Thursday, June 28, 2012

Enjoy the Pie

Nora Ephron died this week.

You didn't know her, but you loved her.

She wrote some of the best romantic movie scenes of all time.  Like this scene:

      with this quote,

"“Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic."

She also wrote this movie,

 with that quote, my stars, that quote, 

“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” 

But it was this quote of hers that made me know that we were soul sisters from afar.  

“I don't think any day is worth living without thinking about what you're going to eat next at all times.” 

In her book, I Remember Nothing, she ended with a list of things she would and wouldn't miss about life.  The last thing she would miss on the list?   Pie.  

I would agree.  Pie is something to get overly excited about.  It would be on my list of things I would miss about life, even pies that are imperfect.   Enjoy life today by watching a good Nora Ephron movie, sobbing into some tissues, and eating some pie.

Apple Upside-Down Pie

1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 (15 oz.) pkg. refrigerated pie crusts, divided
4 medium-size Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 large Jonagold apples, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tb. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Stir together pecans, brown sugar, and butter.  Spread onto bottom of a 9" pie plate.  Fit one pie crust over pecan mixture, allowing excess crust to hang over.  Stir together apples and next five ingredients.  Spoon apple mixture into crust, packing tightly and mounding in center.  Place remaining pie crust over filling;  press both crusts together, fold edges under, and crimp.  Place pie on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.  Cut 4-5 slits on top of pie for steam to escape.

Bake at 375 degrees on lower over rack for 1 hour  to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until juices are thick and bubbly, crust is golden brown, and apples are tender when pierced with a long wooden pick through slits in the crust.  Shield pie with aluminum foil after 50 minutes, if necessary to prevent excessive browning.  Cool on wire rack 10 minutes.  Place a serving plate over top of pie;  invert pie onto serving plate.  Remove pie plate and scrape any remaining pecan goo in pie plate on top of pie.  

Had a little trouble getting it out of the pan.  

Sad little pie.  

What is your favorite Nora Ephron movie or scene?  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Go Easy, Be Filled with Light, and Shine

Some weekends when Frick and Frack are with their dad, a loneliness settles over the house.  The little dog and I load up and head to the woods.  The solace of the trees soothes me.  This poem captures how I feel when I find the company in the woods.

When I Am Among the Tree

by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
     but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dating at Walmart

I'm not a fan of the Walmart.  Sometimes, it is essential for me to stop in, but if I can avoid it, I do. So when a date called and asked me if I wanted to go to Walmart, my immediate response was, "No, thank you."  Don't get me wrong, I had some of the best kisses ever in a Walmart parking lot, but it is not where one goes on a third date.

Let me back up.  Date one - dinner out where he watched tv over my shoulder and yawned the entire time.  I was peeved that he watched tv and figured he found my conversation boring.   Date two - he called and apologized for being tired on the first date, could we try again?  I told him as long as he didn't watch tv during the date.  (I am learning to be a little more outspoken.) Different restaurant, different ballgame that he watched.  I shit you not.

When he called for the third time, offering an exciting evening of shopping with him at Walmart so that he could stock up on his supplies for the week for his out-of-town job, I was determined not to go, and told him so. He said he would swing by and we could just go to dinner, dinner being the magic word that won me over.  Yeah, I'm easy like that.   He picked me up, and he pulled into Walmart.  I thought he was joking.  He wasn't.

Picture this:  I followed behind him.  I pushed the cart.  He threw items in the cart.  We didn't talk.  He told me to keep up.  I put random items in the cart:  hemorrhoid cream, sardines, breath freshener.  He was not impressed.  I loaded bags in his car.  He took me home.  No dinner.  End of dating.

What I learned?  The first few dates, they should be trying to impress you.  If all they are giving you are dates to Walmart, be forewarned, it will only go downhill from there.  Dating is putting your best effort out there.

*Disclaimer:  I have been on dates to Walmart that rocked.  Thoughtful dates.  I vowed I wouldn't share about the good dates.  However, back in college, after a random comment about I would marry Ronald McDonald because of his icy coke, I had a date who took me to Walmart, bought a disposable camera (old school), and took my picture with the Ronald McDonald statue on a bench in front of the in-store McDonald's.  Now that is a worthy impression date.  

In honor of the date who thought I would like watching him throw Little Debbies in his cart - three boxes of Little Debbies, I made Oatmeal Whoopie Pies that taste exactly like Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies.  Yum!

I used the recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  She gives two options for the filling, but I made the filling that I love for whoopie pies.

My heavy equipment operator. 

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies
from The Pioneer Woman

2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. shortening (I used a Crisco bar thingie)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
3 Tb. boiling water
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. quick oats

Cream brown sugar, butter, and shortening.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Add in the salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.  In a small bowl, combing the baking soda and boiling water.  Add into the larger bowl.  Add in the flour and oatmeal.

Place scoops of the dough on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  (Note:  I kept waiting for the cookies to brown, but they don't really brown like you would expect.  We liked the chewier, softer cookies.)  Remove to wire rack and cool completely.  When cool, sandwich two cookies together with the filling.  Store covered in air-tight container in the fridge.  

Marshmallow Filling 
See Pioneer Woman's site for two other options.  This is what I use in whoopie pies.

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)

Beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients.  Store leftover filling in the fridge and make more cookies.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Full of Beans

To continue with the theme of what I learned from online dating, I would like to share this recipe that is full of beans.  Because if something is too good to be true, it probably is full of beans.

The online dating profiles are an anonymous way to hide your true self.  You are selling a product, and you want to market it just right.   Precisely why I had only head shot pictures posted.  No full body shots of my lovely lady humps.

Since I was also looking for a house the same time I was trying the online dating, I noticed some similarities. Real estate agents use code words in their listings.  House listings that say "mature landscaping" usually means that everything is overgrown like a jungle.  "Charming" house usually means it was built in the 30's and has birds living in the decaying walls.

There are some code words and phrases that are used in dating profiles, just like in real estates listings.  Here are some you want to avoid.
  1. "Material goods aren't important to me."  This means that the guy is flat broke.  This one guy lived in a cabin by the river and delivered Chinese food.  All I could picture was Chris Farley screaming, "Living in a van down by the river."  We didn't even make it out on a date.  He told me he couldn't afford the gas to drive to my town, but it would be just fine if I came to see him.  
  2. "I appreciate the arts."  This means that he fancies himself to be an artist.  Not just any type of artist, but an artist that truly appreciates naked boobies.  I made the mistake of giving out my number.  He then proceeded to fill my inbox with his painted "art".  Mostly naked women, painted in various poses of peace symbols.  I would show you some, but I deleted them and blocked his number.  Judging by the paintings, he was also blind or had never seen in person a naked woman.
  3. "Separated."   Run.  Run as fast as you can.  Nothing like running into a man from my hometown who was separated and just looking for someone to "talk" to.  His Facebook page had him in the loving arms of his devoted wife.   If there are no divorce papers, they are still tethered to that woman. 
  4. "Recently moved back into the area."   They are living at home.  With their parents.  In their old room.  With their old memorabilia from high school.  True story:  Went on a date and we swung by his house and his mom was out for the evening.  He was super stoked he could take me in the house and show me his yearbooks.   We sat on his bed and drank juice pouches.  He didn't make a move on me (thank goodness) because he was worried his mom would come home.
  5. "I've been hurt before."  Listen, I grew up in the South.  As a southern woman, it is my job to fix and nurture any broken things, including men.  It never works the fixing we try to do.  Even though this line implies that we will be the one to fix that heart, he is still clinging to that hurt.  A phone conversation lasted for an hour as the man cried on the other end, talking about his ex-wife.   I was too polite to hang up, but was able to use the Pediegg on my feet and give myself an all-out pedicure while he talked.  He felt better and my feet looked awesome.
  6. "Self-employed."   He sells drugs.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, full of beans.

This recipe today is also full of beans, but it is good for you and won't send you naked pictures of painted lop-sided boobies.  In an effort to eat healthy, I've been trying some vegetarian recipes.  This makes a crap-load of chili, but it does freeze well.

Vegetarian Chili
Source:  Ezra Pound Cake

2 Tb. oil
1 1/2 c. chopped onions
1 c. chopped red bell peppers
2 Tb. minced garlic
2 - 3 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and mined
1 med. zucchini, diced
2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 pounds portabella mushrooms, cubed
2 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. ground cumin
1 1 /4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 (15 oz.) can of tomato sauce
2 (15 oz.) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. water or vegetable stock

Garnishes:  fresh cilantro, sour cream, cheese, Fritos, green onions

In a large pot, heat the oil, adding in the onions peppers, and garlic, stirring until soft about three minutes.  Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms and saute for about six minutes.  Add the spices - chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne.  Then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, black beans, and vegetables stock.  Bring to a boil and simmer on the stove for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally.

This was great served with the Blue Moon Beer Bread.

What great "too-good" line should be added to the list?  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Astronomer and Blue Moon

Oh, dear me.  I need to start writing again.  And cooking.  And baking.   All of those things have taken a back seat to what I have been doing - working, buying a house, moving, loving on the punks, and dating.

*Ahem*  Yes, dating.

If it is scary for you to hear that I've been dating, you should try being 37, baby-moose-sized and out there doing the dating thing in a small town.  There have been good moments and unbelievably bad moments.  And all those guys I've dated are probably all sweating at the moment,  wondering if I'm going to relive those most awesome dates on this here blog.

You see, that would be largely part of the problem.  All of them thought the dates we had were awesome on their part, but that I was lacking in some way.  Some have even went so far as to let me know, five months later, how I was lacking in a being a good person.  I should be flattered that a guy that I went on two dates with, analyzed me for five months, and then showed up to fill me in about my faults.  Faults such as, even though he asked me out and took me to the local greasy spoon where I had a BLT and water, he expected that I should have paid for my dinner.  Maybe I'm just old-fashioned.  I still thought that was what gentlemen who asked you out did.  You know, pay for the $5 dinner?   

Anyway, I must say that even though there were some bad experiences, I learned something from everyone of them.  Good things.  I thought if I shared my experiences, it might help others out there dating.

Nothing thrilled me more than finding the Astronomer on an online dating site.  Those of you who know me, know that back in the day, I wanted to be an astronomer.  This was a dream come true.  We could analyze physics problems, map constellations, calculate distances to galaxies.  Instead we had a few dates that were normal, full of talk and nerdy jokes that I understood.   He was even short and bald with a George-Constanza-like quality.  These things made me all starry-eyed.  I friended him on Facebook.  I even friended his cat's Facebook page.  (Okay, that should have been a red flag. It was kind of cute, though.)

It ended before I had a chance to see his telescope.   Har, har to those of you that took that the wrong way.  Really, he was in charge of huge radio telescopes.  I thought he would be my "in" to climbing the scaffolding to see the telescope up close.  Alas,  I learned from him, that unless you have verbally told the other partner that you are in an exclusive relationship, don't assume the other person will know this.  He was busy booking other dates on the same day he would take me out.  I wasn't ready for a full relationship with him, but I wasn't ready to be the back-up date, either.  

In honor of the Astronomer and his lesson he left me with, I made Blue Moon Beer Bread.  Beer Bread is yeasty and hearty.  Using Blue Moon gives a sweeter kick to the dough.  This recipe is simple with a few ingredients.  The recipe suggests that you sift the flour.  I made it twice and forgot to sift the second time.  I must say the sifting made for a lighter, airier bread.

Blue Moon Beer Bread
Recipe taken from Life, Lightly Salted, not even modified because I'm not good at doing that.  

3 c. self-rising flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 12 oz. Blue Moon Pale Ale
1/2 melted butter 

Sift flour into large bowl.  Stir in the sugar and beer.  Pour into a greased loaf pan.  Pour melted butter over top of bread.  Bake in 375 degree oven for an hour.  Being careful not to burn your tongue, eat it straight from the oven with butter.  Of course, even better toasted the next day.

The good news is that after making the bread, you have five bottles of Blue Moon left over.  You may need them all after a bad date.  Or in my case, I will have five more loaves of bread to make and soothe myself after going out.

What is your poison (aka comfort food or drink) after a bad date or stressful day?  


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