Trifling Matters

Shattered beyond repair, my once grand glass trifle dish lay in ruin. Wordlessly closing the cardboard shipping box that had become its tomb, I placed it by the door, ready for the next trip to the dumpster. No tears were shed, no outpouring of emotion could be summoned. It was a devastating loss, without a doubt, but I was already numb from uncovering the very same scene in each of the over 40 packages I shipped to save moving expenses. Of all the pieces I would mourn, the trifle was at the bottom of that list. Who really needed a vessel that would feed a crowd in the middle of a pandemic, after all?

Glorious layered affairs that are the stuff of royalty, grand parties, and celebratory gatherings throughout the centuries, there is no such thing as a small trifle. It transforms into a parfait or a verrine when scaled down; no less delicious, but a far cry from its original grandeur. Even the most humble of ingredients can become sublime in such a magnificent presentation.

This one stacks as a summery strawberry shortcake fit for a crowd. Soft cubes of freshly baked vanilla cake soak in jam like sweet sponges, layered with fresh berries, buttery custard, and clouds of whipped coconut cream. Though simple in concept, it makes a big impression as one generous, family-style indulgence.

Time heals all wounds. No, it’s not possible to put those irreparably fractured shards back together, but there is hope for a new start. A new life, a new community, and a new trifle dish; some how, they all seem linked in my mind. It’s just a trifle, but being able to share it freely with a full home of new friends feels incredibly significant.

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Let Freedom Ring

Americans are not shy about letting their opinions be known, particularly when it comes to matters of freedom. From the very inception of this country, our founding fathers were shouting from the rooftops about liberty and justice for all. That ideal was a bit skewed and misleading at the time, silently omitting the vast majority of the population, but after a few hundred years of mucking about, I’m cautiously hopeful that we’re on the right path to actually realizing that dream.

“…if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

On this particularly joyous 4th of July, when many reunite, emerging from quarantine cocoons for the first time in over one and a half years, there’s so much more to celebrate than just the baby steps forward on the journey towards true freedom. Vaccination does feel akin to emancipation; we must never forget the struggle to get here, nor those not fortunate enough to see this day.

It’s truly a bittersweet moment for me, acknowledging both the immense progress we’ve made collectively, and still the terrible, horrendous, and heinous setbacks that continue to plague the country. As a rule, however, I’d like to focus on the positive. Though many still suffer, I want freedom to ring, loud and clear, in every home and especially… Every home freezer.

Yes, it all comes back to food! Finally free to serve friends in-person, I’m thrilled to whip up a batch of frosty ice cream doughnuts from Super Vegan Scoops! to symbolize the endless ring of freedom intended for all inhabitants of these fifty states.

For a more thematically appropriate attire, these cool contenders are all dressed up in a variation of the white chocolate shell icing. For a blue tint, it just takes 1 teaspoon of butterfly pea tea powder (also known as “blue matcha,”) and the red is infused with 1 teaspoon of powdered beets. Add festive sprinkles and voila, you suddenly have some beautiful, festive food to share.

At long last, on this 242nd observance of our independence day, I hope that freedom truly can ring for one and all, and may it taste as sweet as vanilla bean ice cream.

Sundaes Everyday

If you’ve ever flipped through a new cookbook and thought, “Man, that recipe looks amazing, but I’m just too tired to start from scratch,” or “I don’t have all the ingredients here,” or “I just don’t have the time,” you’re not alone.

Even simple formulas can become daunting given the demands of work, family, and life in general. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just treat those glossy pages like a restaurant menu, ready to order on a whim?

For anyone living in the Austin area or craving some culinary tourism, June and July are your lucky months.

Sweet Ritual, esteemed vegan ice cream parlor and frozen dessert specialists, will treat your taste buds to limited edition specials based on the creations in Super Vegan Scoops!

Celebrating the launch of the book, you’ll be able to spoon into a Boba Tea Parfait or Elvis Banana Split without doing any of the prep work or cleanup afterwards.

Make your own custom boba masterpiece; take your pick from the full spectrum of milkshake flavors and add tapioca pearls to it. There’s no wrong way to swirl it up, though strawberry and coffee get top billing from the tireless tasters scooping it out as Sweet Ritual staff.

If you want to make like a banana and split, you can pick out two scoops of ice cream to perch upon a caramelized banana, house-made peanut butter shell, crunchy peanuts, and a spiced coconut bacon topping. It truly is fit for a king!

Once you’ve fallen in love with the flavors, you can pick up signed copies of Super Vegan Scoops! to take home with you, too.

Churning out premium dairy-free ice cream made with local suppliers and local produce to use real fruit, fragrant spices, and handmade baked goods in every scoop, Sweet Ritual should already be at the top of your list for a dessert fix. Getting my creations featured is genuinely a dream come true, so come visit, share about it on social media, and prove to me that it’s real!

You’ve got two months to indulge, starting right now. Ready, set, scoop!

Sweet Ritual
4631 Airport Blvd, Suite 125
Austin, TX 78751

Peach of Perfection

The permanent nature of conventional cookbooks is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, there’s some wiggle room for updated editions with future editions, but once those first pages are printed, they’re set in place, bound together for life. Those original words will never change, no matter how many trends come and go. Sure, if the stars are aligned, you can pray for reprints to correct errors, though that’s the real extent of it. We’re not talking about massive renovations here.

Letting go of the project and officially marking it “finished” is a relief. As a freelancer who juggles scores of assignments at once, being able to put even one of those bouncing balls down is downright freeing. Finally, a bit of breathing room, more bandwidth for other ventures! Though daunting to relinquish that control, it does feel good to let loose a completed volume of recipes upon the world.

With every cookbook, inevitably, there’s something that doesn’t make the cut. When ideas keep flowing but deadlines loom, leftover recipes are unavoidable. Such is the case for Super Vegan Scoops! with these stunning Peachy Keen Nectarine Crème Brulees that simply showed up too late for the party.

Almost laughably simple in construction, the rich, deep flavors that result are dead serious. Employing melted ice cream in the custard, it’s a perfect example of the wacky and wonderful ways that the base of a frozen dessert reaches even loftier culinary heights outside of the churn.

Super Vegan Scoops! officially hits shelves tomorrow, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Stay tuned to the blog and social media for more fun extras, tweaks, and celebratory events!

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Gooey St. Louey

At a glance, it looks like a mistake. Something must have gone wrong in the oven, or perhaps before. Maybe carelessly measured ingredients, an inaccurate thermometer, or poor technique led to such a homely appearance. Sunken in the middle, crackled and broken across the surface, it’s no wonder most versions are drowned in a flurry of powdered sugar, as if trying to cover these flaws. Then, there’s the sweetness; oh, such sweetness, as if plain sugar was a bitter pill by comparison!

St. Louis gooey butter cake has quite a reputation, along with a fervent following that wouldn’t have it any other way. It turns out that this Depression-era cake was indeed the result of a Missourian baker’s error. As the legend goes, the ratios were somehow skewed but because ingredients were precious, it was simply sold anyway, repositioned as a pudding-like treat you could eat with a fork. It’s all about marketing, right?

Most modern recipes start with boxed cake mix and use about a pound more sweetener than I would really like to ingest in a year. Purists may scoff, but it genuinely hurts my teeth to think about. If you’re still with me here, craving that same luscious gooey texture with a fuller flavor less obscured by sweetness, pull up a seat and grab a fork.

Everything is better with sprinkles, don’t you agree? If we’re going to make a simple cake, it might as well be a confetti cake. Staying true to its simple vanilla roots, a touch of fresh lemon juice brightens the batter without taking command. More nuanced, delicate, and mature, yet whimsically colorful all at once, this rendition pulls it firmly out of the Depression and back into contemporary kitchens.

A pinch of salt balances out the topping, while the amount of sugar is slashed in half, compared to conventional recipes. Yes, it’s still plenty sweet, but no longer the stuff of dental nightmares. You can indulge without bracing yourself for a sugar crash later in the day.

Gooey butter cake may just be my favorite mistake. If only all our blunders could be so delicious!

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Watch the World Burn

It’s the contrarian in me, but I must admit, I love a recipe that’s meant to go wrong. Flawed by design, it tells you right in the title that it won’t turn out according to standard procedure. Burnt Basque Cheesecake has been high on my list for just that reason. Baking to golden brown perfection is not the goal here: You want to push it further, right over the edge of the cliff into dark, smoldering, ashes.

Okay, the results aren’t that dire, but the top is definitely edging into “blackened” territory, which I usually take as a euphemism for being exceedingly overcooked. It’s a good thing, in this case, to stand back and watch the world burn- Or at least, the contents of your springform pan. That darkly lacquered surface contains volumes of flavor, intense and arresting, like the slightly bitter edge to properly caramelized sugar. It takes the bite out of strong sweetness, creating harmonious balance throughout the dessert.

Inside lies soft, tender custard, gently tangy like any proper cheesecake filling. If anything, the extreme external heat keeps the center even more pillow-like, cooking it to the bare minimum necessary to set and slice. It’s not a classic beauty, but quite possibly the best kind of cheesecake, for those who care more about flavor than shallow aesthetics.

Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat and immolate your hard work in that fiery oven. This particular baptism by fire isn’t a painful lesson to learn.

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