Easy Caprese-y

It’s like a magic trick! You know by now that I love me some caprese salad. And this has all the deliciousness of a caprese salad, turned hot and melty and conveniently mounted on a slab of carbohydrate for the most efficient conveyance to the mouth. In other words ….. pretty delicious comfort food.

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To make two personal-sized caprese pizzas, this is what you need:

2 pieces of naan (I used 1 package of the Stonefire brand, from the grocery store)
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
About 6 oz. FRESH mozzarella, thinly sliced
A few fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Coarse-ground salt & pepper

Better preheat the oven now, cause this thing does not take long to make. (Which is half of its charm.)

1. Whip out your naan.

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2. Brush it with olive oil and grind pepper over it (plus a sprinkling of dried herbs if you want).

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3. Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices on top.

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4. Hmm, it needs something …. oh yeah, basil leaves! Tuck a few in the nooks and crannies.

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5. Sprinkle some coarse salt lightly over the top, and put the cute little baby pizzas on a tray. It’s oven time. (Did you turn the oven on yet? It should be on broil.)

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6. Cook those pizzas. I started out by baking them at 400 degrees for a few minutes until the cheese was partially melted, then I turned the oven on to broil, moved them closer to the top, and cooked until the cheese began to blister. But I don’t know if the baking step was really necessary. Which is why I’m recommending you probably just broil them (500 degrees, close to the coil, and keep an eye on them). They should turn out just fine.

Here they are, about halfway done —

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7. Meanwhile, make yerself some balsamic reduction. For drizzling purposes. I never read up or studied on how to do this, nor had I ever done this before, so please don’t take this as some expert advice or anything or start mocking my technique in the comments. Technique? There is no technique! :-) I just put 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, nothing else, into a small saucepan and heated it over low to medium heat, whisking pretty much constantly, until it reduced by about half, and got thick and syrupy. It was pretty ridiculous how easy it was, considering how snooty-sounding “balsamic reduction” comes across.

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8. You’re still watching the pizzas, right? Brush them with olive oil if the basil leaves start to shrivel from the heat. Gratuitous food close-up: The basil leaves were starting to turn into mini-basil-leaf chips, but the olive oil took care of that reeeeal quick.

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9. Once everything is hot and bubbly to your liking, take out of the oven and drizzle with your awesome balsamic syrup stuff.

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10. EAT! I know you’re going to love it.

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Life gets better.

Hello friends,

If you were single on Valentine’s Day yesterday, don’t feel bad about it. I’m here to tell you that love may be just around the corner. Life gets better. You want proof? I have proof. My love life has gotten significantly better since 2006, as the following pictures demonstrate.

2006
Kissed by a … seal?!

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2013
Kissed by my wonderful husband of almost 4 (!!) years

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Yep, in 2006 the only love I was getting was from slimy sea creatures.

That picture was taken in Taiwan, at an aquarium that I was spending the day at with some friends. One of the friends with me that day was Ben — oh you know, just the guy I would marry three years later, in June of 2009.

At the time that I was getting smooched by that wet, whiskery seal, I liked Ben a lot but was pretty much in despair that anything would ever work out between us. Now, seven years later, I guess things did work out, because I’m happily married to Ben and I much prefer kisses from him to kisses from that seal.

So there, you have witnessed proof that life does get better. I hope it cheered you up, cause man that first photo is embarrassing, and this had better be for a good cause. :-)

XOXO

Bethany

How to celebrate Galentine’s Day

Since yesterday was Galentine’s Day, my sister-in-law Rachel and I had a great time hosting a little get-together for some of our mutual friends. We all met up for dinner at Baker’s Crust (the best restaurant ever!!!), where we caught up on each others’ lives while eating large quantities of artisanal pizza and bruschetta. Then we bopped over to my place where we hung out, ate cupcakes, made homemade sugar scrubs and watched a chick flick.

It was pretty awesome I’m just saying. So now, obviously you want to throw your own Galentine’s Day party next year. No problem, here’s what you’re going to need.

1. Cute Decorations

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I used strings of white lights, candles, lanterns, and garlands to decorate my living room. The garland above was purchased at Target, but I also made one of my own using triangular pennants cut from pages of an old book.

2. Fun foods with a high sugar content

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Having dinner at a restaurant was a MAJOR stress-saver for this party since I neither have the time nor the space to serve a meal to a big group of people. I did want to have some fun desserts, though, since V-Day is kind of all about that. So I set aside the night before the party to make cupcakes (Rachel helped, which was much appreciated). Rachel also made some chocolate-covered strawberries, and that about took care of the food!

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By the way, the cupcakes were pretty amazing. I tried a new recipe for from-scratch chocolate cake made with two kinds of chocolate and coffee. In a word, WHOA. Oh, and did I mention they have raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting?! I need to make them one more time to work out a couple of issues and to get good pictures, and then I’ll post the recipe for you guys.

3. Whimsical Details

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I picked up a few packages of disposable cups at Party City — they had plain red hearts on them, which inspired me to write sweethearts-candy-inspired sayings on all of them.

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These silly straws with mustaches and lips on them were so fun! I picked them up at Target and everyone had a blast with them. They’d be super easy to DIY, too — something to keep in mind for the parties in the future.

4. Something fun to take home

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You know me, I like to make people smile. So does Rachel. So of course we whipped up some fun stuff for our Galentines to take home with them. Rachel bought everyone chocolates and cards (and even wrote messages in all of the cards instead of just signing her name, you go Rachel!). And I made everyone Treat Your Self favor bags (yet another Parks and Rec reference!).

The Treat Your Self bags contained a lot of shiny, sparkly stuff I found here and there for cheapie-cheaps. It was all body/beauty stuff to go along with the homemade sugar scrubs we made.

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5. Beautiful and quirky friends!

You certainly can’t have a Galentine’s Day party with gals, so get together as many of your girlfriends as you can. I don’t know what your friends are like, but mine are beautiful and quirky and some of them even have mustaches…

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(Haha, my mustachioed friend Anna is gonna kill me for posting this.)

So that was my Galentine’s Day, and man was it awesome!! I’m definitely going to keep up this tradition – it’s a lot of fun to get together with girlfriends and unfortunately I don’t do it NEARLY often enough.

XOXO

Bethany

Galentine’s Day!

I’m excited to tell you guys in an upcoming post about a lil’ get-together I’m having at my house tomorrow night. Just me, my sisters in law, and a few other lady friends. It’s for Galentine’s Day. And what is Galentine’s Day, you ask?

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Yeah, it’s from Parks and Rec (again). I know I have too much Leslie-Knope-related stuff around here, but she has the best ideas.

So Galentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated on February 13th, and it’s supposed to be brunch, but we’re celebrating it in the evening because it’s a free country and we’ll have our Galentine’s when we want our Galentine’s, I guess. The idea is simply a women-only Valentine’s Day party, to celebrate all the wonderful women in your life. It’s pretty awesome.

I’m very excited because I never get to have guests over since I’m aways doing homework. Going from never having guests to hosting a party with eight people was kind of a big jump, but I’m doing okay — last night I worked on my DIY garland in between writing a theological paper. I hope I’m not overdoing this, but making a couple of garlands and pretty much decorating my whole house and making two kinds of homemade cupcakes (dark chocolate raspberry!!) and putting together gift bags doesn’t count as overdoing, does it? ….hah.

It’s going to be fun! I’ll have some pictures for you later. Hoping you have a wonderful Galentine’s Day yourself, and if you missed it this year, well hey you can start preparing for next year starting Thursday. ;-)

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“When women live alone they have trouble with the furnace.”

Today I had the opportunity to go through some very old books, and if you know me, you know I never pass up an opportunity to go through some very old books.

A book written in 1946 on marriage and family issues particularly caught my eye, because these kinds of books always present such an … INTERESTING perspective. This one certainly did not disappoint.

Here’s a quote.

“In countless apartments over the nation two or three girls — secretaries, stenographers, department store clerks — live by twos or threes, together. They make their toast and coffee in the morning over the little burner, they eat their meals together at night perhaps. Though they have all the dainty things that woman’s fingers prepare for a home, it may be, yet they must go out through the day and toil to make a living for themselves. And when women live alone they have trouble with the furnace. They do not know what to do when a window sticks. And they always feel certain limitations out in the world of commerce. There is a place in business for a woman as an assistant to man, but any woman who runs a business of her own, who meets the world on its own terms, often feels her frailty, often feels the need for stronger hands and shoulders and a bolder brain than her own.”

Gulp.

Excuse me, sir, what you said there is not entirely correct. I do know what to do when a window sticks. I will simply BREAK IT OVER YOUR HEAD! Except wait, guess I’d better not do that ….. since you have a “bolder brain” and all.

This kind of stuff is hilarious and disturbing at the same time. And I would just like to say that I’m glad I live now, in a time when women have more options and aren’t put in box quite as much. I mean, “they always feel certain limitations out in the world of commerce” — wow. “There is a place in business for a woman as an assistant to man” — really?!! Granted, in a global sense the world is still a difficult place to be a woman, but at least in the USA maybe we have made a leeetle progress since 1946. Good job USA.

That’s all I have for now. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the kitchen making “dainty things” with my “woman’s fingers.”

Unless I feel some frailty coming on, that’s all.

 

Bathroom progress: storage!

For me, any day that I don’t destroy my marriage is a good day. Am I right?!! Let’s hear it for not destroying our marriages. So that’s why a DIY project that Ben and I did recently made me really, really happy. We assembled a storage unit together. And didn’t kill each other in the process.

Does anyone else have stories of furniture assembly that made you want to (a) bang your head against the wall, (b) bang your spouse against the wall, or (c) kill your spouse, tie yourself to the despised piece of furniture, and set it on fire? Yes, those are some violent images. Parental guidance advised. But really. There was this one day a few years ago that I’m pretty sure was the worst day out of my almost four years of married life, and that was the day Ben and I attempted to put a piece-of-garbage $50 Wal-Mart bookshelf together.

Note to self: Never buy $50 Wal-Mart bookshelves, and never EVER attempt to assemble them. If one of the gory scenes described above does not occur, someone will be Googling “cost for a divorce” before the end of the assembly process. In short, WORST IDEA EVER. DON’T DO IT.

After all of that, you’d be really surprised that a couple months ago I slapped down 100 dollahs for a some-assembly-required Target armoire. I was really nervous about the assembly process, but ya see, I really needed that armoire. You might remember tales of my sad, sad bathroom from this post …. and the attempts to make it a humanly habitable space from this one. It definitely has gotten a lot better since its ivy days, but there was still a major issue of bathroom storage. Or rather, LACK THEREOF. Since there was absolutely no storage built into the bathroom, I had tried to improvise with baskets and stuff. When we moved in there was a pretty shabby tall shelf thing which we used, but it didn’t provide any way to get things out of sight, had odd dimensions, and was extremely hard to clean. So what we had was this permanently grimy shelf that proudly displayed our entire collection of soap, razors, hairspray …. et cetera. It was an ugly situation.

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I had been looking for a long time for a storage solution that would fit in the tiny space. As usual, Target to the rescue!

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We spent a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon putting it together. It didn’t take very long. And it was like a MIRACLE! The shelves were strong and sturdy and didn’t crumble if you touched them. It wasn’t ALL CROOKEDY, EVERYWHERE. The screws were the right sizes, and there were enough of them, and the back of the bookshelf wasn’t made out of #!@$ PAPER!!!

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A couple of days later, I went to Target and found baskets to fit the shelves. Now all of our stuff is hidden away, but still easily accessible. There’s even a drawer that holds all of our medicines/medical supplies — what a concept! It really is amazing. I know I have a typically emotional apartment-dweller’s approach to talking about storage, but bear with me.

I’m still working on filling in the empty spaces on the shelves — I’m thinking maybe some vintage bowls or vases which I’ll use to store nail polish and makeup brushes, or some natural elements like a few birch bark candles grouped together. I’ve since added a big piece of coral to the top, too.

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So there you have it. Yay for a brighter, cleaner, neater-looking bathroom! And for Target instead of Wal-mart. And for intact marriages. Hurray! Everyone is happy! Nobody dies! If only everything were this simple. :)

Blueberry-blackberry crisp and other things

So let’s start with a picture of me in a dress. The dress is blue, so it fits with the post topic, right?

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Wow, what a week-and-a-half it has been, folks. I started back to school January 15th (last Tuesday) and the semester got off to a BANG when I was assigned two papers to write in one week. I am not a fast thinker or writer, by any means, and for one of the papers, the content was completely new to me — New Testament textual criticism. I went from knowing nothing about it whatsoever, to having a completed analytical 10-page paper completed, in one week. The day after that paper was due another paper (on theology) was due. Let’s just say … I didn’t go to bed before 2 or 3 AM for several nights. And coffee is my friend.

Even though the whole week was pretty rough, Ben and I did carve out a few hours on Saturday night to go on a hot date. Going on hot dates is not something we do very often. It’s not like we don’t spend time together. Let’s see, we work together, go to school together, and do pretty much everything else together. And sure, we go get lunch or dinner or go to a movie or go shopping fairly often. But rarely do we get all dressed up and go to some big-deal event. So it’s pretty special when we do. This time we went to the Virginia Symphony. Chloe Hanslip, a British violinist, was playing the Korngold violin concerto. It was a great concert, and afterwards we went to Cheesecake Factory and got apps and zerts (thank you, Tom Haverford, for making this term part of the English language – at least unofficially. I’ll see you at Rent-a-Swag sometime).

It was a super fun night. We were all dressed up (see picture above — I don’t wear floor-length one-shoulder gowns every day!) and feeling like the hottest couple in town, eating huge slabs of cheesecake and bantering like nobody’s business. I think we were out until almost 1 AM.

Then came a few days of madness while I tried to get those papers done, and I turned everything in on Tuesday/Wednesday (either very, very late on Tuesday night or very, very early on Wednesday morning, however you want to look at it). I didn’t have anything due yesterday (Wednesday), so it was like the best day of my LIFE. I slept in. Flipped through an enormous stack of cookbooks I got at the library. And spent a few relaxing hours in the kitchen, cooking up sesame chicken for dinner, as well as this delicious thing.

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So here’s how this works. I’ve been wanting to make a blueberry crisp for a long time. Not just a blueberry crisp though; I was thinking of mixing blueberries and cranberries for an awesome sweet-tart twist. When I went to the grocery store, though, they told me there wouldn’t be fresh cranberries available until next fall. Ugh! So I picked up some blackberries instead. Wow, you know what I never really realized before? BLACKBERRIES ARE DELICIOUS.

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I was so excited to make this. Seriously, for weeks I had been thinking about a crisp made with tons of juicy berries and a twist of lemon. And yes, I am obsessed with food and it’s a miracle I don’t weigh 400 pounds (especially considering I never ever work out – ha).

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The recipe is from Martha Stewart. Even though I pretty much think the whole Martha Stewart regime is kind of way-too-perfect and ridiculous (I mean if I had tons of money, five or six houses, hundreds of talented staff, and a kick-butt jadeite collection, I would be awesome too) …. but Martha Stewart recipes are just really good. Just FYI the original recipe is just for a blueberry crisp, so you make it with 6 cups of blueberries or mix it up with different kinds of berries like I did.

Here’s the recipe with my alterations:

BLUEBERRY-BLACKBERRY CRISP

Filling:

4 cups blueberries (I used frozen)
2 cups blackberries (or other fruit, use your imagination…)
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest (eyeball it — I used the zest of about half the lemon)
1/4 tsp coarse-ground salt

Topping:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled (old-fashioned) oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse-ground salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients. Transfer to a greased 8-inch-square baking dish.

For the topping, cream the softened butter and 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl until fluffy. (Use a mixer if you want, but I didn’t.) Now, to save on dishes I did the next part in the same bowl, but you can use a separate bowl if you prefer. Measure the flour, oats, baking powder and salt into the bowl on top of the creamed butter and sugar, stir gently just to combine the dry ingredients that are resting on top of the butter/sugar mixture, then stir down to the bottom to roughly combine everything. Now — this is the fun/messy part — use your hands to squeeze the topping mixture into lots of clumps. Really go to town on those clumpy-umps. It should be mostly clumps because you know those are the best part.

Sprinkle topping over filling. Bake until nicely browned on top and bubbling throughout, 1 hour. I had to loosely cover it with foil for the last 15 minutes or so to prevent overbrowning, so keep an eye out for that. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Best served slightly warm (duh) with vanilla ice cream (double duh)!!

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(As you can see from the picture, it might need some more cornstarch because it’s on the juicy side of things. I actually already increased the cornstarch amount, and the filling does hold together pretty nicely, but it leaves a puddle of juice in the bottom of the pan.)

Guys, this stuff is SO GOOD. Probably the best crisp I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tasted a lot. I can’t wait to gobble up the rest of it. It’s really easy and makes a good amount, so I think it would be great for when people come over. Unless they don’t like blueberries. Which would be very silly of them. Blueberries are awesome!