Five Things You Might Not Know About Me

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On Sunday, Anna posted this list of five things about herself. I always love to read five (or more!) random things about people’s lives; I feel like it gives me a little peek behind-the-scenes. So, saddle up, grab a cookie, and enjoy five things you might not know about me:

1. I take a nap almost every day. Call me an infant, but for as long as I can remember (okay, since around the time one is supposed to outgrow daily naps), I’ve continued to nap most afternoons. My teaching schedule means I usually get home before 4PM, which leaves plenty of time for a nap+workout+blogging/paper writing+dinner. I’m one of those babies people that needs 9+ hours of sleep to wake up feeling totally rested, which rarely happens at nighttime (hello pre-6AM alarm!), so I nap like a child. E’ry dang day.

2. I’m scared of the dark. My BIGGEST fear is public speaking, but even writing about that makes me want to vom with anxiety, so I’ll stick to writing about the dark. I think it’s because I don’t like what I can’t see, or maybe it stems from some deep-seated fear of the unknown which I should probably discuss with a professional. I’ve mentioned the girl from the Sixth Sense who lives under my bed,  but I also can’t look in any mirrors if I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because THERE COULD BE A GHOST LOOKING BACK AT ME (Bloody Mary? Is that the one?) And if I happen to wake up in the night from a nightmare? Forget it. Lights on, all of ’em.

3. This time last year, Mike and I were in Paris. First of all, I can’t believe an entire year has gone by since we took that magical, wonderous, deliciously glorious trip, but also I can’t believe we even went in the first place. It was one of those perfect once-in-a-lifetime “we are young and wild and free (and gallivanting all over Paris without a care in the world!)” moments. Ahhh, oui. Zee life.

4. One of my favorite [totally random] things to think about is how my life has changed since _______ date. I like to think about it when I’m scheduling my next yearly appointment (what will have changed the next time I walk into this office?), but I also like to think about it in terms of on _______, I had no idea that _______ was going to happen in the coming days/months/years. For example…when I was 17, I had no idea that I was going to be living in Boston as a grown-up, or when I was starting my sophomore year of college, I had no idea I was about to meet the cutest (and most terrific) ginger in all the land! It’s a good reminder to myself that all the daily small things eventually add up to big things (deciding to move to a new apartment, researching a new job, etc.)

5. My parents called me Melly when I was little, and it continues to be one of my most favorite nicknames. Very few people have figured it out, which is why I think it feels so special!

Hey ClairEmily, Mackenzie & Amanda, I’m tagging you!

Homemade Cayenne-Cheddar Bread

DSC_0045Remember when Mike and I went on a Cambridge eating tour adventure and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it? Well, heeere we go again.

On our last stop at The Friendly Toast (and any/every time I go there), I ordered a side of their homemade Cayenne-Cheddar bread. They grill it up with some butter and HOLY COW IT IS SO GOOD. Just enough cayenne spice to give it a good kick, with little pockets of melty cheese* throughout. After ordering it at least 14 times, I decided it’s finally time to try and create it myself!

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This bread is the BOMB DIGGITY.

DSC_0006PerHAPS the most delicious bread I’ve ever baked. It is soooo so (so so so so so so so SO so so) good, almost as good as the professionals make it. It’s the kind of bread that is so delicious that you don’t even need anything on top, though butter makes everything better 😉

And, just a thought…using this to make grilled cheese? WHOAAAAAAA. Mike and I gobbled up the whole loaf too quickly to do so, but I bet it would be the most wonderful grilled cheese in all the land.

*I realized I only had about half the amount of cheese I needed when baking this bread, which is why the bread doesn’t seem cheesy in the pictures – though still totally delicious. Adding the full amount will give you those ooooozy melty cheesy pockets of happiness I mentioned above.

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Cayenne-Cheddar Bread (adapted from Williams-Sonoma‘s Whole Wheat Bread recipe, idea from The Friendly Toast)

yield: one loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups* white or whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons quick-rise yeast (about half a package)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese

*The original recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups white/whole-wheat flour, but I only ended up using about 1 3/4 cups. You should add as much flour as you need to make the dough hold together until it stops being sticky.

Directions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the white or whole-wheat flour and 1 1/4 cups bread flour. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of flour mixture, salt, yeast, and cayenne pepper. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water, milk, honey, and butter. Heat on low until lukewarm (110 degrees F). Stir the water/milk mixture into the yeast mixture and beat on medium-high until smooth. Add the cheese, then stir in more of the flour mixture until the dough comes together and stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. If you add a bit too much flour, you can always add a teaspoon of water to bring the dough back together.
  2. At this point, you can either kneed the dough by hand or use the dough hook attachment. Need until smooth and elastic, either 10 minutes by hand or 6-7 minutes with the dough hook. Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, greased bowl (I greased mine with olive oil), turning the dough to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Coat a 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray. Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press flat; use a rolling pin to roll into a roughly 12-by-7-inch rectangle. Starting on a short side, roll the dough up tightly and pinch the bottom and side seams to seal. Place the dough into the prepared pan, seam side down. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Bake the loaf for about 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

*one final note: the original recipe says to brush the loaf with an egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water), but I was out of eggs so I skipped that step. It doesn’t change the flavor much, but does make the loaf look prettier!

NYC!

image11This past weekend Mike and I headed to NYC to hang with some of our favorite college peeps, and as always, it was a whirlwind weekend of food, friends, and FUN! We spent all day Saturday boppin’ around the city looking for the most delicious eats with my bestie Alix – we went to Doughnut Plant (finally!), Balthazar Bakery (felt JUST like Paris), Rice to Riches (graham cracker rice pudding FTW), and Momofuku Milk Bar (All. Everything.) Fooooood comaaaaa.

On Saturday night we went to a friend’s engagement party then to a Cornell young alumni event at the Bowery Hotel, which meant getting all fancy and catching up with so many people we hadn’t seen since college! On Sunday, we hit up Artichoke for the YUMMIEST pizza – they make a pizza with spinach and artichoke dip baked on top. It is ev-a-ree-thang and more. We took a nice long walk back (and obvi stopped for bagels) to Alix’s apartment before heading to our bus back to Boston. I love wandering around the city and just taking it all in; it’s my favorite way to explore!

More NYC visits, friends! MORE!

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Boston in the Golden Hour

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There’s a magical hour right before sunset where the world looks extra perfect & beautiful and you have to take 100,000 photos of everything because it might never look that beautiful ever again. After last week’s Cambridge eating tour (400 miles + 400,000 calories)*, Mike and I walked across the Salt ‘n Peppa bridge, down Charles street, and into the Boston Common. We stopped for some hot chocolate to warm up, then ventured out to walk on the frozen swan pond (is that what we call it? Swan Boat Pond? Public Garden Lake? Body of water inside the Public Garden where the swans live?? Do you know what I mean???), feeling like a couple of BAMFs. Then we headed back down Commonwealth Ave to catch the T just as the twinkly tree lights were turning on. MAGIC, I tell ya.

*Only exaggerating by a factor of 100.

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{selfie fail}

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A Teeny-Tiny Batch of Eensy-Weensy Chocolate Chip Cookies


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I will never be someone who can eat just one cookie. Some people (i.e. those with self-control) can do it. Me? If I have one cookie, I want fifteen more just like it. On the other hand, I like the idea of a portion-controlled single-serving cookie, à la those “giant cookie[s] for one” that I see all over the blogworld. So I decided to combine portion control + my love of multiple (multiplemultiple) cookies and figured out the measurements for a teeny-tiny batch of eensy-weensy cookies.

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image_5These are perfect for any time life calls for a tiny batch of cookies. Like when you MUST HAVE some fresh-from-the-oven goodies but you don’t want to make a normal-sized batch and accidentally-on-purpose eat two dozen. Or when you’ve had a long Tuesday and want to drown your sorrows in warm chocolate chip cookies but you only have ten minutes and two tablespoons of butter and one bowl. Because that’s all you NEED for these, yo.

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And…THEY ARE JUST SO DARN CUTE. They fill me with happiness. Ideal happy Melanie moment: dancing around my kitchen to this song wearing a high pony munching on a batch of teeny tiny eensy weensy adorable-beyond-words cookies. On vacation. And there are sprinkles somewhere close by. And it’s sunny outside. And Mike comes home early from work and makes me dinner. It’s grilled cheese. And he brings a puppy. It’s going to be mine-all-mine and I name it….

image_3…I’m getting ahead of myself. I just can’t even handle the cuteness. There’s something about miniature baked goods that make me do a happy dance. Like, each cookie is ONE TEASPOON of dough. Cutie cute cute cute cute CUUUUUUTE.

image_2imageA Teeny-Tiny Batch of Eensy-Weensy Chocolate Chip Cookies

yield: 18-20 teeny tiny cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned (or melted) and cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons egg*
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 cup mini chocolate chips

*note: to get 2 teaspoons of egg, crack an egg into a bowl, beat it with a fork, and measure out 2 teaspoons

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the slightly cooled butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and vanilla. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  2. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake for four minutes (watch carefully, these bake quickly!!), then place on a wire rack to cool.

Cambridge Eating Tour Adventure

eating tour mapLast weekend, Mike I planned to spend some time poking around Cambridge. Naturally, “poking around” translated into “searching for food” and we ended up on an eating tour of sorts. I loved that our adventure took us to so many new places we had never even heard of before, AND since we walked the whole thing (almost 5 miles!) none of the calories counted 😉 Here are some pictures from our adventure, followed by a list of the places we went to!DSC_0015Three words, five syllables: Bel.gian-waff.les-YO.

DSC_0003DSC_0028Who knew there was an entire store dedicated to honey? Who knew I liked honey? Revelation.DSC_0018PicMonkey CollageDSC_0031DSC_0040Couldn’t resist making Mike play model. #hipsterDSC_0043DSC_0044DSC_0053Vegetable samosas FTW. These were goooood. Like, I-don’t-even-like-Indian-food-and-I-still-thought-they-were-good goooood.DSC_0058Pistachio + coffee Oreo

Our last stop was at The Friendly Toast but they sat us in THE DARKEST corner of the whole restaurant so I didn’t snap any pics. We ordered this:

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 1.42.05 PMand it was everything I could ever hope for and more.

Then, we walked a million more miles back into Boston and I snapped a million more pics, which I’ll share another day, another time. DSC_0090

Cambridge Eating Tour Adventure

  1. Zinnekin’s – Belgian waffles in Harvard Square
  2. Follow the Honey – Just outside Harvard Square
  3. Dosa Factory – Indian food in Central Square
  4. Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream – Inman Square (right next door to Christina’s Spice and Specialty Foods, which has every spice and random baking supply you could imagine!)
  5. The Friendly Toast – Kendall Square

We didn’t stop at these places this time around, but here are a couple more of my favorite Cambridge eateries:

  • Flour – bakery in Central Square
  • Sweet – cupcakes in Harvard Square
  • Area Four – bakery/bar/pizza/etc. in Kendall Square
  • Bon Me – Vietnamese food in Kendall Square

 

Honey Pistachio Muffins

DSC_0007I have irrational fears. Like, a lot of them.  Perhaps the most irrational of them all is the belief that the girl from the Sixth Sense lives under my bed. I’ve checked (physically) and know (rationally) that underneath my bed is full of storage and bags and there’s no way a creepy dead girl could fit, much less LIVE under there. But that CERTAINLY does not stop me from leaping into bed from five feet away so she (imaginary creepy dead girl) won’t be able to reach my ankles to grab them. M. Night Shyamalan, thank you for ruining my life.

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Additionally, I’m scared that every time I stub my baby toe I’m going to lose my toe nail. (This happened to me last week and NO I DO NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.)

And any time anyone gets hit in the eye and they cover their face like “Ouuuuch Charlie!“, I’m convinced that when they uncover it their eyeball is going to be GONE. Vanished. (Who has two thumbs and is passionately irrational? This girl.)

I’m also worried that I will forget my keys and/or forget to lock the door and someone will break in and murder me. (This fear was newly exacerbated when Mike couldn’t find his keys one morning only to discover them IN THE DOOR. ON THE OUTSIDE. WHERE THEY HAD BEEN ALL NIGHT.)

Finally, I fear that I will never own a puppy. (Just kidding. Threw that one in for comic relief. Obviously it’s only a matter of time.)

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Awhile back I heard someone use the term “sugar tumors”* and [(ir)rationally] convinced myself I was growing at least 17 and decided to back off the sugar for awhile**.

*It’s also possible that I made this term up in my own head.

**Read: Four days.

Despite the sometimes-breaks from sugar, I recently realized that I’ve never actually made a baked treat with minimal/no added sugar (to me this means granulated or cane sugar) and set off to make a baked good sweetened only with honey. And honey pistachio muffins were born!

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WOW-za. Revelation! First of all, I totally do not feel guilty eating these muffins for breakfast because, hello! Barely any sugar. They are just a little bit sweet, almost to the point of savory. And the batter? DEEEEEEEE-lish. Also perfection served warm with a little drizzle of honey.

DSC_0042Honey Pistachio Muffins (adapted from Scarletta Bakes)

yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable or canola)
  • 1/2 cup honey (use the good stuff, it’s worth it!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, finely ground*
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped

*Note: Use a food processor to grind the pistachios until they are the texture/size of coffee grounds.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk oil and honey until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground pistachios.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the oil/honey/egg mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk (so you should add some flour mixture, mix, half the buttermilk, mix, flour mixture, mix, the rest of the buttermilk, mix, the rest of the flour mixture). Stir until just combined; do not overmix!
  4. Divide the batter equally among the muffin tin, filling each liner about 2/3 of the way. Sprinkle the finely chopped pistachios onto the tops of the muffin batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

 

Sibs in Boston!

DSC_0106My brother (Peter) and sister (Emily) came to visit me and Mike in Boston this weekend, and on Saturday we braved the cold & wind for a little adventure. We headed to Harpoon’s new beer hall (which was our back-up plan after discovering that all the brewery tours sold out only an hour after opening!!) where we tasted some beers and scarfed down soft pretzels with IPA cheddar, garlic parmesan, and maple cream cheese dips. To DIE.

Then we took Emily to try her very first lobster roll and poked around the Seaport and Fort Point Channel (obvi stopping by Flour for homemade oreos). These visits always feel too short but I was so happy to have them here! Come back soon, sibs!

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Blizzard Bonanza

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NEMO!!! Love ya to pieces.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a car or house to shovel out and wasn’t affected by power outages or transportation delays (perks of being on a school snow day schedule) so to me blizzard = play time. Major playtime.

Mike and I headed out Friday night in the height of the blizzard to hang with my old roomies (perks of having besties two blocks away) and almost became insta-snowpeople. Observe:

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On Saturday we (I) made Nemo pancakes because HOW COULDN’T I, then we bundled up and hopped into our cross-country skis to ski around the ‘hood. Cross-country skiing is HARD, yo. I was sweating like a wildebeest and almost-crying but eventually channeled my inner snow bunny and got the hang of it. We dropped our skis off at home and hippity-hopped around town, took 1,000 photos, and came home to eat Kraft mac and cheese and drink hot cocoa. It was wonderful 🙂

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I asked Mike if he had any spare gloves I could wear. This is what he presented me with…

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PicMonkey Collage

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