Reading is RAD!

4 May

Confession: As a student, and even up through my mid-twenties, I never would have described myself as a reader. I enjoyed an occasional required school read, but did not do any just for fun reading.

Well somewhere along the way, a friend passed me A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks (this was long before Mandy Moore sang Only Hope in the movie – I do love that song). It seems as though all I really needed was a push in the right book direction to launch me into avid-readerdom.

Perhaps, you find yourself in the same shoes and you just need the title of a book that you would actually like. Well, you happened on the right blog post!

Here are four of my favorite books of all time:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Though it is adolescent fiction, it is one of the most powerful and beautiful stories that I have ever read. It follows a displaced German girl during the final days of World War 2. The most striking thing about its narrative is that it is told by death, which could be off-putting for some, but really is not as dark as it sounds. This story is poetic, hauntingly lovely and deeply thought provoking and one that I will read again and again.

Book Thief

  • Can you Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella – By far the funniest book I have ever read. When it first came out, I was sitting in Barnes and Noble reading the first chapter, laughing so hard that I was crying (I was all by myself in this scenario if that helps your mental picture). This story is about a girl with a handful of very guarded secrets that just tumble out one day in the most spectacular fiasco that you could ever imagine. Can You Keep A Secret is the epitome of flaky chick-lit, it is not a deep literary piece, but it is perfect for the beach! #RhymeTime

Can you Keep a Secret

  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabriele Zevin – This book just came out last year and it took my bookclub by storm (which is not easy to do, we have had many duds). It is the story of an eccentric widower who just happens to run a small island’s only bookstore. I would describe this book as charming, deep and refreshing; it is the kind of book that makes you feel like you have grown as a person when you finish reading it. I do want to let you know that this book does contain a bit of language in case that is a problem for you.Storied Life
  • Bread And Wine by Shauna Niequist – The subtitle to this is “A Love Letter to Life Around the Table” and that is precisely what this book is. I have a harder time reading nonfiction, but this piece was incredibly moving for me. As I was reading the introduction, I was laughing and crying, I felt like she was writing from my very own heart. This is such a powerful book to me and I am two recipes away from cooking all of the recipes in it! If you know me very well, you know that I am slightly obsessed with Shauna and I am convinced that should we ever meet we would be instant best friends. Go get this book and then make the risotto, it will change your life!

Bread and Wine

Happy Reading!

The Good, the Bad & Ugly – PinteRecipe Reviews

23 Feb

In an effort to do a little bit of clean eating in January, I scoured my Delish – Healthy PinBoard for some recipes that looked easy, yummy and without my favorite ingredients: heavy cream and butter. While I made several things, I am just going to highlight three for you today.

First Up – Better Than Chipotle Burrito Bowls.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/160933386660616349/

Clearly, this is QUITE a claim, but the recipe won in the simplicity category and looked yummy so I went for it. I also took this recipe one step further by subbing in a PinteRecipe for Cilantro Lime Rice (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/160933386660943893/)

Here is the finished product:

Burrito Bowl

I really enjoyed the end result, and though I may have cheated and added a little cheese, the sauce in this recipe is what makes the Bowl great. This sauce is very spicy, but delicious and easy to throw into the blender and whip up in 10 seconds. The cilantro rice was good, but it was no chipotle, I guess I will have to keep hunting for a better version.

Recipe Number Two – Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/160933386656442636/

Full Disclosure, I have made this before and completely loved it, so it was a delightful addition my clean January menu.

Here is my version:

Chicken Wraps

By the time, I was able to fix these lettuce wraps, my mushrooms were not in great shape, so I left them out and the result was great.

When I make the sauce, I add the whole thing back into the chicken, the sauce is REALLY good and the chicken tends to be a little bland, so I just toss all of it together – it’s a win-win! These wraps are very messy to eat, so when I made the leftovers the following day, I ate it in salad form, and it was just as yummy.

Finally, The Bad and Ugly – Sriracha Roasted Chickpeas

I’m always on the hunt for healthy snacks that are yummy and not terrible for me, so I was REAL hopeful about these.

Here is my result:

Chickpeas

Really, the only way that I have any sort of kindness in my heart towards chickpeas is when they are in hummus form. These chickpeas tasted like spicy, semi-mushy chickpeas – translation: not delicious. Do yourself a favor and just move this recipe right on over to your Pin-Fail Board (doesn’t everyone have one of those?)

Here’s to heart healthy cooking! Now, let’s all go eat some cheerios.

RSVP – The Lost Art of Courtesy

16 May

RSVPI’m a party girl, in the most-official sense, and nothing makes me happier than opening my mailbox, to discover a crisp invitation to a wedding, party or shower (if I was honest I would acknowledge that showers are really only exciting to the person that they are being thrown for.)

So when I open one of those (hopefully adorable) bad boys up and see that something fun is coming I have 2 tasks: my first is to look at my calendar and see if I am free during that particular time and the second is to RSVP.

Maybe you really have no idea what it means to RSVP, well, great news, I am here to shed light on this issue as well as hopefully give you a little bit of responsibility in your responsiveness.

Definition – RSVP is an abbreviated French Term, répondez s’il vous plait, which simply means: Please Respond.

Use – To gather head-counts. I know, it is such a complicated business.

How To – Just follow the instructions!  Call the phone number listed or drop an email to the party’s host to say whether you are coming or not. Honestly, it should only take you 60 seconds at the MOST.

Some wording to help you –

  • I’m so excited to celebrate with Kim on her birthday
  • I will be attending the shower for Stacy on 6/27
  • I’m so sorry, but will not be able to attend the party on 5/25 due to a prior commitment.  You guys have so much fun!

When to Respond – ASAP!  Seriously.  You need to reply within five days of receiving the invitation.

It’s truly a sad reflection of our society that so many people just don’t respond when they are invited to an event.  How in the world are people supposed to get accurate head counts or do personalized party favors if they do not know that you will be joining them?

Don’t be tacky, just RSVP.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some invitations that I need to respond to.

P.S. It’s always an extra fun day when I get to use my copy of Emily Post Etiquette for research!

For the love of Pork

13 Jan

Several years ago, I set out on quest for an appetizer (read: finger food) for my family’s Christmas gathering.  The catch was that it had to please a crowd that was predominately male.  So, I did what I always do when I’m in a recipe quandary: I called my friend Sandy (a delightful gal in general, but truly a perfect cross between Paula Deen and Julia Child in all things culinary; she has published a cookbook, that you can find here, do yourself a favor and buy it ASAP!)

Anyway, she gave me what has come to be my MOST requested party offering:

the bacon wrapped little smokie!

Below are the directions, but be warned, if you are taking them to a gathering of more than 3 people, double your recipe (you’ll thank me for the advice).

Here are the ingredients:

photo 1

(I know, it’s OUTRAGEOUS how many there are!)

Open your little smokies and put them in a bowl (it will make your life easier); then cut your bacon into thirds (I know the bacon is halved in the picture, but it works best in thirds.)

photo 1-1

Now, roll up each little smokie in one of the 1/3 pieces of bacon.

Line your bacon wrapped little smokies up like little soldiers in a 9×13 pan.  Make sure that are dancing cheek to cheek and real cozy or they won’t cook as well

photo 4-1 photo 2

Now, dump about a half of the bag of brown sugar on top of the little oinkers.

Yes, you read right, a HALF OF A BAG!  It needs a thick layer of sugar, like sand at the beach!

photo 3 photo 4

Bake at about 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until ALL the sugar has liquefied.

photo 2-1

Scoop the little smokies out of the grease and serve HOT, with toothpicks.

photo 5

Aren’t they pretty?!?!?

You can thank me by never making these at the same party that I bring them to 😉

Happy  Cooking ~ E

Pinterest Review – Strawberrisaster

1 Nov

Have any of you seen these beauties floating around out there in the pinterverse? They are promised to be not just lovely, but delicious “like candy”!  Well, when I happened upon a buy-one-get-one-free deal on strawberries, I seized the opportunity to make “world’s most delicious healthy snack.”

The instructions were simple enough:

Slice Strawberries in half or fourths.  Place them on a cookie sheet and bake at about 200 degrees for about 3 hours, turning once. Take them out when they are still red and a little rubbery (but not juicy anymore).

So here is before:

Image

And three hours later:

Image

My first thought was, “ok, so maybe they are just a little shriveled, but especially tasty!” (You know, I’m trying to be positive.)

So I give them the old taste-test…

Where I was promised that the time in the oven would draw out their natural sweetness, it seemed as though the opposite happened: the slow roasting brought out their natural tartness.

Imagine with me, a slightly warm, very limp, and extremely tangy little shriveled up berry slice.  It was not awesome.

So what do you do with a Strawberry disaster? Load them into a freezer safe container and save them for when you need a savory, berrieish, puree addition to a sauce.  I did in fact blend them up with a quick vinaigrette at a later time for a salad that I was making myself and it was ok, but it was no Central Market Balsamic.

So, friends, for the love of berries, don’t try this one.

Happy Pinning!

How to Compose Your Best Ever Thank You Note

17 Oct

ImageDoes the thought of writing a thank you note make you start perspiring like you just completed a Sweating to the Oldies Video?  When you go to write a note of gratitude, do you find it troublesome to say anything other than the token “thank you” on the front of the card?  Well, I am here to help you!

It is not uncommon for me to get a word of appreciation for a thank you note that I have written to someone, but what is so fun is that I use basically the same formula for each appreciation note that I write and the great news is that I am going to share this formula with you!

I like to think of thank you notes in 4 parts: the card itself, the thank you, the occasion for the thanks and the affirmation:

The Card Itself – Etiquette directs that it is better to use a blank note for a thank you note, than one with “Thank You” printed on it.  I mean think about it, by using a blank card, you automatically have 2 clever words to use and not be repeating: Thank You.  Also, when you are stocking your note card arsenal, be aware of the size of your penmanship in relation to the size of your card.  If you have teensy hand writing, it just might take 14 paragraphs to fill up that entire 5×7 blank note card.  Or if your loops and swirls are larger than your laugh, you might have to use 3 of those precious little 3×5 cards that you have.

The Thank You – Here is where you get specific: say exactly what you are thanking them for (ie: gift/meal/kindness) and why you thought it was great.

The Occasion for the Thank You – Use this next line in your note to talk a little more about the circumstances surrounding their gift to you and how they were associated to this circumstance.

The Affirmation – Tell the notes recipient why they are special to you or a reason that you love them.  Even if it is someone who is not necessarily your favorite, use this line to honor and bless them, because they loved you in a tangible way.

Here are Some Examples:

  • Dear Sally – Thank you so much for the beautiful necklace that you gave to me for my birthday, I can’t wait to wear it with my red dress!  I was so glad that you were able to join us for the birthday brunch at Bread Winners (have you been dreaming about the French Toast too?)  You are such a good friend to me and I so love your eagerness to laugh and your contagious smile!  Love, Erin
  • Dear Emma – Thank you so much for the giftcard that you gave me for Christmas, I can’t wait to buy those new shoes that I have been eying! Christmas was so much fun this year, I think my favorite part was when Aunt Gina gave the dramatization of the best Christmas card she had ever received, that is one for the history books!  Our family is so crazy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, especially you!  You are kind, generous and an amazing role model for not only me, but for everyone in our family.  Love, Erin
  • Dear Amy – Thank you SO much for the meal that you brought us in our first few days home with the new baby, your meal was delicious and nourishing to us both body and soul!  You know that I was slightly overwhelmed and rather exhausted those first few days, but when you hugged me and shoved a GIANT container of cookies in my hands, I knew I could keep going.  Truly, you have been an infusion of hope to me; you are the best “mom” coach and friend anyone could ever ask for!  You are God’s Blessing in my life!  Love, Erin

Clearly these are just suggestions and shells for you to make your own; the real heart of a thank you note is to seize an opportunity to tell someone how valuable they are in your life. So, let’s tackle that wedding gift list and encourage some hearts while we’re at it!

Hello America!

8 Jan

I just started this.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  Please send help.

In other news, I might tell you about the hummus I am planning on making tomorrow, well, tomorrow.  I did just make Granola for the first time, it turned out super yummy, but it did seem like oatmeal was going to take up a permanent residence on my kitchen floor in the process.  More on this later.

As far as dates go, I’m in a slight dry spell, but not for long if Amber Jane has anything to do with it (http://dateerinjoy.blogspot.com/).

Until I can figure out how to work this thing, here is a picture of me in Puerto Rico this year…

 

Stay crafty in the mean time!

 

 

 

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