Sunday, July 05, 2015

A God in Ruins

Mind-blowing books make my world go round.  They also bring my world to a screeching halt.  And they devastate me.

In a perfect work of literary fiction, the outside world is a source of confusion, and I look up (blinking blankly like an awakened mole in a children's movie) from the pages only to make sure my family is coping without me.  Don’t worry.  The kids are alright.  They are readers, too, and they understand.

These aren’t real problems, of course.  A Saturday will continue just fine without my attention.  The Musician will feed the children breakfast and will even bring me a refill on my coffee.  The children will tiptoe into the bedroom, sidle up next to me on the sofa, or peek outside to find me on the porch swing, and they will ask whether I need anything.  They will also ask if they can have ice cream, knowing I will say yes just to gain myself a little more reading time. They are smart little hooligans.

The true problem begins shortly after the book ends, though it isn’t when I shut the book and sit quietly for some time, closing my eyes to savor my last thoughts on the story, weeping (as happened yesterday) at the beauty and magnificence of the story-telling, or rushing to social media to see if my reading soulmate has put this book on her list yet.  Those are normal companion activities to my reading.

The issue is what to read next when all else (no matter how exquisite) will pale in comparison, when all other characters will appear vapid and one-dimensional (no matter how well-drawn), when all plots will seem contrived and trivial (no matter how well-crafted), when all dialogue will come across as stilted and uncomfortable (no matter how well-written).  

There are, I think, some works of fiction that just cannot be followed by another work of fiction.  A break will be necessary.  Nonfiction might be in order, or possibly one of the recent glorious YA novels (eleanor & park, I’m looking at you).  Maybe nothing short of a movie or a Netflix binge will provide the gap needed to let the next book shine on its own and to give a much-needed palate cleanser to an actual mind blown.

There have been a handful of books that I have read over the past two years that have left me reeling and unable to appreciate anything else for a time.  Life After Life. The Goldfinch. Fourth of July Creek.  The Enchanted. A God in Ruins.  

I will be thinking about A God in Ruins for a long, long time to come.  

Have you read any masterful novels recently?  I would love to hear what books have moved you.  And if you have not read one of the books mentioned above, I cannot recommend them highly enough. These are novels that have stayed (or will clearly stay) in the forefront of my mind for many months, and from which I hope to never recover.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries

It was Valentine's Day yesterday - a day which we largely ignored around our house - and I had chocolate covered strawberries on the brain.  There was some discussion about sending Preston to the store to buy some strawberries so I could make a treat for us, but the berries in the supermarket this time of year are relatively tasteless, and I ended up working much of the day anyway.

We picked up some Chinese take-out for dinner and called it a day. Forced romantic gestures are not our forte, and we're cool with that.

But then I woke up this morning thinking about the bag of frozen pitted cherries I had picked up earlier this week, and I began to entertain the idea of chocolate covered cherries.  I love them, you see, but the boxed version from the candy aisle are such a hodgepodge of artificial flavors, using sweetened maraschino cherries and that inexplicable sweet and gooey white filling that seems apropos of absolutely nothing either cherry or chocolate related, so a makeover seemed in order.

It turned out to be easier and quicker than I could have dreamed.  I melted a little dark chocolate, grabbed a few pitted frozen cherries, gave the cherries a quick roll in the melted chocolate, and then popped them onto some parchment paper to harden.  It took minutes.  Literally, just minutes. 

Juicy, naturally sweet cherries enrobed in a slightly bitter thin shell of hardened dark chocolate.  Two ingredients.  Simple, exquisite flavors.  I'm in love.

Best Day-After-Valentine's-Day ever.


  • 5 oz of your favorite dark chocolate
  • 15 pitted frozen cherries, unsweetened (available at Trader Joe's)
  1. In a double-boiler (or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water), melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.
  2. One at a time, drop the frozen cherries into the chocolate, using a plastic spatula to roll them around until they are coated.  Use two forks to lift each cherry out of the chocolate, and place them on a parchment paper covered plate or cookie sheet.
  3. Refrigerate the chocolate covered cherries for 5 or 10 minutes until firm.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Green for Life

My breakfast has been channeling Dr. Seuss for so long that my children actually ask to have a few sips of my green smoothies every day.  How can you not be entranced by drinking something this color?  It's like living in a cartoon.

A healthy, life-giving, energy-fueled cartoon.  They exist, I tell you.

Last summer, during a period of digestive not-right-ness, I started doing some research about cleanses and detox meals and the like, hoping to restore my balance without resorting to a trip to the doctor.  Green smoothies kept coming up, and though they sounded bizarre and completely unappealing at first, the science made sense, and the amount of available information was so compelling that I gave it a shot.

I fell in love, of course.  Homemade fruit smoothies have long been my go-to breakfast during the warm/hot months (that would be eight months of the year in my part of the world), and finding a way to add in a serving or two of vegetables to the deal - without sacrificing flavor - was nothing short of a miraculous discovery to me.

Just a few of the tidbits of nutritional information that persuaded me to try a green smoothie and that keep me drinking them daily:
- Raw vegetables, with very few exceptions, contain higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals than do their cooked counterparts.  Ever eaten raw mature kale or chard?  Not awesome.  How then can you work some raw greens into your diet?  You guessed it... 
- The cellular structure of raw sturdy greens is such that we do not fully break them up enough to absorb all those lovely vitamins and minerals simply by chewing in our normal fashion.  Feel like chewing up each bite 30 times until it fully dissolves in your month?  No?  I don't blame you.  That's why blenders rock. 
- Having a hard time getting six servings of vegetables into your daily diet?  What?  You eat things other than vegetables (ahem - me too)?  Throw some into your breakfast, and you'll find you have had two servings before your morning snack. 
- Did you know that if you start your day with a super-nutritious, yet fully delicious, breakfast, you will be more inclined to continue eating healthfully all day long?  Don't believe me?  Try a little experiment.  Eat two doughnuts for breakfast tomorrow and tell me what you craved for lunch and dinner (and snacks) for the rest of the day.  On the next day, drink a green smoothie for breakfast and keep another record of what you craved for the rest of that day's meals.  Two gold stars says the doughnuts will drive you to a greasy lunch whereas a green smoothie will inspire a great big salad.  Seriously.
There is far more actual science behind the green smoothie movement than I can state without tripping up on words too big for me to properly tame.  Some of it seems valid, some of it resembles snake-oil medicine, and some is simply preposterous.  Here's the thing though:  with green smoothies, the worst thing that can happen is you'll have more regular bathroom habits and you'll sneak more vegetables into your diet.  Remember the Atkins Diet?  Right.  With that, the worst thing that could happen is higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and a higher risk of heart failure.

Still want to do some more research on your own?  As part of the 200-hour yoga teacher training program I am participating in, we recently read and discussed Victoria Boutenko's Green for Life.  It's a quick and easy read, written not by a scientist or dietician, but by a regular Lady of Awesomeness who decided to take charge of her family's health and who did enormous amounts of research to back her theory.  The information is presented well, though the testimonials at the end of the book may need to be taken with a grain of salt.

I have enormous respect for this woman.  We should all be so inspired to take the lead and do our own legwork before going to the medical community for pharmaceutical solutions.


TROPICAL GREEN SMOOTHIE (makes about 1 quart, enough for one person for breakfast and morning snack)

Beginners Note: You may want to start with spinach and work up to some of the heartier greens like kale and chard.  Also, if you find the smoothie to be too bitter, add a little more fruit and re-blend until the taste is more palatable.  You shouldn't have to eat something you don't like.

A note about blenders: I use a relatively inexpensive older model Oster glass jar blender that does a remarkable job making smoothies.  Smoothies will burn out the motor on uber-cheap blenders in a flash (trust me on this one).  Many people will swear you need a Vita-Mix, and I understand they are the bomb, but I am disinclined to spend $400 or so on a blender, so, you know, do a little research and see what would be best for your family.

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbs ground flaxseeds (optional)
  • 1 Tbs unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 cups tightly packed spinach (or my favorite - a mixture of baby kale and baby chard)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, or more as necessary
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  1. Place all ingredients into a high-powered blender, in the order listed above.  Starting with the softest ingredients at the bottom of the blender does help the blades to not get caught on the firmer ingredients.
  2. Process on high speed until very well-blended.
  3. Drink immediately - it's best very cold.  Store leftovers in a tightly sealed glass jar in the refrigerator and drink the same day if possible.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cocoa-nut Date Truffles

Oh, how I have missed this space.  This little corner of the interwebz where I share recipes and ideas and challenges and thoughts and changes.  The changes have been many lately (all of the good and plenty variety) and I hope to place them into words of the correct order.

Our school year has begun, our daily schedule has been tweaked, The Boy Wonder now attends a homeschool academy two days a week, Princess Hazelnut is learning to read, The Carnivore and I are dipping our toes into a new business venture, a puppy has joined our family, and I have begun yoga teacher training.

Yoga. Teacher. Training.  

I know, right?  I am three weeks into an 18-week immersion course at what is rapidly becoming my favorite place on earth, and it is everything I desired and more.  It is an exhilarating, humbling, invigorating, exhausting, empowering, and fully glorious adventure.  Friends, I am happy in a way I can hardly illustrate.  It is good, good stuff.

The past nine years have passed in a beautiful blur of house building, business launching, pregnancies, nursing babies, and the beginnings of homeschooling, but here I found myself recently, staring down the barrel of an upcoming thirty-ninth birthday and realizing there was finally time to come up for air.  'Twas a weird feeling, I tell you, that coming up for air and realizing there was time to take new chances.  There were new goals to explore.

A little bit scary.  A little bit awesome.

So now I find myself part of a small group of diverse, yet like-minded, fellow students, and we spend our time workshopping poses, watching and discussing documentaries, reading about and discussing nutrition, writing our own sequences, sharing meals, and learning so much from each other and our fearless leaders. 

As part of our training, we have committed to a vegan diet, and we are avoiding wheat and sugar as well.  This is not as difficult as it might appear at first glance.  I went vegetarian thirty-something years ago, and I have been eating a vegan breakfast and lunch for some time now, so making the switch to a vegan dinner was relatively easy (much credit needs to go to Heather's 30-day Vegan Workshop).  Though there have been a few challenges in avoiding wheat, I have only had one accidental wheat product in the past three weeks (tabbouli - you trickster, you).  

Going without sugar might have been more daunting were it not summer right now.  With the plethora of fruit available at this time of year, I tend to eat my weight in melons, thus sufficiently quieting my sweet tooth.  Interestingly though, I have found that doing without the richness of butter and eggs, along with the added sugars in many wheat products, has virtually eliminated my desire for my beloved rich chocolate desserts.  

There are times though when I find myself with the slightest taste for something sweet - when there isn't a watermelon in sight - and a dried date or two usually satisfies just fine.  But then there are other times (ahem, hormonal times) when one might be ever-so-slightly tempted to seek out a more decadent option.  A little chocolate, maybe.

Would you believe I found a solution for that?  A chocolate solution.  A sugar-free, artificial sweetener-free, wheat-free, vegan solution.  A solution that even my kids and decidedly non-health-freak husband love.

I kid you not.

I first heard rumors of date truffles a few years ago, but I failed to follow up on it until this past spring when I came across a recipe on Pinterest for German-Chocolate Fudge Bites.  The Carnivore loves German Chocolate desserts, you see, and I was nearly speechless when I clicked through to find a healthy recipe for date truffles.  I made a batch, and it was love at first bite.  I made another batch and took them to my mother and grandmother for Mother's Day, effectively blowing their minds as well.  Batch after batch was made.  A healthy dessert that comes together in mere minutes?  It's a minor miracle.

There is cocoa in the truffles for your inner chocolate lover, dates for sweetness and texture, coconut and nuts for flavor and chewiness, a wee pinch of coarse salt for awesomeness.  What isn't in them is the crowd-pleasing shocker: no sugar, no dairy, no flour, no eggs.

I maintain that one should never feel guilt over what they eat, but in this case, it is not just a platitude.  Help yourself, friends.  This is a dessert you can feel virtuous about.


Cocoa-Nut Date Truffles (makes about 24 truffles), adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie

* Note: a food processor is required to get the "dough" to come together.  I have tried this in a number of blenders, and have either burned out the motor (oops) or have ended up with a crumbly, rather than sticky, "dough" that resulted in dry truffles (ick).  
  • 1 and 1/2 cups pitted dried dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (try making your own)
  • scant 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt, or 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 4 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbs unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans are all lovely here)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until it all comes together in a sticky mess, about 20-30 seconds.
  2. Transfer the sticky dough to a small bowl.
  3. Working with about 1 Tbs at a time, roll the portions of dough into a ball in your hand and set on a plate.  
  4. When all the dough has been rolled into balls, place in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge (my favorite).  Truffles will keep for about a week - if they last that long.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Dark Chocolate Torte

This feels so out of character, sneaking in here after a long absence with nothing short of a slice of decadence to share.  We have just been eating so gloriously healthily lately, and I have so much to share, but this is what I show up with.  Maybe I should apologize.

It has been just splendid in our kitchen again, of late.  Winter was such a busy time and creativity ran so thin, you see, that the inherent glory in our new slower schedule and in the luscious offerings of our weekly vegetable boxes has sparked a revolution.  The past few weeks have been full of new recipes, I keep renewing a new favorite cookbook from the library, and we are already in our second week of the new CSA season.

Breakfast has become a more adventurous time, replete with oat muffins, baked oatmeal with berries, new granola recipes, mixed berry Dutch babies, French toast on weekdays (even on Monday!); the kids and I are again happily snacking on cucumbers, carrots, and radishes fresh from a farm; lunchtime has featured one of my very favorite dishes: boiled beets with sauteed beet greens.  I even found a perfect recipe for turnips.

Things are good.  So good that I feel silly for letting budgetary constraints keep us from our beloved CSA membership last summer.  Granted, we have changed farms this time around, finding one in which members pay a monthly fee rather than having to cough up the entire season's payment upfront, and that has made all the difference for us as we continue to limp through this faltering economy.

But I didn't come here to talk about money.  Accounting is my day job - well, it is one of them.  This here though, this lovely little slice of internet that I call home, is about everything in my life besides boring old financial talk.

And today, I bring you chocolate.

The Carnivore and I enjoyed a rather smashing dinner at The National recently, a dinner in which even the olive oil for bread-dipping was a revelation.  There were scallops and grits and fava beans, there was chewy ciabatta, there was an exquisitely-prepared stuffed trout with ramps and even more fava beans, (there was also some sort of meat dish that The Carnivore ordered which slipped my disinterested mind), but what stood out the most was dessert.

Can you believe it?  That I would let chocolate overshadow all else?

It was a torte which took our breath away, a flourless chocolate torte, with blackberry sauce and a tiny but perfect scoop of espresso-almond semifreddo.  It was ridiculous, of course, just utterly mind-blowing, and I may or may not have used my finger to mop up the very last crumb.  When I mentioned to The Carnivore that I had a recipe for a similar torte that I had been wanting to try but just hadn't gotten around to it (for, you know, a couple of years), he looked at me like I had gone mad and encouraged me to get to it.  And soon.

Soon, as it would turn out, was only a few days later.  The Carnivore had a birthday, you see, which was why we had been at The National in the first place, but when the actual date rolled around mid-week, I unearthed that recipe and gave it a go.

Have you ever had a torte?  It is a bit like cheesecake in texture, though not quite as heavy.  Actually, the best description I can think of is to call it a fudge-like pie.  It is rich and it is dense, but surprisingly light at the same time, almost fluffy.  Oh, don't mistake me, I do not use the word "light" to imply that it is in any way low in calories or fat.  That would be entirely untrue.  This dessert could easily clog your arteries, put some weight on your bones, and even take a few years off your life, but it would be worth it.

The recipe I used did have a wee bit of flour, unlike the one from the restaurant, and I couldn't help but use dark chocolate.  A few other tweaks were also in order, of course.  Blackberries are a bit hard to come by right now, so I decided to make a sauce using some frozen raspberries that I had on hand, and I ran out of time before figuring out what to do about the semifreddo component, so I simply tossed some heavy cream into the mixer with a bit of sugar and homemade vanilla extract and dolloped a little lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream on top of the finished torte.

The torte itself was rather simple to prepare, but was a bit fussy to remove from the pan.  My only advice with this is to go with a rustic presentation and be prepared to lick the bottom of the pan to extract all the yummy goodness.  Then again, it is also possible that I undercooked it slightly and that is why removal was a sticky process, but in my experience with baking desserts, undercooking is always preferable to overcooking.  So there you go.

One last bit of advice: a little goes a long way when serving this.  It is decadent, as I said (as I also said, it is completely worth it), and a tiny sliver dished out onto a pretty plate will be, I think, more than enough.


DARK CHOCOLATE TORTE (serves 12 to 16), adapted from Fine Cooking

Note: Do not be dismayed by the wordy instructions.  This is really quite simple to prepare, and does not take very much hands-on time at all.

  • 12 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs instant espresso granules
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  1. In a food processor, grind the chocolate for about 30 seconds, until it resembles coarse meal.  
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Add the cream to the food processor, and process with the chocolate until smooth, about 10 seconds.
  4. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 Tbs hot water and add it to the warm ganache in the food processor; process until fully mixed, about 10 seconds.
  5. Transfer the ganache to a large bowl.
  6. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and very generously butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.  Have ready a roasting pan just large enough to set the springform pan in, and put on a kettle of water to boil.
  7. In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip together the eggs, sugar, and flour, at just under high speed for about 6 minutes, until mixture has doubled in volume and is pale and fluffy.
  8. Using a rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of the egg mixture into the ganache mixture until fully combined.
  9. With the rubber spatula, gently fold the remainder of the egg mixture into the ganache until just combined and all egg streaks have disappeared.
  10. Pour the batter into the greased springform pan.  If at all worried about water seeping into the springform pan, line the outside bottom and sides with heavy duty aluminum foil (I didn't bother).  Set the springform pan into the roasting pan, and add boiling water to the roasting pan until it covers the bottom one inch or so of the springform pan.
  11. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a dry crust forms on the top and the edges seem set.  The center should still be a bit wobbly.
  12. Remove the torte from the water bath (and remove the foil, if you used it).  Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate it until completely cold and fully set, at least three hours - longer if you can stand it.  
  13. To unmold, remove the springform ring.  Put a piece of plastic wrap on the top of the torte and invert it onto a baking sheet.  Remove the pan bottom, using a knife around the edges to help separate it from the torte.  Things may get a bit messy here.  Stick with it, and if a lot of the torte sticks to the bottom of the pan, simply scrape it off with a knife and gently press it back onto the bottom of the torte.  It is the bottom after all - who cares what the bottom looks like?  Invert the torte onto a serving platter (so that it is now right side up again) and remove the plastic wrap.
  14. To cut, use a knife that has been dipped in hot water, or use unwaxed dental floss.  
  15. To serve, top with freshly whipped cream, a tiny scoop of coffee ice cream, and/or berry sauce (recipe below).

BERRY SAUCE (makes about 1 1/2 cups), adapted from Bon Appetit

Note: Leftover sauce is delicious on top of French toast or pancakes, or stirred into plain yogurt.
  • 16 oz frozen blackberries or raspberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon peel
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the berries and sugar to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Simmer for one minute.  
  2. Stir 1/2 Tbs lemon juice and cornstarch together in small bowl until cornstarch dissolves.
  3. Add cornstarch mixture to berries and stir until thickened, about one minute.  Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in remaining 1/2 Tbs lemon juice, and lemon peel.
  5. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature, as desired.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Pimento Cheese, Southern Soul Style

Pimento cheese has been rising in esteem amongst food writers as of late, and I say it is about time.  Done right, pimento cheese can be a thing of beauty.  It can be fresh, a little spicy, and even - dare I say it - elegant.

However, the ways in which this spread can be done wrong are myriad, and I am loathe to focus on that too much because I am, after all, bringing to you The Single Best Recipe for Pimento Cheese in the World.

I kid you not.  This is Best-in-Show kind of stuff.

Everyone is familiar with pimento cheese, right?  It is that simple spread of grated cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and pimentos that you find on tiny finger sandwiches and on the menus of old-fashioned Southern diners and even, nowadays, hip, modern restaurants.  It is, sadly, sometimes that gloppy stuff you have sneered at when it has been handed to you on soft bread and which you thought might just kill you if you had to take one more bite of the uni-textured nonsense.

It can also be that well-balanced, sharp, slightly spicy spread that you had on extra-crusty crostini at a wedding reception and that you sent your husband on a quest to find three more pieces of for you.  It can even be that perfect appetizer you dived into so lustily that you dribbled a little bit on your dress and got some in your hair.

But that would only happen if you were a little klutzy to begin with and you were laughing so hard at some of your husband's hilarious friends that it was tough to do anything gracefully, much less scarf down a plateful of perfect pimento cheese on toast.

The wedding, you see, was that of one of the owners of Southern Soul Barbecue on St. Simon's Island, and the food, as one would expect, was revelatory.  There were collard greens redolent of brown sugar, crisp and tart house-made pickles, Hoppin' John that was so rich and well-seasoned I may or may not have had to go for seconds, and, of course, barbecue.

I don't eat meat, but there is no shortage of love for their BBQ.

The swoon-inducing pimento cheese was a thing of dreams though, and when, a month later, I was still talking about it, I finally broke down and emailed Griffin to see if I could not only obtain the recipe, but could also share it here.

Griffin's a good man.  The recipe was in my hands by the next morning, and I was happily whipping up a batch before lunchtime.  His recipe is a thing of genius, eschewing the usual canned pimentos for freshly-roasted red bell peppers, and including a little cream cheese and a little Texas Pete.

God bless the Texas Pete.  The spicy kick is exquisite, and it provides both a foil to the richness of the cream cheese and another note of flavor to the finished mixture.

I reduced the mayo a wee bit to get the right balance for the scaled-down version of the recipe, and that is how I present it below.  As for serving, may I strongly recommend spreading the Pimento Cheese on something crispy?  This is a soft-textured and rich spread, and it benefits greatly from being paired with thin, well-toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta bread, or a crispy cracker if you are so inclined.  A light sprinkling of coarse sea salt to finish it elevates the perfection.


PIMENTO CHEESE (adapted from Southern Soul BBQ), yields about seven cups

  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 6 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup Duke's mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs onion powder
  • 1 Tbs granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 to 12 drops (to taste) Texas Pete hot sauce
  1. Roast peppers over flame on gas stove, on broil setting in oven, or on grated grill, turning frequently until blistered and charred.  Remove peppers from heat, cover with a kitchen towel, and let steam for 5 minutes.  Peel the peppers, slice in half and discard the seeds and membrane, and finely dice the pepper halves.
  2. Combine diced peppers, softened cream cheese, mayo, and all spices in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Add the grated cheese to the mixture, and stir to combine.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Affogato Mocha

Friends, I had such good intentions.  I knew I would be able to spend some time in here today, and I had so very many things up my sleeve that I have been dying to share.  The wisteria, for one, which spent the better part of the past eight days transforming my yard into a brilliant purple wonderland, and of which I took something like twelve bazillion photographs.  And then there was the pimento cheese recipe that I obtained from Southern Soul BBQ and which I whipped up yesterday and greedily scarfed down for lunch today, piled high atop toasted ciabatta from my favorite local bakery.

Quite seriously, the most perfect pimento cheese recipe and one which I have not been able to stop thinking about since I first fell in love with it at a wedding last month.  Really, I promise to be back here soon with this recipe.  It would be rude to keep it to myself.

Oh, and those roasted sweet potato wedges from last night, all charred and smoky, crispy on the outside, creamy and velvety smooth on the inside; and the date-nut truffles that use neither sugar nor butter and which are simply the most wonderful little bites of healthy decadence...

But then I made a fatal mistake.  I was fooling around on Pinterest (because it is Sunday afternoon and I can waste all the time I want), and I typed 'coffee ice cream' into the search box (silly me) which yielded a recipe for Affogato Mocha.  I am sure it will come as no surprise that, without thinking twice, I put down the computer and went straight to the kitchen (mistake #3, if anyone is still keeping score).

Affogato Mocha, you see, is a very simple and elegant little dessert made up of ice cream drowned in espresso - sort of like a milkshake, only not blended, and much more glorious.  There are countless variations, many of which call for chocolate ice cream or gelato, but it is no secret that I find coffee to be the greatest flavor known to man.

I had coffee ice cream in my freezer, coffee liqueur in the pantry, a tiny container of grated dark chocolate in the refrigerator, and a French Press just waiting to be filled with double-strength coffee.  It was fate.  I would have been mad to resist.

Within minutes, the adults in the house were in a state of bliss, slurping up the last drops of this luscious and sinful easy little dessert.  I would have been remiss to not run straight here to share it with you.  Cheers.



  • 2 scoops coffee ice cream
  • 4 Tbs espresso or double-strength brewed coffee (still hot)
  • 2 to 4 Tbs coffee liqueur 
  • 2 Tbs grated dark chocolate
  1. Place one scoop of ice cream in each of two small bowls.
  2. Pour 2 Tbs espresso over each scoop of ice cream.
  3. Pour 1 to 2 Tbs coffee liqueur over each scoop.
  4. Top each bowl with 1 Tbs grated dark chocolate.
  5. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Surprise Spring

Every year, I am shocked and appalled at how busy I am from mid-January through late March.  And every year, almost without fail, Spring sneaks up on me from out behind the cold, gray late winter days, and it jumps out in front with a wild explosion of wisteria, the quirky droning sound of busy little bumblebees, the surprise onset of thick, fluffy grass, and days so beautiful they take my breath away.

The doors are flung open all day long now, and the sun feels so delicious.  The grand busy-ness of my work season is abating (though not quite gone yet), and I steal moments where I can.

There have been entirely too many, "No, honey, mama is too busy right now," conversations in the house lately, and an abysmal lack of time for anything unrelated to the barebones basics of our homeschooling routine or to the accounting/taxation side of my life.

But we are master moment-stealers, and our schedules are beginning to find some margin again.  Time for reading stories together, time to play with the members of our reptilian menagerie, time for baking mostly-healthy-but-slightly-decadent treats, time for bloom-gazing.  Time for each other.  Oh, Springtime, we are so pleased to see you again.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

An Unusual Week for An Unusual Boy

Eight years ago, our first child decided he wanted to be born two weeks early.  We were woefully unprepared.  The Money Pit house would not be completed for another six weeks, which meant we were bringing our little boy home from the hospital to the ancient little trailer we were living in during the renovation.  The delays on the house also meant that I had delayed purchasing a new (used) car because I am allergic to making too many financial decisions at one time.  This particular issue was a big one.  My beloved CRX did not have a backseat.

I had contractions on and off all that day, and I was absurdly active from dawn to dusk.  We ate dinner that evening, and settled in to watch a movie (I wish I remembered which one), but before the first preview was over, I doubled over with my first Very Real Contraction.  When it passed, I shrugged and reached for a doughnut.  Within minutes, another Very Real Contraction came.  The Carnivore looked at me.  I stared blankly back at him.

After the next Very Real Contraction, we began to time them, watching in disbelief as we began to fill the page with times that were consistently within five minutes of each other.  We called the doctor, told him how closely the contractions were coming, and he said to head to the hospital immediately.

We argued with him, of course.  We still had two weeks to go, you see.  And it was late evening on February 28, and the following day was February 29, and we couldn't possibly have this baby on Leap Day.  Besides, they were probably just going to send us home after a few hours and tell us it was false labor, right?  RIGHT?

The doctor laughed.  "You're having this baby, tonight," he said.  "It's time to come to the hospital now."

The Carnivore looked at me.  Again, I stared blankly back at him, before doubling over with another Very Real, Very Painful Contraction.  "I haven't packed yet," I cried.  "We haven't bought a bigger car yet," I whimpered.

"I'M NOT READY," I yelled.

I called my mother.  "But America's Most Wanted is about to come on," she complained.  "Besides, first babies never come early."

Princess of Denial, allow me to introduce you to your mother, The Queen of Denial.

The Boy Wonder was born in the early morning hours of February 29, 2004, and this week, he officially turned two.  He is an unusual child, with an unusual birthday, and we celebrated him all week long.  In an unusual fashion, of course.

Create-a-Face pancakes for breakfast, with puddles of artificially-colored and artificially-flavored strawberry syrup?  Yes.

A drizzly day ambling slowly through our small local zoo, hooting like an owl?  Yes.

Time to dawdle and watch the ducks?  Yes.

Time to dawdle with the ducks?  Yes.

Ice cream for lunch?  Yes.

A giant chocolate cake with creme de menthe buttercream and chocolate buttercream, topped with mini chocolate chips, and matching cupcakes?  Yes.

A birthday party at the Nature Center where you can pet snakes and go on a nature walk and introduce your friends and cousins to one of your very favorite places on earth?  Yes, yes, and yes.

Happy Birthday, my dear funny little son.  Thank you for keeping us on our toes from the very beginning.  Thank you for being patient while we learned how to be parents.  Thank you for being you.   "Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You."  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Three Times A Day: Day Twelve

~~ Morning ~~
I came into the living room at seven this morning and saw that the temperature was 67 degrees outside.  I opened the doors wide, letting the fresh air and the sound of the birds morning songs fill the house.  The rain started by nine o'clock, and we stood in the open doorway and enjoyed the warm breeze.

~~ Noon ~~
Elvis saw the open door, and inched his way inside, spending much of his time wistfully looking outside, as if we had trapped him inside the [still open] door.  That silly big dog doesn't fool anyone.  When thunder shook the house, he tried to wedge himself into my lap.  

~~ Night ~~
Tonight's temperature is supposed to dip back down into the thirties again.  I was tempted to complain bitterly about that fact, but then decided to simply view today's warmth as the lovely gift it was.