Before I begin, I would like to bring your attention to a couple new Cupcakes and Showtunes developments!
We now have a TWITTER account!!
And also a PINTEREST page!
So follow those, and share them with your foodie buddies :)
Granola bars are extraordinarily overpriced. Especially when compared to how long they usually keep you satiated. Which is about half an hour, in my experience. So when you run out of those fancy bars that you bought on sale and find yourself dirt poor (on account of mandatory study abroad travel) and aching for some pumpkin-y, oat-y goodness, here is what you do. You make a healthy, fruity, protein-rich, more flavorful version of those cute little oatmeal to-go bars that you see on the shelves these days.
As you may have noticed from previous posts, I love quinoa. It’s so versatile and it’s a great protein source. Being a vegetarian who actually eats about 75% vegan, getting lots of protein is definitely one of the things I pay attention to the most. So things like beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, and whole grains are staples. My non-vegan staple is the egg. Why don’t I do dairy? Well, I would, except I find that I can almost never use up my dairy products before they go bad, and I hate wasting food. So I have dairy when I’m out and ordering in single portions (aka croissants, pizza, ice cream, coffee with a touch of milk, etc.), but as a general rule I avoid the dairy. Here in the UK the milk carton says you should have the milk within 3 days of opening. I do not want to buy milk every 3 days. No, sir.
So, back to the main point, these bars. They’re tender and moist, with little bits of crunchy oats on the edges. I may crumble them up and make some granola in the next couple days, who knows? The Nutella is completely optional, and without it these bars are vegan and still fulfilling and yummy. I do, however, think that the Nutella really completes the picture and makes these little guys fantastic. And there’s only a teeny bit, so I’m really not concerned about the unhealthiness of the Nutella. Everything in moderation, people.
These are also gluten-free optional. It depends on which side of the oat debate you’re on. You could always just buy gluten-free oats. Yay options!
I would highly suggest making these if you have been craving a new adventure in your snack arsenal :)
Nutella Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Muesli Bars
Makes 10 bars
1 banana, mashed
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
2.5 cups muesli (your favorite!)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cooked, cooled quinoa
Nutella, as desired (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
In a small bowl, combine banana, pumpkin, vanilla, and honey. In another large bowl, combine muesli, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Incorporate wet ingredients just until combined, then incorporate quinoa. Drop by 1/4 cup scoops into silicone cupcake cups (or a 9×9 baking dish), flatten tops, and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then remove from liners. Store at room temperature. When ready to serve, spread a small dollop of Nutella on each bar.
Muesli is really big here in Europe, and also pretty inexpensive. If you don’t want to buy any, you could always just use plain rolled oats and throw in whatever nuts, dried fruits, and other things that you desire.
Solid-pack pumpkin is really the only way to go for, well, anything. I bought some jarred pumpkin puree last week and it was quite inferior, especially in texture. Granted, if you want to make your own pumpkin puree, be that awesome person who’s a superhero of foodieness.
If you’re in a rush and don’t want to wait for your quinoa to cool in the fridge, just put it in a fine strainer and run it under cold water when it’s done cooking. Then let it drain a bit over a towel or such, and then plop it in!
I would highly suggest taste testing before baking in case you like yours more pumpkin spicy, salty, sweet, whatever. Also this stuff is really good before baking. I would probably eat a bowl of this if someone offered it to me.
This portion can also be achieved easily using an ice cream scoop. AKA one of my favorite kitchen tools.
I flattened them so that I could spread the Nutella easily, but if you want to keep them cute and round, that’s also a good life choice.
Just for the record, I do actually listen to showtunes while baking. This month’s obsession? The Last 5 Years :)
The quinoa reminds me of little jeweled beads. So pretty :)
…and then it get’s serious.
Here’s to shaking things up in breakfast and snackage :)
TRAVEL, FOOD ADVENTURES, AND OTHER UPDATES
This past week has been a whirlwind to say the least. Food adventures, visiting Paris, and so much life and learning. Unfortunately, while in Paris I experienced quite a few hiccups, anxiety, and frustration, leading to a generally negative experience of the city. However, I’m going to skip over those. I don’t even want to hear about those, so why would you? I’m just going to stick to the things I loved :)
But before we talk about Paris, let’s start with some more general food updates.
My most recent Facebook status was this: “fall to-do list. october/november: pumpkin and sweet potato. december: eggnog, hot chocolate, and gingerbread. all day erryday.” I have had a sweet potato every day that I have been in London for the past week and a half, and pumpkin at least 4 or 5 of those days. This is very real, people. For example…
Sweet potato quinoa cakes. Microwave a sweet potato until tender, mash and mix with a half cup of quinoa, pumpkin pie spice, a few currants, salt, and pepper, and sear with a bit of olive oil in a hot pan. Serve with a fried egg on top and a bed of veggies, and you have a warm, satisfying, healthy meal.
Or…sweet potato “chips”. Slice a sweet potato into thin slices, toss with a touch of olive oil, lay flat on a baking sheet, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, salt, and pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or longer for more crunch. Absolutely addicting and really good for you.
So basically i can’t get enough sweet potatoes, and they’re just so inexpensive for the delight they deliver. Yesterday I made some of these chips and pan-seared some banana slices for an added touch of sweetness. It was fantastic. Also, my room smells like pumpkin spice. All in the spirit of fall!
I went to the COOLEST ice cream parlor last week. Chin Chin Laboratorists. While I was there I had one of the most innovative and delicious ice creams i have EVER had. Made on the spot using liquid nitrogen (at negative 300-something degrees), this white chocolate pistachio ice cream is frozen so quickly that ice crystals can’t form–thus it is insanely creamy. Garnished with white chocolate covered chips (sweet and salty heaven) and you have blown my mind.
Yes, that is a Kitchenaid mixer steaming with liquid nitrogen and my ice cream. And the guy in the picture was so nice and really helpful in teaching me about the process. Here’s the final result. PURE HEAVEN. I will be going back before I leave London, without a doubt.
Last week I also went to the Bloomsbury Coffee House for the first time. It was lovely! It’s sort of tucked away under a hotel, and it’s really cozy and has a great atmosphere. For £2.50 you can get a french press coffee, which seems like a lot, but you actually get about two and a half cups of coffee out of the one french press, so it’s completely worth it. And it’s delicious. The strawberry white chocolate muffin that I had with it was also light and very flavorful. I will definitely be returning in the near future, as it’s on my way to school every day.
Alrighty, now for Paris. You might be appalled by how much I managed to consume while there. Keep in mind that this is probably one of 2 times that I will ever be in Paris in my lifetime (the next being in a couple weeks for a brief stint before heading off to Italy). Also, you may be surprised at how little savory food I had. Let’s just say that France is not vegetarian friendly at all. So I indulged in pastry and bread. And that was totally worth it. So, here we go.
The first night in Paris, my travel buddy and I went exploring a bit and found a little road consisting almost entirely of crêperies. I’m talking at least 10. I had the most difficult time deciding which to go to, because there were just so many adorable little places! But eventually we did go into a little one filled to the brim with Parisians, and I had the best crêpe that I have ever had. I asked the waiter for which was the most popular on the menu. He was so cute about it because I didn’t know one of the words and he was trying to translate for me but kept saying something that sounded like “pier”. Then he spelled it on his hand as “pear” and I understood. So kind. What I got was absolutely wonderful. It was a basic crepe filled with chocolate and roasted pears, then topped with sliced almonds and a scoop of decadent and creamy vanilla ice cream. It was absolutely heavenly and I savored every single bite. I’m fairly certain the people next to me had two courses of crêpes before I finished my one crêpe. Worth it. Also, my café au lait came with a chocolate covered almond. On a side note, the coffee in France is really, really good. As is the chocolate. That meal was incredible.
Poilâne: A little bakery on Rue Cherche-Midi, this place is home to some of the most famous bread in the world. Ever seen a loaf with a giant cursive “P” on it? That’s from Poilâne. I couldn’t afford a whole loaf, as it’s huge and twenty-something Euros and who would I share that giant loaf with? But I did get half of a mini-loaf, and it was DELICIOUS. Tangy and tender and so moist. I’m a devout bread-lover, so it was a real treat to start off my morning with that. That being said, I’m not a big baguette fan, as I don’t like my bread being all crust. Don’t get me wrong, I love crusts, but I also love the tender part of the bread, and there just isn’t enough in a baguette for my taste.
Pierre Hermé: On account of some of the previously mentioned hiccups, I ended up exploring Paris all by my lonesome on Sunday. But I was determined to make the absolute best of the day, and that had to involve as many pastries and breads as humanly possible. So, I started the morning with a stop at the Pierre Hermé boutique around the corner from my hotel. I got an assortment of 7 macaroons. I’d never had a macaroon before, so I was happy to let the lady behind the counter choose for me. I kept the little box unopened until arriving at the Eiffel Tower about a mile and a half away, then after a lovely pain au chocolat and a coffee on the middle level of the Eiffel Tower, I indulged in my very first French macaroon. And I swear on all that is good and true that the second that I took a bite of that chocolate-hazelnut macaroon, the sun came out for the first time since I had gotten to Paris. It was surreal. In that moment, I looked out from the Eiffel Tower over Paris, with the delicately crunchy, sweet macaroon melting on my tongue and my entire soul smiled. It may sound silly, but that was one of the most magical moments I have ever experienced. It was a dream come true, right then and there. I ended up finishing the entire box in about 2 hours. They were so good. Although, I must say that I prefer the chocolate and coffee flavored ones to the floral and fruity ones. Here they are!
Ladurée: I came across this pâtisserie quite by accident (although I’m pretty sure it’s quite famous), and took the opportunity to explore more sweet things. I got a chocolate éclair, a mini tarte framboise (raspberry), and a croissant. Of course, I ate them all in the next few hours. Judge me. The éclair was my favorite of the three, although all were excellent. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of all of them, but the éclair was just so light and decadent, and the chocolate filling was so rich and pure–like a dark, sultry cloud. The croissant was flaky, the ends were delightfully crispy, and the taste of pure butter pervaded its many, many layers. And the tarte was refreshing and creamy. Also, on a separate note, the shop was absolutely adorable and the people were so friendly. In my travels throughout the city I found many of the Parisians to be quite the opposite of friendly, so it was really refreshing to be met with so many smiles. Here’s the tarte:
I also went to a few other foodie places, but I either don’t remember the names or wasn’t that impressed by them. I had a delectable triple chocolate mousse creation, a somewhat unsatisfying panne cotta, and a few unappealing vegetarian entrées. All in all, for a vegetarian I would say to stick with the pastry and sweets, and buy your meals at a grocery store unless you can find a really, really nice place with more of an eye toward meat-free dishes. If you do eat meat, explore away, my friend–I’m certain the city will not disappoint.
Well, all of this being said, I think I’ll give you a little more of my Paris trip just in pictures. I saw a bunch of really fantastic sights, and I will never forget those experiences. The Eiffel Tower was definitely my favorite (both seeing it glitter in the night sky and climbing those stairs to eat breakfast and watch the sun come out over Paris), closely followed by Notre Dame, which was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never been a huge art buff so my experience at the Louvre was mostly touristy and brief, although I must admit that Mona Lisa’s smile did stick in my mind for some hours afterward. Whether or not the trip was what I had dreamed it would be, I got to see some really incredible things and enjoyed some incredible pastry–the memories of which will be with me forever.
My favorite :)
The stained glass inside is SO BEAUTIFUL. For me, it was like stepping inside the story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Both the novel and the Disney movie. I love them both.
I have just realized that I should have tried to mimic the smile. Ah well.
Well those are the major ones! For Facebook friends who desire more pictures, there are more on there, but I believe this will suffice for now. Until next time!!