Treat or Treat

Was I one of those kids that went home and sorted their Halloween candy meticulously and with purpose? You betcha. I am actually still riding a high from earlier this week where I reorganized and streamlined a filing system at work.

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But that doesn’t mean I don’t like spontaneity. I’m all for surprises. Planful, anticipated, surprises are some of my favorite ways to be caught off guard.

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But how can this translate to food? Especially during this season of eerie suspense being all the rage? There is a dish I prepare year-round that fits the bill (and how), plus the ingredients are flexible to ensure fun and merriment no matter what the occasion. This particular version is called Popcorn Surprise! As long as you get that exclamation point at the end of it, you’re golden.

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POPCORN SURPRISE!

Ingredients:
  • Something you like to snack on
  • Something else you like to snack that’s smaller than that first thing
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Find two different things to eat

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2) Pour a little bit of the smaller snack into a bowl

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3) Layer a lot of the larger snack on top

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4) Ensure upper snack completely covers lower snack

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5) Begin your snacking experience (this works the best when engrossed in a TV show) and discover the “!” sensation when you stumble into your second snack

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Rice Cake 911

There are these things that we do over and over, and each time we wonder why we allowed ourselves to repeat the same mistakes. Maybe it’s a relationship that always crashes and burns once reignited. Maybe it’s that “shortcut” driving to work that is never, ever shorter. Maybe it’s wearing that cute dress that you haven’t worn in a while, then halfway through the day remembering it has a hole in it, then hanging it back up in your closet at the end of the day and repeating it all a month from now.

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Maybe it’s buying rice cakes when you’re grocery shopping. What are these things? Why do I think they are going to be this delicious snack when they are just Styrofoam Frisbees with some artificial caramel drizzled on there to distract you from the fact that you are consuming something you should be stuffing in packing boxes?

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And yet, at least once a month, I throw them in my cart as a viable snack option. They sit in my cupboard until a late night snack desperation moment strikes, and then I stare them down with a slight snarl. This time around, I refused to let the rice cakes win, so I decided to go the extra mile and create a recipe to spruce them up. Good news for chefs everyone – peanut butter and jelly can fix almost any dish (more pb&j love found here).

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SAD-TO-HAPPY RICE CAKES

Ingredients:
  • Rice cakes (any variety – they’re all pretty bad)
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Match your sadness to that of the sadness of the rice cake

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2) Gather up your faithful friends to rally

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3) Watch the happiness unfold

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T.L.C. (Tender Loving Chili)

I don’t know about other states, but in Minnesota there gets to be a sort of mania when the temps start to dip below 50 degrees. And not like an-in-a-panic mania, but like wide-eyed-exhilarated-rants-about-all-things-fall-and-how-it’s-the-best month mania.

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And I get it – my birthday is in the fall, so obviously there are some good things happening as the leaves are changing and we’re all showing off our cute scarf and sweater collections. But maybe it’s also that we have to throw ourselves into this state of gleeful autumnness because we know winter is coming, which is less about showing off cute clothing choices and making sure not an inch of skin is exposed to the air as you scrape off your car.

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Good news: there are some foods that just *taste* better in certain seasons, and once the degrees start to cool, these dishes start getting top billing and we are all the better for it. It’s already chilly in my apartment, and because I am cheap and refuse to turn up the heat until it’s below freezing, I am opting to bundle in blankets, fluffy socks, and hold a warm bowl in my hands. What’s in the bowl? One of my fave fall/winter go-tos: Chili.

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CHILI

Ingredients:
  • Can of chili
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Remember eating amazing homemade chili with your in-laws last winter and deciding that would hit the spot

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2) Also remember that you don’t have time or energy to figure all that out, and decide that good ol’ Amy usually has your best interests at heart in times like these

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3) Open can

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4) Pour chili into pot and heat until it seems like it’s ready

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5) Pour out of pot into bowl

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6) Realize you don’t have sour cream but you have cream cheese

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7) Decide not to possibly ruin everything at the last minute and just enjoy as is

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School Lunch Rock

No one in our household is going back to school this fall. I finished up my masters this spring, and we have yet to have young’uns running around and tearing up the joint. I probably get back-to-school anticipation every fall because I was one of those kids that *loved* school. Loved being around people learning, loved taking notes, most of the time enjoyed homework, loved picking out the supplies (3rd grade CleoCatra Lisa Frank trapper keeper FTW).

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I also had two versions of a shirt that said “So Many Books, So Little Time.” So…that.

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I hope my future offspring is able to enjoy school too. In my naive, pre-parenting dreams, I am one of those parents that provides a school lunch with thoughtful post-it notes, or adorably cut sandwiches, or hires a singing telegram to help open my child’s fruit cup.

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If I’m setting these high standards now, I figure I better start practicing school lunch prep. On a mission for a variety of healthy food packed with love and good intentions, I offer up this recipe to current parents or parents-to-be: Brown Bag Lunch.

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BROWN BAG LUNCH

Ingredients:
  • 1 brown bag
  • 1 GoPicnic
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Look through your food options to find a variety of healthy food that will sustain your child through their day’o’learning

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2) Discover that GoPicnic has already figured it out and put everything in a box for you

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3) Put a Post-It with a heart on it or something fun

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4) Put the box in the bag

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5) Get ready for your Parent-of-the-Year award, probably

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California Dreamin’

Big news over here – we are west coast bound! My partner landed an amazing job in San Diego, and after talking it through (insert pat on the back here for neither of us saying “YOLO” once during the decision-making process), we decided to meet this new adventure head-on.

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At this point, I am still a bundle of excitement and nerves. It’s a big change. I’m hoping I find a job that’s great, some people that are equal parts lovely and sarcastic, and that there will be beaucoup opportunities to try out new dining & recipe experiences for the blog. I guess I don’t even know if people eat out there. Don’t they just subsist on avocado, sunshine and ocean breezes?

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The other thing is that moving ain’t cheap. Everything starts adding up so quickly. So, in order to save some dollars this week, I’m turning to a recipe that has never let me down in times of pennies being pinched: Leftovers.

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LEFTOVERS

Ingredients:
  • Remnants of a meal gone by (at least one serving)
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Give Mint.com the side-eye for being kind of snarky about your current financial status

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2) Open your fridge and say something to the effect of “What have you got for me, sweetheart?” or “I believe in you, magical fridge of food possibilities – let’s do this!”

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3) Find some of your delicious dinner from last night, and decide it’s good enough

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4) Take a second to debate whether to try and recreate it or just eat it cold

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5) Probably just eat it cold – still good!

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Gadgets and Gizmos Aplenty

I don’t think I truly realized how many different kitchen utensils existed in the world until we registered for our wedding. I felt a little odd requesting gifts from family and friends simply because we added a couple of rings and a signed paper from the state to our relationship, but people seemed cool with it. And we were definitely appreciative for the opportunity to get a set of silverware so we weren’t constantly defaulting to chopsticks.

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When we got that registry gun in hand at the store, it got a little paralyzing. Oh mylanta, the amount of kitchen gear out there. I distinctly remember standing in front of a device that made waffle sticks and reveling in its cleverness. Then I snapped back to my real world, where you can toast a waffle and slice it into sticks yourself, saving approximately $30.

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Not to give you the impression we were completely kitchen gadget-less pre-wedded bliss. I’ve had a few of my main food prep staples with me for years, and they were used for today’s awesome recipe, Takeout Food.

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TAKEOUT FOOD

Ingredients:
  • 1 menu
  • 1 phone
  • 1 method of roundtrip transportation
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)
Directions:

1) Look at takeout menu and select tastiest dish listed

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2) Pick up the phone, dial number listed on said menu & tell all of your food dreams to the person who answers (just your food dreams, though; despite what anyone says, no one wants to hear your real dreams – that’s only interesting to you)

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3) Find transportation (car, bike, bus, feet, etc) to get on over to the restaurant

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4) Pick up your food

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5) Use transport to get back to your place (keep the bag your food is in closed tightly)

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6) Enjoy!

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