Holiday Confections Class Recap: When a Mistake is the Missing Ingredient

Earlier this month, I taught a holiday confections class at The Brooklyn Kitchen. We made peppermint caramels, maple-glazed hazelnut halva, sugarplums (my favorite) and chocolate toffee brittle.

When I teach, it feels like I learn just as much as the students. For example, while demonstrating the caramel recipe, I became distracted (talking + cooking = sweat) and added the coconut milk all at once. It was supposed to be in two parts; one at the beginning and the rest after the mixture reached 230 degrees. So we also made a second, true-to-recipe batch.

It wasn’t necessary–the first one turned out perfectly.

I should have pretended to do it on purpose. Earlier, I’d told the class how it’s a misconception that baking/pastry/dessert-making is an “exact science.” On the contrary, my best discoveries are sometimes made through improvisation, tinkering and mistakes–and this was a perfect example.

Sugarplums (left) & maple-glazed hazelnut halva (right). Thank you to Nashville Wraps for the perfect, 100% recycled candy boxes.

Later in the class, one of the students added some whole hazelnuts to a bowl of confectioner’s sugar to make the maple glaze. I caught her just before she was going to add the syrup and vanilla. After explaining that the hazelnuts were to decorate after glazing, she fished them out of the sugar and placed them aside.

After glazing, each piece of halva was topped with a hazelnut–now coated with a light layer of confectioner’s sugar. The result was more beautiful, elegant halva. The sugar gave the candy a snowy, wintry look and a French patisserie feel.

Just like mutations create beneficial properties so that species can evolve, a chance mistake caused an unforseen improvement I never would have thought of otherwise. Next time I make this recipe, I will incorporate this new step.

Thank you students! You have no idea how much you inspire me.

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Dear Girl With the Purple Highlights


Thank you for visiting my table this weekend. No, I did not make my own ice cream from scratch. Just everything else. I have before, when I was a pastry chef, but those desserts were $12, not $7. And since you and your friends want to complain about the prices here, I hear there is a McDonalds over on Grand St–they use tortured vegetable fat for their fries now instead of tortured animal fat.

Sorry I didn’t have time to make signs touting my organic, fair trade ingredients. Please feel welcome, the next time you have 48 free, consecutive hours, to accompany me through two sleepless days of prep and work. You will encounter countless, happy customers on the tail end that will make it worth your while. One snot-nosed punk does not a bad day make.

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My Summer of Smorgasburg: A Vegan Street Food Gallery

Over the summer, I was one of the inaugural vendors at Smorgasburg, the huge outdoor food market on the Brooklyn waterfront. During that time, I was the only vendor to prepare a different food option every single weekend. My philosophy was that non-vegan Smorgasburg customers had access to infinite food options, so vegans deserved the same variety. I gave them the experience of many different vegan food vendors, over the span of a summer.

The funny thing is, most of my customers were non-vegans. My biggest takeaway from the experience is that people will eat something if it looks, smells & tastes good. I relish being able to sell out of food alongside other vendors selling fried chicken sandwiches and bacon on a stick. I can hold my own among them because my food is good. That is the bottom line. Not politics, not publicity, not ego.

Pictured above are (click thumbnails to view): Continue reading

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The Baskin Robbins Americans Aren’t Supposed to Know About

In honor of my 31st birthday, I plan to make ice cream cake for the August 20th Smorgasburg.

The look I am going for is 1980’s kitsch–the Baskin Robbins/Carvel creations of my childhood. Except the artificial color will be replaced by fresh blueberry puree, the plastic jimmies replaced with custom made vegan confetti sprinkles, and the hydrogenated shortening and bleached sugar replaced with unprocessed, organic ingredients.

In my research I came across these two Baskin Robbins ads, one from the Middle East and the other from Japan–and dayum! That stuff does not look anything like fudgie the whale! Apparently, while we’re asking for extra jimmies their cakes are getting showered with gold leaf. While we’re lapping up artificially colored corn syrup, they are having Creme de Cassis topped with fresh raspberries.

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From Bentos to Burgers, a Secret Ingredient Money Can’t Buy

A few years ago, when I was just starting to write about food, I really loved this Japanese blog. The author would post a daily picture of a bento box and list the contents. I was hooked. Each lunch was completely different, and made with extreme attention to detail.

I started to notice that the author had her own style, in the colors she picked to go together, the shapes she made with the food, and her flavor combinations. And all the while, everything was made in tune with nature and the seasons. A pink flower shape in the rice was colored with ume plum. Orange hearts were cut out from carrots.

Most of the blog was in Japanese, so mysteries remained in my head. Who did she make these lunches for? Herself? A spouse? A child? A customer? Whoever it was, I could not help but picture someone opening the box and smiling from ear to ear about the contents, before digging in heartily.

Everything I cook is dictated by love. When home alone, I rarely put effort into meals. The best food is reserved for loved ones. Amy Sedaris said it best when she titled her first cookbook I like You, because that’s what you’re implying when you set down a plate in front of someone. Continue reading

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Just in Time for the Cupcake Backlash: My Baked Vegan Spelt Donuts

It has been 9 months since I baked my first donut. I used a special pan that my fiancee (now husband) found at an outlet kitchen store in northern Florida, a pit stop between tour dates with his band. He knew I loved donuts, but enjoyed them rarely. If I did find vegan ones, they were either too expensive, too sweet, or fried. I craved a donut I could treat myself to every day and still feel & look great.

In the beginning, there were sad imploded donuts. There were stubborn, sticky donuts that refused to come out of the pan. There were hard donuts that could crack your teeth. There were countless sleepless nights. But for some reason, I could not stop until the recipe was perfect. Continue reading

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World’s Laziest Nori Rolls; Homemade Sushi for the Underacheiver.

If you are like me, when you’re home alone, meals consist of whatever is around and fits in the palm of your hand. I cannot be bothered to cook for myself. If there’s nobody around to oooh & aaah over my food, what’s the point? That was the case today.

But, by dinnertime, I was hungry for more than just fistfulls of cashews, bittersweet baking chocolate, flaked coconut, and other remnants raided from my baking cabinet.

The next easiest thing was to throw some rice in the rice cooker. Once it was done, but still hot, I decided to mix in some shredded kale and carrot. The next thing you know, I was adding grated ginger and horseradish, sesame oil, sesame seeds, rice vinegar, dried herbs, lemon, and a little of that flaked coconut for a nice touch of sweetness.

By that time, I realized it would be pretty easy to roll it all up inside some sheets of nori. Because the filling ingredients were already mixed into the rice, there was no fussing around layering perfectly cut vegetables of uniform size, like you have to do with real sushi rolls. All I had to do was spread some filling on the nori, roll it up, and cut! This was surprisingly easy because everything was sticky from the rice. There was no need for pickled ginger or wasabi because those flavors were already in the filling.

I topped each piece with a dollop of raw vegan blue cheese dressing, and had my first real homemade meal in days. It felt like cheating. The meal took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. This recipe could be made with any vegetables, seasonings and sauce you have around. You could even throw some seeds or nuts in the mix.

You just might catch yourself saying “Aaah.”

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Live streaming raw vegan blue cheese dressing: it’s easier than it sounds.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I am so thrilled to have been a part of the Sharing Wisdom series along with Adina Grigore of Sprout Wellness, and Kalima Karen Harvey of Love Your Body Training. Tonight we gathered at the Jujo Mukti cafe on the Lower East Side to discuss skincare, movement techniques, and vegan deliciousness.

My talk begins at the 2:15:12 mark. I prepared my raw vegan blue cheese dressing for everyone to try, and am happy to report that it was GONE by the end of the talk! Here is the recipe.

Anita’s Raw Vegan Blue Cheese Dressing

1 avocado
1/4 cup raw cashews
3 tbp lemon juice
1 tsp horseradish
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup water, depending on desired consistency
optional: 1 tbp nutritional yeast

Blend all ingredients on high speed until smooth. Adjust seasoning, if necessary, or add a splash of water to get a thinner consistency, and re-blend. Pour onto your favorite salad and toss, or serve alongside crudites.

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Vegan Valentine’s Day Donuts! Get them today in Brooklyn.

I will be one of the vendors at this vegan valentine’s market in Bushwick today from 2-5pm! Come and treat yourself to a donut for yourself (they’re baked, not fried), or get a pretty gift box full of them for someone special.

The flavors are double chocolate, strawberry rhubarb, and coconut! Hope to see you there.

Pine Box Rock Shop
12 Grattan Street
take the L to Morgan Avenue, it’s right around the block
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The Obligatory Superbowl Dip. Wonka Would Approve.

There is one day per year I am a football fan, and it has everything to do with food.

The superbowl is synonymous with snacks–especially chips & dip. They can be as common as tostitos ‘n’ velveeta or as cutesy as cassava chips with cranberry mango salsa. And I went to a superbowl party just to make (and eat) them.

I specifically wanted to make a bread bowl. I’d previously had an aversion to them, as a reaction to growing up in Pennsylvania, perhaps. What was my problem? What’s not to love about edible containers? Willy Wonka said it best when he sang “You can even eat the dishes” and took a bite of his daffodil teacup.

Taco shells. Waffle cones. Noodle nests. Where would we be without them? Continue reading

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Chipotle Bean Salad

I love spicy salads. The first time I ever had one–a really spicy one–was at Mooncake Foods. They serve their salads with homemade dressings, and everything on the menu with a side of jalepeño garlic sauce. For the longest time, I thought that lush, green sauce was the dressing and I would douse my salad with it. There was something so satisfying about paring cool, crunchy vegetables with intense spiciness, and I was hooked.

Another pepper I love is chipotles. They are not just spicy, but also smoky–flavors I crave year-round. I always pick the dried ones, available at Latin markets, over the canned ones. They have a more intense, smoky flavor without the extra additives or metallic taste. I use them to make spicy vegan mayo, creamy pasta sauce, marinades and salsa. Continue reading

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Exotic Spiced Seitan & Pumpkin Kebabs

The broiler is the most underrated kitchen appliance. Everyone has it: that mystery drawer under your oven with the slotted pan in it. Is it a storage space? Grease-catcher? Who dares to crank the oven all the way up to full blast–the ominous ‘BROIL’ setting–and conquer this uncharted territory? Last night, I boldly opened that screechy drawer, washed the dust from the broiler pan, and went where no seitan has gone before [atleast, in my kitchen].

Midwinter broiling is like a shot of Vitamin D to the palate. It evokes the charred, smoky flavor of a backyard cookout–to cure winter blues, cabin fever and restless tastebud syndrome–without the fuss of igniting charcoal or scraping a sticky grate.

To ensure a successful broil, follow these tips: Continue reading

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Food Q&A: Where Can I Buy Raw Cashews, Cheap?

Good enough for me. Imposter 'raw' cashews from Trader Joe's.

This was from a friend of mine, a fellow Brooklynite, who is trying to eat well on a budget. I am a huge fan of that so I did the best I could recommending some local, NY sources.


I bought a fancy juicer to do a homemade variant of the BluePrint cleanse, and I want to make the cashew nut milk to drink at night (it’s super good). I took your advice and used a touch of coconut oil to make it super smooth, but [the recipe] uses A LOT of raw cashews. Where do you buy yours? They’re pretty pricey when you’re buying small amounts at the supermarket.



If you use a touch of coconut cream it is even better! I have three sources for cashews. The fast & easy one is Trader Joe’s. You can get a one pound bag of raw cashews for $5.50. Continue reading

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Food Q&A: Can I Melt Raw Chocolate?

I have recently become addicted to answering food questions on Then, yesterday, I was psyched to get two food questions directly from friends. This is something I want to do a lot more of, so please, keep them coming! Here is the answer to one.

Hi Anita,

So I bought this amazing organic raw chocolate and I was wondering if you knew any recipes for it. I tried melting it with confectioner’s sugar and agave and it’s delicious, but it didn’t really melt. The texture is like if peanut brittle and a rice crispie treat had a baby. It’s weird. How do I make it melt?

xo, Jocelyn


If it is what I think it is, it is mostly made of cacao nibs (the “crispie” part). Those don’t melt because raw chocolate doesn’t have any of the emulsifiers, sugar or added cocoa butter that make regular chocolate melt.

I have two solutions for you. Continue reading

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Babaghanouj with Chipotle and Caramelized Onion

Babaghanouj is the smaller dollop. Served with quinoa tabbouleh & hummus.

I invented this baba to suit my tastes. My issues with traditional babaghanouj are:
1. If you halve the eggplants, roast, and scoop out their insides, you lose the yummy skin.
2. If you roast the eggplant in a boring old oven, there is not enough smokiness.
3. Not enough sweetness to counteract the acrid combination of eggplant and lemon.

I decided to roast the eggplant in cubes, to increase the surface area being roasted and to keep the skin, added a chipotle pepper for extra smokiness, and roasted onions for sweetness.

1 eggplant, cubed
1/2 medium onion, sliced
3 tbp olive oil
1 small dried chipotle pepper, chopped
1/3 cup tahini
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 lemons, juiced
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the eggplant, onion, 2 tbp olive oil and 1/2 tsp sea salt together on a baking sheet and roast until golden, about 20 minutes, pausing once or twice to toss. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the chipotle pepper and 1/2 cup boiling water. Cover and allow the pepper to rehydrate. Reserve the chipotle water to flavor a soup or sauce.

Combine the eggplant, onion, chipotle pepper, tahini, garlic, 1 tbp olive oil and half the lemon juice in a food processor. Season to taste and add more lemon juice if necessary. If you need more liquid, add a splash of the chipotle water.

Serve chilled. This is one of those foods that tastes better with time. It is a great party appetizer that can be prepared days in advance.

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