Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


I had the honor of throwing my wonderful (and very pregnant!) friend, Kelly, a baby shower this weekend. When planning the menu, I asked for her favorite kind of cupcake and she enthusiastically replied with “chocolate with vanilla frosting!” I took a little liberty with the frosting and opted to go with cream cheese frosting because it is delicious and amazing and life-affirming. Or something. I snacked on enough of it while trying to wield a pastry bag that my pants are little tighter today. Worth it. 

As for the cake? I made a similar cupcake months ago using Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake recipe and, while it was good, I wanted to try the Cook’s Illustrated version because if the recipe made the cut at America’s Test Kitchen, surely it would be a revelation in mine. And it was. 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 24
Write a review
For the cupcakes
  1. 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  2. 2/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa
  3. 1 1/2 cup hot coffee
  4. 1 1/2 cup bread flour
  5. 1 1/2 cup sugar
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1 tsp baking soda
  8. 3/4 cup oil
  9. 4 large eggs
  10. 4 tsp vinegar
  11. 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting
  1. 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
  2. 1/2 cup salted butter
  3. 2 cups powdered sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard size muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Place chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and cover for 5 minutes. Then whisk until combined and smooth. Set aside until it cools completely.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Next, whisk oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into the cooled chocolate/coffee mixture until smooth. Slowly add in the flour, whisking to combine until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter evenly in the cupcake liners (I like to use a 1/4 measuring cup to ensure uniformity).
  6. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting
  1. Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer (or a hand mixer), whip together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar and whip until smooth and fully incorporated (4-5 minutes).
  2. Frost cupcakes as desired.
  3. Enjoy!
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated & Our Best Bites
Oliver & Belle

Spicy Thai Shrimp Soup


It’s that time of year again. You know, the time when basically everyone you know has the flu or The Worst Cold Ever. And let’s not even talk about the frigid temperatures. I don’t know about you guys, but I just want to put on some flannel PJs and a fleece robe and giant slippers and burrow under fourteen blankets. And eat some soup. Soup is like a portable heater. It’s soothing and homey and it really does make winter nights a little bit better. My favorite is a spicy Thai soup that I swear kills any germs that may be attempting to infiltrate your system and it’s just downright delicious. It warms the soul. I promise.

Spicy Thai Shrimp Soup
Serves 2
Write a review
  1. 1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed well
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 3 dried Thai chilies
  5. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  6. 1 pound jumbo raw shrimp, peeled & deveined (get the wild caught kind if you can)
  7. 3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  8. 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  9. 1 14-oz can light coconut milk
  10. 1 tbsp fish sauce
  11. 2 tsp brown sugar
  12. 1 handful basil leaves, torn (use Thai basil if you can)
  13. 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced into thick pieces
  14. Salt & pepper to taste
  15. 1 handful cilantro, chopped (optional)
  1. Add the jasmine rice and water to a small saucepan over high heat. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  2. Fill up a small bowl with hot water. Add the dried chilies and let sit while you prepare the soup. This should help them reconstitute a bit. Pro tip: try not to touch them with your bare hands. These are potent lil’ guys. Definitely DO NOT touch your eyes after handling a chili.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy saucepan or high-walled skillet over medium-high heat and cook the shrimp until just pink. Remove shrimp and set aside.
  4. Add the curry paste to the remaining coconut oil and whisk to combine for 1-2 minutes. Don’t freak out if the remains of the shrimp start to brown in the pan. Slowly add the vegetable stock and whisk quickly to scrape up any bits of shrimp and curry paste. Whisk well to combine. Add the coconut milk, whisking constantly. Add in the fish sauce, brown sugar, basil, lemongrass and the Thai chilies and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and let simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Remove the lemongrass and chilies. Serve over a heaping spoonful or two of steamed rice. Top with chopped cilantro, if desired.
  6. Serves 2-4 (2 as an entrée, 4 as a starter)
  7. In the event that you are counting calories (hello New Year’s resolutions!), half of the full amount of soup with rice has approximately 380 calories.
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run
Oliver & Belle

The Perfect Roast Turkey

How to Cook the Perfect Turkey |

When I first moved to the Midwest eight years ago, I decided to impress my then-boyfriend’s family with a home-cooked holiday dinner, complete with a turkey and all of the trimmings. While I considered myself to be a relatively adept cook, this seemed like a serious challenge and something that I should probably train for. Yes, I said train.
Armed with Google, and a stack of cookbooks, I researched and tested and prototyped and came up with The Perfect Turkey Recipe.

After spending hours in the kitchen, I’m usually not as enthusiastic about what I’ve made as my guests are, but this time I was. The turkey was incredibly juicy, flavorful and so tender that it practically fell off the bone.
The secret? It’s all about the brine. Brining a turkey (or any poultry really – I’ve done it with chicken too and it was fantastic) is essentially submerging the bird in a saltwater mixture overnight. Sometimes fresh herbs and spices are added. Sometimes sugar or other sweeteners. If you’re feeling lazy, you can even buy brine mixes from retailers like Williams & Sonoma.

My brine recipe is really simple – salt and water. And that’s it. The night before you plan to cook the bird, take a large pot or bucket and line it with two garbage bags or use a brining bag. Fill up the container/bag with four quarts of water (or more) and 1 cup of kosher salt and stir well to dissolve the salt. Submerge the (already defrosted) turkey in the mixture and let it chill overnight. True story: it was once cold enough outside that I let the turkey brine away outside because there wasn’t room in the fridge.

On Thanksgiving day, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and remove the turkey from the pot/bucket and give it a thorough rinse. Pat dry and rub the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. The next part is key – starting at the cavity, slide your hand between the skin and the breast to loosen the skin without tearing it. Do this on both sides and (don’t laugh) massage each breast with a tablespoon of butter. And by butter, I mean butter. The real deal. No margarine.

Next up, it’s time to add various aromatic herbs and vegetables to the cavity to help flavor the meat (and the drippings which you’ll want to use to make gravy). I usually add a whole yellow onion that I’ve stuck with a few whole cloves, and a bouquet garni (basically a bunch of fresh herbs tied together with kitchen string) consisting of thyme, sage, parsley, bay leaf and, really, whatever else you might have on hand (tip: some grocery stores sell a “poultry” blend of fresh herbs in the produce section – this has everything you’ll need all in one handy package). You could also add carrots, celery, or sliced apples. You really can’t go wrong. Tie the turkey’s legs together using kitchen string to keep all of the goodies inside the cavity.

Now place the turkey in the roasting pan breast down. The juices all run into the breast (thank you, gravity) as the turkey cooks and turn what is usually the driest part of the turkey into tender, delicious turkey bliss. Between the brining and cooking breast down, you will make turkey magic. I promise.

Baste the turkey with two tablespoons of melted butter and roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes has passed, baste with more butter (or pan drippings) and turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast the turkey, basting every 30 minutes, until the thigh registers 165 degrees. Depending on the size of the turkey, this will take about 3-4 hours.

When it’s done, tent the turkey with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least one hour minutes before serving. The turkey, giant beast that it is, will continue to cook during that time.

My husband and I no longer eat meat – including poultry – (we’re pescatarians, which I know sounds so incredibly high maintenance), but I still cook this for our families and it’s always, always a hit. 

Kennebunkport, Maine


I’ve always wanted to visit coastal Maine, eat an excessive amount of lobster, sit in adirondack chairs and sip white wine, go sailing, eat more lobster. Rinse. Repeat. 

So that’s exactly what Brian and I did over (a slightly extended) Labor Day weekend. 

I agonized a bit over which town to stay in. Bar Harbor? Portland? In the end, an adorable inn featured on Jetsetter drew me to Kennebunkport. And, in fact, we stayed at that very inn. 



Captain Fairfield Inn is a charming B&B located in the heart of KPT (as the locals call it) and is walking distance to Dock Square, the hub of the town. We landed in Portland crazy late after some travel delays and when we finally arrived at the inn, the innkeepers had left our key waiting for us with instructions to check in the following morning. We helped ourselves to the cute “honor bar” in the guest pantry and grabbed two local microbrews before heading up to bed. Each of the inn’s rooms is uniquely decorated and we opted for the modern-meets-classic Rachel room. It was perfect for a cozy weekend getaway (though we would have loved a more updated bathroom). One of my favorite touches at Captain Fairfield? Breakfast in bed. Should you miss the communal breakfast in the morning due to sleeping in (which was us every single morning except for our last day), the innkeepers will drop it off at your door along with a pot of delicious coffee. 


On our next trip to KPT – and there will definitely be a next trip – I’d love to stay at The Boathouse, a new boutique hotel located right on the harbor with killer views and a really delicious restaurant, David’s KPT. The location is perfect if you love to be in the heart of things. The luxurious Hidden Pond hotel is also on my Kennebunkport bucket list, as well as its famous restaurant, Earth. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out closer to the beach at Stripers, the restaurant at the Breakwater Inn & Spa. And while the rooms may not be entirely decorated to my liking (so. much. blue), access to Stripers and the lovely adirondack chairs that dot the lawn overlooking the river and the ocean is my idea of heaven.



If I told you that we at lobster rolls every single day while we were in Maine, would you judge me? Like 5 lobster rolls in 4 days? (Yes, we doubled up on the last day.) Well, we did. And it was glorious. 









 Our absolute favorite was the brown butter lobster roll on a steamed bun from Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland. Not only did the lobster roll change my life, but their oysters were hands down the best I’ve ever had. The selection was overwhelming, so I told our server to pick his favorites for us. The best traditional lobster roll came from Stripers, which we enjoyed on our last day with a rainy view of the river and the Atlantic (plus a pretty tasty bloody mary). And the “check that one off the bucket list” lobster roll came from Kennebunkport’s legendary Clam Shack. We opted for the “butter and mayo” option. And yes, our pants fit significantly tighter after this trip. 

Other favorites: the baked feta, craft cocktails and stellar wine list at Old Vines, the dessert and dirty martinis at David’s KPT, happy hour by the fire pit at Tia’s Topside, beer flights at Federal Jacks, classic upscale New England dining at One Dock, the fried clams at Pilot House


Our number one objective in Kennebunkport was to R-E-L-A-X. And we were pretty successful with that. We slept in. We ate breakfast in bed. We strolled through Dock Square and window shopped (and really shopped). We sat in many assorted outdoor chairs and enjoyed the view and each other’s company. We ate a lot. We drank… well, a lot. We caught caught in a freak thunderstorm one night while walking home from dinner and ended up dancing and laughing in the rain. 

But we did do a few less indulgent things. 


We went sailing on the Pineapple Ketch on a beautiful evening. We would do this again in a heartbeat.


 And we ventured out on a lobster cruise on Kylie’s Chance. The water was a little rough for my liking, but it was fascinating. 




On the first evening in Kennebunkport, as we watched the sunset from a sailboat, I looked at my husband and told him I didn’t want to leave. Or, at the very least, could we come back next year? And the year after? He enthusiastically agreed. And I’m already planning our 2014 trip. 






Black Bean & Veggie Enchiladas

Black Bean & Veggie Enchiladas

Mexican food is my weakness. Specifically anything covered in cheese, but really, I love it all. Tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, chile rellenos, fajitas (oh shrimp fajitas!). And if guacamole is involved, I’m sold. Completely. Don’t even get me started on fresh, thin, crispy chips. I can’t handle it. 

This has become our slowly evolving go-to enchilada recipe for the past year. The best part? Even though there’s a healthy smattering of cheese on top, the inside is mostly veggies. So it’s kind of like eating a salad, right?

Black Bean & Veggie Enchiladas
Serves 6
Write a review
Prep Time
20 hr
Cook Time
35 hr
Prep Time
20 hr
Cook Time
35 hr
  1. 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  2. 1 small yellow onion, diced
  3. 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  4. 1 cup frozen corn (we like TJ’s roasted corn)
  5. 1/2 small zucchini, diced
  6. 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  7. 2 tsp ground cumin
  8. 2 tsp chili powder
  9. 1 tsp garlic powder
  10. 1 tsp sea salt
  11. 12 white corn tortillas
  12. 2 cans or jars of your favorite enchilada sauce
  13. Chopped cilantro (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, add black beans, onion, bell pepper, corn, zucchini and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese. Add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and salt and mix to combine.
  2. Wrap corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes til softened. You want them to be pliable so they don’t crack and break while rolling them up.
  3. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a large 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Scoop 2-3 generous spoonfuls of the enchilada filling into each tortilla, rolling tightly and placing in a line in the baking dish. Pack them in until you’ve filled the dish.
  4. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and pepper jack cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Let sit for five minutes before serving.
  5. Sprinkle chopped cilantro onto enchiladas after plating.
  6. Eat, sip a margarita, enjoy.
Oliver & Belle

Napa Valley

California’s Napa Valley is a truly magical place. The summer months are the busy season, leading into fall’s harvest. While this may be the most appealing time to visit, we love to visit Napa in the winter months when it’s a little sleepier, a little easier on the wallet and still just as gorgeous. No, you can’t pluck a grape off the vine, but you can see sprawling fields of mustard plants, skip the traffic altogether, get into nearly any restaurant at the last minute, and sip some of the best wine you’ve ever tasted while chatting with the winemaker. 

Napa Vines



When I stumbled upon Milliken Creek Inn, I knew it would be perfect for a romantic getaway to Northern California’s wine country. And it was. We loved it so much that when we booked a return trip to Napa, we jumped at the chance to stay there again. This tiny, tucked away, 12 room inn is intimate, cozy and luxurious. Breakfast is delivered to your room each morning, a “magic hour” is hosted every evening with a wine tasting and an impressive spread of cheeses, and the turndown service includes French jazz on the Bose stereo, flickring tea lights and delicious chocolates. 

Milliken Creek Inn in Napa

Milliken Creen Inn Guest Room

Guest Room at Milliken Creek Inn in Napa


Gott’s Roadside: With a nod to the classic American roadside diner, this gourmet burger stand is located at Napa’s Oxbow Public Market, with additional locations in St. Helena and San Francisco. While the burgers may be the main attraction, we love their fish and shrimp tacos. The garlic fries are life-changing.

Morimoto: The eponymous restaurant of Chef Masaharu Morimoto in downtown Napa features upscale Japanese cuisine and inventive cocktails. For a taste, sit at the bar and enjoy a drink and a sushi roll or two before checking out the downtown scene.

Pearl: Awesome oysters, delicious fish tacos, awesome dessert, and a local favorite. We sat at the bar and had a front row seat of the cooking action. 

Mustard’s Grill: The landmark restaurant of Cindy Pawlcyn features an expansive organic garden that supplies fresh, seasonal ingredients. The food is classic wine country cuisine and the crowd is an eclectic mix of locals, winemakers and tourists. 

UVA Trattoria: Recommended by our bike tour leader from Napa Valley Bike Tours, this local favorite provides a nice reprieve from pretentious foodies. Lively and packed with locals, live jazz, tasty pizzas and, best of all, no corkage fee make this a special spot.

Bouchon (Yountville): Can’t get into The French Laundry? Go to Bouchon. Thomas Keller’s French bistro features expertly prepared fare. Delight on fresh oysters, salmon rillets, steamed mussels and frites, scallops and a tasty cheese plate. Can’t make it for dinner? Grab some pastries from the bakery or enjoy a croque madame for lunch.

Rutherford Grill: Part of the Hillstone restaurant chain (Hillstone, Houston’s, etc.), Rutherford Grill dishes up killer BBQ (and a killer veggie burger). The signature grilled artichoke is a must-order.

Oenotri: Featuring fresh, seasonal Italian food (and authentic Neapolitan pizza), this downtown Napa restaurant received rave reviews by Food & Wine, prompting us to pop in for dinner. The pizza was excellent and the salad – mixed lettuces with a meyer lemon vinaigrette and parmigiano-reggiano – is something I’ve tried to recreate at home. 

Tacos at Gott's Roadside in Napa

Mussels and Frites

Band at Uva


Clos Du Val: Gorgeous tasting room with delicious Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. We were able to taste the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and it was excellent. 

Baldacci: This tiny family winery offers delicious reds. We got a tour of the winery as part of Napa Valley Bike Tours and experiencing the wine cave was fun and really interesting.

Hopper Creek: Of all of the wineries we’ve visited during our trips, this remains our favorite.. It’s super tiny – just a barn out in the middle of a vineyard in Yountville. The winery’s production is really small and their wine can only be purchased at the winery. A sweet pup named Chili Dog reigns over the place and, if you’re super lucky, you’ll get to sit on the back deck, drink wine at the picnic table overlooking the vineyard and chat with new friends. The Zinfandel is a standout.

Domaine Chandon: While this sprawling winery falls into the “Six Flags Over Napa” category (see also: Sterling), it’s mellow and fun during the off-season. The tasting room is beautiful, with sliding glass doors that open up to the gorgeous grounds, bringing the outdoors inside.

Saintsbury: By appointment only, this tiny winery is known for their spectacular Pinot Noirs. The winery cat decided to join us at the tasting table and we loved the laid-back vibe and eclectic artwork in the tasting room.

Carter Cellars: We may be slightly biased because of the winery’s name, but this small production winery offers some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon we’ve tasted. The tasting room is shared with Envy Wines, so you get to taste both wines during your private tasting appointment. During our visit, we were fortunate to meet the winemaker, Mike Smith, whose wines have been praised by top wine publications, and even snagged a few bottles from his private label. 

Domaine Chandon, Napa

Tasting Room at Saintsbury, Napa

Carter Cellars

Sangria for a Crowd

Sangria for a Crowd

This may be the summer of sangria. In the past two weeks I’ve whipped up three batches for three different events. It’s easy, everyone loves it, and it’s a good way to use up that fruit approaching overripe status. This recipe serves a crowd, but could easily be paired down for a smaller gathering. Soaking the fruit in brandy overnight gives it a little extra punch, but I’ve also let it soak for only a few hours and the difference wasn’t noticeable. 

Mason jars and paper straws not required. 

Serves 15
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
For the simple syrup
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 1 cup water
For the sangria
  1. 1 apple, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  2. 1 pear, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  3. 1 orange, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  4. 1 plum, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  5. 1 peach, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  6. 1/2 cup brandy
  7. 1/2 cup orange liqueur
  8. 3 bottles dry Spanish red wine
  9. 1 bottle Rosé
  10. 1 bottle Rosé sparkling wine
  11. 1 can San Pellegrino Aranciata
  12. 1 10 oz. bottle club soda
  13. Simple syrup
  1. Prepare the simple syrup by combining one cup of sugar and one cup of water in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. In an airtight container, combine the fruit, brandy and orange liqueur. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours.
  3. In a large drink dispenser, add the fruit mixture, the wine and sparkling wine, the Aranciata, club soda and simple syrup. Stir to combine.
  4. Keep a slotted spoon handy to add fruit to each glass before serving. Serve over ice.
Oliver & Belle

{Good Things} Beauty Edition

What We're Loving - BeautyKerastase Elixer Ultime: This is the only thing keeping my fine, often frizzy hair from looking like a giant poofball thanks to the June humidity in Kansas City. Just one little pump will do the trick when blow drying and another before flat ironing. Plus it smells good too. Don’t let the price tag freak out you out – a little goes a long way. 

Laura Mercier Full Blown Volume Lash Building Mascara: In what seems like a never-ending quest to find The Perfect Mascara, I may have finally found it. No clumps. Nice thick lashes that don’t look fake. A shade of black that doesn’t look too harsh. No flaking. Thumbs up. 

Burt’s Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream: This past winter, the only thing that kept my skin from completely drying out was Burt’s Bees skincare. The deep cleansing cream is a great year-round pick and I love how it makes my skin tingle. It’s like Noxema, but without any harsh cleansers, parabens or other junk.

Miss Dior Eau De Toilette: This light fragrance smells sweet and sexy, with a hint of floral notes, but it’s versatile enough to wear every day. 

Clarisonic Mia2: This little gadget is singlehandedly responsible for buffing away all (ok most) of my fine lines and wrinkles. Use the cleanser of your choice and in 60 seconds, your skin is remarkably clean. It’s like a mini-facial every day. 

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Guacamole, Corn Salsa, Pickled Red Onions & Sriracha Mayo

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos

This is not a 30 minute meal. This is a sip a margarita while you make your own salsa and guacamole and pickle some red onions and half-listen to/watch the Real Housewives of [Insert City Here] kind of meal. You could speed things up by a) not making your own salsa, b) not making your own guacamole, c) not pickling the onions, or d) leaving off the sriracha mayo, but then you’d miss out on the absolute magic that is the completed dish.

So be leisurely. Sip a blackberry-mint margarita. And enjoy the process.


Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Guacamole, Corn Salsa, Pickled Red Onions & Sriracha Mayo
Serves 2
Write a review
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
For the pickled onions
  1. 1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  2. 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  3. 1 cup water
  4. 1/2 tsp sea salt
For the salsa
  1. 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn, thawed (I usually nuke it for 30 seconds)
  2. 1 cup grape tomatoes, seeded and diced
  3. 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  4. 2 tbsp red onion, diced
  5. 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  6. Half of a lime, juiced
  7. Salt to taste
For the guacamole
  1. 1 ripe avocado
  2. 1 or 2 tbsp red onion, diced
  3. 1/2 jalapeño, diced
  4. 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  5. Half of a lime, juiced
  6. 1 tsp salt
For the sriracha mayo
  1. 3 tbsp of your favorite mayo (I’m a huge Veganaise fan)
  2. 1 tbsp sriracha
  3. A dash of lime juice
For the tacos
  1. 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  2. 1 lime, juiced
  3. 1 tbsp chili powder
  4. 1 tbsp ground cumin
  5. 1 tbsp chipotle seasoning
  6. 1 tbsp garlic powder
  7. 1 tsp sea salt
  8. Corn tortillas
  9. Shredded lettuce or cabbage
  1. Start with the pickled onions. In a small saucepan, combine the red wine vinegar, water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the onions and set aside to cool.
  2. Now for the salsa. In a medium bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to build your tacos.
  3. Onto the guacamole. In a medium bowl, mash the avocado until it’s creamy (but still kinda chunky). Add the lime juice and mix well. Add the red onion, jalapeño, cilantro and salt and stir to combine. Drizzle with lime juice to prevent browning, cover and refrigerate. (Or you could always double the recipe and snack on it with some tortilla chips while you finish cooking.)
  4. Sriracha mayo time. In a small bowl, combine the mayo, sriracha and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate.
  5. Now! Shrimp! In a large bowl, add the shrimp, lime juice, chili powder, ground cumin, chipotle powder, garlic powder and salt. Gently toss the shrimp so they are evenly coated with the spices.
  6. Over high heat, spritz a heavy nonstick skillet with olive oil spray. Once the pan is good and hot, add the shrimp, spacing them evenly. After 2-3 minutes, turn them over and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
  7. Warm up the tortillas. You can do this by steaming them in the microwave - just wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for one minute - or by toasting them over the open flame on a gas range.
  8. Assemble the tacos with the shrimp, pickled onions, salsa, guacamole and sriracha mayo. Garnish with shredded lettuce or cabbage as well as extra cilantro.
  9. Serve with margaritas or your favorite cerveza.
Oliver & Belle

Vegan Banana Bran Muffins

Banana Bran Muffins

This past January, my husband and I attempted our annual cleanse. I say “attempted,” because each year we get to day 10 and we eye each other and our fully stocked bar and just can’t resist a glass or wine (me) or a Manhattan (him). 

But by cleanse day 7, I was feeling pretty good. Amazing really. Days 2-4 were my own personal hell, especially that one client dinner at a burger joint when I ordered a black bean burger without a bun or cheese and a side salad while watching everyone else shove french fries down their throats and wash them down with delicious alcoholic beverages. I really love a good french fry. And a good alcoholic beverage. Oh and also the caffeine withdrawals were a true delight.

Alas, I survived. And lost 7 pounds. Huzzah!

But during the first few days of subsisting on veggies and fish and fruit and water, I wanted something that felt substantial. And I was very strangely craving bran muffins. Somehow bran muffins seemed like they would be this ridiculously sinful thing. I mean, I indulged in an apple with raw almond butter and felt like it was the biggest indulgence of all time. 

I’d never attempted vegan baking before, but am hoping to include more vegan items in my diet overall, so I gave it a whirl. Here’s the result. A pretty delicious, hearty little muffin that will fill ya up and make you happy. All for 25 little calories.

Vegan Banana Bran Muffins
Yields 12
Write a review
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
  1. 2 tbsp ground flax seed
  2. 6 tbsp water
  3. 1 cup oat flour
  4. 1 cup oat bran
  5. 2 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 tsp baking soda
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 2 medium bananas, mashed
  9. 1 tbsp molasses
  10. 1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
  11. 2 tbsp agave nectar
  12. 4 tbs unsweetened applesauce
  13. 1/2 cup raisins
  14. Coconut oil
  1. Start by making a flax “egg.” Add the flax seed and water to a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oat flour, oat bran, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Next, in a smaller bowl, mash the bananas until they are creamy and stir in the molasses, almond milk, agave nectar, and applesauce. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine until just moistened - don’t overmix. Stir in the raisins.
  4. Grease a large muffin pan with coconut oil. I just smear some on a paper towel and use that to get in the nooks and crannies of the pan.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter into the pan.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Serve with a smear of almond butter, your favorite jam, or a little Earth Balance (my new favorite thing).
  1. Note: these could pretty easily be modified to be gluten-free with some changes to the flours/bran
Adapted from Bonzai Aphrodite
Adapted from Bonzai Aphrodite
Oliver & Belle

Top of Page