Thursday, May 30, 2013

.peanut butter + jelly cookies.

if the idea of this cookie alone doesn't have you intrigued, go ahead and turn back around. wait- that sounded rude and i am truly not rude. ok, i've changed my mind. please still check it out and maybe, just maybe, you'll change your mind. 
now, if you were intrigued from the get-go, just wait until you taste these. 
come on, peanut butter cookies in and of themselves are on the top of my list. when adding a favorite childhood combination, a whole new level has been reached. to make it a little more 'grown-up,' (booooo (do 'grown-ups' actually booooo?)) let's put in a preserve. i chose apricot. you choose whatever suits your fancy. 

melt your butter and peanut butter together and then wait until they cool to room temperature. ...waiting... 
don't even get me started. 

after whisking together the flour, salt and baking soda, prepare to bring the peanut butter to life. throw your sugars into the bowl of your mixer. 

then, mix in the butters.

try not to dip your finger in for a tasting. sometimes adding the eggs and vanilla helps to prevent that. sometimes it doesn't.

slowly add in your dry ingredients.

at this point, you have some pretty good peanut butter cookies going. to jam it up, let's get those preserves to join the mixing party.

don't over mix. just do some gentle stirring.

plop little cookie dollops on your lined cookie sheet and get ready to bake.

my cookies came out flatter than i had hoped, but they still tasted gooey good!

oh yeah, don't be like me and immediately try to remove them from the pan. they should cool down or they will not hold their form. instead, you will get a lump of cookie goop. one mighty delicious lump, but not great if you're sharing with others. it's always a good idea to share.

 it all goes back to that waiting thing. but these, these are worth the wait.

peanut butter + jelly cookies
adapted slightly from how sweet eats

what you need
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 tbs creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup of your favorite preserves

what you do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the peanut butter and butter together and then give it time to cool to room temperature. Just heat right until they melt. No need to boil the stuff. 
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk well to combine. Set aside.
In stand up mixer or large bowl, whisk/mix together butter, peanut butter and sugars until smooth. Add in eggs, mixing again until combined, then stir in vanilla extract. Using a stand mixer, gradually add dry ingredients to the wet, stirring well. 
Gently fold in your preserves. Once the dough is combined, stick it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
Place slightly smaller than one inch rounds of the cookie dough on a lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Don't be like me and WAIT for the cookies to cool before trying to remove them from the pan. If you have two cookie sheets to alternate baking and cooling, that'd be fantastic. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

.four friends.

when my eye guy and i decided to embark on this adventure to memphis, i was super nervous. always, i've been the kind of girl who hated change and feared the unknown. always, i've been the kind of girl that ends up loving what's on the other side of it. five years ago, i was packing up my life to step into the land of ribs and rock n' roll. no friends, no familiar faces, no idea what my new life would be like. it has been awesome.

'They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.' 
-Carrie Bradshaw

lucky for me, i made so many wonderful, beautiful, funny, smart friends in my five years in memphis. there were four particular ones that occupied the majority of my time, weekends, text messages, phone calls and life. let me introduce you in the order i met them. 

kristen. we have the coolest 'how we met' story. our friendship was destiny. yes, i said that. we both were from out of town and both were interviewing for the same job. we met at the job interview, actually. i heard her laughing in the other room during the first round of interviews and i secretly disliked how easily it was going for her, with her long blond hair, rolling southern accent and lots of laughter. my interview was flat. straightforward. there was definitely not long blond hair involved. 

at the next round later that day, we sat side by side for over two hours, waiting and waiting, then casually talking. we wished each other luck and from there traveled back to florida and east tennessee. about a month later, i had to fly to the school board in memphis to get fingerprints done. worst reason for a trip ever. i digress. as i was walking to the front door of the building, there was that hair again, that accent. no way! as sweet as southern pie, she says "this is crazy, i should get your phone number." 

that afternoon, she called me while i was at the airport. me, hesitant, sometimes standoffish and annoyed with the day in general almost hit decline. at the last second, i made myself answer the phone and the rest is history. 

we've meandered down rivers together, watched all six seasons of sex and the city on each other's sofas, been out for dinner or drinks or dancing or a combination on many occasions, laughed till our ribs hurt more times than i can count. most of my memphis social life has had kristen by my side.  i can be myself around her, call her any time for anything. she's more than just blond hair and i don't know what i would have done for all these years without my scrimp. 

kristen is comfortable to me. kind of like my memphis home. she's just easy to go to, always what i expect to find and always there for me. like i told you- our friendship was destiny. from the beginning, i knew we had a friendship that would last a lifetime. 

michelle. by inherited reluctance, i found myself sponsoring a cheer team at my new high school. while this was not at all how i wanted to spend my after-work hours, i did not have much of a choice. one day, i was in the teacher's lounge during the first few weeks of the new school year, at my new school, photocopying cheer stuff. michelle, the small, smiley science teacher from down the hall sparked a conversation about cheerleading. 

after a few minutes, she had volunteered herself to coach with me and for the next three years, we did just that together. hours and hours and hours (did i mention hours?) at practices and games somehow became more than tolerable, often enjoyable, because of my friendship with michelle. 

she's bubbly, always positive, usually pregnant, and a really great friend. we can be super goofy together and she's so easy to talk to on a daily basis about whatever is going on in life. we're no stranger to each other's homes and lives and i'm better for knowing her perky-self!  

luckily, when we retired from cheerleading together, we still maintained our friendship and these years at my job have been so much better because of her. there was a moment a couple of years ago where i thought she'd be moving back to her hometown and i was devastated. now, it looks like i'm the one who will be driving away. luckily, i know our families will remain friends and i see beach trips in our near future. 

lauren. i'm an extremely sensitive person. i wear my emotions on my sleeve, knee pad, pocket, you get the point. also, i'm both acutely and widely passionate about most things in my life. very rarely do i not have an opinion on a matter. 

it was our first september in our first year in memphis and we went to the cooper-young festival. determined to make the most of every moment and opportunity in our new town, we loved and still do love trying new things here. this festival, however, was the best one in all our years because i got something that day. it wasn't a piece of art from one of the many booths or a delicious shaved ice from a vendor, but a friend that matches my heart. i met lauren. 

we hit it off immediately and haven't stopped talking about all matters of life since. she gets the emotional side of me and the whole deal about being passionate. lauren is the kind of friend that you can laugh at and with one night and talk seriously about deep things the next. lauren is the kind of friend that can drive you crazy with her little idiosyncrasies and can be the most thoughtful and kind person on the planet.

 lauren is the kind of friend that i'm ever so thankful is mine. we've spent countless weekends together and i treasure every memory. she's got a heart of gold and will cheat flagrantly on any game you play with her. you've been warned. 

even though we'll be hundreds of miles apart, i know our friendship is unwavering- much unlike any plans i make with her. teehee. love this girl. like crazy. 

pam. at first, pam came as a package deal with kristen. i remember the first night we met was when kristen brought her to lauren's house for us to all get to know this girl we'd heard so much about. she was sweet, demure, a little reserved and calm. 

woowee did she have us all fooled! pam is c.r.a.z.y. pam makes me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. she makes being over the top seem so easy that it might as well be under the ground. here's my favorite thing about her. she is the life of the party, the joke is always on her and she can make you practically roll on the ground even just reliving stories.

 with all that being said, she truly has such a beautiful heart, the soul of a mother for all her friends, and would do anything for me. any time. 

she's sacrificed her time, energy and even almost a limb being trapped by my crazy dog when she was taking care of him for me. i feel like when i talk to pam, she's not just hearing me, but actually listening. that's a gift. 

while she's crazy fun to be around, she's also so sincere and doesn't fake anything. i admire that in her. being her friend, i love that i get to see more than just her larger than life persona and can come close to her vulnerable side, the sensitive and loving person that she truly is. i hope that we always stay in each other's lives because she makes mine more colorful than i could have ever imagined. 

i'm going to miss seeing these four gals as often as i do since we've lived in memphis. 

(excuse me a moment. 

i'm back from my cry break.) 

however, i have so many amazing memories with them. more than most people get in a lifetime. thank you, girls, for everything. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

.my first mother's day, a reflection on my changing life.

being a new mother has been both life-altering and yet the most natural thing i have ever experienced. i was born for this. i have no idea what i'm doing. welcome to my dichotomous life.

advice column. 
when i was pregnant, i read daily some advice or another on how to raise a baby. i know babies turn into children who turn into teenagers who turn into adults. however, i was only focused on babies at this point.
sometimes my reading was from books i bought, sometimes it was from different baby websites. what i learned is exactly what i was and was not going to do as the perfect parent. back is best. never let her sleep in our bed. breast is best. stick to a schedule. twelve hours sleep in twelve weeks. the list goes on. i just KNEW that i would be able to do all of it. and the more doubt i had from people in my life, the more determined i was.
when babycakes finally arrived, it felt like the more die-hard i was about making something happen (like breastfeeding), the more difficult it was for me to have it come to fruition. ongoing cases of mastitis, syringes literally inserted into my breast on multiple occasions, mrsa, blood that i won't detail, no sleep from a constant cycle of breastfeeding, breast pumping and bottle washing. this was my life. this was not the beautiful experience i had been promised by the books and websites. this wasn't even the awful experience i had read about on real women's blogs. this was worse than childbirth. this was heartbreaking because i wanted it so badly. after giving myself permission to let go, i was able to hold on tighter to my baby with more calmness and less frustration. this was my first testament into realizing that all that advice i had clung to like the gospel was just that- advice.
now, when someone gives me advice, i tuck it away and am grateful. what i don't do though is completely write it off or cling onto every syllable.
this was my baby. my life. my turn to figure it all out and in a way that worked best for my family.

rumor has it that your friendships change when you have babies.  this was true for me; even though i didn't believe it would ever happen. not my friends. not my life. here's the thing though- change isn't always a bad thing. it just takes some adjusting.
some of my friends viewed me as a new person altogether, this new alien-mother-creature. what this started to do to my psyche was make me question if i was still melinda. was i really this new alien-mother-creature who wasn't worth hanging out with anymore? i did go through periods of what felt like isolation from my former life and my friends who were in it. felt shunned. this was hard.
however, some of my friends grew closer, loved me despite my new persona. maybe even more so because of it.
i came to terms with the fact that change is hard for some people. i am still me, just with an enhancement. what is different is that i can't do and go like i used to, but i can still be me. i'm ok with this.

the first breath after giving birth to my daughter soaked me in so many emotions, but left my clarity in complete tact. my eyes immediately went to my brand new baby and then to my husband by my side. there were tears, laughter, and a love like i had never felt before. for him, for our daughter, for life.
the best news is that my love continues to grow. for both of them. marriage is challenging with this other person, with so many needs, in our life. there's not nearly enough us time and especially so because we don't live near family to watch our daughter. so date nights don't really exist.
however, we have to rely so much on each other because of it that i feel we have a heightened bond. then there's the love for and from my daughter. i see the world differently because of her. every worry i had before for myself has now transferred to concern for her. the news is a nightmare now because this is the world my daughter lives in, the world a mother worries about for her daughter.
entertainment is watching her do her tongue-y raspberries, squealing at our funny faces, trying a new food for the first time. hope is looking into her big, brown eyes and seeing my tie to this earth. joy is holding my sleeping baby against my chest and feeling my heart beat soothing her dreams to sweetness. that face. oh, that little face. i get choked up just thinking about it.

no doubt about it. things have changed. my perceptions about the world, about others, about life in general is not what it used to be. the grass is greener. the sky is bluer. the sun is hotter. sometimes it is so hot that i want nothing more than to pass out in its sauna, but hey- this is the life of a new mother.
sleep is nothing like what it used to be. don't ever become a mom if sleep is a priority. it used to be one of mine. i changed my mind, like i had a choice.
relationships have changed, friends have changed, my views have changed, my heart has changed.
my life has changed. being a brand new mother is like walking as a zombie through a field of breathtaking flowers. dichotomous life i tell ya. i love it.

each day's dawn finds me opening a new gift. there's anticipation, hope and joy.
sometimes though, it just doesn't fit quite right and may need to be reshaped. never ever though have i wanted to return it.
what the next day, month, decade holds will surely be filled with...well, i guess i'll just have to wait to find out.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

.strawberry + cream cheese stuffed french toast.

when i asked my eye guy what sounded good for a weekend breakfast, he asked me if i had cereal mind. i do usually have cereal in mind. this time, however, i was offering to cook us a little more involved dish. i expected him to say something like eggs, but french toast with cream cheese and strawberries in between came out. 
'what?! did you just watch an ihope commercial?' 
luckily, i aim to please. you should too.

chop up fresh strawberries and toss very lightly with sugar. this is breakfast after all- not dessert. ignore me. toss in as much sugar as your little heart desires. set aside. 

in a bowl, whisk 2 eggs, half a teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. this doesn't need to be an exact science...just put a little bit of this and a little bit of that in with your eggs. 

in a small saucepan, heat 3 to 4 heaping tablespoons of cream cheese over low heat. heating the cream cheese makes for a smoother, soft texture. 

after dipping and then dripping your bread in the egg mixture, add them to a medium-high griddle with some already melted butter. this is where the magic happens. 
(there should be enough egg mixture leftover to do another set.)

now that your strawberries are getting juicy, add most of them to your cream cheese and softly mix. if you mix with a vengeance, you'll tear up too many strawberries. leaving some chunks in is what makes this dish legit. 

oops! you haven't burned your french toast have you with all that talk of strawberries and cream cheese? don't forget to flip them. 

 your strawberries and cream cheese are by now a pink medley, ready to spread. take half of your mixture and get to work. 

the stuffed portion of this process comes by layering another piece of french toast on top of the other with a stuffing of strawberries and cream cheese between. thank goodness you have me around to explain this intricate process. 

top with a few of your remaining strawberries. if you're freeling fuity, (help me.) drizzle some caramel sauce on top before you add your traditional syrup. it's a world gone mad. mad i tell ya! 

time to go back to the stove to do it all over again. you didn't think my eye guy was the only one eating this sinful breakfast, did you? 

truly unbelievable taste. you better believe it. 

strawberries and cream cheese stuffed french toast
serves 2

what you'll need
4 pieces of bread
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp of sugar for toast
1-2 tbs butter

1 tbs sugar for strawberries
3-4 heaping tbs cream cheese
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

caramel sauce (optional)

what you do
chop fresh strawberries, toss in a tablespoon of sugar and set aside. heat cream cheese over low heat until smooth. 

whisk eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and 1/2 tsp sugar in a bowl. heat a griddle or skillet to medium high (around 375 degrees). melt 1 tbs of butter on griddle. 

dip bread in egg mixture and let drip over bowl so that there isn't excess moisture on the bread. toast on griddle until golden and flip. voila- french toast!

mix the majority of your strawberries in with the cream cheese over low heat. spread the mixture on a finished piece of french toast and then top with another. you now have stuffed french toast. add a few more strawberries to the top and drizzle caramel and syrup if your heart desires. 

repeat the process again for a second serving.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

.ice cream tacos.

while i am pleased with the taste of these, i definitely wouldn't win an award for presentation (or photography for that matter). eh, let's be real. it's all about the yum factor.
to celebrate cinco de mayo, how about trashing up your dessert with this easy peasy "homemade" concoction.

the southern girl in me loves cinnamon toast. i applied this good ol' recipe to a taco tortilla. butter, sugar, cinnamon and an oven. just heat until the tortillas are starting to crisp. it took me about eight minutes at 350 degrees.

as soon as the taco shells come out of the oven, fold them up and stuff with the ice cream of your choice. i went with this triple cookie fudge sundae. keepin' it simple? nah.

the whole concept of an ice cream taco centers around the ice cream.

warm cinnamon sugary goodness on the outside, cold creamy heaven on the inside.

wait a second. magic shell too? yep. let's keep trashing them up. my intention was to also add caramel sauce, but i forgot. there. no good excuse.

whether you're making cinco de mayo a little more fun (not exactly authentic) or are just in the mood for something tasty, try these tacos out.