I guess I forgot to tell you... I'm on a short sabbatical. Just for a little bit, I needed a rest.
You realize, of course, that when you decide to write a 31 day survival guide on surviving chronic illness your own body is going to revolt. At the very beginning of the series my hormones went south, which made writing for 31 days straight a lot harder than it should have been; then my back started acting up which lead to last weekend's total dependence on Vicodin. It's all a blur.
So the past couple weeks and for the next few days I am in the middle of editing the 31 Day series and formatting it into a PDF so everyone will be able to download it, print it, share it, add it to their favorite e-reader, etc. I'm also designing a special page on the site just for Chronic Illness. I want you to be able to find the resources, whenever you need them.
I'm also writing a guest post for one of my foodie-friends that will be posted later this month. I'll let you know when that happens. Oooh, and another friend is releasing his e-book any day and yours-truly contributed a couple sentences to that.
So while it may seem there's not much going on here, there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Check back soon, we're just getting started!
It has been so long since I've posted an update and I figured I should let you know what's going on behind the scenes around here so you don't think I've forgotten about you. I haven't forgotten about you, I promise.
I decided (at the worst possible time) to move from being hosted at WordPress to self-hosted. It would take too long to explain it all but the "gist" of it is in the end it will make the site much better for both you and me.
HOWEVER... it has been an absolute nightmare! Absolutely nothing has gone right during this move. I have had tech support on both sides scratching their heads. I wish I had just forked out the extra cash in the beginning to pay someone to do it for me.
In addition, I'm in the middle of changing the way y'all are subscribed to the posts here. You wont' really notice the change, but it will make things easier for me. That is, if the can EVER get all of your names moved over to the new self-hosted site. Seriously, nothing has gone right.
In the middle of all this chaos I have participated in 2 rounds of Jon Acuff's #STARTexperiment which has been amazing. And amazingly time consuming.
Aaaaaannnndddd.... also in the thick middle of it all I have been researching/writing for the upcoming 31 Days Of series that begins October 1. No, I am not even close to ready for it.
BUT... I did find time to make dill pickles with my sister and cousin this weekend. And that's when I remembered why I do all of this anyway and why I love to share it with you. So please hold tight, I will be back soon!
...around here that is. You may have noticed a serious lack of posts and then for a couple days the site design got a little weird, and is still a little weird. Just know that I'm in the middle of a bunch of major things:
For the past couple months I have been participating in Jon Acuff's#STARTexperiment, you can read all about it here. It has been AMAZING and I've met all sorts of wonderful people. But it has also been incredibly time consuming. All for a good cause, you will see the fruits of it soon, I promise.
For all the non-bloggers this isn't going to mean much but I have spent the past few weeks trying to switch this site over from being hosted at WordPress to self-hosted. The end result will be in a more dynamic site design, better features, etc. HOWEVER... it has been a humongous pain in the derriere. If you ever have plans to begin a website or blog of your own, please remember my words: start out self-hosted!
I have been laying the groundwork for this year's "31 Days Of" series that begins in October. It's going to be chock full of information, but it's a little too soon to reveal that yet. Keep checking back for further info.
I've been enjoying my summer, plain and simple. I've spent lots of time on the river with my family, tending my garden, volunteering at church, making lots of great food and trying not to get sunburned (and failed). It's been a great break, but I'm really itching to get back to business here.
So all that to say, I've been gone most of the summer, but I'll be back soon with 31 Days of ??, recipes, squirrels and more!
If you follow me on Instagram (click here to follow!), you were able to see my newest Stitch Fix box and catch a glimpse of each piece of clothing they sent me. After all was said & done, I got a lot of questions about what Stitch Fix is, how it works, whether or not I like it, etc. so I promised I would post a few more details about all the fun and glamour of Stitch Fix. Ready? Here we go!
HOW STITCH FIX WORKS
It's so simple!
Visit Stitch Fix online. After creating a Sign In account you may have to wait a day or two before your account is ready to go but they will send you a confirmation email when it's time to take the next step towards receiving your first Stitch Fix.
You will be guided through a series of questions that help to narrow down your own personal clothing style, your sizes, your expectations and your price point. This is called your "Style Profile". You can make changes to your Style Profile at any time. It's a pretty thorough survey but it's fun to fill out.
Next you will be prompted to schedule your first "fix"! A "fix" is when a Stitch Fix stylist looks over your Style Profile and chooses items for you to try on based your feedback in the Style Profile. If you have a special event coming up or are looking for something specific you will have an opportunity to tell your stylist and they will do their best to include it in your "fix". A "fix" includes 5 items that could be tops, bottoms, shoes, jewelry or other accessories.
After entering your payment information and you set a date to receive your "fix". You will pay $20 to have the "fix" sent to you. This $20 can be used as credit towards the purchase of any of the items in your "fix". Once your "fix" arrives, you have three days to try on all the items, decide what you want to keep and send back anything you do not want to keep in the enclosed, postage paid bag. If you choose to send back all 5 items your $20 will be kept to pay for the cost of shipping and the stylist's time.
Finally, you go back to Stitch Fix online and tell them what you liked, what you didn't like and why, what you're keeping, what you're sending back. They will total your purchases (if any), check you out and send you a receipt via email.
WHY I LOVE STITCH FIX
OK, I've done 2 "fixes" so far and I have to tell you: I love, love Stitch Fix! Here are a few reasons why:
You are not obligated to order "fixes" on a schedule (monthly, quarterly, etc.) You can order as few or as many "fixes" as you want. It's up to you! This is important to me because only I know when I'm ready to buy new clothing.
I don't enjoy shopping. Shopping, to me, is a necessary evil. And since I live in a small town with very clothing stores, I have to do most of my clothes shopping out of town. When you add up the fuel, the driving time, the aimless wandering around the mall, returning to do returns... it eats up a large amount of my time, money and patience. With Stitch Fix, I have a personal stylist doing all the footwork for me.
I can't accurately describe the fun of receiving that Stitch Fix box, opening it up and discovering what they have sent you to try on. It's kinda like Christmas. It actually makes shopping enjoyable.
Price point. You have 3 options for price point: low, mid, high. Most of my tops are selected on the "mid" price point. For example, in my last box I received 5 tops and each top was priced between $48-$58. Again, you can update your Style Profile at any time so if you wanted some lower priced items in your next "fix" just change your settings.
The clothing and accessories that the stylists choose are not from your run-of-the-mill store brands. These are lesser known, up & coming labels that are looking to get their brands out to the public.
The stylists are paying attention to your feedback! In my first "fix" I received an open-weave cardigan that was adorable but didn't fit me quite right. I told them in my feedback that I liked the idea of the open weave and in my 2nd "fix" I received another open weave top to try on (the one you see above) and I really loved it. They can also use your Pinterest boards to see what types of clothing catch your eye.
If by some chance I fall in love with every single piece they send me, I receive a 25% discount for buying all 5. Secretly I'm hoping this never happens! But if it does, I get 25% plus my $20 credit off the cost of all 5 items. That's a pretty good deal!
You can earn $25 for every person you refer to Stitch Fix using the special direct link provided. That's how I got my last "fix": my sister-in-law signed up for her first "fix", I got a $25 credit for referring her, which I was able to apply to the black/white striped blouse below. Free clothes!
So that's the gist of Stitch Fix, I hope you found it helpful! If you're looking to update your wardrobe or need a little help shopping give Stitch Fix a try!!
And don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook so you don't miss any more of my fashion shows! That's a joke, totally a joke. Usually I'm taking pictures of my lunch.
First off, sorry I didn't mention it sooner but Happy Fourth of July everyone! I spent most of the day on the river and got fried.
As in, I don't remember the last time I got this burnt because I don't normally burn. And yes, I put on sunscreen, several times, but it must of washed off in the water. Lessons learned....
Secondly, again this week I'm sharing a recipe from "the vault". I posted this recipe last year and it is perfect for these sultry summers we are having where the last thing you want to do is crank up the oven for an hour to make dessert. Just a couple minutes in the oven to cook the pie crust and the rest is cooked right on the stove top in a flash. I'm making 2 of these pies tomorrow: 1 for my Grandma's birthday and 1 for my dear friend Lynnie who gave birth to the darling-est little girl on Tuesday. That deserves a pie!
Sweet. Tart. Floral. Berries are the perfect combination of those three tastes. And when you pair them up with a crusty, salty, flaky crust you just might feel like you're in heaven. Think I'm exaggerating? My friends, I wouldn't steer you wrong.
I first saw a version of this recipe on the site Rachel Cooks. She made a beautiful, shiny blueberry pie that appeared to hold together remarkably well. That is one thing about berry pies that has always bothered me; they tend to be runny and the filling dumps into the middle of the pie pan after the first slice is removed. I have experimented with adding tapioca pearls to my berry cobblers with great success. But those little pearls can be telling and canpotentially cook unevenly and flour just makes the filling it murky but I knew there must be a way to incorporate some other thickener to get the results I was looking for.
After reading the full recipe I saw that she adapted it from a blueberry pie recipe by Baked Bree. Again, she shows a glossy pie that held together quite well.
So after reading both recipes I concluded that the trick was indeed cornstarch. A surprisingly large amount of it: 6 tablespoons. I was a little hesitant to put that much cornstarch into my pie but then I realized, this filling is pre-cooked. And you pour it into a pre-cooked pie shell. Pre-cooking the filling allows the cornstarch to get even distributed and come fully up to temperature, allowing it to dissolve and thicken. I was a tad wary that it might make my pie cloudy but if you look at their photos, it doesn't appear to have effected their results so what-the-hay, I would give it a try!
(Don't be confused by the sight of 2 pies below. We had 2 family get-togethers that day so I went ahead and doubled the recipe so each gathering would have it's own pie.)
First things first, I had to get some berries. The other 2 recipes call for all blueberries but I crave plump, juicy blackberries (or better yet boysenberries) this time of year, so instead I opted for a combo of fresh blackberries and frozen wild blueberries. Off I went to a local farm stand to find some fresh blackberries. 5 miles down the road I found 7 full pints of the biggest blackberries I have ever seen. I bought them all, even though I really only needed 4. And yes, we ate them all.
Next in the order of things was to bake some pie crusts. I shared that story with you earlier this week but you can click over here in case you missed it!
About that time I realized I had not eaten lunch! There was a brief intermission so I could whip up a fresh blackberry vanilla protein shake. And eat a handful of berries.
While my pie crusts were cooling I worked on the filling which was as simple as throwing everything into a pot, stirring well till it boiled, stirring a few minutes more, then setting it aside to cool.
I let the filling cool just for bit then tossed in a few more whole berries for good measure, then poured it into my pie shells. Into the fridge they went for a good 3-4 hours and then we devoured. The filling stayed together beautifully and the flavor was intensely "berry". The tartness of the blackberries rounded out the sweet perfume of the blueberries... ohhhhh, it was heaven.
The full recipe is below, with my own changes. I hope you can give it a try because it really was one of the easiest pies I've made and truly delicious.
2 pints of fresh blackberries, plus 1/2 pint (optional); rinsed
2 cups frozen wild blueberries (I use Wynan's brand)
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your blackberries)
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
In a large saucepan, combine 2 pints of blackberries (reserving the 1/2 pint for later), blueberries, and cornstarch, stirring gently so as not to damage the blackberries. After the cornstarch is evenly distributed, add the salt, sugar, water and lemon juice and turn the heat up to medium high. Stirring occasionally, allow the mixture to come up to a soft boil. Continue to stir for 2-4 more minutes, letting the mixture get thick and coat the spoon. Remove from heat and add the butter, gently stirring to combine.
Allow the mixture to cool slightly then add the 1/2 pint reserved blackberries then pour mixture into your cooled pie shell. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (just to make sure nothing falls into it) and set in refrigerator to cool for at least 3-4 hours before serving.
PS: You might have a little extra filling so might I recommend cooling it then using it to top a serving of full fat Greek yogurt? Trust me, it's yummy.
If you must transport your pie before it has rested in the refrigerator for 3 hours, be sure to place it in a cardboard box or you will end up with blackberry pie filling all over your car. You have been warned.
First off, Happy Friday!! Wow am I glad to see Friday this week, it has been a doozie at work. Murphy's Law reigned supreme. Oh well, we made it through somehow and now I can take a deep breath and enjoy the weekend.
There are moments in the kitchen when you just have to yell "YES!" and do the Kevin McCallister fist pump. This recipe brought one of those moments. I have always been intrigued by the idea of making my own pizza dough at home. I am super-picky about my pizza. Well, I'm super-picky in general but for pizza I prefer a thinner, crispy crust over a thick, doughy version that you will find in most of the pizza parlors in our town. I believe (and correct me if I'm wrong) it would be called Neapolitan style: thinner, crispy, slightly charred crust, light on the toppings and sauce. Of course, for a real Neapolitan pizza you would need a wood burning oven, which I do not currently own (bucket list) so I have to make do with a pizza stone.
Anywho... I stumbled on this recipe over at I Am A Food Blog and was excited because not only did it promise the Neapolitan style pizza I so craved but the dough requires no kneading. No kneading?! If you have ever struggled with a wad of springy dough, trying desperately to stretch it out to a decent sized pizza-pie only to have it mock you again and again by bouncing back into a small wad of dough, you can understand my excitement.
So I figured, "What the heck, I'll give it a shot." I started Monday night by prepping the dough, let it sit overnight, came home from work on Tuesday and...
...wow!!! What an easy recipe and it delivered on it's promises! I'll give you a little photo tour of the process: (I'm still working from my Iphone so sorry about the sketchy pics)
You have to start this dough the day before but don't let that intimidate you! The finished dough will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days so you could mix up the dough on Sunday night and have til Thursday to use it. And making the dough is super simple. Just combine the flour, salt and scant bit of yeast in a bowl then gradually stir in the water until you have a sticky mix. Cover it up and set it aside for at least 18 hours. That's right, do nothing to your mixture, just set it in a warmish spot and go about your life. The next day, after 18 hours, it will have expanded and bubbled and will look like the above photo.
The next step is to plop your dough out onto a cutting board, counter or baking sheet covered with flour and for good measure, sprinkle a little flour over your dough so it doesn't stick to your hands. Then simply use your hands to smoosh (it's a technical kitchen term, probably French) the dough out into a rectangular shape. Don't worry about dimensions, just get it spread out in an even layer. Then cut the dough into 4 equal portions, which will make (4) 10 inch pies OR cut it into (6) personal sized portions, which is what I did.
Next, take a portion and fold each corner up into the middle then put it seam sides down and using your hands gently shape it into a little ball. Don't get hung up on that last step, its not complicated. Just fold up the ends, pinch it off and turn it over so the top is a smooth dome as shown above. Dust all your little dough-buns with flour and set them aside on your floured board (or pan or counter). Let them sit there, undisturbed for 1 hour. After 1 hour of naptime, they are ready to go!
I didn't get a picture of it, but take your rested dough ball and using your fingers once again smoosh the dough out into a pizza shape roughly 10" in diameter, dusting with flour as needed to avoid sticking. If you opted to make the 6 inch personal size, smoosh the dough out to approximately 6 or 7 inches in diameter.
Put your toppings on (please remember less is more), and cook in the hottest oven you have. Most kitchen ovens go up to 500-550F. I will give you links at the end that describe in full how to cook the pizzas, depending on whether or not you use a pizza stone. It will work just as well in a regular old baking sheet so no need to run out and buy a pizza stone. Unless you really want one. Do whatever you like, I'm not the boss of you.
I set out a "toppings" bar since we each had our own personal sized pizza: red sauce, onions, jalapeno, tomato, olives, salami, etc. Can I make a suggestion? Follow my lead and do goat cheese, prosciutto, salami and a drizzle of Lucero olive oil. You will thank me later.
Or you could follow my niece's lead and put a little bit of everything...twice! It was the ultimate combo.
This was my pizza, on one side is the goat cheese combo and on the other side is all veggie. Making one side vegetarian made me feel a lot less guilty about the salami even though I inhaled the whole pizza. Girl math.
This was my brother's pizza, all sliced and ready to go.
There were 6 happy tummies that night, let me tell you. Right after we got everything cleaned up my brother said, "We should make some more dough tonight!" I don't know if I'm ready to eat pizza every day but I am definitely looking forward to trying this recipe out again real soon.
So that's my pizza story, now let me give you some details and the links to the recipe.
What is that bowlful of creamy, berry-liciousness pictured above? Why, that is a bowl of strawberry shortcake, minus the cake. So it's really just a bowl of strawberries and cream. Except it's not really cream, or at least not cow's cream. And those aren't really strawberries...no, I'm just kidding, those are really strawberries. I'm not that weird. (Yes, I am.)
I had some food allergy testing done recently (more about that some other day) and 2 of the food items I'm supposed to avoid for the next 6 months are dairy and wheat. That would pretty much eliminate the classic strawberry shortcake with berries, slice of poundcake and a big dollop of whipped cream. But I can't completely give up one of my favorite summer treats! There had to be a work-around.
I felt I could omit the "shortcake" for now (I will figure that one out later), but there was no way (NO WAY!) I was going to be able to give up the creamy contrast needed against the tart berries. So what to do?
Lucky for me I ran across this recipe fromohladycakes.com! It had the potential to solve my creamy-dilemma, but I was a little skeptical. How coco-nutty was it going to taste? Would it really be thick like heavy cream? Would it have a weird texture?
Here's the good news: it was the closest thing I have found to real cow's milk whipped cream without resorting to a can full of chemicals. The flavor is really very mild and only faintly tasting of coconut. The texture was fluffy, perhaps a smidge heavier than whipped dairy cream, but not in an unpleasing way. Occasionally I would bite down on a tiny thread of coconut, which didn't bother me.
And it really was easy to make, as long as you plan ahead. Here's the basic procedure:
Take a can of Thai Kitchen (yes, the brand matters) full fat coconut milk and put it in the refrigerator upside down overnight to allow the cream to harden and rise to the top (well, now it's the bottom) of the can. The next day flip the can right-side-up, open it and drain off all the liquid coconut water, reserving only the very thick, almost chunky coconut cream that has coagulated on the bottom. (Don't you hate the word "coagulated"?)
Whip the thick coconut cream into a frenzy until it loosens up and the gradually add some powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla. Whip it a few minutes longer to get it really creamy and lightened.
Then mound it on top of your bowlful of bright red berries that have been lightly drizzled with honey. Sprinkle a smidge of nutmeg on top and you have a gluten/dairy free dessert that anyone would love!
I'm watching my garden closely this week because I've got a ton of green tomatoes that are going to turn to red any day now. I'm so excited to have...I don't know... something with fresh homegrown tomatoes! Maybe a BLT? Or fresh salsa? Or just slices of tomato and fresh picked basil, drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper.... oh yeah, it's going to be delicious.
(Warning: this is a loooooong story. But I didn't want to break into into several parts. Because I'm lazy. Deal with it.)
If you follow me on Instagram or the Facebook Page, you already know how this story ends. This story begins with destruction and thievery, by raccoons.
The only time most people see a raccoon is in a movie or scripted documentary where they are doing something funny like washing their food or romping over a meadow of wildflowers with plucky banjo music playing in the background.
That ain't real life.
In real life, raccoons are large, hairy, mean thugs who terrorize your cat, steal the cat food, dump out all your flower pots, dig holes in your lawn, are full of ticks and pull up your vegetable garden. They are a nuisance! And their poop is dangerous. Thaaaaaaat's right, I said it, their poop is very dangerous.
At first, I tried a little old fashioned 'coon stakeout late at night with a big bowlful of food. But those sneaky raccoons were hiding in the shadows watching me, mocking me. By the time the hired gun (my uncle) arrived to the stakeout the food dish had already been ransacked. It was time to get serious. I needed a method that was a little more fool-proof that didn't require myself and other family members to sit out in the dark for hours on end with a loaded gun.
I called the local US Wildlife trapper and he dropped off a humane cage/trap. If you've never seen one before it's pretty simple: you put the "bait" in the back of the long, narrow cage. There is a metal plate just before the bait that you set in the "up" position. Once the weight of the animal pushes the metal plate down, the trap door slams shut. No way out. After you have caught a raccoon you call the trapper back, he takes the vermin for a long ride up the mountain and releases them back into the cat-food-free-wild.
I loaded up the cage with cat food and eggs (they love eggs) and waited. When I woke up the next morning I ran out to look at the cage, certain that there would be a furry pest in the cage. What I found was this:
Nothin. And strangely, the trap door had been triggered. For the next several nights I set the trap and through a comedy of errors, the raccoons would steal the food right out of the trap, push the trap around the yard and generally make a fool out of me.
Finally I tried moving the trap out to a more remote part of the yard, under the cover of the hedges. I painstakingly pulled a cattail apart and lined the bottom of the cage with fluffiness because the trapper told me they don't like the feel of the wires underneath, it could deter them from getting inside the cage. I loaded a Gladware dish with lots of eggs and cat food, their favorite snack. And guess what happened...
... the trap door got caught on a branch from the hedge! Once the raccoons figured out that the door wasn't going to shut on them they dragged the whole Gladware dish of food out onto the lawn, ate all the cat food, scattered the eggshells all over the lawn and stole the Gladware! Arrrrrggghh!!!
But what those raccoons didn't realize is this: I... DON'T.... GIVE... UP!!!
The next night I did it all over again. I loaded the trap with food. I lined the bottom with cattails. I trimmed the branches off the hedge. I even set a heavy log on top of the cage so that they couldn't shuffle & shimmy the cage like they had done before. Evening came and after a couple of hours I just couldn't stand the anticipation. I took a flashlight and went out to look at the cage:
I'm not going to lie, it was very satisfying to finally catch one of the terrorists. It was a baby one, probably less than a year old. I did feel a tiny bit sorry for the little guy. The next day I took some cat food out to him, just a little snack before the trapper picked him up later in the day.
If you 're new here you might be wondering why I'm posting our Friday Recipe on Sunday night. The rest of you already know why: because I can't get my act together! Just when I think I'm getting back into my routine I run across a speed-bump (a heinous cold, physical therapy, raccoons) and it throws me off course again. It's tough being me.
First off I want to tell you, these are deeeeeee-licious! I mean, seriously delicious. The outsides with their browned & salted tops are crispy-crunchy but the insides remain fluffy and delightful, especially straight from the oven all hot and steaming... with a pat of butter....
Second, this recipe is so much easier than you might imagine. For the "mixing" part, the electric mixer does all the work. Then there is a 2-step cooking process which sounds intimidating but trust me it's easy and kinda fun. You feel a little bit like a scientist and afterward you will feel smarter. Rolls that are scrumptious as well as raise your IQ!
Thirdly, there is a 2nd option in this recipe to make them into pretzel bites instead of rolls. I put aside a couple handfuls of dough to try the pretzel bites. After you make the "bites", simply toss a smashed clove of garlic and some butter into a pan, warm over medium until it is melted. Throw out the garlic clove and toss in some chopped parsley. Drizzle over the pretzel bites and eat while still warm.
I made these pretzel rolls/bites one Saturday when I was by myself at home and they were so good I threw them in a cloth napkin and drove down the road to my brother's house to share with him and his family. As it turned out, he was having a shooting party so we passed the pretzel bites around till they were gone; it took about 47 seconds. Later my brother called to tell me how insanely delicious they were. They are that good.
So jump on over to Bake Your Day and give it a try! You will either love me because they are so tasty or hate me because you just can't stop eating them.
I've been getting back into the kitchen a little more, but I'm having a hard time taking photos at the same time. I know I prefer to read a recipe post with photos, I'm betting you do too. So if anyone would like to volunteer to follow me around day after day and take pictures of my hands, measuring spoons and cutting board I am accepting applications. The stipend pays in pretzel bites. No takers?
Nolan. Many of you already know who he is, others of you will only recognize this button that has resided on my sidebar for 3 years.
Until today. Today I'm taking the button off my site because....
NOLAN KICKED CANCER IN THE JELLY BEANS!
This video tells the story way better than I could.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/63340975 w=403&h=227]
Watching that video just now was not so easy for me. Those were hard, hard days in the beginning. Cancer touched us all in a new way. Nolan was still a toddler when he was diagnosed with leukemia 3 years ago. After 3 grueling years of chemotherapy, steroids, blood tests, house arrest (usually on the holidays), infusions, spinal taps and so, so much more, he is finally done with the chemotherapy treatments! He no longer has leukemia and he is free to go on and live life to the fullest.
I couldn't be more proud of his parents who have weathered this storm with bravery and grace. And I couldn't be more proud of Nolan. You are the real super-hero buddy!