A Note About WordAds and ads on blogs (repost)

This is a repost, but I think it is still important; I still have ads, but still make almost nothing off of them, and I still think people have the right to like, dislike, block, or avoid ads on blogs to their hearts’ content.

I wanted to address a blogging issue that might come up for some of you – the possibility that ads will show up in a blog. The way that WordPress.com works, with my membership here, means that I cannot control whether ads show up. If you’ve seen ads on my blog for the past 10 months, it was beyond my choice.

Just recently, however, I was offered a small share of that revenue generated by ads, through the WordAds program. I don’t anticipate making much money because this blog still has a small readership, but I would ask something: when you are reading personal blogs that have ads, especially food blogs that are nicer than mine and have better photos and recipe cards and all of that, please don’t turn your ad-blocker on. This isn’t about me or my blog; it’s about the community of food bloggers.

It’s been an issue I’ve been reading about, and it seems that nearly 40% of ads gets blocked by ad blockers – obviously, I understand people not wanting to see ads, but they also often get to read many interesting things on the internet for free, things that would be less useful if no one was paid to write them. My blog is not among these: I write for fun, and I haven’t invested a lot of money into cameras and hosting and other costs of blogging. But for professional bloggers, watching those ads (or at least ignoring them without blocking them!) seems like a kind way to show your appreciation for the site, and that you want them to be able to continue doing it.

My thoughts on this subject are still developing, but you know already if you read this blog that I’m always thinking about how we form communities, usually around food and family and friends and recipes. I want to be the kind of blog reader that I would want reading my own blog, and I think that might mean (gulp) not running my ad blocker. Have you all seen other models of running a blog that allow us to support those whose work we appreciate, maybe without having to view ads? I hope that is the direction that blogs are headed, but I really don’t know; I just know that I want others to be able to turn their successful blogs into long-term, large-scale work for themselves and their readerships.

All that being said, if you notice something that isn’t functioning because of ads, or if you see an ad that offends you, let me know here in the comments – I want to make sure WordAds is working for my readers, as far as ads in a blog ever can work for readers.

Valentine’s Is for Cookbooks!

Because I was still recovering from the sniffles this morning, Husband set up my present for me before I came downstairs: a cookbook! It looks wonderful and I wanted to share it with you all. Her website is here: http://www.simplebites.net/my-cookbook-brown-eggs-jam-jars/ While making a cookbook isn’t one of my aspirations, it’s always so lovely when a fellow blogger realizes this dream. Check it out!bejj-cover-final-e1421631517405

Super Bowl (of Fluff): Browned Butter Rice Krispies!

It’s funny how a break from all sweets can make you appreciate really good ones. On Friday, I tried a morsel of catering-company rice cereal treat – it was not bad, not at all, but it reminded me of how wonderful the treats made in my Mom’s kitchen were, hunching over a saucepan full of butter and slowly melting marshmallows. I immediately wanted one of those perfect treats, but how to get just one?

The answer came the next day in the fact that we’re going to a Super Bowl party, and I needed something to bring anyway to share! With a lot of health conscious people at work, it never feels right to make a treat like this and just abandon it in the break room, but for a “holiday” like the Super Bowl, I don’t know anyone who makes their meal a health-focused one.

I love browned butter and find it to be a slightly deeper flavor, so I used this recipe instead of the one on the cereal box itself. Tiny specks of brown flecked the melting marshmallow mix, but otherwise, I really couldn’t taste a difference when the whole thing was finished – the truth is that the sweetness of rice crispy cereal is really overpowering! Delicious, sure, but made me excited to return to the calmer fruit-based sweets I’ve been focused on this month.

My boss has pointed out, and it’s been hard to hear, that with Whole30, no one “does it to you. You do it for yourself, so a cheat day is a cheat of yourself.” I have never thought of my health as “for me” – it was always so that I wouldn’t worry those who mattered to me, or leave them with the burden of my care. Whole30, even the triumphant reintroduction of some of my favorite foods, really has made me realize it affects me, and health is for me. Choosing to eat, say, just one rice crispy treat instead of a whole pile of them, is a weird and not-natural thing for me, but doing it has to be the way I respond if I start to take seriously that health is for me!

 

Book Review: Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

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Do you ever read something, and have it remind you of a good meal? I stumbled upon Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, and it has me thinking of macaroni and cheese. Sure, there are two foods in the title, but macaroni is thick and creamy, worth lingering over. Her work is by turns sad and sweet, by turns rich and stark.

Niequist is a religious writer, but she makes it a part of her life, not the goal of the book. She seems more interested in showing how food and life have come together for her than in forwarding a particular experience of spirituality, which I find really refreshing and lovely. It also opens me up to all the lovely parts of her religious experience: she’s gotten to marry friends of hers, and share food while discussing the Bible, and pray over those she loves. I don’t know much about her specific beliefs, but I do love that I learn about the foods and the travels and the friends that matter so much to her.

She has some serious thoughts about hospitality, which seem relevant as I’m embarking on my badly-defined quest to know how hospitality fits into modern life. She sees her home as a place that hosts others: even when she and her husband disagree on how warm to keep the place, even when things are awkward or unplanned or not what anyone expected. There’s something so authentic about the way she discusses both her own need to make a lot of experiences good for her guests and her own longing to release some of her unnecessary worries.

I’d recommend it as a winter time read; it has made me feel comforted and warm while I sit in a cold house and nurse a frigid cup of old coffee. It makes me think about how it’s worth it to make a new pot of hot water, to enjoy each bite of a piece of toast, and to write about the way people have made my life so rich and lovely. It’s a good way to feel about a book.

Cranberry Almond Granola – Homemade Christmas Gift!

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I get hits on this blog because of the title, like anyone, but one thing seems to be a little deceptive – people come here looking for those soup mixes and cookie mixes that look cute in mason jars and are nice presents for people. The recipe for the cookies or the soup comes with the jar, so I guess “recipe in a bottle” is a reasonable thing to search if you want to make those as gifts!

This year, though, I did give one gift in a jar: granola. In college, I learned to love granola for the thick crunch of it, the fact that it masked some great fiber and fruit under a cereal-like exterior, and it livened up my vanilla yogurt. I figured out that the difference between oats and granola was just a few mix-ins and some careful baking, so I tried it. My homemade granola, straight from the grubby dorm kitchen, was delightful and made our institutional walls feel a little warmer when I was sharing it with friends.

Using pinterest, I found this recipe, which seemed like a great start. I used all whole unsalted almonds and dried cranberries instead of blueberries, but I used coconut oil for the fat and maple syrup for the sweetness, and mine came out delectable. I’m using it in my mother and father’s Christmas gifts, and I still have some at home for when we return from our travels. It’s a food I associate with being far from home and trying to make it on my own, but it’s pretty nice to share it with the people who got me to the place where I could feel independent and strong. Christmas with family when you are all adults is a nice time to acknowledge the many roles that you’ve had in each other’s lives, and to celebrate those places.

A Pecan Variation on Muffins

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While making Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins, I separated out part of the batter and mixed in a cup of roasted pecans. These mini-muffins were the result – they were more pecan than muffin, but hey… I really like pecans! Taking the mini muffins to Thanksgiving was a great choice – we’ve had one or two of them as snacks and breakfasts for the past 5 days, and I’m quite happy. I feel like this Thanksgiving was one where we all helped together; we all got to have our moment of sharing and our moment of receiving. Sweet family members helped us celebrate our first anniversary together and for that, I’m extra thankful this year. 🙂

Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

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I remember this one coffee shop in my college town had the best pastries – they never had a wide variety, but of the 2 or 3 things they had, everything was always delicious. My favorite was the muffin with cream cheese in the middle – it was so decadent and added a rich tinge to anything I was eating that day. Not to mention, muffins are so light and airy – it’s a wonderful juxtaposition.

In my attempt to not be a burden on the family Thanksgiving celebration, I was determined to make some breakfast treats, as I mentioned in Adult Children and Family Holidays; one of those things was a batch of these blueberry cream cheese muffins! Crazy For Crust has this wonderful recipe, which worked up exactly as she said. I didn’t do the streusel – lazy – but I am confident they would have been even better with that added!

My favorite step was definitely putting a dollop of batter, a gem of cream cheese, and then another dollop of batter on top – it was a fun construction inside some cute parchment paper muffin tins, and after they cooked all brown and caramel-y, they stored really well in a big gallon plastic bag for the trip to see the in-laws! I cannot recommend these enough as an alternative to grabbing grocery store or coffee shop pastries – fast and simple!

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

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I love trying vegetarian recipes, but so often they call for things that some dinner party guests might not recognize – tempeh, or quinoa, or other plant-based protein. Tofu is pretty well known but not universally enjoyed, so when I found an enchilada recipe that mentioned both sweet potatoes and black beans on Pinterest, I thought, “that sounds hearty and recognizeable!”

I started by roasting a giant pan of sweet potatoes; I wanted to make sure no one had an under-done sweet potato in their enchilada. Then I mixed one can of black beans with chipotle chili pepper, garlic, salt, and a half cup of pepper jack cheese. In hindsight, I’d probably mix in some rice, though I think that takes the recipe more in the direction of a burrito, if I understand my burrito/taco/enchilada continuum correctly. We ended up doing rice on the side, so that was fine.

After the sweet potatoes were tender, I mixed them in with the beans and spices, and took out my store-bought enchilada sauce. I’d certainly love to try my own spice blend on some enchiladas, but this was for a party and I wanted to be sure… I recommend tomatillo and roasted garlic green enchilada sauce! I put enough sauce to wet the sides of the dish, and then began folding flour soft taco shells in half and lining the pan. Once the pan was full, I’d add some of the beans and sweet potatoes, fold up the taco shell, and flip it upside down, making sure it wouldn’t fall apart (I hoped?). It was a little messy and there’s probably a better way to do it, but if you’ve read Eating Together Isn’t Always about the Food, you know I was a little nervous at the time and was improvising.

Once those were all done, I covered them in more cheese and the rest of the sauce; I made 7 sweet potato enchiladas in my 9×13 pan. Into the 400 degree oven then went, though I turned it way down when guests arrived and I just wanted them to stay warm. The nice part was that cooking was good but not necessary for the food to be edible, so I felt confident my guests wouldn’t experience any scary food poisoning… a perpetual fear of dinner party hostesses, or maybe just me.

The result was spicy and hearty, flavorful and surprisingly healthy! It came across as a little different from normal enchiladas but not intense or fancy, which was exactly the balance I wanted to strike. 🙂

Delightful Baklava

img_4959Baklava is a work-intensive food, and though most people don’t want you to go to any trouble just to serve them dessert, I kinda like making a difficult dessert for a gathering – this weekend was no exception, and the dessert ended up divine!

I used this recipe as my base, but mostly just did what I wanted; Baklava is not so much mixed together as it is constructed like a house.

The materials for construction were: 1 pound or so of pistachios mixed with a half cup of brown sugar and ground down almost to a powder in my food processor. A pack of fillo dough, thawed and unrolled right before construction (it dries out very quickly and just flakes away into nothing!). A cup of melted butter, and a syrup made of vanilla, honey, water, and more sugar.

Construction proceeds thusly: butter the pan and then fillo dough in the bottom of the baking dish (9×13 worked well for me), more butter, more fillo, more butter, more fillo, a layer of nuts with a smattering of butter, fillo/butter/fillo/butter/fillo/nuts/butter/fillo… until you are out of fillo or the pan is full. If you are still left with a lot of butter, that’s okay. You need to cut the dish before you cook, if at all possible, because it will be much harder to cut after baking – once cut, you can pour the remaining butter on each cut area and it’ll soak in perfectly.

My recipe had me bake for 50 minutes at 350, and it turned out beautiful, as you can see. That gives you plenty of time to melt the ingredients of the syrup together. When the baklava comes out, the syrup is poured all over it while it’s still hot, creating a fun bubbling sound and the best wafting smell of vanilla ever… it soaks into the dessert and doesn’t end up soupy, just sticky and sweet.

It’s nice to be able to try this in a lot of variations – less sweet, more honey, try rosewater as a flavoring, try different nuts – but this classic was a hit with my guests. One woman ate 4 pieces! This is a wonderful compliment for a chef, even if we all know that the butter was the MVP. 🙂

Fast, Tasty, Plant-Based Breakfast

img_4954There is much yet to be done to prepare the house and the food for tonight’s party, so here is a quick recipe for you that yields a lovely breakfast to start your day of things-getting-done.

  1. Cut up at least one potato per person and a quarter of an onion per person, and use your favorite spices and a dash of olive oil to brown them in a pan.
  2. This will take a while, so use the time between pan-scraping to mix half an avocado, a teaspoon (or a tablespoon…) of sour cream, and a tablespoon of your favorite salsa in a small bowl. It should be a creamy sauce, not a chunky guacamole – think crema. Best to use a super-ripe avocado! Add salt and garlic powder to taste.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked through and crisped on the outside, serve in bowls with some of the avocado crema on top. Yes, there’s some dairy in there, but for the most part, you’ve got a hearty plant-based breakfast that tastes like someone’s brunch menu.

What’s your favorite food for going out and getting things done? This one vanished quickly for us and, once I post this blog entry, we’re off!

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