On Thanksgiving

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I had quite a bit of writer’s block while trying to start this post. It isn’t because I don’t have anything to say about Thanksgiving. And it isn’t because I have a different favorite holiday. It’s because this one day means so much to me that it’s hard to put it into words.

Growing up, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving because in my family it was a holiday of such tradition. Both sides of my family got together at my parents’ house for one very long meal filled with what felt like unlimited appetizers, an impressive spread for the meal and then a dessert course to make any restaurant menu shudder with jealousy. My mom would fold the napkins at each place setting accordion style  (see picture) weeks before the big day. We generally used plastic plates and got our food buffet style, but the fancy napkins were always key. She wouldn’t fold them that way for any other holiday because – for whatever reason – that specific folding style was special for Thanksgiving.

My grandma would carefully carve the turkey before guests arrived so it was easier for serving. Aunt Sheryl would make her famous stuffing (and slip me an extra-large piece wrapped in foil to save since she knew I loved it so much). Aunt Caryn made her classic green bean casserole. And my other grandma, mentioned in #2 of this post, would bring a giant fruit tray.

I have memories of cutting off hunks of warm brie in puff pastry, oozing out of the shell with jam, and devouring it with greasy fingers. My cousins and I were drunk on sparkling apple cider – or maybe it was the excessive food that made us a little loopy. We’d pile our plates high, eat as much as possible and then retire to my room for our traditional Thanksgiving showing of the movie we watched every year (I will not name it since I’m embarrassed it received a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes). Swearing we would never eat again, we’d laugh at the terrible movie, which has some really famous actors in it by the way. And then we’d hear a call for dessert and go running downstairs as fast as our turkey-laden bodies could carry us.

Today, it isn’t so different. But then again, it really is. I can expect the baked brie, among other appetizers. Sheryl still makes her stuffing, and Caryn does the green bean casserole. Of course my grandma brings the fruit tray, and we still watch that terrible movie (on VHS, no less). And the fancy folded napkins will forever be a staple – that picture was taken just last weekend. But my other grandma passed away a few months ago, so there isn’t anyone to carve the turkey. Or tell me that something I made is too spicy. Or ask for a “tiny piece of everything” from our giant dessert table.

It isn’t going to be the same this year. And part of me feels like she would’ve been okay with that. I’ve sort of started to take over Thanksgiving as my holiday. Each year, I’ve taken on more and more dishes, and my family has given me more freedom to make what I want. At first, my mom was nervous to try anything non-traditional because she thought the picky eaters wouldn’t eat anything. As it turns out, my family is more adventurous than we give them credit for. The spinach artichoke dip will forever be a staple appetizer now, and the brussel sprouts I made last year are being repeated this year. I’m also contributing mushroom and caramelized onion appetizer bites, orange cranberry sauce, creamed spinach and parsnips, a vegetarian mediterranean salad, a raspberry & lemon curd tart and a dark chocolate & salted caramel pie.

As I was chopping onions, roasting vegetables and stirring my lemon curd, I couldn’t help but think what my grandma would’ve thought of everything I was cooking. She was definitely a traditional woman, yet she always told stories of creating new recipes (mock cheese cake…still not sure what that one is) and being adventurous in the kitchen. I know that I get that trait from her. Most of the recipes I’m making this year are new, and I love trying out different dishes on my family each year. I thought Beverly would have particularly liked the salted caramel pie. She was pretty salty herself, although she did have a soft spot for sweets. I haven’t bit into the pie yet, and I’m already getting the feeling I’ll need to share this recipe.

Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
Adapted from Food & Wine

  • About 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (should be 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers)
  • 8 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • Two 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate
  • Kosher salt or fleur de sel
  • Optional: 2 cups heavy cream and 2 tbsp confectioners sugar

**Note: This makes one deep dish 9 1/2″ pie. For a regular crust, just decrease the amount of crust you’re making.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pour your sweetened condensed milk into a 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of the salt. Cover tightly with foil.
  2. Put that baking dish into a 9×13, and fill about 1/2 full with warm water, or until it is as high as your milk goes. FYI, there are other ways to make dulce de leche. Check them out here > 
  3. Bake until the milk has thickened, which will take 2-2 1/2 hours. Every 20 minutes, stir and carefully add more water to the bath. It might get a little lumpy, but that’s okay.
  4. When it is done – and it will thicken more upon standing – remove from oven and turn oven down to 350 degrees.
  5. Crush your graham crackers in a food processor for a uniform consistency. Add in your sugar and vanilla. Press down onto pie pan so that crust is evenly distributed.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  7. In a double boiler, melt your chocolate until smooth. Pour evenly onto the pie crust. Let sit, and then refrigerate to cool.
  8. If you want to top with whipped cream, just whip together your cream and sugar until light and fluffy.
  9. Once your pie has cooled, pour in your caramel. Note that if you refrigerate it, it will set. You can microwave for a few minutes to make it more fluid.
  10. Top with a bit of the salt, and spread with whipped cream if you want. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

This Thanksgiving, we’re drinking wine instead of cider, enjoying my aunt’s homemade bread and skipping the store-bought appetizers at my request. I don’t know who will be carving the turkey; I know there will be one. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll be camped out at the dessert table waiting for some salted caramel pie.

My Favorite Kind Of Sandwich

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It’s no secret that I’m into ice cream. When anyone asks me what my favorite food is, mint chocolate chip ice cream is the obvious answer. My obsession knows no boundaries. I’ve trudged through snow in Madison to get a scoop of orange custard chocolate chip, hands frozen and teeth chattering. It’s always worth it.

Lucky for me, my roommate shares a similar affinity for mint ice cream. Coincidentally, she and I also both like Whole Foods cranberry tuna, baked eggplant pasta, bangin’ bartha, Lou Malnati’s…this is a long list, so I’ll stop there. So when her birthday rolled around a few weeks ago, I knew what I had to make for her. I’ve had my eye on Smitten Kitchen’s ice cream sandwich recipe for some time, and her birthday was just the occasion for it.

This is a classic sandwich cookie recipe, so you can really use any flavor ice cream. Mint chocolate chip just happens to be the best, so I would recommend that. It’s more of a crunchy cookie rather than a traditional soft one, but it definitely does the job. I used Trader Joe’s mint chocolate chip and dipped the finished sandwiches in crushed Oreos. Just the right finishing touch.

Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 2/3 cups (335 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup  unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift cocoa powder into a bowl with the flour. It is always very lumpy and hard to mix in, so I would recommend this step.
  2. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (you can use a hand mixer if that’s all you have), cream together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until fluffy. Add in the egg yolks.
  3. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour in, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Put your bowl of dough in the freezer for about 15 minutes, until it is easier to handle.
  5. Roll out your dough into a square onto a lightly floured surface. You want it to be very thin, just about 1/4″ thick.
  6. Using a paring knife, cut a square around the edges of the dough. Cut that in half and, depending on how much your dough was rolled out, cut those halves in half again. Since this is a sandwich, you want to make these pretty small, so err on the smaller side. Make sure as you’re cutting these they are evenly sized so that the sandwiches have pairs.
  7. Using a knife, chopstick or similar object, poke holes into the cookies like a traditional ice cream sandwich.
  8. Bake for about 18 minutes. Cookies will be firm to the touch. Allow to cool thoroughly before making any sandwiches.
  9. Get out your gallon of ice cream. You shouldn’t have to let it sit at all. Put one scoop of ice cream in between Saran wrap, molding it into a flat, square shape. Very carefully put the ice cream in between two of the cookies, individually wrap and freeze immediately. You may need to break while you’re making these to put the ice cream back into the freezer so it doesn’t melt.

The ice cream sandwiches didn’t hold a birthday candle very well, but I think that was okay anyways. I made them a bit to large, so slivers have been slowly disappearing from them. It’s kind of like a never-ending birthday in our freezer – which is fine with me any time of year.

How to Be a Good Baker in 5 Easy Steps

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These were a disaster. Not a surprise considering I forgot the butter and then burnt them. My co-workers still managed to eat basically the entire pan.

I figured it was about time to attempt to answer the age-old question, “Just what makes a good baker?” I’m technically no authority, and I’m certainly not perfect myself. On top of that, I’ve been having a bit of a rough patch when it comes to baking. I’ve come to realize that we all make mistakes. Mine just come in a 9X13 pan. Burning cookies and altogether forgetting ingredients was just the start of it.

These hardships made me realize just what it takes to be a truly good baker. Some of this list is a matter of opinion. And some of it is not. I’ve always thought that taste is not necessarily subjective. I mean, who wouldn’t like one of these?

1. An ability (and willingness) to follow directions

This is absolutely one of the main fundamentals of baking, and anyone who tells you different is completely lying to you. I would never do that, even for the last scoop of Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream. Just leaving out a teaspoon of an ingredient can break your recipe. Salt, baking powder, baking soda – these are all crucial ingredients that you absolutely cannot leave out or mis-measure. As it happens, I am extremely bad at following written directions, and it causes me so many problems in the kitchen. However, that leads me to #2…

2. Creativity

A wise man once said, if you know how to bake one thing well, you’re golden. While this is actually sort of true (especially if you’re a guy), that doesn’t make you a good baker. Let’s take my grandma for example (don’t worry, she doesn’t know how to use the internet so it’s okay). She makes some killer homemade brownies. They’re chocolatey, just fudgy enough and have at least an inch of powdered sugar on top. She makes them so well, yet she has tricked us all into thinking she’s a serious baker. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her bake anything else in my life. Yet she’s just so cute that it really doesn’t matter. I, on the other hand, do not have such a luxury. I’ve put chocolate covered potato chips in cookies and baked brownies with a pretzel crust. Some of it has worked…and some of it really hasn’t. But you need to dare to try.

3. Keeping calm and…substituting

In a perfect world, you have all the ingredients you need at all times. You’re always fully stocked with plenty of flour, spices, eggs, brown sugar and (seriously don’t forget the) butter. I hate to break it to you, but this world is not a perfect place. The other day in the middle of making doughnuts I realized I had NO OIL. In case you weren’t aware of how frying works, oil is fairly necessary. I had to force myself to remove my apron, change into workout clothes and head over to my gym simply because I couldn’t face the shame of going to CVS yet again that day for baking ingredients.

Most of the time I find myself using orange juice for milk in my pancakes, sweetening with maple syrup or honey instead of brown sugar and using whatever fruit I have on hand. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. One time I legitmately cried because I messed up my pancakes (twice). Hunger can do that to you. But other times you find a fix that works better than the original recipe.

4. A Baker’s Intuition

I’m pretty sure there is a term called “Mother’s Intuition”, and it may or may not be diaper-related. I’m slightly unclear. Well, Baker’s Intuition is more or less the same. Sometimes you just get the feeling that something is wrong. You feel like you left out an ingredient…or it actually looks like you may have. This happens to me all the time. I look at my batter and think, “Last time I made this it was much creamier. Did I do something wrong?” I often finish my recipe without a second thought, and only when I put my pan in the oven do I realize that the butter I was supposed to add in is sitting in the microwave.

It’s a sad day when you ruin an entire batch of something by forgetting one simple step. Double check your recipe, and even if you are making substitutions be sure that your proportions are still right. When I made my doughnuts I thought that the batter was far too running and then realized I left out an entire cup of flour. Look at what you’re making and taste before it hits the oven.

5. Learn the Basics

To be not just a good baker, but a great baker, you have to learn some of the basics, or really the secrets, of the trade. Here are a few of mine:

  • If your cookies keep burning around the edges, that’s because your butter isn’t cold enough. I swear by freezing my dough for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  • No matter what the recipe says, always spray or butter your pan. Unless you own a Silpat baking mat (which you should), and in that case never spray your pan because it will damage the silicone.
  • That cake might seem pretty much cooled, but you’ll realize that it isn’t as soon as you start to frost it. Seriously cool that thing before even attempting to frost it or you’ll have one hot mess. I’d even say to briefly freeze it to prevent any crumbs from getting mixed into the frosting.
  • Listen to Ina Garten because she’s basically always right. When you have that many gay men fawning over you, I will believe everything you say, too.
  • Make your cookies the same size if they are on the same pan, or some will burn and others will be undercooked.
  • Cupcake wrappers are always a good idea.
  • Buy good quality chocolate. It makes a tremendous difference in whatever you make.
  • You will not get salmonella from eating raw cookie dough. Ignore what your mom said. Just do it.

Dedicated to Summer

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We’ve had a good run this summer – and despite the 90 degree weather we’ve had recently, it’s almost over. I made cookie dough cookie cups for a new birthday party tradition, baked in an overheated, unairconditioned kitchen and far more than I had time to report on this summer.  And then there was the zucchini.

I kind of think the zucchini is like the Chicago weather. A lot of times, plain zucchini is not very good. But most people know you can make it amazing, especially if it’s in season. There are summer boat rides, $2 sangrias on amazing patios, street fairs and more ice cream cones than you know what to do with. Grilled zucchini salads, pizzas, zucchini bread pancakes with a cream cheese topping and then spiced zucchini bread muffins. And, of course, the chocolate chip zucchini bread you keep telling yourself is healthy because it’s whole wheat. Just don’t eat the whole loaf by yourself, and it’s fine.

For some reason, it’s just not everyone’s’ favorite. It’s no pumpkin bread. And it certainly isn’t banana bread either. They’re all delicious and similar in many ways, but zucchini is rarely the front-runner. Kind of like how Chicago often plays third string to New York and L.A. It’s really an unsung hero. For those few months of summer when zucchini is in season, you have to take advantage of the versatile vegetable in all its glory. I know I certainly have.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (obviously)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups grated zucchini (About 1 very large zucchini)
1 cup olive oil
3 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grate zucchini by hand. If you want a lighter zucchini flavor, you can finely chop it in your food processor.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and oil. Stir in the vanilla and zucchini.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients, leaving out the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour dry ingredients into the wet, and then fold in your chocolate chips. You can also add in chopped nuts.
  5. Spray or butter your pans – you should be able to fill two loaf pans, or make one loaf and about a dozen muffins.
  6. Bake loaf for about 50-60 minutes. If you make muffins instead they will take about 25 minutes.

Share it, save it for winter or devour it all at once. If this sweltering weather keeps up, we might just have zucchini year-round. Not that I could let a pesky little thing like weather ruin my day – or tell me what I can and cannot bake.

On Challenging Yourself (with Brownies)

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Not eating from the candy drawer at work, remembering to feed my goldfish (yes, I still have a goldfish) and taking the stairs when the elevator is constantly broken in my building – these are the challenges I face every day. Sometimes I like to throw some other curve balls in there just for fun. And because apparently the world is out to get gingers, I really have to be extra tough. These are the other challenges I’ve faced recently.

  1. Avoiding heat exhaustion/sweat overload/general uncomfortableness
    In case you are blissfully unaware, it’s uncontrollably hot outside, and it has been so on and off the past few weeks. Considering the fact that I don’t have central air (and am hot all the time regardless), this heatwave hasn’t been ideal for my overall well-being. I basically try to vacate my apartment as much as possible and then retreat to my room for sleeping purposes and the general enjoyment of my A/C window unit. Which leads me to #2…

  2. Summer baking hours
    I’m just not feeling like myself lately because I’m physically unable to bake in the climate that my kitchen has acclimated to.  You know the saying, “I put my blood, sweat and tears into this.”? That would be me, literally. Only more of the middle one.

  3. Turning on my oven on Saturday
    Was I crazy?? I actually turned on my oven Saturday (WHILE THE SUN WAS STILL OUT) to bake something. I obviously was a baking emergency to even consider doing such a thing. I had to bake Abby a birthday treat, and I decided on caramel brownie bites with caramel buttercream frosting. They were this good. And yes, that is caramel oozing out of the center. The whole situation felt like a hot yoga class. I was in my workout clothes for a reason. And instead of my apron, I threw on a sweat band for good measure. No, I’m not kidding.

  4. Melting caramels (is not as easy as it sounds)
    If you do decide to make this recipe, you won’t regret it. But you will regret not following my recipe for the buttercream frosting. Firstly, I don’t think I’ve ever melted caramels before, and it’s a dangerous business. I’m the kind of girl who likes to do everything the hard way, so I tried melting them down on the stove. DON’T DO THIS. It’s just silly.

    You can use a double boiler, but that’s really a waste of time. You’ll want to microwave about 15 caramels with 2 tbsp milk in 30 second increments until they are melted. Stir together and let sit for just a few minutes to cool. Meanwhile, cream together 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Add in 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp cinnamon. Slowly incorporate the caramel sauce. Your buttercream will melt slightly – just throw it in the fridge for a bit, and it’s fixed.

  5. Not eating all the brownies
    I only brought 8 of the brownies to dinner since I didn’t want to have leftovers, meaning there were about 10 left in my apartment (this is not including the one I already ate). I could have kept them all for myself, but I am a thoughtful (and hopefully skinnier) person so I gave the rest to Abby. Minus the two I kept for myself.

    Also, do NOT refrigerate these brownie bites. The caramel will solidify and you’ll chip a tooth or something. Thankfully, I did not. But that’s only because the second I removed it from the fridge the heat of my apartment instantaneously began to melt it.

  6.  Avoiding all social media for a day
    Not all of my challenges have to involve food…right?  Last night I really wanted to write this post, but I also really wanted to go on Facebook. And Twitter. And Pinterest. So, yeah it didn’t happen. I made a vow to avoid social networks for one day, just to see if I had the willpower and to actually get something done in my life. I had to go on Facebook today because, umm that’s sort of my job. The Marley Viewpoints account really isn’t that interesting though. And then I had to go on Pinterest just for like a second to pin this recipe for chocolate covered chocolate chip cookie dough balls. And obviously again just now to find the recipe. That Pinterest really is a time saver, though.

    Anyways, it’s really, really hard. Because I don’t necessarily feel like I’m missing out. I just don’t want to forget anyone’s birthday or be a day too late to untag a seriously awful photo of myself like chugging strawberry-rhubarb pie (the dessert…not shots) and chasing it with some nutella poundcake. Not that this photo exists or anything. It’s really a healthy cleanse, though, and I feel like a more productive (sane) person.

This heat is really not helping my sanity. I do sort of feel like I’m on a diet against my own will. On the plus side, I may start experimenting with cooking straight on my countertop, no oven required. Hey, I’m moving in month, so anything goes.

Why A Cookie in a Cookie Makes So Much Sense

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Cookie dough in a cookie cup…sounds crazy, right? It sounds amazing. And it was, when I made it for the birthday party Sarah and I had last weekend. She requested a batch of my s’mores bars, which I made for her actual birthday. She also requested that I write a post about her. A little presumptuous that I’d want to write something about her, don’t you think?

I figured these cookie dough cookie cups would be appropriate for our party considering how much Sarah loves the cookie monster cupcakes from Sweet Mandy B’s. Check them out if you haven’t yet. But the dessert was perfect in a different way. I started thinking that maybe the two of us are kind of like the cookie and cookie dough.

From the outside, the two aren’t the same at all. They taste different, and they look different. Mom always tells you not to eat one of them (I think we all know who the bad influence is in this metaphor). And the other is a dessert classic (not to toot my own horn or anything). But on the inside, these two couldn’t be more similar.

They have all the same ingredients. They like reality TV, old school R&B and could always go for a slice of Domino’s on a hot summer day…We’re not talking about the cookies anymore in case you missed that transition. Separately, the cookie and cookie dough are both delicious. But together? They’re seriously amazing. It’s kind of dangerous leaving the two of them together. Things can get weird.

On that note, here’s the recipe, which you should definitely make because it’s super easy. It calls for a lot of butter. Just throw it in there and pretend you didn’t see anything.

Cookie Dough Cookie Cups
Adapted from Cookies & Cups (what an appropriate name)

Makes about 24

Cookie Cups: 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips (I used chopped up chocolate, but you can use whatever type you prefer)

Cookie Dough:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (the original recipe says these are optional but I disagree. Go out and buy some)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Put cupcake lines into your muffin tins.
  2. Starting with the cookie cups, cream together the butter and sugar. It’s more helpful to have a stand mixer, but a hand mixer is fine, too. Keep the bowl out after you’re done so you can make your cookie dough without having to wash dishes.
  3. Next, add in the eggs and vanilla until mixture is smooth.
  4. Slowly add in your dry ingredients until well incorporated. Fold in the chocolate or chocolate chips.
  5. Fill your cupcake liners with the dough so they all are about halfway full. You’ll have to press it down a bit so it’s evenly distributed.
  6. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. The cookie cups with be soft in the middle when you remove them from the oven but that is good. They will harden upon standing. When they’re done, immediately press down in the middle of each of them with a spoon, forming a well for the cookie dough. Let cool at room temperature or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Now, onto the cookie dough. In your same bowl, cream together butter and sugars.
  8. Add in the milk and vanilla.
  9. Then, incorporate the flour and salt. Stir in your mini chocolate chips.
  10. Once the cookie cups are fully cooled, fill each with the cookie dough. You can use a piping bag if you want to be fancy, but a spoon works just fine.
  11. Top with a garnish of mini chocolate chips on top of the cookie dough. Serve immediately.

I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime or a better friend to share my birthday with. I have a feeling we’ll be celebrating many more birthdays together – with many more desserts to come. This post is proof I actually baked a dessert for our party…I have a feeling Sarah might not remember.

Graduating to Vegetarianism

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As some of you may know, I don’t eat meat. I guess I wouldn’t classify myself as a real vegetarian, but rather a pescatarian. Long story short is that I cut out red meat at about age 9 after seeing the movie Babe and stopped eating poultry right before my senior year of college after reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” – a more sophisticated piece of work than a movie about talking animals, yet both had the same effect. Go figure.

My cousin Brittany is graduating from Kansas University this weekend. I know this seems like a tangent but just go with it for a minute. Brittany and I have always loved the same foods…and eating in general for that reason…but she’s made fun of me for years for not eating meat. For such a foodie, she would say, I’m really missing out on all the best stuff. I tend to understand where she’s coming from and am a little bashful of my vegetarianism. She does have a good point considering what I hear about steaks and burgers. And this thing called…bacon?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got a text from her saying she was thinking about becoming a vegetarian. Was this a prank? A pre-graduation crisis? Or a ploy to become more like her much adored older cousin? Possibly a combination of all three if we’re being honest.

When I started thinking about it, graduating college is a lot like becoming a vegetarian. I mean just think about it. You’re giving up something really substantial in both cases. With graduating you’re giving up a carefree lifestyle and the one time in your life you can enjoy being with your friends at all times without any worries. With vegetarianism you’re giving up something some would call equally important: meat.

In both cases you’re making a sacrifice, but you do get something in return. I mean really in both cases you’re getting some major health benefits. No more drinking every single night. Say goodbye to late night burgers and fries (that one works in both situations I’m pretty sure). But it’s comforting to know all that change can be worth it. Sure, you might be moving on to start a new life with a job, a different city and a whole new set of priorities, but you’ll have the weekends, vacations and reunions to look forward to. You’ll have new challenges (how can you make spaghetti and meatballs vegetarian?), goals (don’t drunk eat. it will result in chicken fingers) and rewards (winning a baking competition? or losing that weight you put on from eating everything in sight when you studied abroad? check!).

Regardless of her final decision, I’m so proud of Brittany for everything she has accomplished. She’s gotten over her chronic snoring and kicking throughout the night (we had many sleepovers as kids. I don’t think I got much sleep), posted mouth-watering photos of homemade meals on Instagram (withholding sassy comment here) and will be a college graduate in just a few days. I’m sure she has many more accomplishments but I will leave those out because I don’t have anything particularly witty to say about them.

Plus, look at all she has to look forward to – no meat included:

Breakfast – Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Lunch – Curry Tofu, Quinoa, Caramelized Onions, Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Kale

and Dinner – Eggplant Pasta Bake

Don’t forget about dessert…which is usually vegetarian anyways, as most people can tell from my blog. You can probably have matzo toffee any time of year since your mom is awesome (and open to admitting baking mistakes like the toxic flourless chocolate cake debacle of Passover ’12).

Anyways, whether or not you decide to go meatless is besides the point. The point is that you are now a mature adult, making real, important decisions about your life. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. You know you can always come to me for advice – because clearly I will respond by posting about it on the Internet for all your friends and family to see. And if you ever have another crisis, don’t do anything drastic like cut more foods out of your diet, okay?

Congrats, Brit!