Tag Archives: recipes

I sit down to write, I get a bake sale

10 Dec

I’m beyond excited to say that my second collection of poems, “The City That Care Forgot,” is currently a finalist for a major book prize!  I just started sending this manuscript out at the end of September and to know that it’s already a finalist straight out of the gate is such an incredible feeling!  I was very apprehensive about this manuscript because it was such a risky undertaking subject-wise, but I believe in it and know that you can’t get anywhere without taking risks.


I haven’t been writing much this fall and haven’t written anything since early October, which is actually fine with me.  I’ve been teaching 5 classes this term, which is exhausting, but that is only a small part of why I haven’t been writing.  For the most part, I need a break.  I wrote two books back to back over the past 5 years and I feel that I need time to relax–to read, to think, to enjoy life–and I feel that this (brief, most likely) hiatus will be well worth it in the end.


I love cooking and baking and the fall/holidays are the perfect time to find yourself elbow-deep in flour.  Last night, I made homemade butterscotch slice cookies for both Jeff as well as little neighbor holidays treat bags.  The recipe is from Paula Deen.  Since this recipe was quite different than I initially expected gauging the ingredients list and also because  I haven’t done a recipe review in a while, I figured that I would share the recipe, method photos, and final results:




Image courtesy Paula Deen



1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt




In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time.  Add flour mixture one cup at a time and mix well.  Stir in chopped nuts. 



Place dough on wax paper and form into 2-inch rolls.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375º F. Slice into 1/8 inch slices and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 5 to 6 minutes.


Allow to cool slightly before removing from baking sheet.



Outcome: These are easy to make, delicious cookies.  When I first read through the ingredients, I wondered how on earth these were going to taste like butterscotch when there were no butterscotch morsels in the recipe.  However, the butter and brown sugar work together to make the dough taste EXACTLY like butterscotch.  Sadly, though, when baked, these little cookies lose their butterscotch flavor and taste more like sugar-pecan biscotti (which is not a terrible thing, but just not what I ultimately wanted).  I think I’m going to rename these cookies (as is) Butter-Pecan Cookies because that’s what they really taste like and then whenever I make these again, I might try adding butterscotch morsels and see if that works any better.  Also, it’s important to note that baking times do vary.  I found that if you slice the dough on the thinner side (which I started out doing, but quickly realized this made for a rather dinky cookie), that I needed to bake them for 5 minutes exactly.  When I began slicing them a little thicker, say, 1/4 inch, they need to be baked for around 7 minutes.  Ultimately, these are yummy cookies that, I know, don’t scream “holiday cookie,” but do make for a nice little tea biscuit or afternoon cold-day snack.  My husband likes them with a glass of 2% Horizon Organic Milk.  I prefer them with a hot cup of Nutcracker Sweet tea.  


Santa likes them!


Notes from the Paula Deen Test Kitchen: Makes a great cookie to be served with tea or coffee.  Dough freezes well.  Dough is easier to cut when frozen.  If using this method, allow cookies to sit 3-4 minutes on a cool baking sheet before baking.


19 Nov

October and November have flown by and here we are bumping up against Thanksgiving and December.  As I am teaching five classes and my book just came out, I literally have had zero time to do much except grade, lesson plan, travel, and cook.  Writing?  What’s that?  What I have managed to do:


October 13: Attend the 2011 Gulf Coast Gala at the Finger family home in River Oaks.  The gala benefitted Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature & Fine Arts and was simply wonderful.  The Finger family’s home is gorgeous and they are all so gracious and hospitable.  Nick Flynn gave a reading from his award-winning work, which, of course, was amazing.  My good friend Becca, who is the managing editor at Gulf Coast, helped to organize it all and did a spectacular job!  I wore this dress from eShakti:



October 21-23: I was invited to read at the Improved Lighting Reading Series at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, AR.  Jeff and I flew up there and stayed with our dear friends Brett and April, who recently purchased the cutest old house not far from the University of Arkansas campus (where Brett is an associate professor and April is finishing up her MFA in Creative Writing).  I had so much fun!  After the reading, we had a wonderful dinner at Wasabi on Dickson St.  followed by drinks at Bordino’s.  A good number of my books sold at the reading, which I was really excited about!  The best surprise?  My long-time childhood friend, Jennifer R.’s parents came to my reading!  They retired to AR and now live about an hour from Fayetteville and were there when I walked in the door!  I was thrilled to see them!  Apparently, she has told them about my reading and they made the drive to come see me.  I hadn’t seen them in (gasp!) 16 years and was so humbled that they came all that way to see me.  I was really moved when they told me how proud of me they were and how much they liked my book.  We, of course, had to Kodak that moment:


With the Roddas @ Nightbird Books


October 27:  I gave another reading as part of Houston’s famed Poison Pen Reading Series at Poison Girl.  That was an amazing reading even if it did begin to rain after recent Whiting Award-winner Shane McCrae (who I read with) finished reading his last poem. When the Reading Series began years ago, I dreamed of reading there and now, voilà!  A girl’s dreams can come true!


November 4-6: My husband Jeff is such a great guy.  About a month ago he suggested that we drive up to Dallas to see the stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Wyly Theatre.  It was hands down the best play I’ve ever seen!  I love, love going to plays and I love, love TKAM.  The girl who played Scout was Scout.  The last five minutes of the play were filled with sniffles from the audience (including me).  My God, it was extraordinary.  I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see it!  After, we popped over to H&M (the only H&M in TX) as neither Jeff or I had been to an H&M.  We then had dinner at Bucca di Beppo and coffee at my new favorite coffeehouse, Crooked Tree Coffeehouse.




I wanted to go to this year’s Nutcracker Market (I’ve gone the past two years), but I just didn’t have the time.  I’ve also been buying Christmas presents like a madwoman (I like to get it ALL done by Thanksgiving so I can relax and enjoy my holidays) and really didn’t want to part with additional money (I never leave the Market without spending several hundred dollars).


Speaking of Christmas shopping, I was joking with Jeff the other day about how you know you’re an old married couple when each of you wants an appliance for their big Christmas present.  Jeff wants a Worx Trivac.  Here’s what I want (and actually got early):


KitchenAid "Artisan Design" 5 Quart Tilt Head Stand Mixer, Raspberry


I LOVE this mixer and have been wanting one forever!  Besides the fact that it’s a great mixer and that it’s a gorgeous shade of pink, it also commemorates the 10th anniversary of KitchenAid’s “Cook for the Cure” partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Get one here.




As the semester rolls to an end, I hope to be able to take a breath finally and have a nice, long, break (until Spring term).  I have such a long list of books I want to read over break and start thinking about future writing projects.  I’ve sent my second manuscript off to a handful of writing contests, lately, and should hear something in mid-Spring.  Fingers crossed.  Until then, you can find me nose-deep in one of those long-neglected books or whipping something up in the kitchen (like this, this, this, this, or this).




The reviews/news for my book are slowly coming in!  Here are a few:

Short-Shot Review @ Mead Magazine

Interview w/ Kim Young @ Chaparral

My book, The Glass Crib, is named a top 5 best-seller in poetry for October 2011 @ Small Press Distribution!

Sunday Morning Millet

12 Jun

My friend Kamila of Kamila’s Kitchen recently turned me on to the wonder of millet.  I had actually never heard of millet before and when she told me that a) it’s often used in birdseed and b) she made muffins from it I was both interested and skeptical.


According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, millet, a seed that’s considered a “superfood” with a nutty flavor, has many healthy properties, including magnesium, which has been shown to “reduce the severity of asthma and to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Magnesium has also been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack.”  When I heard this, I was on board.  Now that I’m trying to move my life in a new direction toward healthy eating/healthy living, I decided to give those millet muffins a go.


Here is Kamila’s recipe w/ my photos:



Millet Muffins


2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 raw millet
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (I used 1/4 to reduce the sodium)
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 tbsp. ground flaxseed + 6 tbsp. water
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1/2 cup honey
Zest and juice of 1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 3 half-dozen muffin pans with paper liners (I used a nonstick muffin pan w/o liners). In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Place the stick of butter in a microwave-safe bowl and zap for 30 seconds, until melted. In a small dish, combine the ground flaxseed and water; stir with a fork and let sit for 2 minutes. In the meantime, in a smaller bowl mix the yogurt, honey, lemon zest and juice. Add the melted butter and ground flaxseed and stir until combined.


Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the flour is incorporated. As Kamila says, “the batter will be airy and smell so sweet and citrusy you’ll steal a tiny spoonful.”


Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until tops are browned and a toothpick comes out clean.



Kamila also mentioned pairing the millet muffins (which were so good!) with homemade strawberry applesauce.  I had plenty of both as I had just made a trip to Whole Foods, so I decided to test the combination.  Applesauce is super easy to make.  Here’s my variation on the recipe that turned out incredibly delicious:




4-6 medium/large apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Gala)


2 tbsp. raw sugar

2-3 good squeezes from 1/2 of a large lemon




Peel, core, and chop apples into small chunks.  Put into a pot and barely cover with water (1-2 inches or so).  Hull and quarter strawberries and toss into pot.  Pour in lemon juice and give 1-2 stirs to blend.  Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer.  Let mixture simmer for about an hour.


After an hour, you might need to use a potato masher to fully blend the softened apples and strawberries (I did this).  After blending, include the 2 tbsp. of the raw sugar; blend with a wooden spoon.  Let simmer for about 15-20 min. more.


You can then either eat/serve this warm or chilled–it’s excellent either way!  It also, just FYI, makes a perfect pairing with the millet muffins (I used it as a jam):

The Definition of Busy

11 Jun

The definition of busy: finalizing the galley of a soon-to-be published manuscript and working toward completion of another; end-of-semester mad dash to grade/submit grades/make syllabi & lesson plans for summer courses; a (wonderful/hectic/roller-coaster) 10-day visit from my from E.; a visit to my husband’s dad’s amazing lake house on Livingston in Trinity; and a recent health scare.

I’ve come out of it alright, though, with a little help from my food.  In recent years, I’ve discovered the incredible joy of cooking and yes, eating.  I’ve become somewhat of a foodie and have loved incorporating words like quinoa and papaya into my regular vocabulary.  I also love finding new recipes and talking at length with my friend K. who is my go-to about all things cooking (she is is a cook for Whole Foods and assists in teaching cooking classes at Sur la Table).

I’ve discovered so many new things related to food, lately: the great food and concept of Houston’s Ruggles Green, how much sodium we take in every day without realizing it (the average person should consume less than 2400 mg a day, yet with the average canned soup having 900 mg, bread 260 per slice in some cases, and don’t get me started on drive-throughs, we exceed that often before dinner), quinoa, the joys of having a colorful fridge.  I could go on and on.

I’ve always tried to be a healthy eater, but I’m so often mindless about what I put in my body.  After this past week when it looked like I might have had a previously undiagnosed heart condition, I had my wake-up call.  Even though it seems for now that I’m in the clear, my body is very salt-sensitive and has some difficulty processing sodium and calcium, which can lead to a stiffening of the blood vessels and fluctuations in blood pressure.  I have to monitor my BP/heart rate twice a day for two more weeks and record it all in a journal for a follow-up appointment.

The idea that I might be sick and might have to take meds really made me angry.  I have no risk factors that one would expect: I’m not overweight, I have no family history of heart disease, I generally eat healthy (fruits and veggies every day and lots of whole grains), I take my vitamins.  But still, this wasn’t enough.  Salt was the culprit, which is funny because I hate salt.  I have never been one to add salt to anything.  However, I love Chik-fil-a’s grilled chicken sandwiches.  I love a good salt & vinegar chip from time to time.  I love soup and well, you get the picture.  All of these things (and so much more: read your ingredients — it’s scary) add up over time and if you are a salt-intolerant person, it can really hurt you out of nowhere.

This week I made a drastic change: goodbye salt offenders (including you, beloved Chik-fil-a) and hello healthy eating/healthy living.  I carefully examine each thing that I buy or each recipe I make.  If it’s under 300mg per meal, I make it.  I don’t buy prepared foods.  Nothing in a box or a bag and certainly not in a can.  Is this a pain?  At first, yes, but I like knowing exactly what I’m putting into my body.  I like the relationship I’m building between myself and food — one that enjoys the pleasures of color, of experimentation, of being able to actually taste the subtleties of a dish.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming, nor does it mean that you have to go all-out vegan.  Here are a few recipes I’ve made this week that are both delicious and low in sodium (and fat):

Chicken and Garlic Potatoes

Creamy Tarragon Chicken Salad (use the leftover chicken from above as a shortcut)

Earl Grey Sorbet (I used the Cuisinart Classic Ice Cream Maker)

Creamy Primavera

Grilled Lamb Burgers (use whole wheat buns or pitas)

Farfalle with Mushrooms & Spinach

One final joy that I’ve discovered (which is more on the drinking side rather than eating or cooking) is Cupcake Vineyard’s Red Velvet.  First off, how amazing is that name?!  Cupcake Vineyard!  When my husband showed it to me this evening in Whole Foods, I fell in love right away.  The wine is a blend of 47% Zinfandel, 29% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petite Sirah grapes and tastes like a blend of berries and mocha, sort of what you would expect from a wine called Red Velvet.  While I’m not a frequent drinker (and barely even an infrequent drinker), I bought a bottle of this for dinner tomorrow night.   It’s also rather cheap: it’s on sale for $9.99 this week at Whole Foods.  Don’t turn your nose up at the price, either.  Just try it.  Pair it with your lamb burgers or rich dessert.  Just don’t pass the salt.


5 May

I have been doing some springtime nesting around my house lately, which I suppose comes out of my month-long illness during March/April and hiatus from writing.  I like my house to look warm and nested.  I purchased the above curtains today here and the bedspread awhile back here.  I’m very much a bargain-hunter and I love those times when I can find pretties for cheap.

My friend H. told me years ago about Kirkland’s but I never actually visited the store (even though it’s right down the road from me) until earlier this year when I needed a new table runner for the coffee table in my living room.  Kirkland’s is like a cross between HomeGoods and Pier1: great, unusual finds and low prices.  I mean, gorgeous curtains for $24.95?  A luxe table runner for $15?  Yes, please!

I have friends coming over Saturday night for dinner (I’m making my famous spinach-goat cheese-tomato pizza, Kamila of Kamila’s Kitchen is making a dessert, L.’s bringing the vodka for these Pink Elephant cocktails, and R.’s bringing the popcorn) and for a movie, so I wanted to spruce things up a bit, especially after a long, dreary winter.  Besides, having a house that is clean, pretty, and comfortable helps me write, which is something I’m going to spend more time with now that a) I’m no longer sick and b) am almost finished with the semester!