About Jess Chen

Hey there! My name is Jess Chen and I'm going to be a Freshman at the University of Michigan this fall. I've been a vegetarian since February 2012, and I've been a vegan since June 19, 2012.

Vegan Coconut Date Bars

My favorite thing that I’ve baked so far…

Coconut Date Bars!  My dad bought a HUGE pack of dates from Costco.  I had to take the opportunity to bake something with dates in it.  I recently went to Plum Market (late night grocery shopping) and was looking at their reduced price bakery shelf.  I bought this date fruit bar made by Avalon Bakery.  

I used Oh She Glow’s 5 Ingredient Date Square Recipe in attempt to re-create that date bar.  I did add in one ingredient: unsweetened coconut.  It was a little salty, but I think I know how to improve the recipe.  Next time I will use agave nectar because the coconut oil didn’t hold the crust very well together.  This will also give it a more sweeter taste.  Another change I will make is to include more dates!  The water thinned the date bar and it wasn’t as fruity as Avalon’s. Still, it was delicious



Inn Season and Build-A-Bear

I took Isabella out to Inn Season Cafe again.  This time we went with Erin and Emma.  Isabella is so silly 😛


And for the food! I ordered the Tempeh Burger. Great burger, and it was the first time I had tempeh


For desert I got the Cashew Cake.  I wasn’t very fond of the spice that was on top but other than that it was good.  I think next time I’ll get the carrot cake.  I wish the deserts weren’t so expensive! Six dollars!! Almost too pricy.  This is why I need the recipe so I can make some at home


Afterwards, Isabella and I went to Somerset Mall to return a few items.  Isabella saw the Build-a-Bear store and wanted to build a bear.


The Stuffed dogs’ name is Abby.  Actually, I came up with the name because when I asked her what she wanted the name to be she said “I don’t know” in her cute adorable chinese accent.  Her english has gotten so well.  It’s been less than a month since her arrival and she has already picked up on so much.  Her favorite phrases include “I don’t know,” “What you doing?” “Let me see!” and “Oh my god”.  She is also obsessed with throwing the peace sign up every time we take a picture.  She and my mom leave back for China on August 21 😦  That same day, two of my friends leave for college!  Time is going by too fast, where did the summer go?



July Foodie Penpals Reveal

It has been a while since I last posted.  I’ve been SO busy with my class, working at Leo’s, trying to spend time with friends, and I scored an internship!  I even missed the deadline to post about foodie penpals.  Well, better late then never right?


What a beautiful package Jenni sent me.  At first, the person who was supposed to send me a package never contacted me and Jenni said she never got a reply either.  After a couple days of no response, Lindsay paired us together.  Jenni is from St. Louis, MO and sent me some great local foods!  And yes.. it’s ALL VEGAN!

I’m wrapping all my goodies in cute paper from now on.

Sorry I just got this camera and I don’t know how to turn off the flash so the picture quality is not the best



Jenni sent me two samples of granola.  It was AMAZING! I e-mailed her begging for the recipe.  She said she just threw in a bunch of stuff together but said she would try to think about what ingredients she used. Here’s the recipe.  I haven’t tried making it yet because I don’t have wheat germ.. but since I’ve already eaten all the granola she’s sent me I need to make some SOON.

“I think I may have figured it out!  I used a few different recipes I have and combined them to make this granola.  I suggest playing around with the flavors you like, it’s very forgiving!  I think you could also omit the brown sugar in this one.  Honey is normally used, but I decided on the corn syrup to make it vegan friendly.  You could also use agave, it’s lighter.  I hope that helps and if you make it, it tastes the same!

3 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 carob chips, optional
Mix oats, coconut, pecans, wheat germ, cinnamo,n, brown sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Mix corn syrup, vanilla and vegetable oil in a glass measuring cup.  Pour over oat mixture.  Combine until everything is mixed very well, place on a large baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool, then add the cranberries and chips.”
When I do make this granola, I think I’ll use honey instead of corn syrup because it’s healthier.  Although honey isn’t technically vegan, I will use it occasionally in baking.
Oh my dark chocolate…
Jenni also sent me a few other goodies that are not here because the picture quality is so low.  One in particular was locally made peanut butter!  Because it was packaged in a plastic container, a bit of oil leaked out.  Nevertheless it still tasted delicious! I even made chocolate chip peanut butter cookies the next day.
Thanks again Jenni!!



Quinoa, Kale, and Berry Bliss Oat Squares

After class Thursday, I stopped by Whole Foods to purchase Quinoa!  It was my first time making it.  It was hard to rinse the quinoa because I don’t have a thin strainer so I ended up hand washing it.  I lost some quinoa in the process but now I know next time to use a cheesecloth or not wash it at all.

I had kale, tabouli, and hummus in the fridge so I decided to create a “mediterranean salad”

I then topped it off with hummus 🙂

I also JUST got my food processor Today! To celebrate I made some Berry Bliss Oat Squares with the recipe from Oh She Glows.

Processing oats is so much fun

Pureeing the Strawberries, blueberries, banana, and maple syrup

I think I should have kept them in the oven slightly longer for a more “crispy” bar

Still, the bars turned out great!  Now that I have the food processor I can do more things!  I wonder what recipe I should tackle next… I might make the fruit and nut bars again because we ran out recently because I would eat one everyday.  This wednesday I’am going to Inn Season Cafe with my mom and my sister! I’m so excited to show them vegan/vegetarian cooking… and of course, the deserts.  On Friday, I’m going to Ann Arbor for the annual, Ann Arbor Art Fair to sit at the table for the Southeastern Michigan Animal Rights team.  This will be my first event with S.M.A.R.T but I’m excited to get involved!


Vegan Blueberry Muffins

My mom and my sister came home yesterday (pictures coming soon) so I decided to bake some delicious treats. I  had a surplus of blueberries so I decided to make something new.. muffins!

I used a recipe I found online, but another healthy alternative is Oh She Glows.  I was going to use hers but I totally forgot about it and just googled Vegan Blueberry Muffins.  I recommend using her recipe and not the one I used because it incorporates flax seed, maple syrup, and no additional “sugar”.  The recipe I followed made my batter too chunky and not liquid-y enough so I ended up using more almond milk than I probably should have.

Speaking of blueberries… I’ve created my new favorite superfood breakfast cereal


  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1/4 cup of nature’s path organic pumpkin flax plus granola
  • sprinkle of Kellog’s Special K cereal

I don’t even need almond milk!


Inn Season Cafe Round 2

Inn Season serves Pizza at dinner!! I was close to ordering one but I didn’t.  I promised myself next time I would.

Instead, I ordered the Black Bean Avocado Quesadilla Appetizer.  Description from the menu “Whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans and cheese or vegan Daiya Cheese.  Served with acocado, tomato, onion, green olives, lettuce garnish and house-made salsa.

There is an entree option for this meal but I knew the portion would be too big to finish.  I only ate half of this quesadilla to save room for desert!  I had not tried vegan cheese yet and it tasted like the real thing!  I haven’t been craving dairy products or anything but the familiarity was comfortable.  The house-made salsa was also delicious.  It was warm, a contrast to the typical, cold salsa.  It was a good match for the quesadilla.

I also got a side of steamed broccli.  I usually eat broccli at the Coney but the broccli and Inn Season tasted 1,000 times better.  Why? Because it was fresh!  At the Coney, I was eating frozen broccli steamed from a microwave (also not very good).  Since the broccli arrived well after the quesadilla I could only eat a small portion.

My friend Haeji got the Pesto linguini.

And now for desert!

Last time, I ordered the Opera cake, which is what Haeji ordered.  I was stuck between the Peach crisp and the Strawberry-raspberry tart.  In the end, I chose the tart because the waitress recommended it.  It also came a la mode (vegan icecream).  It was also the first time I tried vegan ice cream.

I was drooling before I took the first bite!!

Lunch at Whole Foods

Sorry for the late post!  There was a huge storm Wednesday night and we lost power Thursday.  We just got it back at noon today.  I tried blogging from the library computers but it wasn’t the same.  My last post on the chocolate chip cookies wasn’t as neat as I wanted it to be.  I also started my Calculus class this past tuesday.  I’m taking Calc1 at OCC because I didn’t take calculus my senior year.  Instead, I took AP Statistics.  Calc1 at Michigan is a weeder class.  I’ve incessantly heard how hard it is and I thought taking the class over the summer will be very helpful in preparing me for the fall.  Since we had no power, I decided to stop by Whole Foods and try out their fresh food.

I wish I could eat lunch at Whole Foods everyday….


My salad consisted of spring mix, mushrooms, mixed peppers, tofu, broccli tabouli, lemon quinoa, and carrots.  Oil-free balsamic vinaigrette on the side.

It’s also been SO HOT these past couple of days 😦

I spent the fourth of July going to my friend’s lake.  The fireworks show was by far the best.  Being on the lake makes it more surreal.  At the end they had fireworks shoot up from the lake.  It was incredible.

My favorite picture

Me and my friends

I’m going back to Inn Season Cafe for dinner today!  I can’t wait.. especially for the desert 🙂