Monday, January 25, 2016

Finding Bliss

Bliss: to reach a state of perfect happiness or to experience complete joy.

I went sledding for the first time in probably close to a decade this weekend and the uninterrupted time spent rolling around in icy cold snow with deep belly laughs after several undeniable faceplants left me with a lingering sense of happiness. A happiness that is childlike. A happiness that sometimes I believe begins to fade as we age. A happiness that is impossible to forget. A complete bliss.

My afternoon spent frolicking in snow - which, let's be real in declaring that after you get out of school it is nothing more than a pain in the ass - has surprisingly left me feeling rather inspired. It's left me with an undeniable craving for more. Not more snow, that is. (Don't get me wrong here, that was incredibly fun and blissful but I think that bliss can be replicated in less cold and inconvenient ways). But rather, its left me craving more bliss.

I have been thinking about what is blissful to me and I thought that in my effort to continue to search for and experience those "make you forget every worry, every fear, every ounce of negativity" types of moments, I'd share some of my sources of bliss. 

Being barefoot in my kitchen. A kitchen that generations of women in my family have stood barefoot cookin' in before me. The radio dial tuned to my favorite local country station, "country 102.9 WKIKayyyyy." The smell of something homegrown and homemade filling the room, steaming up my black rimmed glasses. Dancing between the fridge and the cooktop as I pull out random ingredients to concoct my latest culinary creation. 

A hot and strong cup of coffee with just a dash of cream and a packet of Splenda. Most blissfully enjoyed while snuggled under my favorite hand-sewn quilt made by my unbelievably talented Momma. And, for some reason, that coffee just tastes better when I can sip it as I flip through a handed down cookbook. 

A steaming hot shower. With a shower-Chard. If you haven't tried it, you're really missing some serious bliss. Try a crisp and cold glass of cheap Chardonnay with a steaming how shower after a long day. The flush of warmth touches to the core. It took me twenty-three years to discover this one but I'll be keeping this one forever. 

The anticipation of a date. Whether it's me waiting or watching a friend anxiously await the arrival of another - the bubbling excitement of being whisked away is nothing short of lovely. Obsessively looking out the window to spot the anticipated headlights, shaky hands applying that last and most important coat of lip stick, and of course, the shameless lift of breasts so they spill perfectly out of the top of your blouse. Don't act like you've never done it, ladies. It's blissful in and of itself. Try it.

Taking a back road. Here in Southern Maryland, there are few things that beat the feeling of blasting country music, rollin' the windows down and taking the long way home. There's a therapy unlike any other in just simply cruising at your own pace on your own path of wild and untamed land. 

One of my favorite captures of back road life in SoMD. Simplicity at its finest.
Pillow talk after a few glasses of red wine. The warm and sensual touch of red wine in winter brings me a comfort unlike any other. Being completely entwined with the person you love. Raw. Honest. Unforgiving. Sharing secrets in the simple light of candle after. Well, I'll leave that as is. My Momma is a reader here (ha!).

The first step onto a sandy ocean shore. No matter how many times I find myself at the edge of an ocean, the waves crash below my feet and fill me with childlike giddiness. The salt burning my eyes as I dive head first into the ocean sway and the gentle pull of undercurrents bring me to a place of complete and utter relaxation. Nothing beats salty hair and sunburnt lips. 

A beautifully deep conversation. I can't help but think of my sweet friend Kim who left us far too soon when I think about those conversations you have with a friend that make you think in a way that is inspiring, motivating, and nothing short of fulfilling. Sharing with people who challenge you. Who make you better. That's bliss. Love you, always for that Kim. 

It seems that as we grow older and dance our way through our very own coming of age story, bliss is harder to come by. We get caught in the ebb and flow of adulthood. The looming list of to-do, the bills to be paid, the people to report to, life to keep in order. I know that making a list like this reminds me that experience bliss a lot more than I take the time to recognize. 

So, I'll ask... Where do you find your bliss?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stovetop Beef Stew

There's something mildly intimidating about taking a stab at classic recipe. I often find myself shying away from the classics as if I haven't matured enough in my culinary exploration to nail them. To put it plainly, I think they just scare me! Now that we've finally felt the chill of winter arrive here in Southern Maryland and stew meat was on sale at Food Lion (yay!), I decided the stars had aligned for me to take a stab at a tried and true American classic: beef stew. While this recipe certainly needs to be reserved for a weekend due to the length of time it needs to cook, it was actually very easy. This was well worth the wait; the meat was incredibly tender and it was warming and rich without being overbearing. There is very little flour involved, too. The stew thickens with the length of time it cooks, the starch of the turnip and potato and the richness is developed through the tomato paste. 


1-2 pounds chuck roast or stew meat
1/4 cup flour (to toss meat in)
3 large ribs celery
3 large carrots
1 large turnip
5-6 small red potatoes
1 medium sweet onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
3 oz (1/2 can) tomato paste
4 cups reduced sodium beef broth
Olive Oil


1.) Cut meat into small, bite-sized pieces. I marinated mine in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoned salt for 3 hours prior to cutting but that is optional. Toss bite-sized pieces in 1/4 cup of flour.
2.) Over medium-high heat, drizzle olive oil in large stock pot or dutch oven. Brown meat in batches, removing as the outside becomes nice and brown. The meat does not need to cook fully here.
3.) Once all meat is brown and removed from pan, add in diced onion and minced garlic. Cook until onions become fragrant and slightly translucent. About 5-8 minutes.
4.) Add tomato paste, 3 cups of beef broth (you want to reserve about 1 cup for when you add the vegetables later on in the recipe), and browned meat. Add thyme, rosemary, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and bring to a boil. Simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes. Stir occassionally, scraping the bottom of the pan.
Nice and thick!
5.) While meat, tomato paste, broth and onions are simmering, cut up carrots, celery, potato (skin on). Peel turnip and dice. A rough dice works well for all these.
6.) After beef and broth have simmered for atleast 45 minutes, add in vegetables and remaining 1 cup of stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour.
7.) Once stew has thickened and meat begins to fall apart with potatoes, your recipe is complete! Serve over egg noodles, rice or mashed potatoes!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookie Bars

There's something about the stark cold of winter that makes me want to preheat the oven, melt some butter, cream some sugar and create the most decadent and delicious baked goods. I'm really not one for baking, to be quite frank. I don't like the necessity for exact measurements (because I am so not the eyeball it baker) and I haven't had much success with baking perfection in the past. But! I have found that for those who lack that inherent, grandmotherly baking skill, starting with a cake mix can be an easy way to mask your lack of baking talent. Adding instant pudding and applesauce to a regular cake mix ensures that whatever you're baking will have the necessary moistness. Additionally, I often swap applesauce for oil (usually not completely but it could be done) to cut down on calories and add extra fiber. If you wanted to try out today's recipe without the applesauce, just use 3/4 cup of oil instead of 1/2.

Today's snow flurries had me craving something fresh baked so I mixed up an incredibly easy cookie bar!


1 box golden butter cake mix (yellow works, too)
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 individual cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or m&ms, or anything you have!)


1.) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Grease a 13x9 pan. I use cooking spray to cut down calories but good ol' butter and flour works too.
3.) Dump cake mix, pudding mix, applesauce, oil, water, eggs and chips into Kitchen Aid mixer bowl.
4.) Mix through on low speed.
5.) Spread batter into greased pan and place into the oven. Sprinkle with more chips if desired. 
6.) Bake for 20-27 mins on 350.
7.) Enjoy your effortless baking glory!