Nutcracker Popcorn Trio (V)

IMG_8683I’m becoming more and more convinced that I should seek out an aspiring stand-up comic because my life is an endless supply of joke material. To truly recruit your investment in this plan, I think I’ll drop you right into the peak of my Tuesday afternoon–though peak is most definitely a poor word choice. Allow me to set the scene…

I’m sitting straddle in the corner of my kitchen floor, mismatched oven mitts on both hands; my sopping wet hair is wrapped in a drooping towel (a towel that I cannot adjust because of the oven mitts); my lunch, which I’d just finished making, sits in the microwave getting cold; a wet, uncooked loaf of bread is laying on the stove; a broom and a shoe box full of broken glass accompany me on the floor; and I’m hunched over inside our oven, which is also laden with shards of glass. This scene remains relatively unchanged for the next twenty minutes.

Now, for the sake of literary suspense, I’ll back track to that morning. I’ve just received a text from my orthopedist, informing me that he can squeeze me in that day if I come ASAP. So, realizing that the office gets busy quickly, I speedily wash my dishes, brush my teeth, spray myself with an ungodly quantity of perfume to compensate for the lack of a shower, glumly look at my makeup I know I won’t have time to use, and call a Lyft–oh yeah, my car is broken…again. I slide into the backseat, only mildly flustered and  distracted by the fact that I hadn’t even had time to make my bed.

The driver doesn’t say much…for the first minute, that is. Soon, a dramatic squirming pulls my wandering mind back to the front car seat–this man has unbuckled his seat belt and is hastily removing his coat, explaining over the beep of the seat belt alarm that “This is too much for me right now.”IMG_8698

Feeling the subtlety of his masculine display abruptly disappear along with his outermost layer, I silently chuckle as he tosses the coat onto the passenger side and then immediately dons a thick knit beanie. I watch as he completes his presentation by slouching back casually into the seat and glancing in the rear view mirror to assess my response. Doing my very best to avoid locking eyes with him, mostly because I realize I’d likely fail to keep a straight face (and Lord knows how some men interpret a simple smile), I check my phone for nonexistent notifications. I absentmindedly start to bob my head to the music playing from the front of the car, but when I see Mr. Macho perk up–not too abruptly as to break his cool–I realize my mistake. “You like this?”

I conjure up the blandest, most strictly polite response I can: “Yeah, it’s nice. It has a good beat.”

You would have thought that he’d written the song himself and that I’d just presented him with a Grammy. He smiles widely and immediately educates me on the genre of rap-reggae fusion to which I’ve just been exposed. As if I’d begged him to please allow me to hear more of this music, and as if it is a breach of Lyft policy for him to do so, he offers “I’m going to let you hear something.” 

I stop a sarcastic “Really?? Thank you!!!” before it escapes my lips and instead fake interest in an obnoxious song that is growing louder from the speakers. Eventually, I tire of this false engagement and turn my attention back to my phone. After a few seconds, I notice him looking at me in the mirror once again. Despite his one-handed steering and slumped posture, I can see something in his eyes, just a slight hint of panic–he realizes he’s lost me. Scrambling to regain his false sense of influence, he changes the song, grasping once again for my approval. Understanding the ironic power I hold over this macho individual, I start gently bobbing my head again, pretending not to notice his look of satisfaction; it has become a game, tampering with his (excuse my cliche) fragile masculinity. 


I play my role for the rest of the ride, feeling his glances constantly assess my emotion and constantly contradict his attempts at nonchalance. I must commend his ability to adapt–when an especially shaky moment arises, he proactively gains control of the situation by switching from left to right slouch, or by demanding my attention with the sheer virility of slowly scratching his beard. Thankfully for his emotional stamina, the ride only lasts a few minutes longer, and he drops me off at the door of my orthopedist. I thank him and shut the door, finally able to laugh without risk of breaking character. It’s hard to believe that only the first couple hours of my morning have passed. 

After a lengthy appointment and a much tamer ride back to the apartment, I jump at the chance of getting the shower I’d skipped earlier. I’ve learned, after much trial and error, the perfect ratio of hot and cold water that produces the longest-lasting comfort for a shower (one comes to learn these unique arts when living in a nineteenth century building). Sometimes, though, no amount of mastery can prevent the chilling spritz from coming too soon. This is one of those days, of course. I feel my muscles begin to clench as the last bit of warmth from the shower head runs down my still soapy legs and down the drain. In a panic–I am an utter wimp when it comes to cold–I brush off the remaining bubbles, fumble for my towel on the bathroom rug, quickly pat myself dry enough to yank on clothes, and then wrap my frigid hair up away from my shoulders.

After a few minutes, I make my way to the kitchen, where I’ve been anxious to bake a loaf of bread that I’ve left to rise overnight. I’ve been working on creating a crispy crust on my bread, and one method of doing this is to place a pan of boiling water on the oven floor to create steam, which in turn helps a crusty exterior develop.

**Now, I’d like to prematurely defend myself by saying that this thing I’m about to explain, I’d done it before–idiotic or not, it had taken place without disaster in the past, and I like to think that’s at least a fraction of an argument for my case. You can be the judge.IMG_8694

So, I boil a tea kettle of water and moisten the top of the bread dough to prepare it for baking (another strategy to help with crust). I slide the tray with the bread into the oven above the pan I’ve placed on the bottom rack to create my steam. Lastly, I grab the tea kettle and pour the boiling water into the clear…glass dish. The glass dish which immediately explodes upon contact with the scalding water. By the grace of God, the hundreds of shards manage to avoid my body entirely, instead decorating the inside of my oven and the floor in a dangerous layer. I’m frozen for a moment, waiting to realize that I am dreaming or somehow very confused. Nope.

And here we are, back to the floor of my kitchen on Tuesday afternoon. With the help of a broom, vacuum cleaner, and shoe box, I managed to clean up all the glass eventually, though I always see the glimmer of a few stray pieces when I open my oven door now. Kind of Christmas-y, I guess! The rest of that day was far less entertaining, which, as you may assume, wasn’t the worst outcome. All I can say is that I’m learning constantly how to embrace those days when I feel like a silly cartoon character who gets struck by lightning and then steps on a mouse trap and then gets squished under a giant’s footstep. My roommate, a writer, even fantasized my life as a writing exercise in which you’re told to insert the character into as many unfortunate, inescapable situations as possible. That’s certainly far from my actual life–I’m so very fortunate. But I do experience plenty of face-palm incidents; and, if I’ve given you a chuckle at any point in this saga, well then I guess they aren’t for nothing. I may be dreading my next ridiculous misfortune, but I’m very much looking forward to sharing whatever it is with you!

When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future

Ecclesiastes 7:14


Nutcracker Popcorn Trio (V)



  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 TBSP canola oil


  • 1 1/4 c light brown sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup coffee, separated
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt


  • 2 TBSP vegan butter
  • 4 oz. vegan dark chocolate
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder


  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 6 candy canes
  • 5 TBSP vegan butter, melted
  • 2 TBSP corn syrup
  • salt to taste



  1. For each type of popcorn, put oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Place 2 kernels in the oil.
  2. When the two kernels pop, remove the pan from heat and turn off burner. Pour the rest of the kernels into the oil.
  3. Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat, and cover. When popcorn begins to pop, leave a slight crack in the lid to release steam.
  4. Allow popcorn to pop, shaking saucepan occasionally, until the pops are a few seconds apart. Remove from heat, and pour popcorn into a bowl.


  1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and grease the top of the paper with butter. Spread one batch of prepared popcorn across the baking sheets.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, 1/3 cup coffee, and corn syrup. Stir continuously until butter is melted.
  3. When mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring and allow to cook untouched for five minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in 1/4 cup coffee, almond extract, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Pour a little at a time over popcorn on prepared trays, and stir to coat entirely. **You don’t want too much excess caramel left on the bottom of the trays–you may have a little extra left in the saucepan depending on how much popcorn your kernels yielded. 
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool completely on tray, and break apart pieces as needed. 


  1. In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate.
  2. Stir in cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.
  3. Pour over popcorn, and stir to coat.
  4. Sprinkle the cocoa powder gradually over the coated popcorn, stirring until evenly distributed.
  5. Spread onto a flat surface to cool completely.


  1. In a small skillet, toast sweetened coconut flakes over low-medium heat until browned throughout, stirring continuously. Remove from heat, and allow to cool. (You may want to remove them from the pan immediately to avoid burning)
  2. Combined cooled coconut and six candy canes (broken) in the bowl of a food processor or cup of a Nutribullet. Pulse until fine.
  3. Stir corn syrup into melted butter. Pour over batch of popcorn, and stir to coat.
  4. Pour candy cane coconut mixture over a batch of popcorn, tossing to coat every piece. Mix in salt to taste.
  5. Allow to cool.








Sriracha Roasted Chickpeas (V)(SF)(GF)

IMG_5941For those of you who don’t quite know the personal significance of this recipe, allow me to enlighten you. I don’t hate many things, especially when it comes to eating. However, one major exception has existed for as long as I can remember. I HATE spicy food. It’s not just a preference, not a loose stance from which I’ll stray on occasion. It’s an “I”ll take a level 0 pad thai please” even when the server laughs at me; an always wary of getting too heavy handed with the pepper shaker; a “mom, try this before I do because it smells hot” kind of hate. Spice and I do not see eye to eye, and we never have. The Avengers : Thanos :: Allie : Spicy Food. I think you get it.

Alas, perhaps now–after you’ve had your laugh at my wimpiness– you can grasp the absurdity of this post. I, Allie Durand, used Sriracha in something I made. That I consumed. With my own mouth.  And I lived to tell the tale. In fact, I ate all of the chickpeas that I made for this recipe, and–this is the part that still doesn’t like to be heard–I liked them. IMG_5913

I certainly didn’t plan for the sole nemesis of my culinary life (aside from coffee, which I’ve already endured once on this blog) to become the center of my recipe. I had a much sweeter, much less frightening, much more me-friendly concoction prepared; but I ran out of time to get it done for this post. My next plan soon became to roast chickpeas, a favorite snack of mine and one that I’d kept on my mental back-burner in case of a pinch for time such as that. But it wasn’t until I opened the spice cabinet and found I was out of my beloved cumin (a fabulously delicious and heat-free spice), that I, with shaking hands, opened the fridge and took out the very bottle I’d nearly pawned off to a friend two days before.

Yet here we are. You’re reading my Sriracha recipe, the recipe I wrote having consumed dozens of the fiery snacks. Everyone survived (sans chickpeas), and I’m proud of myself for stepping beyond the bounds of comfortable food. Though an arguably trivial example, this ordeal really brought to mind my struggle with boldness. Though I am undoubtedly an extrovert, someone who loves attention, and a sucker for a good counter-cultural act, there’s a sense of timidity in me that loves to tighten its grip on my interactions, especially as I get older.



Maybe it’s a result of simple evolution in my personality; maybe it’s the fear of being condemned the way so many people are for expressing anything unpopular about themselves; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent my life in ballet studios, where you do exactly what you’re supposed to do and look exactly the way you’re supposed to look and fix yourself when you don’t do exactly what you’re supposed to do and speak exactly zero times. All I know is that starting conversations with strangers and stating my opinion confidently and simply being as “me” as it gets comes with a small twinge of apprehension that used to be nonexistent.

I’m not saying that I’d be better off as my elementary school self–a gal with a lot of opinions, not much of a verbal filter, and an overwhelming notion that everyone around her needed to know that–she’s left in the past for a reason. But, I am saddened by the fact that I no longer feel that childhood ease of unapologetic being. Speaking. I may have been naive as a child; let’s rephrase: I WAS naive as a child, but maybe being naive isn’t the worst thing if it erases the fear of being judged, hated, seen as inferior. IMG_5964

But here’s where the chickpeas come in. I know that despite what events in my life have worked to suppress the carefree, loud-mouthed gal in me, I ultimately get to choose every day to fight them. To approach a stranger on the bus and begin conversation because why not. To talk about how freaking amazing God is when the world tells me I should keep it to myself. To be myself always and around everyone, no matter how much more intelligent, attractive, witty, or popular than me I’m convinced they are.

Friends, life can be heavy. It can be scary and uncomfortable and downright hurtful. Let’s do each other a favor and support the daunting practice of boldness. Let’s get a little spicy.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7


Sriracha Roasted Chickpeas (V)(SF)(GF)

This is just one flavor option out of the endless possibilities for roasted chickpeas, a delicious and sinfully easy snack. This recipe, though, is especially tasty for lovers of Sriracha and spice in general!


  • 2 cans chickpeas (mine were 15.5 oz., but it doesn’t have to be exact)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP sriracha
  • 1 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (plus more for sprinkling)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet or two small baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Drain chickpeas, and dry them with paper towels.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, sriracha, soy sauce, and ginger.
  4. Add chickpeas, and stir to coat.
  5. Spread chickpeas on baking sheet(s), making sure there’s space between them.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes or until crispy as desired, stirring a few times as they bake to ensure even cooking and avoid burning.
  7. Turn off the oven, and prop the door just open with an oven mitt. Leave the chickpeas in for about 10 minutes.
  8. Remove, dust with more ginger as desired, and enjoy! Keep at room temperature in sealed containers/baggies.