It Gets Better


“When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder. Everything moved me.
A dog following a stranger. That made me feel so much. A calendar that showed the wrong month.
I could have cried over it. I did.
Where the smoke from a chimney ended. How an overturned bottle rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer | Everything is Illuminated


Eleven weeks has this year been.

Magically have the hours stretched into days, weeks, months.
In the moment, the minutes melted like molasses, yet here we are, looking back at the accumulation of time piled high like snow drifts.
The quarter gusted by, ruffling my hair, picking at the edges of my jacket, freezing my salty tears to icicles.

Time, that infallible, indefatigable soldier, marches on.
I pool myself at his knees, pull at his clothes, cry, implore him for more, more, more.
I beg a retreat, a repeat– just one– beg for second chances, for one minute, one hour longer.

But he is deaf, this cruel god.  There is no rewinding, no turning back.
Done is done; done is done, calls his war drum.
Onward we march.  Forward we go.


Eleven weeks has this year been.

One, two, three months.  Two thousand fourteen.  Twenty fourteen.

The year began as a frenzy of tears, of dually joyous and grieving reunions, of family and love and support and then fell into a deep well of loneliness and numbness, of steely walls and wintry blues, of homesickness and exhaustion.
Slowly, though, 2014 stabilized to an equilibrium.
Just as there was sadness, there was celebration.
Just as there was remembrance, there was readjustment and renewal (even some resolutions).

Healing is not easy.
But you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
One walks hand in hand with the other.
And so must we, as their waves beat down on our beaches, as they soften and change our malleable souls.
This submission is not comfortable; it is not easy.

We do not like to be changed.


Yet what can I say?  It gets better.

Things get better.  I don’t eat dinner alone in the stairwell anymore, cold and alone.  I let warmth into my life.
I don’t cry when I’m falling asleep; I don’t cry when I wake up.  I smile, and stretch, long and satisfying.
I don’t feel like my lungs are collapsing in on themselves when I think about you.  I breathe deeper, and deeper still.
I don’t feel my heart break anew into a million pieces when I think about my father, his brothers, his mother.  It aches, but I embrace it.
I don’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut when I hear your name.
(Although I did feel like I was being punched, repeatedly, when I heard your voice.  My body clenched and I started to sweat.  I listened to it over and over and over.)
I am so proud and so grateful, and I close my eyes and remind myself of that instead.

There were times when I didn’t think it would get easier.  When I felt hopeless, helpless, lost.
It did, though.  I see it more and more as this quarter draws to a close.
Never forgetting.  I miss you.  I keep your picture in my wallet for good luck on my tests.  I taped your picture to my wall– you’re a dreamcatcher for anything math-related because those kind of thoughts give me nightmares.
I’m sure you happily absorb them, and roll your eyes when they’re wrong.
No, never forgetting.
Just feeling my heart knit back together, feeling the rent be mended, one stitch of time by one.

Allowing it to get better.


If there was ever something that you would think couldn’t get better, it would be St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
The name alone is enough to give this impression.  Gooey.  Butter. Cake.

But oh, friends, oh.  Does it ever get better.  In a word, yes.
Let’s be clear and upfront about what gooey butter cake is.

There are two versions: one is the more classic, yeasted bottom, butter topped coffeecake-like confection, and one is Paula Deen’s dump-a-buncha-butter into a cake mix and slather it with cream cheese decadence.  Christina Tosi makes a similar version.
That’s how you know it’s good.
1) the name
2) Paula Deen
3) Xtina Tosi

This is the decadent, preservative-filled type, but made better.  Made way, way, way better.
No box mixes.  Sans preservatives.  Still just as easy.


First, the base.  Normally a box of yellow cake mix with a stick o’ melted butter added.
Here, oats, brown sugar, plenty of salt, and brown butter are stirred together, turning into a thick, soft cookie base, with a hearty texture and assertive flavor.

Next, the topping.  Cream cheese, more brown sugar, eggs, plenty of salt, and a heap of powdered sugar are beaten together to form the sticky, cheesecake-y layer.

After it bakes, the top is cracked and deeply golden, and the whole thing smells like brown butter-brown sugar heaven.
Shut your eyes to resist its seductive temptation, and stick it in the freezer.  Overnight.  This is the hardest part of this recipe.
When it comes out the next day, it’s dense and chewy, yet maintains its eponymous gooey-ness.
Dust it in more powdered sugar, slice, and dive right in.

One bite and there’s no going back.
It just got better, fam.


Brown Sugar Oatmeal Gooey Butter Cake
makes an 8×8 pan
heavily adapted from Christina Tosi (originally via the now defunct Gilt Taste)

for the base:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

for the topping:
8 ounces cream cheese
hefty pinch salt
6 packed tablespoons (3 ounces) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (13 ounces) confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line an 8×8 pan with parchment, then grease the parchment generously.
Place oats in the bottom of a bowl, then put sugars and salt mounded up to one side.
Place your butter in a heavy pan over medium heat.
After it melts, continue to cook it until it browns and becomes nutty and fragrant.
Pour browned butter over oats and allow to sit and marinate; after a few minutes, stir the sugars and salt together with the oats.
Beat in the egg and egg yolks.
Stir in the flour and baking powder.
Mixture will be crumbly but stick together when pressed.
Press into the bottom of your 8×8 pan; you will have some left over (leave 3/4 of an inch for the topping).
Prepare the topping:
Beat cream cheese and salt together until very light and fluffy, and no lumps remain.
Whip in the brown sugar until the mixture is no longer gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar over the top of the mixture and beat just until combined; scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure everything is homogeneous.
Spread the mixture over the crust, making sure it covers the entire thing.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed, golden, and crackly, with only a slight jiggle in the center.
Remove from oven and let cool; PLACE IN FREEZER for at least 4 hours, and up to one night.
To serve, remove from freezer and immediately slice; dust with plenty of powdered sugar.

Can’t Trust That Day

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter B.
It’s Monday, people.
We could all use more chocolate and butterscotch on Mondays.
It’s tough going- I know.  I’m currently taking my 3rd of 4 AP tests. 
I chose blondies as my last meal.  And I chose well.
When I say bbbbblondies, it’s because I cannot possibly call these what they really are without sounding like a crazed sugar addict- 
brown butter brown sugar banana butterscotch blondies.
They’re gooey and sweet and rich, studded with more mix-ins than batter, and hit the spot straight out of the oven/freezer.  (More on this in the recipe itself)
They take 5 minutes to throw together, 25 minutes to bake, and, if you’re being very patient, 30 minutes to thicken and become dense in the freezer.
But you don’t have to do that, not if you’re ever so hungry.
These make Mondays just a tad bit more bearable.
Catch y’all on the flip side of these last two tests. 
adapted from smittenkitchen
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter
1 packed cup light brown sugar
two big pinches coarse sea salt
1 egg
1 medium banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
splash vanilla
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3-1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pam spray an 8-inch round tin or an 8×8 square pan.
Brown the butter in a large saucepan.
Once butter is browned, beat it with the sugar until the mixture looks like very, very wet sand.  
Add in the egg and the salt and beat on medium speed until mixture has lightened in color and most of the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
Beat in the banana.
Stir in the vanilla, then beat in the flour until the mixture is homogeneous.
Stir in the mix-ins.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is shiny and gives slightly to pressure.
The trick for super dense, gooey blondies: 
Let your blondies cool most of the way on a rack in the pan, then transfer the pan to the freezer and freeze for 30-ish minutes.  The gooey center will become dense.

Ad Hoc

I find myself opening a lot of drafts, trying to figure out what to write, and a lot of times, I just don’t know.  No one told me that putting words down and sending them into the shadowy interspace would be so gosh darn hard sometimes.  
Yet I love it.  I love challenging myself to be creative, or funny, or sarcastic, or whatever, but to be honest, I’m not funny or creative or sarcastic all the time.
In fact, I hardly ever am.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, I am whiny not.
The only solution is to wing it.
Baking new things and combining new flavors is not my problem; I have an entire document on my phone of wacky flavor combinations that I’m dying to try out (See the cornmeal-fig-pistachio-brown butter combo at the bottom of this post for proof).  
My issue is that I don’t always know what to say about the food I make, without being super repetitive and annoying.  
I don’t always have witty things to say.  Really.  I just have to pretend I do.
So. Um.
These were delicious.  You should make them.  
Boom. Done.
And P.S.?  The French word for pistachio is inexplicably beautiful to me.  Pistache.

Fig, Pistachio, and Cornmeal Brown Butter Blondies
adapted from smittenkitchen’s infinitely adaptable blondies
1 stick butter, browned
1 loose cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
big pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons coarse polenta
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose)
1 cup chopped dried figs
1 cup toasted chopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8 pan.  Stir brown butter and brown sugar together, then stir in egg and vanilla and salt.  Add in the cornmeals and flour, and stir until combined.  Add in the figs and pistachios.  Spread into pan and bake until golden and slightly firm to the touch, 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, slice, and remove from pan.  Allow to cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Super Freak

Loosen your belts, unbutton your jeans, and ready your stomachs.  

Because I have two very delicious recipes today that are comprised of multiple dessert components.

I guess I was in a Dr. Frankenstein type of mood.
See, I’ve been seeing a thing called “Slutty Brownies” slutting flying around the blogosphere.  

What is this brownie they are speaking of?
A chocolate chip cookie bottom, with a layer of Oreos chocolate sandwich cookies, then a layer of brownies.  
Yes. Yes. YES.
But… I was sending these to my best frenemy friend, Mikala, in California.  I knew I had to ramp them up a notch.  (Surprise, Mikala! They’re on their way.)
And that is how the Super Freak Brownies were born.  So many other names were tempting me, but I’m trying to keep it P.G… Ugh.
Brown sugar blondie base… Oreos come next… Chocolate peanut butter ganache… Red velvet brownie with cream cheese swirl.
Holy $#!+

Now meet Frankenpie.
Or as I like to call this beaut… The Americana Dream Cream Pie.

Diners across the nation have been serving hundreds of different flavors of pie for ages.  (And thank goodness for it!)

Apple, banana cream, banoffee, blueberry, buttermilk, cherry, chess, chocolate, coconut cream, crack, derby, French silk, key lime, lemon meringue, mud, peach, peanut butter, pecan, pumpkin, raspberry, shoofly, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, sweet potato… the list goes on.  
I combined banana, chocolate, and coconut: caramelized bananas into a chocolate-painted crust, covered in chocolate ganache, and topped with a coconut pastry cream.

And with that, I’m hungry.  Over and out.

Super Freak Brownies
blondie layer from smittenkitchen, red velvet brownies adapted from varying online sources
for the blondie layer:
1/2 stick butter, melted
119 grams light brown sugar
1/2 a large egg (weigh it out, divide by two, and save the other half.  You’ll need it.)
splash vanilla
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup flour
big handful bittersweet chocolate chips
Mix the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt together.  Stir in flour, then chocolate chips.  Spread over the bottom of a well-buttered 8×8 pan. Top with Oreos. (You’ll need 16)
for the ganache:
big handful of chocolate chips- I used bittersweet (use your discretion on how chocolaty you want it)
1/3 cup peanut butter
Heat chocolate and peanut butter together until melted and combined, either in a microwave or on a stove top.  Spread over Oreos.
for the red velvet brownies:
1/2 stick melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
splash vanilla
bit of red gel food coloring
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 a large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
splash vanilla
Mix the butter and the first measurement of sugar together with the vanilla, food coloring, sea salt, vinegar, and cocoa powder.  Next, add in the egg, then stir in the flour.  Pour 3/4 of the batter over the ganache, reserving the rest to dot the top of the cream cheese mixture.  For the cream cheese swirl, beat the cream cheese, 1/2 egg, sugar, and vanilla together, then dollop it over the brownies.  Dot the cream cheese with the remaining red velvet batter, then swirl to your heart’s content with a toothpick.  
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool, then cut into 9 squares.

Americana Dream Cream Pie:
all-butter pie dough for 1 single crust, (baked at 425 for 8 minutes lined with aluminum foil and loaded with pie weights, then at 350 without the aluminum/pie weights, but pricked with a fork, for 15-20 minutes longer, until golden) brushed with melted chocolate once cool
3 super ripe bananas
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
100 g bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 can coconut milk
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 egg yolks
splash vanilla and coconut extract
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
toasted chunk coconut, for garnish
Put bananas, sliced, into a pan with the butter, sugar, and flour.  Allow to cook until the mixture is thickened and very, very fragrant, about 10 minutes on medium heat.
Pour into bowl and allow to cool.  Once cool, pour into the cooled and chocolate-brushed pie crust.  Make the pastry cream:  heat up the coconut milk until simmering.  Whisk the yolks, flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.  Pour 2/3 cup of the hot milk over the yolks while whisking, then pour the yolk mixture back into the pan with the milk.  Allow to come to cook (it will boil and bubble) until thickened significantly.  Pour into another bowl, stir in the extracts and coconut, and allow to cool completely.  Next, heat up the half-and-half until almost boiling (I nuked it).  Pour it over the chocolate and allow to sit until the chocolate is melted, then stir until smooth.  Pour/spread over the bananas, then spread the cooled pastry cream over that.  Chill until well-set, then garnish with the toasted coconut.