Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Cooked This (And No One Died!)

Which, really, is kind of an accomplishment.

Not that my cooking has ever actually killed anyone. Yet. There have been times when it looked like it might though.


You might have seen a few days ago that I tweeted about craving brownies so badly that I dreamt about them (you didn't, you say? Why aren't you following me on twitter then?). So, I ventured out to the local HEB at 6:30 pm on a Sunday (that was stupid) to buy ingredients to make the richest, most delicious brownies I've ever had in my entire life.


Now, thanks to the power of the internet, you can make them too.

Valorie's Ridiculous Cookie Fudge Brownies of Awesome.  

3 cups crumbled chocolate chip cookies
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup better
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped almonds (optional [I didn't use them])
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
6 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture firmly against bottom and sides of 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inch baking pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and and unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool.

3. Stir sugar into cooled chocolate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with a spoon until combined. Stir in vanilla.

4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour and baking soda. Add mixture to chocolate mixture; stir until combined. If desired, stir in nuts at this point. Spread the batter in the pan with the cookie crumble crust.

5. Bake for 30 minutes for the 8-in pan or 25 for the 9-in pan.

6. While brownies are baking, melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces over low-heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cool slightly. In a small bowl, stir together 6 oz cream cheese and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Stir in melted chocolate until smooth.

7. Cool brownies on wire wrack, spread with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Update


[For those who don't know, the link is at the top toward the left. The point of the list is to set 101 goals you'll complete in 1001 days.]

I could make the "I've been busy!" excuses (I have been), or insist that "I'm trying, really!" (I haven't been). But really, recently, I've just kind of forgotten about my 101 in 1001 list.

I know, I know. SHAME.

But, hey, here's how I'm doing so far:

Start date: 09/09/09
Finish date: 06/07/12

Not Yet Started
In Progress


Total (46/101) <--Not too shabby. I have a year and some change left.

Travel (6/14)
1 Go to China
2 See Boston again
3 Take a road trip
4 See Niagara Falls
5 Go to Austin twice
6 Go to D.C.
7 Go to Canada
8 Keep a travel journal
9 Visit Travis in Lubbock
11 Take a spontaneous day trip
12 Rent a cabin in the mountains and go snowboarding
13 Go fishing
14 Send five people postcards from a trip

Job/Education (4/10)
15 Study abroad

16 Work my butt off to kind of understand Mandarin Chinese
17 Take the LSAT
18 Take a fun class, just for kicks
19 French 101
20 Apply to work at Sky Ranch/another Christian camp
21 Graduate from Texas A&M
22 Lead a Bible study
23 Apply for graduate school

Health/Wellness (6/19)
25 Lose 10 pounds
26 Go one week without cheese
27 Spend one week as a vegan
28 Drink only water for one week
29 Start and finish out a yoga class
30 Workout five times a week for six weeks
31 Go for a walk 20 times (9/20)
32 Give up coffee for 2 weeks (separate from #29)
33 Do 100 sit-ups, 3 times a week, for six weeks
34 Donate blood at least twice. (2/2)
35 Do 15 pushups a night for two months
36 Do 20 pushups a day for two months
37 Do 25 pushups a day for two months
38 Master a basic jump in snowboarding
39 Play tennis once
40 5K
41 Bike everywhere for a week
42 Go kayaking
43 Try skiing
44 Eat ice cream and don’t feel guilty afterward

Blog (3/3)
45 Get a blog makeover
46 Blog every day for one month
47 Meet a blog/internet friend in real life

Writing/Photography/Hobbies (3/7)
48 Find a new hobby
49 Write every day for a month
50 Finish a story!
51 Send said story to publishers
52 Enter a photography contest
53 Buy a Canon EOS Rebel XSi (or better).
54 Complete a Wreck This Journal

Personal/Random. (22/39)
55 Fill a stack of post-its with inspirational messages and leave them somewhere
56 Donate to Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths
57 For everything I don’t do, donate $1.
58 Go to a concert.
59 Call Mom every day for a month
60 Cook a fancy meal
61 Clean out my closet and give away clothes
62 Attend a music festival
63 Attend an art festival
64 Go horseback riding
65 Go on a picnic
66 Fall in love.
67 Suck it up and get my eyebrows waxed
68 Get at least one tattoo
69 Spend at least six months single
70 Donate $150 to a non-profit
71 Send off one friend (of many) joining the military
72 Send someone flowers totally randomly
73 Volunteer at an elementary school
74 Plant a mini-garden.
75 Plant a tree
76 Get a bike
77 Go one week without making a list
78 Watch the sunrise with someone important
79 Live alone.
80 Sing karaoke.
81 Buy something at a flea market
82 Send 5 secrets to Post Secret (1/5)
83 Watch 100 new movies (73/100)
84 Listen to 30 songs produced before 1990 (Beatles don’t count) (30/30)
85 Write my future self a letter (via
86 Watch the sunset
88 Sit by a window in a café on a busy street and people-watch for a whole day
89 Buy another pair of TOMS
90 Start and finish an Ayn Rand book
91 Donate 1,000,000 grains of rice on (11,000/1,000,000)
92 Take pictures in a photobooth
93 On the last day, read my letter from #85
94 Do some kind of sky-diving/bungee-jumping type thing

Grown-up things (2/7)
95 Pay rent early every month for a year
96 Write my will
97 Buy more professional clothes
98 Buy nothing but food for two weeks
99 Pay off loan
100 Learn how to cook Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish
101 Try 20 new recipes (10/20)
I'll be posting pictures of the most recent recipe (#101) I've tried soon (it's amazingly delicious), as well as the garden I'll plant as soon as I have some dirt (#74). 
I changed "become fluent in Mandarin Chinese" to "work my butt off to kind of understand Mandarin Chinese" because, let's face it, this language is almost impossibly hard and I'd just like to get to a point where I can function in China without DYING (#16). 
Project 365 (#87) is going well.
I leave to study abroad in China on May 20 (#1 and #15) (alkdjfa;lsdkjf ;dlkj). I'll be buying a bike (#76) and riding it every where while I'm there (#41).
I'm giving up coffee (#32) starting tomorrow (isn't that what I always say)? 
And once I have le boy's birthday present figured out, I'll do #98. 
I'm planning on entering National Geographic's photo contest this coming August (#52). 
I'm officially graduating from Texas A&M (#21) next December (barring all catastrophes)! (!!!) And that means applying for graduate school pretty soon (#23). (!!!!!)
Being honest, I've changed and adapted some things over time. At one point, something about learning to play guitar was on there. I've decided to be honest with myself and just give the heck up on that. My hands are too small, and as much as I like listening to music I'm really not good at playing it. I also keep changing the places I want to visit (Seattle...D.C....Knoxville...Paris...). We'll see if D.C. is where I want to go now. I also changed 1/2 marathon to a 5K because, frankly, my wimpy knee will never allow me to run that far. Which I'm okay with. 

I don't think I learn to cook all of Thanksgiving dinner, reading Ayn Rand feels a little like low-grade torture to me, and I'm not sure how sending a story to publishers is going to go since I haven't touched a piece of writing in several months. But, this was an experiment. I'm not looking at the ones I don't complete as failures, I'm looking at them as opportunities, choices I had but didn't feel the need to make. 

Are any of you doing a 101 in 1001 challenge?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Scenes from El Salvador.



1. Dog and cat seen while wandering around San Salvador, the capital city.
2. Surfer in La Libertad (a state there). El Salvador has a very strong surfing culture.
3&4. Sunset in La Libertad.
5. The very edge of a the city in La Libertad where we stayed. I wandered around inside those buildings for a while -- some of the best food and cutest little mom and pop shops I've seen in a long time.
6. A little shack that housed a good restaurant, right near the beach for all the surfers to stumble into.
7. Chickens run practically wild as soon as you leave the main city. This little chick had lost his momma when I got this shot.
8. A beautiful lake in the mountains that we saw on our way to visit volcano Izalco.
9. Four shots of a beautiful flower I spotted near Izalco.
10. Izalco, one of the many still active volcanoes in El Salvador.
11. This dog I saw in La Libertad is the manifestation of loyalty. You can't see in the photo, but his owner was out surfing and he followed his owner's every move from the beach.
12. We went and saw the Mayan ruins which are actually located right on the edge of San Salvador. The government doesn't have enough money to entirely excavate and protect the thousands of archaeological sites, so this is ones of the only "full" temples you can see.
13. Another 'typical daily' shot. The animal is actually a cross between a sheep and a goat. I don't know.
14. Do you really need an excuse to take flower shots? :)
15. Fried plantains. Yum. Just sprinkle some sugar and sweet cream on and they're delicious. :)
16. This is a shot of my mom in front of the street she grew up on. We were all a little emotional -- it took us hours to find the house that my mom's family had to abandon to escape the civil war that started when she was a teen.
17. A shot of the city of San Salvador and another volcano. The flag says "DIOS UNION LIBERTAD" which translates to "God Unity Liberty."
18. Footprints in the sand. :)

Want to see more?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

my mom, San Salvador, and how I better see some monkeys


This is my mom.

Not only does she wear her sunglasses inside (she thinks she's a g), she's from El Salvador. She moved to the US when she was 16. Ever since I found that out, I've been dying to see the country she grew up in. I guess I feel like it's kind of part of part of my history too. I've probably asked to go once a year since I was 10.

"It's not safe," she'd always say. "You're too blonde. They don't like Americans there."

But she kept telling me about her childhood there; about the trees heavy with mangoes, the beautiful beaches, the screeching monkeys, the open courtyards where everyone, including neighbors, even strangers, gather for a meal, the stray cats that will come right up to you to ask for attention, the constantly beautiful weather. And so I kept asking to go.

Now, we're finally going.

We're in the airport as I type this. I'm listening to all the people from El Salvador traveling home chatting quickly in Spanish about their families and their plans while they're at home.

It's weird -- I've never been there, but I feel like I'm going home.

I better see some monkeys.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scenes from Austin.

Made the hour and a half drive to Austin yesterday to do a bit of exploring and see Matt Pond in concert.
Yes, on a Tuesday. 
It was probably the best decision I've made in a long while. 
I've been craving an escape from College Station and this was perfect timing. 

All photos mine. Check out more here. :)
How was every one else's Tuesday?