Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Cookies with Marshmallow

I have something seriously embarrassing to admit.

I thought marshmallow was spelled marshmellow.  Seriously, up until just now when spell check told me I was wrong.

I am 31 years old, and I have no idea how to spell marshmallow.

I’m also now questioning my pronunciation.

 

In other news, I do know how to spell embarrassing (and Mississippi) because I memorized them both in 3rd grade.

I also made these cookies the other day, and they are seriously adorable.

These cookies are the cutest cookies I’ve ever made. I clapped my hands and giggled when I finished them.

They are cute, delicious, and they don’t judge me for not being able to spell.

Make these cookies, take a picture of their cuteness, and then eat them.

peanut butter graham cracker cookies with marshmellow

 

 

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Cookies with Marshmallow

(Barely) Adapted from Bakergirl’s Fluffernutter Chocolate Gobs

Ingredients:

Cookies:
1 2/4 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. molasses
mini marshmallows
Teddy grahams or pieces of graham cracker

Chocolate Glaze:
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl – whisk and set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter, and both sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg, vanilla, and molasses and beat for another minute.

Gradually add in the flour mixture and mix on the lowest speed.  Chill dough for at least 15 minutes.

Roll into quarter inch balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Bake for about 7 minutes until just very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and lightly flatten with a spatula. Then place 3 mini marshmallows in the center of each cookie and bake for 2-3 more minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While your cookies are cooling, go ahead and make the glaze. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, whisking continuously. Add in the milk as needed to get the desired consistency.

Drizzle glaze over the cookies (it will harden as it cools). Garnish with a teddy graham or a piece of graham cracker.

graham cracker cookies with marshmallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Something Inspiring – blah blah blah

When I started this blog, things in my life weren’t really going swimmingly. I had just had my heart broken (crushed? shattered?), and I had also just turned 30, so I was feeling very old and lonely, but still hopeful. I figured 2013 would be the year I turned it all around – started an amazing blog that I would actually keep up with, probably become famous, and of course meet a man, get married, have babies, you know, normal stuff.

But, as you might know if you’ve been hanging in there with me for the last year and a half, it did not go as planned.

This year, I’ve been having a great June. My schedule is packed full with fun events – bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, concerts, soccer games, and I’m planning an 8 day vacation to South Korea in early August to visit my sister.  But as I’m bopping around, having all of this fun, I’m reminded how much things have changed (for the better!) in the last year, and I really can’t be more thankful. Last June, I was being admitted to the hospital for a Myomectomy. Although I wrote about it briefly here as I was recovering, I’ve been thinking more lately about the experience – how scary it was – how it could’ve been so much worse – and mostly, how thankful I am that it’s all over.

The type of tumor I had is pretty common – a uterine fibroid – non-cancerous, and often no big deal, but mine was giant, which complicated things. When I first noticed it, I thought I was just getting fat, but the thing grew so quickly that pretty soon I knew there had to be something wrong. I told my mom that I thought my organs were sticking out of my belly and knowing well my flare for the dramatic, she sighed and told me to stop being silly. Then I sent her a picture of my stomach, and she wrote back right away with just “GO TO THE DOCTOR.”

As the tumor grew, I also got increasingly sick. Although it wasn’t cancerous, it was invading my body and messing everything up.  I had horrible cramps pretty much all of the time, I was throwing up, I had trouble sleeping, and I had pretty terrible lower back pain.

I wanted the thing out of course, but I was also really worried about what this would mean for my chances of having kids one day.  I’m not a huge kid person, but I have always wanted to start a family, and the possibility that I might not be able to was a little hard for me to wrap my head around. It wasn’t that I was desperate to have children, but I desperately wanted it to remain an option.  My first doctor painted a pretty bleak picture. She told me that surgery would most likely damage my uterus so much that kids would not ever be an option. She recommended that I leave the tumor there – although she told me it would continue to grow and make me sick, and that I still might have trouble delivering a baby. She basically suggested that I get working on getting pregnant right away, and then have the tumor removed after I have the baby.

Needless to say, I left that appointment in tears. I was panicking a little – I had gone from not even being completely sure if I wanted to have kids to trying to figure out if I had any friends who could hurry up and inpregnate me. It was ridiculous. After I calmed down a bit, I realized that this had all gotten a little out of hand.  I’m lucky enough to have a tremendous family and ridiculously awesome friends who all helped me to think and talk it through. My nurse friend helped me find a very talented surgeon and fertility specialist who assured me that the tumor really did need to come out, and that he would do his best to preserve my uterus. He was kind and gentle and most importantly, very good at his job.

Before and After:  

Uterine Fibroid - before and after surgery

 

Ultimately, everything went as well as it could have. It’s been a year now since the surgery, and physically, everything is different. I’m healthy. I’m not visiting doctors every week. I retired my heating pad, and I’m sleeping through the night. What I want to be able to tell you is that since the surgery I’ve met a wonderful man, and we’re going to get married, and start a family and everything happens for a reason, blah blah blah.

Some things change. Some things stay the same.  I’m still single, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids.  I’m still fumbling my way through awkward dates, baking and eating my feelings, being a little bitter, and a little optimistic.  I’d like to say some inspiring thing about how the tough times make you stronger, and you only get what you can handle, and all that stuff, but I think what I really want to say here, is that things happen. Bad things. Good things. Medium things. And all we can do is try to get through them. Sometimes things seem bleak and horrible and ridiculous and then, before you know it, you’re planning a trip to Korea and training for a half marathon, and you realize that while you’ve been chugging along, things have some how gotten better. And that’s where I am right now. I don’t have an epic, inspiring story to share, but things are better, and I am happy.

 

 

Day after surgery last June:

0612132048a

 

 

 

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Cynicism, Sarcasm, Desperation and Blueberry Cookies

Full disclosure: I am writing this from my bed while drinking a beer.

I realize I have not been the most consistent blogger.  I’m not sure if it’s laziness or writer’s block or a combination of both. Or, maybe it was that I had no recipes to share as I’ve been baking the same chocolate chip cookies over and over again.

Well, I’m back. The laziness problem has been solved by doing this from my bed, the writers block cured with some alcohol, and now that summer is finally here I’ve been inspired to make something other than chocolate chip cookies.

Speaking of summer… it’s finally here! After 8 months of Cleveland winter, it’s finally warm (ish) out! This means it’s time for flip flops, margaritas, evenings on my balcony, long walks to the beach, and the hope that comes with the beginning of summer that my life will turn into a romantic comedy and I will find love. Hope springs eternal (well, let’s be honest – hope curls up and dies in the winter, but right now I remain optimistic.)

So, this past weekend, I joined two other vaguely optimistic single girl friends, sundressed up, and we hit the town.

We hit our first roadblock pretty quickly when we realized we had no idea where to go. We knew where all the 21 year-old sequined tube top wearing girls would be, but there’s no way we could begin to compete with that at 31.  So we set off to find where the chubby, funny, slightly desperate older guys hang out.

Although we had a lot of fun, ladies nights aren’t exactly what they once were back in our 20s. Youthful exuberance has been replaced with a lethal mixture of cynicism, sarcasm, and desperation.

The night started out hopeful with this gem from one of my friends:

“Sorry I’m late, I had to clean up the empty wine bottles and underwear lying around my apartment just in case I fall in love tonight and he ends up at my place.”

Then, it turned a little bitter with this quote from the same friend, “I swear, if another one of my friends in their 20s gets engaged, I’m blowing up a Jared’s.”

There was a middle period where things looked hopeful. We had a fun guy and his friends join us for dinner, there was witty banter, flirting, and the exchanging of numbers. At the second bar, I beat a guy in darts and got his number (win, win!). But by the end of the night, we somehow found ourselves at our neighborhood bar, with our married friends, playing pinball. It actually was a nice ending to a fun night, and I called it quits at about midnight.

Then, around 3am, I got a text from my friend that said: “I took him home, but told him we weren’t hooking up. He fell asleep on my couch, and is now puking in my bathroom. Do I know how to pick them or what?!”

Well. At least she didn’t have any empty wine bottles or underwear lying around.

Also perfect for summer?

These Blueberry Lemon cookies with Almonds and White Chocolate

(Loosely adapted from The Spiced Life)

Blueberry Lemon cookies with Almonds and White Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups All-Purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. unsalted butter
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. dried blueberries
1/4 c. white chocolate
1/4 c. chopped almonds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda and powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place your butter in a large mixing bowl and add half of the zest. Mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and creamy. Take the remaining zest and rub it into the granulated sugar. Add the sugar/zest mixture to your butter mixture and mix for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the brown sugar. Beat another minute and scrape down the sides again. Add the egg, vanilla and lemon juice and beat another minute.

Add the flour mixture all at once, and stir at the lowest speed possible until just barely combined. Stir in both kinds of blueberries, the white chocolate and almonds until combined.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop the dough in tablespoon sized balls.  Bake for 10-14 minutes. The cookies should barely be browned on the outside (golden really) and still soft in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet 3-5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.

 

 

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Spanx for Nothing

Everyone knows someone or knows someone who knows someone who has met their spouse through an online dating service. It was beautiful and magical and now they’re living happily ever after. Right?

So no matter how horrible all of my online dating experiences are, I keep thinking “but it can work! So and so are normal, and it worked for them, so… maybe…” So I give it another shot, and something like this happens:

 

We had been emailing for a couple weeks and he seemed nice. His pictures were cute, he had a real job, and we seemed to have a lot in common. He was also Polish (as in actually born there) which I found intriguing. So when he asked me to meet him for coffee, I was excited. This was before I had learned to lower my expectations for these kinds of dates, so I spent a long time picking out a nice outfit and just generally looking forward to a nice date.

I was a little bit heavier at the time – nothing ridiculous, but I was also self conscious and worried that he might think I looked better in my pictures and be disappointed when he saw me in real life. As a precaution, I decided to turn to many a girl’s best friend – spanx. I wore the kind that has shorts, so they stopped mid-thigh. Normally, I only wear these under dresses, but I was wearing wide leg trouser pants, so the line of the spanx wasn’t visible.

When I arrived at the restaurant, he was standing outside waiting for me. My first impression was not good. His 5’9″ on his profile was apparently code for 5’5″. Ok, fine. I can live with that. And although he did look like his pictures, his pictures had definitely not given me a good sense of his style. He was wearing tight jeans with shiny, pointy dress shoes, and a weird, embellished t-shirt with a blazer over it. He also had about a gallon of gel in his hair and at least two gallons of cologne. But oh well, I was there and I was determined to give him a chance and have a nice date.

The conversation started off a little rocky as it always does with a blind date. I remembered that his profile had said he liked dogs, so I asked him if he had any pets. He then spent about 10 minutes telling me about his love for fish, and how he had a whole room at his house for his aquariums and all of his exotic fish.  Hm. ok. Let’s try this again. I asked, “What about dogs? Do you like dogs?” He shrugged and said he really didn’t care much for dogs or cats. Then he started talking about his fish again.

Once he finished describing his many aquariums, he asked me which hospital I worked at.

While thankful to be moving on to a new line of conversation, I found this a bit confusing as I definitely didn’t work at a hospital and we had discussed my job at length during our many emails. I gently reminded him that I worked for a news distribution company, but he just gave me a confused look and answered, “No, you told me you were a nurse, right? That you worked at a hospital downtown?”

“No.I’m sorry, but I’m not a nurse.”

At this point, we both realize that he’s gotten me confused with a different girl he’d been talking to online.  He gets pretty embarrassed, tells me how sorry he is, and then he does remember the right emails and we have a nice conversation about my work.  I actually thought this part was pretty funny. Obviously, I don’t expect him to be talking to only one person on the online dating site, and it was an honest mistake. It was also kind of cute how embarrassed he was, and really, it broke the ice a bit and lightened the mood.

After that, we had a pretty good conversation.  I was starting to come around a little as I really was enjoying talking with him. So, once our coffee was gone, he suggested that we do something else. It was only 6 in the evening, so it seemed a little silly to call it a night so soon. I don’t remember now why, but he didn’t want to go to a bar and get a drink (red flag!), so he suggested going to see a movie. Movies are horrible first date ideas, but he suggested a locally run theater close by that I really liked and a movie that I really wanted to see, so I said yes.

We had met at the restaurant, but he offered to drive us to the move theater, and I accepted. We got there, and he paid for my ticket which I thanked him for and we sat down to watch the movie. Approximately 30 seconds after we sat down, his hand was on my thigh.

I’m not talking lightly brushing my thigh, or accidentally touched my leg as he reached for hand, I’m talking about a full on upper thigh grab.

I should’ve moved my leg or even just removed his hand from my thigh, but I panicked. I started wondering if I had been giving him signals that this was ok. I mean, I knew I had agreed to go to a movie with him, but I’d known him for just under 2 hours and it had been a pretty rocky 2 hours. What had I done to make him think I wanted him to start rubbing all over my thigh? Who does that?

Well, he did. And I was too self conscious to do anything about it, so I just tried my best to ignore his wandering hand and watch the movie. Which, by the way, was really good. He obviously had no interest in the movie as he kept trying to talk to me during it and was obviously much more interested in my thigh. I tried a few times to adjust my position and get my leg out of his reach, but the seats were pretty close together and there really just was no way. I also, of course, was hyper aware that since he had his hand all over thigh, he must’ve noticed my spanx. The spandex shorts ended mid thigh, and his hand was right across the line of them most of the movie. But there was really nothing I could do, so I just continued to ignore it.

Once the movie ended, I tried to put the leg grabbing situation out my head and asked him what he thought of the movie. He gave me much the same answer as when I had asked him if he liked dogs. He shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t really for him. Then, when I said that I really liked it, he gave me a weird look and said, “Really? You like that kind of stuff?” Oh, come on. It was a baseball movie, so it wasn’t even like it was a chic flick or a girl drama. I told him that I loved sports movies, and he just shrugged his shoulders again and said he didn’t get it.

Once we got in his car, I was just ready for the date to be over. It was obvious that we had nothing in common and he was really starting to make me feel uncomfortable.

Then, about 30 seconds after we both sat down in his car, his hand was once again all over my thigh. I looked straight ahead and tried to ignore it. This time, he did at least decide to ask for my permission (sort of) with a “Is this ok?” as he started to caress my leg some more. It wasn’t ok, but I had let it go on for so long, I didn’t feel like I could tell him that it wasn’t, so I just decided to suck it up and deal with it for the 5 minute drive back to my car.

All of a sudden, he takes his fingers and pinches the end of my spanx. He grabs it and snaps it back down on my thigh, smirks at me, and says, “What’s this?”

Obviously, I was horrified. But not only was I extremely embarrassed, I was extremely annoyed. Who did he think he was? This was a first date, and he had spent the last two hours inappropriately touching my leg and now he had the audacity to ask questions about what I was wearing under my pants?! Really?!

Furious, I told him that it was none of his business and (finally!) I swiped his hand off of my leg.

Of course I realized that by not telling him what I was wearing, it made it seem like a bigger deal than what it was. I knew he thought there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t want to give in and tell him. It wasn’t his business and it never should’ve gotten to this point. So I sat there, silently stewing in my anger, while he continued to smirk at me. Then, suddenly, he reaches down to my ankle and sticks his hand up the end of my pant leg and touches my calf.

Well, I freaked out. I jumped in my seat, kicked his hand off my leg and yelled, “What in the world are you doing?!”

Sheepishly, he pulled his hand back and just said, “nothing.”

Honest to goodness, I’m 99% sure that he thought I had a fake leg and was checking to make sure.

I was so angry and embarrassed, but I felt like I had to set the record straight, so I threw up my hands and said, “Spandex, ok?! I’m wearing spandex. There’s nothing wrong with my legs; it’s just spandex.”

And we still had about 4 minutes of driving left. I’ve never felt so awkward in my life.

After a bit of super awkward silence, we stopped at a light behind a car with a Michigan license plate. I guess just to make conversation, he said something like “Oh, that car’s from Michigan.”  Now, I’m a graduate of The Ohio State University, so of course, on reflex, I immediately answered him with a “Boooooo.” I also immediately realized that he was Polish and probably had no idea about the OSU/Michigan rivalry or why I would be booing a random car. So, I quickly explained myself. I reminded him that I graduated from OSU and that the two teams/states had a pretty big rivalry. To this, he goes “Oh yeah, but who really cares about those things?”

Oh no he didn’t.

Obviously, as I just explained in great detail to you, I care. I just glared at him and said “I do. Actually lots of people do.”

We didn’t talk at all the rest of the drive home.

The next day, I deactivated my account.

Spanx for nothing, internet dating.

 

 

 

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Weird Advice and Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes

During my sophomore year of college, I decided to change my major from Communications to Writing. I met with my adviser to discuss the change, and the conversation didn’t exactly go as planned. My adviser, while brilliant and kind, was also a little off beat and spoke with a very thick accent.

After telling him that I’d like to pursue a major in writing, he got a very concerned look on his face and said very gently,

“Ellen. I am worried. I am worried for you that you will never get married.”

Obviously, this prompted a very confused look from me. I was also worried about this, but not sure what it had to do with my major. He continued,

“Finding work as a writer is very hard. You will not make much money. I am worried that you will not have husband and then you will not be able to find job writing and you will have to be a cook.”

huh?!

“I suggest you study English Education. Teacher is more practical career.”

At the time, I was appalled.  I got back to my dorm room and called my mom crying and babbling about being single and broke for the rest of my life.  It sounds bad, I know, but my adviser really did mean well. I’m fairly certain all he meant was that if I planned on supporting myself by being a writer, I should be aware that it would be very hard to make any money. Good point. However, the delivery obviously needed a little work. I ended up meeting with the head of the English department later that week who told me that if I had no desire to be a teacher than I really shouldn’t be one and that I should continue with my plans to switch my major to Writing. He didn’t make any promises about my matrimonial future, but I did feel a lot better after that meeting.

What’s even funnier (I think) is that I ended up taking a Creative Writing class from that same adviser a semester or so later and somehow or other our conversation about how I was never getting married came up in class (we talked about a lot of weird things in that class.) He had no recollection of course of telling me this and was dutifully horrified. He then told me that if any of his sons were not already married, he would be more than happy to have me marry any of them.

Well, it’s been a little over 10 years, and it turns out that he was partly right. I am not married, and I do have to support myself. However, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it, and parents and children across the US can all rest easy that I am thankfully not a teacher.

I’m never going to write the next great American novel, and I might never get married. Neither of these means my world is ending. What I can do is continue with my awesome job, write about my ridiculous feelings, and bake delicious treats. Take that, college adviser.

Chocolate Cupcakes with a Graham Cracker Crust and RumChata Frosting:

Chocolate Graham Cracker Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart and b.u.i.cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted
9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. special dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 c. whole milk (2% will also work)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water

Start with the crust:

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 c. of the white sugar and melted butter in a medium sized bowl. Stir until combined.

Place 1 Tbsp of the graham cracker mixture in each muffin cup. Use the bottom of your 1/4 measuring cup to press down the crust in each cup. Reserve some of the crumbs to sprinkle on top of your cupcakes once finished.

Place 2 tsp of the chopped chocolate in each cup on top of the crust. Bake in oven for about 5 minutes until golden brown.

For the batter:

Mix remaining sugar (2 cups plus 2 Tbsp), flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of your electric mixture. Use your paddle attachment and mix the dry ingredients together on a very low speed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add all at once to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and continue to beat on medium for 2 more minutes. Add the boiling water and stir it in.  The batter will be pretty thin.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle each one with the rest of the chocolate. Bake 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

RumChata Frosting:

1 c. unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3-4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
4 Tbsp. RumChata

Cream butter at medium speed for 2-3 minutes.  Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Add Almond extract, salt, and 2 Tbsp of the RumChata.  Mix on high for 3 minutes, adding some more sugar and RumChata depending on your tastes.

Frost cupcakes and top with remaining graham cracker crumbs.

 

 

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Single in my 30s: The Art of Being Picky

Being an unmarried woman in my 30s, I spend a lot of time (way more than I should) trying to figure out why I’m still single. I even took a “Why Are You Still Single” internet quiz (entirely unhelpful as the answer I got was “We don’t know either! You seem great!”) Thanks for nothing, Internet.  In my 20s, being single was something to be proud of. I had plenty of time; I could play the field, enjoy being young — it seemed much more like a choice back then. As the years went by, it became more alarming. All of a sudden, I felt like I was running out of time, and I started wondering what I was doing wrong.  I know I’m not the only one who’s found themselves in this position, and everyone seems to have an opinion on why single people are still single.

A few things I’ve heard over the years:

You need to put yourself out there more.
You’re too intimidating.
You should stop running away from men when they approach you.
You should move to [insert city here]
You need to get involved in more things. 

But I think the most common critique single people get is the classic, “You’re too picky.”

I’m sure there are some people out there who are legitimately too picky;  I know there are ridiculous people who refuse to even talk to someone if they don’t look a certain way or drive a certain car, and those people deserve to be called out.  But I think most of us just have a reasonable set of standards for the people we date. The problem is that as we get older, the dating pool decreases significantly in size, and we start to wonder if our “standards” are hindering us from finding the right person. Maybe if we just relaxed a little, we’d find someone great that we’ve been overlooking.

I’ve wondered this a lot – am I being unreasonable? Am I really too picky?

I don’t think I am. I’ve been set up on so many dates that ended up being a complete waste of time for both of us because we had absolutely nothing in common except that we happened to be the only two single people our well-meaning married friends could think of.  Just because we’re in the same age range and haven’t found a spouse yet doesn’t mean we’re meant for each other, and it really isn’t even enough of a reason to go on a date. It’s so easy to fall into this trap of “I should give everyone a chance just in case.” Sure, widen your net a little — maybe you don’t really need a strict 6 foot height requirement, but I think it’s important to know what it is you won’t compromise on and stick to that.

When I was in middle school, I broke up with my very first boyfriend.   I remember writing in my letter (this is back when people wrote letters – I’m that old) that we needed to break up because “we couldn’t base a relationship on soccer.” Of course, at 13, I had no idea what a “relationship” was — my experience didn’t extend beyond holding hands at summer camp and few a angsty letters.  I probably put a little too much thought into the whole thing, but the point is that I knew if we could only find one thing to talk about (soccer), that was going to get old pretty quickly.  I wanted more, and I still do.

It can be a hard balance – trying to figure out if you’re being overly choosy or just sticking to your standards. My brother asked me the other day why I wasn’t seeing a particular guy anymore and I answered, “Because he insisted on putting steak sauce on everything.” While I want to think this is a valid reason for a break up, I realize that on its own it is a ridiculous reason. Of course I didn’t really end it over steak sauce, but that was just one of a lot of indicators that there wasn’t anything solid there, and it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

I realize that no matter who I end up with, there will be things they do that drive me crazy.  But I’m going to keep holding out for the best, and if I do find it — someone who I love, who I respect and admire, it’ll be worth it.  And for the record, if they insist on putting steak sauce on everything – you bet your ass we’re going to have a serious discussion about it, but I will be willing to overlook it for the right person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie

 

Pecan pie is one of my favorite things to make.

Chocolate is one of my favorite things to eat.

Bourbon is one of my favorite things to drink.

Obviously, I needed to put them all together into one sweet, boozy pastry.

My philosophy when it comes to baking with booze is that if you can’t taste it, there’s no point.  This is the first thing I’ve made that was truly polarizing.   The consensus among my coworkers (my usual test subjects for new creations) was either that it was bourbony goodness, or way too much of a bourbon taste to handle.  The flavors work well together, regardless of your affinity for booze so I would suggest making this anyway. The recipe below lists a smaller amount of bourbon than I used, but I would just follow your heart when it comes to how bourbony you want your pie.

Also, in case you were wondering, there’s something very therapeutic about rolling out a pie crust.  It’s not therapeutic of course when the crust sticks and falls apart, but luckily this crust recipe worked like a charm.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Adapted from Taste of Home

Crust
1 c. flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter – cold
2-4 Tbsp cold water

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut in the butter, piece by piece. You can do this with two knives, a pastry cutter, or just use your hands. Do this until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Add the water, a little at a time, and continue to mix slowly until it starts to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a large disk – large enough to fit your pie pan.  Flute the edges and prick the crust with a fork. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once heated, cover the pie crust with foil and weigh it down with pie weights or something else like dried beans or uncooked rice. After 10 minutes, remove the foil and weights and let it cook for another 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Filling

3 eggs
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. dark corn syrup
1/4 c. bourbon (1/8 c for less of a bourbon taste, a 1/3 c for a very strong bourbon taste.)
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. pecan halves, divided
3/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Coarsely chop 1 cup of the pecans and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrups, bourbon, butter, and salt.   Mix in the cup of chopped pecans and the chocolate chips. Sprinkle with the remaining pecan halves.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

 

 

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Snowed in With Cookies – Brown Butter Chocolate Chip

There’s approximately 800 feet of snow outside right now. It’s also somewhere around -49 degrees.

I had to park 9 miles (more or less) away from my apartment because there was a parking ban on the street I live on due to the snow.*

Normally, this would bother me.  But the snow and cold have passed so far beyond the point of annoyance that I feel i have no other choice but to embrace it.  You want to mess with me snow? I have 3 blankets on my bed (one of them made out of llama wool!), Netflix streaming on my tv, a dog to cuddle with, and a full bottle of wine. Bring it on.

This afternoon, I ordered Chinese food for dinner. I ordered two appetizers and two full entrees. Just for me.

After stuffing myself, reading my fortune cookie (ok, fine, fortune cookies – the restaurant apparently thought my meal was meant for 3 people), and watching two episodes of Dexter on Netflix (season 4 finale – I don’t even have words…), I decided it was time to go to bed.  Then, as I was changing into my pjs, I realized it was 7:30 pm.

It’s been a fantastic weekend.

Oh, and did I mention that I had cookies for breakfast? Don’t judge me. You would too if you had these hanging around:

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

* While the figures at the beginning of this post might be moderately exaggerated, my comments regarding the amount of Chinese food I ordered/ate are unfortunately entirely accurate. 

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Joy the Baker

Ingredients:

2 1/4 c. Flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter – at room temperature
1 c. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. molasses
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c. bittersweet chocolate discs

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside

In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt 1 stick plus 1 Tbsp butter until browned. Just let it melt over medium heat stirring occasionally until it begins to turn an amber-brown color and brown bits begin to form. It will also start to smell rich and nutty. Transfer to a glass bowl and let cool.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the other stick of butter and the white sugar on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and the molasses until just combined. Once the brown butter has cooled, combine with the other butter mixture and mix for another 2 minutes.  Add the egg and the egg yolk and beat for another minute.

Add the flour mixture – all at once and beat on low until just combined. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the chocolate pieces.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes or until just lightly browned around the edges.  Let cool for 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

 

 

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Sisters, Happiness, and Homemade Cracker Jack

This blog started mostly based on my habit of baking when I was feeling down, and more than a couple of people expressed concern that my baking might go down hill if things ever started going right in my life.

Tonight, I was afraid that might be true. This has been one of the happiest weeks I’ve had in a long time, and also for the first time in a long time I screwed up making caramel. I was dancing around the kitchen (I’ve done a lot of dancing tonight) and took my eyes away from the caramel for just a couple seconds, but it was enough to make a difference. I thought at first that it was ruined, and I was legitimately worried that I had lost my mojo. But, I rallied, the caramel wasn’t beyond saving, and my homemade cracker jack turned out alright after all. So did the ginger snaps I made immediately following the caramel incident to make sure I still had it. Turns out my happy feelings are at least just as good as my sad feelings!

Things have been looking up for me lately.

Most of that has to do with the fact that my little sister — out of the country for 11 months — is finally home!

I’ve spent most of the week anticipating her return, and it has definitely lived up to my expectations. All 4 of us – my brother, me, and my parents – went together to the airport late last night to meet her plane.  Although we’ve spent the last year emailing, video chatting and keeping up with each other through our blogs (check out her great account of teaching English in South Korea here) there is just nothing like face to face conversation. I was almost seven when she was born, and I remember being annoyed that I got a baby sister instead of a brother (I wanted to be the only girl), but man am I happy that I got a sister. I don’t want to get too sappy here, but there’s just something about having a sister. She’s only been home for less than 24 hours, but it took us about 2 seconds to fall into our normal, comfortable sisterly routine.  This morning, we were sitting on the couch in our pajamas, drinking coffee, talking about nothing, and I thought, “This. This right here is what I’ve been missing.”

Having my sister home is great, being here with my entire family is great, having almost a whole week off work is glorious, and it just feels so nice to be happy.

Here is me being happy while wearing my new South Korean clothes, drinking coffee, and doing a happy dance:

Happy Dance

Also adding to my happiness is the fact that I went on a date last week and it actually went well!

You know what’s good to snack on while sitting around laughing with your family? Popcorn. And popcorn with caramel and peanuts is even better.

Homemade Cracker Jack

Adapted (sort of barely hardly at all) from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients

10 cups of popcorn (plain)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
6 Tbsp unsalted butter – melted
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup lightly salted peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Pop the popcorn. I always make mine on the stove top, but you can use an air popper or even microwave popcorn, but it shouldn’t have any butter or other flavoring on it.  Place the popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let it simmer, stirring often, until it reaches 250 degrees F.

Turn off the heat and immediately whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. Pour it over the popcorn right away and use a rubber spatula to coat it evenly. Moving quickly (you don’t want the caramel to harden too fast) mix in the peanuts.

homemade cracker jack

Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet (use two if you need to) and bake for an hour, stirring every twenty minutes.

Break into chunks if needed once it is done baking and serve immediately. It will also keep in an air tight container for a few days.

 

homemade cracker jack

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2013 Year in Review

So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different.

That’s not entirely true. I do feel a lot colder than I ever did in 2013. Come on 2014, get it together! You are not off to a good start.

I have pretty mixed feelings about 2013.  In order to sort them out, I decided the best thing to do was to give it an end of year performance review.

1) Willingness to take on additional responsibilities:  Highly Effective

2013 took on additional responsibilities like a champ. If anything, I would say that 2013 was too eager to take on new responsibilities. Let’s just say it did not shy away from the tough stuff.

2) Reliability:  Inconsistent

2013 was not very reliable. Just when you thought you know what to expect,  it threw something else at you.

3) Ability to work cooperatively with supervision or as part of a team: Unsatisfactory

2013 went way rogue. It could have benefited from some supervision

4) Helps employees to see the potential for developing their skills; assists them in eliminating barriers to their development: Inconsistent

2013 gave hope that skills could be developed and barriers eliminated, but did not follow through.

 

Overall, I’m giving 2013 a solid Did Not Meet Expectations

It was an interesting year… it really wasn’t at all what I expected, and not at all what I had hoped for, but it wasn’t entirely bad either. Here are some of the highs and lows from my year (ending with the good):

Lowlights

– That whole tumor thing
– The time I went on a blind date and discovered he had lied about having never been married and not having any kids and then told me that he had actually brought his kid with him on the date.
– the fact that nothing significant enough to mention on my taxes happened
– The Steelers had a bad season
– My sister moved to South Korea

Highlights

– That whole tumor thing could’ve been way worse
– I started this blog!
– I didn’t spend Valentine’s day alone
– I joined a soccer team and really enjoyed it
– I was constantly reminded of how awesome my friends and family are, and what a great support system I have
– After surgery, I lost a pants size

So, that was my year in a nutshell. In 2014 I’m looking forward to learning how to juggle, visiting South Korea, and keeping up on this whole blogging thing.

This is how Stella feels about 2013:

Stellasleepy

She’s so embarrassed!

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