almond milk and some apple cider vinegar. The cupcake comes out with a really delicate crumb, but incredible moistness, and the Oreo frosting is good enough to eat with a spoon. And so you have America’s favorite cupcake.

INGREDIENTS

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 2 sticks Earth Balance Vegan Butter (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (7-3/4 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons ground chia seed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups cake flour (9-1/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup almond milk (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Vegan Cookies ‘n’ Cream Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan butter
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk or creamer (I used Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla)
  • 3/4 cup finely mashed cream-filled sandwich cookies (about 8)

DIRECTIONS

Chocolate Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 1-dozen cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
  2. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave. Set aside and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. While chocolate is cooling, whisk together the chia powder and water, making sure to beat out all clumps. Set aside. In another small container, mix the apple cider vinegar and almond milk. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking soda. In another small bowl, mix the “buttermilk” and vanilla, and set both bowls aside.
  5. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together. Add the chocolate and the chia mixture, and mix until incorporated. In three additions, add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately until just combined. Divide between the cupcake tins and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Cookies ‘n’ Cream Frosting:

  1. Beat the shortening and vegan butter together until well combined and fluffy.
  2. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla and almond milk, beat for another 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Stir mashed cookies into frosting.

oreo cupcakes