Pizza in the Oven, Book in Hand

Checking the clock, I finally pull myself away from my book to check the dough. I’ve been trying read more, but my ebook of The Magician King was taking ages to read. I had the bad luck to put it aside just before the real action started, and as soon as I load it up on my iPad I’m sucked right in and having trouble walking away.

The dough I’m attending to is just like any other bread; water, flour, yeast, and time turn it into a stretchy, pliable clay to bend to my will.

I can never seem to make a round pizza. Somehow in the process of rolling out it becomes jagged, shaped like a cartoon SPLAT sound effect. Oh well. Pour some tomato sauce over it, unevenly spreading it with a spoon.

My third hand donated cheese clumps together when grated, but I dump it on top of the pizza in little spots anyway. It’s best if you can still taste the tomato.

Leftover meat sprinkled on top along with a probably excessive dose of seasonings, and then my fingers pinch the edges like a pie crust into a slightly more conventional shape. Into the 500 degree oven it goes.

Shit, the fire alarm. I fan absentmindedly at the alarm with my book in the other hand until I realize that I’ve gotten so sucked into the book that I forgot I was still fanning.

But it’s all a sensual, comforting ritual. Knead, shape, bake; read, laugh, analyze. I hope you’re lucky enough to have days filled with delicious food and compelling books.

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Spring Break, Baby!

Despite the header image (I just used that to pull your eyeballs, muahahahaha), even in college I was never one to go out and party during break. No, no, I had papers to write and exams to study for. It’s indisputably cruel to make projects due just after break but all of my professors did it, as if malignantly denying me one damn week off.

I’d make a giant to do list of everything I’d need to do for all of my classes (and all the reading I’d need to catch up on because I completed the bare minimum required of me) and then promptly veg out into my computer for a week.

But here is where I get some payback. Three times a year, the company I work for has a week long vacation – it’s even paid for people at my level and higher! If I was one level lower, I’d still need to work a second job to make ends meet. If I had a degree, I’d be a salaried employee and thus work during the week would be not technically required but also pretty much necessary.

I have finally hit the spring break sweet spot – I’m staring down ten days of pure, uninterrupted vacation. It’s about damn time!
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My Favorite (and IMHO the best) Foods to Make From Scratch

Happy one year of Excerpts of Awkwardness! Time sure has flown by!

Today I’m doing a roundup of my favorite foods to make from scratch (I’m resisting the urge to say the best foods to make from scratch, since I realize some people’s priorities might be different than mine).

I love trying out making foods from scratch because it fascinates me to learn more food science and how it works. But while I’ll try most things at least once, I have a pretty high standards for what it takes to start making something from scratch consistently.

I’m looking at price, taste, and effort. I only really need two out of three of those – either more inexpensive, better tasting, or pretty easy – but if it only has one I don’t generally go for it.

For example, these are the things I’ve tried making myself but once was enough:

Mozzarella (more expensive, tastes the same, time intensive)

Crackers (taste the same, kind of a pain to make)

Pasta (cheaper, but a much different taste – not bad, just different – and a huge pain without dedicated equipment)

So what do I recommend making from scratch?

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Lots of Love (and a bonus baked brie recipe)

I’ve been feeling pretty loved this last week, not just because of the big holiday yesterday, but really across the board.

Last Friday at work I took my intermediate competency test, which consists of a supervisor observing me and taking data on how well I do my job. It was a little nerve wracking, but my feedback came back almost all positive (my observer pointed out that she really had to dig for things for me to work on, and the words “phenomenal” and “awesome” were thrown around a few times).

Then one of my best and oldest friends came up for the weekend. It was really good to see him and get to hang out for awhile. He was very sweet and bought me groceries for the week, calling it a housewarming present, and pointed out at least a dozen times how happy he was to see The Geek and I. I also appreciated his sharp editor’s eye on my last post =)

I had work last night, so The Geek and I celebrated our Valentine’s Day on Wednesday in the low-key style that has become our norm. We made steak, baked brie, and sweet potato tater tots (I knew he’d love them). I felt bad for the upstairs neighbors since my overly-sensitive fire alarm went off several times, but with some strategic fanning and open windows we managed to not have the fire department bursting in the door.

It’s been a hectic, crazy week, so that’s about all I’ve got for today, but, if you’re interested in a cheesy, flaky, slightly sweet recipe, you’ll find it after the jump (and no, I’m not including a picture. Have you seen baked brie? There’s just no way to make that look appetizing!)

 
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Fruit Sweetened Breakfast Oatmeal Bars

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I’m a big fan of easy, portable breakfasts. I’ve experimented off and on with making oatmeal bars as a quick breakfast, but I’ve always been annoyed that they tend to be about the same as eating cookies for breakfast.

Don’t get me wrong here, I definitely ate cookie dough for dinner once this week, but at least I was honest (my remark to The Geek was “I’m a grown-ass woman, and I’m eating cookie dough for dinner!”), instead of hiding behind the guise of a “healthy” breakfast.

Once I looked at a recipe again, I realized that most of the problem comes from added sugar and chocolate chips. Hm. It can’t be that hard to make something sweet using fruit, right?

It definitely isn’t. These are awesome, satisfy even my sweet tooth, and clock in at, I kid you not, 80 calories per serving. Seriously.
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Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts

Last week, we talked about why it’s worth trying to make Christmas easier and less stressful, and I loved hearing examples in the comments of how you’ve gotten your holiday to run smoother.

This week, let’s talk about some of the nitty gritty: presents. Like I said last week, this isn’t about going cold turkey and not giving anything or celebrating, but about finding a balance that works within time and budget restrictions, so you can have the best holiday (however you define “best”).

Here are a few of my favorite inexpensive things to give, and I’d love to hear more ideas from you in the comments!
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