eating

Foodie Feats and Treats.

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I’m going to let you in on a secret of mine: I have a bit of a baking obsession.

Actually, it’s a not-so-well-kept secret and forget the “bit”: I bake like the wind and force-feed everyone into a communal sugar high. But, what can I say, I dig being in the kitchen.

Most of the time, I bake in the evenings and late at night. For some reason, that’s always when I’m most creative and twitching to try what would normally be incredibly scary things like making croissants from a recipe written in French. So, in any one baking session, I can go from wanting a simple boxed cake to making a sugary feast of cake, pie, cookies, and something I can’t pronounce. (Life tip: always try foods you can’t pronounce.)

There’s just something so invigorating and therapeutic about baking.

You start with raw ingredients–a few cups of this, a tablespoon of that, maybe the zest of something strange–and somehow the sum of all the parts is an entirely new entity. It’s a bit like writing really. You mix everything together and hope that it becomes coherent. You pour yourself into something common and, with any luck, it becomes something extraordinary. There’s something beautiful in that coalescence.

The strange part of all of this is that I didn’t bake much before 2013. I could make a boxed cake with the best of them, and I thought I was pretty creative for adding Coca-Cola to boxed brownies, but I wasn’t a recipe-hoarding baker until last year. After a 3-almost-4-month-long RV trip with my parents in the summer of 2012, where we ate entirely too much fast food, I guess you could say I was desperate for something homemade.

In an attempt to feel a little less like a recipe-hoarder, here are a few of the recipes I’ve discovered and loved over the past year…

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Franzbrötchen

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I found this delightful recipe for German cinnamon rolls over at Food Thinkers by Breville just last week. I had gotten a bit of a wild hair and decided that puff pastry couldn’t be as difficult as it sounded, and thankfully these lovelies came out quite well, even if I did become a bit impatient at the time required.

Helpful hints: If you’re like me and have never tried a recipe like this (read: anything pastry-related), be careful to mind the temperature of your butter, don’t be too rough with the rolling pin, and make sure to keep your work surface well-floured. Also, I found that I had to bake them for 18 to 21 minutes in a convection oven for even the slightest golden edge, but obviously every oven is different, so pay close attention to how your oven is treating the delicate franzbrötchen.

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Russian Tea Cakes

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These shortbread-like (read: on the dry side) cookies have a lot of different names–Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, snowball cookies, butterballs, and snowballs–and come in quite a few variations (almond, pecan, walnut, pistachio, chestnut etc). I found this particular, walnut-based recipe at AllRecipes.com.

Helpful hints: My family isn’t big on the more dry and crumbly cookies/cakes, so making these was a bit of an experiment. Although they loved the flavor and sugary coating, they wished it was a little less dry. If you or your family is the same way, simply add 1-3 tablespoons of milk to the recipe, or consider adding 1 tablespoon of milk and reducing the flour to about 2 and 2/3 cups. Also, I followed the baking instructions stated in the comments (300F for about 15 minutes) with great success–the originally stated temperature (350F) just seemed a bit high.

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(Sort-of) Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’ve never been good with chocolate chip cookies. I am as good at burning cookies unintentionally as I am at getting the perfect layer of black on toast intentionally. Just as I was about to give up on cookies and drown my sorrows in something I can’t burn, I gave this recipe from Cookies & Cups a shot and was beyond euphoric to have them come out just right and without a single burn.

Helpful hints: Due to the polar vortex making Texas into Michigan I didn’t go out for groceries before I made these cookies, and I ended up using Country Crock Original instead of the stick butter called for in the recipe. I found that the switch made the dough a bit tackier/stickier than expected, but adding about 3 teaspoons of flour remedied the situation. In the end, the cookies rose well, maintained their softness for days, and tasted no different due to their whole wheat-ness.

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Apple Pie Cookies

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I have to give full credit for this discovery to the wonderful people of Pinterest, where the sheer number of pins (repins? pinnings?) practically forced me to venture over to Oh, Bite It! and take my first leap into the world of all things apple cinnamon.

Helpful hints: Although I used Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust, I would truly recommend trying a scratch recipe for the crust. Doing so allows you to have the fun of mixing a bit of cinnamon sugar into the dough to compensate for the typical lack thereof in the canned apple pie filling.

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Chocolate Chip Irish Soda Bread

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I pulled this recipe out the google hat when I decided to learn foods based on my heritage and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It may look like a chocolate heart attack waiting to happen, but this Baking Bites recipe yields a bread that is the perfect mix of sweet and savory.

Helpful hints: If my attempt proves average, then you’ll probably need the extra tablespoon (or 3) of flour to make the dough a bit less sticky and easier to work with. Also, if you’re like me, then 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, all of that cocoa powder, and sugar is a bit daunting. Don’t be afraid to cut the amount of chocolate chips; it will turn out fine with more or less of them. 

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Orange Pound Cake

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My mother actually tipped me off to this cake late one night when I couldn’t sleep and really needed a good baking binge to get ready for bed. The recipe can be found on Yummly, but it is technically intended as an I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! recipe, but it comes out just the same with regular stick butter.

Helpful hints: On first glance, you’ve probably already noticed that the directions are a bit out of order, but that can be corrected by simply adding step 5 in before 3 and step 4 after 6. Anyways, I make my orange pound cake with Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt and an extra 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I find that these two vanilla ingredients balance out the orange a bit better and give the cake a smoother, more palatable taste. 

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Best of luck in your baking endeavors and feel free to share other recipes in the comments!

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Foodulthood.

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When you’re a kid, you absorb little lessons each day without even realizing it. Later on, you start to notice what you’ve learned because others do something, or perhaps everything, differently. Here’s what my childhood taught me about food:

Nothing can beat taco pizza from Pizza Inn in Conway, South Carolina…except maybe the pudding at the Filling Station in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich are amazing…if you leave off the jelly.

When you get Pepsi in an individual bottle, buy a sleeve of Lance regular, salted peanuts. Then, drink a little bit out of the soda and pour the peanuts into the bottle. Drink that delicious motherfucker.

Eating M&Ms is automatically better when you have someone else to share them with and you can play a game of candy color go fish.

Eating spoonfuls of peanut butter at midnight is totally acceptable, as long as you use multiple spoons and never double dip.

There is a pizza joint in Canada, somewhere northwest of Ontario that, in the early 2000s, served the best food I’d ever had. Someday I’ll find that hearty joint.

Don’t dare to call barbecue the action of grilling meat and then pouring sauce on top of it. Barbecue is much more complex and generally only delicious if you get it from a place called Cooper’s Country Store in Kingstree, South Carolina.

Croissants are the perfect food for a Christmas morning…and Christmas afternoon…and Christmas night.

Giving me sugar or another sweetener to add to a glass of unsweetened tea does not sweet tea make.

Cereal counts as a meal whether or not you eat it with milk. However, if you stick it in a plastic bag, it becomes a snack, no matter how big the serving.

Bread is the ultimate food but, pro tip: take a slice of sandwich bread, tear or eat off the crusts, and flatten the remaining bread in whatever way you like. Just make that white bread goodness look like the Eucharist in church and eat.

The tangy tomato dressing from Outback Steakhouse is the best dressing in the world. It should be bottled and given out free to every U.S. citizen as salad potion, just to brighten everyone’s days.

Boiled peanuts are the ultimate snack. They’re actually the official snack food of my birth state. But, when you eat them from a brown paper bag, they are three times better.

For some completely unknown reason, a sandwich will always taste better if someone else fixes it for you.

The U.S. military has a secret weapon and it is the pepperoni pizza from Anthony’s…a restaurant that can only be found on military installations and I wouldn’t have it any other way. No one wants to share that amazing cheese, bread, and meat combo.

Popped jello out of the snack cup, slicing it into pieces, and putting whip cream on each piece automatically makes you feel fancy and fulfilled.

Coke and Pepsi are not the same. Don’t ask me if I’ll accept one when I’ve asked for the other.

Popcorn is evil. If it is anywhere even kind of, sort of, maybe, near its’ expiration date then don’t eat it. I’m telling you: pure, unadulterated evil.

There is a huge different between the Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese with the cheese powder and the same with the cheese goo. Say no to goo every time.

Coconut oil does not in fact make foods taste like coconut…however, if you tell someone who you used it, they will insist that they taste it.

The pop tarts that were around circa 1999/2000 that broke into three strips of pop tart were the best pop tarts ever. Why did you discontinue them, Kellogg, why?

Red delicious apples win. Small, medium, or large. Period.

Traveling just to go to a particular restaurant is acceptable and highly encouraged.

Everyday counts as a holiday if you make and eat pumpkin pie. Also, use the Libby’s recipe, but you must use more cinnamon and less ginger or your pies are pitiful.

Avoid drinking too much of the blue Gatorade, particularly if you’ve not eaten much else recently or with it. It goes down blue, but trust me, it comes up green.

They say that a watched pot never boils. I’m here to tell you that is just silly. A watched pot seems to boil over even faster than the one I abandoned for 10 minutes.

Making pasta sushi from the left over ingredients of lasagna (mozzarella cheese rolled in lasagna noodles and dipped in sauce) is the best part of lasagna-making.

The barbecue sauce from Burger King is the perfect dipping sauce for french fries and thus stockpiling it every time you eat there is fully allowed.

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That is all that I can think of at this moment, and the boiled peanuts my father just made are calling my name, so I’ll leave it up to you guys now. Post your own food lessons in the comments.

I wonder what food lessons I’ll pass on to people as time passes. Peace, love, and pizza.

Disordered Thinking.

Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest (Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls). 

When you have an eating disorder, you know. Even if you refuse to recognize it or do not feel the urge to do anything about it, you know that your thought processes are somehow different from the average John or Jane Doe’s.

Yet somehow, simultaneously, when you have an eating disorder, you do not know. Even if you know the warning signs and read every first hand account you can get your hands on, you do not know how deeply you are changed.

I know quite a few truths about eating disorders. I can rattle off statistics about rates, races, and types for hours. I can list the symptoms of each complex type and even make my observations regarding who is more susceptible. I hold a lot of facts, but it was not until recently that I could even see my own disorder. It was not until this past year that I could see the negative slant of my own thoughts regarding nutrition.

Slim hips. Flat stomachs. Strong collarbones. Thin thighs. Lean legs. Delicate arms. Tight skin. Angular facial bones. Nearly nonexistent chests.

I wanted so little for myself, yet I thought it was so much.

I wanted so little for myself, and I know it, yet I often stillcrave it.

“That was the thing: Once, the difference between light and dark had been basic. One was good, one bad. Suddenly, though, things weren’t so clear. The dark was still a mystery, something hidden, something to be scared of, but I’d come to fear the light, too. It was where everything was revealed, or seemed to be. Eyes closed, I saw only the blackness, reminding me of this one thing, the most deep of my secrets; eyes open, there was only the world that didn’t know it, bright, inescapable, and somehow, still there. (Sarah Dessen, Just Listen)” 

This is the crux of the problem of eating disorders: The reality of them is far from black and white, particularly when it comes to the views of the sufferers themselves. The gray area between right and wrong, and true and false, is ever more dense. The gray area is an all-consuming and sight-blocking fog that, somehow, most people have no notions about.

Eating disorders are not simple, just like so many other situations in life.

In today’s society, most will name Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa as the principle eating disorders. However, it goes much farther than two scientific titles. The gray area. 

Disordered eating involves so many different factors. Yes, it can involve continued restriction and dieting. Yes, it can involve recurrent binging andpurging. But, there is so much more.

Anorexia Athletica. Compulsive Exercising Disorder. Compulsive Overeating. Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Night Eating Syndrome. Orthorexia Nervosa. Binge Eating Disorder. Emotional Eating. The types of disorders that fall into the category of “eating or nutrition disorders” are seemingly endless and because of this, science and medical experts have even created the name EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) to apply to those disorders which cannot be classified so simply.

I am not here to judge. It is not for me to say that all those with eating disorders need to seek treatment or that they should continue with their current ways. I simply believe that eating disorders are far more complicated than they seem, and most of the world’s population do not understand. People as a whole need to be more aware, because eating disorders involve more than food–they involve people. And, people are devastatingly beautiful, complex beings.

“I wondered which was harder, in the end. The act of telling, or who you told it to. Or maybe if, when you finally got it out, the story was really all that mattered (Sarah Dessen, Just Listen).”

Where my own disordered thinking is concerned, I know that I have been wrong. I know that change needs to happen. I know that eating food is not equivalent to catastrophe.

Yet, somewhere inside of me is a nugget of doubt. Somewhere inside there is a need to keep on the same path I have already paved. Somewhere inside there is the poison of disorder.

And while disorder can be beautiful, this disorder is not. It is the child of tragedy and pain. This disorder is in no way lovely.

This is why I will change my own ways.

This is why I will share my story.

I have written this post because I know the complexity of eating disorders and disordered thinking. I want others who have experienced this life, for even a brief time, to know that I am here and I understand. If we band together and show our support, disordered thinking can be changed for the better. If you need someone, I am here.

I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.I am thawing. (Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls)”