Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups

This is what winning looks like:

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Well, not that.

That looks like third place.

And only if I was registered as a walker instead of a runner.

This is what winning really looks like:

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Those are hot cocoa cookie cups.

And they are the best.

I have evidence.

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Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups are everything you love about Christmas sweets all wrapped up into one little chocolate package.

Hot chocolate cookies.

Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting.

Rich, chocolate ganache.

I shouldn’t even share this recipe because it’s the best damn thing to come out of my kitchen since, well, the last winning recipe.

Peppermint whoopie pies

But in the spirit of the season, I will share the recipe with you because you simply must make them.

Oh, by the way, set aside about, oh,  six hours or so,  because these babies are a little labor intensive.

I started by organizing everything I would need for all three cookie components.

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The cookie recipe I used, Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, was lightly adapted from my all-time favorite cookie book.

Vegan cookies invade your cookie jar

To make the

Hot Cocoa Cookies:

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetend cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix the oil, sugar, syrup, milk, and extracts.

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Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

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Mix until a pliable dough forms (add additional flour by the tablespoon, if needed).

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Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let chill while you prepare the frosting.

I used a basic buttercream recipe directly from my second favorite book:

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

For the

Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine

3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

Beat the shortening and margarine together until creamy and fluffily. Add in the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, alternating with a small amount of milk. Add the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

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Now, put the frosting in the fridge until ready to use.

Remove the cookie dough from the fridge.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll tablespoon amount into balls and place in mini-muffin pan.

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Press down with your thumb to create the cookie cup.

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Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

They will puff up when they bake, but I pressed them back down at about 8 minutes and finished cooking for an additional two minutes.

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*Tidbit: It’s better for them to be a touch underdone so the sides do not get too hard. Check them at 8 and 10 minutes.*

Remove from pan and allow to cool.

While they are cooling, prepare your ganache, also taken directly from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

To make the

Chocolate Ganache:

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used dark chocolate almond)

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a small saucepan, bring almond milk to a gentle boil. Remove from the heat and add the semi-sweet chocolate and maple syrup. Stir until completely smooth.

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To assemble the cookie cups:

Add a small spoonful of the ganache to each cookie up.

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Pipe or spoon in buttercream frosting.

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Drizzle with additional ganache.

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I added a small peppermint stick to half.

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I added these cupcake toppers to the other half for the peppermint haters.

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Here they are before the competition:

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These cookie cups are definitely winners.

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I hope you decide to devour some!

In case you’re wondering why I walked my 5k, it’s because there are two people in this photo!

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You can learn all about the Peanut Baby I’ve been cooking up at

www.pbjandshay.com

Happy Cooking!

Christmas Time is Here

“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.”

-Clark Griswold, Christmas Vacation-

Watching Christmas Vacation in this house pretty much signifies that the holiday season is in full swing.

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I set out big pot of white bean and spinach soup, maple cinnamon popcorn, and a couple cherry and pomegranate martinis.

Then we slurped, crunched, and sipped our way through all the  Griswold shenanigans.

In a perfect Christmas world, I would have a cup of old-fashioned egg nog sloshing around a Marty the Moose glass in one hand, and  a big old piece of rich chocolate fudge in the other hand.

Marty the moose mug

Since raw eggs aren’t my thang, I’ve developed quite an affection for Silk Nog.

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It’s especially delicious in hot mug of coffee when you can’t get your hands on Marty the Moose.

Christmas Vacation Moose Mug

And you know what makes that hot cup of nog coffee even better?

That’s right.

Fudge.

Vegan Fudge.

TWO INGREDIENT VEGAN FUDGE.

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It’s a Christmas Miracle!

It’s  a Wonderful Life!

It’s the hap, hap, happiest Christmas discovery since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.

There are no weird or unusual ingredients in this recipe, which is annoyingly common in vegan fare.

Coconut butter?

Sorry my small town Food Lion just ran out of their last jar.

Usually it’s next to the Kale chips and Spirulina powder but that $20.00 jar of coconut butter seems to be flying off the shelves.

No worries, the only two things you need for classic, no fuss fudge is chocolate frosting and chocolate chips.

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That’s it.

In all honesty, I skipped the plastic container of frosting, even though it is often curiously vegan, and made a batch of my own.

I used the recipe found in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but your favorite frosting recipe should work.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

I also use Ghiradhelli semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are non-dairy and delicious.

Semi-sweet chipsUse whatever you have and whatever you like.

If you’re so inclined, you could use any combination of frosting and chips.

White Chocolate Cinnamon?

Caramel Butterscotch?

Chocolate Peppermint?

The possibilities are endless.

VEGAN CHOCOLATE FUDGE

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1 cup of chocolate chips

1 cup of chocolate frosting

Melt chocolate chips over a double boiler or simply microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each round.

Stir together melted chocolate chips and frosting until smooth.

Spread evenly into 9 x 5 loaf pan, heavily greased or lined with tinfoil

Refrigerate until firm.

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Vegan Chocolate Fudge?

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Hallelujah! Holy Shit!

Where’s the Tylenol?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Crustations

We need to talk about something.

It’s very important.

It has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been AWOL from the blog for five months.

Because I wasn’t AWOL.

I knew exactly where I was.

It just wasn’t here.

But I’m here now and we need to discuss something very important.

It’s a rather urgent matter and needs your utmost attention.

Ok.

Here goes.

Pie crust is gross.

Stop it.

We don’t judge here.

But I stand by my opinion.

Pie crust is almost always dry, bland, boring, and a complete waste of calories and stomach space.

Salted flour and crisco is just not my idea of a good time.

And I spend an embarrassing amount of  time trying to scrape every last precious molecule of filling out of the crust.

And then because I’m sad that the filling frotterism is over, I begin to pick at the crust in hopes of elongating the experience.

And then I hate myself.

Because I hate pie crust and I just ate the whole damn thing in minuscule forkfuls until it was gone.

So I decided to skip this whole charade and go right for the jugular.

That’s right.

All filling.

 Pumpkin Pie Filling

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I guess you could call this pudding, if you must.

But this tastes exactly like pumpkin pie filling and I don’t mean the slop that comes in a can.

Nope.

It tastes like real pumpkin pie that came out of your very own oven.

Except this requires no cooking and is ready in five minutes.

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It does require a high speed blender or food processor, though, so go ahead and put that on Santa’s list if you don’t already own one.

I thought I was the genius that came up with this recipe but it turns out I saw it on another blog a few days prior and the idea must have been floating around in my gray matter for a while.

I found the original recipe HERE and made the following adaptations:

PUMPKIN PIE PUDDING

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1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

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 Like I said, you can call it pudding.

But I served it with a banana and called it breakfast.

And mixed it into a smoothie and called it lunch.

And ate it by the spoonful for dinner.

And then I slathered it on some pumpkin bread and almost lost my mind.

If you simply must have pie, then I would just dollop this all over a big, fat slice of apple or pecan pie instead of whipped cream.

Just do it.

I’ll look away while you lick the blender blades.

Like I said, we don’t judge here.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Rumbled

On December 7th, 2013, I ran the fastest 5k of my life.

And that was pretty much the last time I felt like running.

I threw in a few miles here and there and did a sprint or two for good measure, but it was nothing compared to the mileage or speed I was clocking in the previous couple of years.

I just didn’t feel like running anymore.

It didn’t appeal to me.

So I let myself take a nice, long hiatus and enjoyed some other activities.

Once spring had sprung, I thought the running bug would bite, but it didn’t.

I was having too much fun boating and biking.

Kayak

Boating

And since my dog could no longer tackle long walks with me, my sneaks had pretty much been sidelined.

I tried to run a couple of times during the hiatus, but it was painfully boring and then the three months I spent trying to replace my beloved (and no longer produced) Reebok Real Flex’s resulted in serious “dislike” relationship with a pair of New Balances.

Reeboks

Mentally, I was just kind of over it.

But I didn’t want to be.

wanted to want to run again.

So I went back to a pair of tried and true Brooks running shoes and hit the ground, well, running.

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But then I got rumbled.

RUMBLED:

THE ACT OF BEING HUMBLED BY RUNNING.

It was freakin’ hard.

Like, really hard.

Like, I thought my lungs and my legs were going to explode.

There was no way I was going to make it the planned three miles.

Three miles.

Because three miles was nothing six months ago.

It was a jaunt that barely had me breaking a sweat.

Except now three miles was the death of me.

I felt completely inadequate.

And defeated.

I was never the greatest runner, but this was just sad.

I was mentally beating myself up way harder than any run had  ever hurt me physically.

But then I did some reading and reflecting.

I kindly laughed at myself for thinking that just because I was active for the past  six months, that I would somehow magically retain my running speed and endurance.

I realized that I had to start over.

As in, start from the very beginning.

I had to walk.

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I wanted to get used to being on my feet again so I started walking for 40-60 minutes at a (quite leisurely) pace.

When I started running again, I went for short distances.

The goal was just to start running again-no time or distance goals.

I started slow.

It still hurt.

My lungs hurt.

My legs hurt.

My brain hurt.

But I was kind to myself.

I reminded myself that I have to take it slow so that I can build myself back up again.

The goal became to learn to listen to my breathing and run at a comfortable pace.

It’s  currently about 3 1/2 minutes slower than my previous race pace.

But it’s ok.

I know that if I want to love running again, I have to learn to love the process that it takes to get there.

And I have to tell myself that it’s ok to go slow.

It’s ok to run slow.

As long as I’m able to do the things I want to do, it doesn’t really matter how fast I do them.

It’s a blessing to be able to do them at all.

I’m a work in progress.

In running and in life.

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And for that I am rumbled.

Exorcise the Demons

Normally my brain space is occupied with cooking and recipes.

But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise.

In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan famously suggests that we

Eat food

Mostly plants

Not too much

It simplifies all of the confusion surrounding food, diets, scientific research and recommendations.

I believe the same simplistic mindset can be applied to exercise.

Be active

Be consistent 

Don’t do “too much”

1. BE ACTIVE

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Somehow, exercise became synonymous with being a gym rat. I would argue that true exercise are the things you do in your daily life that have the added bonus of keeping you fit. These are the things you either have to do like cleaning the house and shoveling snow or the things you do for fun like playing a pick-up game of basketball or walking the dogs. Every move you make is an “activity.” I think of exercise as just a more “structured” activity.  Don’t beat yourself up if you had to mow your acre of land with a push-mower but didn’t make to the gym in time for spin class. You worked plenty of muscles mowing. Now, if you have a riding mower and haven’t walked more than 20 feet today, get your ass on a treadmill.

2. BE CONSISTENT

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I think this is probably the most important concept for anyone trying to be more active or exercise more. It really doesn’t matter what you decide to do, it only matters that you are consistent. When I first started exercising, I loathed the gym and the thought of running made me vomit in my mouth a little bit. So I did something I was already good at.

I walked.

And I committed to walking for 20 minutes at least three days a week.

It may not seem like a lot, but I knew that I could accomplish that consistently.  Over time, the walks increased, I added yoga and eventually I picked up my feet and started to jog-sloooooowwwwwly. I knew that if I wanted exercise to become part of my lifestyle, I would have to enjoy what I was doing so I took things slowly until I was ready for more.

Note that being consistent does not mean doing the exact same thing over and over again.

Which leads me to my next point…

3. DON’T DO TOO MUCH

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Don’t go all out, guns blazing, and try to run a marathon after you’ve been a couch potato for 20 years.  You probably could do it, but at what cost? Is the risk of injury, broken toe nails, and grueling training schedules really how you want to make your foray into an active lifestyle? Its hard to get motivated to be more active when spend all of your free time recovering.

Or maybe you are fit enough to run a marathon.

It doesn’t mean you have to train for one year round. It’s no surprise that in a country where bigger always equals better, that exercise that is harder, longer, and more demanding is scarily becoming the trend.

It’s more natural to choose a variety of activities, take breaks from doing repetitive exercise, and let your body rest so that it can rebuild and repair.

Think about it.

Back in the day, farmers worked the land all spring and summer-an extremely physically demanding task.

And what did they do in the winter?

They rested.

They rested so that they had the strength and energy to do it all again next  spring.

I realize that in this day and age, we don’t have to gear up to till hundreds of acres of land, but if you spent the summer running, biking, hiking, and racing, feel free to take it in a different direction for a while.

Do some yoga, lift heavy things, or try some high intensity interval work-outs.

Doing the same workouts for years on end is a sure fire way to burn your muscles and bones out.

And I’m really trying to be a 90 year old professional ski jumper.

So I need to keep myself healthy until then.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m not a freakin’ doctor, I’m not a trainer, and I really have no formal education in exercise other than picking the brain of my ninja friend.

So please consider these observations and not advice.

In other words, don’t sue me.

A law suit would surely affect my future ski pro status.

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Quit It

Well, well, well.

Look who’s back.

I’m talking about me, not you.

I took  a little hiatus.

I let myself get totally caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays, family get togethers, and weekends filled with everything and nothing.

It was glorious.

I thought seriously about quitting the blog.

Except I hate quitting.

The nice thing about a hiatus, though,  is that it gives you the space to put things into perspective.

So I took a few months to put my life into perspective.

I realized that quitting doesn’t always that mean you are giving up.

Sometimes it means you are changing your course.

Sometimes it means stopping the things that aren’t good for you.

Sometimes it means setting something aside so you can focus on more important things.

I don’t want to quit the blog.

But sometimes other things are more important.

So I’m quitting.

Not the blog, silly.

I’ve still got shit to say.

But I’m quitting adhering to ridiculous self-imposed routines.

I’m quitting worrying about how other people will react.

I’m quitting doing things that drain me.

And my job.

I totally quit my job.

It drained me in a way that rendered me totally ineffective as a human being.

So now that I’ve rested and some of my human-ness is beginning to return, I have the mental capacity to string words into sentences and press a button on a camera.

Except now I’ll only do it when the inspiration strikes and not when I’m trying to adhere to a self imposed quota of blog posts.

Didn’t know I did that, did you?

I’ll tuck the rest of my oddities away for another day.

For now, we’ll return to the food.

I was watching a completely obnoxious cooking show about “How to live to 100″ that was both irritating and engaging at the same time.

In other words, I loved it.

And I loved the idea of “Cheesy Cauliflower Popcorn” that showed up at the end of the episode.

Could it be true?
Could a vegetable really taste like crunchy, buttery popcorn?

The answer is no.

No it can’t.

There was nothing poppy or corny about it.

But it was pretty tasty.

And making cauliflower tasty is a feat in and of itself.

So I consider this a success.

That, and the fact that it makes eating an entire head of cauliflower feasible.

Not advisable, but feasible.

Roasted Curry Cauliflower

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1 head cauliflower

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

pinch salt

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut leaves and stem from cauliflower.

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Using hands, break cauliflower into small bite-sized pieces.

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In a large bowl, mix cauliflower, canola oil, curry powder, garlic powder, and salt.

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Mix until each piece is well coated.

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Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through the cooking time.

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Put on a movie and enjoy a big bowl of……..cauliflower.

Save A Lot

I hate daylight savings time.

That extra hour of sleep for one freakin’ day is just not worth a five o’clock sunset.

It was barely afternoon before the darkness settled in today.

Everywhere.

If I were a better photographer I would have taken photos in the bright morning light.

But I was busy with Target practice.

What’s Target practice?

Oh, that’s just when I go to Target and practice enormous amounts of self restraint by not spending over $100.

You should try it.

It’s really a work-out in willpower.

Also a work-out in willpower?

Figuring out what to do with 189 pieces of leftover Halloween candy.

I think it’s cute how people post all these recipes with leftover Reece’s Pieces and Snicker’s bars.

As if there is EVER any leftover chocolate candy.

Anyway, I got most of it taken care of, but I had a bag of cinnamon candies that have been haunting me.

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And since it’s already dark outside, why don’t you pop up a bowl of  Candied Corn and settle in for a good movie night?

This makes a small batch because, well, I only had a handful of candy left.

Deal with it.

CANDIED CORN

2 tablespoons popcorn kernels

1/4 cup cinnamon candies

1 teaspoon canola oil

sprinkle salt

Place kernels in a brown lunch bag and fold the top over.

Microwave for 2 minutes or until the popping has slowed.

Yes! 

You can really make air popped popcorn like this!

Pour candies and oil into a small saucepan and cook over low until liquified.

Be careful because the syrup is very, very, hot.

Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn and stir quickly as the candy will begin to harden almost immediately.

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Enjoy the darkness.

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HALLOWINNING

I’m trying to convince my husband to let me be a stay-at-home wife, but he’s not having it.

The thing is, work is really starting to interfere with my recreational time.

In my fictional life, I spend all my time at home cooking delicious recipes and organizing my home.

In my real life, aint nobody got time for that.

Well, maybe I would have more time if I didn’t spend 7 hours of my Saturday burning caramel popcorn that I was trying to make for a Halloween party.

WHY IS CARAMEL SO HARD!?!?!

I barely had time to put on my Halloween costume.

Which is less of a costume and more of a fantasy.

It’s what I really want to be when I grow up.

Liberated women everywhere, be warned.

This will shock and terrify you.

A true Halloween horror to the feminist movement.

I want to be a 50’s housewife.

Halloween 2013

The whole “working outside of the home” thing was way overrated.

I don’t think women in the 70’s considered the consequences of their actions.

In what universe did it seem like a bad idea to let someone else go to work everyday and bring home money for you?

So anyway,  as the bewitching hour neared on Saturday, managing my time got a little tricky,

I had no time to cook up a Halloween treat.

And I burned the shit out of 7 batches of caramel.

I didn’t have any more time to burn.

So I mixed up a no-cook honey caramel concoction.

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And added bourbon.

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Because bourbon is timeless.

NO-COOK BOURBON HONEY CARAMEL SAUCE

1 cup honey

2 tablespoon non-dairy butter

1 teaspoon bourbon

1/2 teaspoon molasses

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

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Collect award for best costume.

Halloween Winning

Even though I look like a scary mess in this photo.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The Roaring Twenties

I feel like I’m supposed to say something really profound here.

You know, this being the last day of of the last year of an entire decade of being a twenty something.

I’m sure I’m supposed to have come to important life realizations, looked back fondly at the crazy, bad, awesome decisions I made over the last ten years, and reflected on how much I’ve grown as a human being.

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Instead I realized  that I married Smokey The Bear’s long lost brother.

Perhaps I should be in some sort of existential crisis state where I round up all of my regrets and ruminate about time lost.

Except that’s all very serious and whiny.

And I try not to do that outside of my own head.

So here it is.

The last hurrah of my roaring 20’s.

Which naturally occurred the weekend before my 30th birthday.

Because I don’t go out during the week.

Because I’m old.

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But not too old to celebrate a good craft beer.

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Beer builds bridges into the future.

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As a thirtysomething. 

A time when getting kitchen appliances is more exciting than kicking ass at keg-stands.

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I love you new-used Vitamix Blender.

I’m desperately clinging onto my twenty something self.

But somehow ready to embrace what my thirties has to bring.

 After all, the Thirties is when prohibition ended.

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And to that I say, party on.

Role Reversal

My husband came home looking all sad panda the other day.

The doctor told me I have high cholesterol.”

Guess all those late night runs to the border for 4th meal caught up to you, eh?

“She told me to stop eating so much meat.”

You don’t say.

“And no more fast food.”

Well, how about that.

“Do we have any vegan cookbooks?”

Why, yes. Yes, we do.

“Do they have pictures.”

No. No, they don’t.

If only there were some sort of vegan cookbook with pictures of how to make everything.”

Yes, Husband. Wouldn’t that be neat if there were some thoroughly documented vegan recipe log with pictures and step-by-step instructions?

Yes, that would be really neat.

DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?!?!

Then husband said he would like to learn how to cook.

“Can you teach me how to cook something?”

Sure. What do you want to learn how to cook?

“Sandwiches.”

Sandwiches?

DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?!?!?!

And how the hell do you not know how to make a sandwich?

Sorry.

I lost my cool there.

Yes, Husband. I can teach you to make a sandwich.

A man sandwich.

First, get into your bare feet and head to the kitchen.

Just kidding.

First, wash that stank off your hands.

This is a basic hot sandwich recipe that can be customized to your extremely finicky palate  liking.

MUSHROOM STEAK SANDWICHES

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16 oz. portobello mushroom caps

2 medium onions

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Slice the ends off of the onion and peel away the skin.

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Cut in half length-wise.

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Put cut side down and then slice into strips.

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Add onions to skillet.

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Slice mushrooms.

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Add to the onions.

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Add the soy sauce and any additional seasonings.

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Seriously. Experiment with the spices.

This is how you learn to cook.

For this batch I added 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup. It had some heat!

Cook for 15-20 minutes or until peppers are cooked but still a little chewy and firm.

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Serve on crusty bread with mixed greens or herbs.

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Don’t worry Husband.

I know you dislike parsley trees in your food.

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I will hand pick each piece of greenery off of your sammich.

Better eat fast.

You still have all those dishes to do!

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