Saturday, April 21, 2012

Classic Cars & The World's Best Dessert

My favorite Girl Scouts cookie, hands down, is a Samoa. I can average about twelve in one sitting. Last night, because my baking buddy Leslie was visiting and because we are shameless sugar addicts, we decided to conquer an ice cream pie version of Samoas. Best decision I made all week, let me tell you.

Notice the caramel oozing from beneath the freshly toasted coconut to envelop chunks of fudge graham crackers and macaroons. My goodness.
 The directions advised us to freeze this puppy for 2-4 hours before digging in. Ha! We contained ourselves for as long as possible and then dished up spoonfuls of Samoa mush. It was divine, but when properly frozen overnight it is simply indescribable. Here is a proper slice in all its glory:

I snapped the photo, grabbed that fork and polished it off in 28 seconds. This. Is. A winner. Recipe below!

Today Nathan and I went to a local festival close to the library where I work. We ate snow cones and hamburgers and gaped at all the old cars. I was in Classic Car Heaven.

First snow cones of the season. Get excited!

F.I.G. (Friendswood Is Great!)

This one was love at first sight. 
Such magnificence!

Such beauty!
Dream roadster. 

I dream of owning a classic car one day. If I can hang on to my '97 Accord long enough, will that make it........nah.

Here is the Samoa Ice Cream Pie recipe, adapted from My Creative Stirrings. Leave a comment with your favorite dessert!

1 16.5-oz package Pillsbury Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough*
1 qt-size block vanilla ice cream, softened
2 1/2 c toasted coconut**
10 fudge-covered graham crackers, crumbled
14 macaroon cookies, crumbled
1 c caramel sundae syrup
1/2 c mini chocolate chips
Magic Shell ice cream topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Spread the cookie dough evenly in the bottom of the pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Spread 1/3 of the coconut, 1/3 of the chocolate chips and 1/3 of the caramel on top of the cookie layer.
Divide the softened ice cream block into 1-inch sections with a large knife. Spread half of the ice cream evenly across the crust.
Layer half of the graham crackers, half of the macaroons, 1/3 of the chocolate chips, 1/3 of the coconut and 1/3 of the caramel on top of the ice cream.
Spread the remaining ice cream evenly over the cookie layer.
Top with the remaining grahams, macaroons, chocolate chips, coconut and caramel.
Freeze for 2-4 hours, or until firm. Let sit for several minutes before serving.

*I found the cookie crust a bit too rich with all the other goodies on top. Next time I'll try a simple graham cracker crust - combine 1 1/2 c crushed graham crackers (or any other cookie) with 6 T melted butter, press evenly into the bottom of the springform pan, and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.

**To toast the coconut, spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Friday Night Slice

Ever since I discovered my beloved Pioneer Woman's recipe for the best pizza crust I've ever had, pizza has become a Friday night tradition at our house - so much so that Nathan practically goes into cardiac arrest if I decide to serve, say, a pot roast. Here is my slightly adapted version of the crust, along with our favorite toppings:

CRUST (yield: 2 pizzas)
1 t (1/2 envelope) active dry yeast
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c white whole wheat flour
1 t kosher salt
1/3 c olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Sprinkle the yeast over 1 1/2 c warm water and let sit.
Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Using the paddle attachment, drizzle the olive oil into the flour on low speed until just combined.
Give the yeast/water mixture a little stir. With the mixer on low, drizzle into the flour until just barely combined.
If you're cooking for two, divide the dough in half and freeze one half for next Friday.
Drizzle a little olive oil in a large bowl and toss the dough you're using now in the bowl to coat evenly with oil. Cover the dough with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
When dough is doubled in size, preheat the oven to 500 F.
Grease your pizza pan well and dust with cornmeal or flour. Stretch the dough to evenly fit the pan (or spin it over your head if you have skills).
Spread your favorite sauce and toppings on the pizza and pop it in the oven for about 8 minutes. If you live in an apartment complex with hypersensitive fire alarms, stand on a chair and flap dish towels as needed.


Nathan is a plain ol' pepperoni man. For his pizza, I spread a thin coat of pizza sauce (store-bought, but I plan to attempt a homemade version soon) on the crust and sprinkle with pizza seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes. Add a couple handfuls of shredded mozarella, and arrange an exotic pattern of pepperoni, ground beef, leftover sausage, or whatever meat is lurking in your fridge. If I'm also partaking of this pizza I'll hide some chopped pepper and onion or olives under LOTS more cheese.

My all-time favorite is a margharita pizza. Replace the pizza sauce with a thin layer of basil pesto (homemade is my favorite, but store-bought works too). Lay alternating slices of tomato and fresh mozarella over the top. This one might need to bake a little longer so the center cooks through. Use a high-rimmed pizza pan or put another one underneath to catch oozing goodness.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Leslie and I rang in her birthday with an utterly divine pizza experience. PW's Steakhouse Pizza is unlike anything I have ever imagined. If you are a meat-lover, do yourself a favor and make this pizza today.

(Photo by PW)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Having Nothing, Possessing Everything

On Easter Sunday, the pastor of my Maryland church preached a sermon about the "unknown gods" that each of us worships daily. Our culture, especially where I live, is permeated with materialism. I would never describe myself as a materialistic person, but it creeps in unawares when I least expect it. I constantly scour Pinterest for new image-enhancing fashion and makeup tips. I feel the strong urge to hide my face every time I navigate my bumper-less, chronically screeching '97 Honda amid throngs of shiny SUVs, Mustangs and Camaros. I endlessly plan for the house of my dreams. And, like much of the working world, I envision myself and Nathan spending our last years in a blissful cottage by the sea.
Society's idea of retirement recently collided head-on with my concept of spiritual growth. My mom is one of my heroes, and for as long as I can remember I've watched her live out her faith with a mixture of awe and determination. "Someday," I tell myself, "when I'm Mom's age, I'll love Jesus as much as she does." This mindset allows me to make peace with spiritual apathy, since I have the rest of my life - 50 more years, at least! - to get serious about Jesus. What we would call premature death - a kindergartner collapsing on the soccer field with heart failure, a young teenager losing the battle with cancer, a college graduate's life abruptly snuffed out in a car accident - instills more than just grief. For me, with my intentions of living a long life with time enough to accomplish all my spiritual goals, it brings the sobering fear that I am not making the most of now. What are possessions, social status, beauty and accomplishments when faced with eternity?
Mom's parents just celebrated their 68th and 72nd birthdays, respectively. As I wrote their cards I reflected again on the impact that their counter-cultural retirement years has had on my family. Grandma and Granddad live in the simplest of houses and share one car. I cannot remember them ever traveling for fun, or engaging in leisurely hobbies. Their "golden years" are spent in community and political involvement, helping to homeschool and care for their grandchildren, and faithful intercession. To outsiders, their lifestyle would invoke pity - if not outright mockery. To me, a grateful recipient of their love and prayers, they have uncovered the pearl of great price. To them, Jesus is so wonderful that He is the only thing worth living for - now, and every day until they see Him face to face. They embody the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians, living "as having nothing, yet possessing everything" (6:8).
If my goal is to continually grow closer to Jesus for the rest of my life, why would I spend my remaining days on this earth in pursuit of pleasure and earthly fulfillment? Why not instead find true and eternal joy in the emptying of myself for Someone infinitely greater? Some may say that I'm being too hard on myself; that everyone deserves their share of happiness on this earth. This begs the question: what defines true happiness? Is it found in things, people and experiences, or in a relationship with my Savior? Do I really believe, in the words of Tullian Tchividjian, that Jesus + nothing = Everything?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blogging, at Last.

Nearly two years ago I packed up my entire life and moved 1,500 miles away from my home, family, church, friends and 21 years of history. A naive and starry-eyed bride, I jumped headfirst into the unknown; confident that I would live happily ever after immune to homesickness.
Armed with an English degree and dozens of overflowing journals, I had big dreams for my blogging endeavors. What better way to keep my loved ones at home abreast of my fascinating life as a newlywed? This "fascinating life" soon swept me up in a tidal wave so fast-paced that even regular journaling became a relic of the past, and blogging seemed a task of unsurmountable proportions. To compensate for my lost art I became critical of the blog world in general, since "everyone" now had a blog. The few blogs that I followed with passionate admiration (Ode to Pioneer Woman) became so intensely glorified in my eyes that any attempt of my own seemed as the dust of the earth.
With my writing thus crucified, I felt at a loss for what really defined me. I dabbled in knitting, adored my husband and cat nearly to death and exercised madly until a gruesome bout with fleas destroyed all semblance of a daily routine. One afternoon, as I donned my trusty flea socks and vacuumed for the thirteenth time in a week, I was flooded with a homesickness that I had never, in all my travels, experienced. I felt in my deepest core the gradual severance of souls that is so inevitable when time and distance prevail.
Thanks to an ingenius and wildly inspirational video project created by my siblings and good friends, I have recently been possessed with an urge to bear children and move back to the east coast. Nathan, in his wisdom, maintains a cool and logical approach to our future plans, and so for now this blog will take the place of babies and relocation. I'm swallowing my blogging insecurities to bring you candid snapshots of our life in Houston, how God is using us, and what He is teaching me daily. To my loved ones at home reading this, please know that I miss you tremendously and will do my best to keep you regularly updated on our various endeavors.
The theme of this blog was inspired by one of my favorite verses, my love of cooking (taste) and a budding interest in photography (see). Besides being an outlet for my writing, I hope that my blog will motivate me to share my favorite recipes and put to good use my Canon Rebel, two lenses and photography workshop expertise (all compliments of my lover).
Please leave a comment and say hello! Happy belated Easter from our state to yours :)
“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” - Jim Elliot