Yes, I’m back.

So, this is awkward.

Hi there. I’m back. I know it’s been a while – over a year, in fact – since I’ve blogged here. Why did I leave…and why did I decide to return? Don’t worry, I’ll keep this brief.

Let’s start with the former. I’m a writer. Professionally, I spend every day churning out copy, searching for the perfect word or the most efficient method of explaining a complex topic. Sometimes, this inspires me to write more, but more often that not, the last thing I feel like doing when I get home is typing out a blog post. And then there’s this, the big reason I faltered: there’s always that doubt that creeps in, starting in the back on my mind and slowly working its way into every fiber my being. I’m no expert. I’m not a professional cook, an experienced chef, or anyone qualified to dole out advice about cooking.

So I just stopped. I didn’t stop cooking or baking or fumbling my way through countless recipes in the many months since I’ve last blogged. I just felt I had nothing worthwhile to say. And I suppose this speaks volumes about me and how I view myself – topics far too heavy to explore here – but it was enough to keep me from exploring this blog as a creative outlet.

I’m back, well, because I realized – and quite suddenly, too – that it doesn’t matter if I’m an expert or not. It doesn’t matter if I spend my days in a stuffy office cubicle or sweltering away in a cramped kitchen. I do have something to say.

I’ve never enjoyed anything more than writing. This has been my truth since I was kid, chasing around relatives at my first communion – neon pink pen in hand – asking for quotes for my first big story. Nothing else feels as good to me as when I create something. So I suppose it comes as no surprise that I’m drawn to the kitchen for the very same reason. Anticipation, delight, pure joy – with an equal measure of trepidation – are what fill me when I tie on that apron, a recipe in hand, fully prepared to create something delicious.

Who am I to deny these simple pleasures, just because I’m not an expert? Why not come back here and share what I’ve learned over the past year, which has been quite a lot, and ask you to join me on my next culinary adventures? When I started this blog, it was not as some masquerade, pretending to be some gold-star chef. It was to share my foibles and screw-ups. To laugh about our experiences in the kitchen. To even pass on a stellar recipe or two. To learn from you.

So that’s why I’m back. My confidence returned, in part because of some fantastic advice from a fellow writer (and friend) and because I happened across an essay by the wonderful Tara Mohr that literally left me slack-jawed and stunned because it was so damn true.

This part, in particular, gets to the core of the issue:

Speak on the things that move your heart. Speak about the things that cause you outrage. Speak about the things you’ve experienced and what you’ve come to believe as a result of those experiences. Speak about your vision for how some part of our world could be different.

Ah. The spot-on accuracy of that excerpt just slays me. Read it all here. Maybe it will spark something in you, too.

I’m not looking to change the world. Just me.

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first roast chicken dinner – coming up!

I’ve been MIA for a while (to my three readers, I apologize!) because I’ve been dieting and exercising like a madwoman, trying to get fit. I know I should be able to cook lots of healthy dinners – and I do, from time to time. But I haven’t had a ton of time to document any of my recent cooking endeavors.

Today I decided to do something that has always scared me. I am roasting a chicken. Now, I know that this is one of the most basic dinners…and something that most people have done a thousand times. Not me! I celebrated my 34th (gulp) birthday yesterday and had a so-so meal out. What I really wanted was a roasted chicken, but made without any extra fats.

Which led me to Thomas Keller’s recipe on epicurious…which led to the chicken that is currently roasting in my oven (and smells divine, I might add).

Can I just say that handling a whole chicken (something I’ve never done before, sadly enough) made me have a whole new level of respect for my food. Does that make sense? I also had a moment when I felt extremely guilty about the chicken in my hands. I handled it tenderly and tried to treat it with as much respect as I could. I feel silly sharing this, but there we are.

I’m 34 years old and I’m roasting my first chicken. Big steps. Ha!

I’ll report back with results. Fingers crossed for a delicious, healthy dinner. I’m down 8 pounds and counting – gotta’ keep up the good work!

 

greetings from scotland…

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I’ve been visiting family in Scotland for a while, so I’ve not been very good at updating the blog. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it! One thing I really want to do when we return to the States is cook healthy dinners more often, so future posts won’t too far off.

I’ve been to Scotland four times now and the one thing that’s really amazed me is how good quality produce, dairy and bread is cheaper here. Eating out, as you know, is much more expensive. So people tend to cook at home more. And so much of the produce is locally sourced. It’s really fantastic. A trip to Sainsburys is a great adventure for an American, believe me. Anyhow, I can’t wait to cook more when I get home!

Until then, here’s a little something I thought you’d enjoy.

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They were delicious! The potatoes for these crisps were from a farm just down the street from where I’m staying.

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Edinburgh.

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Old Town, Stirling.

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Ahhh, what is a trip to the UK without some fish and chips…? Delish!

sunday dinner prep…

It’s a gray and rainy Sunday here in Michigan, which is just fine by me as long it as it’s not 90 degrees.

The weather today reminds me that fall is just around the corner…and I love fall. The crisp weather, the smell of fallen leaves, cozy sweaters…it’s my favorite time of year.

In honor of fall, I’ve decided to make a classic comfort food for dinner – chicken pot pie. And I’ve also decided to use one of my favorites recipes, but switch it up a bit (always a scary notion).

One of my favorite chicken pot pie recipes is a Weight Watchers recipe, believe it or not. It is absolutely delicious and as healthy as chicken pot pie can get. The recipe calls for reduced fat crescent rolls instead of pie crust. And I’m really not a fan of buying that refrigerated dough stuff (and the list of strange ingredients on the tube sorta’ freaks me out). Sooo, I am going to make my own pie crust from just a few ingredients, so wish me luck. I’ll report back with the results!

In the meantime, say hi to my trusty scrub brush. She’s gotten quite a workout lately. I made some wonderful focaccia on Friday – will share that recipe, as well! Have a great weekend, everyone.

s’mores cookies, no camping necessary…

Confession time.

I was a Girl Scout, but I never went camping.

Shocking, isn’t it? How did I earn all those merit badges without having the pleasure of sleeping outdoors with bugs and spiders and snakes? We all know it was certainly not through cooking. Ha! Look at me – I made a little joke.

But seriously, I’ve never spent the night in a tent, on the ground, under the stars, et cetera. And mark my words: I never will, if I have anything to say about it.

I prefer a bed. And smooth, high-thread-count sheets on that bed. So my point of all this? I have managed through sheer will and determination to escape camping (hell) while still allowing myself the (few) gastronomical pleasures associated with this outdoorsy pastime.

I grew up in a relatively rural area, so come summertime, there were no shortages of bonfires at friends’  houses and late nights spent grilling hot dogs on sticks and charring marshmallows. I like my marshmallows on fire, sizzling, crispy on the outside and molten in the middle. I don’t have the patience for toasting a marshmallow – I light that baby on fire. And it’s delicious.

Anyhow, since it’s nine-kazillion degrees outside, I figured what better time to heat up my house with the oven?

No doubt you’ve seen the numerous iterations of s’mores recipes online (and especially on Pinterest). This one was the easiest recipe I could find. I am lazy. Don’t like too much work or too many steps.

Anyhow. Cookies. The recipe can be found at Some Kitchen Stories, which is a food blog with an interesting concept – original stories accompany each post. Pretty cool.

I let my cookies bake a little longer than the recipe because I like a crispier cookie. And now that you know how I like to cook my marshmallows…can you be surprised?

Only thing I’d change about this recipe? I’d add more marshmallows. Other than that, it’s pretty darn tasty.

I’ve switched around a few steps because you need to chill the dough for at least an hour, so unless your oven is crazy slow, you do not need to preheat it first thing (for over an hour).

S’more Cookies (via Some Kitchen Stories)

INGREDIENTS

11 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows (I added a little bit more, but wish I would’ve used even more!)
3 regular sized Hershey’s bars, broken into pieces (I used 4 king sized bars – I’m generous with my chocolate)
1-2 packages graham crackers, broken into squares (I used 2 ½ packages – seriously!)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon to combine. Set aside.

In an electric or stand mixer, cream butter with white and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Combine.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixer slowly, on low speed.

Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour to overnight. (I chilled mine for 90 mins – it hardened up nicely.)

While dough is chillin’ like a villain, line two baking pans with parchment. (Why parchment? I’m guessing it’s because these cookies can really stick if the dough spills over the graham cracker onto the pan, so the parchment worked out quite well. Plus it makes it easy to transfer the entire batch, in one go, to the wire rack for cooling.)

Place graham crackers side by side on pans as close as possible (they should be touching).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place tablespoons of dough on graham crackers about 1 – 1 ½ inches apart. Wet your fingers with water and press the cookie dough down a little until flat. (This step took longer than I thought!)

Bake for 5 minutes then remove from oven to press Hershey’s pieces on to the top. (I did 1-2 pieces per cookie, depending on how generous I was feeling. One piece per cookie is perfect, really, though. I went overboard.)

Bake for 5 – 7 more minutes or until dough starts to turn golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Slice when cool. (I totally ignored this and sliced off one piece. They are a lot easier to cut once completely cooled. Really. You won’t wait, though, because it smells too good!)


Say hello to the trusty spoonula! Here it is, folding in the marshmallows.


Rationalization = these cookies are healthy because graham crackers have calcium in them! Mmm-hmm. Really.


Here’s the cookies at the 5-minute mark, when you take them out of the oven to place the little Hershey’s piece on each cookie.


And the sliced cookies, ready to eat.


Just like that, they’re gone. Yum!
And you’re left with a semi-nekkid hula girl and a few stray crumbs.
Also, if you are like me, you also are reminded why your stomach looks nothing like hers. This is when I say, “I may not be skinny, but I got my calcium for the day. Thanks, graham crackers!”

I have way too many cookies in my house. Anyone want some? 🙂

some things never change…

I’ve always liked baking cookies. Just stumbled across this photo from the 80s, when I was a kid. I’ll give you one guess on which child is me.

Here’s a hint. I’m the one who looks way too excited. Yeah, the super-enthusiastic kid waving around the spoons of dough? That’s me.

I am making some awesome cookies this weekend, y’all. And you’d better believe that I will share the results with you as soon as I’m able.

mmm, bacon. (and bread)

I love bacon. I don’t eat it very often, but it’s a wonderfully indulgent treat when I do. We made a huge breakfast this morning of eggs, hash browns, toast and BACON.

The big downside, though, is that right now our house stinks of bacon. And nothing will get rid of it. (Any tips???) I like the smell of bacon while it’s cooking…but I just don’t want to be continually reminded, after-the-fact, that I just devoured a kazillion calories and bazillion grams of fat. I want to move on and pretend that It. Never. Happened.

But I will attempt today to mask the smell of bacon (or complement, who knows) with the smell of bread!

What could be better, right?

And what could possibly go wrong? Yes, once I find out, I will report back. Ha!

(I also owe you a post about my delicious banana banana bread…and my crockpot chicken tacos. It’s coming, I promise!)