halfway flashback : february

Baking, friends, and food photography. Does it get any better? Love this post!

I think this post is going to be my valentine this year. I love it that much.

My love for whoopie pies knows no bounds. It’s almost as intense as my love for shoo fly pie. But just almost.

Also, why is Pennsylvania fond of naming non-pie desserts as pie? Whoopie pies? Basically hand-held cake. Shoo fly pie? Basically cake with frosting on the bottom. Dear PA, perhaps we need to have a cake vs. pie tutorial. I’ll be happy to provide examples. And help sample.

But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing is that Valentine’s baking + Saturday morning + a wonderful friend  =

A pretty perfect day.

These bright red beauties came from a recipe recently featured on Annie’s Eats. As always, she did not disappoint.

Also not disappointing: a free e-book! If you are feeling a bit unprepared for your big Valentine’s date tonight (as in: you have no idea what you’ll be doing 8 hours from now) check out my friend Carrie’s free e-book 101 Cheap Dates. It’s sure to give you the inspiration you need for planning tonight’s festivities (and 100 other exciting date nights, too)!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

beka stays hungry : valentine’s whoopie pies

I think this post is going to be my valentine this year. I love it that much.

My love for whoopie pies knows no bounds. It’s almost as intense as my love for shoo fly pie. But just almost.

Also, why is Pennsylvania fond of naming non-pie desserts as pie? Whoopie pies? Basically hand-held cake. Shoo fly pie? Basically cake with frosting on the bottom. Dear PA, perhaps we need to have a cake vs. pie tutorial. I’ll be happy to provide examples. And help sample.

But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing is that Valentine’s baking + Saturday morning + a wonderful friend  =

A pretty perfect day.

These bright red beauties came from a recipe recently featured on Annie’s Eats. As always, she did not disappoint.

Also not disappointing: a free e-book! If you are feeling a bit unprepared for your big Valentine’s date tonight (as in: you have no idea what you’ll be doing 8 hours from now) check out my friend Carrie’s free e-book 101 Cheap Dates. It’s sure to give you the inspiration you need for planning tonight’s festivities (and 100 other exciting date nights, too)!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

the 25 days of pinning : [day 2]

Pinned Image

pinned here via here

I have been ALL ABOUT the above Christmas newlywed session posted on The Sweetest Occasion earlier this week. Oh my goodness…it’s amazing!

Also amazing: I went through this week’s backlog of Google Reader posts tonight and found 8,000 new recipes I want to give a pre-Christmas-baking trial run this weekend. Or 8. But still:

cranberry oat banana bread

hot cocoa cookies

double chocolate ginger hazelnut cookies

soft gingersnap cookies

cake batter chocolate bark

eggnog breakfast crumble crunch cake

spiced sweet potato blondies with cranberries and white chocolate

salty caramel oat bars

Oh, man. I’m in trouble.

beka stays healthy : pumpkin applesauce muffins

Little known fact: I spent a (very) short span of life as a card-carrying vegan. Mainly, I was interested in the health benefits and the moral and environmental effects. While I still think that the world at large would be a better place if we consumed less meat and dairy, I’m back on the omnivore bandwagon again. This is not to credit/discredit any dietary choice, because I think that there are valid arguments for all sides; but for me, I’ve come to the conclusion that supporting ethical farmers and enjoying a well-balanced diet is the right move. (And, let’s be honest: I really love Greek yogurt. And goat cheese. And egg salad.)

Even though I’m back in the land of milk and honey, I still like to whip out a few beloved vegan recipes because they’re so darn healthy. One of the things I wanted to conquer during my vegan days was baking sans dairy and eggs. I was usually unsuccessful. But when there were victories, they usually came from the pages of Veganomicon, the revered cookbook for all things vegan. These muffins are an adaptation from a similar recipe for applesauce muffins. I made about a million of them in a 6-month period. But this time around, I wanted to add in more fall flavors. Which can only mean one thing: pumpkin!

Here’s the ingredient list:

adapted from Veganomicon

  • ¾ cups Almond Milk
  • ½ teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ cups Unsweetened Applesauce
  • ½ cups Canned Pumpkin
  • 3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • ½ cups Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1-½ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • ¾ cups Red Wheat Bran
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • ½ cups Raisins
  • 3 Tablespoons Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Start by combining almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Allow the mixture to sit for a minute. Then, add applesauce, pumpkin, canola oil, and packed brown sugar. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl (or—if you avoid extra dishes like the plague as I do—the same bowl), sift together whole wheat pastry flour, red wheat bran (oat bran works too, but I like the color and flavor red wheat bran contribute), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients (or if you’re part of the aforementioned lazy club, just stir). Fold in raisins (golden, regular, or get crazy and throw in some dried cranberries!).

Spoon into a muffin tin. Bake at 350ºF for 10 minutes. Then, working as quickly as you can, like your life depends on it, sprinkle raw pumpkin seeds on top of the semi-baked muffins. Adding them 10 minutes in ensures that they don’t sink down into the batter and/or burn. Once you’ve sufficiently pumpkin-seeded the tops of your muffins, pop them back into the oven at 350ºF for another 15-20 minutes.

These are great plain or with butter but they’re out-of-this-world amazing when spread with the pure love that is pumpkin butter. And over the weekend, I went all-out at Williams Sonoma and bought a jar of their Pecan Pumpkin Butter.

Best decision ever. I now have a new best (spread) friend. Sorry, dark chocolate peanut butter.

(You can also find this recipe here, at Tasty Kitchen!)

beka stays faithful : using the leaves

I have a small kitchen. You’d know that if I’d finally get around to taking pictures and posting them, but for now just visualize very tall white cabinets and very high ceilings and very little counter space. There’s a table in the kitchen that is slender in the middle, but has two leaves that fold out to the side, tripling the amount of space available for use. On most days I keep the leaves down because I don’t need the extra table space so I prefer the extra kitchen space.

What happens, more often that not, is that because I use the leaves so rarely I forget that they’re there. And then when I find myself mixing batter on the floor or using the top of the microwave to roll out cookies, I get frustrated and start to complain. I bemoan having so little work space. I wonder where in the world I’m going to beat the eggs?! When…let’s recall…I actually have ample space on which to mix the batter, roll the dough, beat the eggs. I just forget that it’s there.

Last weekend, with a pile of dishes scattered on any available flat space and irritation increasing by the minute, I remembered the leaves. And, because I’m a freak I can’t help but function in analogies, I wondered how often I make an unnecessary mess – not of strewn baking sheets and flour, but of everyday life problems – by forgetting to rely on the “leaves” the Lord has built into my life: reading his Word, spending time in prayer, turning to the multitude of friends and family he’s blessed me with. How often do I complain that I don’t have what I need when in reality I have exactly what I need, I just forget that it’s there?

As per the use of my table, it happens more often than not.

From James 5:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Here’s to using the leaves: to reading, to praying, to being invested in relationships.

And here’s to making cookies. Delicious and thought-provoking. Win win.

beka stays authentic : the perfect day

On Sunday, I had the definition of a perfect day. I…

  • Slept in a little bit. Which, for me, means I was up by 7am and stayed in pajamas until 8am. I know, CRAZY.
  • Watched a little bit of SportsCenter, read a few blogs/books, and  hopped around the internet for a while before getting ready for church.
  • Made three classic Sunday meals that I love – oatmeal with dark chocolate peanut butter for breakfast, scrambled eggs with toast for lunch, flatbread pizza for dinner. A lovely trifecta.
  • Went to church. I love it there.
  • Visited the Brighton Farmer’s Market for the first time ever, a visit that is sure to become a frequent occurrence. It’s the perfect size! There’s a large selection of a variety of items but it’s not so huge that you have to elbow the guy in front of you just to get to the potatoes.
  • Watched the FOX NFL pregame show – my favorite, and a ritual that dates back all the way to high school.
  • Went grocery shopping at the Pittsford Wegmans. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to live a mere 3 miles away from the mecca of all things grocery.
  • Listened to the Packers game on the radio via NFL mobile. As much as I enjoy watching games, I really love listening to them! The level of exhilaration is much greater when you’re visualizing each play and hanging on the announcer’s every word. It literally gives me chills. Love it.
  • Spent the entire afternoon in the kitchen whilst listening to the game – a perfect combo! I made the amazing bittersweet chocolate cookies, these oatmeal peanut butter bars, more pumpkin pie oatmeal, and the aforementioned pizza for dinner.
  • Rode my bike over to a friend’s apartment to deliver a package of above baked goods. It was a beautiful early fall day and it was nice to see a friend after spending a large chunk of quality time covered in powdered sugar/yelling at the radio.
  • Did laundry. Which, for the record, I loathe, but acknowledge it as a necessary evil so getting it out of the way felt good.
  • Watched my favorite evening pregame show, Sunday Night Football on NBC.
  • Spent the rest of the night reading blogs and watching football and editing pictures and falling asleep on the couch.

The only way the day could have been better would have been if a Bruster’s employee showed up on my doorstep with a pint of Graham Central Station. And even then, it still would have been only marginally better than the original. I wasn’t kidding with the intro; it really was the definition of a perfect day!

Community Question: what’s your definition of a perfect day? Chime in below!