Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Treats

The holiday season has arrived!  For me, this means making presents, finding and decorating a tree, and lots and lots of baking.  On top of making treats to give as gifts, I have to bring a dish or two to the Christmas party that my boyfriend's family has every year.  This season, I'm jobless, and now that I've finished my semester of school, I have tons of free time, so I chose to make a dessert and an appetizer!

The recipe for the appetizer actually comes from KeyIngredient.com, but I found it via Pinterest, this fantastically addicting site.  (Seriously, don't click that link if you don't have a ton of time to waste.)

Appetizer Wreath
by KeyIngredient.com

(Sorry the picture isn't great.  The fridge is not an ideal picture-taking location.)
This was fairly easy to make, looked impressive, and tasted delicious.  I was a little iffy about how it was going to work, with the biscuits and the cream cheese mix, but it was basically like veggie dip, veggies, and buttery bread, and the flavors really complicated each other.  To make it, you just slice up crescent roll dough, bake the slices in a circle, mix up the veggie dip, spread the dip on the dough circle, and sprinkle veggies on top.  Our party was a big one, so I made two, and only three pieces were left at the end of the night!

On Pinterest, I had also seen adorable hot chocolate cupcakes that used candy canes to add handles to them, creating the shape of a mug.  Unfortunately, the picture was just a picture, not a recipe, so I used a recipe I found on another blog, minus the the bark and plus the candy canes and some other decorations.

by The Cake Blog

The cupcakes were simple, but turned out very flavorful (possibly due to the addition of actual hot chocolate on top of the cocoa powder), and the frosting just required peppermint extract to turn normally yummy buttercream into a smooth, crisp topping that perfectly lightened up the dense chocolate of the cake.  I only used the minimum amount of milk recommended by the recipe in order to make the buttercream look more like whipped cream, and then I topped them with chocolate sprinkles, mini-marshmallows, and small, Christmas-y nonpareils.  People loved them!

Those recipes were both major hits at the family party.  I've also made some extra treats to give as presents; I made these last year, too, and they were well-received.

by Disney Family Fun

(Photo courtesy of Disney Family Fun.)
Incredibly easy and pretty, these treats can be made with regular kisses, striped hugs, or my favorite: candy cane kisses.  The candy cane ones bring an extra bit of flavor to the treat, and make them look even more festive.  (The picture is just of regular kisses and hugs; I wrapped up my treats before realizing I forgot to photograph them.)  To make this quick and tasty gift, just put hugs/kisses on top of pretzel squares on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet, melt them for five minutes, top with Christmas M&Ms, and then let them set in the fridge.  A big bag of pretzels, a normal-sized bag of M&Ms, and two bags of candy cane kisses made enough for two families plus a couple handfuls for my boyfriend and I to enjoy.  ;)

Let me know if you try out any of these recipes, and have a fantastic, fun, and peaceful holiday season!

Next Post's Topic: Community Literacy

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Easy Vegetarian Comfort Food

Though it was 68 here in Rochester today, and though we all would love to cling to the delusion that fall simply turns into spring with nothing in between, those of us who live in the northeastern parts of our lovely country must face the truth.  Your world may look like this now:

This picture came from here.
But soon, it will look like this:

This one came from here.

You will not want to leave your house.  You will need comfort, and what is more comforting than easy-to-make, fairly-healthy food?  Hopefully this post can help.  I have compiled my favorite recipes for warm, delicious dinners; none of them are actually my recipes, but I have used them many times and swear by them.  Maybe they will become staples in your kitchen, too!

Butternut Squash Pasta with Spinach and Blue Cheese
from Budget Bytes

Photo courtesy of Budget Bytes.

I rely heavily on this blog, especially now that I'm, as they say, "in between jobs."  The author is a fantastically-skilled, penny-pinching cook, and this recipe is divine.  The main ingredient is butternut squash, which is great from the summer/fall farmer's markets but can be found, during winter, in supermarkets.  She estimates a total cost of $7.55 for 6 servings, and only an hour and a half total prep and cook time.  The result is a yummy pasta mush almost like mac 'n' cheese, but much healthier, and tangy, too.

Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Roasted Butternut Squash
from Wegmans

Photo courtesy of Wegmans.

Here's another butternut squash one.  This recipe comes to us from supermarket giant Wegmans.  (I hope they don't mind me sharing their recipe!)  If you have a Wegmans around you, you're at an advantage for this one, since they use their own brands of basting oil, butternut squash soup, and tortelloni, but I'm sure you could find substitutions at other stores.  Unlike the previous recipe, which had some kick to it, this recipe is all comfort: mild, creamy, cheesy goodness.

Mushroom Lasagna
from Smitten Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.
This recipe may not really be easy or too quick, but I had to include it because boy, is it worth it.  My boyfriend had been dropping hints about wanting a good lasagna, but as I'm not a huge fan of pasta sauce, I looked for an alternative and found this savory, smooth piece of heaven.  Layers of nutty mushrooms, b├ęchamel sauce, and parmesan cheese come together to make an impressive dish to pass at a holiday meal or to freeze and save for a tasty end to a stressful day.

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Cheesy Polenta
from Eating Well

Photo courtesy of Eating Well.
Ah, butternut squash appears once again.  I just can't stay away from it in the winter!  This Eating Well recipe also uses cauliflower, another great winter veggie.  Roast the vegetables together – an excuse to turn the oven up real high and heat your house a little extra – and then pile them on top of a great mush of Parmesan-infused polenta.  One bite and that winter chill you accumulated throughout the day will finally leave your bones (until the next morning).

Don't wait for the first snowfall to start trying these recipes!  Let me know how it goes, or if you have your own favorites you'd like to share.  I'm constantly searching for new cooking ideas!

Next Post's Topic: Holiday Treats

Disclaimer: I'm a vegetarian, and though I do think the world would be a better place if everyone chose not to eat meat, I think it's fine that people do and don't mean to use this space to make readers feel guilty about their choices.  The recipes I choose to share are vegetarian because I am, and because I think raw meat is super gross and would never cook with it, not because I'm trying to brainwash anyone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This is what democracy looks like!

Last weekend, I participated in the Occupy Rochester protest that was part of the Global Day of Action against big banks and government failure to create an even-remotely-close-to even distribution of wealth.  This was my first time participating in an Occupy action, but I have been following the movement since a couple weeks after its beginning, and I am proud to say that I finally had the chance to join the cause.

Media coverage of the Occupy movement has been inadequate and mostly biased against the protestors, so I am going to give some background for those of you who may have not heard the full story (or any story at all).

Since September 17h, people of many different backgrounds, age groups, political parties, and lifestyles have staked out Zuccotti Park on Wall Street.  The movement was inspired by Adbusters, but has no one person or organization as its head organizer or speaker.  Despite popular descriptions by reporters, these people are not "dirty hippies" or an unorganized, ignorant, purposeless group.  They are the recent college graduates who are $100,000 in debt from student loans and cannot find anything but a minimum-wage retail job.  They are the single mothers who eat one meal a day so their children can eat three, and work full-time dead-end jobs.  They are the teachers who have lost their faith that the education system could provide bright futures for their students.  They are the 60-somethings who are terrified of retirement because their promised benefits are dwindling.  They are the disabled who cannot afford to not work, or those who suffer from life-threatening illnesses and cannot afford treatment.  They are the young couples who believed in the American dream of homeownership only to have their houses foreclosed upon by big banks.  They are America's tired, hungry, disenchanted, broke, scared, and angry.  They are the 99% of the population who are trampled on by the 1%, the country's richest and most clueless inhabitants.  They are ready for change.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are part of the 99%.  If you are my friend, my relative, or even just my acquaintance, you certainly are.  You know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck.  You owe money to the credit card companies, banks, or maybe to your own friends and relatives, or you fear that one day, you might, when your company downsizes or you are diagnosed with cancer or your parent or child falls on hard times and needs your financial assistance.  I do not expect all of my readers to get up from their couches or desks right now and join the fight, but I do want you to understand that these people occupying Wall Street and cities all over the world are not "the other," not violent, horrible people, but your neighbors, coworkers, and fellow citizens who have burdens like yours.

These people are exercising their rights as citizens in a democracy.  Will they succeed in bringing about change?  It is unlikely, I'll admit, but only time will tell.  If we can get enough support, show the 1% that we mean business, maybe something will happen.  At least, if you do like I did and stand outside in the freezing wind for hours marching and holding a sign, you can know that your voice was heard by someone.  If the movement can grow enough and manage to resist efforts by the police forces and other government parties to stifle it, I'd say we have a good chance of making something happen.

Here are some good resources for information and news updates:

Occupy Rochester 10/15

Next Post's Topic: Recipes for Easy Winter Vegetarian Comfort Food

Monday, October 17, 2011


I suppose that, in my first post, I should give a little background about myself and why I chose to write this blog.  Right now, I live in Rochester, NY, in an apartment about 20 minutes from where I grew up.  I have a dead-end, incredibly stressful job in a field that completely does not interest me.  I am attending graduate school in the hopes that I can one day find a job that I will actually enjoy, and it is very challenging and time-consuming.  My family as I have always known it is slowly unravelling as my mother undergoes treatment for cancer and my younger sisters prepare to graduate high school and move on to their colleges.  I have come to consider it a successful day if I manage to haul my ass out of bed on time, make it through the work day without snapping at a customer or royally messing something up, find some sort of food for dinner for my boyfriend and I, and make it to bed by midnight.

I am 22.  Something about this life does not seem right.

I have decided that my life needs a facelift of sorts (though I suppose that is a bad metaphor, as I absolutely hate the cosmetic surgery industry).  Through this blog, I aim to find the motivation to share parts of my life that I find interesting with others, which will force me to actually see what in my life is worth sharing.  There are, really, a lot of things: insights from my graduate classes, delicious recipes I find and try out, films I am dying to review, causes for which I love to speak, inspiring events I attend (like the Occupy Rochester protest, which will be the focus of my next post).  In sharing these things with you, I hope to inspire others to examine and possibly revamp their lives, too.  I will end this post with the poem that inspired the name of this blog, one by the wonderful poet Derrick Brown, who has a fantastic sense of humor about all the things people take too seriously.

"Woman Sleeping in a Room Full of Hummingbirds"
by Derrick Brown

Teased by success.
We're like vampires in a tampon factory.
It doesn't have to be that way.

The only good monologue has mistakes.

I will read out of this book of drawings.
This is a book of lovers/freaks I tried to change.
I had new visions of them and tried to draw them all in a book.
The strange thing is... my drawings kind of look like you.

In some ways you look like the star of the wheelchair parade.
This one lover and I went everywhere in our wheelchairs.
I couldn't convince this lover that someday, I needed to stand on my own.
So it ended ugly and they rolled out of my life forever.

This is a self-portrait.
I drew myself as a Bengal Tiger smacked up out of its orange.
Pacing, just pacing until my next meal. Grrr.
Shading's a little off.
I call it "Hushing my legs out to the twilight poison
of h-h-h-hot bitch knife flavored lip gloss -in still life."
This was the point in my life where I babbled too much
and that shooed away inspiration.

I didn't have a grasp of what was happening to my heart
until after the first break up. I won't bore you with anything
but the necessary details but let's just say I was plowing anything
that smelled disinfected and didn't wear pookah shells.

I was fake.
I tried all kinds of leadership seminars
to shirk these feelings of being fake.

I started making lists to get the stripes back on the tiger.
I was watching my stripes slip from my spine,
laying there on the ground like a bunch of parentheses.
Not to sound self-righteous, but the lists became my glue to become myself again.

It was text I had crafted from a place I didn't ever know existed.
No bald headed philosophies. Just boot strap shit.

Go away therapy. Flush home pills. Make lists.
My lists started out strange.
When I got to the end of them,
I felt beautiful, but yes, they did start out strange.

#1. Do something rebellious to get out of your comfort zone.

My first graffiti art said, "Don't pierce your babies ears.
They don't like it and no one thinks it's cute except for you
and your friends with jet skis."
That felt pretty bitchin' and looked kinda gangsta in a Mormon sorta way.

#2. Write something down that is impossible and write it as possible.

It took me awhile but I came up with this little gem.

"Be on time."

There was a whole bunch I made, which are a bit embarrassing,
but the last one became my favorite.

#46. One day, when you are tired of being broken,
carefully strap little LED lights to hummingbirds,
at least 52 of them
and release the birds in your lover's bedroom at night.

When he or she asks what is going on,
tell him or her to be still,
lay there like idiots,
make some dumb wishes and 
enjoy your shooting stars.
The ones you made on your own.

Make endless wishes.

The birds can take it.

Next Post's Topic: Occupy Rochester