Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Weekly Recipes 13

My husband celebrated his birthday last week and somewhere before that day I had read a blog post about really doing it up for your kids' birthdays. Balloons across their doorway, balloons in the cabinets, singing, cupcakes for breakfast.  It was a fun read and inspired to go the extra mile in celebrating his big day.

First a little background on my guy. He's the artistic director at our local community theatre. He is a talented and creative guy. He is also crazy busy.  He is in the middle of directing Cabaret; a big and serious show. His birthday fell during tech week.  You do not take a day off during tech week. He had rehearsal at 6:30 so we scheduled around it and had dinner plans with the kids for 4:45 approximately.

Because we weren't celebrating at home I had kinda thought I wouldn't make any dessert for him until I read the blog post.  After I called a local store to ask about a cake.  Usually I make everything from scratch but my cake idea was for cast and crew and I thought a big sheet cake was in order.  Until I checked the price.  Wwhhhaaaat!  Highway robbery for a stupid cake that has fake plastic-tasting frosting.

I made my own.  And he loved it. And the cast and crew demolished it. He's not a fake frosting kinda guy anyway.  He isn't even a chocolate cake kinda guy.  I made this Oatmeal-Raisin Snack Cake for him and it's a keeper.  I didn't even get a bite but he came home raving and rolling his eyes back about how wonderful the frosting was-this is a man who does not love sweet.  My heart sang.  From one of my favorite food bloggers...Brown-Eyed Baker.  Click her link or the recipe title above for the recipe.  The recipe was very easy but you do have to wade past all the new ads on her site.

We did have a lovely dinner together. We laughed. The kids had excellent gifts for him. I had a big bouquet of balloons for him.  And tickets to the Blue Ox Music Festival.  He did make it to rehearsal.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Everyone needs some meditation...

Last weekend I was able to attend an amazing one-day zen meditation retreat with my brother on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.  The day was crisp, cold, and it had just snowed.  March Madness.

We arrived at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center 10 minutes before the retreat was to begin. The roads were slippery and the drive wasn't easy but we made it as we walked through the porch door kicking snow off of our shoes.  There were people gathered on the porch all staring at the view out front-beautiful Lake Calhoun-or at the wall.  It was a little surreal to walk in feeling like we had already missed an introduction or instructions of some sort.  We did have one person tell us in a whisper to find a spot and that at exactly 8 we were expected to be on a pillow.

Not ever having been there it was confusing, plain and simple but on the porch there were hot pots of coffee and water with a basket of tea, people seemed friendly or at least interesting.  NO one was talking though. I mean I know meditation is done in silence but I expected there to be a beginning meet and greet kind of time and there was it just came later than expected.  We meditated for 30 minutes to start off and then we gathered in the main room and heard a lovely dharma talk and understood that the entire retreat was to be in silence.  I missed that memo in the retreat outline-truthfully-it wasn't there as I guess that is an understood norm for everyone else but me.

I am an introvert and struggle to make daily conversation and hate chit chat yet it was very hard for me to spend the day in silence.  I do like to crack people up and often love to make jokes in inopportune moments. This would have been one of them if I wasn't trying so hard to fit in.  I was uncomfortable at first, everyone around me seemed to know so much more.  Come to find out almost everyone else in attendance is a regular there.  My brother and I were first timers and that made it quite a challenge. By the end of the day though I was thrilled with the experience. We did sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful work meditation (which for us was ironing cloth napkins). Even eating lunch was a meditation-and the lunch was vegetarian and delicious.  I was able to focus on a few key items in my life that I struggle with and I did a lot of silent (of course)praying for my whole extended family.  I loved my one-on-one session with Wanda Isle, our guide for the day.

It was an amazing experience. My brother and I chatted on the way home about our experience, some similar and some different. I was ready to get myself a pillow and a mat and start practicing every day at home.  I had the best of intentions.

I looked for cushions and mats-they are expensive.  I can just use a pillow though and yet I never once was able to sit down and do this like I know it should be done, not once during my week. I'm a little frustrated with myself.  I did do walking meditation once at work when I had some stressful moments and it helped.

I do want to make this part of my regular day, every day.  I will work to find some space to do this.  I need help though.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Break

Walker Art Sculpture Garden

Groovy Girl and I spent 3 days in the Twin Cities visiting my brother and his family. We enjoyed relaxing with them and we spent Monday off on our own in Uptown and by the Walker Art Center. Turns out I forgot that the Walker is closed on Mondays and yet we managed to enjoy our day together. 

The one sculpture left is the big spoon; all the rest have been moved.

Our lunch spot

Minneapolis skyline on a foggy day
L is for Lowry or lunch
Trying on hats at Calhoun Square
She had a hard time picking just one lunch item.
Fish and sweet potato fries and my fish tacos- all were delicious.

Last year at this time we were in Little Rock and I had my amazing reading retreat with Verda and Angelle.  While I wish I could do that every Spring Break this was a fun day to share with my Groovy Girl.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pizza and game night

I'm so excited. Tomorrow night we are hosting our son and his girlfriend for homemade pizza and a serious game of cards. 

Even though we live in the same town we don't see enough of each other. He's a student, works full time and has his own thing. We talked at our Christmas brunch about a game night and we are just getting around to doing it. Hello Spring.

Because of the book fair/conferences we won't be able to begin our night until 8:30. That's okay. They eat late all the time. Because of that I am spending my night prepping most ingredients. I'll make the dough in the morning. That way it will be easy to assemble after I close the book fair down. 

I am cooking a pound of good sausage, sautéing mushrooms, onions, and garlic. I'm chopping tomatoes and artichokes. And I'll start my tomoto sauce in the morning while I make the dough. 

We've made pizzas so many times as a family event that we can all help roll, toss, and top our pizzas just the way we want them. I loved that when Tristan's girlfriend suggested the pizza idea for the game night that his response was "oh if you want pizza, my mom will make pizza!"

He knows homemade is almost always better!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Scholastic Book Fair's in town.

And I made muffins for the teacher all-day preview.  It's my way of luring the teacher's in to the fair to make a wish list so parent's will buy books for their classroom.  I wanted them to be yummy and enticing (and unfortunately my idea of yummy is healthy than what the rest of the world is interested in) so I scrolled through a few cookbooks to find something that spoke to me.  I found it in my King Arthur Flour cookbook; Chocolate Breakfast Muffins.  I made a double batch.  Groovy Girl thought they were delicious.

Chocolate Breakfast Muffins (makes 12 large)

2/3 cup cocoa, Dutch-processed or natural
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp vinegar
8 T butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425*

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt ,and chocolate chips.  Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, along with the melted butter, to the dry ingredients, stirring to blend.  There's no need to beat these muffins; just make sure everything is well combined.

Scoop the batter into 12 lightly greased muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Don't let them burn-they do cook quickly and my oven cooks high.  Remove them from the oven, and after 5 minutes remove them from the pan, allowing them to cool on a wire rack before serving. 

I love baked goods warm.  I ate a few of the mini muffins just after they'd cool a bit and they were delicious.  The chocolate chunks (which is all I had) and the toffee bits (I added for fun) were perfectly melty.  

When I served them on Monday I heated them up also so the first few smart teachers had warmed up muffins-melt-in-your-mouth chocolate breakfast muffins.  

Check out King Arthur's amazing website.