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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Moving Day!

Goodbye, Howl Manor.

Good morning, Internet!

I'm trying to be more prolific with my blog writing, and failing, unfortunately. Now that I have a nice, new, beautiful office space/Circle Room, there's really no excuse for me to not be blogging more. I would really like to see if something can come of this, as I don't have any plans on changing career paths any time soon, and I truly enjoy writing...why not see if I can't do something more with it?

I've been thinking a lot about my neighborhood of Rosedale and what to do with it. I'm moving from one end of the neighborhood to the other, and today is the last day I have to move the last of my things out. I'm leaving Howl Manor to a friend of mine to take over, who will in turn inherit my sofa, coffee table, dining room table and bench, as well as a giant pumpkin patch and some nice tomato plants. I'll be cleaning out/vacuuming the place, too, as much as I can, with the amount of dog hair that there is there...

The damage to the house isn't bad. My ex was dog-sitting once and the dog tore up the carpet in the bedroom, so I don't expect to get my pet deposit back. I also tore a giant hole in the blinds on the front window the other day when moving some stuff around, so I'm sure that'll come out, too. Other than that, the unit has been somewhat improved since I've lived there. The bathroom walls have been painted, as has the back office. My mom did an awesome facelift on the house, and I'm honestly sad to leave it behind. I loved that little house so much

I'll even miss this tiny little kitchen...
 I lived at Howl Manor for two years; one year(ish) with my ex, one year alone. We had broken up about seven months into that lease, but he still lived there for a month or so while he figured some stuff out to leave. I won't say that I didn't mind, but I also understood, so I didn't make too big of a stink about it. I'm very happy, though, that I can say that I lived on my own for a year. Sure, my boyfriend stayed with me a few nights here and there, but I paid my bills all by myself, and that meant a lot to me to be able to do that.

Howl Manor was a place of growth and change for me. I got a promotion there. I cultivated a garden there. I discovered so much about myself there. It was almost as if the house itself was a fortress of strength for me. The house was old, so it creaked here and there, had a few insulation issues in the winter and in the summer; that being said, I wouldn't have traded it.

I loved that little house, and I hate to leave it behind. That being said, I can proudly say I have completed my goal of living on my own for one year, and now move onto my new chapter: Howl's Stationary Castle.

Now with a backyard that he can actually run around in!
This is a new chapter in my life, and I would be lying if I sad I wasn't scared.

Moving in with a new person after gong from man to man to man is, indeed, scary. I know all of the things that can go wrong, and for me to be optimistic at this point is for me to be, essentially, stupid. That being said, I can't do my boyfriend wrong by dragging my old baggage into a new house.

I feel that it's wrong of me, or any person, to bring old baggage into a new house because that new house had literally nothing to do with what happened to you before. It's not my new house's fault that I'm bruised and damaged and scared. It's not my new house's fault that I've had bad experiences with old houses. It's not fair to my new house to be sour about the past when I'm trying to build a future.

And that even includes tearing out old carpet in a new house to put down new flooring!
(Which looks glorious, by the way...)
Plunging in has always been my superpower, of sorts. It is a thing that friends have told me that they admire about me. I failed so many times, but at least I had the courage to try. My father, who is so very important to me, told me that the thing he admired about me the most was the fact that I have "sheer guts," that I have a "why not?" kind of attitude and that I go for it. I don't want to let go of one of the things that makes me special, so I will plunge.

Plunging is not taking a leap forward because you aren't scared; plunging into something new means that you are scared, but you're brave enough to take a chance that the fire within you will burn brighter than the fire around you. You take a chance, knowing that it could turn out poorly, but it might turn out great.

If there's a chance that it'll turn out as great as I hope it will, I'll take it. I can't speak for all, but I can say that the greatest regret I would or could ever have is the not knowing what could have been. I will always fear not knowing what could have been far more than the alternative.  After all, it is from our failures that we grow, that we learn. It is from our failures and how we rise from the fall which defines us.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I hope that the one person that does read this blog will read something that strikes a nerve with them enough to pass it along, or to make that change. If I can make a change for one person, then it's worth it.

Wish me luck. Let's plunge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rose Cake

Recently, I was commissioned to do a special cake! I'm not very good with buttercream writing or gumpaste flowers, so I just did my best with my meager, self-taught skills. The roses and leaves were all made using Italian buttercream, and Wilton tips of varying sizes. I think it's not bad for someone who hasn't done buttercream roses in seven years!

The cake isn't actually made from real roses, but it could very easily be filled with rose petal jam, instead of the strawberry filling I've made for it. The recipe for the cake itself is my favorite vanilla cake recipe, which is strong and firm cake yet with an extremely light crumb. This cake is ideal for sculpting and keeping nice clean cuts, and perfect for layering.

When choosing cakes to layer, I suggest letting the cake itself cool in its entirety before working with it. Not only will the cake be more stable and easy to work with, but your buttercream will not melt into a big, goopy mess.

This cake is made with a fresh strawberry filling that's made of fresh strawberries in the blender, blitzed until smooth, and then folded in with buttercream to create a soft and gooey filling of yummy-ness. Once spread thin, I took sliced fresh strawberries and layered them atop the filling to create a dynamic of firm and creamy, fresh/tart and sugary/sweet. You can do the same with any flavor combination you like, of course!

Just be sure to save me a slice. Or two.

Lunch at The Farmhouse

Smoked shortrib lasagna, Parmesan crisp, fresh ricotta
I had my first doctor's appointment in 15 years today. It was at a lovely little office in the River Market area of Kansas City, and it was right next door to the Farmhouse. I had not only gone to the appointment without any help, I had made the appointment all by myself and used my insurance to find myself a new doctor.

Can you say 500G for Adulthood??

Of course you can.

Anyway, it was the first time I'd done blood work and I felt a little peckish afterwards. I normally stand by the very familial notion of "it's unhealthy to eat alone", but my hunger rules me, and I decided to dine solo. Oscar Wilde once said that learning to love one's own company is the beginning of a lifelong romance. I figure that if I can't stand to eat alone, nobody else should have to stand eating with me.

The staff at The Farmhouse were a friendly, young, and eclectic group of people, much like a cast of extras from Portlandia. The entire ambiance was really open and chill, and the art on the wall was gorgeous. There's a big picture of a giant rooster hanging over the bar that, apparently, the Chef painted, according to one of the regulars I met.

The cocktail/wine/drinks menu is given to you on a clipboard of dog-eared paper, and the lunch menu is no different. This is a good thing, because it shows the menu is not only recycled, but changeable. The Farmhouse boasts its seasonality and farm-to-table mentality, so seeing a menu like this is a good sign.

Although the triple-decker grilled cheese caught my fancy, I saw the pasta special on the board(pictured above) and just had to try it. After all, I did blood work at my doctor's appointment--I need some bright red in my diet. (In case you didn't know,  tomatoes especially have a high amount of potassium and vitamin C, so that means that they're good for your heart, like many other naturally-red foods are!)

They had posted on Facebook(apparently) that every person that finished the special would get a big high-five from the staff. I finished mine without fail, and got a high-five, so good on them for being good on their word. The staff was so friendly and fun, and I cannot stress enough at how utterly delicious it was to have coffee that was freshly pressed.

It's National Coffee Day, by the way, on this day of September 29th. Do you know how I received my coffee this morning? Do you? Like this:

That's a genuine French Press with cream and raw sugar. Hell to the yes on that one.

The restaurant is very clean and has a fun vibe. I ended up sitting at the bar next to the artist of several paintings on the wall, and chatting up a storm. The bar manager learned that I was in the industry, too, and we three just had a fine time, gabbing the afternoon away.

Another thing about their menu that I want to stress is that it's truly farm fresh American cuisine. They make everything in-house that they can make in-house and they're doing a good job of it. That dollop of white on my lasagna? Fresh ricotta. The burrata is made with fresh mozzarella, too, and that's a good thing.

The Farmhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoYou might say "Burrata? That's not American!" It might not have American origin, but the thing about American cuisine(and really any cuisine, if you think about it) is that it is able to have fun with what it has. If we, here in Kansas/Missouri have access to all of this gorgeous farmland and these wonderful animals and the products those animals have to offer...why not use them in tried-and-true delicious ways? That being said, a burrata is a fantastic thing to show off on a menu, as it is very difficult to do well and to do well consistently. While I did not have the burrata, I did see it go out to another table, and the smell and look of it was just perfect.

All in all, I really dig The Farmhouse. Friendly staff, awesome location, great food...two thumbs up! I will most-definitely be back for dinner.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Super Blood Moon

A big "Thank you" now goes out to my amazing boyfriend, B, for getting this gorgeous shot of the Super Blood Moon, on this evening in Kansas City, at approximately 9:40 pm Central Standard Time!

It's so rare that I get out of work during a reasonable hour, but I'm happy that I got to see this rare celestial occurrence.

We watched this as he took a long exposure of the moon, sitting together on the steps of our  new home, and he put his arm around me, and said: "That's the color of all of the sunsets and sunrises happening around the world right now."

"What?" I said.

"See that red color? The light from every sunset and sunrise all around the world is now showing on the moon because of the eclipse. Isn't that great?"

"So great."

Science is romantic, and I'll not be convinced otherwise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#FoodieChats twEAT up! (Twitter Meetup) at Applebee's

A photo posted by #Foodiechats πŸ‘‰πŸΌπŸ”πŸ•πŸ£πŸ€πŸ‰ (@foodiechats) on

Last night I was privileged enough to join 11 cities Nationwide in the Foodie Chats Monday Night Football meetup. Applebee's generously sponsored the event, and it was a great night all around. I invited two of my friends out, along with my wonderful boyfriend, B, to join me while I live-tweeted with Foodies across the nation.

Buffalo, St. Louis, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City(to name a few) all joined in at 8pm ET to the #FoodieChats hashtag along with Applebee's twitter account for the fun. It was a Nationwide networking event that got foodies together, allowing us to share blogs, ideas, and fun pictures. The very fun #BurgerSelfie was a favorite...

The designated Applebee's for Kansas City was the one located at 6800 Johnson Drive, which is extremely close to the highway and very easy to get to. Parking was not bad at all(a problem I often have with chain restaurants) and we found our seats quickly. When I informed the hostess that I was the Foodie Chats Ambassador for KC, the manager promptly came(sharply dressed, I might add) and escorted us to a table with lots of natural light by the window.

Disclaimer: Just so you know, I'm making that face because of how unbelievably pale I look in that shot. Because I am the opposite of pale. I am full of melanin thanks to my extremely Filipino mother. I am dark as Hell.

The night began with cocktails. I ordered a jalapeno mango margarita, while Emi stuck with the Bourbon/Whiskey-based drinks. Halie got a strawberry-lime margarita; B(oyfriend) was my designated driver so he stuck with the water, but had a few sips of mine. I wasn't a fan of the bourbon drink, and the strawberry-lime margarita was good, but I was definitely happy I stuck with the jalapeno margarita.

I will say this: I wish that the garnish wasn't an actual slice of just raw jalapeno, with seeds to get freely stuck in my straw. Maybe they could make a jalapeno syrup instead, and then make candied slices for the garnishes? I could be splitting hairs; but I am a very annoying foodie like that...splitting hairs, and all.

I had been starving myself all day, so we got an appetizer sampler platter, consisting of the Kobe Meatballs(in chunky marinara), wonton tacos, and potstickers.

I wasn't a fan of the potstickers, as they seemed to be lacking in any real filling or flavor, and the wonton tacos were just okay. I really liked the meatballs, though they were a touch dense for my taste. The sauce they came in was pretty tasty, though, with big chunks of tomato and red pepper. B and I polished that off while Halie and Emi enjoyed the other two.

When our burgers came, we took a big #BurgerSelfie, but I could barely fit us all in because my arms are too short. I got the Mushroom-swiss burger, Emi got the All-Day-Brunch burger(with sweet potato fries), Halie got the Triple Bacon burger and B got the Angry Texan(which was basically a burger combined a pulled pork sandwich + jalapenos). We hoarked everything down pretty quickly, and didn't take any more pictures for another half hour while we answered the Q & A.

FoodieChats have their live tweeting events every Monday night at 8pm ET. Questions are asked, answers are live-tweeted back, and we all bond over that. Questions are formed like this:

And then we all tweet back using A6/A9/A32/A-whatever and get to have a real open forum like that. Here's what it looks like:

Yeah. I Reddit. So what.
And it goes on for 10 questions! This whole process takes a couple of hours, and is a lot of fun. I personally gain followers every time I do the FoodieChats, and I know that I gain a few more people to follow and network with each time. The beauty of social media is that we can all connect over something specific, something that you can share, something that you can not feel alone about anymore. It feels good to feel connected, especially about something you are passionate about.

I feel like Social media has a lot of stigmas, even though a good portion of the population uses it. I feel like the people over 40 don't get it because they think we're just staring blankly into these little "idiot boxes" that we carry in our pockets... The truth is we are all connecting and learning from each other, reading articles and networking, sharing photos and sharing experiences. I am so violently pro-social media that it's not even funny; I love seeing tweets and my friends' selfies. I love seeing things trend. I love seeing people bonding together over food and fun. I love the hivemind and the feeling of being connected.

I feel like only the people that are truly unhappy are the ones that are bothered by how other people enjoy their lives. Why do the older generations get so mad about us taking photos, taking selfies, sharing our experiences on social media? Why can't we just have fun and enjoy our memories that way? Why is it so wrong to say "I am here"?

I can't speak for all, but I personally keep such detailed records of what I do and where I go and with whom I do things because Alzheimer's runs in my family and I'm terrified I'll forget my amazing and beautiful life. I keep such records because I want to be able to smile and look back at my life as a teenager, as a 20-something, as a 30-something, and be able to say: "Wow, I had fun." I don't want my life to just slip away. I want to look back and be reminded of my wonderful friends, of my wonderful pets, of my family and places I've worked. I want to look back on the things I've cooked, the blogs I've written, and say "I had something to say." I want to look back on my life as a spider admires her web, and say "well done, madam." I want to look back on old pictures of myself and say "I was beautiful."

Also, "Damn that's a large animal"

Applebee's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoI love my life and I love my experiences. I love food. And I love everything about where I've been so far, even though I've had some downright horrible experiences. I love them because these experiences have shaped me as a person, and I am very proud of the woman I have become. I don't think we love ourselves enough; I think that girls, especially, are taught to self-criticize and be quiet and not rock the boat. I feel like we're taught that it's somehow shameful to express anything that differentiates us from a hooker or a doormat. I feel like women are so scary for some men that the thought of us being whole people with brains and opinions of our own is so freaky that it just makes their dicks shrivel up and murder people. Looking back on my life will be an excellent snapshot of what life was like in 2015 and so on, and I can't wait until I'm 80 and am looking through my Timehop to see what kind of life I lead... But I'm getting ahead of myself. Onto dessert:

I was feeling PMS-y, so I figured we could all benefit from sampling four desserts. The s'more's churros was a favorite, but the Triple Chocolate cake was honestly my favorite. The brownie was reminiscent of the kind your mom would bake out of the box, and the pretzels were good, but not great. Did they say "chain family restaurant"? Absolutely. But what's wrong with that? Kansas City is the original home of Applebee's, and therefore a pioneer in how you eat....kinda.

I know that you may think that Applebee's isn't the foodie destination, especially for such an exciting town like Kansas City, that has a thriving food scene...but let's be honest: there's something to be said for knowing exactly what you're getting, and knowing that it'll be consistent. There's no real risk in a dinner at Applebee's, and that feeling of solidarity in an ever-changing world can be a good thing.

The point is this: Foodie Chats is fun, and you should give it a try. And follow me on twitter, if you haven't already.

Happy eating and happy Tweeting!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Strawberry Pretzel Brownies

Who doesn't love a good brownie?

Probably ISIS, and other terrorist groups.

I've certainly got my favorite recipes for the perfect brownie, but many of the ones that I've tried and trusted require a scale to measure out flour/eggs/butter in grams or ounces. I've sort of dug my own grave in that regard, as I have only taken down recipes that have weight as the measure, and I(sadly) have yet to unpack my scale... I also have no earthly idea in which box it's hiding, but my brownie craving couldn't wait.

Fortunately, this is a recipe for brownies that I've found works just fine using volume versus weight as it's measure. This is a modified recipe from the GeekGod of Cooking, Mr. Alton Brown.

Strawberry Pretzel Brownies

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup + 1 tsp cocoa powder(I like Hershey's)
  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp good vanilla extract/almond extract
  • 8 oz(2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 large strawberries
  • Powdered sugar A/N
  • Pretzels A/N(sticks or twists are fine)
Maybe if I mention "Calphalon" enough, they'll send me some pans
for free?? What do you think? Guys?
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F and ready a pan. I have an absolutely fantastic Calphalon pan that's nonstick, so I didn't have to do anything to mine. If you don't have a Calphalon nonstick pan, though, go ahead and pop some parchment paper into your own pan of choice.  

Slice the strawberries thinly and dip each slice in a bit of powdered sugar, then place them on a parchment/wax paper sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft and relatively dry. I used a silpat mat for my brownies, as I wasn't sure how sticky they would end up being. 

The idea is you want them to seep out liquid, so they don't make "pools" in your brownies later on. If you have a dehydrator of some sort in your possession, however, feel free to use that. You can also use store-bought dried strawberries if you prefer, but I had fresh strawberries, so I figured "why not?"

This, of course, can be done with a whole pint of strawberries and  have the excess saved for later.
Combine your sugars and eggs in the bowl of your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. Stir for 2 minutes, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 2 minutes, until thick and yellow-colored.

Combine your flour, salt, and cocoa powder and dump everything in. Stir gently for about 10 turns, then stop and scrape your bowl down, before letting go for another 10 - 12 turns. Scrape once more and add the vanilla/almond extract and butter. Stir to combine; it should be shiny, like a little chocolate river.

Now that you have your brownie batter, scrape it all into a sheet pan and spread it evenly using a small spatula, making sure you get the corners.

Kolika's Special Tip: Want extra gooey brownies? Pop your batter-filled pan in the fridge and let it rest anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. The flour granules will "soak" up the moisture/fat in the butter and eggs, and make it so unbelievably gooey, you'll almost pee your pants when you try some. But if you don't want to wait that long, just a 15 minute rest in the fridge will do, just so the butter in the batter firms up.

Next, lay your pretzels in a pattern so that each piece will get some pretzel bit on it, and do the same with your strawberries. This looks really cool with the twist pretzels, but all I had were the sticks. You can also use slivered almonds, dried apricots, Hershey's kisses, crushed peppermint candies, and even crushed toffee candies to sprinkle onto your brownie batter. Nestle your toppings of choice nice and set into the batter so it won't move when you end up cutting it later on, and pop into your preheated oven for 15 minutes.

I think we're ready to go at this point...

When your timer is up, shut off the oven, and reset the timer for another 10, leaving the brownies in the pan to gently sort of bake in the residual heat. An overcooked brownie is a tragedy, so this allows it to carryover cook gently. Remove your pan from the oven and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before removing any from the pan. You can lift it up by the parchment sheet, or you can just cut and serve.

When you have a nice nonstick pan, you want to treat it like a nice nonstick pan. I use a little pizza/pasta wheel cutter that I picked up at Sur la Table for under $5. If you chill your brownies, though, you can easily just turn them over onto a platter by flipping it over and just letting them fall out. Once flipped, pop a cutting board onto the bottom and flip again, so that your topping side is now up, and your brownies are now on your cutting board. Simple? Of course it is!

While we're talking handy tools, can I just say how important it is to have a small, hand-held offset spatula, like this Ateco? Not only is it perfect for spreading out cake/brownie batter, but excellent for frosting cakes and picking up cookies, brownies, just about anything off sheet trays... I also use it for fish, sometimes, in a pinch, when I'm cooking on the stovetop. I found this one on Amazon for like $6, and it had free shipping thanks to AmazonPrime, which has paid for itself like ten-times over at this point.

Serve your brownies warm and fresh from the oven, if at all possible, or pop it in the microwave for a 12 second nuke on 70% power. The salty of the brownie plus the sharp note of the strawberry play great against the sheer fatty decadence of this recipe. Enjoy it with a cold mug of milk. Not because you chose the #MugLife, but the #MugLife chose you.