Thursday, May 28, 2015

The doldrums


 (dōl′drəmz′, dôl′-, dŏl′-)
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
a. A period of stagnation or slump.
b. A period of depression or unhappy listlessness.
a. A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls.
Yup. That's where I was. The doldrums. A definite state of stagnation and listlessness. A sort of wondering 'what I'm doing with my life?' and 'is this all there is?' place. I felt like enthusiasm, joy and happiness was a foreign language that I didn't understand. 
The thing about the doldrums is that I know when I'm in them but it's just so freaking hard to get out. I imagine myself on a sailing ship stuck in a becalmed ocean. Bored, empty, nothing but ocean for miles and miles. Nothing to do and nowhere to go. No future, nothing positive. Just stuck. The only thing that will move that ship out of the doldrums is for the wind to blow.
Lucky for me (and the people I live with) the doldrums never seem to keep me stuck for too long. This past time was two weeks too long and definitely felt weather-related. Hard to be sunny when it's been nothing but grey, awful and cold for weeks. Especially when it's supposed to be summer.
My wind finally blew in the shape of a long weekend away in Pebble Beach. We didn't necessarily get much sun but incredible (and inspirational meals) were had, moments around the fire pit were enjoyed, adventures and conversations were embarked upon. Note to self, sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what I need to get me going again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ground Beef and Vegetable Soup - Mmmm Mmmm Good.

Because I wasn't about to give my leftover fluffy dinner rolls to the chickens and because our weather has been winter-like, I knew I needed to make a soup for dinner. I've been experimenting with grinding stew meat into ground beef, so I wanted a soup that cooked long and slow and involved ground beef. I found a recipe for a ground beef vegetable soup on and tweaked it a bit to incorporate to the flavors I prefer and because it seemed a little bland. It got two thumbs up from Derek at the end so I know it's good.
I do think you could through all different kinds of veg into this soup - it would be a good 'use it up' pot of goodness.


1 lb. ground beef
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
15 oz can tomato sauce (I used chopped tomatoes and whirled half for sauce, and kept the other half diced)
8 oz frozen peas
8 oz frozen corn
2 bay leaves
4 thyme springs
1 T dried oregano
1 parmesan cheese rind (what you don't keep yours? Keep them from now on! They give soups a lovely depth of flavor)
4 cups stock (I used turkey because that's what I had)


- Crumble ground beef into a stockpot over medium-high heat; cook and stir until beef is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and discard any excess grease.

- Stir carrots, celery, and onion into the ground beef; cook and stir until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, tomato sauce (and chopped tomatoes if using), peas, corn and rind to the pot; season with salt and black pepper. Stir mixture until evenly mixed. Add thyme, oregano and bay leaf to the pot. Pour stock over everything, cover and simmer for at least an hour.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Seriously Ready in an Hour Dinner Rolls

Fluffy, slathered with butter (oh yeah, I'm supposed to be eating healthy right? Whoops), these were so good, Jacob ate two!
And they really were ready in an hour. Thank you for the recipe!! You made my whim for dinner rolls not a whim at all.

  • 3 3/4 - 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp rapid rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cool water
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced into 1 Tbsp pieces, plus more for tops
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer whisk together 4 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt.
  • To a medium bowl add water, milk and butter and heat in microwave on HIGH power until it reaches 115 degrees on a thermometer, about 1 minute 15 seconds. Stir to partially melt butter (you just want to make sure it's softened through).
  • Pour milk mixture into dry mixture in bowl of electric stand mixer along with lemon juice. Set mixer with a hook attachment then set mixer on low speed and gradually increase to medium-low, knead about 3 - 4 minutes until smooth and elastic while adding additional flour as necessary (dough should be lightly sticky but manageable).
  • Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
  • Drop dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into an evenly level square, about 9 by 9-inches. Cut into 16 equal portions (don't have to be exact). Shape dough into 15 balls, while using excess dough from the 16th portion to add to smaller rounds as needed, and place shaped dough portions into prepared baking dish.
  • Dampen hands with water and brush tops of dough with the water (just so they don't dry while rising in oven). Transfer to oven, close oven and turn oven off, allow rolls to rise 20 minutes (don't open oven door). Remove from oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees (this should take about 5 minutes, so just allow rolls to rest on counter while oven preheats).
  • Bake in preheated oven 14 - 16 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and run the top of a stick of butter along tops of rolls just to coat. Serve warm. Store in an airtight container (I recommend rewarming cool rolls in microwave for best results.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The way I used to be...

I regularly receive compliments on my hair. My stylist goes into raptures over how lovely the color  is. People will say "you have the prettiest strawberry blonde hair!'. I say thank you then protest "but you should have seen my hair when..." And, as they look at me with confusion and disbelief, I tell them how my hair used to be "flaming, Irish, really, really red".

Because this is how I used to look (yes that's Derek):

And this is how I look now:
That's quite a difference. That isn't blonde up there on top of my head, it's white. Pure white. The paper white of my Papa's (my grandfather) hair. I used to be a redhead. I mean, I'm still a redhead, but I used to be more of a redhead. It's hard to picture, without a picture. Even with a picture. I miss my hair - it was the defining part of me. It was a very large part of how I was known and how I was recognized. You could always find me in a crowd. Now...I'm...defined in other ways. I'm Jacob's mom. I'm Derek's wife. I'm the Crazy Chicken Lady. Hard to pick those out in a group.
I miss my hair. I could dye it, but honestly it never looks the same and what's the point? Just like my laugh lines and smile crinkles, I earned every one of those white hairs.
Instead I will learn to, somewhat grudgingly, embrace my increasingly white hair. I will love that I inherited it from my grandfather. I will continue to learn to define myself in other ways. Crazy Chicken Lady is a pretty good start. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Have Mercy Chocolate Cake

Ohhhhhhh - cake. Chocolate cake. With thick dreamy frosting. I didn't want much for Mother's Day but I did want an intense, incredible chocolate cake. J is allergic to eggs and, since I actually wanted to share my cake, I needed an egg-free cake worthy of Mother. Yes, I AM a LOTR geek :)

Well if you're looking for a deeeevine egg-free chocolate cake it has to be Wacky Cake. Now I have no idea if the Depression era story behind it is true, but it's a great little tale for an awesome cake.
This cake is only as good as the cocoa that goes into it so don't make it with that Hersheys stuff - go deep dark and intense. I personally love Guittard's cocoa rouge for baking.

The buttercream recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and it's the best buttercream I've ever made. And you make it in the Cuisinart. How did I not know you can make perfect buttercream in the Cuisinart?!

**note - this cake is SO easy to make, it's perfect for little fingers to help with the mixing**

Wacky or 'Have Mercy' Chocolate Cake

1 12 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 heaping  tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 teaspoon  salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
5 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup water, cold
1/2 cup chocolate chips (because why not more chocolate?)
- Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt.
- Make three wells in the flour mixture.
- In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil.
- Pour 1 c cold water over all and stir till thoroughly combined.
- Stir in chocolate chips.
- Pour into greased 8 x 8-inch pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs (not batter).
- Cool on wire rack.
- Frost when cool.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
2 ounces (55 grams) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of fine sea salt (optional)
1 tablespoons cream or whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place frosting ingredients in a food processor and run machine to mix.
- Scrape down bowl then process just until smooth and somewhat fluffed.
- Scoop the frosting onto the cooled chocolate cake and swirl it around.
And now I want chocolate cake - good thing I have some frozen!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How I work out when I have a head cold.

I don't. Seriously. I don't. I have no desire to do anything besides sit on my butt or lie down when I'm not feeling well.

I know there's all the studies that say it's ok to continue to work out unless you lungs are congested. I'm sure there are people who do manage to keep working out when their bodies are sick but their lungs are mercifully clear (in fact I'm married to one). Well hooray for them.

Not me. When I'm sick I want a comfy couch, some sports on TV and a nap. If I am sick enough I want my bed. Today I want a combination of both. I got sick last week and pushed myself. Work, Birthday party Saturday, Giants game Sunday, more work yesterday and today I woke up runny, congested and miserable.

That'll teach me. I should have taken it easier (well except for the Giants game, I mean like I would ever miss that!). I should have taken better care of myself. When you're sick, your body needs a little mothering. A little care. A little hot tea. Maybe a cookie.

I'm off to take a nap - I'm listening to my body and that's what it says it wants. And a big bowl of pasta. Hey, my body has good taste.