Thankful for Pie 2017 Edition

Here we are, at the end of another year. This year in particular was a challenge, mostly due to the fact that it seemed like every other day that the world as we know it was crashing down around our ears. That’s why doing a year-end round-up thing is usually so pleasing to me. Even if nobody’s reading/listening, it gives me an opportunity to look back on everything that happened and pick out all of the good parts. Especially the stuff that might not have made it onto the blog. It makes you remember the good things, even when everything else is still pretty terrible.

First up, in January, Dan and I went to the Women’s March here in New Orleans.


We hung out with some of the coolest, nicest people ever and got to see some truly hilarious protest signs.


It really felt good to walk amongst so many people who felt like they just needed to do something. Who are doing things and working hard to make things better. I had a coworker ask me, very sincerely, the day afterwards, “But what is everyone marching for? What’s made them so angry?” My answer: “Everything.” I knitted quite a few Pussyhats for friends and for myself, and Dan and I will definitely be wearing them when we march again this year.

In January, I also finished a vest for Dan, a project that still fills me with pride.



Speaking of Grow Dat (the little farm that Dan’s running through all joyfully), in February, Dan and I really got the ball rolling on getting creative and cooking with our weekly CSA haul.






Every week there was more and more kale, and we rose to the challenge. Seriously, I have never eaten so many greens in my life.





I pickled beets and carrots and daikon and peppers and okra and anything else I could get my hands on. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all of our homecooking. We unfortunately did not sign up for the Grow Dat CSA this year, mostly due to the fact that my time’s going to be even more limited because of school, but it’s definitely helped us to eat better and for me to step up my cooking skills. Do go check out Grow Dat and the Hollygrove Market if you’re here in New Orleans. You’ll be glad you did.


Studying was a huge part of my life this year, having started grad school in January after graduating from nursing school in May of 2015. I did not take many pictures of it, because it is not particularly visually exciting, but school really ran my life this year. I kept working full-time as well, until the summer, because I am a crazy person and thought that I could handle it. Now I’m down to two days a week (but it’s still night shift and still a crazy-busy job), but at least now I can breathe.

In March, I had to go to “intensives” for school, and I got to see what is possibly the greatest billboard advertisement of all time.


You might think that a busy highway is no place for Sir Mix-a-lot jokes. You are wrong.

In April, Dan and I found my doppelganger in the New Orleans Museum of Art.



And we went to a Hootenanny!


Grow Dat hosted this huge party for all of its subscribers and donors this year, complete with bluegrass music and square-dancing lessons, and all kinds of amazing food and cocktails from all around the city. I may have had a whole lot of strawberry punch and donated a large amount of money to buy a tractor, but those kids were so excited that it was impossible to not get super excited about tractors right along with them.

In May, I made some dice bags.


Want to make your own? Here’s the pattern, and here’s the chart for your very own LOTR-inspired monogram on the front.

Then, Bailee and I drove ourselves down to Austin in order to personally hand them to the McElroy brothers.





It was amazing, plus I made an extra-special awful face in that picture, so that’s how I get to remember it for the rest of time.


We got to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law, and I got to meet some wonderful Twitter people in real life and eat brunch with them, which is why I think the Internet was really invented: to eat brunch with cool people in different parts of the country.

In June, I went to San Francisco to visit my best friend, Jonathan, and his wife, Rebecca, who are two of the best people, just hands-down.




We went to a Japanese mall.


We saw Justin Townes Earle.


We saw the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model.





We saw beautiful water and gardens.


We ate at In-N-Out Burger.



We saw Elvis Costello at the Greek Theatre. (My third time seeing him, and a wonderful birthday treat.)


We saw so much modern art at SFMOMA that I’d previously only seen in textbooks, which blew my mind a little bit.









Warhol, Chuck Close, George Segal, Robert Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Duchamp, Josef Albers…I didn’t want to leave.




We also watched a lot of the new season of Twin Peaks, so it seemed only fitting that I baked us a cherry pie to enjoy.

What a wonderful trip.

During July, I was deep into the throes of knitting for the Summer of Socks, but I figured that this would be a good opportunity to post some pictures of the baking I did this year. Nothing ended up on the blog, but dang there was some good baking coming out of my kitchen.








And I haven’t posted any pictures of the cats yet!



Bowie and Trip make every year better.

In August, I made a lovely baby blanket for a lovely lady.



And a very cute bunny.


Dan and I also enjoyed the eclipse with Dan’s custom made shadowbox viewer, and a giant welding helmet. Everyone loved science for a whole day. It was great.


In September, Dan and I finished up a masterpiece.


And then we just couldn’t stop doing puzzles. We have three now that need to be framed and hung before we’re allowed to do any more.


Dan also took this nice picture of me in the courtyard of Le Petit Theatre before we saw a show.

In October, we showed some friends from out-of-town around the city for Halloween, which always includes some above-ground cemetery action.


Yep, that’s right, that’s a human jawbone just hanging out. Every day is Halloween here.

I took those same friends to the National World War II Museum, and we had a great, although sobering, time.




The production value of this museum is downright astounding. I highly recommend it, even though I’m not really a huge wartime-history buff, just because everything was so detailed and interactive. Just make sure you plan to spend the whole day there so you can see everything. The place is massive, and the four hours we spent were simply not enough.


This was my favorite fun fact.


I also posted about some awesome socks in November.



And I visited Bailee in Mississippi for her birthday!


We ate all kinds of fried chicken and fancy pastries, listened to Taylor Swift and did our Tarot. A really, really good day.


I surprised myself and made a beautiful rainbow baby blanket in December.


Complete with turtle friend.

And then I made another one.


With elephant to match.


All of these pregnant ladies in my life have such good taste, so I really had to step up my game to give them some beautiful things.






Dan requested apple pie for his birthday (as per usual), so I got my buttermilk crust game-face on.


He also had an extra request this year, and that was that a make peach cobbler for one of his coworkers, a widower whose wife used to love to bake. He’s a good egg, that Dan.


Then, the Summer of Socks was upon us, and I posted all about my super-secret sock knitting escapades, in three installments (1, 2, and 3!).


Then, just a few days ago, Dan and I welcomed a new family member into our lives.


Her name is Turbovicki, and she’s very red and half-electric. We love her.

I have never had a new car ever in my entire life, so I’m having a complicated mix of feelings about it. On the one hand, I feel like I really don’t deserve something so nice. I’m bad about treating myself and doing nice things for myself, because I just don’t ever feel like I’ve done anything special for it. It was a very big decision to even allow myself to think about having a new car.
On the other hand, oh my god if this isn’t the coolest car ever. I’m trying to get over myself and enjoy it.

So, all in all, a pretty good year, full of baking and knitting and schoolwork and love. Speaking of baking…


First thing for the new year will be a new pie recipe, so you can enjoy all kinds of chocolate and cherries to start 2018.

I can’t even express how good it feels to look over all of this and to be able to share it with all of you. I’m always glad to have the outlet of blogging and to be able to share my (albeit small) accomplishments with a tiny corner of the world. I hope that you all had a good year, despite the ongoing garbage fire of a world, and that we can share the upcoming goodness of 2018 together.


RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream. Oh, and I graduated from nursing school.


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Damn it, RumChata, I’ll get back to you in a second. Stop looking so delicious. (Or, as the lady at the liquor store told me, stop looking like a giant bottle of lotion.)


On Thursday, I finally, after an insane three years of paper-writing, textbook-reading, note-taking, care plan-making, and IV-flushing, graduated from nursing school. Hooray for me!

Now, when I write about things on here, the attitude is usually “hooray for me” all the time, mostly because it’s a blog, and what other kind of attitude are you supposed to have when you are mostly writing about your own accomplishments in knitting and baking? (And cats. I do write about cats a lot.) It’s also written from that perspective because I often have a very hard time accepting compliments in the real world. Or thinking that my work is good enough in general. I often ride a very fine line of knowing that I am extremely capable when I work hard at something and also thinking that the world and everything I love will suddenly plummet to a firey descent of death if I don’t get an A on this damn paper.

It makes life weird.

Anyway, attitudes like that which generally make my day-to-day life anxiety-fraught (and the word ‘anxiety’ consistently makes it onto the most-frequently-used tags cloud at the bottom of the page, so are we really surprised?) made this moment that much sweeter.

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Yep, valedictorian. I just. I. I don’t even know. I was pretty sure that it was coming (except during one particularly harrowing afternoon when it looked like some sort of weird snafu of transfer credits, prerequisites, and weird university by-laws was going to make it not happen), especially because of my general desire to set unattainable goals, but I still don’t even know what to say. All I know is that I smiled from ear-to-ear for nearly 48 hours straight. Might be a record.

Now. Back to the ice cream.

A graduation party had been in the works for some time prior to all of this, mostly because I wanted to make sure that I could properly thank the people in my life who made the experience bearable with their kindness, warmth, and humor, with an entirely ridiculous amount of food and alcohol. When I was brainstorming desserts, my friend Brittany issued me a challenge. An ice cream challenge, which is probably the best kind. She suggested making alcoholic ice cream. RumChata ice cream, specifically.

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Hey there, you beautiful bottle. Glad you’re back.

If you’ve never partaken in the glory of a shot of RumChata, let me let their website describe it to you: “Rum and horchata had a lovechild, and it’s delicious.” Good copy.

It tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But with alcohol. And it is a fantastic addition to any graduation party, all on its own. But in ice cream? I found lots of fakey-type ice cream recipes online for it (like the coconut cream or bananas methods), but to make it a real custard-based ice cream, I had to get creative.

You see, RumChata is 27.5 proof alcohol, low on the general drinkability scale, but high when it comes to attempting to freeze something. Some research was definitely required to get everything to work out properly. Enter Ice Cream Happy Hour, a fabulous book by Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison and definitely required reading if you’re attempting to freeze anything that’s loaded with alcohol. Their method employs prepared gelatin and chilled alcohol incorporated at the end of the custard base chilling process, which is totally genius stuff right there. I also pulled together inspiration from the Pioneer Woman and in creating this cinnamony delight.

Here we go.

RumChata Ribbon Ice Cream
with a great deal of adapting and combining from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, Ice Cream Happy Hour, the Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Ice Cream and Virginia’s Cinnamon Sauce

Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pinch salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3 cups water
1 tsp vanilla

RumChata Ice Cream Base:
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp softened cream cheese
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 packet plain gelatin
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup chilled Rumchata liqueur

Cinnamon Sauce Ribbon:

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Whisk all ingredients together, except for the vanilla, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.

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Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and set aside to cool. (I let it sit out on the counter while I prepared the ice cream base and then refrigerated it until it was time to assemble the finished ice cream.) The sauce will thicken as it cools.

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RumChata Ice Cream Base:
This is all done using the Jeni’s method of ice cream making, which comes highly recommended by me and countless others. Please do go check out their website and support them in their awesome grand re-opening.

Mix two tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl (a giant bowl) with ice and water in order to chill your ice cream base when ready.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, being sure to stir constantly to prevent scorching or boiling over, and boil for 4 minutes. (And be precise, people! Your ice cream is counting on you!)

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Remove from heat and gradually whisk in your cornstarch slurry mixture. Return to the heat and bring it back to a boil, still stirring, allowing it to cook and thicken up for about 1 minute. Fish out those cinnamon sticks and throw them away, unless you know something I don’t about what to do with them now.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the ground cinnamon and mix until well-distributed.

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Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziplock bag, seal it, and submerge it in your giant bowl of water and ice until it’s totally chilled, about 30 minutes.

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When the ice cream base is chilled, it’s time for alcohol! Put the 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Allow it about 2 minutes to properly absorb, and then cook the mixture over low heat for approximately 3 minutes, until it is clear and all the gelatin has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the chilled RumChata, resisting the urge to take a big swig from the bottle as you do so.

Pour this new alcohol mixture into the Ziplock bag with the chilled ice cream base, and then give the bag a good massage to make sure that everything’s mixed up nice. Pour the whole thing (most easily accomplished by snipping off a corner of the bag and squeezing it out) into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and process it until it’s thick and creamy, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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This can be very different for different machines, and with the alcohol content involved in this one, may be very different from your normal time. Usually, my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment takes only about 30-35 minutes before the base is ready to freeze, but in this case, I let it go for 45 minutes before I realized it was just never going to be as lofty as it usually gets. Instead, I then poured it into a freezer container and stuck it in the coldest part of my freezer, taking it out to whisk it up every 30 minutes or so for the next 2 hours, at which point it had finally evolved into something I was more familiar with. Just keep an eye on it and have a little cinnamon-based faith. Even if it doesn’t get as beautiful as normal, it’ll turn out.

Pack your new ice cream into a storage container, layering the cinnamon sauce as you go.

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The recipe makes a boatload of sauce, so there’s plenty left over to warm up and put on top if you want when you’re serving it. Press a sheet of parchment paper firmly against the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid. Normally, ice cream only takes about 5-6 hours to cure in my freezer, but this one was best left in there for the course of 24 hours. Plan ahead for this ice cream deprivation.

When you’re ready, make sure you’ve got people crowded around and waiting, because even after all that effort, if you so much as look wrong at that ice cream when you take it out of the freezer, it will melt just to spite you. (But no, seriously, you don’t have to let it thaw or anything like you might normally. Just get to scooping and work fast.)

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Marvel in the fact that it actually worked! And then hurry up and scoop some more because you’ve got more people waiting.

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This is Brittany, the gauntlet-thrower for this entire experiment, and I think she was pleased.

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I think everyone was, as this was the scene five minutes after I started scooping.

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Luckily, I saved a tiny bit for myself at the end to enjoy. The ice cream itself was smooth and packed with warm cinnamon flavor, with a hint of that rum that reminds you that you are eating some ice cream only for grown-ups. The cinnamon sauce ribbon was slightly icy and grainy, but in the best way possible, giving the whole thing an interesting texture and more complex palate. It tasted like…Cinnamon Toast Crunch. With alcohol.

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Mission accomplished.

Pickled Okra & Roasted Peanuts? Don’t mind if I do.

My friend Gaby recently made the mistake of making me interested in something.

She told me about a lovely farmers’ market and farm located right in the middle of New Orleans called Hollygrove Market & Farm, and they have a weekly “box” (spoilers: it’s actually a bag.) of amazing farm-fresh vegetables, fruits, and other glorious food items that come from all kinds of wonderful backyard and independent farms in Louisiana and southern Mississippi, and it’s only $25. How awesome is that? It is remarkable that after living 6 years in Colorado, I somehow never got in on a CSA-subscription, but know that I have been enlightened as to Hollygrove’s existence, things are a-changin’.

Part of what’s great about Hollygrove is that they put up on their website what’s going to be in the “box” each week, so that you can choose if you want to get in on that or not. Right now I am kicking myself for not going this week because homemade organic blueberry jam was involved. And sweet potatoes! Sigh.


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Since I started making Hollygrove a part of my grocery considerations, I have received some treasures (like this amazing okra that has no business being so beautifully green) that needed some extra prep work, with awesome results. Working from a CSA-style box makes you change the way you think about cooking. It makes you want to eat seasonally all the time. It makes you want to go put your own hands in the dirt for a while. And it makes you wonder how hard it would be to make things that most normal people usually buy.

Enter pickled okra.

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People from the South go crazy for pickled okra. Every single person that I talked to about the possibility of pickled okra proclaimed their undying love for pickled okra right there on the spot. Even Dan enjoys pickled okra, and that’s saying something.

The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking really helped me out on this one with this super easy recipe for refrigerator pickled okra. For those not in the know (and you’re looking at food blogs on the Internet, so how could this be?) refrigerator pickling is a quick-pickling method that doesn’t involve lengthy boiling periods for brine-making, sealing, and sterilization, since the contents are usually much, much smaller and meant to be consumed within a month or slightly longer. These types of things are especially appealing if you only have enough okra to fill one quart jar (about a pound) and the grocery stores in your area would look at you sideways if you asked them where they kept the wide-mouth funnels.

Directions were followed, with the one exception that I put a few peppercorns into the mix instead of hot peppers, because I have come to terms with just not being badass enough for that. And then the waiting ensued. You have to wait to eat these for at least two weeks, otherwise your okra will somehow be both fibrous and slimy, a disgusting combination. But, if you diligently wait the two weeks?

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You will be rewarded.

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And then you will eat a whole bunch and brag to everyone on Facebook and Instagram that you did something that countless millions of other people have done before you, but oh my god it doesn’t matter because pickling is a miracle.

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These are sour and crunchy and amazing, with little seeds that pop in your mouth. You will probably never ever buy a jar of pickled okra again.

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In fact, you’ll now be looking for more opportunities to spend an inordinately long period of time hand-crafting something that any other person would have used a 2-for-1 coupon for.

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Like roasting your own peanuts!

The next time I got the “box,” Hollygrove had included a pound of green peanuts. What on earth are green peanuts, you ask? Oh wait, you already knew? Well, I had no idea and needed some assistance. Avalon Acres helped me out. Green peanuts are basically totally raw, straight from the ground, chock full of water and ready for boiling or roasting.

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Something that they don’t tell you is that peeling green peanuts is not a walk in the park. Peeling this one pound of peanuts took me at least half of a game of Scrabble. Good thing I had coffee to aid me.

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The peeled peanuts were soaked (floated, really) in some salt water…

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…dried off and coated in salt and pepper…

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…and then roasted for waaaaaay longer than the recipe told me to. I’m thinking that I probably need to get my oven checked out now, since I had a very similar problem roasting pumpkin seeds last year. The recipe claims that 20 minutes at 350 degrees should be enough, but we went more than double that time before anything looked vaguely roasted.

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Good news, though. They were delicious.

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Normally, the little papery inner shells of peanuts give me the heebie-jeebies, and I always am careful to peel them aside if eating roasted peanuts. On these? They were the best part! Every bit was super crunchy and smokey, and they only lasted about 48 hours.

My desire for making common household condiments and appetizer-type things has only intensified. I think I need to rush into this headlong and make my own ketchup now. Who’s with me?

Frozen Yogurt for Breakfast

My birthday was about two weeks ago, and I wanted to be sure that I had something interesting and delicious to eat for breakfast on that special day.

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What? You don’t eat ice cream for breakfast? You should really sort out your priorities.

While I agree that it’s probably not the best practice for everyday life, birthdays are special days where general eating rules should be able to go out the window. Plus, it’s frozen yogurt, so let’s just pretend that makes it more acceptable.

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I had never made frozen yogurt before, but I knew that Jeni would be able to guide me through it with flying colors. Plus, I knew that I was going to have to draw on a reserve of patience that I normally do not have when it comes to frozen treats. Making frozen yogurt with a fruit sauce takes 2 solid afternoons worth of work, and you need to be fairly precise about what you’re doing.

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At first, I was considering just going with the plain lemon frozen yogurt, but when I saw this suggestion, I knew that blueberries had to become involved. Both recipes are from the first book: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and I have a feeling that I will not feel truly complete until I have made at least one batch of everything in it. Then, I’ll move on to the second book. Let’s hope there’s not a third because I might never find true ice-cream-related emotional fulfillment. (Just kidding. I would buy it immediately, if only for the opportunity to leaf through the pages and sigh wistfully.)

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The first step in making frozen yogurt? Draining yogurt. The first time I ever heard of this concept was in a post years ago from everybody likes sandwiches about this amazing-sounding orange yogurt. I have always kept this concept in the back of my mind, but never got the opportunity to practice it until this day. I have a feeling that my local grocery store employees would have looked at me funny if I asked them where they kept their cheesecloth (It is still a major moment of confusion for them when I pull out my own shopping bags. One step at a time.), so I decided to go with the coffee filter option, which seemed to work beautifully.

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That yogurt needs to drain for several hours, so overnight was the best option. Next? The blueberry sauce. I figured that making it during the day before was a good idea, although I wasn’t anticipating the delicious smell and the way that the idea of fresh blueberry sauce sitting in the refrigerator would taunt me the rest of the day.

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Blueberries and sugar get tossed together and heated up over the stove until the whole house smells like you’re baking blueberry muffins.

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Blueberry sauce might be the prettiest purple of all the purples.

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The draining yogurt and cooling blueberry sauce sit in the refrigerator for a day, waiting for their ultimate destiny.

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The next day, lemons take over your whole kitchen. You zest them into big long strips.

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You juice them up.

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You make lemon syrup.

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And then you boil up that zest with your milk and cream and sugar and all of the other white things in your kitchen.

Speaking of white things…

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How did that yogurt do? How much liquid can really be in there anyway?

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I think I actually gasped. This moment was on a par with the time that I finally got to squeeze out shredded zucchini. So much unexpected greenish liquid. It was weird. But again, so worth it. Getting rid of that extra stuff helps to make the frozen yogurt base incredibly silky and smooth, with as little incidence of ice crystals as possible.

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Check out my mise en place. I’m getting so much better at this.

After things are boiled up, the various whiskings begin.

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You whisk in cornstarch slurry. You whisk in cream cheese.

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You whisk in that lovely thick yogurt.

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You whisk in your homemade lemon syrup.

Your arm gets tired.

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You let things chill out. (You do some dishes now, because to wait until you’re finished has previously proven to be a bad idea.)

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You strain out those pesky lemon zests.

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You get this amazing silky concoction, that, if I were I lesser woman, I would have eaten straight from the bowl with a spoon like lemon curd without a care in the world. However, one of the few things that I am willing to sacrifice for is the prospect of having ice cream, so I kept that impulse in check.

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You spin it up, and then do some more dishes. It’s a good idea to make ice cream so that you have an excuse to do some dishes, really. Let’s keep telling ourselves that.

Then, the assembly begins. I think that I’ll just let this go by like a stop-motion movie. You guys know what’s up.

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Such pretty stuff, with all those alternating layers of the lightest yellow and deep purple.

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Seal it up, and let it go. That’s right. More waiting. At least four hours, or if you’re like me, until your birthday.

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And then again, if you’re like me, deny yourself the pleasure of digging right in on your birthday morning so that you can take pictures first because you are absolutely ridiculous.

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But this beauty needed to be documented. The lemon frozen yogurt is super smooth, tart, and bright, much lighter than its traditional lemon ice cream counterpart. The blueberry swirl is sweet and fresh, with the tiniest bit of iciness and chewiness from those whole berries. The whole things just screams summer. And when your birthday is on the first day of summer, could there be anything better?

Now get inside from that crazy heat and stand over a hot stove and make yourself some frozen yogurt. It’s totally worth it. And your dirty dishes will thank you for it.

The Summer So Far? Ice Cream and Muffins!

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Hello there. It’s been a while. I’m afraid that I have been reveling a tiny bit too much in the fact that my semester ended and doing some things that I don’t get a lot of chances to do. Like what, you ask?

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Sitting near lakes during lovely sunsets.

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Having lunch dates with my love. (At Dat Dog, of course. Overloaded hot dogs and Barq’s in the bottle should be the opener for every summer vacation.)

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Knitting a little squirrel for Eddie Izzard. Like you do. (Pattern is the hilariously titled Knit One Squirrel Two, by Rabbit Hole Knits, a lovely little bit of knitting that turns out some very strangely shaped little items. Don’t those tiny squirrel leg/haunches look like drumsticks? And the squirrel body? I can’t even get into that.)

We’re going to see Mr. Izzard in Austin at the end of June as a special birthday treat from my brother and his fiancee. I’m still wondering exactly how I am going to manage to give him a squirrel as I do not have any idea as to whether he is into the whole autograph-and-shaking-hands-with-fans situation after his shows. Anyone have any ideas short of me going on Twitter and telling him that I really want him to have this tiny squirrel, no strings attached? I’m pretty sure that I will be sent to awkward-Twitter-stalker jail for that one.

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Eating frozen yogurt out of cups that depict some sort of crazy dystopian mountains-vomiting-rainbows insanity.

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Listening to the charming words of Mr. Kai Ryssdal, (in person!) everybody’s favorite sassy business radio host.

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Reading Infinite Jest and giggling when I see references to children’s pictures books and M*A*S*H throughout, although I don’t think David Foster Wallace much cared for the antics of Hawkeye and Trapper John (I almost wrote B.J., but I’m pretty sure he was only into the early seasons).

Playing this game with Trip almost every single morning. He crouches in the corner now and waits for me to wake up so that I can get that sunbeam-iPhone-reflection going for him.

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Watching awesome bands and eating crawfish with wonderful friends. (And the Ghostwood even has a new 7″ out called Empty Cosmic Gloom that you should purchase so that you can get your fix of New Orleans pop punk goodness.)

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Causing my right thumb to go numb by X-Acto-ing tiny stencils of popular movie symbology so that I could tattoo them on small children. I do weird things for work sometimes.

Speaking of…

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Dressing up as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for our Summer Reading Kickoff party at work, where we all dressed as our favorite characters from novels (graphic novels included) that were later turned into films. Dan is responsible for the amazing goggles and war-hammer, and yes, you should be jealous of that fact. This was the first time where I ever got so into a costume that I would consider this ‘cosplaying,’ and it’s weird to think that my first time cosplaying happened on the clock at Barnes & Noble. I had some fairly extreme wig + goggles + tights + combat boots anxiety, but had an awesome time nonetheless. Especially after the event was over and I spent 3 hours at the information desk helping people, being the only person inexplicably in a costume in the entire store. I’m sure I confused some people. Except the people in the graphic novels aisle. I’m pretty sure that I delighted them.

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Making Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry & Buttermilk Ice Cream, from her amazing first book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

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I didn’t get to eat much of it, as it was contributed to a work potluck in the break room, but it was some delicious stuff.

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It was a reason to actually go out and buy buttermilk, something that I do not normally do, even if a recipe tells me to.

Now I am in the situation where I have an awful lot of buttermilk that is going to go bad soon if I don’t use it up (How can you tell if buttermilk has turned, by the way? This is an important question.), so some baking just had to be done. Loaves of banana bread were mixed up and baked, but I still had more left over, so I turned to another old favorite.

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Pinch My Salt‘s delicious Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins were a great way to get up early this morning to use up that buttermilk, plus make my whole house smell like oranges, which is always a plus.

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Just one swipe on that grater, and it’s all over for me. I love oranges. I need a more emphatic word than love, but my hands still smell like oranges, and I’m too distracted and enchanted too care.

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Just lovely.

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The oranges are zested and juiced, and then combined with whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and some wonderful warm spices.

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I always like this moment right before I whisk together my dry ingredients, when you can see all the different colors and textures. It’s like sand art, in the best sense of the word.

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The wet ingredients are not nearly so attractive unmixed. Or mixed, frankly.

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But chunks of walnut make an appearance as well. I like to keep the chunks fairly large just to make these muffins as rustic and homey as possible.

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I’m going to pretend that that’s also the reason why I don’t smooth out the tops of my muffins, but laziness is probably also a factor in that.

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But look at that gorgeous cracked top! It’s so worth it. The tops of these muffins are sweet and have just the right amount of crunch. The bottoms are moist and orangey and buttery and full of whole wheatiness.

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You can even pretend that they’re still healthy when you dump a bunch of butter on them and enjoy them with some tea on a Friday morning. I have made these muffins countless times, but this is probably the first time with actual honest-to-goodness buttermilk, not fakey whole milk and vinegar kitchen hacks.

There’s only one problem. Even with all of this hearty buttermilk-based baking, I still somehow have buttermilk in my refrigerator. Apparently in Louisiana people must be drinking this stuff, because I can’t think of any reason why I had to buy a whole liter of this stuff. What on Earth am I going to do?

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Oh dear. Summer has only just begun. Someone ask me to make them an ice cream cake, quick.

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. Need I say more?

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There were a few days last week when it really felt like spring here in New Orleans. Dare I even say summer? All I know is that I saw a lot of shorts and sandals for a little while, which got me thinking of ice cream. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to get me thinking of ice cream.

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The day that I ended up making ice cream, however, ended up being the day when a cold front swept through, dumping tons of freezing rain on all of those people in their shorts and sandals. I chose to soldier on, ignoring the weather and rejoicing in my tiny amount of free time.

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I ended up taking my own advice and toasting up some coconut to go into my coconut milk base. It was definitely the right way to go.

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I had made some brownies (the always delicious Moosewood Fudge Brownies, this time without the chocolate chips and with pecans instead of walnuts because there were no walnuts to be found in my house) earlier that week, and the last two brownies were just sitting there on the counter, feeling lonely. What else could I do but chop them up and throw them in there? It was just the right thing to do. Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream. I just couldn’t resist.

Toasted Coconut Brownie Ice Cream
adapted from the Hungry Mouse‘s 3-Ingredient Coconut Ice Cream

2 13 oz. cans of coconut milk (for some reason, the only ones I could find this time were 13.5 oz. each, but I don’t think it caused any problems)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (or unsweetened, or flaked, whatever you want)
2 1/2 leftover brownies (Whatever your favorite brownie recipe is. You already know mine. I usually cut up my 8×8 baking dish into 9 pieces, so each square of brownie is somewhere around 2.5″ square.)

Toast your coconut by spreading it in a thin layer on a baking sheet and putting it into a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Be sure to watch it closely and stir it often, because it browns up really quick. I only needed 5 1/2 minutes. Chop up 2 of your brownies into little brownie cubes, and then leave the 1/2 brownie to the side for crumbling.

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Dump your coconut milk (being sure to avoid spraying coconut milk all over yourself and the kitchen counter, like I did), sugar, and vanilla into a large food processor.

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Doesn’t that look a little bit like miso soup? It’s weird. Blend things up until they appear more presentable.

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Pour your coconut milk base into your prepared ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You’ll only have to process it for about 30-40 minutes total.

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Add the toasted coconut and crumble up that remaining 1/2 brownie piece into the ice cream base when you only have 10-15 minutes left to go on the processing so that they are well-distributed.

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While you’re waiting for the rest of the spinning time, put some brownie cubes in your waiting ice cream container. This is how Jeni makes her delicious chunky ice creams, so we are taking a page from her. She is a genius.

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When the ice cream is done spinning up, pour a little bit over those brownie pieces, and then put some more brownies on top.

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Until there’s no more brownies or ice cream. I made sure to cover the entire thing with a layer of the coconut ice cream base so that the brownies were totally submerged, just to avoid those brownie chunks drying out. Cover the top of the ice cream with a piece of parchment paper and then put on that airtight lid. Allow the ice cream to freeze for at least 8 hours, but overnight is best.

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We did end up trying some that night, after 8 hours of freezing, and there was still a bit of graininess to the texture. However, this had completely disappeared by the next day. It’s definitely worth the wait.

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The sweetest of the coconut and the richness of the brownies and pecans work really well together, I believe. Dan declared this the best ice cream I’ve made so far. That’s saying something.

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Now if only the weather would cooperate.

If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Arnold Palmers

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As soon as the weather starts to seem even the slightest bit warmer, my thoughts tend to drift to lemons.

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(Want to know the best part about using your phone to take kitchen pictures because your boyfriend left the camera in his truck and then left for work? You have no idea how out-of-focus they are until you are all done! Hooray! Sorry, guys.)

When I was a child, I hated anything lemon-flavored. Lemon bars? Lemonade? I wanted nothing to do with it. Yellow candies of all kinds were not to be trusted (I’m looking at you, yellow Starburst).

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I was obviously deranged. Now, in my dotage, I have realized that lemons are the most delicious things that you can get from a tree. You can dress them up and make them super sweet and fancy when you add butter and sugar, or you can leave them in their tangy, sour perfection with just the addition of some black iced tea. That’s right! We’re making lemon cookies and Arnold Palmers today because the heater hasn’t had to come on in at least two weeks, and it’s going to be such a fabulous lemony kick to the face that you will definitely be thanking me later.

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The lemon cookie recipe comes courtesy of the always-delightful Jeannette at everybody likes sandwiches. I remember reading it when it first was published in 2007 and heading out to the store to buy lemons that very moment. Since then, I have made them more times than I can count, even once sending them cross-country to sit in for me during a game of D&D.

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See? Hipster food-blog-follower cred! I seriously wrote it down on an index card (!), back when her blog was still at BlogSpot. How very quaint of me and my purple Sharpie. This was before Pinterest, people, when I wrote everything down or spent long hours with my printer and bookmarks, making huge Word documents of dessert recipes that needed printing. Want to see the rest? Here you go.

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These cookies are obviously something special, otherwise that little index card would not still be in my recipe binder. When you make them, they are little balls of bright, tangy dough, rolled in sugar.

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Just look at how cute that is! They taste buttery and lemony and almost floral, without feeling like you’re eating a plant. They are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, absolute perfection with a quick dip in some cold milk.

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Now, what if we want something that preserves more of that natural lemon essence? That super tart feeling that you’re getting in your mouth right now just thinking about lemons? We make Arnold Palmers!

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I’m aware that most people refer to this as Lemonade Iced Tea, but once I learned that a professional golfer claimed that he invented the concoction, I just can’t bring myself to call it anything else. First, we brew up the tea.

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Then we get mesmerized by the process of tea steeping. Don’t pretend it isn’t interesting to watch. (I even made a little video of it, if you can ignore the sweet strains of Despicable Me playing in the background.) Oh, heat conduction. You make pretty things happen in water.

While we wait for our tea to cool, we have to juice up some lemons. We’re looking for 1 1/4 cups of delicious lemon juice, which is about 6-7 lemons usually, depending on how large they are.

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Close enough.

Then we make simple syrup, which is essentially just combining equal parts of sugar and water together over heat.

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Until it’s super clear and bubbly.

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All of these things get dumped together into the appropriate receptacles and topped off with enough ice to make yourself about 2 gallons of sweet, tangy, summery deliciousness. And when I say ‘tangy,’ I mean it. That first sip is a game-changer. Feel free to add a little more sugar if you don’t roll that way.

Arnold Palmers
or just Lemonade Iced Tea, if you aren’t whimsical enough

4 bags of black tea
6-7 lemons (enough to make about 1 1/4 cups of juice)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
lots of ice

Steep 4 bags of black tea in approximately 2 liters of boiling water. Don’t worry if you end up staring at it for a little while. It’s totally normal.

Juice your lemons and set the juice aside. Prepare simple syrup by combining sugar and water over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved, and the mixture is clear and starting to boil. Discard the tea bags, and combine the tea, lemon juice, and simple syrup together in a heatproof 2-gallon (or two 1-gallon) beverage container(s). Things will be super hot and boiling, so be careful. Top off the mixture with plenty of ice in order to get it up to the 2-gallon mark. Enjoy the cracking sounds that ice makes when it hits all that super hot tea. I know that I do.  Stick that stuff in the refrigerator until you’re ready.

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Drink up a big tall glass and eat yourself some lemon cookies. You’re almost done with February. You deserve it.

My mom’s baked macaroni and cheese is better than yours. Or your mom’s.

My mother recently became bionic.

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Meaning that she got a total knee replacement last week, and despite recovering nicely, did not feel up to the hours of standing required to make Thanksgiving dinner.

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As you already know, I am always game to make dessert and cranberry sauce, because these are usually my favorite parts of the meal. Dan and my dad also got in on the cooking this time, being responsible for the meat and side dish portions this year.

However, when I said two seconds ago that dessert and cranberry sauce are my favorite things? I was lying. My mom’s baked macaroni and cheese is my favorite dish in the entire world. I know it doesn’t have chocolate or cranberries or pumpkin or pie crust in it, which is usually all I write about, but trust me when I say that this stuff is fantastic. It is simultaneously sweet and savory, eggy and cheesy, creamy and crunchy…it’s perfection in a casserole dish. And now I had the honor of making it, listening intently and making notes on a Post-It while my mom dictated the next step to me from the kitchen table.

Want to make it, too? Of course you do! That would be pretty terrible to give it such a big intro and then say it would remain a mystery, right? Right. However, here’s a caveat before we really get started. We are from New Orleans, and in New Orleans, we don’t measure while we’re cooking, so getting the measurements nailed down on this thing was a bit of a guessing game. (Note that I didn’t say that we don’t measure while we’re baking. That would just be utter craziness.) I think that what we came up with was pretty damn near perfect, but depending on your oven, your humidity, the phase of the moon, and whether a black cat crossed your path, you may want to shift your proportions a little bit.

Let’s go.

Jinger’s Mom’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese
the only macaroni and cheese that you will ever need to know how to make ever again

1 package of long macaroni noodles (My mom insists on Luxury, a local brand that’s pretty delicious, but you can use whatever you’d like.)
salt & olive oil (for your pasta water)
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 lb. shredded cheddar cheese (She actually told me 1 lb. and then a little bit more, so this is a big guess as to how much we used. Using too much cheese would be a big non-issue, really.)

First step? Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Boil up a whole bunch of water in a huge pot, making sure to salt the water and add a little bit of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. Don’t skip this, because the noodles are going to sit by their lonesome for a while after this, and you really can’t have stickiness there.

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After the pasta’s done (and we mean DONE done, as in fully softened but not falling apart, as my mother informed me that she doesn’t believe in al dente), drain it and place it in your favorite casserole dish. I believe the one that we used is a 4-quart one, but I generally have no idea as to these things.

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While the pasta is cooling off a bit, beat your eggs lightly in a medium-sized bowl. Then, add your sugar.

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Eggs + sugar = macaroni magic.

Whisk it up good. Add your milk and whisk some more.

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Then pour it on top of those patiently waiting noodles, and mix it up as gently as possible. You want those long macaroni noodles to stay long, right?

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Nice. Now, dump about half of your cheese (a little bit more than that, really) on top.

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And mix it in.

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And try not to get frustrated if the cheese is a little clumped up in there. She assured me that this was perfectly normal, even though Dan and my dad were making fun of me for my clumpy cheese.

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After it’s all mixed up, put the rest of your shredded cheese on top, making it nice and even, and making sure those edges and corners get covered, because those are the very best part!

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Strike a pose to commemorate the occasion.

Then put your beautiful cheesy goodness into that preheated oven for 1 hour. Try to be patient. I know it’s hard.

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Then pull it out and admire its majesty.

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Remember what I said about the edges being the best part? Proof! My mom and I always immediately go for the corners to get as much crispy cheesy topping as possible.

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Eat it all up and be thankful that my mom told me how to make this so that I could tell you. Make it for your family and friends. Spread the sweet, eggy, cheesy goodness across the globe.

Indulge in some Honey Almond Peach Oatmeal. And then go back to whatever relatively unimportant thing you were doing before.

I’m taking a few precious minutes out from writing a theoretical care plan about a patient with acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure to tell you guys something really, really important.

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Life is better when you eat fancy oatmeal.

When I was a kid, fancy oatmeal meant being able to microwave my own packet of crappy pre-made stuff in an envelope all by myself, especially if it was the kind that came with that little weird jelly packet that you could draw your own designs with.

Now that I am an adult, I have gone past the phase of thinking that oatmeal is disgusting, and I am right back on the oatmeal train. Dan and I will frequently eat oatmeal for dinner if we are at a loss of things that we want to put in our mouths that actually exist in our house. And with all the work and school and hospital-experience nonsense that’s happening around here, it’s nice when you know you’ve got that canister in the pantry waiting for you.

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This weekend, we actually had a free morning together, so the oatmeal preparations got a little bit fancier than our standard nuts and honey fare.

Clockwise from the top left-left hand corner we’ve got some quick-cooking oats, some old fashioned oats (because I need my oatmeal to have some tooth to it, no mushy grossness for me), coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, raw sunflower seeds, and raw almonds. All pretty standard stuff around here.

But where does the “honey” and “peach” part come in?

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There we go. A fresh, ripe peach got thinly sliced, and honey was drizzled onto our nutty oatmeal goodness.

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Yes it was. Now, at this point, we got a little bit of attention from some hungry animals.

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I think it’s fair to say that your oatmeal is going to be really good when tiny cats want to know what you are up to on top of that counter.

Boiling water got poured on top, and then…

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Bam! Oatmeal! Of course, some stirring and delicate perfect placement of peach slices happened, too, but we don’t need to get into that.

Want to make some? I figured.


Honey Almond Peach Oatmeal

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp. oat bran
1 1/2 tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
small handful of raw almonds
several generous shakes (I suppose that’s technically a dash) of ground cinnamon
1 tsp. honey
1/2 large peach, thinly sliced
boiling water (electric kettles are awesome for this exact purpose)

Combine all of your oatmeal ingredients (except for the peach!) in a medium-sized bowl while you are waiting for your kettle to boil up your water. Pour boiling water over the top of your oatmeal to cover, and stir thoroughly. Use less water for some really sticky, thick stuff (that’s the way I like it) or more water if you’re into the creamy texture. The oatmeal should absorb the water fairly quickly, in 2-3 minutes.

Dan will often splash some whole milk into his oatmeal right here to make it even creamier. I am not on-board for the whole milk-in-my-oatmeal thing because I want it to be really thick and sticky, but I can see how it would be completely delicious. Milk is optional, but if you’re into it, go for it. It makes him super happy, if that’s any indication.

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Slice up your peach, and lay it on top. Arrange it in a pleasing fashion if you plan to take pictures or if you’re a big weirdo like me.

Now, when you’re eating it up, be sure to get some pieces of cool, fresh peach in with your sticky, gummy oatmeal so that you can fully experience the joy of having fancy oatmeal breakfast.

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Try to resist licking the bowl. It might be hard.

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A Pizza Masterpiece – Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

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Dan and I are both very opinionated people, especially in the kitchen, so sometimes it’s hard for us to make dinner together. Usually one of us cooks while the other person sits at the kitchen table and keeps the conversation going. For certain dishes, we each have our roles, one person doing prep like chopping vegetables and making sure the pans are clean, and the other person mixing and stirring.

However, for pizza, all of these rules go right out of the window. Pizza, in our kitchen, is a collaborative art. It is an event. It is a chance to eat more pepperoni while creating the pizza than actually ends up on the pizza, most of the time.

This time, Dan was responsible for picking our overall topping theme, and we think that we came up with a thing of beauty that needs to be shared. Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie.

I’ll just let you take in the majesty of that name for a second. Here we go.

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First, we start with the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World from everybody likes sandwiches, the only pizza dough that you ever really need to know how to make ever again. There’s no need for tons of rising time or pre-planning. You get the idea to make pizza, and with this dough, you can have it in about 40 minutes, with the perfect chewiness on top and cornmeal crispiness on the bottom. Right on. Jeannette’s a genius.

We doctored up the crust just a tiny bit with some oregano and basil sprinkled in there, just for some added flavor. Brush on some olive oil and cover it up with some tomato sauce.

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Now, put mozzarella on that pizza, if you’re into that sort of thing. Dan doesn’t like cheese (crazy, I know), so this went only on my side. Feel free to make fun of him in the comments and tell him how awesome cheese is. I certainly do.

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Then comes the really good stuff. Thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions, sweet orange bell pepper, delicious fresh pineapple, and some maple-cured breakfast sausage links. Yep. Maple breakfast sausage. I know it sounds weird, but it was a revelation. The maple flavor just adds to the sweetness, and the acidity of the pineapple and tomato sauce cuts through with a delicious tangy finish.

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Dan added a bit of finely diced jalapeno to his side, but he is much, much more adventurous than me in terms of the spicy stuff.

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Now, I know people might be thinking that this is sacrilegious, that a Hawaiian pizza is strictly ham and pineapple, but we’ve got a special ingredient that makes this undeniably Hawaiian, at least in the origin of its ingredients.

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Black lava sea salt is some seriously delicious stuff. We sprinkled some on top after the toppings were done, and every time you encounter one of those little black crystals, the saltiness cut through, making the sweetness even more apparent, similar to the effect of salted caramel or hot chocolate. This particular salt has a certain something to it, as well, that’s difficult to place in the flavor department. We rarely put salt on anything, but the black lava sea salt has a savoriness to it (would you call that umami?) that regular table salt or sea salt just doesn’t have. It’s salty, yes, but serves more to enhance flavor than cover it up. It’s great stuff. Plus, you can get your own right here, no trip to Boulder required.

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The sprinkling of black lava salt was accompanied by some pepper as well, and some dried rosemary on my side, from our long-dead, but still fondly remembered, awesome rosemary bush, a casualty of last year’s Hurricane Isaac. It still lives on in my heart, though, and in several small spice jars.

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Ready for the oven.

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And done! The miracles of the internet.

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And it was delicious. We had a moment where we both looked at each other and nodded acknowledgement of this fantastic creation, even pausing Pitch Perfect for a second to tell each other how good we thought it was. Dan’s not usually into stuff that’s too sweet, but he was so into this that he ate his entire half of the pizza that night.

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I showed remarkable restraint in leaving myself a piece for another day’s lunch. A rare moment.

Jinger & Dan’s Ultimate Hawaiian Pie

for the Crust: go here and follow the recipe for the Easiest Pizza Dough in the World, adding 2-3 healthy shakes of dried oregano and basil (approx. 1/2 -1 tsp) instead of the dried rosemary in at the end, then feel awesome about yourself for making such freaking great pizza crust.

olive oil (for brushing the crust)
approximately 1/2 – 1 cup of tomato sauce (we went with Prego’s Chunky Garden sauce because it has big chunks of sweet tomato)
1/2 – 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese (depending on who’s eating cheese and who is crazily not eating cheese)
1/2 sweet yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, thinly sliced
medium sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
4 maple breakfast sausage links, sliced into small coins (we like Pederson’s Natural Farms from Whole Foods)
approximately 8 oz. of fresh cubed pineapple, thinly sliced
jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (completely optional)
black lava sea salt, pepper, and dried rosemary to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your awesome pizza dough.

After pressing your prepared pizza dough into your pan, brush lightly with olive oil. Spread tomato sauce evenly over crust, and then add toppings all over the place. Add spices to taste. What great directions I am giving you.

Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until sausage is browned and a bit crispy on the edges, cheese is bubbly, and crust is golden brown.

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Slice it up and eat it, but try not to burn your mouth from jumping in too fast. Try not to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome.