Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!

Hi all and goodbye 2009!

New Year's is my favorite holiday because it' not only a good time to reflect on the past year, but everyone across the whole goble is united in ringing in a new year, one hopefully full of hope, health and happiness.

My 2009 has been pretty crazy (although I think I say that about most years...what can I say, I lead a "crazy" life.):

I rang it in with some fabulous people in Orlando.

Fell in love with yoga.

Went on an awesome work trip to San Jose and San Fransisco in February (can't wait to go back!).

Rocked out with some of my favorite people for my 23 birthday in St. Petersburg in April.

Started running....very, very, slowly and in the middle of the summer, because I'm smart like that!

Road tripped to Pensacola for the 4th of July!

Left my medical research job in St. Pete.

Took a high school since position near my home town.

Started building the Abarnment.

Had one of the best Halloween's ever!

Started my 100 beers in a year challenge!

Reunited with camp friends at BPOE.

And here we are!

How was your 2009? Tell me all about the good, bad and ugly of it!

Love to all,
~An always looking forward to the future, Jess

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good and Bad News

Hello all,

I hope everyone has been enjoying the on going Christmas/ New Year's Festivities! I certainly have and just got home from a great "weekend" with my 211 girlies! (That's my college roommates for any new readers/forgotters)

Unfortunately, my camera has not had such a great Little Brown Darling (I have a Cannon PowerShot SD1100 IS in brown if you were wondering) got a little to0 excited dancing at the Parliament House in Orlando and jumped out of my pocket and fell to the death of the LCD screen on the floor! I'm a bit miffed at this...I mean, one little fall and it's all over?

Nevertheless I have opted to try and have it repaired, so little Brown Girl is off on an adventure to Newport News, VA to see if the camera elves can fix her (for less than 100 bucks!). Keep your fingers crossed for her! (and me!).

So, that means in the mean time I will have no new lovely food post for you....but the silver linning in this deal is I can FINALLY catch up on all the back logging I've been doing and catch you all up on:

The Holidays
Drag Sunday (which was the death of little Brownie)
The Abarnment
My massive purse
Octoberfest (yes... I am nearly 3 months behind on that one!)
My holiday workout challenge
An other randominess I think of!

So, yay? Make sure you check back to see what I actually get accomplished! hehe.

In the meantime I have to make a little trip to the post office to say Bon Vovage to my trusty Little Brown.

Love to all,
~a camera-less, Jess

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all.....

....and to all a GOOD NIGHT!

I've had a wonderful Christmas Celebration thus far but after two days of partying with family and friends and sandwiching a Midnight Mass in between (I didn't get to bed until 3am!) I am wiped out!

I will have Christmas recaps for you later on...right now I must finish packing for a 3 day trip to Orlando to spend time with my 211 girls! So pumped! I am taking Harvey along, but obviously spending time with my girls trumps the blog (sorry kiddies), so I can't promise how many posts I'll get up....but I'm an early riser, so we will see!

Love to all,
~a very contented gal, Jess

PS. I did start what I hope is a new Christmas Tradition today: Going for a nice refreshing run after opening gifts. ahhh.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cardamom Bread

Hi all and Merry Christmas Eve Day to you!

As promised here are the fruits of my labor on Tuesday. The baking of this bread is literally an all day project, but it is totally worth it as you will soon see!

So first you must picture my grandmother on my Dad's side....known as Grams to me. Sadly I don't have a picture to share with you today....I should scrounge up some photos and scan them so can see where I get my "good looks" from sometime...but today is not that day. Anyways, she was this little Sicilian lady who loved to cook and eat. The classic "What? You had a bad day? Have a cookie! You are not feeling well? Have some spaghetti! No, thank you?!?! What is this No, thank you! What?! You don't like my food?! Hurmph!" oh I love my Grams and miss her dearly (she passed away when I was in middle school)

Well, Grams' legacy lives on each Christmas as a labor of love to prepare her famous Cardamom Bread.

Here is the recipe, written in her hand....on the back of a news flier! Too funny!

I know it's impossible to read here; it's hard to read even in person as this point (this recipe was written out as she taught my Mom to make this recipe the Christmas after my Mom and Dad got married-so something like 35 years ago?) but I'll walk you through it, step by step!

First up you combine a quart of milk, 1 cup of sugar and 1 stick of oleo (that is margarine to the rest of Grams always called it oleo, not sure why....) and heat gently on the stove until the milk is just scalding (small bubbles form).

Now that you've heated up the milk mixture it has to cool back down.

Once it has cooled at these ingredients: 4 eggs (one at a time), 1 heaping tablespoon of cardamom spice and 1 active packet of yeast (follow the instructions on the packet to activate).

Next add this:

No, I'm not literally will add the entire flour bin- 13 cups to be exact. One at at time. BY HAND. (well I guess if our mixer was big enough you could do it by machine...but our mixer isn't big enough for this job, dough hooks or no!)

After 5 cups I think?

After 11 cups....

I had to switch to a wooden spoon...the whisk wasn't strong enough at this point!

After the last cup (lucky number 13!) is mixed in, transfer the still very sticky dough ball to a well floured counter top (flour your hands too!).

Kneed the dough, adding flour (~1 more cup as you go along) until the dough is smooth (aka, not sticky any more) and elastic.

Grin like the flour covered goon you are (or I am!) at some point too.

Transfer it back to your scraped clean and greased with shortening to rise for 2 hours.

In the meantime go for a 1.1 mile run (if you are me this Christmas!) and perhaps shower your stinky self too!

Ok, 2 hours are up!

Now punch the dough down and remove from the pot (you shouldn't need any more flour from this point on). Kneed the dough a bit more to remove excess air and then using a serated knife divide your dough into sections. This recipe can produce 4 sandwich sized loaves if divided into 4 equal sections....we make 3 large loaves and 3 small loaves though for gifts to family and friends.

Now divide each loaf portion into three equal amounts and roll out into strands, making sure to remove excess air pockets as you go.

Braid the three strands (just like a basic hair braid) and tuck in the ends.

Carfully tranfer your braid to a shortening lined bread pan. After you have braided all your loaves they need to rise for another hour.

Time's up! Pop your babies (bread babies, guys!) into a 350 degree F oven for about 30 mins or until the tops are lightly browned.

Remove the loaves from their pans (a quick flip should do the trick-careful they are very hot!) and then top with a smear of maragine and a sprinkling of cinammon sugar! Oh so good!

I think they turn out so pretty and each loaf is unique.

These are my two favorite this year:

Nearly perfect and symetric!

A cute little round puff!

This bread makes excellent toast, sandwich bread (we use it for our ham sammys at midnight on Christmas Eve), not to mention French Toast! Yum!

Now I'm off to blare the Nutcracker and finally wrap some presents!

Love to all,
~the once a year baker, Jess

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

Hello there my lovelies!

I've had a buzzzzy but great day and hope you can say the same.

I was lucky enough to steal Mom off to myself today and we trekked to downtown Gville for some yummy yogi time at The Sanctuary. We attended the Yin and Vinyasa with Melissa who is the owner of the studio and both Mum and I really enjoyed it. I have primarily practiced Iyengar style yoga with a little Bikram mixed in for detox purposes so both Yin and Vinyasa styles were new to me today, but I loved the mix of the deep opening, slow poses of the yin style mixed up with quick sequences following the breath that composes vinyasa. So great...I'm really pumped to get the most of my 2 week "new student" unlimited pass! I'm feeling really positive about this studio, even though it's about as far away from my house as possible, as I've really been missing practicing with Denise at what was my "home" studio in St. Pete.

So after some deep hip opening and then a silly sequence of hops from chair to down dog and some more really, really, REALLY deep hip opening Mom and I said our Namastes and stumbled over to the mall for mani's and pedi's.....I was totally in need of a fresh pedicure since my currently consisted of me cutting my own nails and slapping repeated coats of red polish on top, but I decided to splurge on a manicure too since my nails were all the same length (some what)....a rare feat! I really should get manicures more often, since I love how my nails look now...but I'm just such a hands on person, litterally, that I just trash my hands and nails usually.

Anyways, all that yoga, pampering and some very light shopping worked up a ridiculous hunger and well, walking through the food court is the only option for exiting that wing of the mall, so we lesser mortals scrummed to the the tantalizing items at the Roman Delight counter.

Stuffed spinach pizza for me

A mushroom slice for Mom and then of course we shared.
Oh so cheesey and soooo good.

Now with yoga, nails, lunch and all Christmas shopping officially complete (I stretched it out with odds, ends and cards this year) we had to contemplate our dinner fates: tomorrow is Christmas Eve so that is Ham Sammys and Champagne (I'll explain that tradion on Christmas) and Christmas Dinner is Roast Pork Loin (yes, more oinking....hooray for mashed potatoes and green beans!) so of course that leaves....Chinese Take OUT!

While that probably sounds disgusting to some and while I would have rather it been Thai takeout, I'll take the ethinc adventures my parents are willing to go on and run with it.

My yums:

Huge pint of Hot and Sour Soup, so good, chock full of tofu, egg, mushroom and bamboo shoots!

Part of a pint of Veggie Lo Mein.

All together now...shocking I know!

And enjoyed with another Bud Light Golden Wheat- what can I say, Chinese take out just calls for a light beer! And this stuff may be growing on me? Dunno yet.

Now I need to haul my MSG laden body, complete with screaming hip joints off to bed.

Agenda for Christmas Eve:
  1. Christmas Eve Brunch at my Great Aunt's River House
  2. Come back to the blog to share my Christmas Bread Story and Recipe (see you here!)
  3. Also be sure to check out my 5 ingredient recipe for a quick and easy (and kinda healthy!) side dish for the holidays
  4. Annual Christmas Eve Party at family friend's house (easy on the jello shots....)
  5. Midnight Mass (see why I have to go easy on the jello shots? I only want to see 1 priest on the altar! haha)
Love to all,
~a are you sure tomorrow is Christmas Eve?, Jess

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chirstmas Elf Snackage

Hi all,

It's been a busy elfing day here at the Semi-Abnormal household...I've been playing baker all day, but that will have to be a separate story!

When I did have a break from the kitchen to tackle card writing it was time for this little baking elf to have a snack! And while most might cuddle up with hot cocca to send out seasons tiddings....

..... I was more intrested in the new Bud Light that found it's way home today:

It was ok....very drinkable, but I didn't find it very wheat-y nor could I really detect the supposed orange or coriander flavors. I guess I'm just too spoiled with Sweetwater's Hummer...which totally shouts coriander! (one of my fave spices too!)

Plus brie and whole wheat Ritz crackers and a sprinkling of chocolate covered sunflowerseeds that looked pretty but weren't doing it for me today.

Anyways, my timer is about to buzz and I still haven't finished my Christmas I go!

Love to all,
~the snacky little elf, Jess


Hi all,

Any movie buffs in the house? No, well, that's a bummer because I'm not one either. Except for a very brief stint in college when we had 4 dollar late night showings at the walk to cinema I usually only see 2-3 movies a year. It's not that I don't love the movies, because I do totally do: action, drama, comedy, documentaries, even romantic comedies (anything but horror really), you name it I'd go see it. But see, growing up I lived out in the bonnies (the same boonies I live in currently, to be accurate) and the nearest movie theatre is 45mins away and then after college when I was broke and living by myself in St. Pete I never went to the movies...not because I'm against going by myself, because I'm not, I've gone often by myself and would again....I just couldn't rationaize the cost and all my extra pocket money was going towards yoga classes anyways.

But lucky for me this Christmas Break one of my best friends, Clint is home from grad school in Mississippi and he LOVES the movies and used to be one of my action film buddies back in WPB, so on Sunday night we trekked in to Gville to see Avatar in 3D. We didn't plan to see either Avitar or in 3D particularly, but this is what the scheduling gods put before us, so we jumped on it.

I honestly had no intrest in seeing Avatar before Sunday and really only went because of the timing and Clint aggressively hinting that it should be good. So, we paid our 13.25 each! (ouch, like whoa) for our nifty 3D glasses (well that's how much the ticket costs and of course it comes with 3D glasses) and after a mini-photoshoot which was only enjoyed by one of us, (guess which one):We settled in with our snacks- from the cafe at Books a Million, I knew I wasn't up for the uber salty popcorn and candy at the theatre, although it did smell wonderful- and I was engrossed for the next 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Snacks included Rice Nuts- if you like the Asian puffed rice snacks you will love these little gems plus chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

I really enjoyed this movie: the story had some interesting science concepts and while it was rather predictable it was still quick and fun to follow, vivid colors, no seriously the colors amazed me and I LOVE color not to mention the flat out action. Was it the best movie ever? No. Should you go see it? Yes.

Love to all,
~an action film lover herself, Jess

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday CoWorker Baking Time?

Hi all,

No, I'm not actually baking any coworkers, but it is that time of year when even those of us who avoid using the oven for anything beyond roasting of vegetables and whipping up instant from the can biscuits (and I have no shame in saying those are damn good!) to enter the kitchen, roll up our sleeves and get to throwing the flour around. As a side note, I can bake, and quite well actually...I just choose NOT to for 95% of the year! I much prefer tinkering with things on stove-top than the dark recesses of the oven.

It always seems to me that come December 1 my mailbox is flooded with sweets and while I have a sweet tooth with no shame, even I can hit sugar overload before the 25th has arrived. And yes, often I have been a culprit of adding to the sweetrush of the holidays, since I usually make homemade toffee (think like a Heath Bar, but betta!) for my co workers. This year I decided to go the savory route with Cheese & Pecan Biscuit Bites.

For a double batch (makes about 6 dozen bite size biscuits):

1lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used a hand grater for a mini arm workout! hehe)

Then using a pastry blade cut in 2 sticks of butter (I guess you could use margarine too, but you all know by now that I love me some real butter!)

This process takes a little while and some more arm strength, but the goal is to have a somewhat homogeneous mixture when you are finished. (I didn't take pictures for a little while here, probably due to messy hands, or because I get wrapped up in what I'm doing and don't want to stop)

Once the cheese and butter are mixed well add a sprinkle of salt, white pepper and a few generous glugs of Worcestershire sauce and mix again.

Add 4 cups of all purpose flour, one cup at a time, again using the pastry knife until a crumbly dough is achieved. Next kneed the dough until it forms a large smooth ball.

Then you can begin rolling small palm sized balls (like making sugar cookies....) and set them out on a cookie sheet. Lastly top these little boogers with peacan haves (we have this giant bag from a local farm already shelled, so this part was super easy!) and smoosh the balls gently to form little biscuits.

Bake for 12 mins at 375 degrees F and then transfer to a cooling rack

Best enjoyed with a glass of red wine or your favorite brown ale!

I boxed up my biscuits as gifts in these cute little Christmas themed Chinese take-out boxes from Dollar General, plus a cute holiday mug or two for my favorite fun and fabulous teacher friends!

Lined with festive tissue paper of course!

The finished products just waiting to be delivered and consumed over a much earned Christmas Break!

Love to all,
~the busy little baker, Jess

PS. See you tomorrow for some serious bread baking!

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas....

Hi all,

So, I'm finally getting into the swing of Christmas over here in NorCenFLA, but I'm not going to lie, it's been a slow upstart! Between work and well, work I just haven't been able to get into the spirit of things, but now that I've finally had the chance to slow down, sleep a little (ok, A LOT) and relax I'm really ready to get started on one of my favorite holidays. I've also come to grips with the fact that as we get older some holiday traditions just may not be possible anymore, since people change, accidents happen and often our priorities are shifted.

So, reflections aside, anyone want to decorate a tree? (oh, pick me, pick me!)

So we actually got our tree a week ago (as in, drove to the farm and cut it down...there are some perks to living in the boonies!), but hadn't gotten further than lights and garland, thanks to Dad!

So, Mom and I unpacked all our ornaments, each with a story of course.

My favorites, the annual Breyer stirrup collection. I get a new one in my stocking each year! This year I am parading them all around the tree...very cute!

The finished product.

I hung 95% of the ornaments this year...and then mom ruined it, I mean added the icicles. I can't stand them....but I'm out ruled. every. single. year. Oh well. ;)

A few more faves:

My Cheshire Cat! I love all things Alice in Wonderland...especially Cheshire Cat stuff, and it's all rather hard to find anymore. I had a whole collection of Alice ornaments, but they were blown glass and one year our tree crashed, twice! Sadly that collection didn't survive.

The Mini Story books!

And my Jessica Boot, that my Gra handmade 23 years ago! Love it!

Do you have any special ornaments that you hang with care each year?

Now this Christmas elf is off to play carpenter before she can wrap presents and write Christmas cards.

Love to all,
~a finally getting with it, Jess

PS. Totally Random: I was out for a 1.1 mile run yesterday with 30h3! (going running with them, it was great!) when a Jeep stopped after I called my dummy dog back from chasing the said Jeep and I was a little freaked out. Turns out it was a newish neighbor who just wanted to say hi. Then she proceeds to open the hatch of her vehicle and it is filled with poinsettias! Merry Christmas she says as she hands me 4 of them! So kind and so beautiful! Turns out she and her husband own a nusery, but still, FOUR poinsettias is a lot!