Category: happiness

Crustless Coconut Custard Pie

On Sunday at 3pm I was asked to bring a dessert to a dinner starting at 5pm. I didn’t want to go to the store AGAIN, or buy something when I knew my hosts were cooking from scratch. I scrounged around a few recipe books and came across this gem in “Amen, Let’s Eat!” I’d never made a custard pie before it but seemed reasonable enough.

Result? Total hit. Prep time is about 6 minutes and  bake time is 45-60 minutes. Between coats of nail polish I pulled it off without a hitch. It’s shockingly easy and more decadent than expected. Next time I might top it with a shake of powdered sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk – I used a combo of whole milk and rice milk – what I had on hand
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 TBS butter, melted – I used 3 TBS butter and 3 TBS margarine – again, what was in the fridge
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups flaked coconut, preferably unsweetened

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray or butter a 9-inch wide pie pan.

2. Add all of the ingredients to a blender. Process on ‘liquefy’ for 15 seconds. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie pan. That’s it! One blender and one pan are all it takes to go from ho-hum wine bearer to “I’m the kind of dinner guest who brings over a homemade pie still warm from the oven. Boom.”

3. Bake the pie for 40 – 55 minutes, watching carefully after the first 40 minutes. The pie will puff up a bit and then fall slightly in the middle — totally normal. It’s done when a knife in the middle comes out clean and the edges are lightly browned. TIP: You don’t want to overcook or it’ll get rubbery and sulfur-ish smelling.

Remove the pie from the oven to cool. Serve warm or place in the refrigerator to chill. It’s even better cold the next day.

10 Ways to Mess Up Your Kids Through Divorce

Thanks to Huffington Post Divorce Blog for publishing this piece!

Recently I had the chance to spend 20 hours in a car with my favorite big sister. In between chugging Dr. Peppers, snatching cat naps and consuming Peachie-O’s, our conversation invariably turned to family, relationships and our parents’ divorce. Memories and many miles of open road led to the creation of this list.

1. Take a family vacation amidst the throes of divorce, preferably to a faraway destination before either child can drive. This is a good way to test their independence and coping skills while you’re busy yelling at your soon-to-be-ex spouse for the duration of the trip. It also helps your kids make friends when strangers express concern over their sobs on the ski lift. Don’t forget to take lots of forced pictures.

2. Allow your children to meet their soon-to-be stepparent exactly one time before the wedding. It’s not like they’re going to live with them 90 percent of the time or anything. It’syour choice who you marry, after all. Related, be sure to include your new spouse in the children’s discipline immediately.

3. Refuse any and all culpability. This divorce is not your fault, ergo, it must be your spouses’. Act accordingly.

4. Require your kids to report to you about child support checks. This isn’t about your meal ticket; it’s about following the judge’s orders. Besides, they likely spent the weekend fa-la-la-ing and rolling around in money with your ex-spouse. The least your kid can do is bring back the check.

5. Bash your ex-spouse, even years after the divorce is final. Keep the message clear: Their other parent is a complete and total, unrepentant lying sack of sh*t with zero redeeming qualities. Repeat ad nauseum.

6. Communicate about the divorce to everyone your child knows. Include teachers, coaches, the tennis team, your friends, their friends, their friends’ parents and the deli counter guy. This will ensure your children feel thoroughly supported in the community. People will talk anyway, so it’s best they hear “The Truth” from you.

7. Threaten suicide– in front of your kids. This works best when followed by additional rash acts like driving too fast while screaming, standing on the balcony railing at midnight, or telling your kids goodbye and not returning home for hours.

8. Use guilt, manipulation and anger to communicate how much time your kids should spend with you during the holidays. Do this every year, preferably in public places. You are the parent and they should respect your requests. Period.

9. Recreate a family history that conveniently excludes any problems existing prior to the divorce. If they challenge your version of history, stand your ground. They were just kids.

10. Put your child on the stand to testify at your divorce. No divisiveness could possibly result from this.

We’re thinking about getting matching tattoos of this Doctor Who quote, “We have fought monsters together, and we have won.”

5 Non-Resolution Focus Areas for 2013

In grant writing particularly, it’s necessary to include what they call SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. You’ve seen this graphic, right?

For my personal life as questions arise of resolutions and life-changing decisions, I prefer MUSH goals, those that are Mostly feasible, Underdeveloped, Silly and Hubris-driven. For example, in 2012, I resolved to wear more eye make-up. Success! I wore eyeliner probably 90% of my days at work. I had a girlfriend who resolved to drink more champagne. What a delightful resolution to keep!
I offer my 2013 MUSH-y focus areas:

  • Wear lipstick more often, or find lipstick that wears longer—whichever is fine. I’m Polish-bred pale and need the color.
  • Dress to flatter my shape. This will involve donating frumpy clothes so I can’t default to a solid t-shirt, boxy sweater and washed out Old Navy pants that are too short. This also requires me to admit that my shape does not fit everything, and try to be okay with it as is.
  • Eat foods that make me feel good. Sure, shoveling a log of goat cheese tastes awesome, but it’s not worth 3 days of lactose-intolerant gut pain, bloating and – as we called them in my family – barking spiders. I like healthful foods; I just need to take time to prepare them for easy transportation.
  • Save  money. This would be place to be more specific, but I chafe against rigorous budget restraints, which in turn makes me more likely to splurge to prove that I can. Like a diet, a crash won’t help but little steps will. For instance, I didn’t buy coffee today. I have 2 coffee makers at home and one at work. I can do this. Oh, and I need to put more of that promotion into savings.
  • Fight spam. Spam makes me cranky and wastes time. Rather than cllicking on itsy bitsy boxes with checkmarks to delete 75% of my inbox, I’m  finding the tiny script at the bottom of the email that reads “unscribe,” and jumping through whichever hoops they require. Rawr. Take back the inbox!

Maybe I’ll come up with a few more, maybe not. Check back in March to guffaw at this list.

Stuffing So Good You’ll Forget It’s Vegetarian

My family is comprised of solid omnivores. We hail from a state that exports chicken, folks. Come a holiday meal, there may be bacon, sausage, duck or chicken in every dish — often several at once when gumbo graces the table. Last Christmas we made an English goose and fried everything in goose fat. We’ve adopted The Barefoot Contessa’s stuffing recipe as the gold standard.  My dad recently killed a deer in the backyard with a crossbow and is busy crafting new venison stew recipes. We are meat-o-saurauses.

This Thanksgiving, however, I spent the holiday with two meat eaters and one vegetarian. To keep  it inclusive, we made everything except the turkey vegetarian friendly. I chose stuffing and mashed potatoes as my dishes, which offered the challenge of how to create a delectable stuffing that wouldn’t make me notice the lack of meat. I’d also never made stuffing from scratch thanks to Pepperidge Farm’s bags of dried bread bits. After much hemming and hawing, I settled on this recipe for Vanishing Stuffing by Vegetarian with Benefits.

All I can say is that this was the first dish of leftovers we polished off — in under 24 hours. There were rave reviews by vegetarians and carnivores alike. If I’d known how well it’d turn out, I’d have doubled the recipe to bring home a tupperware for myself!  As is, this makes one 9×13 pan of 6-8 servings, depending on the size of your appetites. It took about 90 minutes start to finish, mostly because my knife skills leave something to be desired.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread
  • 8 TBS butter (1 stick)
  • 16 oz mixed mushrooms, chopped – include shiitake if possible
  • 2-3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup cranberry sauce, whole berry or jellied
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped finely
  • 10 leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped finely
  • 4 TBS parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 TBS+ olive oil

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F

2. Cut the bread into small cubes, aiming to keep them under a square inch. Spread the bread cubes evenly on 2 baking sheets. Toast the bread in the oven until browning – careful not to burn! This took about 10 minutes, with checks every few minutes.

3. In a large stock pot or large sauce pan fry the onion with a couple TBS of butter and a couple TBS of olive oil. Saute onions until translucent. Add mushrooms and carrots. Saute on medium low head until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add more butter and olive oil to keep bits from sticking and over-browning.

TIP: Since you’ll be chopping and stirring for a good bit, keep a glass of wine handy. The art of pairing wines with food is largely a matter of personal preference however, some safe bets for Thanksgiving wines are Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. We enjoyed all three!

4. Add the thyme, sage, basil, rosemary, and 3 TBS of the parsley. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes then add the bread cubes. Turn off the heat. Stir from the bottom up, folding the contents like soft whipped cream to keep the cubes from getting too broken up or drenched. Add additional butter and/or olive oil as needed. Mix in the cranberry sauce and dried cranberries. Salt and pepper to preference. Sample. Yes, grab a spoon and taste it!

5. Transfer the stuffing to a buttered baking pan. Top with thin slices of the remaining butter before putting it in the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown and crunchy – about 40 minutes.  When it’s done baking, top it with remaining 1 TBS parsley. Indulge!

Like any new recipe, this one could be tweaked with additional ingredients and experimentation: toasted pecans, green apples, chopped celery…sweet Italian sausage…