Category Archives: Guilty Pleasures

Culinary Crushes and Ginger & Lentil Soup

A lot of my friendships are based in a common love of food.

When my friend and I had our poster accepted to a research conference in Seattle, the number one priority was finding good places to eat. Actually making the poster? Way down the list.

When another friend called to tell me all of the hot, steamy details about her honeymoon, that meant telling me about a tasting menu served by a world-class chef.  (In turn, I rushed home from celebrating my first wedding anniversary to write her a lengthy email recounting every dish Nick and I ate at Charleston.)

So it’s not surprising that an enthusiasm for food is often a big attraction factor for me.  I have a serious crush on Andrew Knowlton, aka The BA Foodist. And I cannot be the only person who suddenly wanted to have a date night with Samuel L. Jackson after seeing the commercial where he consults Siri for mushroom risotto recipes, right?

My most recent culinary crush is Joy the Baker. She unapologetically celebrates peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and she puts bacon into baked goods. And she makes homemade cat toys. I love her. And so she tops the list of “People I Don’t Know but Kinda Secretly and Very Much Creepily Want as a BFF.”

Her recipe for Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones won me rave reviews after making them as favors for a friend’s baby shower. And the Brown Sugar Bacon Biscuits??  Oh my.  The downside is that I did not photograph either of them, so you’ll just have to go to her blog and look at her photos.  They’re prettier than mine would be anyway.

Fortunately, Joy also offers healthy recipes.  Recipes that are so healthy, they could wash away any hint of regret you have about eating buttery biscuits that are studded with brown sugar-coated bacon. But let’s be honest- there is no regret in eating such biscuits.

I made this Ginger & Lentil Soup a couple months ago, but just rediscovered it via the giant container in my freezer.  It’s delicious and easy, and I follow the recipe exactly, so just go check it out here.  I took pictures of this one.  They’re still not as pretty as Joy’s photos, but I took them, so you should look at them.

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Filed under Cooking, Entertainment and Pop Culture, Guilty Pleasures, My Crazy Mind

Christmas Recap, Part 1: The Cookies

And suddenly… it’s almost a week after Christmas. Everyone I know seems to share the same sentiments- there’s about a month of anticipation and preparation for the holidays, and then, it’s all over. I’ve been in some weird holiday-real world limbo for the last few days, where I’ve been making bargains and compromises with myself. Things like, “Let’s try to wait until after lunch to dig into the sugar cookies today” and “Put the new Kindle away for a couple hours and knock out the editing work you need to do.”

Speaking of the Kindle… Yes, I got one for Christmas. I told myself that even though I was mainly interested in it as a reading device, I should just ask for the fancy Kindle Fire so I’d have more flexibility and be able to read the colorful, glossy, digital version of Bon Appetit. However… so far, about 95% of my time with my Kindle has been playing games like Endless Escape (this involves puzzles and cleverness, so I’m not ashamed about this) and something ridiculous called Sky Burger (more ashamed about this).

Back to the cookies. As usual, I had lofty cookie aspirations this year. I bought ingredients for four types of cookies, but after making just two batches of dough, I found my cookie energy waning. After all, there were gifts to wrap and a tree that, as of December 22, was still not decorated. And I had to make these customized magnets for our friends (because they love their kitties as much as we love ours):

cat magnets

Hey, check out that Christmas card!

Thus, my Christmas to-do list required some prioritizing, and I had the freeing realization that I didn’t have to bake all the cookies before Christmas. And really, other than a tube of almond paste, all of the other ingredients could be used elsewhere if I decided I didn’t want to make the cookies at all.

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Ultimately I ended up making the following:

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies.  These are the same cookies I made for our wedding. That time, I tripled the recipe and spent three days baking them. All the wedding excitement must have blocked out one key thing from my memory: I hate making sugar cookies. Don’t get me wrong- these are delicious and if you are a more patient person than I am, they are worth the effort. But what I discovered last weekend is that the process of rolling out dough, cutting out cookies only to have half of them get messed up because the dough is too soft, balling up the dough and re-chilling it, and then going through the process again was more than I felt like doing. So, sorry folks, it will probably be a while before you get more of these from me!*

Thumbprint Cookies. Made especially for my husband, who has a weakness for pretty much any sort of fruit filling when it is enclosed in a buttery, sugary womb, regardless of whether it is a homemade pie or a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. These are not very different from the Trios I made last year, except they’re just single cookies rather than clusters of three with different fillings. In other words, these are way less tedious, which was apparently the major criterion in my cookie selection this year.

Gingery Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Are these ginger cookies masquerading as chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip cookies disguised as ginger cookies? I think they are just the best of both worlds. I added a dash of ground ginger in addition to the candied ginger. And Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips are wonderful in these. I don’t think I can go back to Nestle.

*To be honest, not many people got cookies from me this year, and I feel guilty about that… There was some poor planning in terms of organization/storage containers/running late to family events and not having time to assemble containers to take with us. It was not my intent to bake five dozen cookies only to keep most of them for ourselves. In fact, that is exactly what I didn’t want to do. Which is why there will be another cleanse in January. More on that soon.

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Random Moments of Happiness: Days 17-20

Yikes- I’m falling behind!  Here we go…

Day 17: Ladiez Night. With a “z”. Cocktails and food, followed by a wine-infused viewing of Lincoln. On a semi-related note, baby Bota boxes comfortably fit in purses….

It looks just like its mommy!

Day 18: Sleeping in. With my husband.  Usually I’m wide-awake several hours before Nick and get fidgety hanging out in bed. But thanks to the previous night’s cocktails and wine, that was not a problem. I cannot remember the last time I slept until 11.

Typical morning scene at our place

Day 19: Catching up with my old roomie. For three years after college, I shared an apartment with a friend from school. There were a lot of margaritas and reality dating shows. Sadly with leading busy lives in different states has drastically reduced our contact with each other. This dinner date was a year in the making. Seriously. Finally we managed to set and stick to a date with neither of us needing to reschedule. It seemed fitting that it was a Monday, as much of our margarita drinking occurred on Mondays while watching Average Joe or Joe Millionaire. Of course, we were drinking red wine instead of margaritas. Because we’re older and more mature now. Or maybe it was just because we weren’t at a Mexican restaurant.

Day 20: The Voice results show. All my favorites – Melanie, Cody, Amanda, Terry- got through. And I was surprised that I liked Dez and Cassadee’s performances as much as I did. At this point, I don’t think I’d feel too disappointed about any of them winning, but I really want to see more of Cody. He’s just so much fun to watch.

 

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Filed under Animals, Entertainment and Pop Culture, Guilty Pleasures, Life

Random Moments of Happiness: Day 5

Dear Husband,

Please don’t read this. Trust me. You don’t want to.

Are you still reading? Seriously- stop. If you love me – if you love us – you will stop. You know I respect your musical tastes, knowledge, and talents. And yes, we bonded over some of our similarities, like being the weird kids in third grade who listened to the oldies station. I’d like to think that’s one of the reasons you married me. But you also married me despite my affinity for certain reality shows.

You know where this is going. It’s just going to make you angry. So stop reading.

Love,

Me

To the rest of you,

Monday was kind of a crappy day. I mean, it was Monday, to begin with. And then I woke up with what was most likely the beginnings of a cold (and at this time I can tell you that yes, it was exactly that). I pushed myself through the day – lab meetings, classes, and prepping for lectures- and tried to push away worries about teaching on Tuesday while feeling sick.

So, Monday night, I turned to NBC and The Voice for comfort. Yes, I watch The Voice… in spite of my husband’s clear disapproval. I try not to talk about it, kind of the way that when you have a friend whose political views clash with your own, you might avoid talking about the election. At first, you tried to engage in a healthy debate, but eventually you realize no one’s going to sway the other, and that’s okay because it really has nothing to do with your friendship. So you drop it.

I understand why, as a musician, Nick hates The Voice. There are semi-analogous things I encounter with psychology and research that get me all riled up. But I still think some of the people on that show are awesome performers. There are certainly moments when I cringe (how many Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift songs were included during the last round??) but I love Melanie Martinez and Michaela Paige. And I forgive Terry McDermott for singing a Journey song because his rendition of Maybe I’m Amazed last week was that good. (Really, Nick, if you are still reading, just please block all this from your mind.)

But, as I’m sure a billion other people are saying, the highlight of the night was Amanda Brown singing Dream On. Seeing a woman with such a powerful voice – the kind that typically seems reserved for R&B and pop genres – rock out like that totally made my day.
Can’t wait to see what she does next!

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One Afternoon, Two Sisters, and Three Bakeries

A few months back, my sister sent me an email mentioning not one, but two bakeries in Georgetown that she wanted to visit.  I had hoped to have a pre-wedding sisters’ excursion in the spring, but our schedules didn’t allow that to happen.  That turned out to be okay though, because a couple weeks ago I received a second email from Em about a macaron shop that had just opened up: “ANOTHER bakery in Georgetown? Wtf?  It will be a busy day.”

And so the First Sister Bakery Crawl was born.  Whether there will be a second is not yet determined.

We came prepared: sensible walking shoes, loose-fitting pants, and a map outlining our route.  We also paced ourselves.  The nice thing about Georgetown is that there are a lot of shops to wander around in while giving your digestive system a break before the next round.  The nicer thing about Georgetown is that the shops are above the affordability range for a graduate student, so it’s a fun browsing experience without the temptation to purchase anything.

Stop #1: Baked and Wired.

So. Many. Cupcakes.  Not to mention cookies, bars, and pies that also looked amazing.  But the array of cupcakes lined up along the entire length of the counter was too hard to resist.  After eying flavors like Chai Tea Latte and Flapjack (maple with candied bacon), I settled on the “Pretty Bitchin” (chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting).  I do not regret my decision.  Em got the Elvis Impersonator (banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting) which was also delicious.

Baked and Wired also offers a wide range of coffee drinks and a sense of humor that clicks quite well with mine, as exemplified by their bathroom art:

We determined that we’d swing back in on the way home to buy some cookies for the husbands. (Okay, and maybe for ourselves.)

Stop #2: Pie Sisters.

We decided to seize the opportunity to take a break from sugary things and share a couple small savory pies: a Country Tomato and a Chicken Potpie.  The tomato pie was filled with chopped tomatoes and topped with just enough cheese, all encased in a flaky, tender crust. Yum. Halfway through, we swapped plates.  After a couple bites of wonderfully-fresh vegetables and chicken I realized there was no way I was going to get through the whole thing, especially since this was not our last stop.  As much as I hate to waste food, I put my fork down and prepared for the next round.

Stop #3: Macaron Bee.

This was a bit of an (uphill) walk from the other places, but that probably wasn’t a bad thing as it gave my stomach some time to process all the amazingness it had just received.  Still, as we walked up Wisconsin Avenue, I questioned whether I was going to be ready to eat anything else.  As soon as I saw all the colorful rows of petite macarons, I told myself I could do this.  I’m glad I did. The milk chocolate and passion fruit macaron was interesting, though not my favorite.  The pistachio, on the other hand, was so good.  I think I’d be happy with just a bowl of the filling and a spoon.

After that second macaron, I’m pretty sure my stomach turned its sign over to “Closed.”  I was done. So done, in fact, that by the time we circled back around to Baked and Wired, I couldn’t bring myself to go back in, even if it was just to buy cookies for someone else.  Sorry, husbands.  Next time.

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Filed under Family, Food I Didn't Cook, Guilty Pleasures

My New Favorite Thing: Needle Felted Critters

This blog entry is dedicated to my mom.  Because I know she’ll like it and I’m pretty sure a good combination of nature and nurture from her is why I got so excited about this topic.  As my dad put it, my mom “likes little things that look like the big things.”  (Let’s hope that doesn’t apply to everything.)

It’s a good thing classes haven’t started yet, because then I might feel a little guilty about the amount of time I spent last night browsing Etsy for handmade, pocket-sized animals.  Why was I doing this?  Well, because I happened to notice  that one of my favorite bloggers, Movita Beaucoup, had a page with some needle felted animals she crafted, like Morley.

Image by Movita Beaucoup

If I was lucky enough to have Morley live with me, I am pretty sure I would carry him everywhere.  And probably talk to him.  Because the way his head is tilted clearly indicates that he is a good listener.

So then I got curious.  And suddenly it was three hours later and I had flagged twenty-five little fuzzy animals on Etsy.  Here are some of my favorites:

This little guy comes with his own home!

Hamster with crocheted play hut by BitsofFiber

Of course there were lots of cats who caught my eye….

Oliver the Orange Kitty Cat by LittleElfsToyshop

Eskimo Kitty by Lazzi217

There are sooo many bunnies I want to share with my sister!

Easter Bunny Baby Rabbit by SteviT

Bunny Friends by darialvovsky

Black & White Bunny by TCMfeltDesigns

Teeny Tiny Gray Bunny by LittleElfsToyshop

Apparently you can actually get custom sculptures of your pets!  I told Nick that if we ever find ourselves in a position to lavish each other with extravagant gifts, I would like a custom needle felted version of Bailey and Matilda.

Custom Two Kitty Pin Cushion by BayColonyDesigns

Custom Poseable Dog by GourmetFelted

There are even DIY kits you can purchase!

DIY Brown Cat kit by HanamiBoutique

But my favorite….?

Axolotl by CreturFetur

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Last Night’s Dinner: Fettuccine Alfredo

Or as I like to call it, One of the Most Delicious Things Ever with Absolutely No Redeeming Nutritional Value.  I’ve tried subbing whole wheat pasta for egg fettuccine.  It’s not the same.  And yes… you can add some broccoli or chicken to add some vitamins or protein.  But if you’re going to indulge, just indulge.  Accept it and embrace it.

I treat myself to this once or twice a year at most, so I have no shame about enjoying a plate of empty carbs, cheese, butter, and cream.   This is another Giada De Laurentiis Everyday Italian recipe.  The only thing I have changed is cutting the amount of lemon juice in half.  I love lemon, but using a 1/4 cup of lemon juice just seemed like that was going to overpower everything else.

It’s supposed to be six first-course servings but Nick and I might have eaten the whole thing.  Okay, I do have some shame about that.  But that’s why we only do this once a year or so.

Fettuccine Alfredo (adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis)

Heat a large pot of salted water.  While you’re waiting for it to boil…

In a large, heavy skillet, stir 1 cup heavy cream and 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice (from half a lemon).  Add 6 tablespoons butter and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts.  Stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon) and pinch of nutmeg.  Remove from heat.

Hopefully your water is boiling by this point.  Cook a 9-ounce package of fresh fettuccine according to directions.

Once cooked, add the pasta, another 1/2 cup cream, 1 cup freshly Parmesan cheese*, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper to the cream sauce in the skillet.  Toss over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.  Season with more salt and pepper and serve.

*I really hope I don’t have to tell you this, but if you are about to use Kraft canned Parmesan, don’t do it.  Take your canned cheese and throw it in the trash.  Containers of shredded cheese are acceptable, I suppose, but really, if you’re going to take the time to do this, do it right.  Get a box grater and a big chunk of aged Parmesan.  Trust me, you’ll never go back to the dark side.

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