Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake // Sweet Things by EH

Two weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Made to Create PNW photography conference. By the wonderful powers of Instagram, I entered my name into their giveaway for one seat to the weekend of speakers and workshops. Lo and behold, my name was picked! After years of lost raffles and uncaught free swag, I feel like my luck was built up for this moment. And look! I met a friend. 

Meet Emily Holden, the master mind behind Sweet Things by EH. Not only was she a perfect model for our lifestyle + portraiture workshop, she also provided the sweets for the weekend!

As you may guess, I made it a point to get to know Emily and this was by far my favorite session. She has created a side business that is anxiously growing. And I have no reason to doubt why! Her bright personality translates into her baking. This cake is one NOT to miss. It is by far the best I have tried in a very long time. Plus, I wouldn't pride myself on my cake making abilities so I am always impressed when others can do what Emily does. It is truly an art form. 

I got to watch her step by step make this vanilla cake. From dry to wet to frosting, Emily has an ease in the kitchen that I can only wish to emulate. And then, we got to eat it. What a bonus. 

And with the great kindness from Emily, I'm sharing with you one of her recipes. Gluten Free is not something that I naturally gravitate toward in the kitchen. I have no reason to. But Emily has developed a way to be flexible in her business, all while keeping the taste that is so uniquely hers. She is a genius. 

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cup gluten free flour blend
  • Whisk together the Oil, Vanilla, Milk and Sugar.  
  • Split the vanilla bean in half by running a sharp paring knife, spread out the bean with the inside facing up and then scrape the beans out to the tip of your knife.  
  • Mix the beans into the wet mixture until they are spread out.  Pour in salt, soda, powder and mix until combined.  
  • Pour in the gluten free flour blend one cup at a time, mixing so there are no clumps.
  • Cut a piece of wax or parchment paper in a circle to fit in the bottom of your pan.  Place the circle on the bottom and then spray the pan with nonstick spray.
  • Bake for 350 degrees in two 8 inch round pans. 


  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (make sure your powdered sugar does not contain wheat!)
  • Milk until desired consistency.
  • Beat butter and vanilla until combined.  
  • Slowly add in the powdered sugar.  This will be pretty thick so add milk until a fluffy consistency is achieved.
  • If it is too runny just add more powdered sugar. 

And viola! You have a beautiful cake, fit for anyone .. even if they have a food allergy! Thanks to Emily for sharing this beautiful creation today. You can learn more about her and her business here. Please check her out!

Eat well! Be well! And subscribe below to always be in the know.

P.S. Did you know I am a budding professional photographer?
Like what you see? Leave a comment below and let's chat!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2 hour Cinnamon Rolls

Over the weekend, Ethan and I got out of the city to celebrate a friend's birthday in the woods by the Skykomish River. We went to a ranch with a hot tub, a half-working fireplace, and we filled it with a whole a lot of games and good food. I had the pleasure of making brunch the first morning. 

I've always wanted to make cinnamon rolls, but I was crunched for time. We left late on Friday afternoon. I packed almost a full day of work in and I knew I needed prep the rolls before heading out. So I typed in "easy cinnamon rolls" into google and found the Minimalist Baker

Her recipe is 100% vegan and uses only 7 ingredients. But I like butter and I like extra spice. So I made a variation. This is how I usually cook, and like I have said before, I encourage you to do the same. Cooking is all about taking your own tastes and making dishes something a part of your own pallet. 

This plan turned out to be a great way to prep for a great brunch by the river with friends. I let the rolls rise and bake for a while at home and finished them at the cabin. We served them with a sweet n' tangy brown sugar orange glaze, stuffed them with walnuts and raisins, and then proceeded to eat the whole pan. 


Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 1 cup almond milk (do not use cow milk)
  • 1/2 cup butter, divided 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
Brown Sugar Orange Glaze
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange extract


Cinnamon Rolls

One: Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat with 3 tablespoons butter. Let the butter melt but do not let milk boil. Add a two dashes of cinnamon. Cool to 110 degrees F (or just wait 10 minutes)

Two: Put the milk mixture into a bowl and add the yeast. Let it activate. This takes 10 minutes.

Three: Add 1 tablespoon sugar and salt, stir. 

Four: Add 1/2 cup of flour at a time, stirring slowly. It will be sticky, but that's a good thing!

Five: On a floured surface knead the dough for a few minutes and shape it into a ball. 

Six: Cover the inside of a large bowl with vegetable oil and place the dough inside. Cover with a towel and let it rise for an hour. It should double in size. Dough rises best next to something warm. 

Seven: Roll the dough into a thin rectangle. A good nalgene water bottle can act as a rolling pin if you don't have one! Brush the dough with the rest of the butter, melted. Top it with 1/4 cup brown sugar, a handful of nuts and raisins, and 2 heaping tablespoons cinnamon. Roll tightly and cut using a serrated knife or unflavored floss. Top with melted butter. Place in an 8x8 greased, square pan. 

Eight: While your oven heats to 350 degrees F, place your pan on top of the stove to let the rolls rise a little more. Once heated fully, bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve heated and with the glaze. More directions listed below!

Brown Sugar Orange Glaze
  • Combine the sugars, the butter, and the milk and heat until boiling. Take off stove immediately and add the vanilla and orange. Pour over the rolls and enjoy!

Here's to good friends and even better adventure.
Eat well! Be well! And subscribe by email below :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patty's Day Irish Soda Bread

Today is St. Patrick's Day. I have a green head band in my hair, and that is about the extent of my lucky charmingness. I'm not Irish. I didn't really ever know the point of St. Patrick's Day. On the other hand. Ethan grew up in a home where every holiday is celebrated to the fullest. His mom puts up a  craft tree with hearts for Valentine's Day, a tree with bunnies and eggs for Easter. You get the point, yeah? The excitement for St. Patrick's Day is an awesome thing with his family. His grandma is a proud Irishwoman, and she passed that pride down. I have even gotten a St. Patty's day present from her. It's awesome and I have now started looking forward to St. Patty's with a similar excitement.

Like I have said before, Ethan's family is full of great cooks! While we were still first dating, he wanted to also impress ME with HIS cooking. He would get a family recipe in his head, call his mom for the ingredients, and make something up. With the ease that his mom always shows, Ethan cooks with confidence and courage. After many calls home, his family decided to make him a cookbook for his birthday. It's filled with recipe cards from every person in his family, pictures in the kitchen, and a whole lot of love. I find myself picking up this book often when I want to make something special for Eth. 

By far, one of our favorite recipes is Diana's (AWARD WINNING) Irish Soda bread. But I have never made it solo. Ethan has been a little under the weather the last couple days. And I have been gone the last few days at a photography conference (more on that later). So last night, I really wanted to do something nice for him. I wanted to give him a taste of home and comfort. Thus, Irish Soda bread stuck in my mind. 

I can tell you, this is a messy recipe. It was overwhelming and I thought I screwed it up. But! The dough is meant to be dry I found out, because the bread is supposed to be dense. It's very forgiving, and I am very thankful! This bread is good for any time of day, I may or may not be snacking on a piece right now before I head off to work.....

Get your brave boots on and try out this bread.
Don't know what soda bread is? Wiki it!

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups currants or golden raisins (or mix them!)
  • 1 and 1/3 cup buttermilk (there is no substituting this)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda 


ZERO: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease baking sheet

Step one: Sift flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a large bowl

Step two: Cut in butter with pastry cutter (or fork) until the flour mixture resembles coarse cornmeal

Step three: Stir in dired fruit

Step four: Combine buttermilk, egg, and baking soda in medium bowl, then stir into flour mixture until just moistened

Step five: Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Shape into a ball and placed on greased baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make a 3'' cross, 1/4 inch deep in center

Step six: Bake for an hour or until lightly browned

Enjoy alone or with butter, with friends or a Guinness. But as always, eat well! Be well! And subscribe by email below :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Vietnamese Burritos

I have to admit, one of the really exciting things about being with Ethan is his mom's cooking. She is one of the most adventurous cooks I have ever known. Now hold up, my mom + grandma still tie as the best cook (love you!). No contest there. But you see, Diana is a skilled cook too who is never afraid of trying something new and out of the traditional "American comfort zone".  One of my first meals at her table was homemade sushi. 

She goes to all the right markets to buy the right sort of ingredients.  She reads every kind of cookbook, magazine, and online article out there to prepare the food in the correct way. And when all else fails, she just gets an idea and she goes for it. Diana is truly a forever student of the kitchen and she inspires me at every meal I get to take in.

A classic of hers is Vietnamese Burritos. This meal has turned into one of me and Ethan's all time favorites, and it's sure to be a party hit with any of your friends. I came home after a long day of work last week to find Ethan prepping these bad boys, and all I can say is that this man knows me so well! These burritos take some thought and planning, but will always be worth the effort. 


Chicken Filling
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Pinch of pepper
Wrapping Mixture
  • At least 10 rice paper wrappers
  • 1/2 package rice noodles, soaked in warm water until soft then drain 
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into thin strips
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 cups bean sprouts (some groceries stores won't sell these, it's ok without them)
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • 1/2 bunch parsley 
Dipping sauce options
  • You can follow the directions listed below after the directions*
  • Or you can mix equal parts siracha and hoisin sauce for an easy but equally delicious alternative 


1. Wash chicken, pat dry. Combine all the ingredients together for the chicken filling in a bowl, mix well and cover. Marinate for at least one hour. Then, preheat a grill or skillet. Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through. 

2. Soak the wrappers one at a time in warm water until soften. Usually each guest soaks their own, they soften up really fast. Pat dry. Fill each wrapper with the chicken and all of the toppings. Roll the wrapper once over the filling. Tuck in the ends and roll and completely. Press to seal. Keep repeating until full or the ingredients are gone.

*Dipping sauce
  • 2 garlic closes, crushed
  • 2 tsp dried chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 whole lime or lemon, juiced 
  • 5 tablespoons white vinegar 
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut juice 

Eat well! Be well! And subscribe below to never miss a beat :)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Orange ya' glad I put chocolate on those cookies?

Out of all desserts in the whole world, the cookie reign supreme in my world. The cookie so versatile and can suit the tastebuds of almost anyone. Soft, chewy, crunchy, gooey, the possibilities are endless. I know I get this vice from my mom.

Cookies have always been something special for us. It was one of the first things my mom taught me how to make. And was definitely the first thing she trusted me to make on my own in the kitchen. She likes them crunchy so she can dip them in her milk. I like them gooey so I can pretend its still cookie dough. 

But let's be real for a moment, cookies have a bad rep for being boring. Isn't that right? Not today, my friends! I have combined the best of two worlds. The flavors of orange and chocolate have made a cookie baby in my mind and I am obsessed. Okay, too much info right? Maybe just get to the recipe Karen...

Here's the deal. It's a sugar cookie, infused with orange, topped with chocolate which is also infused with orange. If this doesn't YELL spring, than I have no idea what global warming has done to your brain. 

Make these now. 

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Orange zest of one whole orange, divided 
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 ounces cream cheese 
  • 3 teaspoons orange extract 
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1 cup sugar in the raw for rolling the dough in
  • For the chocolate ganache
    • 2/3 cup chocolate  chips, melted
    • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 2 teaspoons orange extract 
...phew... but trust me, use all these ingredients and your mouth will thank you


0. preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and cover your cookie sheet with parchment or foil

1. In a large bowl, cream together the sugars, butter, cream cheese, and half of the orange zest and then beat in the eggs, vanilla, orange extract, and the other half of the orange zest

2. In a medium bowl, combine or sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices 

3. Slowly, add the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture 

4. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls using a scoop or spoons. Before placing on the cookie sheet, roll the ball around in raw sugar. Trust me, the crunch really adds to the cookie!

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes

6. Cool the cookies and prep your ganache. Melt the chocolate the butter separately and then combine. Stir in the honey and the orange extract. Mix until smooth. 

7. Spoon the chocolate onto the cookie or dip them in. Then cool and enjoy with a glass of almond milk ... because I can't have real milk. 

Eat well! Be well! And subscribe below to always be in the know :)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rebecca's Purim Challah Bread

The morning began on 28th street, which ironic because I was supposed to be on 18th.  Sunny and crisp, I had the whole day ahead of me to learn something new and meet a new neighbor. Rebecca responded to an advertisement I posted on our “Buy Nothing” Facebook group page*, and this morning I was walking up to her front door. She’s the first neighbor I’ll be featuring on the blog here. I knew I wanted to feature recipes from my past, my friends, and also my neighbors. But I had no idea what I had in store when I went to ring Rebecca’s doorbell.

I brought along a friend, Bria, and we anxiously chatted on the doorstep. The door swung open and there was Rebecca. She welcomed us in and we awkwardly made our introductions. As I sat on her couch next to Bria, I instantly noticed all the greenery, the art, and the well thought-out chotchkies surrounding us. My mom kept a sparse home growing up, lacking many decorations but not warmth! Rebecca's home, on the other hand lacked neither. I was fascinated by the objects I found around her house and enjoyed hearing stories of their significance.

Rebecca’s husband made us coffee, and she explained that they kept a Kosher home. Bria had to run back out to put the coffee she had made back in the car. So here’s a tip to everyone here, if you are going to a home that is Kosher ask about the dos & don’ts first (if you don’t know already). My goodness, if we weren’t uneasy enough, we were sure nervous by that point. But Rebecca was super gracious to us and quickly distracted the conversation from our faux pas.

While the dishwasher was being unloaded, the three of us got to know each other a little better. Rebecca has been making challah bread every week since Rosh Hashanah, which is in September. Her plan is to continue to make it every week until next September. A whole year of challah! And she shared her recipe with me. Today, I share it with you.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2.25 teaspoons yeast

1. Mix all in bread maker. Use "quick dough" without timer OR "regular dough" with timer

2. Braid, and then let rise OR bake immediately

3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes

4. Glaze with egg yolk and add sesame seeds if desired

As you may expect, making challah on a regular basis for Friday night dinners can get monotonous. So Rebecca has gotten creative over the years, making heart shaped challah on Valentines Day, tree shapes, 12th Man shapes, and so much more. Her friends practically expect something new and exciting each week, so they challenged her to do so, every week for a year.

Growing up, Rebecca’s mother didn’t have much time for cooking or baking. She was too busy paving the way for her daughter, going graduate school and building her career. Today, Rebecca is a PhD in Disability Studies and works at a local college. Rebecca learned how to make challah from her brother who used to make it for his entire dorm during his university years. He still makes it for his family by hand, no bread maker for him. As Rebecca invited us into her kitchen, she pointed to her bread maker and said, “he says I cheat by making it this way, but I don’t care!”

We loaded all the ingredients into the bread machine and pressed start. The challah needed 45 minutes to knead and rise. This gave us time to meet Rebecca’s chickens, who also happened to have provided the eggs for the day. We met General Tso, Chicken Nugget, Stir Fry, and Casserole. Bria almost had a cow. She peppered Rebecca with questions about keeping chickens in the city and fawned over the hens for the next half hour. The gal is from Minnesota and just moved to Seattle four months ago, but she is meant to live on a farm.

Once the bread was done, Rebecca explained the sort of clever challah we were making. In a couple days would be the holiday of Purim, which celebrates the story of Esther. She saved the Jews a long time ago from an evil man named Haman. He wanted to kill them, but he was killed instead because of her courage to tell the king to stop him. The challah we made was Moroccan inspired. We braided in eggs, which represent Haman’s eyes. Like a cartoon character, we put the dough in the shape of X’s over his eyes. Then we decorated everything with pastel colored fennel seeds and traditional sesame seeds. Funny and spring inspired, I present to you Purim Challah, featured by the kindness of Rebecca.

The morning Bria and I spent with Rebecca was the most inspiring time I have had in a really long time. We not only learned how to make a new recipe, we learned how culturally significant meals can be. Today, I encourage you to take a step back before stepping into the kitchen. Food must nourish our bodies, but let me challenge you to think how it can nourish your soul, your mind.

To learn more about Rebecca and to see all of her amazing creations, visit her site and stay up to date:

If you want to know more about Purim, go ask your neighbor who is Jewish! Get in a conversation about it. But here’s a sneak peak. The four customs for this holiday are as follows, you must:
  • Read the story of Esther
  • Give presents of food to other people
  • Give to charity
  • Make a feast and get so drunk that you cannot tell apart your friends from your enemies. (That last part may vary from family to family, but is my favorite)
  • AND BONUS: Traditionally kids dress in costumes on this day and even some adults do too. What a bonus!

*Side note: I do understand the rules of Buy Nothing and I do not advise advertising anything without looking into your group’s rules and/or contacting the moderator’s first.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Triple chocolate (vegan) zucchini brownies

If I am going to bake something, I automatically gravitate towards using chocolate. I have a bit of an addiction. I must have chocolate on hand. That and peanut butter. It is by far my biggest vice. I blame it on my Aunt Deanie. Or praise her for it? Either way, I think it's in my genes to always need chocolate. In bar form, dissolved in milk, as a cake, and especially in cookies, it is my all time favorite sweet.

While Ethan lived on Whidbey Island last year for his clinical rotations I would drive over from Seattle to visit him on the weekends. It was his first time living on his own, and the first time I had experienced him outside of city life. It was a new adventure for us a couple. A whole island to discover and completely new things to discover about each other. The highly concentrated time we spent together revealed interesting quirks. One night, after a long day at work and a long drive, I just needed some chocolate. I wanted to unwind and indulge a little. But in Ethan's small, studio apartment, he barely had groceries for himself let alone for my crazy sweet habits. But I couldn't let it go! I needed that chocolate. In brownie form. Stat.

We went down to the front desk of his hotel and asked if there were any good places for dessert nearby. Needless to say, the Island didn't pride itself on five-star restaurants nor grand sweeteries. But the gal at the desk did say there was a Baskin n' Robbins near by. We had to hurry though, she was sure it was closing soon. 

I ran to the car. Which was pointless because Ethan went at his normal pace to get there. We drove a few blocks and landed in the ice cream parlor 10 minutes before it closed. I got a brownie ice-cream sundae and ate it all within five minutes. I was sick, but I was happy and fulfilled.

As exhibit A, I submit to you this story as evidence that there is a chocolate monster inside of me that must be fed at any given moment. This weekend, she struck again. But I was determined to trick the little monster into having to some veggies too. 

These triple chocolate brownies zucchini add a surprise punch -- pureed spinach! And let me tell you something, you may never want to have a brownie any other way. They are fluffy, dense, choc full of chocolate, and completely satisfying. And vegan too!

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or any other vegetable oil)
  • 1&1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup melted unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (you can just do 2 cups white flour, if that's all you have)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1&1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional, but highly recommended)  
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini 
  • 3/4 cup pureed spinach 
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 8x8 baking pan

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla, baking chocolate. Sprinkle in the flour, cocoa, soda, salt and spices. It'll be dry, but don't worry!

3. Fold in spinach and zucchini and then add the chocolate chips

4. Put in the pan and bake for 45-50 minutes

Enjoy and indulge. Eat well! Be well! And subscribe below to never miss a beat :)