write, write, write…. wait, what I am writing for???

No, seriously, what am I writing for? Sometimes this process is just exhausting. I get told my project is strong and that it could go far, but that it’s not for them. What does that mean??????? I take it to mean, I don’t like it, so leave me alone….

So, rejection sucks, I know this and it hasn’t got me down completely, but come on, how does this work really? I have a book, that I literally conceived when I was just 5 years old. It’s my passion, it has kind of kept me sane in times of insanity in my life and I finally finished it. 80,000 words of pure imagination. I guess I can’t be mad, I knew that the odds of finding an agent and being published were pretty slim. It wasn’t like I wasn’t prepared to be told no. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

I probably didn’t write for a whole four days after the first rejection. I swear it felt like I got hit with a ton of bricks, part of me was like, “Okay, that was fun, time to focus on real life again.” But then the majority of me was like ‘SCREW THIS SHIT! I WORKED FAR TOO HARD TO JUST GIVE UP!” The voice that said screw you won out and I push on with my dream of being a published author. To the point where I started the second book in the series. I have 20,000 more words of pure imagination that have flowed from my mind. It is such an amazing release of energy and creativity for me. I can stay up until 3am just writing and rewriting and rewriting until I think it is perfect.

So, the other day when I got another rejection I thought about this further. What am I writing for? Then it hit me, I’m not writing this for an agent, I’m not writing this for a publisher, I’m not writing for the millions of people who I wish could read this story. I am writing for me. I didn’t write this story twenty years ago for anyone else, I wrote it for me. I wrote it because in my head was this crazy story about a girl who found out her life was some kind of twisted fairy tale. She is powerful, yet weak, loving but guarded. She is pushed further and further and further until she breaks and has to decide between the easy and the difficult paths in life. I guess she is what I feel every girl should be. She is looked at as this super womanesque person because she has the power to free those who are imprisoned, she can save those who are about to perish and she is the one everybody looks to to solve every problem in her kingdom. She fails quite often, but she succeeds occasionally also, she makes wrong decisions most of the time, but she usually gets it right in the end. Overall, Ariana is the perfect girl, not in the sense that she does everything right and does it while looking perfect and always succeeds. But in the sense that when she falls, she gets back up and keeps going, that when she makes a wrong decision she apologizes and makes it right, that when it comes down to the end she would rather save those who have attacked her instead of destroying them. That makes Ariana the perfect girl in my head and that is why I have written her story even if no one will really get to read it.

I’ve decided to give you all a taste of this story. This is the opening of the story and just the beginning of Ariana’s journey. I am always open to comments when they are constructive, don’t be mean, don’t be rude but be constructive and up lifting.

 

The Other Side:

I have had the same dream since I was a child. There is barely a night I can remember that I didn’t dream of being carried through the woods by a strange woman. It was an odd dream, I was clearly a baby or small child, cradled in the arms of a woman with kind, dull gray eyes. The woman ran swiftly through the thick trees, though I could not recall a time when I had been in a forest this thick. I stared up at the woman as she ducked behind a tree and hid us in-between two prickly bushes. I could feel her arms shaking with terror as she held me tight to her chest. Her head snapped to the left as the sound of numerous other foot steps echoed off the trees.

After three others ran past where the woman was hidden with me in her arms, she took off at a sprint again, but this time ran perpendicular to our original path, before turning sharply into a thick line of trees that almost completely hid a large clearing from view. The woman paused again, and watched the clearing, counting softly to herself, on the count of one hundred, she took off straight across the clearing to a rock wall. Once at the wall, she felt her way through the vines that covered the rocks until her arm slipped through a small opening.

She held me closer to her and side stepped into the opening, it was cold and she paused only long enough to pull the blankets I was nestled in tighter around me. Soon the small cave opened up and directly in front of us was a jagged opening filled with a bright light. She stood for a moment just staring at the wall before holding me up in front of her. Her smiled made small wrinkles form in the corners of her eyes and the gray eyes glossed over as tears began to form.

“I am sorry I must do this, but I hope you will understand one day that I did not have a choice. You will be safe on the other side.”

The woman planted a gentle kiss on my forehead before stepping forward into the bright light.

I jolted awake from the familiar dream. I was breathing heavily as always and shivering, even though my room was always a little too hot for comfort. The alarm clock next to my bed was buzzing loudly, I rolled over and slammed my hand down on the snooze button and rolled over to my back. I stared at the ceiling, willing my heart beat to slow, until my alarm went off again. I turned it off and crawled off from under the blanket. I hadn’t been sleeping well lately, and my body was growing stiff from the lack of rest. I was only seventeen, but I felt like I was eighty some mornings.

The perfect fall recipe….. in the summer?

If you are like me, you get really frustrated at people who don’t think they can eat certain things because it is “out of season” ummmmm, last time I checked, if the grocery store carried it, I could eat it! The new obsession in my household over the past week has been a roasted squash soup with pork “croutons.” Yes, pork croutons.

So how did I end up making a creamy squash soup in the middle of summer (and mind you, I live in Las Vegas so summer here is HOT)? My fiance and I LOVE roasted squash, we will take an acorn squash, halve it, clean it throw a few tablespoons of butter into the middle of it along with some salt and chili powder throw it in the oven and just let it roast for a while.

The other day, I was going through our kitchen and figuring out what vegetables we had to make soon because they were about to go bad. Sitting on the counter was a large acorn squash. We had just had squash the night before, but I knew that if we waited much longer that we would have to trash the second squash we had bought. One thing I knew my fiance LOVES is soup (let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good soup?). So I figured it would be a good use of the squash and would probably get eaten quickly in our house.

The other upside to making a creamy squash soup, my finace is lactose intolerant, which basically means he can not digest dairy (milk or butter are the main things you have to watch for). Because of his condition he can’t really have creamy soups without having to take pills, powders or drops of some kind. It gets a little annoying and expensive for the medications he needs to be able to eat dairy.

If you look up squash soup recipes, you see a lot of recipes that include a lot of ingredients, including butter and cream, about 10 different herbs and seasonings and it just seemed way over complicated and like it would not highlight the main ingredient, squash. So, being me, I said f*ck the recipes, I am going to make this up as I go! So that is what I did!

First, I said screw using butter or cream! Who needs them? Squash is so creamy on its own if you cook it properly that it seemed ridiculous to add more. So I kept it simple, I sliced up the squash, leaving the skin on put it on a baking sheet with a little olive oil (I didn’t season it at this point) and put it in the oven to roast until it was extremely soft. I then rough chopped some onion and garlic (it is going to be blended so I wasn’t worried about dicing perfect onions and garlic here.) I put those into my soup pot and let them begin to break down and caramelize.

What I like about not using recipes and making my own is that I don’t worry about cooking things exactly like the recipe said, the first time I made the soup I cooked the onions only until translucent, the second time (which happened about 5 seconds before beginning this post!) I cooked them down a lot more for better flavor. I used half an onion, but again being as it is your recipe and your preferences add some more if you like onion more or less if you don’t!

Once my squash, onions and garlic were all cooked to my liking, it was time to blend! If you have a professional grade blender, your life is going to be easy doing this. If you don’t, it’s going to be a stop and go process most likely. I have an okayish blender so I have to stop and go a bit. Depending on how much you are making you may also need to do several batches in the blender and then mix together in a pot. Or you may have a hand blender that would work just as well.

The blending is easy (kind of), I put my squash and onions in first and then I put in a little bit of broth (you can use veggie or chicken but I would avoid beef for this). I start the blend process and slowly add the broth until it is as thin or thick as you want, then just let it blend for a while to really get it creamy (plus no one likes lumpy soup!). Once you have the consistency that you like you can add the herbs or seasoning you like. I like to keep it really simple and just do some salt and pepper and since my fiance LOVES heat in his food, I also do some chili powder or cayenne so that he gets the heat he likes.

Without the addition of butter and cream, a soup that is normally kind of heavy and becomes lighter and the squash is a lot more prevalent without the addition of cream. I like to let mine simmer on the stove

soup pic

Now, squash is kind of sweet and if you are like me, you like balanced flavors. So I like to add a salty element to the meal when I have soup. I like pork croutons! Now, this may sound weird to some of you who have never heard of a pork crouton, but all it is is pork belly that has been cut into about half inch pieces that is rendered and crisped up. You could go the simple route and use bacon, but I prefer the pork belly route because, it’s pork belly, it’s yummy.

Really easy to make, cube up your pork belly to the size you like it. I like to keep it bite size when I pair it with a soup (who wants to use a knife when they are eating soup?). Once you have them cubed, cook it just like you would bacon, add a little salt, a little pepper and then you put it in a skillet in a single layer and let it brown and let the fat render. I think the main thing people do is play with the food they want to sear off, so LEAVE IT ALONE!!!! No, really don’t even touch the pan for about 3-5 minutes.

pork before

 

After 3-5 minutes, check one of the cubes to see if it is browned

pork during

Then just like before, leave it alone and let the other side brown. After another few minutes you can toss the pork belly around a bit so you get the sides browned as well. Once it is fully cooked, put the pork on a paper towel lined plate to drain the excess fat.

pork after

put your soup into a bowl and place your pork croutons in the middle of the soup and Enjoy!!!!

soup done 2

 

Easy Squash Soup and Pork Croutons

Soup:

butternut or acorn squash (these are my favorites, but really you can use almost any squash for this)

chicken or veggie broth (the amount will depend on if you want a thicker or thinner soup)

salt

pepper

cayenne pepper

onion (as much as you like or don’t like)

garlic (again, as much as you like)

 

Cook your veggies down, typically I roast my squash for better flavor, but you can also cut it up small and cook it on the stove top. caramelize your onions and garlic. Put squash, onions, garlic in blender with a little bit of broth and start the blender, slowly add broth until blended smooth and you reach the consistency that you like. Let blender run as you add seasonings you like so they combine nicely. Pour this from blender back into a soup pot and let it simmer for a while to develop the flavors.

Pork Croutons:

Pork belly (as much as you want!)

salt

pepper

 

Cube the pork belly into bite size pieces (about 1/2 inch) salt and pepper pork belly and place in skillet on stove top. Let brown for 3-5 minutes DO NOT TOUCH IT. Let it brown and then flip it over and let the other side brown as well. Remove from skillet and place on paper towel lined plate to drain excess fat off of it.

plate up your soup and put the pork croutons in the middle for a nice presentation and enjoy 🙂

 

I hope the freedom this recipe provides anyone who tries it shows you how silly it is to follow recipes exactly sometimes. This is an easy, simple and delicious recipe that if I had followed from a website would have included about 10 more ingredients. Food isn’t complicated or difficult if you stop worrying about following the recipe. This is so basic you could make it even more tailored to your specific tastes. You could add roasted red peppers to this, you could add carrots but you will never know if you don’t try it.

Happy cooking!

~SKG

How NOT to make a tres leches cake….

For those of you who do not know me, I am a superb baker and cook. This week, I decided to try and make one of my fiance and my favorite desserts when we go out to eat. Tres leches cake. Sounds easy, simple cake with a milk mixture poured over top right? uhhhh, yeahhhh not so much apparently. Here I was, separating 7 eggs, creaming together sugar, butter and egg yolks, my fiance was furiously whipping the egg whites into stiff peaks and then I was combining dry and wet ingredients into a bowl. Fold in some egg whites straight into the pan and then bake for 25 minutes.

I thought it had gone well until 25 minutes came and went and the center of my cake was still RAW. I mean serious, still pure batter raw. It took probably another 20 minutes to get the center of the cake cooked, and by then the edges of the cake were much more browned than I like. I figured, this is not so bad, the edges were slightly harder, but the middle was soft and seemed very moist. I went to pour the milk over the center of the cake collapsed. Completely sank in below the edges. Never in my life have I ever had a cake do this to me. I cooled the cake as the recipe called for and when I cut into it, it was the most dense cake I had ever seen in my life. It was about the texture of cookie dough.

original cake

Yeah, It looks bad, but honestly still tasted very good, could have used a touch more vanilla, but otherwise tasted delicious.

What went wrong though? I made sure my eggs were perfectly separated, I creamed my butter, sugar and egg yolks to exact specifications. Upon doing some research, it seems that it could have been a huge number of things, but the main culprits seems to the be that I put too much batter in my pan, I had too much fat in the cake and my egg whites deflated when I folded them into the batter. Not one to be very discouraged, I set out to revamp this recipe and make an even better cake (Plus, I added chocolate, which makes everything better). 

I cut the butter out of the recipe altogether. That was the only fat beyond the egg yolks and I decided that there was more than enough eggs to make up for the butter to be gone. I cut down on the number of eggs, cut down on the amount of flour and added powdered baking cocoa. I again creamed the egg yolks and part of the sugar together then adding some whole milk and vanilla, sifted together the dry ingredients and my fiance and I worked to whip the egg whites into stiff peaks (we really should buy a mixer with how often I bake) streamed in some sugar to help stiffen up the peaks and then had to fold the egg whites and dry ingredients into the egg yolk and sugar mixture alternating 1/3 at a time. 

This time, I separated the batter into 2 smaller pans, but a 9×13 would have worked for the amount of batter. Without fail, it took 25 minutes to bake, I cooked the milk mixture this time also so that it was hot and would absorb into the cake easier. If you have never worked with condensed milk, it is very thick, but if you mix it with other milks and heat it up, it thins out and will absorb much better! 

I cooled the cakes and then poured the milk over the top, the result?

perfect cake

A fluffy and light tres leches cake that was perfectly moist!

 

Easy and relatively quick to make, this one is definitely going to be a favorite for years and years in my house!

The cake:

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup powdered baking cocoa

1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 large eggs (at room temperature works best) separated 

1 cup granulated sugar (separate this into 1/4c. and 3/4c.)

1/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You will want the rack in the middle of the oven as well. Figure out what pan you are using. This recipe will work for a 9×13 or you can use a round pans or smaller square pans, just make sure you do not use too much batter in any one pan. Using either softened butter or veggie oil VERY lightly grease the sides and bottom of the pan, then use parchment paper to line the pan, using the oil or butter to keep the paper in place. 

Start by separating your eggs, making sure that you do not get any egg yolk in the egg white bowl, if you do the whites will not stiffen up how you need them too. Set your egg whites aside as you will beat them right before you fold them into the batter.

Add the 3/4cup of sugar into your egg yolks and whisk this together until it is a pale yellow color and is creamy, add your milk in and carefully whisk them together. Add vanilla next and combine. Set this bowl aside for now.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set this aside.

Now starts the fun, if you have a mixer you will beat the egg whites on high until they are in stiff peaks, once in stiff peaks stream in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until peaks are very stiff, but have not dried. Should only take approx. 3-4 minutes for this whole process using a mixer. If you don’t have a mixer, using a wire whisk quickly whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, this will take much longer than with a mixer. Once stiff, stream in sugar and beat until sugar is combined and egg whites are stiff.

To combine everything, start by adding 1/3 of flour mixture into the egg yolk and milk mixture, whisk this in until combined. Next, gently (and I mean GENTLY) fold in 1/3 of your egg whites. Once incorporated, add the next 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold this is. DO NOT whisk anymore, you will deflate the egg whites and your cake will not be fluffy and light. After that add the next 1/3 of your egg whites, and continue this until everything is folded in together. 

Pour your batter into the pan or pans and put on the middle rack of oven. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After cake has cooled for 10 minutes flip cake out of pan onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. After cake is cool, put back into the pan you baked it in MINUS the parchment paper. 

Using a toothpick, poke holes approx. 1/2inch apart over the surface of the cake. 

The Tres Leches part:

1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup of heavy cream

1 12oz can of evaporated milk

Combine the milks into a sauce pan and cook over a medium-low heat stirring constantly (to prevent the milk from scalding) until the edges start to bubble (do NOT let it boil). 

Once the milk has reached this point, remove from heat and begin to pour over the cake(s). Pause now and then to allow the mixture to absorb into the cake. It should absorb VERY quickly though. 

After you have poured all the milk over the cake, wrap in plastic wrap (or use a lid if your pan has one) and place in fridge to cool. Let cool for a minimum of 2 hours, but overnight is even better. 

 

I do not typically use frosting on tres leches cakes. I prefer just some fresh cut berries to add a bit of tartness to the sweetness and richness of the cake, but you can always add an easy whipped topping or buttercream if that is your preference. 

I hope you all enjoy!

My next baking adventure is going to be red velvet brownies! Can’t wait to tell you all about that!

~SKG~

 

 

It’s been a while….

That is just not referring to my little hiatus from blog writing. It is referring to a lot of aspects of my life. My writings, my career, my friends. It has all slipped through the cracks over the last month or two. Today was the first day that I had the time and energy to dedicate a full work day (roughly 8-10hrs) to my still budding web design and social media marketing business. A friend of mine needed a new website built for his carpet cleaning and commercial office cleaning business, and though I have been slowly putting it together over the last two weeks, I have just not had time or energy to fully devote time to it. While working today I took a fifteen minute break to contemplate what happened over the last two months and why I let it happen. 

My writings. By writings I mean everything from the continued editing of my fiction novel, my blog and the ongoing process of attempting to get a book deal for the novel. What happened? I actually quite my nanny job so I had more time to focus (well, okay I quit because the parents were bat shit crazy) and I have found that since quitting I have done less work than I did when I had 12 hours of my life taken away from me each day by my nanny job and then probably another 3 or 4 by my web business. No progress has been made, no query letters have been sent, no editing has been done. Where did my grand goal of trying to get some kind of a book deal within the next year go? What happened to me?

My budding career is hit and miss lately. I have been on a roll having project after project, but nothing really too steady. Mostly it is websites, which I LOVE doing because it is fun, it is different every time and well, let’s be honest it makes me the most money. Nothing too steady though that I can depend on day after day, month to month though. The only person I have to blame for this is myself. I have slacked so bad on marketing my marketing abilities. Redundant huh? Part of that is my blog. As much as I am sure you all love reading all the thoughts that are in my head, the blog is part of marketing my abilities as a writer for freelance writing jobs. I tell every client that they should be posting minimum 1 post every 10 days or so and I can not even get myself to post that often.

My friends are a whole different can of worms. Unlike the other two things I have let slide, I am fully aware of the almost sole reason I have kind of pushed them all to the side. I canceled my wedding. Nobody freak out, I am still engaged and super happy with my fiancé and can’t wait to be a Mrs.! but, things (that will be detailed in a moment) happened and my family could no longer afford the insane cost of a wedding. My four best friends and I had gone dress shopping (yes, I had my princess moment and cried when I put on the dress), they had looked for brides maids dresses, I had found a venue, my friend who is a DJ had agreed to do my wedding for just travel expenses. It was all planned and then BOOM! reality check. Life just is not nice when it comes to this type of thing is it?

So, I guess it’s time for the explanation of my life crumbling out from under me for months. It started the first week of May. I lost my grandmother, the only grandparent I ever had. She fought for as long as she could, but with already life threatening health problems, her diagnosis of rare and aggressive lung cancer and 8 weeks to live was still hard to handle. I will never forget the phone call. It was a Sunday, my fiancé and I were having a lazy day and my dog Hades was acting odd. He was extra snuggly and would not leave my side, Hades is normally a very lackadaisical dog. He will occasionally get up and remind you to scratch behind his ears, but on this day, he was in my lap refusing to let me out of his sight all day. The call came early afternoon. My phone rang and I went into my bedroom, as my phone was on the charger, and saw it was my mother. My heart immediately skipped a beat as I answered. I heard it in her voice as I heard her say “Sara…” She really did not need to keep talking. I collapsed right there. I had rug burn where my knees hit the floor. The first thing I felt was Hades nudging me to make sure I knew he was right there for me. After a few moments, and saying goodbye to my mother, I pushed myself up to face my fiancé. His mother passed away a few years ago from the same thing and he knew the look on my face and immediately jumped up to hug me. This was the beginning of two weeks of on and off grief and the end of my wedding plans. As I let my life spiral momentarily out of control in the wake of my grief, my mother and my aunt dealt with the cold truth that is burying your loved one. The only thing that is even more insanely expensive for no reason than a wedding is a funeral and burial. Except that now we were being screwed by an insurance company in the process. Over $15,000 later, we are fighting an insurance company that only wants to give us $200 for it all. Losing my wedding would not usually cause me so much grief, but the last thing my grandmother said to me, the last time I saw her (a week before she passed) was to keep planning my beautiful wedding and that when I walked down the isle she would be with me. It was not so much about losing my dream wedding as it was I felt like I let my grandmother down in some way by giving up the wedding plans. It is pain I still feel, I don’t think I will ever stop feeling as I am still crying about those words at this very moment.

The other reason my life has slowly gotten away from me? Moving. FUCK. MOVING. Please excuse my language as I typically don’t write in a profane manner (I do enough swearing when I talk, it does not need to spill over into my writing), but fuck moving. We started our house search about two months before the end of our lease. This was about the same time last year that we began our search, so we did not think much of it until any place that we liked REFUSED to hold the house for more than two weeks. Seriously? I had my last home on hold a month before we moved in and NOW these jerk faced property managers want no more than a two week hold? FINE. Have your two week hold. We lost two places we liked because of that stupid policy. We lost the place of our dreams because they property managers did not like our application as much as they liked someone else’s and without so much as an email to me or my realtor about it either. Memorial day rolls around, at 7am I got a property search notification and the house was PERFECT. It was in the neighborhood we wanted, it is less than five miles from my fiancés’ job and we moved so fast that no one else had a chance to even look at it before our application was in. We got them to extend the damn 2 week hold so we had a few extra days and everything was moving along wonderfully.

Once everything got moved is where my lovely career was derailed slightly. My office is where all the boxes of stuff we did not know what to do with were put. My office is literally just a pile of boxes. It is hard to work when you have no where to work. I despise mixing my spaces. My bedroom is where I relax, watch netflix, play video games and sleep. My living room is where I watch television, play with my dogs and entertain. My dinning room is where I eat meals. WHERE THE HELL AM I SUPPOSE TO WORK WHEN MY OFFICE IS JUST A PILE OF BOXES?????? Yes, that sentence really did deserve all caps. I have been sitting in literally the same chair all day in my living room using a large ottoman as a desk space to build an entire website.

So here I am, at the end of my work day, making my first attempts at getting back on course after my two month detour. First of all, I AM A WRITER! have articles you need written? I CAN DO THAT! No really, I have degrees in communications, I went to graduate school. I even presented papers at regional and national conferences. I know what I am doing! I do websites! Websites are fun! I do not have to be in your area to help you out! I am great with phone meetings, I LOVE google hangouts and Skype which allow me to screen share so we can be on the same page when going over the site! Contact me (hence the whole contact page thing in the menu up top!) No seriously, do it! I am cheaper than most firms you will talk to since I am freelance! I also do social media marketing. I am awesome with business pages on Facebook and twitter I can turn $100 of your advertising money into 150+ likes and follows in less than a month (no guarantees but that is the average I have achieved!). And again, I’m cheaper than any reputable firm!

Step two, I am going to go write and edit and figure out my next move in becoming a published author. Going along with that, if any of you have ties to agents or publishers or are published, leave me a comment or contact me through my contact page because I would LOVE some advice on what to do next and how I can up my chances of getting a book deal. Would love it! 

Step three, tell my friend what happened and accept the sympathetic looks and talk I will have to go through when I tell them that I lost my grandmother, I lost my wedding and I was too afraid of how many tears I would spill telling them that I waited two months to say it. 

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Hopefully I will stick to my ten day timeline and have some more to write about in ten days or less!!

~S~