Ramadiet 2017/1438

~ Hey blog fam, it’s been a minute! I’ve been putting together my latest food endeavor – Carmen’s Cookies! Follow me on the IG and stay tuned for details coming this summer ~

Ramadan, the month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, is quickly rolling through, which means that I’ll be monitoring what goes into my body more than normal. But this year, I’ve made a decision to take it one step further and go on a diet. Yes, the cursèd word that some say explains itself in its first three letters. My reasoning was that during Ramadan, I already strive (yes, this truly takes effort) to avoid things that give the false hope of energy and happiness, but only leave me with a sugar crash and sleepiness shortly after consumption. So in an attempt to heighten energy levels, and assess my regular eating choices, I will be removing sugar and refined/processed carbs from my diet.

I know. If you’ve read this far, then you know me, and you know this is going to be a serious challenge. But what better time to do it than the holy month of Ramadan, when I will be working on my “reflection and focus”, religious and otherwise. Every year, Ramadan creeps up on me and ever year I get stoked about the month I treat as a reset and reassessment, weeding out the negative vibes and bringing back the good ones. For example:

“Do I really need to curse out this terrible Brooklyn driver?”
“So the subway is super packed and I can’t reach my phone…it’s not that serious.”
“One more bite: good idea or nah?”
“I’m so #blessed and I’m grateful for living in a place with four seasons. This 95 degree humidity will pass…right…”

Now is as good a time as any to do a deep dive on my diet and see where I can improve. By the end of the experiment, I’m hoping I’ll have motivation to adjust some eating habits (will I survive without a cookie after lunch?) and get to know my body better.

Sooo, to make up for at least part of the month without sweets, I sprinted to some places I’ve wanted to check out for a while before my time ran out. Below are the highlights…

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetDu’s Donuts The latest fancy NYC doughnuts put themselves on the map in April, and I tried the Strawberries and Cream and, I think Grapefruit Chamomile? I honestly can’t remember. My favorite part was the attractiveness of all the doughnuts; beautifully piped lines of icing on many varieties. The doughnuts themselves were good, but Dough still ranks number one in my heart.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetI’d just happened to be walking by the small, seveeerely hyped cookie dough-scooping shop in Greenwich Village on my way to an appointment, when I noticed that there was no 3-hour long line wrapping the block. In fact, there was no line at all. I quickly attributed it to the early hour and having just opened for the day. Later, on my way back, there was still no line. Since I’m not usually in that part of the area, I figured I may as well finally see if Dō was worth these egregious NYC-trend lines. I left with a scoop of salty + sweet dough, with salted caramel and chocolate chips, at $4, and was promptly reminded of how weird I think it is to opt for raw cookie dough over fresh-baked cookies. I could not eat the small mound in one sitting, but it was not a terrible experience. 

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetBrownstone Pancake Factory I love this place as much as I love pancakes, and if my friends Rebecca and Shyla are up for it, and our amigo Tommy is also in town, I get to eat here when I visit them. As you can tell from the photo, this breakfast-all-day restaurant has more than pancakes, as I was the only one that got pancakes…I had to represent for the team. We also shared an Oreo Cake freakshake. Delicious? Yes. Fit for one? Noo.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetKith Ice Cream Not long after I moved to Brooklyn, this sneaker store by Barclays Center opened a cereal bar. Don’t ask questions; this is Brooklyn. The cereal bar also features soft serve ice cream with your choice of cereal add-ins and toppings. I meant to check it out but never got around to it. Luckily, they’ve since opened a location next to my office, and I tried it out on one of those super hot days last week…you can see my ice cream started melting as soon as I stepped outside. They whip the whole thing up DQ Blizzard-style, and the ice cream itself was very sweet. Overall, fun if overpriced spot for only the occasional visit.

Come back soon for my dispatches from the frontlines of Ramadiet 2017!

The Truth is in the Tofu (Pancakes)

Some time ago, my friend Kristen Miglore was testing a waffle recipe of another friend, Hannah Kirshner, for her Genius Recipes column on Food52. You may know that I don’t usually dilly dally with special diet recipes, but this is another one of those recipes that is delicious while happening to be vegan. I agree that this sounds crazy: a waffle whose ingredients include silken tofu, lemon juice, and coconut oil. But not only are the waffles vegan, they’re great. The most distinct characteristic of these tofu waffles is the texture. When they come out of the waffle iron, they are the most crispy on the outside, and almost custardy soft on the inside. But the weirdest thing of all the weird things is that you can’t taste the tofu! This is mostly due in part to the coconut oil taking most of the flavor responsibilities. So if you’re not into coconut, you may have to change the oil.

Being without a waffle iron, I was curious to see if these waffles would act similarly in pancake form.

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And they sure did! I found that after being off the griddle and on the counter for a few minutes, the pancake exterior became soft, but the insides remained like custard in a soft shell. These are the pancakes you’ll want to pour maple syrup all over, to not detract from the texture, and to help enhance the simple flavor.

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Best Ever Pancakes
Original recipe by Hannah Kirshner, Genius Recipe’d by Kristen Miglore

12 oz silken tofu
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: syrup/yogurt/butter to serve

Use a blender to blend the tofu, water and lemon juice until smooth. Gradually add the coconut oil and blend until combined.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix the blended ingredients until just combined.

Generously oil a skillet and put on medium-low heat. When the skillet is hot, put your desired amount of batter in the skillet and wait to flip until the edges lose their shine and bubbles form. Keep your pancakes in an oven or toaster oven at 325° until ready to serve. And syrup, yogurt, and/or butter if desired.

 

Portland Part 5: Milk Glass Mrkt

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Our last breakfast stop in Portland was at a spot I’d seen in last year’s “Best New Restaurants” list from Bon Appétit . On the east side of the river, Milk Glass Mrkt is tucked away in the a corner of the Overlook neighborhood. They serve breakfast and lunch throughout the week in a counter-service format in a bright dining room. When we arrived on a Tuesday morning, it was quiet, with two indoor tables occupied and two other guests enjoying their coffee at the tables outside.

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After considering the menu, I ordered greens with smoked trout, rainbow chard, pickled red onions, walnuts, radish sprouts, and a fried egg. My mom got the cheddar biscuit with herbed egg and smoked salmon. To split, we ordered a warm brown butter almond cake with berry jam and crème fraîche.

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And everything was delicious. My breakfast salad had everything it needed – refreshment, warmth, nutrients, texture. The biscuit was flaky and the cheese melty. The almond cake was in fact warm and dense, yet somehow still moist.

This hidden gem is absolutely worth the $10 Uber ride, or leisurely bike ride from city center. Enjoy a quiet morning among the trees and houses, with a lovely staff and large seasonal menu. This was easily a food highlight of the trip!

Make sure to add Milk Glass Mrkt, Blue Star Donuts, Voodoo Doughnuts, and a food cart crawl to your itinerary for your next Portland trip. If you have any, leave your own recommendations in the comments!

Don’t Get Pancakes at a Place Called egg

This is a story of lessons learned in New York City, featuring two NYC brunch spots, and my large appetite for sweet things biting me in the butt.

When my friend Ally was back in town for the weekend, we had an excuse to do brunch. Back when I was exploring Williamsburg and the Mast Brothers chocolate factory, I spotted this quintessential Brooklyn brunch spot, further proving its hipster-dom with its name: egg (all lowercase). It looked quite chic judging by the interior: glass doors, white walls. I made a mental note for trying another day.

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Luckily, Ally was down to try out egg on the lovely 50° December weekend she was around.

I had arrived early, so I put our names down and took a stroll. It looked like we made it right on time. After we sat down at 9:30, the strollers started rolling in with their entourages. We ordered, and were given fresh beignets to share.

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Sad looking, but pretty good.

The interior was in fact cute, with wooden benches along the wall, paper tablecloths, and crayons for drawing. I ordered pancakes and one egg. This will come as no surprise to most, as I have a particularly strong breakfast sweet tooth. Ally got Eggs Rothko: “Easy-cooked egg in a slice of Amy’s brioche and topped with Grafton cheddar”.

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Ally reported making a good choice on her brunch. One bite into my pancakes, and I regretted everything.

The pancakes were flat and rubbery, as if they’d had their life beaten out of them – which I guess they did. Something in between a pancake and a crêpe, but nowhere near the satisfaction of either.

This was the universe telling me to work on my self-discipline when ordering breakfast. An apparent oversight, ordering something other than eggs at a place called “egg”was not my best brunch move. But I learned my lesson and am prepared to tell the tale.

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It was real, egg. Illustration by Ally H

Onto bigger and better things.

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In the Lower East Side of Manhattan, there’s a place called “Egg Shop”. Now at least I’d heard good things about this place, and bothered to check that the Yelp reviews weren’t terrible.

My OG brunch buddy Megan and I met up there this morning to do what we do best: eat good food.

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The interior was super cute, and surprisingly small, which partly explains the average wait time of 40 minutes at most hours. Side bar: you can often tell if a restaurant is good if it doesn’t take reservations. Did I make that up? Possible….but we think it’s legit.

I came close to ordering the French toast, but I recalled the last time I tried ordering sweet breakfast – !!red alert!! no bueno! I instead went with the Reformer + avocado: egg whites, feta, spinach,and heirloom tomato on multi-grain bread. Megan got the Pepper Boy: soft scramble, gruyère, bell pepper, maple cured pepper bacon, and caramelized onion aïoli on a panini roll.

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It was SO GOOD. I quite barely finished both halves of mine, and was grateful for the knife and fork at my seat to help in the mess. The first thing I tasted was the avocado – smashed to spready-lemony perfection. I thought the sprinkling of Maldon salt on the bread was fairly comical, and would probably been more useful on the egg whites, but I really, really enjoyed this sandwich. Megan loved hers, too. I would say that I’ll try the French Toast next time, but there are so many other egg sandwich possibilities to try first.

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Takeaways:
1. Read Yelp reviews for a general overview of a restaurant before assuming it’s good based on its interior design.
2. Don’t order anything other than eggs from a place with egg in the title.

Veganing like Champs

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Are you vegan? Do you live in Brooklyn? Do you enjoy pancakes or seitan? If you answered yes to any of these, read on!

When summer was still in full swing, my friend Karly took us to this vegan diner in East Williamsburg called Champs. Part of me was mildly skeptical that I would find something that I liked, as my favorite food groups include meat and dairy. The other part of me was excited and somewhat confident that this well known spot in Brooklyn would deliver. It’s famous in the vegan community, and Karly heard all about it from friends around the country on an animal rights tour. Okay, why not? “Let’s do it.”

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The interior was quite retro-diner, with space for around 10 pairs to sit at a time, plus the bar. A modestly sized spot, with a 30 minute wait on a Sunday afternoon. Wall decor hailed the almighty “seitan”, a gluten-based meat substitute, which, when properly seasoned, can taste kinda meaty.

After looking over the menu for 15 minutes, deciding between pancakes and breakfast enchiladas, I went with pancakes and committing to a second trip. A cop out of having real vegan food? Maybe, but I would imagine it’s difficult to make pancakes really good without classic buttermilk.

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Final settlement: Karly got a chili burger with beans and a vegan seitan patty, and I got Strawberry Shortcake pancakes, without whipped cream because they ran out :/ That would have been interesting to try, and could have made or broke the whole dish. But without the whipped cream, the pancakes were great. I couldn’t tell they were vegan at all, and I didn’t miss the butter. Karly’s burger was also good – not dry, and full of flavor.

carmen-ladipo-champs-diner-rubber-scraper-movementA perfectly content Karly.

Vegan or not – I would actually recommend Champs for a fun breakfast, lunch, or dinner – unless you’re feeling like our neighbors were, and are really just jonesing for a classic pulled pork sandwich.

What’s in the Pantry: Bananas

     Have bananas, will bake. After some consideration, I decided to make a dent in the pile of ripening bananas in the kitchen with some chocolate banana muffins because breakfast is important, and who doesn’t love some banana bread?

     I only ended up using three bananas. Which in retrospect is a lot, but it did not seem like it at the time. Hooray for fancy banana smashing devices.

     Filling muffin tins is a task. I might have added some extra chocolate chips to the tops. Pretty food is good food.

     Moist and happy. Thank you Joy of Cooking Vol. 2 for the banana bread recipe for inspiration P:

Chocolate Banana Muffins
Edited From Joy of Cooking Vol. 2 banana bread recipe
Makes 17 muffins. Sorry about it.

Ingredients
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of half a lemon
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup pulp of ripe bananas (2-3 large bananas)
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (disregard the last thing I said about this stuff)
1/2 cup (or more) chocolate chips

Combine butter, sugar and lemon zest until creamy. Beat in eggs and banana pulp. Sift dry ingredients together and gradually add to batter. Add chocolate chips. Place batter in 1.5 greased muffin pans, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Ithaca Dining Installment #4: The Northstar Pub

     A lot of Sundays ago, I went to Brunch with Emme at The Northstar in Ithaca, off Tioga Street. It’s deceptively quaint during the day for a pub with a questionable curb appeal.

     Their menus are paper because they change so often, though they could keep it in a menu holder of some sort. Anyway.
     Due to my sweet tooth, I had issues once again choosing between a substantial egg breakfast or French toast. You can probably guess what I went for…

      It was really good, though! French toast soaked overnight, with peaches and what I think was caramel sauce (goes to show what happens when you wait to write a blog post). I probably could have eaten one more piece. I tried really hard to like eat the soy meat patties…I really tried! But to no avail…the combination of starchy texture and taste was pretty unfortunate. Then again, I’m good at eating meat.
     Emme got some form of egg with home fries and sausage…also good!

Done & done (ignore the cardboard left)

     There was probably a two-minute wait for our outside table at 11:30 on a Sunday, and the food was not too expensive for an Ithaca brunch place. I might be back, Northstar.