The Dinner Bell

Sometimes nothing makes me happier than some hummus. And some pretzel chips. Do you know about pretzel chips? I was just introduced to them. It was love at first bite. Sorry. Hope your dinner made you this happy.

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Nutty

Two years ago my sister showed up at Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving or Christmas – one of them – with a bag full of these spicy, sweet, salty nuts. They have a strange crack-like power on everyone who tries them. I decided to make a batch for our favorite aunt out in Long Island who takes our girl for a beach adventure every summer. In fact she’ll take any girls – all girls seem to be welcome. Boys too maybe. She’s good like that. She deserves some nuts.

This is the Smitten Kitchen recipe, quadrupled. Cause that’s how I roll.

4 Cups Nuts (any nut will do. Except the nut you’re married to), 1 egg white, 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 Cup White Sugar, 2 tsp Cinnamon, 2 tsp Salt, 2 tbs Cayenne Pepper, 3 tbs water.

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Combine the sugars, cayenne pepper, salt and cinnamon. Whisk the egg white with the water until frothy. Add egg whites to the nuts and coat evenly. Add the sugar and toss. 

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Spread evenly in one layer on parchment paper and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before packaging. I made a batch of these last week to take to a picnic and found this cute candy bowl. The plan was to give the host of the picnic the nuts and bowl, but when he offered it back at the end of the night, I took it. I couldn’t help it. It’s so cute. The first batch of nuts I made were pecans, almonds, and walnuts. The clear winner taste wise in our house is the pecans – so that’s what I made today.

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Dear Howard, I’m not going to punk out!

Confession. Sometimes (not ALWAYS) I make plans and then cancel. I’m particularly guilty of ditching my friend Howard. Howie. Uncle Wowie to some. Here’s the formal definition of my disease:

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Retreating. It’s what I do best. Some folks also refer to this as “flaking”. I’m a flake. Sometimes. But not without a cause! I don’t just willy nilly cancel. I’m not a monster.
Here’s the reason I couldn’t come to the party, the cocktail hour, the dinner, the birthday, the birth of your first born (gulp):

- when I said yes, I meant it. I really wanted to be there. Then all of a sudden I didn’t, and it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I do.
– sometimes I over estimate my ability to “make it happen”. For example, I thought I could work a week-long event, travel home and then go right to a party. Or… I thought I could drive the 10 hours for your baby shower, have cake, and then drive home.
– you wouldn’t have fun. Why? Because I suck at faking it. Loads of people do loads of things they don’t want to. Not me. No sir. I have no poker face. I’m a walking billboard of my emotional state.
– I thought I’d be able to volunteer for the PTA/show up for your make-up party/drive you to your friend’s house even though I work two states away and can’t ever be home by 3.
Good intentions people. Always good.
I’m lucky my friends and family don’t disown me. They all understand. Almost all do (ahem. Howard)
I’m also very understanding when friends cancel on me. I get it. I don’t judge you! I’m not mad! I may even be happy. Who knows. The point is, it’s ok.
But I don’t want to be the friend/wife/mother that cried plans. I vow to change! Or at least make fewer plans that I have to cancel.
I’ll see you tomorrow night Howard! Xoxo

RIP, RPM and Rahm

I cannot believe Robin Williams is dead. Heartbreaking. The first thing I did when I found out was text my husband. Not just to share the sad news, but to gloat that I knew before him.
For those of you who are in normal, healthy relationships, this is weird. How dare we compete with such a sensitive thing.
But those of you that are in similar, weirdo marriages – I won!! I won!! I beat the guy that’s told me about all the major deaths in recent news, including Mandela and Phillip Seymore Hoffman. Do you know how many times I’ve heard,”guess who died?”. I think Robin would have appreciated that.
I won!
Ok. Sorry. Back to being super sad.
I got the news in Chicago where I’m making a quick visit to a conference. We had a free night and decided to go to Juliana and Bill Ranci’s new place – RPM. You can throw a dart at this menu below and we probably ordered it. Mama Depandi would be proud. If you know who that is then you watch as much reality TV as me.
Finally- I can’t mention Chicago and not mention Rahm Emanuel. Sigh. I’d move to Chicago just to share the air.
I’ve talked about him before. I bet he doesn’t compete with his wife about announcing dead people.
So RIP Robin, thanks for the calories RPM, and till we not meet again Rahm.

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Carrot Cake 101

A couple of years ago I was gifted a fantastic cookbook called “Flour”. It is based on a bakery in Boston called Flour Bakery (duh). I love this book. I’ve made many of the recipes. I even went and found the bakery in Boston. Like all pilgrimages, there was a little bit of let-down (what? you aren’t impressed that I have your cookbook and love it? I’m not the first person to come in and want to chat about it?) – but in the end I felt validated. Croissants have a way of validating me.
My two go-to recipes are the banana bread and the carrot cake.
My two biggest fails from the book are the granola bar cookies and the chocolate almond dacquoise. That’s another story.

I made the carrot cake this weekend. Try it. People will hug you for it.

As always – here’s the recipe and the visual. You know I like pictures.

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Notice I added raisins. My man likes raisins. What can I say.

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Sift the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. My “sifter” is a strainer that I warped in the dish washer. Just an fyi.
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Cream the oil, sugar and eggs. 

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Add your carrots. Please don’t use the pre-shredded ones. They are covered in some sort of nuclear coating so they don’t stick together. But that coating also make it impossible for them to soften in the cake. So go old school and shred by hand. 
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Add vanilla. This is a homemade bottle my little bitty sister gave me a while ago. I keep adding store bought vanilla and trying to extend the life. Poor me. If only SOMEONE would make me more. Anyhoo.

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Add raisins if you want to or if you’re maritally committed to.
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Combine the dry and wet ingredients.

Divide amongst your pans. If you are are suspicious of non-stick pans like I am – add some non-stick spray. Otherwise, be normal and healthy and skip this step. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes .
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I forgot to add pecans to the ingredients photo. So sorry. These very very important. Toast a cup and let cool.
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Then using a highly evolved Ziploc bag/bottom of a plastic bowl method – pound them into pieces.
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Make the frosting by creaming butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (poor poor me) and cream cheese together in an empty kitchen, better to do multiple tastings.
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Frost between layers and frost. You only have to make the top look pretty. 
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Take the pecans and use them like Spanx all around the cake. They push and tuck all the unruly bits into place. You have a tight, toned and together cake. 
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Refrigerate for an hour before serving and then sit back and accept all the love. 

A little quesadilla with my jalapeño

Who’s a happy girl at the airport?

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New Orleans – Day 3

It was a soft start to the conference. Our VIPs, some senior execs and about 110 of the 900 expected guests checked in.
Here’s what went down today:
– the ballroom/staging was set. Before and after below.
– our security operatives arrived (don’t ask).
– I yelled at approximately 3 people before 8am. Pretty good for a Sunday.
– we had birthday cake for one of the planners and I decided to pass on a piece and have some fruit. Or! I had a delicious hearty piece. Which one of these scenarios is more likely you think?
– we took our guests to a beautiful historic building called The Chicory for some live jazz and dinner. It was a perfect evening – complete with the largest piece of meat I’ve ever seen being served. A 65 pound roast called a Steamboat something or other. I spoke to the chef – he said it took 7 hours at 350 degrees. Have you ever? I know this sounds awkward but I’m obsessed with this piece of meat. Pictures below. Ofcourse.
– official kick-off tomorrow! Say a prayer to all the gods that you know and love for me.
– peace out

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New Orleans. Day 1

I’m going to one of our biggest conferences of the year and I thought you should come along. Whether you want to or not.
So the next few days I’ll be posting some pics and some stories about my time in New Orleans (pronounced NuOrlins, not New. Or-Leans).
I left a rainy, humid airport and headed south.
2.40 hours and mucho turbulence later – I was here!
My first time post Katrina.
Here’s a few pics of today. The rainy terminal back home. The beautiful blue skies when we landed. And then of my view for the majority of the time here. A war room. If you don’t like a lot of clutter, this place isn’t for you. It’s computer cords gone wild here.
But there are plenty of snacks to take your mind off the fire hazards.
Ok, let’s do this!

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Ladysitter

I was chatting with one of the smart young women I work with yesterday. She’s getting married in less than a week and seemed so calm and relaxed. She told me her secret. She has what she calls her ladysitter.
Never heard of such a thing? Same. Apparently a ladysitter comes in, organizes her house while she works, puts up the art she’s been meaning to hang for weeks – that kinda stuff. She’s no housekeeper, no no no. She does the things that make this gal feel put together. Thank you note envelopes written out. Registry gifts sorted and tagged. Duplicates returned to the store they came from. Reminders to refresh the pantry and buy household needs. The men reading this won’t understand because you already have a mansitter. That would be your wife. Or your mother. Or your girlfriend.
If you’re gay – one of you understands this. The other thinks birthday cards get magically sent to your loved ones.
Sigh.
A ladysitter.
I want one.

3 Dessert Afternoon

This is what happened.

I needed a pick-me-up and went to the company cafeteria for some frozen yogurt. They had plain old chocolate, my favorite.

But then I saw that they had bread pudding. Warm bread pudding with warm caramel sauce. And it’s cold out. So I thought,”that’s a better option than cold frozen yogurt.”

But then I thought again,”how would this cafeteria know how to make a good bread pudding? It’s not possible.”

What’s a girl to do? To hedge my dessert bets – I got both.

Then, as I was heading to the register I noticed a big pile of sugar cookies. Simple, unassuming sugar cookies.

I got one of them too.

Don’t judge me. Or do. I don’t care. I had 3 desserts.

 

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