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

 

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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

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“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