Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poised on the precipice of a new year

I love turning the calendar over to a new year. I think of it as a fresh start: a clean slate I can mark up as I choose, a story that I'm excited to write. There are few things that rev me up as much as possibility and I associate the dawn of a new year with an abundance of possibility.
As individuals and as a couple 2013 was a difficult year for us, one that required a lot of growth and change. I've been writing this blog since August 2011 and I still wrestle with being authentic and real in this space while keeping what should be private private. Having a blog does not mean being an open book, and people should not expect that that's what it means. *I* should not expect that that's what it means. Vulnerability is not a comfortable coat to wear, and what I write here always opens me up to scrutiny and sometimes pushes me out of my comfort zone. It challenges me and I like that but sometimes it also makes me shrink back, reluctant to share. Thank you for knowing you aren't seeing everything behind the curtain and reading anyway.
We are each on our own journey in this life, and I'm really glad I get to share pieces of mine with you, and hear pieces of yours through our interactions. I love your comments here, conversing with you on facebook, and talking about something you liked (or didn't) on here in person. Thank you for another year of being on the other side of the screen.
What's ahead? I feel at peace in my heart approaching 2014. I'm kicking it up a notch at work and I'm on the verge of offering sponsorship and advertising on this blog. Things are humming along for me, and MFD is in a great place as well and is looking forward to working at a new brokerage office with a lot of great opportunities ahead for him career-wise. We're anticipating an awesome 2014.

I don't make resolutions. I'm much better keeping myself accountable with seasonal goals (you can see my winter goals here). However, I do have some intentions for 2014: acceptance, possibilities, and self-discipline. I want to be more accepting of things I can't change, more aware of all the possibilities I have, and more self-disciplined in regards to my health and wellness. Like put the fucking cookies down and back away type of self-discipline.
And, as with every year, I want to be better, kinder, stronger, braver, smarter, more aware and more fierce.
Whatever else you do today, do yourself a favor and leave your old shit behind in the vestibule as you close the door on 2013. Don't carry it with you into another year.

What about you? Do you make resolutions or set goals for the year?

I'm wishing all of my mum friends good luck tomorrow, especially MFD and the men of the Joseph A. Ferko String Band. Mummery is a great, storied, long-time Philadelphia tradition MFD has been involved in for 26 years. This is the first year in many years that I won't be having a parade party in the warmth of my own home but will instead be down on the street catching a bit of the string bands. It was originally forecasted to be a high of 28, but now it's a merciful 36. Still, I'm pretty sure I was wearing flip flops last year. Layers, be kind to me. Check back here tomorrow early for a link to watch the parade live (string bands should be on around 1:30) and see how Philly does New Year's Day.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Hot apps! Get your hot apps here!

Yes, we've eaten a lot, haven't we? At this point I should be eating lettuce for eternity, but I'm not there just yet. I am off of the big meal right now though and digging apps only, which my mom had on Thursday night at her house. Here's what I brought with me, both are super easy:

2 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 cup mayo
1.5 white sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp each of ground mustard, garlic salt, and salt
8-10 oz chopped jalapeno peppers (I buy the 12 oz jar and use 8 oz or 10 oz depending on how much heat I want. NOTE do not chop those bitches and touch anything near your face or eyes)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Allow cream cheese to soften on the counter. When soft, mix cream cheese, mayo, one cup of cheddar, 1 cup of parmesan, jalapenos, and spices in a bowl.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pour mixture into a baking dish. Top with another 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Mix the panko bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of parmesan in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dip.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven until the sides are bubbling and the cheese cheese has melted and turned golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips. Original recipe from Closet Cooking
a big wedge or wheel of brie
Phyllo shells - at least two boxes of 15
jam of your choice

Cut brie into small pieces and put in phyllo shells. If you are travelling, put them right back into the boxes and assemble the rest at your destination.

Put a dab of your jam on top of each. Bake on a baking sheet out of the packaging in a 350 oven for six or seven minutes, until the cheese is melty. 

Boom. Two hot apps. Got any gatherings coming up?

Happy Friday! Although when you're off for nine days they all start to run together. We're headed out to see The Wolf of Wall Street this morning because we are 1. old and don't like crowds 2. cheap and don't want to pay $748 for a movie ticket at night.

Whatever you're doing, enjoy! And don't forget to consider joining me for a January Spending Freeze. All the cool kids are doing it. The Christmas-poor kids are doing it too.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Brownie Batter Dip - it's as good as it sounds

You guys, this is holy shit good. Must-make good. The next time you need to bring a dessert, I suggest you bring this. It's super easy, you probably have all the ingredients in your house, and it's very very delicious. I saw the recipe on Chef in Training.

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2-3 cups powdered sugar
5 TBS All Purpose Flour
5 TBS Cocoa
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 TBS milk

Allow cream cheese and butter to come to room temp, then cream together with a hand mixer until well mixed. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 TBS milk and mix again. Add another cup of powdered sugar and another TBS of milk and mix again. 

Add the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, and brown sugar. Do a taste test. At this point I added another quarter cup of powdered sugar and 2 TBS of milk as well as another teaspoon of cocoa powder. Taste test for your taste. Mix well and store in the fridge. 

I served it with strawberries, pineapple, and pretzel crisps. The strawberries were by far the most popular. 

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Soup - tomato bisque a la Disney Cruise Line

I am a crazy Disney Cruise lady. I love everything about them, especially the food, which is glorious. They serve a lovely tomato bisque that my friend Jill requests frequently. I found a recipe for it online and recreated it, lightening it up a bit. It did not disappoint.

2- 28 oz cans plum tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
3 tbs butter
diced celery - 1 cup using a liquid measuring cup
sliced carrots - 1 cup using a liquid measuring cup
diced vidalia onion - 1 cup using a liquid measuring cup
salt to taste
16 oz light cream
16 oz fat free half & half


Preheat oven to 350.

Drain juice from tomatoes into a bowl and set aside.

Place tomatoes on a baking sheet with a lip and roast for 25 minutes.

Melt butter in a stock pot and saute onion, celery, and carrots until translucent. Add reserved tomato juice and tomato paste. Stir until the paste is broken up. Add tomatoes and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.  I put a lid on it because Sweet Brown ain't got no time to clean up tomato splatter from the entire kitchen.

Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the crap out of it. If don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender and blend in batches.

Heat cream and half and half on the stove, stirring so it doesn't stick. Add to the soup, stirring well to mix. Add salt to taste. Top with basil if you choose.

If you are doing this, maybe don't wear a white t-shirt or if you do wear white, maybe just don't be a spazz like I am and get it everywhere.
Paired with grilled cheese, this was a perfect meal for a snowy and cold Saturday.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

One dish broiled chicken

Hi ho friends. This is a super easy one-dish recipe, which is awesome because hello no mess. It also allows me to incorporate artichokes, which MFD loves so much he eats alone, and I only love when spinach artichoke dip is the vehicle. AND prep time to cook time, it's done in less than 30 minutes.

I also like this recipe because if you're like me you have this stuff in your house already. And if you don't, they're cheap to acquire.

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
a few shakes each of garlic powder and parsley
2 14 oz cans artichokes, drained
1 cup bruschetta or petite diced tomatoes (I used Sam's bruschetta, I might be obsessed with it)
10 sliced baby bella mushrooms (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheese (any type, I used parmesan)
Olives would also be awesome in this, but I didn't add them this time.

Spray bottom of a broiler pan (or any pan that can withstand temps of 500 degrees +) and preheat broiler. Move rack to the highest setting (3 inches from broiler)

Put chicken thighs, artichokes, and mushrooms in a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and mix well to coat.

Put into pan, ensuring the thighs lay flat. Broil for six minutes, then turn thighs with tongs and broil an additional six minutes. Check doneness - you may need to flip one more time to ensure they're cooked through. If you do, check on them after two minutes then if done move on to the next step.

Remove from oven and top with bruschetta/tomatoes and cheese. Broil an additional 2-3 minutes.

Remove and serve as is with or over pasta, in which case it is no longer one dish. However I couldn't resist the siren song of the pasta. I boiled Ronzoni SmartTaste thin spaghetti, tossed it lightly with olive oil, then topped it with goodness. It was delicious. Chicken thighs, you are the unsung hero of the kitchen.

Mangia mangia.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

We have so much.

Fresh off of a weekend chock full of food and family and shopping for most of us, we are checking in online on our computers, tablets, smart phones. We're likely somewhere warm, having some coffee, in comfortable clothes. We live an abundant life.

If we have a list of needs, they're likely actually wants. When we say we need it, we know we're exaggerating. Most of us have no idea what it's like to truly be in need of water, food, shelter, heat, etc.

Even when we're having a poor month, to most of us that means having to cut down on cups of coffee on the go or the amount of beers we drink or bottles of nail polish we buy to round out our collection. It means stretching food in our pantry and staying in. Sure, there are times we struggle to pay bills or have surprise expenses that wiped out savings. But to struggle daily or not be able to provide for our kids is not something that's familiar to most of us.


I want to help others, even when the a amount I can afford to give or the time I can afford to spend is small. I want to help others even if they never know it's me that went shopping for canned goods, me that raised the money for that ride to chemotherapy, me who donated the clothes they're wearing. I actually prefer to keep the me out of it. I imagine that having to rely on charity is humbling and I don't need to be out there tooting my own horn. I don't give to get recognition.
I give because I believe that giving back to others to ease their load is one of the best ways to feel like a human being. It makes me feel like part of my community. I feel grateful that I can contribute, no matter the size of the contribution. It reassures me to know if I ever find myself in dire straits that someone will be out there ready to give me a leg up when I need it.

MFD and I like to be charitable and make a difference volunteering where we can throughout the year, but there's something that tugs at your heartstrings even more at Christmas, isn't there? So many people in need, so many wishes to be granted. 
Since most of us truly have so much, this month I'd like to do a giveaway that will extend your charity to whatever organization you choose. Happy holidays to you and yours and to whomever you choose to help if you win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How do you choose to give back?
 photo smdpicmonkey_zpsdb8c311e.jpg p.s. Happy birthday to my uncle Billy today!
Linking up with
Because Shanna Said So - Random Wednesday

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


When you see the word forgiveness, what comes to mind? What feelings does it invoke?

For a good portion of my life, people who didn’t deserve my forgiveness came to mind. My brain started firing like a machine gun and my chest got tight. Why should I just forgive someone who wronged me? They should have to pay in some way. It should be something I can hang over their head, possibly for eternity. 

Every time I thought about the situation, my chest would begin to agitate like a washing machine. Back and forth between negativity and rage and sadness and then the spin cycle wrung me out and I was just washed out. It was a lot of work churning up all that negativity.
I used to think being forgiving showed weakness. Then I got my head out of my ass and realized the opposite is true – weak people hold on to their hurts and pride themselves on not forgiving. They make their hurts a part of them and blame their hurts for what's wrong in their lives. Weak people give their hurts all the power. It takes a strong person to be knocked down, to stand up again and not allow negativity to claim their lives. It takes a strong person to forgive. 

Forgiveness is not about absolution. You are not telling someone it's okay to mistreat you. Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. Forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone besides you
When you don’t forgive, you carry the hurt. You grow bitter, resentful, and oversensitive. And when you've been fucked by life in general or are a victim of circumstance, what then? How do you get over it without forgiving it? There’s a reason being happy is infinitely easier than being locked in battle with yourself or someone else. Negative emotions take an incredible amount of energy to hold aloft. In order to hold a grudge, you have to keep bringing yourself down to a place of pain. 
When you do that, there’s no room for anything good and you're too tired to make good happen. You can’t grow as a person because you’re holding yourself back and living in the past.  In addition to being hurt, you’re stunting yourself. Not too smart, is it? 
I’d rather acknowledge that someone hurt me, accept it, say I forgive it and let it go. I’m not giving it any more space in my brain or my heart. I'm taking back the power. I choose what to expend my energy on, and it’s not going to be spent on bullshit or picking at old scabs. I won't hang on to or blame the past. I will own my present and make my future. I won't be a victim. I will be a fucking warrior. 

Sometimes while forgiving people I realize it’s not healthy for them to be in my life anymore so I give them the boot. Forgiving does not mean forgetting in some cases, and while people deserve a lot of chances, I don't think that number is limitless. However, more often forgiving someone leads to a better relationship between us. Everyone makes mistakes and hurts people they love, intentionally and unintentionally as well. If you’d want forgiveness from someone, you need to be someone who gives it to others. We all need mercy and we all need to show mercy at times. 

If you're holding on to old hurts right now, throw a private forgiveness party and kick that shit to the curb toot sweet. And the next time you come up against something painful, don’t hold on to it like it's a badge of honor. Process it as quickly as you can and move towards the positive. Don’t give someone else’s actions the power to dictate how you feel about yourself or how you live your life. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Take a deep breath and reclaim your power. 

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Linking up with
Because Shanna Said So - Random Wednesday

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rustic Tuscan Sausage Soup

Try your hand at this simple, hearty soup. You won't be sorry. Plus I love the word rustic. So play along.

I found the recipe at Feast on the Cheap and modified it to my liking. If you double this, it will feed an army. It freezes well. It's always good to have some soup in the freezer. 

1 lbs. sweet Italian sausage patties
3 carrots, washed well and chopped (I don't peel them) 
1/2 sweet onion, chopped  
2 tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup water
2.5 quarts chicken broth
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbs dried basil
8 oz whole wheat shell pasta, uncooked
8 oz spinach leaves (you can use frozen)
salt & pepper to taste
Brown sausage over med-high heat in the bottom of a large stockpot. Crumble the sausage as you brown it. 

Add the carrots, onion and garlic and saute until tender and starting to turn a bit golden, about 7 minutes. Add water if it starts to get a little dry or too brown.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, pasta and basil. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue cooking for 7 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

MFD tops his with parmesan cheese. He likes it. And now Haikuesday:

Rustic sausage soup
Whisks me off to Tuscany.
Airfare is too high.

Congrats to Nadine, winner of the Chloe + Isabel $25 shop credit!

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p.s. Tuesday sucks.

Linking up with Blissfully Miller and Let's Get Bananas for

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vote. And eat eggs. Those are the messages for today.

It's voting day in many states today. You bet your sweet ass I am at the polls every election day - major, minor, mid-year, primary. If your state votes today, be at the polls. Many people have fought for your right to vote. Don't squander it. And if you don't vote, never ever complain about anything in this country. Ever again.

Now then. Eggs.
Most of my days start with them. I need protein in the morning or I am a major asshole by 11 a.m. My go to breakfast is eggs because they're easy to make, easy to transport, and they reheat well in the microwave at work. They're an integral part of my weekly food prep.

Sometimes I scramble them with cheese and veggies, sometimes I make egg salad, but most often I make egg muffins. I use a Pampered Chef brownie pan to do this, but a regular cupcake pan is fine. The magic of these muffin eggs is that you can put whatever you want in them. I've used ground turkey taco meat, tomatoes, cheese of all kinds, broccoli, mushrooms, ham - they hold it all. This week I used breakfast sausage and cheese.
Yields 12 muffins
11 eggs
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs milk or cream
1 pound breakfast sausage, browned (you will only use half)
Cheese - I used gouda

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut cheese into pieces - I usually put three small pieces in each muffin slot. You can add more or less.

Brown sausage. Drain and allow to cool, then add to muffin slots by the tablespoon, about a tablespoon and a half in each. I eyeball it.

Beat eggs with spices and milk. Make it easy on yourself and do this in a large measuring cup that has a spout so it's easy to pour.

Pour eggs over your sausage and cheese add-ins.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Easy peasy protein yeezy. Pack those sumbitches up and you have breakfast made for the week.

I froze the other half of the cooked breakfast sausage. BOOM. Already one step ahead for next time.
Chicken or the egg?
"It's an important question,"
Said no one ever.
What's your go-to breakfast?

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Linking up with Blissfully Miller and Let's Get Bananas for

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