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!

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Top 5 of 2016

Poor 2016…it’s going in the history books with a hashtag next to it. Lost your job this year? #2016. Lost a beloved celebrity role model? #2016. Despite the slew of unfortunate events in the last 365 days, it’s still important to look back to remember the progress we made and good things that happened. Here are 5 of your and my favorite posts from 2016, and here’s to a new year that we’ll be proud of 365 days from now.

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1. Mast Brothers: Genius or Nah?
What’s all the hype about? Is their chocolate chip cookie recipe really all that?

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2. Don’t Get Pancakes at a Place Called “egg”
Lessons learned: 1. It’s best to order something that a restaurant is named after, and 2. Not all brunch is created equal.

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3. Skillet S’mores
The most impressive party dessert to whip out in your times of need.

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4. The 3 Why’s of Chocolate Chip Cookies
So many questions…here are 3 answers.

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5. The Art of Dining Solo
The ultimate treat-yourself with its own perks.

Don’t see your favorite? Leave it in the comments below!
Happy New Year!

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.

 

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.

The Dying Art of PaNcAkEs…and Food in General

     If my theory is correct, then fewer and fewer people are making pancakes from scratch. This theory is based on observations made over the past half of my life. These days, people are straight surprised to discover that anyone makes their own pancakes anymore. Forget that they taste better than Aunt Jemima’s (which were really Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood’s). When Iris made apple cinnamon compote to go with my apple cinnamon pancakes, her dad was thinking the pancakes were made from their Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix, and was more impressed with the compote. Rightly so, until I explained that the pancakes were also apple cinnamon, and no pancake mix was harmed in the making of my pancakes. He took it all back. But I could have eaten all that compote with a spoon.
     It is a real fact that fewer people cook in general than in the good old days. Dare I expand that to know how to cook in the first place? Somewhere between Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon and the manipulative advertising of the Food Network, author Michael Pollan explains the evolution of cooking and the phenomenon of the ever-sprouting laziness of Americans in his New York Times article “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” (mentioned by TreeHugger here). Can you imagine being responsible for feeding a family, yet spending less than 30 minutes a day preparing all food? That’s how long it takes the average American today, though one must wonder what demographic(s) of Americans were surveyed for this statistic. So basically, people use their supposed allotted food prepping time to instead (of course) watch TV with Rachael and Bobby throwing food in the air, or Anthony Bourdain throwing food into his mouth–because how many food shows actually show how to make a meal anymore?
     The series of events for producing a meal has dwindled over time. Painfully sardonic food researcher Harry Balzer notes, “A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out and catching, killing, plucking and gutting a chicken. Do you know anybody who still does that? It would be considered crazy!” I mean, that definitely depends on the country you’re in, but we can see his point. You can’t even call it cutting corners; people are simply giving their cooking responsibilities to fast food restaurants, frozen pizza and Lean Cuisine.
     Balzer argues there is nothing to be done about the cooking situation in America, but I’d like to think there are enough people out there who do in fact care about what they’re putting in their bodies and how it gets there. Because if you eat carelessly without paying mind to the nutrients you’re not getting or the toxins you are, then sooner or later if you don’t already have a health condition that leaves you with no choice but to carefully inspect all your chow, you’ll likely get one eventually.
     Moral of this story obviously is: make your own damn pancakes.
Breakfast of champions
New York Times’ Everyday Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
2 eggs
1½ to 2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter (optional), plus unmelted butter for cooking, or use neutral oil.
1. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Beat eggs into 1½ cups milk, then stir in 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, if using it. Gently stir this mixture into dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten flour; don’t worry about a few lumps. If batter seems thick, add a little more milk.
2. Place a teaspoon or 2 of butter or oil on griddle or skillet. When butter foam subsides or oil shimmers, ladle batter onto griddle or skillet, making pancakes of any size you like. Adjust heat as necessary; usually, first batch will require higher heat than subsequent batches. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms brown, after 2 to 4 minutes.
3. Cook until second side is lightly browned. Serve, or hold on an ovenproof plate in a 200-degree oven for up to 15 minutes.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (begs the question: how much is a serving?).
Blueberry or Banana Pancakes: Use fresh or frozen (not defrosted) blueberries; overripe bananas are great. Just before cooking, stir blueberries into batter. For bananas, slice them and press into surface of cooking pancakes. Cook pancakes a little more slowly than you would other pancakes as they burn more easily.
Whole-Grain Pancakes: Substitute whole wheat flour, cornmeal, rolled oats or a combination for up to 1 cup of flour and proceed with recipe.
Found here