Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

Warmer days are approaching and I'm super excited about it.  Let's review.

Today is Saint Patrick's Day and can only mean two things:  Bagpipes and Jameson on the rocks.

The first day of spring is in three days and I still cannot fathom the idea of sprouting flowers, bees buzzin' or constant sound of chirping birds.  It all just seems so far away.  But it's not and that makes me very excited.

And in ninety-six days, the first day of summer will grace us with her presence.  Just imagine:  Iced coffees, trips to the beach, weekends spent hiking and farmer's market food.  Now add booze.  Yes.  Booze made with yellow citrus things.  We're calling it Sparkling Spiked Lemonade, but it may as well be called "I'm Sitting On a Patio and Yes I Will Have Another."

If scented emails were a thing, this one would be "tequila."

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade
Sparkling Spiked Lemonade
Sparkling Spiked Lemonade
Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

(serves 2-4)

INGREDIENTS:

4 lemons, squeezed (about 1/2 cup juice)

1 1/2-2 cups sparkling water

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup tequila

lemon slices, for garnish

PREPARATION:

Juice the lemons over a strainer and transfer juice to a large mixing class.  Collect the seeds and pulp and discard.

Mix sugar and sparking water with the lemon juice, stirring well until the sugar dissolves.  Add the tequila and stir well to combine.  Equally distribute the cocktail between 2-4 glasses filled with ice.

Garnish with lemon slices and enjoy.

Sparkling Spiked Lemonade

fried cauliflower rice

I get it.

friedcauliflowerrice

My sense of humor is an acquired taste.  I'm sorry if sarcasm is a foreign language to you, but it's sadly my default status a.k.a. it takes a lot to get me excited about something.

But right now, I'm not being sarcastic and I'm actually super excited.  Because I've found something better than fried rice.  Totally serious.  I know...  You're utterly disappointed.  Boy, this is gonna be fun.

So this dish...  I ate it for three days in a row, and then I ran out and immediately made more.  It's a ubiquitous cauliflower rice thing. 

leeks
leeks

My formula is twofold:  First, choose a vegetable you're crazy about.  Because we're crazy about vegetables here.  Second, season the dish properly so that it’s both savory and spicy.  The result:  Sweet baby Jesus.

Let's begin.  Blanching cauliflower.  You need a pot full of water.  We're being crazy, remember?

Next, texture.  It's super important.  We want rice, not mashed potato pish posh.

Then comes freshly grated ginger, sautéed leeks, and a bit of heat to keep you on your toes.  It's basically the definition of my dream meal.  For the next five minutes, anyway.

friedcauliflowerrice

Fried Cauliflower Rice

adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

(yields 2 to 4 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

1 large cauliflower head

1 large leek, rinsed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable stock, depending on personal preference

fresh ginger, zested

2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce

olive oil, for cooking

sea salt, for seasoning

PREPARATION:

Set a medium-sized pot filled halfway with water over high heat.  When the water begins to boil, add the florets of cauliflower and cook for 3 to four minutes.  Drain the cauliflower and set aside to let cool for 10 minutes.

When cooled a bit, add florets, one cup at a time, to a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until the consistency is rice-like.  Do not over-pulse or the texture will be mushy.

Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven or skillet over medium-low heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add chopped leek and minced garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

When all the florets have been blended, add to the skillet and mix thoroughly.  Add in grated ginger, vegetable stock, and hot sauce.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

When done, divide the cauliflower into four bowls and and top with your choice.

friedcauliflowerrice

Serve immediately and enjoy!  Can be stored up to one week in an airtight container

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