Monkey Bread

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees, People say we like to monkey around...

Every Christmas morning, my family makes monkey bread. It’s such a decadent (read: mucho calories!) treat that once a year is enough. This year we mixed things up by going up to my grandmother’s in North Georgia. We usually spend Thanksgiving there, but hadn’t spent a Christmas there in thirty-some years.   

It was cold and wonderful, and somehow in all the festivities, we failed to make monkey bread Christmas morning!

Since I’m the biggest fan of monkey bread, the biscuits were sent back with me. I woke up today to a windy 20 degree morning, and knew before I got out of bed that it was a monkey bread morning.
Since it’s just me, I cut the recipe down to one can of biscuits. It’s okay to eat one can in a day right?!

Monkey Bread

1 can jumbo, buttermilk biscuits (I’ve also made my own biscuit dough and used it in before to excellent results)

½ cup white sugar

2 tsp cinnamon (I like a lot of cinnamon)

6 Tablespoons of butter or margarine

¼ cup brown sugar
  1.      Open up the biscuits and revel in that “POP!”
  2.      Cut each biscuit into quarters.
  3.      Mix the white sugar and cinnamon in a bag or jar.
  4.      Add the biscuit quarters to the sugar mixture and shake, shake, shake your biscuits!
  5.      Once the biscuits are covered, take out and put them in a loaf pan, ramekin, or small Bundt pan. I used one mini loaf pan and two ramekins. Tetris skills come in handy here. 
  6.      In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes one, mostly uniform, golden color.
  7.      Pour the butter mixture over the biscuits.
  8.      Put in a 340 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. I used my toaster oven and it took about 50 minutes. To check, stick a toothpick in the middle and check for doughiness.
  9.      Allow to cool slightly. Run a knife around the sides and dump out on a plate, giving it some love taps if necessary.
  10.    Use fingers to pull off crunchy tops and flakey middles. Dip finger in the gooey butter mix on the bottom and lick off.

Chocolate Almond Cookies

I was craving chocolate. You know those kind of cravings ladies. I don't know if it's all in my head, but I needed chocolate. Thankfully, I had a bag of dark chocolate chips stashed away. When I pulled them out, I remembered that these were the ones that spent a hot afternoon in the trunk of my car and melted into a massive block. No problem, I simply grated up the chocolate and mixed it in. Making these again, I get chocolate bars to grate...unless I have another meltdown in my trunk.

1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds

Mix ground flax and water. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes until it thickens.

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

1/8 cup agave

Add agave and water/flax mixture. Stir to combine.

Handful of sunflower seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, etc.

Fold in mix-ins. I used what was in my cabinet - a handful of sunflower seeds and a couple of Tablespoons of shredded, unsweetened coconut. Nuts would also be good.

These are vegan and could easily be gluten-free by subbing gluten-free flour. 

Vegan chocolate cake

I made this cake for my birthday. It is rich, fudgey, and super sweet. The ice cream on top was great and made it seem like a brownie sundae. I want to make this again with a tsp or two of instant espresso in the batter. 


1 1/4 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp white or apple cider vinegar


1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp vegan butter or margarine
2 Tbsp almond or soy milk
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp vanilla

Mix all the dry ingredients for the cake together. Make sure to mix well and get rid of any clumps of cocoa. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients, except the vanilla. Gradually add the wet to the dry, stirring well. Add the vanilla and stir to combine well. The batter will be very thin. Put in a greased 8X8 pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the sides start to pull away and the middle springs back from touch. Cool completely.

When ready for the glaze, put all ingredients except vanilla into a boiler over medium-low heat. Melt and bring to a simmer. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Pour onto the cake and watch it soak. Let cool, cut, and enjoy. 

Okra Stew

Summer in the South means a lot of things: long days of humidity fading into beautiful sunsets, munching mosquitoes, cold drinks. It also means okra. Lots and lots of okra that love the sun and grow tall under its intense, summer gaze.

I love okra. Growing up, the only way I ever tasted it was fried. My Granny fries the best okra. She puts it in a cornmeal mix and pops it in the hot oil waiting on the stove. But in the past few years, I've discovered that I love okra in several form. I can't get enough of it raw. Just washed and eaten whole, dipped in hummus, or chopped in salads. It's also great pan roasted. Next summer, I want to try grilled.

Cooking the okra whole contains the slime. Frying also does this, as it helps the meal to stick and thus makes the perfect fried vegetable. But to be healthier, and still stay away from slime, cooking it whole works.

For this dish, simply put the okra in a frying pan over medium heat. Cover the bottom with water to prevent sticking. Cover with a lid and cook for about five minutes or until the okra is soft but still holds it's shape. Then add a tomato, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook it another minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add about one tablespoon of Bragg's or soy sauce to taste.  

I served this over brown rice. This would be a great side dish with a bean entree.

Neiman Marcus Cookies vegan gluten-free

This is a vegan, gluten-free recipe based on a version of Neiman Marcus cookies.

The legend is that a woman ate at a Neiman Marcus cafĂ© and loved their cookies. When she asked if she could get the recipe, the waiter said it was for sale, for two fifty. The woman bought it and later saw the bill for $250…not the $2.50 she was expecting. So she decided to get back at Neiman Marcus by circulating the recipe. Now whether or not this is true, it is a delicious cookie. I came home from work today in a mood. Work has been very stressful and has managed to spill over into all of six days of the week. I like work, but not that much. I’m leaving on vacation next week (oh blessed, promised land of vacation, aka Nepal) and have a million and one things to do before then, including some pretty important presentations, an interview, an annual report, and a grant proposal.

But first, before I create another PowerPoint or finagle another budget line, I’m going to bite into a warm cookie with the chips slightly melting and the crispy outside giving way to a soft center. I’m going to sip a steaming cup of coffee, and have another bite. I’m going to relax and enjoy a few minutes of peace. And then, with sugar and caffeine, I’m going to tackle that proposal and straightened out that budget and just generally kick butt before it kicks mine.

Neiman Marcus Cookies
½ granulated sugar
½ brown sugar
1/8 cup coconut butter
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons canola or coconut oil
1 Tablespoon ground flax mixed with ¼ cup water
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1¼ cups blended oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon 
6 ounces chocolate chips
Nuts, optional

Combine sugars. Add coconut butter and oil and mix. Add flax water and stir until well mixed. Stir in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.
If you are vegan, be sure to use vegan sugars and chocolate. If you don’t want to use coconut butter, omit it and increase the oil by 1/8 cup. Bake on 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.   

Spiced Coffee

I read the recent news about two young girls being attacked by acid while on the island of Zanzibar off Tanzania and I am really saddened. It's a horrible act of ignorance and hatred, and it scares people. The article I read said the two were in Tanzania volunteering for a nonprofit and were walking in Stone Town on the main island of Zanzibar when acid was thrown on them. I have beautiful memories of strolling with my best friend through the stone roads of Stone Town, an old part of the island and maze of shops with hand-carved wooden doors, open air restaurants, friendly people, and the best fruit salad with rose water and pistachios. Now, people will think of the white sand seafood market strewn with menacing hatred and threatening acts of ignorance. 

One of the friendly, wonderful Zanzibaris I met there was a cook who gave evening lessons in cooking with spices. My friend and I made a lovely dish of Zanzibari curry and rice and vegetable soup with the island's mix of cinnamon, cardamon, clove, and ginger. He also showed us his personal mix of chai and spiced coffee.

The trick to the coffee is letting the spices settle into the coffee and on island time for a while until the aroma jumps from the jar when you open it. This will take several months, so I found it helpful to hide it in the back of my cabinet. Every couple of months, I happened upon it and enjoyed a cup of strongly brewed coffee with hints of ginger and clove, cinnamon and cardamon. I used a bold, Tanzanian coffee but a lighter coffee would work well too.   

Raw Wednesdays

I’m in some sort of eating phase. I’ve really been enjoying food lately and have been eating a lot. It’s not necessarily unhealthy food, just lots of it. I’m working out a bit more too, but the scales have crept up a couple of pounds and I can feel a little extra softness around my middle.

I need to make sure I’m getting enough of what I need, which can be tricky as a vegan. In the past, that’s usually when I’ve had “eating phases” like this when I can’t get full – I wasn’t be smart about what I was eating. I’m taking a daily vitamin now to help with that, as recommended by my doc. And honestly, I feel good.

But I don’t want to keep adding extra pounds to the scales, and taking an honest look at my refrigerator and cabinets right now, I don’t have a lot of fresh stuff in there. I keep a lot of frozen vegetables and dried beans and grains because they are cheap and easy. But I probably need to get back to eating more fresh food.

So, I’m going to go raw on Wednesdays to help me get over this hump.

A few years ago when I was living in Miami, I went to a totally raw diet. It lasted about two months. I dropped 12 pounds, which was good, but was RAVENOUS the ENTIRE time, which was bad. I woke up in the middle of the night from hunger. Looking back, I should have been eating a higher volume of nuts and filling vegetables, but hey, those two months were a good “get back on track” for my system.
Where to begin? I have a copy of Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo from when I was trying to be 100% raw. There are some good things in it, but a lot are very time consuming, which makes it a bit daunting. Searching online pulls up words and how to’s that make me want to rethink my decision: “dehydrator,” “how to sprout x grain,” “how to crack a coconut.” No, this is not what I had in mind. While I love the slow food and raw movement ideas, I also need something a little less intense. I found a pretty interesting site that I want to look at more, A lot of her recipes seem to be heavy-handed on the prep and machinery too though.

I did stock up on fresh veggies for salads and fruit last night. Here goes!