All About That Base

Cake mixes get a bad rap- in most cases, rightly so. Little more than overpriced packages of flour, the advantage they offer to conventional baking is slim to none. Hapless bakers end up investing their precious time and money on treats that taste no better than a processed, packaged dessert straight off the grocery store shelf. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of the concept. I’ve always railed against such purported “conveniences” that merely cut out the step of measuring ingredients already ready and waiting in the pantry.

To every rule, however, there is an exception. PastryBase is that rare unicorn that makes the cut, quite literally in the case of their adorable Unicorn Cupcake Baking Kit. What sets this apart from the pack is that you get so much more than just a bag of dusty white flour.

One box contains everything you need to hit the ground baking, which is exceptionally helpful if you’re not a regularly keep the pantry fully stocked. That includes rainbow cupcake papers, a disposable piping bag, two types of sprinkles, those highly Instagrammable unicorn toothpick toppers, and of course, both cake and frosting mix. All you need to supply is a splash of non-dairy milk, oil, and some vegan butter.

Did I mention yet that it’s gluten-free? It’s an important feature, but the least of my concerns when I’m savoring the fruits of my scant labor. This is one of those rare baked goods that dessert devotees would flock to, expressing genuine shock and disbelief that they are, in fact, gluten-free. Moist and tender all the way through, there’s not a dry crumb to be found. Of course, there’s not a crumb left by the time you finish licking the paper clean, either.

Just as importantly, they’re not bound so tightly with gums or thickeners that they’re more dense than osmium. For all the conventional ingredients omitted in this mix, these little cakes truly lack nothing.

Whipping up in mere minutes, the soft, gooey frosting comes together like a standard American buttercream. Though I held back on the liquid, adding only 1 of 3 suggested tablespoons, mine came out far less fluffy than that pictured. Regardless, I certainly can’t complain about the taste. Bearing a subtle hint of marshmallow and notes of vanilla, it crowns those golden cakes with a gentle kiss of sweetness.

Enjoyed altogether, these treats deliver a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth experience. Plus, that coarse colored sugar isn’t just for show; it adds a crunchy, satisfyingly granular texture for welcome contrast.

Easy enough for a child but too much fun to let them enjoy all the glory alone, PastryBase is the only mix I will allow in my kitchen. PastryBase is passionate about changing the notion that baking is too difficult, arduous, and time-consuming for the home cook. Their mission is to encourage everyone, from beginners to pastry mavens, to bake more often, with higher-quality ingredients, and no worries. Now that is something I can happily sink my teeth into.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with PastryBase. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Be Pro-Active

In this age of antibacterial soaps, lotions, sprays, gels, and for all I know, mouthwashes, it’s easy to lose sight of this simple fact: Bacteria are not the enemy. In fact, we are bacteria, more than anything else! Numbers vary per person, but bacteria and other microbes in our body outnumber our own cells by about 10:1. While we’re working hard to kill the nasty ones that can spread disease, we might be doing more harm than good in the long run.

Just like any compelling story, there’s more than just a good guy and bad guy at play in the human microbiome. Slick marketing likes to lump all bacteria into those two categories, dumbing down the concept to make a quick buck, but there’s much more nuance within this world of single cell microorganisms. Existing everywhere on earth, different strains work in concert to make the most potent cocktail of beneficial probiotics.

That’s why I take probiotic supplements religiously, no matter how much yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut I eat. To make sure I get the full gamut of diverse probiotic species, my go-to booster is Kyo-Dophilus Pro+ Synbiotic. These unassuming, shelf-stable tablets boast beneficial bacteria counts that you can count on.

Kyo-Dophilus Pro+ Synbiotic are berry-flavored, chewable tablets that come in convenient, single-serving packets for easy daily dosage. Each tablet contains powerful prebiotics and nine probiotic strains, working together in harmony to boost everything from immunity to digestion, and far beyond. Non-GMO and free of soy, gluten, dairy, and artificial colors and flavors, this is the probiotic for everyone, despite the inherent intricacies of each person’s highly individual microbiome.

Though I’ve been taking various probiotic supplements for as long as I could open the medicine cabinet unsupervised, they haven’t all worked the same way, to say the least. Generally, your body needs 30 – 60 days to feel the full impact of regular probiotic use, but I knew right away when this one was working. Let’s just say it’s a genuine relief to merely experience basic regularity, and leave it at that.

While the price point is a bit higher than my usual go-to, this is a case where you do get what you pay for. The added prebiotics are essentially fiber that provides food for the probiotics to eat, powering their important work. You’re guaranteed 20 billion CFU (colony forming units) ready to spring into action, packed into every dose. As a believer in being proactive with my health, it’s a smart investment to make.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Wakunaga of America. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Firehouse Favorite

When I first met Paul five years ago, I knew right away that he was different from my usual photography client. His passion was unmistakable, almost tangible, paired with an infectious enthusiasm and warmth that could win friends in an instant. It wasn’t just a granola business he envisioned, but a stronger, healthier community. Such lofty goals never seemed out of reach with a clear vision and determination to make it possible.

Paul’s Firehouse Granola has been a labor of love from day one, born from the need to feed fellow firefighters while spending long hours on duty. Never knowing when they’d need to refuel, Paul’s carefully balanced formula was a runaway hit. This convenient, delicious snack was designed to provide quick energy to sustain them for the long haul, but demand quickly spread beyond the station. It’s easy to see why, just at a glance.

No other granola on grocery store shelves packs in the same quality and variety of whole nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruits, and whole grains. The best way to honor such superlative ingredients is to let them shine, unimpeded by excessive sugar or heavy spices. Paul’s Firehouse Granola is so spectacular because Paul doesn’t doesn’t cut any corners or take any shortcuts, valuing flavor just as much as nutrition. That means you’ll find rich dark chocolate chunks cozied up right next to toasted nuts and thick-cut, toasted oats.

As if that emphasis on premium ingredients wasn’t enough to feel good about, your purchase helps those in need, too. Paul’s Firehouse Granola proudly supports The San Jose Firefighters Burn Foundation and The Natalia Salcido Legacy Fund.

Now, after a lifetime of dreaming, years of hard work, and countless hours in the kitchen, Paul’s Firehouse Granola is finally available for online purchase! I’m proud to say I played any role in shaping the this voice for this bold new brand, and want to shout from the rooftops about the news. Instead, I thought it might be more effective to share a taste of this incredible blend with you. THREE lucky readers will get the gift of granola shipped straight to their door! If you’d like to win a beautiful glass jar full of Paul’s Firehouse Granola, leave me a comment below about your favorite way to eat granola. Do you sprinkle it over yogurt, mix it into muffins, or just eat it straight?

If you’d like some fresh ideas, make sure you check out the recipes I developed, including waffles, pancakes, and so much more.

Don’t forget to log your entry below, and find additional ways to enter, too!

Continue reading “Firehouse Favorite”

Rice and Shine

Growing up in the age of internet anxiety, there was an intense, irrational fear of the unknown lurking in the depths of the Worldwide Web. I vividly remember stern warnings from teachers when we first climbed into chairs in the computer lab, the information superhighway at our fingertips. We were coached from day one to guard our privacy ferociously; never give out your real name, your phone number or, god forbid, you address, under threat of death or torture.

Now here we are in 2021, meeting up with strangers and buying vegan sushi off of Instagram. What a wild trip it’s been.

Despite that sketchy introduction, Rice Above is a fledgling food purveyor with low-key sales tactics but high-quality rolls. The moment I laid eyes on those brilliantly colored, boldly creative maki, I was hooked. Menus drop at random, and the only way to get in on the action is to watch @riceaboveATX on Instagram. Forget about the standard fusion fare; these are more than mere vegetable rolls. Meatless orange chicken, or watermelon tuna with cream cheese, or fish-free eel are just the beginning. As soon as I saw my opening, I had to place an order, of course, but I also had to know more. Luckily, times have changed since my earliest online interactions, and everything is easily accessible with just a few clicks of the mouse.

I reached out to chef Shane Michael, the man behind the business, to get the inside scoop on above board but below the radar sushi deals.

Hannah Kaminsky: Why/how did you get started in the first place?

Shane Michael: Well, when covid became a scary reality, I took a step back and left work to stay home and keep my family as safe and isolated as possible. When it first really hit us all… everyone was kind of at a loss for how to navigate the new territory. So many businesses closed and options for vegan food slowly began to dwindle. In the beginning, MANY of the normal spots here were closed. So, I really wanted to put an option out there for anyone stuck at home. I did contact-free delivery to help make it easier for anyone that was home bound and hungry. Since then, it’s been an up and up.

HK: Before launching Rice Above, did you have a background with sushi, or cooking in general?

SM: So, the only sushi background I had was just in making it as a hobby to eat at home. I started out rough haha then slowly caught the hang of it. Then really started branching out with what was possible or fun to do.

HK: What inspires the flavors for your rolls?

SM: I really wanted to focus on what wasn’t being represented for vegans, here. I don’t care about an avocado roll.. I don’t care about an AAC roll. These have always felt like cop out rolls on regular sushi menus meant to have a veg option. I wanted to make sushi that didn’t feel like someone was settling for a vegan option. What rolls can be veganized? Then, I just thought of what flavors go well with other flavor profiles. Blueberry + habanero, mango + spam, apples + oranges. It’s been most fun trying to match flavors that aren’t typically an option.

Zero Roll – Gluten Free Sweet Teriyaki Chick’n, Sautéed Cashews, VVhite Sauce, Crumbled Cashews, Eel Drizzle

HK: Is this your side hustle or full-time gig? What else do you do when you’re not rolling?

SM: For the majority of covid it has kept us afloat. But, ultimately, it is a side gig until I can really push forward and make it full time. At the moment I also work at a vegan food truck, down south. RVK!

HK: Does anyone else help you in the kitchen, or are you rolling solo?

SM: It really has just been me. I have had help with deliveries when needed. But, even that is something I’d like to figure out a permanent process for. It’s fun but it’s also a lot of work. It has to be a labor of love haha otherwise I’d lose my mind trying to keep up.

HK: What has been your biggest challenge thus far?

SM: I’d have to say… trying to organize the entire process. Keeping up with demand. Keeping options rotating to hold interest. Some weeks are absolutely insane. Prepping the right amount to fulfill all the rolls that are pre-ordered. Every week is just so different with how many customers are ordering however many rolls.

ShEELa RollAvocado, Cucumber, Wrapped in Vegan Glazed Unagi, VVhite Sauce, Eel Drizzle

HK: Have you faced any unique issues you weren’t expecting, in regards to operating in the middle of a pandemic?

SM: The pandemic propelled it. And Austin is incredible with its support of local vegan business. Our community is unlike any other. I think the pandemic actually forced a simpler process. No contact. So pickups are contact-free. Deliveries are on the door step. Masks. Masks. Masks.

HK: Any plans to expand? Regular pop-ups, food truck, brick and mortar, or something else?

SM: The ultimate goal is to have a food truck location. That’s on the agenda for next year. Fingers crossed. Until then… consistent weekly drops. Pop ups. And hopefully some branching out to other cities in Texas.

Appels & Oranjes Roll – Gluten Free Orange Chick’n, Pickled Carrot, Pickled Honeycrisp Apple, Fresh Orange Segments, Homemade Orange Sauce, Sesame Seeds

HK: How can people best support you right now? Aside from ordering, of course.

SM: Oh man. Any advice on this kind of stuff would be greatly appreciated. Something I think that helps massively and is often overlooked… is sharing on social media. The more photos posted in stories or on Facebook always brings more followers… which always brings more orders. It may not seem like something so simple could be so beneficial, but it’s one of the biggest helps for boosting the radar.

Also, some shout-outs to the best teammates in our local vegan community.

@vegmexnissi
@austinkindcakes
@lacalakabakery
@vegans_r_sexy cheese
@zucchinikillbakery
@veggcatering
@funky_mello
@revolutionvegankitchen
@bignonnas
@rebel.cheese
@sweetritual
and of course @bittersweet__

Worshiping at the Alter of Althea

Guru. Pioneer. Celebrity. Savant. God.

Matthew Kenney is many things to his multitude of fervent followers, but one thing cannot be denied: The man knows how to cook. Well, more accurately, he knows how to treat his vegetables right, heat need not be applied. He is not just a chef, but a brand in and of himself. Commanding the table at over two dozen fine dining establishments worldwide, he’s arguably the trailblazer at the head of the raw food movement. These days, his formal education from the French Culinary Institute manifests in less rigid preparations, mandating minimal processing, rather than a complete abstinence of heat.

Three Beet Carpaccio

As a prominent figure in the plant-based movement from the days before it was cool, his name hit my radar sporadically, but my experience with his food has been limited. Only once before, over a decade ago, was I fortune enough to dine at Pure Food and Wine before its scandalous closure. Thankfully, the man is unflappable, soldiering on with new projects seemingly sprouting up everyday. Althea in Chicago offers a compact menu of re-imagined classic dishes spanning numerous global cuisines, along with Kenney’s own fusion creations. The only knock against the place is location. Completely hidden away on the 7th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, you must navigate through racks of stiff men’s suits and deftly dodge the perfume counter to earn your meal.

Kimchi Dumplings

Stemming from the Greek name that can be applied to either a woman or a man, Althea means “wholesome,” from the verb althos, meaning ‘to heal’. Fittingly, the mission statement of the eponymous restaurant is to meld plant-based culinary art and ultimate nutrition.

Mightyvine Tomato + Zucchini Lasagna

Most raw approaches treat food only as fuel, leaching out all the joy and whimsy from the act of eating. This was one of the rare instances I can look back on the concept and it has the potential to compete with any Michelin-starred cooking.

Kelp Noodle Cacio E Pepe

Truly alive in more ways that old-school “uncookery” would imply, colors vibrate off immaculately plated dishes, flavors explode with incomparable intensity; the full essence of each vegetable is celebrated. You won’t find dehydrated planks of flaxen juicer pulp here. This menu is designed from a place of joy and abundance, from a creative food lover unleashed from traditional culinary boundaries. Defying easy explanation, this is an experience that you simply must enjoy firsthand to properly grasp. Book your table, book your tickets, get yourself out there; it’s worth traveling any distance to enjoy.

Althea
700 N Michigan Avenue
7th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611

Supplements Get Personal

Isn’t it time that nutritional recommendations got personal? Wellness is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but should give you the same comfort as your favorite pair of stretchy sweatpants when tailored properly. Vegans especially need to be cautious of common dietary shortfalls, such as Vitamin B-12 and Omega-3, while steering clear of fishy sources or bovine gelatin capsules. Unless you’re a doctor, it’s pretty overwhelming to navigate the sea of supplements alone.

Meet Persona Nutrition, your new ally and advocate. They don’t just bundle together a bunch of popular pills and send you on your way. Recommendations are made based on an in-depth assessment of your existing conditions, lifestyle choices, concerns, current prescriptions, and health goals. Beyond the science-based, doctor-approved algorithms, a genuine human touch is what sets this service apart from the rest. Private consultations with qualified dietitians are there to answer questions, provide support, or help adjust your program as needed. Health is a moving target, so whenever your circumstances change, Persona has the agility to adapt to your needs.

I’ve been through the ringer trying to piece together a patchwork of appropriate supplements over the years. Customer reviews on massive online shopping websites can only go so far, though, which leads to a whole lot of trial and error. It’s taken the better part of two decades to find some suitable regime, and even then, I don’t have complete confidence that I’ve gotten it exactly right. After a month using Persona, I discovered that the answer is obvious: You really can feel the difference.

Truth be told, I didn’t want it to be quite so effective. It’s definitely more expensive than my previous regime, but this is a case where you do get what you pay for. Beyond the actual supplements, you get the backing of a full support team when you need it. I had questions right away about the sleep pack, since I had been taking a mega-dose of melatonin for years, and was concerned about transitioning down to 3mg. There’s a nutritionist waiting to talk to you for just such an occasion. No wait, no bad hold music, and no more confusion.

My friendly consultant gave me the rundown of what to expect and outlined a long term plan that would eventually wean me off of melatonin altogether. Having used it as a crutch for so long, it seemed impossible… Until I went to bed that night. Despite cutting my typical load by 1/4, I was out like a light.

It’s not magic; it’s science. Supplements designed to work with your unique body chemistry via customized vitamin packs delivered to your door every 28 days. No guesswork, no bottles, no refills, and absolutely no stress. Start the new year strong and finally take control of your health. Try Persona Nutrition now and get 30% off for 2 months. Rest assured that you’re in good hands here, because peace of mind is an important part of wellness, too.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Persona Nutrition. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!