Dashboard Cookie Confessional

Ever since I was a little kid, it’s something I wanted to do. Young and naive, I couldn’t wait to grow up to have such freedom and access. Now that I’m an adult, I’m finally making my inner child proud: I baked cookies inside my car.

As temperatures began to exceed 100℉ on a regular basis, I knew this was my time to shine. Finally, I have my own car, live in an environment that’s somewhere between the depths of hell and the surface of the sun, and am still crazy enough to do it. If you’ve always wanted to open up your car door and step into your own mobile oven, here’s what you need to know.

Use Protection

  • Metal baking sheets are the best conductors of heat, but that goes both ways. Place a kitchen towel, pot holder, or trivet underneath so it doesn’t melt or burn the interior of your car.
  • Line the baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the cookies from sticking. A silicone baking mat will absorb too much heat to be effective, and aluminum will reflect too much and cause the edges to get too crispy.
  • Likewise, use a pot holder whenever moving the sheet because it will be hot.

Placement and Timing Are Important

  • Make sure you park your car in direct sun to maximize those UV rays.
  • Start baking when the sun is at its peak; usually around noon or 1:00pm.
  • While your cookies will bake in any position, I found it was most effective to place the baking sheet directly on the dashboard, as close to the windshield as possible. Barring that, the next best place is the trunk, as long as you have a glass window in back too.

Turn Up The Heat

  • Keep the windows rolled up and the doors closed. Any time you open them or break the seal, you’re letting the heat drop.
  • It needs to be at least 95℉ (35°C)outside to attempt this with any level of success.
  • Keep a thermometer inside your car to monitor the temperature, and place it somewhere that you can see it without getting into the car.
  • The interior needs to reach at least 160℉ (71°C) to “bake” effectively.
  • Cooking time will vary, since this isn’t a regulated heat source. Expect it take anywhere from 2 – 5 hours for the cookies to set. They may not brown as much as you’d normally expect, but should be firm enough to pick up and no longer shiny on top.

Recipe For Success

  • While any recipe can technically work, simple drop cookies are your best bet, since they’re more forgiving with variable times and temperatures. A cookie with a high butter to flour ratio is more likely to end up greasy, which means that chewy wins the battle over crunchy for this round.
  • Size does matter. My usual cookies use about 1/4 cup of dough, which took roughly 3 hours to bake while it was 104 degrees outside. You can expedite the process by making smaller cookies, especially if it’s not as hot in your neck of the woods.
  • Vegans have the added benefit of being able to eat semi-baked or even raw cookies without fear. Look ma, no raw eggs! That means every attempt is always successful, with or without an excessive heat warning in effect.

The beauty of car-baked cookies is that you’re using a completely renewable, entirely free energy source while saving electricity inside your home! No need to blast the AC after cranking up the oven, which can add up quickly.

The only thing better than sinking your teeth into warm, gooey, homemade cookies on a hot summer day is getting to enjoy that freshly baked aroma for weeks to come. Hope you don’t drive hungry!

Snow Day in July

Snow is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares. Growing up on the east coast, I could anticipate at least two or three days off from school every year due to impassable, slush-covered, perilously icy roads. In those early days before driving or work deadlines were a concern, snow days were gifts better than any mandated calendar holiday. Something about their randomness made them more special; the element of surprise was part of the fun.

With age came a creeping dread of the unknown, intolerance for the cold, and overall distaste for winter. I spent all of my adult life running from it, moving to the warmest places possible to avoid snow days at all costs. Snow is much more acceptable from afar, enjoyed on a TV screen or within a controlled environment. Case in point: Snow cones will always be welcomed with open arms as the best type of blizzard possible.

Nothing takes the edge off of a scorching summer day like a heaping spoonful of freshly shaven ice, ground as finely as a powdery snowfall. It’s brilliantly easy to make this refreshing treat at home! Special equipment is helpful for the best results, but you can absolutely get by with what you have, IE, a food processor or blender. A shave-ice machine will give you a fluffier texture while this alternative method will create a denser texture, more like a packed snow ball.

How To Make Snow Cones without a Machine

  1. Chill the canister of your blender or food processor in advance to prevent the ice from instantly melting upon contact.
  2. Use at least 2 cups of ice cubes per batch, but no more than 4 cups to make sure everything is evenly ground.
  3. Pulse rapidly to break down the ice into smaller pieces, pausing to quickly scrape down the sides of the canister if it’s not all being incorporated.
  4. Continue until the ice is finely ground and looks like snow, with no remaining lumps. Listen closely because the sound will change from loud clattering to a quieter, more even whirring.
  5. Immediately transfer the powdery ice to a container and stash it in the freezer until ready to use.

The only thing more important than the ice is the flavoring! There’s no limit to the possibilities here, whether you want to work with only fresh, whole fruits or go avant-garde with extracts. Add more flair with natural food coloring, which could come out of a bottle or straight from nature. Just as a brief refresher course…

Quick and Easy Natural Food Coloring Options Include:

  • Beet Powder or Beet Juice = Red
  • Carrot Juice = Orange
  • Turmeric = Yellow
  • Matcha, Powdered Spinach or Kale = Green
  • Butterfly Pea Tea Powder AKA Blue Matcha = Blue
  • Ube Extract = Purple

Bear in mind that any liquid colors should replace an equal measure of water to keep the sweetener ratio accurate. These will also be more likely to contribute stronger flavors, so make sure you’re ready to embrace those vegetal tastes or use stronger extracts to cover them up.

When you want a treat with no added sugar, snow cones are just the thing! Prepared sugar-free syrups are an easy, instant fix. For something homemade, just start with ripe, super sweet fruit, and accentuate the flavor with a touch of stevia or monkfruit as needed.

Is it possible to make snow cones or shaved ice without syrup in the first place?

Don’t let syrups limit your imagination. You can start with a full-flavored base by freezing juice, smoothies, and beyond to use as the finely shaved ice going into your cone. An added benefit to this approach is that the ice crystals stay lighter and fluffier since they’re not weighted down with extra toppings, while melting a little less slowly as well.

Minted Matcha Snow Cone
In this minted matcha snow cone, the solids settled at the bottom of the ice. I think that’s a good thing because it makes a uniquely variegated mixture, so every bite is a little different.

Instead of plain water, try freezing any of the following:

  • Brewed and cooled coffee
  • Matcha
  • Fruit juice
  • Smoothies
  • Drinkable yogurt
  • Non-dairy milk (plain, vanilla, chocolate, etc)

Snow cones are truly the best way to enjoy a snow day. They’re naturally vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, with easy options for making them sugar-free, keto, and paleo-friendly. Best of all, you can enjoy your flurries while chilling poolside under the warm summer sun.

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New Novelties

Summer should be a care-free time of late mornings followed by slow, unhurried afternoons. When the heat becomes unbearable, a brief cat nap in the shelter of leafy, shaded canopy is more than just socially acceptable, but practically mandatory. When fireflies appear along with the onset of nightfall, the warm evenings seem to stretch on forever, infinite as the number of stars brightening the dark sky.

Summers are precious. Don’t force yourself to work when every fiber of your being wants to play. While some commitments are unavoidable, there’s so much more extraneous noise that we could tune out. That’s why I’m happy to spend less time in the kitchen to make those moments count.

This is a quick snack I originally devised to feature a favorite vegan ice cream brand, taking their chocolate-covered raspberry-acai ice cream off the stick and into a fresh parfait. The shatteringly crisp dark chocolate shell gives way to a silken frozen custard filling. Chopping it into cubes makes each layer instantly accessible, without the fear of drips or mess to spoil the snack. Nestled on top of a super fast, fruity chia pudding, the combination is much more substantial than the average novelty to stave off hunger through the most vigorous match of yard darts or pickle ball.

Unfortunately, that brand is no longer the magnificent purveyor of plant-based indulgences I originally fell in love with, so those bars are off the table. Many more have stepped up to the plate, however, making such a simple concept that much more accessible overall.

What brands make the best dairy-free chocolate-covered novelties?

There’s no hard and fast rule that you must use a chocolate-covered pop, but it’s that textural contrast that makes it so compelling. Mix and match flavors at will, swapping in seasonal fruits based on availability, add nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate chips, and most importantly, don’t overthink it. It’s a stretch to call this a full recipe, but for the sake of convenience, here’s the basic blueprint so you can bookmark it for later.

Now get back out there and enjoy the sun. Summer only comes once a year.

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Flour with A-Peel

Did you know that it’s possible to make flour out of America’s favorite fruit? That means it’s naturally gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and keto-friendly. Now that’s bananas- Literally!

Green banana flour has been slow to take off in the US but has a ton of potential waiting to be unlocked. I was fortunate enough to get a sample of the stuff years ago, so I’ve been experimenting and learning through those trials, finally arriving at foolproof recipes worth sharing. It’s quite different from wheat, so don’t try just swapping it out 1-for-1.

Case in point; this early attempt was supposed to be a classic loaf of banana bread. The darned brick refused to rise, remaining as dry as a desert, condensed into a single bite.

How can you substitute banana flour for wheat flour?

Since banana flour has such a high starch content, you can use 25 – 30% less banana flour than wheat flour if adapting more conventional recipes. Otherwise, you’ll want to increase the liquid accordingly.Made from unripe, green bananas, this flour is high in starch which makes it very absorptive.

What does banana flour taste like?

It has a fairly neutral flavor, so it won’t taste like sweet, ripe bananas by itself. It’s ground very finely to create a smooth, almost silky texture when thickening liquids, and dense, regular crumb in baked goods.

With the right balance of liquid, fat, leavening, and a good dose of patience, the best, most banana-filled bread is absolutely within reach! Learning from my mistakes, I was able to craft a rich, moist, and tender bundt filled with every form of bananas I could get; banana flour, banana chips, and of course, fresh bananas. Each slice is sweet but not sugary, brightened with ginger and zesty orange juice for an invigorating finish.

Consider banana flour as an alternative to coconut flour or cassava flour, two other tropical, starchy powders with textural properties. It can be eaten raw, blended into smoothies in small doses, but is much more enjoyable when cooked, if you ask me.

I’ve also found banana flour to be an incredible ingredient for more savory preparations… But I’ll have to tease you with that idea for the time being. Stay tuned for part two of my banana flour exploration.

Banana flour can still be challenging to find in some parts of the US. If you can’t get it locally, you’ve got plenty of options online. It’s worth seeking out to make such tasty treats that can accommodate almost any dietary restrictions.

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Coming Up Roses

Time after time, across the years for decades, if not centuries, surveys have shown that recipients always prefer sweets over flowers on Mother’s Day. No contest here; whether we’re talking about a classic box of chocolate or a more elaborate dessert, appetites tend to win over aesthetics.

What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? Give your mother and all the maternal figures in your life an edible bouquet this year, even if you’ve been sleeping on the event. These quick treats will have you seeing the situation through rose-tinted glasses. Simply wrap up apple slices infused in blushing beet syrup with flaky puff pasty for a beautiful treat that will blossom in the oven.

Versatile enough to present as a breakfast in bed, surprise midday snack, or nightcap to end the day on a high note. Just a little bit of effort goes a long way, in both baking and family relations.

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Bamboozled Cup Noodles

Few things are as consistent and predictable as ramen noodles. Dried, impervious to outside conditions for years, those shelf-stable strands taste the same on day one as they do on day one thousand. Tender and slippery, always salty, the savory flavor is a simple pleasure that everyone can appreciate. It’s a universal experience that seems to feed a hunger that isn’t always just a physical need. That’s the definition of comfort food; providing satisfaction on an emotional level.

Glistening as they float to the top of the cup, each glossy curl beckons, invoking a primal hunger even for those otherwise lacking an appetite. Such a familiar, nostalgic flavor promises the same instant gratification every single time. Before plunging in a fork, spoon or set of chopsticks, you already know exactly what you’re getting.

But wait, what is this trickery? Giving way like softly whipped cream, the seemingly plump noodles are not long and starchy at all! Beneath, where the should be soup, something more substantial awaits. Solid rather than liquid, this base seems to be fluffy, golden, and…

Cake? Make no mistake, this is definitely a sweet yellow cake, fragrant with notes of vanilla sugar, topped with silky cream cheese frosting!

April Fool’s!

As one who’s been burned a few times too many by ill-conceived and borderline malicious jokes, this is the only type of trick I’ll pull. I doubt anyone would actually be fooled, which makes it better, if you ask me. It’s a gentle trompe l’oeil, designed to delight rather than disgust. The ceramic cup noodle mug is what makes it more compelling, but it’s far from mandatory to get in on the fun.

You can easily make your own ramen cupcake by baking your favorite batter in any small oven-safe mug or bowl. Fill it only about halfway, since it will rise, and you still want space on top to add “noodles.” Baking time can vary greatly depending on the size, shape, and thickness of your vessel, so to make sure the cake is cooked all the way through, keep a close eye on your oven and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center. When removed, there should only be a few moist crumbs clinging to the sides at most, and no raw batter.

Cool completely and apply your favorite white, beige, or light tan frosting using a piping bag fitted with a multi hole piping tip. For the finish touch, add a few tiny pieces of peeled and diced kiwi along with pomegranate arils to stand in for the token vegetables on top.

You don’t need a wicked sense of humor to appreciate such a harmless prank. Like ramen, cake of any kind is welcome on my table at all times.