It has always seemed strange to me…

The things we admire in men:  kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system.  And those traits we detest:  sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success.  And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.

J. Steinbeck

Pistachio Mascarpone Sweet Bread

I often think that the hardest part of writing starts at the beginning. 

It doesn't always have to do with length or content or style, or surprisingly, with a fear of exposure or of judgment, although those thoughts do cross my mind on occasion.  It really has to do with what I decide to write about in order to start my creative flow.

Truthfully, I've always found this to be the most difficult choice to make because a chosen topic can either lift up your creativity or sink it to the depths of the darkest parts of the mind.  What to choose:  Discoveries, nostalgia, sports news, favorite brunch spots, moments of peace, politics, gratitude, or perhaps sarcasm.

Similarly, I could argue the same sort of process goes into the decisions I make in regards to food development:  For me, the hardest part about creating a recipe is less about the execution and more about understanding where to start - what type of food to make, what ingredients to use, and sometimes it even revolves around which utensil I feel like cleaning.  Sugar?  Salt?  Pepper?  Cheese?  No cheese?

In my personal experience, no good decision ever started with "I think I should use less cheese".

So let's get started.  Because now I know where to start:  Cheese.  Mascarpone, specifically.

A good loaf of bread just can't be faked.  Flour must be measured, eggs beaten, yogurt stirred, and the loaf must be baked in such a way that leaves the outside with this perfect crispness and the inside with just the faintest touch of soft decadence.  It’s a science…  But it’s not a science at all.  It’s just bread…  But it’s important to know how to make it well.

As previously stated, once you feel settled with the establishment of prelim components, the development of an idea allows you to create something truly great.  I couldn't have thought to pair mascarpone and pistachios together, but there I was at the very beginning with these very two ingredients.  And it couldn't have been more perfect - this combination just works.  It always works.  Because it's science.

And we all know that if you start something with cheese, especially a cheese that is sweet and creamy, it's the right thing to do.  That's been established.

Pistachio Mascarpone Sweet Bread

(yields 1 loaf, 10 slices)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup mascarpone

3 tablespoons light butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 large egg white

1/2 cup pistachios, finely chopped

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, level with a knife, then combine both in a large bowl.  Add the remaining five dry ingredients, then stir well with a whisk.

Add the egg white to a small bowl and lightly whisk.  Combine mascarpone, Greek yogurt, and butter in bowl and mix well until all is combined.  Add mascarpone mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.  Stir in pistachios.

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and transfer batter over.  Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Slice and serve once cooled.

adventuring

i personally cannot think of a better way to welcome the new year than adventure with close friends and family to one of the quaintest and most scenic places in massachusetts:  rockport.

this little gem is full of color, little streets, ice cream parlors, ocean views, fresh seafood, art studios, rock outlooks, fudge dwellings and hidden overpasses.  it is not for the taffy haters or hot apple cider skippers.

the day was epitomized by chilled bones, creamy chowder, hot coffee and lobster vibes.

Here is to You

I can't believe that December is nearly over.  This year has flown by in the blink of an eye and we’re on the verge of yet another one full of possibility and wonder.  I often think about the concept of time and how our psyches, although seemingly able to bounce between present and past, truly only exist in the present alone.

I can't help but wonder how much of who I am in the present state, my very existence in this moment, has been greatly shaped by the people in my life.  I have a lot of people who matter to me.  The reason I understand this is because I know wholeheartedly that people have the ability to concurrently change us and accept us in ways nothing else can.

For me, this year has been filled with new traditions, lots of laughter, amazing trips, great food, a bit of spontaneity, and some courageous moves.  I've shared in the exchange of great joy and new friendships, support systems and encouraging people, without whom I wouldn't have survived this past year.  I've realized that the way I think, act, and the things I accomplish greatly depends on the people I've surrounded myself with.

They are the most important things in my life and I want to thank them for the moments of this past year:  They truly were some of the best I've had.

Chads:  Whether it's concert-going, bar-crawling, regatta-ing, day hiking, road tripping, beaching, skiing, carting with Mario and friends, you've been the raddest bunch of chads a gal could ask for.  I'm so thankful for each and every one of you.

MW:  You have become a close friend and an additional older sister.  I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to know you on a much more personal level because you epitomize the very definitions of joy, encouragement, positivity and laughter.  It should also be noted that I've never met someone so terrified of swans or ducks.

JP + Jonesy:  Oh, well you know - love, hate, repeat.

AS, OB, AS + NS:  Deeply rooted.

Del Diablo:  You constantly teach, constantly accept, constantly support, and constantly challenge me to always fight to be the better version of myself.

JS + JS:  I wouldn't be able to stand without you two - my rock and my foundation.

M + D:  Despite all my wacky ideas, unpredictable mood swings, and questionable decisions made rashly and emotionally, you both still find a way to love me.  Thank you for your fully stocked kitchen.

And lastly, here's to You.

 

baked tofu nuggets

There are a lot of things I enjoy as an adult.

I like not having a bedtime or a curfew or any other authority figure telling me what to do.

I like being able to bring any type of beverage or food in my car, though now it indefinitely smells like coffee.

I like ice cream in the morning and York Peppermint Patties for lunch.

I like deciding how long "play time" can be.  I also like naps.

I like alcoholic beverages and grilled cheeses with tomato soup three meals a day.  I like having the freedom to write a blog where I can say saucy and sometimes questionable things about my personal life.  I also like using serious machines like ovens.

These imitation nuggets are seriously the bees knees.  They are warm and crispy and you'll be picking up the little pieces of baked bread crumbs with your finger tips.  Oh yes.  With just the perfect amount of smokey paprika flavor, these nugget babies are 100% vegan and 100% awesome.  Oh, and they can also be gluten-free.

Baked Tofu Nuggets

(yields 18 pieces, 4 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

1 package firm tofu, cut into nugget-shaped pieces

2 teaspoons olive oil

3/4 - 1 cup (about 2 slices of bread) breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a wide-dish bowl.

Place tofu nuggets in a large bowl and coat with 2 teaspoons olive oil, tossing with hands.  One by one, place each piece in the breadcrumb mixture, coating each side.  Repeat until all pieces have been coated -- there may be extra left over.

Place on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove from oven and flip each piece.  Place back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.  Serve immediately or store in a container for up to a week.

Enjoy!

Nutritional information (4-5 nuggets): 155 calories, 7.5g fat (2.5 mono, 3 poly), 13g carbohydrates, 11g protein

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

There are some things that are just awesome.

Coffee:  Preferably with cream and sugar.  Good friends:  Preferably those who buy you beer and make you stay out way past your bed time.  Trips to the beach:  Again, preferably with coffee and beer and friends.

Toilet paper. The Bee Gees.  Oxygen.  Oh, how we take it for granted.  And breakfast.  Breakfast that doesn't involve frying or hot, spattering oil.  Or boiling water.  Or preheated skillets that burn my fingers.  Or sharp knives.  I need a break from all that...  

Balance is key.  Case in point, granola is a mouthful of holy-heckballs-heaven.  All you need is a bowl and a pre-heated oven.

Here's what it comes down to:  A little cinnamon, raisins, honey and brown sugar.  Basically a love child between an oatmeal raisin cookie and a healthy breakfast.

If your instinct is to have it for dinner…  We are best friends.

Me thinks me got a plan.

Oatmeal Cookie Granola

(yields about 4 1/2 cups)

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons ground flax seed

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins

PREPARATION:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, ground flax, cinnamon and salt.  Stir and set aside.

In a small bowl, measure out oil and pour it in.  Next, add the honey and then the vanilla.  Whisk together, then pour the wet mixture into the oat mixture.  Stir until all is evenly coated.

Spread the granola mixture onto the baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30 minutes, stirring about 4 or 5 times so the mixture doesn’t burn.  Once done, remove from the oven and stir in the raisins.

Place on a flat surface and pat the mixture down with the back of a spatula or large spoon.  Let cool for 20 minutes, then break into clusters.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  Enjoy!

Nutritional information (per 1/2 cup): 250 calories, 10.5g fat (1 sat, 4 mono, 4.5 poly), 36g carbs, 3.5g protein, 3.5g fiber

giving thanks

Thanksgiving:  It's never perfect.

It's really just an imperfect celebration.  If your family is anything like mine, you'll understand that cooking and cleaning and feasting together for the entirety of a day is very hard.  It's not enough to overcook a turkey or forget about the pie, but having literally no other place to escape to is basically the straw that broke the camel's back.

Thanksgiving is theatrical.  It is melodramatic and loud, and in my personal opinion, is a day in which we use way to many onions.

Yet after taking these past couple of days to reflect on my circumstances and the moments in which I've found myself, I realized something:  If I were to make a list of all the things I could be thankful for, that list is undoubtedly longer than my list of misfortunes.

Thanksgiving is communal.  It is authentic and invites us into a time of sharing life together.  It provides us with an opportunity to build our presence with one another, and to be present.  And if I'm being perfectly honest here, it is a relative normalcy in the chaos that surrounds my life every day.  We just choose to celebrate it once every 365 days.

Last week, thanksgiving encouraged me to reflect on the past year, which brought peace to my present and allowed me to feel thankful for my future, which is completely unbeknownst to me.

Thanksgiving:  It is an imperfect celebration yet it is a time we set aside to be in community with each other with the intention of spending time together celebrating life through conversation, feasting, and yes, even shouting over who over-mashed the potatoes.

And if this past thanksgiving was any indication of what the few months ahead will bring, I can't wait for Christmas.

Banana Buttermilk Doughnuts with Nutella

Dear life,

Sometimes you can be ugly and stupid and mean and hard.  Sometimes you test my patience with crazy drivers and very rude people.  Sometimes you make me complain about doing something while I’m already doing it.  Sometimes you spit on my shoes.  Yes, life can be pretty nasty and sometimes it makes me feel meaningless.  

When this happens, I feel a strong urge to punch life in the face.  Or at least give it a dang shake to show it what’s what.  Because sometimes life is just plain sour and requires a lot from me.  Not just today, but everyday.

But while all circumstances are against me, I understand they will eventually come to an end.  When that happens, I'm allowed to exist in the beauty of the result.  And it makes me smile.  Chuckle, even.

Now that I’m smiling, let’s talk about these doughnuts.

They are a reminder that things are good:  They are warm and productive and full of color.  Full of family and friends, pets, feasts, cocktails, great conversations, and community.

I like spending time with those who motivate and inspire me and echo my desire to be an enthusiast in life.  To encourage me to embrace what I'm interested in with both arms.  To hug it, love it, and be white hot passionate about it.  To always gamble on the big things.

So…  Do you want to grab a doughnut?  I think Banana Buttermilk Doughnuts with Nutella will leave you smiling, too.  Life, take that.

Most Sincerely,

Katie

Banana Buttermilk Doughnuts with Nutella

(yields 10-12 doughnuts)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Doughnuts:

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup Nutella

For the Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 to 4 tablespoons cream

pinch of vanilla extract

black jimmies

PREPARATION:

To make the Doughnuts:

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325  degrees F.  Spray a doughnut baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar together in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together.  Lastly, add in mashed bananas and Nutella, stirring together until all of the ingredients are well combined.

Use a small spoon to portion batter into the prepared doughnut baking pan.  Bake doughnuts for 13-15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into one of the doughnuts comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes before transferring doughnuts onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Glaze doughnuts when completely cool.

To make the Glaze:

In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Add 3 tablespoons of cream and vanilla extract.  Whisk to combine.  Add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is thick but still pourable.

Dip each doughnut into the chocolate glaze.  Shake off some of the excess glaze then dip into a bowl ready with jimmies.  Allow to rest a few moments for the frosting to harden slightly.

These doughnuts are best served within two days of baking.  Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

Spoiler:  This post ends with waffles.

As for the beginning:  I read somewhere that a clean and organized desk may contribute to healthy eating and conventionality.

I have an extremely messy desk.  Actually, I retract that.  I have an extremely messy life, so I'm assuming that means I don't follow conformity but I can however eat as much candy I choose to eat and I'm just super creative and lackluster about rules.

Just reading between the lines.  Though the reality of it is I spend most of my time doing my work sitting cross legged on the floor, which probably just means I'm in kindergarden.

If that's the case, let's switch to waffles and maple syrup.  Child like things.  Because I'm unconventional and I can do that.

It's an apple and cinnamon sort of thing that's perfect for the things you're about to do amongst falling leaves.  We're being kids after all.

Waffles need something special.  Like say, cinnamon, applesauce, and a teensy weensy bit of sugar.

In short:  It’s what would happen if James Taylor wrote songs about New Hampshire.

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

(yields 6 waffles)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of all-spice

1 egg

1/2 cup applesauce

1 1/2 cups milk

waffle iron

PREPARATION:

Pre-heat waffle iron.  Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and spices together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat egg with a whisk.  Stir in applesauce and milk.  Slowly add flour mixture to the bowl with the wet ingredients.

Spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour waffle batter onto hot waffle iron and cook until golden brown.  Serve warm with butter and warm syrup.

Enjoy!