Resolutions. 2014.

In 2014 I will …

Turn 30.

Embrace 30.

Run a half marathon in two hours.

Hike on the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina.

Make at least one recipe each week from one of my actual cookbooks.

Judge less. Look deeper. Understand more.

Glaze Lola.

Rediscover all the best things about Indianapolis with Karl, because he lives here now.

Go outside, even in the cold, because I own a First Ascent coat now.

Buy rain boots.

Camp.

Adventure.

Write.

Photograph.

Visit one place that I love and one place that I’ve never traveled to before.

Not shave my armpits.

Run long, run far on the weekends for fun.

Change. Orange Bran Muffins.

Change tends to come quickly. Maybe it takes you by surprise. Lately change has been sneaking up on me.

Two weeks ago I was running in full winter gear as snow flurries fell onto my tongue. This week I’m wearing shorts and tank tops. Not together. Let’s not get too crazy. Two and a half months ago I had my heart broken. Talk about chaos. A week and a half ago I remembered why I loved the mountains and a barn filled with horses—peace. And five days ago I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with a new personal record and the Chicago skyline rising in front of me. I felt this overwhelming sense of luck and joy, and that feeling just hasn’t gone away yet. Change is sticking.

I once thought bran muffins were ridiculous. I worked at a coffee shop in Raleigh and we sold muffins. The bran were always left at the end of the day, and honestly I didn’t blame our customers. Why would you opt for healthy, tasteless bran when you could go the blueberry or carrot?

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Cranberry Pear Pie

Do you ever feel like you’re going to lose it? If the dog puts her head sweetly on my leg one more time and looks at me with those puppy dog eyes. If the cat utters another single meow as she begs me to toss her duck tape football toy. If one more car drives by my house TOO LOUDLY. If one more part of my body, my leg, ear, arm, anything, itches. If one more insignificant item drops to the ground, and I am forced to bend down and pick it up. I swear to God I will explode.

I may or may not be on my period.

I may or may not be perpetuating that stereotype that women go crazy on their periods.

Dudes, this does not give you the green light to throw a girl’s period/pms in her face when she’s being “weird.” This is called a double standard. It’s cool.

It’s days like this that I should not have jars of Nutella in my house. Or half of a pie. But I’m so glad I have half of a pie in my house for two reasons. One, it’s a damn good pie, and I love a damn good pie. Two, it was a result of a damn good weekend.

My trips this fall seem to be coming at just the right times, just when I need distraction the most, when I’m getting too caught up in my own weird head. This past weekend I drove up to Milwaukee with the dog to do the Lakefront Discovery 15K with my friend Heather. More on the race in a later post.

Before my arrival in Milwaukee, Heather alerted me of a pie crust she had made that was waiting for me in her freezer. We had plans to fill it with nutella (that pesky condiment again), apples, and cherries, but somewhere between the free post-race beers, the dude in pink and purple spandex, the guy painted blue, and lunch at a lovely local restaurant called Cafe Benelux we changed our minds…cranberry pear would be a much better filling.

We didn’t start the pie until around 9 p.m., and if you know a thing or two about pie making, you know a pie takes about an hour to cook, and then has to cool. Completely. Like it’ll tempt you on the counter for another hour as the filling continues to thicken. So we didn’t actually eat any until breakfast the next morning. But let me just say that when we did….mmmmm.

This pie should probably end up on your Thanksgiving table. Who wants traditional apple or pumpkin anyway? Or it could just end up on your Wednesday night table. But you should really make it ASAP while the pears are in season. And, lucky you, fresh cranberries should be appearing in groceries soon in preparation for the holidays. If they aren’t freshly around though, just check your freezer section.

This pie is sweet and fresh from the pears and perfectly tart from the cranberries with just a touch of spice from the cinnamon. It’s this perfect combination. If, however, you do not like a tart pie, you can add more sugar. I just happen to like my pies kind of slutty.

You have all sorts of crust options! It’s really exciting. You have my personal favorite, a vodka lard/butter pie crust, a non-vodka butter and crisco crust, or an all butter vodka crust. Feel free to use all butter in that non-vodka crust if that’s your thing. Just sub the crisco with the same amount of ice cold cubed butter. Heather and I made this pie with a crumble topping. It’s way yummy. You can totes make this a double crust pie if you heart desires though.

So let’s make a pie, bitches, and get out of our heads!

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This or That … Chocolate(vegan) Cupcakes

This is a face I am certain about. This Mira, I know, it’s an easy decision. I don’t waver. It’s never, “Should I love this dog or not?” It probably has something to do with those ridiculous eyes.

With most everything else in life I am a very indecisive person. I sit on the fence a lot. Doesn’t that sound painful? Who even came up with that phrase? I want to be more decisive just so I don’t have a fence up my butt.

Anyway.

I like to have things both ways, because most of the time I can’t decide which way is best, tastiest, most advantageous. For instance, would I want to make my home in the city or the country?

Right now my home is in the city. I’m 10-15 minutes from great restaurants, a grocery, the cleaners, parks and museums, the highway … When I say I’m going to run to the store, I mean I will be there and back within twenty minutes if I know exactly what I want (which, let’s be honest, rarely happens). I can ride my bike to the farmers market.

The streets Mira and I roam.

I love living in a neighborhood. It’s got character. I smile at people as I walk the dog along the tree-lined sidewalk. We gossip about the yard work the couple up the street is doing, and we curse the damn lady who walks her dog without a leash.

At the same time, I crave long and quiet roads, houses with huge yards, big inky black night skies filled with endless stars. I think this side of me stems from camp in the mountains tucked away in a stoplight-less town of Tuxedo. I want to sit in my house with the windows open and not hear cars drive by. I want to not have to close my curtains at night to block out the street lights.

Biking north of the city with friends.

This or that?

I’d like to be a vegetarian, to make that commitment, that decision. I don’t love meat (besides bacon, oh dear God), and I am sure OK with eating lots of vegetarian foods, such as tofu, beans, lentils, and vegetables. I just can’t make the decision. Because what if it’s wrong? What if one day I want a burger? What if one day I want to run to the grocery five minutes away to get a pound of chicken salad? (I may or may not have done that this weekend.) So I go back and forth. I rarely cook meat in the house. Chicken or fish, the occasional beef. I only buy meat when I know how and where it’s been raised. Then I feel better about eating it. Always in moderation. Does that make me a semi-vegetarian?

This or that?

If making decisions was as easy as eating these chocolate(vegan) cupcakes, then I’d have bought a house somewhere totes rad and would be a super vegetarian.

Yeah, they’re vegan. That means no eggs, no butter, no  milk. That means in my mind kinda healthier. That means in my mind that I am being a vegan for the two minutes it takes me to eat one of these. So I feel good. Like I’ve made a good decision.

Now, don’t expect these cupcakes to taste like regular chocolate cupcakes. They don’t quite. The texture is all around different, and that’s not a bad thing. They’ll stay tasty and edible for a week before they start to dry out/get weird. And they have a secret ingredient in them—avocado! I’ve made them a couple of times for audiences of mixed varieties, and everyone has enjoyed them.

My advice? Make the decision to make these for the vegan in your life who can commit to a lifestyle, the on-the-fencer who wishes she could commit to a meatless life, and the lover of all things non-alternative who you think should branch out. They’ll all love these cupcakes.

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Fish Tacos aka summer.in.winter

Every winter I say the same thing. “This cold, I cannot stand it! I can’t live here another winter. Why haven’t I moved south yet?” And every winter I’m still here, freezing my butt off in Indiana. Now realistically I’d miss snow like crazy. I’d hate having a warm Christmas. I’d miss cozy sweaters and scarves. Regardless, I’m a good cold-weather complainer.

This winter has been incredibly mild as of yet, and I should really be keeping my whiney mouth shut. I’ve been able to run outside comfortably  in January. Like I can feel all of my fingers the whole run. Yet I still curse the frost on my car windows every morning and swear this will be the last winter I spend here.

So to brighten up even the mildest winter and to give you a breath of summer, I give you fish tacos. This dish is a favorite of mine to order at restaurants. A good fish taco starts with a corn tortilla, a small one please. It’s filled with a few strips of flaky fish, grilled or breaded, I’m not picky. It’s topped with a fresh, bright, tomato-heavy salsa, cabbage, and a dollop of sour cream. It’s like a fresh party in your mouth!

I’ve made the fish tacos in The Essential New York Times Cookbook twice now, and, in my humble and not highly refined fish taco palate opinion, these fit all of the above requirements. This meal is probably one of the only times I will cook out of season. You can totes find decent tomatoes at your local Whole Foods. They’re probably from Mexico, but this one time I say, you support that foreign food economy! Just be sure to buy extra butternut squash at the farmers market this week.

Make some fish tacos for dinner. Go. Remind yourself that winter does have an end, that warm weather will come, that even if you live in a cold locale you can still taste summer.

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Sprinkles For All Occasions

This is what my childhood looked like

Sprinkles and flakes (or, more correctly, hagelslag and vlokken) on bread for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert….they weren’t just for ice cream in our house.

Serious Eats’ Sweets blog wrote about sprinkles today and when I came to the post in my reader I almost yelped aloud. You know how some things can really take you back to your childhood, to certain memories? Looking at that grid of bread and pieces of chocolate and sugar did that. Back to visiting my grandparents and marveling at how many different boxes of sprinkles Oma would line up on the table at dinnertime. To tapping the box carefully, just like Opa did, at the kitchen counter at my parents house, and squashing the sprinkles into the toast so they would get melty. Back to introducing our friends to sprinkles and to them wanting the treat every time they came over.

So, sprinkles and flakes are these chocolatey or sugary morsels from Holland (that’s where my mom is from and why they were a staple in our kitchen) that you but on buttered bread or toast. If you top untoasted, fluffy, and preferably crunchy-crusted bread with sprinkles, you get a nice crunch crunch of chocolate against the soft bread. If you go with brown and crisp toast, apply sprinkles to buttered bread, wait a minute to let them begin to melt, them press them down with a knife, and the chocolate and butter will mush together into something beautiful and melty.

ingredients to sprinkle bliss

I’m not sure where you can get sprinkles or flakes in the States without having to order them. Perhaps at an international grocery? My mom usually keeps a good stock from The Dutch Store. And every once in awhile I take a box and hide it in my cabinet to eat when I need a pick-me-up.

Do you have a food that takes you back? Like if you saw a picture of it, you’d be all “oh man! That embodies my childhood!”

The End of Creativity

Um, I know. June ended like a week ago.

I have the last two days of creativity for you. 30 Days of Creativity challenged me more than I’d expected, especially after Michael pointed out that I cook every day anyway, so using that as the majority of my creativities was kind of cheating. The point of a challenge is to stretch yourself, right? Coming up with ideas wasn’t the hard part. It was finding the time to create after a long day of work and the budget to create. I am more excited about the ease of DIY projects, and I’ve found lots of inspiration on Pinterest.

So maybe this isn’t the end of creativity as we know it. I certainly feel fine.

Day 29

I revisited the coconut peach cookies, now renamed peachy colada cuffins (that’s cookie + muffin). Peaches have been added and pureed.

Day 30

Vegan raspberry muffins from ReadyMade. I love one thing about these muffins – they’re vegan. No butter and no milk. All whole-wheat flour. But I’ve made healthy, whole-wheat muffins before! The addition of silken tofu and the lack of sugar got my interest. I don’t know that I’d make them again considering they require buying tofu, but I have been enjoying them.

Lots of Days

The above muffin recipe makes 15 muffins. I cannot eat muffins that fast, so after three days I packed them into a large ziplock bag and stashed them in the freezer. Now, most mornings, I take one out, defrost it in the microwave, and make a smoothie (that’s 1 banana + handful of berries or peaches + spoonful of peanut butter + 4 spoonfuls of Greek yogurt/soy milk halfway up the fruit blended in blender). Perfect breakfast! Quick and easy, and can be eaten on the go.

I have lots of music posts coming up now that creativity has ended. Summertime music is here!