The Magic In Different

Change to me, means something new, different and exciting. A change of place lends me to changes in thought, perceptions and feelings. Different and tasty food I’ve never experienced. Different people with interesting life stories from different parts of the world. Different clothes (and of course, shoes!) that haven’t seen the light of day in a while.  Change means things are moving forward; different experiences are coming my way. There is beauty in seeing something different. It can even be a little magical.

But BEING different is a little more challenging. It can be frightening and at times really, really scary. Oh, and did I mention messy? Being different means giving up that security and safety that comes with “sameness.” Anyone deemed not cool in high school because they didn’t have the same Doc Martens, jelly bracelets, and Mondetta sweatshirt as the popular kids, knows what I mean (Did I just date myself?). Whether its circumstance (Ode to Eugenia right here) or by choice, being different is, well… different.  It can be lonely when everyone else is at the playground with their kids and I’m not. I find it hard when I don’t identify with seemingly everyone else’s daily experiences. But I have my own, different experiences. I’ve learned to develop a thick skin when people question why I’m not the same, ie. when I’ll provide grandchildren for my parents, why I run so much, or how can I walk in those sky-high shoes. And I’m also developing courage to stand up for myself. I’m learning to embrace the not-being-ordinary. To see the magic in BEING different.

Besides, jelly bracelets were never cool anyway.

(You might question how this relates to the following recipe. But cookies without dark chocolate? Cookies with white chocolate? Which isn’t really chocolate. Now that really is different for me. But seize the day, carpe diem and all that; these cookies are gooooooood…. Give “different” a chance, and you’ll be amazed at how “not ordinary” can be transformative and amazing. That’s right, these cookies are transformative. To my waistline. I shall now go for a run.)

White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Cookies

makes about 32 cookies

adapted from Honest Cooking

  • 1 C butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 C white sugar
  • 3/4 C  brown sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt (if using table salt, use 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 C dried cherries
  • 2 100g good quality, white chocolate bars chopped into pieces
  • 1 C chopped, toasted macadamia nuts
  • Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in both the sugars and mix well. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until just combined.
  • Add in the flour mixture until just combined. Do NOT over beat the cookies at this point or they will be tough. As in not chewy.
  • STIR in the cherries, chocolate, and nuts by hand.
  • Refridgerate the dough at least four hours, up to 48 hours before baking.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Portion out the cookies and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
  • To toast the macadamia nuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned at 350 degrees.
  • Please don’t over bake the cookies. The cookies may not look done in the middle, but they are. They will set as they cool. If you over bake these babies, you will have a crunchy, dried out mess. You can go to the grocery store for ordinary, dried out, preservative filled cookies.
PS Isn’t this cake plate pretty? It photographs amazing! It was birthday gift from my beautiful sister-in-law. Check out her blog here.


Do you ever wonder how you ended up where you are? Living in the town you’re living in? With the job you have? The friends you’ve surrounded yourself with? Are you the kind of person who always had a dream, a plan and a checklist with your life all mapped out? And if so, have you followed that plan? Are your past dreams the life you’re living right now?

My husband is the kind of guy with a long term plan. A vision. He sees his future and works determinedly towards it. He has big dreams. He’s a big thinker. I really admire that in him and it’s one of the reasons I love him.

I, on the other hand, don’t really have a long term path (a nice person would call me “free spirited” and must possess an infinite amount of patience dealing with my wandering). I do sometimes see something I want, in the future, and I have grand dreams, but invariably I end up wandering off course, spinning around toward something different then what was my original plan. Sometimes I feel dissatisfied, like I’m orbiting my little life in concentric circles, not really moving in any direction, but often my winding and roaming leads to new discoveries I wouldn’t have come across otherwise (let’s call that trait “open minded”, shall we?). Like my brilliant thought to make home made ricotta cheese. I really had no idea what I was going to do with 2  cups of cheese, since I don’t really eat cheese, but I wanted to prove I could do it. So I did. And then I made these muffins and I have not looked back.

Lemon & Ricotta Muffins

source: Miss Lemonie herself

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp  lemon zest (about two lemons)
  • 1 C ricotta cheese (I used my  fabulous home made, low fat ricotta cheese)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 to 3 drops lemon oil (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
  • Combine the lemon zest and lemon juice. Let that sit and get nice and lemonie while you get the rest of the ingredients together.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Beat the ricotta cheese until it’s smooth. Then add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Next, beat in the buttermilk and the extracts.
  • Gently fold in the dry ingredients along with the lemon juice/zest mixture.
  • Top with almonds and turbino sugar, if you want, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Cool for 5 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.
  • Don’t forget to add in the lemon zest/juice mixture at the end. Someone not used to following a plan (and not just because they think they know better), may do so, and then create a glaze to top the muffins with after they are done baking. Which tastes equally yummy and makes a prettier muffin, if I do say so myself.
  • If you want, you could chuck in a bunch of fresh blueberries. Or raspberries which go really well with almonds!

Rest Here

Summer is a busy time. We fill our schedules to the brim trying to take everything in and squeeze out every last possible second of sunshine. And who wouldn’t? Summer is beautiful after all. Hydrangeas are in bloom, strawberries and peaches are in season, and we can feel each blade of green grass tickling our bare feet. But it’s mid July and if you find yourself running out of energy and sparkle, baskets of fresh produce sitting on your counter waiting to be canned, preserved, and roasted… take a minute, and rest here.

Grab an iced latte (non fat, of course). Pull up a chair. Press play on your favorite playlist. And relax. Peruse the recipes and writings on this blog, or venture over to your other favorite online reads (the new issue of Rue  should be live shortly). Let the peaches sit on your counter and get a little over ripe (you can always use them up in a muffin recipe). Revel in the sunshine. Sit back…. and just breathe.

Peach Muffins with Pecan Streusel

source: Miss Lemonie

Makes 12


  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 C butter, melted
  • 1/4 C apple sauce
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 medium peaches peeled and diced (about 1/3″ pieces)
  • 1/3 C chopped pecans
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line your  muffin tin with paper liners, or grease well.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  • Whisk the egg then add in the butter, milk, and vanilla. (I did this by hand. No need to get our your stand mixer.)
  • Gently stir together the wet and dry mixtures until just combined.
  • Fold in the peach slices then spoon into your muffin cups.
  • For the topping mixture: combine everything until well incorporated. Then sprinkle over the muffin mixture before popping into the oven.
  • Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Let cool 10 minutes on a wire wrack before removing from the pan.


  • The riper your peaches the more flavor they will impart in your baking. In other words, don’t use peaches that aren’t ripe. Your muffins will be bland and boring.
  • It’s important not to let your muffins, once baked, cool to long in the pan. If they do, they will get soggy from the steam while cooling.
  • I only used 2 Tbsp of butter in the muffins (For some reason I used 2 Tbsp in the batter and 2 Tbsp for the topping instead of 4 in the batter. It had nothing to do with me being in a rush.) and they turned out just fine. If you’re not worried about the fat content in your baking go with original 1/4 C or,  you can go crazy and substitute all the apple sauce with butter. You could even add more pecans into the streusel topping. But it’s summer. And I might like to wear a bikini so I’m sticking to the apple sauce instead of the butter sticking to me.
  • As I baked the muffins, with less butter, they have each 198 calories, 6.5 g fat, and 35 g carbs.

Live a Little

This summer…

This summer I am going to live a little. I’ve been feeling like a shell lately. Like a turtle living with my head and legs all tucked up inside. Sometimes it’s just easier that way; living a life turtled (all you volleyball players know what I mean. Thankfully, I’m not normally one to turtle on the court.). It saves me from realizing all the things I’m missing out. I don’t have to think about anything or feel anything when I’m turtled. I can just live in my own little house, making things in my own little kitchen. It’s a small life and sometimes it’s all I can handle.

But if the sun is bright enough, I just might poke my head out. It’s a little disorienting at first and I have to squint because the sun can be blinding. The noise and busy-ness is an assault on my senses. I often feel totally overwhelmed by the happiness going on around me. But once I’ve adjusted I also see everything good I’m missing out on: riding the merry-go-round with my beautiful little niece, eating cotton candy with the girls at the fair, celebrating birthdays all in pink (a very important color, apparently, when you are turning five).

This summer I am going to live a little more. I’m going to walk barefoot all day. I’m going to take a nap outside. I’m going to run in the pouring rain. I’m going to bake something with my niece and not care about the mess. I’m going to find a favorite poem. I’m going to make a new recipe once a week with fresh goods from the local farmer’s market (see below). I’m going to hoe my mom’s garden along side her. I’m going hold my breath underwater for longer than 19 seconds. I’m going to take only a film camera on a photo expedition. I’m going to climb a tree.

I’m going to try and take it all in: the scary, the hurtful, the good, and the happy. I’m going to live.

Summer Lemon Risotto (serves 2 as a main, double recipe to serve 4)

  • 2 to 2 1/2 C broth
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 C arborio rice
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped into 1/4″ slices
  • 3/4 C fresh corn (or one cob)
  • small handful of fresh basil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 C freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bring the broth to a boil then lower to a simmer.
  • In a medium pan, heat the butter then add in the garlic and onions. Saute on medium until they are nice and fragrant, and opaque. Then stir in the rice and saute another two to three minutes.
  • Pour in the wine (thank goodness you only need 1/4 C. The rest of the bottle you can drink yourself.) and throw in the lemon zest. Stir until the wine is absorbed.
  • Turn the heat to medium low and add in 1 C broth. Stir occasionally until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the broth 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring frequently until the liquid is mostly absorbed before adding the next half cup. Once the rice is tender firm, this should take approximately 20 minutes, remove from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, saute the asparagus and zucchini 4 to 5 minutes until tender crisp.
  • Once the rice has reached the desired tenderness, stir in the corn, basil, lemon juice and parmesan. Then stir in the asparagus and zucchini.
  • Garnish with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.
  • This goes really well with a few shrimp and scallops. Saute the seafood in a little of the white wine, a bit of lemon zest and a minced clove of garlic.
  • Feel free to use what ever fresh veggies you have on hand.
  • I used vegetable broth, but depending on what you’re serving the risotto with, adjust your broth to suit (ie. chicken broth, beef broth, shrimp broth if your really ambitious).

June Gloom

Anyone else feeling it?

That June gloom? A feeling of persistent grey and cloud? And I’m not just referring to the dismal weather (my favorite DVF chiffon sundress is still hibernating in my closet from last summer). I’m talking about the very state of my emotional well-being. That part of me that today, feels like the bug; not the windshield.

My legs are tired and sore from running. My head hurts from not enough caffeine. I haven’t had enough time in my kitchen lately to whip up yummy treats to share with you. I’m turning yet another year older in the very, near future. The sun never shines; I’m tired of being cold. I need to see some bright, happy color. And I really, really need a hair cut. And maybe a good night out on the town with my dancing shoes.

I recently read an article about conversations we have with ourselves. It really made me stop and think: are most of my conversations focusing on negative things? Am I complaining to myself? Obsessing about things? Ruminating on things that aren’t working?

What would happen, if instead of fixating on the negative, I would spend my time consciously focusing on what is good in my life and what is working? What if I started noticing all the little things that bring me joy? What if my conversations listed things I am grateful for? Or how about having a conversation with myself with intent of creating a positive change? If I did, the paragraph above might go something like this:

I just completed a half marathon with a PB of 1:46 and my legs burn in that good way you feel after a hard and gratifying run. I had the inner strength to lay off the caffeine & junk food the week before my race which helped me put in my PB. I have been really busy these past few weeks with a great new client and finishing up a really large project. I did manage to sneak in enough time to try out one new recipe filled with bright and healthy veggies. I am lucky enough to have family and friends that love me and want to celebrate my 29th (uh hum) birthday with me (again); and I can hardly wait for my mom’s famous coconut cake. On my birthday, I am going to relax, forget about work, warm up in a hot yoga class and get a much needed haircut. Then I’m going to grab a Starbucks and rock out a car concert (a little chair dancing, and a whole lot of singing) to my favorite tunes all the way home.

Huh. Now that I think about it: that all sounds pretty good.

So I’m going to turn off my internal editor and NOT accept that I am the bug. Today I am going to be the windshield.

Lucky me.

Cowboy Caviar

lightly adapted from What’s Gabby Cooking, serves 4 as a side

  • 2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini, chopped
  • hand full of sugar snap peas
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped (& seeded if you don’t want the heat)
  • 1/4 avacado, chopped
  • the juice of half a lime
  • 1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped
  • sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • dash of cumin
  • In a non-stick skillet, gently saute the onions until they are soft about 4-5 minutes. Add in the red pepper, zucchini, snap peas (or whatever veggies you want: asparagus, more peppers, carrots, etc) and jalapeno. Saute another 4-5 minutes until tender crisp.
  • Add in the corn and saute two to three minutes, just until heated through.
  • Mix everything together and serve at warm, at room temperature, or cool. It’s up to you!
  • To make your veggies tender crisp, about halfway through sauteing, add 1 Tbsp water.
  • Love this recipe! You can use whatever you veggies you have on hand (but I suggest you always add the corn), it’s super quick, low in fat, and the bright yellow corn is a nice little hit of sunshine.
  • My car concert will include a little Asteroids Galaxy Tour, Foster the People, Goldfrapp, Lykke Li, and Broken Bells. Any other suggestions?

Happy Birthday!

To my blog.

It’s officially one year ago today that I posted my first entry. It started out as a creative outlet in a rather dark time, but has turned into so much more. I have turned into so much more over the past year.

And I want to say thanx. A sincere thank you to everyone who has stopped by (and surprisingly it’s been more than just my Mom!), left encouraging comments, and taken the time to get to know me.

So, to celebrate I made a bright and happy strawberry focaccia (Many of you may be surprised it’s not something chocolatey but have no fear. Chocolate is coming. Dark, dark, chocolate.). Yeast is not my friend, and this upcoming year I am determined to master it. Among various other things. It’s amazing where a year can all take you…

Strawberry & Goat Cheese Focaccia 

courtesy of the fabulous Joy The Baker

  • 2 packages active dry yeast (it really helps to use fresh yeast. Trust me.)
  • 1 C warm water
  • 3 C flour, divided into 1 C portions
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 tsp salt
  • zest from one orange
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 C thinly sliced strawberries
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling
  • 1/2 C goat cheese
  • good quality balsamic vinegar
  • fresh chopped mint
  • In a large bowl sprinkle your yeast over the warm water. Add in one cup of flour and stir until everything is blended together and smooth. Cover and set in a warm, draft free place for one hour to rise. I often place mine in the oven.
  • While the mixture is rising, zest your orange and combine it with the sugar. With your fingers, rub the zest and the sugar together until it’s bright orange and fragrant. Set aside.
  • After the yeast mixture has risen it’s hour, stir in 3 Tbsp olive oil, the orange and sugar mixture and salt. Add in one cup of flour and stir to combine. About 1/4 C at a time, add in the remaining flour. Your dough should be a little sticky. You might need a little less flour, or maybe a little more. I’ll let you be the judge!
  • Once the dough has come together, kneed by hand, on a floured surface, for five minutes. Your dough should still be a little sticky. That’s a good thing for this recipe.
  • Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around, making sure the entire surface gets a thin coating of oil. Then cover the bowl, place in a warm, draft free place and let rise another hour or until doubled in volume.
  • Next, punch the dough down and knead for just a minute. Then stretch the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling pin if desired into one large 16″x9″ rectangle. You can either leave it as one large rectangle or cut it into four as pictured above. Place the dough on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover losely and let rise for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is rising again (it’s worth it!), preheat your oven to 375F.
  • After 30 minutes, use your fingers to make random indentations into the puffy dough. Drizzle with a little olive oil, about 1 tsp total. Top the bread with the sliced strawberries and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
  • Bake the bread 25-35 minutes until lightly golden and baked through.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire wrack. After about 5 minutes top with the goat cheese, fresh mint and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  • The sooner you eat this bread, the better! It does not keep well on the counter.
  • Did you know each strawberry has approximately  200 seeds? And it’s the only “fruit” with it’s seeds on the outside. Huh.


Cashmere Armor

I am a private, and sometimes to my detriment, I’m sure, proud woman. I am determined to keep up “appearances” and never show my achilles heel. I don’t like to show even the tiniest hint of vulnerability and I take comfort in hiding behind a layer of cashmere armor, movie star sized sunglasses, and high heels. Anyone who gets a glimpse of my ratty t-shirt underneath my Inhabit cardigan should realize it’s a decision I do not take lightly.

I’m not exactly known for my warm and loving emotions, those that are often required to spoil someone. I’m all pointy elbows and sharp toenails which suits my personality. I think people who don’t know me, view me as distant, maybe even cold, which often takes me by surprise because I feel anything but distant. It is definitely a coping mechanism, not to let people “see” me. Sometimes it saves me a world of hurt, but sometimes I just really want a hug. Even if you do get jabbed with my pointy elbows and flailing arms.

So next time I’m concerned with keeping up appearances,  I am going to toss together a batch of fresh rhubarb muffins with a sparkly streusel topping (huh… rhubarb is kinda tart and sour upon first bite. But spend a bit of time with it, sweeten it up with some sugar and you’ll love it forever.) and pick a bunch of fresh lilacs to pretty up my kitchen island and invite over a friend. I might even toss aside the cashmere cardigan because there are days where you just need a warm embrace.

Rhubarb Muffins with Strawberries & Orange

makes 12 muffins

source: MissLemonie

Streusel Topping:

  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp butter (<ost recipes call for more butter. Use your discretion.)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Using your hands, combine all ingredients until they resemble coarse meal. Some small pea sized lumps are okay.
  • Store in the fridge until you’re ready to top the muffins.
  • 2 C chopped rhubarb
  • 1 C chopped strawberries
  • 2 C all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 C milk (I used non-fat, but anything will work)
  • 1/4 C butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Line a muffin tin with paper liners and preheat your oven to 375F.
  • Combine the rhubarb and strawberries with 1/4 of flour.
  • Zest and juice the orange. You will need 1/2 C of fresh orange juice.
  • Whisk together the egg, orange zest and juice, and vanilla.
  • Whisk together the remaining 1 3/4C flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  • Stir together the flour mix and egg/orange mix. Once just combined, stir in the butter and the milk. Then stir in the fruit.
  • Divide the batter between 12 muffin cups and top with the streusel mixture.
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tins (don’t want to burn yourself!) and then cool completely on your wire baking rack.
  • These muffins do not store well because of the topping (it becomes soggy the second day). I would suggest inviting your closest friends over and enjoying the muffins together… in your 1998 “Yes You Can!” t-shirt and your not-so-sexy-butt, worn out sweats. Ponytail optional.
  • If you don’t eat the muffins the first day, simply wrap them individually in plastic wrap and toss them in the freezer.

Running For Daylight

Lately I feel like I’ve been running just to see the light of day. A speck of sunshine. A ray of hope. I’m running to see daylight; to feel a pulse. To marvel at something new. To see something in the distance to look forward to.

And in my case, it literally does involve running. It’s my way of dealing. With the little disturbances of life (no Starbucks within walking distance, no poblano peppers at the grocery store, no place to wear my Mui Mui heels) and especially the bigger potholes in the road of my journey. I depend on the ritual of lacing up my runners and heading out the front door. I love the feeling of inhaling fresh air while my lungs are on fire from exertion. I love the feeling of a good round of speed work that makes my leg muscles burn. I love standing at the bottom of a hill knowing the only thing between the bottom and the top is me.

What I don’t love is when I head out the door and I have nothing but processed & foil packed, store bought, granola bars to fuel my early morning run. So I came up with this healthy breakfast cookie slash granola bar. I know all the ingredients in it and when it was made unlike those store bought things with a list of ingredients longer than my arm. So next time you find yourself running for daylight, or whatever it is that you do to deal with your life stresses, try one (it helps to have a stash in the freezer): it will give you the energy to face that hill and enjoy the view from the top.

Breakfast Cookies

  • 3/4 C all purpose flower
  • 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 C old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 scant tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 Tbsp melted unsalted butter (it will help your cookies stick together)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 C of your favorite nuts, chopped (I used pecans)
  • 1/4 C 0f your favorite dried fruit (I used dried cherries)
  • 1/4 C mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 of your favorite seeds (I used unsalted sunflower seeds)
  • Preheat your oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flours, oats, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
  • Beat the egg then add in the melted butter, vanilla and brown sugar. Stir until well combined.
  • Combine the flower and butter mixtures until well incorporated. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  • Using your hands, form into about 15 cookies. The dough is pretty crumbly. You will have to press the cookies together.
  • Bake about 10-12 minutes. Ten minutes for a chewier cookie and a little longer if you like a crunchier cookie.
  • Cool completely on a wire baking rack. These cookies will keep for a day or two in an airtight container but I suggest wrapping each in plastic wrap and storing in the freezer. The next time you need a quick breakfast (or have a cookie craving!) you can just grab one on your way out the door.
  • Each cookie (as made above) has about 150 calories, 8 g fat, 20 g carbs and 130 mg of sodium.

There Won’t Be A Parade

Do you ever feel like you’ve accomplished a lot? Like a whole heck of a lot? But that no one notices? Maybe the list of stuff you’ve accomplished lately is internal and people around you can’t “see” it: you didn’t cry last time you got invited to a baby shower, you stepped way out of your comfort zone and met new people in a new city (and consequently saw Adele perform), you broke your six mile record. Maybe it’s the little stuff that the people around you take for granted: you did the laundry, unpacked the suitcases, grocery shopped and made sure there was healthy food on the table at mealtimes.

Or maybe you’re too busy noticing everyone else’s successes to pay heed to your own. But sit back and look at where you started. You have made progress. You have come a long way, from wherever  and whenever, your journey started. Take the time to enjoy the milestones, be they large or small, that you’ve passed on your trip from point A to point B. Because we all have small victories, accomplishments, and successes.

Yea, there will always be someone smarter. Or prettier. Kinder or more generous. A better friend. Or more creative. But I suggest you stop.  Stop looking at others and be proud of what you’ve done. Have you smiled at someone today? Volunteered at school? Vacuumed the front entrance? Gotten out of bed? Enjoyed the sunshine? I’m thinking there is something you’ve done… and it might not be grand enough for anyone to notice and throw you a parade. But you deserve it. And maybe a brownie.
Salted Caramel Brownies

from Baked: Explorations 

For the Caramel:

  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 C heavy cream (whipping cream, 35%)
  • 1 tsp fleur de sel
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • In a medium sized saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 C water and stir together. Be careful not to splash up the sides of your saucepan. Cook until a thermometer reads 350F or the mixture is a dark amber color. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Be careful not to burn yourself or your caramel. If the mixture splashes up the sides of your saucepan, brush the sides only, with a wet pastry brush while the mixture cooks.
  • Remove the caramel mixture from the heat and slowly stir in the heavy cream. Then stir in the salt and sour cream.
  • Set aside to cool
For the Brownies:
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
  • 11 oz. dark chocolate (I used 72% Valrhona)
  • 1 C unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C packed brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp fleur de sel
  • 1 tsp coarse sugar
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper (or lightly grease).
  • In a medium bowl whisk together your flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  • In a large saucepan, over very low heat, gently melt the chocolate and butter and stir continually. (The recipe calls for doing this over a double boiler but I just do it over the “simmer” setting on my smallest gas burner). Once the chocolate and butter are melted remove the pan from the heat and whisk in both sugars until well combined.
  • Next whisk in three eggs (yes, by hand and just think of the nice, muscular arms your builidng) until JUST combined. Then add the remaining two eggs and vanilla. Do NOT over mix.
  • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixtures and gently stir until just barely combined. It is perfectly fine to see small flecks of flour. If you over mix at this stage your brownies will be cakey instead of thick and fudgy.
To assemble the brownies:
  • Pour half the brownie mixture into your pan. Smooth out the mixture with a spatula.
  • Drizzle about 1/2 C of the caramel mixture over the brownie mixture. Make sure the caramel does not touch the sides of your baking pan because it will seriously burn on. Not fun. Gently spread the caramel into an even layer.
  • Finish by spreading on the remainder of the brownie batter: it works well to drop by the spoonful and then spread it out using a spatula.
  • Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes. I would be careful not to over bake the brownies. They are done when you insert a toothpick (or whatever you have on hand) and it comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  • Directly after removing from the oven, sprinkle the brownies with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. (Although, if you NEED a sample, just to make sure you didn’t “forget” any ingredients, no one will fault you. In fact… go right ahead. It will be like throwing yourself a little parade. Maybe even with a sprinkle of confetti).

Unexpected Gifts

Last week, I was busy dealing with the appearance of normalcy. Trying to go about my daily routines and quickly patch up any cracks in my faultless (cough, cough) veneer with scotch tape, twine, Uhu glue and band-aids, lest the world I’ve so carefully constructed start to come unravelled. Or worse: deflate like a balloon pricked with an unnecessarily sharp object. Because what good is a popped balloon, dried and shriveled up, tossed in the garbage.

But  thank goodness, somewhere in the depths of my reserves I found a particularly strong duct tape ready to patch up any escaping air. It was like an unexpected gift. A Burberry trench coat when you’re expecting nothing. A hand-made card and a hug from a friend to let you know she’s thinking of you. Flowers from your Mom when the day should be all about her, not you. A simple phone call from a friend offering a beach cruiser ride who you know is tired and busy.

My daily life and the surprises it can so gracefully offer: sometimes the surprises throw me off course. Other times, the surprises are joyous presents to be treasured like this recipe I came across for strawberries roasted with balsamic vinegar. Huh… strawberries with vinegar? Thankfully, I didn’t toss the recipe in the trash. Instead, I hunted down a good quality balsamic vinegar, picked the freshest strawberries, and was rewarded with a heavenly confection.

An unexpected gift.

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Adapted from Shutterbean

  • 3-4 C strawberries, roughly cut in half, or to any size you want
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp port
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Preheat your oven to 350 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and sea salt.
  • Place the strawberries in a large mixing bowl. Pour the balsamic mixture over top and mix until all the berries are coated.
  • Spread the berries on the baking sheet. Pour over any balsamic mixture remaining in the bowl.
  • Roast for 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Serve the berries warm (Over ice-cream. Yummy creamy goodness!) or cool. They should keep in the fridge for up to one week.