Fudgy Peanut Butter Banana Bars (V)

IMG_1930This quarantine has sparked endless conversation, a popular one of which involves the discussion of everyone’s “new normal.” The sudden, jarring shifts in daily routine and atmosphere and social outlets forced by this pandemic have naturally resulted in the need to adjust–and cope. Everyone has been affected by this situation in some way, regardless of whether they’ve physically suffered from the virus itself.

Sheltering-in-place was not an effortless transition for me. Of course, I realized how fortunate I was when so many were not–I was healthy, able to pay my bills, living in an apartment  with roommates I loved. However, in time, I also had to accept that it was okay–vital, actually– to acknowledge that quarantine was hard. Is hard. You see, I had grown quite fond of normal–my old, worn-with-age, tried-and-true normal, the one in which I had a daily job and specific tasks to complete, the one that allowed me to make random stops at my friends’ homes or grab last minute groceries three times in the same week. As a dancer, I am used to physically expelling energy for hours every day, and as a recipe blogger, I’m accustomed to wandering aimlessly in stores, brainstorming potential baking plans. Being an artist, I felt uniquely stifled by the restrictions; the lack of places to expel my creative energy quickly became overwhelming and translated into many anxious, seemingly unproductive days (as well as a few random sketches and a LOT of walking).IMG_1851

After a week or so, I was beginning to feel a bit more comfortable with the changes. Per the suggestion of my counselor, I began planning out a schedule for each day, a strategy that made a massive difference in the way I approached the sudden surplus of time that almost everyone experienced. With more moments of mental clarity, I was also able to address some specific sources of anxiety for me. One of them, I realized, was my food. In an attempt to adhere to the social precautions everyone adopted, I had ordered my groceries through a delivery service. However, with demand unbelievably high, it was about a week before I received them. This left me with six days of eating whatever pantry items I could use to concoct a meal, and, more often than not, they were all various types of carbs. My diet consisted of around  20% oatmeal, 20% peanut butter, 10% absolute randomness, 50% homemade sourdough (okay, not really complaining about that), and 0% vegetables (anyone who knows me knows that was pure torture). Within just a few days, I realized how frustrated I was, how much my body craved the balanced diet it was used to receiving, how it was affecting my mood. Arguably the most shocking affect, though, was that I, the maker of all things sugary, even started to lose my craving for desserts. Perhaps now you can understand just how dire those few days seemed.IMG_1939

Thankfully, I write to you from the other side of that battle–never have I been so thrilled to see a bag of green beans in my life. That week of upheaval in my kitchen was a reminder for me of just how important it is to fuel both our bodies and our minds, especially in times of trauma. When so many factors in our lives are shifting, maintaining a level of nutritious eating can be an incredibly grounding practice, whether or not you generally prioritize a healthy diet. Not only that, but in the midst of a viral outbreak, supporting your immune system is particularly important! That’s why, when creating this recipe, I kept three things in mind:

  1. I wanted the recipe to be “healthy,” in the sense that it offered some sort of nutritional/energy value.
  2. I wanted the recipe to be accessible–I’ve been doing a “quarantine series” on my blog that revolves around ingredients most people always have on hand.
  3. I didn’t want the recipe to taste like a “healthy” recipe: dessert is my specialty, after all, and I know first hand the need to indulge! Especially when you’re tackling a new normal.

So, I immediately grabbed peanut butter and bananas: one of those food pairings that was, I think, unarguably meant to be. My initial recipe development was slow and, quite honestly, frustrating. Though it’s been over a month, I still sigh at the lack of variety in my cabinets: I absolutely love both peanut butter and bananas, but I felt like they were rather cliche among nutritious recipes. For a moment, I allowed my unattainable dreams of inventive, exotic flavors to stall my progress. And, as I always do when I’ve run into “baker’s block,” I called my mom. IMG_1953

Thankfully, my mother is the perfect deliverer of sympathy…when it’s due. In all other cases, she tells me exactly the harsh truth I need to hear, and she holds an impressive success rate of steering me back towards the task I’m aiming to complete. This was no exception. Upon listening to my whining about being forced to use bananas again, she replied with her characteristically precise advice: “So? Do something different. Your whole point of quarantine recipes is to reinvent things!”

Thanks, mom. I realized that I’d momentarily let this chaos of pandemic snatch the one thing it could never completely steal from me–my creativity. At once, the seemingly mundane task before me became a challenge (anyone who knows me also knows that the only thing I like more than peas and carrots is a challenge). With this competitive energy fueling me, I worked all day to develop a recipe, not hindered at all by the involvement of ingredients that I’d once considered overused.IMG_1869

That’s how I ended up with these bars. They’re partially inspired by my recent discovery of the magical taste of fried bananas. To make them, I decided to pan fry my bananas with maple syrup before baking them into the bars, a decision that added an especially powerful caramel sweetness. This flavor, along with the salty creaminess of peanut butter, provided a satisfying balance that I further nuanced with cinnamon and allspice. They even have protein powder in them for an extra nutrient boost. To finish them off, I handed off the apron to readers! You can pick from the list of toppings to add crunch and flair to your own batch.

I’ve come to a myriad of conclusions over the last few weeks, some more complicated than others. One of the most troubling dilemmas was learning how this pandemic would affect my identity as an artist. Through time, restlessness, phone calls with mom, and bananas, I’ve finally grasped at the answer: it doesn’t. An artist doesn’t ever stop being an artist. You can remove a dancer’s stage, an actor’s set, a vocalists’ studio, but–as we’ve all witnessed through daily inspiration like this magazine– they won’t stop creating. This pandemic has robbed the world of physical touch, millions of jobs, and a staggering number of lives. So, I encourage you to hold tight to what it can never infect. As we all endure this time of collective grief and turmoil, I hope you can devote time to allocate rest for your mind; to feed your body with what it needs; and to keep making art.  Sending love and prayers to everyone.

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.

Psalm 57: 7

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Fudgy Peanut Butter Banana Bars (V)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup protein powder (vanilla or chocolate)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • about 3 medium bananas, sliced into about 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 TBSP + 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • Optional Add-Ons: toasted nuts, sea salt, toasted coconut, dark chocolate chips, banana/plantain chips, drizzled maple syrup, melted chocolate

Instructions

  1. Place oil and 1 TBSP maple syrup in a skillet over medium heat. When it starts sizzling, carefully place the banana slices in the pan (it may splatter).
  2. Cook until brown/caramelized on one side, and then flip to cook the other side. Remove from heat, mash in a bowl, and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a square baking dish.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together almond milk, 1/4 cup peanut butter, and 1/4 cup mashed fried banana together.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking powder, 1/4 salt, allspice, and cinnamon.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the almond milk mixture, whisking after each addition, until it’s completely incorporated. Pour into the baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula.
  7.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 22-24 minutes. Allow to cool.
  8. While it bakes, make the topping: mix together remaining 3/4 cup mashed fried banana, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp syrup, and a pinch of cinnamon (Be sure the banana has cooled).
  9. Once the base is cool, spread the topping evenly over the base, covering it completely.
  10. Finish the bars with your choice of add-ons, and chill in the fridge before slicing. Enjoy!

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April Fool’s Primanti Bros. Sandwich (V)

APRIL FOOL’S!!!

IMG_1441I did not, in fact, post a meat-filled sandwich on my very vegan blog. This is actually a tiny dessert!

Did you fall for it?? I must say, it was very difficult for me to pull off. Not the actual creation of the “sandwich”–that part went surprisingly well! Oh, no– it was the secret-keeping part that I struggled to handle! The moment I posted that picture, I went into instant panic, excitement, and anticipation:

 

I feel so rebellious! I’ve never lied on my social media before…

Wow, people believe it. This is exciting.

Ah, geez, I hope no one unfollows me for posting this picture on a vegan Instagram…Maybe I should just take it down.

How will I sleep tonight knowing I’m so close to doing the big reveal??

Yes, I’m ridiculous. Then again, it doesn’t take much to excite me when I’m spending every day in my apartment! I realize that this recipe isn’t exactly on track with my recent “quarantine-friendly” posts, but I hope that it gives you a bit of entertainment, especially those who need it most right now! Looking forward to everyone’s reaction to this and also to the abundance of pranks that will certainly result from everyone’s down time 🙂

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
    and your lips with shouts of joy.

Job 8:21

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April Fool’s Primanti Bros. Sandwich (V)

STRAWBERRY FRUIT LEATHER “MEAT”

Ingredients

  • strawberries
  • sweetener (if needed; I used liquid Stevia)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 140-150°F.
  2. Puree strawberries and sweetener until smooth.
  3. Spread onto a plastic or parchment-lined baking tray.
  4. Bake until desired texture is reached, 6-8 hours.

MINI LOAF CAKE “BREAD”

**Makes 4 mini loaves**

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup “buttermilk” (1 tsp vinegar mixed with enough room temperature almond milk to make 1/2 cup; left to sit at least five minutes)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease and flour four mini loaf tins.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with paddle attachment of a stand mixer on medium speed.
  3. Mix in corn syrup and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Begin adding the flour mixture and the “buttermilk” to the butter mixture, alternating between each and mixing after each addition until everything is incorporated.
  6. Divide batter between the four pans, and bake until very light golden brown on the outside, about 50-55 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely before slicing. If you plan to make the trick sandwich, it’s helpful to freeze the loaves first! Makes for easier cutting, and the cake softens (it will develop a crust when it first cools after baking).

FRIED BANANA “FRIES”

Ingredients

  • banana
  • maple syrup
  • vegan butter

Instructions

  1. Slice the banana thinly.
  2. Melt a spoonful of oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add a spoonful of maple syrup.
  3. Remove pan from heat, and place banana slices in pan.
  4. When they’ve caramelized slightly, flip them.
  5. When the other side has cooked, remove from heat.
  6. Slice into thin “fries.” (If you do this, they will be rather difficult to work with, but patience is a virtue :D)

APPLE SLICE “CHEESE and TOMATOES”

I think you can figure out that one 🙂

SWEETENED COCONUT FLAKES “COLESLAW”

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Mug Cakes: 14 ingredients, 4 cakes (V)

IMG_1164 (1)Is it just me, or does it feel as though we’ve been home for a month already? It’s only day 10 of this quasi-quarantine, and I almost can’t grasp the idea that my life was proceeding at a normal pace just over a week ago. My heart goes out to all of the people suffering from the virus, those in actual quarantine: I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that is! Regardless of the level of affect you’re feeling from these circumstances, I hope that, if you’re able, you’ll try spending some of the extra hours in your kitchen. In fact, you’ll only need about five minutes for today’s desserts!IMG_1111

I explained last week that I hoped to provide some recipes that wouldn’t require unusual ingredients because I don’t want to provide any temptation to disrupt the social distancing efforts! I knew that this mission would eventually lead me to mug cakes, and I couldn’t hold out for long–today is the day. Not only are these single-serve treats incredibly convenient to make at home; they have been a blast to create! The quantity of wasted ingredients and time often limits the number of trials I can execute in my recipes (usually about three tries max), but these cakes provided opportunity for lots of attempts and tweaks with relatively minimal consequence. It’s a win-win situation for us: I end up with less guilt and more experimental freedom, and you end up receiving recipes that have been thoroughly tweaked until they’re the most delicious they can be!

There’s also something quite appealing about single-serving desserts. They’re personal; they come together quickly; you don’t have to share with anyone (maybe my favorite factor); and they eliminate the struggle of self-control that so easily taints indulgence with guilt. Plus, I assume that the idea of baking an entire cake or pie isn’t exactly realistic for those of you stuck at home by yourself for the foreseeable future! There’s simply very little, if anything at all, that one can criticize about adorably tiny, warm, yummy cake. IMG_1154

I’d argue that this concept of single servings is applicable beyond food right now, though. With such chaos ensuing in our world and so much extra time in our schedules to observe that chaos, I find myself consuming news updates and mindless entertainment by the heaping spoonfuls. The magnetism of my phone, of every notification, is something of which I’ve become increasingly cognizant: I don’t know that I’ve gone more than a few minutes without it next to me since this ordeal began.

Perhaps this is something you’ve found yourself experiencing as well–I think the majority of us have been roped in by the incessant online dialogue in some capacity. And while it’s responsible to stay informed about the goings on in society, especially in times such as these, it’s just as responsible to care for yourself by limiting your media consumption. By nature, pandemics are rapidly progressing: things are changing by the hour in every affected city. But will knowing about these changes immediately, each as they occur, really contribute anything to us beyond stress and depression? Not likely. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad news right now. This means that it’s entirely possible for us to remain in a steady track of receiving this negative information if we expose ourselves to it. IMG_1175

Please, for your own health, come up for air now and then.

As reckless as it might feel (and I completely sympathize with this feeling), put your phone away for a few hours, even just one. Go outside. Read something that’s not current events. Call your family (without going to speaker so you can still check your phone). Give your complete attention to something that’s not a newsfeed. And know that you can do so without even a bit of guilt. The world will continue on, and you will eventually learn what you missed. Like the saying goes, everything is best in moderation. And it’s the moments we allow ourselves to indulge in the things that this virus hasn’t uprooted–those sweet, single-serve joys– that will eventually see us through it.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

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Mug Cakes: 14 Ingredients, 4 cakes (V)

MUG WALNUT BROWNIE

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP applesauce
  • 2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in wet ingredients.
  3. Mix in walnuts, and sprinkle the last of them on top.
  4. Microwave until cooked through, about 1 minute 30 seconds.

CARROT MUG CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot (lightly fill cup, don’t pack it)
  • 3 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in carrots and almond milk.
  3. Mix in walnuts, sprinkling the final pieces on top.
  4. Microwave until cooked through, about 1 minute 30 seconds.

BANANA NUT MUG CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small banana
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix in the almond milk.
  3. Mash the banana into the mixture.
  4. Mix in the walnuts, leaving the last bit to sprinkle on the top.
  5. Microwave until cooked through, about 2 minutes.

APPLE CINNAMON MUG CAKE

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • 2 TBSP almond milk
  • a few walnuts, broken into pieces (optional, or you can use another nut)

Instructions

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and 2 TBSP light brown sugar in a mug with a fork.
  2. Mix oil, milk and 3 TBSP applesauce into the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix in walnuts, sprinkling the last bits on top.
  4. Spread the last TBSP of applesauce on top of the mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the last TBSP of light brown sugar on top of the applesauce.
  6. Microwave until cooked through, about 2 minutes.

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Banana Pancakes–3 Ways (V)

IMG_0782What an unusual time to be blogging, to be doing anything, really. You’ve probably shared my bewilderment with this situation, with how quickly our world was stricken with this virus and how instantly our lives came to a halt. In an attempt to grasp onto some sort of normalcy (and to contribute to the growing trend of baking as a therapeutic practice), I will keep on cracking away in my kitchen and sharing the results! Today, I wanted to start this semi-quarantine period with a pancake recipe that you likely wouldn’t need to leave home to make–I don’t want to encourage any unnecessary trips to the store! The goal of my posts right now is to provide a little bit of calm, of quiet, in this very chaotic time.

Maybe that’s also why I chose to make pancakes; something about a nice, hot stack of pancakes seems to conjure up instant feelings of relaxation, of contentedness. Pancakes are for days when everything is right in the world–whatever that looks like in your current life situation. Fifteen years ago, that meant that my sister and I had convinced our dad to make flapjacks with us that we’d catch out of the pan with excited squeals while cartoons buzzed from the living room behind us. More recently, it means that I’ve had a long week of rehearsals and have managed to score a cozy morning at home in sweatpants, free of physical and mental obligations.IMG_0806

One of the first things that came to mind when I’d decided on this recipe, though, was the song “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson. It’s one of my favorites for a few reasons. For one thing, I just love its cheerful, relaxed tone–a tone that has earned it a special place in my Winding Down playlist on Spotify. And like pancakes in general, the song possesses reminiscent qualities for me, as it has been one of the songs our family listens to during our annual beach vacation for as long as I can remember. Just hearing the first few guitar notes transports me to that breezy back porch on Edisto Island, air laced with the smell of salt water and sunscreen and the sound of laughs. In fact, it’s such a strong emotional response that I’ve found myself getting a bit teary when the song plays on a particularly rough day.

Jack Johnson was clearly no stranger to this sentiment–the feeling of being separated from and even unaware of the goings on of the world and yet still experiencing a peaceful celebration of the present place you find yourself. You can just feel his lyrics assuaging the anxiety of the listener– reassuring her that, through whatever turmoil was going on around them, they could find joy and rest, simply in each other’s company:

“We could close the curtains
Pretend like there’s no world outside
We could pretend it all the time
And can’t you see that it’s just rainin’
There ain’t no need to go outside”

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

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I sympathize with everyone out there who is frustrated and stir crazy and lonely. I sympathize with those who feel like they can’t just relax at home during a time when so many people are suffering. I sympathize with all the people who are afraid of just how long this could go on and who wonder how we’re supposed to just pick up where we left off when it’s over. I’m grateful that I can’t sympathize with those who are feeling the direct effects of this illness.

None of us have ever experienced something quite like this in our lives–unrest is inevitable. I hope, though, that you can find moments of solace in the confinement:  through time with your family, through the rare quietness we’re experiencing, through pancakes. Remember that, by enduring this solitude, you’re playing a role in the efforts to fight this emergency–you’re important. By no means should we exercise any sort of denial about what’s going on. But, while we’re here, on our couches, in our kitchens, working from our living rooms, we may as well let ourselves enjoy the time we have–it isn’t for nothing. Besides, when you’re content indoors, “There ain’t no need to go outside.”

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

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Banana Pancakes–3 Ways (V)

Ingredients

VERSION 1

  • 1 small banana, mashed (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 TBSP oil (I used light olive oil)
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP cold water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes) **you can use a real egg if you’re not vegan
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • vegan butter, for frying

VERSION 2

  • everything in VERSION 1, except
  • whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose
  • 2 additional TBSP almond milk

VERSION 3 **not vegan**

  • 1 small banana, mashed (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 100g sourdough starter (doesn’t need to be ripe)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • butter, for frying

Instructions

  1. Mix together all wet ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
  3. Heat a skillet over low-medium heat, and grease well with butter (I have a gas range, so I have to keep the heat on the lower side to avoid sticking. You may need to use a higher setting on electric stoves!)
  4. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined. It will probably be lumpy!
  5. Scoop out batter for a pancake (size is up to you!), and cook until the underside is a warm brown.
  6. Enjoy immediately–add all the toppings your heart desires first, of course–and store leftovers in the fridge!

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