Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Red, White, and Blueberries

Let me guess, you’re going to a 4th of July party with a bunch of hipsters who can’t eat anything yummy (read: burgers and brats), and you have no idea what to bring. Problem solved!*

*Note: Problem not solved if your hipster friends are doing Whole 30 as this summer treat is full of dairy. Problem only solved if your crew likes yogurt in mason jars. 

The main reason I think this would be a good party treat is because it’s so easy to make and super customizable. I made these parfaits look patriotic for the 4th, but you could use virtually any ingredients to make them fit your preferences. (See this post I did on a less healthy caramel apple parfait.) 

Patriotic Parfait Recipe
- Blueberries
- Strawberries
- Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani Vanilla Blended)
- Almond Slivers, Granola
- Honey to taste

It feels silly to even call this a recipe because it’s so easy-breezy. But in case you couldn’t figure it out on your own, I layered the ingredients in the mason jar, beginning with the greek yogurt. I added the blueberries next, and another layer of yogurt then I put strawberries on the top (obviously I should have put the blueberries on the top considering this post is called “Red, White, and Blueberries — oops). On the very top, I drizzled honey and added a few almond slivers.

So really this #shelearnsthings is about meal-planning because I’m so excited to have these yogurts to take to work this week! It takes me a while to warm up to the idea of breakfast in the morning, so I kinda have to force myself to eat something small first thing. (Does breakfast make anybody else nauseous, or is it just me?) My roommate, Merry, takes parfaits similar to these to work weekly and she really likes making (and eating) them. So, I’m accepting her influence and making room for more mason jars in the fridge! Speaking of the fridge, they should last several days when properly refrigerated.

Let me know if you make parfaits for patriotism! I'm going to eat mine now. America!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

10 Tips for Saying Thank You

Writing notes of gratitude may be a lost art, but perhaps due to Jimmy Fallon, thank you notes are coming back in style. Here's 10 tips for how to properly appreciate someone:

1. Be sincere: Even if your Aunt Irene gifted you a cat sweater you totally hate (although I'm not sure why anybody would hate a cat sweater), try to give your gratitude honestly. E.g., you should say something like "this sweater is sure to keep me warm over the winter!" (fact) rather than "I've never loved anything more!" (lie).

2. Be timely: Timeliness is important when writing thank you's because it often reflects sincerity. A too-late thank you could look like an afterthought, and you wouldn't want that! Ideally, send thank you's no later than 2 days after the gift was given or event was experienced. (Oops, I guess I'd better start writing some..)

3. Be specific: Specificity is one of the cardinal rules of thank you cards. You'll want to name exactly what you're giving gratitude for, and even feel free to mention why you're giving thanks. I had a set of fill-in-the-blank thank you notes as a child, and they were good for this. "Thank you for the __________; I like it because __________." Sounds silly, but people like to hear why you enjoyed the gift and how you'll use it!

4. Find a cute card: Self explanatory. Re: That cute card, use a notecard instead of a letter. This takes a lot of pressure off you because notecards can fit approx. 5 sentences as opposed to the 15 or so you could fit on a letter. Chances are, you don't have a novel-worth of things to say in your thank you note, so keep it short and sweet. 

5. Thanking somebody for a tangible gift: Send a picture! Snapping a photo really adds a nice touch to the note. I have a family friend who is so kind to often send me gift cards for my birthday or Christmas. I also have a tendency to save gift cards for a "rainy day," if you will, so I try to send a handwritten note and follow up with a picture text when I buy my new dress/candle/wallet/whatever!

6. Thanking somebody for an intangible gift: An interview is a good example of this. One of my friends sends a handwritten thank you note after any job interview she has, and I'm pretty sure she's gotten every job she's ever applied for. Another example is if somebody hosted you in their home, saying thanks may be implied, but writing it will make the host feel extra-special. 

7. Appreciate presence more than presents: This should be a goal in life, whether or not you receive a tangible gift. Be grateful for the people who surround you. If they're giving you a reason to thank them, they probably care about you, so challenge yourself to appreciate the sender more than what was sent (even if they sent you, like, a billion dollars). 

8. Write using your hands, with pen on paper: It's 2015, so digital thank you's are passable (any thank you is better than none), but you'll get bonus points for a handwritten note. Everybody loves to receive snail mail (as long as it isn't from MasterCard), and you'll look like the nicest person ever.

9. When in doubt, say thanks: "Should I send a 'thank you' to Susie for babysitting my pet lizard?" Yes. "Do I need to send a note to Sam saying thanks for letting me cheat off his math homework?" Yes.

10. When appropriate, thank the person in public: This probably goes more for intangibles than anything else, but sometimes it is nice to publicly recognize people for what they've done for you. Your friend probably won't toot his or her own horn, so toot it for 'em!

Dear people who read this blog post,

Thank you for taking the time to read this. It made me feel special. I included a few photos in the post; I hope you'll accept my gratitude.



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cheesy French Toast Friendship

If you landed on this blog post from a thumbnail photo you saw of a bunch of cheese on french toast and now you're planning on thinking "that looks disgusting" the whole time you're reading this, you're probably not alone. But hey--can't knock it until you try it! This Memorial Day weekend marks the 1-year anniversary of when my supercool roommate Merry and I moved in together. So naturally, we decided to make cheesy french toast.

Last year, we had just finished moving everything up the 3 flights of stairs to our apartment, and somehow Merry started talking about this ridiculous recipe she grew up on in Wisconsin. Merry's mom would often put cheese on their french toast. Yes, CHEESE. I know what you're thinking because I thought it too. Why would anybody ruin french toast by putting CHEESE on it?? And why on earth would anybody ruin cheese by putting it on FRENCH TOAST?? But sometimes, when you combine 2 good things, you wind up with something even greater. Enter cheesy french toast.

So we headed over to the store with our friend Meghan to get things to make french toast…and cheese…and came home on a rainy Memorial Day weekend to eat it, sitting in our new living room with no furniture. But we had friendship, and cheese. It's a great memory for us, so now you can all recreate it because I'm giving you the recipe!

Cheesy French Toast
Makes about 6 slices

- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 6 slices bread
- 6 slices sharp cheddar

1. Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla to create batter to cover bread. Dip bread in egg mixture, coating both sides evenly.
2. Cook bread over lightly greased skillet on medium heat until golden brown.
3. Melt slice of sharp cheddar over top.
4. Don't forget the bacon. (It's not technically part of the recipe, but everything is better with bacon.)

Also don't forget the syrup. Mer's mom said she learned how to make french toast this way when she was 7. So, we're not totally sure on the original source for the recipe, but I like to think some brilliant soul in Wisconsin had too much cheese on his hands and came up with this.

I think if they ever reinstate Fear Factor into NBC's nightly lineup, answering affirmatively to "will you eat french toast with cheese on it??" may win somebody a lot of money someday. (We know it sounds weird and looks gross but it's really quite good.) ((Eating bugs on Fear Factor is probably way less enjoyable.)) 

P.S. Thanks to Austin Elliott for doing all the photography in this post and letting me edit 'em and to Merry Tucker for making french toast and letting me eat it and put her recipe on the internet.