Liebster Award (Again!)

liebster award

I was really happy when I saw that Olga at olgaalexandra.wordpress.com nominated me for the Liebster Award. Fun fact: My computer keeps trying to autocorrect it to “Lobster.” Maybe I should start a Lobster Award.

Visit Olga’s blog for all things travel, shopping and food-related.  This is my second time being nominated, and it’s just so fun to see what kinds of questions and answers people come up with.

The Rules:

Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Copy and paste the Liebster Award badge to your post.
Nominate 10 new bloggers.
Answer the 10 questions from the person who nominated you.
Create 10 new questions for the bloggers you nominate.
Notify the bloggers by leaving them a comment on their site.

1. If you had to pack your bags to travel somewhere without fear of cost or other obligations where would you go?

I’m fairly certain I’ve said it many times on this blog, but my biggest dream in life is to travel the world. Right now, I’ve been obsessed with reading about Nysha’s adventures in China on her blog Soymilk on a Sunday. So I’m very much in the mood to see China, Japan, and essentially as much of Asia as possible.

2. What is one thing you can’t live without?

I was thinking the other day that if I had to pick just one thing to do every day for the rest of my life, it would be reading books and drinking tea. So, books and tea (I guess that’s two things). There will always be different stories to jump into and new things to learn, and well, tea is just delicious and good for you.

3. What is your favorite animal?

I love foxes. For one thing, there are a lot of stories and folklore surrounding them, which I think adds a kind of mysterious allure to them. In Japanese mythology, foxes are often regarded as intelligent and wise, possessing magical abilities. Also, they’re so cute.

4. Have you read a good book lately?

I’m on a “25 books in 2016” sprint, so I just finished reading The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker. The autobiographical story tells of the author’s experiences as a reporter in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early to mid-2000s. It was fantastically eye-opening, informative, heartwarming and hilarious at times.

Currently, I’m finally reading Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. As a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan, I’ve watched the film a million times, but never picked up the book. Having gotten half way through it, I can say the book is just as delightful as its visual counterpart.

5. What inspires you?

Unbridled imagination. I miss how unhinged my mind was as a child. Believing in magic and seeing odd or extraordinary things within ordinary circumstances is something I am trying to spark again in my life. The catch is, overthinking one’s life, responsibilities and desires is what I believe saps our child-like imagination in the first place. I try to remedy this by diving into stories and letting my mind wander free. Literally anything can be inspiration.

6. Did you go to University, if so where and what did you major in?

I went to the University of Arizona, and it was the absolute best time of my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those amazing experiences. I majored in journalism and creative writing.

7. What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to read, spend time outside, bake, draw and watch cartoons. Lately, my fiancĂ© has been teaching me a lot about woodworking and we’ve been working on several projects together, so that has been really fun as well!

8. What is your pump up music?

Usually some good alternative rock with a heavier beat and decently fast tempo. Either that or, like, Backstreet Boys.

9. What is your favorite color?

To wear: black. For pretty much everything else: teal and coral.

10. Do you have any goals for your blog?

The current short term goal is to get to 1000 followers and up my game with the quality of my content, with an even sharper focus on breakfast recipes.

Nominations:

Spice Tripping

Soymilk on a Sunday

The Lemon and Jar

Babies and Barnacles

Molly’s Morsels

Aniters

All Things Mixed Girl

Life in Lipstick

Palatable Adventures

Flour & Spice

My Questions:

1. What was your house(s) like as a kid?

2. What is the oldest memory you can recall?

3. If you had to change into one animal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

4. If you could live out a classic folk story (e.g. Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin, King Arthur), what would it be?

5. If you had to eat just one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

6. Are there any foods you just cannot stand?

7. Where did the inspiration for your blog come from?

8. What is bound to cheer you up no matter what’s going on?

9. If you could travel back in time to any period in history, when would you go? *teehee*

10. Robots or pirates…or ninjas?

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip & Blueberry Muffins

So I’d been wanting to try these muffins ever since I saw those delightfully puffy muffin tops on SomethingSwanky.com. I am a massive muffin maniac—they’re probably one of my all-time favorite breakfast treats. Then again, everything is my favorite (waffles, crepes, pastries. Don’t make me choose!).

Bakery Style Muffins

Anyway, I decided to deviate from my typical muffin recipe and try these out. They were wonderful! They use quite a bit more baking powder than most recipes, which really helped the muffins rise, making them soft and fluffy. If you have a jumbo-sized muffin tin, use that. These morsels are meant to expand.

While the original recipe suggests making chocolate chip muffins, I had fresh blueberries and decided to divide up the batter and make some with chocolate chips and a few with the blueberries. Again, I can’t just choose just one. 😛

Bakery Style Muffins

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vinegar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips OR blueberries (or divide the batter in half and make both like I did!)

Preheat the oven to 425ÂșF and prepare a 12-cup jumbo muffin tin or 18-cup regular sized tin with cooking spray, butter or coconut oil.

Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Then, add the eggs, butter, vanilla and the milk/vinegar. Mix everything together with a large wooden spoon just until combined. It should be a little lumpy.

Lastly, fold in your chocolate chips and/or blueberries.

Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.

Bake at 425ÂșF for 5  minutes (4 minutes if using regular sized tin). Then decrease the heat to 375ÂșF and bake for another 13 minutes (11-12 minutes for regular sized tin).

Brayden and I enjoyed our muffins with a hot mocha! Delightful❀

Bakery Style Muffins

German Oven Pancake

It’s a quiet Sunday morning. Little beams of golden light stream through the open window, and a gentle breeze drifts in. There’s a sense of calm as the tiny flames of vanilla Bourbon and maple buttermilk candles on the kitchen counter flicker and dance. Outside, the green on the trees and vibrancy of blue in the sky are the opening chapters of a perfect day. A sense of peace, like a giant quilt, feels as though it’s being drawn over the home.

A morning like this calls for something sweet and warm. A German Oven Pancake turned out to be just the thing. This breakfast treat is a more eggy, puffy version of an American pancake. And the best part: you bake it in the oven instead of standing around the stove flipping flapjacks. To top it off, this delightful breakfast takes just minutes to make and calls for simple ingredients you probably already have on hand!

German Oven Pancake

Adorn each individual slice however you’d like. Try some warm maple syrup, jam or fruit. I had mine in the traditional German way with powdered sugar and lemon juice (I added blueberries as well!). My fiancĂ© kept it classic with plain old maple. It’s fantastic either way. I’ve also heard of people baking apples or other fruit into it.

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Here’s the recipe:

German Oven Pancake

1/2 cup flour

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3 tbs melted butter, divided

1 tbs sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 450° F. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, sugar and 2 tbs of the melted butter.

Stir in the flour just until combined. Add the last tbs of melted butter to the bottom of a 9-inch pan, then pour in the batter. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges start to brown. The pancake should rise and get nice and puffy! Also, be prepared for the glorious scent of warm butter that will fill the home.❀

German Oven Pancake

Homemade French Onion Soup

Last week, I wanted to try my hand at making French onion soup from scratch. The warm, deeply flavorful broth, the infusion of sweet caramelized onions, the lightly toasted mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and the buttery crunch of French bread seemed like the perfect meal for a winter day.

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Luckily, my mom had just given me the perfect items with which to broil my soup in the traditional way: two beautiful, Italian-made ramekins, which I popped right into the oven to get that classic, toasted bread and cheese topping.

I was quite happy with how they turned out, and the ramekins made the whole thing look so cute. Just a super cozy meal all around.

While it takes a while for the onions to caramelize and the broth to simmer and soak up the flavor, actually making the soup itself is very simple. But go ahead and let people think you slaved over this meal. *wink*

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Let’s get to the recipe!

French Onion Soup

About 4 large yellow onions

3 tbs butter

4 cloves minced garlic

3 tbs flour

5 cups beef broth

1 cup water

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Salt, pepper and garlic powder

A French baguette

Grated cheese (a mix of mozzarella, Parmesan or Asiago)

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Slice the onions into about one-inch squares (they’ll end up shrinking a lot), and sautĂ© for a half hour or so. Stir occasionally and let the onions caramelize into a nice brown color, but be careful not to let them burn. Add the garlic and sautĂ© for another minute.  Sprinkle in the flour gradually, and stir until it’s dispersed evenly throughout the pot.

Add the broth, water and Worcestershire sauce, then bring the soup to a simmer on medium-low heat, stirring every so often. Add in a bit of cracked black pepper and garlic powder to taste. I try to reduce salt/sodium where I can, so I only added a pinch of salt. Let the soup simmer for ten minutes.

In the mean time, cut a few thick slices of French bread and lightly butter them on one side. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and place in the toaster on the low setting. We just want a slightly golden brown crunch.

Once the soup is ready, set the oven to the broil setting on high. Grab your ramekins or oven-safe bowls and ladle in the soup, leaving about one and a half inches for the bread and cheese. Place the toasted bread over the top, then sprinkle generously with cheese.

Pop them into the oven on the center rack for approximately six minutes, or until the cheese has reached a level of toasty, bubbliness that looks delicious to you.

Once ready, take them out and enjoy! Be sure to handle the bowls with oven mitts until they cool down.

 

 

 

Launching a New Website (Psst! I want your submissions)

I’ve recently embarked on a new endeavor with the creation of a website called The MillĂ©naire. The project relies entirely upon the stories of individuals in their late teens, 20s and early 30s (i.e. young adults).

I would love to have your contribution. The more diverse the range of voices and experiences, the better. All submissions can be sent to themillenaire@gmail.com. You are free to submit anonymously, but for all of you fellow bloggers, this is also a great way to get your name and your own website out there. If you so choose, I will provide links to your blog/website and other social media information at the end of your entry.

To get a better sense of the mission of this project, here is the “About” page:

Meaning “millenial” in French, the MillĂ©naire is a place for camaraderie amongst young adults. We have our own sets of struggles and hardships that are often clouded by this need to portray our lives as perfect through social media, in front of acquaintances and even with our close friends.

In seeing the constant status updates and pictures that feign the seemingly perfect lives of others, we feel worse and worse about our own difficulties when, in truth, those around us may be experiencing similar feelings. We just don’t talk about it.

The MillĂ©naire is an experiment: It’s a place to build empathy between young adults and tell the stories we might not always want to talk about. My hope is that sharing our own experiences will not only help us embrace the ups and downs of our own lives, but help others as well.

Entries should be written primarily in a personal narrative format. E.g. “I felt like this
 I experienced that
 This or that thing happened to me
 ”

Posts can be as short or long as needed to tell your story.

Questions to get your ideas flowing:

  • What is the hardest aspect of being a young adult?
  • What’s the best part?
  • How do you usually occupy your day? (Be honest or silly here if needed; it’s okay to admit you surf the internet for hours or watch SpongeBob everyday).
  • Do you feel pressured to be at a certain point in your life, and you’re not there yet? (e.g. married or long-term relationship, stable career, “dream job,” house).
  • How did you handle a situation you weren’t expecting/ready for? (e.g. failure, job loss, pregnancy, death, illness, loss of friendship, break-up).
  • Do you feel like you still have opportunities on the horizon, or that they have already passed because you are now “grown up”?
  • Have you picked up any hobbies or new talents in your late teens, 20’s, 30’s? Things you had not learned in your childhood, but have always aspired to do.
  • Are you afraid of being “ordinary”?
  • What’s an obstacle you overcame and how did it help you? 

 

Thanks everyone, and happy writing.

 

Alyssa

 

 

Pecan Pie Bars (& Happy New Year!!)

I made these pecan pie bars for my family Christmas Eve party, and although the holidays are over, I thought I’d share the recipe to keep the holiday cheer going.

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These richly sweet morsels taste just like a traditional pecan pie, but with a slightly sweet shortbread crust. There’s something so fun about dessert bars, and it’s easier to control the portions this way. Trust me, these bars pack a sugary punch, so you won’t need much to get your fill.

And of course, who says you can’t make “holiday season-y” treats year round?

Here’s the recipe:

Pecan Pie Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup cold butter

4 tbs milk

4 eggs, room temperature

2 cups chopped pecans

3/4 cup brown sugar

4 tbs melted butter

1 cup light corn syrup

2 tsp pure vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350Âș F and butter a 9×13 inch pan.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Then, using a pastry blender or pastry knife, cut in the cold butter and mix with your fingers or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles.

Pour in the milk and evenly distribute the liquid.

Press the dough evenly into the greased pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown.

In the mean time, we can get started on the filling. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and pecans. Stir with a large wooden spoon just until everything has throughly mixed.

Once the shortbread crust is done baking, pour the pecan topping over it and place the entire pan back into the oven for another 20 minutes. You’ll know the mixture is set when it no longer wiggles back and forth.

Allow the bars to cool for about a half hour, then serve warm or cold with a cup of coffee and extra cream🙂

I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year! I, for one, LOVE NYE and plan to spend the night in a shower of glitter, music and an equally glittery dress.

xo

 

I’m Thankful for Messing up the Pumpkin Pie

In light of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to make a short list of things I am really, deeply grateful for.

(In no particular order)

My mom and grandmother for somehow making me laugh even though I messed up our only Thanksgiving dessert this year. Thank you both for still eating it and for being so sweet.

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(Psst..the crust on the bottom didn’t cook all the way, so it still looks pretty).

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My amazing family. We have our ups and downs, but we all genuinely love each other and put each other’s happiness above anything else. We’re threaded together so intricately nothing could ever pull us apart.

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My fiancĂ©, Brayden. I think about how lucky I am every day. I get to be with someone who loves me unconditionally–who just makes life so much fun. He’s like a bright shining star, filling this world with vibrance and color. Two weeks after we started dating, I knew I wanted to be with him forever. No question about it. That’s the level of his awesomeness.

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Books and podcasts. They refresh my ideas, knowledge and ways of thinking. They encourage me to keep questioning what’s happened in the past, what’s going on right now, and what might occur in the future. They teach me to keep my mind and heart open.

Current favorite books: Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy

Current favorite podcasts: Intersection and Reply All

My education: for opening up my world in ways I never imagined possible.

My freedom. I’ve thought about this one quite a lot lately, especially amidst so much oppression within the refugee crises and across the world. We may take for granted the little freedoms we have every day, but if I lost any of them, I feel like I might go crazy. Where I live, I am able to speak my mind, protest what I do not believe in, or change jobs and move to a new place (theoretically). I can choose who to love and who to marry (and when). I can build my own life the way I want to build it, and I do not have to fear for my life the moment I step out the door. So many people around the world lack these liberties, and to be able to sympathize with and understand others, I try my best to be grateful for the freedoms we’re able to enjoy.

This beautiful earth. Let’s do everything we can to protect it.

And of course, every single person who reads and supports this blog. You give meaning and life to something that means a great deal to me.

Thank you.