I am so very, very excited to share this recipe with you guys today. Dates! They are delicious! I think I’ve always known that but hardly ever cooked with them. That’s going to change for sure in the coming months. Man, this date butter is insane. While this baby simmered on the stove I swear it smelled like bacon. Bacon! Now I sorta get why the two are constantly being paired together.
To add to this crazy good butter, I decided to include meyer lemons for the acid component because: hey I just met you and this is crazy but here’s my number call me maybe? I bought a bag of meyer lemons for the first time a couple weeks ago and fell in love with them hard. Stalkingly obsessed hard. Pretty sure I’m never using regular lemons ever again.
The combination of both of these new-found crushes together in one tasty butter has been rocking my world since day one. I want to eat it all by itself in a dark corner of the room. I’m gonna need serious privacy.
Despite the name, this butter doesn’t actually have butter. Kinda funny isn’t it? Maybe it was coined a butter because of how easy it is to spread. Fruit butters are different than jams and jellies in terms of how long you cook them for. I let mine simmer for roughly 45 minutes but you can let it go for even longer. To be honest, I couldn’t wait any longer it smelled so good. I may have torched the roof of my mouth tasting it off the stove.
My obsession for making a fruit butter was born from my previous obsession with Trader Joe’s fig butter. That stuff, my friends, is bomb. I think I finished the entire contents of that jar within a week of opening. I ate it slathered on a bagel with cream cheese. And it was so good. I woke up in the morning excited to eat it. That’s saying something!
Naturally, I had to eat this lovely date meyer lemon butter with cream cheese and bagels too. All in the name of comparative research, course.
// date meyer lemon butter
recipe adapted from bon appétit
makes about 1 cup
1 1/3 cup medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup water + 1 cup water, divided in half to add during cooking
// In a small sauce pot, combine the dates, meyer lemon juice, honey, and 1/2 cup water. Set to boil and then lower to gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup water once the liquid in the pot evaporates, about 15 minutes into the cooking process. Repeat again in another 15 minutes, adding the remaining 1/2 cup water to the pot. After the water evaporates again, let the dates caramelize slightly in the pot for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently. I let this butter cook for about 45 minutes but you can choose to cook for longer if you want an even more intense flavor. You might have to add more water though.
After this finished cooking, I pressed it through a fine sieve to separate the butter from any extra liquid. You can leave it as is, it’s delicious either way, but I wanted to try it as a thick butter and as a thin sauce. The butter was excellent slathered on anything and the sauce was outrageous drizzled on anything (but made for a more luxurious experience, i think). Both variations are phenomenal. The butter keeps fabulously in a glass container in the fridge for about a week but I seriously doubt it will last that long!
I couldn’t stop at just making a homemade fruit butter. I felt compelled to make a homemade cream cheese too. I never quite realized how easy and straight-forward it was to make cheese at home. You pretty much just mix heavy cream or half and half together with a mesophilic culture starter, or in my case, buttermilk (because that was the quickest, most convenient route, and if you know me, that’s pretty much my middle name(s)) and let it sit on the counter for hours. I have to admit that I was doubtful after about 8 hours. The recipe said it would eventually take the form of a yogurt but mine was nowhere near that state. At hour 10 I was almost ready to dump the entire thing and try the mesophilic culture starter route but when I checked it again at hour 12 I was astounded to find that it really did change into the consistency of a yogurt! Science is amazing!
At that point, you transfer the “yogurt” into cheesecloth, wrap it, and let it hang somewhere to drip whey. After another 12 hours my cream cheese was ready! All I had to do was add a smidge of salt and it was ready to go. This cream cheese tasted like none other that I’ve tried. Super creamy and rich and delicious. As simple as this was to make, I am gonna be all about experimenting with crazy flavor combinations. I adore cream cheese.
// homemade cream cheese, via The Prairie Homestead
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 quart half and half
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon salt
// Pour half and half and buttermilk into a glass container and stir together. Cover slightly with a towel and leave on the counter to culture anywhere from 8-12 hours. Mine was ready at exactly 12 hours. It’s ready once it looks like yogurt.
Dump the yogurt onto cheesecloth, wrap it, and tie it. Secure it onto a wooden spoon over a tall pitcher for the whey to drip. I let this drip for about 12 hours but it depends on how thin or thick you want your cream cheese to be. The longer it drips, the tangier the cream cheese will taste. Mine was pretty tangy. Once you’re satisfied with the consistency, scoop the cream cheese into a bowl and season with salt. Pour cream cheese into a glass container and store in the fridge.
Do you like froyo?
I should rephrase that: do you LOVE froyo? I LOVE froyo.
There have been times that I’ve craved it so much it consumes me. I find myself daydreaming about it, imagining the sight of it nestled in my paper cup with the most flamboyant of tails. I make crazy flavor combinations in my head, mixing this one with that, tasting, swirling. The hardest part for me, at least initially, is deciding what toppings to sprinkle. It can be overwhelming, can’t it? With all the candies and sauces and fruits and oh my! But funnily enough, I always end up choosing the same two: granola and yogurt chips. That’s it. Out of all 3 million topping varieties and combos to choose from I will always pick them.
So, I’m going to be transparent with you. I made these thinking that they would be similar to the kind that I find at the froyo place– you know, the kind in the bin out in room temperature. Well, when these were all ready to go and frozen and yummy, I tumbled some into granola and left them out for a little while thinking it would be a nice snack for later. Um, a little word of advice: don’t do that. Unless you want little globs of yogurt melted onto your granola. Which I suppose still tastes good but wasn’t at all what I expected! I actually felt silly afterwards, thinking to myself, ‘of course they’re going to melt. you just froze them!’
Oy. I’m really glad I feel safe with you guys in sharing all my kitchen defeats. So while these really can’t be used for mixing into trail mix or baking, they are super fine as a topping for: froyo! ice cream! gelato! sorbet! your hands!
I’ve been sneaking into the freezer to grab a handful every now and again because they really do make tasty icy cold treats. And I hardly feel guilty because they are made from greek yogurt, which has mega amounts of protein (maybe not so much in these minuscule amounts but you catch mah drift) and they are all natural with no artificial nothing and no preservative junk stuff! Isn’t it sad that we have to proclaim that now? I mean good god, how did we ever position ourselves to think eating garbage was normal?!
p.s. don’t mind my ugly weathered old woman hands. they have seen too much iron lifting and hot water. apologies.
// vanilla bean greek yogurt chips
makes about 1 cup yogurt chips
1 cup plain 2% greek yogurt (I love Fage)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
// Grab two medium-sized baking sheets (they have to be able to fit in your freezer) and line with wax paper. Stash in the freezer while you mix up the ingredients.
In a small bowl combine the yogurt, vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to press on the vanilla seeds to make sure they’re well distributed.
Fetch the baking sheets from the freezer. Grab a plastic gallon-sized storage bag and snip a small piece off the corner on the bottom to make a makeshift piping bag. You can also use a real piping bag with tip if you want to make fancier chips. Scoop the yogurt into the bag and squeeze to get most of it towards the cut piece. With as much finesse as you can summon (mine was minimal as you can undoubtedly see), squeeze the yogurt onto the wax-lined baking sheet, making little chips or nibs. The size is ultimately up to you but I wanted them fairly small so I can add them as topping to my ice cream but if you plan on snacking these, they can be larger– they’ll just take a bit longer to freeze. I found that my chips looked neater when I pressed down as I squeezed them and then lifted it up quick to make a tiny tail at the top. Experiment with different techniques though!
Once you’ve filled the baking sheets with yogurt chips, stash back into the freezer for about 35-45 minutes. At that point you can scoop them off the wax paper and eat right away or store them in little plastic baggies or tubs in the freezer for later. Depending on the size of these cuties, they will have different melt times. The smallest of mine started to melt pretty quickly at room temperature, if I just ate them by the handful– ahem, I mean fingerful… but they did just fine sprinkled on something cold like ice cream or frozen yogurt (yogurt on yogurt!).
If you smush enough ingredients into one patty/cake/fritter it’s bound to be good right? This seems to be my logic, as evidenced by these chipotle shrimp cakes or cod potato cakes. It’s kind of a shame really that this will only be the third version of a savory cake to appear on my blog since I actually tend to make a lot of different varieties for my clients. I’ve made vegetable fritters in the summertime when fresh produce is at it’s all time high. I make black bean cakes year-round. There are salmon patties, and crab cakes, and tuna fritters. I never get tired of them. Why? Because the flavor combinations are endless. Also, they’re super easy! I usually just blitz everything in the food processor and voilá, eats time!
I like hummus. Do you? One look at the ingredients to this thing and you’ll know right off the bat where I got my inspiration from. I even added tiny crumbs of pita chips to the cake itself just to make you proud (!). These chickpea patties are smoky and tangy. They’re crispy and smooth. I ate them by themselves but I wager they’d be delicious slathered with extra homemade hummus between burger buns or pita bread.
On a different note, didya notice the new digs?
It took me over a day to get the design right and my eyeballs have since perished but hey, who needs sight anyway? I thought I was in the clear after I finalized the look of the blog but then I started fiddling with the permalinks and in the span of a one-button click, my entire website was gone. gone. Just a blank white page sitting there chilling. I freaked out! Luckily my host was able to fix it by uninstalling my plugins. But now when I try to re-install a plugin I get an error, which leaves me spam comment plugin-less and I’ve been getting slammed with spam all.day.long. Oh my god the insanity. Life just isn’t fair.
I’ll just be over here. Deleting comments every twoseconds.
/bangs head on desk
// Chickpea patties with smoked paprika and feta cheese + Greek yogurt and cucumber-red onion relish
Makes 12 patties
For the chickpea patties:
25 multigrain pita chips (I really like Stacy’s)
2- 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas, washed and drained well
2 fat cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini sesame butter (you can sub in almond or peanut butter but it will change the taste a bit)
1/4 cup feta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for frying
Plain Greek yogurt, for serving
// In a food processor, pulse the pita chips to a course crumb. Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until it comes together; not too chunky but not too smooth. Juuust right.
Use an ice cream scoop and portion out the patties and form them in your hands. Stash in the fridge for about 30 minutes. While this chills, make the cucumber-red onion relish.
When you’re ready to cook the chickpea patties, pour olive oil onto a fry pan and heat over medium flame. When it shimmers, add the chickpea patties in batches of 4, cooking until crisp and golden on both sides, about 3-4 minutes on one side and then another 2-3 minutes on the other. Set them onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Serve with a dollop of plain greek yogurt and cucumber-red onion relish.
For the cucumber-red onion relish:
1/2 english cucumber, sliced thin using a mandolin or very sharp knife (and deft cutting skills!)– for the mandolin I had it set at one notch below 1/8″
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly into quarter moons
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
A few pinches of Aleppo chili pepper (or any other spicy dried pepper of your choice)
S + P to taste
// Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and mix gently with a spoon. Let this sit for a while on the counter to quick pickle and get happy. This keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.
I’m pretty convinced that coconuts and lemons and blueberries were destined to be together. Because seriously, this stuff was holy good. And the great thing is, I didn’t even feel bad stuffing my face with it because it’s all super good for you. Hurrah for tricks!
These waffles look dainty but they are actually incredibly hearty and full of rich flavor. I loved these for breakfast, hot and straight off the griddle but even more so cold, the next day after the flavors had a chance to mingle and settle. It tasted just like a cold bread pudding (it might sound weird, but I’m telling you, I won’t eat bread pudding any other way. trust me and try it), sweetly dense and buttery, with bursts of lemon and coconut coming at you with every bite. It was absolute heaven.
[I went a little crazy with the picture-taking. You've been warned!]
// Coconut lemon waffles with blueberry chia seed jam + coconut whipped cream
For the coconut lemon waffles:
Makes 2 Belgian style waffles, possibly 4 small regular waffles
Inspired by Joy the Baker‘s gluten free toasted coconut waffles
// These waffles are super rich and filling! They keep wonderfully in the freezer and fridge if you want to keep them for tasty leftovers. I would highly recommend you try them cold, straight out of the fridge with the blueberry jam and coconut whipped cream– tastes just like a bread pudding with the flavors much more nuanced.
1/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
4 egg whites
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup coconut flour
Coconut oil spray (preferred), or canola oil, to coat waffle iron
// In a large bowl, whisk together the shredded coconut, melted coconut oil, eggs, coconut sugar, vanilla and lemon extracts, and lemon zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the protein powder, salt, baking powder, and coconut flour. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine with a spatula. This batter is really thick, don’t freak out.
Turn on your waffle maker and set it to medium-high heat– I set mine to #5. Pour half of the batter into each waffle iron and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Coconut tends to burn easily so I start peeking at about 3 minutes to see if they are golden brown and cooked through. Eat these fresh and warm with the blueberry chia seed jam and whipped coconut cream or stash them away in the fridge for later. They are super tasty as leftovers straight out of the fridge served cold with the jam and whipped cream– like bread pudding! <3
For the wild blueberry chia seed jam:
Makes about a pint of jam
Adapted very slightly from Oh She Glows‘ magical blueberry vanilla chia seed jam
// I love everything about this jam! She is great on waffles, pancakes, with peanut butter in sandwiches, on toast, swirled in oatmeal and/or yogurt.
3 cups frozen wild blueberries
2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
// In a small sauce pot, tumble in the blueberries with the maple syrup and bring to a low boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently and mashing with a potato masher (I only mashed about half of it since I wanted some texture to my jam). Stir in the chia seeds and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes or until the jam is thickened to your liking. Take jam off the heat and stir in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Let jam cool completely before refrigerating. I would reckon this jam lasts for a couple weeks in the fridge but mine only stuck around for a few days because I ate it all!
For the coconut whipped cream:
Makes about 1 cup
Adapted minimally from Oh She Glows‘ coconut whipped cream
// If you can’t find the smaller can of just coconut cream (I found mine at Whole Foods), you can use regular whole fat coconut milk instead. Make sure to chill the can, upside down (this will separate the cream from the water– click on the link I provided for Oh She Glows, she has a tutorial that explains this) overnight before using. Just like heavy cream, coconut cream whips better when cold. When you’re ready to make the coconut whipped cream, make sure to only use the solid cream and not the water. Since you flipped the can upside down all night, it should be really easy to pour out the coconut water and spoon out the coconut cream because they have separated.
5.4 fluid ounces coconut cream, chilled overnight
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
// Place mixing bowl and whipping attachment in freezer for about 5 minutes. Assemble mixer and dump coconut cream into bowl (some coconut water is fine). Start to whip on low speed and increase gradually. Once it starts to form soft peaks, drop in powdered sugar and vanilla seeds. Whip until it’s to your desired consistency. This keeps well in the fridge for several days.
I’ve realized I have a somewhat obsessive personality when it comes to many things in life. Most currently: coconut. I want to eat it all the timez. I’m actually in the midst of finalizing a recipe for some bomb coconut and lemon waffles, and if the gods favor me so, should be posting later this week. I think I’ve gone through 4 revisions of the dang thing trying to get it right. Baking is sorta like a wild horse you have to tame. It goes crazy, bucking all around, throwing you this way and that, and it’s all you can do to hold on but as soon as you give it some treats and comb its hair and tell her she’s pretty, she turns all gooey on you. Or something along those lines. Anyway…
Chickpeas have always been a favorite of mine too. I think they’re pretty versatile and you can do just about anything with them, including blondies (!), which I’m determined to try sometime in the near future. The thing about chickpeas, and I mean the canned variety, is that they’re super handy and can be tossed into all sorts of things at a moments notice. This recipe just sorta happened one day when I was super starving for lunch. I wanted something creamy, nourishing, and warming. The chickpeas + coconut milk + garam masala all seemed to fit the bill. It was exactly what I needed– super earthy and comforting with just the right amount of richness from the coconut milk, and very nutritionally sound with a balanced proportion of protein to carbs to healthy fat. I am neurotic when it comes to making sure everything I eat has the right nutritional value because uh, muscles don’t grow on trees!
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it but my sister and I have formed 2missfits, a fitness Instagram account where we post workout videos, fitspo, and clean eating recipes. So if you’re into that kinda thing, swing on over and say hello!
// Chickpea and egg white sauté with garam masala + coconut milk
Serves 1 person heartily, serves 2 as a very light meal
2 teaspoons coconut butter/oil
1- 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup egg whites
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
S + P, to taste
A couple handfuls of baby spinach
Feta cheese, to sprinkle on top
Fresh cilantro, to garnish
// In a small sauté pan add the coconut butter/oil and let melt over medium heat. Tumble in the chickpeas and let them warm through, just a few minutes. Pour in the egg whites and scramble with a spatula. When they’re cooked all the way through, add the coconut milk, garam masala, s + p, baby spinach and mix together gently. Put a lid on and let this simmer for just a few minutes and to allow the baby spinach to wilt a little. Check for seasonings. Serve in a bowl and top with feta cheese and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!
Man did these take forever to perfect. Glad I was persistent because I am so happy with how these turned out. Can you believe that up until a couple weeks ago I had never tried a black bean brownie? I’d seen them all over the internets but never thought to give them a try. Even with my first trial of brownies I was blown away at how delicious they were and not at all black bean-y in flavor. Very much like a traditional brownie in fact and had I not known what was really in them I would’ve just assumed they were!
I’ve been obsessed with all things coconut lately and really wanted to incorporate them into the brownies. I used coconut oil and coconut palm sugar to lend flavor in the right direction but I think it was the shredded coconut laced within the brownie that really drove it home with it’s chewy, nutty deliciousness.
Ever since making Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies (if you’ve never had them, you must! so insanely good and fudgy!), I’ve been hooked on adding coffee flavor to any chocolate dessert. Chocolate already seems to have an inherent coffee undertone (at least the more you go towards bittersweet and dark chocolate land) and so a shot of coffee or espresso powder just seems to reinforce it even more, making it taste super rich and decadent.
You guys, I’m totally convinced that these black bean brownies are a thing that could change your life. Go make ‘emmmm…
Fudgy black bean + coconut protein brownies
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
Makes 12 individual servings
1- 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 cup vanilla protein powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsweetened, shredded coconut + additional for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin with coconut oil.
Put the black beans, cocoa powder, espresso powder, protein powder, salt, maple syrup, coconut sugar, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and baking powder into a food processor and mix until very smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally, several minutes. Add the chocolate chips and coconut and mix with a spatula. Using a 2 tablespoon measure, drop batter into greased muffin tin. Smooth tops if necessary and sprinkle with additional coconut.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the top has cracked slightly and the sides have just started to pull away from the pan. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it’s done, but trust that it’s done. It will continue to cook slightly when you take it out of the oven. Leave the brownies in the muffin tin and allow to cool completely on a rack. Run a thin knife or tiny spatula around each brownie to take out of muffin tin. They are ready to eat now but taste 10 times better after you’ve left them in the fridge for several hours. Personally, fudgy brownies always taste better to me when they’re cold!
As much as it pains me to call hummus a dip, for the sake of this post let's just say it is. I'm sick of the same old boring chips and dip options.
|Here's a picture of me and Elvis from a few years ago. He wanted to take me for a ride in his pink Cadillac. :/|
Las Vegan, that is. (That's what they're called here. But it's pronounced "Vay-gan.")
By now you've probably heard that I've left the dirty D for the sunshine and neon lights of Las Vegas. It wasn't exactly a secret - I was very open about it on my personal social media accounts and discussed it at length with the food and beverage industry people closest to me as well as all of the media outlets I work for. I teased the announcement first in Model D here (which was followed up with something not entirely accurate but also not entirely inaccurate either). It was also announced in Real Detroit Weekly, with which I have a longer professional relationship than anywhere else.
But I didn't make any announcement on this blog or on the Facebook fan page. This is because I do not yet have an announcement to make.
First, some details: in October I started freelancing for VEGAS magazine as an online contributor. I had a good relationship with some of the people involved and a good understanding of the city and its culture as I am a frequent visitor and have been for several years. Ironically, as things so often have a funny way of working out, I joked for years that I was going to move to Las Vegas, even made very tentative plans a few years back that never evolved past the point of talk. Then in November, as I was out in Los Angeles looking at potential new neighborhoods to move into part-time (my original plan was to split my time between Detroit and L.A. this year, for reasons), I got a call about a Deputy Editor position open with VEGAS. Though not said in so many words, it was mine for the taking if I wanted it.
I spent the next week and a half agonizing over the decision. During this time I made a pit-stop in Vegas to meet with the Editor in Chief and the Publisher. (And to see Nine Inch Nails again for the third time last year and it was amazing.) I had to make the decision over Thanksgiving weekend and talked it out with everyone I could - weighing the pros and cons, the things I would potentially be gaining versus the things I would have to give up - and after getting some valuable advice from some unexpected sources, I made the decision to move. I make no decision lightly, so you can imagine how stressful that whole thing was.
I officially accepted the job on December 2. By December 20, I was moved out of my apartment and my entire life was on a truck en route to Vegas. Those 18 days in between were spent frantically deciding how I was going to move (get a Uhaul and drive across the Rockies in the dead of winter? hire movers to do it? rent a furnished place and make the trip in the summer?), searching for an apartment, (Vegas is tricky - what can seem like a great place is often in a skeezy area, not unlike Detroit - but I lucked out by finding a beautiful apartment in a beautiful neighborhood just 5 minutes from work just three days before the movers came), setting up utilities and insurance, changing my address, packing, figuring out how to ship my car, informing those who needed to know about my decision, making succession plans to place people I hand-selected in positions at Model D and Real Detroit, and maintaining whatever modicum of work I actually managed to eek out during all of that. And oh yeah, it was also the holidays, which further complicated things.
Don't ever move across the country during the holidays, is all I'm saying.
But, like the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle that seem to be made of nothing but corners, everything eventually came together perfectly. I'm all moved in, sooooooooooooooo close to being all unpacked (current struggle: "What kind of dining set defines me as a person?" and the like - I am Jack's obsessive use of the Etsy mobile app), and have started a great new job working for people I tremendously respect with Greenspun Media Group, founded by Hank Greenspun, who has a huge chunk of the Las Vegas metro named after him (here's a great biopic on the man who started his media empire as a Bugsy Siegel's publicist). After December 20 I was able to spend the next 11 days with friends and family. Publications had gone dark, I had nothing due, my pre-planning work for the move was done, it was the holidays and many people were on vacation, so I went on a (thoroughly documented for those who paid attention) farewell tour - a "victory lap," as one friend put it - and got to say my goodbyes to so many of the people who have been wonderful friends (though I did still miss a few and hope to make it up to them). It was lovely, and the perfect way to say goodbye. I left for Las Vegas on January 1, which I thought was just terrifically symbolic - new year, new beginning, that whole thing.
Now, why did I do it? Why did I "abandon" Detroit? (Actually I thought I was going to get a lot more of that, but aside from a few Bitter Betties the response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, if still occasionally heartbreaking.) Because I'm 32. I'm not getting younger. I got a late start in journalism and had to build my career from absolutely nothing, working manically over the last seven years to make a name for myself and build a strong reputation (admittedly, those two things happened independently), eventually fostering relationships outside of the city with national media and local media in major markets. As a freelancer, I had hit my ceiling in Detroit. There was nowhere else for me to grow there, and I had no interest in pursuing full-time work in that market. I had accomplished what I set out to do, and it was time to move on so I could continue to grow my career.
Then the Deputy Editor position fell into my lap. Ask anyone in lifestyle media - this is not something that happens to anyone. Ever. It's the kind of opportunity I would have been foolish to turn down if I was really serious about taking the next step in my career. In short, I did this for my future. I could have stayed in Detroit forever, and would have continued being successful, but I was hungry for something new, something more.
During all that time I was frantically looking for a new home and getting things situated for the move, I had Eat It Detroit looming over my head. What was I going to do with it? How would I be able to make it carry on? I met with several people and had a lot of discussions about it, but then concerns about EID had to take a backseat to everything else I had to manage. Now I've been in Las Vegas for two weeks, and EID's future is still taking a backseat to the other things I have to manage. I started a new job in a new city. I'm making friends and learning the ropes, discovering as much as I can about my new home, just generally getting acclimated. I mean, I'm still unpacking, so a Detroit-based blog is just not my immediate priority right now.
Before I left, I started getting some things in motion so that the brand could carry on in my absence. Those discussions are still happening. Nothing is yet definitive, which is why I have not made any official announcements. I took two weeks off so I could focus on moving across the country and start a new job and a new life, and I just don't feel like I need to apologize for that. Besides, no news is good news, for now.
That being said, realistically I cannot manage EID from 2,000 miles away, nor do I want this weighing me down when I have other things to focus on (such as the job I moved 2,000 miles across the country to take). This does mean that yes, the future of EID could be in jeopardy, and I may choose to bid farewell to it should it come down to that. Better to whole-ass one thing than half-ass two, right? But other people want it to live on - people who want it so badly they have offered to work for free just to keep it going, and chefs who have called me to try to convince me to keep it going because it is "the most important piece of food writing in Michigan."
Not my words. Their words. And more than one.
I feel like I owe it to them - to the chefs I have built very close relationships with over the years who respect and appreciate what I have the same, and to the loyal readers who feel the same - to keep it going. It is an incredibly strong brand that I have put my heart and soul into building. While other sites exist as mere click-bait, an opportunistic cash-grab to capitalize on the current worldwide trendiness of Detroit, I always wrote with honesty and earnestness (and swears, lots of swears). That's what set me apart, and that's what made me a stronger and more respected voice than any of the others.
But EID is more than just a blog. It is a brand, and the auxiliary outfit of a person whose byline appears dozens of local and national publications. I was the Development News Editor and feature writer for Model D and Managing Editor of UIX Detroit. I was a long-time weekly contributor to Real Detroit Weekly, which included a several-month stint as Acting Managing Editor (to help out the then Editor in Chief who got dangerously sick and was hospitalized for several months and had to learn to walk again, so that when he recovered he would have a job to come back to). I regularly wrote features for Metromode, Ambassdor Magazine, edible WOW, Hour, Art Showcase Magazine, and dozens more on a less frequent basis.
I'm known as a food writer, but the body of my work includes a lot of arts and culture, film, business development, and entrepreneurship coverage (those just happen to be the things you don't see as much since they don't get re-posted on EID). I've been a regular travel writer for New York Post and Fox News, and have done client work for a diversity of companies ranging from Quicken Loans and Digerati to Walsh College to Traffic Jam & Snug. I have organized and promoted two sold-out events for Baconfest Michigan, and was the sole organizer (albeit that came as a last-minute surprise to me) of last year's Detroit Beer Week. My work with EID has led to other freelance writing opportunities, client work including PR and social media management, event organization and marketing opportunities, speaking engagements, radio spots, even a guest appearance on the Food Network. I have worked with or covered every single one of the biggest names on Michigan's culinary scene, not just Detroit. I have made some of the best friends I have in the world as a result of connecting with them through the blog. EID was a passion and a labor of love. Hell, it even helped land me this new job.
As a result of the social capital I've built, even now I still get alerted to "scoops" before anyone else that unfortunately get wasted on me at the moment (though I do still appreciate the emails and texts). In the last month I've had three more people contact me wanting me to manage their social media, not even caring that I moved away (one client begged me to stay on with him for at least a little longer). I got one more even today, as I wrote this.
That's a hell of a lot of cache I've built. And yes, it was hard as hell to walk away from that.
While on my "victory lap," I was incredibly honored and flattered by the things people had to say. "It's the end of an era." "It's a major loss for Detroit." "You are irreplaceable." "You are THE Nicole of Detroit." One chef told me I made his career. Another said the same, and then cried. Another still just cried. A couple of industry guys I randomly bumped into on my victory lap shared stories about how I was the first person to write about them and how much it meant. One even remembers his "anniversary" with me. Others just kept repeating, "I can't believe it. I can believe you're leaving," with dumbfounded looks on their faces. My relationships extend far outside the city and all over the state, and it broke my heart to say goodbye to all that which I've worked so hard to build. Still, I know in my heart it had to be done.
To all the owners, managers, chefs, servers, and bartenders who have been both fans and friends, who have supported me and inspired me, welcomed me with open arms, sat down with me for hours at a time, who called me to give me insider information before anyone else knew about it, who told me that what I wrote about them was the best thing anyone has ever written, who thanked me for my support of the city and of local businesses, who thanked me for everything I have done, and to all of the readers who appreciated my writing and all of the information I shared with you: thank you. YOU are what made this all worthwhile. You are the ones I care about. You are the ones I do not want to disappoint. You are the ones I work for. From you, I never expected anything in return, but still got an enormous amount of support and respect, far more than I ever could have hoped for or imagined. So thank you, for everything.
All of which makes this snotty little spot of speculation from Eater sound pretty silly, doesn't it?
Even now, from 2,000 miles away, those I've built such strong relationships with over the years remain fiercely loyal. The last two days my phone has been blowing up from chefs and other industry people outraged on my behalf. And I appreciate their support, I do, and their fury over what they unanimously regarded as a personal attack. Which it was, and it was meant as bait. And I know exactly who it really came from (and it wasn't the person whose byline appears on the post). To whom all I have to say is this: once upon a time I truly considered you my friend. I would have done anything for you.
And that's all I really need to say on that.
The Metro Times piece is slightly better in tone, though I wouldn't exactly call it glowing. Though Michael Jackman at least managed to get my reason for leaving correct. And the fact that the Metro Times acknowledged me at all is pretty huge, but that's a story that goes back a few years and is better saved for the memoirs.
So this is goodbye for now, but not necessarily forever. Whatever announcement comes after this regarding the fate of EID, I hope this serves as an adequate explanation from me. I'm sorry I've kept you in the dark, but as you can imagine, I've been a bit busy. Follow me on Twitter (@ruperstarki) and Instagram (@eatsdrinksandleaves) to stay up to day on the goings on of Nicole Rupersburg, media superstar. And regarding the future of this blog, well, you'll know as soon as I do. Thank you for everything you've given me over the years, which is far more than I've given you. I love you all. XO
|Whole Foods Midtown. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
In the end though, trends that have been developing for years now continued to grow and evolve. New places opened and old places closed, while others still rebranded. Some things got everyone talking, though what they said often came across as hive mind shoutiness. While some people will debate what the best new restaurants were, to me the interesting question to ask is, what were the biggest things that happened in food this year? Here's my answer.
#1 Whole Foods opened.
Fucking deal with it. This was huge. This was huge for so many reasons. And this validated the "Detroit Renaissance" narrative in so many ways. This of course didn't stop people from whining about it and whining about how people were praising it and whining about people who were whining about praising it because that's just what you people do, but the fact that a grocery store opening incited so much "dialogue" and took over the Internet for interminable weeks (…months, YEARS) is all the proof I need that this was hands-down the biggest story of the year.
#2 Eastern Market got one bajillion dollars for its much-touted Shed 5 renovation.
I'm pretty sure it's going to be a 5-star luxury all-inclusive resort now? Or something? So the Shed 5 renovation has been in the works for some years and there has been a steady stream of foundation money flowing in to fund this or that part of it. Suffice it to say, by the time it's done it is going to be A.MAHZ.ING. Among its many features will be a pimp-ass community commercial kitchen, a 200-seat patio, an 18-hole golf course*, I can't even keep track of it all.
#3 Eastern Market is just fucking awesome.
The end. I mean, just, the fucking end. I keep nutting over this because here's the thing you may or may not realize: for all the buzz that Midtown and Corktown get, Eastern Market is the one district in Detroit that has the potential to be Detroit's definitive tourism draw, a singularly unique experience that travelers cannot easily replicate elsewhere, a place that is entirely walkable with a host of options for dining, drinking, shopping, exploring. High profile/much-buzzed-about restaurants, local artisan shops, local food vendors, scores of hand-made and ethnic items from soaps to spices, art galleries and artists studios (dozens! or at least a single dozen which is still a lot!), makerspaces, old-timey letterpress studios (TWO of them!), easy access to the Dequindre Cut greenway which will be further expanding and connecting to other city greenways, and and and SHED 5!!!! and so much more. Midtown is great, the DIA is pretty, it is completely feasible to walk from, say, Rodin to the Bronx in the middle of the night in the middle of winter (/sarcasm), Corktown is nice with its 12 bars along a mile-long stretch of Michigan Avenue and all the barren lots in between, yepyepyep all great. But Eastern Market is where its at. Next year Detroit City Distillery, Dave Mancini's Supino extension, and the restaurant currently known as Frontera all open, which will just further underscore this point.
|The Stand. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
#4 A bunch of new places opened.
Here is a not-all-all-comprehensive but still meatier than most list of new places that opened in 2013 smattered all throughout greater metro Detroit. If I didn't include something, it is for no particular reason other than it didn't pop into my head. I'm not saying these are the "best" of 2013 because I just don't think that kind of designation is relevant in this market, for reasons.
51 North - a brewery/meadery/winery in Lake Orion
Aventura - a massive wine bar/tapas restaurant/lounge complex in A2 owned by the proprietor of Sava
Bagger Dave's - the one in Greektown, listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
Beignets - food truck based in Hamtramck
Bigalora Ann Arbor - the third location of the casual Italian restaurant and pizzeria formerly known as Pizzeria Biga
Bistro Joe's - a fancy restaurant in the upper mezzanine of a grocery store in Birmingham, which works better than you might think
Brizola - fancy restaurant inside Greektown Casino
Buffalo Wild Wings - the one in Greektown, listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
Cafe ML - Bill Roberts' latest in a Bloomfield
Carnaval Mexican - a casual take-out Mexican place, listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
CAYA Smokehouse - upscale BBQ in Wolverine Lake
The Cheesecake Factory - listed only because it was apparently such a big deal (a line around the BLOCK, people - and it's 12 Oaks Mall so it's a big damn block)
Chelsea Alehouse - brewery in Chelsea, where Michigan's first-ever (now defunct) microbrewery opened in the '80s
Detroit Institute of Bagels - Detroit's only bagel shop
Detroit Vegan Soul - Detroit's only vegan restaurant
Falling Down Beer Co. - brewpub in Warren known for elevated gastropub fare
Fenton Fire Hall - a historic renovation project in downtown Fenton from the folks that brought you Vinsetta Garage and Union Woodshop
Firebird Tavern - beautifully renovated space in Greektown from the owners of Pulse known for a craft beer and solid bar food
Grace of India - one of Detroit's only Indian places, a casual take-out place listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
Great Lakes Culinary Center - not really a restaurant but a big, beautiful events space, rentable commercial kitchen, and demonstration center in Southfield
Griffin Claw - new brewery and distillery in Birmingham from the folks at Big Rock
The Grindhouse - Corridor Sausage Co's food truck
Huerto - upscale Mexican in a Bloomfield
Isalita - upscale Mexican in A2
Jefferson House - ambitious contemporary American menu inside the Crowne Plaza Detroit
La Feria - Spanish tapas in design-forward space in Midtown
La Palma - a fast and casual Lebanese take-out and dine-in place in Midtown listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
Luxe - second location in a Pointe
Macabee's - generic American menu, listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
Marais - upscale French cuisine in a Pointe
Market North End - I'm actually not even sure. Birmingham I think?
Meeting House - contemporary American in Rochester
Melt - gelato, coffee and candy in Midtown, listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
MEX - upscale Mexican in a Bloomfield
Midtown Grille - generic American menu, listed here because it's in Detroit and everything in Detroit is relevant
Moo Cluck Moo - burger and milkshake joint that made headlines for un-fast-food ingredients and paying employees $15/hour in Dearborn Heights; second location also opened in Canton
Old German - in the basement of the Grizz in A2
Ottava Via - contemporary Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Corktown from the Mercury Burger Bar people
Patagonia Parilladas - an Argentine steakhouse in Southwest
Public House - sliders, milkshakes, fried foods and cocktails in Ferndale from the people behind Imperial
Red Crown - historic renovation, craft cocktails, house-smoked BBQ and upscale Southern food in a Pointe
(revolver) - a pop-up that stays popped up in Hamtramck
Rock City Eatery - Eastern European meets American cuisine with contemporary spin in a rocked-out space in Hamtramck
Schramm's Mead - a lovely tasting room with excellent small plates in Ferndale
SkyBar and Lounge - the menu and drink list fail to impress, but the 33rd-floor view of downtown Detroit does not
Smoke Street - BBQ in downtown Milford in the old Five Lakes Grill/Cinco Lagos space
The Stand - Chef Paul Grosz's latest in Birmingham (and it's phenomenal)
Trattoria Pizzeria Da Luigi - possibly just called "Da Luigi" now, this is Italian food and wood-fired pizza in downtown Royal Oak from the former owner of Sangria
Thomas Magee's Sporting House and Whiskey Bar - handsome new bar in EASTERN MARKET
Two James Spirits - gorgeous tasting room in Corktown
Vellum - a (not sure what to say here) restaurant in Ann Arbor
Only this time the locals weren't quite so tickled with it. (It was only a matter of time.) Eddie Huang set a new bar of Detroit-backlash-baiting by first Saying All the Right Things then pissing on a lamp post in the middle of a street. And then there was that whole Bourdain thing.
#6 More shit to open next year.
OHMYGOD IT'S LIKE IT JUST WON'T STOP!!!!!! On deck for next year: Dave Mancini's new place next to Supino, Andy Hollyday's new place in Midtown called Selden Street, Top of the Pontch inside the Crowne Plaza, two new Bucharest Grills (one is a production spot), a second Russell Street Deli (it's called something else, idk), Detroit City Distillery in Eastern Market, the restaurant currently known as Frontera (it will be called something else by the time it opens), a permanent space for Guns + Butter (but oh, will the magic still be there if it's no longer limited and exclusive?), Craft Work in West Village (kind of sort of open already but not really?), another new spot in Ferndale from the folks at Imperial, that BBQ place on 9 Mile that's supposed to be opening in the old AJ's space, Whiskey Disco and something else new at the old Oslo, Kuhnhenn's second location and major production space, Atwater Brewery's new brewpub in a Pointe as well as their MASSIVE NEW PRODUCTION SPACE IN CORKTOWN ACROSS FROM MUDGIE'S which they've been very cagey about announcing and still no one from the Atwater camp has gone on the record about it, Maurice Williams' new spots The Addison and Restaurant 55, Atlas Global Bistro maybe possibly reopening downtown, Alley Wine in Midtown, that douchey-sounding new place in Royal Oak replacing Sangria (but the chef is awesome!), Michael Symon's B Spot Burgers (several locations in the works), Batch Brewing in Corktown, Rubbed in Corktown, Gold Cash Gold in Corktown (not only is this actually still happening, but I'm told they also have a chef), a Chez Chloe food truck, those two restaurants on the ground floor of the Broderick ("Still happening," I'm told), those two restaurants inside the GAR building ("Still happening," is rumored), Cafe con Leche's second location in New Center, and I'm sure many more I missed.
|Cultural Living Room. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
#7 Re-boots continued to be hot.
They were hot in 2011. Hotter still in 2012. And in 2013 they were…well, probably equally as hot as in 2012, but still pretty hot.
Bella Piatti - Bella Piatti in Birmingham got a new owner and a whole new old world Italian menu to go with it.
Bigalora - Pizzeria Biga had to re-name itself Bigalora in order to go forward with trademarking so they can continue opening more and more locations, but worry not, this didn't affect the restaurants at all (aside from some expected menu tweaking that comes with streamlining a new concept).
Cultural Living Room - The Kresge Court inside the DIA got a whole new look and concept, making it a great place to stop for lunch, for meetings, for reading, or whatever.
Craft - Cinq became Commune and Commune became Craft, but it's still in the basement of Bastone, now with a retro '70s look.
Lock + Key - the PDR at Oxford Inn got a new look and concept thanks to a TV show that does such things.
Forest Grill - Forest Grill is going after the "casual dining" dollars by ditching the white tablecloths and introducing a burger menu.
Red Crown - Red Crown in Grosse Pointe Park is now under new ownership and management, making it effectively a new restaurant.
Rodin - Rodin recently lost their opening chef and is undergoing a slight change in concept; the new menu is thematically similar but with all new items less geared towards sit-down fine dining and more geared towards chilling at the bar.
Tallulah - Tallulah in Birmingham is now under new ownership and management, making it effectively a new restaurant. For those of you keeping score, yes, it would appear former proprietor of Bella Piatti, Red Crown, and Tallulah Mindy Lopus has entirely left the restaurant biz, but not the food and beverage biz - her next project is Detroit Wine School.
Torino - Looks like Torino's ongoing identity crisis finally paid off with a new chef and a very buzzy tasting menu that changes weekly.
Treat Dreams - Treat Dreams in Ferndale significantly expanded their space this year, and have also expanded their offerings to include coffee and donuts in the morning - and their Wicked Donuts are already being met with rave reviews.
PS, will Opus One ever reopen? I do not know but it has now been closed for over a year now.
#8 Pop-ups popped harder.
Last year I said pop-ups would eat themselves. They didn't. Instead, they popped harder.
Guns + Butter emerged as the real star, getting featured on That Bourdain Show and then going international with events in L.A., Singapore and Dubai. A brick and mortar location is in the works for 2014. (revolver) is basically a permanent restaurant pop-up, featuring new chefs every weekend with pre-sold prix fixe dinners with two seating times nightly. MotorCity Wine and St. Cece's Pub embraced the pop-up mania and started hosting popular weekly events featuring different guest "pop-ups," in effect acting as restaurant incubators. And unlikely spaces like Shinola and Salt + Cedar hosted pop-up dinners, as well as random arts spaces and not-yet-open restaurants. More economic growth corp-organized pop-ups in Jefferson Chalmers and the Avenue of Fashion demonstrated the model's potential for long-term economic development in targeted neighborhoods. We also saw a few pop-ups go permanent, including Always Brewing Detroit and Coffee and (_____) (though Coffee and (_____) will temporarily close Jan. 6 until sometime this spring as they secure their Certificate of Occupancy to go full-fledged permanent).
|La Feria. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
#9 Hatch alum rocked this year.
Rock City Eatery, Detroit Institute of Bagels, Detroit Vegan Soul, La Feria, and Anthology Coffee all opened permanent locations this year. Next year we should see HenriettaHaus Coffee Roasters and Batch Brewing open in their permanent homes. Which just goes to show, everyone "wins" in this competition, even if it's not the $50,000 grand prize.
#10 Caffeine fiends won the most.
Good or at least serviceable, there are more places to get a decent cup of coffee now than ever before in Detroit. There's Anthology Coffee and Detroit Institute of Bagels in Corktown, Always Brewing Detroit in Grandmont Rosedale, Coffee and (____) in Jefferson Chalmers, the Roasting Plant and Urban Bean Company downtown, the completely renovated Stella Good Coffee in New Center, multiple new Great Lakes Coffee outlets throughout metro Detroit (including, most recently, Ford Field), plus a second retail location for Avalon still in theory happening (next year?). Also, tea started to strike your fancy, with local tea companies Joseph Wesley and Eli Tea Company available at some of these independent cafes and generally gaining "steam." (lol)
|Rock City Eatery. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
#11 Good food, good design.
For the third year in a row, your eyeballs didn't have to suffer for the sake of your tastebuds. Restaurateurs continued to show a strong cognizance of the importance of aesthetics, with thoughtfully-designed spaces that continued to emphasize reclaimed materials and flourishes from local artisans. Check out Fenton Fire Hall, La Feria, MEX, Ottava Via, Public House, Red Crown, Rock City Eatery, The Stand, Stella Good Coffee, Two James Spirits, and Urban Bean Co. Even pop-ups showed a high-minded level of design, working in collaboration with the AIA Detroit on beautiful, if temporary, spaces.
|Two James Distillery. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.|
#12 Booze. Always booze.
This was a BIG year for booze news. Craft beer continued its soaring growth and in metro Detroit we saw plenty of new places open, including Griffin Claw, Falling Down, and 51 North, with Batch Brewing, a second location for Kuhnhenn, and second and third locations for Atwater in the works for 2014. Artisan spirits made a flying leap into popular consciousness as increasingly more breweries started distilling, established distillers like Valentine and New Holland increased their product lines with nationally-recognized products, and the first licensed distillery in the city of Detroit since Prohibition - Two James - opened. Next year Griffin Claw will be in full-bore distilling mode with a separate cocktail bar attached to the brewery, and Detroit City Distillery will open in Eastern Market.
Craft ciders also grew, though they haven't quite yet popped in the mainstream the same way beer and spirits have. Many area cider mills are now making their own hard ciders, and Virtue Cider's Sidra de Nava is bringing national attention to Michigan's craft cider scene.
Use of cans continues to grow as a popular packaging method, and next year even giants like Bell's and Founders are jumping on. Griffin Claw, Right Brain, and Rochester Mills also released their products to the retail market this year, and they're only available in cans. Even Vander Mill ciders are distributed in cans. Because replacing bottling lines and creating packaging systems can be prohibitively expensive, a lot of this canning growth can be attributed to Michigan Mobile Canning, which has helped a lot of these products get to the retail market.
And then there was mead. I wrote a LOT about mead this year (the collected knowledge dump is here), and from all of this I can tell you one thing with certainty: meads are going to explode in coming years, and Michigan, specifically metro Detroit, more specifically Ferndale, will be at the heart of it. Merds from all over the world will flock here to visit the birthplace of B. Nektar and Schramm's. To briefly sum up, B. Nektar is now available in about half of the states in the country and has a brand-new brewing license to continue to expand their product offerings. Schramm's Mead is now open, making one of the top meads in the country from the guy who wrote the book on it. Once Kuhnhenn's production facility in Clinton Township is up and running they're going to be pumping out mead in crazy quantities. And you really might as well learn to be down with the meadness because it's not going away.
Also in news, Greenbush, Odd Side Ales, Right Brain, Rochester Mills, and Griffin Claw all started distributing this year. And new to the Michigan market was Oskar Blues, the Bruery, Green Flash, and Evil Twin.
|Coors Light Sky Deck.|
Grocery stores got fancier and will likely continue to do so. Rooftop patios became a thing - see the Coors Light Sky Deck and the stop/start of whatever it was called on the roof of the Music Hall. Urban beach bars also became a thing thanks to Danny Gillyberts and his Quirky Quicken Kaskading Kiddie Pool and Beach Bar. In general, patios just got better. Sports picked up the "local" mantle, with Comerica Park, Ford Field, the Joe Louis Arena, and the Palace all putting newfound emphasis on local foods and local craft beer (though Ford Field does it best). And while we certainly saw a bit of a slow-down in street food (our net gain of food trucks this year was, like, two), metro Detroiters spoke loud and clear that they want to keep the street in their street food when the ill-conceived Food Truck Cafe closed after just two months in business. (A sub shop is set to open in its place.)
*I'm kidding about that. Or am I????
These are also referred to as “crack balls” in my house. Why? Because one is never enough– they’re just that good. I went through about 5 variations of these before getting the consistency right where I wanted it. The first ones were too sweet (still quite good, don’t get me wrong, but they were more like krispy treats in texture and sweetness, and I was aiming for a more healthful approach wherein I wouldn’t feel guilty popping 3-4 of these in my mouth). The next few versions were either too crumbly or not crunchy enough. These are the ideal balance of protein to nuttiness to sweetness for my palate.
The inspiration to make these came from my obsession with Quest Bars. Have you tried those? They are the best protein bars out there and I never feel guilty about having them. If you put them in the microwave for 10 seconds, they turn all gooey and decadent– it’s like dessert! And they make awesome pre-bed snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth.
You can call these no-bakes, or cookie dough, or whatever, but the bottom line is: they’re so freakin’ good and they make really terrific snacks packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. I love to carry these around with me during the day instead of bars to give me a quick allotment of protein and carbs.
// Easy almond granola protein bites
What makes these easy is the fact that I use store-bought granola instead of making my own (of course, if you happen to have your own homemade granola, please use it!). I am in LOVE with Nature’s Path Organic Ancient Grains Granola with Almonds, only available at Costco. It has an amazing blend of oats, spelt, kamut, quinoa, amaranth, and almonds, with just a touch of sweetness from vanilla and molasses. I highly recommend grabbing a couple boxes of this stuff next time you’re at Costco. If you’re not a Costco member (shame on you! :-p), you can substitute with another good box of vanilla almond granola.
Makes 30 bites
3/4 cup granola, ground into a flour using a mini food processor
1 1/4 cup granola, loose crumbles, broken apart if needed using a mini food processor
1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/3 cup creamy, natural almond butter
1/3 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
Handful raw, slivered almonds chopped roughly using a mini food processor, to roll bites in
// Put the granola, protein powder, almond and peanut butters, and honey into a large bowl. Mix using your hands– it’s going to be a messy, sticky situation at first but eventually this will turn into a cookie dough consistency. Use a teaspoon or teaspoon-measure mini scooper (like a smaller version of an ice cream scooper) to portion out the bites. Roll them into balls and then toss them in the chopped almonds to cover. These protein bites can be eaten straight away but I prefer them cold out of the fridge.