LEMON POPPY SEED BUTTERMILK WAFFLES + BLUEBERRY MAPLE SYRUP

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Now that we’ve entered the month of February, I of course am going to give a few recipes for the holiday that either people avoid like the plague or fully embrace: Valentine’s Day. I guess I fall somewhere in between these two categories in that I don’t hate the holiday, but I don’t expect my boyfriend to make reservations at a fancy restaurant or give me an extravagant gift like a diamond necklace. I DO however enjoy the two of us making a big dinner, cocktail in hand, while wearing our pajamas. That to me is so much more romantic and fun than sitting next to strangers at a busy restaurant.

Oh, and I like flowers. Flowers are nice. (Hi, Alex!)

One other aspect that I enjoy doing for Alex on V-Day is baking him something decadent for dessert and/or starting the day for him with an amazing breakfast. On most days, breakfast at home is pretty boring and consists of peanut butter toast and greek yogurt. But on Valentine’s Day, I kick it up a notch (I’m Emeril now) and sometimes make Alex pancakes and bacon or an egg scramble filled with whatever veggies I have on hand in the fridge. To say that Alex loves this is an understatement; he appreciates this small gesture so much and I know it makes his day. So I think waking up a little earlier and whipping up a more exciting breakfast for your significant other is about the nicest thing one can do at 7:30 in the morning.

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Not sure on what to make for your SO for the love-filled holiday? Let me make the tough decision for you and tell you that you NEED to make these lemon poppy seed buttermilk waffles! And while we’re at it, let’s have you make a homemade blueberry maple syrup (with no added sugar!) to drown those waffles in. Waffles for breakfast is not only delicious and much more exciting than cereal, but actually comes together fairly quickly and will certainly impress whoever you make them for.

Ever since I received a waffle maker this past Christmas, I have been making a new batch of waffles every single weekend (literally) for Alex and myself. I luckily found a recipe that I absolutely love and not only tastes incredible fresh from the maker, but freezes exceptionally well - all you have to do is pop them in the toaster, press the defrost button, and they’ll have the same texture and taste as the day you made them. So, I decided to take that recipe and put my own spin on it by using the classic flavor combo of lemon and poppy seed. We’re currently in the midst of citrus season and so the addition of bright and flavorful lemon zest and juice really brightens up the waffles and gives it such a fresh taste.

As for how many waffles this recipe will yield you, it really all depends on what kind of maker you own. I personally have this one (I love it btw), and with scooping out about 1/3 cup portions, I get 12-14 waffles. If you have the round waffle maker, I would suggest following the manufacturer’s directions on how much batter to use per waffle.

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And let’s not forget the blueberry maple syrup! My favorite toppings for when I eat waffles have always been maple syrup and blueberries, so I decided to combine the two to make life a bit easier. Three ingredients + a stovetop + less than 10 minutes of your time = an elevated take on the kind of syrup you find on the table at IHOP. The finished result is a bit more liquid-y than normal maple syrup, but this won’t bother you the moment you take your first bite. And regardless, there are whole blueberries added to the syrup at the end so you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Do me (and your SO) a favor and make these waffles for Valentine’s Day! And if for some weird reason breakfast isn’t your thing, I’ll be posting a Valentine’s Day-friendly dessert next week.

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Blueberry Maple Syrup

Yields about 1 1/2 cups

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, divided 

  • 1 cup pure maple syrup

  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries with the maple syrup and lemon juice. Heat over medium temperature for about three minutes, or until the berries have softened a bit.

  2. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush the berries against the side of the saucepan. Do this carefully, because the berry juice will be very hot. After a few more minutes, the mixture will begin to simmer and foam, and that is when it’s done.

  3. Pour the mixture through a strainer placed over a medium sized bowl and discard the blueberry solids left behind. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and allow to cool a bit before enjoying. Transfer leftover maple syrup to a glass container, like a mason jar, and refrigerate. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Buttermilk Waffles

Yields about a dozen waffles, depending on waffle maker 

Recipe adapted from The Worktop

Ingredients

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  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar

  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon zest

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour (all-purpose works as well)

  • 2 tbsp. poppy seeds

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Directions

  1. In a medium size bowl, using your hands or a whisk, massage/mix the granulated sugar and lemon zest together until fragrant (this helps release the oils in the zest). Add the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together. 

  2. In a large bowl, add the buttermilk, fresh lemon juice, vanilla extract and eggs, and whisk until incorporated. Slowly add the melted butter while continuing to whisk, so as not to curdle the cold buttermilk. 

  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Do not over mix! Allow the batter to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. 

  4. Preheat your waffle maker and spray with cooking spray. Add about 1/3 cup of batter for each waffle, but do whatever size works best for you in your personal waffle maker. Cook until the waffles are golden brown, about 4 minutes. 

  5. Repeat until all batter is used up. Enjoy your waffles with blueberry maple syrup, a pat of butter, and/or a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar. Waffles freeze extremely well: just pop the frozen waffles in your toaster, hit the defrost button, and they’ll taste exactly the same as on the day you made them.

UNION SQUARE CAFE'S BAR NUTS

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Today I am giving you quite possibly the easiest recipe that you can find on The Vivid Kitchen thus far. We’re taking a break from desserts and baked goods this week in lieu of making something that will work perfectly for your Super Bowl viewing party. I’m talking about bar nuts, and not just any bar nuts but Union Square Cafe’s version of the seriously addicting snack. For those who don’t know, Union Square Cafe is a famous restaurant in NYC and comes from the mastermind restaurateur, Danny Meyer. He later went on to open other highly accoladed spots like Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park, the latter being a Michelin-starred restaurant. Although Union Square Cafe is a high-end restaurant with a sophisticated menu, their bar nuts are almost as famous as the restaurant itself. A quick google search will show that I am far from the first person to share this recipe, but I’ve found that still, a good amount of people in my circle had never heard of or tried these I introduced them. So, I want to spread the bar nuts love a little further today!

I’ve made these bar nuts at least 15-20 times since I discovered the recipe in my coveted Genius Recipes cookbook from Food52, about 4 years ago. Every time I go to a Cinespia screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery where we picnic before viewing a film, it’s a no-brainer among my friends that I will be bringing a batch of the nuts. At my sister’s wedding, I made a HUGE batch of these, enough for 115 people, but with only almonds because we just so happened to find pounds of them in my mom’s freezer. Each table at the wedding had a cheese platter filled with crackers, fruit, and the seasoned almonds (my mom, aunt, and I made each platter mere hours before the ceremony) and it was the perfect appetizer.

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The only problem with these bar nuts is that once you start eating them, you honestly can’t stop. I have no problem stopping myself from eating an entire can of Pringles, and I know I can only eat one single Lay’s potato chip, but with Union Square Cafe’s nuts, there’s no stopping. In fact, I never make them just for Alex and I to have at home because we both will eat nothing else until they’re all gone. And on Thanksgiving, I’m not allowed to make them because putting them out before dinner would ruin everyone’s appetite. Have I given enough proof that these nuts are amazing and that you need to make them?

As for what nuts to use, the choice is yours. You may include pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews or hazelnuts. These are all the nuts that are found in Union Square Cafe’s blend. But could you add pistachios or macadamia nuts? Of course you can! You also get to decide how much of each nut you want in your batch: you can have more almonds and less cashews, you can use only pecans, or you can use every single nut I listed above. Just as long as you use 800 grams (1 3/4 lbs. or 28 oz.) worth of nuts, you’re good to go. I find that the easiest way to measure out the nuts is by using a kitchen scale, especially if you’re using an array of nuts.

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It’s important that I note that you need to buy raw and unsalted nuts! We need to toast them ourselves so that the seasoning “paste” we make - consisting of melted butter, brown sugar, chopped fresh rosemary, cayenne pepper, and salt - will adhere to the warm nuts. I made two tiny changes to the seasoning paste which is that I use a bit more butter than what is called for (about 2 tbsp. instead of 1) and I finely chop the fresh rosemary. Over the years, I’ve found that these two modifications make for not only a tastier batch, but allows for the nuts to receive a generous coating of seasoning deliciousness. So that’s why in the recipe below, I have written 1-2 tbsp. of melted butter. I suggest starting with 1 tbsp. and see if it works for you, and if not, remember to add an extra half tablespoon or so the next time you make them! Because there will definitely be a next time.

Make these for your Super Bowl party please! Or any party or get together for that matter. I promise that these nuts will get more compliments than your main dish that took hours to prepare.

P.S. Have leftover fresh rosemary and not sure what to do with it? Make my lemon and rosemary madeleines!

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Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts

Makes about 5 cups

Recipe from Union Square Cafe via Genius Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 lb. (800g, 28oz.) raw and unsalted assorted nuts (peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)

  • 1-2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (see note above)

  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 2 tsp. dark brown sugar, packed

  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Evenly spread the nuts on a large baking sheet (if all nuts do not fit on one sheet, divide between two and toast at the same time). Toast the nuts for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and fragrant.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the seasoning. In a large bowl (large enough to fit the nuts), combine the melted butter, fresh rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and salt. When the nuts are finished, immediately transfer to the bowl with the seasoning and thoroughly mix to coat. Add more salt or cayenne if needed. Enjoy warm, but I think they’re best at room temperature when the coating has settled.

MAPLE BACON DOUGHNUTS

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What New Year’s resolution?

It’s mid-January, aka a rather depressing time of year where people are trying to be better by swearing off anything from alcohol to meat, signing up for gym memberships, and attempting to be a more well-rounded person. I personally do not set New Year’s resolutions and rather fall into the mindset of trying to stick to realistic goals for myself 365 days of the year.

For example, I do some form of a workout every day and I make sure to change it up so my body won’t get used to it nor will I get bored. I sometimes take an intense strength training class with weights, sometimes I take a more mellow yet challenging PiYo class (pilates and yoga combined), or I’ll take an hour walk in my neighborhood while listening to my favorite podcast. Just as long as I move for at least an hour each day, I’m happy and feel good about myself.

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As for what I eat, I really try not to deprive myself and yet focus on little tricks that will allow me to eat things that I love. Three things that I try to stick to every day are: 1) not eating past 8pm, 2) drinking a gallon of water throughout the day and 3) eating at least two servings of fruit and/or veggies. Following these three things are extremely doable for anybody and better yet, allows you to live a normal and social life. You’re not taking anything away from your diet, but rather adding to it which makes it a much more positive experience where you’re not punishing yourself. Furthermore, I save drinking alcohol for the weekends, which I know makes a huge difference when trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

It’s because of these tricks that I’m able to allow myself to eat cookies, or order a side of french fries, or not worry about going out to restaurants because the food doesn’t work with my diet. I am in no way a lifestyle coach or health expert, but I really think that extreme dieting, intermittent fasting, or beating yourself up over a piece of chocolate isn’t going to work in the long run, and it usually doesn’t! Making small changes really does make an impact and you’ll have a better chance of not giving up once February hits.

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So. My point in all of this is that life is short and we deserve a doughnut from time to time, ok? And not just any doughnut but an insanely delicious maple bacon doughnut made from a yeasted dough and fried to golden perfection. We do not have to eat this every day, nor should we, but like all sweets, they should be enjoyed in moderation. I’m in the school of thought where if you’re going to have a sweet for dessert like ice cream, I’d rather reach for the full-fat stuff from Häagen Dazs or Breyers, have a scoop or two, versus eating an entire pint of the fake/healthy ice cream that’s been trending recently.

I’d been wanting to make yeast doughnuts for the longest time since they’re my favorite type but was a bit hesitant because I figured that it would be too difficult and that I would mess up somewhere along the way. But I gotta say that making them was not only fairly easy, but actually a lot of fun and so worth it in the end! The doughnut recipe I’m giving you today is simply a standard yeast dough that yields a perfectly plain and barely sweetened doughnut that can be finished and glazed whichever way your heart desires. In the world of doughnuts, you’re either Team Cake Doughnut or Team Yeast Doughnut, and I definitely fall into the latter category. I like my doughnuts light and chewy, and these yeast doughnuts are exactly that.

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When it came to deciding what kind of doughnut flavor I wanted to make, I thought I’d be selfless this time around and make Alex’s #1 favorite, maple bacon. To put it simply, bacon is Alex’s love language (that’s right, there’s a sixth category that you can test into!), and so whenever we visit an “artisanal” doughnut shop like Sidecar, Blue Star or Holy Donut (in Maine!), Alex orders a maple bacon 100% of the time.

A tip that I have to make the bacon suuuuuuper crispy is to chop it up with a sharp knife before cooking it on the stovetop. I had never thought to do this before and was really happy with the results, and plan on doing this in the future when I make homemade wedge salads or potato skins. Crispy bacon is vital to these doughnuts and should not be skipped! As for the maple glaze, you will be using not only pure maple syrup (the good stuff, ok?!), but also a splash of imitation maple/maple extract, which can be found at your local grocery store. I normally wouldn’t use something like this, but it really does help give a lot of maple flavor and it makes the doughnuts smell so unbelievably good. A bottle of it will set you back about 3 bucks, so I say buy it the next time you’re out shopping.

Let me know if you plan on making the doughnuts anytime soon!

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Maple Bacon Doughnuts

Makes 6-8 doughnuts

Doughnut recipe from Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen via Amanda Frederickson

Ingredients

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For the doughnuts:

  • 1 cup warm (~ 110°F) milk, whole or 2%

  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tsp. salt

  • Canola oil, for frying

For the maple glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

  • 2-3 tbsp. milk, depending on desired consistency

  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup

  • 1/4 tsp. maple extract / imitation flavor

  • 6 bacon pieces, cooked and finely chopped

Directions

Make the doughnuts:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the warm milk, yeast and 1 tbsp. of the granulated sugar. Stir together, and let sit until proofed, about 5 minutes. The mixture will be foamy with bubbles.

  2. Transfer the proofed yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment. Add the flour, vegetable oil. egg and salt, and mix on low speed for 4-6 minutes, or until the dough is shiny and has pulled away from the bowl. It will be fairly sticky.

  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it by hand a couple of times on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been coated with cooking spray, and tightly cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for at least one hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

  4. Once doubled, give the dough a small punch to remove some of the gas bubbles, then transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough to 1/2” thick and, using a doughnut cutter (alternatively, you can use a 3 1/2” cutter with a 1” cutter for the holes), cut out as many doughnuts as you can. You will probably have to roll out the dough once more in order to use up all the dough.

  5. Move the doughnuts and doughnut holes to a lightly floured parchment lined sheet pan and allow to proof once again for about 1 hour, or until the doughnuts have doubled in size.

  6. Using a large pot or Dutch oven, heat about 3” worth of canola oil on medium heat until the oil reaches 325°F. Working in batches, fry 2 to 3 doughnuts at a time for about 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. The doughnuts will be a deep golden brown color. The doughnut holes will fry up in about 1-2 minutes. Transfer each finished doughnut and doughnut hole to a cooling rack (place paper towels underneath to catch any excess oil) and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before glazing them.

Make the glaze:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk (start with 2 tbsp. and work from there to reach your desired consistency), maple syrup, and imitation maple. Dip each doughnut and doughnut hole into the glaze and immediately sprinkle with bacon bits. Enjoy! Doughnuts are best eaten ASAP, but can last a few days at room temperature. Just give them a quick reheat in the microwave to make them chewy again.