Redemption Trail Mix + Cooking Mishaps

The very first time I ‘cooked’ for my family was an absolute disaster.

I’m not sure quite how old I was, but I’m guessing around 7 or 8 years old. I remember having watched my mom prepare dinner for us almost every night and my grandparents host impressively large meals for our giant extended family whenever everyone was in town. It was always such a nice feeling, sitting around together eating food. And so I thought to myself, “I wanna make something my family can have fun eating together!”

Ohhhhh, ohohoho, little Molly. I mean you tried, right?

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Let’s think about this situation briefly. I was seven and roughly the height of our kitchen counter. I had no idea how to cook. So I did the obvious thing and mixed together all of my favorite snack foods at the time, creating the most horribly well-intentioned trail mix in history.

It had everything you’ve never wanted in your trail mix, and more:

-Bits of torn up white bread
-Crushed Pringles
-Goldfish crackers
-Pretzel twists
-Rustic pieces of broken pretzel rods

(Yep, two types of pretzel. For that textural difference, am I right?)

Long story short, it was awful, and I was super proud as I distributed my masterpiece among three plastic bowls decorated with cartoon animals to serve to my mom, dad, and sister.

They were so nice about it, the sweethearts. I remember them smiling while taking small bites and mmm-ing and ahh-ing over how yummy it was. And I was just there like, “Ok ya that’s great, fam, but like why is there still so much left in your bowls?”

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Then I tried it, a bite with a fragment of white bread and a Pringle shard, and I understood.

I really love this story because it shows that no one is a hopeless cook. Anyone can learn. Sometimes people compliment my cooking and then say they wish they could cook. And I just think about how I began by making trail mix with ravaged white bread… You can cook!!!

I have so many stories about cooking mishaps like this, most of them embarrassingly dumb. But it’s ok because they’re hilarious, and I learn from them and keep going.

Like, this one time I was making these microwave French fries—I kid you not, they were these frozen, microwaveable French fries by Ore-Ida that I used to eat…USED TO–and listen to how simple it was to prepare them. You adjust the packaging a little bit by pressing in one side of the box so it lies flat against the fries, and stick the whole thing in the microwave for a few minutes, and BAM. Crispy fries. I know there are a lot of things wrong with this, but that’s not the point right now.

The point is that one time I managed to burn every single fry in the box to an absolute crisp. Black as coal, all of ’em. The whole house smelled awful. The smoke detector went off. I was home alone and confused and deeply ashamed. I think this happened early on in high school? I’m telling you, anyone can cook.

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Here’s one more, from the first time I made bread. The directions said “rotate the bread halfway through baking.” So what did I do? I didn’t turn the pan around. No, I left that where it was, and I literally flipped the loaf of bread upside down on the pan.

I’m so serious, friends. That’s how I interpreted the directions, and I deflated my first ever loaf of bread. I remember telling my mom what I’d done and the look in her eyes said, “How do you think to do things like this??!”

So please, if I can rally from things like this, never doubt that you can cook.

Today I’m sharing a recipe for redemption trail mix. It still has snacks I like—chocolate, dried cherries, almonds, cinnamon chex—but it actually tastes good, I promise! I tried some before I gave it to anyone else this time. 😉

Do you have any cooking failures you’d like to share? Or a general memory including food? Tell me about it, anonymously or not, by clicking here!

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix | memo2munch

Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix

Ingredients
4 cups cinnamon chex cereal (or any chex cereal of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup roasted, unsalted almonds
½ cup dark chocolate chunks, plus more for the drizzle
½ cup dried cherries

Method
1. Line a large baking tray with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium-low heat until smooth. Gently stir in the chex cereal and almonds and continue cooking until cereal and almonds are coated, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
3. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared tray. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks and dried cherries over the cereal mixture.
4. In a microwave safe bowl, heat about 2 tbsp. chocolate chunks in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring the chocolate after each 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Drizzle evenly over the trail mix with a fork. Let cool until the chocolate drizzle hardens completely, then break up the trail mix and enjoy. Store in an airtight container.

Cherry Pies Ought to Be You

Take aways: Frank Sinatra likes cherry pie, I need to plant a cherry tree, and it’s us vs. the birds?

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Ok, so there’s this song that you might not know about but that you really need to know about. It’s a duet sung by Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney, and when I first heard it I just!!?!? Does it get any better than these two?!?

The duet is called “Cherry Pies Ought to be You,” and it basically consists of each trying to out-do the other with compliments. They get competitive. It’s grand.

Sinatra’s first go is the song’s title, “Cherry pies ought to be you,” and I just adore that. (I love Clooney’s response, too: “Autumn skies ought to be you.”) Although I guess the meaning could be kind of ambiguous. Like is he saying she’s sweet? Flaky? (I’ll stop.)

I’m choosing to see it this way: Sinatra must think cherry pies are outstanding, but not quite as outstanding as Rosemary Clooney.

Don’t we all.

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Cherry pie holds a special place in my grandpa’s heart as well. He mentions it in a collection of food memories he wrote a few years back. (Sound familiar? He helped inspire memo2munch’s new format!)

“My mother was a wonderful baker,” he writes. “One of her specialties was cherry pie made from the tart cherries that grew on five cherry trees in our own back yard. When the cherries were ripe, my father picked loads of them which my mother made into pies, cherry slices, and also compotes.”

There’s a common theme among recipes that use tart cherries: “[They] required the use of much sugar, which when combined with the tartness of the cherries resulted in the most tantalizing pastries and compotes.” (common theme #2 —-> I want all of them in my belly.)

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

The cherry tree tradition was continued when my mom was growing up. She told me, “We also had a cherry tree in the corner of the backyard. Every spring, the cherry tree would fill with white blossoms, which turned into red sour cherries in the summer.”

However, my mom also remembers some unexpected cherry competition. “Every year, we would hope for lots of cherries so that my mom could make cherries preserves and a pie or two; and almost every year, the birds would get to the cherries before we did. Have you ever seen a pit attached to the stem, growing on a tree? We had a lot of those.”

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

On rare occasions, my mom said they would beat the birds to the spoils and were actually able to use some of their own cherries! “I remember my mom making cherry preserves. I would stand at the sink and pit the cherries using a paper clip. My fingers would turn red (my favorite color) from all the cherry juice.”

Ok, wait, pitting cherries with a paper clip? Yep, it’s a thing! Here’s a YouTube video to prove it.

I have to ruin the magic of these memories and tell you that I did not pit the cherries for today’s pies with a paperclip. I bought pre-pitted and frozen cherries and stood in the checkout line very pleased with the time and juice-stained fingers I would save. (I also bought the piecrust. Because honestly, I can’t pit cherries, make piecrust, and still pass survive biochem. These are my limitations. Just keeping it real.)

However, I then realized I had to halve all the cherries… So I got frozen fingers instead. It’s fine.

Cherry Pies | memo2munch

Pleasepleaseplease send me some of your food memories! Preferably fall-themed as we are officially in the season. You can submit them anonymously or not right here. 🙂

Mini Cherry Pies
(makes 6 mini pies or 1 standard double crust pie)

Ingredients

1 pint or 3-4 cups pitted and halved cherries (I used frozen)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (1 cup if using tart cherries)
Dash lemon juice
Piecrust (premade or homemade—enough for one double crust pie)
Milk and sugar for brushing and sprinkling pies before baking (optional, I used coconut milk)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Lightly grease 6 muffin tins.

2. Combine the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
Roll out the pie dough and cut into six 5-inch circles and six 3-inch circles. (I placed bowls on the dough and cut around them.) Prepare the pies one at a time by first pressing one of the larger circles into the tin, leaving the edges hanging around the outside. Fill generously with cherry filling so that it extends a little higher than the top of the tin. Cover the filling with one of the smaller dough circles, and crimp the leftover edges of the first dough circle as desired. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

3. Use a fork to prick holes in the top of each pie. Brush each pie lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes for small pies, 40-50 minutes for a standard 9-inch pie. Let cool completely before cutting.

Crispy Baked Falafel

Welcome to the first ever food memory post with memories other than mine woooooo! (I am accepting food memory submissions to share on memo2munch that will inspire the recipes. Click here for info on submitting.)

Today’s memory takes place in Vienna, Austria and comes from one of my most precious friends, my roommate Tori. You may know her from triumphs such as her handmade prop in this post, and as my supplier of authentic chai spices direct from India, in this recipe.

Crispy Baked Falafel | memo2munch

As the chai spices may have indicated, Tori is an impressive traveler. We both studied abroad in Europe last semester (I was in Bologna, and she was in Rouen, France, a small town about an hour outside of Paris), but when I say Tori studied abroad I mean she, like, S T U D I E D  A B R O A D.

“Over the course of that half-year, I somehow managed to visit 22 countries in Europe and North Africa, an undertaking that I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around,” Tori told me. YOU GO GIRL.

Crispy Baked Falafel | memo2munch

In March, we had a reunion of epic proportions in Rome, somehow managing to swing a weekend together with our other roommate who was studying in Germany, plus two of our close friends who were in the midst of a Eurotrip of their own.

It was like some wonderful, strange, sitcom mashup of The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Roman Holiday. But I digress.

Crispy Baked Falafel | memo2munch

Roman reunions aside, Tori did much travelling alone, effectively making her the Planning & Coordination Queen™. Exposure to so many new places and cultures taught her lots of useful skills…

“As a solo traveler, bopping from city to city as much as I did, you pretty quickly learn the ins and outs of European markets.”

Successful Encounters with Feisty European Markets 101:

“Learning how to leisurely browse, avoid eye contact, efficiently make purchases, politely refuse aggressive vendors, and exploit any and every opportunity for a free sample, all at the same time, is a skill acquired only with much patience and practice.”

So here’s a Top Secret Market Trick—->“Find a bulk sweets stand where you have to pay by weight, and ask if you can have two dark chocolate covered almonds.” Tori discovered you can often get them for freeeeee

Crispy Baked Falafel | memo2munch

The food memory Tori shared with me is a perfect example of a European market encounter of the best kind. She was exploring a lively marketplace in Vienna:

“I was on the lookout for grab-and-go lunch to take with me as I walked from the center of the city out to Schönbrunn Palace. Already I had been snacking on some dried mango slices, and scored some free chocolate! Anyway, I stumbled upon a bustling falafel stall offering falafel for just 1€ each! When I asked for just one, the boisterous man behind the counter swiftly scooped up one of the warm, crispy delicacies, dipped it in a fresh batch of hummus, and extended his arm towards me in a single swooping motion.

‘“For you,” he said, and when I held up a euro coin he shook his head and smiled. Surprised and delighted, I expressed my genuine thanks and continued on my way, biting into perhaps the best falafel I’d ever tasted (until earlier this week that is). In the end, I went back to the same stand to order a falafel pita for my walking lunch, and enjoyed every chickpea/cucumber/lettuce/tomato/cabbage/hummus/tzatziki-filled bite.”

The very pita and its glorious falafel:

Crispy Baked Falafel | memo2munch

Ahhhhhh I want to be there, don’t you?! How about this, we tuck into some of our own homemade falafel and google pictures of strudel while Mozart plays in the background. Done.

(Also I didn’t even bribe her to subtly compliment my falafel, ain’t she the sweetest?)

Crispy Baked Falafel | memo2munch

Crispy Baked Falafel
(adapted from Mark Bittman)
Makes: about 21 falafel

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups DRIED chickpeas (they will need to soak for minimum 12 hours, so plan ahead)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
Scant tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. salt, more as needed
½ tsp. black pepper, more as needed
½ tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 Tbsp. olive oil
To serve:
Chopped cucumber and tomatoes
Hummus
Pita

Method

1. The night before: thoroughly rinse the chickpeas in a strainer and then place them in a large bowl (they will triple in size as they soak). Pour water over the chickpeas until they are covered by 3-4 inches of water. Let soak overnight, or for up to 24 hours.

2. The next day, discard the soaking water and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly with new water. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C and line a large baking sheet with foil.

3. Place the chickpeas in the body of a food processor along with all of the remaining ingredients except the oil. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed. Scrape down the sides as necessary. Add a bit of water if the machine is having a lot of trouble. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

4. Grease the lined baking sheet with 2 Tbsp. of the oil. Roll the chickpea mixture into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter and place them evenly on the sheet. Gently press the tops of each to form thick patties. Brush with the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Bake 10-15 minutes on each side until golden all over.

5. To serve, spread each pita generously with hummus. Top with 2-3 falafel and the chopped cucumber and tomatoes. Fold and enjoy!

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins

Do you have a food memory you would like to see appear on memo2munch? Fill out the form here or send me an email at memo2molly@gmail.com and tell me your story! You just might inspire next week’s recipe. 🙂
**Please note that memo2munch caters toward a vegetarian/vegan diet and while food memories of all kinds are welcomed, recipes shared on the site may be adjusted.**

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

I like to call the above photo, “The Evolution of Banana Bread.”

This is a natural progression, right? Once bananas get ripe enough they just morph into banana bread? And the chocolate chips just appear at some point, and we’re just like “Oh, youuuu,” all exasperated but really we don’t mind one bit.

Hey, stranger things have happened. (Like sweet potato cupcakes?!)

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Growing up, my momma would make banana bread for us fairly often. Whenever I saw a few forgotten bananas resting on the counter, speckled with brown, I would internally fist-pump because I knew banana bread was in my near future. (Still happens, honestly. Except now when I’m at school I have to make it.)

The days leading up to the “Momma Cake,” as we called it, bake day seemed to drag on. We like to let the bananas get reallllly ripe and black. That’s when they’re the sweetest and add the most flavor to baked goods. So every day after school I would peer over the counter and check on the ripeness of the bananas to see if they were ready yet, like a very small, very hungry serious scientist tracking the progress of an experiment.

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Then, when the bananas were FINALLY LIKE UGH COME ON ready, my mom would let my sister or me mash them with a fork while she measured out the other ingredients.

Ok quick note: banana mashing is so fun. Can I say cathartic? It’s cathartic. None of that blender or food processor stuff, plz. Use a fork.

There’s another “Evolution of Banana Bread” in this story, and that’s the shape the finished product would take. In my earliest memories of my mom’s banana bread, she always made it in a square pan. And I was the brat that would only eat middle pieces because children hate edges on anything??! Pizza crust—->no. Corner brownies—->not a chance. I would like to say, though, that I never took the edges off my Smucker’s Uncrustables. Never.

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Anyway, the original recipe my mom used called for the bread to be baked in a loaf pan. She switched to the square pan after having issues getting the bread to bake through. But then there was the problem of the sunken middle…

As in, the bread would be a baked all the way, but the middle would sink into a kind of banana bread dome once it cooled. But Mom persevered and found a solution! *clapclapclap*

Now she makes the recipe in a Bundt pan. The sunken middle issue is taken entirely out of the equation, and the cake cooks through fine because the batter is more spread out. Innovation!

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

Banana bread will always make me think of “Momma Cake,” but for the recipe today I made a few tweaks. We’ve got cute banana muffins that are vegan and very forgiving. You can’t mess them up. They’re also sprinkled with coconut, which Momma never did because she hates coconut. But I like it, soooo.

The recipe is based on one my friend and I found the other day when it was raining and we wanted dessert and she happened to have three very ripe bananas so what choice did we have? She is also responsible for the coconut topping idea. Thank you, Esther <3

EASIEST Vegan Banana Bread Muffins | memo2munch

We made our version with a mix of chocolate and butterscotch chips, which was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. So if you aren’t vegan, I would highly suggest that.

Hope you enjoy the muffins! Don’t forget to tell me about your food memories!!! memo2molly@gmail.com

Vegan Banana Bread Muffins
(makes about 12 muffins)

Ingredients

3 very ripe, medium bananas
1/3 cup Earth Balance or any margarine, melted (can sub butter if not vegan)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ – 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Coconut flakes for sprinkling (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C and grease a muffin pan or line with muffin papers.

Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl with a fork until smooth and no lumps remain. Stir in the melted Earth Balance.

Add the sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt and mix completely. Gently stir in the flour until no large lumps remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin pan, filling each well ¾ full. Sprinkle with coconut flakes. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack briefly before enjoying. Muffins are great days after, especially heated for 12 seconds in the microwave.

Easy No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts

This summer I’ve been living at home with my parents. They both work during the day, so I have a lot of alone time to think (or sleep), cook (or eat), work on my summer class (or be on the internet), and other productive things of the sort.

(Lol.)

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

But seriously, I’ve been doing a little thinking. During one such adventure, I realized that it’s been about two years since I’ve been home for this long!

I know spending less time at home is a symptom of getting older, but it’s still a bit strange. By now my room feels like my room again. I’ve even christened a Chair of Doom where I pile all the clothes that “I’ll fold and put away later.” Not that that’s a habit…

Yup, I’m settled in.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

Anyway, being home has got me all nostalgic. Sometimes I’ll talk with my parents about super random memories I have from when I was little. For someone with a terrible memory I have kind of a lot of them!

Such as the superman pajamas I had with a detachable velcro cape. #neverforget

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

Many memories are connected to food, of course. Like when I would go grocery shopping with my mom, and she would let me get a donut out of the case in the bakery section to eat while we shopped. (Evidently being in a store full of food without eating any of it was too much for little Molly to handle.)

I’d hold on to the—now empty—plastic bag that had temporarily contained a donut until it was time to pay, and we’d tell the cashier, “Well, there used to be a donut in here.”

Good times.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

I bring this up because from the same bakery section of that grocery store we used to get these fantastic fruit tarts. They were fairly small but always decorated beautifully, colorfully dotted with berries and slices of kiwi and mandarin orange. I was just talking with my mom about them. She remembers how sometimes the woman who made the tarts would spread a layer of chocolate between the shortbread crust and the creamy filling so the crust wouldn’t get soggy. Genius.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

Today’s tarts are a little ode to those tarts of days past. They’re revamped to include exciting things I’ve been wanting to experiment with, like TWO INGREDIENT date crusts (no added sugar!) and vegan pastry cream. But I think it’s fun to take foods deeply rooted in our memories and emotions and tweak them to match your life today. They still keep their meaning, but you also get to exercise your imagination!

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts | memo2munch

What memories do you have connected to food? Have you tried to recreate anything you’ve eaten in the past? I’m contemplating doing a series of recipes for foods that have strong memories. Like you guys could tell me a food memory you have, and then I’d share it on my blog along with a recipe for the food… I don’t know, thoughts are flying around.

OK LET’S EAT TARTS.

No-Bake Vegan Fruit Tarts
(makes approx. 3 five-inch tarts)

Ingredients

Crust:
1.5 c. pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
1.5 c. mix of pecans and almonds, or just one type

Cream Filling:
¼ cup all-purpose flour*
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used coconut)
¼ c. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:
Assorted fruit of your choice!

Method

1. Make the crust: In the body of a food processor, pulse the dates and nuts together until a large ball forms and the nuts are broken up into bits. Some small pieces of nut are normal. If you want a finer texture, process a bit more. Line your tart pans with wax paper and press the date crust into the pans. (Wetting your fingers slightly with water will help the dough not stick to you.) Refrigerate.

2. Make the filling: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and ¼ cup of the milk until no clumps of flour remain. Place flour mixture, the remaining milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk continuously until mixture becomes thick, 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla extract and cook for 1 more minute, still stirring.

Remove from heat and transfer cream to a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Place cream in the refrigerator to cool for at least 1 hour.

3. Assembly: Once your cream filling has cooled, take the crusts and filling out of the fridge. Distribute the pastry cream evenly between the tarts. Top with desired fruit and keep the tarts in the fridge until ready to serve.

*If you’re gluten-free, 2 tbsp. corn starch should work fine instead.

Spicy Roasted Chickpea Pita

Have we talked about how awesome chickpeas are?

Cuz if not then I think we need to address that at this point in our friendship.

Spicy Chickpea Pita Sandwiches | memo2munch

I mean, what’s not to love? They’re versatile and packed with protein. They make salads next level. You can puree them into hummus. Or fry them into falafel. Or, as I have now discovered, roast them to spicy perfection?!?!?

I’m a fan. Are you a fan? Is that the underlying reason why we get along?

Spicy Chickpea Pita Sandwich | memo2munch

Actually, I’m eating chickpeas while I write this, in their hummus form! But back to that whole ~spicy perfection~ thing.

I used about the same spice blend as in my shakshuka recipe to create a similarly satisfying flavor in a (pita) setting that’s a bit more summer-y. Pop the spiced chickpeas in the oven for less than half an hour, and all that’s left to do is assemble your sandwich!

Spicy Chickpea Pita Sandwich | memo2munch

It’s literally the easiest thing ever, and if chickpeas weren’t so delicious in falafel form I would be kicking myself for not having roasted them and stuffed them into pita before.

Instead I’m kicking myself for not having left the house at all today. Ugh, it’s really so unfortunate to be this lazy. I keep getting phone calls from unknown numbers, too. I haven’t answered for fear that they’ll lecture me about the beautiful weather I’m missing out on or something equally as bad like which candidate I should vote for.

Spicy Chickpea Pita Sandwich | memo2munch

Anywho, I’m going to end this here and get out in the open air! Promise.

PS you should make this for dinner. Promise?

Spicy Chickpea Pita Sandwich | memo2munch

Spicy Chickpea Pita Sandwich
(Adapted from Minimalist Baker)
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

Chickpeas:
1 15-ounce (425g) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and gently patted dry
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. each ground cumin and garlic powder
½ tsp. each sea salt, black pepper, and paprika
¼ tsp. ground red pepper/cayenne (optional)

To serve:
Pita (or gf bread if needed)
Hummus
Diced tomato
Sliced red onion
Romaine lettuce, chopped,
Tahini (optional)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C and line a large baking sheet with foil.

2. Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Place rinsed and dried chickpeas in a mixing bowl and toss with the oil to coat. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the chickpeas and stir until the chickpeas are evenly coated. Spread in a single, spacious layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

3. To serve, warm the pitas in a microwave for 15-30 seconds or in the still-warm oven. Spread a generous amount of hummus in the center of each pita and top with chickpeas, tomato, lettuce, onion, and tahini if desired. Fold and enjoy!

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie

I had the best intentions for last week. I really did.

I was going to do a super awesome, all-inclusive post for a 100% vegan Fourth of July cookout. Wouldn’t that have been cool?! I had a plan for a main, a side, I even had your dessert all settled. Plus some chocolate covered fruit kebabs for snacks because duh.

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

Turns out I was a little overambitious, though. And I also didn’t start planning early enough. Bad combo. You see, once I was finished making everything for the post (in one day–>poor planning) my good photo light was going, and fast.

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

They turned out horribly. The pictures, I mean. The food was pretty dang good. And I managed to use the grill unsupervised! Those pictures though…

*sigh* At least we had one success that day, right?

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

In theory, I could have retaken the pictures the next day, but a common occurrence when you leave things until the last minute is that you leave very little room for error. So it ended up that I didn’t have time to redo the shoot. Will I ever learn?

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

Well, I am happy to inform you that this week I opted for an easy, quick, forgiving, and photogenic recipe that’s perfect for a blogger who has a habit of leaving things until the last minute. Yay!!!

I think you’ll really like it, too. It’s the perfect, refreshing dessert for the height of summer. You probably already have all the ingredients at home, so what are you waiting for??

Unless you also like to wait to do things until the last second… 😉

EASY 5 Ingredient Fresh Strawberry Pie | memo2munch

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Ingredients
10 full rectangular sheets of graham crackers (1 sheet=what you use to make a s’more)
6 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance, melted
1/4 c. brown sugar
5 c. (about 2 lbs) strawberries, some left whole and some halved
2 tbsp. strawberry jam
Whipped coconut cream for serving, optional

Method
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C. Break graham crackers into the body of a food processor and pulse until only fine crumbs remain. (You can also do this by hand by placing the crackers in a tightly sealed plastic bag and hitting them with a rolling pin) Add the melted butter and brown sugar and pulse until combined. Press firmly and evenly into a pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes and then let cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Make the filling: ***The filling can get a bit runny. If you want to make this dessert in advance, I suggest keeping the filling out of the crust until 1 hour before you want to serve it.*** Heat the jam just until it is stirable. Mix together with the strawberries. Scoop filling into cooled crust and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice and serve as is or with whipped cream, if desired.

Crostata alla Marmellata (Italian Jam-Filled Tart)

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Well, friends, my current situation is: STATESIDE & MISSING THE FOOD.

My semester in Bologna has come to a close, and I’m back home for the summer. It was an incredible, exciting, and challenging 5 months, and I learned so much. But however my experience has “changed” me, after one week at home I’ve managed to slip back into old habits… Like staying up way too late reading or scrolling through the internet, or wearing my pajamas until 1pm.

But I’ve also gotten back to baking! So we’ve got a weeeee bit of productivity going on.

One of my favorite sweets I had in Italy was crostata, a jam-filled pastry with a crust somewhere between that of a pie and shortbread. It’s delicious and simple and goes great with espresso. 😉

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Most of the time I opted for a crostata filled with apricot jam—one of the most common fillings. But in Bologna you can also find them filled with something called mostarda bolognese. Don’t worry, it’s not mustard! It’s a type of preserves typical of Bologna, made from a combination of plums, apples, pears, and orange. (Sometimes a few drops of mustard oil will be added as well, but the finished product tastes nothing like the yellow stuff.)

I was hooked as soon as I tried it. Sweet, slightly tangy from the plums, with notes of zesty orange. Long story short, I had to take a jar of the stuff back home with me.

It went straight into a crostata, of course.

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere online that sells the stuff, and the recipes I’m finding are all in Italian and seem like a big
pain to make (multiple days involved). An apricot crostata would be just as tasty, though! But if you’re itching for some mostarda, I can post a recipe.

Where I got the recipe for the crust is a separate but interesting story. In one of my classes we talked about an Italian man named Pellegrino Artusi, who pretty much was a food blogger back before computers even existed.

He wasn’t a chef, but he loved food. (Same) In the late 1800s he made it his mission to compile recipes from home-cooks across Italy and document the country’s authentic and diverse cuisine in a book, which in English is called, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

He travelled up and down the length of the country, watching home cooks work and learning the recipes directly from them. Once he had gained a following, he received letters constantly—–people writing with questions about ingredient amounts, others offering suggestions for tweaks or additional recipes, some just letting him know how much they enjoyed the book. And he wrote back to every one of them.
The book was first officially published in 1891, but Artusi kept revising it and adding recipes up until his death in 1911. The version I have has 790 recipes!!!

It’s been translated into several languages—including English—–and I would highly suggest picking up a copy. (It’s a lot easier to find than mostarda bolognese. Here is a link.)

I’m hoping to make a lot more of the recipes in Artusi’s book, and I’ll be sure to share them on memo2munch. In the meantime, enjoy a lil crostata.

Italian Crostata alla Marmellata | memo2munch

Crostata alla Marmellata (Italian Jam-Filled Tart)

Ingredients

200g Jam of your choice or mostarda Bolognese, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
110g white sugar
Zest of one lemon or small orange
125g butter, cold and cubed
2 eggs, beaten (save some to use as egg wash)

Method

1. If you are not making the filling from scratch, begin on the crust. Toss together the dry ingredients, then mix in the zest. With a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture looks like wet sand. Work quickly to avoid warming the butter too much. Add only enough egg so that the mixture comes together into a roll-able dough, reserving the rest for later. Shape into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. Grease an 11 or 9 inch tart pan and set aside.

3. Take the dough from the fridge and divide it in half. Roll out one dough half between two sheets of wax paper until the circle is 1 inch larger than your pan. Peel off the top layer of wax paper and flip the dough over into the pan, then peel off the second sheet. Flatten dough into pan and shape a nice edge with your fingers. Gently spread the jam evenly over the crust. If your jam is not spreading easily, mix it with a bit of warm water.

4. Roll out the remaining dough to the same size, and cut equally into 1 inch wide strips. Lay the strips across the crostata first vertically and then at a horizontal angle to create a diamond lattice shape. Brush with remaining egg, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned.

On Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes & Alchemy

Cooking is alchemy, don’t you think?

Take pancakes, for example (don’t mind if I do).

You start with a mixture of things that you would never eat as is (read: flour, baking powder, oil, eggs), and things that are “eh” as is (sugar, milk), which you then turn into something that I would argue is better than gold. Chocolate chips, of course, are an exception to the whole “eh” rule, but they’re an add-in, so you get what I’m saying.

On Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Alchemy | memo2munch

Sometimes when I cook I feel like a mad scientist. And like any good mad scientist would, I start wondering if this way is the only way to do things. If I could get just as good a result using other ingredients or tweaking things here and there.

I got reaaaaal mad scientist-y when I found out about my dairy allergy. I grabbed a lab coat, some goggles, and experimented with baking using non-dairy milk and butter. I had some major successes, like dairy-free cinnamon rolls and vegan buttermilk biscuits. And they STILL made me take chemistry in college. Can you believe it?

The thing about this type of baking, though, is that you’re substituting an ingredient with something similar, something intended to be a substitute for that specific ingredient. Almond milk is made to replace cow’s milk.

On Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Alchemy | memo2munch

So the question becomes: can you substitute an ingredient with something completely different and unique?

YEAH YOU CAN, YOU ALCHEMIST, YOU.

I made these delish—and I do mean delish—pancakes vegan by using one mashed banana in place of an egg. It works because the properties of each result in the same function.

Why are there eggs in pancakes anyway? To bind things together. Eggs keep your pancakes from crumbling apart. But if you don’t want to use eggs to hold your pancakes together, you have to use something else that acts as a binder in its place. Mashed banana has the same binding effect as eggs, not to mention is vegan, and adds sweetness and a light banana flavor. And the fluffiness factor we all love about pancakes is entirely unaffected. Alchemy.

It’s like your favorite banana bread… in a pancake. With chocolate. *Bows*

On Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Alchemy | memo2munch

If you’re vegan or just curious about other egg replacements, each of the following will replace 1 egg:
– 1 tbsp. ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp. water, let sit for 30 min. to thicken
– 1 tbsp. chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp. water, let sit for 30 min. to thicken
– ¼ c. pureed silken tofu
– ¼ c. dairy-free yogurt

On Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes and Alchemy | memo2munch

Easy Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes
(makes 10-12 5in. pancakes)

Ingredients
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (or any flour, such as gf)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 medium bananas, mashed
2 cups (470 mL) dairy-free milk or mix with 2 tbsp. lemon juice (for vegan buttermilk)
3 tbsp. oil, plus more to grease pan
vegan chocolate chips (I like using mini)
Maple syrup, sliced banana, or melted white chocolate, for serving (optional)

Method
1. In a large bowl, mix the dairy-free milk with the lemon juice and let stand until thickened. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.

2. Mash the bananas with a fork until smooth and add to the bowl with the milk mixture. Add the oil as well and mix until evenly combined. Pour the flour mixture into the liquids and gently mix with a spatula just until no large lumps remain. (Small lumps are fine).

3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Grease lightly with oil and ladle the pancakes into the pan in disks 4-5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the pancakes in the pan. At this point you can lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until bubbles appear in the center of the pancakes and the edges begin to look dry, then flip. Cook for 1 minute on the other side. Serve as is or with any of the topping choices listed in the ingredients. (If you want melted white chocolate—–it’s good!—–you can melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set atop a pot of boiling water, or by microwaving in 30 seconds increments and stirring after each.)

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese

Yesterday evening I curled up in a blanket and watched BBC’s Persuasion on my laptop and tried to forget that I have an exam on Monday. Because even though I’m living in Italy right now, I was recently reminded that it’s called study abroad for a reason.

Boo.

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese | memo2munch

Now I have to start memorizing names and dates and directors of Italian movies, but temporarily transplanting myself into a lil bit of Jane Austen love story was perfect. Bless her. (But also where is my Captain Wentworth? Serious q.)

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese | memo2munch

I’ve been living in Bologna for almost three months now (?!!?!). That’s pretty crazy.

I love this city because obsessing over food isn’t weird here. I can step outside my front door and talk for 20 minutes with a street vendor about why buffalo mozzarella is so incredibly creamy. I can take a different route to class between the bright red and orange buildings and discover a new bakery hidden beneath the porticoes. People here will spill their passion for wine or fresh pasta or prosciutto so willingly if you give a little encouragement.

I just want to listen forever and not say a word, but I guess my Italian won’t improve that way.

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese | memo2munch

I wanted to share something on the blog that was super authentic Italian to pay homage to this delicious city. Then the other day I came across a recipe book I had bought close to the beginning of the semester. It’s filled with adorable illustrations and typical recipes of Bologna, which in true Italian fashion are all minimalistic and rely on good ingredients.

Today’s recipe is translated straight out of that recipe book and is for one of the dishes most associated with Bologna. Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese! Americans probably know it as Bolognese sauce, but by whatever name you know it, it is the best meat sauce in all the land.

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese | memo2munch

Ladle it over fresh pasta, and you are living the dream, friends.

Make a whole big batch and freeze some for later! The flavor will only get better when you reheat it. Buon appetito 🙂

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese | memo2munch

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese
(serves 4)

Ingredients
2 onions, minced
2 carrots, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
Olive oil
300g. (0.6 lb) pancetta, finely cut **Not sure what pancetta is or can’t find it? See note at the end of the recipe!**
400g. (0.9 lb) ground beef
1 c. red wine
1 6oz. can tomato paste
2 cups broth
Salt and pepper to taste
450 g (1 lb) tagliatelle all’uovo (wide, flat egg pasta—get fresh if you can!)
Grated Parmigiano, to taste

Method
1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to pan and sautee until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the pancetta and let cook for a few minutes. Add the ground beef and leave to cook for 10 minutes, making sure to mix everything from time to time.

2. Stir the half cup of wine into the saucepan and let evaporate. At this point add the tomato paste and the broth and mix with a wooden spoon (it is apparently important that the spoon be wood). Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your preference.

3. Cover the saucepan and leave to simmer over low heat for up to four hours (the longer the better). Mix every now and then so the sauce does not attach to the bottom of the pan.

4. About a half hour before you want to eat, bring the pot to a boil and then turn off the heat and leave the sauce to cool to close to room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the pasta as directed on the package.

*A note on pancetta: it is the same cut of the pig as bacon, so if you cannot find pancetta, 8-10 regular strips of bacon will work. ONE THING TO NOTE! Bacon is smoked and pancetta is not, so I suggest boiling the bacon for 2-3 minutes first to minimize the smoky flavor.
**If you don’t eat pork, just up the ground beef to 1.5 lb total