Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Things

1)     What’s a sign that you’ve gone a bit overboard with Christmas decorating? If it’s getting tinsel in your laundry and glitter in your coffee cup, I’ve hit that point. And I love it.

2)     I even got my Martha on and made a wreath (albeit with a lot of help from a seasoned veteran)! The theme: Christmas baked goods! There’s a little mixer, cookie cutters, and even a cupcake on it! I’m in love…with a Christmas decoration…this is my life…

3)     I consider it a major win that I was able to make my (absolute, without a doubt) favorite salted caramel sauce without a candy thermometer. And oddly enough, it’s the best batch I’ve ever made. There was no seizing, no crystallizing. It was pure magic. I’ve taken to eating a spoonful of it after dinner every night.

4)     I’m trying to figure out a way to drink coffee in the shower. Like, full on take my steamin’ cup of joe in there with me. But, avoid getting body wash into it. Or dropping it. While simultaneously washing my hair. Thoughts?

5)     Why can I never rip parchment paper evenly? Why?! Or plastic wrap? Or waxed paper? Or aluminum foil? I think there’s some kind of conspiracy going on because those little metal ridges never seem to be sharp enough to cut through PAPER but my fingers? Piece of cake! Practically slice them clean off. Ugh.

6)     So, there was this little thing called the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show. Yeah. Went there. Did that. To say it was amazing is an understatement. I tweeted a few pictures about it but you can see more here!

6.5)  While I'm shamelessly plugging my student publication take a gander at how I make pulled pork

7)     By now we should all know that there’s going to be a BMW (that’s Boy Meets World for those who aren’t in the know (and frankly, how is that even possible at this point)) reboot!!!! Cory and Topanga are coming back to the small screen for Girl Meets World. I, for one, couldn’t be happier. There’s one hitch to this though, Rider Strong (that’s Shawn Hunter, guys. C’mon!) isn’t signed on to appear. NO. This cannot happen. This needs to be fixed.

8)     I wanted to put in a snappy quote from this week’s episode of The Mindy Project. But, the show is just so.darn.good. I couldn’t pick just one! That show is absolutely hilarious and if you’re not watching it what are you doing with your life?!

9)     Gigantic doughnuts, preferably flavored like Boston Cream Pie or Tiramisu, are necessary road trip fuel.

10)   My affection for doughnuts is really getting out of hand, but with creations like these (!) or these (!!) or this (!!!) how can I not? 

11)   The only thing rivaling my doughnut obsession is my Christmas music compulsion. It has become the soundtrack to my life. I workout to it, bake to it, clean to it, study to it. 

12)   Just kidding about that last one, I don't study.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pecan Shortbread Crusted Browned Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I’m doing it. I’m getting one more pumpkin recipe in before it’s officially December, and therefore, officially wintertime.

I don’t know why there’s some kind of weird cultural taboo on pumpkin desserts after Thanksgiving, but I’m totally against it. I barely bake enough with pumpkin during autumn, to heck if I’m going to miss prime opportunities for treats that are warm and spicy and flavored with pumpkin.

I made these cupcakes a little more acceptable for this time of year. The “not quite winter but no longer fall” time. The “do I get a pumpkin spice or gingerbread latte?” time. The “my hands are too cold without gloves but too sweaty with them” time. You guys know what I’m talking about right? Anyone? Anyone? (“Bueller? Bueller?”)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fried Egg and Warm Kale Salad

Thanksgiving weekend is full. Full of family, friends, and food. There’s also a fair amount of shopping, coffee drinking, and laundry doing. Maybe a little "Office" watching thrown in for good measure. 

Know what there’s not a lot of? Restraint. Of any kind. A third plate at Thanksgiving dinner? Sure! Eat pie at 8 at night and then power nap before Black Friday shopping? Obvi. Buy the child sized fingerless gloves because they’re pink and sparkly?! Duh!

Ok, maybe that last one was just me (and the two ladies behind me in line who saw what I had and snatched up pairs for themselves. My lack of taste is vindicated!), but I’ll bet most of us are still feeling the effects of an extended weekend full of nonstop eating. I’m surprised I didn't sweat mashed potatoes on my run this morning. 

How can we rectify this situation? Kale. Kale is always the answer. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


This year, I’ve thought a lot about Thanksgiving. More so than usual. There was the usual daydreaming about pies and leftover turkey sandwiches and Black Friday shopping. But there was also this immense feeling of gratefulness, almost unworthiness, for things in my life. Today is one of my favorite holidays (mashed potatoes, duh.). I think it is so incredibly important that we take a day each year to truly reflect and be thankful for what we have and I firmly intend to do that between forkfuls of stuffing.  But, I don’t want to forget so quickly, become ungrateful so swiftly. So, I’m writing it down to have a reminder, a list of a few things in my life I am really and truly thankful for.

Thanksgiving 2000. Enjoy those crewnecks, folks. 

In no particular order…

1.     Friends. For friends that are like family. For friends that have come back into my life. For friends that have left my life. Each one has taught me something. For new friends who have helped me open up and for old friends that have kept me honest.

2.     Family. For family that has never stopped believing in me. For family that will never stop believing in me. For the family that was chosen for me and the family that I chose. I have so many people in my life who truly love and support me. All too often I let myself feel isolated and separated, when I’ve got a small army behind me. They drive me crazy and keep me sane, and I love them all.

3.     The feeling of putting on laundry fresh from the dryer.

4.     For music that touches the soul. The kind that speaks to me when my head and heart cannot form words. The songs that can change an entire day. The melodies that feel like they’re being played for me alone. The songs that evoke memories once long forgotten.

5.     Freshly ground coffee beans.

6.     Harry Potter.

7.     Grace. Unending, enduring, everlasting grace. Grace I certainly don’t deserve but will humbly accept. 

8.     Smiles from strangers during morning runs. Sometimes they’re the only thing that keep me going.

9.     Wool socks and thick blankets.

10. Philippians, Corinthians, & Romans.

11. School. I complain about it incessantly when I should be praising it constantly. My education is going to help me reach any and all of my goals – the ones I’ve already set and the ones I someday will. This place has given me more once-in-a-lifetime opportunities than I’ll ever fully realize.

12. Writing. I too often take for granted this gift I was given (as I do with so many) and don’t realize how powerful words can be. It isn’t just stringing words together (semi) coherently or eloquently, but it’s a part of who I am.

13. The Barnes and Noble cookbook section.

14. Chocolate.

15. Cream cheese frosting.

16. Those small moments of unexpected peace. Whether it’s driving back home, waiting in line at the grocery store, or stretching after a run, when that feeling of complete calmness grabs hold of my heart, I know that someday, someway everything will be ok. I feel a closeness with God in these small moments that is unparalleled in any other way.

17. Whoever invented cookie butter. You have my lifelong gratitude.

18. For second and third and fourth chances. So many that are undeserved. 

19. My body. We don’t always get along, and I often resent it or am upset with it. But, it can do SO much. I can run, jump, flip tires, and swing kettle bells with this amazing machine. I put it through the paces and it comes back stronger. It (literally) carries me through my days.

20. Being able to listen to my grandma’s stories about growing up in 1940’s Chicago.

21. You. Every single one of you who reads this blog. If it weren’t for you I’d just be some weird girl taking pictures of cupcakes and babbling to herself on the internet. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much, you have no idea how much it means to me.

This list is not all encompassing, it isn’t even partially encompassing. I really and truly have a very blessed life and firmly intend to (and need to) appreciate it more. 

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apple Tart with Oat Crumble and Apple Infused Caramel

I accidentally made a tart. Yeap, you read that correctly. I accidentally made a tart.

Initially, I was trying to make hand pies. But my first attempt at those failed abysmally. And they didn’t even involve apples. I was trying a new recipe for dinner with my neighbors and it was the dough and the oven versus me and the timer. Sadly, I was on the losing team. Something, somewhere just didn’t quite go right. My neighbors still ate them, bless their hearts. And, they inspired me in the process!  

With a mouth full of less-than-impressive hand pie one said, “How quickly do apples go bad? You’ve got, like, eight sitting here.” He motioned to my overflowing fruit bowl. Apparently, no proper single gal has eight apples sitting on her counter. I decided not to tell him I had more apples in the fridge…

I knew that despite eating one or two apples a day as a snack, they were going to go south before I got around to finishing them. I figured baking with them would be the best use of my time, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of more cake. Then I remembered the extra pie dough sitting in my fridge and knew exactly what I would do. An apple tart!

When the going gets tough, the tough make tarts.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Acorn Squash and Kale Risotto

I have this friend, let’s call her Peg, who doesn’t really “do” vegetables. She doesn’t buy them, rarely eats them, and certainly doesn’t cook them. She actually doesn’t really cook anything, save for microwaving the occasional Lean Cuisine Meal.

You’d think that being the complete opposite of her, I’d be less than enthused to interact with Peg, but in fact, that is not at all the case. I feel the need to take care of her, to make sure she’s getting some kind of sustenance besides blueberry bagels smothered in cream cheese. The girl loves carbs.

At least once a week, Peg picks me up and we go to the grocery store (because her fridge contains only Diet Coke and cheese cubes) so I can make dinner. While she stocks up on bagels and freezer meals, I gather up fresh produce, eggs, butter, and whatever else I’ll need to make dinner and dessert.

Back at her apartment, I start puttering around in the kitchen while she does homework at the dining room table. I know trying to get her to eat a salad or steamed cauliflower is not going to happen, so I have to get sneaky with vegetables. She informs me her mother used to try and stick vegetables in pasta and Peg, stubborn even at age 4, would spit them out on the floor and only eat the noodles. This friendship is preparing me for motherhood.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mulling Spiced Apple Coffee Cake with Spiced Streusel

This cake was almost the death of me.

Actually, that should be cakeS. These cakes were almost the death of me. Sweet, delicious death. 

I got it into my head that I wanted to make a coffee cake. But not just any coffee cake. No, I needed one that was warm and spicy and speckled with apples. One that was so purely autumnal it warmed the tummy and the soul.

Plus, it needed to be covered with streusel because, let’s be real, coffee cake is just a vehicle for streusel at the end of the day.

I made one cake, and it was good. So good I shared majority of it with my neighbors and coworkers because I didn’t want to eat the whole thing. It wasn’t winning any awards in the looks department though. I knew I could do better.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Things

1)     Bobby pins that are missing those little rubber coating things are practically impossible to get out of hair. And even more impossible to get out of hair that’s been curled and hairsprayed to the high heavens. And painful when jabbed into your scalp.

2)     I sign up for AllRecipes Pie Countdown newsletter every year.  They show a new pie every day and the little baking pie animation is just too cute! At least I think so, maybe because it combines two of my favorites things – cartoons and pie. And yet, I’ve only made a pie once for Thanksgiving. Sad, I know, but it changes this year folks!

3)     I have mixed feelings about these “secret boards” on Pinterest. Part of me is giddy that I can pin all the pictures of a shirtless Channing Tatum and slightly inappropriate someecards that I want, but the other, super neurotic and paranoid, part of me is convinced that someone, somewhere can see my board and is sitting there, judging me, mocking me. And I still refuse to make a wedding board. No, just no.

4)     The brownie competition went really well! I didn’t win, but I didn’t think I would. That's not what it was about anyways. I’m really proud of all the competitors and the recipes they created, there was some seriously stiff competition. Elizabeth totally deserved first place, you go girl!

5)     ONLY A WEEK UNTIL THE BIG DAY. I cannot, cannot, CANNOT wait for next Thursday. And I get to leave school on Tuesday, so I’m getting two bonus days of free laundry free food free cable quality family time.

6)     If Thanksgiving is only a week away that means Black Friday is only eight days away! While I do love the shopping aspect of it (umm…duh?) I'm most excited because it’s an entire day I get to spend with my sisters, which feels really rare these days. We'll be overtired, hopped up on coffee, cold, and sometimes hysterical. And it will be wonderful.

7)     The day after Thanksgiving is also when I start listening to Christmas music and won’t stop until the new year.

8)     This will also be my first Christmas in my apartment. I was so excited about the decorating prospects that I bought pink twinkle lights in August. And I want to get a pink tree. Or a white one with tinsel already attached to it. I have impeccable taste, let me tell you.

9)     Make some chocolate banana bread, keep yourself from eating the entire loaf for two days, and make breakfast for a friend. Include coffee, fried eggs, and a cow creamer. Feels good. Trust me.

10)   Am I the only one that still longingly wishes there were new episodes of Lizzie McGuire? Or that misses Gordo? Maybe I’m just feeling that way because I’ve been listening to Hillary Duff’s album, Metamorphosis, on loop.  “Come Clean” was like the song in middle school, mainly because it was the theme song for Laguna Beach (gosh, I miss that show), but the music video is my fav! The candles, the awkward running in the rain, and that sweater! Oh how I wanted that sweater!

11)   I never thought I would have so much to say about Hillary Duff. Not sure how to feel about that. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie

Two weeks ago I OD-ed on eggs. (Sidenote: that’s probably the strangest sentence I’ve ever typed.)

I was going home and I didn’t want to leave a bunch of leftovers and almost-meals in my fridge over the weekend. I didn’t want to have to clean that mess up come Sunday night when I would have to do the homework I had put off all weekend was relaxed from being at home.

I ate eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Multiple days in a row. Yes, I added other things to them but still. They were eggs. I went through a dozen in only a few days. Even with my love of eggs, it was just too much.

So, I’m giving them a little bit of a break right now. Which seems blasphemous, I know, but, it is giving me the opportunity to enjoy other breakfast foods I love. Like oatmeal or pancakes. And this awesome smoothie.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Oatmeal Caramel Stuffed Cookies

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Gingerbread lattes are supposed to have a lovely dusting of cinnamon on them, correct? No? Am I imagining things? I feel like I am because I’ve gotten a Gingerbread latte three times now and not once has there been anything on top of my milk foam. I just don’t feel complete.

I know there’s supposed to be some kind of tasty, spicy topping on a Gingerbread latte; partially because my memory is pretty darn fantastic when it comes to coffee beverages and partially because I just Googled “does a Gingerbread latte come topped with cinnamon?”

Results indicate that it is actually a dusting of nutmeg on top. Whatever, close enough. I knew something had been missing from my drinks, but, what I don’t understand is why. I’ve never once had a barista forget the topping on a Pumpkin Spice latte. Never, ever. Which basically drives home the point that Pumpkin Spice is the best flavor around, and I’m not the only one playing favorites.

While I love the Gingerbread lattes, and look forward to their return with anticipation around Christmas time (along with the Caramel Brulee (SO GOOD!)), Pumpkin Spice is far nearer and dearer to my heart than any other. At least that’s what I thought.

One day I got the bright idea to combine two of my favorite drinks: a Caramel Macchiato and a Pumpkin Spice latte, a Pumpkin Macchiato, if you will.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Things

1)     "You’ve Got Mail" is one of my new favorite movies. I’m only 14 years behind on that one. Better late than never I guess. Thanks for that Amazon Prime, youda best.

2)     We were listening to this at work the other day. I know I have his CD somewhere in my room. I will be digging it out over Thanksgiving break and listening to it on repeat. 

3)     Am I the only one who makes eye contact anymore?! Honestly though, why will no one look me in the eye while walking? Everyone’s looking at the ground or on their phones. And the worst offenders are people I know, because we had class or a discussion section together. No, we weren’t super close, but we bonded over our creepy TA or the ridiculous reading assignments. At least I thought we had, until you almost threw your back out trying to avoid my gaze. Why?! Is it so hard to smile and nod?!

4)     In situations like the one above, I maintain eye contact and refuse to look away. “I know you know me!” I want to shout. But I find a steady gaze to be far more effective at making people uneasy. And if you’re going to try and ignore me I’m going to try and make you as uncomfortable as possible. 

5)     Getting caught talking, laughing, singing, or dancing by yourself in your car by another driver is only as embarrassing as you make it. I know this from recent experience.

6)     Reason number 815,714 I love home so much: my mom has a candy drawer. An entire DRAWER in our kitchen devoted to candy. And while it’s normally well stocked to begin with, after Halloween it is absolutely bananas. My momma can buy markdown candy like nobody’s business. There’s so much of it we’ve got an overflow bowl of candy in the living room. It’s heaven. Or a recipe for diabetes. One of the two.

7)     This weekend I’m slated to participate in a brownie competition. I’ve baked so many pans of brownies in the past month I’ve gone through multiple canisters of cocoa powder. I didn’t think that was possible. 

8)     Oh, hi there number four

9)     Wanna see how I roast squash? Go here!

10)    I have been using Bath and Body Works’ Vanilla Bean Noel lotion for years. I use it all year round and usually have a bottle or two stashed somewhere just in case of emergencies. Imagine my complete and utter joy when I discovered this guy last weekend while out with a friend.

11)    I’m giving the whole lipstick thing a try. I bought some sample colors at Sephora thanks to that damn impulse purchase aisle you have to stand in to checkout. But I keep forgetting that I’m wearing lipstick. Until I eat or drink something and am startled by the ring of color leftover from my lips. Like when I ate a pulled pork sandwich yesterday. It was terrifying. 

12)    Standard, but amazing, Buzzfeed list. Because I have a problem.