Saturday, September 12, 2015

HOMEMADE EATS: SPINACH MUFFINS

If your nose is wrinkled in disgust or straight-up skepticism after reading that title, I understand. This recipe is undoubtably a wonky one, but if you're curious enough, I encourage you to give it a try before mentally crumpling it into a ball and tossing it into the "Never Gonna Happen" section of your brain.  

Delicious and healthy can be a happy couple, and this recipe is evidence of that. 



Without a fail, spinach is a staple of my diet. If you were to come over to my apartment now and peep into my fridge, you would, without a doubt, find a giant container of this green stuff I speak of. I throw spinach in everything -- tomato sauce, omelettes, smoothies, muffins... 

I know what you're thinking: spinach in muffins? Seriously?

The answer is yes, my friend. I put spinach in muffins. And it is delicious. 





While I was staying in New York this summer, I frequented a health-conscious juice bar chain called Juice Generation. One day, as I was waiting to pay for my juice, I laid eyes on a bright green muffin in the pastry case. 

"What is that green thing?" I pointed at the muffin that looked as though it were dressed for a St. Patrick's Day celebration. 

The cashier chuckled and told me it was kale muffin. 

With a grumbling stomach and eyes wide with curiosity, I purchased it immediately. 

Long story short, I fell in love with Juice Generation's kale muffins. It was a foodie New York love story.



Funnily enough, I'm not a fan of kale. I never buy kale --I find it to be very bitter and overall, unenjoyable. 

As earlier mentioned, I always have tons of spinach on hand. So upon returning to Toronto (and my beloved kitchen), I decided to give homemade spinach muffins a go to satisfy my green muffin obsession. 

I tried two different recipes that I found online and was fairly disappointed by both. The muffins tasted bland and boring. And so, I began experimenting with my own ingredients. 

Here's what I came up with...




Makes 16 muffins.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
ingredients 
-1 cup of spinach, packed 
-2 ripe bananas, cut into slices 
-2 tablespoons coconut oil (plus extra for greasing tin)
-3/4 cup raw sugar 
-1 tablespoon maple syrup
-3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce 
-2 large eggs 
-2 cups all-purpose flour 
-3 teaspoons baking powder 
-2 teaspoons baking soda 
-2 tablespoons ground flaxseed 

tools/equipment
-blender or food processor
-muffin tin 
-large bowl for mixing 
-spatula or spoon to combine wet & dry ingredients
-spoon to scoop mix into tin


WHAT TO DO:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Grease muffin tin with coconut oil. 

3. Put spinach, banana slices, coconut oil, raw sugar, maple syrup, applesauce and eggs into blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

4. Put the rest of the ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground flaxseed) in large mixing bowl. Combine. 

5. Gradually add the blended wet ingredients to the dry ones in the mixing bowl. Mix using a spoon or spatula. Repeat until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. 

6. Using a spoon (or your fingers --whatever works for you), scoop the mixture into the greased muffin tin. 

7. Bake at 350° F for approximately 17 minutes. When finished, there should be a slight bit of golden browning, as pictured. 

8. After 17 minutes, take the muffins out of the oven and let cool for approximately 3 minutes. 

Your (likely) slightly-strange looking, but oh-so-intriguing spinach muffins are ready to enjoy! 

Please let me know if you give this recipe a try either in the comments below, tweeting me @thegirlinpolkas or by shooting me an e-mail at thegirlinpolkadots.connect@gmail.com. I would love to know your thoughts about this unconventional recipe. 


This is definitely the most out-there recipe I've tried so far. What about you? What's the strangest thing you've made?  Were you pleasantly surprised? Share your story below. 

Happy baking! 
-R

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

ON THE DOT: AUGUST 2015

This August was filled with seemingly infinite replays of Florence + The Machine's new album (SO good!), more ice cream cones than I care to admit and days spent exploring the urban beauty of Brooklyn.

Below, a bit more on the things I felt were "on the dot" throughout the month...


May your September be filled with awesomeness! 
-R

Photo credit: The photo of Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine is from here

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Friday, August 21, 2015

WHAT I WORE: BAREFOOT & BACKLESS

After spending nearly two months in the city that never sleeps, a strong longing for a day of fresh air and quiet fell over me. Though I love that New York has a wealth of activities and people, after adventuring around the city on a nearly daily basis, I craved a day where I did nothing but enjoy being in the presence of nature -- as cheesy as that sounds. 

One Friday afternoon, my boyfriend and I hopped on a ferry at Wall Street and an hour and a half later, arrived at Sandy Hook Beach. The constant orchestra of taxi horns honking and the chatter of crowds were replaced with the sound of crashing waves and birds gleefully singing. Right then and there I thought, mission accomplished.









OUTFIT DETAILS:
HAT: URBAN OUTFITTERS (SIMILAR)
PURSE: FOREVER 21 (SIMILAR)

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

HOMEMADE EATS: ZINGY GREEN SMOOTHIE BOWL

Sometimes a cup of caffeine or a splash of ice water isn't enough to get me up and going in the morning. The z's continue to linger over my head and I'm left feeling stuck in a funk. When this happens, I know it's time to bring out the big guns -- aka my zingy green smoothie recipe. 


Thanks to a heaping dose of ginger, this green smoothie has a bit of a kick to it. I find the slightly bitter taste of ginger plus the sweet and sour citrus notes from the orange juice really help me snap out of slumber mode and into "awake and ready to conquer the day" mode.

I like to have this smoothie bowl in the morning for breakfast or as a midday pick-me-up when I need to refresh.


Makes 1 large smoothie.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
smoothie
-1 handful washed spinach leaves
-1 handful broccoli florets
-1 handful frozen pineapple pieces
-1 tablespoon ginger
-1/2 cup pulp-free orange juice 

toppings (all optional)
-sliced strawberries
-raw pumpkin seeds
-unsalted almonds
-organic raw cocoa nibs

tools
-a blender

WHAT TO DO:
1. Add frozen pineapple, frozen broccoli florets, spinach and ginger to blender.

2. Add orange juice. Be sure to leave about an inch of the ingredients free of liquid to ensure a thicker consistency.

3. Blend on high until the consistency is smooth. 

4. Pour smoothie into a bowl of choice and top with cocoa nibs, sliced strawberries, raw pumpkin seeds, and almonds. 

Are you a fan of the green smoothie trend? What's your favourite smoothie recipe?
Leave your answer in the comments below.

-R

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Friday, August 14, 2015

NYC EATS: THE ICE CREAM I SCREAM FOR

Ice cream is basically a chilled cloud of milky heaven atop a crunchy cone (or cup --hey, whatever floats your boat!) and in my books, an essential part of surviving the sweltering heat of summer. So naturally when I knew I'd be spending the summer in NYC (aka foodie heaven) I ended up going on a serious hunt seeking the best of the beloved cool treat in the city. As a result, I've gotten to know a fair share of ice cream hot spots in the city.

Behold, my two cents on the top ice creameries I've given a go so far in NYC.

Ample Hills Creamery ice cream. Left: "Salted Crack Caramel" & "Snap Mallow Pop" in a chocolate chip cone, right: "Nonna D's Oatmeal Lace" & "Bourbon St" in a pretzel cone

AMPLE HILLS CREAMERY - If I were to recommend only a single ice creamery in New York, it would be Ample Hills Creamery. As their website states: "Most ice cream shops either buy a mix of these ingredients already pasteurized, or simply sell pre-made ice cream... Ample Hills was the first to pasteurize on site in New York City and one of the few places that make ice cream this way." (source) The result is super fresh ice cream.

Ample Hills continues to stand out from the ice creamery crowd with their unique, ever-changing range of flavours. Take, for example, "The Munchies": a pretzel-infused ice cream with clusters of Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&Ms (it is undoubtably one of the best ice creams I have ever had). 

Tip: Give yourself a good while to look over the flavours before ordering. If your experience is anything like mine, making a decision will be very, very difficult (aka I wish there was an option to order them all).

Shoutout to my fellow foodie friend, Lindsay, for introducing me to Ample Hills! 

Caramel sea salt and vanilla burnt honey ice cream from Morgenstern's

MORGENSTERN'S - Though Morgenstern's is a classic-looking spot dawned with tile floors and gleaming white counters, the ice cream flavours Morgenstern's are known for are a few scoops away from classic.

Instead of simply sticking to the flavours we all know, Morgenstern's offers intriguing variations on those traditional flavours. The menu is divided up by vanillas, chocolates, caramels, Counter Culture Coffee flavours and specials. There are five variations of vanilla, four takes on chocolate and three different caramel flavours.

When we went, we ordered two scoops: one of caramel sea salt and another of vanilla burnt honey. Both were delightfully delicious and unlike any other ice cream we had tried before. The ice cream tasted lighter, but the flavour wasn't compromised at all. I later read that Morgenstern's recipe includes lower butterfat and sugar content because, according to the owner, high amounts of butterfat and sugar “completely coat your palate and block the tongue’s ability to detect flavour." (source) Um, I'll take five please. 

Dominique Ansel Kitchen's burrata cheese soft serve ice cream

DOMINIQUE ANSEL KITCHEN - When I read that Dominique Ansel, celebrated pastry chef of cronut fame, had created a burrata cheese soft serve ice cream topped with balsamic caramel and basil in a honey tuile cone,  I was very skeptical. The thought of savoury ice cream set off an eruption of question marks in my mind. After a lot of research and hearing nothing but positive critiques, I decided to give in to the hype (and my curiosity) and gave said ice cream a try. 

To my shock, the set of eyebrow-raising ingredients worked together perfectly. The thin, sweet, and wafter-like crunch of the honey tuile cone; the slight tang of the burrata cheese; the aromatic zing of sweetness thanks to the balsamic caramel; the distinct but subtle hit of basil... just the thought of it is making my mouth water!

 My final verdict: this ice cream deserves every bit of hype it is getting and is an absolute must-try. 


Momofuku Milk Bar's cereal milk soft serve

MOMOFUKU MILK BARAs a cereal lover, I fell head over heels for Milk Bar's cereal milk soft serve ice cream. This treat can be best described as a swankier ice cream version of eating a bowl of Cap'N Crunch cereal (though the cereal is actually cornflakes with brown sugar, it reminds me of Cap'N Crunch). The tartness of the ice cream and the contrasting crunchy sweetness of the crushed brown sugar cornflakes tastes the way I imagine ice cream heaven would. It's definitely one of my favourite ice creams I've had to date. 

There are several Milk Bar locations in NYC, some of which carry soft serve flavours specifically exclusive to the store. I have yet to try the other flavours, but have heard excellent things in my research. 

"American Globs" and "Bea Arthur" from Big Gay Ice Cream

BIG GAY ICE CREAMBig Gay is known for their creative, far-from-traditional toppings served atop traditional fluffy soft serve ice cream. The toppings are pretty much as wild as you can imagine: from cayenne, to pumpkin butter, to spicy hot chocolate, to toasted curried coconut -- this is definitely ice cream for open-minded foodie adventurers looking to experiment. 

During our visit to the East Village location, my boyfriend went for the "Bea Arthur" (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, crushed nilla wafters), while I ordered the "American Globs" (vanilla ice cream, pretzels, sea salt, chocolate dip). Both were delicious, though we both ultimately preferred my boyfriend's pick. 

If you're a soft-serve lover who wants to try a different take on the beloved treat, definitely check out Big Gay. 


Mister Softee's vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles

MISTER SOFTEE - I was expecting Mr. Softee to be subpar --because really, how good can ice cream from such a large ice cream truck chain really be? I was completely wrong. The vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles, though simple, was thoroughly satisfying. Though it certainly isn't the best soft serve I had in New York, I still wouldn't shy away from it in a pinch. If you see a Mister Softee ice cream truck while in NYC and are a fan of soft serve ice cream, I'd suggest giving it a go.


To any reading fellow ice cream lovers, which ice cream in this post made you drool the most? And to any New York readers: have I missed out any ice cream gems? Give me the scoop in the comments below. 


May your weekend be filled with plenty of ice cream.
-R

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

WHAT I WORE: LAID-BACK SUNDAY IN BROOKLYN

Sunday morning I woke up excited to spend the day exploring Brooklyn with my boyfriend. However, another side of me -- the internal lazy girl -- tugged back in protest, tempting me to stay in the comfort of my pyjamas for the day. 

Looking to beat my internal lazy girl and instead bring out the wannabe fashion girl side of me, I took a cue from my previous fashion post ("3 WAYS TO STYLE OVERALLS") and paired my TopShop overall dress with a lacy strapless bra. It was a no-brainer, throw-on-and-go-but-still-look-lovely outfit. 

While the overall dress is a couple of sizes too big (I got it for half price at a recent sale and plan to get it tailored), I felt like it balanced out the obviously form-fitting, exposed lace bra. Also, I knew I'd be attending Smorgasburg and likely forming a food baby later on, so the oversized overall dress worked doubly well as both a belly disguiser and outfit neutralizer.











OUFIT DETAILS
OVERALL DRESS: TOPSHOP
BRA: LA SENZA 
SHOES: H&M (SIMILAR)
SUNGLASSES: TOPSHOP

Wishing you a wonderful week,
-R

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Friday, August 7, 2015

HOMEMADE EATS: BANANA PEANUT BUTTER SLICES

You know the drill: it's 3 pm and your stomach is growling. You had lunch a few hours ago, and dinner is still a couple of hours away. Your brain screams "WHY MUST YOU BE HUNGRY NOW, BODY?!" then you settle into an infuriating internal conflict of whether you should stuff your face with the first thing you see that relatively resembles food or continue to listen to your tummy grumble in protest. 

When this almost daily crisis hits, I like to whip up a healthy snack to tie me over until dinner time. My go-to snack of choice is banana peanut butter slices. They can be made in under 5 minutes and are suuuuper satisfying. 

Open-faced banana peanut butter slices. Also pictured: homemade green smoothie. 

This recipe also works well for breakfast. I often make it as a side dish and pair it with chia pudding and a smoothie.

Adding dark chocolate, cocoa nibs and/or honey could give the recipe a healthier dessert vibe as well. The options are endless; experiment and have fun!

One more little tip: I like to eat this snack in two different ways: open-faced (pictured above) or as a sort of sandwich (pictured below). Do what ya feel, guys.

Banana peanut butter slices, sandwich style. Also pictured: homemade chia seed pudding and a beet smoothie.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
-1 banana
-peanut butter of choice (I used smooth organic peanut butter, but feel free to go for crunchy or even another nut butter such as almond butter entirely)

suggested toppings (all optional)
-ground flaxseed
-almonds
-walnuts
-dried fruit
-pitted dates
-chia seeds
-peanut butter granola 
-manuka honey 

WHAT TO DO:
1. Using a knife, slice banana in half, cutting length-wise.

2. Spread peanut butter on the inner halves of the banana.

3. Add toppings of your choice. I like adding variations of almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, walnuts, granola, dried fruit, pitted dates, chia seeds, etc. and finishing with a generous sprinkling of flaxseed. Adding a drizzle of manuka honey is also a delicious option if you're feeling sweet-toothy. 


What's your go-to snack when the afternoon munchies hit? 
Leave your answer in the comments below - snacking inspiration is always welcome here!

Happy snacking!
-R

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

3 WAYS TO STYLE OVERALLS

Overalls can be tricky. There's a fine line between wearing them right and looking like a total fashion plate (aka super cool) or wearing them the wrong way and sending off farmer Joe/toddler vibes (aka not cool).

Never fear though fellow aspiring fashionistas, I've got some suggestions on how to style your overalls to be an "overall success" (sorry, I couldn't resist)...

OVERALLS: TOPSHOP // TOP: FOREVER21

#1 BLUE COLLAR LADY  collared, button-up top looks sweet underneath overalls. Perfect for a casual everyday look.

OVERALLS: TOPSHOP // BRA: LA SENZA 


#2 EXPOSED LACE For this look, I wore a lacy strapless bra beneath my overalls. The combination of boyish denim overalls and ultra-femme lace adds a nice contrast and interest to the outfit. This outfit would be great for summer days when you want to throw on something quickly but still be chic and comfy.

OVERALLS: TOPSHOP // TOP: RIVER ISLAND ON ASOS.COM (NOW ONLY IN WHITE)

#3 COLD SHOULDER(S) To give overalls a cool flirty vibe, I highly suggest pairing them with a shoulderless top. I love the contrast of the high straps and a low neckline. I'd wear this for dinner and drinks out with friends or for date night.


I hope these three looks inspired you to give overalls a go or at least think differently of them. What's your favourite look? How do you style overalls? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. 


Have wonderful rest of the week!

-R


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

NYC EATS: B SIDE PIZZA & WINE BAR

Let's cut straight to the chase: I'm a pizza-holic.

Growing up, Friday night in my family's household was dubbed "pizza night." "Pizza night" didn't mean calling up the local pizza joint and ordering an entire pie for the family to share. No, no -- my mother, who happens to be half Italian, would whip up several personalized pizzas for each and every family member (and visiting friend) herself. From the dough-making to the rolling, to the cheese-grating, to the oven-baking; she did it all. And let me tell you: her pizza is the best. 

Being raised on such excellent homemade pizza made me become a complete and utter pizza snob. I'm very picky about pizza and unfortunately, seldom impressed. This pizza snobbery has put me on a permanent hunt for a good ol' pizza pie outside of my mother's kitchen. 

I'm happy to say that after many fails, I've finally found an excellent restaurant specializing in pizza in NYC. Consider B Side Pizza and Wine Bar "pizza snob approved."

During our first visit to B Side, we discovered the best pizza we've consumed in NYC to date. To sum it up: the Carbonara pizza (fontina, mozzarella, pancetta, panna, parmesan, black pepper, egg) is what pizza dreams are made of. The egg was set smack in the middle of the pizza and was cut in such a way that when you took a slice from the edge, the egg remained untouched and perfect for dipping. Basically, there wasn't a crumb left of that thing. Are you drooling yet?! *

Pictured: Don Ho pizza ($17)
On our second visit, we tried out the Don Ho pizza upon the waiter's recommendation as well as the Roasted Brussels Sprouts. 

The Don Ho pizza (pictured above) is one of the most unique pizzas I have had the pleasure of consuming. It was topped with tomato, roasted pineapple, smoked ham, burrata and pickled fresno chilies; making it both spicy and sweet. A warning to the spice-sensitive though: this pizza has a good kick to it, so if you decide to order it make sure you've got a full glass of ice water on hand. 

Usually, I'm a bit scared of brussels sprouts due to their reputation, but B Side made me think otherwise. The Roasted Brussels Sprouts (pictured below) come topped with honey, lemon, egg, pancetta, bacon, parmesan, and chilies. If you're a brussels sprouts skeptic as I used to be, I recommend giving B Side's a go -- you may just change your opinion about the ever-hated-on veggie. 


Pictured: Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($12)

During our next visit (which was admittedly the same day as our second visit -- no shame!), we had The Muscles From pizza. After such a positive experience with the Roasted Brussels Sprouts, we decided to go all out and basically get a brussels sprouts pizza aka The Muscles From (pictured below). 

The Muscles From is like a hybrid of the Carbonara pizza and the Roasted Brussel Sprouts dish. It was cut the same way as the Carbonara (egg in the middle, slices separate) and was evidently covered in brussels sprouts and pancetta, just like the Roasted Brussels Sprouts. While the Muscles From wasn't my favourite pizza from B Side, it was certainly a unique experience and worth a try, especially if you're a brussels sprouts fan.


Pictured: The Muscles From pizza ($15)
Overall, B Side is a great place to go if you're looking for a reasonably priced, foodgasm-inducing pizza pie in NYC. As previously mentioned, it is "pizza snob approved" -- I highly recommend it and will certainly be returning for a fourth visit (and many after) very soon. 

THE LOW DOWN
RESTAURANT: B SIDE PIZZA & WINE BAR
WEBSITE:BSIDE-NYC.COM
ADDRESS: 370 W 51ST ST 
(BETWEEN 9TH AVENUE & 8TH AVENUE)
GO FOR: GOURMET, MIND-BLOWING PIZZA; BRUSSELS SPROUTS THAT DON'T 
LOOK OR TASTE SCARY (I PROMISE, GUYS)
RO'S TOP PICKS: CARBONARA PIZZA, ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

*Note: Our first visit was at night and hence I wasn't able to get a good shot of the Carbonara pizza. I promise to update this post soon with a drool-inducing mug shot of the wonderful pizza in question. 


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