Dairy Free Cherry Almond Muffins


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Don't you hate when you want to use a recipe on a food blog and half of the post is just inane filler about the deep emotional impact these muffins had on them and how long and hard they worked to perfect the recipe? I hate that. Here's the story with these muffins: I had some leftover cherries that I needed to use. I also had almonds. Cherries and almonds sounded like they would go well together in muffin form. So I made these muffins. I liked them, and you also might, if you enjoy almonds and cherries. Now here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

½ cup nondairy butter or margarine (I use Earth Balance)                                                                                      1 ¼ cups sugar                                                                                                                                                           2 eggs                                                                                                                                                                         1 tsp vanilla                                                                                                                                                                ½ tsp cinnamon                                                                                                                                                         2 cups flour                                                                                                                                                               ½ tsp salt                                                                                                                                                                    2 tsp baking powder                                                                                                                                                ½ cup almond milk                                                                                                                                                    2 cups fresh cherries, pitted                                                                                                                                    ¼ cup slivered almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream nondairy butter and sugar together until pale yellow. Add eggs and vanilla. Continue mixing.

2. Sift dry ingredients together. Add half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, then half the milk, then the rest of each, mixing after each addition.

3. Chop cherries into fourths. Set half aside and mash them with a fork. Mix the cherry mash into the batter, then fold in the unmashed cherries and the almonds.

4. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake liners. This should be enough to fill a 12 cup muffin tin fairly generously.

5. Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes. Cool in the tin. These will last several days in the fridge.

Adapted from "Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins" at New York Times Cooking.

Nobody Gets to Have All of You


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One of the toughest things about being an actor and a writer, I think, is that it’s inherently so personal. You’re going to have to draw on your own experiences and feelings to do your job, and because of that, it can be hard to figure out where to draw a line and say “no, this part of me is not available for public consumption; this is just mine.” It can feel like by drawing a line in the first place you’re jeopardizing your career or your opportunities, like you should be game to open your whole self up and share everything, because you picked these careers for yourself, didn’t you? And that’s what they entail. I think that mentality is encouraged a lot in younger artists. A lot of schools and coaches and your competitive peers will imply to you that if you aren’t willing to share your deepest fears and traumas then that means you aren’t brave enough or bold enough to be an actor/writer/artist of some other persuasion. But hi, I am here to tell you NO, absolutely not. You not need to share all of your thoughts and your trauma and your messy bits just to keep going with your career. Because you are a person, not just a brand, and you need to have parts of yourself that are just for you, that aren’t being exploited in the service of a scene or a poem or a personal essay that a magazine is only going to pay you like $50 for. That's not sustainable!

Keeping things to yourself doesn’t mean you’re hiding them or that you’re ashamed of them or that you’re not willing to deal with them properly, it just means that you’re not putting all your experiences up for sale. And that’s a good and healthy thing to do, because once you start making all your thoughts and memories into commodities, I think you start to lose something. It’s almost as though when you start using everything in service of your art, you stop approaching situations normally and start looking at them through the lens of “how can I make this situation useful to me, and what can I use this feeling for?” You become a voyeur of your own life. And for some experiences and situations, that’s totally fine! I certainly write a lot about my own experiences and emotions and it can be really healing and cathartic, but it’s nice to do a little gut check before I publish a blog or submit an article and ask myself “is this something I actually want to share, or would I rather keep this to myself?” Because sometimes you write a piece and then realize that publishing it would make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe or vulnerable in a way you just don’t like very much. And it’s totally fine to listen to that voice and say, “okay, well this thing is roped off for now, and only VIPs get access to it.” It will make you feel safer and happier and both of those things can only be good for you and your work.

Photo by Kyle Sudu on Unsplash

Summertime Faves


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Summertime has arrived, and to be honest I do not particularly enjoy this season. It is hot, and I don't have air conditioning, and I tend to get very sweaty and grumpy and foggy headed. Nevertheless, one must look for a way to power on through until the world cools off again and you can pick your duvet up off the floor and put it on your bed again. Here's what keeping me going this summer: 

1. Rereading Wuthering Heights - Sometimes, on a day so hot I can feel my eyelids sweat, I find it is pleasant to read about people wandering about the icy, frigid moors of England, committing weird, petty cruelties upon one another. I cannot tell you why I find this book so soothing, but it is my favorite summertime read. I think it is akin to the allure of watching “Vanderpump Rules” – sometimes it’s just fascinating to watch some beautiful sociopaths wreak havoc. Buy Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics) here.

2. The Madame Clairevoyant Column – this is the horoscope column on The Cut written by Claire Comstock-Gay, and it is my favorite horoscope column of all the many that are out there. Is astrology real? I honestly do not care. I strongly identify as a Virgo and reading horoscopes makes me happy, and Claire writes really beautiful and encouraging words. Could we not all benefit from some kind and gentle encouragement? Read the column here.

3. The Bon Appetit YouTube channel – I stumbled upon Bon Appetit’s videos when YouTube suggested I watch a video where their pastry chef, Claire, makes homemade Skittles, and I was instantly hooked. You obviously should watch all of the pastry chef junk food recreations Claire does, but after that, I also very much enjoy a series they put out called “It’s Alive!” where a chef named Brad makes fermented foods, which maybe sounds boring, but I promise you it's extremely fun and funny. Also there’s this video that I watch about once a week where a chef named Molly makes a bacon and cheese sandwich, using individual egg-in-a-holes for the bread. It’s the most delicious sandwich I’ve seen, but my vegetarianism and lactose intolerance means that I can consume basically none of the sandwich components, so watching this video is probably the closest I’ll come to eating this fatty carby wonder. That yolk ooze! I die. Find all their videos here.

4. Popsicle Molds – I got a set of popsicle molds at the beginning of summer on a whim and it has paid off HANDSOMELY. You can make so many things out of popsicles: frozen smoothie pops, chocolate almond milk fudgsicles, lemonade ice pops. My house does not have A/C, so I eat at least one popsicle per day these days. Just, as a word of warning, be better than me and remember that booze will not freeze in your home freezer, even if it’s really low alcohol content. It’s not going to work for you. Do not do as I did and wind up spilling chilly, slushy crème de menthe all down your white shirt because you thought maybe you could make boozy mint popsicles if you turned the freezer to the coldest setting and just wanted it badly enough. You can’t do it. Trust me. Buy reusable popsicle molds here.

5. Stardew Valley – this game came out a while ago but I only just discovered it so I’m calling it a new trend. Stardew Valley starts with your grandfather dying in front of you. Admittedly that’s a little bleak, but STICK WITH ME, OKAY? Grandpa gives you an envelope on his deathbed and tells you to open it one day when you’re feeling really desperate. Then the scene cuts to you in a massive gray office building, working in a cubicle and looking pretty tragic. You open the envelope and find out that your grandfather left you a farm in a place called Stardew Valley, so you move out there and start tending your farm and learning all the weird town gossip and mining and fishing and wooing the locals. It makes me unspeakably happy, after a hard day, to go do some virtual hard labor on my fictional farm. I am currently in fall of year one, and I have three chickens and a dog named Noodle, and I have never felt so successful and fulfilled. Buy Stardew Valley here.

Disclosure: this blog includes Amazon Associate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Unsplash

How to Make Fresh Pasta With Nothing But a Rolling Pin, a Knife, and Hope

Last weekend, my friend Deann and I made fresh pasta, because we both watched Queer Eye season 2 recently, and saw Antoni wax poetic about fresh pasta and thought, well he must have a good reason to get so enthused. We did not have a pasta machine and because we are not from money, we didn’t want to go out and buy a pasta machine. So we made it with a rolling pin, the way I assume Italian grandmothers did it a long, long time ago. It came out pretty good! Here is a picture:

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We finished it up with a little garlic oil pan sauce kinda deal, and also a lot of cheese. (I am lactose intolerant, but on some occasions, you just need cheese ,you know?) If you are the sort of person who feels like you want to make fresh pasta, here is how we did it. (Lightly adapted from a recipe I found on Simply Recipes.)

1. Clear off a big flat surface, ideally a beautiful granite or maple countertop, or if you are me, the biggest cutting board you have. Dump 2 ¾ cups of flour on that surface. Form the flour into a sort of heap with a big divot in the middle, like you’re making a big floury basin. This divot will need to hold a lot of wet ingredients. Really make it big; you don’t want it to overflow.

2. In a separate boil, mix together 4 eggs, 1 extra egg yolk, a generous pour of olive oil, and ½ tsp salt. Whisk them together to combine, then dump them in your flour basin. Start to gradually add the flour into the wet ingredients, mixing as you go, until it is too thick to mix with a whisk/fork, and then go in with your (clean!) hands.

3. When all the wet and dry ingredients are combined, it is time to start kneading. You will need to knead for ten minutes. This is a lot; I recommend switching arms halfway through, or else you may end up with one monstrously strong arm and one frail, weak arm, and that might throw off your center of gravity. Knead and knead and knead. Stop, congratulate yourself. You are so strong, so self-sufficient. Look at those suckers posting gym pics on Instagram, lifting weights like suckers. Weights don’t give you pasta after your workout, so your workout is clearly the superior one.

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4. Your pasta dough should now be smooth, shiny, and beautiful. If there are stray dry bits on the board, just throw them away like leftover IKEA screws. You can’t work them in at this point and you’ll be just fine without them. Wrap your beautiful shiny dough tightly in plastic wrap, admire it with pride, and put it in the fridge, where it should sit for at least an hour or up to a day.

 

5. Your dough, having rested for a bit, should be tranquil and relaxed, ready to be rolled out very, very thin. Pull your cutting board back out or re-clear your counter. Lay down a layer of parchment paper. Flour your surface, your hands, your dough, and your rolling pin. Coat all your surroundings and limbs in a thin layer of flour, just to be safe. Pat your dough out into a rectangle, and then fold it like a letter (the same way you might do with croissant dough – if the short side of the rectangle is facing you, fold the top third down and the bottom third up). Roll it out, then do that again. Why do you have to do this? I truly do not know. Something to do with gluten development probably? Maybe? I just know that I did a lot of pasta research and people kept saying to do this, so I did it.

6. Now it’s time to roll your dough out. Keep rolling. You thought you were done? You’re not. Keep rolling. It should end up so thin that you can see your hand through it. If it seems to be springing back and refusing to get any bigger, you may have to rest the dough for 30 minutes to an hour. This is once again, something to do with the gluten strands. My scientific understanding of the process is this: much like all of us, gluten can get pretty tense and sometimes it understandably needs a little time to relax. Go away and watch an episode of something on Netflix and then come back. (I watched Terrace House: Opening New Doors, and I recommend it highly.)

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7. Once your dough is thin enough, dust it with another coating of flour and roll the sheet up like a sleeping bag. Now slice thin slices along the roll. You should end up with something resembling fettucine. Stop, catch your breath.

8. Bring water to a boil, and salt it generously. Dump your beautiful handmade noodles in and boil for about 90 seconds. Finish in a pan with the sauce of your choice and take pictures of yourself casually laughing with a bowl of pasta so that you can brag on social media. Later, at work, feel free to snootily announce to all your coworkers that you made fresh pasta this weekend, hahaha no, it’s not hard at all, not for a culinary wunderkind like you. Secretly, in your head, consider buying a pasta maker. It turns out people buy those for a reason.

 Did I tell you I made this? I made this; please praise me.

Did I tell you I made this? I made this; please praise me.

Jessica Fletcher from "Murder She Wrote" is my Style Icon


I have a very distinct memory of being at a slumber party when I was about nine years old and being entranced by a show that came on called “Murder, She Wrote.” It was very clearly not for small children, but rather for an audience of older women. I was down for that though, since I mainly watched TV at home with my grandmother, and our tastes veered towards “The Antiques Roadshow,” TV broadcasts of ballets, and whatever low key travel documentary was playing on PBS when we turned on the TV set. None of the other girls at the slumber party were interested in the show, so despite my mild protests, it was quickly turned off in favor of discussing which American Girl doll was the best one. (My vote was always for Molly, because she had coke bottle glasses, and seemed like a sort of weird kid who did a lot of tap dancing and crafting, and that made me feel seen and understood.)

            Years later, at the age of 25, I rediscovered “Murder, She Wrote” via an Instagram account called @murdershelook, which documents the many looks of the show’s heroine, Jessica Fletcher. Jessica Fletcher is an elderly widow turned murder novelist from a tiny town in Maine played by Angela Lansbury, so she may seem like an unlikely fashion icon, but she has a decidedly craveable aesthetic. Jessica doesn’t have to follow any office dress codes or look fashion forward or impress anyone with a sleek Everlane dress. Jessica dresses, as many old women do, for comfort and fun. She wears a lot of chunky cardigan and statement brooches and jaunty silk scarves, matched with enormous glasses and sensible shoes. She wears clothes to bicycle in, and snoop around crime scenes in, and cross examine Jack Russell Terriers in. (This honest to god happened in Season 1, Episode 6; I could not make that up.) Occasionally she’ll have to attend an event and will pull out the most delicious and theatrical getup you can imagine, as in one episode where she unexpectedly has to attend a costume party and pulls out a stunner of a Fairy Godmother costume on the fly, complete with tiara and magic wand.

#🍉

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I think what I most admire is that Jessica dresses exactly as she wants to dress. She is unafraid of looking gaudy or silly. She just wears whatever outfits seem fun and will allow her admittance into whatever shady situation she happens to be investigating at the time. With her loud prints and her large sunglasses and cardigans and fearlessness, she inspires me to be more confident in my own fashion choices, because if Angela Lansbury can wear heart shaped glasses and a watermelon hat, I can too, damn it! Or I can wear a sensible trouser and a trench coat and a button up shirt buttoned all the way up! Let me live! I am done trying to look elegant, I wish only to look like an elderly widow who writes mystery novels and could confidently investigate a small town murder.