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Food + Drink

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Sometimes you take an accidental, two week break from blogging (I’m blaming the stomach virus from Hell, an unplanned four-day weekend, and advanced procrastination techniques), and then when you come back you can only do it by easing your way in with an adorable animal video.

Happy Wednesday, planet Earth. I’m ready to watch ALL of the adorable animals videos. Whatchu got?

Thanks for this, Janet. I’m so pleased you thought of me when you saw it.

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Ohhhhh yeahhhh. Last weekend I hosted a big family gathering at my house, and even though I wasn’t in charge of dessert, I selfishly decided to make a little vegan cake so Evan and I would have something to enjoy with our coffee. I’m really not much of a baker, but this turned out so beautifully! It was delicious, too.

OK, so…let’s get my confession out of the way first: I used a mix for the cake part. Yes. I know that baking an actual yellow cake from scratch is not difficult, but we had a box of nice, all-natural cake mix in the pantry already and this was a last-minute plan, so there you go. No shame.

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The mix called for adding water and melted margarine. I subtracted a teaspoon of water and added a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, and substituted melted coconut oil for the margarine. I love baking with coconut oil! I divided the batter in half, then baked two layers using an 8×2″ Wilton heart pan.

I knew if I waited until the morning to bake them I wouldn’t have enough time to let both layers cool completely before frosting, so I played it safe. I left the cakes on the counter until bedtime, then wrapped them in parchment and foil and refrigerated them overnight. First thing the next morning, I took them out again so they’d come to room temperature.

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FROSTING. Holy hell, this frosting. It’s so good. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come out right so I didn’t think to take pictures until I’d already started putting it on the cake, but it made exactly the right amount to frost two small layers or one standard.

Coconut cream cheese frosting (vegan)
Adapted from this recipe / Enough for two small layers or one standard (or 12 cupcakes)

1 cup powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar)
1/2 cup coconut oil (must be solid/cool)
2 tbsp almond milk
3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Put everything in a food processor for 1-2 minutes, or until everything is well-blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate.

After about 30 minutes, mix up the frosting with a fork. It’s going to feel like it’s too runny to work as cake frosting, but don’t worry—once the coconut oil cools and re-solidifies, it’ll be perfect. You just have to periodically mix it as it cools so you wind up with a fluffy end result. I mixed it up every 15 minutes or so for about two hours because I was in the kitchen doing other stuff anyway, but I think it would be fine if you wait a little longer than that. Just make sure it stays in the fridge long enough to be cold and fluff it up every now and then. I left it overnight, then took it out first thing in the morning. After it had warmed on the counter for about half an hour and I gave it another fork-mixing, it was PERFECT.

Note: Taste the frosting, but do not eat all of the frosting with a spoon (even though you’ll want to).

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I prefer the dome-topped look when it comes to homemade cakes, so I only de-domed the bottom layer (then I ate the discarded dome for breakfast, naturally). It’s really easy to do that with a regular serrated bread knife—just get down at eye level and go slowly. Small pieces of parchment paper under the perimeter of the cake will make it easier to transfer the layers to your serving plate after frosting.

(That gorgeous cutting board was made by Ariele Alasko, by the way! It was my and Evan’s Hanukkah gift to each other, and it’s right at home in our kitchen.)

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I am by no means knowledgeable about cake decorating, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to do what’s called a “crumb coat” before frosting the cake completely. It does take more time, but it’s worth it. Spread a very thin layer of frosting across the top and sides using a light hand. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just has to lightly coat everything. Put the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes after doing your crumb coat. This will seal the cake surface and prevent crumbs from finding their way into the frosting while you’re doing the real decorating! It works so well and makes a huge difference.

You’ll want to put the frosting back in the fridge, too, if it’s starting to feel a little loose. Don’t let it get so hard that you can’t spread it, of course, just keep an eye on things. If you’re working in a hot kitchen or during the summertime, you’ll definitely need to let the frosting cool down while your crumb coat sets.

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Ah! All decorated! I am not very good at this part of cake-making, but I don’t really care. As much as I admire the artistry of beautifully-decorated cakes, I like to keep things simple. I don’t have any special tools, I just used the back of a wide soup spoon. The sides of the cake were looking a little uneven, so I pressed on some shredded coconut. Carefully transfer to a plate, slide out the parchment, and you’re done.

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Ta-da! The cake sliced cleanly and with minimal crumbling, and it’s a miracle I managed to take these photos at all. My family was all crowded into the kitchen while I barked, “DON’T TOUCH THE CAKE, I HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES FOR MY BLOG!” My brother made rabbit ears behind it.

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SO YUMMY. It might actually be the best cake I’ve ever eaten. It’s definitely the best cake I’ve ever made, and even though I used a mix, I’m still pretty proud. The addition of coconut oil produced a dense but moist cake, almost like a pound cake. That frosting, though—it’s amazing stuff. I want to make another batch for carrot cake! I love that it really tasted like cream cheese frosting without relying on packaged vegan cream cheese. Heavenly.

Most importantly, everyone at my house from young children to grandparents thought the cake was delicious! There really is nothing that makes me happier than feeding people I love.

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I struggled to find an appropriate photo to accompany this post, but I couldn’t. Instagrams of feet are always a good fallback, so here are four of them. This post has nothing to do with feet or shoes or tiles or anything like that, though. It’s about weight — gaining weight, losing weight, weighty weight.

About three years ago, I wrote a post called I’m OK. Sometimes I go back to read it so I can remind myself of exactly how I felt that day, because it’s how I strive to feel all the time — that is, I strive to not have to think about how I feel; to not have to think about constant physical self-improvement.

I’m going to quote myself:

I’m 5′6″, I weigh 150 pounds, and I usually wear a size 8 or 10. This is the size that I am when I am eating healthy, well-balanced foods in normal quantities. I have weighed as much as 40 pounds more when I was eating enormous portions of unhealthy, prepared foods, and I have weighed as little as 30 pounds less when I was meticulously measuring every morsel of food that entered my body and obsessing over calories and fat grams and fiber content to the point that I wound up not really getting much pleasure out of what I was eating. Neither option was healthy, but not because of my weight at either end of the spectrum — it was unhealthy because my body wasn’t getting the things it needs in the right amounts to function properly.

Yeah. That was me three years ago, which suddenly feels like a long, long time. I still believe in everything I wrote, but I’m not at that place anymore, physically or mentally. I’ve hung out in the ~145 pound area for most of the last 6 years without really thinking about it. I’d go up a few pounds when I was overworking and stressed, and I’d go down a few pounds when I was taking extra-good care of myself.

Last October, though, things started to get out of control. I know it sounds TOTALLY RIDICULOUS to blame Hurricane Sandy (because seriously, among all the things that were affected by that storm, my weight does not deserve to be mentioned), but that was kind of the turning point. I wanted comfort foods, I wanted to bake, I wanted takeout food, I wanted to feel safe and I wanted something to do while I waited for my apartment building to have electricity and for the subways to start running again. Unfortunately, my default activity when my regular routine is interrupted is EATING. Snacking. Eating. More snacking. Not much moving around. More eating.

Seven months post-Sandy (three weeks ago, to be precise), I forced myself to get on a scale. It wasn’t like I couldn’t see that I’d gained weight or that I didn’t notice having to buy bigger jeans, but I wasn’t prepared to discover that I’d managed to put on FORTY (40!) pounds. In seven months! Whoa. 5′6″, 180 pounds. That’s only 10 pounds shy of my highest weight ever, a place I never thought I’d be again in my life.

Side note: I’ve never really understood why so many people (women AND men) don’t like to reveal their ages or weights and that kind of stuff. Why is it such a big deal? Your age is what it is — who cares! The older I get, the less that makes sense to me. If I started telling people I’m 27 instead of 37, what would I accomplish? I get that those of us who are or have been overweight often (not always) have some degree of shame or embarrassment associated with scale numbers, but at the end of the day, what does being open about your weight change? How is it different than telling someone your height? Anyone looking at me can see that I’m overweight — being coy about numbers and sizes doesn’t suddenly make me look like I’m thinner. I’m all about dropping the shame and other internal weirdness and just putting it out there.

Just so it’s clear, I really don’t think that height/weight-based metrics are particularly good indicators of a person’s health. That said, I have a pretty good sense of where my weight naturally settles when I’m eating healthy, nutritious foods and taking good care of myself. I didn’t go from 140 to 180 pounds in seven months by taking good care of myself. My health and well-being matters to me, and as I creep closer to 40, I know I really can’t mess around with this stuff.

Also, vanity. Self-image. That stuff. It’s real, and I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t affect me. The week before I weighed myself, I was at my friends’ wedding in San Francisco, and I spent a whole lot of time avoiding having my picture taken (and feeling ridiculously self-conscious when I couldn’t avoid it). Who wants to feel that way? Not me.

So today marks three weeks since my first “scale moment,” and as of this morning, I’m down to 170 pounds. Ten pounds might sound like too much to lose in a short period of time, but that’s just because I went from eating like a teenage boy in a growth spurt (takeout food every night, chips every afternoon, multiple daily bagels on the weekend, etc.) to eating like a reasonable human being overnight — so the initial drop in calories consumed was pretty massive. I have no expectation of continuing to lose at that rate! Having lost a large amount of weight once before (I went from 190 to 130 in 2006), I know that about two pounds per week is normal for me. My goal weight (hey, I have some goals) is 145-ish, because I know that’s comfortable and healthy for me.

I’m using Weight Watchers (online only, no meetings) to track what I eat. I am not an advocate of Weight Watchers’ packaged/processed foods, and I really don’t care about their meal suggestions or any of that stuff, but I do love their tracker tools (YAY for the iPhone app!) and the point system is very handy. It’s worth the $15/month to me because I’m the kind of person who likes order and accountability and having a system. I also really like that Weight Watchers isn’t about going “on a diet,” it’s about reinforcing health eating habits (hello, I sound like a commercial) through making smart choices every day. It’s sustainable.

I just want to feel well, be healthy and not spend so much time thinking about my size. I want to feel like the person who wrote this post again. I’m not comparing myself to anyone else, I’m comparing myself to what I know I’m capable of. I can’t be passive about this stuff any longer. Onward!

iced coffee + almond milk

I’ve always kind of thought that making your own almond milk is a little like making your own crackers or shoes. If you have the time to do it, cool, knock yourself out! In the mean time, I’ll be over here buying a perfectly nice carton of almond milk and a box of Triscuits. A few weeks ago, though, Evan and I were up in Kingston checking out Daniel and Max’s new house (side note: OMG!!!), and we stopped in at a super-cute antique store/café, Outdated. As usual, I was on the hunt for an iced coffee, so I checked with the girl at the counter to see if they have soy milk. She told me no, they only have almond milk — and then added (surely noticing the look of disappointment on my face, because who likes almond milk in coffee?), “But it’s homemade! It’s really good!”

And so it was. Like, really, really good.

I put my trust in Angela’s recipe for almond milk and gave it a shot. Incredibly, I already had a nut milk bag on hand and I just fixed our busted blender, so I didn’t really have any excuses. IT WAS SO EASY, GUYS. I know people like ♥ Martha Stewart ♥ like to say stuff that isn’t easy is easy just so the rest of us feel badly about our inadequacies, but making your own almond milk? EASY. Washing the blender is the hardest part, and once you quit being a baby and just wash the thing even that isn’t so bad. If you need more convincing, watch Honey LaBronx — a.k.a. The Vegan Drag Queen — make almond milk. If she and I can do it, so can you.

Not only is it easy, it’s also DELICIOUS. Wayyyyyy better than any store-bought almond milk. The nicest part is that you can control how much liquid you use, so you can make a thicker, creamier milk if you want. This could be the end of buying boxed soy creamer for me, which would be a huge plus given the price of that stuff — not to mention the iffy ingredients in some brands. I drink stupid amounts of iced coffee when it’s hot out, so anything I can do to make that a cheaper, healthier and more delicious experience is worth it.

Speaking of iced coffee, YES, I still use my Bodum iced coffee press, and YES, I still love it.

(I just went over to Oh She Glows to get the almond milk recipe link, and I see that Angela is also writing about homemade almond milk with cold-brewed iced coffee. Hah! See that? I’m not lying — it’s so good!)

Now I want to try making other nut milks. Cashew milk, definitely! Hazelnut milk?? Hmmm. What other nut milks should I try?

tofu lentil salad

Once upon a time in the recent past, I cooked at least 6 dinners a week. On the weekends, I even cooked extra food to freeze for lunches at the office. And then something happened: We got an apartment in Brooklyn. Oh Brooklyn, home of M.O.B., Wild Ginger, Vegetarian Ginger, Britain Indian, Darna Falafel, Siggy’s, Zaytoons and, of course, my beloved Hanco’s, home of the best vegan pork banh mi sandwich imaginable. Brooklyn is a food paradise, and having so many awesome vegan options available — whether by walking a few blocks or ordering delivery — is kind of irresistible.

There are, however, some downsides to all of that delicious convenience:

1. PRICE. Yes, that’s obvious. I know. Buying dinner out for two people night after night is stupidly expensive, and while I know that’s kind of the New York way of life that everyone makes jokes about (“My oven? Oh, you mean where I store my off-season clothes!”), it’s shocking how much it all adds up to week after week. I need to keep that in mind the next time I shake my head at an $8 bottle of olive oil — I mean, the oyster mushrooms I had as an appetizer last night cost $9. C’mon.

2. WEIGHT. As in, I have a lot of it to spare. That whole thing about vegans being skinny? That’s a damn lie. Healthful eating and fitness are about a whole lot more than whether or not you eat animal products. If you eat giant portions of processed takeout food every night, guess what? You’re going to feel (and see!) the effects on your body. It isn’t even so much about size specifically as it just feeling slow and tired and knowing that the weight gain is the result of eating too much of the wrong stuff all the time.

3. STRESS. I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember this when it’s 8:00 at night and I’m starving, but cooking and preparing food makes me feel really good. I’m a big fan of task completion even when it’s on a really small scale, probably because I work in an industry where nothing ever really feels done. Having a sense of definable accomplishment is a huge motivator, and getting a healthy, yummy meal together is a huge stress reliever. The same goes for doing the dishes…but now I’m going off on a tangent. (OK, so this whole post is a tangent.)

To help curb my addiction to takeout, I’m assembling a small arsenal of simple recipes that I can fall back on night after night. Aside from being vegan, the only rules are that I have to be able to prepare the meal in less than 30 minutes, it has to be reasonably healthy, there can’t be any ingredients that would require me to buy huge amounts of something perishable when I only need a tiny bit and, most importantly, Evan and I both have to LOVE the way the meal TASTES. It’s going to take a little trial and error, but I’ll post the successful recipes here along the way. (Please feel free to share your own favorite fast, cheap, vegan recipes in the comments, too!)

Tofu lentil salad (vegan)
Serves 2

8 oz super or extra-firm tofu
1 tbsp peanut oil
salt
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tbsp Sriracha (or to taste)
5 oz salad greens, any type
1/2 cup cooked lentils (Either make a bunch in advance and store them in the fridge, or cheat and buy a vacuum-sealed pack from Trader Joe’s — they go a LONG way)
Spicy peanut dressing (I’m lazy, so I buy Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette from Trader Joe’s, but you can certainly make your own)
Whatever other stuff you have in the fridge: Avocados, cherry tomatoes, sprouts…

Slice the tofu into quarters, press to remove excess moisture and cut into chunks. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat, then add peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. I follow all of Isa Chandra’s advice when cooking tofu — if you’ve had trouble getting it to come out nice and brown, definitely take a look at her suggestions.

Once the tofu is nicely browned on all sides, reduce the pan heat slightly and add in the mirin, vinegar and Sriracha. Toss with a spatula to coat, and turn off the burner. Let the tofu sit in the hot pan while you prepare the greens.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, lentils and any other veggies with the salad dressing. Divide into two bowls, and top with tofu cubes. Done!

maple pepper popcorn

When people ask what my favorite food is (um, all of them?), I usually say one of three things: Toast, kale…or popcorn. I’m a greedy popcorn freak. To quote Evan, “The only way I get to eat popcorn is if Anna isn’t in the room.” Before I make popcorn, I always ask if Evan wants any, and, if so, exactly how much he plans to eat. If I think he’s going over the agreed upon amount, I’ll give him a side-eye and ask if he wants his own bowl.

Yeah, I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to popcorn.

I make it reeeeeeally good, though. Until last year I always either popped it in olive or peanut oil, but now I’m a total devotee of coconut oil. It does lend a very mild, barely-discernible coconut flavor to the popcorn, but not enough to make you feel like you’re eating suntan lotion. Sometimes I just sprinkle on a little salt, other times liquid aminos and nutritional yeast, or if I’m getting really fancy, crumbled up kale chips and cayenne pepper. Lately, though, this is my snack obsession—Maple Pepper popcorn. So yummy.

Maple Pepper Popcorn (vegan)
Serves 2 (but let’s be honest here, this is how much I make for just myself)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 tsp Earth Balance
Maple Pepper

In a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Pour in the popcorn kernels, stir to coat and put the lid on. Get excited when the corn starts to pop, but listen carefully—when you hear that there are more than 2 seconds between pops, turn the heat off. Pour the popcorn into a big bowl, then put the Earth Balance in the empty pot. No need to turn the heat back on, the pot will still be hot enough. Pour the melted Earth Balance over the popcorn, and sprinkle liberally (and I mean liberally) with Maple Pepper.

If you’re alone in the room when you finish, lick the bowl.

Oh, and about that Maple Pepper

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What’s Maple Pepper, you say? Glad you asked. I hadn’t heard of Maple Pepper until I saw a photo of a jar on Jen’s Instagram. It was a gift to her from Tamera. When Jen discovered I share her intense love of all things maple, she sent me two jars (one for the house and one for the apartment, of course). Now I need to choose a friend to give some to. We’re all paying it forward with Maple Pepper.

I’m so in love with this stuff. It’s a blend of pure maple sugar, black pepper, sea salt and citric acid. The resulting flavor is, obviously, both maple-y and peppery, but the saltiness is definitely noticeable, as is the citric acid, which comes across like a very very subtle hint of lemon. It’s faaaaaabulous, and I put it on (and in) EVERYTHING: Popcorn, toast, coffee, tea, ice cream, Brussels sprouts, spiced almond milk, tofu scramble, kale chips, baked sweet potatoes…everything. Maple Pepper is just always the right thing. It comes in other flavors (Garlic! Habanero!), too. I’ve only tried the original so far, but I’ll be branching out soon. I bet they ALL taste good on popcorn.

That nifty tea towel is the work of the incredibly talented Shanna Murray. Both the towel and the popcorn bowl were purchased at West Elm…and both have since been discontinued, unfortunately.

So, I’m sick. Super-duper sick. Pretty sure it’s the flu, which serves me right since this is the first time in years I’ve gone without a flu shot. Sleeping and recuperating has taken over my life in recent days, so please forgive my quietness! Here’s a holiday repeat until I’m back on my feet.

vegan kottbullar

I came up with a vegetarian version of my mother’s meatballs (which are themselves somewhere between between Swedish and Danish, as a result of her mixed origins) years ago, but a couple of years ago I created a fully vegan version. I’ve made them for holiday potlucks at work and for my whole family to enjoy. They’re delicious reheated (or cold!) the next day, too.

Vegan Svensk-Danska Köttbullar // Vegan Swedish-Danish Meatballs
Makes about 40 meatballs

1/2 cup unsweetened MimicCreme*
1 unit egg replacer*
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb Lightlife Gimme Lean (sausage style)*
3 tbsp Earth Balance

In a large, heavy pan (preferably cast iron), sautée onions in 1 tbsp Earth Balance until translucent.

Beat together cream and egg replacer in a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, pepper, allspice, and onions; combine and let stand for about 10 minutes.

Add Gimme Lean to mixture, and use your hands to combine everything thoroughly.

Roll mixture into small balls no more than 1″ in diameter (I try to aim for about 3/4″), arranging on a tray or plate until finished.

Heat 2 tbsp Earth Balance in the cast iron pan until it’s lightly browned and the pan is very hot.

Add meatballs to the pan in a single layer. Turn until hot and dark brown on all sides—I like to pick up the pan and just jostle it slightly rather than use a spatula. Don’t be afraid to overcook the meatballs! You want them to be nice and dark.

Serve hot with boiled potatoes, lingonberry sauce, and, if you wish, vegan gravy—my mother thinks putting gravy on meatballs is barbaric, but I like it!

If you wind up with leftovers (as if!) or want to prepare your meatballs in advance, they can easily be reheated in a pan or covered in a 400° oven.

* A few notes about the ingredients:
I’m unsure of the availability of the pre-packaged products outside of the U.S., so perhaps readers can chime in with suggestions for vegan substitutes (for heavy cream, egg, and ground sausage) that could work in other parts of the world. For egg replacer, I used Bob’s Red Mill, but there are other brands that will work just fine.

Also, since it came up the last time I posted this recipe, I should mention that I use processed fake meats in cooking very sparingly—but for special occasions a few times a year, I think it’s okay to use some of the pre-made products that are out there, particularly if they help to recapture some of the traditional flavors we might miss. Everything in moderation, including moderation!

vegan kottbullar

I have a problem with buying mugs. I love coffee (and tea, and spiced almond milk), and there’s just something about drinking it from a perfectly-weighted, beautifully-designed mug that makes the whole experience so much nicer. I’m not content to stop with a set of 8 matching mugs, though—no, I need to keep buying more and more mugs (usually in pairs, with the odd single here and there) and consequently finding more and more places to stash them. There are certain ones I prefer for weekday mornings, others that feel right on a Sunday, and the ones I gravitate toward when I’m being stupid and drinking coffee at 10:00 at night.

coffee mugs

1. Bono mugs by Catharina Kippel, Design House Stockholm

Of all of the mugs featured here, these are the only ones I own. Actually, I only own the two in the top row—I have four of each! For a short period of time several years ago, C&B was selling these mugs individually for a great price, so I stocked up out of fear that they’d break easily and then I’d be sad. Happily, they’re all still in great shape! When I have guests, these are the mugs I serve coffee in. They’re also the ones Evan and I use most frequently on weekends. I love love love them.

2. Black Dot mugs, Schoolhouse Electric

I’m obsessed with these mugs. Every time I see a picture of one on Jen’s Instagram, I am filled with lust and greed. Don’t they just look like they’d be so nice to hold?! The little ones are particularly well-proportioned. I love how creamy the white is…I bet they’d look really good in my kitchen.

3. Yellow Fire-King mug, Vint

I’m a sucker for bright yellow, and I love Fire-King glassware. I saw this mug at Vint last night and had to force myself to not buy it. It’s like drinking out of a lemon! Perfect for tea.
Vint is kindly offering a 16% discount for anything in the shop until 12/20. Use the code DOOR16 at checkout!

4. Black Harlequin and Gold Harlequin Thermo mugs, Ferm Living

I pretty much want everything at Ferm Living, these mugs included. I was concerned about the lack of handles at first (I have a few handle-less mugs, and I always wind up having to hold them with napkins), but then I realized they’re actually “thermo” mugs. They have a dual-wall design, so your coffee stays nice and hot inside, but the part that touches your hand is cool. Neat!

coffee mugs

5. Arne Jacobsen letter cups, Finnish Design Shop

Yeah, I know I just said I’m averse to handle-less mugs, but LOOK AT THESE. Worth the burns. (Or, you know, you could keep pencils in them. Or let your coffee cool down and stop being so impatient.) I first spotted these letter cups at Design Milk months and months ago, and I can’t stop thinking about them. The typography dates back to Arne Jacobsen’s signage design for Aarhus City Hall from 1937, and it still looks fresh and modern today. I’d love to have a digitized version of this typeface for my own use!

6. Tu Es La Vague cup, House of Rym

The entire House of Rym product line is beautiful. The ceramics are designed by Swedes Anna Backlund and Elisabeth Dunker (my favorite!). It’s probably not enough to just buy one cup, though, since they look so great when combined with a mismatched saucer as part of a mismatched set. So many pretty photos of all of the options on Elisabeth’s blog!

7. Stig Lindberg Bersa cup & saucer, Huset

Eternal wish-list item. Sigh. What is it with Swedes and ceramics? What is it with Swedes and everything? I’ve been dreaming about owning a set of Stig Lindberg cups and saucers for years, but they look so delicate. I’d probably drop them all in the first week and be sad forever. So pretty from afar, though.

8. Silkkikuikka Mug, Marimekko

Any mug with FIVE Ks in its name is good enough for me! I can tell you from experience that the handles on Marimekko mugs are perfectly positioned for maximum comfort. They’re a pleasure to hold, and small enough that your coffee doesn’t cool down too much before you get to the bottom.

OK, now I want coffee…

A few weeks ago, superawesome artist Jen Ray (she who will make you happy) posted a photo of a yummy-looking mug of spiced almond milk with a weird-sounding list of components on Instagram, and she said it was her new favorite hippie drink. I told her the inclusion of tahini was freaking me out, but she assured me it’s delicious. It took me a while to get around to finding out for myself, but now it’s my new favorite thing. I want to drink it all the time! The weather in New York has dropped below freezing at night, and this is just the thing to warm me up and make me feel ready for bed.

You’ll need to play around with the amount of agave you use, since the type of tahini (some brands have less bitterness than others) and whether you use sweetened almond milk can affect the outcome. I suggest starting with a teaspoon and adding a little more only if you need it.

Spiced Almond Milk, a.k.a. “Jen Ray’s Hippie Drink” (vegan)
Serves 1

1 cup almond milk
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp agave
pinch turmeric
pinch nutmeg
pinch cinnamon

In a small pot, heat the almond milk on medium-low. Be careful not to let it boil, or a skin will form. Whisk in the tahini, being sure to blend any lumps. Add the agave and spices, and heat until steamy. Pour into a mug, add a little sprinkle of cinnamon so you can feel fancy, and drink up! So good.

And since I can’t mention Jen Ray without sharing a couple of my current favorites from her shop, Corduroy, here you go! Behold “Zukunft so hell muss ich eine sonnenbrille tragen!” and “Para bailar la bamba!” Makes you happy, right?

The whale cutting board is from Suddenly, it’s real!, the tea towel is from Bookhou, and the mug and spoon are from CB2. Alas, the tea towel is the only one of these things that’s not discontinued!

Oh, Brussels sprouts. How I love thee! It’s a tough call, but I think Brussels sprouts are the best cold-weather vegetable (broccoli rabe is a close second). There are so many ways to prepare them, but the classic boiling method is probably my least favorite—and also probably the reason why a lot of kids think Brussels sprouts are gross. The best way to make them? Pan-roasted.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe has a whole bunch of sugar and fat in it and probably a gazillion calories. I don’t care, though—there’s a time and place for junk food Brussels sprouts, and holed up after a hurricane is definitely it. Jen and I are both maple freaks, so I made this for lunch one day when she was visiting. Oh man, SO GOOD. I can’t stop thinking about it. Jen has now started using the word “maple” as a verb, so this recipe is named accordingly. The Brussels sprouts have been mapled.

I served the sprouts alongside a slice of Celebration Roast, a grain-based roast stuffed with butternut squash, mushrooms and apples. I really like the whole Field Roast line of products, by the way, especially the grain sausages. I don’t really think of them as a “meat substitute”—they’re kind of their own thing. Definitely recommended.

Mapled Brussels Sprouts (vegan)
Serves 2–4, depending on gluttony

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
3 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil (any oil that can handle high heat is fine)
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter (coconut oil would also be OK, but it will affect the taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Put the oil in a large, cast iron pan over medium-high heat. While it’s warming up, wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. I like to cut the end off, remove any weird-looking outer leaves, and then slice them lengthwise. It goes quickly with two people.

When the oil is good and hot, add the Brussels sprouts to the pan along with some salt and pepper. Toss quickly to coat, turn the heat up a bit, and then leave everything alone for a few minutes. The sprouts should get nice and brown and even charred a bit.

Add the Earth Balance and the brown sugar and slowly stir. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the maple syrup, and let everything get roasty for 10-ish minutes (more or less depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts) until tender. You want the sugars to caramelize, but if the pan is looking too dry you can add a couple of table spoons of water and stir gently. Add the vinegar and cool a minute or so more.

Once the Brussels sprouts are looking fully mapled, serve!!

(Based on this recipe from Food & Wine)