Overnight pumpkin spice cinnamon roll loaf

Overnight pumpkin spice cinnamon roll loaf

I’ve been sitting on this cinnamon roll recipe for far too long. Since April or May, I think. And I’m just now getting around to sharing it with you, which I think speaks volumes about my dedication to this space (oops/yikes/sorry).

Given the fact I thought I had perfected this recipe way back when, you could say my ego was a little big when I started photographing the development before actually retesting it. In my defense, I went through a number of cinnamon roll trials months prior and I wasn’t going to waste time or ingredients on even more testing when I was certain I had the magic combination written in my notebook. But what do you know? The Universe decided to humble the shit out of me by making sure those cinnamon rolls did not turn out. And when I anxiously pulled the pan from the oven, I let out a heavy sigh when I realized they were separating from their tightly wound innards. This should not happen. Cinnamon rolls should always be fat and sticky and there should be absolutely no crevices in them. None. And should you stumble upon a recipe with aforementioned crevices, you should avoid it like the plague. You should also avoid recipes that promise a magic start-to-finish shortcut because nothing good comes out of a half-assed cinnamon roll making process except.. half-ass cinnamon rolls.

Let that dough rise, yo.

Pumpkin pureeCalifia FarmsPumpkin spice cinnamon rolls in the makingDough on the riseOvernight pumpkin spice cinnamon roll loaf

I sat on the couch that afternoon, in the midst of cleaning the house and critically analyzing my song choice for a Best of The National playlist (if you have a favorite NTNL song, please leave it in the comments), trying to figure out where the recipe went astray. There was a pot of orange vegetable soup (squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.) bubbling on the stove and a half eaten jar of unsweetened applesauce sitting on the bookshelf. Four different scented candles burning in the living room and a pile of particulate waste waiting to be swept off the floor. There were mismatched socks, pajama pants that were so old they no longer fit, and hair that hadn’t been washed in two days. This is what recipe development looks like over here, folks. And I regret to inform you that it’s nothing short of a disaster.

After looking at the recipe and comparing the steps, I was at a loss and decided the redevelopment would have to wait. So I got up and grabbed the warm loaf with my bare hands and threw it into the garbage. As it slipped from my fingers, the heavy bottom began to stretch and that’s when I realized: it’s not the recipe. IT’S NOT THE RECIPE. IT’S NOT THE MOTHERFUCKING RECIPE! The loaf was underbaked. And so I did a victory slide across the floor in those mismatched socks (one of which I’m pretty sure I pulled from the dirty laundry because that’s what happens when it’s 5AM and your feet are cold and you can’t find the match to the sock you had on when you fell asleep) and then I cleaned up the house, got out of my pajamas, and went on a trail run with one of the most kind and generous and hilarious human beings I’ve ever known.

When I got back from running off my frustration, I remade the cinnamon rolls, stuck them in the fridge, and when they turned out perfectly the next day, I biked two thick slices over to her house because that’s what you do for good people who take care of you – you take care of them, too. Or you, at the very least, tell them thanks with what her significant other said was “Cinnabon x20″. I decided it’s the highest of cinnamon roll compliments considering you can’t go into many shopping centers without encountering a Cinnabon. So there’s that. And here’s a recipe for what might be the most delicious cinnamon rolls to come out of my kitchen.

Happy almost-end-of-the-week, you guys.

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Notes: If you want to use spelt or whole wheat flour, knock yourself out. But take note that they’ll be a bit chewier than the kind made with the all purpose variety. Feel free to swap the pumpkin puree with the sweet potato variety, or the sucanat with brown sugar. Due to the amount of sweetener in the creamer, I’ve reduced the sugar measurement in the rolls to 1/3 cup, but if you want to use unsweetened almondmilk (which I had success with) (both varieties are pictured here and you can’t tell the difference, can ya?), increase the sugar to 1/2 cup. If you don’t want to make these rolls in a loaf pan, you can make traditional overnight cinnamon rolls in a square baking pan. Just skip the flattening step and cut the rolls into 9 even pieces. If you want some really unhealthy French toast, slice the loaf into 2″ thick slices and pan-fry away. Oh, and the swirly innards.

This post is sponsored by Califia Farms. All opinions are my own, and I think Califia rules.

OVERNIGHT PUMPKIN SPICE CINNAMON ROLL LOAF

Dough
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 105-108˚F
1/4 cup refined coconut oil
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup Califia Farms original almondmilk creamer
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 3/4 cups unbleached flour, divided

Filling
1/2 cup sucanat
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted

Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered cane sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons Califia Farms unsweetened almondmilk

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl; set aside. Add the water to a small bowl and gently stir in the yeast; add pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy (15-20 minutes). In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the oil then stir in the sugar and pumpkin puree just until warm; about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the creamer then let cool for 15 minutes. Add the salt and 3 1/2 cups of flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment; mix for 5-10 seconds. Pour in the pumpkin and yeast mixtures and mix on medium-high speed, scraping down the sides as needed. If the dough is not pulling away from the sides of the bowl after the flour has been incorporated, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, as needed in 1 tablespoon increments, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing on medium speed for 4-5 minutes then remove dough from bowl and knead with your hands for 1 minute. Transfer the dough to the prepared mixing bowl, cover with plastic, and store in a warm part of your house for 90 minutes, or until doubled (if there isn’t a warm place in your house, heat the oven and set the bowl next to it).

Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper then lightly spray with oil; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the sucanat, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into a 22×16 rectangle. Use a pastry brush (or the back of a spoon) to apply the coconut oil then sprinkle with sugar mixture. Starting at the long end, roll the dough into a log then press it firmly with your hands to flatten it out (it should measure roughly 22×4 – if it doesn’t continue pressing or rolling with your rolling pin until it is). Cut into segments about 3″ wide then line in loaf pan. Cover pan with plastic and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature then place in fridge to chill overnight (or you could bake them at 350˚F for just over 30 minutes).

The next morning, when you’re ready to bake the rolls, bring a pot of water to a boil. Place a baking sheet (or shallow baking pan) on the bottom rack in your oven and fill it 3/4 full with the boiling water. Remove cinnamon rolls from the fridge, remove the plastic, then place them in the oven, on the rack above the boiling water. Close the door and set a timer for 40 minutes. This step is necessary and will not only help the cinnamon rolls to rise, but will help to liquify the coconut oil before baking.

After 40 minutes, remove the pan of water and the cinnamon rolls. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Brush the tops of the cinnamon rolls with the almondmilk (if desired) then bake at 350˚F for 32-34 minutes, or until golden. Remove loaf (along with the paper) from pan and set on a wire rack to cool for at least an hour.

While the rolls are cooling, prepare the icing by stirring together the sugar, cinnamon, and almondmilk. Drizzle over cooled cinnamon rolls and serve. You can store the cinnamon rolls in an air tight container for up to three days.

Yield: 6 thick or 12 thin slices

My favorite spots in Denver

View from Pavilions

Since well before we left for Europe last summer, I’ve been dodging emails about doing a guide to Denver because THIS IS A BAKING BLOG, GUYS. But I finally gave in and compiled a list of all my favorite spots in the Mile High City. Having lived here for five years, I pretty much know this place like the back of my hand but am always so excited to stumble upon something new – which is why this guide will be a work in progress (meaning when I find an awesome coffee shop or a great dinner spot, I’ll update this post to reflect new discoveries).

One of my favorite things about Denver is that it’s a highly walkable city, meaning a car isn’t all that necessary unless you’re opposed to mass transit or biking to the grocery store. If you’re coming to the city from DIA, skip the rental car and take the AF bus to Union Station. From there you can get around using the (fairly reliable) public transit system, B-Cycle, or Uber. We rely on all of the above but prefer biking now that Denver’s installed a number of bike lanes. 99% of the places on this list are within walking or biking distance of the city center, which is important considering we don’t have cars and only rent one when we absolutely need it (like when we go to the mountains).

Unfortunately we don’t have any experience with local hotels, but we’ve heard great things about The Oxford, Teatro, The Brown Palace, The Crawford, and Hotel Monaco. If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, there’s a Sheraton, Embassy Suites, and Hyatt downtown but, if I were you, I’d skip the hotels and just find a place on Airbnb. We used the service for 95% of our accommodations in Europe (and actually just booked a place 10 minutes ago) and can’t imagine traveling any other way. I recommend staying in the Business District (upper downtown), LoDo (lower downtown), LoHi (lower highlands), Capitol Hill, or Cheesman Park (where we live). Baker, Washington Park, Five Points, or RiNo (River North) would be great options if you have a car.

If you’re looking for a solid date night, dinner and a movie (at the Mayan or Esquire) is always a fantastic option. Or the Clyfford Still Museum followed by dinner and drinks at Cuba Cuba. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, go for a stroll downtown (through Larimer Square) and then for a drink at the MCA rooftop cafe or for happy hour crêpes at Crêpes ‘n Crêpes. You could also go for a walk through Cheesman Park then make a stop at Cafe Max for drinks and dessert. If you’re looking for a wild night out, the Cruise Room, Thin Man, and P S Lounge are all good spots for drunken shenanigans.

If you have any favorite places I’ve left off the list, please include them in the comments so I can check ‘em out.

Denver from DMNSUnion StationLarimer SquareUntitledMCATifamadeOlinger15th and BlakeGoorin BrothersHoho from WatercourseSteam Espresso BarPearl Street Pumpkin PatchCHARDThe EsquireCorner BeetCorner Beet to goDENVERCheesman ParkLoDoThe MarketLarimer SquareHazel & DeweyIronwoodPotager

GOOD EATS

I should note that only a couple of these restaurants (City O’ City and Native Foods) are 100% vegan. All the others are more than willing to accommodate a vegan diet even when there isn’t anything sans-animal products on the menu. To help make your life easier, I’ve broken these down into categories (early morning grub, comfort food, etc.). Although many of these places fit into more than one category, I’ve placed them in the one that I feel is most fitting. 

EARLY MORNING GRUB
Snooze – The King of Breakfast. No person in their right mind visits Denver and doesn’t go to Snooze. Get there before 7AM to avoid the morning rush.
Jelly Cafe – If you’re staying in or near Capitol Hill, Jelly is a great breakfast/brunch spot with a few vegan options.

CAFES
Cafe Max – Great place for a swanky date night. The owner is a delight and the espresso drinks are incredible.
The Corner Beet – Vegetable heavy eats, fresh juices, caffeine, and the most adorable green chairs.
Weathervane Cafe – The owners are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet and the food is downright delicious (oatmeal, sandwiches, etc.) and reasonably priced.
Wooden Spoon – Delicious coffee and top-notch sandwiches. Thom says they make the best breakfast sandwich in town.
Cafe Bar – The patio is perfect for brunch or a late night snack.
Paris on the Platte – Big tables, coffee, sandwiches, bagels, etc.

ON THE FLY
The Market – This is one of my favorite places in town and, when we lived downtown, I used to go here damn near every day.  Their coffee isn’t anything worth writing home about (in fact, stay away from it) but they have a chocolate selection that makes my inner fat kid go crazy. They also have delicious deli style food and their hummus sandwich (add avocado spread and spicy mustard) is pretty much the sandwich of my vegetable-heavy dreams. Look for Stefan, dude knows how to make a good sandwich.
Modmarket – My favorite “fast” food in denver. Located on 16th Street Mall, they serve up super veggie loaded eats and an affordable price.
Tifamade Cantine – Tiffany makes a mean ass sandwich but she’s closed for the cold season.
Native Foods – A lot of processed vegan food, which isn’t really my thing, but their macro plate is my go-to.
Illegal Pete’s – There is one thing you should know: Illegal Pete’s > Chipotle. For $4, a kids burrito bowl will fill you up.
Pho-natic – A lot of locals will tell you if you want good pho, go to Federal Boulevard. That’s true, but if you want pho that’s MSG free (uhh, me), go to Pho-Natic. MSG is fucking gross.
Bubu – Quick and healthy rice bowls (brown rice, white rice, or rice noodles) right in the middle of Larimer Square. The SoCal bowl is my favorite.

LAID BACK
Vert Kitchen – Easily one of my favorite spots in town. They serve breakfast and lunch, but at $4 for a hearty portion of almond milk oats with fresh fruit, I’m a huge fan of their early morning eats.
True Food – I always (ALWAYS) get the TLT. I dream of their kale salad. And kale-aid.
Ethiopian Restaurant – Not the most creative name, but this place cooks up some of the most delicious and authentic Ethiopian food you’ll find this side of the Rockies. The restaurant itself is outdated and can be rather warm in the summer, but the food more than makes up for it.
Mercantile – Their veggie sandwich (with white bean hummus) could give my favorite sandwich at The Market a run for it’s money.
Govinda’s – Hare Krishna-vibes, FYI. Some people are freaked out by that or pissed that the food is essentially Indian without the spices. It’s delicious and that’s all that matters.
Pizza Fusion – A social enterprise that helps to rehabilitate the homeless while serving up thin-crust pizzas made with fresh, organic ingredients. Definitely not your typical greasy slice of pizza, but it’s appreciated by those of us who prefer something a bit more nutrient dense.
Pinches Taqueria – Their name translates to Fucking Tacos and they have delicious fucking tacos so you should go.
Crêpes ‘n Crêps – One of our favorite places for an impromptu afternoon date. Happy hour crepes are the perfect size and only $5! Their normal batter is not vegan, but the gluten free variety is.
Hapa Sushi – Although it doesn’t hold a match to Sushi Den, it’s some of the best sushi you’ll find in the downtown area.
Watercourse Foods –  Vegan comfort food, y’all.

PUT ON A NICE SHIRT
Euclid Hall – My little brother works here, so I may be bias, but this place is delicious. There isn’t much for vegans but, if you ask, they’ll probably throw something together for you. The best vegan meal I’ve ever eaten came out of Euclid Hall’s kitchen (but so did one of the worst, so there’s that). They make a damn good drink.
Root Down – They also have a sister restaurant, Linger, but with Root Down as an option we don’t make it over there that often. They’ve opened a new location at DIA meaning Root Down on the go or literally right before you leave town.
Sushi Den – Ask anyone where you can find the best sushi in Denver, and 99% of them will point you to Sushi Den.
Potager – Slow food right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Vegans, call ahead. And be prepared to drop some $$$.
Izakaya Den – RAMEN.
Cuba Cuba – A lot for the carnivores and a few options for us plant based eaters. No lard in their beans, ye-yeaaaah!
The Populist – Their menu isn’t vegan friendly but if you call ahead they’re usually more than happy to to accommodate dietary restrictions.
Next Door – I’ve been twice and always go for their roasted veggie salad and tomato soup. And bread. Lots and lots of bread.

COMFORT FOOD
Vine Street Pub – Burgers and beers and community style seating.
Lucile’s Creole Cafe – Not much for vegans but if you’re down with grits, collards, and oats, you’ll be golden. Also: Bloody’s.

Soy latte from Bardo

COFFEE

If you look up a guide to the best coffee shops in Denver, you’ll notice I left more than a few of them off this list. That’s because a) some places try way too hard and b) I don’t need to be reminded that pour over is superior to filter when I just want some motherfucking caffeine. Snobby coffee ain’t cool, y’all.

FAVORITES
The Bardo Coffee House – This is my go-to coffee shop in Denver. The atmosphere, coffee, and employees are all fantastic. And their website is the jam.
Steam Espresso Bar – One of the most delicious cups of coffee you’ll find in the city. Located south of town, but it’s more than worth the trip.
Europa Coffee House – Bring your favorite book and stay a while.
Novo Coffee – The 6th Avenue location is my go-to (but the downtown location is great, too). The coffee is top notch and the tunes are always pleasant.
Corvus Coffee – Three words: HOPS COLD BREW
St. Marks Coffee House – I spend a lot of time here doing work. So do other people. Definitely the place to head if you plan on being plugged in but not necessarily the best spot to cozy up with a mug of coffee and your favorite book.
Huckleberry Roasters - They roast some mad-delicious coffee beans.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Crema – This place is a hipster mecca but I can’t deny the fact that they serve a damn good cup of joe. The baristas are always so pleasant.
Denver Bicycle Cafe – Have a cup of coffee (or a beer) and get your bike tuned!
Pablo’s Coffee – They now have two locations in Capitol Hill but the one at 6th & Washington will always be my fav. No wifi.
Little Owl Coffee – I lived right around the corner from this place and made the mistake of not going until right before we moved. Their drip coffee is nutty and earthy (and delicious), but the space is tiny.
Stella’s Coffeehaus – Whenever I’m procrastinating reaaaally hard, I’ll ride my bike down to South Pearl Street and hit up all my favorite places. Stella’s included.
Hooked on Colfax – Another great place to get shit done.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Roll

SWEET TREATS

Sweet Action Ice Cream – Insanely creative ice cream flavors and they always have a couple of options for the vegans.
Little Man Ice Cream – Not as good as Sweet Action but they have some damn delicious vegan options (chocolate salted oreo, anyone?).
Beet Box Bakery – Delicious vegan baked goods made from scratch erryday.
City O’ City – Their breakfast kicks major ass but their desserts are where the magic happens (which they get next door from Watercourse Bakery).
Voodoo doughnuts – The line is ungodly long and not worth it (in my opinion) (Thom says otherwise), but if you can squeeze in early morning (before 9AM), get yourself a pink box filled with doughnuts and savor the shit out of them.

Union Station

DRINKS

Thin Man – This is probably my favorite place to grab a drink in town. Thom says the red lights are offensive but I dig the vibes and the bartenders and the fact that they infuse their own liquors.
Work and Class – It can be loud and packed like sardines, but their drinks are top notch and not overly sweet.
P S Lounge – Totally divey and funky. If you find yourself on East Colfax, pop in for a drink or three.
The Cruise Room – Go during the week as it gets pretty loud/packed during the weekend. Enter through the Oxford Hotel.
Green Russell – Libations cost an arm and a leg, but this is usually where we go when we want to put on something fancy and have a seriously intimate date night.
Linger – Mostly a restaurant, but I prefer a drink on their rooftop patio followed up with dinner at their sister restaurant, Root Down.
Three Lions – Futbol pub with a great beer selection. Thom says don’t eat the food.
Great Divide Brewery – Non-traditional beers in an interesting neighborhood. Food isn’t available but there are usually food trucks outside.
Prost – German biergarten with homemade brezeln (!!!!!). Thom’s favorite brewery. My favorite place to eat brezeln.
The 1up – Strong drinks and cheap arcade games.

DAM

STUFF TO DO

Clyfford Still – This is one of our favorite museums.. of all time. The paintings are incomparably stunning and the space itself is out of this world beautiful (fine lines and poured concrete, anyone?). Go during a weekday because there’s a chance you might have the place to yourself.
Museum of Contemporary Art – The art can be a bit eccentric, but that’s ok because the rooftop cafe more than makes up for the art that sometimes has you scratching your head, wondering what the fuck is going on. But isn’t that the beauty of it?
Museum of Nature and Science – Because science is cool. Go to the planetarium. And then go to the rooftop and have a look at that sweet view of Denver.
Botanic Gardens – Because nature is also cool and there’s a Chihuly exhibit there until November.
Jazz in the Park – Limited to the summer months, but if you’re visiting June-August, grab a blanket and bring a bottle of wine.
Mayan Theatre – This is one of my favorite theaters in town. It doesn’t show a lot (err, any) of the Blockbuster films, but they’re always showing a couple of good flicks. Not to mention, their popcorn is delicious and they have nutritional yeast topping.
The Esquire – Another fun place to catch an indie flick. They sell Divine chocolate at the concession stand. Just sayin’.
Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret – If you’re not put off by boobie tassels or half-naked, dancing women, I highly recommend a night at the cabaret.
Denver Flea – Local vendors, food, and lots of craft booze.
First Friday – Various art districts put on an event every first Friday, year around. Wine is available, usually for purchase, but if you go to the right galleries it’s free. The Santa Fe Art Walk is our favorite.

Tattered Cover LoDo

BOOK STORES

Tattered Cover – My favorite book store in the city. They have two locations, one in LoDo and the other in City Park. You should visit both.
Kilgore Books – Lots of signed novels from notable authors. Penned after Kurt Vonnegut’s alter-ego, Kilgore Trout.
Bookbar – A bookshop for wine lovers.
Capitol Hill Books – Don’t be put off by the sketchy location/exterior.
Fahrenheit’s Books – A great used book store on Broadway. The employees are always super helpful and down to chat about their favorite reads.

Ironwood

SHOPPING

Hazel & Dewey – Jenna, the owner, is a real gem and has a shop filled with some of the most beautiful kitchen fixings.
Garage Vintage – Vintage galore. Their sister location is across the street, so don’t miss it.
5 Green Boxes – Their original locations (there are two of them) are on South Pearl Street, but they recently opened a store in Denver’s revamped Union Station.
Ironwood – Plants, jewelry, crystals, etc. Despite being small, Ironwood packs a punch – I could get lost in there for hours.
REI – In the event you forgot your outdoor gear or just want to go climb the rock wall.
Goorin Bros. – Fancy a good quality hat? Look no further. Most hats are $100+ but the quality and service are worth it. Say hi to Larry.

Savory Spice Shop

GROCERY STORES/MARKETS

If you rent an apartment, chances are you’ll want to stock it with a bit of food and cook at home a couple of nights.

Natural Grocers – Whole Foods quality, King Soopers prices. I do a majority of my shopping here.
Marczyk – The prices are outrageous for most things ($8.99 for my favorite almondmilk) (insane), but they’re one of the few places that carries Askinose chocolate. They also have a great natural soda collection and delicious made-to-order sandwiches.
Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market – May through the end of October.
King ‘Queen’ Soopers – Your normal, everyday grocery store.
Christkindl Market – German Christmas market downtown from 21 November-23 December.
Pacific Mercantile – The place to go for all your Asian food necessities like nori, mochi balls, and coconut milk.
EVOO Marketplace – If you like olive oil, you shouldn’t miss this place. Their oils are top of the line (and the prices reflect that).
Savory Spice Shop – Hella spices, sugars, vanilla beans, etc. Their Indian spice section cannot be topped.
Argonaut – Biggest booze shop in town.

Native Roots Dispensary

GANJA

I’m not all that into the herbal stuff (although I’m also not opposed to it) but my brother is (heh, HI DAD) so he sent me a short list of his favorite dispensaries. If you plan on getting your ganja on, make sure you consume it before you leave as it cannot be taken out of the state (and law enforcement doesn’t fuck around if they catch you trying). Dispensaries close by 7PM. Also, if you haven’t done them before, I do not recommend trying edibles here – just smoke that shit. 

Fox Street Wellness – ORGANIC POT.
Native Roots – Heads up: the wait on the weekends can be insanely long.
Good Chemistry – Funky place off Colfax with helpful employees and a straight forward menu.
LoDo Wellness – One of the most popular (and affordable) spots in town.

RockiesIn the RockiesUntitledSand Dunes National ParkSand in da shoesOn top of Star DuneView from Mt. SneffelsElk in Rocky Mountain National ParkGlacier Gorge Hike

DAY TRIPS

You’ll probably want to get out of the city for a bit and explore the mountains. Mt. Elbert is the highest 14er in the state and also the easiest to climb – so if you’re been looking to do a 14er (and are acclimated), that one will be right up your alley. If you’re looking to summit two 14ers in one day, you can do Grays and Torreys if you hit the trailhead by 7AM. We arrived around 8:30 but are pretty quick getting up the mountain and don’t recommend arriving that late unless you know you are, too. St. Mary’s glacier has a pretty rewarding view and only a moderately steep incline. You can’t go wrong with any of the hikes in Boulder or Rocky Mountain National Park.

The San Juans and Sangre de Cristos are my favorite mountain ranges in Colorado. They’re a bit of a drive but are more than worth it. If you’re looking to do a 14er in the San Juans, I highly recommend Handies as it’s a class 1 with one of the most rewarding views. As for the Sangre de Cristos, skip the mountains and climb the sand dunes. Just make sure you bring a change of clothes.

Peanut butter cookies with chocolate-peanut topping

Peanut butter cookies

The first dessert I ever made Thom was a batch of peanut butter cookies, delivered on the morning of Christmas Eve, back before we were anything more than coworkers who were somewhat attracted to one another. Those peanut butter cookies also happened to be the first thing I ever baked on my own so, as you can imagine, I was slightly nervous about handing them over to him. I was even more nervous when he opened the bag in front of me, pulled one out, and shoved it into his mouth because all I could think about was how terrible it would be if he thought they were awful. Thankfully, he thought they were the opposite of awful. In fact, he said they tasted exactly like the peanut butter cookies his Grandma Cassidy used to make. Cookies he hadn’t had since before leaving for the army, half a decade prior.

To this day I swear those cookies were the reason for our first date. Which wasn’t really a date. It was more of a Hey my friends and I do this thing at a truck stop every year on Christmas Eve and you should come. But I’m not going to give you my phone number because that would make it far too easy for you to back out. 11PM, there will be a big group of us. Show up if you want. 

I almost didn’t. I drove around in my car, after family Christmas at my Oma and Opa’s, on the phone with one of my good friends (HI LIAM) (found you on the internets, you handsome thing!), waxing poetic about some random guy at work and how I wasn’t going to know anyone and LIAM. AM I OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND? He assured me I wasn’t and stayed on the other end until I parked my rusty 1992 Honda accord and got out. I hung up the phone, walked in (late) to a room full of strangers, and found Thom sitting in the back with the biggest grin on his face and that bag of peanut butter cookies on the table.

To this day, he says if I wouldn’t have showed up he probably wouldn’t have asked me on a real date. To this day I say if he hadn’t liked those peanut butter cookies, I wouldn’t have had the guts to show my face at the truck stop. And although these aren’t the cookies from his childhood (turns out recreating a vegan version is difficult when you forget to document the original recipe) (I tried eight times), peanut butter cookies in any form remind me of our humble beginning; of the days when we were both trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do with our lives and where we were going to make it happen. Little did we know, almost seven years later, we’d be living in Denver and I’d be planning our wedding while he cooks up the plans for post-nuptial travel. It’s kind of crazy and overwhelming to think back to where this all started, and I owe it – in part – to those peanut butter cookies. The ones that reminded him so much of his childhood.

Creamy peanut butterPeanut butter cookies in the makingPeanut butter cookie doughPeanut butter cookiesPeanut butter cookiesPeanut butter cookiesPeanut butter cookiesPeanut butter cookiesPeanut butter cookiesPeanut butter cookies

Notes: If you don’t want to use spelt flour, all purpose unbleached flour will do the trick. Just the same, any gluten free flour (blend) will substitute well, but I prefer oat flour or this gluten free flour blend. If you prefer thin cookies, you can reduce the flour to 2/3 cup but they will be substantially thinner than the recipe below. Coconut oil is pretty crucial to this recipe so do not skip and use oils that are liquid at room temperature. You can use vegan butter in place of the coconut oil but I’ve been trying to minimize the use of it given its not-so-sustainable connection to the palm oil industry. If you prefer thick and chewy cookies, pull the cookies from the oven at the 12 minute mark and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes. If you’d prefer to omit the toppings, just flatten the cookies using the criss cross fork method. And if you want to mix the toppings into the dough, you can do that, too.

PS – Topping the cookies with pretzel pieces (in place of the peanuts) is also delicious. Just sayin’.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE-PEANUT TOPPING

Cookie dough
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, solid
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup whole spelt flour

Toppings
1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the oil then stir in the almond milk. Cook just until the mixture is warm, but not boiling. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter and sugar using a hand mixer on high speed, for 20-30 seconds. Add the almond milk mixture and the vanilla extract; beat for  about 30 seconds, or until creamy. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix in the baking soda, sea salt, and flour just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes, although 12-24 hours is preferable to give the sugar adequate time to caramelize.

Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a 1/4 cup cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, about 4 inches apart, then roll into balls. Mix the chocolate chips and peanuts in a small bowl and take about a tablespoon of toppings and smash them into the top of each cookie. You don’t want to completely flatten the cookies, but you want to flatten them until they’re 3/4-1″ thick. Transfer baking sheet to freezer and chill for 10 minutes. Bake at 350˚F for 14-15 minutes then allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Carefully transfer each cookie to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Before transferring cookies to an air tight container for keeps, put them in the freezer for 10 minutes to solidify the chocolate chips. Cookies will keep in an air tight container for up to five days.

Yield: 8 big cookies

Chocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnuts + a giveaway

Chocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnuts

There’s a Voodoo Doughnut shop two blocks away from our place. I run by there at least five times a week. At 6AM when there isn’t a line (!) and the sun isn’t up to reflect off the glass and impede my ability to see trays upon trays of delicious palm oil-laden sugar bombs. Somehow I keep running, even though I want to stop. Even though I haven’t eaten breakfast and the thought of getting a yeasted doughnut and devouring it in the alley sounds so much better than hurrying through the convoluted city route I’ve got mapped out in my head.

I’ve started this thing where, at least once a week, I indulge myself after the concrete loop. I deserve it! I say. And so I walk in, completely out of breath, trying to figure out which pocket swallowed my cash (why do running tights have so many pockets?) (and why does Voodoo only accept cash?) and while I’m digging I order two doughnuts: one coated in cinnamon sugar and one topped with chocolate frosting. I usually get a little over halfway into each before tossing them back in the bag because not only does the overly processed sugar give me some serious jitters, I swear it penetrates my teeth in a way that can’t be brushed or swished away.

So this is where I tell you that eating doughnuts isn’t exactly the best thing to ingest after a 12 hour fast (or however long you go between eating dinner a post-dinner snack and first breakfast). Are doughnuts delicious? Absolutely. Nutritious? Not in the slightest. But thankfully I’ve kinda-sorta fixed that with a baked doughnut recipe that won’t leave us feeling like we just ate 10 pixie sticks or like we need to pay a visit to that person who examines oral cavities for a living.

Doughnut makingToasted coconut flakesChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnuts

You’re probably wondering about the + GIVEAWAY thing up top so let’s get to it. Just over three years ago I started this blog and I somehow missed what some would call a ‘blogiversary‘. To show you how much I appreciate your kindness and constructive criticism (or sometimes not-so-constructive) and emails filled with funny .gifs, I figured there’s no better way to celebrate than by giving away three packages loaded with a few of my favorite ingredients (like dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and naturally colored sprinkles). There may also be a bottle of that 12 month aged vanilla extract tucked inside, along with two new products I’m launching later this year. Plus a doughnut pan, the best spatula in the history of spatulas, and a copy of Green Kitchen Travels because it’s my favorite cookbook right now (it isn’t 100% vegan, but many of the recipes are and those that aren’t can easily be adapted to suit your dietary preferences).

So how do you enter? All you have to do is comment below (if you’re not a first time commenter, you’ll get two entries) (no need to let me know, I can tell if you’ve commented before), telling me your favorite breakfast food (and why) or what you like to do with your free time or if there’s a new kitchen tool/ingredient you’re crazy about. Anything, really. And because I don’t like to discriminate against people and their various geographic locations, we’re opening this thing to the whole goddamn world. I’ll draw three winners on Tuesday 7 October and will notify them via email, so please comment with an address you check with some sort of frequency. GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED! Winners will be notified later today.

From the bottom of my guts, thank you for visiting my little expletive-filled corner of the interweb.

Chocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnutsChocolate glazed toasted coconut doughnuts

Notes: If you don’t have coconut sugar, feel free to use regular cane sugar, sucanat, brown cane sugar, etc. Make sure the almondmilk is room temperature, as any cold ingredient will cause the coconut oil to solidify. Whatever you do, do not warm it on the stove to speed up the process – if it’s too warm it will make the batter lumpy and the doughnuts won’t bake properly (trust me, tried it). If you’d rather these be plain ol’ chocolate glazed doughnuts, replace the toasted coconut almondmilk with Califia’s original or unsweetened variety and finish with sprinkles, crushed nuts, pretzel pieces, etc. You can prepare the doughnuts in either a normal or mini size doughnut pan. This recipe will make 12 normal doughnuts, 24 mini doughnuts, or 6 normal and 12 mini. The glaze recipe makes just enough for the doughnuts, so if you’re looking to give them a heavy dip, increase the powdered sugar to 3/4 cup, the cacao to 1/3 cup, and the toasted coconut almondmilk to 3-4 tablespoons.

This post is sponsored by Califia Farms. All opinions are my own, and I think Califia rules.

CHOCOLATE GLAZED TOASTED COCONUT DOUGHNUTS

Doughnut batter
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Califia Farms toasted coconut almondmilk, room temperature
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Chocolate glaze
1/2 cup powdered cane sugar
1/4 cup cacao powder
2-3 tablespoons Califia Farms chocolate coconut almondmilk

Topping
Toasted coconut (flaked or shredded)

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Lightly spray two 6 cavity doughnut pans with oil; set aside. Line a drinking glass with a piping or ziplock bag; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, vanilla extract, and almondmilk; whisk thoroughly to combine then set mixture aside for 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve a bit (if using brown sugar, you can skip this step). In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. When the wet mixture is ready, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; whisk in just until the lumps disappear (be sure not to over mix or else your doughnuts will be dense). Pour the batter into the bag and (if using a ziplock, snip the corner about 1/2″ up) fill each doughnut cavity 2/3 full. You should have just enough batter to fill the two pans. Bake at 325˚F for 15-16 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the doughnuts are cooling, prepare the chocolate glaze by sifting together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk in the chocolate coconut almondmilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches the desired consistency. When doughnuts have cooled, dip into glaze then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Let the doughnuts sit until the glaze has hardened; about 1 hour. Doughnuts are best served the day of, but will keep at room temperature for up to three days, loosely covered with plastic.

Yield: 12 doughnuts

Peach cardamom pie with coconut oil crust | For Thom, with love

Peach cardamom pie

It’s been a while since I’ve done a FTWL post so I figured that with the fleeting peach season I had better get on it. I feel like I should also apologize for the abundance of pie-like recipes. Thom says I fixate on them. I do. I go on pie binges and although it seems excessive, too much pie is never a bad thing so I’m not going to offer up an apology. Instead I offer a recipe for Thom’s favorite pie. Prefaced with 667 words and a shitload of pictures, and for that I am a little bit sorry. 

I had an epiphany of sorts after we did away with the original wedding plan. Prior to doing so, I can’t tell you how bad I didn’t want to get married and how much that feeling ate away at me. I started getting cold feet. Questioning the empire of love that we built and have worked so hard to maintain. I lost my shit. He lost his shit. We had a tumultuous spring. We screamed. I cried. And then we came to our senses like people usually do when they stop trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. Or something like that.

Have you ever tried imagining your life without the person you love most? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a significant other. It could be your mom or your bother or your best friend. Try it. Close your eyes and try to picture your life without them. Your eyes will probably get wet. You might also laugh. But no matter how you get there – to that place where your favorite person no longer exists – you’re going to realize something: Your life would not be nearly as full and you, my friend, would undoubtedly be worse off. Life would – for lack of better words – kinda fucking suck.

Palisade peachesCoconut oil pie crust in the makingWhole cardamomPalisade peachesCoconut oil pie doughCoconut oil pie crust in the makingCoconut oil pie crustPeach cardamom pie in the makingPeach cardamom piePeach cardamom pie

My life without Thom would likely have eight fewer months of foreign travel. Less chocolate hidden in my half of the closet. I’d probably still be attending Catholic mass, trying hard to beat monotheistic ideals into my brain even though, as a very young child, I never subscribed to the beliefs of organized religion. (Especially not those of the Catholic church, although I am quite fond of Mother Teresa, PJP II, and Papa Francesco.) If not for Thom, chances are I’d still have that crippling psychological illness that lasted damn-near a decade. The one I have yet to talk about here because, I don’t know, maybe there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel comfortable putting that on the table just yet. Or ever. Sometimes I think the only reason I’m alive and well (finally, well) is because of him. I was sick. So sick. Then he came into my life and for the first time I found something that made me want to get better. It took a long time; a lot of love and encouragement, and countless nights confined to our bright blue sofa, him rubbing my back while I writhed in pain and tried my damnedest not to cry in front of the man I hadn’t yet told I loved. Maybe because I didn’t think I deserved him. Probably because I didn’t think I deserved him. He promised me there would come a time when I would wake up and the struggle would be over. I will have come out on the other side. I will have won.

He was right.

I wake up now a much better version of myself, partly because of Thom. Sometimes I’ll roll over, stare at him like a total creep, and think about how fortunate I am that we both found ourselves in shitty life positions in the fall of 2007. We were lost and, for one reason or another, our paths crossed and look at us now: Seven years later we are stronger, happier, and so enamored with one another it’s almost vomit-inducing. It is completely mind boggling and OH MY GOD terrifying to love another human with such intensity. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Congratulations. Those of you who don’t, just wait, it will happen. And when it does, like me, you may question whether you are worthy of another person who loves you more than the sun and the moon and all the stars in the sky. A person who carries you through the worst of the worst, and sees you out on the other end. No pressure, no judgment, just unparalleled love.

So the answer: Are you worth it? I think you know that by now.

For Thom, with love.

Peach cardamom pieFresh out da ovenPeach cardamom piePeach cardamom pie

Notes: Coconut oil pie crust is a real bitch, so follow the recipe exactly. Most recipes will tell you to freeze the oil before cutting it into the flour, but I’ve found this step to be both frustrating and unnecessary and yield a pretty shitty pie crust. I don’t like shitty pie crust. Thankfully I’ve tested this recipe over a dozen times so I promise you won’t be left with an inedible pie. Peach pie is inherently juicy, so if you prefer a pie that holds its shape (Thom does) (I do, too) get peaches that are still a bit firm but a day or two away from being fully ripened. If your peaches are super ripe you’ll want to use 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of starch in the filling, but your pie will still be a bit juicy – that’s just the nature of peach pie. If your peaches are firm, 3 tablespoons will suffice. Try a slice of each peach before using them, as you may want to increase the sugar to 1/2 cup if using peaches that haven’t fully ripened. If you want to make an 8-9″ pie with lattice, you can double the recipe but I recommend just making it in two batches. The recipe below will make enough for an 8-9″ pie without lattice.

PS – If you guys have trouble with the crust, I’ll do a How To post for coconut oil pie crust with more photos and a super detailed description. And options for whole grain, spelt, gluten free (!?!??) etc.

PEACH CARDAMOM PIE WITH COCONUT OIL CRUST

Crust
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour (170 grams)
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup refined coconut oil, melted
5-6 tablespoons water, ice cold

Filling
2 Palisade peaches, sliced 1/4″ thick (12-14 ounces total)
1/3 cup cane sugar
3-4 tablespoons potato starch (see notes above)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Topping
2 teaspoons soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Sprinkle a 6″ pie plate or cast iron skillet with flour; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Slowly drizzle in the coconut oil, one tablespoon at a time, while using your thumb pressed against your fingers to swirl it around/press it into the flour. Once you’ve added all the oil, continue mixing with your fingers (15-20 seconds) until the mixture resembles coarse meal with larger clumps (see third photo above). Transfer bowl to the freezer for 15 minutes then remove and use your fingers to squeeze the crumbs and break down the hard clumps of coconut oil. Drizzle in the water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix with your fingers until combined (the same way you were mixing in the oil, but in a more gentle fashion). Repeat until five  tablespoons of water have been added. Pinch a piece of the dough together; if it sticks and forms a solid dough, you’re good. If it crumbles, add the remaining tablespoon of water and gently mix until incorporated. Just barely knead the dough (10-15 seconds) (do not overwork the dough) then flatten it into disk, place back in bowl, and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Feel free to wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for up to 24 hours or frozen for up to two weeks. You will need to let the dough thaw/soften before proceeding.

While the dough is resting, whisk the cane sugar, potato starch, cardamom, and vanilla bean seeds in a large mixing bowl. Add the sliced peached and toss until evenly coated; set aside.

Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/4″ thick. Transfer to prepared pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about 1/2″ overhang. Fill with peach filling, but do not add the juice that’s at the bottom of the bowl – you can, however, spoon up to two tablespoons over top of the peaches. Press the remaining dough into a ball and roll it out until it’s 1/8-1/4″ thick. Cut into even strips (or use a cookie cutter to cut out tiny hearts) and lay over pie to create a lattice. Fold the edge of the pie crust over itself then crimp with your fingers or a fork. Brush with soy milk then sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake at 400˚F for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and cover edges with foil and continue baking for an additional 7-9 minutes.

Allow pie to cool for 6-8 hours, then serve. Pie is best eaten within 24 hours, but will keep for up to three days. Cover loosely with plastic and store in the refrigerator. Reheat as needed.

If you’d prefer to freeze the pie, don’t put it back in the oven after the initial 15 minutes of baking. Instead let it cool completely then wrap in three layers of cling wrap and freeze for up to one month (it may keep longer, but I only kept mine for just over four weeks). Baking time will vary, but will be 15-25 minutes at 400˚F.

Yield: 5 small slices