I’m not proud of what happened last week. Just a few short years ago, I was a poor post-college student with a TV that basically had no purpose. My roommate and I sometimes watched movies, but network television didn’t come in, and we were against (/couldn’t afford) getting cable or a new TV. Now that I’m in my mid twenties and [slightly] less poor, I’ve upgraded to fully-functioning TV with both cable AND Netflix (fancy, I know). After finishing up How I Met Your Mother (six seasons) and Keeping Up With The Kardashians (sorry, I know), I decided to give Revenge a try this past Tuesday. By Friday, I had surged through 13 episodes, by Saturday afternoon I had finished all 22 episodes of season 1. When 6:00 on Saturday night came around, I had my credit card out, ready to subscribe to Hulu so I could watch the first two episodes of the new season. I couldn’t stop.
In my defense, the boy and I had our first “hibernation day” of the season on Saturday. Even though it’s sad to watch the warmth drain away from Minnesota, the colder weather makes way for these perfectly lazy days: a Saturday or a Sunday where you do not leave the house, and instead stay holed up and hibernating. For instance, Saturday we slept until noon, and then I watched episode after episode of Revenge while he worked on the headboard for the bed he’s building us…we had different levels of productivity needs that day.
Although I’m in deep with my Revenge obsession, I realize it may have been a bad idea to start watching Revenge the same week that I finished reading Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I now look at everything with a suspicious eye, finding conspiracy everywhere. After a few hours of straight TV on Saturday, I decided I needed an activity to keep my hands busy while my mind was taking in all the murder and mayhem. The boy requested I bake “something fall-ish” for our first hibernation day. I grabbed the leftover apple cider from our fridge, a honeycrisp apple, and got baking…with the TV still on in the background, obviously.
In case you were wondering, I do realize that I’m a big pile of inconsistencies. I’ll eat peanut butter Nutella granola for breakfast nearly everyday, but justify it by mixing in ground flax and wheat germ. I’ll put brown butter in my pumpkin waffles, and top them with syrup, powdered sugar, and sometimes a bit of brown sugar as well, but convince myself that they make a balanced meal because they’re whole wheat. The funny thing is that when I’m not obsessing over sweets, I’m usually eating brussels sprouts and quinoa, or an absurdly huge salad with avocado and hummus (well, and a pretzel roll on the side). The way I see it, making healthy choices most of the time leaves room for naughtier choices other times (/for dessert every night). Logical, right?
Which brings me to these vibrant burger patties. This past Sunday, after returning from our two-year anniversary trip that included lots of delicious things, such as raspberry cream cheese turnovers and dark hot chocolate with pumpkin cream liquor, my body was yearning for some nutrients. Fortunately, a bag of split red lentils had been sitting in our pantry for a few months and were just begging to be used. When you cook red lentils, their texture leaves something to be desired, but their flavor remains awesome. So, I figured why not take that flavor, puree it with some chickpeas, coat it in panko, and make a sort of crispy falafel doppelgänger, if you will? Or a falafel relative of some sort? You know what I’m saying…whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty awesome. Especially if you put it on a pretzel roll (seriously, I have a problem).
I have a bit of an obsession with pretzel rolls. As in, it’s borderline embarrassing. One summer when I lived with my parents, we used to frequent a restaurant that had a different type of bread basket every day of the week. Each time I set foot in those doors I wished and hoped and dreamed that it would be pretzel roll day. In fact, as soon as we sat down my dad would immediately say to the server, “Well, we know what Katie’s thinking…do you have pretzel rolls today?”
This conversation would be fine if I was referring to me at the age of 10 or younger, but nope, I was 18 when this started happening. Yes, I was a college student, home for the summer, so obsessed with pretzel rolls that her dad asked if they were available as soon as we were seated.
My fascination with the salty, airy rolls has only grown since then. I see pretzel rolls on a menu, I do an internal victory dance. I see pretzel rolls at the grocery store, and they’re immediately in my cart, without any memory of me even placing them there. Sadly, the grocery-store variety has failed to meet my high pretzel roll standards. After two recent disappointing purchases of spongey white bread with a misleadingly darker crust yet NO actual pretzel flavor, I decided to make my own pretzel roll dreams come true. Sure, I saw the danger in this choice, since I lack self control where pretzel rolls are concerned. For this reason, I chose to make them with whole wheat flour. Balance, baby. Salty, yeasty, chewy balance.
Let’s be real about our fall flavor preferences. You may have realized I’m partial to pumpkin, but while that’s something I love year-round, I’m a bit more subtle about it until fall comes around and it’s acceptable to scream it from the rooftops. Apples, on the other hand, really only get my attention in the Fall. Outside of autumn, if the apples aren’t honeycrisps and/or baked and covered with sugar, I’m not really interested.
My apple affection surfaces the most when it’s apple orchard time. This weekend, for example, I went with my family, including my socuteicouldjustdie little nephews, to an orchard where we ate apple cinnamon donuts, got lost in a corn maze, picked pumpkins, rode on a wagon around the rows of fruit, and then browsed for apple goodies in the store. After I picked up my honeycrisps, I walked by a table marked “Ciderdoodles” and covered in containers of fluffy, spiced cookies. Fall-spiced snickerdoodles?! Inspiration led me to buy apple cider for some ciderdoodle experimentation.
Why didn’t I just buy the pre-made ciderdoodles, you ask? First, that’s for quitters. Second, pre-packaged cookies are usually full of hydrogenated oils and preservatives. I’ll take my cookies natural, thanks. Full fat, buttery, covered in sugar, but natural gosh darn it.
Since the boy and I were having a full-out Fall weekend at “Deer Camp” last week, I felt the compulsive foodie need to make things that were cabin and cold-weather appropriate. The first morning started off with pumpkin brown butter waffles, but for dinner my mind went directly to soup and bread.
Soup, because it warms me from the inside out and makes me feel cozy. Bread because, well, I’m pretty obsessed with bread in all forms: sliced bread, flatbread, bagels pizza dough, naan, english muffins…you name a bread, and I probably love it. Especially biscuits, which hold a special place in my heart. Buttery, flaky, sky-high biscuits. I went through a phase in high school where I would eat a biscuit every single morning. I’d eat it alongside my cereal, of course, because carbs power you through the day (this is my logic and I’m sticking to it).
For this Deer Camp soul-food occasion, I decided that the soup would be a spicy tortilla variety with black beans and crispy fried tortilla strips. And as you may have guessed, the bread wouldn’t be your average sliced bread (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but buttery biscuits filled with shredded sharp cheddar and black pepper. Both of these things are perfect on their own, but together? They’re a Fall soul-food force to be reckoned with.
I’m in love with Fall in a big, bad way. This weekend the boy and I had a full-out Fall weekend, and I went a bit nuts with the baked goods. I should explain that when I say “full-out Fall weekend,” I really mean that I went to “Deer Camp.” Yes, the magical season of deer hunting is upon us, and the boy is walking around with the same gleeful, giddy smile that I carry all holiday season…so it’s like I get it. You know, sort of.
Across 70-acres of southern Wisconsin lies the elusive Deer Camp. I’ve actually mentioned this place before, but that was during the summer when it was but a pretty, lush, creek-lined property. Sure, it’s still beautiful, but here’s the gist of Deer Camp: It’s a house on a hill that’s barely visible from the road because of the tall trees that cover nearly every inch of the land. In several of these trees are strategically-placed tree stands. Where there aren’t any trees, there are food plots to keep the deer happy. Fat and happy.
To me, Deer Camp is just an excuse to hibernate, bake, and drink wine while gazing outside at the pretty Fall trees…and that is just precisely what I did. To start my Fall weekend/Deer Camp experience off the right way, I made the best Fall breakfast a girl (or boy) could ask for: brown butter pumpkin waffles.
I’ve mentioned before that I go through ridiculous food phases. For instance, in high school I would eat an Asiago bagel with plain cream cheese for lunch every day. And I mean literally every day. For the past two years, my phases have been concentrated on breakfast; Until recently, I’ve eaten old-fashioned oats with almond butter and honey every single morning. I’d bring it to work, I’d eat it on the weekends, I’d feel sad when I went out to brunch instead of having my oats at home. It was kind of sick, really.
The thing about these phases is that when they stop, they STOP , and are replaced with an aversion. In an instant I’ll be left without a go-to meal.
After my almond butter oatmeal phase abruptly ended, I was left scrambling for my next big breakfast thing. Enter Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola. Simple? yes. Expensive? ugh, yes. Greek yogurt is already twice as expensive as regular yogurt (because they need to use twice the milk), fruit is never cheap (especially if you try to buy organic), but granola? Why does granola think it should be so expensive? Get off your high granola horse.
Since my food phases are long-running and borderline obsessive, I knew I needed to cut the cost of at least one of the three elements of my new breakfast equation. So, here it goes…
Dear expensive boxed granola: You’re too into yourself. We’re done.
Dear Homemade Peanut Butter Nutella Granola: This is the start of something real and lasting. Can’t you feel it?