Baking · Breakfast & Brunch · Gluten Free · Non-vegan · Snacks · Vegetarian

Homemade Gluten-Free Granola

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The granola is good. The Photoshop, not so much (^v^)!

I know people have a phobia about making granola. It’s weird, but I can understand it. It does seem daunting, like baking chocolate chip cookies or making a tender pot roast. You want it to be perfect, to look and taste just like they do on the recipe blogs. But, unlike cookies which you can burn or pot roast that you can overcook, you cannot go wrong with making your own granola. Even if you add to much honey or forget to add cinnamon, it’ll still be perfect because you can tinker the hell out of it. There is no such thing as a bad bowl of granola. The best granola I’ve ever had was a batch I made; a sweet potato pie granola with little bits of chocolate chips in it. BAYYYYYYBEEEEEE! When I say that I was in fat girl heaven over this stuff, I practically grew angel wings :). I’ll have to make that again one of these days, but for now, your girl doesn’t need all of that temptation.

What I also don’t need is to spend nine dollars on a bag of granola.

This recipe is good for non-strict vegans and of course for my gluten-free folks. You can replace the honey for maple syrup, and for you strict vegans who don’t eat either, you can use rice syrup. I use 100% Non-GMO, gluten-free rolled oats. If you don’t have dietary issues, you can use any rolled oats you like. Rolled oats work best for granola recipes. They’re heartier and, depending on the brand, are cut and made the traditional way which means that no machinery (where cross contamination is common) is involved in processing. Store the granola in a good airtight container, and it should last you a good three months.

Ingredients

1 c. shredded coconut

1/3 c. honey

4 c. rolled gluten-free oats

½ c. walnuts, halved or chopped

2 ts. ground cinnamon

½ c. 100% raw coconut oil

½ c. almonds

1/4 ts. fine sea salt

1 ts. vanilla extract

1 c. dried fruit, optional

A 9×9 rectangular baking pan

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Line a pan with parchment paper or grease using non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts*, coconut and salt.

Stir in the oil, vanilla and honey.

Pour and spread mixture into pan.

Stirring every six minutes, bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Set aside to cool. Once cooled, granola will become crunchy. Once cooled, stir in dried fruit.

*For crunchier nuts, add after baking

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

Baking · Gluten Free · Non-vegan · Non-vegetarian · Pies & Cakes

Gluten Free Peach Pie

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Messy-looking, but good. Much like myself! 😀

 

Thinking about old food service jobs.

I have worked around my share of stressed out bakers. They smoke a lot, drink a ton, and are terrible at fidelity. They also make great fucking pie. They put chocolate on everything, sugar, salt, and bacon in everything. You’ll be sweating butter by the time you’re done eating. Crazy fucking delicious. Want to see a show? Watch a stressed out baker make a pie. Screw up the crust, make the filling too watery, or let the meringue set for too long, and stuff like that will send a baker from 0 to 100 in two seconds. I once watched a pastry chef and a line cook almost go to blows over a brownie recipe.  I’m still dreaming of the fruit tarts from a now long defunct eatery in the MPD (Meatpacking District for you non-NYC folk). They made the best baked goods. The owner and head pastry chef had long left and the place was a dysfunctional mess. In the last months the place was opened, they had one pastry chef apprentice who had to make everything, for both the kitchen and the retail bakery next door. It was a hot mess. I didn’t envy her job. She would come into work all nice and fresh faced, and then she would emerge from the basement hours later all sweaty and flushed like she’d just done two rounds with Holly HolmJ. I sure do miss the food, not so much the life (or the people!).

I felt nostalgic for those tarts, but on a lazy Sunday, I decided to make a pie instead. I had a ton of frozen and canned peaches in the kitchen, the result of a failed plan to make my own ice cream this summer. At some point, I realized that I’ve never had peach pie. It never appealed to me, and I’m saying this as someone who’s eaten some goofy-ass pies. Goat cheese-sea salt-caramel, blue cheese-pear-ginger, bacon-fig- chocolate, fig-balsamic-rosemary. These are pretty safe, though, I once had an oyster and beer pot pie that was a vile as you’d imagine it would be. Me? I like stuff as simple as they can get.

I didn’t do much with this pie. No crumble toppings, no silly sea-salt caramel drizzles, no cinnamon-sugar crusts. Basically, no bullshit. Peach pie is pretty good, but it has nada over blueberry pie. I don’t like my pies too sweet, which is why this recipe has very little sugar, but you can had more if you like. You can also use frozen peaches for this recipe, but make sure that they’re fully thawed first.

Gluten Free Peach Pie

Ingredients

Gluten-Free Pie Crust

½ c. brown rice flour*

½ c. spelt flour*

2 T. potato starch

¼ t. xantham gum

½ t. fine sea salt

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

5-7 T. ice water

*You may substitute your own gluten free flour mix for this recipe.

Peach Filling

2-15 oz. cans sliced peaches in natural juice (if you use peaches in heavy syrup, make sure to rinse them off first)

¼ t. ground nutmeg

½ t. ground cinnamon

1/8 t. ground allspice

6 T. cornstarch

3 T. lemon juice

½ c. dark brown sugar

A 9-inch pie pan

Directions

For the crust: In a large bowl, add flour, salt, and cold butter. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into the flour until pieces are pea-sized.

Mix ice water, one tablespoon at a time, into flour mixture.

Using your hands knead water into the flour mixture until the dough is soft and is held together, not crumbly or sticky (For crumbly dough, add more water, for sticky dough, add flour one tablespoon at a time.).

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each piece into a smooth ball.

Wrap dough balls with waxed paper and refrigerate for thirty (30) minutes up to one (1) hour.

Remove dough ball from the fridge and let sit on the counter for ten minutes before rolling.

On a floured surface and using a rolling pin, roll the dough from the center and then outwards, about twice the width of the pie pan. Do not press down on the dough, but, roll the dough firmly and lightly.

Coat pan with butter or non-stick spray and a light coat of flour. Gently place one piece of dough into the pan, working the dough into the corners. Do the same with the second piece of dough until the pan is completely covered.

Place dough in the refrigerator for 25-30 minutes.

For filling: In a medium bowl, add peaches, spices, sugar. Combine all until well mix. Stir in cornstarch. Set aside.

After chilling the pie dough, remove it from the refrigerator. Drain liquid from the pie filling (You can set the filling aside and use it as a topping).

Fill the pie with filling, arranging the peaches so that every corner is covered.

Bake 400°F for 40-45 minutes until the crust is a golden brown.

Let cool before serving.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

Baking · Cupcakes&Muffins · Gluten Free · Non-vegan · Non-vegetarian

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

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Because of my weird food allergies, I’ve had to be picky about so many things. But, I’m not picky about fruit, especially if it’s frozen. The best banana bread I’ve ever made was using some frozen sliced bananas I’d left in my freezer for three months and forgotten about. All of the moisture retained in the bananas, I didn’t even need butter, which was nice because I was stone cold broke when I made it. The best food I’ve ever had was when I didn’t have much money or many ingredients in the pantry. It’s a lot tougher when you have food allergies and you’re broke, especially gluten and where-related allergies because catering to your diet can really run through your wallet.

Bless the Dollar Tree. I freaking love the Dollar Tree. I could write an opus about how awesome that place is. You kind of have to put your ethics aside to shop there because you know that what you’re getting is definitely probably not good for the environment and maybe in the long run eating those frozen meatballs and those mouse pad-shaped disks of tilapia are definitely probably not good for your health! Still, if you live in a city or are facing tough economic times, you can get a nice selection of food, and if you’re a good cook, you can really make great meals from what you find there. I go there to get bags of frozen fruit for a buck and it lasts a while. The last time I was there, I went overboard and purchased a half dozen bags of blueberries because I use blueberries in everything. I make my own preserves, use them in smoothies, and put them on my cold and hot cereal. A fresh pint of blueberries, at least in my neighborhood anyway, is about three dollars. And they’re not even organic. The audacity! Even worse, they’re often not even filled to capacity. City living, I tell you! Crooks everywhere! Whenever I buy fresh berries from the supermarket, I take them out of the carton, put them into a plastic produce bag or in my produce bag I bring from home, and then weigh them on the scale. At the Dollar Tree, you get a twelve ounce bag, whereas most fresh cartons are less than ten ounces. No ma’am. I like to get the best out of my damn dollar.

This morning, I wanted some sort of bread with my breakfast. Since I’m allergic to wheat and was out of my own homemade gluten free bread, I figured I’d make muffins. They came out pretty good! It doesn’t really make that much of a difference if you use frozen versus fresh berries, except for the appearance, because frozen blueberries have the tendency to pop in the oven more than fresh berries, I’ve found. Maybe it’s something to do with the amount of added water from freezing. Still, in terms of taste and flavor, frozen berries do the trick. I usually like to make a crumble topping, but I was at the market this weekend and the price of butter had me shook! Between inflation and droughts, man. I spend more on butter than I do anything else, and I eat organic butter, grass-fed. Organic butter may as well be mixed with pure gold, it’s so expensive. If you don’t have butter, you can switch the butter with mashed bananas (or oil), one (1) cup. Honestly, I wish I’d made these with bananas instead of butter, but however you make your muffins, they’ll come out great.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

1 c. spelt flour

½ c. coconut flour

½ c. brown rice flour

1 T. baking powder

½ t. fine sea salt

1 stick butter, softened at room temperature

¼ t. xantham gum

2/3 c. granulated sugar

2/3 c. light brown sugar

1 t.  vanilla extract

3 small eggs

½ c.  whole milk

2 ¼ c. frozen blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugars until slightly fluffy and then set aside.

Next, add in eggs and vanilla until well mixed.

In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, salt, flour until well mixed. Next, add it to the wet mixture.

Add whole milk into the mixture and combine until you have a smooth batter.

Fold berries into the batter.

Line a muffin pan with muffin paper and fill each three-quarters of the way with batter.

Bake for about 38-40 minutes or until a slightly golden brown.

Remove from oven, let cool, about an hour before serving, two hours or more before freezing.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

 

Book Review · Books · Fiction · Novel · Summer Reading

What I’m Reading: A Room with a View by: E.M. Foster

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E.M. Forster was a wonderful observer of human nature in all of its complex motivations, self-destruction, disorder, and idiocy. His works are an observation into the complexities of human nature in all of its irrational, changeable glory. Forster seems to value individualism above all else. The idea of living at the beat of another drummer’s rhythm, for people to “march to their destiny by catchwords” where the individual does not live a life they want but rather one that others desire for them, seems to lead to an unhappy life. A person who would rather live falsely than to embrace the truth is one who cannot express feelings openly and is prone to maintain unhealthy social norms. It leads to a dreary and dull life, and creates a world where moral zealousness overtakes our sensibilities, and destroys our happiness.

It’s difficult to talk about this book without giving away the whole plot. I’ve yet to see a book review which has done otherwise! I think this is due to the fact that the novel is so layered. Some people see it as a feminist study, others an untraditional romance novel, or a philosophical study of morality as it pertains to one’s freedom of choice and happiness. It is a very complex novel and, in all honesty as with most of my reviews, my interpretation of the novel is simplistic and simple and I like to relate personal experiences to the books I’ve read, so you would be hard-pressed to find me writing a feminist study or a deep study of social caste or morals.

With that said, in my opinion, A Room with a View is a book about individualism and even rebellion. Characters challenge the status quo even if it means they lose relationships, and even positions, in respectable society along the way. And in the end, it is in challenging a rigid world and leaving it behind that the characters find that they’re better served in the end. Lucy Honeychurch and The Emersons (George and his father) are in my opinion, some of literatures great individualists. They represent an alternative vision of society where individualism is valued above conformity, where freedom of choice is optimal, and even though they upset many people close to them with their choices, they all lead happier lives as individuals.

I often find myself returning to this book whenever I need to try and sympathize with the complexities of the world and the people within it. I like returning to this book because it’s a nice escapist novel, a book to take me away from the messy times we’re living in. I know, it’s not very healthy, any kind of escapism. I think about the world, how it seems more of a mess than it once was, or maybe it was always a mess and I never noticed. There seems to me this great tension in the world, a breakdown of honesty and tenderness, reality and good manners. Mostly, I find that the world is becoming a place too ingrained with a rigged morality, where people often live based on what society thinks is commonplace rather than what the individual wants. To me, it seems as though human beings are losing touch with their own imperfect, eccentric natures, the kind of natures that made this world so interesting in the first damn place.

When I was younger, I prided myself on my individualism, on the thought that people were as intellectually receptive to the ways of life and living, and that as adults people rarely grew up somber and cynical unless they’d had unrealistic expectations of life. I always stood by my own beliefs of optimal living; that one could possess optimism and knowledge, practicality and idealism and live a good existence. I looked upon the world with such zeal and excitement at that age, I still do, but I am a bit more sober with experience. I don’t regret such idealism, but I think that maybe things would have affected me less harshly as an adult if I’d also imbued some of life’s complexities into my own idealistic nature. I wish that I’d been told more about the heartbreaks. Your heart breaks, a lot. It’s painful and it can ruin the best of you, the parts of you that push you to be driven and hopeful of the future. If you’re not self-aware, brave even, it’s so easy to fall in line and be compliant with convention, to lose yourself in the safety of conformity, all because you don’t want to get your heart broken again and again.

But a bit of rebellion doesn’t have to be about being self- destructive. I’ve found that sometimes it’s as simple as having an open heart and mind, a healthy dose of self-awareness, and a good amount of empathy for others, that makes life worth living. I’m opposed to a single-minded view or idea that settles on stringent beliefs or values. My life is very unconventional, but I don’t feel as limited to experiences in life as I think I would have if I’d stuck to norms, plus, I feel good about myself. It’s this “rebelliousness” that keeps me grounded, compassionate, but also allows me to question conventions. It’s also helped me to build my confidence.

But the world is very different, the people within it, at times not as brave. Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the outside of everything, observing, watching. I see a lot of frustration, a lot of people oppressing each other, trying to contain each other’s spirit. Why is that? Fear, I think. Forster understood this fear and how it destroys people:

“[She gave up trying to understand herself, and]…the vast armies of the benighted, who follow neither the heart nor the brain, and march to their destiny by catch-words. The armies are full of pleasant and pious folk. But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters-the enemy within. They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue. As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism, their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go.”

About fear, Thich Nhat Hanh says: “People have a hard time letting go of suffering, out of a fear of the unknown. They prefer suffering that is familiar.”

Still, what I love is that Forster is unwaveringly optimistic throughout. There are no villains or good characters. Characters do not suffer for objecting to the status-quo (as so many writers of the time such as Edith Wharton and Henry James were prone to show in their novels). And even though this not very realistic, I like that Forster still believes in a happy ending. Still, happiness only comes when one has the courage to break away from convention.

So, think outside of the box, kids. And then once you’re out, take a can of gasoline, throw on it a lit match, and walk the fuck away. I say this as a metaphor, of course. Please don’t set literal fires, except to your mind, with knowledge, and a book.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

Baking · Gluten Free · Pies & Cakes

Gluten-Free Apple Crumb Pie

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Off to a barbecue. As an introvert, socializing takes me out of my natural habitat, away from my books, my bed, my home, away from people J. As I write this, it’s 7:49 in the morning, and all I’m thinking of is 634,634,873,408,083 excuses to back out. I want to be home, in my pajamas, in my bed, with a book.

But then I remember that the upside is I’ll get to bake some pies. I bake pies for every barbecue I go to barbecue. As summer baking goes, apple pies are a sure thing.

I go into the kitchen and immediately retreat into the world of apple pie making. I cut cold butter, flour, and water together, peel and slice apples. And what happens with me, as it always does, is that the baking calms my goofy thoughts, the anxiety disappears, and the stress melts away with the time.

I am happy with the pie. It is a great pie. And the best thing about a great pie is that people will be too busy eating to notice that I’ve snuck off to a quiet area of my friend’s house to read the small book I’ve brought in I’ve purse.

The power of pie!

(Happy Fourth of July 4th!)

 

Gluten-Free Apple Crumb Pie

Crust

¾ t. xantham gum

1 stick salted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

5-6 TBS. ice water

1 1/3 c. brown rice flour

1 1/3 c. spelt flour

Filling

½ c. brown sugar

¼ c. + 1 TBS. brown rice flour

5-6 Granny Smith apples, cleaned, pealed, and cored

4 TBS. flour

¼ t. ground allspice

1 t. ground cinnamon

1.5 t. vanilla extract

2.5 t. lemon Juice

Topping

¾ c. brown rice flour

½ c. light brown sugar

1.5 ts. ground cinnamon

1 stick salted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

In a medium bowl, pour all ingredients for crust. Using a pastry cutter or knife (or food processor if you have one), cut and blend dough together until the pieces are pea-sized.

Roll dough into a ball and wrap in parchment paper. Refrigerate for 40 minutes (or until use).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1-inch thick in diameter.

Carefully place dough in either an aluminum pie or a standard pie pan, lightly pushing the sides against the pan’s surface until covered. Place pie crust in fridge.

In a medium bowl, add apples, spices, flour, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl and stir together until combined.

Remove pie crust from fridge. Pour in apples.

In another bowl, mix flour, butter brown sugar and cinnamon. Using pastry cutter or knife, cut butter mixture in small pea-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 375°F degrees.

Sprinkle and evenly spread butter crumble over apple filling.

Bake 25-30 minutes until filling is bubbly and golden.

Remove pie from oven and let cool before serving.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

Baking · Gluten Free

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’m one of those oddball procrastinators who, instead of watching t.v., napping or playing videogames whenever I don’t want to write, I bake cookies. It’s a good thing that I am productive, otherwise my kitchen would be as well stocked as a bakery! Well, my kitchen is sort of like a bakery in that I always have baking items on hand. I had a few bags of semi chocolate chips handy that I grabbed during a sale a few months ago, still fresh and just calling out to be used somehow.

This recipe is pretty simple. I like to change up my GF mixes, try different blends and flavors. You can use your own gluten-free flour mix, whether homemade or store brand, and it’ll work pretty much the same way. I always recommend using flours that are not as strong in flavor for cookie recipes, otherwise the cookies will have a bitter aftertaste. I find that using coconut and almond flours in butter-based recipes creates a nice flavor combination.

I ordered these large 6 inch round cookie cutters from Amazon. I wanted to try them out by making gigantic cookies, but settled on a small batch because, well, I’m a big advocate for portion control (even though I don’t look like it, LOL!). There’s no real reason for any adult to eat a cookie the width of a small dinner plate…well…unless it’s a cheat day.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (Organic)

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice flour

1 c. almond flour

¼ c. coconut flour

¾ t. xantham gum

1 t. baking soda

2 c. Semi-sweet chocolate chips

¾ c. light brown sugar, organic

¾ c. granulated sugar, organic

2 sticks unsalted butter, grass fed, softened at room temperature

1 t. Fine sea salt

2 t. Vanilla extract

2 large eggs, organic

Instructions

In a small bowl, cream sugars, egg, butter, and vanilla. Set aside.

In another bowl, blend flours, xantham gum, baking soda and salt. Add dry mixture into wet by folding until well combined.

Fold in chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

Pour dough onto parchment paper, wrap, and chill for 5-7 hours until dough is firm enough to roll into balls.

Remove from fridge.

Grease a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray (or a little butter).

Using a tablespoon, scoop dough and roll into balls.

Place dough onto greased cookie sheet, 1-2 inches apart.

Bake at 375° F for 22-25 minutes until golden brown.

Remove cookies and place on a cookie tray.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

Book Review · Books · Fiction · Short Stories · Summer Reading

What I’m Reading: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

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Salinger is a writer who all writers want to be when they are young and first starting out. He has an incredible ear for dialogue and an eye for observation that takes many writers years to perfect. And, more than anything, his work is free of the shackles of mawkishness.

In Nine Stories, Salinger has written a series of shorts that are, like the author himself, complex; humorous and tragic, expressive and aloof. And yet, Salinger is great at what he does because his work comes from a place of honesty. Each story has a laidback sensibility to them and Salinger creates a wonderful collection of enlivened characters. The one thing that stands out about Salinger’s writing is how he excels at creating smart, natural dialogue, which can often be a bit beguiling to the reader, especially when they are delivered by children, but even when it is delivered by them, it’s refreshing.

There is a deep sense of the author’s movement into exploring vulnerability through the theme of innocence, which can be seen through the lives and experiences of children such as in “For Esme with Love and Squalor” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”. Of relationships he ventures into more spiritual depths about life and death in a way that is typical of the human journey. He writes about war, passion, loss and heartbreak with an openness that is free of judgment, and he seems to desire a return to a life of simplicity, a life full of balance, virtue, and honesty. Salinger observes as a writer who is very impartial. As he writes about the lives of people, whether they live in and out of the cities or the suburbs, he writes about them without bias. He is non-judgmental; he writes what he sees as opposed to what he assumes.

There is also a sense that behind each story there is a feeling of emptiness, that what writing Salinger’s core self is someone who is often consumed with want, particularly of intimacy. A lack of intimacy seems to destroy innocence in some way, often by death or dishonesty, common predators of innocence. Salinger never outright tells you how he feels. Desire is aloof, it hides behind wit and disappointment or it gestures towards a grand ending that is possibly too simplistic for some readers but all readers can agree that his works are neither banal or cliché by any measure.

All in all, Salinger’s Nine Stories is a book filled with sincerity and heart.

© 2017 • CoffeeCupcakesKafka

 

 

 

Films · Lists

Lists: Top Five Isabella Rossellini Performances

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Actress, model, writer and philanthropist, Isabella Rossellini. Born: June 18th, 1952

Isabella Rossellini is one of my favorite actresses. Her acting choices are often off-beat and quirky, which makes her one of those actresses who cannot be defined. She has made over eighty film and television appearances. She is, of course, best known for her work with David Lynch, and is remarked for her beauty (and being the daughter of Ingrid Bergman). I think it’s a shame that she is very much overlooked as one of the best actresses of her generation, but her resume is really remarkable.

In honor of her birthday, I’ve put together a list of what I think are some of her best performances.

Blue Velvet (1986)-Dorothy Vallens

A cult classic. The film established David Lynch’s unique style and themes that would appear in much of his film throughout his career as a filmmaker and writer. Rossellini’s performance as Dorothy Vallens, the tragic femme fatale of the film, is an awesome sight. Her performance is heavy, hazy, lush, her presence, reminiscent of noir films.

Il Prato (1979)-Eugenia

Il Prato is not a film that is very well-known here in the states. The film is about a love triangle with the typical backdrop of most Italian films of the 70s that often focused on themes of sex, love, death and politics. Rossellini plays Eugenia, a young, beautiful woman who works in a tax office and moonlights as a street performer. It’s one of Rossellini’s first films, and I think one of her most genuine because she comes off as very insecure in her performance which adds to the depth and realness of the character she is playing. It’s also difficult not to notice how beautiful she is in the film, similar to her mother, actress Ingrid Bergman. She is a magnet for the camera.

Immortal Beloved (1994)-Anna Marie Erdody

Rossellini’s performance is charming and expressive amongst this fittingly magnificent and chaotic production about composer Ludwig Van Beethoven’s life. Gary Oldman steals the show as Beethoven, but Rossellini’s performance adds a lovely touch to the film. She works brilliantly against Oldman’s eccentric and frenzied performance and the two actors complement each other. I have always thought it sad that they haven’t worked together on more projects.

The Saddest Music In The World (2003)-Lady Helen Port-Huntley

Rossellini plays Lady Helen Port-Huntly, an amputee and beer tycoon who holds a contest to find the saddest music in the world. It’s an eccentric film and the dialogue is a bit tired at times, but it is inventive and unique in its originality and storytelling structure. It’s also one of those movies that I’ve always felt would’ve worked better as a silent film, but then the viewer wouldn’t get to hear the film’s great soundtrack. Rossellini has a knack for making the most out of her roles when she is in an ensemble. She is an actress who excels at subtlety, and is able to give a memorable performance without being hackneyed or doing too much.

Merlin (1998)-Nimue

Before the 2011 BBC series, there was a TV movie of the same name made thirteen years prior, produced by NBC Television in 1998. The TV movie had one of the most amazing acting ensembles assembled; Sam Neill, Helena Bonham Carter, John Gielgud, Miranda Richardson, James Earl Jones, Ruter Hauer, Martin Short, and Lena Headey. Rossellini plays Nimue, Merlin’s (Neill) love interest, who is beautiful and understanding of Merlin’s distress with his fate as a magician, but encourages him to pursue is fate when she reveals to him how his talents can help save his people. Once again, Rossellini excels in another rich ensemble and the camera is intrigued by her. Her acting is passionate, in part to the great script, the chemistry between herself and Neill, as well as the sweeping backdrop of England and Wales. The film itself is lush and beautiful, much like Rossellini, and the special effects are fun and entertaining.

Honorable Mention

Death Becomes Her (1992)-Lisle Von Rhuman

I watch this movie at least once a year, and it is in my top ten guilty pleasure films. Rossellini plays a sorceress whose potions are a fountain of youth for her clients. She evokes Cleopatra as she is surrounded by fierce-looking Dobermans and muscular foot men. Rossellini’s performance is definitely camp, but the entire film knows what it is and the actors (especially Meryl Streep!) have fun with it.

©2017• CoffeeCupcakesandKafka

 

Baking · Gluten Free · Yeast Breads & Doughnuts

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

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Imagine; a rainy summer Saturday afternoon, a glass of iced cold vanilla soy milk, your favorite t-shirt, a Twilight Zone marathon, and these doughnuts.

Yes ma’am.

It’s how I’m spending my day today.

My expertise in doughnut making is pretty limited, but I’m feeling pretty spiffy about the way these came out. Still, I’m pretty sure that they’re the best doughnuts I ever made.

If you try them I hope you like the recipe as much as I do.

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Dough

3 c. gluten free flour mix (If you don’t have your own mix, I prefer this brand)

1/4 tsp. xantham gum

3/4 c. whole milk, warmed, 95-100° F

2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 medium brown egg+3 egg yolks, separated

1 c. organic sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. fine sea salt

1 TBS. aluminum-free baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1.5 sticks melted butter

Canola oil, for frying

Chocolate Glaze

2 c. confectioners’ sugar

3 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c. whole milk

  • In a small bowl, add  warmed milk to yeast. Stir and let sit for five minutes, until a froth has formed.
  • In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, xantham gum, cinnamon and baking powder.
  • Mix in whole egg and egg yolks.
  • Next, add the yeast-milk mixture, vanilla, and oil, and mix.
  • Gradually add the remaining flour and combine dough, but be careful not to over mix.
  • Scrape dough onto floured surface and roll out until it is ~ ½″ thick. Cover with parchment paper.
  • Chill the dough for 30-60 minutes. The dough should not adhere to the paper.
  • Flour surface and place chilled dough onto it.
  • Using a 3-1/2” doughnut cutter , cut your doughnut pieces.
  • On med-low heat, add oil in a pot. Oil should heat to 350°F.
  • Carefully add doughto oil, frying ~1 minute on both sides until slightly brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
  • Prepare glaze.
  • Dip doughnuts while faintly warm into the glaze.
  • Set aside on a cooling rack until serving.

©2017• CoffeeCupcakesandKafka

Book Review · Books · Fiction · Novel · Summer Reading

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham_wm

“The war came to an end and I went home. I’d always been keen on mechanics, and if there was nothing done in aviation, I’d intended to get into an automobile factory. I’d been wounded and had to take it easy for a while. Then they wanted me to go to work. I couldn’t do the sort of work they wanted me to do. It seemed futile. I’d had a lot of time to think. I kept asking myself what life was for. After all, it was only by luck that I was alive; I wanted to make something of my life, but I didn’t know what. I’d never thought much about God, I began to think about Him now. I couldn’t understand why there was evil in the world. I knew I was very ignorant; I didn’t know anyone I couldn’t turn to and I wanted to learn, so I began to read haphazard.”

In college, I was deeply drawn to beat writers; Kerouac, Burroughs, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, (and more modern beat writers like Henry Rollins), writers who are, without a question, some of the greats of their time. They lived by their own rules in both writing and expression, and created adventurous characters. What I love the most about their characters is that they are fucking fearless. They walk forward into the darkness, hungry adventurers crashing into every corner and avenue they can without any care for money or safety or common sense. They were always restless, always searching, never settling. I’ve always been drawn to characters like these. Perhaps it’s why I read so much, why I’m always restless and anxious to dig into the next new book!

But while reading The Razor’s Edge, I couldn’t help but to think about false happiness, mostly one’s own restlessness with life. As I read, I immediately connected to Maugham’s restless world traveler, Larry Darrell, the troubled war veteran and main character of the book. Because Larry is so worn by his experiences in the war and is so weary of the world around him, he is no longer his old self. He begins to disconnect with his old life, and wants to find meaning in it all. He travels to Europe and India, finding enlightenment in toil, meditation, and solitude. I think he speaks for the restless bohemian in most of us. Larry is a character who is always searching, both spiritually and intellectually. He is unsatisfied with the life that is before him. He is a man who does not want to settle, who wants to always learn more about it. In reality, most of us think and feel this way but do nothing about it, or in many ways, we can’t do anything. But we are trying to change things, little by little.

I think that is life’s tragedy, really. People walk around, brimming with ideas, desires and longing, they dream of being heroic adventurers but often live tragic lives. We know what happens to many of those people. Maugham knew, and in the book he doesn’t paint a rosy picture.

But what Maugham shows the reader, and what I took from his book, is that the worst way to suffer is to look upon your life with a bleak view. You see examples of this in Larry’s friends, ambitious millionaire Gray, Sophie the poet, Larry’s wealthy love interest Isabel, and Isabel’s ambitious social-climbing uncle Elliot. As Larry returns to his old life as a new person, he is on the fringe, watching from outside the circle of friends and lovers who no longer seem recognizable to him, or he to them. He returns to Paris and sees many tragedies; Sophie spiraling out of control into prostitution, drug and alcohol addiction after the death of her husband and child, Isabel has settled for Gray but still pines for Larry, Grey suffers from migraines, and because of a stock market crash, the couple is no longer as wealthy as they once were. Elliot is rich but alone, depressed, and angry. I won’t ruin the plot for you, but Larry’s old friends are miserable folks who in some cases aren’t worth a damn! In the book, as it is very much in life, good people suffer and the bad ones suffer comfortably, even if they feel trapped by their circumstances.

Are you a good or bad person? How should you live your life? What is a good/bad life? Maugham leaves it all out for you to decide for yourself.

From Maugham’s book, I was reminded that life is forever changing, and that people are always drifting. You’ll be cynical and sad on the one hand and then accepting and sympathetic on the other. The best way to embrace life is to look at it very much the way Larry Darrell does, as if you’re on a continuous quest, enlightened and experienced in the ways of life and its ills, you have to keep moving. We can explore life and its possibilities while we lament its faults. It’s how, I think, we can grow into happier people. So, even though, at this point in my life, I can’t afford to sip a glass of wine in front of the Champs-Elysse or live surrounded in a more comfortable setting, it’s the illusion along with the reality of false happiness that is the real danger. I’m starting to see that, even as you try to grasp as much knowledge as you can, to know everything you need to know that’ll move you forward, you may not grasp everything that comes your way, but the knowledge that you do possess can lead you towards happiness. I think letting go of your obsession with perfection or with what is definite is key. The way towards a satisfactory life is through contemplation and appreciation, things that can be lost when one has had bad feelings and experiences. If you can’t gain wisdom as you age, I think it can ultimately make you feel like a displaced person within the world, so you have to find a way to be excited about life.

Remain curious, pursue knowledge, get out often.

To live life with few inhibitions and restraints is the key to happiness. It seems impossible, but it starts with the little things, the smallest steps.

©2017• CoffeeCupcakesandKafka