A little charcoal to set myself right

You know, this business of eating all the time so I have material to write about (both here and on my new blog-specific Instagram account that you should definitely follow and aggressively like if you don’t already) is serious work.

I mean, no, not work work, because sadly no one’s paying me to do this (just yet) but a lot does go into it… and by “it” I mean my body. A lot goes into my body. A lot of food and drinks constantly go into my body.

And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but every once in a while, especially if it’s after a busy weekend or time spent out of town, I feel the effects: tired, bloated, a little more snug in my skinny jeans, and if I go for a run, leaden.

I try to clean up my eating, cut back on the bad stuff, and guzzle water, but sometimes I need a little something extra. This week, coming back from a long weekend in Miami, I turned to charcoal. Not the kind they use at the hospital to pump your stomach (because, shit, I’m not that bad) but the kind I’m starting to see more often these days, usually in drinks, which is how I had it.

According to what I’ve read on the interwebs— and by all means, please do your own research cause I’m far from a pro— activated charcoal, which you can take in capsule form or as an ingredient in something else, attaches itself to bad stuff in your system, be it toxins, gunk in your GI tract, booze, chemicals, etc. and helps your body flush it out, making it handy for detoxing, kidney filtration, bouncing back from a hangover or just cleaning the pipes after too good of a time had.

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When I saw a bottled charcoal chai on the menu at Inday, where I was ordering my lunch from earlier this week, I was immediately on board. Without fail I hit a proverbial wall every day around 2pm and with all the face stuffing, running around and not sleeping enough that I’ve been doing in the past week or so, I knew I was about to slam into that wall again.

Charcoal drinks can be offputting in appearance and this one was no different, looking pretty much like the water that fills my tub when I hand-scrub my sneakers after a few months of outdoor runs. But thanks to masala chai and honey, it had a mild, smooth flavor that was gently sweet and almost silky in consistency. I was full from lunch when I drank it some time after, and whether placebo or not, I it made me feel better, less full, more hydrated.

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Then this morning, as I ran out the door with beads of sweat all over my face from my sweltering apartment, I started to have an internal freak out thinking about what the subway was going to be like. To soothe my brewing anxiety and honestly just cool off a bit, I popped into Grass Roots Juicery for something to sip on the train. (Side note: a sign on their door said they were hiring and for a nano second I thought about it because I really do love them so much.)

Still feeling good about the charcoal chai, I picked up Grass Roots’ black lemonade, another inky beverage of activated charcoal, lemon, honey and cayenne pepper. Gimmick or not, this is one of my favorite drinks there and a real thirst-quencher that never disappoints. Unlike Inday’s subtle, softer drink, the black lemonade is bold and bright in flavor, with a little kick from the cayenne pepper and lots of sweet tang from the lemon and honey.

Yea, this could just be the latest “it” drink, another fad in the health world, but again, even if it only works as a placebo, it still works, right? Both drinks are good and I’ll definitley have them again when I’m feeling stuffed, heavy and overindulged… which I suspect won’t be too far in the future for me.

You had me at butter croissant soft serve

The internet is full of wild, over the top food creations, each one trying to outdo the others in terms of flavor combinations, toppings, colors, or size. Most of the time, when I see them on Instagram or other sites, I scroll on by, shrugging as I go, sometimes amused but otherwise uninterested.

But let me be real clear, that is NOT what happened when I read about a croissant butter soft serve at Supermoon Bakehouse in the Lower East Side. My eyes widened, my mouth watered, and I immediately checked which train would get me there fastest as soon as I left work that day.

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Doin’ it for the Gram… and for my insane sweet tooth.

looove soft serve ice cream, and last week when New York was hotter than Satan’s armpit, I would’ve been happy to eat it for every meal. I also love a good plain buttery croissant, which is what really got my attention here. Sure almond is great and chocolate is obviously in a league of its own but a classic croissant with it’s soft middle and buttery, flaky outside is just the best. So a dessert that combined both? C’mon. I HAD TO.

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Read, eat and be merry

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A recent summer day of burgers, beers and babies.

Nothing like one day off in the middle of the week to throw everything off, right? I mean, listen, I’m not complaining (because a day off is a day off) but like someone pointed out to me post Fourth of July, it felt like this week had two Mondays. Yuck. Either way, the weekend is upon us again, and thank God. Here’s a few more links to what I’m reading… you know, should you find yourself lazying in the sun or holed up indoors with the AC with nothing but Instagram to fill your screen.

  • The dog days are here and with them my nearly unquenchable thirst for frozen drinks. I think I’m going to print this list from Eater and get cracking. I like to be a girl with a plan, ya know? (That’s actually not true. I have no plans, ever.)
  • Stories that weave actual life with food give me the warm and fuzzies. This story from Taste made my heart ache and my belly growl. Life, right?
  • A piece in the NY Times food section asked if America was ready to love cottage cheese again. Uhm, when did we stop? I know I haven’t. I freakin’ love the stuff.
  • Listen, I love avocado toast just as much as the next millennial, but if artichoke toast is trying to become a thing, I’m all about giving that a shot too, cause I love artichokes and don’t eat them nearly as much. Avocados probably need a break anyway, no?
  • The first time I had Campari, I thought it was awful, but over the years I’ve grown to really like it, which is why this grapefruit and Campari pie sounds pretty freakin’ good to me. Am I gonna end up eating a whole pie by myself?

Where pies go when they die

“This must be where pies go when they die” reads a small hand-painted sign next to the door at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Park Slope. And truly, it must be.

It’s also not far from what I imagine one version of heaven might look like either, depending who you are. If you like a pie shop that’s simple and cozy, just perfectly worn in and charmingly old fashioned, where you can sit at an old wooden table and be wrapped in the smells of butter and vanilla and coffee while you dig a fork into a wedge of pie so good it feels like God himself might’ve slipped it down to you through a break in the clouds, then yea, you must be where pies go when they die.

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Pecan pie’s never been my favorite but this bittersweet chocolate pecan could change my mind.

I know I tend to speak in hyperbole when it comes to food, but the pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds are deserving. I’ve had seven or eight different kinds, sometimes at the shop on a little white plate with a metal fork, other times in a to-go container when I couldn’t stay, and sometimes from the plastic packaging they come in when you order from grocery delivery service, Fresh Direct. They’ve all been delicious.

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Coffee custard pie with fresh whipped cream. A dream.

Their chocolate chess pie was velvety and rich, the chocolate custard like a perfect pudding cozying up to a buttery, flaky crust. The Salty Honey pie was pure decadence, all butter, caramelized sugar and honey, sea salt sprinkled on top like snowflakes. The matcha was silky and calming, the bittersweet chocolate pecan gooey and indulgent, the coffee custard like a perfectly, creamy coffee in pie form.

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Lemon lavender pie, not at all floral, just creamy, summery sweet.

Every time I’ve gone to the little shop on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, I’ve wanted to stay for hours. And every time I’ve had a mouthful of Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie I’ve thought, “My God this tastes like heaven.”

Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

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The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

Be here. Have cake.

I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately about living in a different city, and possibly because it was the last place I visited and because I loved it so much, my reveries have mostly been about New Orleans.

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Get you a friend who can bake

I spent a week there with friends during the holidays and a few weeks after my trip, The New York Times released its annual 52 Places To Go list, and whaddaya know? New Orleans snagged the number one spot of places to go for “escaping into the world.”

That happens to be exactly what I want to do, but since I can’t at the moment, I’m mostly just going to daydream about it. And because no daydream about New Orleans would be complete without food, that’s where my mind often wanders.

Since we’re in the time of year after Epiphany (Jan. 6) leading up to Mardi Gras (Feb. 13 this year) known as Carnival, I wanted to get my hands on some king cake, a traditional treat served all over New Orleans this time of year. When I saw that Joy the Baker, one of my favorite food bloggers who also happens to live in New Orleans, had her own recipe, I had a better idea: solicit the help of my talented baker extraordinaire friend, Stas, and make one ourselves.

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King cake in the making

She had most of the ingredients already (cause that’s just the kind of always-prepared-for-cake kind of badass she is) and I added the rest, mainly the fun accessories, Mardi Gras colored sprinkles (purple, green and yellow) and a historically accurate baby Jesus figurine.

King cakes are served in lots of other countries  (mostly the Catholic ones) and come in  different varieties but for the most part the New Orleans kind is a cinnamon roll-like doughy treat covered with frosting, and usually includes a small plastic baby hidden somewhere inside.

Stas had already made the dough when I came over, so we rolled it out and then made a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to spread over it before sprinkling it with pecans, rolling the whole thing up and shaping into a giant ring. She then sliced it and twisted each slice so it made kind of a big, wonky looking flower, which we let sit for a bit before popping in the oven. Once it had risen and turned a nice, golden brown, we took it out, covered it in cream cheese frosting, topped it with the Mardi Gras colored sprinkles and plopped a little brown baby on top. (We didn’t hide him inside because we weren’t sure if he’d melt and we weren’t trying to do baby J like that.)

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Unto them a delicious cake was baked!

It was deliciously doughy and sweet, the comforting smell of  cinnamon and nutmeg wrapping us up in a warm hug as we tore off chunks of cake and licked globs of cream cheese frosting from our fingers. Sometimes it just takes a good friend and a warm, fresh cake to put my reveries on hold and make me happy being exactly where I am.

Easy and sweet, how life should be

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Cannoli always make me happy

A small selection of things I love:

  • cannoli
  • ice cream
  • when things are easy

Any one of these alone would make me happy, but when I found a recipe that combined all three to make no-churn cannoli ice cream? I was over the freakin’ moon!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Plated, the weekly subscription service that sends me detailed, easy-to-follow, illustrated instructions and the ingredients that go with them in the exact quantities needed to turn out delicious and impressive meals. They’ve recently started offering dessert options, which I usually skip because I’m lazy and making dinner is enough effort for me, but when I saw cannoli ice cream I could actually make myself, without a crazy ice cream maker, I had to try it.

I’ve never felt confident enough in any recipe to say I could duplicate it without reading the original directions.  I still consult the box when making mac and cheese and have to Google how long to boil eggs every single time I make them.

But no-churn cannoli ice cream? I now have it down pat!

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I made this! And it was so good and so easy that I’ll do it a million times more!

Crush a bunch of pistachios and break up a couple of cannoli shells. Then whisk a cup of heavy cream for about 5 minutes until it forms little peaks and you feel you’ve gotten the most intense arm workout of your life (or you can use a hand mixer), then add in a mini container worth of sweetened condensed milk and a creamy blob of ricotta cheese and blend together. Next, toss in the pistachio bits and crunchy shell chunks and pour into a mold (like the 8×8 disposable aluminum one Plated so kindly sent me). Cover with a sheet of parchment paper (which Plated also sent me, almost like they know I don’t own any of this stuff and would be lost without them) and pop in the freezer for about an hour until it sets.

Right before you decide to eat your creamy concoction of frozen deliciousness, melt some chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave, or if you’re like me and don’t own one, in a small pot on the stove, and pour the delicious smelling chocolatey syrup all over your ice cream.

So. Incredibly. Eeeeeasy. Why can’t everything in life be so simple and delicious? I want to make this again and again, and have it with every meal and for every person who ever steps foot into my apartment.

Things are hard enough these days if you ask me. We all deserve this.