Site Update: I Moved!

Hello internet friends. I just wanted to give an update that I purchased my own domain at veggieandthebeastfeast.com, so if you find yourself being redirected to this new site, do not fear – it’s still just me. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find a way to transfer my email followers over, so right now you are no longer receiving an email with every new post. If you want to get updates whenever a new post goes up, visit the new site and put your email in the “follow” box on the right, and/or give my Facebook page your thumbs up.

Secret Single Behavior and Brussels Sprout Quinoa Gratin

brussels sprout quinoa gratin 3

One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes discusses secret single behavior, which is something that both men and women can probably relate to. After Carrie moves in with Aidan she talks with her friends about the loss of her alone time, aka the loss of time for her secret single behaviors, such as standing in the kitchen reading fashion magazines while eating a tower of saltines with grape jelly.

I’m fortunate that my relationship has never involved much humility. We both realize how ridiculous the other one is, so nothing surprises us too much. At the same time, I do notice my behavior shift a bit when he’s out of town. Since we’re currently right smack dab in the middle of prime deer hunting season, the past few weeks have brought on a lot of secret single behavior opportunities.

brussels sprout quinoa gratin 2

Like when I dramatically belt out Taylor Swift songs at the top of my lungs while in the shower. Or when I sit in my underwear and watch cooking shows while eating stale toast. Or when I get out some Christmas trinkets for a few hours just to see how it feels (hint: it feels AMAZING).

These are all hypothetical examples. Totally.

quinoa brussels sprout mixture

A single behavior that’s NOT so secret? Pretty much every day when the boy’s away I eat a super weird experimental meal. Sure, we experiment when we cook together, but when he’s gone our kitchen transforms into a scientific laboratory where meat-lovers go to die. It’s all about things like tofu, quinoa, kasha, barley, and embracing the green and leafy.

More often than not these experiments highlight the only thing I have found that the boy will absolutely not eat. Brussels sprouts are known to polarize the general population, but our home is especially divided. I love them, LOVE them. They’re just so darn cute, with their little baby cabbage form, and then there’s that fun texture, and don’t even get me started on the endless options for preparation…what’s not to love!?

brussels sprout quinoa gratin breadcrumb sprinkling

On the other side of the brussels sprout spectrum stands the boy, who says they taste like dirt and sulfur. When we started dating I was all, “I’ll make brussels sprouts for you and I’ll change your mind, you just wait and see!” Welp, I made them for him, and he kindly ate one, but it did not go well. I’m happy we made it past that blip of a date.

Last weekend I decided to expand my brussels sprout horizon with a gratin of sorts. Since I wanted something substantial to have for my weekday lunches, I decided to add quinoa to the mix and bake it all together in a sort of mac and cheese brussels sprout gratin type thing. Ya dig?

brussels sprout quinoa gratin pan

The cheese sauce for this recipe is very similar to my Double Tomato Pepperjack Macaroni Bake. It’s a super easy sauce that starts with a roux and lends itself well to experimentation with different cheeses and spices, so play away.

brussels sprout quinoa gratin 6

The brussels sprouts are cooked just enough so they still have a bit of a bite to them. I love the textural combination of the sprouts mixed with the quinoa and smooth sauce. The parmesan and crispy bread crumbs on top are just extra credit, really.
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First Birthday!

KatieFirstBDay

I cannot BELIEVE that this blog is already turning a whole 365-days-old. She’s growing up so fast. She’s learned so much, like not putting up new posts at 11pm when no one is reading the internet, and not taking pictures when there’s no light (I mean REALLY).

I know all blogs say they appreciate when people read their stuff, but I really truly get knee-slapping, warm-fuzzy happy every time I get a new “like,” or a new comment, or a high-traffic day. It’s a fun game for me to try to learn what interests people who stumble across my blog. It’s even more fun to have a place to spill my random thoughts, and show how all of these random thoughts circle back to food in some way. This pattern of thinking is honestly not even intentional or for the blog’s sake; it is just how my mind works. As you can see in the image above, food (specifically cake) has never been a joking matter to me.

As a 1-year blog birthday gift to myself, I worked with the incredibly talented Hillary at h.creative to create a logo to tie this whole blog together. She nailed it immediately (literally on the first try), and even gave me a variation that highlights my purple love (see Facebook page).

Thank you for reading, internet friends! You’re the best. Happy eating :)

Soft Ginger Cookies

ginger cookies

I need to be straight with you guys. I was off my kitchen game last week, hence my absence from the blogosphere. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Oh no, I thought my persistence would pay off eventually, but sometimes a girl doesn’t know when to quit.

It all started on Saturday when I went to Joann Fabrics to look for feathers for my Halloween costume. I left without feathers, but with a donut pan (cause that’s the same). Sunday morning I woke up and was all, “I’m going to make pumpkin chocolate donuts with orange sprinkles in my new donut pan! Yay Halloween!” I then proceeded to make two batches of “donuts,” which looked awfully nice, but the texture was like bread and the flavor was like…well nothing. To the trash they went.

ginger cookies stack

Then I decided to make pizza dough so I could have it ready for baking throughout the week, and maybe sneak in some cooking photos before the early sunset (shorter days make life hard for the food photography perfectionist). I bought some pizza ingredients on Monday after work, then came home to find that the boy surprised me by coming back from “Deer Camp” early. Whatta guy. Instead of a new experimental dish, I used my pizza dough for our tried-and-true calzones, and decided to jazz things up by making a balsamic glaze for drizzling. Do you know what happens to balsamic glaze if you bring it to a boil and then forget about it? It turns to a solid…a solid that looks like a lava rock, and sticks to the pan like one too.

ginger cookies molasses

On Tuesday the boy’s mom brought us a Halloween treat basket with Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix. “Perfect,” I thought, “I’ll make some pumpkin chocolate brownies to bring into work on Halloween! How festive!” I baked them, tried a corner, and thought they tasted great. Fast forward 13 hours, when I grabbed one after lunch on Halloween and I realized the bars were under-baked, under-sweetened and…wet. Yes, wet. Embarrassed, I removed them from the communal kitchen and hung my head in shame.

ginger cookies sugar ball

It may have taken three failures to make me see the light, but I finally realized that it was just not my week in the kitchen, and certainly not my week to try to guide others on how to succeed in the kitchen. Rejection and defeat finally set in. As a golfer might say, I had a case of the shanks.

I was trying to figure out how to rebound from my week of failures when I received my first daily holiday cookie email of the season. I decided the best way to recover would be with an old favorite: soft ginger cookies that I make year-round, but more often around the holidays. I know it’s the first week of November, and that may seem a tad early to bring up “holiday” talk, but in my book it’s never too early for festive treats or feeling jolly. As a side note, I’m also a person who has already checked if my local Christmas music station has started up the seasonal tunes, so take my “too early” radar with a grain of salt.

ginger cookies stack halved

My college cafeteria had the most amazing ginger cookies, but you could never count on them being in the dessert aisle when you needed them. My friend Emma introduced me to them, and once I got my hands on one I was hooked. I don’t know if they didn’t make them everyday, or if they just didn’t make enough of them to keep up with the demand, but Emma and I would often be disappointed when we scoped out the ginger cookie situation. The recipe below is as close as I’ve come to replicating those evasive cafeteria cookies. They’re fluffy, soft, and full of warm spices.

soft mini ginger cookies

Since I made these baby-sized, they’re the perfect amount of sugar for a little bite of after-meal sweetness. However, if we’re being honest, I really wanted to make these baby-sized because mini foods are just so darn cute. I’m such a girl.

ginger cookies candles 2

And yes, those are Christmas candles in the images above. Yes, I just bought those this weekend. Yes, it’s just the beginning.
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Chewy Cherry Coconut Granola Bars

chewy cherry coconut granola bars

Let’s talk about weaknesses. Not to sound like a job interview, but I think it’s important to own up to what we struggle with. I’ll go first.

Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m bad with measurements, math, and grey areas.

Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

cherry coconut granola bar cut

Measurements: I cannot eyeball anything to save my life. I boil water for pasta and it takes 20 minutes because I completely fill the pot just to make SURE I have enough water. If I don’t do this, I never have enough water. Girl can’t win.

Math: I hesitate to even share this, but when I go to a restaurant, I take a long pause before filling out tip and calculating the total on my dinner tab. Sometimes I pretend I’m just having trouble deciding what percentage to tip. I’ll ask my dining mate, “How much are you tipping? 15%? 20%? I guess the server was pretty nice…” just to buy myself a bit more precious time. Once it’s all said and done, I sometimes need to cross things out and start again. As a reminder, I’m almost 27.

Grey Areas: Herein lies the heart of my personality. When I like things, I LOVE them, and when I dislike things, I despise them. For instance, it’s well known among my friends that purple is my favorite color. This is general knowledge not because I talk about it regularly, but because all the accessories I own are purple. In college I would literally walk down the hallway with a purple shirt, purple scarf, and purple backpack, holding my purple phone, without even realizing/caring how ridiculous I looked. Another recent lack of grey area can be seen in my newfound love for Revenge. Once I started watching it, I pretty much only stopped for sleep and work. I even watched it at the gym on my phone. This is my life.

cherry coconut granola bar stack single

As I’ve hinted before, my food phases echo this black and white thinking as well. For instance, I’ve made a variation of this granola every week since I posted that recipe. I eat it for breakfast, I eat it for a snack, I think about it when it’s not around. This past Sunday, things got real when I found myself making both granola and granola bars within the span of four hours.

cherry coconut granola bar sauce

I argue that I had a completely legit excuse, of course. The boy’s weakness is remembering to eat food, which is pretty ironic since he’s with me, and I eat all the time. I’ll come home and ask what he’s feeling like for dinner, and his response will be, “Oh yeah, I am kind of hungry. I haven’t eaten anything today.” What? How? Why?

cherry coconut granola bar before baking

I figured I’d make eating as easy as possible by providing a quick snack option. With these granola bars, he needs to only see the tupperware (which I’ve placed in the middle of the kitchen counter for easy access), open the lid, lift the bar to his mouth, and eat it. He may call me a hippie for my granola obsession, but at least I’m a persistent one.

cherry coconut granola bars

Aaaand fine maybe I wanted a new afternoon snack for this week. These granola bars combine all of my current obsessions: oats, almonds, almond butter, coconut, and dried cherries. It took all my strength and self-discipline to leave out the white chocolate chips I had just purchased, but I did it, and it turns out they weren’t even necessary. These are sweet, chewy, and have a bit of a tart punch from the cherries. I also love the THICKNESS of these bars. None of those willy nilly itty bitty bars for me. No thanks. If it’s 3pm snack time, or if I just have a hankering for oats, which has happened a lot lately, this right here is exactly what I want.

cherry coconut granola bar stack vert

I ate one while I took pictures, I ate one yesterday a half hour before lunch to avoid the angry hunger effect, and I ate one for dessert last night after an absurdly huge falafel sandwich. I also have one sitting in my desk drawer just in case the craving hits. Always prepared.

Now the real question: Has the boy embraced granola bars as a potential daytime snack? Like, before we eat dinner at 8pm? Yes! He even said I should make more (MORE) for his next deer camp trip because he needs quick food for when he’s up in a deer stand all day. Look at him planning ahead with food. I’m so proud.
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Double Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

double chocolate macadamia nut cookies 2

After college I used to go to my parent’s house every Sunday to do my laundry. It wasn’t that I didn’t have laundry at my apartment, I was just terrified beyond belief of the laundry room beneath my apartment. When my roommate and I moved in, we looked at the dark dungeon of a laundry room and both gave it a definitive “no thanks.” I only used it a few times, and always in the middle of the day, and on my final trip I had a perfectly pleasant conversation with a man who had just moved in…which seems harmless enough looking back, but at the time I was convinced he was going to kidnap me. Yes, my mind is a weird place.

Anyway, my laundry room fear led to several cozy Sundays at my parent’s place. My sister would usually come over too, and we’d fight, as sisters do, over who got to put the first load in. While waiting for our laundry, we’d sometimes watch Grey’s Anatomy on the DVR, but usually we’d make cookies for my dad. Sure, my mom enjoys cookies (as long as they have “nothing weird” in them like peanut butter…crazy lady), but my dad is the one who really treasures baked goods. Now that my sister and I both live in places with in-unit laundry, our weekend baking adventures happen less often than my dad would like. When we do go to my parents place, my dad will inevitably come upstairs and say, “Are my girls baking me cookies? I haven’t had fresh cookies in so long…” Guilt.

A few weeks ago, this same scenario played out, but then my dad reached for a package of store-bought cookies. STORE BOUGHT! That’s what he’s succumbed to? I felt ashamed. It only got worse when he said, “Katie, give these a try. They’re really good.” Oh ARE they…We’ll see about that.

They were good. I hated them for it, but they were really good…disturbingly good, and of course full of the scary ingredients that come in store-bought cookies.

With my dad’s birthday coming up this Thursday, I decided to make him a batch of cookies that would at least keep him away from the store-bought variety for a few days. For this birthday treat, I put my own spin on those boxed white chocolate macadamia cookies he talked up so much. I wish I could say this “spin” was purely out of artistic inspiration, but in the same fashion that my sister and I usually make cookies at my parent’s place, I just went with what I had in my cupboards and made it work.
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Vegetable Soup with Gouda Dumplings, aka “Dawson’s Dumps”

vegetable soup with cheese dumplings

This week’s theme is apparently television. After sucking dry every last bit of Revenge I could find last weekend, I just so happened to have a girl’s TV night with a couple of college friends this Monday. Not just any TV night either, but a Dawson’s Creek themed TV night (that might be the lamest sentence I’ve ever written). Dawson’s Creek held a lot of power over how I viewed the world in my late teens and early twenties. I blame it for [nearly] all of my overly-dramatic girl moments circa 2000-2008. Damn you, Joey Potter.

…but not really, cause I actually kind of love Joey Potter. And Pacey. Especially Pacey.

Early on in freshman year of college, a good friend and I discovered that we shared an equally embarrassing love of the teen drama; We knew every episode, we could quote the characters, and we even had Joey’s facial expressions nailed. Now, 8 years since we first bonded over our fascination, we finally have another friend who’s begun dabbling in Dawson’s life. When we got wind of our friend’s new Netflix go-to choice, we saw an opportunity for another [much needed] person to bond with over absurdly dramatic teen moments. For our Dawson’s Creek get-together, we decided to dive right into the heart of the drama when, at the end of season three, Joey and Pacey admit their feelings to each other (FINALLY OMG). This most-dysfunctional love triangle results with poor Dawson, that well-meaning boy with no lady luck whatsoever, getting dumped by his soul mate, and betrayed by his best friend.

With this theme in mind, we decided on a dinner of chunky vegetable soup topped with “Dawson’s Dumps.” Comforting and laden with puns, it seemed like the perfect meal to slurp up while watching Dawson’s heart get shattered into a million pieces…yet again.
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