The Cheesecake Addiction

My Life in Food

Archive for the tag “life”

CAKE. And ALL the feels.

I halved the recipe*

I halved the recipe*

I made cake last night.

Chocolate cake. Real good chocolate cake.

Still, not as good as my standard recipe but hella tasty and cray-cray easy.

Sidebar: I deserve mad props for even attempting to post this, given my current bout of extreme nausea. Thankfully, I’m back at the doctor on Wednesday and fingers crossed, I’ll be on my way to new information. But seriously, I’m so frickin tired of feeling nauseous.

But right, I made cake. I got some new cocoa powder from Trader Joe’s and saw the recipe on the back of the box. I cut it in half (no WAY can CDR and I eat THAT much cake) and away I went.

First, I greased and floured (with flour AND cocoa powder) a spring form pan. Recipe just called for a round cake pan, but I figured with the spring form I wouldn’t have to deal with pan removal.greasedpan

I put all ingredients in the KitchenAid (and ok, CDR–you were right…I DO use it a lot, it IS totally worth the cost, and I LOVE it) and mixed it all up.

I added some coffee to the batter, too.

I added some coffee to the batter, too.

Then I poured the batter into the pan, gave it a little shake (to release air bubbles), and popped it in the 350 degree oven for 50 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean).

Ooooh, girl.

Ooooh, girl.

A frosting trick I learned to keep the cake from “crumbing” (crumbs infest the frosting) is to brush a simple syrup over the cake. I opted for a cinnamon simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water and two cinnamon sticks boiled until sugar is dissolved and simmered until syrup gets syrupy) and just brushed it all over.

Finished with a light layer of chocolate frosting and some strawberries on top.

Boyfriend approved!

Boyfriend approved!


And those typical feels keep on coming. Yesterday was pretty awesome. I had an easy open house and came home to a quiet apartment which I cleaned and then proceeded to annihilate with cake stuff.

I think I’m in total Cape withdrawal, however. I’m missing the ocean and the inspiration. I’m a little out of sorts, being back–but hey, lez be real I’ve BEEN out of sorts. Combination of twenty-something woes, a constantly nauseated body, and well…YOU know. Same ol’, same ol’. Maybe it is a little bit of a run-away syndrome, but being back on the Cape–it was like my soul had come home to rest. From a physical standpoint- my body hadn’t felt that great in so long. And mentally–oh sweet relief!

*Time out…voice lesson.

*Time in.

So, I just had a voice lesson, as stated an hour and a half ago (see above). I sang For Good, from Wicked because for one: it’s maybe the most tolerable Schwartz song ever and for two: it’s time to start singing the healing songs. The “bright side” songs. The ACTUAL sorting through it songs–not the bitter ones (although I do rock a mean Carrie Underwood).

This is the part where I acknowledge that everything happens for a reason. The Universe and synchronicity work in mysterious ways and from every relationship there is a lesson to be learned.

What did I learn here? Well, I’ve learned a lot about myself. That’s a given and a stated. I’d like very much to say that despite everything, I’m able to trust like I could before–but that’s not true. I’ve learned caution. I operate now under the assumption that in dealing with men, you should be cautious (and might I add CDR is a blessing and takes this all like a champ) because they are capable of anything.

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

I’ve been changed. I can’t un-know what I do, or go back in time. I’ll always be hurt by this, but I can be comforted by knowing I learned something–many things about myself. And maybe that’s why this had to happen? I learned about myself. My strength, my weaknesses, my fears, my love, my power. I learned that I lean towards a manic-pixie-dream-girl trope, and I learned how to use that for good rather than for…less good.

“I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.”

Who knows why any of it happened? In one moment, everything changed and we both behaved in ways acceptable only in high school or reality television. But we learned. Or at least, I did.

I wonder what he learned?

“It is incredibly clear to me that what happened was meant to happen.” I wonder if he knows why?

Can’t blame a girl for trying.


Connected, Not Crazy

Well kids,

It’s frickin hot outside. So hot. But I’m joyous over the breeze, because my 2nd floor apartment is not air conditioned and all I have to do is sit to sweat pounds off of me. But the breeze is nice.

Our final dress rehearsal went off pretty spectacularly and we are poised for a fantastic opening tonight. So…come…because we need to fill the seats!

My dinner last night was also pretty spectacular. I made a bean salad that was SO GOOD. I had some left over black beans and I added dried cranberries, almonds, fresh rooftop basil, shaved gouda, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Oh ALSO. For my weakling self, we keep some frozen chicken nuggets on hand so that I can get a quick helping of protein whenever I need it, so I toasted up 3 of them and cut them into little pieces and tossed them with the salad.

ImageFor a quick, healthy, light  dinner–this totally fit the bill. See how yummy?

So, guys…I’m sitting on quite a doozy of a text message. The kind that you think up at 11:30 at night, type up at 12:30, and wonder if you should send until about 1:30. Don’t worry, I didn’t send it. But I’m still thinking about it.

The problem is that is of another tone entirely than my last communication with said person. It is softer, and ok, ok—caring. Ugh. It’s caring, ok? I mean, there are several issues at play here. If I send a caring message, will this person forget that I sent (and meant) that last email? Will my previous words be forgotten and not taken seriously? Probably.

And also, for fuck’s sake WHY are we communicating via email and text message? Yes, the distance is probably safer for me, but how can we gauge sincerity? The teenagers I work with choose to profess love and start fights through text messages and how ridiculous is that?!

A soft and caring text could be taken as manipulative, and maybe it is–because it’s completely self serving. Sending my feelings-that change daily-across cyberspace could only ruin a person’s day and keep us stuck.

But then again, I’ve hurt every day for the past year and it is well within my right to say what I feel.

I get that to him (who may or may not be reading), and to you, I’m probably coming across as  crazy. I feel angry and sympathetic all at once, need to be far and close in the same day, and want him to fuck up so I can still be mad. Alright, maybe a little crazy. Maybe psycho pants.

But maybe just connected. We’re connected. You’re always connected significantly to the person that hurt you-be them exes, bosses, friends, family, mentors. When you’ve been hurt, you get connected, and bound in a way. So many feelings come with betrayal–it’s confusing, intense, fast, and slow. Its effects can be long lasting and maybe the only cure really is time.

You stay connected until enough time has passed until suddenly, you aren’t.

But I guess I won’t send the message after all. It can wait until we meet again.

Maybe I’ll see you all at the show tonight.

Love and Connections, guys. Eat well.

Another Smoothie, More Bruschetta, and the Obligatory Tech Exhaustion Post

Well, ladies and gentleman–

I’m coming at you from bed. My health has taken a negative turn in the last week and pair that up with the exhaustion from tech…bed just seems to be the best place.

Mind you, this is not a crazy, exhausting, strenuous tech process. Actually, this is really smooth, calm, and a lot of fun. But the late nights and early mornings are taking their toll and so it is actually just the lack of sleep that has made me exhausted. How refreshing!

Of course, exhaustion at times means “emotionally compromised” and I think that’s where I’ve been for a few days. I’m proud to say it hasn’t affected my work. I’ve been determined to call a great show, and in doing so it has made for even more exhaustion. My mind is stuck on the issue mentioned yesterday: the note, hope, and holding on. Oy vey.

Perhaps another factor is the drama of the angst-y, hormonal, and sexually charged teens I work with…Their issues are bringing up my own to an extent.

Or really, maybe I just have too much damn time on my hands because I’m bedridden and can’t concentrate on anything else except finding energy to make a smoothie and my damn feelings. This is probably the case.

Whatever the reason may be, I hate it here. I hate it in this place of limbo. Not moving forward, not moving back. Stuck in illness and frustration.

Anyway…when the iPad is done charging (for the photos), I’ll make my way to the kitchen to make myself a banana chocolate smoothie and some tuna bruschetta for my protein-packed tech dinner.

Banana Smoothie:

Almond milk, banana, coco powder, a handful of frozen berries and mango, a little orange juice, and cinnamon. Blend to tasty banana-y perfection and let it heal your ailing tummy. ImageImage

It was SO GOOD. I’m drinking it now and can feel my body absorbing the nutrients. Plus, the chocolate kick curbs the sweet tooth.

Tuna Bruschetta:

Similar to last time, I just mixed a can of tuna with chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, thyme, chives. This time, instead of garbanzo beans, I added black beans. I also added a tablespoon or so of capers. Dress it up with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

There you go, my friends. Easy, kind of rustic, and hopefully enough to get me through.

Funny, isn’t it? The things you think when you’re exhausted? How much more difficult thought management is when you don’t sleep?

Funny also how we always have one more thing to say, even if we think we’ve said it all.

California Cooking and the Spiral.

Hey guys,

My recent obsession with Shark Week re-runs has me aching to get back to an ocean. Even now, sitting on couch and watching SVU, I’m day dreaming about waves washing over me. I can feel the cool water lap against me and the salt stick to my skin. Heaven.

Feeling a little distant from my roots, and desperately needing some nourishment, I channeled my SoCal self and went to work making a quinoa salad and black bean burgers.

*I have zero photos of the process because all photo-taking devices were un-charged.

For the Quinoa Salad

I first sautéed half an onion and a clove of garlic in some oil. Add a little bit of salt and pepper. Then add a cup of quinoa and stir to toast slightly before adding 2 cups of water. Add 1/4 cup  of dried cherries to the water. They’ll get plump and it’ll sweeten the dish. Simmer for fifteen minutes and when the water has boiled away, add half of a chopped green pepper and a little fresh lime juice.

Tasty and healthy. When ready to serve, add some avocado and tomatoes. Or some sliced almonds for a yummy crunch!

For the black bean burgers:

Add a couple tablespoons of sauteed, diced mushrooms, a can of black beans, half of a chopped green pepper, a clove of garlic, and half a cup of bread crumbs into a blender or food processor. I also added a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Coarsely puree the mixture. The mix will be very wet, so the best way to to form the patties is to line a small tupperware with plastic wrap and then fill it with the mixture. Wrap up the patties and then pop them in the freezer to set up and cook when you want them. Delicious and protein packed.

Again, my apologies for the lack of food photos. Everything was eaten too fast.

And so we have entered tech rehearsals for How to Succeed. After a long hiatus, I was expecting to be frazzled and expecting to have a harder time finding the flow of the show. Surprisingly, this has been easy breezy. I’m a little more disorganized than usual, but I think that has only helped me to be a little more spontaneous, calm, and adaptable. We’ve got a great show and so far, it’s been melt-down free.

Except for once. For five minutes. Last night. And here’s where I might start to spiral. Like I said, tech has been great, but when we started our dry tech on Saturday and I opened my kit, I saw the note. A note from him that glares back at me and asks, “Why haven’t you taken me down yet? Take me down, throw me away…or at least hide me in a different box. Why do you leave me here?” And for a moment on Saturday (okay a few moments) I felt a lump in my throat and a wave of melancholy. On our ride home, I talked to Geoff about it.

“Why?” I asked, frustrated.

“Because you hope,” he said. Damn. He’s right. I do hope. For what, I’m not sure. Do I hope that we’ll move on and be fine someday? Yes, of course. Do I hope for a reconciled relationship? I’m not sure…maybe. I hope for answers and explanations. But do I really think leaving a note taped to my kit will give me those things? Oh, fuck if I know.

Geoff continued (and Geoff, forgive the paraphrase), “You’re holding on because you hope. You have to overanalyze and talk about it because, still, anything he says will put you into a downward spiral.”

Yep. That’s true. Yesterday in the middle of act two, after an unfortunate glance towards a friend’s email inbox, I realized how my friends are still connected to this person and there’s not one damn thing I can do about it. I have to sit and say nothing, while a person who destroyed me emotionally connects with the people I know and love. I have to sit and say nothing because it isn’t my place to ruin him for them. I have to accept that my friends will be his friends no matter what happened…and honestly, that’s really harsh. And devastating. And yeah, I stifled tears through act two (though I called it like a champ, thanks very much) because it hurts so much. And sucks…majorly.

Ok, I’ll shut up about my downward spiral and keep California Dreaming to get through. Also…I’ll kick major ass with this show.


Coming Solstice, Bruschetta, and Rock Bottom: One Year Later

2013-06-03 13.04.38-1If you’re just here for the food, totally cool. Scroll down to the pictures and you can read about some protein packed, healthy bruschetta. If you’re here for it all, right on. And read on.

One year ago this weekend (give or take a few days–that is how the calendar works, after all) was my rock bottom. I was alone in Zion, IL (cue Paul and Geoff: Jew skies…smiling at me), searching my soul, which pretty much translates to uncontrollable sobbing, phone fights, and a table for one at Applebee’s. The night was completely still. The lake was like glass, and the wind had vanished. And not to be totally dramatic about it, but I had never felt such despair. It felt like everything had burst out of me, screaming. This man had changed everything I knew to be true and safe and for reasons I still can’t quite comprehend, I was alienated from my family. It was the worst night. And somehow, I fell asleep and got through it and then…I woke up.

I checked out of the motel at 7 in the morning, got a cup of gas station coffee, and drove to the beach. Beach State Park was beautiful, wild, and untamed. There was a crispness in the summer air that morning that gave me life and strength. I was still in pain, but I was less lost. I knew what I had to do, and although it hurt like nothing ever has before (for reasons he probably still doesn’t understand), I knew I could. I couldn’t cry anymore; I could only breathe. I spent an hour just sitting. I wasn’t even really thinking anything. I was just gathering the strength I needed to move. Finally, I stood up and walked to my car. When I turned the car on, I heard a familiar beat begin to play.

“When I get older, I will be stronger

They’ll call me freedom, just like the waving flag…

When I get older, I will be stronger…”

One hand out the window, one on the wheel, and my phone in the trunk–I drove away.

It is one year later. One tumultuous year later. As you know, much has happened. Lots of good, a little bad. A few biopsies here and there. But where do I stand on all of this? And why should you care? Well, ok, you shouldn’t care, because this is honestly more of an open letter. I only tell you over and over because, while I feel listened to, I don’t feel heard. And I have some pretty damning and salient proof that I haven’t been heard.

Anyhoozle. I’m better. I’m stronger. And truly, for the first time–REALLY, the first time since this whole thing began–I’m not sad. Finally, my blood boiled with rage and then I calmed down (this was just a few weeks ago). True colors were shown, and it made it easier not to feel sympathy or pain for him. I realized someone this small has no power to hurt me anymore. Despite what you might think, I have done nothing but try to move on all year–and finally, I can start. I’m listening to the same songs I listened to all of last summer, and they carry some heavy-duty memories, but they sound different. They feel better.

“And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him out!…Happiness hit her like a bullet in the head, struck from a great height, by someone who should know better/The DOG DAYS ARE OVER. THE DOG DAYS ARE GONE. THE HORSES ARE COMING SO YOU BETTER RUN!”

So a long winded way of saying, I am so much better. Bruschetta:

A few of you may know this, but CDR and I have started a rooftop garden. It is so much fun and so beautiful and we have an endless supply of herbs! Yesterday, I was having a weak day (physically) and wanted to do something fun with tuna, so I thought…TUNA BRUSCHETTA SOUNDS DELICIOUS! And it was.

I gathered some herbs. Basil, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Chives, and Parsley.2013-06-19 16.01.25

I chopped tomatoes, one clove of garlic, and all the herbs. 2013-06-19 16.14.23

I added a can of tuna packed in oil, drained partially so you still get some of the oil. I also added 1/4 of a cup of garbanzo beans for added protein. Finish it off with a splash of balsamic and salt and pepper.

2013-06-19 16.21.03

Voila. Super simple, super healthy, and super yummy.

We also made a lemon-verbena simple syrup, which I’ll stir into a cake in a few days–recipe testing for Cry Eye Fatigue Syndrome. Boil equal cups water and sugar until it reduces slightly, and let herb leaves steep for 15-20 minutes.2013-06-19 16.19.40

Tomorrow is the summer solstice, and Geoff is coming over for dinner. We’ll celebrate our bounty of herbs by using them in a bunch of flatbreads. And weather permitting, we might dine on the roof. Here’s to a glorious summer!


So this is Christmas…Again.

annaxmaseveOne year and one day ago I posted this. A post with the same title and lessons similar to the ones I learned this year. I wrote:
” 1.If you lose yourself, don’t hate yourself. You’ll put the pieces back together.
2. If you feel caged, just jump. Do it. Feeling a weight on your heart isn’t worth it.
3. When you are sad, don’t listen to Melissa Etheridge.
4. If you are bursting at the seams, don’t hold it in. Scream, laugh, cry or do whatever you have to do. As Marilyn said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
5. Sometimes, it’s okay to sleep in. The world can wait.
So this year, I’ve decided is my year of pushing my boundaries. I will take more risks and allow myself to be more vulnerable. I will heal and cleanse my mind and body and nourish them with joy. I will let loose. I do not need to be so tightly wound. I will go to bed late and dammit! I will dance on a table this year.”

So, I have two days to dance on a table. I’ll come back to that in a second…erm, a paragraph. If you read often, you know what a rough ride the past six months have been. And I know. You’re tired of hearing it. But isn’t the new year the time to be pensive and reflective? Of everything mentioned above, I did it all…except the table thing. I took risks, allowed myself to be vulnerable, I healed and cleansed, felt extreme joy, and you know…I did let loose. A year ago, my anxieties would have kept me home rather than going on an awesome (yes, I said awesome) trip to Canada or to Beach State Park when I was aching for clarity. The past month has been easier on the heart and body–stepping away from theater helped a lot. I am less tired and much more capable of handling the ridiculous ” you’re happy now” photos that Facebook throws at me. Bring it on!

Before I tell you about my delicious Christmas roast, please humor me a few more sentences. While I will remember this year for the lessons I learned, I think I’ll remember this year more for the…well…the snapshot memories. If I could choose a lesson that accurately depicts the whole year, I’d say it is: Cherish it. Cherish the pain, the joy, the breaths, the friends, the theater, the laughter, the love. Cherish Chris, Miriam, Wendy, Geoff, Gabby, Emily, Paul, and the countless others that got me through. Cherish the sun tan from that one terrible pier-side day that STILL won’t fade. I’ll remember always Canada, graduation, Rent (oh, I’ll never forget Rent). Some Nights reminds me of excruciating summer nights and Katy Perry reminds me of Paul car dancing.

When all is said and done, have you said everything there is to say? Do the people in your life know exactly how you feel about them? Has everything been made right on your part? I am not sure I can say much in the way of accomplishments this year–but I can answer “yes” to those questions. And that’s good enough for now.

So thanks guys. Now, forChristmas Eve this year, I made another standing rib roast. I coated it with the help of a smokey, peppery brown sugar rub (made by the awesome CDR). Cooked it fat side up, searing at 500 for twenty minutes, and then continued cooking for two hours at 350 until medium rare. The flavor was unbelievable. Incredible BBQ taste. Delicious bark and tender, juicy meat. Soo good.

COAT it with the rub! Mm, mmm, good!

COAT it with the rub! Mm, mmm, good!

Out of this world!

Out of this world!

As an appetizer, I also made Brie en Croute. My standard recipe. Just bake Brie and a honey, rosemary, cranberry mixture in puff pastry until golden brown.

put honey mixture in the center.

put honey mixture in the center.

wrap pastry around it.

wrap pastry around it.



And of course I made a cheesecake. And honestly, it was the best one I ever made. Extra creamy, crumbly crust. Outstanding and hats off to myself. Yay.

‘And a Merry Christmas to your family.’

Healing Body, Healing Mind…

It’s been quite the hiatus, I must say. I promise delectable food has been made. There was a chipotle crusted roast beef, some polenta with a twisted up chicken mole, some tummy-healing smoothies, pasta sauces, and….hm…well, CDR seems to have made it all, so maybe he can shed some light. WAIT. Not true. I made the polenta/chicken thing. But mostly, I’ve been working. Seven days a week. Little time for cooking.

Says my body, “Honey, thanks for the diet of coffee and neglect…but please I’d like some nutrition.”

The last few weeks have been filled with a new job as a childcare provider in a downtown gym (which encompasses lots of spit-up and other bodily functions), several other jobs, rehearsals for two different shows, one particularly ridiculous tech in which I’m convinced the universe was just fucking with me, early mornings, late nights, and CDR helping me fix every single disaster that I create for myself. Thanks, buddy.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m in tough-tomato territory, and my body is suffering. If there are theater people who live full theater schedules and still manage to eat like an adult–please tell me your secrets. I do what I can. Odwalla here, sushi there, braised ribs in a fattening sauce over egg noodles….you know.

Emotionally? Psh. That old chestnut. But probably, if I get my physical act together, the sanity will follow.

It hit home early Morning the importance of taking care of my body, though. Paul called to tell me that a close friend was in a devastating car accident. With a snapped spine, he’s facing paralysis. The surgery went well, the break was repaired with little damage to the chord. He has use of his arms–but he and his family won’t know if he’ll walk again for a while. I’m sure it was the longest weekend of their lives. He’s a sophomore in college, and studying to be a physical therapist–and the most athletic person I know. His body is so strong, and his heart is so pure, it would take a lot to convince me that his kid won’t find a way to walk again.

But anyway, it just really reminded me of really how precious life is, how in an instant everything can change, and how important it is to take care of our bodies and keep them strong. Back on the healthy train for Anna. And lit candles, prayers, and loving vibes into the atmosphere.

Driving to rehearsal today, I went past Thatcher Woods and a thick layer of haze had settled on the forest floor and the autumn colors loomed overhead (yes, stolen directly from my earlier facebook status). It was spectacular. I even saw a coyote sitting on the side of the road and two deer crossed the road right in front of me. I longed to be in nature, rather than in this rehearsal–where I am right now (former professors, I promise I am well within my right to rehearsal blog). But no matter. I could still feel the healing power of nature. A little peace.

Beach State Park

Greetings Readers–

Well, my 24 hour getaway was not all I had hoped for. It was not unplugged (the dreaded phone call came five minutes after I fell asleep), and the problems followed me there. No matter. The park was absolutely beautiful, and I took the scenic route to Winthrop Harbor (just took Sheridan Road the whole way there). The town itself was so-so. Kind of sleepy. But the park reminded me so much of Woods Hole (my home on the Cape) which is exactly what I needed. A little taste of home.

Look how beautiful!

On the drive and on the beach, encouraged by Florence + the Machine (or Flo+ the Mo), I was able to gather my thoughts and what little strength I have left to make some decisions.

I’m in the grip of a hurricane/I’m gonna blow myself away…Cause I know it’s going to hurt/But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse…

Anyway, after some time at the beach, and some time just staring up at the ceiling–I realized that it was 5:30 and the last thing I had to eat was a bagel at 9:00 am. Food was necessary. So I got in my car and drove around looking for a place that a single girl could safely eat in, without feeling like all eyes were on me. So…all the bars were out–because it was past that afternoon “sit outside with a burger and beer and read time” and now it was that 5:30 creepy crowd. I could have waited another hour or so for the bars to get a bit more populated, but like I said, I needed food. So…Okay, now don’t judge a foodie too harshly…I went to Applebee’s. Yeah.

My server, Alyssa, came over–sweet as can be (I left a 50% tip–granted, the bill was only $6)–and offered me…Sangria. This was my first experience with Applebee’s, so I wasn’t expecting to have so many alcoholic options. I considered a big Sangria for about half a second and then I thought, “No, Anna. You will NOT be sitting at Applebee’s, fighting back tears, eating a burger, and drinking a Sangria. This is not how your sad story is going to go.” So, I told Alyssa as much, and passed on the alcohol. Um…not going to lie. The burger was really good. I ordered it well done (or in Applebee’s lingo…no pink) and the chef delivered it to me personally. I felt a little special. And that concludes the food portion of this post.

After dinner, I went to the beach and the water was really calm—which in turn calmed me. I walked in the sand at sunset, collecting some rocks, and tried to settle my heart a bit. It worked for a while. The rest of the night passed without much incident…except a couple having car sex  in an SUV outside of my motel room. That car really was a’rockin.

I woke, got myself a cup of coffee, and cleaned up my room for an early checkout. I went back to the beach, and this time the water was wild. Funny. Mirrored my heart pretty perfectly.

You hit me once, I hit you back. You gave a kick, I gave a slap.

After an hour, I began my drive home. What helped the most was being able to end my trip in the arms of my best friend. Miriam, after six months, it’s so good to have you home! And then Miriam listened, and reminded me of why I got my serpent tattoo in the first place. I am woman, I am powerful. I can do this.

No light, no light in your bright blue eyes!

The horses are coming
So you better run
Run fast for your mother and fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind you
Can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

Cupcakes and granola bars on the way, kids. Peace.

This is a Comeback…

So, I was in the shower not half an hour ago…yes, I know, weird way to start a food blog…and I came to yet ANOTHER realization.

FACT: Stage Managers are like Vanilla Extract. Stage Manager. Vanilla Extract. Battlestar Galactica. (Also, I’m an avid Office fan)

But seriously, people. I was thinking about vanilla extract. It is so freaking crucial to so many delicious baked goodies. And by now, we should all be familiar with my vanilla no measuring policy. Rarely do we even notice it’s presence–it just works it’s magic, enhancing our chocolates, cookies, cakes, scones, muffins, alcoholic beverages, some savory Carribbean dishes, biscotti, etc. But if you leave it out, you can taste the blandness—these goodies will lack a certain depth—a chaotic mess of ingredients just begging to be tied together. So the life of a stage manager. But more on that in a second.

Bacaaardi and Vaniiiila...

I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you exactly how to DIY vanilla extract. It’s so simple, and I’ve been doing it for the past three years. And really, it’s completely worth it. This is exactly what Ina Garten means when she says to use “good vanilla extract.” Side note—can I get sued for making that claim? Anywho, get yourself a nice bottle of rum and 3-4 vanilla beans. The better (or stronger) the rum, the more vanilla beans you’ll need. Example, if you’re just using plain old Bacardi—three should be fine. But if we go Bacardi Gold or (dare I suggest) Mount Gay Rum, maybs go with 4 or 5. You’ll be happier in the end. Place the vanilla beans into the bottle, close tightly, and let the bottle sit in a cool, dark place (like your cabinet or pantry) for 3-4 weeks (again, the better or stronger the rum, the longer you wait–but 4 should be plenty). And there you have it! Homemade Vanilla Extract. One batch should get you through 6-8 months of baking. I’d give it a shelf life of a year. You can also use whiskey. CDR–care to share your thoughts?

Last night I made a spaghetti and meatball dinner. Oh. My. God. I don’t want to say that I’m so freaking awesome that I totally nailed it, but…I’m so freaking awesome that I totally nailed it. Sauce was perfectly garlic-ed (the technical term) and the meatballs were pretty succulent (I maintain that the reason behind that is the use of fresh crumbled Italian bread rather than bread crumbs). Super yummy. I made that Hershey’s Dark Chocolate cake for dessert. Result? Oh. My…Meh.

The cake itself was delicious. Moist, chocolate-y, vanilla-y. And I had let some blackberries macerate in some brown sugar, vanilla, and basil which I put on top of the caramel topping. Here’s the trouble. I didn’t cook the caramel all the way. So—the taste was just fine. Lovely, even. Complex. But the texture…not so much. The sugar hadn’t totally dissolved, so it was kind of just like biting into a warmer, gooier version of brown sugar on top of chocolate cake. And after that sentence, I’m wondering why I’m complaining. Still, though–average marks for texture. Not a home run. Issokay, though.

And here we come full circle. The Anna of yester-year (as in pre-2012) would have taken it pretty hard–not having a perfect cake. I probably would have gone on for hours in a state of self-deprecation and inner loathing because what jackass cooks caramel for two minutes and calls it a day, right? Well, no longer–ladies and gentlemen. I hereby introduce the Anna of today. She is chill, and she is making a comeback.

The hair’s been dyed, the tattoo has healed, the closet’s been cleaned, a box has been packed. I have chosen a Vanilla Extract career, but I’m not choosing a Vanilla Extract life (yep–used a botched caramel sauce to allow myself another ramble). I enjoy making the perfect dish, the perfect sauce, the perfect cheesecake–but if something goes awry, or I’m having too much fun that I rush along a dish–I can be okay with the imperfections. I can live with myself and love myself. Oh boy–is that self-esteem boosting? The bells of happiness chiming? Essentially, I think I’ve discovered (yes, MORE discoveries) that I spend a whole lot of time trying to please or impress others and when I fall short, I take a pretty hard hit. Why? What’s the point? Let’s make ourselves happy, live out loud for ourselves and not for others. Like vanilla extract, we’re all so important. We all matter. But I’m a little tired of life behind the scenes.

So, suck it caramel sauce. I’m back.

…And now you all think I’m insane.

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