Friday, December 28, 2012

See's Original Chocolate Chip Cookies

If there is one thing I love, it's chocolate chip cookies. I grew up on the traditional Nestle Toll House variety, but have always wondered if there was something else out there... something better. I've been collecting recipes on Pinterest and trying different chips in search of the *best* chocolate chip cookie. This year, I decided to buy a bag of chips from my new favorite chocolatier: See's Candies

I love their chocolates, their lollipops, their truffles. To be honest, I've yet to find anything I *don't* like from See's, so it seemed like a safe bet. The chips were a bit pricy at $5.75/lb., but can we really put a price on culinary perfection? Nooooo... *wink* 

I couldn't believe how BIG the chips were. In fact, "big" is an understatement... these suckers are HUGE. Ginormous. Each chip is about the size of a nickel, maybe a bit bigger. Just seeing the size of the chip was the beginning of the end for me. I like a traditional sized chip. In recent years, my grandma started making her Nestle Tollhouse Cookies with their chocolate chunks rather than their chips and I even thought those were too big. BUT, I paid nearly $6 for these babies, so I wasn't going to let size deter me. I pressed on... 

I followed the See's Original Chocolate Chip Recipe on the bag (see below) and baked off a batch, fully prepared for heavenly chocolate chip cookie bliss, but I never quite achieved that state of sugar induced nirvana I was hoping for. The chips were hard to mix into the dough because they were so large. I ended up with some cookies that only had one chip and others that had several. They baked out very flat, but to their credit never got hard or crunchy (a serious pet peeve!). In short, I was disappointed. I wouldn't buy them again. In my honest opinion, Nestle wins this battle in a landslide. 

Here's the recipe if anyone would like to try it. I'm tempted to try it with the Nestle chips just for shiggles, but we'll see if it ever happens. 

1 c. Butter - cream well
1 c. Light Brown Sugar

Add gradually to above: 
1 c. Sugar

Beat into the above:
2 Eggs
1 1/2 t. Vanilla

Mix together, add to above, blending well:
2 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 t. Salt
1 t. Baking Soda
1 c. Chopped Walnuts (I omitted. I have a serious aversion to nuts in cookies.)
2 c. See's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake @ 375˚ F 8-10 minutes. Yield @ 4 dozen cookies. 

There is also a recipe on the back of the bag for See's Gooey Brownies. I've been lamenting the fact that I didn't try those instead. I probably would have liked them better, even though I'm not really a brownie fan in general (but seriously, a GOOEY brownie? Who can resist that? Although honestly, since trying the Chocolate Cookie Dough Brownies that Bakerella posted a few years back I've never tried another brownie recipe. When you find something you love you just stick with it! 

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. If I love Nestle so much, why do I keep looking for something better? 

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Memorial Christmas Ornaments

A few weeks ago we received a post card from our family cemetery letting us know that they would be placing memorial Christmas trees in their chapel area and we were invited to bring ornaments in memory of our loved ones. We are blessed to have known many people who were laid to rest at this cemetery and I truly wanted to make ornaments for every single one of them, but that just wasn't practical. Instead, I chose a select few. We (my mom and I) didn't want to spend a fortune on the ornaments because no where on the invitation did it say whether or not we'd be able to retrieve them at the end of the season.

We bought plain, solid colored balls (a box of 8 for $4.95!) and headed to my craft room where we used paint pens, punches, and ribbon to personalize them. Each ornament got a double ribbon tie at the top, a name, and a hang tag. On the front of the hang tag was our loved ones full name and as much of the birth and death information as we had available to us, and on the back of each tag was a short personal message from us to them in heaven.

In addition to that box of 8 ornaments, I also purchased two separately. There was a lady at a local craft fair would painted names on ornaments for $5, so I bought one for our son Henry in orange (his favorite color) and added an orange ribbon and a paw print ribbon, keeping with his love of animals.

I also found a snowflake at Hobby Lobby that I just couldn't resist for my goddaughter Kejerah, who died at two months old of SIDS. I couldn't write a name on the snowflake, so I just hung the tag from the bottom and attached a small burgundy stitched ribbon at the top. Simple, but perfect. It was a snowy night, the night Kejerah died, and I always think of her when it snows even now. I'm sure I always will.

And here is the set of 8. We really weren't sure what to expect in terms of what other people would be doing. It was nice looking through the trees (as much as we could with a four year old in tow). There were shaped ornaments with no words whatsoever, and others that had names and dates on them. A huge variety. We may reuse these next year, but we may also swap them out for more meaningful ones for each individual person. A flamingo for my grandma (she HATED lawn flamingos... it got to be a standing joke between the two of us that we'd buy each other flamingo stuff when we saw it. :)), maybe a fish for my grandpa, the master fisherman. A daisy for Cheryl, our cousin whose life ended far too soon after a courageous battle with cancer, a cardinal for Aunt Ferne, the most recent relative to join our heavenly family less than a month ago.... We'll have to wait and see what we find. Or, maybe we will keep using these but add on for other friends and relatives we didn't cover this year. Time will tell.

In loving memory, this Christmas and always, of Henry, Kejerah, (Great) Grandma (Bessie) Hank (yes, we called her by grandpa's first name... weird, I know.), Aunt Ferne, Grandpa (Eugene or "Eug"), Grandma (Wilma), (cousin) Cheryl, (Great) Grandpa Hank (Henry's namesake), (Godfather) Rick, and Aunt Mamie.

May you rest in peace. 

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Origami Owl Living Lockets

Everyone has a story to tell...

You've heard me tell my story over the years, a story of creativity and love, grief and hope, and most importantly, a story of family. Origami Owl is a fairly new company that specializes in customizable jewelry including what they call Living Lockets, which allow you to tell your story in a way no other jewelry ever has. Think of it as a sort of scrapbook you can wear.

As Steph at Six Sisters' Stuff (love that blog!) so eloquently wrote, yours "might be a story of survival, a story of faith, a celebration of family, a special memory, or a realization of a life dream. Whether you've welcomed a new member to your family through adoption, become a grandma, suffered the loss of a family member or friend, returned from a dream vacation, or just want to share your hobbies, interests, or team spirit, Origami Owl can help you create a locket to help you share your story with others."

The beautiful thing about these lockets is that they are never final. The lockets are held shut with a strong magnetic closure and the charms and plates inside can be changed as frequently as you like. I am currently wearing two snowflakes with some red and crystal birthstones in mine (silently willing a white Christmas for Northeast Wisconsin!), but have changed it twice within the last week to reflect my love of the Green Bay Packers (2 green birthstones, 2 gold birthstones, football charm, "G", and "B") and the memory of my son Henry ("faith" plate, angel charm, birthstone). The possibilities are truly endless, and I love that.

I am beyond thrilled to announce that as of late October, I am an independent designer with Origami Owl. I would be more than happy to help you create a locket that is meaningful for yourself or for a gift. The holiday season is fast approaching, but there is still time to order for Christmas delivery! Orders placed by 10am CST on the following days will arrive in time for Christmas: December 13 for ground shipping, December 17th for three day shipping, December 18th for two day shipping, or December 19th for overnight shipping.

In addition to the Living Lockets, Origami Owl also has a new "tagged" line of pendents that are made to inspire and affirm life. In my own personal collection you will find tagged items that slide together on a chain to say, "I have faith". I've spoken on this blog about the death of my three year old son Henry, and this is a reminder to me and a proclamation to the world that I will see him again and we will be together for eternity. I am also exceptionally fond of the "I am" and "Enough" tags. What a wonderful gift they would make for a young lady who is struggling to find her identity and dodge peer pressure! Sometimes those words are exactly what a person needs to hear in this day and age of  media and feeling we need to live up to other people's standards: You are enough.

Please take a moment to click through to my Origami Owl webpage and take a peek. Maybe you are looking for a new opportunity to earn a little spending cash for yourself or even a new career. This company is new and fresh and at the ground level. We're just bursting at the seams and I'd love to have you along for the ride of a lifetime! We have a great team and a great mentoring system in place (even if you're on the other side of the country - trust me! I know first hand!). If you'd like to be a part of it, please look at the sidebar on my blog for links to email me for more info, or just do what I did and click the "Join My Team" button over there to sign up sight unseen! (I really did. True story.)

You can also stay up to date with the company and any specials or new product announcements by "liking" my Origami Owl Facebook Page. I will also be posting O2 related news on my blog occasionally along with my continued posts about cooking, creating, and life in general. Maybe we'll even have a giveaway in the new year!

I am an Origami Owl independent designer located in Northeast Wisconsin - specifically, Oshkosh, Wisconsin - in the heart of the Fox River Valley. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about the Origami Owl products or business opportunity! Interested in hosting a jewelry bar or catalog show? Awesome! You can earn free jewelry with very little effort - it's well worth your time! It's a great company, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Let me know how I can help you.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reflections: Infusion Day

I'm typing this as I sit at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin with Jack, passing the time as I listen to the pump that is delivering his monthly IVIG treatment into his veins. Jack is busy watching a Baby Einstein DVD of all things, and I'm left to think.

Next week marks the three year anniversary of our first infusion. It was the day before Thanksgiving when we got the call alerting us of Jack's immune deficiency and informing us that we had to come to Milwaukee immediately and spend the night while Jack received his first treatment. Imagine our horror, not even three weeks after burying our oldest son (whose cause of death and autopsy results had not even been made known to us yet), to learn that our other son also had a potentially life ending disease. I was numb. I never wanted to set foot in this hospital again, but I had no choice. In a matter of hours I would be walking that same skywalk that I walked out three weeks earlier to a car that still held two car seats though only one of them would ever hold a child again. I cried as I turned off the highway and saw the building come into focus. I cried as we walked the skywalk to the desk clerk who told us which room we were being admitted to, and then again when we passed the large bank of windows that looked over the helipad where Henry's little body was resuscitated the night of November 1. Needless to say, it was a difficult trip. 

We learned at that visit that Jack had Bruton's x-linked agammaglobulinemia, and that these visits would be required every three to four weeks to build up and maintain a sort of false immunity in him. Though they would no longer require overnight stays, they would still be all day endeavors and required a good number more visits to Children's Hospital than any parent ever hopes to make. I felt sorry for Jack, who would have to endure these treatments and pokes for the rest of his life. I felt sorry for my husband, as I saw the emotional strain this placed on him and, I'll admit it, I felt sorry for myself. I didn't ask for this. I didn't *want* this. This is not what we signed up for when we decided to have children and start a family.

All of these visits though - I'm estimating about 40 so far, as we started coming every three weeks and then switched to every four weeks - have given me perspective. I am not alone. I am confident that every patient and patient family that walks through those doors wishes they didn't have to. I've also learned that despite how devastating our situation is, it could still be worse. 

Today's treatment is winding down, and I will walk out that same skywalk as we return to the car. I still think of Henry, and mourn that loss every day as I will until the day I draw my final breath, but I know that he is with me both now and always and there will be no tears today. I don't feel the overwhelming sense of loss anymore when I walk through these hallways. I feel hope, comfort, kindness, and empathy. Time has eased nothing, but the perspective God has granted me these last three years has afforded me the opportunity to adjust the weight of grief and make carrying that weight a little less burdensome. For that, I am grateful. 

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Children's Books For A Cause... Please Share!!

As you likely know if you've been following this blog for any length of time, my husband and I lost our son Henry three years ago to an undiagnosed immune deficiency disorder. In short, Henry woke up sick on Friday morning, October 30th, 2009, and closed his eyes for the last time three days later, aged three years and four months old. He was an amazing little boy, so vibrant and happy, always smiling, and he loved animals. "Aminals," as he called them, were his life. Every day I would take him and his brother Jack to the little zoo in town and walk around the circle. Sometimes we would go twice a day, because he loved it that much. He was always very concerned about the animals. If boys three times his age were being mean to the animals, Henry had no problem telling them so. "Be good to the 'aminals'!" was his mantra, and I heard it more than once in his short life.

At night my husband, Darrin, and I would share bedtime duties. Henry had a three part routine that required first Mama, then Papa, and then Mama again one last time. During "Papa time," Henry would describe the animals he saw that day and their antics, and he and Darrin would conjure up bedtime stories about the animals, always interjecting Henry into the stories to remind others to treat them with kindness and respect. Henry always saved the day. 

After his passing, we decided to publish these bedtime stories in memory of him, and created the Adventures of Henry book series. We published our first book, Timmy The Goat, two years ago and have since published two more - Mikayla the Wolf and Sam the Snake; all based on stories my boy created with his Papa. The books feature animals who share their names with other children (and at least one adult) battling rare diseases, and in the back of each book there are pages dedicated to these people and the conditions that affect their lives. Among the children featured is our other son, Jack, who shares the same immune deficiency that claimed Henry's life: x-linked agammaglobulinemia. The books also include "Teachable Topics" about the various locations and animals that are mentioned in each book to help parents further educate their children about some of the animals and places our Henry enjoyed learning about. The books are geared toward elementary aged children, and the reviews we've received from friends, family, and strangers - adults and children alike - have been excellent. Not just for the stories and the message behind them, but also for the quality of the books themselves. 

Our intent in publishing these books was threefold: to honor Henry, to help raise awareness for rare diseases, and to raise money for the organizations that help the children who are afflicted by them. Profits from the sales of these books will be donated to organizations like Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, who work persistently every day to find cures and treatments for these kids and so many other children like them. 

What is breaking my heart is that after nearly two years of diligent book sales, we have yet to become profitable. We attend book fairs and vendor events at every opportunity and are blessed to be able to sell our books in several local retail outlets in addition to our own website. Yet each month we pay out upwards of $300+ dollars in storage, publishing, and vendor event costs. At $15 a book, we are still far from being able to hand a check over to these organizations in Henry's name and bring some closure to his death by helping others on his behalf. Vendor events are unpredictable, and we never know going into one exactly how many books will sell. Some days we are closer to zero, and some days we are closer to one hundred. Darrin and I sell the books ourselves, so our time is limited to the weekends he is not in school (he has returned to college for a masters degree in biotechnology in hopes of finding a cure for our son, Jack) as one of us has to stay home with Jack while the other is out selling books. It makes for slow going. 

This is where I am praying you can help. I'm wondering if you could do me the favor of sharing this blog post. Share it on your blog, via email, or with specific friends you know who are well connected or also have social media platforms on which to spread the message far and wide. We have approximately 4000 books left in stock between all three titles and every one of them would make a fantastic Christmas gift for the children on your gift list (or their teacher or daycare provider!) this holiday season. An inventory of 4000 books is nothing for large retailers, but for one local bereaved Mama and Papa, it might as well be the weight of the world.

Can you please help us find homes for these books this Christmas?

I told my husband I was determined to sell all of them by Christmas, but I can't make that happen without a little help from my friends... and their friends, too! Even if we could put a massive dent in the stock it would help us to have a more manageable inventory that we could then relocate to our home and thereby stop paying our monthly storage fees, eliminating one profit-eating expense. And if you're wondering, we need to sell about half of that inventory - approximately 2000 books - before we are profitable and can start sending checks out to these organizations in Henry's name. I sooo can not wait for that day to come!! 

We aren't in this to make money for ourselves, that was never our intent. We simply want to give something back to a medical community that has helped us navigate our way through hell and back (from the death of one child and the almost simultaneous diagnosis of the other), all in the name of one of the sweetest little blue-eyed blonde-haired boys you could ever know. 

These are our books

Here are some specifics about them

  • Title 1: Timmy the Goat: Spelunking Adventure 
  • Title 2: Mikayla the Wolf: Awakening at Yellowstone
  • Title 3: Sam the Snake: Refuge at Bureau Creek
  • Cost $15.00 each 
  • 8" x 8" in size
  • Fully illustrated in color by local (NE Wisconsin) sisters Sonja and Eve Funnell
  • Approximately 48 pages in length
  • Available for purchase at 
  • FREE SHIPPING on all US orders through December 31, 2012 to help move inventory!!
  • Gift wrapping is available if requested (note at payment, or message us at our Facebook page)
If you don't have a child in your life to buy for, consider purchasing one or more books to donate (there is a donation option listed at the website above). We can send donated books to you, to a donation location of your choice, or deliver them to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for distribution to the various clinics and patients as hospital staff sees fit. 

Thank you so much for reading this, and for helping spread the word in any way possible. You will never know how much that means to us.

For blog posts about my grief process as a bereaved mother, Henry's life and death, and photos of our boy, please click {HERE}, or click the "Henry" label on the sidebar.

God bless you and your family, 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chicken Can-Can

This is one of the easiest recipes I've ever tried. As much as I enjoy recipes that are truly made from scratch, some times it's nice to have something like that that you can just whip together in an instant with a few things from the pantry. It's warm and creamy and tasty. What more can you ask for? Oh, and it also bears a striking resemblance to the Cream of Chicken Noodle Soup that Campbell's used to sell (1. Why did they stop? 2. Can you tell I was a Campbell's Soup kid? This is the second post in two days that mentions the brand. Love that stuff! Homestyle Chicken Noodle is my all time favorite. I could eat it at every meal to this day. Nom.)

Anywho... here's the recipe that grandma clipped from an old issue of Taste of Home Magazine:

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed chicken noodle soup, undiluted
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 can (10 oz.) chunk white chicken, drained
1 can (5 oz.) chow mein noodles (note: I would not use these again the next time)

In a large skillet, combine the first five ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken; heat through. Serve over chow mein noodles or substitute with any noodle of your choice.

When I made this, I used the chow mein noodles the recipe called for - partly because I like them, and partly because I had half a bag in the cupboard leftover from some chop suey we had a few weeks back. I was not a fan of the taste combo here at all. Not even a little bit. Ptooey. BUT, the creamy chicken stuff was super good on its own, and it totally reminded me of that old Campbell's soup. Next time I make this, I'll be using some type of noodle that resembles those in the chicken noodle soup. Something straight, thick, and flat. Maybe some of those home made noodles you see in specialty shops. That would be perfection.

I will probably also use "real" chicken rather than canned chicken. The canned chicken tasted fine and worked great and was ├╝ber easy, but it kinda skeeves me out and I'm not sure why. Next time I'll probably use some shredded chicken breasts (I like to boil chicken breasts with onion and then shred them in my Kitchen Aid Mixer. One of the many things Pinterest has taught me.) rather than the canned stuff.

The days are getting shorter and the temps are dropping up here in NE Wisconsin. It's the perfect time to whip up some of this comfort food...


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Beef Barley Soup

This isn't one of grandma's recipes, but it's still new to me so I thought I'd share it here. I was looking for some comfort food, and wanted something easy to throw together in the crock pot and found this in one of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks (love those books!). It's in the "Slow Cooker Recipes" book on page 109 if you have a collection yourself. :)

Overall, it was a hit. Both my 4 year old son AND my husband enjoyed it so I'd call that a success. The only commentary from the hubsy was that it was a little bland, and I concur. I think the recipe has plenty of salt between the actual salt and what is contained in the bouillon, but it could use a little cracked pepper to zip it up a bit. I don't like spice, but it has to have a little something to give it some oomph.

Here's the recipe:

2 c. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (I just sliced up some baby carrots we had on hand)
1 c. celery, thinly sliced
3/4 c. green pepper, diced (I omitted)
1 c. onion, diced (I just used one whole onion, didn't measure)
1 lb. stew beef, cubed
1/2 c. pearl barley, uncooked
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
3 cubes beef bouillon
2 T. catsup
1 t. salt
3/4 t. dried basil
5 c. water (maybe next time I'll substitute in some beef broth here?)

Layer vegetables, beef and barley in a slow cooker; add seasonings. Pour water over all; do not stir. Cover and cook on low setting for 9 to 11 hours. Makes 4-6 servings.


I would definitely make this soup again, but with a few minor adjustments (pepper, beef broth). I had enough for four bowls and was able to freeze two meals worth to boot, so I'd say that's a win. There's nothing better than just being able to whip some home made soup out of the freezer for supper at the end of a long day!

Enjoy, and let me know if you try it!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tater Tot Taco Salad

Did you know that mini tater tots existed? I had no idea. I saw them on the ingredient list and thought I was in for another wild goose hunt for random ingredients, but they were right there in the freezer section next to their larger counterparts. Huh. Who knew. Unfortunately, I fear this will lead to more purchases of the little buggers just because tater tots rock. And anything that rocks is always ten times better in a tiny poppable size, isn't it? It is.

This is another recipe from grandma's stash, and I chose to try it partly because I've been yearning for all things taco and partly because I had every single ingredient except for the tots in my fridge or freezer.  Or so I thought. Turns out I was wrong. My shredded lettuce, which I swear looked just fine in the morning, was all brown and wilty by dinner time, and apparently I forgot that I ate that tomato with some cottage cheese on top (NOM!) for lunch the day before. Whoops. So, our tater tot taco salad experience was sort of lackluster, but it was still good enough to have me wanting to make it again. I think that says a lot right there.

Here's the recipe:

2 c. frozen tater tots
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 T. taco seasoning
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. sliced or stuffed ripe olives
1 c. shredded lettuce
2 T. taco sauce
1/4 c. sour cream

Bake tater tots according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning.  Divide tater tots between two serving plates or bowls. Top with taco mixture, cheese, olives, lettuce, taco sauce and sour cream.

Yield: 2 servings.

What I liked about this recipe: It was SIMPLE. I love simple. It was also fast and yummy and didn't make a huge mess in my kitchen. All the things I look for in dinner recipes! I also love that it makes only 2 servings, but is easily doubled or even tripled.

What I didn't like: Well, mostly the fact that I realized too late that I didn't have everything I thought I did on hand. Otherwise, no complaints at all!

Be sure to let me know if you try it, and stay tuned. I think there will be a breakfast casserole coming up soon...

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

See! I told you I had more recipes to share! My mom brought me a boatload of ripe bananas, and I decided that , rather than yet another banana bread, I'd try something new. I found this gem in grandma's recipe stash and set to work.

Now, let me tell you this was a first for me. There was a day when I wouldn't even clip or attempt a recipe if it had more than, say, five ingredients. It just seemed like way too much work. But, I'm happy to say I have matured as a baker since those days and therefore this was feasible. Tedious, but feasible. :)

Here's the recipe for you:

2/3 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 c. mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
1 c. milk (I used skim. You know, to keep it low cal. LOL.)
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter, softened
4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Dash salt

1. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add bananas and milk; mix just until combined. Combine the flour, banking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture; beat for 2 minutes.

2. In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth. Spread over cake. Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 15 servings

What I liked about this recipe: It was DELISH! I was seriously concerned that the frosting would be too sweet (as it is by itself), but when coupled with the cake it was a perfect combination. The cake itself was very dense and very filling, almost like a carrot cake would be. I also appreciate the new alternative for over ripe bananas!

What I didn't like: It took For. Ev. Er. to cook. I checked it at 30 mins, and then again every five minutes thereafter. I didn't add up the entire time, but I was probably around 50 minutes of total bake time and my toothpick was still coming out with a little bit of batter on it. The edges were starting to get a little too brown for my liking, so I pulled it out even though it was still a tiny bit doughy, and it turned out fine. I have no idea whose oven could cook this in 30 minutes though, because the top was barely even set in that amount of time. But, I guess if you make it it's best to err on the side of caution and start checking at 30 or 35 mins like the original recipe suggests. It could also be because I didn't measure my bananas, and instead just used 4 medium (as the recipe comparison suggests) sized ones. Maybe I had over 2 cups in there, but it couldn't have been that much over. Who knows. Bottom line though is that it turned out and was divine. The other small issue I had was that the frosting recipe makes a boatload of frosting. Probably more than you need. I slathered it all on though - hate to be wasteful, you know! :)

So, there you have it! Let me know how it turns out (and what your final cook time was) if you decide to try it! And stay tuned for that Tater Tot Taco Salad recipe! That was a super fast dinner if ever I saw one. Just my style!

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Peanut Butter n' Jelly Bars

I can't even believe it myself, but I am blogging again in less than a week with a new recipe. Woot! AND, even better, I've tried two MORE new recipes since making this one and plan to share those, too. This is unprecedented territory, people. :)

I made these bars for the family reunion last weekend. I thought I'd try them out - I like to try new recipes for big events like that, so that if I don't care for it I'm not stuck with a whole pan. There's always *someone* who will love it! I thought these would be a hit with the kiddos, but I'm honestly not sure if any kids even got any, because the adults were gobbling them up first! They were sooooo easy to make, they're definitely going into my "must have" recipe book for future use.

Here's the recipe:

1 tube (16 1/2 oz.) refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough
1/2 c. peanut butter chips
1 can (16 oz.) buttercream frosting (I used cream cheese - couldn't find the buttercream)
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. seedless raspberry jam or grape jelly (I used grape, and didn't measure - just put a few dollops on and swirled)

Let dough stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften. Press into an ungreased 9x13 dish; sprinkle with peanut butter chips. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 - 18 minutes or until lightly browned and edges are firm to the touch.

In a small mixing bowl, beat frosting and peanut butter until smooth. Spread over bars. Drop jam by teaspoonfuls over frosting; cut through frosting with a knife to swirl the jam.

Yield: 2 dozen

What I liked about this recipe: As I said, it was super easy to make! It's also kid friendly, as little hands could help press the dough into the pan, sprinkle the chips, spread the frosting, etc.

What I didn't like: Unless you have most of this stuff on hand, or watch for sales, it's kinda pricy to whip together. I think it cost me about $10 for everything I needed (dough + frosting + jelly + chips). Granted I didn't use all of the chips or jelly, but they are not normally things we keep on hand so now my husband is suffering through pb & j lunches and I have 3/4 of a bag of pb chips in the freezer to use up somehow (maybe on more of these?!). I will also say that the jelly doesn't really "swirl" per se. It's kinda clumpy and no where near as pretty as the photo that is with the original recipe that was clipped from Taste of Home. I'm wondering if they didn't heat their jelly a little bit before swirling it? I guess if appearances matter, you could try that....

SO! There ya go! Two of grandma's recipes down, and two more waiting in the wings (Tater Tot Taco Casserole and Banana Cake)! Stay tuned!

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Colorado Peach Cobbler

With few exceptions, I can say that everything I learned about cooking, I learned from my grandmother. I spent every weekend at my grandparents' house in the country and my grandma was an amazing cook. Every Sunday she prepared a meal fit for a king (i.e. grandpa ;) ) including dishes and courses that most families were only treated to on Sundays. There was usually dessert, and Christmas was the biggest treat of all, when she baked a huge variety of cookies and bars for the family to enjoy through the holiday season.

Over the years, grandma clipped and collected several recipes from various magazines, friends, and newspapers, and when she passed away last spring I inherited the majority of them (mom saved a few to try, too). I have finally organized them all into a binder, and am excited to work my way through them - all things that caught her eye that she never got around to trying. My goal is to share them with you here as I make each one, but I've had several blog related goals since the fall of 2009 when we lost our son Henry and none have come to fruition, so bear with me if this never pans out! My intentions are good though, and that has to count for something. :)

I'll start you out with this delicious dish that grandma clipped from an old issue of Taste of Home. Judging by the style of the art around the recipe, I'd guess it was originally printed in the early 90's. I made this last week for a movie night I was having with two of my girlfriends. I think the general consensus was NOM NOM NOM! It was seriously tasty! Here's the recipe:

Colorado Peach Cobbler

1 c. Sugar
2 T. Flour
1/4 t. ground Nutmeg
4 c. sliced fresh Peaches

1 c. Sugar
1 c. Flour
1 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
1/3 c. cold Butter (or margarine, if you aren't a purist *wink* )
1 Egg, beaten
Ice cream, optional (Seriously, who opts out of ice cream. Wait. I know one person *cough*Karen*cough* Other than her though... Who? NO ONE!)

In a bowl, combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add peaches; stir to coat. Pour into a greased 11" x 7" x 2" baking pan (Note: I used a 9x13 because my 11x7 was wayyyy back in the cupboard and I was too lazy to take everything out to get to it). For topping, combine sugar, flour, baking powder and salt; cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs (mine was a little lumpier than that, but it still worked fine). Stir in egg. Spoon over peaches. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden. Serve hot (YES!) or cold (meh.) with ice cream if desired (pfft).

Originally submitted to the magazine by Clara Hinman of Flagler, CO. She notes that she has used other fruits that are in season with this recipe, but that her family likes it best with peaches.

What I liked about it:
I really liked the way the salt complemented the sweetness of TWO FULL CUPS of sugar. I remember thinking as I was making it that it was going to end up being sickeningly sweet, but it wasn't at all. It was a perfect balance of salty/sweet with that dollop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.

What I didn't like:
It seemed to flatten out after baking. When I took the picture, it was all puffy and pretty, but it fell as it cooled. Granted it would have stayed higher in the pan had I used the 11x7 dish like I was supposed to, but still... Not the point. ;) This didn't affect flavor at all though, and I'd probably use the 9x13 again next time (likely for the same reason).

So, there you have it! The first of my grandma's "recipe's to try" collection. If you try it, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you liked it!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crispy Mexican Truffles

I was recently asked to bring a dessert with "international flair" to a potluck gathering and decided to try this recipe for Crispy Mexican Truffles that I found in a recent issue of Taste of Home magazine. I am not a fan of spicy foods, and wasn't sure about the combination of chocolate and pepper, but these truffles were surprisingly light and delicious. My husband thought the pepper gave them a hint of raspberry flavor - I'm not sure how that's possible, but when I tried one, I knew what he was meant. It adds just the slightest bit of tang, and you don't even taste or notice it until you're done. The slightest bit of heat is left on your tongue after you've eaten the sweet stuff. Yum!

Here's what you need to make them for yourself:

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 c. confectioners' sugar
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. crushed cornflakes (I stuck mine in a ziploc bag and went over it with the rolling pin, then poured into measuring cup)
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

.....and the directions:

Beat cream cheese until smooth in a large bowl. Beat in the confectioners sugar, chocolate, and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until easy to handle. I made this much of the recipe the day before I needed them, and then stuck it in the fridge (covered) overnight. It worked out great, but if you do the same, I would advise you to take the mixture out of the fridge a good 20 minutes or so before you plan on completing the next steps. It's impossible to work with it it's too cold (or too warm/soft, for that matter).

Combine corn flakes, cinnamon, and cayenne in a small bowl. Shape chocolate mixture into 1" balls; roll in cornflake mixture. The spices fall to the bottom of the bowl, so be sure to really ootch (is that a word?) your truffles around to get them coated with both spice and (corn flake) crunch. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Like I said, these were a hit! Everyone who tried one wanted more, and they were one of the first desserts on the table to disappear entirely. I don't think I'd take them anywhere that might get too warm though (think: summer picnic) unless you have a way of keeping them cool on the table. Otherwise they might get a little messy.

Enjoy, and let me know how you like 'em if you decide to try them!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jack at 4

If you are following this blog in your reader, you may have noticed that I published 125 posts today. In case that piqued your curiosity, it happened because I merged my family blog into this, my craft blog. When I started writing back in 2006, this is where it all began. Then, when I started stamping and working on design teams, I decided to split the two. After much consideration, I've decided that life is just easier if everything is in one place, so I'm back where I began. Everything comes full circle, doesn't it?

I thought I'd share a few pictures of Jack, in honor of his recent birthday. I saw a post on Pinterest recently with an idea to ask your child the same twenty questions every year on their birthday and record the answers, so that's what I've done here. I think the original idea was to scrapbook it all, but I'm not quite that organized with my photos yet, so for now blogging will have to suffice.

Once again (I know you've heard it before) I am hoping to get back into blogging on a more regular basis. I miss writing, and this is as good an outlet as any. Thanks to all who have followed me through the last couple of years. I appreciate it!

And now, I give you Jack at 4:

1. What is your favorite color? Black. No, wait... Purple. Or maybe blue.
2. What is your favorite toy? Star Wars Galactic Heroes
3. What is your favorite fruit? Bananas
4. What is your favorite tv show? Max and Ruby, followed closely by Caillou
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?   Peanut Butter & Jelly with a side of Applesauce
6. What is your favorite outfit? Comfy pants and a character tee  
7. What is your favorite game? Light Saber duels!
8. What is your favorite snack? Goldfish crackers
9. What is your favorite animal? Hmm... I'm not sure he has one.
10. What is your favorite song? At the moment, any from The Wizard of Oz
11. What is your favorite book? Any about Thomas the Tank Engine
12. Who is your best friend?  I think it's Mama. He says I'm his girlfriend. :)
13. What is your favorite cereal? Kashi Oatmeal - Vanilla flavor
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Bat the ball around the yard. Hop.
15. What is your favorite drink? Lemonade or Ice Water
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas!
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? A few Star Wars guys and a stuffed Buzz Lightyear. :)
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Stoneyfield Farms Chocolate Underground or Banilla Yogurt.
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? A Cheeseburger
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A fireman, a doctor, and a Jedi Knight, in that order.                   

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