True Confessions Tuesday

What’s this?  Two posts in two days?  Amazing!  That’s more than I’ve done in the last year.  I have to warn you though, I tend to start strong but completely lack the ability to follow through with a lot of things.  Self awareness is good, right?

 

1.  I am mostly writing this post to distract myself from coverage of today’s election.  Did you vote?  Good.  Way to do your civic duty!  On my way home from work today, I bought a pint of Peanut Butter World that I plan to stress eat while watching the returns.  Don’t worry, this is as close to discussing politics as I ever plan to get.  And now I’m done.

Hello, delicious!

2.  This summer, I indulged in some TRULY crap TV.  Netflix streaming is my own personal black hole.  It seems that I have no eye for quality writing or compelling storylines – if the entire series is available for watching, I’m in.  Twin Peaks?  I’m there (seriously though, huh?).  The Nine Lives of Chloe King?  Don’t mind if I do! (full disclosure – I found the trilogy compiled in a single book at Target and read it in a weekend)  The first two seasons of Laguna Beach (without Lauren, why bother?) and ALL of The Hills?  I will spend two weeks watching Lauren cry and Heidi devolve from a perfectly cute girl into some kind of defective Fembot.  I also may have watched a few seasons of The Secret Life of the American Teenager.  Lord help me, it is SO bad I can’t stop watching.  I have also watched the first three seasons of The Vampire Diaries twice now.  Those Salvatore brothers make for some compelling TV!

3.  It would appear that I like using parenthesis.  A LOT.

4.  Sometimes, I get the overwhelming urge to pick up a favorite book and re-visit that world.  I will abandon everything else I’m reading take a trip down my personal literary memory lane.  Last night, I was hit with the urge to dive back into A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.  This book broke my heart a thousand times and I adored every second of it.  I spent half an hour digging through my overstuffed shelves trying to find it without success.  I am truly bothered by this.  Even though I’ve read the book multiple times, I will be going out to buy a new copy this weekend.  I need my favorites nearby at all times.

Francie Nolan is my hero

5. I can’t think of a #5, so I am going to grab my ice cream out of the fridge and call it a night.

 

Have a lovely evening, friends.  I hope you have delicious ice cream and a warm pup to spend your evening with!

Being The Brody is hard work

**please pardon the crappy phone picture!

 

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A Whole Year Later…

Um, hi there.  This is awkward.  I’ve managed to completely avoid this space for a little over a year now.  How did that happen?  What can I say?  I’m imperfect.  Yesterday I had pie for breakfast and today I had cinnamon rolls for dinner  For those of you who may be wondering if I’m ever going to write again (Hi Jen, your baby is cute!), I make no promises but I’ll try.   Let’s just jump right back in, shall we?

My sweet friend G is newly married and hosting Christmas dinner for both families for the first time.  She is a planner and  a perfectionist, so she decided to have a few people over this weekend so she could do a trial run.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls – the whole bit!  I offered to bring desert and a plan was made for Saturday!

Since I am a crazy person, I decided that Saturday morning was the PERFECT time to re-attempt the lattice top pie crust that I have previously ruined.  Multiple times.  Let me tell you, it was touch and go for a bit  – I chilled the dough too long and couldn’t get it to roll out without cracking, so I had to roll it back up and start over.  THEN it wouldn’t come together because of the flour I’d sprinkled over my countertop.  THEN I started thinking about how some old school ladies believe that if you have to roll out the pie crust more than once, you should just scrap that batch and start over because it’ll be too tough.  There was shouting.  Possibly swearing.  The Dude had the misfortune of calling in the middle of this and got to listen to me smack the rolling-pin around while whining about my aching arms and yelling four letter words when the stupid crust cracked AGAIN.  I considered scrapping the dough and starting over, but I was out of flour and didn’t feel like brushing my hair and getting presentable so I made do.  The drama continued when I realized that I do not own any kind of ruler or other measuring device, so the lattice top pieces could not be measured exactly.  In the end, eyeballing the strips of dough worked out and I managed a semi-respectable fluted crust.  For the first time ever.  I brushed the top of the pie with beaten egg and sprinkled it with sugar and congratulated myself for making it this far without crying or throwing everything in the trash.

Unbaked and beautiful!
Isn’t it pretty?  I was so happy that I’d gotten this far that I almost forgot to cover the edges!  Luckily, common sense kicked in and I quickly fashioned a few pieces of foil into pie guards.  Had I not remembered this crucial little step, I am sure that my pretty fluted pie crust would have turned to charcoal.

Golden Goodness!
Isn’t it gorgeous?  Obviously the fluted edges still need some work, but the lattice top WORKED!  It looks the way it should!  I did a little dance around the kitchen when I pulled it out of the oven.  Let’s get a closer look…

Squeeeee!

Since going overboard is the ONLY way to go, I also made a cherry pie.  Because four people definitely need two whole pies.  I decided to go in a different direction with this lovely and gave it a nice, buttery crumble topping.  SWOON.  It is my favorite thing on pie right now.  The crumble top gets all perfectly golden and crispy and the cherry goo comes through juuuust a teeny bit and it is just beautiful.

*sigh*

*sigh*

 

Perfect!

 

I am happy to say that I finished baking in time to sneak a small nap before getting ready to head over to G’s house.  It was one of those great, mellow nights – tons of good food (G kicks holiday dinner ass!), lots of red wine, and many laughs.  I was absolutely delighted when I was sent home with left-over dinner rolls.  They were made from scratch and completely delicious.  I ate two between walking in my door and going to bed that night.  There’s no shame here, I love me some carbs!

The next morning, I had a fairly intense red wine headache.  I cured it with Brody snuggles, Coke Zero and left-over cherry pie.  I zoned out in front of the TV and just ate it from the pan.  It was equal parts awesome and shameful.

The rest of the day was spent being lazy with Brody, snacking on dinner rolls, and being confused by the time change.  Good stuff.  It was everything a lazy Sunday should be.

Sleepy Brody

 

 

 

 

True Confessions Tuesday

Greetings, friends.  I have a few things to get off my chest tonight.

1.  I bought no less than FIVE kinds of glitter nail polish on Saturday.  FIVE.  I very nearly bought the Justin Bieber one.  It was such a pretty purple!  I might be twelve.

2.  Speaking of The Biebs, he’s in the top 10 of my 25 Most Played on iTunes.  Shame…

3.  I super-love some seriously arrogant, semi-douchey men.  For reals.  Tony Soprano? Hot!  Jack Donaghy?  Rawr.  Don Draper?  Hold me back, people. 

What am I? A farmer?

 

4.  I am WAY emotionally invested in Dancing With the Stars.  It’s an issue.  I’ve cried a few times this season.  Cher’s wild applause and obvious pride while watching her son dance made me tear up.  JR’s story…enough said.  Coco Arquette’s joy when her daddy got good comments from the judges just about did me in.  I was awfully sad to see Carson go tonight.  It’s an emotional roller coaster, I tell you!

5.  I had two buttered scones for dinner.  Toasted coconut, almond and dark chocolate scones.  With real, salted butter.  According to my trainer, this is a HUGE no-no.  She’s trying in vain to eradicate carbs from my life.  God love her. 

I made these on Saturday afternoon, on a whim.  I bought a bag of coconut a while back for a German chocolate cake and I’m always looking for ways to use the rest.  I’d never made scones before and wanted to try so this was a nice two-birds-one-stone kind of thing.

I was awfully happy to see that while the recipe called for cold butter to be mixed into dry ingredients, I could just use my hands.  I still haven’t replaced my pastry cutter.  I’m still too bitter over the loss of my $3.00.

The recipe called for slivered almonds, but I couldn’t find any at the new Target grocery store (seriously?) and wasn’t willing to fight the Saturday morning grocery crowd anywhere else, so I decided to make do with the single package of Trader Joe’s Just a Handful of almonds that I had in my snack basket.  It worked.  I wouldn’t recommend hand-slivering almonds though.  It was tedious.  And dangerous.  Especially for someone as clumsy as me.  There was most certainly a moderate amount of risk of losing a fingertip.  Luckily, all of my phalanges are still intact.  AND – the dough came together beautifully.  Isn’t it pretty?

This dough?  Juuuust slightly sweet and so completely delicious!

Since I’m a fly by the seat of my pants girl, I don’t have a biscuit cutter.  Of course.  I think I did okay with a regular juice glass though, don’t you?

They baked up so warm and pretty and perfect that I couldn’t resist pulling one off of the baking stone right away and plopping on a liberal pat of butter.  I was not disappointed.

Somehow, I managed to limit myself to two warm scones.  I stacked them all nice and pretty on a plate so I could snap some pictures and then they went into the freezer to prevent breakfast bread gluttony.  This would be the only reason they were available for dinner consumption tonight.  I will try to ignore the rest for as long as possible.

Chocolate Coconut Almond Scones

Birthday Cookies

It’s another GORGEOUS day here in St. Louis.  Sunny and 80 degrees.  Every time I took Brody outside, he did this rotten puppy routine that involved laying on the ground and going limp like a hippie at a protest rally every time I tried to get him to go back inside.  Or he’d just sit and give me this “What?” look, pretending he didn’t understand what I was saying.

I begged, I pleaded, I cajoled…nothing worked.  I tried explaining that I had cookies in the oven and I needed to get back inside so I could take them out, but he just didn’t care.  Eventually, Brody stood up to chase after a butterfly and I convinced him to come in and get a biscuit.

The cookies I was baking this morning are for my friend A.  Her birthday was Thursday.  I’m not a jerk for being late with the cookies – she works from home and only has to be in the office on Mondays.  I will be jealous of this forever.  Or at least until I get to work in my jammies from the comfort of my sunroom.  There’s currently no plan for my position to join that program, but it’s nice to have a dream.

Not only does A get to work without leaving her house, she’s got the cutest little boy EVER.  He’s the happiest kid I’ve ever seen in my life. He turned one back in August and I made these for his party:

Anyway, back to the cookies.  Bakery Style Cookies and Cream Cookies.  My friend Nic made these a while back and they were SO delicious. 

The cookies actually have crushed Oreo cookies in them!

Nic made her cookies in a muffin top pan and they were perfectly shaped and super pretty.  I had to make do with a plain ol’ cookie scoop.

They’re a little shaggy, but still completely, insanely tasty.

Ohhhh…glitter nail polish.  I love you so!  I love anything sparkly.  I’m kind of like a raccoon that way.  I’m even packing A’s cookies into a pretty, sparkly little gift bag. 

Those dots are shiny gold, not yellow.  Isn’t it cute?  Two for 99 cents at Target! 

Please excuse the weird white patch on the wall.  There was a weird corner shelf there when I moved in.  I think it was a cat perch.  It had to go.  The bruise colored walls have to go too.  Someday.

Netflix has season five of 30 Rock streaming, so I have some watching to do while I pretend I don’t have to work tomorrow.

Happy Late Birthday, A!  See you at the office!

Dinner Perfection

Hello there.  How was your day?  I hope you got to do something that made you smile.

The weather was gorgeous here in the Midwest today – perfectly sunny, 72 degrees with a slightly strong but really nice breeze – it doesn’t get much better than this. 

Even better, I had a very productive day.  The family came over and we got the jungle in my back yard cleared out completely.  Now I can walk out my back gate without getting smacked in the face with tree branches and the old man who lives next door will stop saying, “So, you’ve really got some weeds growing, huh?” every time he sees me.  We filled the entire Yard Waste Only dumpster, I have cuts all up and down one arm (stupid, attacking rosebushes) and my skin might be permanently dyed with poke berry juice (side note – now I know what a pokeberry is!).  The random, sloppy fire pit that a previous renter dug in the middle of the yard is gone too.  I am SO happy.  Needless to say Brody is IN LOVE with all the new open space.  Sadly, I was too lazy to grab my camera so there are no pictures of the yard OR the Brody.

As a bonus, my bathroom also got painted today!  Back when I moved in, the rest of the house was such a hot mess (seriously, the color combinations could have caused seizures) that the plain white bathroom wasn’t a priority.  We finally got around to it and have transformed it from a teeny room with smudged white walls to a teeny room with lovely gray walls.  To celebrate, I treated myself to some pretty aqua hand towels and a cute, fuzzy round aqua rug.  I smile every time I walk by the room now.  I would have taken a picture but it’s really such a small room that there’s no way to take pictures of it.  I can barely turn around.  It’s TEENY.

Anyway, after such a productive day I decided to reward myself with a delicious dinner.  Thanks to R and her husband (he works at a fancy meat company), I have an abundance of fancy Italian salami right now.  They gave it to me as a thank you for babysitting C last week.  I couldn’t wait to break into that stash!

While I was out grocery shopping, I picked up an assortment of mortadella and coppa as well as some Companion Bakery Bavarian Pretzels.  I also treated myself to a chunk of Italian Truffle Cheese from Trader Joe’s.  (Will you marry me, Trader Joe?  Please?) 

Back home, I roasted some garlic and cut up a few of the pretzels into slices to toast in the oven.  I threw the coppa, mortadella, sopressata, and parmesan salami onto a plate with the cheese and added the toasted bread – with melted butter – and roasted garlic.  Full disclosure – I had to use a small platter, there was too much food to fit on a regular plate.  Brody sat and watched (and drooled) while I squeezed cloves of garlic onto slices of bread and smeared it like butter.  HEAVEN.  So delicious.  I tried different combinations of meat and cheese and just completely enjoyed the heck out of it. 

Isn’t it pretty?  I’m jealous of me.  I may or may not have texted The Dude a picture of this at work with “Aren’t you jealous?”  I also may have texted R to say, “I love your husband’s meat!”  I’m weird.  It’s okay.

Hello, gorgeous roasty deliciousness.

How to Roast Garlic

Ingredients:
1 head of garlic
olive oil
aluminum foil

*Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
* Cut off the top of the garlic, so each clove is exposed.  Peel off some of the papery outer layers.
* Place the cut head of garlic on a sheet of foil and pour olive oil over the top.  Rub it into the top of the garlic, making sure it gets into the little crevices.  Make sure the entire bulb is coated in olive oil and wrap the foil around it tightly.
* Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes.  The top will be golden brown and caramelized.  Once it cools a little, you can easily squeeze each individual clove out.  They’re soft and easily spread on a toasty, buttery piece of bread if you’re so inclined.  Please, be inclined.  It’s AMAZING.  You can also use it in mashed potatoes or anything else you want.  Except maybe dessert.

Are you jealous of my lovely dinner?  The Dude is.  Probably he’s also jealous of my fantastic day.  Poor Dude.  To make up for being mean and texting him pictures of my amazing meal when he’s stuck with his weird turkey and banana pepper sandwich from Subway, I promised to make this for him any time he wanted.  That cheered him up.

Happy Weekend, friends.  I hope you get to do something wonderful.

Apple Pie – Sharing the Love

I love fall.  It’s my favorite season.  I adore taking Brody out in the morning and feeling a bit of a chill in the air, wearing sweaters for the first time in months, and sleeping with the windows open.  Best of all, I can bake all day without turning my tiny house into a sweat lodge.  It’s fantastic.

Last Monday, my friend R and her baby, C came apple picking with me. (Is there anything on Earth cuter than pictures of babies propped up in crates of pumpkins and gourds?  I say no.)  Sadly, the trees were picked over to say the least.  With such beautiful weather, everyone had been out apple picking over the weekend.  Between the two of us, we only came away wth 15 Golden Delicious apples.  The Jonathan apple trees were completely bare.  It was crazy.

Luckily, I found enough apples to suit my purpose – baking pies!  I have been craving apple pie (and pie dough) for WEEKS.    Since pie making can be a time consuming process, I had to wait till this weekend to get to it.  First, I tried a recipe for hand pies that was…interesting.  Not bad, but not what I was looking for.  I chalked those up to experience and decided to bring them to work on Monday.

Last night was a late one for me.  I got to baby-sit C for the first time.  Initially, things were rocky – she freaked the second she realized Mom was gone and was inconsolable for a bit.  Somehow I blocked my years as a nanny and managed to be completely shocked by how loud a three month old can get when she’s mad. 

After feeding (trying, anyway…not sure what the stomach to bib ratio was for that bottle), changing, burping, rocking and singing to her, I was starting to worry that I’d somehow broken my friend’s baby and how the HECK would I explain that one?  After again determining that all of her needs were met, I decided to do one of the things I do best – talk.  I turned the TV on mute to see if the lights would distract her, laid her down on the bed, plopped myself down next to her and started telling her about all the cool things I’m going to teach her to bake.  I rubbed her tummy while I went on and on about different kinds of cupcakes, buttercream frosting, snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies, and pie.   Mmmmm….pie.  I was still DYING for pie.  I have a feeling that C is going to enjoy baking – she quieted right down and spent the rest of the night waving her arms and legs around, giggling and squealing with delight.  It was great.   Nothing beats a smiley, snuggly baby.  The Dude even talked to her for a few minutes and it was completely adorable. 

Anyway, pie was still on my mind when Brody woke me up this morning.  After throwing together a bacon and scrambled egg soft taco thing, I got to work.

 

In anticipation of my pie adventures, I picked up a pastry blender at the grocery store.  You want to know what you get with a $3 pastry blender?  About two minutes of blending before the handle snaps and the wires go flying and knock butter everywhere. 

I love how it looks like the apple is glowing! 

I meant to take more pictures of the whole dough making process, but I was covered in flour and kind of in the zone.  Pie dough is kind of new to me and I’ve heard that it’s something that people can struggle with, so I was psyched when it came together.  I was also completely thrilled that I managed to successfully roll the dough out and get it positioned in the pie pans on the first try!  Since I really don’t need a whole apple pie to myself, (really, I don’t…my trainer would murder me with squats) I decided to make a few small pies to give to friends.  Luckily, the recipe for a 9-inch double crust pie was perfect for three 5-inch double crust pies.  I kind of winged it on the filling, and it was delightful.

I think the rolling pin might have alarmed Brody a bit because he spent this portion of the afternoon hiding under the table.

The little pies came out of the oven looking like an absolute dream.  It was all I could do to keep myself from face-planting into one and imitating a pie eating contest participant.

Hello, lover.  Just look at that golden, buttery, sugar-dusted goodness!

After waiting an appropriate amount of time for the pies to cool, I cut myself a tiny piece and dug in.  Apple Pie Heaven!  It was everything I hoped it would be. 

Somehow, I managed to limit myself to one teeny piece.  That’s all.  See how tiny and cute it is?  It barely counts as a dessert.  And…and…and…fruit!  There’s fruit!  That totally makes it healthy.  Plus, I went to the gym shortly after eating it and an hour of cardio surely burned it all off.  If you see my trainer, please tell her I’m being good(ish).

Tomorrow, the other two pies will be making their way to good homes.  One is going to A and her little family.  The other is going to S, who is expecting and clearly needs special treats for the baby.  I like sharing the baking love as much as I like actually making everything!

What do you want me to make for you?

Butter Pie Crust
from Land O\’Lakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
4-5 tablespoons cold water
2-3 tablespoons of cream or milk, for brushing over the top
sugar to sprinkle over the tops of each pie

*Combine flour and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in enough water to just moisten the flour

*Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball.  Flatten each ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Apple Pie Filling

7 apples, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly

 

For three 5-inch pies:

* Divide the dough into six equal pieces and roll into balls.  Try not to eat too much.  Flatten one ball slightly and place it on a lightly floured surface.  Roll out evenly.  Place the rolling pin on the edge of the dough and gently roll the dough around it to easily transport it to the pie pan.  Repeat two more balls of dough.  Once positioned in the pie dish, trim around the edges so that the dough just reaches the edge.

* Fill each of the pans with the sliced apple mixture.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

* Roll out the remaining three pieces of dough and use the rolling pin to pick them up the same way.  Place each rolled out piece of dough over one of the pie dishes and trim around the edges.  Seal the top and bottom crusts by smashing them together however you like – make a pretty pattern with a fork, or just flute it with your fingers.  Cut a few slits in the top of each pie.

*  Brush the top of each pie with cream or milk and sprinkle sugar over them.

*  Wrap foil around the edges of each pie to keep the crust from burning.  Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  Take off the foil for the last five minutes.

Try to wait for the pie to cool a little and dig in!  Serve it warm, serve it cold…just eat some pie already!

Five Reasons I’ll Never Be Cool

I have been a nerd my entire life.  I held the title way back in the day, before being a nerd was cool.  I was correcting my babysitter’s grammar before my age was in double digits (double negatives make puppies cry) and I wore red tights with my school uniform when everyone else stuck with navy blue.  Kind people would refer to me as a free spirit.

Adult Riann isn’t all that different, really.  I only correct grammar in my head (even on Facebook, where text abbreviations and misspelling makes me twitch) and I am more open to matching articles of clothing, but I’m still more into books than bars and I consider a weekend a success when I finish a crochet project and try at least one new recipe.  Oh, once upon a time there was dancing on top of bars and kissing random boys, but I’m not sure what I was trying to prove.  I’m not that girl.  Even if I do still enjoy an occasional shot of tequila.

In any case, here’s my current list of reasons I’ll never be cool, in no particular order:

1.  During a conversation today, I busted out, “And in that one episode of Buffy, there was a baby-eating demon and the bad guys drugged Sunnydale High’s band candy so all the adults would be loopy and no one would notice when all the babies in the hospital were stolen.”  I apparently never got the memo that Buffy ended like a decade ago and no one refers to her in everyday conversation anymore.

2.  I made up a song about scrambled eggs and how much Brody loves them.  I call it the “Eggy Song” and I sing it to Brody every morning while I make my breakfast eggs.  He gets so excited he dances.  It’s awesome.

3.  I don’t care about baseball.  I live in St. Louis.  The Cardinals are a religion out here.  If blood wasn’t red already, hardcore people would claim to be the kind of fans who “Bleed Red”.  Maybe people DO say that.  Clueless = me.  I guess the Cards are doing something good right now because there are a million Facebook status updates with variations of “Let’s go Cards!” and I saw like 500 people wearing Cardinals jerseys at the grocery store tonight.  I wouldn’t know.  I don’t care.  Not even a little.  I think I could get kicked out of the city for admitting it.

4.  I am TERRIFIED of zombies.  Seriously.  I have nightmares about the zombie apocalypse.  Once upon a time, my now-ex-husband made me watch things like 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead.  I never fully recovered.  I have driven The Dude to distraction, asking him whether or not he’d shoot me should I become one of the shuffling horde of undead.  I may or may not spend a significant amount of time on the phone with my good friend Link, discussing zombie apocalypse survival strategy.  He works from home and he’s wily…his chances of making it out alive are good.  Me?  Not so much.  I have come to the sad conclusion that should the day come, I will be less like badass Wichita and more like the dude on the football field at the beginning of Zombieland.  This may or may not be part of my motivation for getting a trainer and stepping up the cardio.

5.  I am an unapologetic car singer.  In my car I sound like Lea Michele, but better.  The rest of the time, my singing voice could be used as a tool in hostage negotiations, much like rock music was used in Panama in the 80’s.  In traffic on my way home today, my windows were down and people around me were treated Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me” at the top of my lungs and the falsetto part of  U2’s “Numb” while rolling down highway 64.  I’m sure they appreciated it. 

So, yeah…I’ll never be cool.  But I’m fun.  We should be friends.  I made you cookies!