Sweet Tarts for my Sweet Hearts

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  Which, when I was in my 20s, I really thought was just a “Hallmark holiday”, even though I was in a committed relatinoship at the time.  I felt, like many people do, that every day should be a day – “the” day – you tell your loved ones what you feel about them, what you appreciate about them.  While I still sort-of feel that way, meaning I put no pressure on my husband to show up with jewelry or take me to dinner, I must say that having kids changed my thoughts a little.

My son has my heart.  Every day, all the time.  One of the most enjoyable parts of having a little one is the holidays, or special treats when we’re able to give them to him.  Probably the BEST thing is all of the “firsts” you get to be present for, and that includes paintings, writing valentines, and so forth.  As a mom, this Valentine’s Day is a day I’ve looked forward to with great anticipation.  We have been secretly making gifts for Daddy using Pinterest ideas and some of our own creativity.  Little Dude has drawn love notes for people in our family and tomorrow we get to distribute them.  It’s the sweetest thing!  And, something I have learned, is that small children know how to love better than ANY of us.  They get it.  They get it like we never will.  I’m so proud of my sweet boy, and his love and sensitivity for others, and of course I want to encourage and foster that in him.

So… still not a romantic holiday in my book, but I’m totally on board with loving it up on Valentine’s Day.

The way I show my love is through food.  I enjoy cooking – particularly baking – for my loved ones.  I created my own recipe for tomorrow’s Valentine’s breakfast.  What follows here is a happy accident.

Valentine’s Apple Pie Croissants Fluffy Tarts

Yeah, so, I had the brilliant idea to do something semi-homemade, like Sandra Lee.  (Don’t you love her? I just love her.)  One of my favorite, super easy, dessert or breakfast add-ons is skillet apples.  Cut up an apple into chunks, cook in butter, add cinnamon and some sweetener, and VOILA!  Basically pie filling you can eat with eggs or ice cream, whatever you like.  So I thought I’d stuff some pre-made crescent rolls with the filling and my family would hail me as the loving genius that I am.

However…

I’m not going to name names, but instead of getting the more expensive, name-brand crescents, I purchased the store brand.  Twenty cents cheaper and “it’s the same thing”, I said to myself.  Big no-no in cooking, in my opinion, is cheaping out.  A lot of times those costly ingredients cost more for a reason. Yes, you can go generic sometimes but other times you’re paying less because the quality is less.  This was one of those times.

I got home and assembled my ingredients:

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Yummily in my Tummily, as Pooh Bear might say.

Next, I heat a “pat” of butter – I just eyeball, it’s probably about a tablespoon – in the skillet:

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For accuracy’s sake, it isn’t a skillet. It’s a sauce pan. It’s my favorite saucepan, so watch your mouth.

Add the apples, sweetener, (sugar is best but I used Stevia this time), and as much cinnamon as you like. I like a lot.  You know in movies, when Italian Mobsters say “Fuggedaboutit” (sp, obviously) ?  Well, one of my favorites of all time is Donnie Brasco, I just so thoroughly enjoy Al Pacino’s Lefty Ruggiero character, it’s beyond explanation.  His is the best accent, the best wardrobe, very best “fuggedaboutit” in the film.  And friends, I have to tell you, if “fuggedaboutit” had a smell, it would smell like this.  Moving on…

Everything’s going fine, I’m thinking I’m going to get this done in 15 minutes and have time to take a nap.  Yay Super Mommy!  And then, it happened.  I peeled back the label on the crescent roll can, holding it as far away from me as possible becauseI am as jumpy as a chihuahua and I hate that “pop” sound.  The label came right off, but no pop.  I squeezed.  Still no pop.  Finally I got a large knife and tried to cut them open, but even that was a mess.  After a few minutes of wrestling with it, I finally managed to pull the dough out.  Unfortunately it was hot and not at all in any recognizable shape.  Instead of croissants, I would have to make something else.

Light bulb!  I pulled the dough apart and made six somewhat even balls.  I sprayed my brand new muffin tin with Pam, and lined six muffin cups with the dough.  Tarts! Pies?  I don’t know, we’ll see.  It’s better than wasting my fuggedaboutit apples, AmIRight?

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I quickly – hurriedly, even – filled the dough ball wads with apple goodness and put them in to my preheated (350 degrees) oven for 10 minutes.

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Pretty Before

The outcome?  Better than I could have hoped, all things considered.  They are like quiche without egg, like tarts if tart makers allowed a “home-style crust” option.  They taste wonderful, and I was still able to get that nap!

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Delicious After

 

They’re buttery, crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and filled with warm apple cinnamon LOVE.  Sweet and tangy and everything I want my Valentine’s breakfast to be.  This is why cooking is so wonderful! It’s magical, a true adventure… and so are love and mommy-hood.

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It’s What’s Inside That Counts ?

“Who are you, really?”

I ask this person in the mirror, who asks me the same question.  I think she’s mocking me.

There is a battle waging within me, between my heart and my head.  It’s about my job.  It’s about my purpose.  It’s about quitting my job and finding my purpose.  My heart says “FIND YOUR BLISS!  FOLLOW YOUR PASSION!” while my head screams, “PAY YOUR BILLS! PASSION DOESN’T BUY GROCERIES!”  (Which, in most instances, is true.)

Can I please have both?  Is there a way to make a career out of something I love?

The job I’m in now, I’ve been in for 5 months.  It’s fine.  It DOES fulfill certain things I felt I was lacking, such as a solid group of girlfriends, and helping people.  However it is too “full time” for me, too mundane for my bohemian-mommy lifestyle.

What kind of job is ideal for me?  The kind that offers freedom.  The kind where I create.  Make.  Express.  So… writing, cooking (especially baking), painting, crafts and using my hands, photography…even pottery if I knew how to do that.  A job that feels creative and free and that is like an extension of myself.

Lately I’m reading lots of abundance materials. Law of attraction. Motivation, inspiration, emails and newsletters about being who you were MEANT TO BE.  I am so inspired by them.  At the same time, I feel like I am having an internal crisis.  Society tells me that if I want a new home, I have to slave for 30 years and then buy it.  I can’t just ask for it.  The unwritten rule book of “the way it is and always has been” states  that I must go to work Monday through Friday from 7-5 and sit at my desk and answer the phone and earn my [meager] paycheck and be content with that.

My soul is asking me to jump off a cliff and I can’t see what’s at the bottom.  I’m a planner, a list-maker, I check my bank balance each morning before I head out the door.  I like preparation.  How can I just trust and take the leap?  How do I even know where to jump?

I know that all the greatest figures in history MADE history because they were brave, willing to step out into the unknown and live the life they’d always imagined [paraphrasing Thoreau, whose Walden is one of my favorite, most refreshing reads].  I want that for myself. I think am ready to be who I really am.

Please comment if you’ve got advice or stories or anything to share.

Butter Pecan Pie Cake

We celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday last week.  I volunteered to make the cake, because for me, that’s the dream job.  The coveted task.  When birthdays come around I’m like the kid in the front row in school who knows they know all the answers – throwing my hands up going “ooh!  pick me, pick me!”  Thankfully my friends and family are willing and even happy to hand this particular task to me.  They’re thankful to scratch it off the list, and I am giddy with ideas and anticipation.  This one is a big deal, too, the big 6-0.  Actually I don’t know that 60 means anything special, but milestones do feel more special than the rest, don’t they?  So I set to work brainstorming ideas for the perfect cake (or cupcakes, or chocolate fountain, or tiny butterscotch animals playing croquet, I’m open to ALL inspiration in this stage of the process.)

It didn’t take long for me to land on an idea.  My dad’s a cool guy.  A former marine and bodybuilder, now Sunday School teacher and true maverick, he reminds me of dark-haired “Hannibal” from The A-Team, with a more “Magnum, P.I.” face.  I have so many childhood  memories of my dad, eating Butter Pecan ice cream in bed at night.  Or sometimes after a celebratory dinner he’d bring it out.  It’s a lifelong favorite of his.  Surely there MUST be a way to incorporate this into his birthday cake!  What a brilliant idea, I patted myself on the back.

Pinterest helped a little, as did Google.  But after searching a while and not coming up with any recipe that struck my fancy, I decided to just “do it myself.”  For me, especially in baking, this means I’m going into mad scientist mode.  The good news is, I’m confident in my abilities and I do seem to have a knack for it, so very seldom does an experiment go horribly, terribly wrong.  I put an old mix CD my brother made for me and set to work.  (It’s mostly Evanescence, if you must know.)

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If the mix of fragrances in the kitchen was any indication, this would be good.

Well, it wasn’t good. No, not good, but downright yummy.  Now, I do think I’m biased, so I was still nervous about my dad’s reaction.  The rest of the guests, too, but mainly Dad.  I didn’t want to associate his up-until-now favorite flavor with something unappetizing.  Happy to report that he loved it.  The cake was GONE quickly after the candles were blown out.  In fact, I received some texts the next day from party guests asking if I had any left that they could come and pick up.   Yes, the cake – or pie? – looks homemade, but if you didn’t grow up with homemade cakes, you don’t know what you’ve missed.  “That look about it” is what my mom affectionately says – it means I made it with my two hands, my mind, my heart, my soul and creativity.  It’s a delicious gift that’s also a part of me.  So I’m fine with the look.

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What’s that line? … I love it when a plan comes together.