Muffin Monday: Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

This fourth installment of Muffin Mondays might be my best yet.

A series of serendipitous purchases gave me the ingredients to create a sweet and sophisticated muffin, one that rises above its more homely brethren and exudes an air of calm self-assurance. This muffin is damn tasty, and it knows it. If this muffin were a person, she’d be a Hamptons-going, slinky-gown-wearing, champagne-cocktail-sipping dilettante. But she’d also be grounded – her participation in philanthropic events would be genuine, and she’d donate that slinky dress to one of those centers that gives out free prom dresses to low-income teenagers. Basically, she’d be a kind-hearted, generous, lovable lady.

Who is she? Why, she’s a Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffin, of course.

A close-up of a muffin on its side. In the background is a tin of muffins and another lone muffin.

Well, hello!

Exuding a sweet almond perfume, she’s filled with tart dried cherries and dark chocolate chips, ensuring that each bite offers a unique sensation and combination of tastes. You know you want her. So why don’t you make her?

Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six good-sized muffins)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 + 1 T C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C almond meal
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

1 1/2 t almond flavor (see note below)
1/2 t vanilla extract
2/3 C almond milk
Heaping 1/3 C vegan sugar

1/4 C sliced almonds
1/3 C dried unsweetened cherries
1/4 C dark chocolate chips (seriously, use the good stuff here – I got mine from the bulk bins at the co-op)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the almonds, dried cherries, and the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Ingredient note: Oddly, my co-op only carries almond flavor, not almond extract. The main difference seems to be that the flavor is slightly thicker, as its base is glycerin (eek?). The brand I have uses natural almond essence, so I know that at least this isn’t a totally synthetic almond flavor. Small comfort, but there it is. Next time I’ll shop elsewhere – or maybe my co-op was just out of stock! If you make these muffins and use almond extract, you might want to cut down the amount given here.

Another close-up of a muffin.

Nom nom.

There you have it. My most decadent muffin yet, one I know I’ll recreate in the future to enjoy again and again. I hope you will, too! These are best eaten warm with a smidgen of Earth Balance, when the chocolate chips are a little melty and soft. Mmm.

What’s your favorite muffin variety? Have you ever bought a lesser version of a food item (e.g. almond flavor instead of almond extract)?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili: Delicious and easy, except when I forget to buy key ingredients

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

Howdy, y’all! I’m posting today about a meal I made on Tuesday but photographed on Wednesday – this early sun-setting business really puts a cramp in my blogging. By the time I finished making my dinner, the light was pale and weak, so I had to wait until the next day to photograph it.

The early sun-setting was problematic, but it didn’t help that I had a little hiccup in my meal-making, either. I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up a few ingredients, but I forgot one: limes! I realized my mistake about halfway through the cooking process and after a quick internal debate, decided to walk to the grocery store (which is only five minutes away) and pick some up. Because my roommate was out of town and couldn’t keep an eye on my food, I had to turn my stove off and halt my dinner-making. I’m just too paranoid to leave my appliances running when I’m gone! Luckily, I think some of the residual heat from the burner kept the cooking process going.

So, what was I making that desperately required limes? Why, chili, of course! Specifically, this Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili, which was thoughtfully recommended to me by my best friend’s sister. Thanks, Margaret! :)

A head-on shot of a bowl of chili next to a spoon.


Now, you might be thinking, “But Kelly, surely you could have just omitted the limes and had a perfectly tasty chili!” And… maybe that’s true. But in the spirit of giving recipes a fair shot at impressing me, I’ve been trying to stay true[r than usual] to ingredient lists during MoFo. And four whole teaspoons of lime juice is quite a lot to omit, you know? I think I made the right decision, too – I could actually taste the sour lime-y tang in my chili, and it was a fantastic counterpoint to the smoky beans and the sweet potatoes. Overall, I really enjoyed this recipe – it was pretty painless to make (excluding my own folly, of course), and resulted in a hearty chili that’s different than most chilis I usually make. I’ll definitely try this again, probably in a few months’ time when it’s cold and snowy and I just need something warm. :)

What do you do when you realize you don’t have all your ingredients mid-cooking? How often do you follow a recipe to the letter?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Vegan on the Go: Travel Snacks!

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

One of my most popular posts is this one, where I got really excited about finding clearly-labeled vegan to-go items at a shop in O’Hare airport. Judging by my search terms and stats, lots of hungry vegans have Googled “vegan food O’Hare” and landed on that post, and I’m really happy to have helped them find something to eat during a long layover. It’s so irritating to be ravenously hungry in an airport and have to wander up and down the terminal in search of food, getting even hungrier and hungrier as you lug the carry-on suitcase you didn’t check because you’d be damned if you’d pay $25 so some burly dude could haul the tiny piece of luggage you can just as easily shove into an overhead compartment. Inevitably, when you finally give up and shell out $4.50 for a measly bag of crappy trail mix filled with GMO peanuts and way too many raisins, five minutes later you stumble on a stall that has vegan burritos or a really awesome salad or something actually filling. It’s so annoying.

Anyway, I’m hoping to avoid that pain as I travel today. As you read this, I am journeying from Madison to Minneapolis to Amsterdam and, finally, to Florence. Thanks to good ol’ layovers, I’ll be en route to Italy for nearly a day (give or take a time-change or two). Because I don’t want to deal with checked baggage on my international flight (and because I’ll only be gone for a week), I’m just taking a carry-on, which means I will be lugging it around the airport. To avoid the aforementioned annoying food-searching situation, I’ve taken matters into my own hands and prepared on-the-go, travel-friendly snacks for myself. Behold:

A backpack with food spilling out of it: Five Larabars, one Halo candy bar, one apple, a bag of coconut-covered date rolls, and a container of homemade trail mix. There's also a reusable cloth hand towel with a flower and the word "SUSTAIN" printed on it. All items are labeled in the photograph.

Vintage E.F. Tours backpack ftw.

The key to my travel snacks? Protein. Protein is what fills your tummy and keeps you satiated, so I made sure that my homemade trail mix (details in a post to come!) is filled with protein-laden nuts, as are the Larabars. I’ll eat the apple early on in my travels so it doesn’t get bumped and bruised, and I know it’ll make me feel nice and healthy. And I’ll use the cloth hand towel Lisa gifted me last year during a swap so I don’t have to waste lots of paper. It’ll totally offset the environmental unfriendliness of the airplane in which I’ll be flying, right? Yeah.

And the Halo candy bar? Well, there’s no lofty purpose to that one! It’s for pure pleasure, baby. I’ve never actually had a vegan candy bar (other than regular ol’ chocolate bars, of course)!

Close-up of the Halo candy bar in its packaging. It's the Rocky Road variety.


I’ll be sure to share my thoughts about the Halo bar, and I’ll let you know what vegan eats I encounter along the way. I’ll also report back on the vegan meals I’m served (or not served…) on KLM – I requested vegan meals from a very kind customer service agent who assured me all was set, but I’m not expecting anything grand. Who knows, though – maybe I’ll be surprised!

Anyway, that’s all for now. You should check out my “Vegan on the Go” tag for lots more travel tips! My favorite: carry your toothbrush with you. I always feel SO much cleaner and less grungy and travel-worn when my teeth are sparkly clean and minty fresh. And as I said in my first-ever travel post (be kind; it was early in my blogging days!):

[…a]nd if brushing your teeth in a public bathroom skeeves you out (which, to be honest, is pretty much the case with me), you can wait ’til someone cleans one of the restrooms and then dart in there, or you could bring some of those wet wipes and wash the handle, or you could use bottled water and not even touch the handle at all… don’t let germ phobia keep you from feeling minty fresh!


What are your favorite travel tips? What food do you bring when you travel? What’s your favorite vegan candy bar?!

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently traveling. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Friday Favorite: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

Today’s Friday Favorite is – gasp – not a Happy Herbivore recipe. Shocking, I know. Nor is it a savory recipe like the last two have been. Instead, it’s a sweet recipe from my very first (and much-loved, if currently underused) vegan cookbook: Vegan with a Vengeance. VwaV is full of tried-and-true recipes, and I’ll likely include them in future Friday Favorite posts. But today I want to highlight a relatively simple recipe that I’ve made repeatedly, and always with excellent results.

An upturned palm holding two small chocolate cookies with jam in the center; one is filled with a light orange apricot jam and the other is filled with a red cherry jam.


Check out my vintage food photography, circa 2009! I’m holding the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies here. One is filled with cherry jam, and the other with apricot. I can never decide which variety I like best – usually it’s the one I’m eating at the moment. :) I’ve made these cookies quite a few times, and I posted about them here when I brought them to a gathering of friends.

I always adjust the recipe, substituting vegetable oil for the peanut oil and extra vanilla extract for the almond extract, to make it nut-free for my family and friends with allergies. However, I once made an experimental version with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter centers, rendering them totally unfit for folks with allergies, but also totally delicious for those of us who can partake of peanuts. No matter how much I tinker with this recipe, I always get the most delicious, chewy morsels of chocolate-y goodness. And that, friends, is the sign of a worthy Friday Favorite.

What’s your most tried-and-true cookie recipe? What recipes do you love from VwaV?

Sharing the MoFo Love with a Blog Award

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

I’ll be straight with you: I find blog awards a little bit hokey, much like chain e-mails and the chicken dance. That said, I sure do love seeing my name on someone else’s blog in a list of their favorite newly-discovered blogs… who doesn’t want that .5 seconds of recognition and fame?! We all love hearing others say pleasant things about us, right? And making other people feel special and appreciated must be one of the greatest warm-fuzzy inducers ever. So today I’ll put aside my grumpy, ornery self and be gracious for a change. Plus, this award is MoFo-themed and inspired, so it’s automatically awesome. :)

A couple days ago, two lovely ladies included my lil ol’ blog in their list of favorite blogs for the Liebster Blog Award. I’ve been reading and enjoying Brittany’s blog for a while now (check out the cupcakes she made for her cousin’s wedding!), but I only discovered Bethany’s blog this month. Bethany is a Rhode Islander, just like me, giving us that instant connection that only Ocean Staters share. :) I’ve been enjoying her posts all month, especially her most recent retrospective of her trip to Italy. I wonder why… ;)

Anyway, these two fine gals chose me for the Liebster Blog Award. What is that, you ask? Read on!

A small rectangular box with the words "Liebster Blog" followed by a red heart.

The Liebster Award 

‘Liebster’ is German for ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ but it can also mean ‘favorite.’ The idea behind this award is to bring attention to bloggers who have less than 200 followers and show your support during Vegan MoFo!

The rules of winning this award are as follows:
1. Show your thanks to those who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal 5 of your top picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Enjoy the love and support of some wonderful people on the www!

Thanks, Bethany and Brittany!

I think that many of my top 5 have already been given this award, so I’ll try to find some who haven’t. And I’m not going crazy to try to figure out their number of followers, so… forgive any inaccuracies there. :) Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Greyt Vegan Life. Although Christina isn’t a daily blogger, her posts are always thoughtful and full of lovely photos and tempting recipes. Today, she veered a little of the typical food-based path with an excellent post about the connection between pets, veganism, and domestic violence. On a lighter note, she shares her home with an adorable greyhound who frequently makes his way into her photos. ;)
  2. Angst Loves Spinach. Natalie inspired me to try meal planning – she posts her next week’s meals and then shares candid reviews and critiques of what she makes. I always appreciate her witty, well-written posts and the occasional photo of the titular Angst. (He’s a cat, by the way. Hmm… my first two picks frequently feature animals… is this a trend?)
  3. The Airy Way. For MoFo, Zoa’s been posting macro shots of mystery food items, much like my much-loved Highlights magazine always did when I read it as a kid. The photos are always stunning and occasionally a bit creepy, and I love how they capture the unfamiliar side of familiar foods. During non-MoFo months, Zoa shares unique recipes using uncommon ingredients, and I always find inspiration in her posts.
  4. Kittens Gone Lentil. This is another blog with semi-frequent kitty pictures! Susan is spending MoFo reviewing cookbooks, and I’m continually impressed with her honest, lengthy reviews. Not only does she give her overall thoughts, but she shares the recipes that really impressed her. I have a couple of cookbooks to add to my Christmas list now…!
  5. My Peanut Butter’s Tachy. Another MoFo discovery! I like Kari’s writing style, and I love that she’s doing a time audit of popular cookbook/internet recipes – it’s good to know if you can trust the time estimate for a given recipe! Plus, she did a vegan ice cream round-up. Oh. My. Goodness.

So… there you go! I encourage you to check out the blogs I linked and share the love! And thanks again to Brittany & Bethany for the award – I appreciate your thoughtfulness!

What awesome new blogs have you discovered during MoFo?!

Real-Time Blogging, AKA a Super Cop-Out Post

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

MoFos, I am BEAT. Work has been crazy this week thanks to a big customer issue that popped up last Friday, so I’ve been in full-swing project management mode since then. Dudes… I’m a writer. Project management ain’t my thang. Plus, I’m leaving for Italy on Saturday morning, which means I’ve been hard at work prepping MoFo posts for the week I’ll be away… and, um, packing. Plus, my boyfriend AND my roommate are both out of town, making me one sad panda. The only benefit to their absence is that I don’t feel guilty spending the entire night in the kitchen workin’ on MoFo stuff!

But I’m not telling you all that just to complain (although that’s about 42% of the reason). Mostly, it’s to introduce my first-ever Real-Time Blogging event. What does that mean? Well, as I type this post and tell you about the following meal… I AM STILL EATING THAT VERY MEAL. I know. Take a minute to steady yourself. Crazy, right? So… what am I shoving into my greedy trap at this very second?!

Close-up of a bowl of fried rice with baby bok choy, zucchini, onions, cashews, and scallions.


Lazy girl’s not-so-fried rice, that’s what. Basically, I had a ton of leftover veggies (zucchini, onions, baby bok choy, scallions) and rice in my fridge, so I put it all in a pan, sauteed it up, added some seasoning, and am calling it dinner. Blammo. I even added cashews for that gourmet touch. You’ll have to forgive the crappy lighting and lackluster composition of that photo, though – real-time blogging ain’t pretty, yo.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this sad panda needs to stop typing and start stuffing her face – using a fork, not those chopsticks, because this sad panda sucks at using chopsticks. Truth.

What’s your pre-vacation fridge-emptying technique? What do you make when you have lots of odds & ends in your crisper?

Tester Teaser: Parmesan-esque Sprinkles (and an Italian adventure)

Orange rectangular banner that says "Vegan MoFo" and "Vegan Month of Food 2011."

Today’s post is a big ol’ teaser, and possibly an envy-inducer (wait ’til the end for the envy). I’m testing for Joni Marie Newman‘s new book, which is not just another cookbook. Instead, she’s including recipes and crafts for homemade gifts, edible treats, and all sorts of DIY awesomeness. It’s totally my thing, so I’m really excited to be helping out! This weekend I tried my first tester recipe: Italian-spiced parmesan-esque sprinkles. Don’t they look grand?

A small Ball canning jar lying on its side. It's filled with yellow breadcrumb-y sprinkles, which are spilling out over the lid of the jar.


These are the first homemade cheese-y sprinkles I’ve ever made, so I don’t technically have a point of comparison, but these are just great! They’re nicely spiced with just the right amount of nutritional yeast-y flavor. So far, I’ve just eaten them plain (c’mon, I had to try a tiny spoonful!) and sprinkled atop macaroni & cheese (post to come!), but I’ll find something more creative to do with them later. Something Italian-inspired, perhaps?

…speaking of Italy, guess what? I’m going to Florence in five short days! I’m spending a week there with my best friend, who’s currently in Florence finishing up her MA. This won’t be my first time in the city (I visited with my family two summers ago), so I’m looking forward to just spending time hanging out and seeing less tourist-y places, since I’ve already done all those. However, I’ve never been in Florence as a vegan, so I’m excited to see what I can find to eat! Let me know if you’ve been there as a vegan and have any suggestions!

What should I make with my parm-y sprinkles? Have you been to Italy? Where should I eat in Florence?!