Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Three Amigos and Christmas

My friend Melanie just gave me a copy of The Three Amigos. This is in my top 5 of favorite movies. Ever.

"Would you say I have a plethora of piƱatas?"

"Lip balm?"

"Do you have anything besides Mexican food?"

"It's a sweater!!"

I cannot tell you how much joy this brings me as I anticipate watching this late tonight, basking in the glory of old school Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Martin Short and the invisible singing bush. I may even bust out my own rendition of "My Little Buttercup." I am a musical theater major at heart.

As we think about what the next few hours will bring, I hope you are anticipating something wonderful. Something comforting and peaceful. Something warm, delicious and inviting. Something sparkly and new with a side of old and familiar. And maybe you'll even get to experience it all in your pajamas.

Total bonus.

I also hope that you get to eat some fudge. Or in my family, some BBQ. It's just how we roll.

There is nothing like the joy of waiting for something you love.

Rejoice, rejoice!

That long-awaited, much-anticipated day is here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Recipe Round-Up: Cranberry Orange Biscotti

Biscotti is totally an adult cookie, don't you think?

It's one part buttery, one part comforting, and it has a little international flare thrown in. I adore flare. And I also adore biscotti with a hot cup of coffee and a great book. It's the perfect solution for a simple dessert or afternoon treat.

And this recipe is totally versatile! You can add any flavoring, fruit, nut or chocolate you desire. I just chose cranberry orange because I had some of both and I love that flavor combination this time of

But if you want to mix it up with lemon and poppy seed, walnuts and milk chocolate, almond and cherry, then just do it. Go ahead, bust it out. You are the totally in charge.


Here's how I roll in the kitchen:


First up, combine butter, sugar, dried cranberries, orange zest, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda. Mix it up real good.

Next: two eggs.

Finally, add the flour. And guess what?! You are totally a legit biscotti dough maker.
Divide the dough in half, roll and press flat on top.

And bake.
Mmmmmm...so so so good. I love cookie loaves.

Now, you are going to bake these suckers a second time. Bur first, you need to slice them. Don't worry if they crumble, just put all of the pieces on the cookie sheet and bake anyway.

Bake on one side for 8 minutes, flip, and bake on the other.

Think of it like sun tanning, you need to get both sides otherwise you look ridiculous. Biscotti are the same way. They do not want to look ridiculous.

Once they have cooled, they are ready to go! Buttery, crunchy cookies just perfect for almost any occasion, including pity parties and solo date nights.
However, if you want to bump it up a notch (and let's be honest, who doesn't?!), go ahead and dip those bad boys into some dark chocolate.
 Just melt some dark chocolate in a small saucepan...

...and dip like a ballroom dancer.
Seriously, the dark chocolate is bonkers.
I kept half of mine plain and the other half dipped.
Both are delicious.
Both are addicting.
Both are perfect for Christmas gifts.

You can also have your very own stack for snacking.
A stack snack, if you will.
Cranberry Orange Biscotti
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter until smooth. Add sugar, orange zest, dried cranberries, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add eggs and mix again. Add flour and slowly combine. (If the dough is too dry, you can add 1 teaspoon of water so it easily comes together to form into loaves.) Divide the dough in half, roll and flatten down. Place both logs on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.
Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Taking one loaf at a time, set on a cutting board and use a serrated knife to slice into long cookies. Place cookies on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, flip over, and bake for another 8 minutes. Cool completely. If dipping in chocolate, melt chocolate over low heat in a saucepan. Once melted, dip biscotti and place on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet until the chocolate is firm. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Dig in!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Jammies

This is completely awesome and ridiculous.

Oh, and they win.

Some Perspective

Hello, my friends. Feliz Navidad to you!

It's next week, by the way. Christmas. Like eight days away or something.
Whatever. That's nuts.

Anyhow, thanks for hanging with me during this absence. I do not have a good reason for being away other than being the busiest person ever in the history of forever. Probably similar to you right now.

Oh, and I am trying to get used to sleeping with a ginormous Darth Vader helmet strapped to my face. The good news is that I am breathing through the night. The bad news is that I look like roadkill when I wake up because of all the crease marks on my face.

(You be the judge on what really is the pro and the con in that situation.)

So I want to talk to you today about perspective. I have been mulling this over lately. This usually happens around this time of year, probably because of the new year quickly approaching and my birthday which quickly follows. I tend to get a little introspective when I know that I am aging.

Last week, I studied about John the Baptist in Matthew 11. He was in prison and so he sent his groupies to find Jesus to ask Him directly if He really was the Messiah. Now, if you flip back a few chapters, you see that John was directly involved in Jesus' baptism, with God's voice and the dove and the blaring confirmation that Jesus was the long-awaited King.

However, during his time away from Jesus, while he was a political pawn in Herod's court, John had begun to doubt. Was Jesus really Jesus? Had I missed something or done something wrong? Was He doing what so many prophesied that He would?

I understand those doubts. The further away I get from Jesus, the louder they become. Am I being effective at all? Does Jesus really have a plan for my life? What the heck is He doing?

Instead of wallowing or talking to friends, John went directly to the source: Are you really who you say you are?

And Jesus said: yes.

You see, my perspective gets all out of whack sometimes. Take the mountains, for instance. When they are far away, they just look like one, long line of hills. But the closer you get, the more you see the peaks, the valleys and the layers. The layers of time and people and events.

Jesus doesn't work in one, long line. He works in and among and throughout.

That is what Jesus was doing while John was imprisoned. He came to this earth to accomplish our redemption but that wasn't all He was going to do. He was and is going to come back. What John thought was just one big event in time, Jesus has a second act to come.

So when I think He isn't working or doing what I thought He would do, He says, "Come closer. I am weaving and layering and connecting all that I see and do together. I am setting the stage. I am exactly who I say I Am, even if I don't look like what you thought I would."

Oh, sweet Savior. If I only didn't freak out every time my life takes a turn that is unexpected. If I only clung to the closeness of Jesus instead of trying to squeeze Him into my teeny, tiny timeline. And Christmas isn't just about one single event in history; rather it was His fleshly introduction to us. He has been working all along.

Perspective has become my word for this season. It is the thrill of hope as a weary world rejoices.

(I bet you didn't think I would bring on the heavy after a few weeks away. You're welcome.)

Monday, November 25, 2013


I love this week. I think I love the anticipation of Thanksgiving more than Christmas. I am pretty sure it has something to do with expectations and the lack-there-of for this upcoming holiday. You basically just have to show up and eat.

I can handle that.

As I think about this week, I am especially thankful for this guy:

He gets to come home this year. Noodles, Grandparents' Day, raking leaves, setting up a Christmas tree, pecan pie and his own bed are in his future. I cannot wait.

I am giving a big thanks for this kid, who although shot me in the forehead with a Nerf gun yesterday, is still young enough to cuddle and old enough to realize he has a very important place in our family.

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that these two lovebirds are finally going on their long-awaited honeymoon. They deserve it, even if they do gross me out with their public displays of affection. It's out of control.

And of course there is Ferris Bueller my older brother, who is still thankful for all those who helped make his debut album dreams come true.

I am thankful for that too because now I won't have to sell a kidney for that to happen.

I am grateful beyond words for all those who have given me love and money for butter with Gourmet Girl to Go. I have had a blast with you in the kitchen!


I am thankful for more, like a car that is currently running and hot water in my shower. But for now, I'll just leave it at these. It is more than enough for this girl.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Sleep Lab

Last night was my night at the sleep lab. It is a strange place where people watch you sleep and count how many times you turn and check to make sure you are breathing.

I guess that last one is a good thing.

Thankfully, my sleep technician was a great guy named Eric who hails from Peru where he was trained and practiced as a medical doctor. However, since it would take a lot of work and money to get certified in the US, he now helps people sleep better. And for that I am very thankful.

(He has also climbed Machu Pichu five times, which, although fascinating, is not critical for this story.)

Also, he told me that if I ever needed anything in the night that all I had to do is turn on my light and clap three times and he would come running. In my mind, all I could think about was the crazy old woman who used The Clapper before she went to bed. Do you remember this?

(That is an extremely awkward video. God bless 1989.)

Now, I am not going to lie to you: it was not the best sleep of my life. Nope. I had ten electrodes taped to my head, two on my chest, two on my legs and a pulse/ox thing on my finger. And then, at 2:00 a.m., Eric came in to tell me that I needed to strap the breathing mask to my face because apparently I forget to breathe sometimes.

Here I am pre-breathing mask:


(Obviously an Instagram filter was needed.)

(The guys are already lining up outside of my door.)

The second half of my night's sleep was noticeably different from the first half. For one, I had a constant flow of air forcing itself into my lungs. While that may seem uncomfortable, it was actually rather peaceful, like someone or something was taking over for a while and all I needed to do was rest.

(I am pretty sure there is a Biblical principle in that somewhere.)

Secondly, whenever I took a deep breath, my toes and fingers would tingle. Granted, that may mean I have an unexplained health condition, but to me, it signified the fact that my extremities were finally getting the oxygen they needed.

At 6:20, Eric came in to wake me up and told me I slept like a soldier, hardly moving at all. I think subconsciously I was afraid I would strangle myself with the wires. It was a legitimate concern. By 6:45, I was de-wired and had unofficially (from a technician) yet officially (from a Peruvian doctor) been told that I am going to need a machine to help me sleep at night...for the rest of my days.


However, I am choosing to see the positive in this: people pay big money to go to oxygen bars so they look refreshed and rejuvenated. I will have that for 8 hours a night, every night. It's how I roll now.

Plus, my heart will be healthier, I will have more energy, my metabolism will rev up (can I get a gigantic HALLELUJAH for this one?) and I will have my Halloween costume ready to go: Darth Vader's mother.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Recipe Round-Up: Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Brownies

These are ridiculous.

I mean, seriously ridiculous.
I took my favorite Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, added chocolate chunks instead and threw it all in a pan.
And do you know what!? They taste totally different! I know, I can't explain it either. But the texture on these brownies is out of control. They are moist, chocolaty, dense and delicious. It is comfort food in a pan. 
And, as an added bonus, they do not take hours to make these, one cookie sheet at a time. Nope, it's one pan, 40 minutes, done.
I just can't even handle it.
These are easy. Trust me. Add butter, sugars, vanilla, eggs and pumpkin. Mix it up. 
Then add flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
And then, the chocolate chunks. Pour it all into a pan and BEHOLD:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Brownies.
Please and thank you.


 Don't you just want to sink your teeth into those bad boys?
They are phenomenal with a cup of coffee.
Or as lunch.
They are perfect for the Thanksgiving table, a holiday party or as your own secret stash of heaven.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Brownies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 bag chocolate chunks

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9x13" pan. Add butter, sugar and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and mix with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix. Add pumpkin and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Mix by hand or with mixer on slow speed. Add chocolate chunks and stir. Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Cut into squares (or dig in with a fork).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sleeping Baggage

For most of my adult life, I have been tired. And not just the stay-up-too-late-watching-the-Walking Dead-on-Netflix kind of sleepy. I mean, no matter how much I sleep, I am always tired.

Worn out.
And I don't even have children.

I have tried many things to remedy this:
Go to bed earlier
Go to bed later
Avoid eating before bed
Eat before bed
Avoid caffeine after lunch
Exercises regularly
Drink more water

The last one could be my favorite but it also comes with consequences.

Finally, in September, I went to the doctor. I told him about my sleepiness and my sometimes weird heartbeats and my healthy eating and exercise regimen that has resulted in absolutely nothing except a bitterness towards spinach, and then he said the words I didn't want to hear: "Sarah, I think you have sleep apnea."

I just looked at him and said, "I thought only old men got that." (Aren't you glad I am not in the health care profession?)

And then he said it is very common among all age groups and is most likely a genetic condition that causes my airway to be too small when I sleep at night. So he ordered an in-home sleep test and the results came back fairly conclusive that I do indeed have sleep apnea.

It's like the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me except not at all and I am lying.

However, they need more data. So, they have prescribed me a night's stay in a sleep lab where I will tuck myself into a big bed, hook myself up to approximately 1 billion electrodes and try to sleep while a plethora of people watch me.

And it is happening on Tuesday.

If the results come back conclusive, then I will need a CPAP machine for the rest of my life. Being both a girl and single, this admittedly deflates my spirit. I find myself so desperately wanting to sleep better (and for my heart to be healthier, my metabolism to be faster...) but not wanting the literal baggage that comes with it. I already wear a mouthguard, but a ginormous machine that straps to my face and forces me to breathe?

I might as well just get dentures and nightgown and call it a night.

Dear Future Husband, it looks like I'll need to sleep near the closest electrical plug-in.

In the meantime, I will give you a full report of my night away, all hooked up and monitored. Somehow they will make sleeping a spectator sport. I wonder if they will serve popcorn or something. That would totally make it better.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

And the Goal Was Reached

Hey there internet readers: Guess what?! Treehouse Sanctum reached their funding goal for their new album!

That's right, you heard me. They needed $1600 to make it happen and 26 people came through and donated $2,285!

Wow. You guys are ridiculously nice.

They will finish up their album in the next month or two and then Shake the Shadow will be available for your listening pleasure.

Big thanks to all of you who made a gift towards their hard work. I admit, I am super proud of them. And I can't wait to read all the nice things they say about me in their album cover.

I am sure it will delightful.

And probably invisible.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Need Dessert?

IF you live in the Denver area...

And IF you need help with your Thanksgiving meal...

AND IF you are out of time and don't know what the heck you are going to make for dessert (other than the infamous pumpkin pie)...

AND IF YOU just want to outsource one of your many tasks this holiday season...

AND IF YOU JUST WANT ME to show up at your doorstep...

THEN shoot me a line and I'll help you out! Gourmet Girl to Go is now taking dessert orders for Thanksgiving!!

(Just for clarification, I am Gourmet Girl to Go.)

That's right, just tell me what you want (within reason) and I'll bake/make/create it for you!





Cakes, brownies, Oreo balls?

Why the heck not!

Email me or catch me on Facebook and I'll make all of your Thanksgiving dessert dreams come true.

(Do you have Thanksgiving dreams?)

(Because you should.)

(They are delicious.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Four Black Suburbans

Last night I dreamt that I was going to jail.

Needless to say, it was stressful.

I tried to run, scream, explain my way out of the situation. At one point, I even put on a disguise and tried to slip out of town.

Nothing worked.

Finally, four black suburbans parked in front of my house. Men in dark suits with sunglasses approached my door. I let them in and then proceeded to bake them cookies.  (I bake in times of crisis. True story.) After they ate a few, they took me away in handcuffs.

And then my alarm went off. I have never been more thankful for my alarm. (Actually, I have never ever been thankful for my alarm.)

I woke up tired, sad and relieved. Isn't it strange how dreams do that to you? I felt like I had just fought a battle and waded through the loss of what my life would/could/should look like.

It seemed so tragic yet strangely familiar.

So, I called my dad.

And do you know what he said? He said, "Sarah, stop watching all of those shows on TV with black suburbans and men in black suits. It's not good for you."

A voice of reason from one on the inside.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Top Five Pinterest Recipe Repeats

Hello world! Here I am. Between cooking classes, catering, my regular 9-5 job and a small bout of feeling like death, I have been a bit absent lately. But I have returned for one of my most favorite times of the year: The Pre-Thanksgiving Cook-a-Thon and Daylight Savings Hibernation.

(I just made up that title. Feel free to use it.)

I love November. I love the calm before the holiday storm. And I have always loved Thanksgiving, it is like Christmas' less-stressful younger brother who welcomes you with stretchy pants and pecan pie.

I have been doing a lot of recipe research lately. Some are for Gourmet Girl to Go classes and others are just to try new twists on old stand-bys. Pinterest is my go-to for recipes and over the course of the last few months, I have found several that are actually fantastic!

Here are my top five Pinterest Recipe Repeats:

Cast Iron Skillet Brownies

Yes, you should make these. Tonight, preferably. I fell in love with the simplicity of this recipe: you only need one dish! It is brilliant! I did not have a cast iron skillet that would work for this so instead I mixed everything in a sauce pan and poured into a baking dish. The results were incredible! These could be my favorite brownies ever.

(And I know my brownies.)

Dijon Maple Chicken

This is known as the "World's Best Chicken" and for good reason: it is amazing! There are only three ingredients to the marinade - Dijon mustard, maple syrup and vinegar (either rice or apple cider). It takes one minute to mix up and pour over chicken. I use whole grain Dijon mustard for an extra kick. I make this at least every other week and the left-overs are to die for!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

This is the EASIEST recipe in the history of the world! I have taught this at several cooking classes recently and it is a huge hit every time. There are only two ingredients: prosciutto and asparagus. This works best on bigger asparagus and it only take five minutes to prepare and another five minutes to cook. You don't even have to pre-cook the asparagus. And the crispy prosciutto is the perfect combination with the fresh asparagus. It is my new go-to holiday appetizer or side dish!

Quinoa with Corn and Scallions

This recipe comes from Just a Taste, one of my favorite food websites. I love the freshness of this quinoa dish and it is great as a side dish or as a meal if you add grilled chicken. When corn is not in season, you can always use frozen corn as a substitute. It's good stuff, people.

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

Oh man. This bread. It is amazing! I have made it several times and the combination of fresh raspberries and dark chocolate is out of this world. It is perfect for breakfast or a snack (or dinner). I will make this again and again. And again. Amen.

What are some of your favorites?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I have the best brother-in-law in the world. He makes my sister oh-so happy, and for that, he makes the rest of us happy too.

Ten days after he married Claire, Carr stood before the judge and told him how much he admired my dad. He spoke with authority, never wavering in his conviction, about a man he barely knew but would defend with all his might. And as a navy chaplain whose heart and mind were created to both lead and serve, he has stepped into our family, often leading with words of compassion, wisdom and truth and serving with humility and patience.

Or in other words, he stepped into our freak show and has not looked back.

That is a rare man, indeed.

So, to honor this man who volunteered to join our family, we decided to celebrate his birthday in the only way we knew how: hurtling ourselves down a mountain.

My dad was home over the weekend so we took advantage of family togetherness and warm weather and headed up to Heritage Square to do a friendly race down the alpine slide.

Dad and I on the chair lift. Don't be fooled, I am really not that tan.

The course. It's intense.

We may look all nice and smiley but there was some serious smack-talk happening.



Mandy, Sam and Carr lined up and ready. They wouldn't let them go in tandem, something about mangled limbs and lawsuits, but they did try to catch up with each other.

(Between that picture and the next, 3 minutes of my life went by. It was exhilarating and only twice did I think I was going to fly off the side of the mountain and die.

I would call that a successful trip.)

At the end, I made in time to see Noah coming to a stop. He only rode on the fast track. Whatever. I was totally that brave when I was eight.

And here comes my dad, or as I like to call him, The Runaway Felon.

And here is the group shot. My dad is slightly hidden but that's okay, it was Carr's birthday and he can stand where he wants. A successful day in every way: no injuries and 3 minutes of awesome.

Happy, happy birthday, bro-in-law. I think we'll keep you.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cab Ride

A few years ago, I spent some time in Beirut. I was visiting our projects and hanging out with our people and trying to figure out which side of the street I should stay on. Oh that's a real thing, people. It matters in that city.

One evening, my colleague and I needed to take a taxi from one part of the city to the other, about a 25 minute drive. But it quickly became apparent that our taxi driver did not know how to get there. Instead of asking my colleague which way to go, he dismissed her and just kept driving. Even when she told him to turn, he ignored her.

After an hour, he became increasingly more frustrated. And she and I became increasingly more concerned. It was night, we were foreigners, and we kept driving further and further away from our destination and closer to the surrounding mountains. The same mountains where scary people with guns tend to hang out. There were times when I actually thought he was up to something devious, that maybe this was my last cab ride I would ever take.

{Dramatic pause}

My colleague kept trying to provide insight and suggestions, but he wouldn't listen, either throwing up his hand in disgust or ignoring her completely. He finally began pulling over, every ten minutes, asking for directions to our destination. First at a gas station, then at a flower shop, then at a restaurant, to some people walking down the road, and so on.

As as his frustration mounted, our fears began to as well. Why wouldn't he listen? Why was he so angry? Why didn't he trust us enough to know where to go? Why wasn't I at home with my mom?

Finally, after two hours, we finally made it. Somehow he found the main highway again and found his way. He didn't talk to us when we exited the vehicle, we just paid him and he sped away. My colleague and I were so thankful to be around people we knew that we nearly danced in the street. There is nothing better than the familiar when everything else is completely foreign.

Recently, I was teaching a group of high schoolers on the importance of relying on Jesus when we do not know which way to go. And I used this story as an example. I realize that so often I refuse help when offered. I ignore Him when He is gently trying to point me in the right direction. And I often ask anyone else I can find for help, for direction, for comfort before I ever turn and acknowledge the One who knew the way all along.

I am just like that cab driver sometimes. I look for answers from those who don't know and get angry or ignore the One who does.

I bet that cab driver never thought God would use Him for such a lesson. Scary men with guns aside, I am thankful for that experience.

And I am thankful I didn't disappear into the mountains forever.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gourmet Girl, Women's Group and Hand Pies

The title of this post pretty much says it all.

When you combine my favorite Thursday night girls +  a Gourmet Girl who brings caramel and chocolate + buttery, flaky crust topped with cinnamon and sugar and a hot oven, a night of perfection is born.

These girls are so amazing. They have supported me for the past (almost) 11 years and now they are letting me bake with them. Geez. It's like I have hit the friendship jack pot.

Sweet Heather offered her home for us and we quickly covered it with flour and sugar, all the while sampling the pie fillings just to make sure they were edible. And yes, they were totally edible.

SIDE NOTE: Somehow I managed to bake through the entire evening without taking a picture of our amazing hostess. That's ridiculous. So let's all pretend I do have a picture of her in an apron and with a plate full of pies. Because that totally happened.

As you can see, a very delicious time was had by all.

Pie crust ready to be filled!

Jenn, Rachel and Natalie mixing it up.

Jenn and Rachel smiling for the camera. These two were the brains behind our Women's Group. They have known each other since they were young. And here they are, baking pies together. I love it.

Caramel, cinnamon and sugar. Yes, yes and yes. 

Hand pies ready for the oven.

Abby, working her pie dough magic.
Your favorite Gourmet Girl trying to look like I know what I am doing.

Hand pie perfection, all boxed up and ready to take home to share (or not share, whichever).

Thanks again, girls, for such a fun evening! You're the best. You know you have had a successful baking class when you find a caramel stuck to your shoe.

(And for those who want to "like" me on Facebook or schedule your own cooking class,  just visit my website or my Facebook page. I will totally show up and bake with you.)