your quiet moment in December.

If you’re feeling kinda busy.

Or.  If.

You can’t remember the last time you just, you know, stopped.

Or.  If.

You could use some time alone (just you.)

Then.

Might I suggest?

That you make yourself a cup of tea.  And then.

Bake a batch of muffins.

And then just sit.

Think.

Listen.

Enjoy your quiet moment in December.

Cranberry Orange Muffins–modified from a recipe in Cooking Light

I reduced the sugar and subbed in whole wheat flour for this recipe with stellar results.  These muffins taste best hot from the oven, but can be frozen and reheated for later use as well.  Enjoy with your favorite cup of tea or a hot cup of coffee.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Set aside 1 tablespoon sugar. Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
  3. Combine rind, juice, oil, and egg in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved sugar. Bake at 400° for 15-17 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Run a knife or spatula around outer edge of each muffin cup. Carefully remove each muffin; place on a wire rack.  Enjoy!
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staying focused.

I pride myself on staying very positive and upbeat throughout mostly everything.  I recall smiling through the tears after Memere passed away, despite my achy heart.  I laughed and joked my way through 9 miles of limping in my Half Marathon.  I smiled at the face of organic chemistry, determined to overcome.

Even still.  When I received an email telling me that “a more qualified person had been chosen” for my dream job position, I was crushed.

Not that I’ve ever been in serious, head over heels, what planet am I on? love, but I imagine that this is a little like falling in love with a guy, telling him you’re mad about him, and then finding out that he never really liked you in the first place.

I was all ready to throw a mini tantrum, all ready to make a fuss.  And then I realized something.  Admittedly, it is something that I need to be so humbly reminded of sometimes.

I am blessed.

I have a roof over my head.  A good education.  I have a sister for a best friend, a mom who remains my number one fan, a dad who’s always there despite having an unbelievably stressful job, and friends who tell me I can do anything.

I have a part time job to help pay the bills.  A God who comforts me and provides the grace that I need in the moments when I need it.  I have a home.  More than enough food to eat.  I am, when you get right down to it, more than happy.  

(Which, by the way, suddenly made me feel very guilty for ever being so darn upset in the first place!)

Now I’m off to go for a run.

Because.

Because I can. 😉

QUESTION: What are you most thankful for in your life?

Breakfast Week Finale

I love Thanksgiving.

I love the simplicity.  I love the preparation and planning that goes into creating a feast.  I love the warmth.  I love that everyone is given the chance to reflect on what they’re thankful for.  I love that I’m happy and blessed and surrounded by the people I love.

(I even love the insanity known as Black Friday.)

Thanksgiving has always held a special place in my heart.  Christmas is nice, but Thanksgiving is when Memere would roast a magnificent turkey and feed us kids peanut butter balls until we couldn’t possibly eat any more.  Then she’d send us home with a dozen more.

Thanksgiving is when Aunt Marie would hand out tall glasses of chilled egg nog, as we kids plopped ourselves down in front of the tv, watching the Muppet Christmas Carol.

Thanksgiving is when Dad would take the long way home, just so we could experience the excitement of down town’s Christmas lights.

Thanksgiving is the celebration of family and food and life.

Thanksgiving morning called for the luxury of noshing on breakfast scones while sipping starbucks coffee, as a way to end Breakfast Week.

In all honesty, these reminded me slightly more of Memere’s cinnamon sugar donuts than they did of a scone.  I think it’s the lack of butter in the recipe, which makes them much more dense and not at all flaky like your typical scone.

Still.  I’m not one to argue with something that emulates a cinnamon sugar donut.

With all the sugary, buttery things floating around, it’s nice to start the day off on the right foot.

Like a 4-mile walk, a bowl of chobani (with grapes ‘n granola), and a sweet scone on the side.

Don’t you just love Thanksgiving?

Cranberry Whole Wheat Scones w/ Cinnamon Sugar–adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Cookbook

  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Combine 1 Tbsp. sugar with cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, flour, baking powder and salt.  Add cranberries and walnuts and stir to combine.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together, reserving 1 Tbsp for later use.  Add oil and milk to remaining egg mixture.  Make a well in dry ingredients, add wet ingredients and stir just until combined; dough will be soft.
  5. Turn dough onto floured surface and pat into a circle about 8 inches across and 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut circle into 8 pie-shaped wedges.  With a spatula, lift each wedge and arrange on prepared baking sheet so that they’re not touching.  Brush tops of scones with remaining egg mixture and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your most memorable Thanksgiving moment?

more than just a kitchen.

Countless numbers of even the most well-meaning home cooks and the most graceful of entertainers have uttered bitter complaints about their much too busy kitchen.  When the guests arrive, they say, they scramble directly into the kitchen where I’m forced to smile and talk and chatter as if there wasn’t a 25 pound turkey burning up in my oven!

It’s true.  People congregate like little sardines into even the tiniest of kitchens, clueless it seems, as to what the cook is doing (or trying to do.)

Articles offer help on this topic (“spread the appetizers throughout the house so people will mix and mingle!”)  Many chefs recommend preparing much of the meal ahead of time; as much as you possibly can without sacrificing taste and texture.

But.  Nobody talks about WHY this sardine packing goes on in the first place.

So.  Well.  Here’s my take on it.

Your kitchen–that place where guests helplessly end up–is more than just a kitchen.

More than just a place to store pots and pans and that blender that hasn’t really worked since day one.

Yes.  More than just a kitchen.

Your kitchen is the heart–the very soul–of your home.

Your kitchen is where you prepare your morning bowl of oatmeal, which nourishes you throughout your busy morning.

Your kitchen is where summer’s harvest is collected, washed, distributed, chopped, and served to the ones you love most.

Your kitchen is where vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, carnivores, republicans, democrats and every one in between can suddenly come together and get along (with some creativity and a correctly angled conversation, of course.)

Your kitchen is where you dunked your thumb into the chocolate chip cookie dough batter before mom could even notice (although, let me tell you, you can be sure that she did.)

Your kitchen is where Memere taught you all about following your heart and using your brain vs. blindly following a recipe.

Your kitchen is where flops happen.  Cakes get burnt.  Onions go flying.  Fried eggs become scrambled.

Your kitchen is where you crumpled to the floor like a used tissue, gasping for breath through hot, stinging tears and a unbelievably broken heart. An hour after watching cancer take the very breath, the very spark, away from Memere.

And.

Your kitchen is where you once again felt whole and healed, baking a batch of Memere’s peanut butter cookies.  Where you once again felt like that 7-year old girl from so long ago, laughing and twirling under Memere’s arms.  Dancing.  To the radio.  In my slippers.  In Memere’s kitchen.

Your kitchen is where Thanksgiving became more than just a holiday.  Traditions were born.  Memories were made.

Your kitchen is where your lucky spoon stays.  Where cookbooks become stained and used.  Where new and brilliant ideas are born and nurtured and loved.

Your kitchen is more than just a kitchen.  There is a very valid reason why people congregate here more than in any other place in your home.

Your kitchen is love.  And tears.  And family.  Your kitchen is the very breath, the very life of your home.  Your kitchen defines who you are.

Your kitchen.  It’s more than just a kitchen.

QUESTION: What do you love most about your kitchen?

still the same girl.

You know.

I’ve changed a lot over the years.  I used to eat 4 McDonald cheeseburgers or 7 meaty tacos in one sitting (to my sister and friend’s astonishment/horror…which of course is why I did it.)  Now I’m mostly vegetarian.  I used to hate waking up in the morning and now I look forward to my AM rituals.  I used to hate walking and running and doing anything remotely active.  Now I look forward to my daily walks or runs, with the occasional bout of yoga thrown in between.

But.  You know.  I’m still very much the same girl now as I was then.

For example.  I still cry when Bambi’s mother gets shot (that is so NOT a kid’s movie!)

My sister is still my best friend.

I still go a little week in the knees over Humphrey Bogart (“here’s looking at you, kid.”)

I still think dessert is the very best part.

I still think I can run faster in a new pair of sneakers.

I’m still not a girly-girl.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still remind people that my name means “Princess.”

My hair still has a mind of its own.

It does what it wants (and then some.)

I still melt whenever I see a dog.

Any dog.

Especially big goofy dogs that drool and slobber and enjoy their lives to the fullest.  The ones that could care less if you’re wearing your “good jeans.”

source

I still think it makes more sense to plant a garden that produces food over the ones that don’t.

But, I still love flowers and daisies will always make me smile.

I still think New Hampshire is the most magical place on earth.

(I’ll be there tomorrow!)

Yep.

Still the same girl.  I’ll see you in New Hampshire!

QUESTION: In what ways have you changed since your younger years?  How have you stayed the same?

Kicking The Caffeine (once again)

“Day One” of cutting back on caffeine hasn’t been very kind to me.

It started out well enough.  I remembered all of the important things, such as breakfast and showering and brushing my teeth.  But then the afternoon came along and I realized that I really wanted a latte.  As in, right now—this very moment!  Make that a double shot espresso, please.

My head started to feel like a giant, over-sized lump.  And when it came time to sit down and study, I ended up sleeping for an hour on the couch instead.  Sad, but true.

You should know that this was not one of my proudest moments.  But in the end, this will all be well worth it (remind me of this fact tomorrow, okay?)  I treasure my weekend cups of coffee.  I do!  I refuse to ever give them up, as I don’t see the need.

But I absolutely detest that feeling of needing something every morning, regardless of whether or not my tastebuds agree.  And so, the caffeine is going to be out of my life for the next several days.  But back on Saturday.  Of course!  I can’t imagine doing the crosswords without a cup of coffee for company.  Can you?

Anyways.  Tonight, after my hour long study session snooze, I felt quite refreshed and ready for dinner.

On the menu: Sesame-Honey Tempeh Quinoa Bowl

This came together in under 30 minutes and required such little brain power that I wondered if I was still sleeping.  And the savory sauce made me want to curl up with the steamy white bowl and a pair of chopsticks and just call it a day.

“Day One” of kicking the caffeine was a little rough.  But it ended on a very nice, a very balanced note.  And on that note, I think it is time for bed.

(p.s. I may lean towards drinking less caffeine on a daily basis, but I shall never (ever!) give up my ice-cream!!  Especially if it involves a special homemade, local creamery, with fudge, glorious chunks of coconut and big hunks of chopped almonds.  Heaven. On. A. Spoon!)

Sesame-Honey Tempeh and Quinoa Bowl—slightly modified from the original version as seen on EatingWell.com

This recipe serves about 4 people.  Three, if you’re feeling especially hungry.  I recommend doubling up and serving out leftovers for lunch the following day!

QUINOA & CARROT SLAW

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed or toasted
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 3 large)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

SESAME-HONEY TEMPEH

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 8-ounce packages tempeh, crumbled into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 scallions, sliced

PREPARATION

  1. To prepare quinoa: Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 to 14 minutes. Uncover and let stand.
  2. To prepare carrot slaw: Meanwhile, combine carrots, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon soy sauce in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. To prepare tempeh: Heat 1 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tempeh and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes.
  4. Combine honey, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened and coats the tempeh, about 1 minute.
  5. Divide the quinoa among 4 bowls and top each with 1/2 cup carrot slaw and 3/4 cup tempeh mixture. Sprinkle with scallions.  ENJOY!

QUESTION: Do you drink caffeinated beverages on a daily basis?  As a special treat?  Are you addicted like me, and have you ever tried to quit or cut back?  

a normal kind of July 4th

July 4th.

I always forget about this one specific day until it decides to creep up on me (something to do with it being the beginning of a new month, I think!)  From behind and out of nowhere, July 4th makes itself known.  Not in a harsh, “here I am, what are you going to do about it?” sort of way.  But more of a “here I am…enjoy me” kind of thing.

And.  You know what?  This makes me downright happy.

Because, truth be told, I kind of like surprises.

Like being fed key lime pie as soon as Nicole walks through the door.  She has this flare about her.  This poppy nature that exuberates a mixture of Paula Deene meets Rachel Ray meets Ina Garten meets Giada.  It’s true.  You’d totally understand if you met her.  And you’d totally be her best friend.

And you’d totally eat her key lime pie as she handed you a forkful, told you about all the ingredients, how it was made, and how it was “oh so easy.”

The rest of the spread came later (the pie was just a taste and a tease!)

The corn was grilled, as were the burgers and the whole wheat buns (black bean burgers for Nicole and I, which turned out quite yummy…recipe soon!)

I don’t know what it is about picnic tables and the very activity of shucking corn, but it makes me downright happy.  This is becoming a trend, I think, this being happy thing.  A perfectly fine trend which—if I have anything to do with it—will never go out of style.

Maybe, perhaps, this was July 4th’s doing.

Or, maybe it’s the fact that everything seemed so downright normal this afternoon.  Like it’s every day that we all come together to eat corn on the cob and potato salad and things like that.  Normal to shoo away the flies that want in on the goods.  Normal to share stories of traveling and Canada and life.  Normal to laugh at everything, sigh at nothing.  Normal to feel that the day will last forever.  Normal.

Absolutely, completely, 100% normal.  Just another day.

(As an aside, I really want to gush and tell you all about dessert, because I’m rather proud of this fudgy creation.)

BUT!

Why is there always a “but”?

BUT, I think to do the pie justice, I will simply have to wait and share all the deets in a future post.  Now it’s time for an afternoon walk…

Dad tried to take a picture of us pretending to walk, acting all serious with intent.

But.  Well.  This is us being serious.

Very serious.

Sillies!

Once again, July 4th snuck up on me.

Once again, my heart is smiling.

Happy July 4th!!! 😀

QUESTION: How did you celebrate July 4th?