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NYC-inspired sour cream cookies

You know social media has well and truly taken up residence in your life when you turn to Instagram for hairdresser recommendations. I guess stranger things have happened, but it was an Instagram comment from Hair Romance via The Blog Stylist about Hairdresser on Fire that led me to a trendy hair salon in the West Village for my long-awaited haircut. Confused? Don’t worry, the point is it was high time to lay my hair issues to rest (seven months is a long time between cuts), and I figured when better to tame my unruly tresses than during a visit to the City that Never Sleeps.

The City that Never Sleeps.

The City that Never Sleeps.

The Aussie cast of Sex and the City does Brooklyn.

The Aussie cast of Sex and the City does Brooklyn.

In the weeks preceding said haircut, I had been psyching myself up for ‘The Big Chop’. You know, the kind of chop that declares to the world, “I have reinvented myself. This is THE NEW ME!” I had Google image results of short-haired celebs coming out of my ears, and don’t even ask about the virtual hairstyling tool that I consulted at one point (shudder).

View from the Brooklyn Bridge.

The view from the Brooklyn Bridge.

By the time I had decided to try my hand at a Katie Holmes’-style bob, my short hair aspirations took a turn for the worse. At dinner with friends on the eve of my NYC sojourn, I announced my impending chop, to which my friends replied in unison, “You? Short hair? Are you mad?!” Apparently my hair was in the best condition they had ever seen it. Go figure. “And you’ll need long hair to get yourself through the winter,” they cried [insert more peer group pressure here]. “Alright, alright!” I said. “I’ll keep it long-ish. But… I’m getting bangs!” So there it was decided – I was getting a trim and a fringe to boot.

Yellow cab, anyone?

Yellow cab, anyone?

When your hairdresser is based in the West Village, you know you’re onto a good thing. As well as being the fictitious home of Carrie from Sex and the City, this trendy neighbourhood lays claim to some of NYC’s most stylish boutiques, like this one:

Ralph Lauren, West Village.

Ralph Lauren, West Village.

And this one:

West Village boutique

I couldn’t agree more.

And this one:

Diane von Furstenburg

Wrap dress extraordinaire, Diane von Furstenburg.

But no time for shopping, darling. I had to hot foot it to the world famous Magnolia Bakery for a pre-haircut cupcake. It’s all about priorities, you see. Sadly, Magnolia didn’t live up to the hype. They didn’t have any gluten-free cupcakes, so I was naughty and sampled their most popular cupcake – vanilla with buttercream icing. It was almost too pretty to eat, but sadly it didn’t hit the spot. Even though they claim to bake small batches of cakes throughout the day, it didn’t taste fresh to me as the texture wasn’t moist and buttery. Maybe I just got them on a bad day, but their coffee wasn’t great either (best coffee of my life was at Ninth Street Espresso at Chelsea Markets). Next time I’ll head straight to Babycakes NYC - a bakery specialising in vegan and gluten-free cakes!

Magnolia Bakery, West Village.

Cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery.

Red velvet cupcake from Magnolia Bakery

Bec’s red velvet cupcake from Magnolia Bakery. She agreed with my sentiments.

So, back to the all-important haircut. Here’s a photo of my newly-appointed NYC hair stylist, Reagan from Whittmore House Salon. Isn’t she gorgeous? I loved getting my hair cut by her. Not only does she look like a supermodel, but she dresses like one too. And did I mention that she reads Food Crush as she’s recently gone gluten-free and is looking for some recipes to keep her on track. Happy to be of service, Reagan. Oh, and if you’re after some hair tutorials and styling tips, may I suggest that you check out her blog, Hairdresser on Fire? It’s just as fabulous as those red lips of hers.

Reagan

Meet Reagan: my NYC hair stylist.

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Gluten-free chocolate chunk and walnut cookies

Many of my childhood memories revolve around the kitchen where I could often be found making a big mess for my long-suffering Mum to clean up. Daughter from hell? I think so. Choc chip cookies were a repeat offender and whenever I bake them, I am reminded of the time I baked a batch while attempting the 40 Hour Famine (don’t ask). Sadly, the cookies smelt so good they thwarted my attempts at starvation and resulted in the 4 Hour Famine. Needless to say, I haven’t tried self-induced starvation since that sorry day. Choc chip cookies, however, are here to stay.

I’ve just returned from a week in NYC where I saw choc chip cookies the size of giant frisbees. Now, I’m all for indulging one’s sweet tooth, but in the interests of keeping the Portion Control Police at bay, I decided to shape my cookies in slightly more moderate proportions, i.e. small enough that you can easily sneak in a second without feeling piggish. I’ve baked a few choc chip cookies in my time, but never before in the history of my choc chip cookie endeavours have I been brave enough to bake with chocolate chunks. I’m talking a whole block of chocolate chopped up into nice, hearty chunks. I figure why stop at choc chips when you can have a whole chunk of chocolate swimming around in your mouth. I threw in some walnuts to help punctuate the cookies with a nutty flavour.

Why have a chocolate chip when you can have a chocolate chunk?

Why have a chocolate chip cookie when you can have a chocolate chunk cookie instead?

The results? Well, judging by the crowd of hungry Brits who gobbled them up at a recent shindig on a nearby farm, the cookies were a success. To quote one of the tasters, “These are the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. They’re so light!” Why thank you, Rina. And to quote my most honest food critic, Frank the seven-year-old boy from next door, “Your choc chip cookies are my favourite.” Thanks Frank, that means a lot coming from you given you told me my last batch of cookies tasted like sand. Ouch. So, with all that out in the open, I hereby present my gluten-free chocolate chunk and walnut cookie recipe.

Gluten-free choc chunk cookies

I have a thing about cookies and milk. They go together so nicely, don’t you think?

 

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Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

What’s your favourite childhood sweet treat? Choc chip cookies top my list. My Mum, sister and I used to bake them all the time. In fact, my sister can be credited as the original choc chip cookie baker in our family as she tried to replicate the recipe from Mrs Fields Cookies and get them to the perfect consistency. Taking them out of the oven before they were ready meant we could eat them while they were still warm and gooey. Ah, the memories.

Of course, the choc chip cookies of my childhood contained gluten and were probably responsible for my constant tummy aches. Now that I’ve cottoned on to the cause of my poor digestion, I’m always on the look out for gluten-free baked versions of my childhood favourites. This brings me to today’s cookie recipe – gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

I recently asked my beloved Facebook fans if they prefer crunchy or chewy biscuits. The overwhelming majority like their cookies chewy in the middle and crunchy on the outside. As for their favourite cookie of all time – chocolate chip won hands down.

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Craisin, pecan and white chocolate cookies

Has the cult of celebrity ever struck you as weird? The way masses of seemingly sane people can go hysterical in the presence of a rock star, actor or reality TV star? Or how women can go weak at the knees at the mere sight of their idol. Think Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Lady Gaga, Madonna – all these mere mortals have been known to cause this effect. Indeed, if you were an alien observing Earth from afar, surely you would come to the swift conclusion that we’re all completely nuts!

Hero worship doesn’t stop at rock stars and Hollywood A-listers. The foodie world is currently basking in the glory of its newfound celebrity status.  Many refer to it as the “Masterchef phenomenon”, and they’re not wrong. Cooking was cool long before reality TV, but shows like Masterchef have put culinary pursuits well and truly back on the radar, and transformed previously unknown chefs like Adrienne Zumbo into household names.

Internationally speaking, the cult of celebrity chefdom is positively brimming at the rim. While most of us aren’t likely to go into a crazed frenzy at the site of Jamie, Nigella or Heston (okay, so I probably would), we are all on first-name basis with them. When these cooking gurus aren’t dazzling us with their latest cookbook release, they’re lighting up our screens with yet another cooking series. And as for Jamie, well he’s a special case, but his foodie empire is expanding faster than I can type this blog post. Speaking of which, have you checked out Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia?

Of all the celebrity chefs out there, Nigella is my favourite. Truth be told, I just want to look like her, but that’s not the point. For someone who’s not a chef, she does a very good job of inspiring me to don my apron. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a food guru sitting behind the camera telling her exactly what to say and when to say it, but let’s not break the enigma shall we.

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Gluten-free desserts

When I first embarked on this food blogging caper last year, I was oblivious to the world of blogging (and food blogging, for that matter). I felt like a voyager chartering unknown territories and discovering new lands. Sadly for this late adopter, these “new lands” were by no means new, but rather, I was a bit behind the times. Nevertheless, it did beg me to wonder how blogging and I had managed to evade each other for so long. We were a perfect match and our union was long overdue… what, with me being a frustrated writer and it being so accessible and all.

I liken blogging to being in a relationship – you keep learning about each other as you peel off the layers. This has what happened over recent months as I’ve delved deeper into the blogosphere. You see, I’ve had to kiss dairy, gluten, eggs and shellfish goodbye for health reasons (it was a teary farewell), but the good news for sensitive souls like me is there’s loads of amazing recipes out there. I’m only scratching the surface of what seems to be a treasure chest of food-sensitivity nirvana. In the interests of sharing the love, here’s a round-up of gluten, egg and dairy-free desserts from some of the most talented food bloggers around.

1. Sweet pear and polenta muffins
The Gluten-free Goddess is a one of the best blogs I’ve come across. As well as being a God-send for people with food sensitivities, this blog is chock full of wisdom and anecdotes on relationships, love and life. Its fabulous author, Karina injects so much of herself into the blog that you just want to invite her over for dinner and give her a big hug. I’m yet to cook these vegan sweet pear and polenta muffins. Karina describes them as grainy and tender with soft sweet bites of pear that almost melt in your mouth.

Sweet pear and polenta muffins

2. Gluten-free carrot bread with Chai spices
Yet another marvel from The Gluten-free Goddess. I’m thinking of whipping up this tasty number this weekend. Doesn’t it look moorish?

Gluten-free carrot bread with Chai spices

3.Sweet potato biscuits
I only recently discovered The Sensitive Pantry and boy do I love it. It has my name written all over it with its spotlight on gluten, egg and dairy-free recipes. When I first found out that I had to give up dairy, eggs and grains, I pretty much kissed dessert goodbye. But recipes like this one for sweet potato biscuits just go to show that anything is possible with a bit of creativity.

Sweet potato biscuits

4. Lemon drizzle cake
I love cake and I love lemon, so this lemon drizzle cake from Pig in the Kitchen makes me as happy as a pig in mud. The secret ingredient to this allergy-free cake is an egg replacement product called Orgran ‘no egg’. It is made from potato starch, tapioca flour, vegetable gum, calcium, carbonate and citric acid. Talk about taking resourcefulness to the next level!

Lemon drizzle cake

5. No bake brownie fifteens
The best brownies I ever made contained sour cream and walnuts. I would share the recipe with you, but since I wouldn’t be able to eat it, I thought it best to share these allergy-friendly brownies with you instead. I found these on a fabulous Canadian blog, Healthful Pursuit. The majority of recipes on this holistic nutritionist’s blog are dairy, gluten, corn, yeast, and citrus free.

No bake brownie fifteens

6. Maple and almond cookies
And the prize for the most resourceful cook in the world goes to the person who invented an egg substitute from flaxseed, baking powder and water. Wonders will never cease. Admittedly, I am yet to bake these biscuits, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know if they taste as good as they look.

Maple and almond cookies

 

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