Category Archives: holiday

Creative Endeavor Year

 What a delicious last couple of days.
Beet greens rescued from limpness, crisped up with bacon goodness

With New Year’s Eve on a Saturday and New Year’s Day on a Sunday this year, some may have groused about losing days off work, but I made the most of the celebrations not being smooshed into a few tired late-night hours, only to be confronted with the office coffeemaker the next morning. Ha!
I successfully kick-started my Creative Endeavor Year! I’ve stated lately what I’m interested in, and how differently I want to orient myself, so you maybe have an idea what I’m talking about. No? Ok, then I’ll go first with activities from the last few days, and then would you please chime in?
Lists. Yes, I made lists, in different places, on different-sized scraps of paper, and with overlapping topics. Maybe a little overzealous, but now I get to synthesize! Places I want to travel, places I might want to move, key areas of focus for my new work, my annual review, and goals. Totally exciting, right? Well it is for an introverted organizer.
Slowly Scrambled Eggs (you’re allowed to zone out while scrambling!)

Writing. Yep- as the new tagline indicates, I’m going to let writing take up a lot more space in my life this year. The focus will be on this blog, as I navigate the transition, and on the novel, which will give me a product and some experience in creative process (little out of practice).

Outdoors. A long run, several moderate-length walks in the cool air- clearing the clutter that tends to clump onto my brain if I spend too much time inside. You know what I mean: meant-to-do’s, errands, shoulda-coulda-woulda’s. Unless these get out and on a list, they just hover over my shoulder and make me unproductive or regretful. For me, moving at some speed outdoors tends to banish these thoughts. I return refreshed, like my brain had been through a permanent press and spin-cycle!
Apple, cinnamon-sugar, and perhaps a little butter was involved

Back-to-Basics. Return-to-Roots. (I like alliteration, OK?) On NYE, I made my first loaf of bread in the bread machine I received for Christmas, and have been finding ways to appreciate the simple white slice since then. Today, I tried out my first batch of plain yogurt in the new yogurt-maker, and await the results tomorrow morning. While there are a lot of blogging cooks out there who know how to combine many beautiful exotic ingredients for amazing dishes, I like to take the more minimalist approach. Because really, life is what you make of it. So if you don’t have pimenton de vera or spelt flour or fresh cilantro when the urge to create in the kitchen strikes, don’t fret. Take what you’ve got, and figure out how to honor that. In fact, I think that’ll be the philosophy for this Creative Endeavor Year.

Stale croissant, melted chocolate = uncomplicated souffle
I’ve been cooking pretty simply in the past month, both because of the desire for wintry comfort food and the need for something simply being enough. Call it an overworked metaphor if you like, but here are a few photos to inspire you to take a stab at this philosophy. Whatever you’ve got, honor that.

You may see several of the items listed in my Favorites List, which is no accident. What’s on your List?

Many Good Things

I am still working on that list of favorites for the Repertoire, so don’t worry, any of you who were hanging in suspense from the last post– it will come soon! For today though, I have something very special to report.
Cookie-Mas has arrived!

The Cookie Swap combined many good things that I like: boxes in the mail, surprises, pen pals, new food blogs to explore, and of course, COOKIES!

For my end of the bargain, I made a double batch of a favorite recipe from iPoL, and tweaked it just a smidge:

1 3/4 c. flour

2 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 ts. baking soda
pinch salt
3 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 cubes (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1 ts. vanilla
1/2 bag semisweet chocolate chips (Can add more if you want)
1 c. coarsely chopped dried apricots anything you can get your hands on, in this case, prunes, apricots, and raisins

Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, combine flour, oatmeal,sugars, salt,baking soda, and espresso powder. Add egg, egg yolk, melted butter, and vanilla, stir once or twice, then add chocolate chips and dried apricots. REFRIGERATE DOUGH for at least 30 minutes to firm it up. Place balls of cookie dough on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, and bake for 9-10 minutes. Take them out while they still the tiniest bit underdone. Once they sit for 15 minutes, they’ll be just right.

I packed up the pretty, plump ones and shipped them out the day after I made them. I ate the evidence that there were any that were not uniformly plump. (Again, here’s a butter-spreading-related question- what did I do wrong in the first photo? Both batches were refrigerated for the same time, and rolled out approximately the same size.)
The double bacth yielded enough for the 3 dozen I sent out to Madeline of Munching in the Mitten, Karen of SoupAddict, and Leah of So, How’s It Taste?, plus plenty to satisfy my sweet tooth (more on that later) while I awaited the other end of the bargain- 3 different dozens coming to ME!… The first box I received was from My Life as a Mrs, which were delicious: Soft Frosted Cookies, recipe here. Soft, moist, cakey, and vanilla-sweet. Kept very well, and such cute presentation!

My next mystery box was from Kiss My Whisk: Salty Sweet Cookies, which came with a cute recipe card (which is how I did mine too!) and wrapped like a present– recipe here. It was hard to keep to my self-imposed rule of ‘eat two, and pass on the rest’ here, but I did, and my coworkers raved about these.

My last box was the most elaborate, presentation-wise (glass jar! I know how heavy-therefore-expensive those are to ship! Thanks, Girly Obsessions!), and the cause of my abandoning my self-imposed rule. But really, it was for practical reasons, since despite the wax paper, the glass jar, and the bubble wrap, a good third of the cookies crumbled when I tried to take them out of the bag. At which point someone may have started scooping up these Dark Chocolate Wafers with Almonds and Sea Salt with her bare hands and popping them into her mouth. When I- mean The Someone- regained consciousness, there were 6 mostly whole cookies left, and some crumbs, which I used the next day as a dessert topping. So I couldn’t have brought in six cookies to offer my twelve coworkers, could I? That would have been just mean.
In conclusion, this was a great idea. Many good recipes, many good people. Thank you to the Amazing Organizers, and if you want to participate next year, sign up here for notifications! Happy Cookie-Mas, everyone.

Truth in Advertising, Installment #4

When I first started blogging here, I had a few examples of cooking recipes that turned out looking amazingly similar to the pictures in the books (I like cookbooks with color photos!). I called these “Truth in Advertising” installments, and it was just a fun way of documenting that I could actually achieve what looked like it took 3 photographers, a stylist, and one of those special light umbrella thingies to achieve. Go, me!
A similar thing happened on the trip to Scotland. I had been researching, pining, yearning… you get the picture– to escape to Scotland since I bought my plane ticket back in March. This left considerable time to browse photos, think about what I wanted to visit with my limited time, etc. Many of those photos ended up as desktop backgrounds (what can I say, I’m a daydreamer!), such as the one to the above- beautiful, non?
Well, it’s a picture of Glen Affric. Sorry to the person who took it whom I am not crediting right now- let’s just say I did substantial Google Image browsing, which I don’t need to repeat.
Anyway, the image must have sunk deeper in my consciousness than I realized, because I went and took the same photo!

The light was very different, we had different-shaped fog hiding the full mountain, and I was a bit further back, but there is that same stand of trees, jutting out into the water. Truth in advertising- it was gorgeous, and I’d go back to explore more in a heartbeat.