Vegan Gluten-Free Banana Bread: OhMmmn

One of the few perks of working at Whole Foods is getting some free vegan food every now and then.  The other night the produce department came over to my side of the store with a few cases of bananas and let us take home the ones that were too ripe to sell the next day.  Of coarse I took full advantage and ended up taking about 10 dozen with me on my way out of the door (I biked home with two full bags of bananas.. in the snow.. butt naked..)…

Anyways, I now have a freezer full of bananas just waiting for me to take their peels off.  

And what better a way to undress a few bananas then to make some Banana Bread outta them!

I have a deep seeded love for banana bread.  It’s one of those treats that is very nostalgic for me.  Everytime I make/eat banana bread I’m always transported back to the days of being a child, basking in the beautiful aroma that filled the kitchen whenever my mom baked it.  I would wait impatiently next to the oven for the loaves of banana bread to finish baking then slice into it and lather it in butter way before it even finished cooling.  

This latest recipe for Banana Bread came out so fuckin delicious that I scarfed down multiple slices in just a few minutes!  The texture was absolutely amazing: fluffy, super moist, with a nice outer crust that it held together perfectly unlike other attempts I’ve had in the past.

Here’s the ish I used for this Banana Bread adventure

Dry Ingredients:

- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour

- 1/2 oat flour

- 1/2 tsp xantham gum

- 1/4 tsp sea salt

- 1/2 tsp baking powder

- 1/2 tsp baking soda

- 1/4 tsp ground cloves

- 1/4 tsp anise

- 1/4 tsp nutmeg

- 3/4 cup ground/crushed almonds plus a little extra for garnish

Wet Ingredients:

- 1/3 cups organic virgin coconut oil

- 4 over ripe bananas

- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

- 1/3 cup organic brown sugar

- 2 tbs organic maple syrup

- 1/2 cup un-sweetened almond milk

- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

- 1 flax “egg”

Method:

- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F

- Add the apple cider vinegar to the almond milk and set aside to curdle

- Make your flax egg (1tbs ground flax + 3 tbs warm water).

- Mash the bananas or process them in a blender till everything is gooey

- Incorporate all of the wet ingredients and mix well

- Sift together dry ingredients then add slowly to the wet ingredients

- Half way through mixing the dry and wet ingredients fold in the ground almonds.  

- Pour batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan, sprinkle some of the left over almonds on top, and place in the oven four 65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.  

*Pro tip:  Toast a slice of the banana bread and smother it in some raw peanut butter for a decadent Elvis-style treat.  

Deschutes The Abyss

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It’s black as night as it resonates it’s dark frothy head out of the shadows and into the room.  Not a single particle of light is able to break through the clutches of the thick body.  It’s tangibility is only present in the glass that contains it.  As it tries to break through it’s infinite prison of glass, Abyss releases robust fumes of dark chocolate, even darker malts, and dare I say black strap molasses extracted from a forest that no man nor woman can name.  As I gain courage to greet this creature I am becoming aware of it’s thick, sticky, and abrasively cloying nature.  As it sits up I am in full view of a huge body covered in threads of bitter licorice soaked in heated bourbon.  As I look further, the monster’s limbs seem to be made out of pairs of burly oak tree trunks that could smash through concrete.  As it stands up it’s heavy oak limbs are only balance by the presence of a dark roasted malt body masked in callouses of chocolate that are concealed in bourbon soaked garments that blend with it’s bodily perspiration that resonates vanilla and molasses.  

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As it exhales a massive breath, I am left covered in fumes of dark, dank fruits with a strong presence of bourbon hitting me straight in the face.  This creature is more bitter than most other entities that I have encountered on past journeys through the dark corridors of Russian Imperial Stouts.  But don’t get me wrong, I am glad to have made it’s acquaintance.  

Cheers, Chicago.  A toast to this infinite winter. 

Vegan/Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookies

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Man oh man, were these cookies good.  I ate pretty much all of them throughout the day that I made these.  Excellent texture, not too peanut-ey with just the right amount of sweetness…  These might become a staple for me in my go-to cookie arsenal.  

I haven’t been baking as much as usual lately because my oven is still broke… Which has been a real knock to me on my days off work. It’s revealed how much I really rely on baking to calm the nerves and relax.  It’s my kind of meditation or something along those lines.  I’ve been finding myself lost in what to do when I have free time on my hands!  I decided this weekend to give my oven a big middle finger and chose to experiment with my small convention oven/toaster contraption.  I had been skeptical of whether or not this machine could pull off some baking and needless to say my doubts were quickly vanquished after biting into one of these tasty little guys.

I was so impressed with how these cookies turned out that I made them again the next day!  The coffee really gives this recipe a nice smoothness and complexity in the flavor profile that I couldn’t stop eating them.  But I mean, they’re healthy, right?  Who am I kidding, I don’t give a fuck, these are just so damn tasty and super easy to make.  

Here’s the low-down ->

Dry:

- 2 cups gluten free flour

- 1/2 tsp xantham gum

- 1 tsp baking powder

- 1/4 tsp sea salt

Wet:

- 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil

- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

- 1 ground flax egg

- 2 tbs organic cane sugar

- 2 tbs organic brown sugar

- 1 tbs organic agave nectar

- 3 tbs organic raw peanut butter

- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

- 2 tbs black coffee

- 3/4 cup organic dark chocolate chips (I like a lot of chips)

Method:

- Preheat oven to 400 F

- Make that flax egg and let it goo-up! (1tbs ground flax + 3 tbs warm watah)

- Dump the dry stuff in a bowl and sift it down and up

- Drop the wet stuff in a mixing bowl and mix till everything has become one (make sure the coconut oil is in it’s liquid form)

- Slowly add the dry guy to the wet and stir slowly while simultaneously folding in the chocolate chippies (where’s my chippie…?).  Feel free to add more liquid if needed, (i.e. more coffee or more milk, choose your own destiny..)

- Bake ‘em for about 12 minutes then eat one and burn your tongue

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Welp… Try it out, munch ‘em down, not much else to say about this recipe.  But don’t be an asshole like me and eat them all…  Share them with yo friends.  

Surly Darkness

imageThis is one of those beers that has gained somewhat of a cult following similar to that of the mythical Russian Imperial Stout Dark Lord by Three Floyds.  And like Dark Lord, this RIS is released once a year on what has become known as Darkness Day.  I’ve been wanting to try this stout for quite some time and luckily for us in Chicago, Surly set aside a small amount of Darkness to be distributed specifically for us Chicagoans.  I finally had my chance to try it on draft this past January at the Judas Feast beer event at Bangers and Lace that boasted one of the most impressive draft list I’ve ever seen in one place at the same time.  The line-up for this event was comprised of five exclusive beers from craft brewers Three Floyds, Solemn Oath, Half Acre, Off Color, Revolution, and Surly.  Needless to say, it was incredibly difficult to make a decision on what to order.  Throughout the night I had some amazing beers… cough SOB Big Pern, Surly Misanthrope..cough… that I would love to write about but this post goes out specifically to #SurlyDarkness.  Oh, and I also managed to pick up a couple of bombers for my cellar a few days earlier.  

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This one pours a sexy midnight-black with a seductive finger-length head that is dark brown, thick and carmel-like in color.  A bouquet of rich, luscious sweet chocolate and roasted malts immediately fills your nostrils to the brim.  The body is robust and chewy, almost velvety smooth like a tootsie roll as it coats your mouth in a massive wave of sweet chocolate and coffee with caramel and vanilla following closely.  Super rich and cloying on the palate.  Almost like drinking dark chocolate ganache or icing straight from the pipette.  Hmmm.  Theres some scrumptiously engaging notes of dark fruits such as figs and plums that start to come in on the nose as it warms.  A complexity of even more chocolate but this time accompanied by some sticky molasses and black cherries enters in on the end to give a sweet yet bitter-sweet, extremely smooth finish.  

Surly Darkness is viscous and creamy, velvety and sweet.  The alcohol presence really is only noticeable in the aroma and isn’t detected almost at all on the palate.  As the beer gets warmer you start to get even more notes of vanilla and black cherries along with more of those heavily roasted malts on the tongue.  

4.5/5 noms is the rating I give this drank.  Can’t wait to see how it noms, uh, I mean tastes after aging for a couple years. 

Cashew Cheese Dipping Sauce

So this’ll be a quick post but a very important one if, like me, you love sauce.  The other week I went down to my parents house in good ol’ TN before my adventure to Austin, TX for SXSW to get some work done on my teeth, not the funnest reason to go home but I made the most of it.  Whenever I’m at home I love to take advantage of my parent’s hospitality and experiment in the kitchen as much as possible because my little brother makes for a very good Guinea Pig to test my creations on (also, my parents will gladly purchase the ingredients for me hehehe…).  

Anyways, one of my fondest memories of growing up was making homemade pizza with all of my siblings.  My mom would make the dough a few hours ahead of time and when it was ready we would all make weirdly shaped breadsticks and roll out individual sized personal pizzas adding whatever ingredients we wanted from the myriad of toppings that momma had prepared for us.  Ah, good times growin up with a momma like mine.  

Needless to say, pizza night had been a long time in the making since I rarely get to go home now days…  I’m an adult!

Eventually I’ll dedicate a segment or update this post to include the pizza dough recipe but unfortunately I haven’t quite perfected it yet.  I mean, the dough we made this time was super close to how I wanted it to be but it was just a tad bit dry for my liking… Ce la vie for vegan gluten free baking.  At least I can give you a recipe for some cashew cheese pizza sauce that was incredible and can be used for pretty much any and all of your dipping/spreading/bathing desires.  

Ingredients:

- 2 cups cashews soaked over night

- 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste

- 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper or to taste

- 2 tbs nutritional yeast

- 1/4 cup silken tofu

- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

- 2 garlic cloves

- 1 tsp onion powder

- 2 tsp ground mustard seed

- 2 tbs lemon juice

Method:

- Just put everything in your Vitamix or slowly incorporate the ingredients into a Cuisinart and blend till its extra smooth and creamy then quickly devour, you will grow a tail.  

A Revolution to the Vegan

There are some things that I like and that I don’t like about Revolution Brewpub.  First off, I’m not the biggest fan of their beers, although there are a couple that I have enjoyed in the past.  Secondly, their food menu doesn’t really cater to a vegan demographic but I ironically find myself there for dinner more often than you’d think.  That being said, the other weekend I had a surprisingly great experience at Revolution.  It was a lazy Sunday and I was going out for a late brunch with a couple of people but unfortunately we missed the deadline for brunch over at Fritz Pastry (like we always do…).  

The others and I made the decision to try our luck at Revolution since we were starving and thought that it wouldn’t be a super long wait that late in the day.  And what a good decision it turned out to be.  

I’ll start by saying that our waiter was excellent.  He gladly catered to pretty much everything we asked of him and also suggested some pretty awesome substitutions to a few dishes for the vegans at the table.  

I ordered the Burrata Salad sans fromage et pan and added some grilled tofu.  The tofu was grilled and seasoned to perfection and complemented the earthiness of the arugula along with the sweetness of the candied almonds very well.  I also ordered their Gravedigger Billy to pair along side the meal and let me say that it is an exceptional scotch ale.  It’s a Wee Heavy Ale that has been aged in Woodford Reserve Barrels for 11 months and you definitely get a lot of the bourbon up front in the nose and on the palate, which I love.  Even though it’s fairly bourbon forward, the beer leaves plenty of room for a lot of vanilla, roasted malts and caramel in the mouth along with some really smooth marshmallow-like notes that leads to a super smooth finish, complemented the smokiness of the grilled tofu very well.  Great beer for a cold, gloomy Chicago day.  

If you’re vegan and find yourself at Rev give this dish a chance and feel free to explore the more exclusive tap-room only beers while you’re at it.  They also have a Tempeh Rueben that’s not bad but no where near as good as the one being served next door at The Chicago Diner.  image

Solemn Oath Combat Marshmellow

Mmmn and yum are the first words that run through my head a couple times as I enjoy this tasty bev.  It’s one of Solemn Oath Breweries first bottled beers along with their IPA Ravaged By Vikings.  This one is described as an American Double Stout that is “full bodied, black in color.  Big roasted malt presence with notes of dark chocolate and coffee balanced by resinous, piney hop girth” and I’d say that’s a pretty solid, short and sweet description of the stuff.  

This guy pours black with just a creamy, baby pillow of light lacing.  You pick up those roasty malts along with a couple tender kisses of vanilla and coffee.  Although it’s said to be a double stout it actually has a lighter body than the appearance lets off.  I’m getting tobacco and leather up front on my taster radar.  Sensors are surprisingly indicating a fair amount of piney hop presence nestled underfoot along with a bitter-sweet chococo slap to the wrist as if your grandmama caught you reaching into the cookie jar.  Dark fruits proceed on the back end as if ‘ol Granny forced you to eat some “healthy” figs and prunes instead of those chocolate cookies.  Hmm, now she’s brewing Mr. Grandpap some coffee while he smokes a fat stogey.  Those a dark roasty presence rides in along with the butteriness/ frothiness of that buttercrème he has boiling on the stove.  It introduces itself with the aroma of the café as they are joined into one being.  More dark fruits are forced down your throat along with a bite of some hidden sweet caramel you stowed away in you shirt pocket (don’t tell Grammy!).  Ohh, now that they’ve both gone to the study the cookie jar is in sight and unguarded.   You get some sweet chocolate coming in now, as you rapidly stuff chocolate cookies down your face crevice as fast as you can.  But there is still that lingering bitterness of the hops hanging in their the whole time.  Perhaps it’s the flavor that comes from the gilt you feel of committing cookie theft, who knows. The finnish is bitter/sweet, dark and roasty as you lay in bed coughing from second hand smoke and having forgot to brush your teeth after wolfing down chocolate cookies immediately after choking down all those prunes.  You’ll probably be constipated for a couple days..

Shame on you, but I know it was worth it ;)

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Drink this now.  

Oud Beersel Framboise

Sometimes you walk to bar just wanting to get drunk but if you are like me you venture out to the world with a specific drink in mind.  At the moment I’m on a bit of a lambic and flemish red kick as well as delving into the Rhone Valley region with the types of wines that I am experimenting with so I wanted something a bit different in terms of beer than what I’m used to (I’ve been drinking burn your taste buds off IPAs for the past, I don’t know how long).  In the case of tonight I was looking for a complex sour beer but not necessarily a gueuze but more similar to wine/champagne but still beer (since I’m so fond of the stuff).  I walked in to a place called Old Town Social I scoured the bottle list looking for something that was unique that I hadn’t had before.  Finally, I came across this fruit - lambic that, needless to say, satisfied every bone in my body.  Let me give you the low down on this awesome Belgian brew.  It pours a dark ruby red with a fair amount of carbonation that lends to some really sexy retention with a two-finger head that quickly dissipates.  Aroma is oh-so tart with huge notes of wild-freshly picked raspberries, almost like you were walking the fields of Beersels and mindlessly snacking on natures bounty.  Hints of subtle oak come in on the back end as well as the intensity of those wild yeasts that are added at the end of the additional fermentation process.  MMMnnhhhh.  Very fruity and sweet aroma, I could drink this with my nose (probably not a good idea).  The beer has a light body with medium-high amount of carbonation that is almost champagne like on the tongue.  You get even more of a gigantic flavor blast of fresh raspberries right up front playing nicely with the tartness that the wild yeasts and bacteria from the fermentation give it while the extra-smooth oak flavor really comes in on the end along with some vinous/tannic astringency that leaves the tongue dry as an empty pie dish.  This gal is fuckin tasty and you should definitely give it a shot if you see it.  

Fruit lambics are a very distinct and equally interesting beer style and have a very different brewing process than most other beer styles.  Instead using cultivated yeast for the fermentation process that ales and lagers use, lambics rely on spontaneous fermentation from being exposed to wild yeasts during the initial fermentation, a process that give them their unique vinous, tart, and dry characteristics.  After this fermentation process the beer is then transferred to oak barrels for even more fermentation that can last for years depending on what base of lambic the brewer is making.  In the case of a fruit lambic, tart, acidic fruits are additionally added to the young lambic barrels then aged for even more time.  One more thing that I find super interesting about the lambic is that brewers use hops solely for their antibacterial characteristics because the fermentation process is so long and can spoil easily.  Conversely, they actually don’t want any of the hop’s flavors or bitterness showing up in the final product.  The funny thing is that brewers will use a shit ton of hops (sometime six times that of a pale ale) that have been aged for multiple years so that they have lost almost, if not, all of their natural flavors.  Oud Beersel Frambosie is one that is a great representation of the style.  Looking forward to try New Glarus’s rendition of the style in their Raspberry Tart, mmn raspberries.  A trip the Wisconsin is definitely in my near future.  Cheers!

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Vegan/Gluten Free Vanilla Spiced Baby Cakes

I love the flavor of vanilla .  The flavor is so simple yet so complex at the same time that sometimes I just want to pour vanilla extract all over myself.  Well, the other day I woke up dreaming of those light fluffy vanilla Lofthouse cookies that my mom would sometimes bring back home from the grocery store after she had gone grocery shopping for the week.  I know, those cookies are basically a chemical stew of super refined white flour and white sugar with a heaping helping of high fructose corn syrup… Doesn’t that just wet your appetite?  Although it sounds bad, as a kid I really loved those cookies and could easily put down 4 or 5 in a single sitting.  They were just so light and sweet and basically melted in your mouth!  Well, I took it upon myself to make my own healthy vegan and gluten free version of these cookies and they turned out fucking fantastic.  They are a more rustic version of those store bought kind and they are SO light and fluffy and have a cake-y texture with the perfect amount of sweetness and yes, vanilla vanilla vanilla.  They are super easy to make and take just a few minutes to whip together.  I made them right before I had to leave for work and didn’t end up having enough time make a frosting but I definitely will in the future.  Come to think of it, I might modify this cookie and turn them in to some vanilla whoopee pies or add oatmeal and make oatmeal cream pies… The possibilities are endless!  I think another baking session is in order.

In the mean time here are the ingredients for the base of this fantastic cookie that can be modified in a million different ways: 


Recipe:

Dry Ingredients:
- 2 cups Gluten Free Flour blend (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 tsp xantham gum
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup raw organic cane sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 3 tbs pure maple syrup
- 1 flax egg (1 tbs ground golden flax seed + 3 tbs warm water)
- 3 tbs buttermilk ( almond milk plus 1 tsp apple cider vinegar)

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Method:
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
- Add 1 tbs of flax and three tbs of warm water and set aside for a few minutes
- Add 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar to the almond milk and set aside for a few minutes to curdle
- Incorporate all of the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside
- Mix together all of the wet ingredients including the flax egg and buttermilk after they have been sitting for a few minutes. 
- Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until dough is formed.  
- Add dough to a greased cookie sheet and set in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes. 
- Let cool for a few minutes then eat them all, there should be no cookies left after about 20 minutes after baking. 

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Review

I know the phrase “go big or go home” is usually reserved for skater bros, but oddly enough I found myself saying it to myself as I was deciding which seasonal beer release I should write about.  Well, I’m no bro and I’m already at home, but for my first official beer review I decided to go big, and I mean really big.  With the holidays behind us, I sat down and contemplated some of my favorite beer moments of this past year.  You could call this a ‘boozy existential reflection.’  While in meditation, one beer quickly came to mind: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. 

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and although many craft breweries have already been releasing a myriad of seasonal fall beers from the Fresh Hop IPAs and harvest ales to the Pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests (which I’m not the biggest fan of), the day after Thanksgiving is known nationally as Black Friday and the start of the Christmas season. Ironically enough, this is the same day that Goose Island Brewery decides to release their latest updates to their exclusive Bourbon County Brand Stout series.

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This beer, although big and bold in flavor, is a lot more bourbon forward unlike last years vintage, which is much more mellow in it’s flavor profile and rides more heavily off of the dark malts and chocolate flavors.  The 2013 starts out with some big vanilla and chocolate aromas and intense bourbon notes with hints of dark fruits like figs and plums. In the mouth, the beer has a silky and smooth feel with tons of caramel and espresso notes. A hint of that bitter-sweet chocolate plays well with the sharpness that the bourbon gives to it. The 2013 is not as sweet or rich as the 2012, but rather has a lot more of an intense bourbon flavor coming through in comparison. The warmth of the alcohol hits you right of the bat and rides all the way through till the finish-which is oh-so smooth and leaves your mouth coated in a blissful layer of toasted malts stuffed with caramels and covered in bitter chocolate-y-espresso-y-goodness.

As the beer warms, the flavors start to blend together nicely, complimenting each other’s unique characteristics, becoming a very clean, robust, boozy beer (I could probably drink this all day if not for the 14.20% ABV tag).  It’s like an orgy of flavors in your mouth.  I mean, woah.  The intense bourbon flavor starts to mellow out and the complexities again begin to ride alongside in unison, high-fiving each other simultaneously.  From the sweetness of the chocolate and vanilla to the boozy punch on the nose and the finish, this beer is as warm and smooth as they come leaving you with that little fuzzy feeling you get in your bones when you’re warming up by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

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Finally before I left to brewpub, as I can’t stand spending much more than an hour there, due to the bro-y-ness of the bar (no offense Goose Island, it’s the location) I decided to try the Baudonia which is described as the base of the 2013 Bourbon County Brand Stout but “blended from fungus inhabited in barrels.”  I decided on this one because it’s not one that is to be bottled or distributed which means I probably won’t see it again any time soon.  Let me start by saying that this beer was good, I mean really good.  It basically has all of the qualities and characteristics of the 2013 BCBS but with all of the flavors kicked up a notch.  It is much more rich with even more of the clinging bourbon body and warmth that comes along with the barrel aging process of the original BCBS.  Definitely one to seek out if you have the chance.  

Overall, the BCBS is one hell of a beer as well as the Baudonia and you should probably get your hands on ‘em if you can find ‘em.  I’ll be looking forward to trying the BCBS and this years variants after a year or two in my cellar.

Cheers!

Cheers!