Thursday Ten: We Could Use a Break edition

1. It’s been a tough week and it could have been tougher. My grandpa was supposed to have a heart catheterization today – and it’s been postponed because of a stomach bug (My mom emailed me, “He has the big D.” Thanks mom.) . My family is actually quite relieved – they were concerned about this procedure. Though heart caths are routine, everyone has been worried about whether Grandpa has the strength for it right now. It’s necessary in order to determine the next steps (surgery or a stent for his carotid artery), so they’ll have to reschedule the procedure — but my mom referred to the postponement as “divine intervention.” I think she and my aunts (as well as my grandpa’s tummy) just weren’t ready for another procedure right now.

2. When I wrote down my list of things to include in my Thursday Ten list, I made a note about being grateful the cath was postponed – but my note and shorthand looks like it just says “grateful heart.” I suppose that works too. In the midst of chaos, my heart is still grateful for what’s good.

3. It’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate the joy in standing around a kitchen, drinking adult type beverages, cooking or watching people cook. It’s peaceful, the warmth of a kitchen. From someone who has “hated cooking,” it’s funny how much joy it brings me (bigger joy if someone else is doing the cooking). Yesterday at work, in the midst of cold I kept thinking that what the day needed was a warm kitchen, a glass of wine and the preparation of comfort food. {Instead I had a Coke Zero and a granola bar. Totally the same.}

4. I am now ready for season 5 of Breaking Bad. OH. MY. GOSH. I cannot remember the last time I was sucked into a show quite like that – I’m ready to dive into Season Five. I am gonna miss this one when it’s all over.

5. Aside from my Breaking Bad addiction, the girls have taken control of the Netflix. That’s why all the shows recommended for me are cartoons.

6. The Princess had a gym meet on Sunday and somehow forgot a part of her routine. It resulted in a lower score than she’s used to and she was pretty disappointed with her performance. My mom tried to make her feel better by telling her that at least the beam routine was perfect, to which The Princess responded, “Grandma, if it was PERFECT? It’d have been a 10.0. It wasn’t perfect.” I actually love that she recognizes that and that she knows that she doesn’t automatically deserve a 10.0 – that it’s earned with skill and precision and all of that stuff she practices at the gym.

7. The job situation has somehow made me table thinking of photography as a real business – not because I don’t want to, but because I’m terrified about y’know, actual stable income. As in HAVING actual stable income. Much as I’d love to do the work I’m passionate about, I don’t know that I could handle the fear. Some people have entrepreneurial souls. I have a soul that is laced with doubt.

8. This weather has been ridiculously cold. It was -1 degree (not even counting that pesky wind chill) when I woke up the other day. Hey world? THAT IS TOO DAMN COLD.
i never saw blue like that before

9. Kitchen Through The Lens – more projects are coming, I promise. The same winter blah that is bringing the cold yucky weather is also sucking up all the natural light so that by the time I get home from work and cook, I’m not generally satisfied with the photos because ugh, no natural light. I made a greek salad from the list a week or so ago and it was U G L Y, and the bad light? Made it look worse.

10. “I don’t care how badly you want a snow day, you are NOT putting your underpants in the freezer.” Actual thing I said yesterday. I’m told that kids also flush ice cubes down the toilet and wear their jammies backward in order to get a snow day. REALLY? There’s really just no way any child of mine is going to be allowed to freeze her underpants.

Kitchen Through the Lens: Croissants


I feel I should start this post with the most crucial piece of information: Making your own croissants is the biggest pain in the ass.

Sure, you can try it once, y’know, do it just to do it…so you can say you did.

But if you were to do a cost-benefit-analysis of making your own croissants, the answer would most certainly, nearly 100% of the time tell you that it is a way better use of your time and patience to just go to the nearest bakery and buy one.

No lie.

Blobby dough

The process of making croissants is about eight hours long.

Yeah. You read that right.

Next add one heart attack's worth of butter.

And the butter!

Oh my gosh, the butter.

Once you make these yourself, you may not be able to shake from your head JUST HOW MUCH BUTTER YOU USED.

If it's SORT OF a triangle, does it count?

Or how you have to roll and fold and roll and fold and chill and roll and fold and roll and fold (that’s where the flakiness comes from).

Apparently the pros just run this stuff through what’s called a “sheeter” – flattens that whole mess right out – no rolling necessary.

Then again, I’m counting all that rolling as a strength workout.

You better love your rolling pin.

I'm pretty sure I'm doing this wrong.

But the thing is, when all is said and done and you take a croissant fresh from the oven and you take a bite of its buttery and flakey goodness? For a moment you will forget just how hard you worked and instead think to yourself, Maybe I could do this again.


If you’re smart, you’ll just eat your croissant and you won’t put the other ones back in the oven for just a wee bit more cooking and burn the bottoms. Yeah. I did that. Whoops.

i really should only make things when I have my lovely natural light to make them pretty

Really, will I make these again? Uh. They were amazing, but no. I just don’t want to work that hard for a croissant. I mean, start to finish EIGHT HOURS?

Delicious, but, no. Never again.

Kitchen Through The Lens: Cinnamon Bread

100 | 365
I haven’t posted one of these cooking projects in a long time and in fact… I, uh… made this a few weeks ago thinking I’d post it shortly after making it and then you know what? Life happened.

Ridiculous, right?

Holidays make everything chaotic and crazy and busy in all of the best and worst ways, and so I had these cinnamon bread stories to tell you and then… I didn’t.

Now I am.

(No, it’s probably not worth the wait, but hello anyway)

Cinnamon bread is ridiculously easy. When I added it to my list, I think I was thinking of more of a cinnamon swirl type thing – which would be excellent for french toast – but this was good… and because it was so easy, I’m pretty likely to make it again.

batter is gooey

Basically, add ingredients, mix, pour in a pan, add stuff to make the top all pretty.


Serve with coffee on a cold Sunday morning and instantly feel better about life.

There’s really no substitute for the way your house smells when cinnamon is baking.


See. I told you this post wasn’t really worth waiting for.
But the bread is still good.

Kitchen Through the Lens: Green Salsa/Salsa Verde

salsa verde

Salsa is my favorite condiment.

I could take or leave ketchup. Mustard is a sandwich go-to but sparingly. Mayo is not something I use by choice. But salsa. GLORIOUS SALSA. I could sit down with the jar and a spoon and GO TO TOWN.


And I dig green salsa too, even though it tends to be a bit spicier and no, it doesn’t really “go” with everything. It’s still good stuff.


You know, I’ve never bought a tomatillo before?

I have no idea if these are good tomatillos. There’s probably a reasonable mechanism for determining the ripeness of a tomatillo. You should google that before you go shopping.

I didn’t.


And shallots.

They hide those suckers at the store. These were on a side of an end cap on a shelf, somewhere near the bottom. In a bag. WAY TO HIDE THE SHALLOTS. That’s okay. I wanted to spend five minutes looking. Honestly, I thought they’d be closer to the onions.


So, you’ve got some tomatillos, shallots, cilantro, a jalapeño, green chiles and other stuff (and you know what that other stuff is because UP THERE you clicked the link for the recipe, right? RIGHT). Shove it all in your food processor.

I maybe was supposed to cut stuff smaller

Maybe you chop your stuff into smaller pieces.

I think I made my food processor mad with all these big ol’ veggies.

Pulse, pulse, pulse.

VOILA. Done.

I wasn’t really sure what I’d do with this, but it is amazing served with nachos. Chips, some lovely cheddar and for fun some shredded pork… then dunk in the green salsa.

So full of win.


Kitchen Through the Lens: Mudslide Cookies

Narsai Mudslide cookie

My dad has been talking about these cookies for several years now. That’s how they made the list – dad talking about these legendary cookies from Narsai David who is a cook from Berkeley. Dad would talk about these cookies, so chocolately, so rich – and he finally forwarded me this recipe years ago. I never made them.

Like many recipes that I held on to for YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS, these cookies made the list when I was brainstorming this project. This is an excellent time to try things I have never made before. Sure, cookies aren’t a stretch for me in the kitchen – I love to bake – but, you know… why have I never made these?

I won’t keep y’all in suspense any longer: They’re pretty damn good.

But they’re rich. So rich. Have a glass of cold milk at the ready – or as I did, serve with ice cream.
Narsai Mudslide cookie

So, I guess I should say a few things about the process. The first being – improvisation is good. If you don’t have a double boiler (and I don’t) you can always fake it by putting a glass bowl on top of a sauce pan that has about an inch or so of water in it. Don’t burn yourself on the pan, or the bowl or the hot chocolate. That would suck.
dry ingredients


A lot of recipes call for instant coffee. I don’t even know if Starbucks Via is what they have in mind – what I do know is that buying a massive jar of garbage I wasn’t ever gonna drink didn’t appeal to me. One of these packets is just under two teaspoons. I don’t know if I messed things up – like if this is too concentrated – what I also know is that I didn’t like the flavor the instant coffee added (AND I LOVE COFFEE). I’d probably skip it next time. Really.

Narsai Mudslide cookie

You’re supposed to roll the batter in parchment. ROLL THE BATTER INTO PARCHMENT. It was like… soup. It wasn’t rolling. It blobbed into the parchment. Once you stick it in the fridge and let it firm up, the consistency is much like fudge. Since I blobbed and not rolled, I used a knife to slice off big chunks of dough to cook.

Narsai Mudslide cookie

Easy peasy.

Warm, fresh out of the oven? Pure heaven. With some melty vanilla ice cream on the side? Freaking AMAZING.

So, thanks dad. You were right.

Now, who’s gonna get all of these cookies outta my house?





should make about 12 large cookies
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6oz. semi sweet chocolate
2 tbl unsalted butter

Melt unsweetened and semi sweet chocolates with butter in double boiler. Let cool.

B ¼ C sifted flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
Sift together the dry ingredients.

C 7/8 C sugar

2 tsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
#1 – Beat eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla until thick ……

#2 – Beat in Chocolate.

#3 – Add Dry Ingredients
D 7 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

1/8 lb. walnuts, coarsely chopped
Stir into dough

E On a sheet of baking parchment or waxed paper, form dough into a log 3″ in diameter. Roll up, twist the ends to secure, and chill until firm.

F Preheat oven to 350F.

Slice dough with a sharp, thin knife dipped in hot water and place on a non stick cookie sheet (or sheet lined with no stick baking parchment).
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until tops are dry but centers are still soft. Do not over bake.
(If desired, cookie dough may be spooned out in teaspoonfuls and baked 10 –    12 minutes.)

Day 28: On cooking

The other night, I had an amazing dinner prepared by people who truly love the process of cooking. While I love watching other people cook (which is why the Food Network appeals to me so much), there’s something amazing about sitting at a counter while food is being prepared, watching people who truly enjoy themselves in the kitchen, preparing a meal that will eventually leave you so full you’ll be grateful for the stretch in your jeans.

When I spoke about cooking, I said as I always do, “I’m not a cook, I bake.”

I make a lot of self-deprecating comments in general about my cooking abilities and how I dislike it but I guess that’s not entirely true.

If I had all the time in the world (or, y’know, a free hour or so) to prepare a meal without twenty other things vying for my attention? I think I’d enjoy it more. Coming home after a long day of work when my children are already hungry and trying to get a meal on the table before hungry turns to “hangry” is less fun. I feel I’m on a race to beat the clock in order to feed the girls (and me!) before tempers flare.

Kind of sucks the joy out of it all, if you must know.

It’s part of the reason I started the Kitchen Through the Lens project in the first place. What I have been finding is that it’s not that I hate cooking, or even that I’m bad at it (quite the contrary, I have made some stuff that I’ve been pretty darn pleased with), it’s that I just want to slow down. I want to cook with enough natural light streaming in my windows that I can take pictures of the food if I want to.


Those were taken with my phone in a kitchen at night before being sauteed with olive oil, leeks and garlic. It was amazing. And how beautiful, right? I want to buy all of the vegetables and take all of the pictures. And then let someone who loves to cook make magic out of them.


I want to feel confident enough in the way that I cook that I move around my kitchen with ease and am not so flustered with the details of the processs that I couldn’t enjoy company sitting with me as I cooked.

I’m not there yet.

I grew up in a house of hurried meals thrown together at the end of the day – well, that is until I got old enough to cook. Then I grew up getting dinner started for my mom to finish throwing something together at the end of the day. Or then I started making dinners to have ready when she got home (never anything fancy, always gross boxed meals – I’m probably still full of preservatives from those years). I certainly had no example of my mom enjoying the process.

Will I ever be a good cook who truly enjoys it? I have no idea. I’m hoping, as the year (and this project) goes on, though, that I gather more confidence and less reluctance to flex my skills in the kitchen.

We’ll see if it happens.

Kitchen Through The Lens: Homemade Dog Treat

I swear I'd have taken the sticker off the cookie cutter if it was for people
Yeah. What of it. I like my dog.

What I made was a variation on the #7 Beef Dog Treat – I say “variation” because I realized as I was getting ready to start making these that the bouillon powder had garlic powder in it – and I just didn’t want to chance it because garlic is not good for dogs. Soooo, I swapped out the bouillon powder and the milk for some chicken broth instead. And I can’t know if it was a good or bad switch because basically? My dog eats anything.

I admit – I even bought a special cookie cutter…shaped like a dog.

even food for my dog gets baked on parchment

The thing is – the reason I added a homemade dog treat to the list, knowing I wouldn’t test it out myself (though the ingredients are both dog and people safe) is kind of the same as why I don’t use boxed cake mixes: it’s good to know what you’re eating. And hey, it’s good to know what your dog is eating. I know, I know… if your dog is anything like mine you’re thinking, “He licks his own butt, why do I care if I can pronounce the ingredients in his food?”

Okay, well, fine. Maybe you don’t. But hey, it matters.

I admit – I buy the mass produced Milkbone type treats for my pup and probably won’t stop – mainly because this is not something I can see myself doing on a regular basis, but you know, sometimes it’s a nice thing to do.

Even if your dog never says thank you.

homemade dog biscuits

Kitchen Through The Lens: Fortune Cookies

008 | 365

I have a love for fortune cookies that I cannot begin to explain.

They are a light sweet cookie-esque snack (can we really call it a cookie? I’m not sure), that is just sweet enough to take the edge off a sweet craving but not so sweet that you immediately regret eating one (or five). Throw in the cool notes in the middle and…win.

Except when the fortunes are lame and not really fortunes and you can’t even properly add “…in bed” to the end of them.

fortune cookie fail

I think we’ve already covered that not all of my cooking projects are successful (Pioneer Woman Lemon Pasta, I’m lookin’ at you). Those chicken tacos from two weeks ago were a pretty dismal failure as well.

My attempt at fortune cookies?

Not good.

Too bad, too because the recipe came from Cooking Light and actually tasted okay.

Ugly as hell, though.

You flip the parchment over so you’re not putting batter on the pencil marks.

Not that any of you ate these.

I just felt the need to clarify.

pre baking

Spread the batter.

now what?


And now, you should be able to put the fortune in the middle, fold and fold again.


This stuff does NOT want to come off the parchment.

I can’t say I’m surprised – there’s no oil, not butter, no nothin’ that would keep this stuff from sticking, except the use of parchment itself. So, if you are indeed lucky enough to get the cookie off the parchment, it’s likely a crumbly mess, and if it’s not, it’s probably still ugly.

I dunno.

Tasted good.

I’m not gonna say I didn’t eat all those cookie scraps.

But I have to say, all my fortunes were wasted.

And they were good ones too.


Kitchen Through the Lens: World’s Worst Chicken Tacos



Dear Rachael Ray:

See that taco up there? That is some SERIOUS ugly. What you can’t tell from that picture is that the kids and I basically dumped out a pound of chicken in the garbage disposal because they were so disgusting.

And while I like to say that I’m not a great cook, I have to say… I’m pretty sure this is YOUR fault.

Now, when The Princess found this recipe in one of your kids’ cookbooks, I was kind of excited. I mean, TACOS. I really love tacos. Plus, with my kiddo picking out the recipe, that gives her a level of being invested in the process – maybe she wouldn’t complain about dinner. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change of pace?

But the thing is, I could tell once I started cooking that this recipe would be a fail. And I should have known from reading the recipe first and seeing the flavors used and the method of cooking.


Essentially, your recipe treats these chicken tacos as though they were a regular ground beef taco.


It’s not the same.

And then I got close to getting done and I was already trying to think of graceful ways to duck out of actually eating this dinner too, not wanting to discourage the kids.

“Mom, I’m… I… I don’t think I want this,” The Princess stammered.

“GOOD! ME NEITHER!” I replied. And then I wasted all that chicken by cramming it down the garbage disposal and running the water until I could get the stench of chili powder out of my nose.

Not good, Rach.

I’m only hoping the internet can help me out with a do-over – maybe they can give me a tried and true non-sucking chicken taco recipe. Maybe good ol Ree has one. In any case, I think that even if I had opened a pack of instant taco seasoning, it’d have been better than this ugly mess.

Yummo? Not even close.

Sincerely and craving tacos,


Kitchen Through The Lens: Dutch Baby

058 | 365

I wasn’t going to do a cooking project this week. I was NOT going to do a cooking project this week. I went to the grocery store Friday afternoon and I didn’t even TAKE A LIST WITH ME DANGIT. I didn’t plan a menu for the week, I had no rhyme or reason to my shopping trip, and I certainly wasn’t going to pick up a ton of ingredients I don’t have on hand already to make something for this project.

Which sounds really grumpy, doesn’t it? I love this project. I love making new stuff. But sometimes you think, “Well… what if I spend $x on super-special ingredient and then I never use it again? THAT WOULD SUCK.”

And then today I felt like garbage and for grins, I googled the recipe for a Dutch baby pancake and behold!

I had all of the ingredients already.

Egg-cellent start to dinner

Butter, milk, eggs, flour, salt, powdered sugar.

The recipe called for whole milk. I can’t tell you when I’ve ever had whole milk in my fridge (you drink it with a fork, right?).

I also added a small dash of almond extract to the batter because really? IT MAKES THINGS YUMMIER.

Puff Baby

A few minutes of mixing stuff, thirty minutes of baking and voila.


This was amazingly easy. Way easier than stupid regular pancakes which are boring.

A squeeze of lemon juice on top, a sprinkling of powdered sugar and this was heavenly.

(The taste actually calls to mind French toast more than an actual pancake, in my opinion)

A slice of puffy pancake happiness

For the littlest kiddo, I also heated up some sausage to serve along with the pancake and it was a perfect night of breakfast for dinner.

The kids were impressed and hey, I still haven’t missed a week of making somethin’ new.

Let’s see what I can wrangle up next week. I’m thinkin’…tacos. Who’s in?