Monday, January 28, 2013

Butterscotch Sauce

In hopes of detoxing from holiday eats and treats and to kick start some of our diet changes, Matt and I are doing a seven day cleanse. There are lots of dietary restrictions but the hardest and most important ones are no coffee and no sugar. Before we started the cleanse, I weaned myself down from four cups of coffee a day to just two cups of green tea. Unfortunately, I didn't taper down my sugar intake at all and was not prepared for the symptoms of sugar withdrawals! I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. I was bed-ridden with a migraine, the shakes and a cold sweat (sheesh, talk about first-world problems...) I ate a little fresh fruit to ease my headache, but I still feel pretty awful. I'm hoping after 72 hours I'll be done detoxing and the "feel great" part of the cleanse will kick in. I consume a LOT of sugar every day, so this will be a nice little vacation for my pancreas and hopefully hit the reset button on my sugar intake afterwards.

On that note, here's a lovely, little recipe for butterscotch sauce. I found this rich & creamy recipe in Real Simple a couple months ago and thought it would be the perfect thing to give out to our dinner guests on Valentine's Day (assuming we restrain ourselves from eating it all). It's simple and uses just a few affordable ingredients. Drizzle on ice cream, stir into hot chocolate or mix into cookie batter! This would also make a great hostess or housewarming gift.

This recipe makes three 1 cup servings and takes about 15 minutes to make.
2 cups heavy cream 
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

-Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring frequently until it's smooth (about 2 or 3 minutes).
-Add the heavy cream and stir. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about ten to twelve minutes). Stir in the vanilla extract and salt until dissolved and then let it cool. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Alabama Pt. 2

The rest of our trip was incredibly wonderful! We spent one more day with Matt's family before driving up north to visit friends. We even got to see a little bit of snow! I was absolutely freezing for most of our trip. After a tearful good -bye to our family, we drove up north and stayed with Matt's brother for the evening. It's funny/weird how similar those two are, sometimes they make the exact same face at the exact same time. The next morning, we left earlier and headed into Tuscaloosa to visit the University of Alabama. As an alumni, Matt loves strolling the campus and stopping by the student store to stock up on football merch for the next season.  A big highlight of the day for me was stopping by the Starbucks on campus. Coffee shops are few and far between in the south (or at least all the areas we are visiting), so after a few days of gulping down Folger's and Splenda with Grandma, an Americano was quite the treat. I couldn't get over what a cute town Tuscaloosa is! Ivy covered brick buildings, outrageously large sorority homes and lots of cute shops & diners! College towns are the best.

After shamelessly over-shopping and stuffing our suitcases full of crimson colored paraphernalia, we headed back to Birmingham to meet up with Joey & Christen again. Hanging out with them is the best. They are both so fun, kind and hospitable; I wished we lived closer to each other! Like last time, we split up for a while and then all met up together for dinner. Christen and I went shopping for a while before taking a break over some Valentine's blend coffee and strawberry cupcakes. I love shopping with her! I don't know what it is, but with our power's combined we can do some serious damage. We met back up with the fellas for drinks, appetizers and a roaring night of trivia. We were doing pretty well until the third round and then we were a little in over our head so I resorted to heckling the emcee and watching women's tennis on the TV in the bar. (Let me tell you, watching the ball retrievers frantically scramble onto the court after a bad serve kept me entertained for about an hour. Hilarious.)

The next morning, we drove down to check out my mother in law's new house on the lake! It was incredibly gorgeous. High ceilings and hardwood floors flooded with sunlight in a big beautiful home surrounded by trees resting on the outskirts of a lake. Does it get much better than that? It does. They have a puppy named Rambo!

My favorite souvenir from our trip to the south is the big shoe box full of pictures of Matt that his mom gave me! There may or may not be a post coming up filled with pictures of Matt as a baby that no one else will care about except for me. Later that day, we drove out to Renae and Cory's house and hung out with their family. I got some quality time with my little man, Carter and got to try a little authentic, southern moonshine straight out of a mason jar. It burned all the way down but it tasted exactly like apple pie! The Aldridges always show us a great time!

 To end the night, we joined our good friend Mike for dinner with his new lady. It's so encouraging to watch Matt spend time with all his best friends out there. I love being with people that appreciate and love this man also! In the morning, Matt had the opportunity to preach at the church he use to go to when he lived out there. I still can't get use to the southern tradition of Sunday morning class, a 9am gathering and an evening gathering, all with different messages! Matt was pretty wiped out at the end of the day. Later we went over to some friends house and played the card game Wizard  over a pizza and a pitcher of sweet tea.

Whew, just recapping our trip makes me tired. It was an incredibly full week, but mentally, the trip was incredibly restful and life-giving to us. Riding in the car, winding through narrow roads lined with thin, wiry trees and wide open fields beats bumper to bumper traffic any day.

As usual, our visit went way too quickly and we wish we could spend more time with everyone! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bits & Pieces

Well, here we are. Back in the land of sweet tea and biscuits. We had a pretty eventful time getting here, but luckily a low key few days with family. Getting me on an airplane is no small task, but after a few splashes of Kahlua made it's way into my coffee, I was feeling pretty confident the morning of our flight. Our first leg of the trip went quite smoothly, but unfortunately our last flight had to make an emergency landing because of problems with the landing gear. Everything was fine, apparently. I, however, was responding like one of the passenger's on the plane on Lost, while everyone else was rolling their eyes and putting their headphones on to drown out my panicking sobs. (I respond this way to turbulence, so you can only imagine the emotional stability I exhibited during an actual emergency...) The swarm of fire trucks and ambulances that outlined the runway once we landed was a nice touch, too. Good thing I overpacked, because I am never getting on a plane again. Who wants to send me my things? 

We made our emergency landing in Birmingham instead of Montgomery, so we called up our good friends Joey & Christen who live near by and they took us in for the night. It actually ended up working out really well. We weren't planning on seeing them until later in the week, but Joey promptly rescued us from the airport and we got to enjoy dinner and drinks with them. They made what could have been an incredibly stressful night (as we were leaving the airport, I heard the flight attendant announce that they were going to give everyone free bus tickets to get to Montgomery..) quite wonderful. On top of it all, they took us to breakfast in the morning! They are two of the most hospitable people we know. Thanks again for redeeming our night with lemon drops and laughter! We love you guys! 

After breakfast, Matt's family picked us up and we all drove up to northern Alabama together. That day marked ten years since Matt's dad tragically passed away, so we gathered together at one of their favorite restaurants with his dad's dear friend Joe and listened to stories and memories over a huge plate of steak and potatoes. 

After visiting a few more sentimental places with the family, we drove back down to Montgomery and have enjoyed the past couple days together listening to Grandma's stories, drinking sweet tea and looking at baby pictures of Matthew! They always spoil us rotten with home cooked meals and big dinners out, so we decided it was our turn to cook for them. Matt grilled a huge rack of lamb, roasted some Mediterranean veggies and baked rolls. I whipped us up some apple dumplings for dessert and of course, the sweet tea was a flowin'. 

Today is our last day with the family before we head back up to northern Alabama to visit friends, if the weather cooperates! Oh my goodness, it is cold, I definitely didn't pack enough warm clothes. This morning as we were drinking our coffee by the fire, snow started fluttering down! So magical. It's going to make that walk back to California really, really cold. (Seriously, who is going to drive over here and get me at the end of the week?)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

We're Off

There's my odd little pile of sweaters and shorts in preparation for my first trip to Alabama in the winter. (Apparently the weather out there can be a little fickle; luckily, being an Oregonian has prepared me for such a time as this.)

So off we go, to spend a week in the south with our family and friends. I'll be sharing lots of photos...primarily of food.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Not-So DIY Camera Bag

 Whenever I carry my camera around, I usually just end up wrapping it up in a scarf and sticking it in my bag (I know, alarming..), but when I got a new lense for Christmas, I decided I probably needed to invest in a suitable camera bag, especially for our trip coming up. I wanted something small that would protect my camera, but still fit into my purse. I liked the idea of a camera bag insert, especially after seeing this one on Ona's website. Then, after seeing this little cutie on Pinterest, I got inspired to make my own.

 Unfortunately, I don't have much of a how-to to share for this project! I bought 1 inch thick foam and water-proof fabric at the craft store (you can find foam in the back by the pillow inserts) and used an old belt for the strap. After a long day at work, I came home, poured myself a glass of wine and turned on Lord Huron. In need of some serious craft therapy, I attempted to hand sew this guy.

I traced my camera on the foam and cut out a rectangle and three squares, all the same size, for the wall and sides. After I laid out my foam pieces on my fabric to trace them out, I got overwhelmed at the idea of hand-sewing all of them after several glasses of wine and no dessert. The next day, I took my poorly-cut scraps over to my friend Louri's house and she sewed the bag together for me in under 20 minutes! She sewed them all inside out, then flipped them in and added the foam. She sewed a flap to wrap around the whole thing, with a square of foam inside the top part. 

Sorry I don't have step-by-step instructions, sometimes you just have to wing it. And by "wing it", I mean impulsively start crafting, panic and have your nice, seamtress friend finish your project for you. Thanks, Louri!

Fits perfectly in my carry-on! 

Next up: a new camera strap that my husband will feel comfortable wearing as well. Which probably means my lace idea is out...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Edited: The Perfect Pancakes

As I've mentioned before, I take full advantage of the days I don't have to be at work at 5:30 in the morning. Yesterday, I woke up with a huge craving for pancakes. I rarely consume more than coffee before mid day, but I decided to go for it. I used the recipe printed on the back of my unbleached flour bag which called for buttermilk. We didn't have any on hand, but since Gilmore Girls was already blaring from my TV and my cast iron skillet was thoroughly heated, I didn't feel like running to the store. Buttermilk is the key to fluffy and delicious pancakes, so I decided to improvise.

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used coconut oil)

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

 -Combine the milk and white vinegar in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes to "sour".  (If you have buttermilk on hand, you can use that instead of creating your own. Use a little less than 1 cup.)

-Combine the other dry ingredients in a large bowl. 

-Whisk the egg and melted butter into the soured milk.  

-Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients and whisk together until lumps are gone.

-Let the batter rest while you heat up a large skillet with your cooking oil. (I used coconut oil for added flavor, although butter would be delicious too!) Try not to stir your batter any more so that you don't pop any of the bubbles that help fluff up the pancakes!

-Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip once with a spatula and cook until lightly browned. This recipe makes about 8 small pancakes.

I'll be honest, this post was mostly an excuse to try out the new lens my parents gave me for Christmas, but I'm surprised I managed to set down my fork and take a few shots before they were all gone! (I mean, who wants to sit around snapping photos of the perfect pancakes once you've made them?!)

I don't know if it's because I haven't had anything but gluten-free pancakes in about a year, but these hit all sorts of spots for me. You could also add vanilla, cinnamon or whatever else you think would be delicious in there. This version went perfectly with my peppermint cream coffee and shameless Lauren Graham addiction. Enjoy!

After finding out that I had been feasting on delicious fluffy pancakes without him, my husband was pretty envious (I knew I should have deleted those pictures on our camera...). We always make breakfast together on Sundays so I gave it a go this morning and it turned out great! They were so wonderful and delicious, you'd hardly even notice they were gluten free. 

Gluten-free Recipe:

1 cup Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix (or gluten-free baking mix of your choice)
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3/4 cup milk
Cooking oil

-Follow the same instructions as above and enjoy! If you're using only gluten-free flour instead of a baking mix, you will still need to include the other dry ingredients, plus maybe a little xanthan gum.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Happy New Year! Although I'm always a little sad when Christmas is over, and the house always seems a little bare when all the decorations are put away, I'm looking forward to a new year. Between being part of a church plant and moving to a new city all in our first year of marriage, we had a pretty long year.

Matt and I pick each other's resolutions, but this year we mutually agreed to try to enjoy this next year. Create more, laugh more, relax more. Between running around working two jobs and the relationship work (I'd hardly call it work!) that comes with a church plant, I often find myself riddled with to do lists, protective over my free time and just plain stressed. When really, I live in a beautiful home with a wonderful man a few blocks away from an incredible beach in constant sunshine. I don't have specifics other than I just want to enjoy. Enjoy cooking, enjoy working, enjoy gardening, enjoy my neighbors, enjoy this fun, weird, little city we find ourselves in.

After a busy two weeks working through the holiday season, we are incredibly excited to head back south for a week. Life just slows down out there.

Once we get back, we're going to give the Paleo diet a try. I can already admit that it's not going to work for me (I have a pretty serious relationship with parmesan cheese), but the diet falls right in line with Matt's diet restrictions for Crohn's Disease, so why not?

Happy 2013!