Gettin’ Saucey

Vodka Sauce (With Shrimp & Baby Bella Mushrooms)

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I have made this three times, and each time I used different tomato sauces as the base. I will share the ingredients I felt were most successful in the completion of this dish. My tip: use up what sauces you have in the kitchen pantry – the texture may be a little different each time, but it does not stop you from enjoying what you intended to do in the first place – make a delicious, home-cooked meal! ūüôā

Originally found on, and adapted from, Rocco DiSpirito: http://www.oprah.com/food/Penne-Alla-Vodka

Ingredients:

16 ounces (one 1 lb box) Barilla pipette pasta (up to preference) (The amount of sauce being made can withstand 1 1/2 boxes pasta, if you would like a higher pasta to sauce ratio)

1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Hearty Tomato sauce

1 jar Francesco Rinaldi Tomato & Basil sauce (or Traditional Tomato & Basil sauce)

1.5 oz (one shot or more) Kettle One vodka (any brand of vodka can be substituted, up to preference)

8 ounces (1 container) mascarpone cheese (Beligioso)

1/2 tsp or more ground and/or crushed red pepper, up to preference

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Oregano, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

6 tbsp Italian cheeses

1 tbsp heavy cream (optional)

12 or so extra large shrimp (26/30), cooked and deveined (optional)

3 Baby Bella mushrooms, washed and sliced thinly (optional)

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cover salted water and allow it to boil. Cook pasta according to boxed directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium to large saucepan, heat both jars of pasta sauce on low to medium-low heat.

3. Heat through, add vodka. Stir well, and allow sauce to simmer.

4. Add spices (crushed/ground red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper).

5. Add mascarpone cheese and stir well. Sauce should be a light red color, not yet blush.

6. Spice more to taste. Too much red pepper will overwhelm your palette, so be sure not to add too much unless you are ready to sweat! As an option, add heavy cream to make more of a blush sauce.

7. Add shrimp and/or mushrooms to sauce. You can also sauté the mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil first, with a few dashes of salt, pepper, and garlic.

7. Toss cooked pasta in sauce. Mix well. Sprinkle with Italian cheeses. Enjoy!

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Better Than Applebee’s

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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Referred to Martha Stewart’s Hot Spinach Dip¬†recipe

Ingredients

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for sautéing and to coat baking dish)

1 medium sized Vidalia onion, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

18 oz (2 9 oz bags) fresh spinach

5 or 6 (about 1/2 a can) artichoke hearts, washed and drained

Light margarine (to add to spinach and artichoke sauté)

1/2 cup water (to add to spinach and artichoke sauté)

1/4 cup milk (any type, or can substitute heavy cream)

8 oz (1 bar) 1/3 less fat Philadelphia cream cheese

4 oz (or about 1 hefty spoonful) Breakstone sour cream (can substitute reduced fat or fat free)

Hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Worcestershire sauce, to taste (optional)

Salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cup (Kraft) Italian shredded cheese (1 cup for mixture and 1/2 cup to top)

Tostitos Scoops! tortilla chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees¬†Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 8×8 glass baking dish. A ceramic dish would also work fine.

2. In a large skillet or sauce pan (or a medium sized pot), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, just until glossy, before they brown. Then add minced garlic. Cook for a total of 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add artichoke hearts and cook for about 2 minutes. Then add spinach in four additions, adding a bit of water after each addition. Finish with a dollop of margarine.

4. Drain spinach and artichoke sauté in a strainer or colander (this step is optional, it would be fine to add the sauté drippings to the mixture, and would certainly taste delicious).

5. In the same saucepan, heat milk over medium to low heat. Whisk in cream cheese and sour cream. Be careful not to burn the mixture or let it curdle.

6. Toss in spinach and artichoke mixture, in addition to salt, pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Mix in Italian cheeses.

7. Add contents to oiled glass dish, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or put on low broil for about 10, or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

8. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Substitutions:

  • Can use frozen spinach instead of fresh (thawed and drained)
  • Serve with baguette slices or crackers of choice

Verdict: Being that this was the first time this recipe was attempted without following any exact directions, it was delicious! Creamy, with just the right amount of artichoke to spinach ratio, this dip will definitely serve as a great appetizer for a party or a cheesy snack. The only thing I thought should be done differently would be to put in more hot sauce, to give it some extra heat. Otherwise, this dip certainly turned out better than expected, but I cannot complain about that!

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*Second Edition*

When made a second time, I used:

2 1/2 (9 oz) bags of spinach

1 full can artichokes, drained

all heavy cream (substituted for milk)

Verdict: much heartier than last time, but the extra spinach and artichoke was spot on!

Black and Blueberry Crisp

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My father was gifted some beautiful blueberries today, and right when I saw them, I knew I had to make a sweet dessert with them. At first, I was contemplating making a blueberry muffin, but the more my innovation began to churn, the more I wanted to attempt something a bit more difficult. Then it stunned me – a blueberry wine reduction. A blueberry crisp, ureka! What a wonderful treat for a warm summer night.

I did some research before attempting, and followed the basic jist of these recipes:

http://iadorefood.com/recipes/blueberry-crumble/

http://half-bakedbaker.blogspot.com/2008/06/blueberry-nectarine-crisp-and-award.html

One of my favorite desserts is apple crisp (mostly the crumb topping). I had at least half a bottle of a beautiful, locally fermented blackberry wine that I have desperately been wanting to use in a baked dessert, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to test the waters.

This dish is seriously delicious. I was hesitant to put more crumble on top before baking, and I wish I did! The blackberry wine gives it a unique fruity and sweet undertone which makes this dessert truly one of a kind. The cookie dough type crumble adds a different texture that complimented nicely with the fresh berries. Top with a vanilla ice cream or eat it directly out of the dish – the choice is yours.

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Black and Blueberry Crisp

Crumble topping:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 tbsp)

1/2 cup light brown sugar (not packed down)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup Honey Maid graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used vietnamese cinnamon that I purchased from Whole Foods)

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Filling:

1/4 cup Blackberry wine

1/2 cup granulated sugar

16 ounces (2 cups) fresh blueberries, washed

6 ounces (0.75 cup) fresh blackberries, washed

Directions:

1. Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×9 ceramic baking dish lightly with unsalted butter.

2. Make the crumble topping and set it aside:

  1. Cream together the butter and brown sugar in a stand up (or hand held) mixer.
  2. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix in the flour and graham cracker crumbs until they are well incorporated into the batter.
  3. Fold in the oats.
  4. Add cinnamon and nutmeg.

Tip: Use your hands if necessary. You will not only be able to see if the texture of the dough is forming correctly, but it will also be easier to incorporate all the ingredients.

The topping should be very similar to a cookie dough. Do not fret! The dough will be moist, but it will bake through.

3. Make the berry reduction:

  1. On low to medium-low heat, add wine and sugar to a medium sized sauce pan.
  2. Let it thicken (come to a light boil) and make a simple syrup. (note: this is what I SHOULD have done, but added the berries a minute or so too early)
  3. Gently toss in blackberries and blueberries to the syrup. Let the mixture reduce and start to bubble around the edges of the saucepan.

4. Add the berry reduction to the ceramic dish.

5. Evenly sprinkle the “crumble” dough on top. Make sure the entire dish is covered with the crumble. (Seriously, you will want to, because it is absolutely delicious!)

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping becomes a golden brown and the filling begins to bubble. Let it cool for a minute or two, and enjoy!

Update 5/19: Refrigerate up to 3 to 4 days at most. The cookie crumb topping (after 3 days) has retained its texture and has not gotten mushy by any means. The syrup has set and it looks just as delicious as it did after being baked in the oven.

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Red Hearts for Mother’s Day

Red Velvet Cookies White Chocolate Chips

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all! A special thank you to all mothers, for whom it gives young and empowered women hope for the future of being what we are destined to be – not only wives, friends, partners and workers, but also mothers (and grandmothers). The life cycle depends on women who can not necessarily reproduce, but who can put the lives of others before their own. I hope one day, I will be able to raise a beautiful family of my own and give my children all they desire and push them into a higher direction with a great role model in mind.

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For Mother’s Day, I wanted to bake something special for my mother. She is the absolute best, the one and only person I can absolutely trust with no questions asked, and one of my biggest influences/role models. She taught me how to bake, she has taught me how to cook, and most of all, she puts up with me. The love and care she¬†extrudes goes beyond that which I will ever be able to explain, so the only way I know how to thank her is to do what I love the most in this world: bake. Many of the red velvet recipes I researched involved using¬†pre-made¬†cake mixes, and I did not want to take the easy way out. I finally found one that did not use more traditional ingredients, such as white vinegar and/or vegetable shortening, which in my opinion, should never enter into the baking equation. The substitution of a red velvet bakery emulsion in place of the red food coloring gives this cookie the deep balanced bitter tones I feel are desired in this delectable treat, while still adding the red aspect. In other words, red food coloring adds a very artificial flavor (and color) and the emulsion gives it a nice color and texture, without the dye or alcohol.

With a good dosing of cocoa, this cookie hints at a beautifully sweet brownie, without being too rich or overwhelming. The addition of white chocolate chips gives a certain subtly that balances out the bitter cocoa flavor. I am glad I bought the red velvet bakery emulsion when I saw it, because I checked to see if I had food coloring afterwards, and, not to my surprise, I had zero. Talk about innovation and going with your gut!

This recipe is definitely one for the books. I urge everyone to bake or cook for your loved ones this weekend – it is one of the many things that will always bring sparkle and joy to another’s eyes.

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History of Red Velvet: This is quite fascinating! 

1. http://voices.yahoo.com/little-known-facts-red-velvet-cake-456633.html?cat=69

2. http://www.gilttaste.com/stories/2290-the-unknown-history-of-red-velvet-cake

Red Velvet dates back to about 1873, but started circulation in the 1920s!

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Recipe: 

Adapted from: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2010/10/red-velvet-chocolate-chip-cookies-from-scratch/

Found on: http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Red-velvet-chocolate-chip-cookies-333824?columns=Infinity&position=1/27

My adaptations are highlighted in bold

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Ingredients: 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1¬†brown¬†egg (Eggland’s Best)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp red velvet bakery emulsion (LorAnn’s)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp low sodium salt

1/3 cup cocoa powder, Ghirardelli

1/2 (to 2/3) cup white chocolate chips, Ghirardelli

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. (I used a USA baking sheet, coated with Americoat)

2. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer.

3. Add egg and vanilla and combine until smooth.

4. Beat in red velvet bakery emulsion.

5. Stir in cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt until just combined, scraping down the sides when needed.

6. Fold in white chocolate chips.

7. Using a medium to large sized scoop, scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of dough and set on baking sheet. Spread out on pan about 2 inches apart. Flatten each dough ball, so each is 2 to 3 inches in diameter. 

8. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. On the USA pan, it only took about 9 minutes.

USA Pans: http://www.usapans.com/

LorAnn’s Oils & Bakery Emulsions:¬†https://www.lorannoils.com/c-10-bakery-emulsions.aspx

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Cabbage’s Salvation

Asian-style Shrimp Tacos

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I absolutely love seafood, and fish tacos seemed like a great springtime treat. I wanted to make a simple cabbage recipe I was taught by someone very special and close to my heart. He normally uses Worcestershire sauce, however I was misinformed into thinking I had some. In this instance, I winged it. I had an urge to spice it up a bit with some Asian flavors. Using what I had in my fridge at the moment turned out to be a surprisingly easy task.

This recipe is quick and simple to make and construct, and is quite delicious! The chili garlic sauce added a linger kick to the back of throat, while the plum sauce added a hint of sweetness to the plain tortilla. It reminded me vaguely of moo shu shrimp.

I nailed this recipe on the first try and it is not to be missed out on! Especially if you have left over shrimp or a head of cabbage that needs some beheading ūüėõ A bit messy, but hey, that is half the fun!

Ingredients:

1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped or shaved with mandolin slicer

1 to 2 tbsp grape seed oil

Pepper, to taste

15 (or so) extra large (26/30) shrimp, precooked and deveined

2 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1/2 tsp gourmet Teriyaki

1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce

Small tortillas

Plum sauce, for tortillas

Directions:

1. Add grape seed oil (or a margarine) to a large skillet over low heat.

2. Stir in cabbage, add pepper to taste and cover with lid. Steam for 2 to 4 minutes.

3. Add hoisin, teriyaki and chili garlic sauces. Stir until coated. Cook for about one minute.

4. Meanwhile, heat both sides of tortillas (until warm) on a stovetop griddle or in a pan, which is lightly sprayed with canola oil.

5. Lightly coat the warmed tortillas with plum sauce, to give the taco a bit of sweetness.

6. Stir cooked shrimp into cabbage mixture until heated through.

7. Add cabbage and shrimp to the tortillas and enjoy! (About 2 to 3 shrimp per tortilla)

Other suggestions: 

  • Add red cabbage for a bright, vibrant color
  • For a bit of a crunch, add finely chopped water chestnuts
  • Shrimp can also be substituted for chicken (or added to) for another, different textured protein
  • For a hotter flare, ginger paste or fresh ginger could be added to the cabbage mixture

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At the Heart of Every Orange is a Creamsicle

Minneola Orange Creamsicle Cookies

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One thing I noticed about this recipe was that it did not make mention of vanilla extract. I found that quite odd, and still decided to take a chance on them. After making my adaptations (in bold below), I cannot imagine what the cookie would have been like missing an emulsion or extract. In addition, I was a little worried that 2 1/4 cups of flour would prevent the cookies from being chewy, and make them more cake-like, however that did not seem to be the case. I guess that is how it goes – you risk the upset to get where you want to be, and in this case, it was to experiment and give it a go no matter how it turned out. Luckily, they baked wonderfully!

Adapted from: http://www.sprinklewithflour.com/2012/02/orange-creamsicle-cookies.html

(I am almost positive this is not an adapted recipe {only by the change of substituting white chocolate chips for vanilla chips}, but merely a replica, or an adoption of a recipe, found in The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, but I will give this blogger credit anyway.)

Original recipe: http://www.bakespace.com/recipes/detail/Orange-Vanilla-Chip-Cookies/9980/

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2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Dash of ground cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1¬†brown¬†egg¬†(Eggland’s Best)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp orange bakery emulsion (which I found at HomeGoods)

Zest of 2 Minneola oranges [about 4 to 5 tbsp] (I really enjoy the bright, orange color of them, but its up to preference)

Juice from 1/2 of a zested orange

1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk together and set aside.

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3. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

4. Add egg and beat until combined.

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5. Add vanilla extract and orange bakery emulsion (optional).

6. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until well incorporated.

7. Add orange zest and orange juice and beat to distribute.

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8. Stir in white chocolate chips.

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9. Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon to drop in rounded spoonfuls on cookie sheets, leaving plenty of room between cookies to allow for some spreading (at least 2 inches).

10. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes until light golden brown. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Verdict: 

This recipe needs a flavoring extract and/or an emulsion. Maybe it is just my preference to add an ingredient or two that would seemingly bring out the flavors out a bit more, but I was worried the dough would have been too thick and dense to bake evenly. The white chocolate chips added a smoothness that without, the cookie would have been missing an underlying sweet tone. It adds a nice depth of texture, and eases any acidity. The ones I experimented with, disregarding the white chocolate chips, were still tasty, but were a bit too pungent for my liking. I am not much of an orange girl (although I am definitely fruity) and these really drove my taste buds wild. These cookies reminded me of being at summer day camp Рin the midsts of the moments when we would concoct ice cream sundaes and during the afternoons when we would receive popsicles, splitting them in half, and trading half of one for half a vanilla popsicle with amongst one another, to make our own mix and matched creamsicles. Overall, this recipe needed a bit of adapting, but was surprisingly delightful. For a nice spring or summery treat, this cookie would lend very well to a vanilla ice cream or a strong cup of coffee.

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One Roux to Rule Them All

Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

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This is my first attempt at my very own mac and cheese. I followed a similar recipe I had found from the Food Network (by the Neely’s) as a basis to get mine started. Rich and luxurious, this mac and cheese will surely fill you up. The mild Gouda gives it a distinctive taste, while the mild Gruy√®re calms it down. In addition, the intense, four-year aged white cheddar gives it a sharp taste to your buds, and the goat cheese adds a much needed creaminess. I found my cheeses at Wegman’s. With their distinctive and plethora of imported and domestic cheeses, I knew I would surely find some to give my concoction a much needed flare.

Ingredients:

1 lb (one box) whole wheat pasta shells (or pasta of choice)

4 tablespoons (1 half stick) of unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 teaspoon shallots, diced (I used jarred)

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups heavy cream

2 or more cups 4 year-aged Cheddar, white

2 cups organic mild Gouda (origin: Holland)

1/4 or more cup Goat cheese (classic chèvere)

1 cup mild Gruyere

1/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc White Wine (Sutter Home, California)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

Ground red cayenne pepper, to taste

Paprika, to taste

Thyme leaves, to taste

French bread, toasted (to make into bread crumbs for topping)

Parsley (for topping)

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Directions:

1. Cook choice of pasta according to box directions. I like to cook it while I make the sauce, so the pasta does not sit for a while without being tossed. Cook until al dente.

2. Lightly grease¬†the bottom and sides of a 13×9 (aluminum) pan with unsalted butter.

3. Meanwhile, on low heat, make a roux.

How to make a roux:

  • Melt butter in a medium to large saucepan.
  • The butter should bubble and become frothy. Add garlic and shallots. Be sure not to brown the butter too much – a light brown color is alright.
  • By the tablespoon, whisk in the flour. [Equal amounts of butter to flour is a safe ratio to use]. Be consistent in whisking, so the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. A thick paste should form.

Tip: You can also use a wooden spoon if you do not want to whisk the roux

For extra assistance: http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinaryfundamentals/ss/roux.htm

4. Once the roux has finished forming, add the heavy cream. Allow the mixture to boil, on low to medium-low heat.

5. After it boils, add the Sauvignon Blanc white wine. Allow it to cook off for a minute or two. Whisk/stir frequently.

6. Add spices: black pepper, red cayenne pepper, paprika and thyme. In this instance, the cheeses act as a substitute for salt. However, if you feel the need, add a dash of salt.

7. Add the variety of cheeses (shredded): cheddar, gouda, gruyère and goat cheese. Whisk/stir frequently. The sauce should thicken up by this point. Add any extra spices. I added a bit more ground black pepper, because the nuttiness and intensity of the cheeses can overpower any previously added seasonings.

8. Toss the pasta into the sauce pan and make sure it is completely covered with the gooey, cheesy deliciousness.

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9. Pour the cheese-covered pasta into the greased pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and finely chopped parsley. You can also top it with bread crumbs after it goes into the oven. (To make the bread crumbs, all I did was cut a few slices of French bread into 1 inch cubes and allowed them to toast in the oven).

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10. Into the oven it goes, on 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, to bake through, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the top of the casserole to brown up a bit before serving. Sprinkle with extra parsley and/or bread crumbs if desired.

11. Enjoy!

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Bunny. Eats. Design. has invited me to share one of my recipes in the May 2013 Our Growing Edge monthly blogging event (hosted by Sonya)! This event is aimed at helping inspire and connect food bloggers across the World Wide Web. I am truly honored! Thank you!

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Good Caramels and Good Karma

Caramel Remedies

One thing I have always wanted to attempt, but never felt I would be successful at, was to make confectioneries and candies. However, I had always found and made an excuse not to cook, or even try. Mitigations are made, plans are rescheduled, and work needs to be finished. We are so “busy” being wrapped up with being busy, that we forget what is truly important or matters…ourselves. What makes our heart, and soul, sing. But, excuses are not reasons. Nor, are reasons relatively excuses.

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Here is a shortened version of my caramel karma…

In April 2012, when I was struggling with the worsts of my diagnosed acute anxieties and variable symptoms of PTSD that were at highs taller than any mountain peaks, I was taking a children’s literature course as a part of an early childhood education program. As I was enrolled in many early morning classes and had difficulty focusing, I started self-medicating with any foul substance (without the pursuit of alcohol, however) that would soothe and calm me down, ultimately in the hopes of being able to sleep through the night. I would wake up consistently in hot sweats, suffer from hot flashes and dry heave until there was nothing left in my stomach. I would not be able to pull myself out of bed some days and procrastinated to the night’s end. (Even writing this hurts the wounds I told myself I would move forward from). During that period of time, the only person who truly stuck by my side, was (and still is) my mother, the angel that she is. School work was overwhelming and in that time, I would procrastinate to no end, deeming that life, school, and humanity was an unfair mockery deemed upon me at only 21 years of age. Yet, I was able to push forward and finish the spring semester. And as blurry as the memory seems now, I found a safe haven in reading children’s books. As silly gags can create miraculous inspirations, I, with my go-getting mother, collaborated on a children’s picture book (currently in the midst of working towards publication). That book is called Patrick’s Big Mistake (all rights reserved.)

The story goes as follows: A young pig, named Patrick, was assisting in his father’s popcorn factory on their farm and was asked to make a batch of delicious, buttery popcorn to sell locally. However, Patrick being an idealistic and charming child, his day dreams got to him, and he became unfocused. With this, he accidentally used the incorrect ingredients to make the butter, (sugar instead of salt) ultimately making caramel. In a rush, he poured it over the popcorn and was terrified that he ruined the batch of freshly popped popcorn his father slaved over to create. But…was it truly a mistake? For, Patrick created caramel popcorn…re birthing the popcorn with a new identity, flavor and delectable design…one that no one every thought of. And, ultimately, gave it a new beautiful life…

This book has been deemed successful, and the innovative brilliance of the moral culminated in – there is never a wrong way to do things. Everything is a learning experience and every lesson has a moral within itself. And, sometimes a mistake is not a mistake at all. Perhaps, we could all learn from Patrick and his “big mistake”…never be afraid to admit you were wrong, and never be afraid to tell the truth – for the truth can help take the weight of the world off your shoulders.

It has taken me a year to come to terms with my anxieties, to begin releasing my inner demons, to accept my faults and flaws, and to seek treatment and therapy in holistic remedies, as well as through various artistic mediums. I never realized how closely I could relate to Patrick’s story…the guilt and agony of making a mistake. Or, allowing a short lived lesson learned to burden your soul. Being human means finding beauty in the error of our misguidance and mishaps…something we should shape into positive attributes and take forward to unconditional happiness.

One year later…now, in April 2013, I have faced one of my fears – candy making. I have always wanted to create caramels, but without the proper training and holding onto an irrational fear of burning the sugar, I allowed my anxieties and misfortunes to get the best of me. Now, within two days, I have put together two different adapted caramel recipes, one of which is posted at the end of this account.

There is much truth in the idea that you must struggle through your doubts and deeds, only to remain strong and courageous in the end. My heart goes out to those suffering from irrationalities, paranoia, hallucinations and most of all, mourning devastation and terrors. You are never alone. But to face those fears head on allows you to see light and beauty at the end of the dark, almost endless, tunnel. I promise you…the tunnel does end. The well will hit rock bottom. However, if you are able to crawl out of the darkness a better person, shining brightly and flourishing with strength, life, unconditional love and beautiful innovations to justify your creativity, then you have already succeeded at something that many people cannot fathom – that life goes on. Mourning is only one stage of the process, grief is merely an illusion of the resentment and guilt we put upon others and ourselves. It may be a step backwards, but it surely enough pushes us on a golden path of enlightenment and wisdom.

Please, I encourage anyone and everyone to follow their dreams and passions, you don’t have to “quit your day job” to try something new or to even conquer your deepest embedded fears. For, even I still hold onto plenty. The end result is worth the wait and the violent bubbling. The patience and calmness will be worth the risk factor and the judgements…they are all delusions and manifestations of the mind (in humans and animals alike). We all make mistakes, Patrick and myself included, but we can take action to control our lives in the present moment, and in the future.

(This is dedicated to my mother…and to the relationships that I have struggled with my entire life. I am blessed and grateful for this life, for everyone I have met and for everyone reading this blog. I am thankful for the support in my journey to recovery, and this life…it is surreal. It is one of a kind. And it is ours to share.)

[Please, feel free to contact me if you need a helping hand, advice or someone to banter back and forth with. It is devastating to feel as if there is no one out there who understands. We are never alone. There is always someone who understands, not always for the worse, but always assisting for the better…to put an end to the bitter and the hatred.]

Let’s get to the good CARAMELS. Below is the original recipe (link included) along with my personal adaptations in bold (first discovered it on http://www.foodgawker.com). I encourage anyone interested in taking a risk to take it in the sweetness and pure beauty that is sugar.

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