Do You Have China?

Dear readers, do you have fancy china?  I know it’s a hotly contested topic among those who create wedding registries these days.  If what I see online is to be believed, more people don’t register for formal china than do.  It makes sense.  We millennials are a casual bunch.

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But I have formal china.  Two sets.  Oops.

That’s a whole long story involving registering for china that would match Grandma Glass of Milk’s just in case I was lucky enough to be the recipient of Grandma Glass of Milk’s one day.  Spoiler alert.  I was.  And now, I have two full sets.  This one, which is also featured heavily in the Van Der Woodsen home on Gossip Girl (heart eyes), and this one, which I believe comes from the 1950s.

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And the other day, AGOMYR texted me about Suite One Studio, who makes this most gorgeous set right here.  AGOMYR was in camp “I didn’t register for china,” and now has her heart set on this brand.  Can you blame her?

On Kitchen Memories [cake mix funfetti cookies]

First, and most important, Happy Birthday Sous Chef Lauren!  You’re my favorite.

Second, my girl Raluca recently posted about muffins she made on a Sunday morning.  They didn’t turn out exactly the way she’d envisioned, and then she realized that didn’t matter at all.  Sometimes it’s more about making memories in the kitchen than it is about what comes out of the oven.

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And thus, I give you cake mix funfetti cookies.  They are not homemade, a la these, which I love, and have dough for in the fridge right now.  They come from a box of white cake mix, which is something I always have in the pantry.  They take just a few minutes to make, and serve as a great way to use up those seasonal M&Ms you buy on clearance the day after the holiday.  That can’t be just me.

To make 2 dozen cookies, you will need:

  • 1 Box of White Cake Mix
  • 1/3 Cup Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbs Sprinkles
  • 1/2 Cup M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the cake mix, oil, eggs, and sprinkles together with a spatula until combined.  Form balls of dough with about a Tablespoon of batter.  Use the bottom of a glass to flatten them onto baking sheets.  Press 3 M&Ms into the top of each cookie.  Bake 8-9 minutes.

A Funny Question

Dear readers, if you don’t mind my asking, do you have art in your bathrooms?  I have two with significant wall space in need of filling.

the someday.:

(source)

When I searched Pinterest, most bathrooms didn’t have anything on the walls, which leaves me devoid of inspiration.

penny tile.:

(a beautiful mess)

Then, when I searched bathroom artwork, I came up with lots of tongue-in-cheek art prints about the proper ways to hang or replace the toilet paper roll.

No thanks.

light.:

(source)

Having photographs in the bathroom seems odd.  I don’t want “people” staring at me as I take a shower, thankyouverymuch, but those walls need something.  And yet, my favorite pieces (like these two new prints I just ordered) feel like they belong in more of a place of honor.

I’ll take all the suggestions I can get here, dear readers.  How are your bathroom walls adorned?

February Reads

Whilst hanging out among friends a while back, one mentioned she loved reading, but hated finding new books to read.  You know in TV shows, when you hear a screech sound, like a record player coming to a complete halt?  (Does anyone even understand that reference?)  Because that’s what happened when she made that comment.

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I’m all about the hunt for the new greatest book.  Maybe in part because it’s such a rare find.  The more I read, the less likely it is that this book will be one I remember over so many others.  But I’ll read anything in my path in the name of finding greatness again.

The particular comment got me thinking that maybe there are others who feel this way too.  That reading is wonderful, but finding the right book to read is a chore.  In that case, let me gently point you toward Anne Bogel’s (aka, Modern Mrs. Darcy) new podcast, What Should I Read Next?  I’ve been listening, and I love it.  In it, she asks her guests to name three books they love, one they hate, and what they’re reading now.  Based on their responses, Anne gives a couple of suggestions for future reading.  I’m loving the diversity of books guests have mentioned so far, and more than anything, I’m loving the suggestions and new to me titles.

With that in mind, I’m bypassing telling you what I’ve read, and what I’m reading this month, because, dear readers, to be honest, neither is incredibly interesting at present, and I’m giving you a nice long list of what I want to read next.  If you, like said friend, hate the threat of having to search for new reading material, take a look at this list, and see what strikes your fancy.

Want to Read

From Episode 6, with Tsh Oxenreider:

The Little Book Store of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch – because Anne recommended it on one of her podcasts, and it sounds like it is made for me.  It’s a memoir (you had me at hello) about a couple who leave their high powered jobs behind in the name of renovating an old white house in order to open a bookstore there.  Or basically, it’s about people living out Sous Chef Lauren’s and my life-long dream.

The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle – because Tsh mentioned it in conjunction with a school her son is attending.  Tsh didn’t go into specifics, but it sounds like this school (and excuse me, where are you, and can I work here and send my kids to you?) requests that parents read certain books in conjunction with their children’s educations.  First of all, LOVE.  Second of all, this book sounds so interesting, because to hear Tsh describe it, it sounded like a parenting book, and one toward which I was about to nudge my husband.  But then, to look it up on Amazon, it sounds like just a general non-fiction book (with perhaps huge implications for the raising of children).  No matter what it is, count me in.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin – because I love books that mention books.  When Tsh mentioned it as a story she loved, I was intrigued because of the premise, but upon looking it up, was surprised to see that it was written by the author of a YA book I enjoyed about ten years ago.  This sounds different from my usual picks, but I figure it’s worth a shot.

The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton – because I’ve heard enough about her at this point, that it’s time I read one of hers.  If I’m not mistaken, this was one of those Target picks that caught on like wild fire, a la Sarah’s Key.  (If you’re not familiar with the influence of Target’s book picks, take a look here.)  Kate Morton has gone on to write many other novels, but this seems like the place to start.

From Episode 5, with Deidra Riggs:

These is My Words, by Nancy Turner – because it’s about a young girl’s coming of age as she travels to Arizona between 1880-1900.  I love stories of people traveling west, and am fascinated to see how this one plays out over 20 years.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jaqueline Woodson – because I started it last year and never finished.  I didn’t hate it, I just did that thing I do sometimes where I get distracted when I hit the middle of a book, and I never come back around to it.  It’s a memoir in verse, and it seems to have caught some attention outside of the kid-litosphere, which is a place in which I love setting up camp.  I don’t remember being particularly taken with the verse aspect of it, but there’s something about it that seems to have hooked people across a more broad range of reading worlds, so it’s worth revisiting.

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd – because Anne mentions that Oprah is a fan, and do I ever need another reason to check something out?  But here’s the thing.  I did not love Secret Life of Bees, and I actively disliked The Mermaid Chair.  But here’s the other thing.  This story sounds truly compelling.  Enough that it’s worth checking out from the library.

 

 

Just Because

When I told you all about hosting my college friends for our second annual favorite things party, I mentioned my college friends are some of the most thoughtful people I know.  The goal of the party was to bring a favorite thing to share with each lady in attendance, but I saw housewarming gifts, baby gifts, and birthday gifts being exchanged, too.  It was so sweet.  A thoughtful gift is everything!

I made a mini resolution right then and there to make sure to send people little tokens of my affection whenever I darn well felt like it.  It’s too much fun to get a gift in the mail for little to no reason.  Here are some of my favorite things to send.

Jeni’s Ice Creams

Sugarfina Candy (more specifically, champagne bears!)

Little Acre Flowers (local to the DC area–and many thanks to SCL for introducing me)

 

 

 

 

 

No Cook Dinners [slow cooker gnocchi in creamy pork sauce]

Every weekend, before I leave for the grocery store, I ask my husband if there’s anything he wants for dinner that week.  He doesn’t usually have strong feelings any one way or the other, but occasionally, he’ll put in a request for one of his favorites.  The other day, he asked for risotto.  “Oh,” I told him, “We haven’t had that in a while because it involves standing at the stove.”

And that’s the truth.  What we’ve been eating involves me prepping something, and walking away while it cooks.  But the other reason we haven’t had risotto recently is because you can’t really freeze it for later.  I’m in the midst of stocking my freezer like there’s no tomorrow in preparation for a busy spring.

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I did add risotto to the meal plan for the week ahead when he asked.  I did not move slow cooker gnocchi in creamy pork sauce from that night’s menu.  It meets both of my current cooking criteria in that it is a dump and walk away dish, and can easily be frozen for later.  It feels like something fancy that you’d order from a restaurant, but it’s going to become a staple in our dinner rotation.  I doubled the gnocchi the original recipe calls for because it was too meat-heavy for me.

To make slow cooker gnocchi for an army, you will need:

  • 1 onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 lb. pork shoulder
  • 2, 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • pepper
  • 1 C heavy cream or half and half
  • 4 lbs. dried gnocchi*

Put the onion and garlic in the bottom of a large slow cooker (this is probably the most I’ve ever filled mine).  Place the pork shoulder, fat side up, on top.  Pour one can of crushed tomatoes on top of the pork, and sprinkle with pepper.  I used crushed tomatoes with basil, but if you’re using plan, this could be a great opportunity to add some dried basil and/or oregano.  Pour the other can of tomatoes on top.  Cook on low for about 10 hours.  At that point, stir in the cream and gnocchi, and cook another hour.  Serve with gobs of Parmesan cheese.

*It’s super important that you use dried, as opposed to fresh gnocchi, in order for it not to turn to mush.  My grocery store carries DeLallo dried gnocchi in the pasta aisle, and that’s what I used here.  I suppose if you could only find fresh gnocchi, you could cook it separately, and spoon the sauce on top.

 

On Impatience [chocolate peanut butter pop tarts]

The (Not So) New Girl has this whole Anniversa-birth-entine’s Day weekend of love every year, because she knows how to have a good time.  I can only hope to contribute in some small way, by bringing a sweet to the table.  Her request this year?  None other than the chocolate peanut butter pop tarts that showed up halfway through list week.

Happy to oblige, I set to making them on my Presidents’ Day off.*

IMG_9410.JPGThey don’t look too shabby, right?  But, dear readers, working with dough frustrates me to no end.  Knowing I wouldn’t have the patience to cut a stick and a half of butter into 3 1/2 C flour by hand, I went about mixing this in the food processor, as I’ve done with many other doughs of yore.  But I pulverized the butter so it completely disappeared, added too much water when it looked like things weren’t going to come together, and as such, completely ruined any chance I had of these turning out well.  The dough was tough, and hard to work with.  Sigh.  I’m so impatient in the kitchen.  I need a yogi to teach me calming mantras that will help me.  Because I so want to be the person who has the patience to bake with dough.  In the meantime, I have a box of puff pastry dough in my refrigerator for the next time I crave homemade Pop Tarts.

*What does it say about my life right now that as I went to pull the recipe for these back up, I typed chocolate peanut butter podcasts?

 

An Ode to Shutterbean [apricot glazed chicken]

The blogs I’ve read regularly over the years have shifted as I breeze in and out of life’s many stages.  But Shutterbean remains.  Tracy is one of my all time greats.  Her blog hits just the right mix of food and non-food related posts, and it’s ever so class-ily polished without seeming inauthentic.  And her site is probably the one with my highest pin-to-table ratio.  The recipes she puts out are the ones I want on my table, without fail, night after night.  Like this boozy milkshake from the other day, or her Ten Ways to use Annie’s Mac and Cheese, that continues to blow my mind.

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The most recent star at our weeknight table was apricot glazed chicken.*  To make it, all I had to do was whisk together a sauce, boil it for ten minutes, and pour it over some chicken thighs, before setting them in the oven for a chunk of time (my husband makes the rice in our family, so that was one less worry for me).  And what resulted was a dinner I know we’ll make again and again.

To make apricot chicken for 6, you will need:

  • about 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1, 13 oz. jar apricot jam (I used Bonne Maman)
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T spicy mustard
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Set in a baking dish and set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine all other ingredients, whisk, and bring to a boil, stirring consistently for ten minutes.  Pour over chicken, and bake for 45-50 minutes, basting occasionally with sauce.  (I could totally see myself adding scallions and/or toasted, sliced almonds on top if I’m feeling more cook-y.)

*In one of the first comments on the post, Tracy shares that to get her notoriously picky son to eat the chicken, she told him it was like “that Chinese orange chicken” he likes.

On Gals

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I talked to three people between the ages of 20-35 about their Valentine’s Day plans, and though their relationship statuses were many and varied, they all had one thing in common.  They had nothing at all planned for Valentine’s Day, and each had plans for Galentine’s Day.*  This was my first year celebrating; the idea came from Kim, who had been rewatching Parks and Rec during our unofficial winter break snowcation.  Kim.  Great move.

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We had brunch in Annapolis, sang along to every song that came on the restaurant’s soundtrack (I almost asked if it was a Spotify playlist I could start listening to), and laughed so loud that it made people stare. Also, there were hash browns and chocolate chip pancakes.

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This can’t just be a once a year thing.

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*It should be noted, I also got this awesome card in the mail from a long time bestie, K.Reza.

Baked Goods without Chocolate [raisin bran muffins]

I start every post with, “If you’ve been reading a while then you know,” don’t I?  But this blog has been around for what feels like ever, and so really, what new information am I sharing here day in and day out?

Dear readers,

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you probably already know, I don’t understand the point of baked goods if they don’t have chocolate.  Like, not at all.

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Which is why it shocked me that I have such a weakness when it comes to The (Not So) New Girl’s Raisin Bran muffins.  They’re amazing.  But they don’t have chocolate.  Only raisins.  Does not compute.  I’m a person who doesn’t believe in oatmeal raisin cookies, preferring instead to swap out those little dehydrated grapes for the good stuff.  But there’s something about these muffins.  They’re incredibly addictive.  And moist.  I know people have strong feelings about that word.  But in this case, I don’t know of a better descriptor.

Above all else, the best thing about Raisin Bran muffins is that YOU CAN KEEP THE BATTER IN THE REFRIGERATOR FOR A MONTH AFTER YOU PREP IT! It’s unreal.  Unreal, I tell you.  I have no idea whether or not you can do this with any and all muffin batters, but this is the one I’ve seen where the recipe straight up tells you it’s the way to go.  I made a dozen for a staff meeting on a recent morning, and have the rest of the batter sitting and waiting for mornings that need something special.

To make enough batter for 24 raisin bran muffins, you will need:

  • 2 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1, 15 oz. box Raisin Bran
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla

Mix ingredients and refrigerate batter for a day.  Grease muffin tins.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.  (Refrigerate up to 1 month)