Yesterday I had one of those awful bad days. It’s the kind of thing where one little thing sets you off and suddenly all you see is horror and destruction around you, instead of the things you have, like sunshine and vodka.

I was annoyed at one of my friends and stewed about it for a few hours. I wanted to call my mom to discuss the issue, but I can’t, so instead I told Chase I needed to take a nap and just cried for about an hour instead. Then I checked Twitter and saw a tweet about how the Earth is slowly turning into desert and I completely forgot about the other issues because all I could think about was how the Earth is slowly turning into a freaking desert and we’re all going to die soon anyway, or we’ll all just be living in a desert. This is all completely true. The stuff about how I spent my day, that is. I think it’s true about the desert thing too, but don’t want to get in a Global Warming debate right now. If anyone has really compelling evidence as to why the whole thing is a sham I would really love to agree with you.

I know – I am an Olympian worrier. Give me one little annoyance at a friend and I will turn that shit into global destruction by mid-afternoon. If only they had a category for it I could be in London right now, watching the opening ceremonies and worrying that we’re going to be hit with a terrorist attack.

PS – sorry for the utterly depressing post. Today as I write this, my husband is making me coffee and I have a red-velvet chocolate bar and the world seems a bit brighter. (It’s probably from the sun, which is slowly frying my skin through the whole in the ozone layer).

I promise I’ll stop now.

Super Simple: Classic Dipped Shortbread Cookies

The last time I was home I promised my step-father, Henry, that I would learn to make his favorite cookies: classic vanilla shortbreads. An important thing you should know about Henry is that he likes his foods in very specific ways, and isn’t into shaking things up. He likes plain butter, and will be visibly angry if you put something like “basil” or “strawberry” flavored butter in front of him (there is a commonly told story in our family of the time that he almost lost it when a restaurant had the audacity to serve “fig”flavored butter). He likes steak, but not with any crazy sauces on top. I’ve learned by now that if I offer to make dinner I have to tell him my menu ideas in advance for approval. (When I was home last summer I made both quinoa cookies and roasted corn pizza in the same week. It was almost enough to be banned from his kitchen indefinitely).

To Henry, shortbreads are plain vanilla flavor, with nothing “weird” added to them. I honestly had the intention of making just such a cookie, but then I remembered that I had a chocolate extract I still hadn’t used, and the finished cookies looked so plain that I felt they were just screaming for some chocolate and nuts to be dipped in. So…I didn’t quite end up with plain shortbreads. Henry will be reading this post and thinking that I ruined perfectly good cookies and that he obviously failed me as a father.

But hey, the thing about shortbreads is that they are really easy to make, and even easier to customize. To change up the flavor you simply use any variety of extract, whether it be vanilla, chocolate, almond, or any other flavor you have on hand. You can leave them plain or dip them in any variety of melted chocolate and/or chopped nuts (I used pecans, but pistachios would also be just fabulous). So Henry can have his plain vanilla cookies, I can flavor mine and dip them in chocolate, and we can BOTH GET ALONG.

Now who wants to discuss politics?

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Change is in the air

There is an infamous story about Tom Waits that’s mentioned Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird by Bird,” and by Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk, where he describes an experience with the creative process. The story goes as follows: Tom was driving on the LA freeway when he was struck with inspiration; a few notes of a melody hovering on his mind. He wants this song, he wants to hold onto this of course, but he’s on the highway, far from anything to write it down, and instead of becoming panicky that this song is going to vanish from his memory and he’ll never be able to recover it, he looks to the sky as if to speak to the source of inspiration directly and says, “Excuse me, but can’t you see that I’m driving? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment.”

I love this story. I admire it, and I wish I could live it. I wish I could control my creativity and have it come to me when convenient, like when I’m sitting in front of my computer with a few hours to kill. But it pretty much never does. Inspiration doesn’t hit me during traffic jams, but instead, in the last few moments of lucidity as I am about to drift off to sleep. The last few hiccups of thought from my brain will of course be some idea written in whole sentences that I feel are actually worthy of putting out to the world, when I have struggled the entire rest of the day to come up with something I don’t truly believe is total crap. In order to protect these thoughts, I would have to rouse myself from near-sleep and get my brain active enough to type on my computer what it has floating around. Which doesn’t sound that difficult, unless you’re the one under the covers and your computer is in the other room and you know that battery isn’t charged and you’re pretty sure every pen in your house is out of ink and you’ve already gone to bed too late and you have to get up for work the next morning.

Then, I start to get into negotiation with my inspiration. I try to convince myself that this thought is so important that I will surely remember it in the morning (I won’t). I get angry with my inspiration, as Tom Waits did, basically telling it to come back at a better time and I’ll listen then. And of course my inspiration is completely spiteful and buries the thought so deep it can never be resurrected. So my only real course of action is reach for my iPhone and jot a few notes in Evernote and hope they make sense in the morning (they don’t always).

….this post originally started as an explanation to why I’ve been finding it difficult to write recently, but I sort of got off track from the main point. My inspiration also doesn’t like being told what to do, apparently. Beyond my problems with a creative force that is clearly acting like a bratty teenager, there are a few other things that have been creating such shifts in my life that it’s hard to focus on anything but keeping stable for the moment:

1) We’re moving. From Los Angeles, CA to Hendersonville, NC, which is my hometown. I’m trying to come to grips with this and not listen to my 16-year old self, who keeps loudly sighing in my ear about how lame I am to be moving back there.

2) We don’t know exactly when we’re moving yet, but it seems pretty certain it will be around the end of the year.

3) I’m caught in a weird limbo of wanting to savor every last second of Los Angeles and spend every waking hour with my friends, and at the same time wanting to disconnect completely to make this upcoming transition easier. This isn’t helping my general sanity.

Despite the fact that I selfishly feel like I’m the only one who can truly understand my current struggles, I realize that I’m obviously not the first person in the world to make a move such as this. In fact, most people I know have already been there, done that.

Any advice on how to keep sane would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading xoxoxo

Slow Cooker Congee

Okay, I swore I was never again going to trick you with photos of food and then write about root canals ever again. But, I swear this time there is actually a connection. So a month ago I was told that I had to have a root canal the day before I was to be heading off to Vegas for my husband’s birthday, and I proceeded to write a petulant, angry rant that had nothing to do with the recipe I was posting. It was awesome, in a, “this isn’t interesting to anyone, including me,” kind of way.

At any rate, I had the root canal and for the first day afterward I was restricted to only foods that I could gum due to my sore mouth. (Luckily alcohol falls into this category, otherwise I would have just put up with the pain and told the dentist to suck it). My friends that were riding in the car with us to Vegas were in charge of bringing snacks, but I sort of forgot to mention my whole “I can only gum things” situation, and so they showed up with lots of crunchy chips and nuts, which meant that by the time we finally arrived in Vegas I was starving. It’s probably worth noting that I don’t handle hunger well. By that, I mean I am a really crazy bitch when I’m hungry. In other words, a totally awesome companion to have on your birthday Vegas trip.  I also knew that I was supposed to be in a bathing suit the next day so I refused to cave and eat something indulgent like a milkshake. So instead, I sulked around the lobby reading the menus so we could find something that was substantial, healthy and gum-able. It goes without saying that Chase was having the time of his life.

After looking over menu after menu that had long lists of sandwiches and pasta dishes, we found one that had congee on the menu, which I had never heard of in my life, but my friends explained that it’s a really soft porridge made from rice that has been cooked in broth for hours until the rice actually begins to fall apart, and I was like, “something that isn’t tomato soup? SOLD.”

30 minutes later I had a steaming bowl of congee in front of me. Maybe it was because I hadn’t had solid foods in 24 hours, maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t had ANY foods in about 8 hours, but that stuff tasted like pure heaven. It also yanked me out of my bitchy-dom and I was once again able to act like a pleasant and reasonable person for the rest of our trip.

Once we returned home I discovered that even without a sore mouth I was still craving congee. Luckily for me, it is so ridiculously easy to make that there should never be a reason for me to without it again. Which should make everyone happy, especially Chase.

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Happy Wednesday

Remember when your parents would force you to try vegetables when you were a kid? Well, mine obviously thought I was a pathological liar and that despite the fact I had always claimed to hate squash every single time they made me try it, they seemed to think that I must secretly love gagging on eating it and was just playing a weird squash mind game. So I was forced to try summer squash on a regular basis, and after years of forced squash-eating I can confirm that I really, really hate it. It makes me sad when I go to our farmer’s markets and the booths are overflowing with beautiful selections and I can’t bring myself to give it another go. Thanks Mom & Dad, I’ll be sending my squash therapy bill to your house.

We have friends that will call us on a spur of the moment for grilling out, and as completely snobby as this sounds, our favorite thing to do is stop over at Whole Foods on the way to their place. A salmon burger, a fresh deli salad and a Banana Bread beer is all I need for the perfect cook-out meal.

I was first introduced to the game of Battle Shots on Pinterest and became obsessed with the idea of actually playing it. The best part is that all of my friends who initially didn’t share my enthusiasm became completely hooked over the 4th of July. I know, right? Obviously I should be looking into better friends because who couldn’t tell immediately that this is one of the most awesome games on the planet?

Tip: Don’t play with full liquor shots! Beer and/or mixed drink “shots”, with a couple of straight tequila ones mixed in is the best way to go!

I have a full-on obsession going with artichokes right now and our entire apartment is starting to smell like them since I seem to have one boiling on the stove morning, noon and night. My favorite way to prepare them is by boiling in water with half a lemon and a couple bay leaves, and then dipping the cooked leaves in some plain Greek yogurt.

My all-time favorite wine for the summertime: Menage a Trois’ rosé. Am I the only rosé fan who feels the need to wear a T-shirt that says, “I know my wine is pink but I promise it’s not white zinfandel so stop looking at me like that!”?

Hope you all are living up your summer. Thanks for reading XOXO

How do you take a photo?

YOU GUYS. I can’t believe how much I love this video. I can’t believe how hard I want to squeeze their cheeks. I can’t believe this guy is still playing with his wife’s boobs. When I think of me and Chase in our old age, I hope we’re JUST. LIKE. THEM.

Super Simple: Penne Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers

There is something about this dish that will forever invoke pure nostalgia for me. As I mentioned when I posted this a few years ago on A Cozy Kitchen, this is one of the first dishes I learned to cook while working as a prep cook in high school at Saluda Grade Cafe. That is, it was one of the first things I could prepare that didn’t involve reading the directions on the back of a box. It was the dish that opened my eyes to the fact that all you need to make a delicious meal is a few simple, but quality, ingredients cooked in just the right way to make them sing on the plate. The roasted red peppers and garlic sizzling in olive oil create a subtle but heavenly sauce to toss the pasta in, and when combined with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese it is impossible not to just do a face plant in the bowl.

This recipe has made regular appearances in every kitchen I’ve ever had – in my college apartment, my first home in LA and the apartment that Chase and I share now. The fact that the ingredients are cheap and easy to keep on hand, and when paired with a glass of wine and side salad can become and elegant meal, probably means it’ll be around for quite a while longer.

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Round Up: Ice Cream & Alcohol

It is balls hot here, and I am in dire need of something to cool down. It’s also been a bit stressful recently, so I’m open to any suggestions on how to combine my happy hour with cool, creamy ice cream. Here are some of my favorites finds, hope you enjoy as well.

Guinness Ice Cream Float

Photo & Recipe from Baked by Rachel

Hot Fudge Bourbon Milkshake

Photo & Recipe from How Sweet Eats

Orange Creamsicle Float

Photo & Recipe from Brave Tart

Beer Ice Cream

Photo & Recipe from LA Times

Captain & Cherry Coke Floats

Photo & Recipe from Live Love Pasta

Brandy Java Ice

Photo & Recipe from A Spicy Perspective

Mint Julep Ice Cream

Photo & Recipe from Simply Recipes

RC Cola Cocktail

Photo & Recipe from Madhouse Family Reviews

Papaya Mango Ice Cream Daiquiri

Photo & Recipe from Recipe.com

Lambic Ale Float

Photo & Recipe from The Dabble