white bean & basil hummus pasta

I found some beautiful White Bean & Basil Hummus at Trader Joe's yesterday, and as I was munching on it with my usual rice cracker dippers I couldn't help thinking how great it would be on pasta!

I actually couldn't stop thinking about how good any hummus would be on pasta, and I plan on making some mediterranean hummus pasta soon with my Copycat Trader Joe's Mediterranean Hummus Recipe!

Since this hummus already has basil in it, I decided to load up the pasta with more fresh basil.  And then... since we all know I can't leave well enough alone... I drizzled in a bit of garlic-infused olive oil (also from Trader Joe's!) and topped it with lots of freshly grated parmesan!


I especially love that in the midst of my carb-loaded comfort-food meal, I'm also getting some great protein.  It's a two-fer!

White Bean & Basil Hummus Pasta Recipe

1lb package of noodles (whatever kind you like!)
1 cup (or 1 8oz package!) hummus of your choice (TJ's white bean & basil is YUMMY!)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (garlic or regular!)
freshly torn basil (if using white bean & basil hummus...  parsley otherwise!)
salt & pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional

Cook the noodles according to package directions and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water just before draining them.

In a small saucepan, warm up the hummus, olive oil & seasonings.  Toss in the noodles and as much -pasta water as needed to thin out the hummus and coat the noodles.  (You may need the whole cup!)

Taste for seasonings again and then toss in the herbs and cheese, if using!

(You could also toss in some toasted pine nuts...  That would be amazing in a regular hummus version!)

(If you want to try making your own White Bean & Basil Hummus... click here for a link to a great-looking recipe by weelicious!)


mini corndog muffins

We all know that we can never really improve on a state fair corndog, but this sure is a good substitute! (And a whole lot better than the bake-at-home ones we buy at Costco!)

I saw a version of these muffins a few days ago and was instantly intrigued.  Then the husband emailed me a picture of these same corndog muffins and said "you should make something like this!"...  I guess that was a sign I should get down to it!

My house-full of boys love corn dogs... (Oh, who am I kidding?  I love corndogs!) so I just knew these would be a hit!

Mini Corndog Muffins Recipe
adapted from Lick The Bowl Good

2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
6-7 hotdogs, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup, or so, grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Grease a mini-muffin pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the cornbread mix, eggs & milk until just combined.  The mixture will still be lumpy.  Stir in the hotdog pieces until just combined.

Fill the muffin-tins about 3/4 full and top with a pinch of grated cheese.  (You may have a bit of the mixture left over.  I made one tiny loaf pan-full with my leftovers.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the muffins are lightly golden brown.  Let them cool a few minutes and then serve with your favorite corndog condiments!


baked pumpkin pecan oatmeal with maple cream

Hearty oats and pecans with the cozy flavors of pumpkin and spices, drowned in a beautiful maple cream sauce...  it doesn't get more fall-ish and cozy than this baked oatmeal!

This is a great dish to feed your family on a cold autumn morning.  It is easily prepped the night before with just a few quick touches in the morning, making this a perfect lazy morning breakfast!

Please don't skip the maple sauce (I know you were thinking about it!)...  it really does take this dish over the top!

Oh, and the best part?  Even my picky 2 year old and 10 month old loved this oatmeal!!

Baked Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal with Maple Cream Recipe
adapted from Inside NanaBread's Head

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) melted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats & pecans with the brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon;  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pumpkin, vanilla & butter until well mixed.

(If you want to do this the night before (like I do!), stop at this point and put the wet ingredient mixture into the fridge.  In the morning continue:)

Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture until combined.  Pour into the greased baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the center is just set (no longer jiggly).

While the oatmeal is cooling a bit, heat the cream and maple syrup in a small pot until barely simmering, whisking often.  Remove from the heat.

Dish up your oatmeal into bowls and serve with the maple cream sauce poured over the top!!

(This makes alot!  If you want to cut this recipe in half for just a few people and bake it in an 8" square dish, you can!)


quick caramel apple coffee cake [New Favorites challenge, week 2]

Apple-filled coffee cake with a sweet cinnamon streusel topping and a rich caramel sauce!

For this second week of my New Favorites challenge, I grabbed Gale Gand's "short + sweet" cookbook.  I grabbed it mostly out of necessity, actually, as I had a friend coming over and no time!

The tag line of this book?  "Quick desserts with eight ingredients or less."  Perfect!!

I skimmed through and quickly chose Elsie's Quick Apple Coffee Cake, because I had all the ingredients.

Of course, I altered the recipe a bit...  adding more cinnamon, doubling the topping & drizzling caramel sauce over the top!

I must say, this was a wonderful fall coffee cake, and I will definitely be going back to this cookbook again!

Quick Caramel Apple Coffee Cake Recipe
adapted from Gale Gand's "short + sweet" Cookbook

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 medium apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
for the topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

for the cake:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

In a small bowl, stir together the egg, milk and melted butter.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.

Stir in the diced apples and mix well.  Spread the batter into the buttered baking dish.

for the topping:
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, and cinnamon.  Add in the butter, rubbing together quickly with your fingers, until the mixture is all combined and crumbly.

Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and dry on top.


cardamom peach blackberry crisp

My sweet husband went out and picked me a whole bunch of wild blackberries a few days ago.

And not only did he pick them, he sorted them, washed them and froze them before I even got home!!

So, when he asked for a blackberry crisp for dinner tonight, how could I refuse him?

Of course I just can't leave well enough alone, so I decided to use half blackberries and half peaches and surround them with a beautiful hint of cardamom.

Now, if only I had some cardamom ice cream from Elevated Ice Cream Co., I would be all set!

(If you read this:  Thanks for the berries honey!  I love you!!)

Cardamom Peach Blackberry Crisp

3 cups blackberries
3 cups diced, peeled peaches
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cardamom
3/4 cup flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9" square dish, or a very deep pie plate.

In a large bowl, toss together the berries & peaches (if frozen, do not thaw!) with the cornstarch, sugar & 2 teaspoons cardamom;  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients, except for the butter.  Mix the butter in with your fingers until the topping is all moistened and crumbly.

Spread the fruit into the greased pan.  Top with all of the crumble topping.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.

Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream!


nutella & go... it's finally here!

If, like me, you've seen this on the web over the last few years...  or in Europe if you've been there recently...  you will be just as excited as I am that it's finally here...

Nutella & GO packets!

Individual servings of Nutella & breadsticks in a cute little grab & go package!  Genius!!!

I found these at Walmart yesterday, and I'm pretty sure I squealed and did a little happy dance.

My boys looked at me like I was crazy, and then Bjørn immediately tore into one of the packages.  (Smart kid!)

Say it with me:  YAY Nutella!!!


easy pepperoni pizza puffs

I have been pinning this recipe for months now.  (You know how you pin something and then a few days later you pin it again, forgetting that you pinned it already?  Oh, that's just me?!?)

I finally decided it was time, and I am so glad I did!

All the perfection of pepperoni pizza, in a cute fluffy little bite.  How could this not be great?!

Easy Pepperoni Pizza Puffs Recipe
adapted from Everyday with Rachel Ray

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 cups chopped pepperoni
pizza sauce & ranch dressing for dipping

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Grease 2 24-cup mini-muffin pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and spices.  Whisk in the milk and eggs until combined.

Stir in the cheeses and pepperoni and let sit for 10 minutes.

Divide the batter equally into the muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are puffed and golden.

These puffs freeze and reheat wonderfully!  Freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet until frozen.   Transfer to a freezer-safe ziploc bag and store in the freezer.  To reheat:  Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 8-10 minutes, until heated through.

Serve with warm pizza sauce and/or ranch dressing for dipping!


homemade whipped laundry soap

I have been wanting to make homemade laundry soap for years.  Literally...  years!  I was mostly intrigued by the cost savings, of course, and let's face it...  I just like making things homemade!  :o)

I had been procrastinating and trying to decide between making powdered or liquid laundry soap (powdered being easier...  both taking up quite a bit of room - which I just don't have in my tiny laundry room/pantry) when I came across this idea of a whipped laundry soap!

Apparently it's a bit more work than powdered or liquid detergents, but it definitely wasn't hard and I love that it is much more compact, making storage and use that much easier!

Why is it whipped?  Well, as far as I can figure, this soap is whipped for 2 reasons...  #1 being that it's just too firm to use after the first phase is done...  & #2 being that whipping it incorporates air, stretching the concentrate.  Much like adding water stretches the concentrate in store-bought liquid detergent!

I got the idea from my sweet friend Carrie, over at The Backyard Farmwife...  who got the original idea from Dana over at The White Silk Purse!  Thanks for the inspiration ladies!!

Homemade Whipped Laundry Soap Recipe
adapted from The Backyard Farmwife & The White Silk Purse

2 bars Fels Naptha* laundry bar soap
2 cups 20-Mule Team Borax*
2 cups Arm&Hammer Washing Soda*
6 cups water (+ more if needed!)

phase 1:
In a large pot, heat 6 cups of water on medium-high heat.  While the water is heating, grate the bars of Fels Naptha soap.  (You can use your food processor, or do this by hand!)

Add the grated soap to the heating water and stir frequently until completely melted (around 10-15 minutes!).  Be careful not to let this boil over!

When the soap is melted, turn off the heat and add the borax and the washing soda.  Stir continuously for about 3 minutes, until the powders have dissolved into the liquid.

Pour the liquid equally into 4 pint jars.  Add just enough water to bring the contents up to the "shoulders" of the jars.  Place the lids (I like the plastic ones!) on the jars and let them sit at least 8 hours or more... overnight or a few days if your life gets crazy sometimes like mine does!

phase 2:
In the morning (or whenever you get to it), take a knife and cut down into the soap... breaking it up so that you can get it out of the jars (it will be firm, crystal-y, jell-like...  whatever.  Don't worry about how it looks at this point!).

Dump the soap, 2 jars full at a time, into the bowl of your stand mixer.  Pour about a tablespoon of hot tap water into each jar, swish to rinse a bit, and add to the mixer.

Beat on low speed for a few minutes and then up to medium speed until the soap is thick and creamy and looks just like butter and sugar you have just creamed for cookies!  (Just don't lick the beaters!!)

Spoon the whipped soap back into clean pint jars and put on the lids.  Repeat the process with the remaining 2 jars of soap.  You will end up with more jars of soap than you started with...  I started with 4 jars after phase 1, and ended up with 6 after phase 2!

Store the jars in the laundry room with a tablespoon measure (in an empty jar) to use for measuring.  One tablespoon of this soap will clean a full load of laundry!!

Enjoy having fun with all your leftover laundry-soap money now that you have made such a cheap alternative!

*Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap, Arm&Hammer washing soda, and 20-Mule Team borax can all be found (VERY CHEAPLY!) in your laundry soap aisle of most any grocery store!  Note:  Washing Soda and Baking Soda are not the same thing!


a flop... because I'm not perfect!

a.k.a. Pumpkin Pecan Praline Granola... That Didn't Turn Out!

I was so excited about this granola!  I loved loved loved the flavors, and imagined myself eating handful after handful of pumpkin-y goodness.

But then I took it out of the oven...

The flavor was exactly as I dreamed it would be!  Full and rich and spicy and oh so good!  

But the texture...  ugh.  Chewy. But not in a good way.  Dense and heavy and just plain frustrating.  

It was not a total loss, of course.  I will still stir it into yogurt, or maybe even stir it into my slow cooker steel-cut oatmeal before cooking it at night.  But I am mourning the loss of my dream!

Can you help?  Are you a granola-making-afficionado with tips for me??  I know that this is a low-fat recipe, and maybe that's just the problem right there....  But maybe it's something else?

Here's the recipe...  look at it and see if you can help me figure out where I went wrong!

Low-Fat Pumpkin Pecan Praline Granola Recipe
adapted from two peas & their pod

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped or whole pecans

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, spices & pecans.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

Spread on the lined baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes until nice and toasty and golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes if you like looser granola, or stirring once or twice if you like bigger chunks of granola.

Cool completely before storing in tupperware!


homemade pure vanilla extract

There's just something special about pure vanilla extract.  The sweet, floral aroma...  the cozy richness...  the depth...

The draw we all have to add it to just about everything we bake...

The thing is...  there really is a difference between good vanilla and mediocre vanilla.

If, like me, you have ever been to Mexico before... you have likely picked up a big bottle or two of very cheap vanilla extract.  Or you have bought some tiny bottles at your grocery store for a ridiculously high price!

But do we really have any idea what's in those vanilla extracts we buy?  And isn't it always just more fun to know exactly where something is coming from and saving a bunch of money while you're at it??

This homemade vanilla extract is so incredibly simple!  You put a few vanilla beans in a bottle and cover them with vodka.  Let it sit for 2-3 months or more and you've got amazing homemade vanilla extract!

And the best part??  When you make vanilla extract this way, as the bottle gets low (say 1/3 of it is used up!), you just top it off with fresh vodka and there you go!  Genius!!

Are you wondering why I have a need for 24 bottles of vanilla extract?  Well, besides my love for it... I am working on Christmas gifts!  (So please...  if you are a family member who usually gets a gift from us, please forget that you ever saw this post!)  :o)

Also, I am running low on vanilla extract myself...  which turned out to be great motivation to get started on my Christmas gifts early this year!

(I also made a few bottles of rum-soaked vanilla for myself...  thinking that will make some yummy whipped cream flavoring this winter, not to mention the Gluten Free factor!)

Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract Recipe
adapted from Bethany Actually

good-quality vanilla beans
vodka, rum or bourbon

Cut the vanilla beans in half crosswise and then slice them in half again lengthwise.  Place several pieces (I use 6 pieces - or 1 1/2 whole beans worth - in my 4oz bottles) in a glass bottle or jar.  Fill completely to cover the beans with vodka.

Cover tightly and place in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months or longer for best flavor!

I left the quantities out of this recipe on purpose.  It's not an exact science!  I bought a 1/2 pound of really amazing madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and two big bottles of semi-cheap vodka and that made 24-4oz bottles of vanilla with about 1/4 pound of vanilla beans leftover (don't worry I have lots of plans for those beans!).

I got my vanilla beans here...  my cute little glass bottles here...  and my vodka at the local liquor store!


risotto [New Favorites challenge, week 1]

For this first week of my "New Favorites" challenge, I went to my cookbook-laden bookshelf and quite randomly pulled out a book.  Risotto, by Maxine Clark.  Pretty self-explanatory title there for ya!  :o)  I bought this book a few years ago on impulse and hadn't gotten around to trying any of the recipes yet!

Simple enough... I love risotto!  Something about it's creamy richness and the simple, continuously hands-on preparation just speaks to my foodie-soul.  And I just happened to have a few steaks thawing for an undetermined meal that would be great with a side of creamy, rich risotto!

Looking through the book at all the beautiful, drool-inspiring photos and recipes...  I was quickly drawn to the Artichoke & Pecorino Risotto Recipe.  It was everything I wanted...  creamy rice, rich cheese, tangy wine, earthy pan-seared artichoke hearts...  and to make things even better - I had all the ingredients I needed on hand!

Let me just tell you...  I will be going back to this cookbook again and again when I have risotto cravings!  Wow.  Just...  wow.

Want to know my all-time hands-down favorite-risotto-recipe-ever??  This Red Wine Risotto with Peas from Giada DeLaurentiis!  It is amazing!  Seriously.  Probably on my top 10 favorite foods of all time.  Quite possibly.


If you want to join me in this challenge...  let me know, and if there's enough interest, I'll set up a Linky here so we can easily share each others finds!


New Favorites challenge

 I have decided to start a challenge for myself.

(And I'm wondering if, maybe, you would like to join me?)

Do you have a stash of cookbooks that you collect, but never seem to use... like I do?

Do you always seem to stick to the same 4 or 5 blogs when you are looking for recipes or ideas?

Do you want to do something to change that?...  like I do?

I have a pretty substantial collection of cookbooks.  Some may even call it an addiction.  I can and often do (or did before I had babies and toddlers pulling on me at all times!), read them for hours and hours on end.

If you ever lose me in a bookstore, head for the cookbook section...  I can almost guarantee you will find me there!  (Unless, of course, I got sidetracked to The Birth Section on my way!)

I tend to read my cookbooks from cover to cover like a thrilling novel.  Better than a thrilling novel, actually...  drooling over the pictures & marking the recipes I want to try.  I dream about the recipes and plan out my menus for the next year.

But then I find yet another new cookbook and the first one goes on the shelf with all the others.  Soon forgotten and lost to the archives, rarely to be picked up again...

I feel bad for all those beautiful books that get ignored.  Lost to the convenience and speed of the internet. My bookshelf does not have a "search bar"...  but that does not make it any less valuable!

So, my challenge to myself is this:

Every week I will open up a different cookbook from my collection, or visit a new food blog that I have never tried before... I will spend a bit of time enjoying the book or blog and then I will make something from it.

I will bring those beautiful books out from their exile!  I will find new treasures in the blog world!

What about you?  Will you join me? 

Will you dust-off those neglected cookbooks and share your finds with me?  (You know, so I can go further feed my addiction!)

The details of this, my challenge to myself:  

*Each week I will pick a cookbook out of my collection, or a blog I have never tried something from before, and make something from it.  

*I will try to spend a bit of time (as I can...  obviously life will dictate that goal) enjoying the book or blog, not just quickly picking a recipe and moving on.  I will learn what I like (or don't like!) and I will share those thoughts with you!  

*My plan at this point is to post my New Favorites challenge post on Tuesdays (giving me all weekend and Monday in my procrastinator world to do my task!).  That day is not set in stone.  Maybe it will change.  For now I am picking Tuesdays because Monday's are just too painful and Tuesday comes next.  :o)  And because I like routine.  Routine is good.

I'm excited to see what I find in this search for New Favorites!


creamy chicken baked flautas

I came across this recipe recently on one of my go-to food blogs...  For the Love of Cooking.  I knew immediately that I had to try it, and I'm so glad I did!

Of course I altered the recipe, but stuck with the original idea...  click here if you'd like to go check out the original recipe!

Oh, I also got a chance to use the Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme that I bought on impulse at the grocery store a few days ago (I'm a sucker for new product from brands I love!).

I've been looking for something fun to try it in, and this dish was perfect!

(Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post!  I just found this stuff on the grocery store shelf and wanted to try it!)

These flautas are creamy & crispy and packed with flavor.  Serve them with lots of dippers...  sour cream, guacamole...  and if you are able to enjoy tomatoes (unlike me right now, thanks to my sensitive nursing baby!), some great salsa!

Creamy Chicken Baked Flautas Recipe

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh (or freeze-dried) chopped cilantro
1/4 cup cream cheese*
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder*
          (*or use Philly garlic cooking creme instead of these 2 like I did!)
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
flour tortillas
vegetable or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Line a baking sheet with foil & spread a small amount of vegetable or olive oil onto the foil.

In a medium bowl, stir together all of the ingredients except the tortillas and oil.

Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for a minute or so to soften.

Spoon a small amount of the chicken mixture down the center of a tortilla, roll up and place seam side down on the greased baking sheet.  Repeat until you run out of filling... or tortillas!

Rub a bit of oil onto the rolled up tortillas (use your hands for this...  just pour a bit of oil in your clean hands, and rub gently onto each flauta!).

Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the rolls over and bake for an  additional 5-8 minutes, until the roll is golden brown, crispy and heated through.

Serve immediately with salsa or guacamole and sour cream for dipping!


good reads, episode 1...

I've been thinking lately about how there is so much out there on the web that touches my heart that I wish I could share with you.

I keep these treasures bookmarked away for myself, but they are just too good not to share!

I hope to keep doing this every few months, or whenever I have a few greats to share... so for now, here is episode 1 of good reads, blog posts I love:

True Friendship – How to Help When Someone You Love is Grieving

So much loss in this world.  So much pain.  In light of all the losses in the lives of people I love lately, this post from Organic Mama Cafe really hit home.

breastfeeding as worship

This is such a great article from SORTA Crunchy on breastfeeding and the Christian community...  I wish every church and every believer would share this and take it to heart!

how to find joy -- in motherhood

I love this post from Emerging Mummy so much.  It's so easy to forget that what's most important is the right now...  not waiting for what will be!

In which I am speaking life

Words Matter.  Something I need to be reminded of every. single. day.  Again from Emerging Mummy (Can you tell she is one of my favorites?)

In which I pray into the questions

A beautiful article for the introverts among us.  Sometimes we need time away.  Not because we love our family any less, but because we need to draw closer to Him.  Even Jesus needed time away!  I love that!!  (Emerging Mummy again...)

In which a 2-year old teaches you how to pray

One more (this one is a guest post, but also from Emerging Mummy) that so strongly touched my heart.  "Jesus.  Mommy.  Daddy."  Sometimes the words from a child's lips are more than enough.

Wow.  I guess I could have titled this post "An Ode to Emerging Mummy".  But it is what it is.  She inspires me!


thriving. not just surviving... [a pep talk]

A pep talk for me that is.  A pep talk to myself.  A peppy talking-to that I give to myself every once in a while to remind me what this life is really about.

Life is about thriving.  Not just surviving.

It is about taking what you get and giving it your all.

It's about growing what you're given and watching it flourish.

It's about planting seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control...  you know...  all those fruits of the spirit... and reaping the results of your labor.

It's about finding the silver-lining... and making lemonade... and looking up.

It's about giving all that you have to give and then giving a little bit more.

I don't know about you, but when I have a bad attitude...

When I struggle through each day, wondering how I am going to survive the toddler years...

The temper tantrums, the sleepless nights and days, the emotional roller-coaster of trying to train up a child in the way he should go...

When I focus on all those little things, I lose sight of the big picture and I forget to thrive.

I start surviving each day, counting the minutes to bedtime, wondering how I will do it all over again tomorrow.

I forget to thrive.  I forget to cherish every moment that is so fleeting.  Every moment that I will miss so deeply when it's gone.

Someday I will long for these days.  As hard as they can be, they are also so full of joy.  Watching my children grow, and watching myself grow...  

I hope to someday be able to look back on these years and say that Yes!... we did survive these years, but even more importantly...  we thrived!


peppermint white chocolate frozen hot chocolate

An icy, rich, decadent frozen drink...  with flavors that hint at a warm cup of hot chocolate, but are hidden in a slushy bowl of refreshing-ness (is that even a word?!) and brightened with a shot of coffee liqueur...

We now have a way to enjoy our favorite hot chocolate drinks even on the hottest days of summer!

We are not huge chocolate fans in this house (I know...  you're shocked, aren't you?) so I decided to go with out favorite combination of flavors when I made our "remembering 9/11... with frrrozen hot chocolates" treat the other day...

Yep, peppermint & white chocolate!

(I'm not sure if we're stuck in a rut, or just really like peppermint and white chocolate, but that's beside the point...)

I used white chocolate chips and a couple of tablespoons of yummy peppermint candy cane hot cocoa powder...  which is why this drink is not completely white (and why the top has a few tiny red flecks on it!).

I also 'grownup-ed' it up by adding a bit of coffee liqueur to Andrew and my servings.  Yes I did just made up another word.

Two in one post...  I'm on a roll today!  :o)

Of course you can use your favorite dark or milk chocolate (or combination of the two!) for this drink...

Just remember... the better quality ingredients you use, the better the finished product will taste!

Peppermint White Chocolate Frozen Hot Mocha Recipe
adapted from the Sweet Serendipity cookbook

1 cup good-quality white chocolate chips*
2 tablespoons store-bought hot chocolate mix
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cream
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk, divided (1/2 cup + 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2oz coffee liqueur
whipped cream, optional
hot chocolate powder for garnish

In a double boiler (or a glass or metal bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water) melt the white chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until smooth.  Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and combine, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the cream, 1/2 cup of the milk and peppermint extract.  Whisk until smooth.  Set the bowl aside and let cool to room temperature.

In a blender, place the remaining cup of milk, the white chocolate mixture, the coffee liqueur - if using, and the ice.  Blend on HIGH until smooth.  (This will be more the consistency of a Frappuccino than of a milk shake!).

Serve with whipped cream on top and a sprinkling of hot chocolate powder for garnish!

(This makes one Serendipity-sized drink...  or 2-3 normal servings!)

*When buying white chocolate chips at the supermarket, here's a tip to knowing if they really are white chocolate chips and not just 'vanilla flavored chips':

Check the ingredients!  If there is cocoa butter, then you're good to go!  (And the higher up on the list that cocoa butter is, the better!)  If there's no cocoa butter in the ingredients list...  stay far, far away from those fakes!  :o)


oven roasted beets - a photo tutorial...

When we signed up for our first CSA, every week the box had beautiful beets inside.  A few months (yes, months) later...  Andrew happened to come home early one day to find roasted beets just coming out of the oven.

He excitedly remarked, "Oh cool!  We got beets in the box this week!"...

I had to sheepishly admit to him that there had been beets in every box we had gotten...  they had just never lasted until he got home from work!  :o)

After getting a few questions from some friends after posting on facebook that I was going to roast some beets the other day, I realized that not everyone is as in love with beets as my family is...

And that some people are not even comfortable with them at all, for that matter!

I think the biggest problem is that they can be a tad intimidating and people tend to be most familiar with seeing them in pickled slices on their favorite all-you-can-eat salad bar!

Roasting your beets is a simple, delicious way to enjoy beets.  Especially if you have an abundance from your garden or CSA box... try this out!

Oven Roasted Beets Tutorial

First, wash your beets and cut off the tops and bottoms.

Place the beets on a double layer of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and top with lots of salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Wrap up the foil into a nice little package, place on a baking sheet to catch any accidental drips, and bake in a preheated 400ºF oven for about an hour - depending on the size of the beets, or until you can easily stab a beet with a fork.

Peel the roasted beets with a spoon or your hands (be careful of staining!!), cut up and serve with more salt & pepper, if desired!

Aren't they gorgeous little gems??  How could anything so pretty not be great?!


"Faithful Place" review, for the BlogHer Book Club

Faithful Place by Tana French is a book full of 'hindsight'. All it took was the first sentence of the prologue to hook me in; "In all your life, only a few moments matter. Mostly you never get a good look at them except in hindsight, long after they've zipped past you...".

Diving back into his past after 20+ years hiding from it, Frank Mackey uncovers more secrets than he ever dreamed possible and handles them with more composure than I could even imagine.

His family is just as colorful as your family and mine, if not more, and his relationship with his siblings made my heart melt... even in the midst of turmoil. [...]

Click here to head over to the BlogHer Book Club and read the rest of my review (the good and the bad!) of Tana French's newest book, Faithful Place!

Disclaimer:  As a member of the BlogHer Book Club, I was given this book to review and compensated for my time... but please be assured that the opinions expressed are mine, and mine alone!


Starbucks iced white chocolate peppermint americano... cheater style

Strong, cold coffee...   creamy sweetened condensed milk...  refreshing peppermint...  and a splash of rich heavy cream...  all poured over lots of ice...  makes for a perfect drink for a hot summer's day!

Tasting just as good as a coffee-shop treat, for only a fraction of the price...  makes this drink perfect for every summer day!

Ok, so I know I might be a little late in the game with this iced coffee recipe, but summer just came to the Pacific Northwest.  Seriously...  just!

It has been cold and dreary all summer...  up until this week when the kids all went back to school and now it's finally nice out!

Like high 80's, swim in the pool all day, too-hot-to-drink-anything-that's-not-iced kind of nice!

I have been dreaming up this drink for a while now, but it just hasn't been nice enough to remember to make it.

It really does taste just like my favorite Starbucks drink in the summer...  an iced white chocolate peppermint americano with a splash of heavy cream!  So good! 

(If you really want to kick it up a notch, add some Kahlúa, or Starbucks Coffee Liqueur!)

Peppermint is what I keep on hand, but you could use any type of flavored beverage syrup.  Vanilla would be good...  or caramel...  or hazelnut...  yum...

Creamy Iced White Chocolate Peppermint Coffee Recipe

lots of ice
1 oz peppermint syrup (any flavor is fine!)
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
cold double-strength coffee*
1/2-1 tablespoon heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons Kahlúa, optional

Fill a tall glass with lots of ice.  Pour the peppermint syrup and sweetened condensed milk over the ice. Fill almost to the top with coffee (& Kahlúa, if using).  Stir well.  Top with half a tablespoon or so of heavy cream, to taste, and stir.  Enjoy!

*Cold Double-Strength Coffee Instructions:
I pour 4 cups of water into my coffee maker.  Then I put in enough coffee to make 8 cups.  Brew as usual and then chill in a pitcher in the fridge.  I usually do this in the morning so that I can make iced coffee in the afternoon!  (And this makes 3 big drinks...  2 for me and 1 for Andrew!)  :o)


remembering 9/11 with pizza & frrrozen hot chocolate...

Why pizza?  Because when I think of New York, I think of pizza.  And frrrozen hot chocolates...  although I've never been to New York and I've never had a frrrozen hot chocolate.

Someday I will go to Serendipity and have one...  I will eat some pizza and I will visit Ground Zero and mourn the lost.  I will pray and grieve along with the rest.

And I will remember how blessed I am to be able to hold my loved ones close.

While we eat our pizza and enjoy our frozen hot chocolates tonight, we will remember and relive the day that so changed our country and its people.  We will tell our children about the day they weren't even alive to see.

We will teach them, so that they remember...  even though they weren't there.

Where were YOU when 9/11 changed you?

I was working at a scandinavian tour company.

My husband was expecting the birth of his son in a few months.

My boys were not yet alive.

2 of the 3 were not even imagined yet.  It's hard to believe that this even that so powerfully changed us is not even a part of their life histories!  In some ways it feels like yesterday...  even though it was 10 years ago.

My heart breaks just thinking about the pain of that day.  I didn't know anyone personally killed in the attacks, but I felt the pain of the lost as though they were mine.

Because they were mine.  And they were yours.  All of ours.  Our people.  Our pain.

We suffered together.  And we are healing together.  Everyday stronger.  Every year remembering.

To the lost:  We remember you.  We will always remember you.

(The Freedom Tower on 9.9.11 - taken by my sweet friend Kathy)

(p.s. Serendipity's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate recipe can be found here.)


mocha fudge brownies

If you've tried my regular Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies before...  these are a similar, but just a little more fun!

I added coffee (coffee + chocolate = yummm!) and switched out some of the sugar for brown sugar giving these brownies a bit more richness.  I also added a bit more chocolate chips and a glaze on top.  Why not?

If you're not a coffee fan, feel free to sub it out for boiling water, but give it a try...  you just might surprise yourself!

In case you're wondering...  I'm pretty sure these are going to trump my original Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies as my go-to recipe.  They are that good!

Mocha Fudge Brownies Recipe

3/4 cup regular or dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter, divided & melted (1/3 cup + 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup very hot coffee or espresso
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup flour
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
(2 more cups chocolate chips, any kind, optional)

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.  Generously butter a 9x13" baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and baking soda.  Whisk in 1/3 cup of the melted butter until smooth.  Whisk in the hot coffee until thick and fluffy.

Whisk in the sugars, eggs, vanilla, salt & remaining 1/3 cup butter until smooth.

Take 1 tablespoon of the flour and toss it with 2 cups of the chocolate chips to coat.  (The flour coating keeps the chocolate chips from all sinking to the bottom of your batter!)

Stir the remaining flour into the brownie mixture until combined and then gently fold in the flour-dusted  2 cups of chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the brownies are just set (when you jiggle the pan the center barely moves).

Optional Glaze Directions:
When you take the brownies out of the oven, immediately sprinkle on the remaining chocolate chips and let them sit for about 5 minutes, until they are all shiny.  Spread them out gently with the back of a spoon into a smooth coating on top of the brownies.  

If you want a hard shell on the brownies, put them in the fridge to chill and set completely.  Otherwise you can serve these warm or room temperature and enjoy a softer glaze!


the genius board

Pinterest.  Addiction at its finest.

Sometimes I get sucked in so deeply that I can barely find my way out.  It's amazing the kind of stuff that's out there...

For example...

Yep.  Genius.

And this:

More genius.

And this:

Just plain amazing.

These are all things that I have 'pinned' away on a board simply called "genius".  Lovely little tidbits that maybe "I should have thought of" myself.  You know those thoughts, right?

Just thought I'd share...


Top Pot Doughnuts - doughnut bread pudding with rum icing

Yep, you read that right.  Day-or two-old Top Pot Doughnuts made into a luscious, rich bread pudding!

Maple bars and apple fritters to be exact.  Drowned in a cinnamon-y rum cream sauce and drizzled with a rum icing.  Oh my heavens!

This is my version of Top Pot Doughnuts' recipe that is in their soon-to-be-released cookbook, HAND-FORGED DOUGHNUTS Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker by Mark and Michael Klebeck with Jess Thomson.

I altered the recipe a bit to suit my taste and the ingredients in my fridge.  Grab a copy of the cookbook when it comes out this fall to see the original recipe!

Top Pot Doughnut Bread Pudding with Rum Icing Recipe
adapted from Hand-Forged Doughnuts Secrets... cookbook

for the bread pudding:
6 cups cubed day-old raised doughnuts (about 3 large doughnuts)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons golden rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup low-fat milk
for the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 tablespoon golden rum
1 tablespoon hot water

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9x5" loaf pan (or similar sized baking dish).  Fill the pan with the cubed day-old doughnuts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the rest of the pudding ingredients and pour over the doughnuts in the pan.  Press down to make sure all the cubes are soaked.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until browned on top and firm in the center.  Let cool for 10 minutes or so in the pan.

While the bread pudding cools, make the icing.  Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth.  Add more hot water or rum if needed until the frosting is pourable.

Serve the bread pudding warm with the icing drizzled on top!


pepperoni & mozzarella 'grilled cheese'

Spicy pepperoni, gooey mozzarella, bright, fresh basil...

No, I'm not talking about pizza...  I'm talking about a grilled cheese sandwich!

What?  Grilled cheese??

Isn't that supposed to be a slice of american cheese (or maybe cheddar if you're feeling fancy) on white bread?

Not in this house it's not!

Grilled cheese, in my book, is just about anything stuffed between two slices of buttered bread and grilled in a pan!  (With cheese of course!)

Today, that takes the form of pepperoni pizza.  Yummm...

(This vague recipe makes 1 sandwich...  alter to your needs!)

Pepperoni & Mozzarella Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe

2 slices sourdough bread
sliced pepperoni
thin-sliced good-quality mozzarella cheese
fresh basil, optional

Heat a large skillet on medium heat.

Butter one side of each of the slices of bread.  Place one slice, butter side down, on the hot skillet and then immediately layer the insides...  beginning and ending with cheese.  Place the second slice of bread, butter side up, on top.

Once the bottom slice is golden brown and the cheese is mostly melted, flip the sandwich over to toast the other side to golden.

Serve with a simple green salad!


homemade Starbucks apple chai infusion (hot apple cider chai tea)

Have you ever tried Starbucks' Apple Chai Infusion that they sell in the fall & winter?

I fell in love with it last winter and it's still one of my favorite drinks!  (Here's a tip:  It's not on the menu, but they can make it year-round if you ask for it!)

This is my version of the drink, for a fraction of the price and all the same flavor!

I like this best with Tazo Chai (the same stuff Starbucks uses!), which you can buy at most grocery stores and is nice and spicy, but use whatever Chai concentrate you like!  (It must be concentrate for this though...  powder would just be weird!)

Also, if you can get your hands on fresh pressed apple cider, or can make your own, that will make it even better!  But store bought will work just fine too!

Apple Cider Chai Tea Recipe

1 gallon apple cider (fresh-pressed or store-bought!)
1 32-oz box Tazo chai concentrate

Slow Cooker Directions:
Pour both the juice and the chai concentrate into the slow cooker.  Turn on LOW and heat until hot (can simmer all day!).  Keep the slow cooker on WARM and serve directly out of it!

Stove-Top Directions:
Pour both the juice and the chai concentrate into a large pot.  Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently until it is nice and hot or up to 6 hours!  Remove the lid and turn off the heat, keeping the pot on the warm burner, and serve as needed!

Whichever method you use, your house will smell amazing!!


why I am hurting... and holding my loves

My friend lost her 5 1/2 month old baby boy last night.  He has struggled and yet thrived since his birth 11 weeks premature, but still his loss is unexpected and painful.  So painful.   I can't imagine her pain right now...  or her family's pain.

On the other side of the country, I never even got to meet this angel boy... but I hurt for the loss of his sweet little life.  And I am grieving today with my friend.

I haven't seen her in years, but I would love to be near her now... to be able to hold her and pray for her and cry with her.

will pray for her and cry with her.  And I will hold my loves close.  Maybe that's all I can do.

Today we will also gather to mourn & celebrate the much too short life of my laughing, loving, sweet Uncle who recently passed away.  Again...  he was fighting a battle, but the battle had just begun and he had so much more life to live.  His death was so unexpected and so painful.

With each loss, I am reminded how short and fragile life really is.  How each breath truly may be our last, and how each moment matters most...  right now.

Does it really matter if my toddler is just trying to push back naptime by asking for one more "hug mommy?"  Or is it more important to focus on the hug and live in the moment that just may be our last?

After a day filled with naps missed & naps ruined, temper tantrums & meltdowns, bumps & bruises and tears & more tears...  I wouldn't trade this life for the world.

And I would take a million more days just like it if that would keep them in my arms.

(If you happen to read this, K...  I am praying for you sweet friend.  I will continue to pray for you each day.  Every time I hug my boys I will pray for you.  I love you!)


a salmon cook-off...

This week we were gifted with a huge beautiful fresh-out-of-the-river-just-hours-before wild salmon from one of the kids on my husband's soccer team!

(One of the many reasons I love living in the Pacific Northwest...)

Seriously though...  seafood doesn't get much better than this!

Of course, we couldn't completely agree on how we wanted to prep the salmon for grilling, so we decided to have a little cook-off!

We took two big filets and we each prepped one.  They both were cooked on the grill on a cedar plank for the same amount of time...

Andrew's was topped with seasoning salt, lots of fresh-cracked black pepper, thinly sliced onions, and lemon slices (and a drizzle of olive oil).

Mine was spread with a layer of mayo (yep!), seasoning salt, garlic pepper, and also had lemon slices!

They were both amazing!

My mayo version (a recipe I learned from some friends...  a Norwegian fishing family!) was a bit more moist, but they were both so full of flavor...  and I loved the onions on Andrew's version!  And actually a bit more olive oil on Andrew's version would have balanced out the moistness of both.

Bottom line...  It really doesn't matter much what you put on a salmon, if it is as fresh as this one was!



in which there is hope...

Why do we know what we want to do, how we want to do it, who we want to be...

Yet we just can't seem to get there?

Our dreams, our goals, our desires...

Seemingly so close, yet always just out of reach.

I want to be a better mom.  I want to be a better wife.  I want to be a better daughter, sister & friend.

I want to show my kids, by example, what they should strive to be.

I want to point them to Jesus.

But so often I am afraid that the only things I am pointing them to are all of the ways not to be.

All of the things not to do.

All of the words not to say.

Unfortunately...  I fail.  I hurt them.  Everyday.

I hurt myself.  Everyday.  And I hurt HIM.  Everyday.

But, I will continue to try harder!

I will reach for that maybe unattainable goal, but never give up on the trying.

I will teach my kids that they may never be able to keep from falling, but they can always ask forgiveness and try again.

There is hope.  There is always hope.


blueberry nectarine crumb bars

(Another recipe to try out your new nectarine/peach peeling skills on!)

We had a barbeque/pot-luck last weekend with Andrew's extended family (our annual family-reunion actually!).

I wanted to make something special to bring, but different.  I seem to get stuck in a rut when it comes to potlucks!

I still had a whole box or two of peaches and nectarines to use up, so that part was a given... and then I found a bag of blueberries in my freezer, and this happened:

These rich crumb bars are so buttery and full of fruit...  kind of like eating a piece of pie with an extra buttery crumb crust!

Along with all the other great food that finds its way to potlucks... let's just say, we ate well!  :o)

You could easily substitute peaches for the nectarines, of course, and blackberries or raspberries for the blueberries...  whatever you have on hand.  Just make sure the total fruit equals about 5 cups!

(Mmmm...  peach raspberry bars...  I'm going to have to try that next time!)

Blueberry Nectarine Crumb Bars Recipe
adapted from two peas & their pod

for the fruit filling:
4 cups diced, peeled nectarines
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
for the crust & topping:
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup cold butter, diced
1 large egg, gently beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Generously grease a 9x13" glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl, gently toss together all of the fruit filling ingredients except for the bluberries and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt & 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.  Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with some pieces the sizes of peas.

Stir in the egg and vanilla until the mixture is just moistened.  (This is a very crumbly dough!  It will seem like not enough liquid, but it will work!)

Press half of the dough into the bottom of your greased baking dish.  Spread the fruit mixture over the crust.  Sprinkle the frozen (or fresh) blueberries on top.

(This keeps the blueberries from bleeding into the fruit and turning everything blue...  not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I wanted!)

Crumble the rest of the dough loosely on top of the fruit.  Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.  Serve warm or cool completely and refrigerate.

(These bars are great warm or cold, so feel free to make them a day ahead and store in the fridge!  They also freeze well, just let them thaw before serving!)

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