gluten-free peanut butter chocolate-chip cookies

Monday, April 29, 2013

This is nothing new: I have a total love/hate relationship with coffee. I adore the taste of it so much so that I'm a complete snob about it. I'd actually rather go without than have a bad batch. But I know it's not good for me (even though it's so freaking good) and I certainly feel better overall once I get over the hump of headaches and general malaise that come with quitting. It's just the quitting part I don't like. And the inevitable switching to tea. Tea is great when you want tea, but when you want coffee and drink tea instead, it's like kissing your sister.

So when I learned about this health-food product called Dandy Blend, a roasted herbal coffee substitute, my interest was piqued. It's made from edible plants but from the rousing endorsements on their website, you'd think it was comprised of rare truffles or foie gras or crack itself. Here are some actual testimonials:

"I love coffee's flavor. Finally, I can HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO!"
"Dandy Blend helped my bladder condition!"
"...the only beverage product on the market that has truly replaced my coffee (french roast!) habit."
"Dear Dandy Blend, I, I, I LOVE YOU!!!"

You get the idea. I skeptically read all these reviews and thought Ok, settle down, people but then my eye caught this headline: CYNDI LAUPER LIKES IT. Upon clicking further, I learned she was quoted in the NY Times saying, about Dandy Blend, "It makes you feel like you're drinking coffee." That's all I needed. I ordered it on the spot and anxiously (no doubt due to multiple cups of coffee) awaited its arrival. Two days later it came.

I opened the box to find the Dandy Blend package. It featured a giant yellow dandelion on the front (complete with spiky leaves) and said The goodness of dandelion in an instant! I didn't know there was anything good about dandelions at all. Aren't they like the scourge of nature? The poster child of weeds? But I gave it a shot, waiting with anticipation for it to change my life. David came home from work just then, to Dandy Blend mayhem. I was taste-testing it both hot and cold, with a variety of milk substitutes, seeing how/if I liked it. Have you ever tried to convince someone to accept something while you're simultaneously trying to convince yourself? It doesn't usually go well.

"Try this!!" I said, handing him an iced, almond-milk version with what I'm sure was a wild look in my eyes.

"What is it?" He said skeptically, looking the glass up and down.

"It's Dandy Blend!"

"Ok. Am I supposed to know what that is?"

"It's a coffee substitute but before you write it off, it's actually pretty good and it's REALLY good for you--there are like a million health benefits."

"Like what?"

"Um..." Shit. I suddenly forgot the multiple pages of them I read when I placed my order. "I think it's meant to be great for blood sugar? and there's no acidity? so it helps alkalize the body? All disease comes from inflammation, you know, and coffee just acidifies your system, making it worse...." I kept half-heartedly trying to sell it. "Cyndi Lauper loves it."

"What's it made of?" He held the glass up and looked at the murky brown liquid.

"Dandelions, for one."


"Yeah. They're really great for you."

"The weeds?? Are you serious?! Those things are my mom's nemeses. She used to throw a fit when she saw one in our yard."

"So...she'd take it personally if we were drinking them?"

"Dandelions..." he shook his head "...I don't know."

"Well, there's other stuff in there too."

"Like what?" He was getting impatient with me.

"Chicory, beets, barley..."

"Oh, well when you put it that way."

"It's actually not too bad." I was getting defensive.

"That sounds like a rousing endorsement."

"Well, just taste it!"

He reluctantly took a sip and shrugged. "It's okay. But not great. What does Cyndi Lauper know?"

I have to concede that the Dandy Blend really does go down easily accompanied by one of these cookies. 

But you know what goes with these cookies even better? A CUP OF COFFEE.

Peanut Butter Chocolate-Chip cookies
makes a little over 2 dozen
adapted from averie cooks

These cookies are gluten-free, nearly grain-free altogether and crazy good. They are more on the chewy side so if a crispy peanut butter cookie is your jam, these aren't for you. The original recipe has no flax or GF flour at all but I liked it better when there was a bit more body to the cookie. (<----------I can't believe I just wrote that.)

1 cup peanut butter*
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 cup flax meal (ground flax seeds)
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill but any all-purpose one will do)
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (BTW, Trader Joe's vegan ones are pretty great and melty)

*make sure your peanut butter is "no-stir" like Skippy or Jif. Traditional natural ones don't work here. I prefer the MaraNatha brand that you can find at Whole Foods (or sometimes even regular grocery stores). Just make sure it says "no-stir"--you don't want the separating kind. Bonus: these types all have salt added so no additional salt is needed in the cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F unless you are chilling the dough (see note below). In an electric mixer, cream the peanut butter and brown sugar for about 3 minutes or until no longer gritty. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Sprinkle in the baking soda, flax and flour. Mix. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips. Because of the lack of flour, expect this batter to be a little more oily. This is normal. To avoid the spreading of the cookies while they bake, you can chill the dough (in plastic wrap) for an hour up to overnight but if you're like me and need them stat, the spreading is no biggie. Drop dough by 2 Tablespoonfuls leaving them about 3 inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You may need to press the chocolate in there if it's not wanting to stick easily. Bake at 350 for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a rack. Or to your face.


P.S. I drank coffee while writing this post. God help me.

my love is write

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

This morning I received a delicious piece of (spam?) email. I thought you might enjoy it as well:

HELLO lady.

i find you at net. and now i want one help. and send to somebody mail. but dont answer to me. may be i have problem. i dont know why they dont answer to me.

i am 25 years old. i have ask of you, answer to me, i need help. really i am not annoying.

i want only one answer, how i can work in hollywood as writer. yes. i am screenplay writer. ten years write. write and write. my love is write.

plz help me. i am waiting for your answer. and we can (i think we can) to be friend as penpal.... thanks if accept me. is my last chance.

god bless you and your family.

bye and thanks.



P.S. For more of this kind of fun, go here.

{photo courtesy hyperquake}

san fran getaway

Thursday, April 18, 2013

DP and I took a much-needed getaway this past weekend to San Francisco! Living in LA, we're not very far away and yet hardly ever visit. That needs to change. SF is so cool! We decided (and I'm sure we're not the first ones) that if New York City and Los Angeles had a baby, it'd be San Fran for sure.

We spent a ton of time in the Hayes Valley area. Such great strolling and shopping and restaurants. This gourmet charcuterie place, Fatted Calf was gorgeous inside.......

Inside Ritual Coffee:

Other noteworthy Hayes Valley places:

Gimme Shoes for a killer selection of (expensive but amazing) Fiorentini + Baker boots
Blue Bottle Coffee in a darling alley
Smitten Ice Cream for crazy delicious, gourmet frozen treats
This chain-link enclosed beer garden for a yummy pint during bustling happy hour
Cisco Home, our fave furniture store has an outpost there too so we stopped in to do some couch-testing:

Our very cool hotel was across the street from the Ferry Building, a beautiful indoor gourmet marketplace:

Another Blue Bottle outpost:

David ordered me a decadent, double-chocolate cake from the darling confectioner Miette! (And yes, I'm still accepting Birthday gifts 6 weeks after, FYI.)

We saw some old friends, Eric and Megan for lunch:)

...walked by this beautiful church...

...and rode a streetcar (!)

(This is one of 4, 562 pictures I took from inside. Obsessed, much?)

On Saturday night, our friends Stephanie and Trey took us to their favorite neighborhood Italian place, Piccino...

...and then to the San Francisco Symphony, where Trey performs as a bad-ass percussionist! So fun to see him up there doing his thing. David thought the sides of the auditorium looked like Legos:

Our last morning we lounged on our hotel's rooftop terrace (recovering from all we ate and drank the whole weekend)...

So much water- and Bay Bridge-gazing...

A couple other things that happened:

Great pre-dinner drinks at Wine Jar
A Decadent dinner at Spruce
Really fun clothes shopping at Scotch & Soda

Can't wait to go back...send me your suggestions if you know SF!

P.S. A bunch of these pictures were taken by David Pagani:)
P.P.S. Thanks, Stephanie, for the picture of the four of us! I can't believe how great we all look considering the impatient/irritated waitress who took it:)

things I'm crazy about lately

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Inspirational street art! (I found this about the artist, Morley--hope I see more of his stuff around town now that I'm looking for it.)

And inspirational house art! This person is my hero:

Making time for more heart-shaped cookies and affogato (this one's from Cook's County):

Sneaking out of baby showers to have photo shoots in fancy hotel bathrooms with friends (complete with props):

Watching Lena watch the backyard:

Taking pictures of people looking at pictures:

High-falootin' and super risky car coffee (I like living on the edge):

Plucots (and saying the word 'plucots'):

Hope you're having a great week:)

P.S. Some faves lately:

Just started this book and it's riveting.
Can't wait to try some healthy things from this cookbook.
I know I've talked about mascara before but this one is seriously awesome.
Revisiting this soundtrack and it's giving me so much nostalgic joy:)

snappy black bean soup with jalapeño and cumin

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The last time I set foot in an Abercrombie & Fitch was ten years ago. I was almost creamed by a football being thrown between two shirtless, six-packed young men. My reflexes had been dulled by the earsplitting music and the acrid scent of high-school-boy-in-heat cologne so I didn't duck until the last second. As if I didn't already feel old enough, I promptly tweaked my back while ducking and thought: Ow! My back! and then: What the eff am I doing in here? I extricated myself and took A&F off my radar completely. So imagine my surprise when strolling through the mall last week, a shirt caught my eye as I strolled past their window. It was a darling, button-up chambray number featuring little polka dots. Without even thinking about it,  I found myself enter.

There were no football throwers or teen shoppers so that made me feel less old except this: the music was LOUD. I think it got even louder and more strident during my respite. I meandered around, looking for the shirt when a pimply-faced employee greeted me. "HELLO!" She screamed. "HI!" I replied. I walked past her, took a lap around the whole store and couldn't find it anywhere. And my lord, those clothes looked young. Lots of pink and super juvenile with cutesy adornments. Seeing the clothes up close after all this time made me feel WAY too old to be in there. I had to hurry up.

I approached the teenager. "CAN YOU HELP ME FIND THE SHIRT IN THE WINDOW WITH THE POLKA DOTS??!" I screamed. "SORRY?!" She strained. It continued like this as we yelled back and forth. I utilized some pantomime at which point she finally understood and pointed me toward a table in the front where various denim items were folded in stacks. A second teenaged employee was there, folding and stacking. I finally saw The Shirt and as I reached for it, I noticed an adjacent pile of jean shorts. The top pair were so tiny that I did a double-take. Now, I know I live in LA where there are some seriously small ladies (and small sizes, accordingly), but these were itty bitty. Then I saw that they were a size 8. A size EIGHT. Not a size 0 or 00. Then it hit me.


"YES!" She said.




I stood there with my mouth agape. It all made sense now. She read my mind. "WERE YOU SHOPPING FOR YOURSELF?!" She asked/laughed. "YEP," I said. "I GUESS YOU COULD TRY TO FIT A DOUBLE XL!" She said (and I know she was mocking me). Laugh away, I thought. I started to give her a dirty look and then felt bad because A&F is probably the only place where young people are simultaneously acne-riddled and hearing-damaged.

I left the shirt on the table without refolding it and split outta there with all the vigor of youth.

Black Bean Soup
adapted from epicurious
serves 8

This soup will make you feel young! Or it will make you not care that you're old. It's that good:)

4 T olive oil
2 small-ish or 1 1/2 medium yellow onions
2 carrots
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced jalapeño (take the ribs and seeds out before mincing unless you like it uber-spicy)
4 t ground cumin
1 large pinch kosher salt
4 15oz. cans black beans, undrained
2 15oz. cans roasted, diced tomatoes, undrained (I used the ones with green chiles added)
3 cups chicken broth

chopped green onions (white and light green parts and a little bit of the dark green parts too)
chopped cilantro
lime wedges
cotija cheese (or feta would be great)

Heat up the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, garlic, jalapeño, cumin and salt. Sauté until soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Carefully transfer 6 cups of soup (in two batches) to a blender and puree. Add the puree back to the rest of the soup, stir well and taste for salt. Serve with lime wedges, green onions, cilantro, cotija, and lots of chips.

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