Friday, December 7, 2012

Ho Ho Holiday Style

If you can get away with it, my best advise for holiday dress is to wear a costume. Of course, my advice for any occasion is to wear a costume. I realize that this isn't normal, but I'm not normal so I'll continue on as if it is.

Unless you're invited to your company's business party, costumes are a fun way of celebrating all holidays and anything else you can use as an excuse. If you purchase them out of season, you can also save a lot of money. Two years ago I paid $4.99 for my Mrs. Clause outfit. I was over joyed. The top was very good quality and not too risque. The bottoms are another story but for $4.99 it didn't matter. Here is a photo of me threatening The Grinch, as he has taken cake form:

This is on the top of my wish list. It needs a Red Rider BB Gun as an accessory:

This is a trick I learned this year. If you line your lips with brown lip liner (or I actually used an eye liner) it will deepen the color of your red lipstick. Before, my lip color always turned pink:

I learned this in a pinch, when I couldn't find any real lip liner on my way to see Taco Santa. In similar pinches I have learned that lipstick works as blush and on rare occasions, eye shadow:

Now let's talk about shoes. Better yet, let's just picture them:

That last pair by Nina Ricci will cost you upwards of $1500. But you're bringing peace on earth to your party in such a fabulous way.

That's all I got seeing as I haven't cut my hair in over a year. If you want to know more you'll just have to go visit Woman's Day. I do guarantee, however, they offer none of these accessories.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bark! The Angel Harold Sings

There are only a few food items that cause me to show my palm and politely utter a pleasant,"No thanks." One is peppermint mixed with chocolate.

You may actually get a lip curl if you offer me mint chocolate chip ice cream. I don't get it. It's like licking cold gum. Gross.

Now I'll go on to explain that I will on occasion have peppermint lattes and peppermint milkshakes. It makes no logical sense.

So anyway, I made this peppermint bark and, as I always try to share my creations with others, took the greater portion (after sharing a few pieces with coworkers) out to my best friend's farm. She subsequently ate the entire batch in one rocking-chair sitting.

Which was fine with me, because I don't like chocolate and peppermint. But I did wipe the peppermint off of a few pieces and THAT was good.

In High School, we created our own Christmas album entitled "Jingle Junx." I was far more mischievous than she when it came to goofing off and causing disruptions. I was voted class clown and my principle advised me that I would not graduate if I didn't do better in my Statistics class (which was a total lie--I finished that semester with a 50). I never finished my Greek homework so my teacher would make me leave when the class went over the translation. One day I wandered the halls and, since the secretary was out, I wrote in National Sarah Day and National Danielle Day on two of the calendar days the following month.

They actually celebrated these fabricated days with banners and gifts.

Here lies evidence that you can make a huge impact if you refuse to do what you don't want to do and instead wander aimlessly through life. So far this theory has earned me an expensive vacation and several job offers of anything from modeling careers to working in politics and journalism.

Anyhow, we created a pretend album in our heads called "Jingle Junx" and I still remember the lyrics to some of the songs although she recalls none of this. The most notable may be "Frosty the Gangsta" and "Shopper's Paradise" based off of the ever so popular tune of the mid-nineties "Gangsta's Paradise."

I remember one particularly jovial piece called "Hark! The Angel Harold Sings." It goes a little something like this:

"Hark!" The angel Harold sings,
"Where the hell did I put my wings?!
Where's my music? Where's my harp?
Gabriel likes me to be sharp.

If I'm not there by half past seven,
I'll get kicked right out of heaven,
Booted passed the pearly gates,
Where the last director earned his fate.

Hark! The angel Harold sings,
Where the hell did I put my wings?"

We went to a private school and then I went on to Bible College. I was kicked out after one semester. You've already noticed a pattern of course. Apparently in Bible College you can't skip Greek class and you definitely can't date bar tenders.

There's a point here. Danielle and I are out of High School and I'm still wandering off the beaten bath and giving her stuff I don't want. That's real friendship that has stood the test of time. We're looking at 20 years in 2014. It's about time my schenanegans earned us another free vacation.


16 ounce(s) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounce(s) white chocolate, coarsely chopped (i used Ghiradelli)
4 (6 inches each) candy canes, chopped


Line a 15 1/2- by 10 1/2-inch jelly roll pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the bittersweet chocolate on high, stirring every 20 seconds, until smooth (about 90 seconds total). Spread it into the prepared pan.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate on high, stirring every 20 seconds, until smooth (about 60 seconds total). Drop small spoonfuls onto the bittersweet chocolate and, using a skewer, swirl the white chocolate through the dark.

Let the chocolate set for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the candy canes, then refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces before serving

Here's a tip: take the cane and put it in foil. Then get your rolling pin out and beat it to death or if you prefer not to demonstrate too much aggression, just roll over it a few times.

This is the easiest holiday treat I have made by far. It peels right off of the foil and it's easy to break up. It also sparkles.

It cost about $13.50 to make. I believe you could experiment with the chocolate bars--my favorite being Vosages. They run about $7.50 a bar though so unless you have money to burn I'd say negotiate with Hershey's or Lindt.

My Life Through Ornaments

I enjoyed reading about Katie Couric's ornament story in December's edition of Woman's Day. Not only was it a touching story, as she has lost her husband to colon cancer, but I identified with her sentiment. It's the homemade ornaments, the old baubles and goofy decorations that sometimes mean the most. Every year, I have two boxes: my special ornaments that represent the year (starting with my "baby's first Christmas" balls) and then the box of ornaments from our annual "Dirty Santa" ornament party at church. I open them and reminisce.

I think everyone has at least one ornament that makes them laugh and one that makes them tear up every year:

Here is something I bet you all have--either an ornament you made in school or your child made in school. You can see I have always been a Rudolph fan. I made this one in Kindergarten:

Next we have an ornament from a very important year of my life--1993. I believe we all have "markers" in our lives. It doesn't have to be an event that would impress someone else--in fact, that's what makes it so substantial to our own lives: no one can ever appreciate the impact of what it may have meant to us. In this year, I met two people who would always affect my world view and, more importantly, my own intrinsic values. Included in this little silver box are keepsakes that only I can interpret. There's a broken bead necklace, soda can tabs, rocks, and a note relaying some of the "firsts" I experienced as an innocent girl of thirteen:

Here we see a very cheesy me, riding away into my last semester of High School. Those were some of the best years of my life:

This ornament makes me laugh for several reasons. One, it's great significance on a variety of levels. First, 2003 was the year I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My mother and I were both relieved to discover that my behavioral issues weren't all her fault or my fault and as we shopped for an ornament to signify the importance of this new transition of understanding, our joint, dry sense of humor demanded the purchase of this perfect ornament. Who would have known that only a few years later I would officially become the one and only Screw Lucy?

A few ornaments make us take pause and remember how and with whom we celebrate special occasions and ordinary days that become extraordinary. My best friend and I went our separate ways in the year 2000. Then in 2004, while driving to work one day, I felt the presence of the Lord in my heart and I remember speaking out loud,"God, if I ever see her out in public, whether she is angry at me or not, I am going to ask her to forgive me, and I forgive her." I felt a weight lift and a peace in the car.

A week later to the date, I received a random email from Danielle. She wanted to see me again. We met in the parking lot of Macy's and to be completely cliche, we picked up as if we had never missed time. Here is the ornament I chose that year:

In 2005, another best friend bought me an ornament that was very descriptive of my life. I had acquired a job as a retail manager--of shoes! I had over one hundred pair. I was so pleased to find this in a gift bag under the tree:

It was a very Barbie year that year--but also a year of challenges. I decided to go visit my cousin in New Jersey all by myself. I don't advise that you do this--I had to pretend to be someone else in order to make it through the six lanes of traffic and a round-a-bout (WHAT is THAT?!?) to survive, but I made it! Then on the way back home I have a very funny story that involves no rest stops and a Big Gulp cup. I'll just say, I've got skills...

This could be an ornament for all years. I always loved Harley Davidson motorcycles and swore I would have one by the time I was twenty five. I guess I'll be waiting for a while, but in the mean time, I have this ornament to tide me over:

This ornament represents 2008 and has nothing to do with my love of Sci-Fi--because I don't love it. It does, however commemorate the fact that I dated Garrett Wang, better known as Harry Kim from Star Trek Voyager. The ornament lights up, therefore far brighter than he:

In 2010, I rummaged through my ornament box only to unwrap a golden angel that had increased in value a thousand times since the year prior. I stood by the tree dumbfounded, having forgotten that I owned it--having forgotten so many things over the course of that particularly strenuous year. The cherub was on her knees in prayer, two stars flanking her to the bottom right and left.

I could barely make out the inscription, but it was still there, faint and crying out in it's simplicity: Sarah 1994 From Shannon.

I lost my brother in 2010.

Every year I hold it to my breast and remember what the holidays mean to those who mourn.

Then I laugh as I can almost hear my brother saying (he was a proud Navy man),"Hey look sis--it was made in the USA!"

We collect our ornaments, collect our emotions, collect our thoughts and our plans for the new year every season.

And then we gather together with those who remain and recollect the meaning of it all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Caper Crusader

Men can be a lot like children at times. This is not a derogatory nod, since many times I consider myself not only child-like but also juvenile. So when Erik wanders off in the grocery store after I've given him explicit instructions, I tend to chuckle, not reprimand him sternly.

On this particular occasion, he wasn't off making faces at himself at the mirrors on the makeup isle or pressing all the buttons on "TRY ME" toys in the clearance isle. I had requested he assist me in finding flank steak at Kroger. I was not having much success, but upon glancing down the isle in his direction, I noticed that he had deviated from his original flank quest to visit the sample platter of weenies.

For this reason, he was held solely responsible for making dinner on this particular evening.

Now I'd like to talk about capers. You don't know what they are either so you can stop pretending now and answer this question: what did you think they were?

I had an idea in my head initially of those little black sticks you put in ham during the holidays but I quickly decided those are called cloves. Then I thought,"Is it some sort of odd vegetable?" Then, I wandered the spice isle my subconscious led me to the pickle and olive section.

Capers are small, olive colored oddities that stem from the Mediterranean. They are not olives, but they taste very similar to green olives. Therefore, to the list of foods I now recognize, you may add caper to pimento.


Fill a large saucepan with 1 in. of water and fit with a steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil. Place the cauliflower in the basket, cover and steam until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the flank steak with ½ tsp each salt and pepper, and cook to desired doneness, 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor, add 1 Tbsp oil and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper and purée until smooth.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, vinegar, capers, shallot and remaining 2 Tbsp oil. Serve with the steak and cauliflower.

tips & techniques

If you're not a fan of capers, use ¼ cup pimiento-stuffed olives to add that briny flavor boost.
I would also like to add that adding mashed, steamed cauliflower to whipped potatoes boost the nutritional value and cut down on carbs an calories. 

This meal came out to be $1.75 per serving. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cheating and Fish Shoes

Please don't mistake me--I love fresh food. I'll do the work. I can grate and peel and core and whatever else may be necessary. However, there are circumstances that call for cheating.

I will admit to reaching for the herbs-in-a-plastic-box and scoffing at the equivalent of herb squeeze cheese I noticed adjacent to the organic thyme and rosemary at Kroger. Of course if I had examined my motives and personal  hypocrisy, I would have noted that if I were truly keeping it  real, I would have grown my own herbs in favor of discarding them into recipes from plastic containers.

Upon observation that all the "fresh" ginger at Kroger this week were mildewed (this is the first time I've seen this at Kroger) I reluctantly grabbed the ginger goo in a tube.

This is the magnificent creation of Gourmet Garden. I say "magnificent" mainly because it totally is:

1. You don't have to grate ginger--an awkward root that is not easy to grate.

2. It's grown without pesticides.

3. It's in a tube--there is no need use to your last sandwich baggy.

4. It has no artificial flavors or colors.

5. It's easy, convenient, and you don't have to feel guilty for not using the ginger that will mildew in your own refrigerator.

Moving on to fish.

Kroger does not have the frozen kind.

Therefore, you have to buy it "fresh." Fresh fish at a supermarket equals lies. We are not near an ocean. They are frozen when they get here and thawed in a glass case on ice, perhaps with a leafy garnish. But I bought it, took it home and then, upon freeing it from the white paper wrapper (that kind of did make me feel  markety fresh and fabulous) realized how cussing hard it is to peel salmon skin away from the flesh. Sometimes when I'm caught in these situations, it helps if I imagine that I am a the type of person who can actually do these things. For instance, when I had to drive to New Jersey by myself to visit my cousin on vacation, I encountered mind numbing traffic for the first time in my life. I pretended I was someone else to survive. Therefore, in shaving the skin from sticky and difficult fish, I was wearing an imaginary chef coat and hat and I explained to my studio audience the best way to remove fish skin.

Then I noted how pretty fish skin is.

"Wow," I said to a jovial audience,"These fish skins sure would make lovely shoes--but I bet that would smell after a while wouldn't it?" The laugh track resounded through the air as I smiled and kicked up a heel, revealing my own Christian Louboutin shoes.

It's truly wonderful that I can enjoy these moments long before the company has brought over a bottle of wine.

It's great to have single friends. They can usually come over with little notice and they always want to do something fun. This particular evening, Caren brought over a huge bottle of Chardonnay (she wanted to bring red wine but I said,"Um, yeah--no. Fish..." and then she was all like,"Oh ok, fine then." And I was all like,"Yeah. You'd better recognize."

This recipe is Asian themed. We had all the ingredients except the fish, ginger, cucumber, and radishes. I bought the radishes at my favorite local market. This meal comes out to around $2.45 a serving.


1/4 cup(s) rice vinegar
1 tablespoon(s) finely grated ginger
2 tablespoon(s) honey
Kosher salt and pepper
1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 sweet onion (such as Vidalia), thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoon(s) low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/4 pound(s) skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces


Heat the broiler. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, ginger, 1 Tbsp honey, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Add the cucumber, onion and radishes, and let sit, tossing occasionally, for at least 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and the remaining Tbsp honey.

Line a broiler proof baking sheet with foil. Place the salmon on the baking sheet and season with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Broil for 5 minutes. Spoon the soy sauce mixture over the salmon and broil until the salmon is opaque throughout, 2 to 5 minutes more. Serve the salmon with any pan drippings and the cucumber salad.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Leeky Sausage

I am a carnivore but I would definitely say I am not a meat fan.

Cold cuts are great. I will even order a double portion of turkey on my Cold Cut Combo at Subway at times. Any meat that aids sleep equals fantastic.

Chicken? I'm also a fan. I'm a Southerner, so fried is fine and cold on a sandwich or made into a salad with some ungodly high-calorie dressing, better.

It's when we get into ham and cooked meats I start making that uncomfortable face and making the "I'll pass" gesture.

Cold ham is fine. Cold country ham on a biscuit--I can handle. Then we start inching toward the hot ham and cooked sausage category and, while I can eat it without being repulsed, I'm not excited about it as if it were, say, goat cheese on a Triscuit. Goat cheese on a Triscuit will make me shove a small child out of the way. If it's paired with wine I may trample the child as well but he shouldn't have been drinking in the first place.

So when I saw the roasted sausage recipe, I wasn't thrilled. Adventurous me, however, had to make it work.

Preparing in advance has it's advantages. I was able to find a Johnsonville sausage coupon for exactly what I needed--4 chicken sausage links. Chicken links have %50 less fat and Johnsonville makes several varieties including Chipotle Montery Jack, Three Cheese Italian Style, and Chicken Sausage Apple. Seeing as I'm a cheese fan, I selected the Three Cheese Italian Style.

I would love to shop at our local meat market--Bedford Avenue Meat Shop--but by the time I get home from work, they are closed and it's difficult to buy an entire weeks worth of meat all at once. My second choice is our local Kroger since they often have fantastic Manager's Specials on meat and fish.

I buy my produce at Davis Farm Fresh Market. They have a lot of local produce and it's affordable. You have to be flexible when your values lie in buying local. I needed leeks for this recipe, but sweet onion is close enough and it was available.

In case you needed to know this is what a leek looks like. It's kind of like a sweet onion married a scallion and had a baby:

This dish is approximately $1.92 per serving. We were able to get the thyme for free, since the girl at the check out counter didn't feel like price checking the package. Thank you generous and equally lax check-out girl.


2 small crisp red apples (such as Empire or Braeburn), quartered
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved crosswise and lengthwise
2 (about 1/2 lb total) yellow potatoes,  cut into 1/2-in.-thick wedges
8 sprig(s) fresh thyme
2 tablespoon(s) olive oil 
8 small (about 1 1/2lb total) chicken sausage links
kosher salt and pepper


1. Heat oven to 425ºF. In a large roasting pan, toss the apples, leeks, potatoes, thyme, oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.

2.Stir the vegetables and add the sausages to the pan, nestling them among the vegetables. Roast until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes more.

I personally thought the sausage was delicious. I saved a link for breakfast the next morning. 

The best part about preparing these meals is that you have breakfast or lunch the next day. If you factor that into the cost you're looking at $1.28 per serving. 

If only I could take pictures that reflected the success of slowly morphing a cheese fan into a meat fan.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What the Crust?!

They say that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. My more lengthy version of that adage would be, when life hands you molded, store-bought crust at midnight before Thanksgiving, make your own damn crust or hear your family whine about no Tarheel Pie.

Second to that adage would be, when life tries to hand you store-bought crusts for pizza, say a hearty "no thanks" while keeping the Thanksgiving adage in mind.

My Thanksgiving pie crust was so good a teenage boy took the time out to send me a message on Facebook asking me how I made it. It was also so cheap I thought to myself,"How hard could a pizza crust be?"

Folks, not hard and pennies cheap.

If you forgo a store bought crust which--in my experience--is tasteless and difficult to roll out, you're looking at an investment of about $0.50 a crust. I had to buy a 5 pound bag of flour for around $2.50 and (because I didn't check the cabinet first--always do that before shopping) a packet of yeast for $1.19.

You're looking at about $0.81 a crust. You'll invest a little over an hour.

Our toppings for this pizza were purchased at our local produce stand. I bought 2 potatoes, a hearty portion of kale, and a red onion for $1.70. When you buy local, per pound the produce may be more, but the portions are often smaller (do you really need that huge baking potato?) and higher quality. I didn't have to buy 2 huge potatoes. I bought to smaller potatoes, a smaller onion, and fresh kale. It's on the way home from work and it is well worth it.

You're looking at a meal that is $1.46 per serving and, because there are only two in the household, lasts for 2 meals, a dinner and lunch.

I was astounded at how easy this crust was to make and even more astounded at it's appearance and texture.

I know that potato, kale, and onion pizza sounds weird, but I have recently learned about kale's amazing properties:

1. Kale helps lower the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease when it is cooked.

2. Kale is high in Vitamin K--a cancer fighter.

3. Kale makes a great garnish in lieu of parsley, for those of you who couldn't care less about health.


Cornmeal, for the baking sheet
1 pound(s) pizza dough, thawed if frozen
2 medium (about 8 ounces) Yukon gold or white potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch(es) kale, thick stems discarded, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoon(s) olive oil 
Kosher salt
6 ounce(s) thinly sliced provolone cheese


  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Shape the dough into a 16-inch oval or circle and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, onion, kale, oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Scatter the vegetables and cheese over the dough and bake until the potatoes are tender and the crust is golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

tips & techniques
Flavor Boost: For meat lovers, scatter 4 ounces thinly sliced ham (torn into pieces) onto the pizza along with the cheese.
Tip: To quickly separate kale leaves from the stem, hold the kale in one hand by the stem end, and remove the leaf by pulling it downward.
Use Up the Kale: Make crispy kale chips: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Tear 1/2 bunch kale leaves into large pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes.
I used Sargento cheese and I had everything else already so this pizza cost me a whopping $1.46 per serving. 
We had our pizza with 
Château Morrisette which probably should have been completely reserved for the sausage and apple dinner, but wasn't terrible by any means.
If you look closely you'll see kale adorning the massive apples. My meals always arrive at full circle. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Unspeakable Gift

"Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." --2 Corinthians 9:15

Thanks to an early morning visitor (all you ladies know of this particular brand of company) I did not attend church this weekend; however I did hear God speak over the noise of the vacuum this morning.

I have an attitude problem. Although I was a relatively quiet child, the strength and magnitude of my opinions about an assortment of subject matter has always been fierce. Perception has also been a skill that I have sharpened since a young age. I have relearned how to buffer my reactions in maturity, but the visceral feelings still remain: if I don't like you, I don't like you. I have more than likely never liked you and it's probable I never will.

There is not a long list of people I don't like. But the ones I don't like, I typically really don't like and it's for a good reason.

I don't like pretentious people. I don't like fake people. God help you if you present both qualities. It's going to be very stressful for me to keep my thoughts to myself. I can stand just about every personality type and world view and numerous flaws. But please, keep your pretense to yourself lest I disarm you at any given moment the opportunity arises.

God had a little talk with me this morning about my attitude about pretentious people. He reminded me about what follows the often-quoted and less-frequently-practiced verse about loving your enemies:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Then God reminded me of The Pineapple Story. 

Sometimes I don't like God. He always seems to introduce Himself into the picture when I am making a fantastic demonstration of someone'e stupidity, lack of social skills, self-importance, or general ignorant behavior. Typically I am also underscoring how I dare said-individual to say/do any particular thing because if they dare...well, you get the picture.

After this election year I have seen a lot of people say a lot of things that are very unpleasant, ungodly, and quite frankly appalling, ungracious, and hateful.

But I don't answer of others. I answer for myself. I remembered the lessons I learned as a very young child when my Mother gave me The Pineapple Story. We are guided through a story about anger and what it is to love others like Christ by a disgruntled missionary who is sick of the natives taking his fruit:

I look forward to giving this book to a few of those who read this blog. I hope that it will bring the humility and wisdom that I experienced this morning in remembering Paul's words about generosity--not only in material things, but also in spiritual provision.

The freely scattered seeds we plant in this life are the righteous harvest that endures forever.