Tag Archives: baked goods

Brunch: Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata Recipe

25 Jan

I relish in a good weekend brunch but sometimes the struggle to find a reservation, battle the weather, or even worse… wait an hour, makes hunkering down to a comfy, conversation-friendly meal at home way more appealing.

Strata is a layered casserole, usually including eggs, cheese and bread. Although it requires a little planning ahead, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser. Prepared ahead of time and baked in the oven, it requires no fussy juggling between entertaining and cooking. You literally prep it the day before, let it sit overnight, and throw it in the oven an hour before your guests arrive.

The recipe below is adapted from Gourmet (RIP). My version is a little healthier using WAY less cheese (and low-fat), whole wheat bread, 1% milk instead of whole, and as many organic ingredients as possible. It was still delicious although you definitely taste the tang of the whole wheat. If you don’t love whole wheat’s sour nature, you may want to go 50/50 (white/whole wheat) but I enjoyed the contrast against all the dairy. Of course, you can go to the original recipe for the full-fat version.

And yes some of you may remember strata making quite a scene in a 2005 holiday movie. Any guesses?

Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata

Adapted from Gourmet (sniffle), February 2003 via Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8


1 (10 ounce) package organic frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped organic onion (1 large)
Less than 1T just for prepping baking pan
Salt & pepper (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed organic whole wheat baguette in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
1 to 1.5 cups shredded organic low-fat chedder or Gruyere (3-4 oz)
1/2 c finely grated parmesan
2 3/4 cups organic 1 % milk
9 large organic eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard


1. Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Sauteed onions and spinach

2. Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Tip: When you finish a stick of butter, save the wrapper to grease pans. Or you can always lightly dip a paper towel in softened butter to prep a pan. You can also spray lightly with canola oil. Top with one-third of bread cubes,one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

Prepped Spinach and Cheese Strata

4. The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yummers!!! Don’t forget the hot sauce!

Spinach and Cheese Whole Wheat Strata

Mixed Berries


1 cup of each organic berry (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Orange zest

Juice from 1/2 to 1 orange

2T chiffonade of mint


1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. If berries aren’t sweet, drizzle 1 T maple syrup (only if needed). Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mixed Berries


Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

23 Jun

I rarely venture above 23rd street, so when I had to go to the Upper East Side the other day, I made a few stops along the way. First on my hit list? Candle Cafe!! I didn’t have time to indulge in a full-fledged meal, but I got the Green Goddess juice which boosted my spirits. (I’m sure this guy would appreciate looking like he’s scratching his butt in the picture below. He’s actually just putting his wallet in his pocket, but my version is funnier).

Candle Cafe NYC

Look how vibrant and beautifully green the juice is!!

Green Goddess Juice at Candle Cafe. Mixed Greens, Apple, Lemon, and Ginger.

I swung by Beanocchio for a soy latte and couldn’t resist these delicious coconut macaroons.

Raw Almond Vegan Macaroons at Beanocchio

And they’re even heart-shaped (-ish)! So cute.

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons at Beanocchio

They were sweet, but not cloying, and held together perfectly. I love raw cookies and bars because I don’t feel gross after I eat them. They aren’t packed with processed sugars and artificial ingredients that can send your body into a frenzy. Plus, raw desserts are filling and satisfying. They’re typically high in protein, good fats, and fiber, which means I don’t get the urge to binge on 50 of them. It’s not about the calories, it’s about the quality of the ingredients.

I took a stab at making my own raw vegan macaroons. Next time, I think I’ll try chocolate covered ones. Mmmmmmmm.

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons Recipe


1 cup almonds (soaked for 1 hour)

1/2 cup toasted unsweetened, low-fat organic coconut

1/2 cup unsweetened, low-fat, organic coconut

1/4 cup agave


1. Soak the almonds. Drain, disposing of liquid. Reserve almonds.

2. Toast coconut in a small saute pan over low heat.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

4. Put all ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground and begins to hold together.

5. Using a tablespoon, scoop mounds of the mixture and place onto prepared baking sheet. Note: when scooping, be sure to press mixture into the tablespoon to ensure it forms a mound and holds together. If the mixture is sticking in the spoon, have a cup of hot water to dip the spoon into between scoops.

6. Refrigerate for one hour. These little mounds of joy were soft but held together, even when bitten into. They tasted even better on the second day.

7. Eat!!

Raw Vegan Coconut Almond Macaroons

Last Day to Check Out Martha Stewart’s Pie Pop-Up Shop NYC

27 Mar

The “pop-up” store/stand/restaurant is the buzzy marketing tactic of the moment. We’re seeing them all over Manhattan so it was only a matter of time until Martha Stewart had one. To launch her latest book, Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts, Martha Stewart’s Pie Pop-Up Shop opened Saturday in the Little Owl’s event venue. This weekend only, from 10am-6pm, people can flock to the shop to stuff their pie-holes. Kind of ironic that it’s right next to Equinox.

Martha Stewart's Pie Pop-Up Shop Entrance

Close-Up of Entrance

I’m not the biggest pie/tart fan, and this obvi was not vegan paradise, but I’m a sucker for foodie events so had to check it out so I could share with all of you!!

I spent a total of MAYBE 15 minutes there. It was small and crowded. I went straight for the pies and was disappointed to see there wasn’t much left at 1pm.

Depleted Pie Case

Saturday's Pie Menu (at 1pm)

All the fruit pies were gone. I got the last coconut cream pie and snagged a vegetable tart, and a spinach feta turnover.

The coconut pie was I-N-S-A-N-E. Toasted coconut on whipped cream…mmmm soooo coconuty, rich, and creamy. The chocolate cookie pie crust was delicious, think it had some coconut in it, but the sandy texture didn’t hold together at all. Luckily, I could use the thick filling to pick up any crust stragglers. I was still so surprised how much I loved this one, I’m considering going back for another.

Coconut Cream Pie

I intended to only have two bites. Ooops.

Leftover Coconut Cream Pie

The Vegetable Tart with zucchini, tomato and red onion looked gorgeous, but was disappointing. It was bland and when I bit into it, the vegetables completely deserted the tart, leaving the crust naked. I had no problem only having a bite of this one.

Vegetable Tart

I thought the Spinach Feta Turnover was going to be boring, but I was blown away by the soft, pillowy, dough. The large salt crystals on the outside reminded me of a pretzel croissant which I adore.

Spinach Feta Turnover

The filling itself was not memorable. I really didn’t taste any feta in here so they either missed this one or there just wasn’t much there to begin with. I could have eaten a basket full of just the turnover dough.

Inside of Spinach Feta Turnover

In the back they have a demo kitchen where they’re making fresh batches of pies and answering questions. [No, there weren’t any Ms. Stewart sightings while I was there]. We were informed that the eggs in the bowl were of course, fresh-picked from Martha’s farm.

Putting Egg Wash on the Rhubarb Pie

Explaining Use of Beans as Weights in Pie Crust Baking

If you’re in the neighborhood today, it’s worth swinging by to grab a snack. They’re mini, personal pie size at $3.00 each. Yesterday they limited to one pie per person (I interpreted that as one FLAVOR per person). The pie shop is open until 6pm today so take advantage of this beautifully sunny day and make it a pietastic Sunday!

If you get a chance to go, please share your experience here. What did you think? I’d love to hear about any other flavors I didn’t try, or thoughts on those I did.

MS Pie Pop-Up Shop, photo from MarthaStewart.com

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

23 Mar

I keep going bananas for bananas. I bought the last bunch intending to freeze them for smoothies/ice cream/snacks, and the next thing I know, I look on the counter and they are brown. WTH happened? Anyway, I couldn’t let them go to waste so that meant one thing… banana bread!! I found a recipe on Food52 and vegan-ized it.

Now don’t get all weirded out that it’s vegan. Open minds people!! I don’t eat anything that taste like poo and will never sacrifice taste no matter what. Healthy, natural, low-fat (no oils), low-cholesterol food can taste amazing too. I guarantee you wouldn’t know this was vegan…next time I won’t tell you.

I used vegan margarine instead of butter and added a fourth banana to ensure the bread was moist. [Ugh. Still hate the word moist.] I also found a fantastic egg substitute. There are products available like Ener-G Egg Replacer which has the following ingredients: potato starch, tapioca starch flour, leavening (calcium lactate [not derived from dairy], calcium carbonate, citric acid), sodium carboxymethylcellulose, methylcellulose. I avoid consuming things I cannot pronounce, so I looked for natural egg replacements. Peta has a great list here. I decided to try the flax egg since it’s simple, I had the ingredients on hand, and I liked the idea of adding in nutrients instead of replacing them with chemicals.

I’ve made quite a few banana breads and was shocked how well this came out. This recipe just proves that tasty food can be healthy, and vegan. This wasn’t just good for a VEGAN banana bread, it was great for any banana bread. It was moist on the inside, with a crispy, brown, carmelized crust. I mashed the bananas but kept it somewhat chunky so there are little bits of banana threaded throughout the bread. Deeee-lish!

I had a couple pieces and had to send the rest to the hubbie’s office for fear I’d eat the entire loaf in one sitting. From what I heard, they didn’t have any issues devouring it either…and I don’t think anyone knew it was vegan. You could adjust this recipe a million ways by substituting the chocolate chips with dried cranberries or cherries, or adding nuts if that’s your thing. I’m generally anti-nut in baked goods or ice cream. If you make any adjustments, please share in the comments!!

This recipe was also simple and quick. The batter came together in less than 30 minutes, then you pop it in the oven and wait for your home to smell fantastic.

Happy baking 🙂

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Makes (1) two-pound loaf
  • 3 tablespoons vegan margarine, melted
  • 4 large, ripe organic bananas mashed
  • 1 flax egg (3 T water & 1 T ground flax seed)
  • 3/4 cups organic vanilla cane sugar (or regular sugar) *
  • 1 cup organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup organic semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon organic premium vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and coat a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan with canola oil spray.

2. Peel the bananas and in a large mixing bowl, mash them well with a fork. Stir in the sugar and vanilla.

Mashed Bananas

Vanilla Sugar

3. Make the flax egg. Heat the 3 T water in the microwave until warm (about 30 sec). Stir the ground flax seed into the water. Add the flax egg to the bananas and mix thoroughly. Add the margarine.

Adding Flax Egg

4. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the chocolate chips to the dry mixture tossing to ensure they’re completed coated with dry mix. This will prevent them from sinking during the baking process. Fold the dry ingredients gently into the wet, mixing just until you no longer see any streaks of raw flour. (Do not over-mix, or the banana bread will be tough!)

Whisking Dry Ingredients

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and let rest for five minutes. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean and the bread is just starting to come away from the sides of the pan.

Banana Bread Batter

Batter in the Loaf Pan

6. Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto the rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The bread has a lovely, crisp crust when it’s fresh. You can wrap leftovers in foil to store. This bread definitely tastes best the first day as it loses it’s crisp crust by day two but still has that delicious banana taste!

Hot out of the oven

Mmmm check out that big banana chunk

Chocolate Chips Galore!

*To make vanilla sugar, simply add a vanilla bean to a canister of sugar. I never take the bean out and just keep refilling the canister with fresh sugar. This is an easy way to add that extra something to baked goods as well as tea, coffee, or homemade cocoa.

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