Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Last Friday I offered valuable tips and recommendations that I have no doubt changed your lives forever. Today I opt for "invitations." And before you get too far in and decide that you, for some inexplicable reason, have far more important things to do than read my blog, I want to point out that Caroline will be taking care of Friday's post. Trust me, you will enjoy it. Avatar eyebrows are not mentioned once.

Invitation #1
Tell me about your favorite present. And don't give me any melodramatic stuff about the gift of time or love or friendship. Blah, blah, blah. ...

I am fortunate enough to have really thoughtful gift-givers in my life. The cow cookie jar (featured in a post several weeks ago) that my Dad bought at Grider "antiques" and gave to me Christmas 2005 will forever more be considered family heirloom. The revival of my mickey mouse watch, a fashion staple that adorned my wrist from the time I was 7 to around 10, last Christmas was a wonderfully perceptive and ridiculously cute surprise. Mom had saved it for years and last fall had a new battery installed and a new thin, black leather band (that looked nearly identical to the original) put on. Yesterday, however, I received a gift that was not from someone required by familial obligation or holiday consumerism to go out of their way for me. One of my thoughtful, incredibly insightful, and genuinely kind students had scanned and made copies of a few of his Mamaw's recipes for me. It was a gesture that speaks to everything that I talk about here - of family, of "things that look like" someone, of the stories told in handwriting itself, and obviously, of the joy of cooking. While unexpected and unnecessary, it was a present that I absolutely adored. Forget inspiring others to care about things that I find interesting or necessary or useful; this is why I teach.:)

Invitation #2
Watch this (and any other youtube clips) from The Avett Brothers. After doing so, I then invite you to become a fan on facebook, a fan on The Avett Brothers website, and to attend a summer concert (because watching a few videos will pique your interest, I promise).

Invitation #3
Caroline and I are going to try to tackle Tolstoy's, War and Peace in the coming months. If anyone wants to join us, I welcome it. We plan to set up phone or online discussions to keep ourselves on track. And, I think, solely for the purpose of education, we should probably plan a review session one weekend in Chicago.

I received my copy in the mail this week. Initial sophisticated and insightful critique: I knew it was big, but not this big. [Insert Michael Scott comment if you so choose]

Invitation #4
I am considering two events in May to which I invite you to accompany me.

May 15: Rain Barrel Workshop in Georgetown ($45 - includes a barrel)
May 22: Scenic City Trail 1/2 Marathon in Chattanooga

Invitation #5
Well, this is more suggestion than invitation - Consider buying a Netflix streaming package. For $10/month, you can create a username and password and then stream thousands of movies and documentaries on your home computer (and on other computers as well if you, like Andy, are willing to share your information with people you kind of like). You will not have access to the latest blockbusters, but fantastic options are endless. I, myself, am in the process of exhausting the Indie Romance and Documentary sections; Recommendations thus far: Conversations with Other Women, Broken English, Food, Inc., Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Flannel Pajamas.


Recipe for the Week: Gingerbread Biscotti
Found on The Joy of Baking website via Stumble Upon

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (can also use pecans or walnuts) - I used walnuts
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used "light" - was all I had handy)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark or golden raisins
Glaze: (optional)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 - 3 tablespoons milk or light cream

Preheat oven to 350 and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until brown and fragrant. Set aside to let the nuts cool and then coarsely chop. (Note: To toast pecans, walnuts, or almonds, bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until brown and fragrant.)

In a food processor, process 1/2 cup (50 grams) of the rolled oats until finely ground. *I don't have a food processor so my biscotti was a little more textured than most store-bought options.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the 1/2 cup of finely ground oats, the remaining 1/2 cup of rolled oats, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the chopped hazelnuts and raisins and beat just until incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide the dough in half. Take each half of dough and form it into a log, about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 3 inches apart. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300. Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut into 3/4 inch slices, on the diagonal. Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, turn slices over, and bake for another 6-8 minutes or until dry and firm. Remove from oven and let cool. Can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

Glaze (optional): In a small bowl stir together the sugar, vanilla extract, and enough milk (cream) to make a smooth, thick, yet pourable glaze. Use a small spoon to drizzle several thin lines of the glaze over each biscotti. Let the biscotti sit at room temperature until the glaze has completely dried.

Makes about 30 biscotti.

* I also tried some pumpkin scones. You can find the recipe on that same website.


  1. Allow me to be the first to say that's what she said.
    Best present? 5th birthday, poor as dirt, my mom gives me a Hot Wheels 57' Chevy with a functioning hood. It had awesome flames painted on the side. Wish I had it today. Followed closely by a ticket to a concert in Knoxville someone once gave me. And my friends and family's time and love of course.
    And, just to be clear, I'm not sharing my password with anyone else. I reserve that for people that I "kind of like".

  2. One of my favorite gifts was given to me by a friend of mine. It was her personal copy of The Things They Carried that she had written little notes in. She knew how much I enjoyed the book in class and as a graduation present she gave me hers. I would recommend it if you haven't already read it.

    Another one is my stuffed dalmatian Lucky. My stepdad bought him for me eleven years ago and I've slept with him nearly every night since (I know, I'm a dork). He is now grey, has no spots, and has little patches where he's incredibly worn. There are also some mysterious stains, but I try not to think of what they might be.

    Oh, and I'm glad to see you are still stumbling :)

  3. Andy - You're going to wake up one morning and find flames painted on the side of your prius. Then we will drive it to Cream and Sugar for pancakes, followed hours later by Chaney's ice cream. Have a couple of CDs that might be good entertainment.

    Alexus - I've never even heard of The Things They Carried. Thanks for the recommendation. And I think that was a pretty wonderful gift.

    Hmm, interesting name for a dalmation that is mysteriously dirty, without spots, and an odd shade.
    :) Lucky and my bear Patches need a picture together.

  4. Liza
    That would be perfect considering that my Prius is about the size of a Hot Wheels car. That also introduces a problem. Cheneys + Cream and Sugar = No longer able to fit into my Hot Wheels Prius. I'm just saying. Pancakes and peanut brittle ice cream...they should meet.

  5. Favorite present-when John made me a dollhouse for my barbies (when we lived on King Street). He will say that I am making this up, but I remember it vividly and I was blown away by how cool it was.
    War and Peace-if I read the Cliff Notes, can I still join your book study in Chicago?
    I am very interested in learning more about the rain barrels. Devin and I have two barrels that we need to transform (cut a hole, add filter to the top and add a spout). Also, our neighbor works at Lost River Cave and I think they are building rain barrels and people in the community can apply for one (free of charge maybe?)- I will need to find out more about this.

  6. Oh, good ole King St.:) What a great many funny memories. What did the dollhouse look like, Lindsey? Maybe you can make a replica for Carsen?!

    For sure! Regardless though, I would so love it if you wanted to take a weekend road trip to chicago this summer:)

    If you decide you want to go to the workshop, let me know. And definitely let me know if you find any more info. on the possible free ones.