Sunday: A Day of Bucket List Accomplishments

After starting out my two week adventure in a fast paced way, I decided that Sunday was to be my designated lazy day. What this translated to in actuality: Allison saying that she will do laundry.

Did she do laundry?

No. Allison did not do laundry.

Anyway, let the story continue.

Sunday was destined to be a lazy day for a number of reasons.

1. Three days of walking around the city and being lost can be a bit tiring.
2. It was a beautiful, perfectly idyllic cloudy Seattle day meant for coffee and reading.
3. A mysterious hostel roommate entered the room at 1 AM, passed out in the bunk above me (in what I’m assuming is a drunken stupor), snored so loudly it was like listening to a chainsaw move its way through a forest of pine trees, and then she haphazardly left at 6 AM.

Needless to say, I was a bit sleep deprived, and just ever so slightly confused. This mysterious encounter was by far the weirdest roommate experience I’ve had at the hostel as of yet.

So as I wandered downstairs for breakfast that morning, I made my way directly for the coffee pot and bananas. I gave a longing look to the toasting bagels and the giant muffins lining the counter, and sat down with my breakfast.

The hostel was bustling with activity that morning, as everyone was preparing to leave on the rest of their adventures. Sunday is mostly departing day. The hectic nature of the hostel further supported my need for a relaxing day that didn’t involve hiking back and forth across the city. So with that being said, I went upstairs to my room with every intention of doing laundry.

I even went so far as to sort my clothes.

(Still didn’t do laundry.)

But since sorting laundry is obviously such tedious work, it was time to read a book. So I grabbed a brownie that my mom made me, snagged my book from my backpack, and made my merry way downstairs. I poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat down in the comfy chairs in the TV room, and started to read.

Reading doesn’t happen in a hostel. At least, it doesn’t happen for me.

I attract awkward people.

I blame my gigantic eyeballs. I have a perpetual deer caught in the headlights, can’t run away look.

IT’S A TRAP!

So, if you didn’t guess it, I made really awkward friends with some really awkward and bitter Iraq vets. Now, I’ve met some vets in my time, but these three were by far the most awkward, depressingly bitter, and disenfranchised individuals I’ve ever come across. Meeting them was a unique experience. They told me their life stories, unleashing their bitterness as I sat there in silence, just listening to them.

Kadesh, a woman in her mid-30s with bubble-gum pink hair and tattoos trailing up and down her arms and back, changed her name after leaving the Army, never wanting to find herself connected to the government with the same name as before. She wouldn’t tell me her given name. She wants to design clothes in Chinatown. She has shrapnel in her chest from a car bomb in Afghanistan, and she covered them up with tattoos and funky thrift-store gothic chic clothing.

The other vet, let’s call him John (he never gave his name, only his life story), is an interesting fellow. He reminds me of an old labrador that was abandoned at the dog shelter. He, too, walks with a limp, and his hands are giant and scarred beyond belief. His entire body, from his left leg up to his right shoulder, is wrapped in tattoos of stars and butterflies. He’s been shot, blown up, beat up, and abandoned. He was Army Special Forces and did three tours through Iraq and Afghanistan. John has a fair amount of problems from his tours, one of which seems to be a dependence on narcotics and similar such things.

Let me tell you, it was an eye opening experience.

Also, quite possibly one of the most awkward experiences I’ve encountered in life, made more awkward by the fact that these two seemed to have bonded to me like two baby ducklings, and now follow me around the hostel whenever they see me.

Back to the story of Allison not doing laundry…

After making my escape from Awkward John and Sad Kadesh, I decided it was time to find me some food. I was absolutely starving, because a banana and coffee do not a lasting breakfast make. With that being said, I made my way to the Chinese market just around the corner from my hostel.

So I grabbed my backpack, my wallet, and some sunglasses, and I headed out to the Uwajimaya Market.

Wandering around the market was a blast in and of itself. It was an odd collection of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, American, and fresh fruits and veggies.

I spent a food ten minutes in the coffee and tea aisle, hoping that I could fin something to take back to the hostel and hoard away for my own delights.

I found this AMAZING chai spice mix that smelled heavenly, but alas all three flavors had soy lecithin in the ingredient list, which ultimately resulted in this sad face:

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But, I did find this awesome dinosaur bottle (which appeared to be a clever way to get children to take vitamins), and the much beloved ORANGINA!

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After wandering the market for a little while, I discovered a few other hidden treasures. One hidden treasure would happen to be these odd little sweet rice balls I found buried in the frozen food section. Surprisingly, they didn’t have any of my normal allergens in there.

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Now, I did find a meager gluten free section at the market, but it wasn’t particularly forthcoming, so I continued to wander on my way through the store.

After about a half hour of walking through the store, my hunger pains were getting much worse, so it was definitely time to be heading back to the hostel with some food before I turned into an evil monster. However, the world smiled upon me one last time as I made my way to the cashiers. Right at the check out, designed to taunt you into buying candy, was CHOCOLATE!

Now, chocolate is always a reason to celebrate. However, finding dairy free/soy free chocolate is a reason for ecstatic celebration.

I’m not ashamed to say I spent $10 on this 90% dark chocolate.

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While it has a bit of a grainy texture (because it’s literally just ground up cacao beans and coffee beans and some sugar), man is this chocolate TO DIE FOR! This needs to be available in Colorado.

Anyway, I got back to the hostel, and I promptly unpacked my wares and fixed myself a snack:

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The joys of living in a hostel are many (and quite honestly a bit odd), but one of the perks is a giant kitchen where you can store food. My more expensive, and precious, items like my almond butter, my jam, and my chocolate made their way up to my room with me, where they were promptly stored in my locker for safe keeping.

Now, the hostel kind of frowns on you storing food in your room. I’m sure it’s a perfectly logical fear, probably stemming from the fear of bugs and mice infesting the rooms of the hostel. But sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

And having food allergies: girl’s gotta be a food hoarder.

After having eaten my lunch, and taking a bit of a nap, I again contemplated doing laundry.

Nope, still not doing it.

So I headed out in hopes of an adventure. And this adventure had one goal in mind: to chop off my hair.

New city, new adventure, new look.

The prospect of cutting off my hair was a scary one, because you see folks, I haven’t cut my hair shorter than down the middle of my back in six years. But sometimes you need change.

So with that in mind, I wandered the streets of Chinatown with Siri in hand, while she mockingly told me that I was turning the wrong way down the streets. She really needs to work on her empathy.

It was a pretty exciting afternoon on the streets of Chinatown, because I was able to mark something off my Bucket List as I wandered in hopes of a stylist.

I’ve always wanted to end up caught in a rainstorm in Seattle. Stuck outdoors as the big fat rain drops slowly descend and then quickly pile up until it’s just a downpour that catches you completely unawares.

It happened. And it is probably one of my favorite experiences in life.

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Luckily, I was only about two blocks away from Instyle Salon where I was going to say goodbye to my long locks.

When I told the stylist that I wanted to cut off most of my hair, she was immediately excited at the prospect. So, with language barrier fully in tow, my iPhone and her iPad we exchanged pictures until we mutually agreed on a length that would be fully suitable.

My heart stopped beating just a little bit when she took that first full snip and chipped off six inches in one full go. I was committed to this haircut now. So we continued, and the hair just kept coming off and droves.

I felt so bad for my stylist. She was wearing a white shirt and some white pants. Definitely not ideal for cutting off over 8 inches of dark hair…

Her shorts were basically black when she was finished with my hair. She was definitely going to need to do laundry. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t the one who had to do it, because let’s face it, that wouldn’t happen any time soon.

When she finished with my hair she was so excited, but she gave me one look and said:

“Oh honey, you want to do eyebrow wax too? I give you 75% off, only $5…”

When a little Asian woman looks at you with sympathy and offers you a $5 eyebrow wax out of pity, you take that and run.

And when you get home, you spend the next two hours wondering just how horrific your eyebrows/unibrows were to warrant a $5 pity wax…

Anyway, this was the result of brand new hairstyle!

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Yep, it’s drastically different. And yep, that is a Star Trek tshirt.

Now, it may have been a relatively lazy Sunday in regards to full blown adventures, and it may have been a little bit lame in regards to vacation experiences, but hey…I found chocolate. And a dinosaur beverage.

Oh, and the laundry still isn’t done.

So to recap:
Allison is really bad at doing laundry.
The Chinese market was an odd success full of weird finds.
Rain in Seattle is better than Colorado rain because it doesn’t result in hypothermia.
Sundays are the best days for making odd, not-very-important life changes (such as hair).

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Adventures In Dairy Free Caramel Experiments: Part 3, Sunflower Butter Caramel Cups

Today is candy day!

Now, whether you are religious or not, I think that we can all agree that this weekend is basically the weekend of chocolate gluttony.

However, if you have a collection of annoying allergies such as myself, the five million aisles filled with egg and bunny shaped chocolate goodies is a total no go. 😦

If this makes you a sad velociraptor (WHY a velociraptor you ask? Because today is Velociraptor Awareness Day!!!) like it does me, then this recipe is for YOU!

I call these babies Sunflower Heaven Cups.

NOW, these are INCREDIBLE!

Think of them as the mating of a Cadbury Caramel Egg and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Yep, they rock.
And the best part is there are no pesky allergens in this recipe!

There are three separate steps to this recipe. Say what?

First, you need to be sure you grab your Dairy Free Caramel that we made (and hopefully you still have left over) previously in Part 2 of this three part series of candy making. Since it needs to be stored in the refrigerator, you’ll have to nuke it a bit to get it to the right consistency again. I heated mine for roughly one and a half minutes.

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Now, this recipe itself is pretty easy. In all, it requires only six ingredients. I know, it’s pretty awesome. Also, the whole process between prep work and assembly only takes about thirty minutes total.

What you’ll need:

10 ounces of Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup Sunflower Butter
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
2 tablespoons Freshly Brewed Espresso
1 teaspoon Vanilla

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First, let’s prepare our chocolate. I used a food scale to measure out my chocolate.

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Don’t forget to hit tare!

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Now, if you’re like me, and you are a total failure at melting chocolate in a pan without scalding it, there is an easy solution guys.

What? You ask.

Setup a ghetto double boiler system, like so:

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You want to be sure that there is enough of the hot water on the bottom of the second bowl to melt the contents. Otherwise, it will take quite a bit longer to melt your chips if you are relying purely on steam to get the job done. It will work, but it will take longer.

Now, while your chocolate is working on melting, it’s time to prepare your sunflower butter mixture.

Take one cup sunflower butter and mix it with 1/2 cup powdered sugar. I warn you, this is going to become VERY THICK, and will be difficult to adequately mix together.

Which is why now, we will introduce two tablespoons freshly brewed espresso to add a little extra flavor, but also loosen it up a bit more.

This mixture is supposed to be THICK though, so be sure you don’t add too much. If it becomes too runny and less dense, you need to add more sunflower butter and powdered sugar. It needs to have a thickness similar to a cookie dough, in order to stay properly intact in your cups.

Add the 1 teaspoon vanilla to the mixture, and set off to the side for the moment.

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Once your sunflower butter mixture is finished, and your caramel is all heated up, all you need is for your chocolate to be completely melted and smooth. Don’t add anything to the chocolate. Because it’s difficult to find baking chocolate that is dairy, egg, soy, and nut free, Enjoy Life is the optimum brand, but their chips already come with all the additional tasty stuff, so we are good to go.

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So at this point, all of our ingredients for assembly are ready to go!

Take your muffin tin with cup liners, your melted chocolate, your sunflower butter filling, and your caramel, and line them up on the counter.

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Now, I like giant chocolate treats. So I am using a big muffin tin. If you happen to have a mini tin, and mini muffin liners, this recipe will obviously yield tons of Sunflower Heaven Bites (what I like to call the mini version).

First, fill the cup with a bottom layer of chocolate. It needs to be decently filled, otherwise you’ll have your insides sinking to the bottom and the chocolate gushing around it. No bueno.

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Once you have your bottom layer of chocolate, we’re good to add the first layer of filling: sunflower butter.

Take a small ball, about a tablespoon, and round it out, and flatten it.

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Place it in the chocolate. DON’T press it in there, just gently set it on top of the chocolate layer.

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Take a spoonful of caramel (just a spoonful of sugarrrrrr. Name that song!) and cover your sunflower butter layer.

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Now for the final layer: chocolate again.

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This recipe will yield roughly 8 Sunflower Heaven Cups. Obviously, depending on how much filling you include you can yield more. I, however, like lots of sunflower and caramel filling, so I used more chocolate to cover it all up.

When everything is done, be sure to put it in the fridge for at least an hour for the chocolate to harden.

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And finally, when all is said and done, you’ll have an absolutely delectable treat that is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, peanut free, and nut free.

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I suggest hiding them. I’m not good at sharing.

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ENJOY!

Adventures in Dairy Free Caramel Experiments: Part 1, Making Your Own Condensed Coconut Milk

Good Day My Allergy Prone Foodies! (Or not so prone if you’re inclined that way.)

Spring has sprung, and is finally upon us. What does this mean? It is time to start making caramel and chocolate combinations in preparation for all of those sweet treats you’ll be bombarded with at the grocery store.

One little problem: caramel is not dairy free.
Sadly, neither is chocolate (most of the time).

Don’t fret my lovelies, I’ve come up with a solution! And that solution will be delicious. After this three part blog series, we will end up with Dark Chocolate Sunflower Butter and Caramel Cups.

Think of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups mating with Cadbury eggs. Yum.

Now, caramel sauce recipes, and caramel in general will call for condensed milk in order to actually make the caramel. It’s important that you used condensed milk, rather than just normal milk, because the process of condensing milk actually changes it into an entirely different product.

So the question here is, how do you make dairy free condensed milk?

Well, question asked question answered. You make condensed coconut milk.

How do you make condensed coconut milk, though, you ask?

Simply! Let me show you how:

Ingredients:
-Thai Kitchen Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla
-1/3 – 1/2 cup refined cane sugar (or maple syrup or honey to make this recipe paleo friendly)
-1 tablespoon brown sugar (not required, but adds a nice pinch of sweetness)

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: Roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes

What To Do:

At this point in time, you’ll want to open your can of unsweetened coconut milk, and put it in a medium sauce pan.

Just a warning, it’s going to be a whee bit thick. Actually, it looks a bit like Crisco, so prepare yourself young padawan.

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Pour in your refined cane sugar (or sugar of choice), your brown sugar, and vanilla into the sauce pan. Heat on medium high heat until coconut milk and sugar has completely melted together. Once you have some bubbles around the edges of your delicious concoction, turn your temperature down to the lowest setting you have.

Now, your coconut milk will sit on the stove for about an hour (remember on the lowest setting), stirring every 5-10 minutes to help the evaporation process for your milk.

You’ll know that your coconut milk is deliciously condensed when it has thickened up and has a sweet smooth soft color to it. It will look a bit silky and have a slightly soft caramel color to it (even though it isn’t caramel yet).

Once it’s ready to go, you’ll pour it into a mason jar.

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Now that you have condensed coconut milk, it will store in the refrigerator for roughly a week. You want to be sure to use it before it goes bad, or else you’ll have wasted all your time and effort to make homemade condensed coconut milk.

You’ll be able to use this in:
-pumpkin pie
-sweet potato pie
-coffee
-mix with a bit of dairy free/soy free cocoa mix
-AND IN CARAMEL SAUCE!!

Stay tuned for the next installment in Adventures In Dairy Free Caramel: Part 2, Caramel Sauce!

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This recipe is: gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, legume free, and paleo friendly.