The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015

What do you get when you add a large group of food enthusiasts + a love of chocolate chip cookies + a universal penchant for over-the-top events?

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The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015

Left: Lisa, the loveliest Aussie you will ever meet and insanely talented custom cake-baker. Right: Isabel, Tastemade goddess and fellow Urban Swank blogger.

The Great Cookie C(R)umble // The Pancake Princess


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Left: The lovely and talented Jenna of Starving Foodist. Right: Jared and Ashley, the crazy-talented duo behind Sugar & Cloth.


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The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015

Left: Abby, model and triathlete of ShopGirl Blog.

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The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015

Left: Megha, the gorgeous writer and photo snapper at Houstonia and Hot Pink Houston with Julie, the super sassy social media mastermind behind Aces of Taste. Right: Morgan, the entrepreneurial superstar at The Foodie Chef.

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The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015

From left to right: coordinating superstar Erin of Tidbits, Claire, amazing co-founder of the Houston Food Blogger Collective and blogger at The Petite Professional, and nutrition superstar Lauren of How to Eat, R.D.


Left: Kim of Adventures in a Newish City.

Left: The bubbly and all-around wonderful Kim of Adventures in a Newish City.

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The Great Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015 to find Houston’s best chocolate chip cookie! Like cookie RUMBLE?! Cookie crumble? I wish I could take credit for that, but alas. That was all Jenna, I think.)

Which essentially means a bunch of awesome blogger friends got together at Ashley’s light-filled studio one Sunday afternoon to do a blind taste testing of a CRAPton of cookies from around Houston to find the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie.

It was as epic as it sounds.

We started by compiling an extensive list of nominations of Houston establishments likely to have a promising chocolate chip cookie. We were very lucky to receive generous donations from many of the bakeries and after picking up dozens of cookies, we converged for the sampling. Each cookie was rated for taste (on a scale of 1-10) and appearance, texture and chocolate (all on a scale of 1-5). At the end of the tasting, all individual scores were combined for the final overall rankings.

If there was one underlying theme we all took from the event, it’s this: there is a HUGE diversity of chocolate chip cookies in Houston. Ultimately, we did come up with a ranking of all the cookies that we tasted, but after the top, say, 5, there entered a level of subjectivity that I believe can’t be fairly quantified to all palates. A.k.a to each his own. Just because a cookie was ranked #15 over #7 doesn’t mean I wouldn’t choose it in a heartbeat over another if I was in a doughy, gooey cookie mood over a crunchy-edged, salty cookie, you know?

I can honestly say 98% of these cookies are worth every buttery-tasting calorie. Whether you live in Houston or will visit at any point, GET TO THESE BAKERIES! And if you think we missed a spot, let me know!

Okay here’s the list:

TOP FIVE:

1 // Tiny Boxwood’s
2 // Common Bond
3 // Michael’s Cookie Jar
4 // Brown Bag Deli
5 // Red Dessert Dive

ALL THE OTHER UNIQUELY DELICIOUS COOKIES:

6 // Barnaby’s
7 // The Chocolate Bar
8 // Ooh La La
9 // Fluff Bake Bar
10 // Tout Suite

11 // Weights + Measures
12 // Smoosh
13 // French Gourmet Bakery
14 // Siphon Coffee
15 // Tiff’s Treats

16 // Revival Market
17 // Pondicheri
18 // NY Bagel
19 // Petite Sweets
20 // Mongoose vs. Cobra

(Photos + descriptions of all the cookies will be in an upcoming post on the Houston Press.)

As you’ve probably noticed, this is a departure from my normal recipe posts. I thought it would be fun to share these scenes and how blogging has parlayed itself into my social life/real life. It was a complete blast hanging out with so many completely sugar- and fun-loving ladies, many of whom belong to the Houston Food Blogger Collective (which just launched in January!). If any of you blogger readers live in a city without a blogger collective, can I recommend starting one? Connecting with all of the interesting, intelligent, fun people who belong to this group completely made my summer, and made my love for Houston reach greater heights than I would have ever imagined.

In other news, it took a shockingly short period of time before the sugar rush kicked in and we all felt like we were dying from cookie over-consumption, and so our cookie extravaganza ended with a cookie photoshoot on the floor (of course).

The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015


The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015The Great Houston Cookie C(Rumble) of 2015

For more cookie shenanigans,  search #cookiecrumblehtx on Instagram!

Repurpose kindly sent me some of their sustainable tableware to try out (pictured in above photos) and it was awesome! Through their exclusively plant-made, 100% compostable products, they aim to reduce the amount of plastics in the environment, which I whole-heartedly support. I loved the durability and high-quality feel to their plates, cups and cutlery.

 

Zucchini Breakfast Pizza

Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess

I spent this past week at home, a little breather in between the end of the summer portion of my internship and the beginning of the school year.

Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake PrincessSpiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess
Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess
Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess

In between biking the golden gate bridge (finally!), eating tons of delicious California fruits, eating even more treats from newly famous SF bakeriesmaking pie, and celebrating my birthday a little early with my family at a great little vegan sushi spot, I got to squeeze in a visit with the ever-lovely Alanna: she fed me fantastic financiers and biscuits she was testing for her upcoming cookbook (!!!), took me to a local favorite Mexican joint so I could get my yearly California burrito fix and we caught up on life.

Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess

OXO recently sent me their hand-held spiralizer to try out (pictured above) and it instantly become my favorite kitchen tool. I have a more traditional spiralizer, but after using my tiny, streamlined hand-held spiralizer, the traditional one just seems cumbersome in comparison. For $15, I can’t think of a better investment in vegetable enablement–it’s renewed my excitement for tons of vegetable-based noodle dishes and salads.

Spiralized Zucchini Breakfast "Pizza" // The Pancake Princess

When I told Alanna about this recipe and my consternation over what to call it, she was like, “What if you just put pizza in quotes?” It was perfect. This isn’t a pizza in any sense of the traditional word (no tomato sauce, no cheese, no crust), but the spiralized zucchini makes for a fun, light base for an array of breakfast-y toppings like avocado, smoked salmon and egg. (If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can also use grated zucchini, but what’s the fun in that?)

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Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake Princess

Again, a disclaimer: I am in no way a mixologist, I consider most liquors to taste like a ghastly burning liquid version of poop and one of my preferred drinks (read: lesser of the evils) is a long island iced tea, which should give you some idea of my discerning palate and refined taste. (See also: frozen margaritas, amaretto sours, Pimm’s cups, and G&Ts when I’m trying to be socially respectable.)

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake PrincessStrawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake PrincessStrawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake PrincessBut shrubs are new territory. Earlier this summer, I had a really delicious non-alcoholic shrub at a restaurant and spent weeks thinking about it before realizing that my first introduction to shrubs had really come years ago, when my aunt had proffered something involving alcohol and something out of a mason jar, which I had politely declined.

Jokes on me, because shrubs (unattractively also known as “drinking vinegars”) are basically a fruit-infused acidic substance that can be added to any drink, alcoholic or not, to amp up flavor–let me repeat: fruit and acid. And sugar. Three of my favorite things, especially when it comes to drinks (dranks).

Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs // The Pancake Princess

Serendipitously, the lovely Sherrie and Renee decided to host a virtual #drinkthesummer party right around the time a handful of strawberries were going soft and squishy on me, so my first attempt at a shrub demanded the always-alluring combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar. When thinned with a good splash of sparkling water, a squeeze of lime (plus a half-hearted attempt at muddling basil…) and a pour of gin, I thought these turned out quite nicely–fizzy, fruity, sweet, and a little sour, just how I like. (Though next time, I’d go lighter on the sugar since balsamic vinegar is already fairly sweet, in order to help bring out the acid.)

While some recipes suggest cooking the fruit, sugar and vinegar together, Serious Eats advocates a cold-processed shrub for better flavor, so that’s what I did. It’s a super easy process, even for a drink noob like me, so I highly recommend trying this, if tangy/sour/acidic drinks are your thing! Making a shrub is the perfect way to elevate your drink game, use up overripe or slightly imperfect fruit, impress your friends, and drink delicious drinks. Just make sure you leave a couple of days from your start time to desired drinking time–a.k.a a Wednesday might be the perfect time to start ;)

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Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan)

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake PrincessLet me set some clear expectations for the following statement: it falls squarely within the realm of First World Problems and I am being a tad overdramatic as per usual and it pales in comparison to this but SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAS HAPPENED.

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake Princess

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake Princess

This Terrible Thing is a dairy allergy. Of odd proportions. For months, I’ve been noticing some symptoms every time I consume cow’s milk/yogurt/feta/fresh mozzarella (though aged cheeses seem to be kosher): tiny blisters and itching and peeling on two (sometimes three) of my fingers and mild eczema-like rashes on the inside of my elbows.

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake PrincessAt first, I thought the rashes on my fingers were due to excessive moisture on my hands from washing dishes, but when the inner elbow rashes showed up, I knew it had to be something more. Eczema runs in my family (though it never affected me as a kid, and it’s bewildering to have it show up now) and my suspicion is that I gave myself this allergy due to overenthusiastic consumption of Greek yogurt a few years ago. It was during a phase when I was convinced I wasn’t getting enough protein, and I compensated by eating a LOT of yogurt. I’d eat it at least twice a day (for breakfast and a snack), and occasionally for dinner or dessert. Aside from yogurt, I was a fairly moderate consumer of dairy: I grew up drinking 1% milk, but switched to almond milk almost six years ago when I became pescetarian. Since then, I’ve mostly eaten dairy in the form of moderate pizza/taco/pasta consumption and whatever dairy ended up in whatever pastry I was making or buying.

Looking back, I should have known better than to eat one food group so excessively, but yogurt is kind of a classic staple in the single lady life. Easy to make (open the container), easy to eat, protein- and calcium-packed. It was an easy weapon to fulfill what I thought were my increased protein needs. I had no idea that excessively eating one food could give you a food allergy until I read Felicia’s eloquent discussion of her avocado allergy (really, her entire journey of overhauling her diet is fascinating and worth a read) and in doing research since then, I’ve come across more and more anecdotes about similar occurrences.

In the midst of figuring out what the heck is going on with my fingers/dairy consumption/elbows, I met the lovely, bubbly Lisa of Maple and Love (a Houston-based custom bakery that makes the MOST beautiful and delectable treats!) who told me about her allergy to a certain milk protein. Intolerance to this particular protein can’t be determined through blood tests, so a dairy tolerance challenge (like this) is recommended instead. This kind of elimination test makes sense to me, so I’m embarking on a dairy-free challenge for the next few weeks (and probably years, if we’re being realistic).

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake Princess

All of this to say: this is why my recipes will be dairy-free for the foreseeable future (though I will leave up recipes like this cheesecake and these pancakes because I still think they’re great for those who can consume dairy).

Also: if you have any wisdom on this topic, please share! Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had similar symptoms? Were you able to overcome a food allergy?

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake Princess

The silver lining to this is that pancakes are still well within my eating realm. To celebrate going dairy-free from now on, I updated this basic vegan pancake recipe (turns out you don’t need flax!) for these very simple, satisfying pancakes. They’re not going to win any attractiveness awards, but anything stuffed with peanut butter…cannot be bad. Plus, I think whole wheat pancakes are not only virtuous, but super tasty. These aren’t really revolutionary, just a fun way to eat pancakes (and leftovers make for a great little on-the-go package in the morning if you toss a couple in a pan to reheat while you brush your hair and dance around to Sia…or whatever wakes YOU up…).

Whole Wheat Stuffed Pancakes (vegan) // The Pancake Princess

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The Great Popsicle Hack (or how to make a popsicle in 1 minute)

Instant 3-Ingredient Popsicle Bowls! // The Pancake Princess

Before we discuss the Great Popsicle Hack, we need to discuss how fast summer is passing (again) and the ridiculousness that has been consumed this summer:

Instant 3-Ingredient Popsicle Bowls! // The Pancake PrincessAlso: this pan of miso lobster mac ‘n cheese for a double date, made with bountiful quantities of heavy cream, cheese, more cream and more cheese and consumed by four people, one of whom is lactose-intolerant, one of whom is slightly allergic to dairy. Which made for a fun night.

Instant 3-Ingredient Popsicle Bowls! // The Pancake Princess
From a certain perspective, you could say the night was disastrous, from burbling indigestion to the stray blueberry that flew out of someone’s bowl and ended up smashed between my butt and the couch, bruising the seat of my white shorts purple to the truly bizarre (horrifying?) Netflix movie that we found. But mostly it was fun, and importantly–I know, I know, you’re like why all the blabber when I really just want to hear about this instant popsicle business?!–it led to this discovery of the 1-minute popsicle, created by Ornsiree for a light dessert to follow the incredibl(y heavy) meal. Just in time for Billy’s brilliant POPSICLE WEEEEEK!

Instant 3-Ingredient Popsicle Bowls! // The Pancake Princess
Okay so it’s really a popsicle bowl, but I’m not interested in technicalities when it’s 100 degrees outside with 100% humidity and sweat is gluing my thighs together because we’re trying to conserve on electricity in our apartment.

Are you ready? It’s so easy, it’s like cheating. Frozen fruit + milk of choice + maple cream + wait for slushiness + DEVOUR. Am I kicked out of Popsicle Week yet? It’s just so perfectly refreshing: icy, fruity, a little creamy, a little sweet, but not too sweet. Most crucially: almost INSTANT!

Instant 3-Ingredient Popsicle Bowls! // The Pancake Princess

In other news, CALLING ALL HOUSTON READERS: remember that one time I went to Portland and became obsessed with Italian street food? So, best news: a new Italian street food place is coming to Houston which means we can alllll be obsessed with fresh Italian flatbread + crisp veggies + melty cheese + sharp Italian dressings together! (Menu here.)

Piada sounds kind of like the Chipotle of Italian food, bringing the experience of Italy to you in a fresh and inexpensive fashion. They’re offering a sweet opportunity to be a VIP, which means you get to eat free food the week before the doors officially open. You also get to meet the head chef and learn about Piada’s food and history. But did I mention the free food?

Sign up here if you’re interested in their Memorial location! (Or here for Vintage Park; here for Sugarland).
Instant 3-Ingredient Popsicle Bowls! // The Pancake Princess

Back to popsicles. Make these and keep cool this summer, friends!

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