Category Archives: baking

Things Will Never Be the Same Again

Sometimes it still weirds me out that my life right now is so different from the life I had a couple of years.

Minus some unsettledness I experienced recently, I’m stretching out into it.

I’ve always had a desire for emotional safety and comfort in my life, driven from a rather tumultuous childhood spent around mercurial temperaments and other dysfunctions. While I have this safety and comfort again now, it is in very different forms and packages, and it takes some getting used to.

I’m slow to adjust sometimes, but I truly do like this life.

And this song.

Other Good Things

Quinoa chocolate cake in cupcake form (and with agave instead of sugar).

Heck yeah.

Totally good.

Ice Cream at the End of the Tunnel

This past weekend was grueling.

I put in around 12 hours of studying, and I haven’t even started working on my lab exam on Wednesday.

I am tired, and I don’t even know how much I remember after all of that studying. All shall be revealed tonight, I suppose.

This was the type of weekend that ended with a trip to the grocery store at 8:00 Sunday night. All I wanted to buy was a rotisserie chicken that I could dice up for salads for Monday’s lunch and dinner, as well as Tuesday’s lunch.

In keeping with the theme of the weekend, the grocery store’s hot deli was closed, and no rotisserie chickens were in sight.

At 9:00, I was cooking chicken and swearing up a storm in my head. I did not want to end the weekend with cooking chicken and putting together half-assed meals for the next two days.

At 9:30, I was sitting on the couch knitting, watching an episode of Doc Martin, and eating this:

Best Ice Cream Ever

A weekend without treats while cramming microbiology into my head would be a crime, so I took a break earlier in the day to make chocolate ice cream with agave nectar, recipe courtesy of David Leibovitz. While refined sugar is a no-go, I can handle agave nectar, so this recipe was perfect.

Before yesterday afternoon, I hadn’t enjoyed any chocolate for at least six weeks. I have no shame: I admit I nearly drank all of the ice cream mixture when I took it off the stove. I held back though and made do with several spatulas full of this most divine stuff. All of the chocolate receptors in my brain started firing, which I’m pretty sure short-circuited the neurons filled with the microbiology knowledge. If I make a bad grade, I blame the ice cream, and the ice cream’s punishment will be that I have to eat all of it!

On Saturday, I had another treat break and made these honey chai scones (only I replaced the honey with agave and didn’t use stevia):

Scones!

These were pretty good, and I think the base is suited for making a savory scone. Next time, I’m going to use olive oil, rosemary, and some Parmesan cheese and have the scones with eggs.

Anyway…this week is going to be ridiculous. A big test tonight, PT on Tuesday, Porkchop’s younger brother’s wedding on Wednesday, another test Wednesday night, an important appointment Friday afternoon, and leaving for my parents’ Friday evening.

I’m already exhausted, and it’s only Monday morning. Sigh.

The Last Few Hours

…of summer freedom.

Summer school starts today, and I will be in Microbiology from 5-9:30 on Monday and Wednesday nights. I’m trying to work up enthusiasm for this, but I can’t gather any.

Tuesday of next week, I’m slated to take the GRE. Again, no enthusiasm to be had.

To make up for the buckling down that begins today, I tried to fill the weekend with summer fun. Luckily, the weather was all about cooperating and gave us lovely cool days.

Saturday was the farmers’ market with yoga and good food stuff. I made these rosemary almond crackers and nearly cried when I had them with quark. Finally, grain-free, sugar-free success! And super tasty!

Almonds, rosemary, and olive oil. Pure tastiness.

Tears, I tell you.

Cracker with quark. So good!

Even though strawberry season is over at Eckert’s, I managed to snag a quart of berries at the market. Once I was home, I blended them up with plain yogurt and popped them into popsicle molds that Porkchop picked up for me. Do you know how hard it is to find frozen treats with no sweeteners whatsoever? Sure, you can find sugar-free stuff, but I would rather go without than consume aspartame or sucralose.

Instead, I’ll stick with the homemade stuff.

A frozen bar I can trust.

With Sunday came tennis, lunch at the Mud House, and getting the hail damage on our car estimated and settled.

I’ve also been knitting away on a baby present! It’s going to be pretty darned cute, and I can’t wait to finish and post a photo.

Have a great week!

Snow Day!

For the first time in over a decade, my university canceled classes and work today! So here I am, trying to eke out the very last bit of this free day.

We were supposed to be hit pretty hard with the massive storm making its way across the country, but the snow prediction has dropped off dramatically. I can’t imagine I’ll have another snow day tomorrow – Porkchop already knows her classes are canceled (lucky).

Our streetscape hasn’t changed much from this shot I took earlier this afternoon:

Classy cardboard

None of the white stuff is snow. It’s all sleet, which is kind of crazy.

During all the sleeting, I did stuff like yoga, knitting, homework, and baking. A darned good snow day all around, except Porkchop had to open the UPS Store at 8 am. Boo. But don’t worry, she was back by 11:00 and able to partake in much of the fun of having a day off.

Here is documentation of the day:

A dedicated student even on a snow day

Knitting action!

I love these colors and this yarn

This afternoon I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and Porkchop made orange-glazed sugar cookies. I also made knock-off Larabars. I love Larabars, but my habit was becoming expensive! This week I made a knock off of the cherry pie bar, and I can’t wait to try another knock off this weekend.

Tricks! No flour!

Rolling out cookie dough

Fake Larabar brick = 8 bars

Observant readers will note that the peanut butter cookies are flourless. A few weeks ago, in the midst of major sinus problems, an old friend suggested I try going gluten-free. Being game for any possible relief, I did.

Sinus-wise, my nasal passageways seem less swollen. Previously, I would wake up during the night, unable to breathe through the right side of my nose. Since going (nearly) gluten-free, this hasn’t happened.

However, the biggest change is in my energy and focus level. Before, there were days during which I would get so tired. I don’t just mean tired, I mean unable to think, fuzzy-brained, bone-dead tired. I would also get really hungry. My hunger was always a desperate, if-I-don’t-eat-now-I’m-going-to-die sort of hunger. I was tied to my hunger in ways I didn’t like at all.

This past weekend marked two weeks of gluten-free for me, and I decided to dip my toe in the gluten waters again by eating some pasta. I made a big bowl for lunch on Saturday, and an hour later, my brain hurt and I was so tired I had to take a nap (even though I had been completely fine before lunch).

This afternoon I had one of Porkchop’s sugar cookies, and about an hour later, I could feel it in my head. Not bad, but a difference.

I call it fuzzy brain, because it feels like my brain is turning into cotton candy. A sort of pulsing cotton candy. But when it’s really bad, it feels like sludge. Fuzzy brain means I can focus with extra effort; sludge brain means I’m lucky if I remember how to tie my shoes.

Given that I don’t like the sludge feeling, I’m going to stick to a very light gluten habit.

Also, I enjoy being a prisoner to my hunger no longer. I still get hungry, but it isn’t an all-consuming, must-eat situation. It’s more of an, oh, I’m hungry, guess I should eat in a bit. But if I don’t eat in a bit, it isn’t the end of the world.

I’m not allergic to gluten, so I’m not really sure what the deal is. But according to the internet, which is the expert on everything, many other people experience “brain fog” with wheat, so I guess I’m not alone.

I know I’m not allergic to gluten because I had an allergy test done last week, in the hopes of getting some answers to my chronic sinus problems and other issues. The answer is that I’m not allergic to anything! Not even tree pollen, which was an assumption under which I’d been operating for half my life.

However, this is not a cause for celebration. Instead, I have “non-allergic rhinitis,” which seems to translate into my respiratory system being sensitive to anything, really. I get all of the allergy symptoms, but it isn’t an allergic reaction. Well, I’ve certainly been fooled all of my life!

The allergist pushed some new nasal spray on me, but I’m going to try some other avenues first. Another avenue being acupuncture. I’d rather have a placebo effect from some needles and herbs, than continue to use nose spray for the rest of my life.

Flonase started giving my horrible nose bleeds this past fall. Horrible as in it looked like an entire blood vessel was falling out of my nose. This new nose spray isn’t supposed to do that, but if you spray any nose spray incorrectly, you run the risk of damaging your septum.

So…nose spray is safe, but it can damage your septum. I sincerely want out of this nose spray craziness.

Well, I don’t really know where this post is going any more. It started out light-hearted, but took a serious turn around gluten. I guess the major points are: the snow day was great, I’m trying to find non-damaging relief for my sinus problems, and wheat makes me feel funny.

Obviously, it’s time to go to bed.

Good night!

If you’re in the path of the snow storm, stay safe and warm!

I’ll Snap YOUR Ginger

This weekend has been full of studying…so much studying I can’t wait to take my lab practical tomorrow.

During breaks, Porkchop and I cooked two different types of cookies: chocolate chip-oatmeal-pecan and gingersnaps. The gingersnap recipe is from Good to the Grain (which I checked out from a library, but is also on my wishlist!), and the cookies turned out quite lovely.

Yummers!

I also poached an egg this morning for breakfast.

That doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but it was the first time for me to poach an egg without using a special egg poacher implement. I just slipped the egg into water with a splash of vinegar and simmered it. Magic! Crazy!

Perhaps eggs benedict will be on the breakfast menu next weekend. We certainly have enough eggs now.

Grisly Finds in the Backyard

This morning Porkchop happened upon a grisly scene in our backyard: a large spot of blood at the bottom of our deck steps, and part of a squirrel on our patio.

A raccoon (or what we think is a raccoon based on tracks) regularly tries to get into the chicken run. And since there were raccoon-ish tracks around the squirrel remains, we’re guessing the raccoon either killed the squirrel in our backyard, or brought it along and left it for us to find.

A warning maybe?

Your chickens are next?

Birthday Subterfuge

I preface this blog post by stating that I have never been good at lying.

I can handle occasional white lies to soothe people’s nerves, but I can’t misrepresent thoughts or events. If something didn’t actually happen, I can’t state that it did. This has its upside and its downside.

Porkchop’s birthday was a little over a week ago. Since she was feeling down about turning 31, I wanted to do something really nice to show how happy I am to celebrate another birthday with her.

I don’t have many chances to surprise Porkchop because I don’t drive to work. This means I don’t have a chance to sneak away somewhere and purchase something awesome.

Candy from the university bookstore gets kind of old as a surprise.

Before Porkchop’s birthday, I wasn’t able to make anything secret either because she was at home when I was all the time! She was busy doing class prep and working on a print for the faculty show, and she never left the house!

Therefore, I decided to take the Friday off before her birthday and bake a cake, make a great birthday present display, and clean up the downstairs (which was super messy from working on prints).

I rode to the Central West End as per usual with Porkchop and even bought us bagels from Einstein’s. I stayed at the UPS Store for a bit and then left to catch the train. Only, instead of going to work, I went back home!

Genius!

Once I was home, I got down to business and started the cake. We once made a chocolate-hazelnut-orange poundcake that Porkchop really liked, and since it takes a lot of prep work, we had only made it once. So, it seemed like a good choice.

It took about an hour just to get the batter ready (toasting hazelnuts, chopping chocolate, zesting oranges, etc.). The batter was super pretty.

Cake batter - delicious and pretty

Once the cake was in the oven, I wrapped Porkchop’s presents, which took me at least 40 minutes because I’m a slow wrapper. Then I found our birthday sign, and arranged presents and photos of Porkchop atop our bookcase. The cake was the centerpiece (it was huge!!).

Birthday Altar

The whole time I was working on the cake and the presents, I was so happy because I finally had a chance to surprise Porkchop with something.

Next, I cleaned up the first floor of the house, which took another couple of hours because it was a total disaster site.

Finally, I had a chance to sit and rest a bit, and that’s when things went wrong. I knew Porkchop was leaving work at 2:00 to drop off her prints at the school gallery, and I thought she would surely come home afterwards since it was so early.

But no! She called to say that she was going to hang out at the zoo for a couple of hours and then pick me up from work. And I couldn’t think of what to say! I hadn’t prepared a story or a lie, and I couldn’t think of anything. So I just kept saying, oh, just go home. Go home.

Of course she figured out that I was at home. And I knew she would be not happy because Porkchop doesn’t like surprises! (I know – weird!) I was correct that she spent the whole ride home wondering what I was doing and stewing about it.

So, when Porkchop came home, I was like, hi!, and then Porkchop was all grumbles and didn’t even SEE the birthday display or all the work I had done.

Then I said, look and pointed at the bookcase and started crying because I had so much emotion building up in me all day and it had to come out somehow.

After a little more crying on my part, we did a do-over and Porkchop acted excited about the birthday display.

And then I cried some more.

The next day was better, and Porkchop opened her presents.

St. Louis represent!

The day after Porkchop’s birthday was even better. Porkchop, Porkchop’s younger brother, Porkchop’s younger brother’s girlfriend, Suzi, Dale, Dale’s father, and I went fishing.

All day!

We cooked out by the lake (which is near Dale’s parents’ place and is on private land) and hung out all day.

Fishing the day away

It was quite relaxing.

Except for the excitement surrounding this spider:

Super spider

When we first arrived, there was a kerfuffle on the dock involving this spider, Porkchop’s younger brother, and his 8.5-month pregnant girlfriend. This spider jumped over their heads at one point. Seriously, it was ridiculous.

Anyway, other things have been afoot, but this post is long enough.

Have a great week!

The Long Summer

This summer just keeps going, and my enthusiasm is unfortunately waning. Of the five summers I’ve spent in St. Louis, this is the hottest one yet and I’m tired of it. We’re slated to have at least two more days this week with highs around 100.

Blech.

It’s hot, and my garden stuff is not going well. So, for me, I’m ready to kick summer to the curb.

Last weekend saw us doing fun summer activities like fixing the dishwasher and replacing our sump pump. Porkchop did the dishwasher repair, and it was not fun at all. It required two trips to hardware stores and some irritation. The sump pump was easier, and we love our new sump pump. Goodbye stupid float, hello water sensor switch.

Sunday saw some enjoyment, at least. We started our day with an easy, scenic 14-mile bike ride on Grant’s Trail. Although I’m not a Real Biker (yet), I’m at least trying to look the part.

Faking it as a biker. Luckily you can't see the Keen sandals on my feet. (Also, yes, I'm posing in front of a composting toilet.)

After the ride, we attended two baby showers. Two!

For about four months now, I’ve been working with other neighborhood association members on our first big event, the Broadway Art-A-Fair. The fair was yesterday, and it was quite successful. We had 10 artists selling stuff, a guy doing pencil portraits, two bands played, St. Louis Hoop Club did hoop performances, a capoeira group did a demonstration, a local restaurant sold food, and we sold drinks and baked items. The fair was held outside the old firehouse in our neighborhood, and the first floor was open for people to look around.

Hooping outside the firehouse.

The awesome firehouse interior. Love the ceiling, love the enameled brick.

Old circus banner hanging in the firehouse. The banner is huge! At least 8 feet tall.

It was a great day! For our first fair, it was a really good turnout. I only wish I could have stayed for everything, but I had to leave early for Porkchop’s cousin’s wedding.

(I’ve been to a bridal shower, two baby showers, and a wedding this summer…not that anyone’s counting.)

I desperately wanted to sleep in today after yesterday’s events, but Keetah wouldn’t let me. She woke me up at 6:50 and left me in a bad mood.

I was so grumbly, I had to go to the Y and swim it out. The chlorine in the pool is so strong, it even kills bad moods.

In the afternoon, I made this zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze. I think mine turned out pretty well.

Yummmm.

This cake was a community effort. My friend Ale gave me the zucchini, and my neighbor Tom lent me his Bundt pan. While it might be a tad underbaked, it is quite moist and will be perfect with tea tomorrow.

Lastly, Porkchop has been trying to become the chickens’ buddy. The other night she climbed into the coop and caused feathers to be ruffled by accosting and petting Agnes and Scooter. Here she is with Agnes.

Please be my friend!

All I want for next week is to get through the heat without our electricity going out (which it did last week twice in the same hot night). However you measure it, I hope you have a good week as well.

Chicken Dreams

The past week has been busy!

To begin with, Porkchop and I celebrated “Six Days of Carrie’s Birthday,” which became kind of exhausting. It started with dinner and a movie (Toy Story 3, which I actually really enjoyed) on July 1 and progressed to a Cardinals game (which we left early because I sincerely detest baseball) and Ted Drewes on Friday.

However, things really got started last Saturday. The day began perfectly with a bike ride to the Botanical Gardens. Saturday mornings before noon, City and County residents have free admission to the gardens; I think it’s one of the best free deals in town. We poked around the Climatron and Henry Shaw’s house, where we gazed upon his mausoleum statue.

Nice digs for a dead man.

Climatron with glass Chihuly sculptures in the foreground.

Yay, Botanical Gardens!

After our visit, we stopped by the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market for grilled cheeses, tomatoes, peaches, pasta, and mocha macaroons. The Big Cheese is soooooo good! We had grilled cheese made with Companion bread, local mozzarella, fig tapenade (figs from Ivan the Fig Farmer), and some sort of meat from Salume Beddu. Two thumbs up.

I could eat these grilled cheeses every day.

It seems like it would be hard to top the morning, but we succeeded by buying a new bike! Yes, I could not not buy a new bike this summer. It’s a Trek 7.3 and is shiny blue.

Me and my new bike (as yet nameless).

We bought it at a shop where it is apparently customary to haggle over the price. This came as a surprise to me, but I aced it by unintentionally lying about a price I thought I had seen elsewhere. This move made the sales guy reveal the shop’s lowest price, which pissed off the owner to no end. But, you know, if you make haggling a standard practice at your shop, then it’s your own fault for letting a bike go at a price lower than what you expected. Also, if I hadn’t accidentally lied, we probably would have paid full price and felt angry.

The Saturday fun continued into the evening, with going to the Arch for fireworks. We returned to the Arch grounds on Day Four of my birthday to watch the air show with Suzi and Dale. Unfortunately, I became overheated and survived only because Suzi bought me cold waters and visited the EMS tent for chemical ice packs. I slept the rest of Sunday and was dehydrated and groggy for the rest of the day. But the Harrier jet was neat.

I don't remember much from the air show, but I remember this jet hovering over the Mississippi.

Birthday celebrations continued on Monday with lunch with Suzi and Dale at Pi in Kirkwood. Porkchop and I wrapped up a lunch of Margherita pizza with a tiramisu milkshake. YUM! After that, we went to a couple of shops, and Suzi and Dale purchased a few presents for me: the green and white jersey I’m wearing in the picture with my bike, a bike tool (technical name – I don’t know? it does 18 things, though), and special air canister thingies for emergency tire airings while out riding.

Tuesday – the last day of my birthday celebration – was a bit of a letdown because Porkchop and I had to work. However, Porkchop surprised me with cupcakes from the Cupcakery.

Finally, my birthday proper. Yay, 32!

Porkshop also gave me terrific presents throughout my celebration: chocolate bars (Askinosie, Patric, and caramel Five Star bars from Lake Champlain chocolates), a gift certificate to Kaldi’s, and a gift certificate to Knitty Couture. Also, part of my bike!

Non-Birthday Things

We’ve hit some rough spots in gardening. Squash vine borers destroyed all of the kabocha squash plants in the community garden. Devastation!! Tomatoes are also slow to ripen. Oh well, maybe we’ll have tomatoes in August. Here’s what’s going in the community garden:

Roasting peppers growing.

Okra flower - pretty!

Lemon cucumber.

After working in the garden a bit, Porkchop and I left for a chicken coop tour! We rode our bikes to Tower Grove park, and then proceeded to see eight coops in the Tower Grove, Fox Park, Gravois Park, Benton Park, Marine Villa, and Mt. Pleasant neighborhoods. In all, we rode about 12 miles and saw some great coops and chickens. Here are some of our favorites:

Porkchop's favorite chick.

More pretties! These live in our neighborhood.

The most exciting outcome of the tour is that we might get chicks this week! A guy on the tour ordered 25 from a place in Iowa and was looking to unload about 20 of them. So, we’ll see if the deal goes through. I hope it does, but it also feels kind of sudden!

Lastly, we had a super awesome dinner tonight of marinated steak and roasted potatoes. And I made olive bread, which is my very favorite:

Olive bread goodness!

Have a great week!

Happy Things from the Past Month

We’ve had some good times since I last posted. I’m saving the best for last, but from earliest to latest is:

Watching Antiques Roadshow with Keetah and Porkchop. I don’t know why I look so joyful, so excited in this photo…maybe because I had a Monday night free to sit on the couch and watch people’s junk turn into treasures. (Antiques Roadshow = my all-time favorite show.)

Getting donuts from the Donut Drive-In. Sometimes, you need a good donut and some chocolate milk.


Going to the zoo after eating donuts!


Playing scrabble with Keetah. She’s a tough competitor.


Getting a new bathroom (sort of). A before picture, minus the sink and medicine cabinet:


The bathroom after all of Porkchop’s hard work:


A million times better! I actually enjoy being in the bathroom now (you’ll note the bathroom is tiny; the new sink and cabinet make it seem much more spacious).

Knitting Little Sister’s Dress for my college roommate’s baby.


My college roommate gave me the mug below when she went to Wyoming. It’s weird to think I’ve had this mug for over ten years, and that my roommate now has two kids. Whenever I use the mug, I think of my old roommate. Today, I used it for tea while enjoying a piece of whole wheat banana bread (my favorite banana bread recipe – the whole wheat adds a perfect nuttiness).

Best News of All

My eye stopped twitching!

It happened nearly a month ago, a little after my last post. Early on, I was worried about telling people, thinking I’d jinx it and then be stuck twitching again.

Maybe it was coincident, maybe not….But the night it stopped twitching, I was popping popcorn on the stove. When the test kernels popped, hot oil spattered up on my face, even though I was shielding the pot with a lid. The oil hit my face, including a spot near my eye. I yelled from the pain (but then went back to popping).

Later that night, my eye twitch started sputtering out. When I was getting ready for bed, I thought perhaps it had stopped. So I checked the mirror and was elated to find it was true!! But sure enough, it started again. And then stopped again.

While the constant twitch has stopped, my eye and surrounding muscles seem to be healing still. There are still bad twitch days, like last week when my mouth twitched for two days. And there are times when my face has the pins-and-needles sensation you get when blood rushes back to a foot that has fallen asleep. Yesterday, the entire area around my right eye, including my forehead, twitched a few times, which was quite disconcerting.

I am so thankful the constant twitching stopped, and continues to remain stopped. I’m especially glad that it stopped before my Botox appointment! Since I had my twitch for more than a month, I expect it will take at least 3 months for my face to feel normal again.

Thanks for all of your thoughts while I was a twitchy mess!

Strange Offerings

While taking out the trash this past weekend, I found this little collection by our back gate:

Kind of weird, right? It’s a little skillet and a basket of three ornamental gourds. Our back gate is recessed from the alley, and you really have to look to notice the walkway by the garage. My possible explanations are:

  • Someone knows I dabble in in situ composting and that I cook, so they left these as presents.
  • Someone found these by a dumpster and stashed them in our walkway, and they plan to pick them up later.
  • We have a super strong squirrel residing in the area that has a penchant for fall decorations and cookery items.

This afternoon, I saw this post on 101 Cookbooks about chocolate puddle cookies. Not wanting to do classwork tonight, but wanting to do something productive, I made them:

In real life, they look much more like the photo on the 101 Cookbooks blog. I substituted pecans for walnuts, and wow, are these cookies delicious. Rather brownie-like and super tasty. This recipe is a keeper.

On Monday of this week, I had an acupuncture appointment in an attempt to relieve my eye twitch. After the appointment, I had a mini-breakdown and called in sick for the day (the great thing about working in a School of Social Work is that most people are super empathetic and understanding). I was able to schedule a massage for the afternoon, and generally tried to de-stress and stop thinking about my eye. The massage was incredible. I was so lucky to hear about Garden Walk Massage off of Lafayette Square; my therapist saved my day. I feel so much better, but unfortunately, my eye twitch is still with me.

This morning I had an eye exam and found that I can rule out eye strain. My vision is still just fine. However, I do have some sort of eyelid margin disease in which my eyelids are coated with oily particles and bacteria. This explains why my eyelids always feel irritated and itchy, so it’s good to get that taken care of with antibiotic drops and eyelid scrubbing. But, it doesn’t explain the twitching.

Alas…