Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lemon-Olive Oil Kale Salad

It's the holiday season, and if you're looking for a tasty side-dish that is gluten-free, healthy, and vegetarian...consider Kale salad.

My husband knows that I have a deep love of kale. I buy two bunches a week and cook it up fast with lemon and olive oil, and will it that before I even dig into dinner itself. It's my newest I take umbrage with any insult to the b-vitamin packed vegetable. So if you have anyone in your family that think they don't like kale, or even don't know what it is, prove them wrong with this salad! 
I took the recipe from my friend's blog, Laurie's Little Kitchen, and tried it primarily because I'm at home, and I always like to try new gluten-free dishes when I'm around my mom to what works and what doesn't! Hope y'all enjoy this and have a wonderful holiday season! 
Lemon-Olive Oil Kale Salad
modified from laurieslittlekitchen

2 bunches of green or red kale, washed and with the leaves cut of the stem
2 carrots, grated
0.5 cup slivered almonds
1.5 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
0.5 tsp. salt
dash of hot sauce to taste
pepper to taste
optional -- zest of 1 lemon 

In your salad bowl, rip up the kale leaves by hand into small to medium size pieces. Add in the olive oil, salt, lemon juice into the bowl. Then use your hands and mix the oil, salt, and lemon juice into the leaves. You want to "massage" the leaves, scrunching them up a little bit, and you'll feel them start to soften. Laurie's blog has a good explanation of how to do it with some pictures.

When it's soft enough for you, add in the grated carrots, slivered almonds, hot sauce, pepper, and zest and mix into the salad with a spoon. 

Enjoy it on the side of a sandwich, pasta, or by itself!   

Monday, December 12, 2011

Repost: Being Muslim does not Make you Less American

My parents came to this country in the 70s. They came with nothing, took nothing from their families, worked hard, and lived the American Dream. They are some of the most patriotic, America-loving people I know. They also happen to be brown.

The thing I love about this country is that we don't just tolerate other cultures, we accept them into us, into the greater American culture. It's why we are the "melting pot." That is what makes America fantastic and unique--we are an amalgamation of cultures, religions, and people. It is a large part of why I love this country so much.

It is why Lowes decision to pull all advertising from a new show, "All-American Muslim" disgusts me. Growing up in a post-9/11 world, though I am not Muslim, I saw and felt the racism people of indian/arabic/pakastani/etc origin faced. It was not pretty, and now that I reflect on it, it was entirely un-American. Just like the decision by Lowes.

I could go on, but instead, I will repost an entry that my husband wrote on his blog. At the end, he urges you to call Lowes and tell them of your disappointment. Nothing aggressive, just stating a point. Please do so, it really is a case of silence is assumed tolerance. Take the 15 minutes to make your voice heard please.

Also, I have never asked this of a post, but if you read this, I'm asking you to copy the link of my blog, or my husband's blog onto your facebook/twitter/social media to spread awareness.

Thank you.


Re-Posted from Economics for Jacques

Note to Lowes: Being Muslim doen't make you less American

Recently a new show debuted on TLC, and the Florida Family Association said:
"All-American Muslim" is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.  The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.
 Or, to paraphrase: "they only showed the normal Muslims, so people might get the idea that there are Muslims who live normal lives like normal Americans." The horror. And so Lowes pulled its ad buy from the show.

 Lowes was not duped. By pulling their ads, they suggest that to portray Muslim people, even individually, as legitimately American is somehow controversial. This is fundamentally what racism and xenophobia are about, it is the active denial of another's right to be American. Lowes apparently objects to a portrayal of normal people who happen to be Muslim as normal people who happen to be Muslim. It's important here to notice that there was no misconception as to the show's content. Lowes was not somehow convinced that the show is sympathetic to Al Quada and the Taliban, or is otherwise subversive. The show makes the assertion that there exist deeply patriotic Americans who happen to be Muslim, and so Lowes pulled its advertising dollars.

   My wife is ambiguously brown looking, and tells me that I "don't get it."  Obviously I don't; I've never been followed in a store because somebody thought I was Mexican, and I've never had eggs thrown at my house or tomatoes at my head because they thought I was Muslim, but I thought I understood how much I didn't get it. Clearly I was wrong.

   I always chalked it up to a few rednecks, which is easy for me to do. People know that I won't tolerate racism around me, so others tend to hold their tongues, and as I am white, most people see no reason to direct bigotry at me. I assumed that when she said "you don't get it" she meant that I don't get what it feels like, but I thought I understood how widespread it was.  I thought I understood how common it was. I thought I had a feeling for how pervasive it was. I was clearly wrong.  Lowes is big, Lowes is national, and Lowes is exactly the sort of far reaching corporation that I thought would be above this stuff on a national scale at least, so my outrage is not just at Lowes and the other companies that bowed to pressure from the FFA, but also at myself, because I thought I knew how much I didn't get it, but I was deeply wrong.

So, if you're as upset as I am, do what I did, and call and complain.

Call Lowes Customer care at 800-445-6937, ask to speak to a supervisor, ask them why they withdrew their advertising dollars, and tell them what you think.  The supervisor I spoke to told me the move was not in response to the show itself but instead in response to the controversy around it, so I told him that I felt responding to bigoted controversy in such a way was tantamount to denying the right of these people to be American, and I found that deeply offensive.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate Tart

It's December already. I feel like it was yesterday I was setting up my classroom for the beginning of the school year...preparing myself for a whole new set of students, a whole new set of stories, and feeling just slightly more ready than I was last year. It's an odd feeling to know that in two weeks it will be holiday break, and I'll be starting a brand new semester after that. 

It's also mildly unsettling how much grading needs to get done between now and then. But why think of that? 

Instead, I'm going to think about smelling the roses. It's something my mother always says, that it's important to stop and smell the roses. It's something I thought about today. We move through life so fast, constantly trying to figure out what's next, always looking to see how we can get better, or what we can do to move higher in our career paths, that we lose sight of the small things going on around us. 

The perfect spot on your partner's shoulder where your head fits (almost) perfectly. 

The pretty winter lights that are up, with the laughing Santa's and little elves that move in an awkwardly mechanical but nonetheless cute way. 

The rain smell that mixes with garbage, dirt, asphalt, and car exhaust to somehow be pleasant. 

Anyways, all these things are small, but things I noticed today that I hadn't taken the time to fully noticed before (although the rain thing was probably because it's been a painful low-rain year in Texas). This isn't an argument for mediocrity, it's important to always have one eye set to the future, but the other eye should be set to the present--to remind you that there is a now, and that it's important to enjoy it, because you never know what actually will happen next. 

And what better way to enjoy the present with a Chocolate Tart? No seriously. There isn't. I got this recipe from David Lebovitz, an amazing food blogger, cookbook author, and generally interesting guy. 

The crust is cookie-like, but not too sweet or overpowering, and pairs very well with the chocolate filling. 

The filling though...oh wow, it's amazing. You start off with caramelized sugar, add chocolate, eggs, butter, flour, and salt to that, and you have something beautiful. Not just delicious, but beautiful. 

Don't get scared by the sugar caramelizing part, it's easy. Seriously, it's not hard. Just be careful, sugar gets REALLY hot when you cook it, so make sure you don't touch it, and you're careful not to get it on your finger by accident (like me...). 

Chocolate Tart
modified from David Lebovitz

French Tart Crust

3 oz. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
5 oz or 1 cup of all purpose flour. 

Preheat oven to 410 degrees 

In a pyrex bowl, combine butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt. Put them into the oven in the bowl for about 10 minutes, or until the butter is completely melted and turning slightly brown on the sides. 

Pull out carefully, and add the flour to the bowl, and stir immediately until the dough comes together. When it does, dump it out into a tart shell or 9-in pie tin. I used a pie tin. 

The dough will be warm, and feel very buttery, that's okay, that's normal. Just push it out and spread it into your tin, reserving a small portion of the dough to cover up any holes or tears that might form. Put it in the oven and bake it for 10 minutes. 

When it's done, pull it out and let it cool before filling it. 

Chocolate Filling
1.25 cups sugar
6 tsp. warm coffee or 1 shot espresso
4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick)
pinch of salt
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate**
2 large eggs
0.25 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract

**You can use any mixture of 6oz of bittersweet to unsweetened chocolate depending on how sweet you like things. I only had bittersweet chocolate on hand, so it's what I used, but you can use 3 oz. bittersweet, and 3 oz. unsweetened. Just whatever you do, use a high quality chocolate (I used ghirardelli) really makes a difference. 

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a heavy, metal saucepan or a dutch oven, or a cast iron saucepan, spread all the sugar evenly over the bottom and heat it over medium heat. 

Within 2-3 minutes, the bottom layer of sugar will start to melt, you can start to mix in the sugar from the top. You will have to do this for about 5-6 minutes until all the sugar is completely melted and starts to smoke a little (there should be no burning smell). 

When this happens, turn the stove off and mix in your coffee. The pan will sizzle, and smoke, so be sure to look away. Stir in the coffee completely, then add in the butter and salt. If the sugar is starting to get hard, no problem, just heat it over low heat until it melts and is easy to stir again. 

Then add in the chocolate and mix it in until completely incorporated. After that, add in the two eggs, and stir until completely incorporated, and then add in the flour and vanilla, and again mix until incorporated. 

When it's done, carefully pour it into your tart/pie shell. 

Put it in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes...the center should still be jiggly when you take it out. 

Make sure you let it cool completely before cutting into it, otherwise chocolate will ooze everywhere! 


Monday, November 28, 2011

Thoughts from the Tarmac

So yesterday, Tyler and I decided to travel back to good ol' San Antone from California. Easy task? No. After missed connections, hours on the tarmac, and new flights, we made it to SA five hours after we were supposed to land. While stuck on the Tarmac at around 7:30 AM and while still half-asleep, I decided the best use of my time would be to write a blog post from my tiny iPhone. This is what came out...enjoy!


We are stuck on the Tarmac in San Jose, California right is too foggy to take off. Probably a bad idea to take off if we can't see the runway is my husband's logic, and I agree immensely. I only regret that I forgot the tasty lunch I packed at his parents house and my decision to wait till we landed in LAX to get a snack. Oh airport close but so far away. I will say, I get nervous every time I see someone headed to relieve themselves in the plane facilities...the idea of overflowing toilets in a confined space after thanksgiving with no air-freshner and not enough consumable ethanol to trick my brain into thinking I'm near a taco bell, is a less than ideal situation one might say.

The pilot just told us the weather has gotten worse with time. Overflowing toilets: 1, Mita: 0

Anyways, now is as good a time as any to become proficient in my all too tiny iPhone key pad to write this blogpost. This trip was incredibly fun and painfully short...however there was one notable peculiarity, Tyler and I started off with two bags between us, and ended with five.

My husband, trying to comprehend the magnitude of stuff that we are taking back to our relatively small house of course blamed me, "maybe next time we dont end up with five pairs of shoes." Here, on the 27th day of November of the year 2011, I would like it to be noted by all four of you that read my blog (including the aforementioned husband) that I only purchased one pair of shoes and brought with me two pairs. Being of the female gender and realizing I cannot wear my chucks with a green sweater dress (a concept lost on my always fashionable husband), this seems a reasonable amount of footwear. The other two pairs were gifted to me by my dear mother and my mother-in-law. The first was a reasonable pair of sandals, both classic and comfortable--therefore foolish to turn down. The others were brightly colored ked-type shoes with streaks of purple. As an aficionado of all things purple and shiny, these were a must have...never mind that they don't fit perfectly, much like the smart stepsister that never made into them mainstream version of Cinderella, I make my feet fit the shoe.

So reader, you can seem how five pairs were not only necessary but also easy to accumulate.

More salient to my argument that I am not at fault in the suitcase dibocal is the fact that he recieved a large quantity of new apparel, that is taking up the bulk of the suitcase space. Now of course I have no problem with his newly acquired clothing as it will add diversity to his tri-chromatic wardrobe, I am simply defending both my honor in travel-packing and my ability, nay, my right, to accumulate footwear.

Oh good, they are serving us drinks while stuck on the Tarmac, that will certainly help he growing bathroom line.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Bars with a Hazelnut Almond Shortbread Crust (Gluten Free)

One excellent thing about being at home--I get to try out all kind of gluten free recipes. My dearest mother does not partake of gluten or any wheat product, and a lot of what you and I think of as "regular food" isn't so regular for her. 
It was too tasty for me to pause and take picture

So I love to try out different recipes that are typically gluten-ful, and turn them into gluten free! One such recipe: pumpkin bars. 

Pumpkin pie bars are exactly what they sound like, pumpkin the form of portable lovely bars. 

By the way, as a side note, I must say I am quite happy that it's fall/winter season and pumpkin is back. I missed it so much, and I always forget because by the end of the holiday season, I'm pumpkined out. 

Anyways, usually pumpkin pie bars are made with a regular shortbread crust, so instead, I made them with the hazelnut-almond shortbread crust. Super easy, totally gluten free. 

So, if you're having someone at your Thanksgiving table who is gf, then try this on for size. 

Pumpkin Pie Bars w/ Hazelnut-Almond Shortbread Crust
modified from


1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup raw, hazelnuts (filberts) 
0.25 tsp. salt
0.5 tsp. vanilla extract 
0.5 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
0.5 cup light brown sugar


1 15-oz. can of pumpkin puree (2 cups) 
2 eggs
0.74 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp. ground ginger
0.125 tsp. ground cloves (0.125 = 1/8)
0.5 tsp. salt
1.5 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F 

Place the hazelnuts on a bakeware tray and put them in the oven to toast for about 10 minutes, or until they are fragrant. 

After that, pull them out, put them in a bowl, and cover them with another bowl completely. Leave them their to steam for about five minutes. To get the peels off, just hold the two bowls together and shake 'em up. Hold them pretty tightly, and they'll be mostly peeled, and that's good enough. 

Then toss them in the food processor, and process them until they're relatively fine. Then add in the sugar, salt, and the almond meal, and mix it until it's well mixed. 

Then add in the room temperature butter and vanilla. Process until it's well-mixed, and wet-ish. Put it in a 9x13 inch parchment papered pan, and spread it evenly. Bake it for 12-15 minutes,  or until the edges are browned. Pull it out and let it cool when it's done baking.

While it's baking, in a food processor, bowl, or cake mixer, mix 2 eggs well. Then add in the sugar, salt, the pumpkin puree, and spices, and mix well. Then slowly add in the heavy cream, you want to make sure that it's slow so that it doesn't get too frothy. 

Pour the filling on the cooled crust, and bake for 30-35 minutes. When it's done, allow it to cool before cutting it into bars or it will be too messy. Serve with whipping cream! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quick Berry Cobbler (Gluten-Free)

What to make for your gluten-free mother, at 8:30 at night, when you're too lazy to go drive and find a dessert?

Cobbler! It's quick, it's easy, it's usually make-able with stuff you have lying around the house, and it tastes fantastic with ice cream.
So before we get to the recipe, I must say: it's wonderful to be home. I have some time off from school right now because of Thanksgiving break, and I'm very happy to be at home with my parents and on break.

Before I continue on with the painfully quick and easy recipe, I want to put it out there, I hate it when people call Thanksgiving "turkey-day."

It's not at all because I am a vegetarian, and I understand the excitement and good-humor that surrounds the's that it belittles the day. Thanksgiving, it's all in the name. The day is not about gorging turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce while waiting for stores to open at midnight (a further sign of gluttony in my opinion)'s about giving thanks for the things we are lucky enough to have.

By some luck of the draw, many of us in this country got lucky enough to have good family, no worries about food or water, a nice home, and high-speed internet. That's something we should take a day to be thankful for, and remember that we are in fact lucky. So please, call this Thursday what it is: Thanksgiving, and take some time to think about why you're thankful. For me?

1. I was lucky enough to marry my best friend
2. I have a loving family that has proved time and time again they will be there for me when I need them no matter what.
3. I got into a medical school.
4. Two adorable dogs who sadly roll around in dirt far too often for their own good.
5. My students and all the laughs, and even the troubles, they give me.

The list could go on...but really, I think it's cobbler time. Enjoy!

Easy [insert fruit here] Cobbler
1 cup fruit (berries, peaches, or apples work best, they can be frozen too)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats
4 tbsp. very softened butter
1/4 cup sugar

0.5 tsp. cinnamon
0.25 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grab any small container that can be baked in. I used a tiny pyrex container. In a small, separate bowl mix together all the ingredients for the filling. After they are well mixed, spread them evenly into the container.

In another small bowl, mix together the butter and oats very well. Then add in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix well. Top the filling with the oats evenly.

 Put it in the oven for 15 minutes, and there you have it! Serve hot with cold ice cream. Enjoy!

Bookish Review: The Beauty Queens

So one of my lovely friends gave me this book, The Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, for my birthday recently and I took it with me on my whirlwind interview week. After I finished my latest culinary mystery by Diane Davidson Mott, I started on this book, expecting it to take me a while.

Nope. Couldn't put it down. I finished it in two days and had to buy another book. Woe to airport taxes.

Anyways, this book is awesome if you're looking for something funny, refreshing, and with clear feminist tones to it. It's basically about a bunch of teen beauty queens whose plane crashes on a desert island. They are stranded on the island, and the book follows them as they figure out how to survive, take control of their situation, and learn more about themselves as people. It's plays on a lot of stereotypes and societal expectations of women in a hilarious way. It's kind of expected, so I don't think I'm spoiling anything--but these girls that depend on other people to take care of them (for the most part) become self-sufficient women on the island, becoming more self-confident and finding themselves...while being pretty bad ass.

It's great--if you like books with strong women, hilarious scenes involving a Palin-esque villain, and weird twists involving hair removal products, then you have to read this book. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Garlicky Greens: Kale Edition

Kale is amazing. Seriously, I love it. Flash-cooked, sauteed, steamed. It's got an amazing crunchiness that makes it like candy to me. 

Kale is a part of the cabbage family, and is full of calcium, beta carotene, and other vitamins. Quite healthy, and very versatile. It makes an excellent side-dish. 

Anyways, this is my favorite quick way to make it.

Garlic Lemon Kale

2 heads of garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon (or about 2 tbsp. lemon juice) 
1 head red or green kale
2 tbsp. olive oil
dash of salt and pepper

Heat olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Toss in the garlic. While that's going, chop and wash the kale. Make sure you cut off the stems, they're less tasty than the greens. 

When the garlic has been going for about a minute. Add in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then toss in the kale. It seems like a huge amount, but the kale wilts down fast. Just keep tossing every 30 seconds or so until it's wilted down. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How To Make...Bath Bombs

First off, fear not. I have not left the foodie-world. I am still baking, cooking up a storm, etc. In fact, I made these tasty Millet Muffins from Heidi Swanson's cookbook, Supernatural Everyday. I don't usually buy cookbooks, but this one is quite excellent. Sooner or later, I'm going to have to post my variation on her quinoa cakes. 

Anyways, since the holiday season is coming up, I have forayed into the homemade gift world, and I love to share my success (less so my failures for obvious reasons). These homemade bath bombs are a definite success. 

Totally not mine. Picture pulled from the web, but that's what
they look like from the store usually.
What are bath bombs? They are those balls that you buy in the store, and you toss into your tub...they fizz, add moisturizer, nice smell, and generally relaxation-ness to your experience. They're quite wonderful...and exorbitantly expensive. Fret not! They're super easy to make at home. 

Here are mine, I didn't want to add any coloring, so they're plain white, but you're welcome to color yours. 

Bath Bomb Recipe
Adapted from

0.5 cup corn starch
0.5 cup Epsom salts [get it at your regular grocery store]
1 cup baking soda
0.5 cup citric acid [get it online, or I bought mine at Whole Foods]
0.75 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. olive oil
Essential Oil [totally optional, but it adds a nice smell. Get it at Whole Foods]
Small ice cream scoop, shot glass, or something to shape the bombs

First, grind up the Epsom salts super fine. I used a blender, you can use the back of a large spoon, mortar and pestle, or whatever you have to grind something up. 

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl (corn starch, salts, baking soda, and acid). 

In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients (water, olive oil, and essential oil). Yep, has to be in a separate bowl because when you add water to the dry ingredients, the baking soda, a base, reacts readily with the citric acid, obviously and acid. Anyways, mix the wet ingredients together nicely. Then quickly add it to the dry ingredients. 

Mix the whole sha-bang together with a whisk or your hands (we used hands), until it's the consistency of slightly wet sand. 

Fill up whatever you're using to shape the bath bombs, and it down hard. I used an espresso cup, filled it up, and pushed down with my finger tips. Then flip it upside down on a cookie sheet, or wherever you want to put the bombs, tap the back with your hand hard, and viola out it'll come! 

If it falls apart, don't worry, just put it back into the bowl and try again. 

Let these suckers dry overnight, and you'll have some lovely bath bombs! Try them in a tub, or pack them individually in saran wrap and then put them in a cellophane bag with the pretty ribbon and you have a lovely gift! 

PS -- anyone on my gift-giving list, you're totally getting these! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How To Make...Homemade Holiday Cards

It's always made me a little bit sad that we don't receive as much as people did "in the old days." Now it's just bills, ads, and the occasional notice of some kind. That's part of what holidays and birthdays so special...checking the mail to see that, lo and behold, people that you don't necessarily see everyday love you, and took the time to write words for you, put a stamp on an envelope and stick a card in the mailbox.

I love getting cards, so I send them. I try to remember the birthday/anniversary/big event of everyone close to me and send them a card, because I know I love it, so I am presumptuous enough to think they do too.

I'm not a genius of course, I use this site to help me remember these things, and it works wonderfully.

Anyways, if you're thinking of sending holiday cards this season, consider making them at home for a few reasons:

1. While there is an initial investment, it's cheaper overall.

2. It adds a bit of a personal touch to your cards, which is always nice to see. Plus, they're unique!

3. It's fun--get your girlfriends, or force your husband as in my case, to help you...they can make their own cards! Put on a movie, a plate of cookies nearby, and dooooo it.

Okay, so here are the basics you need:

  • 2 color ink pads, he
    • I use the brand "color box," more expensive, but the colors come out beautiful
    • Estimated Cost: $12
  • 1-2 Stamps
    • I used ones that said Happy Holidays and another was a small snow flake
    • Estimated Cost: $6
  • Glitter glue
    • I use clear, it goes well with everything
    • Estimated Cost: $2
  • Cards + Envelopes, any color you want
    • I used sparkly red, but in the past I've used lavender purple, green, etc.
    • Estimated Cost: Depends on the brand you get, and how many
I got all my supplies from Michaels. So like I said, you'll have to invest between $20-$25 up front, but you have card making supplies that make make a plethora of cards. Again, you can also jazz it up in your own way, get pretty ribbon and glue dots, and add some ribbon to your cards. 

Maybe get embossing powder and an embosser and get a little crazazy? Just me? Okay. 

An embosser and powder. Seriously, it's awesome.
Anyways, first, set up your situation:

--You want a drying station, where you can put the cards after they're made

--You want to have a small bowl with water, and dry paper towels nearby if you want to wash the color off your stamps or switch colors

Then you just go! Lay down a card, decide what color your want to use for what, and start stamping! 
My Mess
A few tips: 

--After you lay the stamp on your card, don't move it, just apply even pressure across the stamp. Even the slightest movement will lead to "ghosted" stamps. 

--If you screw up and the stamp is tilted, whatevs, go with it, use the glitter glue to make it look chic. 

--Expect to mess up a few times, I've been doing this for a while, and I still screw up.

Have fun, make some cards, and send them to people you love. It'll put smiles on their faces! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How To...Make Your Chucks Look Fresher

As a teacher, I almost never sit down between the hours of 8:45 - 4:15 Monday - Friday. I'm either up at the board, flitting between students, or generally hopping around teaching Biology. 

So I don't wear heels. I wear my good ol' Converses to school, or as my students call them "my nasty chucks." 

Why nasty you ask? Because I've had them for 1.5 years now, and they're kinda dirty. Not gross dirty, just that they're less shiny and new. 

My students value shiny shoes very highly. I see them frequently cleaning/wiping off their shoes to make sure they stay "fresh." Anyways, my shoes got to the point where I had a student bring a brush to school and offer to clean mine. 

I can't help it if I wore them gardening...

But I digress...this post is about how to make your Chucks, or any tennis shoes really, shine again! It's quite simple really. 

What you need
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (the regular kind, off brand works too, it's what I used)
A bowl of water 

How to do it

Cut a magic eraser in half, so its easier to hold. Then dunk it in water, and start scrubbing your shoes. It honestly doesn't take that long to see much of a difference. The magic eraser will slowly start to fall apart, that's okay, just make sure you're not sitting on a rug or carpet, otherwise it just makes the cleanup harder.

That's about it. Keep scrubbing until it's as clean as you want it. Whenever the eraser startes to get dry, dunk it in the water again. 

For this one, I just used the magic eraser along the top quickly. The picture on the left is the uncleaned shoe, and the one on the right is just after a few scrubs with the magic eraser. Massive difference.

I haven't cleaned the left side yet, but look! The right side is waaaaay whiter! 

How it works

Basically the Mr. Clean scrubs are a type of fine-mesh abrasive plastic that feels really soft when it's in mass quantity, but it's quite abrasive at the it can get into all those nooks and crannies regular toothbrushes or scrubbing will miss. It's why it's such an effective cleaner! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why I Bake

So a few people have asked me why I bake. It's simple--baking is something I can DO. It's input to output ratio is generally equal, and you get a tangible result within a few hours usually. 

That's not true for most things in life. 

Teach for America? As a high school teacher, I take the wins I can get. Student X showed up to class on time? WIN. Student Z turned in his homework? WIN. Student D brought in a pencil and didn't pull out their cell phone? WIN. Heck, Student A stayed awake during class? WIN. 

Medical School Application? As an applicant, I take what I can get, and refresh my inbox like a rabid chipmunk hoping desperately for an interview, or some smidgen of hope that I'm not totally lost in the pile applicants the admissions committee must read. Hours of heart, sweat, and ME that goes into the essays, the personal statements, the descriptions, everything. 

Baking? Mix together flour, sugar, and butter? Shortbread cookies to feed 30! Mix together apples, oats, brown sugar, flour, and butter? Crisp for plenty! Mix together hazelnuts, chocolate, flour, sugar, and vanilla? The most tasty "nutella" cookies you'll find. 

You see the difference? 

I was wait-listed today at a school I interviewed at in September. It's odd. I was rejected from Stanford, Vanderbuilt, and Davis, without any real emotional fall out--was I sad? Sure. But was I hurt? Was I mad? No. I thought--huh, this is what rejection feels like? Not so bad. WRONG. I just didn't see myself there. 

I was mad when I got the e-mail today. I was hurt when I got the e-mail today. I was frustrated when I got the e-mail today. I'm not cocky enough to say that I thought I would get in right away, I just didn't think of how it would suck to not know. Just something I didn't think of. 

So I baked. Because it works. I think about just the baking, I don't focus on how frustrated I am, I just think--how lovely these cookies will be when I take them out of the oven! And it makes me happy.

So there, when you're frustrated, when you're irritated, when you're blergle, or whatever--bake, and bake these cookies, because they're tasty. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chocolate Lemon Layer Cake and Austin City Limits

A few weeks ago, my lovely husband took me too Austin City Limits. It's this super awesome, and super huge annual music festival in Austin with huge names like Arcade Fire, Joseph Arthur, Jack Ingram, and more. 
When I say took me, I mean actually took me. Let me be real for a second, sometimes I can be a serious "Debbie Downer." No joke. I'll whine, I'll complain, I'll say I'm too tired to drive to Austin, even though he's the one driving. 

I'll say I have too much work to do, even though I've finished most of it, there's an endless pile that I can just keep working on. I'll say I just plain old don't want to go even though we bought the tickets.
But luckily my lovely husband knows me. He sighs, waits till I'm done whining like a small, spoiled child, and says, "I think you'll have a lot o fun" and then waits for the second round of whining complains. This cycle continues till I sigh and give in.

Invariably I always have fun, and feel like a total tool for whining about it in the first place.

Anyways, it was awesome. Full of people, like 5 different stages with different types of music playing! We laid out on a blanket in the sun, munched on an over-priced soggy burrito, and rocked out. I even brought a new book I was reading, and bopped out to the music while reading.

People judged me. But not my lovely husband, who sat with his lovely head in my lap, and just relaxed while I scratched his head. 

How did I get so lucky? 

Anyways, I digress. On the way home, I had a huge craving to just EAT a lemon. But instead of having lemon inside, I wanted chocolate. Ergo, this layered chocolate cake came forth. 

It's chocolate-y, with a lemon kick and it's tasty. 

Chocolate Lemon Layer Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2.5 cups sugar
0.75 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
1.5 cups water
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Then whisk in the canola oil, and yogurt or sour cream slowly. Then add in the vinegar and vanilla. When that's completely added, whisk in the two eggs. Make sure everything is well incorporated. 

Butter, line with parchment paper, and dust with cocoa powder two cake pans. 

Divide the batter equally among the two pans, and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

While it's in the oven, make the lemon curd. I've posted this before, so I'm reposting a doubled recipe.

Lemon Curd

0.67 cup lemon juice
1.5 cups sugar
2 tbsp. lemon zest
6 eggs
6 tbsp. butter 

Mix the sugar, lemon juice, zest, and eggs. Put them on a double boiler, and stir with a whisk constantly for 10-15 minutes. Two things: 1. Make sure the bottom of the double boiler doesn't touch the boiling water, or lese you'll have lots of scrambled eggs...ugh. 2. Make sure you whisk constantly, so the eggs don't scramble, but rather incorporate nicely.

After it thickens, pull it off, and whisk in the butter. Then strain it to get out any tiny pieces that did scramble. 

After the cake is done, pull it out, let it cool for 30 min.

When it's cool, pop it out carefully, and cut each cake in half. Place the bottom half on the cake stand or plate, or whatever you're planning to frost it on. 

Reserve the prettiest layer of cake for the top. 

Then pour 1/3 of the lemon curd on and spread it to the edges. Put the next layer of cake on, and pour another third of the lemon curd on and spread it around. Put the next layer on, and do the same. Put on the last layer as the top, and dust with some powdered sugar to make it pretty.  :-) You can also put slices of lemon on top if you are serving it that same day! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review...ish: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

Have you ever had a bad break-up with a book? One that you loved: it started out pristine and in perfect conditions, the cover calling out to you started out slow, you got to know each other and then BAM you stay up all night with each other getting more and more involved. Soon the cover is falling apart, pages are stuck together because of food stains, and it's gone from being new to worn. But you still love it.

And then one's done, it's gone from your life in a second. And you are left shell-shocked, wanting more, but knowing you won't get any.

That was like me and the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. For those that don't know me that well, this might seem a bit over dramatic, but my dear friend Sam and my husband were present at the time I finished the last Liz Salander book. It was not a pretty sight. I had become an addict. 

My literary world came crashing down around longer was I interested in reading about Sookie Stackhouse's latest vampire adventures...I could not even be consoled by the culinary humor of Goldy Schultz, the cater/part-time crime solver heroine in Diane Mott Davidson novels. 

I got over it eventually and moved on to other books, as we all do. But that one will always hold a special place in my heart. 

That's why I was intrigued by, The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg when the cover said it was meant for fans of Steig Larsson. Obviously I bought it. 
So my thoughts...without giving anything away. 

The book was a great mystery. It had the components of romance, mystery, grotesqueness, crime, and twists necessary to be a great book. If you're a fan of mystery books that are not conventional, and don't have easy to guess endings (i.e. not James Patterson novels, which...while I love, get predictable after a while), get it. 

Lackberg does a great job of building the main character, Erica Flack and the role she plays untangling the mystery after finding her old friend Alex dead in a bathtub.  Trust me, you won't guess it...unless you're one of those people (like myself) who flips to the end and reads the end first. Lackberg can definitely paint a beautiful picture, so that you get sucked into the book and feel like you're watching the story unfold before you. 

BUT...this is no Steig Larsson book. This story, unfortunately, does not have the same nuanced complexities as Larsson's book does, and since its not over 1000 pages long, you don't get the feeling like you know the characters inside and out. To put it bluntly, The Ice Princess is a decent replacement for Larsson's books, but it doesn't hold a candle to the real thing. 

In the end: I say read it, it's pretty good, but don't expect to be provoked and sucked in, in the same way you were with Larsson's books.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Not so slow food

Articles:  Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? 

Basic Summary: The article are lamenting the rise of fast food and the concurrent loss of "slow food," in the America diet. "Slow food" (a term I very much dislike), is basically food prepared at home with basic ingredients. Simply put--cooking. Bittman argues against the misconception that junk food is cheaper overall, and addresses common excuses for why people eat so much fast food--such as time, access to grocery stores, etc. He makes some good points, but fails to provide tangible advice to people trying to move away from fast food, and more towards "slow food" 

My thoughts: 

Tyler and I rarely eat out anymore. We would instead channel our "eating out budget" to eating really well in. And we do...our menu includes items like Buckwheat Crepes with chevre vegetables, orange-ginger stir fry with tofu, spinach enchiladas with green sauce, potatoes romanoff, mezze plates, and more. But I digress

I'll cut to the chase. In the article, Bittman makes several good points about why the rise in fast food consumption is silly--in large part because it's shockingly unhealthy, and it's not actually monetarily cheaper. My issue was that he seemed to dance around one of the biggest reason I think people eat a lot of fast food: it's FAST. No muss, no fuss, you don't even have to get out of your car! And the clean up is as easy as throwing everything in the garbage. 

That is very appealing when you have multiple mouths to feed, you work an 8-5 job (or more for many Americans), and you're mentally and physically exhausted. At that point, it's not a question of whether or not fast food is monetarily cheaper than buying ingredients at the stores, it's a question of how much my time is worth? 

As a young adult who was thrown head first into the professional world of teaching, where 8-4:30 really means "8-whenever grading and lesson plans are done" I can sympathize with the dread of cooking and the inevitable clean up that follows. So that's why I was frustrated that Mr. Bittman failed to provide tangible advice in his commentary about how to move away from fast food and back to real food. 

It's all well and good to say we should do that, but the real question is how? 

So here's my advice, it's by no means perfect, but it works for me. 

The way I, and my lovely husband, can eat tasty food is not because I devote an exorbitant amount of time to cooking, it's because I cook most of the food on one day. 

Seriously. I make a menu for the week, make a grocery list off that, then figure out what I can pre-prepare, and do it. So here's a few tips: 

1. Always have a weekly menu. 

This will save you time in thinking about what you're going to eat, and it will help you figure out what you can do ahead of time. 

2. Think of foods you can make ahead of time

Chili, Enchiladas, lasagna, quiche, stir-fry, burritos, rice and beans, soups/stews, macaroni and cheese, salad without dressing, and more. Because these items keep in the fridge, you can just make them one day, re-heat them and eat! Honestly, it's great driving home knowing I'm going to have spinach lasagna with salad and some warm bread when I get home, and all I have to do is cut a slice of lasagna, stick it in the microwave, pull out a little salad, and toss a roll in the toaster oven. Bam, dinner. 

3. With anything you can't make ahead of time, think of parts you can make ahead of time

For example, Friday is pizza night in our house, but you can't make pizza ahead of time, but you can make the sauce. Or tacos, I can't make those completely ahead of time, but I can cook the beans, cut up the tomatoes, and prepare other toppings. 

4. Make your lunch the night before with left overs, or make a food entirely dedicated to lunch. 

For example, this week, I made a crap ton of chili, and took that for lunch every day of the week, except one, where I had left overs. There was enough for both me and Tyler. Other days its enchiladas, or baked mac and cheese. Either way, making your lunch the night before makes you less tempted to go out for lunch. Make sure you pack extra food, like nuts, or dry cereal, fruit, or yogurt, just in case you're hungry. 

That's all I can think of for now, but it works. Try'll feel good, spend less, and eat better. Screw slow food, eat real fast food. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How To Make...Homemade Sugar Scrub

Hey's been a while. It started out with me being like...meh, I baked this thing, I'll blog it later. 

Then a few days later...I'd be like, "BLASPHEMY! Some social injustice has occurred, I must blog about it!" and about half way through the post, I'd get sucked into an episode of Charmed, or realize that I should be lesson planning. 

Then a week later, it'd become this awkward mess's just really silly to go back and finish that post now...or I'll do that later, or...well, I really have nothing interesting to say. 

Awkward. Especially since I still have nothing new to say. 

Except to share this awesome homemade sugar scrub. Seriously, you need to make it, it's super easy. Friends who are reading my blog, expect this for winter presents! 

My friend Laurie, from Laurie's Little Kitchen, gave me this amazing Rose Spice sugar scrub a while back, and I was like "holy shennanigans! You made that?" She nodded, humbly. That woman can make almost anything I would buy outside, at home. If you haven't checked out her blog, DO it. 

Anyways, I proceeded to use that sugar scrub up WAY too fast. It was awesome, I would always leave the shower feeling both refreshed and with super soft skin. When my container was empty, I was like GAH, can I ask her to send me more? NAY! I shall make my own. 

Of course I reserved like an hour and a half to do it, thinking it was super complicated. Yeah, no. It's three ingredients. And took me 5 minutes. Make some of your own, it's amazing. 

You'll need: 

1 Plastic Container
2. Olive Oil or Vegetable Glycerin

  • Glycerin -- you can find it at your local whole foods. It is basically scentless, so if you hate the smell of olive oil, use this. 

  • Olive oil -- I used this. Adds a pretty color, smells good to me.

3. Sugar
4. Optional -- Essential Oil or extract you want to scent your scrub with. I used Lavender essential oil. 

1. Find a plastic container.
Awkward Picture, but it smells amazing

I just re-used the one Laurie gave me. I wouldn't suggest glass, because well, if you're going to keep it in the shower...yeah, self-explanatory. 

2. Fill that container with white sugar. Fill it FULL. 

Scrub a-dub-dub

I used raw sugar because it's usually coarser, but honestly, you can use regular too. Fill it FULL, because the oil or glycerin weighs it down. 
Ignore the wrinkly hand, look at the pretty scrub
3. Pour the glycerin or oil in slowly. 

It'll sit at the top first, but use a spoon to mix it into the sugar. This step takes the most time. 

4. Optional -- mix in a few drops of essential oil or extract (vanilla, almond, whatever floats your boat), it's great.

Note -- This a body, not face, sugar scrub.