Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marshmallows, chocolate, and life

I've been having a bit of a hard time lately.

I'm in my last year of college and that means the long-term-plans type of pressure is palpable from everything. (Can the indecisive and tired girl get a waiver, please?) And anxiety is a cyclical beast, and my health is still weak (a common cold was enough to knock me off my feet for a week) and I'm struggling in that way of knowing you're not some place you want to be right now, but also knowing that where you are is probably just necessary in getting anywhere else. Some place you just have to get through for now. And that's not the most exciting or encouraging thing to be looking down the path at.

So I went home for a weekend. Tried to reset a bit with that specific kind of love you get from a loyal and lazy dog, the bed you grew up with, familiar food, and greener spaces (you know, in between taking a practice GRE and theoretically catching up on all the reading I was already way, way behind on for classes...but just don't remind me, okay?).
And this week I've felt better. Still not 100%, and the set of things that define my "self" is undoubtedly morphing though this period, but better. More giving towards others, more gentle on myself. And, yes, more generous towards my taste buds. These bars originally required no marshmallows, and they don't inherently *need* them, but I went for it. Because a little comfort food never hurt anyone's mental health.
I'm still behind where I'd like to be in many ways, still uncertain of so many things, but I am trying and that feels like it counts for a lot. After all, it is the first step to getting anywhere.

Rock Road Rice Crispy Treats
(adapted from this recipe)
yields about 16 1"-2" squares

For the bars:
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c brown rice syrup *
  • 1/2 c almond butter
  • 1/2 c bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or as chips)
  • 2 T coconut oil (I use refined coconut oil for a neutral taste, but I'm sure virgin would work well if you like a little coconut flavor!)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2--2/3 c mini marshmallows
  • 4 cups puffed rice cereal **
For the topping:
  •  2 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 c bittersweet chocolate (chopped, or as chips)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
*you can find this at Whole Foods-type stores, or in the natural foods sections of some grocery stores--I actually found it at Kroger! I would imagine that if you can't find it, corn syrup would be okay as a substitute, though I haven't tried it.
**Rice Krispies use malt flavoring and are thus NOT gluten free!! I've had luck using the Whole Foods brand brown rice puffed cereal, which don't use any gluten-containing ingredients and hold their crispness nicely.

Line an 8" x 8" or 9" x 9"  pan with of parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the maple and rice syrups to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Make sure it doesn't boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the nut butter, 1/2 c chocolate, 2 T coconut oil, and 1/4 tsp salt until smooth and the chocolate is melted. Fold in the cereal and add the marshmallows (if you want your marshmallows to melt more, add them while everything's still warm; if you'd rather they melt less, let it cool a few minutes), then pack into the pan.

Melt the remaining 1/2 c of chocolate and 2 T coconut oil together over very low heat or via 30 second intervals in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring constantly just until melted. Pour the mixture over the bars, spreading it smooth, and then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp sea salt. Let cool for several hours at room temperature or for about an hour in the fridge. These are best the day they're made, but store well 3-5 days when refrigerated to help the puffed rice keep its texture.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The thing about anxiety

So, here's the thing about anxiety: it advances on you while you watch from the corner of your eye, too busy with the main stage to be fully capable of stopping it. And knowing, even with your full attention, it'd still be there. Then, suddenly, you go from standing over a broken candle in the middle of Target, trying not to cry while you shepherd glass into a pile, to being inexplicably awoken at 4:30 in the morning, feeling like you need to plan your next weeks and life...or at least figure out how to get the dishes done today?

And suddenly those things you meant to do 2 weeks ago were actually 6 weeks ago. And, well, you're behind on everything anyway. 

Anxiety digs itself a hole and destroys the ladder. And then it asks you to find the way out.
And as someone who struggles knows, each time you're left wondering if it's pulled you down too deep.

Adulthood adds a whole other fun spin on things, like a healthy dose of "who the hell decided I was capable of running my own life?" or the "I want to go home, but where and what does that mean now?" Don't tell the 50-somethings, but I think it's really the 20-somethings who have the most reasons for crisis. And yet no one seems to fully acknowledge--even among ourselves--the fact that it's really incredibly crazy and scary to be at a point in your life where your decisions are profoundly effecting the next leg...and everything keeps reminding you of that. Because whatever point we're in is always supposed to be the best of our lives, right? Even when they're all unfathomably difficult in their own unique ways.

So, instead, we sit up at night asking if it's really okay to not know what we want, and where we go from here. And if those little tendrils of skin and rope and thread-barren hope you tried to drop down into the hole as you were going, flinging them out from under anxiety's cloak, will be enough to pull you back up again.

(a hat tip to Haley for broaching such topic first)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hey there, Saturday.

It's been a long week back in this college town. For only having four days of classes, I'm feeling very out of shape, out of practice, and generally out of sorts. The beginning of the semester is rough. And for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to enroll in 18 hours, including my thesis--what?! So, you can imagine my arms are wide open towards the long weekend ahead that I'm shamelessly extending with a trip to DC, a good concert, and lots of food and Parks and Rec with that boyfriend of mine. And did I mention sleep? Lots of sleep.

I was tagged by the lovely Haley and Caroline to play along with their "six things in six minutes" questions...so I'd figure I'd embrace this embrace this excuse for blogging without using my own waning brain power. ;)

As to not play favorites and avoid spamming you all with 12 things-you-didn't-really-need-to-know about me, I figured I would alternate between the two ladies: odd numbers from Caroline, even from Haley!

1. If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be? You cannot imagine how brokenhearted I was upon discovering that Bluebell's Dutch Chocolate, the ice cream I grew up on, is not gluten free. I know. Thankfully I've been able to find some good dairy- and gluten-free substitutes, but I still tend to fall along the same vein: I'm a chocolate girl, through and through. And those flavors that are chocolate with the addition of other chocolates (like chunks and ribbons and maybe some hazelnuts or pecans)? Yea, that's probably what I'd be. I feel like most of my traits can be explained from the core of me...they just manifest themselves in little twists and differences.

2. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Like Caroline, probably "you know?" or "you know what I mean?" Growing up (and even now), I often felt like I had an older soul than the people around me, so I think I tend to stick these on the end of sentences to make sure I feel like I'm actually being understood in the way intended. Otherwise it'd probably be "if that sounds okay with you?"...I guess I have a bit of an insecurity about coming across too strongly! (I could probably bear to cut that one out.)

3. Current Netflix binge? Okay! I feel like I'm at a place where I've seen most of the good things I would typically think I was interested in seeing that are available on Netflix--so people, send me your recs!!! However, not-on-Netflix I've been making my way through both seasons of Smash for the first time, which I am close to done with, and I maaaay have started re-re-watching the first season of New Girl again this morning...oops.

4. What is your most treasured possession? A ring that I wear every day that was made out of my mother's wedding ring by a dear family friend. I feel naked without it, and would definitely be the most bereaved if I lost it.

5. What is something you learned the hard way? Oh gosh, I could probably answer this a lot of ways, but I'm going to stick with something my dad told me repeatedly my first year of college that has proven to be incredibly true: "If it's not one thing, it's another." Just like I don't think there's any purely "easy" relationship (romantic or otherwise...it takes work to be connected in people's lives!), I don't know that there's any such thing as an "easy" season of your life. There are certainly ones that are better than others, but I think there's always going to be something present challenging you. And that doesn't have to be bad once you come to terms with it.

6. What is your motto? Ahhh! I don't know that I truly have a "motto," but there are probably two quotes that I kind of keep in my mind that resonate with me: "Learn to love your ground," from an old Mumford & Sons song...I actually have this painted on my bedroom wall as a reminder to actively learn to love where you are in your life. The second is kind of the opposite, a reminder to dream: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?" which is from a Mary Oliver poem. (But otherwise, I'm kind of a hoarder of reminders.)

Thank you for the tag, ladies (and thanks to anyone who actually made it all the way through)! I would create my own questions for others to answer, but I'm feeling just a bit too sleep deprived to function.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a plane to catch (and pack for)...and about a hundred naps to catch up on.

Monday, August 19, 2013

One of those weeks

This Monday (not-quite-anymore-)morning, on the cusp of the semester, I'm facing one of those weeks. You know what I mean?

Not in an inherently bad way, but in one of those ways that you know will sink into your bones, drawing out the sort of lifeblood perfectly preserved for lazy summer afternoons and injecting in its place something to force a shaking of the cobwebs. A getting-back-into-the-swing-of-things kind of hurt, with too many emails to send and boxes to unpack. I have a feeling that this time it is going to be worse, a slightly deeper rut to climb out of.

For weeks like this, I'm trying to sink into the soul-soothing for some rejuvenation. Take the moments of peace and grace where I can find them. In belated birthday flowers, in drinking tea out of an imperfect cup made myself. In the speech of another woman that strike just right. (Because, really, what is better for a heart than a beautiful collection of words? I'm not sure I've found anything yet.)

I hope you're finding the things to get you through this week. I hope they're beautiful.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On the eve of a birthday, some things I've learned

You are allowed to end any relationship that doesn’t feel good. Friendships, romantic interests, even toxic family members. If you can, terminate the ties in a way where you can still be around them if needed. If this doesn’t work, put self-preservation first.

It’s okay to have gaps in knowledge. (spoiler alert: you always will.)

Ask forgiveness from yourself most of all.

Until proven otherwise, give people the benefit of the doubt. It takes less out of you than being angry. This can apply to big things and little. (Ex: maybe the person who stole your parking spot doesn’t have as good of health as you.)

Practice giving kindness to others, even if it’s not always given to you. You will appreciate it more when it is.

Admit when you’re uncertain, whether it’s in a friendship, a job, or a class. Most people won’t mind giving clarification.

Accept that hurt will happen in your life. Don’t try to avoid it at the expense of everything else. Embrace it when you can. Learn what you can. Try to make the things around it worthwhile.

Practice being both in and out of your element. Learn to find a balance of each.

We all need help. Always.

I think that, maybe, “home” is held most in memories and things that we’re always one step off of. It’s okay. You’re not the only one ever to feel lost.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On health; pt. ii (aka: the one in which I cry)

[[part i]]

I spent one particularly miserable vacation in Colorado two years ago.

the view from my sick bed
I call it a "vacation," because that's what it was supposed to be, but it really ended up being nothing close. I was intending to have my first experience skiing with a few friends and acquaintances, but wound up getting sick the morning we left. I didn't think too much of it--I hadn't slept well and have always been prone to motion sickness. I figured eating something and time would help, and I'd be fine. (In retrospect, the pretzel I grabbed in the airport probably didn't help. But that was how I operated: I felt sick, I grabbed a starch.) I ended up spending the entire week in bed, generally feeling too weak to move (altitude sickness probably didn't help, though I drank an inordinate amount of water) and forcing down peanut butter crackers and slices of ham through my nauseous lack-of-appetite. 

Between returning home and leaving for my second semester of school, I saw my gastroenterologist (for those of you not down this road: the fancy term for "stomach doctor"). I lamented my trip and she turned to me and said, "I really think you might be gluten intolerant, or have Celiac disease. I think that might be what's been causing all your problems." (okay, so the quote may be inexact, but I kind of have this moment seared onto my brain.) I fought this. It didn't make any sense, and I didn't want it to. If my overly acidic stomach was the problem, I grabbed a starch (often bread or pasta) to help absorb the excess. That helped, I argued. I took a few pills at the end of the day for control. That was it. And since testing wouldn't be covered by insurance (creating a few hundred dollar bill for potentially negative results), she more or less let it slide. I should try eliminating gluten from my diet for two weeks, she said. That would be as good as a diagnosis. I was going back to school the next day, living in a dorm and eating off a meal plan that left me no control as to how my food was prepared. It wouldn't happen.

A year later, my doctor ordered ALCAT testing. With insurance coverage and a few vials of my blood, they searched for things that had been inadvertently poisoning me my entire life. I wasn't hopeful that these tests would lead to any clear results. When I called back in a few weeks time, scheduling an appointment to go over my results, the nurses told me to stay away from a few things in the mean time: oranges, pomegranate, cayenne pepper, sesame seeds. Nothing else that seemed too common. And I sighed. This wasn't the answer. I rarely ate those things. That was that.

When the doctor handed me my testing results in paper form, it painted a different and overwhelming picture. Columns upon columns of things I couldn't eat or should somehow try to limit sorted into jarring red and orange columns. And, at the very bottom corner of the page, so inconspicuous I didn't see until it was pointed out, a severe intolerance to gluten.

And I cried.

My doctor apologized. That wasn't what she intended to do. This was good news!, she assured me. We could start to move forward.

It didn't feel like it. It felt like a crushing step backwards. And I cried some more.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hello, it's quite hot.

What's this? Two photo-laden life-dump posts in a week? This one with even less direction? Well, aren't you lucky.

It has been incredibly hot this summer. Like, dogs-of-hell hot. We've had more 100 degree days than I care to remember with humidity, even higher heat indexes, and one weekend topping out around 108 degrees (42 C). Oy.

There have been a lot of doctors appointments lately (more on that later). A lot of days spent in some kind of haze as the earth bakes. A lot of new and old things, a lot of clay between my fingers. A lot of feeling things change. And a lot of good days, too, to go with the bad. I bought myself some dairy-free ice cream (a new favorite) and gluten free cones on a whim one day...and they made the perfect treat after an almost-flat tire in the rain the day after. 

Our colors have been saturated on the few plants that are left alive and our skies have been wild--a week of sitting clouds providing them both. Days have been lazy and slow, with a sprinkling of hurried panic, to go with them. You can feel it in the air that the summer's winding down (though not before a show of force...there's a lot of heat still yet to come).

Our sunsets, as always, have been more than enough. These summer skies are kind of a favorite of mine, and I just can't get enough. Here's to the days left ahead.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A weekend locally

...aka a very shoddy, rambling recap. Indulge me?
best snoballs this side of the Sabine...a maraschino cherry and passionfruit experiment for me;
cake batter with cream for him

Last weekend (or the weekend before that, depending how you phrase it...oh gosh) my favorite guy came into town for a visit. Even though we're pretty good about keeping our turns making the trips fairly even (we've officially hit a year of long distance...whoo?), this was only the second time he'd been to Houston for a visit. So we still had a lot of places to explore and adventuring to do together. Naturally, a large amount of desserts were involved.
The trip started with me getting sick, in true form. You know that whole coming to terms with my health thing I'm working on? Yea, it's partially things like this. Somehow, we've never had a visit without me getting sick in some capacity? How fun. But, once recovered, we more-officially kicked off the weekend with a trip to the delicious snoball stand nearby (and a flatbread experiment); both to satisfy cravings and because it was ridiculously hot. Like, consistently 100+ degrees (that's around 38 for those of you in Celsius). And because, really, when isn't a snoball good?

note: wine neither provided nor consumed by us
Needless to say, we searched out a lot of indoor activities. The zoo and city's gardens were out, and we hit up the museums last time he was in (when it was too cold to be outside), which meant that Monsters University, Oz: The Great and Powerful, and Hercules were all watched in the luxury of air conditioning instead...along with a couple of hours of American Ninja Warrior and some Parks and Rec. [Sidenote: okay, we love Ninja Warrior. I don't know what it is but we somehow got hooked on it last summer. It's like a playground competition gone way, way rogue, and it's awesomely entertaining. Also, thoroughly enjoyed all the movies...I'm a big Wizard of Oz book + movie fan and loved all the little nods to the book throughout! Okay, moving on!] Aaaaand naturally and necessarily this all was accompanied by making another batch of cookies. No regrets here. I think the second batch in a week is just automatically better. Probably what helped me start feeling less sick, too. ;)

By Saturday, we just kind of had the itch to get out, heat be [reasonably] damned. We ventured over to the River Oaks area of town and sought refuge in a local independent bookstore that turned out to be one of the better places we've ever been (if I may take it upon myself to claim that opinion). It was a small space filled to the brim with new bestsellers, a children's nook, friendly staff, and shelves of old books that just made me want to stay for hours. Seeing old, loved copies of books always reminds me of the tons filed into shelves at grandparent's homes. Plus, there were so many familiar-yet-forgotten titles around (as well as some slightly ridiculous ones). I have my own copy of Little House in the Big Woods that's been worn to shreds from so many rereads in my childhood, and old copies of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I even picked up the exact same version of Mother Goose nursery rhymes for my forthcoming niece or nephew, which made me excited. I'm pretty sure I taught myself how to read on that book! (and yes, I can still find my favorite rhyme in it.)

The bookstore was very important for another reason, too: we happened to stumble in in the midst of a princess party. I'm talking a pink and purple themed book reading with character cutouts, tutu crafting, tiaras for wearing, coloring, pink lemonade, and leotards galore. It was all obviously very serious business, and a lot of fun for the girls involved. (They smartly provided wine for the parents of the littles.)

Our little bookstore also just happened to be less than 5 minutes away from a large chocolate shop...which, in our search for air-conditioned glory seemed too good to pass up (right?). Is there anything better than a chocolate shop? There was a crazy amount of things they had made chocolate in the shape of: greeting cards, dentists kits (including a full set of teeth!), "human bones," even dog-friendly carob bones! We ended up leaving with a peanut butter cup (for him), the biggest dark chocolate turtle I have ever seen, two chocolate covered strawberries, and a treat for the pup, because how could we not?

Down the street, we wandered around the city's Trader Joe's, inspecting their vast and famous offerings. I have to admit, this was at least the third Trader Joe's I've been to, and the first one that didn't drive me mad. There was actually space to move! It wasn't crammed to the rim with people! I could see the produce!! Overall, I'm still pretty content with my other grocery stores, but their store design and packaging was quite entertaining to see.

and the goodbye.
I love our little weekends like this. Simple and too far between, but still nourishing and kind to us and an adventure. Always an adventure.

Houston, thanks for being good to us. Hellish heat not withstanding.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Double Chocolate and Pecan Cookies

[You can read me today over at Les Petites Joies talking about travel and all its ups and downs in a guest post for sweet Haley! Go check it out!]

I think I have a new favorite cookie recipe.

Now, as a lifetime cookie lover, that's a big statement...and one that probably comes with a lot of qualifiers. But nonetheless, we've fallen hard for these cookies at my house. You know that little dance all of us have when we put a particularly good cookie into our mouths? Well, these are definitely cookie dance worthy.

I've been both enamored and fascinated by flourless desserts since my diagnosis. I was drawn to the idea that they just couldn't possibly taste wrong, right? Since they were never intended to have flour in them to begin with, there's not the same risk that can sometimes come with replacing wheat flour with its gluten-free alternatives. You're simply making the recipe as it was intended--no change in texture, no risk in flavors, and less worry about how to make it all stick together.

I first made a version of these cookies back in March. Those ended up being slightly disastrous...tasty, but morphed into one giant thin cookie on the baking sheet. Now tweaked, I'm kind of already looking for an excuse to make these again..

Flourless Double Chocolate and Pecan Cookies
(recipe adapted from picklee)
  • 1 1/2 c bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature   (how to separate an egg)
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • approx. 1/2 c raw pecan pieces
  • approx. 1/3 c dried cherries--optional (or, if you're indecisive like me, make half the batch without cherries and half with!)
Preheat oven to 350. Prep two baking sheets with a thin layer of cooking spray or parchment paper.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips--in the microwave, stop to stir every ~30 seconds, will take 1-2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add half the powdered sugar and beat together. Gradually add the remaining sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. At this point, the mixture will start to get thick and fudgy.

Stir in melted chocolate, remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips, pecans, and dried cherries (if using). The dough will become much thicker. Scoop out approx. 1 T sized cookies onto the baking sheets, leaving room between them. Bake for approx. 10-15 minutes, until the cookies have puffed slightly and the tops have turned slightly glossy and cracked. Note: due to the fudgy nature of these cookies, don't wait until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. It's just not an appropriate gauge here.

Allow cookies to cool. Store in a airtight bag in the fridge--they store easily and well for a week. Makes approx. 20 cookies.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

On health or something like it

[Preface: The topic of health has been rolling around in my mind lately. I've decided to write out my story, as I can see how much it's affected my mindset both since my gluten intolerance diagnosis and before. Maybe it can help someone else. Or maybe it can just help me. Either way, this will (hopefully continue to) be a little multi-part series.]

What's this? An actual serious, reflective, relevant text post? What a crazy world we live in.

I realized the other day that I can distinctly remember 8 different doctors and specialists I've seen in my ~13 years of illness (though I've long lost track of the actual accurate number). And I realized that, you know, that's pretty unusual for someone who's barely grazed her 20s. And maybe something to be reflected on.

So here we are. My story.

lots of doctors = lots of waiting rooms

It's a strange thing to wrap your head around the fact that you've been sick for more of your life than not. When you're living it, it's hard to imagine things being any other way. You don't always seem "sick". Yes, most 6th graders weren't taking 6 medications per day. Yes, most kids at the birthday party could eat the cake regardless of when it was served. Yes, most people weren't regularly seeing at least 3 doctors at a time before graduating high school.
But it was all I knew.

In 2nd grade, I first started getting sick each day after lunch--debilitating stomach pains that would send me to the nurse to lay down an hour after lunch. (I spent enough time in there that I even read the entirety of the nurse's copy of The Secret Garden in 30 minute increments.) Eventually, I was marathoned between doctors. My mom and I would be sent from specialist to specialist, testing this theory and that with different ultrasounds and scans and whatever probe they thought might explain my symptoms next when the previous one failed to provide any clarity. I don't remember most of them--just the ultrasound of my spleen they let me keep, a doctor in the children's hospital who gave me a coupon for a free ice cream cone, and the final test that brought a "diagnosis." They told me I had the same thing that had caused my grandfather's stomach and esophageal cancer a year before--and that would go on to kill him in 3 more--and presented me with a list of rules for managing it. It was a late guess for 7-year-old. It wasn't a young person's disease.

We'll call this retelling a form of self-therapy after the weight that would bring with it, shall we?

I learned how to take the pills that would rescue me whenever I felt sick without water. (I swear in the coming years we could buy enough to single-handedly keep Pepcid A/C and other pharmaceuticals afloat.) Then in 5th grade, the same year my grandfather died, I developed a pervasive, hacking, breath-stealing cough. A new specialist I resented having to see and several tests later, it was connected back to the same thing. My stomach. Newly asthmatic--or more accurately, a diagnosis of "reactive airway disease." A sudden barrage of daily medications and a doctor's note not to run in gym, and supposedly that was that. Supposedly it would be controlled. Supposedly we could eventually wean me off them all.

My body grew accustomed to the medications every few months in the coming years and they had to be cycled out. It makes sense in retrospect that the medications would stop helping, as they were simply acting as a band-aid on an undetected festering wound, but at the time it was frustrating and disparaging. And every time the doctors tried to reduce the number of pills I was taking, all of my symptoms would re-sprout. I'd end up feeling poorly enough that I'd ask for the medications back. They were my comrades in arms.
Through this all, I was aware of the fact that my grandfather hadn't had problems until he was in his 50s, and the cumulative wear still caused his death. So then, what did 50 years mean for me, at 11 and 12 and 13 with my first endoscopies already taking place?

Primarily it served to form two expectations as a sort of mantra in my mind:

My stomach would always be a problem, and probably my undoing.

And as far as my health went, there would always be something else.

I would probably always be sick.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Lately, there has been sunshine. A lot of sunshine. The breed of sunshine that I think only those of us along the Gulf Coast really get.

At a certain point, the grass isn't greener, only a few hardy flowers still bloom, and the summer's fruits start to shrivel up on their vines. 
But it brings big, late sunsets, and lots and lots of light.

We bring our exploits inside. 

I've been picking up a new book lately (in place of studying for the GRE), and piecing together the bits of a blanket my first niece or nephew will be wrapped up in come winter. 

I've taken to eating my breakfast cool, but hearty. With as little prep time spent in the kitchen as possible. Without a strict recipe, and without a penchant for oatmeal. With all the ease that a summer morning needs.

Overnight Raw Oatmeal: Muesli

Let me start by saying this is the least strict recipe you will ever encounter. Want to make it vegan? Skip the honey for agave nectar. Or maybe you'd prefer vanilla extract to cinnamon? Dried fruit to fresh? Sounds great to me. Like it thicker or thinner in consistency? Change your milk content. I'm personally looking forward to trying pumpkin seeds in place of nuts this fall. The base is incredibly versatile. Maybe that's why, though I've never liked oatmeal even the slightest bit, I still thoroughly enjoy this. It takes almost no time to prepare, is easy to transport when prepared in a cup or mason jar, and will have you out the door quickly in the morning (but still satisfied come lunchtime). Here's how I like it best (note that all measurements are approximate):
  •  1/2 c gluten-free rolled oats, heaping (I use Bob's Red Mill Old Fashioned)
  • slightly less than 1/2 c vanilla almond milk, or your favorite milk/milk alternative
  • approx. 1/4 tsp chia seeds (optional, but good)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • approx. 1/4 c pecan pieces, or one large handful
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • mixed fresh berries
Combine oats and milk alternative in a bowl, glass, or jar with honey and sprinkle with chia seeds. Refrigerate overnight. Note: I like mine pretty thick. If you'd like a more traditional oatmeal texture, keep your oat:milk ratio closer to 1:1. Play with it a bit to figure out what you like!

In the morning, add pecan pieces, cinnamon, and a handful of fresh berries. Mix together, and you are set!
Do you have a favorite combination I should try?

(all photos, except that of the muesli, were taken and edited with my iPhone)

Monday, June 17, 2013

As much for me as you.

I want to tell you something that may not have been said:

Thank you. And congrats.

For all those small moments that you surmounted to do those things, maybe out of character or of a bigger battle, but without any flash or bang.

Thank you for taking care of yourself. And congratulations on that, too.
        (I know first-hand how difficult this can be. It's not selfish to sometimes just put yourself first. Or maybe it is, and that's more than okay.)

Congratulations on choosing to come home, when your bones have always pushed you away.
Congratulations on moving out of the state where you spent your whole life, on little more than some crossed fingers and tied shoelaces.
Congratulations for booking that plane ticket even while your heart raced and your knees shook and your mind told you that it didn't make any sense.
Congratulations on fighting for it. Whatever your "it" is.

        You are amazing.

If anyone hasn't told you lately that these little-big things are amazing: know that they are.

        Please, be proud.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Summer Sweet

With the beginning of summer comes cherries.

Fresh cherries are such a treat in both taste and substance. Besides being rich in lots of vitamins and minerals, cherries are also high in antioxidants and are one of the few food sources of melatonin, which helps to regulate your sleep cycle. If you've never had a handful of fresh, pitted, sweet-fleshed Bing cherries in the summertime heat, your taste buds (and your body) are simply are missing out. They are easily one of my favorite fresh treats alone.

...but a little indulgence never hurts, right? With a bag of fresh cherries sitting in my fridge, at risk of going bad before they could all be consumed, I decided to shake them up just a little. Chocolate and cherries are such a classic combination, but the chocolate-covered maraschino cherries with the syrup or creme are just too unnatural and overly sweet for me. So I decided to throw together a more natural, but delicious, rendition of those. Inspired by a chocolate bar I enjoy, I added almond for a little bit of an earthy touch that pairs nicely with the slight tartness of the cherries, but avoids the slight aftertaste that almond extracts can offer.

Chocolate Covered Cherries
(note: these proportions will gives you a large amount of chocolate--enough for an entire bag of cherries. if you're don't need that much, I suggest making about a third of these measurements. I overestimated and ended up having about half my chocolate left over!)
  •  1.5 c semi-sweet chocolate chips* (if you'd like the recipe to be 100% dairy free, just substitute your favorite dairy-free chocolate option)
  • large spoonful of coconut oil
  • 3 T almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • whole fresh Bing cherries, or your other favorite red variety, washed and dried

Prepare a flat, moveable surface (i.e.: cookie sheet, large tupperware, baking pan) for the cherries by lining it with wax paper. Begin melting chocolate chips in a small pot over very low heat. Mix in coconut oil, then almond butter as the chocolate melts further, making sure to stir and scrape down the sides continuously to avoid burning the chocolate. Add vanilla and stir.  

Remove chocolate from heat. Dip cherries individually into chocolate mixture (stemmed cherries work best here), swinging them or using a spoon to coat all sides. Stir chocolate occasionally between cherries to maintain texture. Placed finished sheet of cherries in the fridge. Once the chocolate has hardened, they can be transferred to a smaller container for storage. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.*

HEAD'S UP: fresh cherries contain pits which, while easy to eat around, you should be cautious of when biting.

*if you'd like your chocolate coating to remain completely solid at room temperature, you could use chocolate candy coating instead of chocolate chips. you could also probably skip or reduce the coconut oil if you go this route. but I personally like popping them straight out of the fridge and into my mouth (and prefer the taste of melted chocolate)! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Loving Lately

The past few days have been a little mentally rough, so I figured as a little communal pick-me-up, I'd share some of the things I've been enjoying lately...as brought to you by pictures from my phone! (If you follow along on Instagram, you've probably seen most of these already...just consider that a sneak peek!)

1.) These summer sunsets. Maybe I'm biased, but I honestly don't think there are many things as beautiful as summer sunsets in the south. There's just something different about how big the sky looks, how golden the light turns, and how the world tries to make up for putting us through the southern summer days (thanks for your help, A/C!). Some kind of peace, and some kind of wonderful.

2.) To go along with that, the jasmine's in bloom! I adore the smell of jasmine more than just about anything else. We have an explosion of vines in the garden by our front window, and on summer evenings and summer mornings when the air has turned a bit heavy with the night, the scent completely envelopes our front entry. Aaand this year it's a little extra special because it reminds me of nights last spring and summer when my boyfriend and I had just started dating and spent a lot of time driving, wandering around parking lots, and walking near his place...all of which featured this lovely scent of jasmine. We're both pretty enamored with it now. I may not know where I'll be living in 5 (or 10, or 20) years, but I do sure hope there's always jasmine.

3.) This shirt! Besides the fact that its message rocks, this shirt is also incredibly soft, comfortable, and looks great with anything...a combination that leaves me wanting to wear it just about all the time.

Along with that, I've been making my way through this book (warning: title is NSFW, though I promise it is explained) for a while now, taking lots of time to stop and absorb everything along the way, and I am reveling in it. I love me a sassy author! Though I was initially wary of it, especially as my first serious foray into women's studies literature, I would definitely recommend it if you're looking for an interesting read. Of course, the level to which every person agrees or relates to a specific author's take will always vary, and there are some things I don't 110% agree with throughout the book but I find it to be, on the whole, both grounded and revolutionary. And then there are plenty of parts that I just want to shout out into the faces of the people around me (though I'm sure that wouldn't be completely welcome). Like her chapter on rape culture? I want everyone to read the book just for that. Here's just an example of some of the many (many) quotes I have underlined from this book:
"I learned that the fight for human rights does not take place on some bureaucratic battleground with a bevy of lawyers...The real fight for human rights is inside each and every individual on this earth. [...] Loving, knowing and respecting our bodies is a powerful and invincible act of rebellion in this society...There is bliss, but no freedom, in ignorance."
I love it. But okay, I'm rambling. Moving on!

4.) I am a tea drinker. I've somehow made it through 3 years of college without learning to drink coffee (at all), and I never developed a soda-drinking habit. So, generally, the only caffeine I have around my apartment (besides a bevy of chocolate) is a box or two of black tea nestled in among my favorite herbal varieties. Lately I have become relatively addicted to this tea (delicious on its own), sweetened to taste and brewed with a bit of cinnamon, a generous splash of vanilla almond milk, and a spoonful of coconut oil mixed in. I swear, this is big news.

5.) Spending time with sunshine, fresh berries, and a guy I kind of enjoy.

6.) I've been predominantly using these products as face-care for a little while now, and I swear my skin has never felt better. Whole Foods' 365 brand Facial Cleanser, coconut oil (I picked up a jar of Spectrum's Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil at my local Kroger in the natural foods section...bonus for the fact that it's great to cook with, too!), vitamin E (I found the little jar pictured for about $4 at Whole Foods!), and the occasional Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelette when I'm running short on time or need extra make-up removing power. I like to keep part of my coconut oil in a small bowl in whipped form with some of the vitamin E oil mixed in.

7.) And, certainly not to be forgotten...chocolate. After finding some passion fruit I finally got to try this recipe for passion fruit chocolate truffles and they. are. delicious. [Pro tip: when trying to photograph chocolate in the best light (that happens to be on the floor) with a curious pup around, set up everything except the chocolate, throw him a treat for distraction, and then quickly get to work!]

8.) I've been watching (and have forced/convinced my boyfriend into watching) Hannibal. I know it sounds completely morbid and generally not-up-my-alley, but I kind of love it? It's by Bryan Fuller, who is also responsible for my all-time favorite show, Pushing Daisies. Now it's obviously in a very different style than that, but the show is incredibly well done and visually stunning. And just generally interesting? Anyway. I promise I'm not as crazy as I sound. I've also been thoroughly enjoying NPR's First Listen to Laura Marling's newest album, due out next week. I adore Laura Marling and her music continues to surprise and astound me (she's only 23 and has 4 good albums?!? what am I doing with my life??), so this has been something to revel in. Otherwise, this song and this song have been getting me in the summer mood...they're ridiculously catchy.

If you've made it all the way through this giant ramble (with way too many links and asides), congratulations/thank you! I hope you all have a wonderful, long, and beautiful Memorial Day weekend and that summer's finding you wherever you are.

(p.s. if it's okay with y'all, I may start sharing a few more "life" posts here, along with the occasional recipe or suggestion...my journey to health, personal happenings, whatever. do you have any suggestions as to what you'd like to see? please do let me know!)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Way to Spend a Morning

Do not sleep. Walk into a living room bathed in cloud-filtered light at 6:33 am, and wait 2 hours for sleep or the sunrise. Realize it will be a gray day.

Fall asleep. Eat a breakfast that will help your body forget. Burrow into bed and watch an episode of New Girl, and pretend you don't have to face the day for at least a little while longer. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sipping Spring

Last week, everything was gray.

All the news stations told us we were having a dry year. Then, on Easter, the rains came through and sat around for a few days, dropping temperatures intermittently. While the days were cooler than the end of winter, I decided to mix up something decisively befitting warm weather.

I first discovered blood oranges two years ago while studying abroad in Italy during the summer. The hotel we were staying at served a deliciously tangy-sweet, curiously colored juice every morning with breakfast. It took us two weeks (and our professor's rough translating) for us to figure out what it was: blood orange juice. I had never had anything that tasted quite like it and was immediately enamoured (surprising for someone who never liked orange juice).

After failing at tracking down blood orange juice consistently in the U.S. and then cutting oranges out of my diet, I started noticing these beauties being stocked around the supermarkets this spring. After deciding that a few each year won't hurt me (and as they don't seem to bother me as much as my normal orange intolerance does), I've been incorporating them into everything I can think of until they go out of season.

Blood orange lemonade seemed the perfect drink for both spring and an introduction to the summer that nips at its heels: unusual yet classic; easy to mix up; invigorating and refreshing. Plus, the drink that results is a fun grapefruit-pink that I think would make a perfect addition to the showers, barbeques, and crawfish boils this time of year brings.

Blood Orange Lemonade
  • 5 large lemons
  • 3 blood oranges
  • approx. 1 c sugar
  • approx. 2 quarts water
Roll the lemons firmly between your palm and a countertop (or other hard surface) to help soften them and allow for easier juicing. Juice lemons and blood oranges, straining out seeds and pulp as necessary or desired. Add the juice to a large pitcher with 1 cup sugar and 2 quarts water (I prefer the water to be lukewarm so the sugar dissolves easily). Depending on the amount of juice your fruit produces and your personal preferences, you may want slightly more or less water and sugar, so feel free to taste as you go. Stir well, and enjoy!

 I hope it's spring where you are.

Monday, April 1, 2013

On Chocolate and Being Good Enough

This post has been churning in my head for a while, though it's not one of those things we seem to talk about.

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of being "good enough."

I know it's a nearly universal truth that we're harder on ourselves than anyone else is on us. We disappoint ourselves more easily (maybe daily), and struggle to accept a compliment. And more than just a "thank you": a genuine, sincere understanding and pride in the good parts of ourselves. We compare ourselves to people that we have no chance of being; who don't actually exist. We don't write as well as one person, our art is lacking when compared to anothers, someone else still has a better resume or a higher measure of success. The fact that all of these superior traits aren't present in one singular other person (but rather a super human amalgam) sometimes make that big of impact on how you feel.

And the weirdest thing? Compliments coming from people we know seem to mean less than they could otherwise. You know what I mean: the "oh, but you have to say that!" response. But I've decided this is absurd. The people who know us probably have the best frame of reference for measuring our growth. So what if our best painting, or best grade, or best plan is someone else's just okay? My boyfriend noted recently that it seems, to him, like men aren't expected to try whereas women are expected to always be striving. Maybe that's true in some ways. Maybe that changes my frame of reference any more. But, you know, I'm starting to think (or maybe still trying to convince myself) that it's okay if my great isn't exceptional. Because it's still pretty damn outstanding for any person to have their own growth. Right? I think that's how our world can reach new levels, too: each person constantly reaching their own new personal level of great; whether for that week, that year, or that lifetime.

In the spirit of this, here's some of the things I've been cooking lately. Not too original on my part, but new. Because today (headachey, humid, sleep deprived today) I may not be great by any measure except this week's or the past few, but that's good enough. Really.

(It helps when that involves chocolate, too.)

In my family, we bond with food. My dad's family is pure Cajun, so this comes pretty naturally. Like, have lived on the bayou in South Louisiana for 200 years Cajun. I never learned to like much of the traditional feast, but we still had our own things that I'd been missing since my diagnosis a year ago(!). One: frozen Swiss Rolls. I don't know why, but my father always freezes them. I swear they just taste better that way.

When I stumbled across Smitten Kitchen's recipe for a flourless chocolate cake roll, I thought it might make a perfect substitute. I followed her recipe with a few small adjustments: instead of one large roll, I cut the cake into 4 pieces (cutting up its longest side; you could easily make a larger number of smaller rolls), and I covered the resulting rolls in chocolate candy coating.

I won't lie, there were several points in which this more or less resulted in a giant mess, and half of the resulting rolls were nowhere close to photo-worthy. However, if you put the cakes into the freezer wrapped up in wax paper (like shown above, right) for 10-15 minutes before attempting to apply the candy coating, the whipped cream is less prone to melting out and oozing into a giant, messy, chocolate swirled puddle (oops). After you've coated the cakes and let them sit on a wire rack for a few minutes to begin hardening (put some wax paper underneath the rack to catch the drips), rolls them back up in some wax paper and store them in an airtight container. Stored in the freezer, the whipped cream holds up nicely and we had no problem with ours even after 2 weeks. Just them thaw a few minutes before eating to avoid bending any fork tines (again, oops).

Our second bonding food? Fried bread dough. Sunday mornings I would beg my dad to try up strips of frozen bread dough left out to defrost the night before. Those were the best breakfasts. (Did any of you do this? I've yet to meet anyone aside from my dad's family who's ever heard of this, much less experienced it.)

We've been trying to recreate these experiences for the past year with varying degrees of failure. Today I tried out these gluten free Nutella do-nuts and I might have finally found the trick. I replaced the ricotta cheese in the recipe with Greek yogurt (and the vanilla with molasses since we were out...) and it resulted in a pleasantly tart-yet-sweet dough that puffed up nicely when fried. Seriously, whip these up for a weekend treat the next time you have a bit of time (and don't mind a messy kitchen too much, if you cook like me). These were far from the prettiest thing I've ever made and required some extra flour mixed in to hold together well, but without the piped Nutella center or the glaze I added (both of which were delicious in their own right), I might have finally found a substitute.

At the very least, they're good enough.

(P.S. Feel free to leave any thoughts you may have on things like this. I'd be more than happy to hear them.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Food Diary: Greek Yogurt Four Ways

Well, hello. It's been a while.

Things have been a little atypical lately. I'm still figuring out how to get into the swing of things, and what exactly I want "normal" to be. And that includes this space. You know how sometimes life just goes absolutely nothing like you had planned or imagined? Yea, that's how things have been here lately. But I'm trying to learn that that's okay. That sometimes we just accept things as they come, regardless of how we meant them to be. That that's its own kind of strength.

I'll admit that I'm fully lacking on the "recipe" front here. So we'll just consider this post a food diary of sorts instead, okay?

Lately I've been on a Greek yogurt kick. I've realized I do this a lot: forget how much I like something and then once I rediscover it, indulge consistently for a week or two straight. This applies to food, TV shows, mediocre crafts, etc. I like to think I'm not the only one who does this (and if I am, don't tell me.) But Greek yogurt's not such a bad thing to binge on: high in protein, relatively calcium-rich (but lower in lactose and whey than traditional yogurts for the intolerant among us), and low in sugars (before you douse it in honey, anyway). Plus, the options for enjoying it are almost limitless. Here's some of the ways I've been indulging lately:

excuse the less-than-spectacular iPhone photos
1) The traditional: honey, gluten free granola*, and a handful of fresh strawberries.

2) Some Justin's chocolate hazelnut butter, lots of strawberries, and a bit of granola for crunch and honey for sweetness. (Justin's is not an equivalent of Nutella...it's dairy free and not nearly so sweetened--more in the style of a normal nut butter--so the honey helps combat Greek yogurt's natural tartness...though I'm sure some Nutella could be delicious, too.)

3) Stirred in with a spoonful of peanut butter, lots of honey, some dark chocolate chips, and raspberries. So filling I could burst.

4) I made blood orange infused agave nectar by adding agave nectar, some water, and a crushed blood orange (with its juice) into a small pot and allowing it to simmer, then straining it. I topped it with some granola and fresh berries and let me just say it. was. awesome. (I'm a sucker for blood oranges...don't tell my doctor.)

*Though oats are technically gluten free, they are often processed with wheat, making them unsafe for those with gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Make sure you check for oats/granola that are certified gluten free! I've been using KIND's dark chocolate & cranberry.

P.S. Bear with me as I try to figure out this space and hopefully I'll be around again soon. 
P.P.S. Is there anything in particular you'd like to see from me? Let me know!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sweet, Sweet Hope

I recently came into a fortune.

This particular fortune happened to come in the form of chocolate cake. Which, you know, is a pretty good kind of fortune if you ask me.

You see, about 2 weeks ago, I landed in London, hauled a 60 pound suitcase onto a train, and headed for Wales where I should be spending the semester. Yes, that's right, I am now writing this from a different country, approximately four and a half thousand miles away from home (oy). Upon arriving, I promptly got sick and spent over a week in bed.

During that time, I had little appetite, and what I did have to eat was a hassle to find. I tried catching a bus into to the city center one day when I thought I was feeling up to it (I wasn't) to hunt the larger supermarket for its reported gluten free goods selection, and I ended up stumbling away with a measly pack of bread and pasta. Now, don't get me wrong, those two things were instrumental in getting me back on my feet after a week of a baby stomach virus, but it wasn't exactly an encouraging outlook for the next 5 months. Where was my selection?? Where was my flour and cereal and cookies and, gosh dang it, where was my frozen pizza?!? Was I going to have to go this entire period attempting to create things I really didn't have time or talent for?

It was a rather stressful thought.

I returned to the store a few days ago with a bit more energy to actually hunt things down. Lo and behold, they actually do have more than bread and pasta. Now, we're certainly not talking U.S. variety where I know what to look for and what I like (the stores just aren't the same size), but it has improved upon the original outlook. Flours and allergen-friendly pancakes and snacks could be found. There wasn't much cereal, but there was dairy free yogurt and granola bars and marinades. And what was the shining token of this; a signal it might be alright (at least when it comes to eating)?

A gluten free chocolate sponge cake, sitting buried on a lower shelf.

Ah, heaven.
(I'm still looking for you, frozen pizza.)

I've been doing my best to enjoy this sweet treat while I have it around and before I eat enough to feel guilty. Last night I whipped up a simple sauce using what I had in my fridge, mostly out of curiosity, to accompany a slice of it. Simple, sweet, and with the tiniest dash of non-traditional twist. It certainly made my mouth happy. (Bear with me, I guesstimated in all the measurements. I wasn't prepared for sharing, y'all. It's impulse!) I hope you'll enjoy it, too.

Raspberry Dessert Sauce with Cherry Coke

 This makes approximately the amount shown above. It can easily be increased to make more.
  • water
  • 1/4 - 1/2 c fresh raspberries (if frozen, defrosted and drained--I used 2 small-to-medium sized handfuls of fresh berries)
  • 1-2 T sugar, to taste (agave nectar would also work well)
  • approx. 1 T Cherry Coke (or Cherry Dr. Pepper, etc.)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp lemon juice, to taste
Put approximately 1/2 inch of water in a small saucepan. Mash the raspberries with a spoon or fork (or pulse them in a blender, if you've got one and don't mind the extra cleanup). Add raspberries, 1 T of sugar, and cherry coke to the water. Bring to a simmer or low boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. As the mixture heats, continue to mash the raspberries into smaller pieces (this will get easier) and make sure none stick to the bottom. When the consistency begins to approach your desired thickness, taste and add additional sugar and lemon juice as desired. I probably went with 2 T sugar and 3/4 tsp lemon juice overall. Stir frequently as the sauce thickens to prevent burning. Remove from heat (remember it will get just a bit thicker as it's cooling--if you allow a little too much water to boil off and it becomes too thick, simply mix water back in a spoonful at a time). Serve with cakes, brownies, ice cream, or just a spoon. It's okay. Nobody's judging.

P.S. I added fancy new buttons to the side of my blog, so feel free to follow along elsewhere if you aren't already!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Liebster Awards

I've never been one of those people who has a lot of friends.
I don't mean that as an inherently bad thing or a source of pity, it's just a fact. I simply build relationships with people slowly. I like them to be genuine.
However, the friends that I do have and keep have always been pretty fantastic people.

One of the very first people I met upon going to college (actually, possibly the first, after my roommate) was Haley. She is fantastic. You know those people who just make you feel a bit better inside by simply being around them? Yea, she's one of those. Anyway, Haley was important to me because she helped support my adjustment to college life and exploring and trying new things, never making me feel out of place for being the sometimes-awkward freshman, and she continues to be someone that I'm grateful for and enjoy having in my life. (Sorry to sort of wax poetic in a blog post, Haley!)

Among the good things that Haley helped introduce to me was her then-roommate and best friend Caroline, who is doing some pretty cool things (no, but seriously, how great is that?!). Caroline is always incredibly enjoyable to be around as well, and these ladies have been some pretty joyous company and wonderfully inclusive in things like their Galentine's Day party and Haley's wedding (if you only look at one beautiful thing today, make it that one).

This is basically a very long introduction to the fact that Caroline of the fantastic The Old Country Blog, featuring lots of wonderful regional and cultural recipes and tales, has kindly tagged me for a Liebester Award (thanks, Caroline!)...which basically means you get to know a bit more about me. (As the description puts it: "The Liebster Award is for blogs that have 200 followers or less. The word "Liebster" is German for kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, valued, cute, pleasant, endearing and welcome. It's a great opportunity to meet other bloggers and gain more followers.")

How to play along!
  1. Post 11 things about yourself.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger created for you.
  3. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag with the award.
  4. Choose 11 bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to tag. 

Random facts about me:
  1. I am majoring in International Studies and minoring in French and Photography, but I came into college completely undeclared.
  2. I may have a horse named after me in Greece; specifically on the island of Crete. (I studied abroad in Greece and Italy following my freshman year.)
  3. I get pretty motion sick, which is fun for someone who wants to travel. I often get off a plane wanting to never step on one again (while knowing that's completely unrealistic). However, I still love the way things look out of airplane windows.
  4. I've been at least moderately interested in photography since about 5th grade, when I discovered an old Polaroid camera in my grandparent's house.
  5. While I'm not very big on the beach-going experience, I love the ocean.
  6. I prefer milk chocolate to dark.
  7. I'm a little bit addicted to tea. Hot, iced, black, herbal, white, whatever. I probably love it and own a box of something similar to it. I did an inventory this fall and I think I had around 20 types (ahem). The only exception would be mint teas, but I'll still drink them. My all time favorite is probably Tazo's Passion tea, but there are some pretty close competitors.
  8. I have an almost-9-year-old miniature schnauzer  named Blitz(krieg). He usually actively avoids cameras. He's also not very miniature, acts like a permanent puppy, and has a hair that sometimes tucks in such a way that it gives him what we call an "Elvis lip".
  9. I've never liked cheese or milk. I know, I know, this is sacrilege for many people. I just never learned to even moderately enjoy them.
  10. Even though I hate it and usually put it off until the last minute (or maybe because of that), I'm incredibly good at packing. I once fit all of the clothes I owned into one suitcase.
  11. I grew up in a city with a larger population than the state I currently live/go to school in. 
 Caroline's questions:
  1. Book you have read more than once? The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. It's probably my favorite book, and it's what I recommend anytime someone asks me for suggestions. It's just one of those books that I feel like everyone should read at least once in their life.
  2. If you could life anywhere for one year, where would you live? Well, considering I'm leaving in 8 days (when did that happen?!!) for a semester in Wales, I'm going to cheat and expand this by saying the UK. Alternatively, I'd like to try out the Pacific Northwest (so beautiful!), or I think it'd be great to live someplace that you could easily reach a lot of other places from.
  3. Some solid advice you've been given? My first year away from home, my dad kept telling me, "If it's not one thing, it's the other." It was meant as a response to the fact that there was always something hectic going on, but I've also taken it to be a comfort in the permission to let that happen. That it's not something to waste time worrying about. Otherwise, it'd simply be the habits I picked up from my mom: read a lot, ask questions when you wonder, and if you don't know the answer look it up.
  4. Favorite ice cream flavor? I can't really have ice cream anymore, but definitely Bluebell Dutch Chocolate. So simple, so good.
  5. TV show you have watched every episode of twice? That 70's Show. Or Scrubs. But if you haven't seen That 70's Show and spend an extended amount of time around me, you will end up with multiple references.
  6. What song gets you pumped up? She's Got You High by Mumm-ra. I don't listen to it that often otherwise, but it's just really, really fun.
  7. Cats or dogs? Dogs! How can you resist these faces??
  8. If you could befriend a fictional character, who would it be? I honestly have no idea. But it might be entertaining to tag along with the How I Met Your Mother gang.
  9. Ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Who?! Alas, I have not.
  10. Why did you decide to blog? I'm not 100% sure. I think it was a good way to chronicle the things going on in a constantly transitory period of my life and the running narrative my brain kept going. It was suggested by my boyfriend after a couple of particularly crafty and successful culinary weeks, something along the lines of "your life has become like a blog!" and I eventually decided to try it out.
  11. What was your New Year's resolution? I talked about this here. :)
 My questions:
I honestly don't have 11 untagged people I follow to choose to play along, but I would love to hear from anyone, blog or no blog, on any of the following questions! So, I guess that means I nominate you all!
  1. Favorite place you've ever been?
  2. What's something that you do to treat yourself?
  3. The best thing that's happened to you today?
  4. What's the last good thing (movie, show, etc.) you watched?
  5. If you could only have one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? One dessert?
  6. What's something you're proud of?
  7. Have you ever flown overseas?
  8. What's one thing you hope to get accomplished this year?
  9. Go-to Starbucks/coffee shop drink?
  10. Favorite type of cookie?
  11. What is one thing that you've learned about life?
Rules for Nominees:
1.  List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4.  Choose 11 bloggers with < 200 followers to nominate.
5. Go to each page and let them know about the award.
6. Thank the sweet blogger who nominated you!  

Monday, January 7, 2013


I apologize in advance to anyone trying to be healthy this new year. This post will do nothing to help you out.

If you need to leave, I understand.

We have been spoiling ourselves when it comes to food. Pretty majorly, in fact. It started with a bacon chocolate chip pancake (do yourself the favor of having one) and expanded from there.
Specifically to filets twice in one week and what may be the most delicious chocolate dessert I've ever had, much less made. Oops?

round 2 of steaks, featuring Safeway cuts...we made do.
round 1 featuring Whole Foods cuts (definitely superior) didn't get photographed because we were too busy stuffing our faces.
First, the steaks. I love a good steak more than most things on earth, but every time the two of us tried to make one ourselves...well, the results were lackluster. The change? This guide. Seriously, it's incredibly simple yet decisively great. The results are definitely worth more than the effort you put into it. And, the butter they suggest you make (the part that took the most time) lasted us through both rounds of steaks. That's pretty good return if you ask me.

Also, when you're making the butter, you're going to be terrified by the amount of garlic you're putting into it. Don't be afraid. Or, be afraid but go with it anyway. Trust me. We replaced the thyme with rosemary (I can't have thyme) but otherwise followed it more or less to a T. The lemon is heavenly.

my stomach is growling.
Um, yea. I could eat these every night. One food on a desert island? These steaks. Unless that food category included desserts, in which case I would have a hard time deciding between that and this cake. But seriously, guys, try the steaks.

The dessert round of spoiling ourselves was basically 2 boxes of semisweet chocolate. My favorite way to go.

pre-mixing // pre-freeze
After becoming enamoured with P.F. Chang's gluten free Flourless Chocolate Dome and this brand's gluten free chocolate tart that I picked up from my local Whole Foods, I ventured to make one myself. One afternoon, I bought everything I needed, chopped a lot, and made this. It's basically melted chocolate and eggs with melted chocolate on top. I melted mine in the microwave as I lack a double boiler, which worked out fine stopping and stirring every 30 seconds. It won't take long.

out of the freezer and on with the glaze
The reviews will tell you to skip the glaze. Don't. You certainly don't need it as the cake itself is satisfying, but you want the glaze. I essentially followed the recipe with a few exceptions: I added a little less than a teaspoon of cinnamon to the glaze and have found it absolutely perfect. And that part where it suggests refrigerating for 6 hours? Yea, I did not have the patience for that. Instead, I stuck it in the freezer for an hour or two (during which time we prepared and ate the steaks) until it was cooled completely, and then re-froze it for about 15 minutes to let the glaze set. It's been living in the fridge since, calling out every time someone opens the door.

this is totally appropriate for any meal of the day, yes?
If you have the willpower to honestly not want any of that, you are a stronger person than me. I'm thinking of skipping the traditional cake at my wedding if I ever get married and instead just displaying tiers of these on pie stands, later claiming them all for myself. Or maybe I'll just get married to the cake. We've eaten it with strawberries (because that makes it healthy to consume 3 days in a row, right?) and even snuck it into a movie theater, complete with silverware, to join in watching Silver Linings Playbook over the weekend. Yea, I'm pretty much in love.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have one last chocolate chip pancake calling my name...

(p.s. I'm now on instagram!)