Now, who wants snow cones?

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I’ve got a wicked case of cabin fever. A garish combination of snow and homework has bound me to my home for almost a week and I am seriously feeling a case of  Misery coming on. I just ran out of butter and I’mma ’bout to go all Annie Wilkes on someone.

When I’m not leaning against my kitchen counter, gnawing on pretzel bark and staring at a spot on the wall that looks like Bob Marley  I’m rockin’ gansta jewelry in my best Lana Del Rey impression. When I’m not resisting the urge to burn my math textbook in a feeble effort to create enough energy to run my computer (because the power has gone out….again) I am checking my backyard for Sasquatch tracks. Cause he’s out there.

Insanity has been kept at bay by a few things:

Flower Patch Farmgirl website…girlfriend is adorbs and oh my gosh how cute are her kids?? Good looks aside, this is a beautiful website and the posts are both hilarious and touching. And making fingerpaint from sweetened condensed milk and food dye? Um, genius.

Speaking of, I made Flower Patch Farmgirl’s Crack Bark (or Salted Chocolate Pretzel Caramel Bark if you’re in polite company) and OH MY GOSH! It was crunchy, salty, rich and sooooo caramel-y delicious that I happily meandered around the house (and a few feet out into the snow) with chocolate smeared all over my face. Shameless and proud of it.

If, by some miracle of God (or the dang sun decides to show for a whole 2.5 seconds) the snow melts and I re-enter civilization I will make every effort to look as though I just spent the past week on the beach. I will tell scandalous stories of making out with an Antonio Banderas look-alike beach bum on the sand while seagulls sang ‘Kiss the Girl’.  Unfortunately, my pasty-white skin will give me away as the sun reflects off it and scorches people’s retina….but the wavy beach hair I’m sporting with the help of Zotos’ Hold It! will make them think twice. Or at least ask me how I got my hair so voluminous.

I almost splurged on some $17 designer salon texturizer but bought this last-minute on a Friday night at Sally’s Beauty Salon. I’ve been dying to get some volume and texture into my hair without teasing or curling it so I was happily surprised that this product gave me everything I was looking for (and for $10 less at only $7!). It gives my hair that wonderful wind-blown beach waveyness (if that’s a word) that you get after hanging out at the ocean for 10 hours but minus the sand. Or chapped lips. Or bikini wedgie. My hair is naturally fine and very wispy so about 5 or 6 sprays of this really does the job. I spray it on when my hair is wet and then blow dry it without brushing it too much. I think the key is to let your hair settle naturally so that it really does take on that wind-blown, surf-to-civilization look.

Dear Sally Beauty: Since you’re in the process of bottling awesomeness, would you mind shoving an Antonio-Banderas look-alike into a bottle as well? Us girls in rainy ol’ Washington could really use it. Please and thank you.

The next thing I plan to do once all the snow has melted is rip off the five million layers I’ve been hunched underneath and sashay about in a tank top. Forget you -5 degree weather!

I have a love-not-so-much-love relationship with Kohl’s. The past couple times I’ve gone into one this year I haven’t really been amazed by what I’ve found. But occasionally….occasionally I find a gem that I just HAVE to HAVE! Last time I went in I actually found three gems that I adored and in my rush only managed to grab a picture of one. But it’s beautiful and yellow and it makes me feel like I’m standing in St. Bart’s.

And speaking of things that are colorful, I love Gustav Klimt’s work with a fiery passion. The detailing, the colors, the textures and patterns and explosion of life! So I was pretty psyched to find THIS of all things while I was randomly daydreaming in the Barbie aisle at Target.

A Gustav Klimt Barbie doll! Crazy? Yes. Super extra badass? Heck yeah. Did I buy it? No. I have three dogs and an insatiable desire to turn them into tiny horses by affixing Barbie dolls to their backs while I yell things like “Best round up them cows!” and “There ain’t enough room in this town for the two of us!”. Long story short….it does not end well for cowgirl Barbie.

And because I can’t resist…

Blue Jeans- Lana Del Rey

The White Birds

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The White Birds, by W.B. Yeats

 WOULD that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea! We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee; And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky, Has awakened in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die. A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose;

Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you! I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more; Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be,Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!

Ew, there’s a syntax error in my eggs

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It’s 3 am….do you know where your textbook is?

It’s sitting at the foot of your bed, mocking you with all of the knowledge it contains in a mere 1,234 pages that you must now shove into your brain as fast as possible. For some reason they put a picture of a cute cat on the front of it….deceiving you as to what really lies within its depths. No, you’re not learning about All Things Cuddly…you’re learning about strings and methods and something called a ‘Boolean expression’.

So you wake up at 3am in a cold sweat, your head swimming with scary dreams about variables and a scanner class (not nearly as fun as it sounds). Two cups of coffee and half a chapter later you’ve highlighted every other word in bright fuschia pink and put pink glittery stars next to manly phrases like ‘println’. Your brain screams for more coffee but your tummy threatens to shut this entire operation down if it doesn’t get food. Now.

After all that hard-core studying (mixed with a little daydreaming…just a little) it’s time to treat yourself to a special breakfast. Not your usual granola bar or microwaveable breakfast, but something hearty that slaps you on the back like a lumberjack. But not too hearty…you’re holding out hope that sometime in the next 20 years you will look good in a bikini again.

This calls for a rustic potato hash with fried eggs, red peppers, onions, and fresh tomatoes (cause sauteed tomatoes bring you back to the days of living in England where they served whole cooked tomatoes with breakfast…don’t ask why, just enjoy the magicalness of it all).

5 am Potato Hash

(all measurements are rough as it was literally 5 am….no time for measuring!)

  • 1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
  • 1/4 of a medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • 2 fried eggs

Put diced potatoes in a pot of salted, boiling water and boil until tender (but not falling apart). My pieces were rather large and took about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a skilled heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Saute for about two minutes and then add bell pepper. Saute until the onions and pepper become somewhat soft. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Stir in potatoes and rosemary and let them sit, without stirring, until they start to crisp around the edges (shake the pan occasionally to keep them from burning). With a spatula, flip the potato mixture over and add tomatoes. Continue to cook (shaking occasionally) until they become slightly crisp on the bottom. Remove from heat, season with Salt&Pepper to taste and top with fried eggs.

Variations: you can add chopped garlic to your onions or mix in a bit of horseradish to liven things up (I was in no mood for liveliness when I made this!)

Now get out your Hello Kitty highlighter and get back to work!

(And stop procrastinating by writing blog posts).

“They call me The Swede. I’m from Norway.”

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I don’t know if it was the debauchery on my new favorite television show Hell on Wheels or the fact that I hadn’t had a hearty dose of sugar in over 24 hours but last night I wanted to bake a cake. Like that instant. I had the Baker’s Itch (I know that sounds like a really bad armpit rash). Things were going good– I was on a role, I found a delicious recipe from Women’s Day (courtesy of CookieMadness.net) and I was getting my baking on while salivating over Cullen Bohannon when BAM! Like exploding dynamite breaking up the earth for a new railroad I found out that: Oh crap I’m out of cocoa powder! Mind you I was in NO mood for a vanilla cake. That will not do! If Lily Bell can rip an arrow out of her shoulder (and then sew up the wound with piece of whale bone from her corset) then I think I can figure out a way to make a darn chocolate cake.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best example to use. Chocolate cake and amateur surgery isn’t an attractive pairing. But the next time I’m complaining about how difficult life is without cherry extract I’m going to remind myself that it could be worse- I could be passed out from blood loss in the middle of the prairie. In Cullen Bohannon’s arms.Hmm…wait a minute….

So back to the chocolate. I try to keep a couple bars of unsweetened baking chocolate in the back of my cupboard (next to the old Easter sprinkles and the five million bottles of lemon extract that have accumulated over the past 6 months…). According to Joyofbaking.com, 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate (usually one square) is equivalent to 3 tbsp of cocoa powder + 1tb of fat (butter, shortening). The thing with baking chocolate is that you have to melt it first over a double boiler and then mix it into the other liquid ingredients. In this recipe I would be careful when adding the milk as the chocolate could seize up- you can avoid this by constantly whisking the chocolate while slowly drizzling the milk into it (if it does seize just return it to the double boiler and whisk until the chocolate melts into the milk). In this recipe I used 4 oz of baking chocolate instead of the 3/4 cup cocoa powder.

Because I was feeling frisky (and may have been influenced by the insane amount of whiskey ingested by the characters) I added a tablespoon of chocolate liqueur to the cake batter. The gunslinger in me wanted to pour in half the bottle, take a couple swigs of the rest and then ride into town and be a menace to society.

I resisted…just barely.

While I live and die for a good buttercream frosting, I’ve found it difficult to create a vanilla buttercream at home that doesn’t have that annoying powdered-sugar aftertaste. Usually a good dose of unsweetened chocolate will fix that but…cocoa powder was out of the question. So I ended up using a vanilla frosting recipe that I found on the Haggen website. This one is a bit more time consuming as you have to boil the granulated sugar with the butter and milk but despite the large amount of sugar, it’s doesn’t have that headache inducing sweetness that you might get from a regular buttercream. It has a certain amount of buttery depth to it that is a nice change from my usual standby frosting and it has that familiar flavor of a ‘cooked’ frosting that I enjoy. My only real grievance is that it’s visually flat and is quite unattractive on my cake (my cake looks like a child with a really bad haircut). It also hardens up pretty quickly so you need to work fast. Next time I’ll put some air into it and try beating the frosting with a mixer as I mixed it by hand this time (the only thing I abhor more than manual labor is manual labor that involves washing more dishes than absolutely necessary).

And because I like my cakes to look extra badass I tinted the frosting pink. That’s right.

Oh-Crap-I’m-Out-Of-Cocoa-Powder Chocolate Cake (adapted from Woman’s Day)

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 4 oz melted unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup  brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp chocolate liqueur
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8 inch round pans (if your pans tend to grip cakes you can grease the pans, line the bottoms with wax paper and then grease and flour the paper as well).

In a large bowl mix together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl whisk the milk slowly into the melted chocolate, then whisk in the eggs, oil and liqueur. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated. Add the boiling water and combine it until the batter is pretty thin.Divide equally into prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (my oven is hot so it only took about 32 minutes for me). Cool completely before icing.

Haggen Vanilla Frosting

  • 1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 half-and-half (I used whole milk)
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (I ended up using more than 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Food coloring (optional)

Melt the butter on a stovetop and then add in the sugar and half-and-half (or milk). Mix and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let it cool to room temperature before mixing in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract…add enough powdered sugar to achieve the consistency you want. Stir in food coloring (if using). Frost cooled cakes. Please wait until the cake is completely cool- if you’re impatient like me you will have cake layers slipping and sliding all over the place (not pretty). You can always stick the cakes in the fridge if they’re still too warm for  frosting.

Now….let’s talk about The Swede. Creepy, terrifying and yet so fascinating. Will they kill him off? I hope not. I love an unpredictable villain almost as much as I love an imperfect hero.

I’ll see you in the cheese section

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Two Unfortunate Things Have Happened:

1) I wigged out a total stranger. Usually when I’m nervous I babble on about the undead and I interrogate people if they have a plan for the eventual zombie apocalypse (machete and hummer are my tools of choice). As if that isn’t awkward enough the other day I was trying to make conversation with someone and my brain (reliable as always when it comes to useless information) decided to delve into the subject of doll collections and how it must feel to have those creepy glass doll eyes staring at you all day long. Needless to say the stranger was not impressed with my brilliant observation and excused themself quickly, probably intending to inform the police that one of the inmates had escaped from the local mental hospital again and was hanging out in the cheese section of Haggen.

2) I’ve become squishy. Super squishy. I’ve pretty much been living off buttered bread and chocolate-covered pretzels this entire month, ending Christmas with a ‘fruit salad’ that had the vitamin equivalency of a pencil. It was one of those glorious frozen fruit salads made from canned peaches, whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, walnuts and marshmallows. Delicious, gooey and so so easy to eat straight from the bowl- no utensil required (cause I eat like a pig…I’m sorry).

And after all this splurging on gummy frogs, Christmas M&Ms, Starbucks’ Madeleines, Haggen Hummus and spicy Italian paninis  I now have junk in my trunk. Junk that would somehow knock over any porcelain china within a two-mile radius. So starting TODAY! (or….maybe tomorrow) I am concentrating on getting at least one non-cheese-covered vegetable in my daily diet and hopefully salads that don’t have bacon bits in them. I’ve scoured the internet for tasty-looking recipes that seem (somewhat) healthy and am sharing them! Some of them I haven’t tried yet but oooo they look so tasty! Enjoy!

David Lebovitz’ Classic Salade Nicoise…..mmmm, I love any salad with hardboiled eggs in it and am excited to have an excuse to work with anchovies

B.J. Thomas’ Watermelon and Feta Salad. Salty feta goes so well with sweet watermelon, this looks delicious

How Sweet It Is has a recipe for a Warm Herb-Crusted Goat Cheese Spinach Salad that serves as a nice reminder of what you can do with a hunk of cheese other than just sprinkling it on your salad  (oh yeah and that fruit CAN pair well with onions….yum!)

I lived off the Barefoot Contessa’s Orange Yogurt for an entire summer once. If you’re patient you will reap the rewards of a thick, creamy yogurt who’s hint of orange goes so well with a million varieties of fresh fruit (especially dried cranberries!). I’ve cheated and used vanilla yogurt…it was so worth the naughtyness.

Jamie Oliver is freaking adorable. He does have giant lips that freak me out and fill me with fear that I may suffocate in them if I venture within two feet of the man (not that I run into many famous British chefs in my neck of the woods). Despite his set of smoochers the man knows how to cook beautiful food with beautiful ingredients that scream ‘I have erupted from the earth!’ One of my fall-back salmon recipes is his Summer Tray-Baked Salmon…please don’t skimp out on the fresh lemon and basil!

Joy’s Kale and Sweet Potato Soup is a wonderful light, healthy soup that makes me feel so good after I eat it. It’s filling and flavorful and pretty quick to make.

Another Jamie Oliver recipe: Asparagus, Mint and Lemon Risotto…I haven’t tried this one yet but dannnngg I love a good risotto and savory foods with mint thrill me to no end!

Grilled Vegetable and Black Bean Tacos from Season and Savory. One of my favorite ways to lighten a recipe is to replace the meat with beans and hearty vegetables so I love being able to enjoy the flavors of a taco while going light on calories.

Wild Alaska

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Wild Alaska

H M top
£6.99 – hm.com

Madewell plaid button down shirt
$70 – madewell.com

Cream
€999 – conleys.de

Pleated midi skirt
£20 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Thomas Wylde long boots
$552 – aloharag.com

Faux fur hat
$30 – warehouse.co.uk

Wayfarer shades
oqvestir.com.br

There’s a colonial woman on the wing…she’s churning butter!

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In between writing two research papers (did you know it takes a marine snail over 24 hours to eat one barnacle? Did you know people get paid to study snail stress? Did you know I can bend my left pinky independent of my other fingers?) I managed to bake four batches of cookies, destroy two batches of chocolate bark and ruin a batch of peppermint fudge (it was delicious but it didn’t play well with others).

Somewhere within the depths of my kitchen, hyped up on Christmas sprinkles and on the verge of throwing the cookie press to the bears I managed to scrounge up a few presentable cookies. I gave them out to friends and family and so far no one has ended up in the hospital…or had a very, very bad bathroom experience at an upscale bridal shop a la Bridesmaids. Jordan Almonds, anyone?

 

 

Double Chocolate Cookies/ Cherry Chip Cookies (from Family Circle)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 hot coffee (or two tablespoons cherry extract)
  • 1 1/2 cups Christmas-colored M&Ms (or Cherry Chips)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Beat butter in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Add brown and granulated sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time then add vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and stir in coffee (or cherry extract). Fold in M&Ms (or cherry chips).

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet (the cookies don’t spread very much so keep that in mind). Bake for 8 to 11 minutes.

Shaped Butter Cookies (from Family Circle)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Optional: food coloring, candies and sprinkles for decorating

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat together butter, sugar, egg and salt until fluffy. Beat in flour until smooth and add food coloring (if using it).

Spoon dough into cookie press fitted with the disc of your choice (Christmas tree, wreath, etc). Press out cookies onto large baking sheet, spacing them about one inch apart. Before baking press in candies (if using them) or add sprinkles. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes.

Linzer Cookies (from Allrecipes.com)

  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups ground almonds (I used pre-made almond flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 small jar of raspberry jam

Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, the almonds and cinnamon, and continue beating until the mixture becomes a slightly stiff dough.

Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about one hour.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll the 1/2 of the dough into a sheet 1/8 inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as you can from the dough, re-rolling it out…even separate the cookies out so that you have ‘bottoms’ and the separate ‘tops’ that you will add the design to (you can use special Linzer cookie cutters for this or use whatever shape you want and cut out small holes with a straw). Keep in mind that when you cut any holes out of the ‘top’ cookies they spread out more during the baking process than the undecorated bottom cookies, hence they will be slightly bigger.

Arrange them on an ungreased baking sheet leaving about and inch of space between them. Bake batches for 10 – 15 minutes or until light brown. When cookies are cool, spread tops of the solid circles with a thin coating of jam, lay a cutout cookie on top of each, pressing the two together so they make a sandwich. Note: I heated the jam briefly in a pan on the stove before spreading it on the cookies…it seemed to spread better than cold or room temperature jam.

Sugared Walnut Chocolate Bark (adapted from EzraPoundCake.com)

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups walnut pieces
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips

In a saute pan over low heat toast the walnut pieces for 2-3 minutes (don’t let them burn) usually when they become fragrant they’re done. In a saucepan melt the butter and then add the brown sugar and the pinch of salt, stirring until the sugar dissolves and becomes bubbly. Stir in the walnuts and continue to cook until the sugar caramelizes and coats the walnuts (keep stirring it and watching it closely). Remove from heat and spread the nuts out onto a baking sheet covered in tin foil (the original recipe says to use parchment but I found it stuck to the nuts like there was no tomorrow and I spent an eternity peeling bits of parchment off my beloved candied nuts). In a 35o degree oven bake the walnuts for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely (sticking them in the freezer helped me).

Meanwhile melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler and spread even onto a cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Sprinkle the cooled sugared nuts on top. If you’re feeling daring you can add extras like dried cranberries or a drizzling of white chocolate. Keep the candy in the freezer  until ready to eat (it warms up super quickly so no need to ‘thaw’).

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles (adapted from How Sweet It Is)

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 crushed/chopped salted pretzels
  • 1/4 powdered sugar (or more for consistency)
  • 1 cup milk or dark chocolate chips, melted

Combine peanut butter, pretzels and powdered sugar in a bowl. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes or until firm. Add more powdered sugar for consistency, the dough shouldn’t be so sticky that you can’t roll it into small balls. Roll the mixture into small balls (about a tablespoon each) and place balls on cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Place balls in freezer until firm (about one hour). Dip balls in melted chocolate and return to freezer until the chocolate has hardened.

 

    “Female Fight Club!”