Cocoa Vanilla Bean Pomegranate Waffles

We need to remember what’s important in life:  Loved ones, selflessness, humor, waffles, work.  Or waffles, loved ones, humor, selflessness, work.  Doesn’t matter, but work is always last.
- Leslie Knope
cocoavanillabeanpomwaffles

Snow days.  I love those mornings.  Don’t you?

Starting a day with a quick gaze out the window, only to see a beautiful layer of fresh snow defines a New England childhood.  Those kind of moments encourage time to stand still and allow you to simply be.  And gaze.

On regular mornings, other things creep their way in:  Spilled coffee, late arrivals, to-dos and musts-of-the-day, and the inevitability of computer hunchback syndrome from a 9-to-5 job.  But as the snow falls and a snow day creeps its way in, there is always resistance, a flutter of relaxation in my heart, because one learns how precious that quiet stillness is.

I believe in the value of finding stillness in slow, quiet mornings.  Or afternoons.  Or evenings, if that’s your style.  And sometimes, just sometimes, on days when it snows.

And now, pomegranates…  In waffle form because if I had my choice I’d eat my weight in these waffles every morning.  It’s perfect because it’s really the only way I like to consume these little pink gems.

The waffles are laced with antioxidants and vanilla bean flavor.  The Greek yogurt gives them a delicious light fluff, but the nuttiness from wheat flour and the sweetness of vanilla are totally key.  They’re topped with cocoa nibs and a drizzle of maple syrup.  It makes me feel fancy.

This is what I’m eating today.  Quietly.

cocoavanillapomwaffles

Cocoa Vanilla Bean Pomegranate Waffles

(yields 6 waffles)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 egg

scraps of 1 vanilla bean pod

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

cocoa nibs, for sprinkling

PREPARATION:

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt together.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl.  Slowly pour in 1 cup milk, adding more to the batter when necessary.  Stir in the yogurt, then add the vanilla extract.  Combine together, then add to the flour mixture.

Lastly, add in vanilla bean scraps and pomegranates.  Preheat waffle making according to manufacturer’s directions.

Using a small laden, pour batter onto the warmed surface until the waffle iron is lightly covered.  Sprinkle on cocoa nibs and cook the waffle until ready, or until golden and crispy (about 2 minutes).  Repeat this step until all the batter has been used up.

cocoavanillapomwaffles

When all waffles are ready, serve immediately with maple syrup and butter.  Enjoy!

Winter Peppermint Bark

Yesterday's weather:  Cold.

Today's weather:  Colder.

And tomorrow's weather forecast?  Still cold.

I wish I didn't have to talk to you about icy sidewalks and sloppy winter mixes.  I wish I could just talk to you about chocolate sprinkled with peppermint;  about how it makes up for the cold weather outside and snowed-in cars and how it makes everything all better.

Because it doesn't have to end with tomorrow's snowy forecast.  It can end with Frank Sinatra, two types of melted chocolate and big honkin' flakes of peppermint bits.

Translation:  Where are my sweat pants?

Peppermint Bark.jpg

Winter Peppermint Bark

(yields about 25 pieces)

INGREDIENTS:

7 oz (200g) dark chocolate

7 oz (200g) white chocolate

About 3/4 cup (3o pieces) peppermint candies, crushed

PREPARATION:

Place wax paper on a large sheet pan and set aside on counter top.  Bring a pot filled about halfway to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and place a glass bowl on top.  Place dark chocolate in the bowl and melt, stirring occasionally until the mixture becomes very smooth.

Remove chocolate from the heat and pour onto the prepared wax paper.  Spread evenly and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until set.

While the first layer sets, bring the same pot of water to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Place the white chocolate pieces in the glass bowl and set on top of the pot to heat.  Stir until completely melted and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the peppermint candies in a food processor and pulse 5-10 times or until broken into tiny pieces.  Set aside.  Remove dark chocolate from the refrigerator.

Pour cooled white chocolate over top and smooth out with a spatula.  Sprinkle with peppermint candy pieces, gently pressing them into chocolate so they stick.  Place the sheet back in the fridge to harden for another 20 minutes.

Peppermint Bark.jpg

When ready, break apart and serve.  Enjoy!

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.