Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Muffins (Vegan!)

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Do you ever have those moments when you finally realize something that should have been obvious to you for a long time, and you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this before?”

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That is exactly how I feel about strawberries, green apples, and rhubarb. In this in-between season, why not bring the best of the fall and the best of the spring together, in one delicious “tweasonal” snack? One day it’s fifty degrees and the next day it’s eighty – why not embrace the seasonal identity crisis in your kitchen as well? Strawberry and rhubarb is a tried and true pairing, but apple and rhubarb? That is a little less common. However I feel that the vibrant green stalk of the rhubarb has been trying to tell me something for years.

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Plays well with others. . . particularly with strawberries and Granny Smith apples. Because cramming three flavors into one muffin wasn’t enough of a challenge, I opted to make these vegan as well. I have made vegan cookies and breads before, but I believe these are my first vegan muffins. Non-dairy milk and a flax egg work wonders.

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If you have never made a flax egg before, do not be intimidated.

First, grind whole flax seeds into a fine powder. I use my coffee grinder for this step. The oils in flax are very temperamental and ground flax meal can go rancid quickly, so I always keep the seeds whole then grind them immediately before using in a recipe.

Second, mix 1 part flax seed meal to 3 parts water. Stir with a fork or whisk to combine. This recipe calls for two flax eggs (2 Tbsp flax + 6 Tbsp water).

Third, refrigerate for 15 minutes to achieve the consistency displayed below. This ingredient is a binder, so it needs to stick. When it has set up enough, you can turn a container of flax eggs on its side and the contents don’t spill out.

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Another unexpected part of these delicious muffins is the whole strawberry hiding in the middle of each one. I folded chopped apples and rhubarb into the muffin batter, then I sliced the tops off of twelve strawberries.

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After filling the muffin tins halfway, I shoved a whole strawberry into the middle of each tin, then topped off with some batter. As the muffins bake, the strawberry juice starts to leak out into the muffins, and when you bite into one, the whole strawberry center is like a fresh jam filling. I really should try this with peanut butter muffins, right?

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Some of the strawberries couldn’t stay hidden, and they chose to leak sweet strawberry lava out of the tops of the muffins. They look exactly how they are: irresistibly delicious.

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Vegan Strawberry Apple Rhubarb Muffins

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh ground flax meal
  • 3 ounces water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of peeled, chopped apple (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 12 small strawberries, tops removed

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine flax meal and water, refrigerate for 15 minutes. The result is a “flax egg.”
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients: flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients: flax egg, oil, applesauce, vanilla, non-dairy milk, and vinegar. Stir until mixed.
  5. Add wet ingredients to large bowl and stir to combine with dry ingredients, until just moistened. Make sure all flour is incorporated.
  6. Fold in apple and rhubarb.
  7. Grease or line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each cavity halfway with batter. Place one strawberry inside each cavity, then top with more batter until filled.
  8. Bake muffins in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the largest muffin comes out clean.

Note: if vegan isn’t your thing, you may substitute 2 eggs, beaten, for the flax eggs, and 1 cup buttermilk for the non-dairy milk and vinegar.

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Is it Spring time yet?!

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Fresh Start Breakfast

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Although I am not a morning person, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I would be lying if I said that I don’t love mornings. I do love mornings, on weekends and vacations only. Perhaps my feeling that “I’m not a morning person” stems from my experience of most mornings: frantically running late, rushing to work, gulping down coffee and breakfast, sitting in traffic. . . then spending the rest of the morning enclosed by cubicle walls with no window to the outside world. Who could possibly get excited about that?

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On my days off, I love mornings the most. I enjoy the calm quiet and the feeling that I am at the fresh start of something new. Mornings can be full of hope, energy, and plans for the rest of the day. I rarely feel disappointed or rushed on a weekend morning; I simply enjoy the opportunity to take my time. Some prefer their coffee cold, some prefer it hot. Some like their coffee French pressed, cold brewed, or poured over. All I know for sure is that I like my coffee slow. Slowly sipping a cup of coffee at the beginning of my day is a gift that I do not give myself often enough. Under that category, you could also file: stacks of pancakes, syrupy French toast, fresh oranges, fluffy croissants, and bubbly mimosas.

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I have fond memories of vacation and weekend mornings that were completely unrushed. On Labor Day weekend last year, we rented a cabin in the mountains with friends. I remember waking up before everyone else and brewing coffee in the quiet, cool kitchen, then sipping a steaming cup on the wraparound porch, while listening to the morning sounds of the woods. On the day before our wedding, Kyle and I carefully drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the thick morning fog and hiked to Humpback Rocks at sunrise. Fresh starts on cool mornings are priceless.

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I recently had several wonderful mornings in New York City, and something about moving the conventional routine of breakfast to a variety of exciting places made an impression on me. I seized the moment each day and had a delicious breakfast in a new place, with no agenda or deadline. This, of course, negatively impacted the number of activities I could cram into each vacation day, but that was okay with me. The first breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien set the tone for the rest of the mornings on my trip.

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I had a flavorful and filling yogurt bowl from Chobani SoHo.

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On another morning I went to Chavela’s for a spicy brunch with friends.

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On my final morning in the city, I had a fresh, hot everything bagel with a crispy, crunchy outside and a soft, doughy inside.

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The breakfast that made the biggest impression on me was the warm organic quinoa and pear cereal at Le Pain Quotidien. Topped with Bosc pears, dried fruit, nuts and cacao nibs and drenched in warm soy milk, this cereal was exactly what I needed after a chilly run that was cut very short.

The day before, while rushing to get out of the house to make my train to New York, I slipped on our wooden stairs, went flying with my suitcase and bag, and landed flat on my back. As I lay on the floor, loudly cursing and wailing, I thought, “the universe is telling me to slow down.” Nevertheless, I popped some ibuprofen, threw an ice pack in my bag and headed to the train station, grinding my teeth in pain the whole way.

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Fast forward 18 hours, after a lot of icing, massaging, and wishing on stars, I suited up for a run across the Brooklyn Bridge. With subway directions to Brooklyn, a route scribbled on hotel memo paper in my pocket, three layers of clothing, and some gear strapped around my waist, I was determined to make my 8 mile run for Team in Training. After 3 scenic miles over the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan, through the financial district, Chinatown and SoHo, I found myself warming up in Le Pain Quotidien on Grand Street, suffering from killer back pain, and ordering breakfast for one with a cappuccino on the side. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a mandatory three week break from running.

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Over a delightful bowl of quinoa and pear cereal served by an extremely attentive and courteous waiter, I finally received the message that I had been trying to ignore. Slow. Down. While the pressures of my job, way too many commitments, and half marathon training left little time for me to stop and smell the roses, I started thinking about the things I could control and began to work on a plan for less stress and more happiness. Getting slammed with a bad cold and increasing back pain over the next few days helped to reinforce the message. I’m not quite there yet, but I have made some changes for the better.

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The lessons I have learned from weekend breakfast are finding their way into the rest of my life and I do feel like I am inching backwards from an almost certain nervous breakdown and toward a happier place. Less working on the weekend, less guilt about unfinished to do lists, and more quality time with friends and family. Of course there are risks involved. I may fall behind at work, let down my team and lose my job. I might be less prepared for the half marathon and hit the wall on race day. Maybe I will never finish my name change paperwork, hang art on the walls of our house, or plant a vegetable garden this year. But for now, I won’t worry about those things. For now, I’m making breakfast. And sipping my coffee slowly. And thinking about the things that matter.

Here is a simple recipe for a simple fresh start to your day.

Warm Quinoa Cereal with Fruit and Nuts

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  1. Combine 1/3 cup rinsed quinoa + 2/3 cup water + half an apple or pear, diced in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, keep covered 5 minutes.
  3. Heat 1/2 cup milk of your choice (almond milk is great).
  4. Add to a small bowl: cooked quinoa + dried fruits, nuts, and seeds + drizzle of maple syrup or honey + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + warm milk.

 

Super Bowl Blackout Supercharged Doughnuts

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Sometimes you need a little extra help recharging. When I need a quick boost, I often turn to coffee. Maybe I should get more sleep. Maybe I should plan more, eat better, or practice more self control when it comes to making time for rest. But sometimes I just don’t, and on those days, I crave a steady stream of caffeine. I know you know the feeling.

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Stayed up too late on Sunday night?

Is your Monday morning brain having a hard time waking up?

Feel like the Super Dome during a power outage, in desperate need of a big jolt of energy?

For times when a coffee and a doughnut aren’t quite enough, get a double dose of coffee with these supercharged doughnuts that I recently dreamt up in my kitchen. . . Leave it to me to put doughnuts in coffee, and coffee in doughnuts.

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Yes, you read that right. Coffee. In. Doughnuts. Chocolate and coffee are perfectly complementary and they team up to pack a punch in these delightful baked doughnuts. Some people achieve balance through protein shakes, juices, and probiotics. Sometimes I am one of those people. Sometimes I am one of those other people whose idea of balance is tempering bitter with sweet, coffee with chocolate.

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When it feels like the lights are flickering, power up with these.

Supercharged Coffee Doughnuts

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 oz. low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease a doughnut pan.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, espresso powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In another bowl, combine egg, yogurt, oil, lemon juice, and maple syrup.
  5. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until incorporated. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop batter into the wells of the doughnut pan. Wipe off any excess batter that gets on the pan surface in the center of the doughnut to preserve the ring shape.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Makes 6 doughnuts.
  8. Optional: dip in your favorite frosting or glaze.

Go Ravens!

Everything Bagel Sprinkles or: I Left My Heart in a Brooklyn Bagel Shop

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One of the reasons I am so glad that January is finally here is that I am a little bit closer to my next New York trip. A couple of months ago, I marked January 25th on my calendar and the countdown began. I am just three weeks away from my next trip to the city that never sleeps, and I’m so excited I can hardly sleep already. For the last seven years, I have traveled to New York City at least once a year, and I never made it there in 2012. My plan is to make at least two trips in 2013 to make up for it.

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When I spend a long time away from the city, I start to feel nostalgic about the times I have spent in the big apple. There are so many different things that draw me to New York that I probably couldn’t count them all (although it might be fun to try, perhaps in sonnet format). One of those things is the bagels and flavored cream cheese. Bagels in any other city just can’t compare. Everything bagels in particular are a special treat that I always try to have when I visit New York. Oh how I miss them when I am away.

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I recently came up with a way to curb my cravings for New York bagels and I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may have seen a sneak peek a few days ago. Everything Bagel Sprinkles are really easy to make and a great seasoning for bagels and more. I have personally found these very useful when my local coffee shop sells out of everything bagels and I have to make a multigrain bagel work instead.

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All it takes is a few of these sprinkles and I have a multigrain bagel in an everything bagel’s clothing. I think these would also be great on a veggie sandwich, baked into focaccia, or sprinkled on a savory snack like hummus (why not?). One of the ingredients is sea salt so you may need to watch your intake, but you can always dial down the level of sodium by cutting the amount of salt you add to the mix in half.

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I have just two more caveats when it comes to this stuff. First, it’s going to make your breath smell. . .

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Sprinkle shots consumed by a professional blogger on a closed kitchen course. Do not try this at home.

. . . delicious! Just kidding, the garlic and onion can actually be a little aggressive so watch out for that. This does not stop me at all (it’s totally delicious). You might want to buy stock in Trident gum immediately.

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Second, if you store this in a jar or canister, make sure you give it a few good shakes before sprinkling. The smaller pieces (sea salt and poppy seeds) tend to sink to the bottom rather quickly. You should shake or stir the mix before sprinkling so you will get an even dispersion.

Everything Bagel Sprinkles

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Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust salt to taste. Store in an airtight container. Shake before using.

19 days ‘til NYC!

Ring in Spring with Savory Pancakes

Kyle and I have been on vacation this week so we both have been celebrating a bit of a spring break. I have taken advantage of the opportunity to jump right into all things spring: cleaning, gardening, hiking, and giving up all aspects of my daily routine in favor of plowing through a long To Do list. In the spirit of throwing old routines out the window and turning over a new leaf, I made breakfast for dinner the other night. I know what you’re thinking: “BFD. Been there, done that.”

But this savory take on pancakes is anything but boring. It highlights seasonal ingredients and celebrates the freshness of the big thaw-out that takes place this time of year. I have to admit, this might not be for everyone. I showed these photos to some of my coworkers and they gagged at the thought of vegetable pancakes. But if you are like me and you love spring veggies, hopefully this dish will find its way to your table soon. It didn’t last long on mine, as the light, fluffy pancakes vanished from my plate almost as quickly as they disappeared from Kyle’s.

Topped with lemon tarragon yogurt sauce and fresh ground pepper, these asparagus ricotta pancakes offer the fresh zest and comforting warmth of early spring. Preparing this dinner, I couldn’t help but think of Easter last year. A trip to the Shenandoah Valley for a quick reunion with a dear friend. Beer tasting in the warm afternoon sun of another early spring. Shuffling outside in slippers and sandals the next morning through dew-kissed grass to pluck asparagus and rhubarb from the family garden, as the aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafted from the kitchen door. And we whipped up a batch of ricotta pancakes for breakfast. Why not for dinner too?

Asparagus Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Tarragon Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh grated lemon zest, divided
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, chopped, roasted and cooled (Roast chopped asparagus lightly coated in olive oil at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes until tender and vibrant green, then cool)
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Preparation:

  1. Combine ricotta, milk, egg yolks, and 1 tsp of lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Separately, beat egg whites with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet, stir to combine. Add onions and asparagus to mixture. Fold in egg whites. Do not overmix.
  5. Heat a griddle to medium heat and coat with butter or olive oil. Fry pancakes in batches and remove to covered dish to keep warm.
  6. In a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, remaining 1 tsp of lemon zest and tarragon. Stir to combine.
  7. Top pancakes with lemon tarragon yogurt sauce and fresh ground pepper.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Honey Oat Pancakes

I turned 25 this year and my quarter-life milestone (fingers crossed) coincided with a lot of changes. I started a new job. I joined a soccer team for the first time in 8 years. I started using anti-aging eye cream. I went blonde for 4 months, then back to brunette. I shelled out the cash for DVR.

But let’s focus on the soccer, shall we? I hadn’t played since high school when I started again this spring. I wasn’t very good but I had a lot of fun. . . if you call head-to-toe muscle soreness for 43% of your life “fun.” All kidding aside, I am so glad I started up again. I am also surprised and delighted that my team agreed to have me back for the fall season and didn’t try to pass me off on some other suckers in the pre-season draft.

When the season started two weeks ago, I wanted to make a good impression on my teammates. Kick some ass and show them I ate my Wheaties that morning. Only I don’t eat Wheaties. I chose to eat this instead. I am oh so glad I did.

These whole wheat pancakes have a touch of honey in the batter and hearty oats throughout. The hint of orange zest wakes you up , and the wholesome grains keep you full all morning. I ran ninety minutes while full of energy and I wasn’t hungry after, so these pancakes clearly go to work for you.

Honey Oat Pancakes (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp orange zest
  • Cooking spray

Preparation:

  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl.
  2. Add wet ingredients (milk through egg) and stir to combine. Add the orange zest and stir.
  3. Heat a pan or electric griddle over low-medium heat. Coat with cooking spray.
  4. Drop pancake batter on heated pan for desired size pancakes. When air bubbles are visible throughout the pancake and the bottom turns golden brown, flip over and cook for another minute or two more, then remove to a plate.

Whole wheat pancakes tend to be a little on the dry side, so make sure you have toppings available. Maple syrup, drizzled honey, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit or fruit compote work well.

Not a bad discovery for 25. I loved these so much I made them twice in one week. I suppose there are worse habits you could pick up. Do yourself a favor and make these pancakes this weekend. Who knows what you will be inspired to do?

And for that matter. . . Who knows what color my hair will be next? Who knows if this eye cream is actually working? Who knows if I’ll ever be good at soccer again?

At least the pancakes are a sure thing.

NYC Foodie Date: Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Kyle and I went on a summer vacation to New York City last week, and I’m excited to show you all the fun foodie dates we went on while we were there. Some were budget friendly and some were splurges, but all of them were a great time. On our first morning in New York, we went for a budget option. This was one of my favorite days of the whole trip because it was filled with miles of walking and exploring and a lot of great food.

We started with bagels at Montague Street Bagels in Brooklyn Heights. This was Kyle’s first NYC bagel!

These weren’t the best bagels I’ve ever had, but they’re better than anything I’ve tried in Richmond, VA. They were delicious, and you can’t beat the location. Montague Street Bagels is just a few blocks away from this beautiful view. . .

Call me sappy, but it’s true: I never get tired of seeing the Statue of Liberty.

From the bagel shop, we walked through Cadman Plaza Park and entered the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path from the stairs on the Washington Street underpass. Together we walked the 1.3 miles across the bridge, stopping to read the bronze history plaques and to take some pictures along the way. The pedestrian path is divided with cyclists on the right and runners and walkers on the left as you travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

The views are incredible and the walk is fun! This is an activity you can enjoy in the cooler months as well as the warmer months, although the winter walk is a bit breezier.

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Hey there, Melissa!

When you enter Manhattan from the bridge, you are near the NYPD headquarters. From there you have easy access to the financial district, TriBeCa, and Chinatown. On this trip, Kyle and I headed north towards Chinatown and stopped in at RBC NYC on the way. RBC has amazing espresso from a super fancy machine called the Slayer. One of these machines will set you back $20,000. The java did not disappoint.

Kyle traveled to France once and started every morning with an espresso and a pastry. He said that this espresso was the closest thing to European espresso that he has had in the United States. It was rich and oily, which sounds gross but it was actually really tasty.

I started talking coffee with the guys behind the espresso bar and they told me all about what makes the Slayer so special. This machine applies the pressure to pull the shot on a curve, gradually increasing and then decreasing the pressure from the beginning to the end of the extraction. Most espresso machines only have two pressures: on and off. The theory behind the Slayer is that the pressure curve pulls a better shot. The barista can also manually control the rate at which the pressure changes while the shot is being pulled.

After a little cawfee tawlk, they let me behind the bar to take some pictures of their fancy machine!

The barista controls the pressure by sliding the brown lever above the portafilter from left to right during the extraction. It was really cool to get the behind-the-scenes tour of how everything worked. After coffee, we took a walk through Chinatown. We found this vegetarian market that had rows and rows of vegetarian food, some dry goods and some frozen.

After walking around crazy Chinatown, we landed at Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Streeet for lunch. I had heard great things about this place, and all the reviews were right. The food tastes fantastic and it’s a great value for the money.

We started with complimentary tea and then had five amazing dishes. . . for eighteen dollars! Wow, we ordered way too much food. We could only eat half of it and took half home to snack on over the next couple of days. This is definitely a pick that you should not miss if you are a hungry vegetarian wandering around lower Manhattan.

To conclude our budget friendly date, we hopped on a train to Midtown and did some window shopping before heading home to freshen up. We had a pull-out-all-the-stops super fancy date that night at Candle 79. The mood lighting was not conducive to food photos so you’ll have to take my word for it. It was an amazing meal.

Whether you go over the top with a fabulous date at Candle 79 or you go budget-friendly with a make-your-own fun value date, there are plenty of places in Manhattan to have a tasty foodie date. Check back later this week for some more of my favorite spots for delicious dates in NYC.