2 Cinnamon Rolls a Day…

I have a new confectionery addiction: homemade cinnamon rolls.

IMG_6297

I’ve made the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe several times now.  It makes 45-50 rolls per batch.  Somehow, my family and I have plowed through dozens of cinnamon rolls since Christmas.  And I think I ate most of them.  How did that happen? They are just so stinking good, especially when I remember all of the ingredients (I was so caught up in the active yeast rising process that I forgot the leavening agents my first go-round, but was able to salvage them).  Most cinnamon rolls don’t have enough icing and develop a hard exterior.  These are swimming in icing.  They’re moist and spongy and perfect.  Every bite is like that coveted bite in the center of your regular old cinnamon roll.

In the last few weeks, my addiction has really taken an alarming turn and I’ve found myself having two cinnamon rolls a day for an unmentionable number of days in a row.  But hey, two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor away, no?

…no?

Two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor employed?

Well, I’ve been working out more (successfully) in recent weeks, too, so I’m sure it kind of cancels out.  Kind of.  I am happy to report that I’ve found a new class that’s slightly less lethal than circuit blast called “sculpt.” The only part that made my arms feel like straws was the diamond push-up sequence after 45 sets of arm weight exercises.  Other than that, the group exercise approach has been going well.

Last week, however, I suffered a minor setback in the midst of a cinnamon roll binge.  I pulled my groin putting on my yoga pants to go to sculpt. For real. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of my flexibility, coordination, physical fitness level, or an indication that my pants are too tight.  Maybe all of the above? Maybe a sign from God to lay off the cinnamon rolls?

I just went to hot yoga and feel like I’ve been wrung out like a sponge.  In a really good way.

I think I’ll have a cinnamon roll since I’m already wearing my yoga pants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Advertisements

Ladies’ Lunch

In recent years, my mom and some of her good childhood friends have gotten together for a ladies’ lunch with all daughters, mothers, aunts, and sisters invited, too.  And absolutely no boys allowed.  It would be rude to invite them anyway because we have to talk about them.  Or at least the ladies want to hear from the daughters about any boyfriends on the scene.

photo 1

Although we got together for lunch, Glenda, this year’s host, had prepared quite a delicious feast: baked ham, green beans and potatoes, candied fried apples, butternut squash, cranberry sauce and rolls.  It was positively scrumptious and beautiful.  Glenda had set the table with lovely pieces of china and vintage dishes.

photo 4

Served alongside the food were lots of great stories about growing up together and how much the small town has changed.  There was quite a discussion about how hitch-hiking was no big deal back in the day, the new art gallery in town, and big personalities that everybody knew and loved.

photo 2 copy 2

And, in true southern fashion, there were just as many desserts as there were dishes for the main meal.  Among them were jam cake with both dough icing (my favorite) and caramel icing (my mom’s favorite), chocolate cake, bourbon balls, coconuts balls, peanut brittle, cookies and more.

photo 2 copy 2

I love my mom’s face in this picture.  I think she was saying, “Don’t be eying that caramel iced jam cake, lady.”  Just kidding. I think.

photo 3 copy 2

We shared lots of laughs over good memories.  There were some really good ones, but if I told you about them I’d have to kill you.  Or at least I might not be invited back to ladies lunch.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Thanksgiving Trials and Tribulations: The Table

So I decided to have Thanksgiving in the new house, but the funny thing is that I have absolutely no dining room furniture.  Not a stitch.

IMG_5923

I did have these pine cones adorning the mantle across the room.  I found them at a yard sale a few months back.  Too bad you can’t sit on or eat off of them.

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, I had to put on my thinking cap.

My solution was not unlike glamping.

Actually glamping might be more glamorous.

IMG_6319

Thank you to Costco and Ikea, I am the proud owner of a “dining set” for under $100.  Coincidentally, I am now equipped for tailgating.  I’m loving this versatile furniture.

IMG_6323

Because I planned to serve slightly more elegant food than hotdogs and chips, I figured I might want to dress (hide) the table.

IMG_6326

I found just the thing at Wal-mart: tone-on-tone ticking stripe fabric by the yard that I would transform into a tablecloth.  Minor detail: Did I mention that I don’t sew?

6330

Ta-da!  With some creative cutting and folding, I successfully hid the evidence that my table was anything but solid mahogany.

I advised my guests not to lean too hard on my “delicate” table and explained that I was going for a more eclectic look with my “retro” chairs.

A little metallic never hurt anyone, so I started the tabletop with gold chargers and an actual vintage piece, a candelabra that my grandmother had given my great Aunt Anna before she passed.  It was nice to have a reminder of her at the table.  She was a great cook and an elegant lady.  I think she would have been proud of my efforts.

IMG_6331

Glassware and plates instantly made the table look fuller and shinier.

The table was beginning to look legitimate.

pretty table

Then came some tinted glass bowls to add color and continue with the vintage theme.  My mom and I made a last minute dash to Pier 1 for some golden yellow cloth napkins.   I put together two low floral arrangements with my flowers from Costco.  I love a show-stopping floral centerpiece, but I actually wanted to be able to see the other people at the table so I divided and conquered. I also added some burlap ribbon to my fancy chairs to complete my unique look.

pretty table angle

I was pretty pleased with myself, especially since this set-up cost me less than the groceries for the meal.

Consider this my submission for the design on a dime challenge.

pretty

This is my favorite angle.

eugene insta photo

Eugene took this fab picture with her phone.  I think it’s worthy of Martha Stewart Living.

This certainly wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving set-up, but we all got to sit together around the table and have a good laugh.  I’ll give thanks for that.

Stay tuned for the meal.  It was not without its challenges.

Y’all keep it classy,

Sugarlump

Southern Charm

Hey there darlin’,

I’ve been in the south long enough now that I’ve become accustomed to the hospitality and general kindness shown by strangers that drew me here in the first place.  Just the other day, I was at the deli counter at Kroger ordering honey maple turkey and Swiss cheese and the lovely elderly worker behind the counter engaged me in conversation the entire time she sliced my deli items with motherly care.  We talked about the weather because that’s what you do in the south.  She asked me what was going on out there because we were due for some inclement weather.  I told her it was cold and raw and rainy and she informed me that we were to get snow later in the evening and maybe some ice. This was just one day after it was a lovely 70 degrees and sunny.  We chatted about how we’d like to be somewhere tropical when the weather turns sour.  As she handed me my food, she looked me in the eye with genuine concern and said, “Now, you be real careful out there.  Alright, honey?”  I replied, “Yes, ma’am.  You do the same.”  It’s nice when strangers care about your well-being.

This is just one of many instances of southern civility that occur on a daily basis in my life.  I was talking to one of my clients a little while back as we were completing an install at her condo here in Nashville.   She is from the Northeast and lives in New Jersey so we have a lot in common and often talk about the differences between the North and South.  She said although she loves the variety and all the Northeast has to offer, she is always struck by the warmth of southern people.  We were talking about going to the drugstore or grocery and how people hold doors, smile and actually talk to you, not at you.  I mentioned how I had been at T.J. Maxx the other day and instead of a surly “Here’s your receipt,” as I checked out, I got a cheerful, “Thank you. Come back and see us!” My client smiled and said she hears that a lot here, too.  We both paused for a moment, looked back at each other, and at the same time said, “And they actually mean it!”

I think non-southerners are catching on to this and flocking to the south.  The secret is out!  I stumbled upon this article one of my friends shared on facebook.  I’m glad to know that other people appreciate the ways of the south like I do!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-strutner/tk-things-i-learned-in-th_b_4394289.html

Y’all come back! (I mean it!)

Sugarlump

I’m baaaaaaaaaaack!

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Miss me?

Well, I missed you all, internet friends!

Sorry for not posting for, like, ever.  In the past few months I’ve moved, changed jobs, learned how to dye my hair myself, had a lot of family and friends visiting, discovered a new breakfast delight, replaced the brakes on my car and it’s been just crazy.

Just a little recap:

I’m Emily

I’m five.

Plus twenty.

But really I’m five at heart.

And stomach.

(what?)

A short time ago, I decided to start eating cereal again.  I had given it up on my gluten-free kick but decided that gluten was not my enemy, but that, in fact, diary is.  Unfortunate for a girl who grew up drinking milk almost exclusively, would choose cheese over almost anything (love me some savory), and thinks sour cream is a good addition to almost everything.  Except cereal.

Anyway, I was perusing the cereal aisle (I always forget that word has an A in it – thank you spell check!) at Kroger in search of a long lost childhood favorite, Berry Berry Kix. This was the closest I came to “sugary” cereal as a child and it holds a dear place in my heart, unlike Raisin Bran and Chex.  I would savor the opportunity to eat Lucky Charms or Trix when sleeping over friends’ houses, but I don’t recall ever being granted permission to put any of these delicacies into the shopping cart during my formative years.

Eager to hug a box of Berry Berry Kix, I searched up and down the aisle (I remembered the A this time!) probably 13-17 times, convinced I had somehow missed it among the hundreds of cereals.  I could picture the box as clear as day.  Purple.  An image of the cereal, mostly regular kix with bunches of “berries” scattered throughout in purple and maroon.  To my horror, it appeared that Berry Berry Kix had been taken off the market.  It was a sad moment.

Until I came across a new specimen of cereal: Oops! All Berries.

photo 1

Let me assure you, this was no oops.

Some brilliant mind took the best part of the cereal from Captain Crunch, which tastes much like the berries in Berry Berry Kix because, after all, they’re all berries (well, “berries”), and made a cereal out of them. Genius! I can’t tell you how many times I used to eat all of the regular kix out of Berry Berry kix, saving the berries for last.  I did the same with lucky charms, leaving all of the marshmallows for a few bites of pure sugary heaven.  Someone should invent Oops! All Charms because, let’s be honest, who likes those funky, somewhat sweet cheerio-ish things in Lucky Charms anyway?

No one.

The plain kix weren’t as bad, but this new cereal requires much less legwork with my spoon at 7:30 AM and provides a much more satisfying breakfast experience as each bite is just as enjoyable and indulgent as the last.

My life is forever changed.

There are, however, a few side effects: acute ADD and hunger in less than an hour.

And I think my teeth are going to rot and fall out of my mouth.

I have dreams that my teeth fall out all of the time.  It’s horrifying.

My Mom might have been on to something with that whole” no sugary cereal” bit.

I want some cheese.

I think eating salt after sugar cancels it out, right?

Oh, how I’ve missed you all.

Y’all hurry back and I will, too,

Sugarlump

Easter Eatin’

Happy Easter, y’all!

I’ve been up to a lot lately that I will post about when I have some free time, which will be on the fifth of never.  Just kidding.  Kinda.

Even though these posts won’t be in chronological order, I thought I’d share my Easter while it’s fresh in my noggin.  My dear little sister, Eugene drove down from Lexington, Kentucky to join me for the holiday.  I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, which seems ridiculous since she lives only three and a half hours away.  She arrived last evening and we went out to dinner at Germantown Café, which we had been to last summer for brunch.  The brunch last year was fabulous and dinner certainly didn’t disappoint.

photo(4)

My friend and her sister joined us and we ordered two appetizers to share: pork belly tater tots and fried green tomatoes.  I normally don’t like tomatoes but I didn’t mind choking these down one bit.  They weren’t half-bad; in fact, they were more than half-good. The pork belly tater tots were slightly smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, which was good.  I’m not a huge fan of smoky things, including cigarettes.  They were very rich but quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the fish special, which was a panko-crusted tilapia with a Puttanesca –like medley over parmesan polenta and asparagus.  If there is ever a fish and grits/polenta dish offered at a restaurant, I will most likely order it.  It’s one of my favorite combinations ever.   This wasn’t the best I ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.

photo(3)

We moved on to Holland House for drinks/dessert.  I ordered a drink on our waiter’s recommendation that wasn’t on the menu.  I don’t recall the name, but it was a bourbon-based concoction that tasted like fall in a tumbler.  Fall is my favorite season and bourbon is my poison, so I definitely enjoyed it.  It didn’t hurt that Holland House is such a neat scene with its dim-lighting and parlor-like feel with just the right balance of rustic and refined décor.  Initially I had wanted to sit at the bar to people watch and observe the theatrics of the bartenders making their artisan cocktails, but it worked out that we were seated by the fireplace since it was a cold, rainy night.  We ordered dessert to finish off the evening.  My sister and I split a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade carrot cake ice cream.  The dessert wasn’t as spectacular as the drinks, but all in all, it was a fun evening.

IMG_4073

After church this morning, my sister and I headed over to Pancake Pantry, which I have been wanting to try since I moved here.  I was forewarned that there would be a line down the sidewalk and today was no exception.  Poor Eugene toughed it out in the rain with me, each of us with a malfunctioning umbrella and no outerwear, for about 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the food was worth the wait otherwise I think she would have killed me.  She ordered pecan pancakes and I ordered chocolate chip.  We also rounded out the meal with an order of sausage patties and hash browns.   The pancakes were superb and the sausage was the good stuff.  The hash browns, while good, were clearly crisped up on the griddle with Parkay margarine.  I know this because Parkay has a very distinct flavor which I first experienced as a child when I insisted we purchase the Parkay spray margarine I had seen on TV because it looked like fun to use.  It is not tasty and I’m going to have to dock Pancake Pantry a few points for this faux pas.  They have a good thing going with their pancakes with whipped butter, though.

In my typical fashion, the visit was centered around food.   Eugene didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t have to cook.  Not that I mind cooking, but I still don’t have barstools so there isn’t a proper place to sit and eat a meal in my apartment.   I’m working on it though.  Thank goodness Nashville has a lot of great restaurants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

One Year Sweeter

Today is the one year anniversary of the Sugarlump, which means I have lived in Nashville for almost one year.  Man, does time fly.  I have a few reflections to share on this momentous day:

While I started this blog mainly to capture moments of my life that I never want to forget, it has proven to be so much more.  It eased me through the transition to my new home.  It has kept me connected to my family and friends who regularly read the Sugarlump and comment.  In turn, it assures them that I am alive and well.  Some of my extended family members and family friends have probably learned more about me through reading my blog this past year than they had learned about me in all the years they’ve known me combined.  Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know.  I’m just putting it all out there.

Most surprisingly, The Sugarlump has connected me to new friends who I know only because they have found my blog or I have found theirs.  Who knew complete strangers would take the time to leave a kind note or helpful tips?  This blog regularly reassures me that this world is indeed full of good people.

This blog has given me the motivation to learn more about photography as it provides a great outlet through which to share the thousands of photographs I have taken since moving to Nashville.  I apologize to my readers who don’t care for cats or weather reporting.   I hope to get out more this summer.

Though I am generally journaling-averse, writing posts has been a kind of therapy for me.   It helps me to find joy in the little things as I reflect on my day.  It puts things into perspective.  It keeps me connected in a more meaningful way.  I never would have thought I’d call myself a blogger, but a blogger I have become.

And even though I have slacked off on the blogging as my life has become busier in Nashville, I hope to continue celebrating blog anniversaries.

Thanks to my faithful readers for all of your “likes” and comments.  You make my day.

Love y’all,

Sugarlump

Tackling Tiramisu

There are very few non-chocolate desserts that I will give the time of day.  My absolute favorite non-chocolate dessert is butterscotch brownies, which continue to baffle me with their non-chocolaty deliciousness.  There are some things that cannot be rationally explained and I believe this is one of them.  Next on my list of acceptable non-chocolate desserts is tiramisu, but only a handful that I have tasted in my life are up to snuff.  One absolute deal-breaker is any trace of almond.  In my opinion, it does not belong in tiramisu.

I tried to make tiramisu once before in my life.  It was not a success.  I went a little overboard on the coffee and put in about twice what the recipe called for because those lady fingers just didn’t look saturated enough as I was assembling the dessert.  The next day, my tiramisu was sitting in a puddle.  The taste wasn’t bad, but I definitely had a texture issue to work out.  Unfortunately, I had volunteered to make this dessert because my mom’s boss and his family were coming over for dinner.  They were sports and cleaned their plates.   It was on that fateful day that I learned firsthand the valuable lesson that one should never prepare an unfamiliar dish for the first time when company is coming over, particularly company you would like to remain in good standing with.  Instead, I would highly recommend preparing something that you have perfected.

My mother did not get fired in case you were wondering.

Since my tiramisu had knocked me down instead of picking me up, it was a while before I was emotionally ready to tackle it again.  My neighbor Anna is Italian and a wonderful cook and baker, so I decided it was safe to try to make tiramisu again with her.

I only allowed myself to measure the dry ingredients and did not deviate from the recipe in the slightest.

For the most part.

When Anna and I were discussing the ingredients for the dessert, I offered to pick up the lady fingers.  She informed me that that would not be necessary as we would be making the cake portion ourselves because it would be a better texture and flavor.  Boy was she right on about that.

This recipe is a long one, but it’s not difficult.  It originates from Southern Living magazine, circa 1988. Heregoes:

IMG_5077

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a half-sheet pan with wax paper and then butter and flour the wax paper so the cake does not stick.

IMG_5078

Separate 4 eggs and let them come to room temperature.

IMG_5079

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and let it cool.

IMG_5081

Brew some potent coffee and put 1 cup of it aside to cool. (I would recommend drinking the rest of it if you’re sleepy because this is going to take a while.)  Add ¼ cup of sugar and a miniature of Kahlua to the coffee.

IMG_5082

Sift together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt.

IMG_5083

In another bowl, beat together the egg yolks and ¾ cup of sugar until light and thick.  This will take about 5 minutes so I would recommend stretching beforehand if using a handheld mixer.

IMG_5085

It will look something like this when it’s ready.

IMG_5090

Then pour in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of water, and 1 teaspoon of ‘niller extract.

IMG_5091

I love vanilla extract.

IMG_5093

I also really like this nifty little gadget that allows one to dust cocoa powder on things.

Sorry, I got sidetracked by the idea of something chocolate.

IMG_5094

In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until they are frothy and then add in ¼ cup of sugar.  Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and beat the egg whites until they are stiff but don’t overbeat.

IMG_5097

Add half of the egg white mixture and half of the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture.  Fold the mixtures together until combined.  Repeat with the remaining half of the mixtures.

IMG_5099

Pour the batter onto the sheet pan.

IMG_5104

Spread the batter evenly across the sheet pan using a spatula.

IMG_5108

Then pop it in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and the center springs back.

IMG_5109

Let it cool for a few minutes in the pan and then turn it out onto wax paper and let it cool completely.

IMG_5110

Carefully remove the wax paper from the bottom of the cake as that is not a texture you want in your tiramisu.

IMG_5112

Then, cut off the edges of the sponge cake so no one has to experience a crunchy/stiff bite of tiramisu. Remember, it’s all about texture.

IMG_5114

For the filling, beat 1 cup of heavy cream until it forms peaks.

IMG_5115

Then beat together ½ cup sugar and 1 pound of mascarpone cheese.

IMG_5119

Fold together the mascarpone mixture and the heavy cream.  If you’re feeling rebellious, add a few drops of vanilla extract into the mixture.  In my experience, a little extra vanilla extract never hurt anything.

It was Anna’s idea.

IMG_5120

Next, cut the cake in half and place one half on a serving dish.

IMG_5122

Brush half of the coffee mixture onto the cake using a pastry brush.

IMG_5123

It should look something like this.

IMG_5124

Dust the cake generously with cocoa powder.

IMG_5126

Then sprinkle on some chocolate shavings.

IMG_5127

Spread half of the filling mixture over the first layer of cake.

IMG_5129

Easier said than done. Don’t be alarmed if some of the chocolate shavings get mixed in.  No one will ever know and it will still taste good.

IMG_5130

Repeat this process with the second layer of cake and filling.

IMG_5132

Coffee mixture…

Cocoa powder and chocolate shavings.

Filling…

IMG_5136

Some more cocoa powder…

IMG_5138

Smooth the sides with a knife.

IMG_5140

Decorate the top with dark and white chocolate shavings.

Then let the cake sit overnight in the refrigerator and enjoy the next day (preferably not with your mom’s boss unless this is at least the second time you’re making this recipe).

Here are the recipe cards:

IMG_5143

IMG_5142

IMG_5141

IMG_5144

(We deviated from the recipe a little bit by adding Kahlua instead of sherry or Marsala.  Don’t tell anyone.)

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

How do they know?

It amazes me how animals can sense when we need their comfort.  The other morning, I awoke from a very vivid dream feeling disoriented and sad.  I must have jumped slightly as I came into consciousness because my cat Gus, who was nestled up against my arm, with his head on my shoulder, wrapped his little paw around my arm as if to tell me it was going to be OK.

IMG_1137

I want to know how they know.

IMG_1140

Because they clearly know when their humans need a little comforting.

And they’re happy to oblige.

Sometimes I take for granted just how precious they are…

…and then I discovered that a little furry someone left me a couple of tootsie rolls on the bath mat instead of in the litter box.

Nothing is perfect, but these little muffins come pretty darn close.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Visiting Jack

Cousin Lauren came down to visit me here in Nashville the other day.  After some lunch and a trip to Comcast to switch out my cable box (I’m so much fun to visit), we headed to Lynchburg, Tennessee for a tour of Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

photo2

As we neared the distillery in the car, cousin Lauren remarked how another distillery she had driven by had these creepy old buildings.  Moments after we stepped out of the car, we determined this place was creepy, too.  Must be a distillery thing.  And the fact that it was miserably cold, damp, and foggy.  Other than that, it was a perfect day for a distillery tour.

I’m such a great host.

photo3

This was pretty nifty.  There is a natural source of water under this here hunk of rock that is used in the production of Jack Daniel’s products.  Apparently it’s some pretty pure stuff and makes Jack Daniel’s whiskey taste real good.  How do people figure these things out is what I want to know.

photo4

This is not a black and white photo in case you were wondering.

After we went through the buildings where the whiskey is produced, we found ourselves by some very black trees.  The trees turn black from a mold that grows on them as a byproduct of the distillery.  Our tour guide assured us that the mold is not harmful to the trees or to people and is in fact a sign that the production of whiskey is going well.  Looks can be deceiving!

In the next building, where the whiskey drips through 10 feet of hard sugar maple charcoal to be purified, our tour guide lifted the lids of the large containers so we could smell the whiskey. We got a huge whiff of the whiskey, which made me think of bourbon balls as the smell lingered in my nostrils.

Pleasant thought, no?

photo

This prompted me to ask cousin Lauren about some candy my mom had brought down with her from her friend.  I was under the impression that all chocolate specimens in the tin were bourbon balls.  Here was our clarifying conversation:

Me: “Those bourbon balls didn’t really taste like bourbon at all.  They actually tasted almost like coconut.”

Cousin Lauren, “Did the ones you ate have pecans on top of them?”

Me: “No.”

Cousin Lauren: “Then you were eating coconut balls.  The ones with pecans on top are bourbon balls.  The ones without pecans are coconut balls.”

Me: “Oh……No wonder they tasted like coconut. At least I have a good sense of taste and could identify the coconut.”

Cousin Lauren: “…and the lack of bourbon.”

I’m glad we got that cleared up.  It was really troubling me.

photo5

Towards the end of the tour, I asked our tour guide where she was from because she clearly did not have a southern accent and had been asking people in the group where we were from.   Coincidentally, she was from Massachusetts, where I lived for 13 years and moved here from in April.  I asked her where in Massachusetts she was from and she told me Salem, a town famous for the witch trials that occurred centuries ago.  These creepy trees would fit right in there.

All I have to say is, this world is tiny.

And I like bourbon balls.

And try to arrive at the distillery before 2:30PM if you would like a tasting tour.

We arrived at 2:40PM.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump