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!

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Locally Roasted Wedding Favors

So, friends, here’s the thing. I have tried to minimize the impact of the wedding planning on the blog this year, but now that we are just three days away from the wedding, it’s going to be all wedding, all the time. I just can’t focus on anything else! And after the wedding, it’s going to be all honeymoon photos all the time. At least I can promise that some of those photos will be of food, because I just can’t help myself. Sometime in the next two to three weeks, I might post a recipe. But for now, wedding favors!

I am super excited about our wedding favors, and I should be, because they were the first thing we decided on at the very beginning of the planning process. Before I had a dress, a venue, a photographer or a caterer (heck, even before I had a budget), I had the wedding favors all picked out. Kyle and I are thrilled to be giving our guests little packages of locally roasted coffee from Blanchard’s Coffee.

We had a blast getting these together. We wanted something custom made, so we visited the roasting lab earlier this year for a tasting. We watched them roast the Dark as Dark blend while we were there and learned a little about their equipment and business. We tasted several varietals at different roast levels, then blended them together to see what worked together. We ultimately chose a blend and roast that we loved. It was so much fun and so personal!

Unfortunately we recently found out that one of the coffees in our blend is unavailable due to a limited crop. But on the bright side, we got to taste more coffee! Blanchard’s sent us samples of similar coffees and we had a tasting at home to come up with the next best thing. We had a great time again, while tasting in the comfort of our own home, and we feel that we picked another winner. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as we do!

I am so excited about this because it is just one of the many ways we have been able to use a portion of our wedding budget to support a local business and feature a product that we believe in. Our vision for the wedding celebration is to convey our personalities and interests, while showcasing a well curated collection of products from local businesses, and we aim to get there by making sustainable choices along the way. Blanchard’s is a great local Richmond business and working with them has been awesome.

So would you like to try out our special blend for yourself? I’m giving away one 3-oz. bag of our wedding coffee to one lucky reader. To enter to win, please leave a comment on this post, about anything at all! Tell me how you take your coffee, what you do to support local businesses, or why you love Richmond. Give me some marriage advice. Tell me a joke. Introduce me to your cat. Whatever you want!

Because I plan to tell you whatever the heck I want to for the next few weeks. Then, when the wedding stuff is over, maybe I’ll give you a recipe for Three Sisters Soup, or tell you about my first time using habanero peppers, or show you what a Turks Turban squash looks like.

Leave your comment by 11:59 PM on Saturday, October 20th for your chance to win.

This giveaway is not sponsored by Blanchard’s Coffee; I’m just feeling generous.

A Few of My (New) Favorite Things

First things first, I have to give a shout out to John Robinson of Robinson Imagery, who posted a preview of our engagement photos today. Kyle and I had a blast during our engagement session this weekend, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the photos soon. Thanks John!

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I treated myself to a little spring break last week and I had ten consecutive days off work. Please don’t tell my boss; the time off was legit, but I don’t think anyone had really counted it up yet. Ten days is a lot of time, so I avoided announcing the total, in an effort to keep from shocking him and thereby causing him to change his mind. Perhaps even more shocking is that until day one of vacation, I didn’t have many plans for my time off. For the first time ever, Kyle and I both took off work and did not plan a trip. We just kind of winged it. . . and it was fantastic! A ten-day long staycation allows for a great deal of thoughtful reflection and self-discovery. Also, it provides you the opportunity to do some exploring close to home and to try out things you never had before.

New favorite thing: yoga on mountaintops.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the highlights, so that you locals may discover some new activities and places to visit in central Virginia. If you’re not local to central Virginia, either bookmark these for your next visit or use them as inspiration to find similar things near your own “close to home.”

The Monument Avenue 10K

You would have to be a real Eeyore to not feel encouraged during this race. I really don’t like running, but I loved doing this 10K. I walked most of the way, as planned, but even as a walker you feel like a rock star. There were so many clever signs like the one above, and tons of people cheering you on from the Monument Avenue median and sidewalks. The excitement and energy was inescapable the whole way. This race really was a party, and I am so glad I did it for the first time ever this year.

Patios South of the River

I have been to Legend’s deck before, but as a new resident of the Forest Hill area, I have developed a new appreciation for the space. In the Fan and Museum District, every other restaurant has outdoor seating, and nearly every residence has a porch or balcony. This is not the case south of the James. Legend Brewing Company is my new top choice for patio drinking and dining, for their delicious locally brewed beer and for their fantastic view of the downtown Richmond skyline. Also, this is a great spot for a little carbohydrate replenishment after the Monument Avenue 10K.

Crossroads Forest Hill is also a great happy hour spot with outdoor seating and live music on the weekends. Their beer list is so good that I often think I’m dreaming when I read over it. They have a consistently excellent selection of beers there. They also serve wine and small plates during their happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.

Flight Night at Secco Wine Bar

Right now you may be thinking this post is getting a little alcohol-heavy. And you would be right. It was vacation! I’m no saint! However I promise we will get to less alcohol-centric activities soon.

But first, allow me to introduce you to Flight Night at Secco Wine Bar. Every Monday, Secco features 3-glass flights of wine. I checked it out last week with some of the VAis4Bloggers crew. For $10 you could order Dealer’s Choice, which was a mixed bag of 3 random wines. For $11 you could get the Flight of the Week, which was Spanish Reds last week. That’s what I ordered and I was not disappointed. For $12 you could choose your own 3 wines off their extensive menu. They were pretty good sized pours and I had a great variety of wines to try. It was a wonderful way to start the week. Check it out!

Homemade Non-Dairy Milks at Para Coffee

After all that booze, shall we get a tad more wholesome? Nah, that’s impossible when you’re talking about nut milks. I had to title this section Non-Dairy Milks because Kyle chuckles every time I say “homemade nut milk.” But that’s what it is! Para Coffee in Charlottesville has started making their own nut milks from almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios, and they offer these non-dairy options in their lattes and other milk-based espresso drinks. I stopped in last week and had an iced pistachio milk latte and it was a real treat. I don’t even want to see the nutritional information, so please don’t tell me how much fat is in a cup of pistachio milk. I’m not interested. That said, I personally would not have one of these nut milk lattes every day, however this is something I will try again soon. It’s so different, you have to try it at least once.

Spice Diva

I have wanted to visit Spice Diva in Charlottesville for awhile and I finally got the opportunity last week. All the spices smell so good and they offer a wide variety of things that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. The blends are really unique too. I picked up an African style curry powder, applewood smoked sea salt, and a spice rub meant for meat that I want to try out in some vegetarian dishes soon. The owner couldn’t be more friendly, and I am excited to test out the exotic spices I picked up on my first trip there.

Hiking in Nelson County, VA

I already knew I loved hiking in this area, but recently I have found several more hikes that I want to try out. We have done Humpback Rocks (a few times), Crabtree Falls, and Spy Rock (as of last week). Next I want to do Cole Mountain and Mount Pleasant. I am addicted to the gorgeous mountain views that are your reward for making it to the top. What other hikes should I put on my list?

 

I have held back a few more food adventures and day trip activities that I plan to share in a separate post. My ten days off work were so packed with fun discoveries that it feels like my break was even longer than it was. We considered so many different vacation destinations before settling on staying close to home. I can’t believe I would have missed out on all the things our area has to offer, while in search of greener pastures, a plane or train ticket away from here.

Have you taken time lately to explore your own backyard?

All About Almond Milk

A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was finally time to try almond milk. I typically buy milk from Homestead Creamery and I occasionally pick up soy milk instead of cows milk. Lately I have tried to make more conscious decisions when it comes to animal products, and I have found myself substituting soy milk a lot when I am unsure of the source of the cows milk that is available. However, soy milk is not the only non-dairy option. There is also rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk and probably some more milks that I am not even aware of. I’ve heard good reviews of Almond Breeze almond milk, so I used a coupon to pick some up at the store one weekend.

Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water. Some brands add sweeteners and flavors so it is always best to check the ingredient list to make sure you know what you’re getting. People have been drinking almond milk for centuries. It was a staple of Medieval kitchens because animal milk spoiled too quickly. Historically it has been used as a substitute for animal milk during times of fasting in many cultures and religions. It is lower in cholesterol and saturated fats than cows milk, and it has no gluten or lactose. Almonds are high in magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and calcium, and so is almond milk. The downsides I found in research were that almond milk is a little high in sodium and it has much less protein than soy milk or cows milk.

I did a little experiment and tried the almond milk in several different things throughout the week to see how versatile it was. I first tried it plain, and found it to be a little watery, with a pleasant nutty taste. Here is a rundown of all the other ways I tried almond milk.

In Coffee: I usually take my coffee with milk or cream and no sugar. I subbed in some almond milk and wasn’t a fan. The almond milk did not add to the black coffee that slightly creamy texture that I get from soy milk or cows milk. It was very watery, and while the flavor was nice, I felt that I might as well have had black coffee because the almond milk failed to cut the acidity. Take it or leave it? Some people love it in coffee, but for me: leave it.

In Tea: Tea was a completely different story for me. I made a vanilla spice tea latte with almond milk instead of regular reduced fat milk and it was divine! I loved the almond flavor in my tea latte. It worked really well with the vanilla, honey and spices. I will definitely try this one again.

In a Smoothie: I added almond milk to this chocolate cherry smoothie and it was so amazing. Although I think any milk would have been awesome in this concoction (recipe coming soon). I like the nutty flavor in the smoothie, but I am on the fence about doing this again in the future. I usually add milk to my smoothies for calcium and protein and the almond milk falls a little short. Calcium? Check. Protein? Lacking. I found a way to make it work by adding protein powder to the smoothie, so this may become a regular addition to my blender.

In Cereal: I poured some almond milk over my Kashi Golden Goodness cereal, and it was a hit. I don’t know how this would work with super sugary cereals, but I don’t eat froot loops so I’m not too worried about it. All I know is that I would like to give almond milk an award its performance in a supporting role alongside whole grain and granola cereals. The flavor is a great addition to your bowl. I will definitely be doing this again, in cold and hot cereals.

Overall, I would recommend that you try almond milk if you get the opportunity. For me, it works in some things and not in others. Maybe you will reach the same conclusion or maybe you will love it or hate it in everything. Different strokes for different folks, people. I say it’s worth a try.

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.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

I have this little habit that is draining my bank account, cramping my morning routine and expanding my waistline. But it feels so good!  It’s my Starbucks habit and it is out of control. I know I’m not alone on this one but that doesn’t make it any better.

ADDICT!

 

Honestly, it’s not the coffee that bothers me; it’s the pastry case. The coffee is a necessity that I simply cannot start my day without. The pumpkin bread or breakfast sandwich is just an add-on that I find hard to resist. Why do I continue to buy Starbucks food? Time.

Mornings are usually somewhat of a fire drill for me. I am not really a morning person (although I really really wish I was!) so getting out of the house on time for work in the morning in the appropriate attire, with makeup and hair done, and equipped with everything I need for the day, is a little miracle every morning Monday through Friday. To also have coffee prepared and breakfast eaten by that time is nearly impossible. So I grab coffee and food on the run and eat while I am driving to work. Enter Starbucks, enemy of my wallet and waistband.

On the weekend and on my days off, I enjoy oatmeal or cereal for breakfast and I make coffee at home. My favorite breakfast is a big bowl of oatmeal loaded with toppings like nuts and dried fruit, and drizzled with honey or maple syrup. I love the taste and the texture and I love how it fills me up until lunch time rolls around. I have tried to enjoy a bowl of oatmeal before work in the morning but it is hard for me to find the time.

What I really need is to be able to eat oatmeal while I am driving to work. Due to the safety concerns that I have about using a spoon while steering to scoop hot liquids out of a bowl and into my mouth, I haven’t tried it yet. Richmond drivers, thank me later. Fortunately, I will never have to try it because I have found a solution.

Behold, the oatmeal breakfast cookie.

This photo was totally taken on the weekend. As if I have the luxury of waiting for the sun to come up before I have to go to work.

I modified a recipe that I found here and came up with a pretty awesome breakfast that tastes just like my beloved morning oatmeal, except it’s in my hand. Which leaves one hand free for driving to work. Maybe now I can get my act together enough to make coffee so I won’t have to stop at Starbucks at all! (Don’t hold your breath.)

Even if I do need to make an espresso run in the AM, at least I won’t be tempted by the pastry case. I plan to make these on Sunday nights and have them ready to go throughout the week so I can grab and go in the mornings. They aren’t super sweet like dessert cookies because they are breakfast, although I might up the amount of honey or substitute maple syrup in the next batch. They are just sweet enough to not be bland. Either way, this is a great basic recipe that I (and you!) can modify at whim.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies


Ingredients:

  • 3 mashed bananas (ripe)
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit you want to add)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (or any other chopped nut)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let this mixture stand for ten minutes to let the oats soften.
  3. Divide mixture into six large mounds and place the dough mounds onto a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart from one another.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool.
  5. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to a week.

I have even included the nutritional information (estimated) from Spark Recipes here, in case you are interested:

Nutrition Facts – Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Enjoy!

One World Cafe, Baltimore, MD

One of the great things about coming home for the holidays is rediscovering my hometown as an adult. I love finding little places that I never knew existed while I was growing up, and I really enjoy seeing how the city has changed over the years that I have been gone. Immediately after my train pulled into Baltimore’s Penn Station, my mom and I ventured out in search of food. We drove to One World Cafe on the outskirts of Johns Hopkins University.

Tucked into a corner space on West University Parkway, One World Cafe is a popular vegetarian spot that offers a full coffee bar with espresso, brewed coffee, tea, and smoothies.

Just beyond the coffee bar area is a restaurant with table service. The dark purple walls are lined with local artwork and there is plenty of comfy seating with tons of pillows!

The best part is the giant menu full of vegetarian and vegan options. They had the largest selection of veg sandwiches I have ever seen in one place!

I ordered a cup of one of the soups of the day: butternut squash. The creamy soup was  perfect for the cold and windy day we were having. It included pureed butternut squash and small pieces of carrots, celery, onion, and peppers and was topped with halved walnuts. The soup was seasoned perfectly and it was a delicious start to our meal.

My mom and I split the veggie burger of the day. Their veggie burgers are always fresh and homemade and today’s burger was a black bean and corn patty with salsa and corn chips on the side. The sandwich was loaded with lettuce, tomato, and sprouts. Yum!

One World Cafe is the perfect place to come in from the cold and catch up over a hot cup of coffee and a filling and nutritious meal. This cafe is definitely a new favorite in my old hometown. It makes me excited to check out more local haunts, both old and new, while visiting for the holidays this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!