I have a real thing for Christmas movies. My absolute favorites are the old old clay-mation classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. We actually all just piled onto the couch to watch Kris Kringle defeat the Winter Warlock with a toy train AND make a fool out of Bergermeister with a yo-yo. That’s Christmas spirit for you right there. A Charlie Brown Christmas was on a couple weeks ago, and until we all sat down with hot chocolate to watch it together, we could have added that movie to the crazy list of cultural references that my boyfriend has managed to isolate himself from.
Tag Archives: boyfriend
It was 70 degrees today. My kitchen window is open and I’m pretty sure my neighbors were just running around outside for like an hour with a leaf blower in December — in the dark. What the what.
So in North Carolina the weather isn’t very soupy… YET. I’m crossing my fingers that it happens any minute. I really hate it when the newscasters report the weather in the morning and they sound all super pumped about the spring-time temperatures… meanwhile i have an 8-foot tall evergreen in my living room. This soup was made in preparation of the cozy food weather that I hope is to come.
I lost my weekend somewhere. It was either in the 2 hour early voting line that ate up our Friday evening, the 19 hour wrestling match on Saturday morning, or in the midst of a Top Model marathon (Cycle 17, to be specific) droning on in the background while I worked for the past 3 days. So hey… what happened to Angelea? I realize I’m like two years too late and it’s also pretty troubling that this is actually a question in my mind but seriously, what happened?
I realize it looks sort of like I’m trying to manhandle my children in this photo. I really only wanted them to stand with me in a picture without making weird faces. But they are 9 and 12. So that’s pretty much not happening.
We planned on corn-mazing it in the daylight, but when we got there they were setting up for the haunted corn maze set to start after dark.
So we fueled up on caffeine and went back. It was totally worth the wait.
What did you do this weekend? Are you having lots of fall kinda fun?
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The last week has yielded, for me, a metaphorical 5-gallon bucket of lemons. In order to maintain a level of relative calm in this sour hurricane of a storm, I have adapted a few practices that have made it bearable; things I do when I’m stressed that I really thought I should share.
#1 Find an ink pen and doodle all over a pad of paper while you spill all your guts to your mom (or your sister, or your best friend, or all of the above) on the phone. Acceptable doodles include all manner of hearts and swirlies, the names of all your loved ones, including your cats and dogs, and polka dots.
#2 Clean something. I know that this does not sound nearly as fun as drawing swirlies with a hot pink pen, but mindlessly scrubbing things lets you focus on a simple task while exerting an unreasonable amount of force on inanimate objects like bath tubs or ceiling fans. Plus the results are totally satisfying. Tip: avoid cleaning products that boast “Scrub Free!!!” or “Works like Magic!!!” labels. These are not going to help you.
#3 Bake bread. I find baking to be waaaay theraputic anyway, but baking bread is simple and it can go on for awhile. Slapping dough down on your floured table and kneading your little heart out is a super duper stress reliever. And when the baking is done you have big thick slices of warm bread to slather with blueberry butter. THAT is comfort.
#4 Find the Kenpo X video from the P-90X work out series, put on your sweats, get a big bottle of water, and then pretend to punch the daylights out of the source of your stress. It’s like pillow punching, except you can work on your fitness. And you’ll feel like a badass. Oh! And if you keep it up you’ll look like a badass, too. Perks.
#5 Give yourself a pedicure. Soak your feet in warm water, epsom salts, and a little milk. Make a scrub with some kosker salt and a few glugs of olive oil. Pick the happiest nail polish… your favorite summery pink or red, a girly soft pinky white, a juicy melon color, or go crazy with stripes of green and blue. Whatever you do, stay away from navy or brown or deep dark purple. Save those for November. Right now you need pretty colors and peep toe shoes. Yes yes yes.
#6 Go to your favorite coffee shop. Order your favorite drink. The full fat version. Indulge in baked goods. Curl up in one of those huge fluffy arm chairs with your beverage, tuck your feet under you, and just BE.
#7 Hug the ones you love the most. Hug them tight. Don’t let go.
Yesterday was his birthday.
In my brain full of thoughtful things, some slight delusions of grandeur, and a Black Visa card, I imagined throwing this man the party of all parties. Streamers, balloons, an open bar. I envisioned a party catered by someone other than myself. Music. A mud bog.
Dr. Pepper to his heart’s content.
A buffet of sour candies. With a side table full of Reese’s cups.
He deserves it, you know.
Not only does he tolerate my slightly moody overtures and quick tempers, but he does things for me. All the time. Like on my birthday when he built me a garden and made me a pie. That pie was sooooo worth a party.
Sadly, though, I don’t have an unlimited Visa card. And if I raided our bank account for party funds I’d really only be spending Chad’s hard-earned wages. If I’m being completely honest here, I don’t think he much cares that there was no throwdown in his honor. His birthday requests were quite simple:
- hot wings
- potato skins
And so I obliged.
Sweet Tarts are Chad’s grab-n-go gas station candy. Anything sour, really. But you can be sure that if he stops somewhere for a bottle of water or runs in to pay for gas, he will return with a roll of Sweet Tart candies in his shirt pocket.
Sweet Tarts are the perfect blend of sugary sour. They make Chad smile more than a party. So I put Sweet Tarts in the cheesecake.
I started with a lemon bar cheesecake poured into a Nilla wafer crust. Then I doused the baked, cooled cheesecake in raspberry sauce. Lemons and raspberries are sweet and tart. But not as sweet and tart as Sweet Tarts.
Which I put in the food processor.
I highly recommend doing this with any and all fruit. Highly.
Sweet Tart Cheesecake (adapted from Fine Cooking)
For the Crust:
- 1 (12 ounce) box of Nilla wafers
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
For the Cake:
- 3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest (roughly the zest of 2 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
For the Topping:
- 1 recipe Raspberry Sauce
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 roll of Sweet Tarts candies (10-15 pieces)
Pre-heat the oven to 350. Pulse the Nilla wafers in a food processor until they are crushed into fine crumbs. In a medium bowl combine the Nilla wafer crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumbs into the bottow of a 9-inch springform pan, and halfway up the sides.
Bake for 7-8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 225.
In a large bowl beat together the cream cheese, ricotta, flour, and salt on medium speed, about 4-5 minutes. Beat in the sugar and when the batter is smooth add in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating in between each one until they are just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared crust and bake for 3 hours. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool INSIDE THE OVEN. When the oven is cold, refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 2 hours,
Spoon the raspberry sauce over the top of the chilled cake, reserving at least half for serving.
Crush the Sweet Tarts in a food processor or cut them into a powder using a very sharp knife. I left some larger chunks of candy in tact for color.
Toss the chopped strawberries with the crushed Sweet Tarts and spread them evenly over the top of the entire cake.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
Typically my children provide me with an endless resource of things to write about. Evan goes to school wearing mismatched shoes or tells me a story about squirrels. Andrew tries to explain the trials and tribulations of Minecraft or completely confounds me with his math homework (math is NOT my department). My two boys are inspiration plain and simple, even when I’m just writing about their latest ridiculous arguement.
But the little boys are soaking up the sun and the love with Grammy for a few days, and undoubtedly playing insane amounts of video games with my little brother. Also they baked cookies this morning (I know that because whenever my high-school-age little brother experiments with Sugar Dish Me recipes he calls me over and over with crazy questions like, “What do I do if the cookies sort of start to melt together… like now I have just one big cookie?” P.S. In case you weren’t aware, the answer to that is EAT IT).
They’ve left me here with no muse.
And then… this afternoon… this happened:
Now listen, I love a good thunderstorm. I love to watch the rain beat against the windows, I love to see the tree branches sway, I love it when the sky rumbles and lightning streaks across the sky. But let’s be real, ya’ll. I live in a trailer. So storms can go from awesome to worrisome pretty quickly.
We had a few storms the other night that COMPLETELY freaked me out. The first was early in the evening. As soon as massive tree limbs began flying past my kitchen window like a stick you throw for the dog we were OUT. The next one happened at about 2:30 am. The wind was screaming so loud outside that I swear I thought a train was going to drive through our bedroom. I seriously lost my voice for a minute and resorted to grabbing Chad’s arm and pinching super hard to wake him up.
I’m sure he appreciated it.
This afternoon’s storm started like any other. Darkening sky, strengthening wind, low growly thunder. When the rain started I got a text message from Chad (surely he was remembering my immobilizing fear from the other night) asking if I was okay? “Of course I’m okay!,” was my reply. I was busy in my kitchen with a re-run of Bones keeping me company. Totally content.
But all hell broke loose and then I wasn’t really okay anymore. I’m sort of a chicken when there are no babies to play it cool for. The gust of wind that knocked our tree over into the road sounded to ME like it was gonna take the house with it. My next text message went like this: “I am scared.”
Then I explained how the tree is blocking the whole road AND there is no access to our driveway. I stood at the kitchen window clutching my cell phone, and frrrEEEaking out on the inside until Chad got home from work. I watched him march around in the rain and lighting with our neighbor, tie this big ‘ol tree to a truck, and help haul it out of the road.
After that I was so so SO glad for things like sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, oatmeal bread, and avacadoes. Comfort foods at their best.
I used THIS RECIPE for Whole Wheat Oatmeal Sandwich Bread. I am in love with this bread. I’ve been making it at least twice a week for little boy sandwiches. This bread is best friends with peanut butter, but it was very happy to be buttered with melty cheddar cheese, too. It’s easy like that.
I smeared avacado all over one half of the bread and then layered thick slices of bacon and perfectly ripe tomatoes over it. Reduced fat extra sharp cheddar cheese covered the other slice of bread. Butter on the griddle and this was an excellent plan in action.
The avacado and tomatoes weren’t too shabby either.
Loaded Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
slices of your favorite grainy sandwich bread (we used THIS from How Sweet It Is)
sharp cheddar cheese (I went with reduced fat… did you know that Cabot makes a 75% reduced fat cheddar with 1% milk? It is completely delicious)
thick cut slices of bacon
fresh sliced tomatoes
One one slice of bread smear the avacado. Top it with bacon slices and then tomatoes. Layer another slice of bread with cheese. Heat a skillet or griddle or flat cook-top (medium to medium high is good). Melt butter across the cooking surface. Put the two prepared slices in the hot butter, bread side down. When the cheese gets sort of warm and is tacky enough to stick to the bread, press the two sides of the sandwich together. Continue cooking until your bread is a nice golden color with a bit of buttery crunch.
Bite-size cubes of THIS CREAM CHEESE POUNDCAKE, a recipe so simple that Evan read the instructions and made it almost all by himself (point of reference: Evan is 9), layered with Jell-O instant vanilla pudding and fresh sliced strawberries, topped with blue-tinged whipped cream.
Party in a glass.
Happy 4th Everyone!!
Around these parts we have three choices for breakfast dining:
- Waffle House
- a cute little local diner full of kitschy artwork; they have a whole wall covered in Dale Earnhardt memorobilia. That’s serious ya’ll.
These cookies happened by accident. And YES. Fig Newtons ARE cookies in my world. Not cake. Soft orangey shortbread wrapped around figgy jam… oh goodness Fig Newtons are good. I will readily admit that if I am left unattended with a book and that bright yellow package I am likely to mindlessly eat every single one. Well maybe I would leave a couple. But only so no one would blame me for eating the last cookie.
We stopped by a local produce stand that sits just around the corner from us; I’ve been trying to get there for a while. They sell plants and fresh vegetables and nuts by the pound. There are flowers and wind chimes and handcrafted cedar Adirondack chairs. This place is right up my alley. I smiled sweetly at Chad while I loaded the back seat of our car with hanging baskets, oregano plants, and a six pack of jubilee watermelons that are already bearing tiny little fruits. Chad just humors my slight obsession with buying plantlife every time I see it. I think it’s so I don’t roll my eyes at the amount of money he spends on parts for his remote controlled randomness.
The owners were a friendly couple eager to help us, and we fell into a lengthy conversation about this and that. Chit chat finally landed on the figs they had for sale that no one knew what to do with. The fig tree is yielding at an alarming rate and the fruit is ripening faster than anyone can eat the fresh figs. They told us they thought they would sell more figs if people had ideas about what to do with them. AND THEN they gifted us a whole basket to experiment with!
I returned home happy, HAPPY, HAPPY because not only did I acquire a carload of plants to fuss with, I got myself a kitchen project, too!
I’ll be honest … I’ve never made anything with figs.
I spent a few hours surfing around with my laptop finding gorgeous fig salads with goat cheese and delicate fig tarts. And while those fig recipes are beautiful and definitely have a tasty place in this world, that place IS NOT HERE in the land of fried chicken, pinto beans, and Sundrop.
So I settled on cookies. More specifically, Fig Newtons. From Scratch.
Everyone likes cookies, right?
If you don’t like cookies I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Sorry bout that.
I sliced up the figs and put them into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with some brown sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla.
After 40 or 50 minutes of simmering and a little bit of stirring/smashing the larger pieces with the back of a fork, my fresh figs turned into a gooey jam that was deliciously sticky and sweet. I had to talk myself out of smearing it on toast.
I stowed the jam away in a jar while I worked on my cookie crust. The jam can be made ahead. It will keep in the fridge for 3-ish days. Less if you make toast.
The dough gets divided; half is pressed into the pan to bake and half is pressed or rolled out and set aside in the freezer while it waits its turn. I pressed mine out in between two generously buttered pieces of foil. Parchment paper would have been better, but you hafta work with what you’ve got. Am I right?
Go get the top layer of pressed out cookie dough from the freezer. Carefully peel it from between the foil or parchment paper.
As you can see, my dough is very ugly and broke apart in places.
That’s because this is real life.
And it’s cool. Because when it bakes, it all melts together. No one will ever know it wasn’t perfect.
Except in the case of mine because I published my imperfections on the internet.
After baking and cooling completely, I lifted the foil out and sliced my Newtons into little cookie-sized bars. You see? No evidence of the uncooperative cookie dough anywhere.
Of course we promptly returned to the produce stand with a bag full of these cookies and a copy of the recipe. I hope they enjoyed them. We didn’t wanna be creepy and make them try the cookies while we stood there to judge the reaction.
But my verdict is: WIN!!!
I absolutely love them. You will, too.
- 6 fresh figs; washed, dried, and quartered
- zest of 1 lemon (about a tablespoon)
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt (I like kosher salt here)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks of butter, at room temperature (12 tablespoons)
- 1½ cups brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 eggs
- 4 teaspoons vanilla
- In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan bring the figs, brown sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla to a boil, stirring as needed.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, occasionally smashing the larger pieces with the back of a fork and stirring. They will cook down and thicken with a jam-like consistency.
- Remove from the heat and cool completely. This fig filling can be made ahead stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper or foil and then butter it. Plenty of butter.
- In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until it’s fluffy. Add the orange zest and eggs. Beat on medium until the dough comes together. Then stir in the vanilla.
- Gradually incorporate the flour mixture with the mixer on low. The dough will be sticky.
- Butter two “pan-sized” pieces of foil or parchment paper, measure 1½ cups of the dough out, and roll or press the dough in between the pieces. This will be your top crust, so get it into a rectangle-ish shape if you can. Put it in the freezer.
- Press the remaining dough into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes. It will be pretty and golden brown.
- Spread the fig filling across the baked crust and then get the top crust out of the freezer.
- Gently peel the foil or paper away from the frozen cookie crust and then place it over the top of the fig filling. Pat any stray crust pieces into place.
- Bake for another 20-25 minutes. Watch it closely! The top will turn a nice golden color.
- Let the whole thing cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack if you have one. Once cooled, lift the foil out of the pan and slice into squares.