Daily Meal Header

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Call Me

I haven't baked in awhile... My apologies to any of you who were following me only for my sweet goodies.  But if there were ever a recipe to win back your love and affection, it would be this one right here.

Holy.  Sexy.  Goodness.

These are just too good.  TOO good.  It should be illegal how amazing these are.  I have yet to feed them to anyone who didn't roll their eyes in the back of their head and moan.

They're only as sweet as they need to be, delightfully rich, and with the perfect amount of saltiness to make
every...
single...
bite...
Mouth watering goodness.

I do hate to be demanding and forceful with you kind people, but GO OUT AND MAKE THESE BABIES NOW.

Then Call Me in the morning to thank me for how much sweeter and sexier I made your day.


CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER BLONDIES

Whisk together your dry ingredients and set aside...
-2 cups AP flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 heaping tsp kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together...
-1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (10 TB)
-1 1/4 cup light brown sugar

Mix, using an electric beater if you have one, until light and creamy.

Beat in, one at a time...
-2 large eggs

Then, while still mixing, add in...
-a good splash of vanilla extract

While you're mixing, slowly add in your dry ingredients, a little bit at a time, until completely mixed together.

Switch to a spatula and mix in...
-1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips/chunks
-1 cup peanut butter chips

Spread into a greased 9x13 inch glass baking dish.  Use a wet spatula to spread evenly, as this is a very thick batter, much like a cookie dough.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  DO NOT OVER-BAKE.  You want there to be a gooey center.  This is part of their charm.

Cool before slicing into desired sized squares.

These are amazing on their own, but if you really wanna get sexy, warm it and top with some vanilla ice cream.



You're welcome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more yummy fun...

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Music Box

Friendships end, people drift apart, marriages dissolve...lots of relationships end every day for various reasons.  It's just a part of life.  Things open and bloom and then they fade and disappear.  And after they do, it's difficult to look back on it all with a smile, isn't it?  Usually when relationships end, they end for negative reasons and unfortunately that negativity overshadows all the wonderful things you no doubt shared with that person.  What once was so sweet and special suddenly turns dark and sour.

One of the things I always share with people I'm involved with is music.  I generally don't make friends without music being involved in some way.  Music is such a big part of my life so I suppose I don't make true connections without it in some way.  And music is just one of those things that can trigger a memory unlike any other...like a smell.  You can hear a song and immediately be transported back to a certain place with a certain person.  It's our own little time machine.

I hear 'Centerfield' by John Fogerty and I'm 9 years old again, at a Braves game, sweaty and dirty-kneed, peanut shells at my feet.

I hear 'You Can Call Me Al' by Paul Simon and I'm 6 years old- jumping on the couch, barefoot in a nightgown with my brother while my dad does his little 'dad dance' in the middle of the living room.

I hear 'I Am A Town' by Mary Chapin Carpenter and I think of my sweet cousin, whom I don't have anymore.  My mother and his father used to sing this song during their set and he, sitting at that dining room table, said it was his favorite.  Nobody heard it but me.  It's his song now.

I hear 'In My Life' by The Beatles and it makes me think of my mother quietly singing it in my ear as we rode along the dirt path in St. John to the beach where I was to be wed to my best friend.

I hear 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley or k.d. Lang and I think of my college friend whom I no longer have.  I think of my sweet friends singing and playing it at his funeral and me not being able to breathe from all the tears.

Every song that means something to me has a person and a place attached to it.  But what happens when that person leaves?  Breaking up with a friend means breaking up with the music that came along with it.  A song that once brought you so much joy is now something that you simply can't listen to anymore.  And that's almost as sad as the breakup!  And that just doesn't seem fair, does it? This song, this perfectly good song, this amazing song is now tainted.

That's the power of music.  That's the power of the brain.  Of memory.

I think that time can heal this though...I think that eventually you'll be able to listen to that song again.  Maybe a new memory will attach itself to it as you go on and live your life, or maybe you just let go of the negativity and take it for what it is now...a song that even though isn't about someone in your current life, still has good memories attached to it- sweet smiles and giggles, hugs and days in the sun.  It took me years to be able to listen to 'Hallelujah' without sobbing.  But now I can.  I still get misty, but it's ok.

So what happens to the songs until you're ready to accept them again?  Maybe there's a little music box somewhere.  Maybe every time you skip over a song on your playlist because you can't take the memories, it goes into that box.  Maybe your heart keeps that box hidden away until one day you don't skip over that song.  One day you let it play.  And you allow yourself to remember the things you shared with that person, the places you went, the conversations you had, and you take it for what it still is.  A beautiful song that brought you to where you are today.


What songs do you have in your music box?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

BIRTH day.

By the time most of you are reading this, my daughter will be four.  Four.  In a lot of ways it totally feels like it's been four years since I've known her, if not longer (those of you with daughters know exactly what I mean by that) but then in a lot of other ways it's just so hard to imagine.  I look back on old photos of her and I don't even recognize the face looking back at me.


I look back on my maternity photo with her and I don't even recognize the woman hiding from the camera.


My pregnancy with my daughter wasn't awesome. It was my second one, my final one.  I didn't glow, I didn't feel magical or strong...I felt weird and tired and weak.  And it feels like that was a different person going through all of that now.

But it was me.

It happened, she happened, and she's now turning 4.

In the past, my kid's birthday posts have always been tear jerkers- filled with old photos and words about all the beautiful parts of raising a child.  They're all nice to look back on, I know my husband and I still do from time to time.  But I'm taking a different approach this year.  And it has nothing to do with my little girl- she's still awesome and beautiful and super rad.  It has everything to do with my week.  My dumb damn week.  My week began with the roofers coming early (so so early) on the first school day of the daylight savings time adjustment (Argggh) and therefore waking everyone in the house up- including my daughter, who never sleeps in.

So I was kicked out of my house due to the noise said roofers were making, hoping to find a peaceful spot to begin writing this here birthday post...hoping it to be as eloquent and awesome as my past birthday posts.  I went to my local coffee shop- a quaint spot with outdoor seating.  It would be perfect on this slightly chilly day in March.  I had on jeans, boots and a leather jacket- perfect for the outdoor writing weather.  I was gonna put on my glasses and drink my coffee and write my eloquent story outdoors.  So very poetic.

Guess what was happening outside of the quaint coffee shop?  Construction.  A bunch of loud tools drilling and digging things.  AND the wifi wasn't working.  So... I spent the two hours of allotted writing time responding to people's comments on my Instagram account while I waited for photos to upload onto this post (they never did).

So I returned home with an even bigger headache than when I left, a major coffee buzz and nowhere to put it, and the beginnings of another round of stomach flu and sinus infection.  The days that followed were pretty much more of that.  But my baby girl's birthday is tomorrow (or today now that you're reading this) and it's a big deal.  I know it is.  Of course I'm excited about it, she's incredibly excited about it, but I am just dog tired.  So here we are.  And here we go.

When you're a child, birthdays are the most important thing to you- they're so exciting and fun.  It's all about you and what you want to do and what you're gonna get.  It's amazing.  Birthdays were always made incredibly special in my house.  My mother won the game of birthdays.  She dominated that field.  She rocked.  We always felt super special on our birthdays.  (Thanks, mom!)  But then you become a mother yourself and all of that changes.  Like everything else, once you're a mom your priorities shift and it's no longer about you and what you want.  And so the meaning of your child's birthday changes as well...

Let's think about this for a second- why are we celebrating and doting on the birthed?  What did they do on this day?

Nothing.

They just appeared.

They literally just showed up breathing with no effort on their part whatsoever.

You know who needs that day?  The moms.  We did all the work!  THEY WERE INSIDE OF OUR BODIES UNTIL WE PUSHED THEM OUT OF IT.  You know how incredible that is?  I mean...who does that?  WE do.  Moms.  We're the ones who need a party and cake and presents and a big ole smack on the back for doing damn hard work.  It's called BIRTHday.  WE BIRTHED!!!!  It's not called SHOWUP day.

And this doesn't cross our minds until we become a mom ourselves.  It never even occurred to me to think of my mother on my birthday and everything she went through to push me into this world.  It honestly never did.

But then, of course...we have our children.  The greatest gift of all, right?  Our beautiful children who we love and cherish and would do anything for.  And we want to make them happy.  We want to give them a party and presents and congratulate them for just being here.  For just appearing because we made it so.  And we suddenly forget all the pain we went through to make the day occur.

And that right there is what it's like being a mom, isn't it?  We blindly give and love and then thoroughly enjoy watching our children light up when we do.  It's just one of the perks of the job.  Tiny laughs and little smiles reminding us that we really don't need a thing but them.



But I would totally still accept a party and a cake and presents.  I'm no idiot.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Want more?  Here's her birthday post from last year...turns out that one wasn't very sentimental either.  

But I do talk about her party, the dress I made her and her extremely colorful Princess cake with the recipe for the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting I used on it... that has to count for something, right?

I'll be back with more recipes and better words soon, y'all.  You've got my word.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Released

OK, So I'm gonna keep this fairly brief.  Cause my brain is dog tired.  But, it's time for me to share with you all a secret I've been keeping for months.  Since November, specifically.  Not even my family or closest of friends knew...

Just this past week I was officially released from my agreement with Food Network on being cast in their upcoming show, Food Network Star.  I made it to the final rounds of casting and was just informed that they have gone in another direction.  So, to put it simply- my life has been on hold since I got my first email and phone call in early December, telling me I had advanced to the next round and to continue to stay available until April.  I'm incredibly glad I went through with it, as having my own show is my ultimate dream, but the timing apparently just wasn't right for me this year.  I was told that they really liked me and that they would keep me in mind for the future, among many other incredibly kind and generous things.  And those are always nice things to hear.

Although I can say I'm a tad disappointed that things didn't go the other way, I'm just glad the process is over, if I'm being honest.  Spending 3 months waiting for a phone call or email to tell me I had to pack my bags and leave for New York the next day was not my cup of tea, but it was an exciting process and I'm proud of myself for making it as far as I did and getting the positive feedback that I got.  Unfortunately, I had to turn down a few excellent offers during my holding period, which were very difficult decisions to make, but all in all, they were made for the right reasons.

The unknown is a tricky thing to live with- especially for me.  So, now that I know where my tomorrow will be spent, I can rest a little easier and cherish what I have in my life at the moment.  I also want to take this time to apologize for any mood I may have been in over the past 3 months...I'm sure I wasn't always as calm and kind as I would like to be...and now you all know why.  But I'm back now and have no plans of going anywhere any time soon!

I would now like to share with you my initial audition video that got me my first callback.  I'm so very proud of it, as my husband shot it and edited it in just a few hours.  He has been my rock throughout this process and was willing to allow me to chase my dream, knowing that he would have to stay home with the kids on his own for months...longer if things went my way.  He's amazing.  And I'm incredibly lucky.

So now I would like you all to see how brilliant he actually is...


(If you can't view the above embedded video, 
follow this link to my Youtube page and view it there:


Thanks for listening, as always.  

Follow your dreams.  No matter how out of reach they may seem.  If they don't come true, it only means that they haven't yet. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Flourless Chocolate Birthday Cake

This week I hosted my mom's birthday dinner.  The whole family came over and we ate, drank, laughed and talked to celebrate her special day.  It's my favorite way to celebrate anything- having all the people I love under one roof sharing a home-cooked meal.  I'll take that over a restaurant or a party any day.  Her dinner was my Central Asian Beef and Lentil Stew over Coconut Barley except I used leg of lamb instead of the beef because 1.) My mom loves lamb and 2.) It's just a little more special.  I also made a Cumin-Coriander Slaw to go on the side (I'll post that recipe soon I'm sure...it was delicious!!)

But the purpose of this post is to share her birthday cake recipe.

My mom eliminates processed wheat from her diet so I decided to make her a flourless chocolate cake.  And knowing that my mom loves dark chocolate paired with fruit, and also wanting to create something that paired well with the meal, I decided on a Flourless Dark Chocolate-Orange Cake with Candied Kumquats.  And I served it with cinnamon whipped cream and raw cocoa nibs.  It was amazing.  So rich and simple and decadent, and extremely flavorful.

And, because I like you so much, here's the recipe...


*FLOURLESS DARK CHOCOLATE-ORANGE CAKE 
WITH CANDIED KUMQUATS

First, we candy the kumquats...

Thinly slice 4 kumquats and remove the seeds.  Place them in a small saucepan and add 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup water.  Bring to a simmer and gently simmer/poach for about 30 minutes.  They're done when they become translucent and shiny.  Remove from the pan with a fork and place on a piece of wax paper to dry. (This can be done far in advance if need be.)

And reserve the poaching liquid...it's now a kumquat simple syrup and is great in a cocktail!!


Now, it's chocolate time...

In a glass bowl situated over a medium saucepan with a little bit of water (the bottom of the bowl cannot touch the water inside the pot), place 10 ounces of dark or semi sweet chocolate, chopped (you can use semi sweet chocolate chips, or chop 10 ounces of a dark chocolate bar...whichever you'd prefer) with 1 stick of unsalted butter, (8 TB) diced.  Bring the water to a simmer and gently melt the chocolate with the butter.  (This is called a double boiler.)  Stir as needed.  You're done when the mixture is completely smooth and glossy.  Set aside to cool slightly.

While you're melting your chocolate, take care of the other ingredients...

Separate 6 large eggs and place the whites in a medium mixing bowl and the yolks in a large bowl.

Add 1/2 cup of light brown sugar to the bowl with the yolks and whisk until thick and creamy.  Add the zest of one orange and several fat pinches of kosher salt.  Set aside.

Whip your egg whites (using an electric mixer if you have one) until stiff peaks form.  This takes awhile, so settle into it.  Set aside.

Trace around the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan onto a sheet of parchment and cut out the circle.  Place that parchment circle into the bottom of the pan and grease the bottom (on the parchment) and sides of the pan with either cooking spray or use the wrapper from your stick of butter.  Just make sure it's heavily greased.  Sprinkle a layer of sugar into the pan as well.

Now you're ready to make the cake!


Using a whisk, scoop out a large bit of the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk it into the yolk mixture.  The chocolate should still be warm, and therefore you don't want to cook the yolks...so you want to 'temper' them by adding just a little of the chocolate at first, before adding it all.


Add the rest of the chocolate and whisk until fully blended. Next, you're going to fold in your whipped whites...


Take a large spatula-ful of the whites and add to the chocolate bowl.  Fold them into the chocolate by slowly stirring from the center and incorporating gradually.  You want to keep the air that you whipped into the whites, so do it slowly.


Continue until all the whites have been fully incorporated.  You're done mixing when the mixture appears light and airy, but you shouldn't see ribbons of white anymore.


Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan...


And bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. You want the center to not be wet and loose when you jiggle it, but it should shimmy like jello.

Allow to cool in the pan on a rack until cool enough to touch.


Invert the cake onto the rack and peel off the parchment...


Then invert onto your serving plate.


Garnish with your candied kumquats.


Before serving, sprinkle with some powdered sugar if you'd like and serve with some softly whipped cream (an 8 ounce/half pint carton was the perfect amount).   I also garnished each plate with some ground cinnamon and raw cocoa nibs, which is highly recommended ;-)


Happy birthday, mama.

If you want to read what I wrote for her birthday on Instagram, check it out HERE.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Meh.

Here we go again...one of my many rant posts I publish whenever my husband leaves town.  Funny how that happens, huh?  He leaves and sh!t hits the fan.  The best thing I can say about it is that we all survived.  Grrrrrr.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah, positive Abbey will be back soon.  Just let me have this one, K?)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I woke up the day he left hungry.  So. Damn. Hungry.  I had decided to give up my daily bread for a week, maybe two, to rid myself of the post-holiday bloat we all know so well.  (And also training for something I can't yet talk about.)  And if you know me at all, you know that I depend on that damn piece of bread every morning of my life.  I look forward to it when I fall asleep, it's the first thing I think about when I wake up.  Bread.  My soft, homemade sourdough bread.  It's my thing.  But I needed to jumpstart my system to get back on track, so here we are.  It's only temporary.  But still.  The struggle is reeeeal.

And since I wake up starving and ready to eat pronto, I've been prepping my breakfast the night before so it's easy to do and quick to finish.  I'm not a microwave person, apart from the occasional reheating, but I'm breaking all sorts of my rules this week, so the night before I've been prepping my eggs and veggies in a glass dish so all I have to do is microwave it for a minute or so and eat it shortly after.  No cooking required, nothing but pushing a couple buttons while I wait for coffee.  I've done this before, no problem.  But for some damn reason, on this particular morning (of all mornings) this decided to happen....



It sounded like gunshots coming from the kitchen.  So instead of eating my quick breakfast, I cleaned it up off the microwave as my kids woke up demanding theirs...and just stayed hungry.

I worked out, got cleaned up and dressed.  But only after I searched for the right pants.  You know those days when NONE OF YOUR PANTS are showing up to the party?  It's like they all have a little meeting and say, 'OK guys, today is when we're gonna all f*** with Abbey.  Hey you, skinny jeans- tighten up!  You, wide leg trousers- run and hide.  You, boyfriend jeans- why are you even here?  Nobody invited you.'

I got the kids got off to school, then set out to Barnes and Noble in search for a particular thing that I was sure they would have.  A super important element to my day.  No.  No, they didn't.  I went to the library...surely they would have it.  No. No, they were closed.  (Damn budget cuts.)  I was grumpy.

I came home, managed to get some work done, took out the trash, came back inside to find the dog staring and barking at something upstairs.  I walk up to find a cat staring at me.  She's our cat, but an outdoor one, and she looked as confused as I was.  I went to grab her and she ran.  Of course.  Into the master bedroom.  I shooed her out of there, closed the door and saw her run into the playroom.  I shooed her out from behind the desk and she ran into the closet.  I shooed her out of the closet and she ran out into the hallway.  I closed the door and saw she ran into my daughter's room.  (WHY ARE ALL THESE DOORS OPEN?!?!?!) I shooed her out of there, and closed the door (meanwhile the dog is helping me by barking and not helping me at all.) She ran into my son's room.

(Now is the point in my story where I would like for you to visualize this- I was performing in a farce.  A damn Neil Simon play.  All the running and screaming, all the doors slamming shut.  I'm quite sure it would be funny as an audience member to witness.  However, as the reluctant ingenue, it was nothing of the sort. OK, back to it...)

The cat decided that in big brother's room, she would go under the bed.  Her little grey tail was sticking out and I tried to push her out from the other end but she wouldn't budge.  So I jumped on the bed and yelled until she ran out.  This time, with all the damn doors finally closed, she ran downstairs.  I ran after her- thinking of all the open doors we had downstairs- and found that she had actually decided to go back outside.  She was sitting on the door mat, licking her paws.  Completely pleased with herself.  I closed the last damn door, caught my breath and looked at the time.  Damn, I'm late.

I had an errand to run before I could get my daughter so I headed out.  Got stuck in traffic.  Of course.  Was late to pick up my daughter.  Of course.  And she was not a happy camper.  Of course.  Something about a broken stick and a lost cracker?  I was too tired to ask questions.  Went home, got her cleaned up and snack-ed before it was time to head out to get big brother.  Brought him home.  Went outside to play.  It was a beautiful day- that would surely lift the mood.  

Big brother proceeds to ignore every request slash demand from little sister, leaving her to scream every minute of the hour we spent out there.  I go in to grab something from inside and immediately hear a loud bang and pitiful cry, followed my my daughter running inside to tell me in broken english that her brother had fallen off the chair and was hurt real bad.  Before I can make it outside I find big brother at the door with tears in his little eyes.  Turns out he was sitting in our iron patio chair backwards, so the chair just bucked him off.  He was fine, just a little banged up knee.  I performed the magic rub on it, kissed it and he was fine.  But not before the screen door decided to fall behind us.


Just big, fat fall.  Like it was hanging on by its fingertips and decided, yep...now would be a good time to let go.  I tried to get it fixed, get it back on track, but eventually gave up.  I just propped it up against the door jam and called it a day.  We played some more outside and then I noticed a big poop schmear on the outdoor rug.  (dog, not human)  OK.  Someone has poop on their shoe.  I checked both kids.  They were fine.  It was time to go in.  Big brother came up to wipe his feet off before heading in and wipes them right on the poop.  Of course.  I cleaned it up and we head inside.  Kids go wash up and head upstairs.  I look down.  There is now poop on the kitchen floor.  Now how in the hell....  Oh.  Right.  Never thought to check my feet.  Cleaned the floor.  Slipped and fell on the wet floor, but at least the floor was clean and poop free when it caught me.

Meanwhile my husband is on the road for a 6 hour drive.  And I realized, standing there alone in the kitchen, after the whirlwind of the day, that I felt kinda sad.  And lonely.  This is not like me.  I'm a damn independent woman, damnit!  I'm not one of those women who solely depends on her husband for happiness.  And yet...something about this day put me in a lonely mood.  So I texted my best friend (obviously) and called my mom.  (I mean...if I'm already being the sad, lonely wife...why not be sad, lonely mommy's girl while I'm at it.)  She said she would come over later.  She did.

She spent time with the kids, and bathed the little one, while I bathed myself.  (Don't you just love moms?) Then she left as I got the kids fed. Bed time approached and I fell asleep shortly after they did.

Woke up and hit the ground runnin'.  Exploded my eggs again, heard my daughter upstairs awake way too early.  Put her back to bed, which she was not happy about, but she fell back asleep. Worked out, welcomed big brother awake and fed him.  Scones for breakfast.  I gave him his and set out hers for when she woke up.  Then remembered we had Valentines to send in to school that day.  I gave him 23 envelopes to write on while he ate his breakfast. He messed up 22 of them.  Gave him 22 more.  He messed up 15 of them.  Gave him 15 more.  When he was done I came up to collect them and saw little sister's scone half eaten.  He had eaten his scone and half of his sister's.  Who does that?! I set out another scone for her.  I took the valentine envelopes and shoved a gummy heart and a Spiderman piece of cardboard into each one and threw them in his book-bag.   Little sister woke up just in time for us to leave to get big brother to school just in time for him not to be late.  Took her back home, got her and myself dressed and headed out for her school drop off.

Then headed to my sometimes office and got some work done...writing this here post, and feeling another damn cold coming on.  On my second cup of coffee and still starving and craving that damn piece of bread.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hungry?  Check out this recipe post from last year ;-)

A Healthier Brownie - a rich and decadent dark chocolate brownie made with coconut flour, coconut oil and agave...gluten free!!!

***

(And here's a fun idea- Maybe go back and count the number of times I said damn and make a drinking game out of it.  Drink for me, will ya?  Yeah...I also gave that stuff up too.  Damn.)