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Oh, What A Year! 2017 Highlights

Published January 1, 2018 by Ashley Townsend

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2017 was a exciting and . . . interesting, full of tricky transitions and fantastic adventures. As many highs and lows as there were, one thing can be said of this past year: It was definitely memorable (except for January because I honestly don’t remember anything about that month, except for my TBR pile *slinks away in shame*)

One word about February: Nashville. 

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I went out to visit my bestie for her birthday in February, and Nashville is now one of my IMG_3117favorite places. From Honkey Tonking to my first chicken and waffles, being Southern Belles on the porch of a plantation to hearing fabulous live music at the Bluebird Cafe, and there was also flipping flapjacks like pros at the Pfunky Griddle (which was pfabulous!) and the eight coffee shops we managed to cram into a few days. It was a week of amazing memories of adventure and hilarious laughs, and I immediately wanted to go back afterward.

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We all know NaNoWriMo, but who has participated in Camp NaNo in April?

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I met up in Michigan with my incredible Realmie Roomies (also known as my soulmates, Tricia Mingerink, Katie Erickson, and Nadine Brandes) for a week of pounding away at IMG_3112the keyboard. But it wasn’t just work, and we took time to explore Tricia’s awesome property, goof off, laugh hysterically, floor-swim, eat all the Oreos we could, drink enough coffee and chai to float a ship, and watch The Legend of Tarzan … for writing research purposes only. *cough, cough* We even got to run across a rope bridge and fly through the air on the rope swing at the farm. I felt like I understand the Jane character in my work in progress a bit more now. ^_~ These lovely humans are a group of encouragers and pure joy, and I’m so grateful for the time we had together to motivate one another to beat that word count and keep going.

The next month was a blur of writing and work, and then my car got totaled one night by a drunk hit-and-run (not the funnest way to celebrate Mother’s Day). But I made some incredible memories in June. I traveled up to L.A. to attend the first ever SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, and I think this will forever be a favorite and I am definitely going again this year.

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I roomed with Nadine who, as I mentioned before, is one of my favorite people on the planet! I went into this conference not knowing anyone and walked away with countless memories and so many new forever-friends that I know will always sneak away to grab boba tea and steal Shan Dittemore’s car for an adventure (with her permission, of course). 

There’s just something about writing conferences that brings out the best in everyone, IMG_3109and no matter where you look, you find a new friend and encourager. I met KARA SWANSON in the bathroom the first morning when we groggily introduced ourselves, and then we shared corn dogs and became fast friends. Now we’re planning conferences together (BeaulitfulCon this month!) and visits and send text inspiration to one another every day. She’s also my midnight writing companion and keeps me focused when life threatens to get in the way of writing.

July—SDCC, man.

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You can see my post on that week HERE, so these are just a few highlights. I always go IMG_3093with my big sis, Liz, and the Eleventh Doctor and Indiana Jones has a blast those four days exploring and wandering and stumbling upon the secret bathroom where all the actors get funneled past. Playing Cinderella was a lot more fun that I imagined because the kids think you’re the real deal, and after being asked to pose with sweet kiddos for so many pics, I decided I want to be a Disney princess. Also, next to Lara Croft and Indiana Jones (obviously), Rick from The Mummy was my adventuring hero growing up. And it didn’t hurt that he was charismatic and quite the charmer. *wink* 

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I’d rather forget August, to be honest. My sisters and I spent the entire month looking for an apartment, and it was so stressful that I think we’ll just brush that under the rug and move onto September, when we moved in and celebrated my sister Katie’s 21st birthday two days later. Phew! It’s great to have our own space, though, and NEW BOOKSHELVES!!!!  

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I had two big signing and panel events at the end of the month, which was crazy after just having moved into our new place, but they were so much fun. I’ve done signings before, but the panel at Barnes & Noble Mira Mesa was different and exciting—and a bit strange—because there was a specific Q&A, questions from fans, and a lot of the guests stuck around afterward to chat about writing and my books. And my online friend, Liv, surprised me there, which was such a fantastic surprise!!!! 

My birthday happened at the beginning of October, and Chasing Shadows turned 3 the next day. My baby is so growed up! *flails* It was basically just a month of writing and preparing for NaNoWriMo. 

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I designed a bunch of word-pictures for NaNo to give everyone a taste of my WIP that you can find on my Instagram, and I love how they turned out! 

Ah, November. A month designed to test my endurance and my keyboard’s ability to keep up and not burst into flames. I knew the end of the month would be slammed with friends visiting and B&N signing events, but having those late-night writing sessions with Kara totally saved my hide. I didn’t master NaNo this year, but I actually stayed on top of my goals and explored corners of my story and the characters’ lives that I’d never considered before. Surprise twists, even for a writer, are so exciting!

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My bestie, Rebekah, and her sister, Elizabeth, visited us for Thanksgiving, and we had a blast. We were like kids running around Sea World and found the Promised Land in the form of Starbucks coffee and the churro stand, and we still laugh over practically dying with the wet cold and our chant that got us home—Chipotle, shower, warm pants, tea. There was also the ferry from Coronado Island to downtown with the most hilarious tour guide, a gorgeous day at Cabrillo, Thanksgiving, and plenty of delightful adventures and coffee to keep us alive. 

December was full of highs and lows. My parents moved out of California just two days after Christmas, so it was weird wandering through our old house full of boxes and empty rooms when we’d spent so many Christmases there before. But I have amazing memories from our time there, and it was so special to have Christmas events where we got all the family together to celebrate just being together. It makes you appreciate the moments and memories you have right now.

I don’t usually make resolutions because I feel they can be so easily broken or are silly things that I’ll never do … like exercise or stop drinking coffee (HOW DARE YOU?!). But I do have one plan for 2018, and I’m sticking to it and hope you’ll give it a shot.

Never stop trying!

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Starbucks Schmarbucks! Make at home Frappe.

Published May 3, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

I have been craving iced beverages lately, what with the weather being about a BAGILLION degrees for a solid week in San Diego! Okay, more like 103 degrees, but with no air conditioning inside, it definitely feels like it’s in the bagillion digits. Anyway, my heat-stroked mind convinced me that a Starbucks frappuccino would be just the thing to cure me of my delusions of cheeseburgers dancing Zumba on the beach. And it was tasty. . . For about five minutes until it separated and I was sucking on nothing but milky foam. Ick! Since most of you know I can’t just sit idly by and not cook or concoct something, I was desperate to find a solution to my parched pallet and discovered a recipe online for the Starbucks Java Chip frappuccino. I was, however, a little disappointed to discover it was nothing but chocolate and ice and milk and sugar. 

So, of course, I had to make a couple minor adjustments. . . Like freezing coffee cubes instead of ice, using dark chocolate sauce inside the drink, nixing the white sugar, adding plenty of vanilla, and just a plash of milk to keep it smooth. The result is delicious! And it doesn’t get that funky separation because it’s nothing. but. COFFEE! Try it and see for yourself.

Oh, yeah, and we have also been remodeling our kitchen for about a week, which means we’ve been without a kitchen sink and counters for several days. . . which also means getting very creative with what we cook and where we do so. But it led to a great discovery! If these suckers can be made in a bathroom (I’m a germaphobe, so it’s completely sanitary), then they can be made anywhere. I.E.: Yes, YOU, dormroom kiddos, campers, etc. So long as you have a blender, you’re good to go! I mean, I guess if you were desperate enough, you could go all caveman on the cubes and chips and use a rock or something. *shrugs* If that’s your only option, then I would definitely explore it, because you don’t want to miss this. Be sure to check out my recipes on the upper left of the site.

The Step-Aside, Starbucks! Choco-Chip Frappe:

frap

 

2 C frozen coffee cubes, apx. 16 cubes for an ice tray (any type of coffee it great!)

1/4 + C milk (add 1 TBS at a time, if you need more for smooth consistency)

1/3 C chocolate chips

3 TBS dark chocolate syrup

1 tsp vanilla (1/8 tsp of anything is an insult to extracts)

Caramel sauce for decoration

Dump everything in a blender or food processor (sans caramel sauce) and pulse it up to break up the chips and cubes, then blend smooth. I like adding everything in this order because sometimes the fudge sauce will solidify if dumped directly on top of the frozen cubes. If it’s too icy for your liking, just add a splash of milk at a time and then pulse until you get the right consistency (I like it pretty thick, because I enjoy eating it with a spoon). Drizzle a glass that has been in the freezer for 10 minutes with a little caramel and fudge for decoration. When the frappe is ready, pour into glass and drizzle the chocolate sauce and then the caramel over the top. And this tasty beauty melts slower than your favorite Starbucks frappe, too, because there’s no water added! The trick with the frozen glass helps a little, too. ~_^ Enjoy, and stay cool, my very cool friends!

NOTES: I used World Market brands for the caramel and chocolate sauces. They have great, smooth flavors. I make my coffee the day before and let it freeze in the trays overnight–that way you get a really yummy frozen texture and don’t have to deal with half-frozen cubes or excess liquid.

 

 

 

 

 

Such Dazzling Excitement!

Published July 21, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

It has been a very stupendous week! Here are just a few of the things that have me grinning and gushing and going ga-ga right now (I didn’t realize until after I collected the pictures, but there are quite a few gentlemen on this list. Hmm. Odd).

I LOVED this movie! I kid you not, it was my favorite surprise Fun Film of the year. Who cares what the critics said? It was a blast and uproariously funny and endearing. And that Armie Hammer: Hoo-Hah!

I LOVED this movie! I kid you not, it was my favorite surprise “Fun Film” of the year. Who cares what the critics said? It was a blast and uproariously funny and endearing. And that Armie Hammer–Hoo-Hah!

The fact that Jeremy is played by Steve McQueen. Yes, grandson to THE Steve McQueen. Could he be any cooler?

The fact that Jeremy is played by Steve McQueen. Yes, grandson to THE Steve McQueen. Could he be any cooler?

When Liz told me that my crush Isaac from Teen Wolf (a.k.a. Daniel Sharman) was also my voice crush from the small snippet of The Clockwork Princess on CD that I listened to, I did a few giddy air-pumps. . . . . . And then dramatically dropped to my knees.

When Liz told me that my crush Isaac from Teen Wolf (a.k.a. Daniel Sharman) was also my voice crush from the small snippet of The Clockwork Princess on CD that I listened to, I did a few giddy air-pumps. . . . . . And then dramatically dropped to my knees.

Just to split up the boy-mania on here, this is my other obsession this week. My favorite Tyler Florence cookbook ever, and it was completely Post-It riddled by the first night it was in my hands. I just made his blueberry scones, which are to die for. Oh, Tyler, fellow food addict and all things culinary aficionado, I love you. *sighs*

Just to split up the boy-mania on here, this is my other obsession this week: My favorite Tyler Florence cookbook yet. It was completely Post-It riddled by the first night it was in my hands, and I just made his blueberry scones, which are to die for. Oh, Tyler, fellow food addict and all things culinary aficionado, I love you. *sighs*

The Middle is like The Nanny: Our go-to comedy show, no matter the mood we're in. We've been watching the first season all the way through, and it's scary how much it resembles real life.

The Middle is like The Nanny: Our go-to comedy show, no matter the mood we’re in. We’ve been watching the first season all the way through, and it’s scary how much it resembles real life.

Dylan O'Brien in The Internship. I just adore him as Stiles Stilinski.

Dylan O’Brien in The Internship. I just adore him as Stiles Stilinski.

 

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Tyler Hoechlin. I would add words, but I don’t believe they’re necessary (refer to next slide).

Tyler Eunice

If I ever went to school with Tyler. . . . . Yeah, this would be me.

 

Liam Payne as Leeroy, the leg warmer-wearing choreographer from One Direction's ridiculously funny countdown to the premiere of "The Best Song Ever" tonight. It's literally twelve seconds that he's in the clip, but the girls and I have watched it ten times minimum.  Yeah, we're staying up 'till midnight.

Liam Payne as Leeroy, the leg warmer-wearing choreographer from One Direction’s ridiculously funny countdown to the premiere of “The Best Song Ever” tonight. It’s literally twelve seconds that he’s in the clip, but the girls and I have watched it ten times minimum. Yeah, we’re staying up ’till midnight.

Speaking of One Direction, Liz and I are SUPER excited, because we finally got our tickets for their show in a couple weeks. Now if I could just find a way on stage.......

Speaking of One Direction, Liz and I are SUPER excited, because we finally got our tickets for their show in a couple weeks. Now if I could just find a way on stage…….

And, finally, the newest Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer! Looks even more spectacular!!!! If the video isn’t embedded, go here: http://movies.yahoo.com/video/hunger-games-catching-fire-trailer-211105191.html

Apple Pie

Published February 15, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

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Filling:

6-7 Granny Smith apples

¼ honey

¼ sugar

1 T allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 T flour

 

Crust:

1 ½ C flour

¼ tsp salt

½ butter, cold and cubed

4-5 T water

 

Crumble Topping:

1 C flour

½ brown sugar

½ butter, cubed

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice (unpeeled) apples into ½ inch wedges. Stir apples and honey together until evenly coated. Stir together sugar, spices, and flour; sprinkle over apples and stir to coat. Set aside.

For the crust, stir flour and salt together with a fork. Crumble butter in with the fork or your fingers, but when using fingers, make sure not to melt the butter too much. Stir in enough water so that you can form a ball dough. Cover a flat cookie sheet with wax paper or saran wrap; drop dough in the center and gently lay a large piece of saran over the top. Use a rolling pin to roll crust into a ¼ inch thick round. Remove top layer of saran, lay an upside down 9-inch glass pie plate in the center of the dough. Carefully flip the pie plate and cookie sheet upside down; remove cookie sheet and saran wrap from the top of the crust (pie shell should be right-side up now). Tuck in any extra dough that laps over the edges, using your fingertips to gently work and spread out the extra dough on the edges so that it’s even. I like to make a design on the lip of the crust by pressing my index finger on the inside of the crust’s tip at the same time that I push my thumb (on the outside and just to the side of my pointer finger) gently towards the inside of the crust. It just forms a very nice little bevel around the edges that make it look complete.

In another bowl (save dishes and use the same one that you made the crust in!), mix together flour and brown sugar for topping. Fork in butter to get a nice crumble.

Pour apples into pie shell—don’t worry if there’s some juice—and arrange them fairly evenly in the crust. Then cover with crumble, making sure it falls into the cracks and gets to the edges. Place glass pie dish on a baking sheet—for spills!—and bake uncovered for 40 minutes. If topping starts to look too brown, cover it with foil, tucking it over the edges of the crust as well. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until apples are tender, not mushy. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve slices topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Amazing Frozen Banana Ice Cream

Published January 16, 2013 by Ashley Townsend

I found this recipe on Pinterest and gave it a try this afternoon. Let me tell you, I have never been so excited over a new recipe! I had my sisters sample several different flavors and versions, and all were hits! I am not a vegan in any way–bring on the meat!–but this is insanely delicious and great for you. I tried it with 1tsp cocoa powder, and it was good. But then we tried adding 1 tsp of coffee granules (we might add more next time) to this basic recipe with the peanut butter and chocolate chips, and that was incredible! Give this a try, and here’s the website that I stumbled upon: http://www.neverhomemaker.com/ And also check out my Yumminess board on Pinterest to see what else we’re cooking up!

The Ultimate Vegan Ice Cream

I’m thrilled that so many of you LOVE the frozen banana bites recipe I came up with out of pure craving a couple weeks ago. What I couldn’t get over is how much frozen bananas mimic ice cream — both in texture and flavor. A long while back, I remember reading about (and drooling over) 1 ingredient ice cream. That’s right. It’s made with frozen bananas. Simply food process the heck out of it and you’ve got yourself a tasty vegan treat.
The photos on The Kitchn made it look so good, I just had to try. And though our food processor and I are fighting, we made up long enough to declare this recipe a success.
What I love most is how versatile this ice cream can be. We flavored ours with a scoop of peanut butter and some chocolate chips. I considered putting some chocolate almond spread in there. Maybe even some other frozen fruits. Coconut. Some mint extract and chocolate chips. The possibilities are endless.BANANA — AKA 1 INGREDIENT — ICE CREAM (OK. It’s one ingredient plus some flavors.)
What you’ll need . . .

  • 2 ripe bananas, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • Handful chocolate chips
  • (But really ANYTHING GOES!)

Method . . .

  1. Chop bananas into smallish chunks (original post called them coins) and freeze overnight on a plate. I just put ours in a plastic bag.
  2. Then transfer to a food processor (I think a smaller one works better) and process until bananas are in little bits (like in the photo above).
  3. Then add your flavors. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. No right or wrong measurements. Continue blending until smooth. You’ll know it’s ready to eat when it looks like this . . .

Stephen and I have a difference of opinion on how “good” this stuff is. I think it tastes uh-mazing. I love the thick texture. I think the flavors blend well together. Stephen thinks it’s alright. But he thinks it’s too banana-y and that it isn’t sweet enough when it hits the tip of his tongue. You should decide for yourself. Because with how inexpensive bananas are (and we always have several ripe ones around the house), there’s no reason not to give this recipe a try!

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