Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grandma Betty's Sugar Pecans

Happy Holidays!

I hope this post finds you jolly and bright.

But, most likely you're gearing up to run the week before christmas gauntlet.

I don't know about you, but I definitely didn't get everything done that I thought I was going to.

I've been running the to-do list through my head a millions times a day.

-Finish shopping for boyfriend's godchild

-Mail packages

-Finish making annual ornament for boyfriend

-Bake every kind of favorite christmas cookie

-Buy stocking stuffers

-Finish laundry

-Go grocery shopping

-Start planning for New Years Eve party


No worries. I got you covered.

Or I should say, Grandma Betty's got you covered.


The above recipe is in my Auntie Nancy's handwriting. Follow it exactly. It will work every time.

You will see at the end of the recipe that she advises not to eat all of them in one sitting.

Seriously. It will be a struggle. I advise that you buy more than one pound of pecans.

Buy the 2 pound bags at Costco. They're 15 bucks and that is hands down the cheapest you will find them anywhere.

The trip to Costco will be the hardest part of this entire recipe.


The recipe isn't fussy. You need exactly 4 other ingredients aside from the pecans.


You don't need any special skills. You will just need to whisk an egg white.


It's the perfect recipe to make when it looks like this out:


The recipe is actually kind of magical. It can take the pecans from this:


To this, in no time flat:


And then you can do this:


And your co-workers are taken care of.


They're a little different than standard christmas cookies and they last a whole lot longer.

You can eat them straight up, on their own.


Or you can add them to things like this.

or this.

or this.

Or you can just sit on the couch and polish off a whole recipe watching a christmas movie:

1) White Christmas
-You really can't get any better than Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

2) Elf
-Will Farrel's reaction to Papa Elf pointing out how low the clausometer is outstanding.

3) The Santa Clause
- It's cute. That is all.

4) It's a Wonderful Life
-Because, really, it is.

5) Scrooged
- Bill Murray. That is all.

6) How the Grinch Stole Christmas
-If it doesn't make you feel like an 8 year old again, you have no soul.

7) Muppet Christmas Carol
- This is the first muppet movie after the passing of Jim Henson. It's really, really lovely.

8) Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
-This should have the same affect as #6. Big bird is delightful. Thank goodness Obama won.

9) Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer
-It's stop motion, it's from the 60's, it's weird, it's totally fantastic.

10) A Charlie Brown Christmas
-My love of this movie goes far beyond just the music.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Getting Christmassy Up In This Joint!

I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods but it is getting all kinds of Christmassy up in this joint!

K has been in China for work for the past week and that means that I have been left to my own devices.

We all know what kind of things happen when I'm left to my own devices.

So, you can just imagine with the onset of the holiday season what kind of non-sense has been happening here.

First off, Christmas Carols have been blasting in my ear buds since right after Halloween.

Yep, you heard me correctly. Right after Halloween. That's what I said.

What do I listen to?

I'm so glad you asked.

1) First and foremost I will never ever get tired of A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi Trio.
It's so fantastic. All the arrangements are so perfectly spot on and the overall tone of the entire album will put even the biggest grinch into the holiday mood.

2) Anything by Johnny Mathis. Yes, I am a 70 year old grandmother. Whatever. Dude can carry a tune.

After that, the list narrows quickly.

3) Baby, It's Cold Outside - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan

4) White Christmas - The Drifters

5) Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt

6) Do You Hear What I Hear? - Bing Crosby

7) Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Dean Martin

8) Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley

9) Sleigh Ride - Ronettes

10) Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms

So, that's what I've been jamming out to.

I've also almost polished off a whole bag of Dunkin Donuts Mocha Mint coffee.

We cut down our tree and I finished decorating it last weekend.


Isn't she lovely? Do you think there are enough lights?

Don't answer that.

I've also been buying up every kind of christmas candy I come across.


These are brilliant.

So brilliant that I needed to figure out a recipe to use them in. That way I wouldn't feel guilty about just eating a whole bag of them by myself.

Whatever, there's no judging here.

And with that I came up with these little babies:


They are dense and fudgy and crumbly and oh, so pepperminty.

They would be lovely with a cup of piping hot coffee or a tall glass of frosty cold milk or just by themselves would be more than totally acceptable.

Peppermint Crumble Bars

9 Large servings or 18 Smaller Servings

1 3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Dutch Processed Cocoa
1 Cup Unsalted Butter, Cold, Cubed
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup White Chocolate Peppermint M&M's, Crushed
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Roughly Chopped (Approximately 5 oz. ), divided. This is what I used.
1 14 oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 Teaspoon Peppermint extract (or 5 drops of this stuff)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease or line 9"x 9" pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa and sugar. With a fork or a pastry blender, blend the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse, pebbly sand.

Press a little more than half of mixture into bottom of pan and set aside.

In a small sauce pan over medium low heat combine 1/2 of the chopped dark chocolate, the entire can of sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract and heat and stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
Pour this mixture over the crust in the 9 x 9 pan. Let cool slightly.

While that's cooling, place a little more than 1 Cup of the M&M's in a plastic ziplock bag. Wrap this in a kitchen towel and bash the living daylights out of it until most of the M&M's are broken up. This is wonderful tension buster!

Mix the crushed M&M's with the remaining 1/2 Cup of chopped dark chocolate and the remaining 1/2 of the flour/cocoa mixture. Toss this until well mixed.

Evenly sprinkle crumb topping over slightly cooled chocolate condensed milk layer.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars.



Coming Soon: Favorite Christmas Movie List and Grandma Betty's Candied Pecans. Stay Tuned!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

And now it's the holiday season

I know, I know. I've been MIA. Like, for a long time.

Let me catch you up.

1)I started a shitty job.
I'm sorry. I try to keep things clean but in order to relay the situation to it's fullest I need to throw the profanity out there. It really, truly was a shitty job. One that sucked every ounce of creativity, self worth, and pretty much my entire soul from my body.

2)We bought a house. A cute, sweet, wonderful house. A house with a lot of wallpaper and gold shag carpet and 50 year old linoleum.

3)It was one of the hottest summers I have ever experienced.

4)I quit said shitty job and started a super awesome job. The only downfall about the super awesome job? It's an hour and 20 minute drive to get there.

So between having my soul removed by the shitty job, searching for and buying our sweet little house, removing wallpaper from every room of our sweet little house, trying not to melt into the pavement every time we stepped out of our house and commuting to my excellent new job, there wasn't a whole lot left of my sanity to dedicate to this poor little blog.

But, the weather has turned cold, we have turned our thoughts to the holiday season and my soul is being slowly returned to it's rightful place.

In preparation for the holiday season, I feel the need to make massive amounts of peppermint flavored things.

I don't know why. I've never been a huge fan of peppermint flavored things but here I am craving peppermint mochas and peppermint crunch cookies and chocolate things frosted in peppermint kissed icing.

Enter these beauties:


They are the very best chocolate cupcakes I have ever made topped with a very simple peppermint frosting.

I know that sounds like a pretty lofty statement but, no joke, THE BEST chocolate cupcakes.

The crumb is soft and moist but not too crumbly and intensely chocolately.


I picked up these cute little decorations at The Vanilla Bean here in Madison.


If you're even the tiniest bit interested in baking, candy making or any type of confectionary you will not be able to walk out of this joint without buying something.


I'm usually not in to fussy little decorations but these were just too sweet to pass up.

I also picked up a bottle of this stuff too:


It is ultra concentrated. Like 150 times more concentrated than the general peppermint extract you pick up at the grocery store. So, watch out. It's kind of like if your toothpaste punched you in your nose. Kind of.
To put it in perspective, I used 5 drops to flavor a whole batch of frosting.
Yeah, seriously.


I made these guys mini because they would be perfect for office parties or family parties or holiday induced personal pity parties.

For those anti-chocolate/mint people, you can really flavor the frosting any way you would like. Almond would be lovely, cherry would be delish and rum would be down right perfect.

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting

Makes about 3 dozen mini cupcakes or 12 standard cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

3 Ounces of finely chopped, bittersweet chocolate
1 Ounce Dutch Processed Cocoa -I used this and was very impressed with the results!
1 Teaspoon of instant coffee granules
3/4 Cup of boiling water
4 1/8 Ounces Bread Flour
5 1/4 Ounces Granulated Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Large Eggs at room temperature
2 Teaspoons White Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line muffin tins with liners.

Place bittersweet chocolate and cocoa in large heat proof bowl. This will be your final bowl to mix all your ingredients.

In a coffee mug, pour boiling water over instant coffee granules, allow to dissolve and pour coffee over chocolates. Stir coffee-chocolate mixture until all the bittersweet chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, mix together remaining dry ingredients.

When chocolate mixture has cooled, stir in oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract until smooth.

Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and stir until the whole thing is smooth.

The mixture will seem thin at first but wait 5-10 minutes and it will thicken to a scoop-able consistency.

If making mini's use a tablespoon to fill liners. I found that a tablespoon of batter was just enough.

Bake mini-cupcakes 10-12 minutes or until firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Cool cupcakes on wire racks until completely cooled.

If you're making standard cupcakes increase baking time to 17 to 19 minutes.

Creamy Peppermint Frosting
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1/2 Cup Shortening
3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
5 Drops of Peppermint Oil or 1/4 Teaspoon Peppermint Extract
2 1/4 Cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
3 to 4 Tablespoons Milk

In medium mixing bowl, whip shortening on medium speed with vanilla and peppermint until color has lightened and has become fluffy - about 30 seconds.

Reduce mixer speed and slowly add half of the powdered sugar. Increase speed and beat well. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and continue beating until milk is fully incorporated.
Reduce mixer speed and slowly add remaining half of powdered sugar. Increase speed and beat well, adding enough of the remaining milk to reach piping consistency.

I pipped my mini's with a Wilton #12 tip and added the little decorations.

A Wilton #30 tip would look nice too or just frost those puppies up with standard butter knife.

I wouldn't judge you if you just stood over your sink spooning frosting into your mouth for every bite of warm cupcake because:
1)Judging isn't part of the holiday spirit!
2)It's not like that's never happened up in this piece before.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mom's out there.
And children, if your body's proximity is close enough to your mother to give her a giant hug and kiss, do it. Do it right now.
My mom lives in Portland, OR and sometimes I miss her a real lot. I miss her most when I want to give her a hug and I can't. So take advantage of those hugs when you can, people!

I've got a couple of tricks to help with my mom lonesomeness.

Exhibit A:

Commandeered Dish

I inherited this pyrex baking dish from my mom. And by inherit, I mean that I totally swiped it from her kitchen.
I can't even tell you how many pans of brownies and bars and hotdishes and lasagnas I've made in this pan. I think about my mom every time I pull it out of the cupboard. Thanks, Mom! ;)

Exhibit B:
Recipe FrontRecipe Back

I also "inherited" this recipe too.
I love it because it's in my mother's handwriting and it's on my Grandma Pearl's recipe card.
It's worn and used and it makes my insides all warm every time I take it out.
I can remember my mom making this when I was little.

Rhubarb stalks

I remember being absolutely astounded at how horrible raw rhubarb could taste and what a good cook my mom must be to make it taste so good in rhubarb crisp.


Did you know they don't have rhubarb California. It has something to do with the growing zone.
They do, however, have avocados that don't cost an arm and a leg, persimmons, which until recently, I didn't even knew existed, and amazing citrus almost all year round. Yeah, it's a trade off.

Beautiful Ruby

I don't have any recipes from my mom that include any of those things, so no amount of avocados, persimmons or oranges were any use to me when I needed a little mom pick-me-up.
I'm lucky, though. We both have unlimited minutes on our cell phone plans.

Waiting to be eaten

I might not have gotten to see my mom on this Mother's Day but I still feel like I got to spend a little bit of time with her.

My Momma

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you!

Mom's Rhubarb Crisp

Serves: 6-8 servings

Crust Ingredients:
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
5 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar
1/2 Cup Cold Butter, Cubed

Filling Ingredients:
2 Cups of Coarsely Chopped Rhubarb
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
Dash of Salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and powdered sugar. With a pastry blender or a fork, work cold butter cubes into flour mixer until mixture resembles course sand.
Press crust mixture into bottom of 9 x 9 pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 mins.

While crust is baking, with electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until fluffy. To the eggs, gradually add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix rhubarb pieces in by hand.

After removing crust from the oven spread the filling evenly over the crust and return to oven for 35 mins.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20-25 mins.

Serve to yo' momma while still warm with vanilla frozen yogurt.

P.S. My mom is totally going to cry when she reads this. Way to go Pearly May!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How I Survived Coachella

**Disclaimer**: This is just a sample of how I survived Coachella, and to be perfectly honest with you, I don't think I faired all that well. As my fellow Coachellian Cohorts can attest to, the road to recovery has been a fairly long and tenuous experience, not excluding the fact that I'm just now getting over a two week long battle with a brain crushing sinus infection (hence the 2 week lag in getting this post up).

For those of you not privy to the knowledge of what Coachella is, I've written about it very briefly previously here.

I attended last year, but it was a rough one. I had just moved to LA almost exactly a month before and I came down with soul melting head cold the day we pulled into car camping. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into and hadn't spent that much time with the people we were going with. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I just feel like I would have enjoyed myself a heck of a lot more minus all of the above issues.

So, this year I was bound and determined to make it count.

The following is a teeny tiny snippet of the weekend. I feel like it was a whole lifetime rolled into the 3 days we were there and there is no possible way to explain or relay the full experience through words and pictures but I hope I'm able to solidify it to you, my fair and lovely readers.

Camping spot

First and foremost, you gotta put your game face on and show up with patience and a non-exhaustive good attitude.

We rolled out of our beds in Madison, WI at 5am Thursday morning and didn't roll into our campsite in Indio, CA and get set up until until 3am Friday morning. We then got an average of 5 hours of sleep a night.

There were approximately 85,000 people who attended the festival this year.

Dealing with general society en masse and overall lack of sleep can take a toll.

There were a lot of deep breaths and attitude checks through out the weekend (not to mention a good dose of social lubrication).

Hug it out

Second, you gotta take your most solid friends with you.

The only people you want to be rolling around this alternate universe with you are the ones who will take care of you and who you will take care of no matter what happens.

We saw a lot of people who were lacking this support system.

Including this dude:

Is that guy alive?

We saw him from afar. Where are his friends? We were worried because we didn't see his chest moving AT ALL. Please note the mobile EMT guys leaning up against the wall in the back ground. Dude is definitely checking his cellphone.

So what do we do? Go in for closer inspection.

I'm not entirely sure he's breathing.

At this point, we're fairly certain this gentleman has expired.

Oh yes, he's breathing.

K taking photos gets the attention of EMT guys and thankfully enough he is alive and his friend is rolling up with water in hand.

Good job, friend, good job!

Another important reason you want to take good friends with you is to prevent you from making major fashion miscalculations.

Yes, a really fun part about Coachella is being able to wear things that you wouldn't wear in normal day to day activities, but sometimes you need an outside perspective to throw out the, "Dude, really?"


Of course K took a photo. Either there was a sever lack of friends or apparently under-cheeks were "in" this year.

Where are your friends?!

Moon Boots in the Desert

Let me break this picture down for you:

1)Moon Boots with jean shorts, in the desert
2)Fanny Pack
3)Neon Pink Sunglasses lanyard
4)Physically nursing the box of coconut water

If he had some solid friends, they would have alerted him to his over accessorization.


I'm going to be real honest with you. For a split second during the afternoon that the temperature dropped to 50 something and it started raining, we were all a little jealous of this dudes outfit.

That split second passed real quick.

Excellent People Watching

Something tells me no amount of friendship could have helped the woman in the fuzzy boots.

She knows how to party.

Another reason you take awesome friends with you is to give you courage to do things you wouldn't normally do.

I got to meet a Werewolf!

Like take a picture with the smoldering hot stars of one of your favorite book/show series.

If you watch True Blood on HBO you will recognize this gentleman, Joe Manganiello, as the werewolf, Alcide. If you have read the books, you'll understand the casting director did an amazing job. He is Alcide, incarnate.

After spotting him in the crowd and lamenting how I wanted to take a picture of him but not having the courage to go up to him, my dear friend Merri motored right up to him and asked if I could snap a picture with him.

He generously agreed and was really lovely and sweet about it.

Merri, the whole weekend was amazing and I can't thank you enough!

Nice Group of young people

Something that could impact your experience greatly are the people who camp next to you.

This year, we lucked out.

We dubbed the kids on the right "Sweat Lodge". They had a massive huge industrial grade canopy with walls that took up 2 camping spots.

Some of them were from Wisconsin.

Coachella Group of Young People

Obviously they were awesome.

I might have mentioned above, but social lubrication is kind of a must when you're standing in a mass of people.

Outdoor Stage

This wasn't even crowded.


This is really only one of three times we hit up the beer tent.

We brought most of our beverages with us.

But since you couldn't bring hard alcohol into the campsite, we had to smuggle it in. We did this by emptying out water bottles in the middle of a case of water, filled them with vodka or clear tequila and then put them back in place in the case of water.

As the weekend surged on, we kind of lost track of which ones were water, and which were alcohol.

So, what do we do? We play vodka roulette with our sweat lodge neighbors.

Vodka Roulette

Don't worry. I got the water.

One of the very most important things is obviously the music.

That really is the reason you go.

Here's a recap of the shows that we saw in the order we saw them:


Other Lives
Group Love
Black Keys
Black Angels


Tune Yards
Kaiser Chiefs
The Shins
Flying Lotus


Gardens & Villa
Beats Antique
Girl Talk
Florence + The Machine
Dr. Dre + Snoop Dogg

All the shows were super amazing. Everyone played their ever loving hearts out and still now I seriously struggle to pick a favorite.

If you think that the music is the only art to experience, you're seriously missing out.
You MUST stop and enjoy the art installations.

Starry Bamboo

This was made out of bamboo and had moving LED's on it at night.

Of course some dumb-ass hippy had to climb it and then in turn, fall off of it.

Good job dude. Where are your friends?

Art Installation

These were actually screens that they would project changing animated graphics on at night. That was cool during the day and it was super cool at night.

Orchid on a cherry picker

This guy didn't show up until Sunday. It's a gigantic orchid on a cherry picker and because Friday and Saturday were too windy, they weren't able to bring it out until Sunday.

Orchid Perspective

Here's your perspective. That's me and Merri standing next to it. It was massive. This also had LED's and internal lighting in the fabric, so at night it was absolutely magical.

These also didn't come out until Sunday.

Do not touch

They were essentially giant tubular garbage bags filled with air. They were amazing.
They were amazing until the drunkies showed up and tried to ride them and broke holes in them.
It was 1pm on Sunday afternoon. Drink some water people!

These were giant Dr. Seuss-like trees by the misting tents.

Forrest of Dr.Seuss Trees

I think K and I are going to try to build some for our backyard.

Check out the rest of my pictures on Flickr. I could go on and on and on about the art installations.
Whoever coordinates that does a fantastic job. Bravo.

I'm not even sure how to wrap up this post. I could ramble continuously for hours.

The journey there and back seemed like it took forever and time seemed to speed by while we were there.

There's nothing I wouldn't give to keep memories that were made that weekend.

A snippet

You know where you'll be able to find us the same time next year.