toasted coconut Samoas brownies

We all know how much I like making brownies, right?

You didn't??  Well check out all the brownie recipes I've got on here...  I'm sure you'll see the addiction and find something fun to make!

I try to change up my brownie mix-ins often, so we don't get bored...  and when I found a few boxes of Samoas Girl Scout Cookies in my freezer, I just knew what I had to make!

These brownies are rich, fudgy, chewy and loaded with flavor.  A little goes a long way, so make these for a crowd!

If you don't have a stash of Samoas Girl Scout cookies hiding in your freezer like I do, then a good substitute would be about 2 cups of chopped caramels mixed in, or swirl some caramel sauce into the brownie batter before baking.  Heavenly!

Toasted Coconut Samoas Brownies Recipe

3/4 cup dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter, melted & divided (1/3 cup + 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 cup Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
                        (or firmly packed brown sugar)
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 box Samoas Girl Scout Cookies, coarsely chopped
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (more if you like!)
1 cup chocolate chips, melted for drizzling - optional*

Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and butter a 9x13" glass baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda.  Stir in 1/3 cup of the melted butter until smooth.  Stir in the boiling water until the mixture is smooth and thick.  Stir in the sugar and eggs with the remaining 1/3 cup melted butter.

Place the 1 cup chocolate chips (and caramels if you are using them!) in a small bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the flour, tossing to coat.

Into the chocolate mixture, stir in the remaining flour, vanilla and salt until just smooth.  Stir in the flour-coated chocolate chips and the chopped cookies and spread the mixture into your prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle evenly with the coconut and press down gently into the batter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the pan.  (Always better to under-bake than to over-bake brownies!!)  Cool completely in the pan.

*If you'd like, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave and then drizzle on top of the cooled brownies for decoration.  Not necessary at all, but it sure looks pretty!


almost Beecher's famous mac & cheese

Because you can never have too many great mac & cheese recipes in your back pocket...

And because Beecher's mac & cheese was really my first glimpse into the world of amazing mac & cheese...

And because I don't live 5 minutes away from Beecher's anymore...

I finally made their famous mac & cheese.

(Last week.  Not yesterday.  Yesterday I did nothing but snuggle my sweet  brand-new baby!)

And yep, it's as good as I remembered it!

Better, of course, if I could splurge and use real Beecher's cheese in it, but since I have Tillamook on hand, Tillamook is what I used.

This mac & cheese is creamy, rich, smooth and a tiny bit spicy.

Not too spicy though.  Don't let the spice scare you, it's just a hint...  but the chipotle chili powder is a must for this dish!

Almost Beecher's Famous Mac & Cheese Recipe
adapted from Beecher's via Martha Stewart

1 pound penne pasta, or other short pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
3 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (aged Tillamook is great here!)
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese (or mozzarella or more cheddar if that's all you have)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
for the topping:
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup jack, mozzarella or more cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon, or so, chipotle chili powder

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

Cook the pasta, according to package directions, about 2 minutes less than done.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until light golden brown.  Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring until thickened...  up to 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the cheeses and spices until smooth.  Stir in the noodles and pour into the buttered baking dish.

(*If you are making this dish ahead, stop here, cover with foil and place in the fridge or freeze!)

Sprinkle evenly with the cheeses and a bit of chipotle powder and bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and golden!


She's here!!!

Baby Girl is here!

Maren Ree decided to make her grand entrance early this morning, 3 weeks before her due date!

She was born at home - on our bedroom floor!  :o)

I will share her birth story with you soon...

But for now, here are some pictures and stats!

Maren Ree was born at 12:39am this morning, July 24th.

She is a tiny little thing, weighing 6lbs 8oz, and is just over 18 inches long.

Labor was just under 8 hours from first contraction, and boy am I glad it's over!  :o)

It feels so good not to be pregnant anymore!!


37 weeks down... any time now!

Well, Baby Girl is free to come whenever she wants now!  WooHOO!!

What an amazing feeling that is!

Of course, we all know that she could very well decide to stay put for another month or even longer, and that's ok (Hey...  I'm trying to stay positive here!) but I would sure love to see her sooner than later.

Nesting is in full-swing around these parts and it feels good.  Nesting is definitely one of my favorite parts of pregnancy.

A huge burst of energy, fueled by cleaning and organizing urges...  pretty sure my husband loves my nesting-sprees too!

I am leaving the 'cravings' phase of pregnancy and entering the 'I don't have room for anything in my stomach and nothing really sounds good anyways' stage.  Not so much fun, but it does mean the end is near, so I'll take it.

I really am bummed that I couldn't follow through on my monthly belly pics this time around...

Things got a little too stressful for us for a while there and I just couldn't handle one more thing.  :o(  In case you haven't tried it before, taking self-portraits (especially with two rambunctious non-napping toddlers around!) is not any easy thing!

I am determined to at least get one final picture though, so keep an eye out for it soon.

(By the way, Baby Girl is apparently the size of a winter melon now...  Whatever that is!)

My freezer is filling up with meals and treats...

Baby clothes, diapers & mama cloth are being washed and organized...

Brothers are getting excited (and starting to think Mommy needs to go to the doctor because my belly-button looks so funny to them!)...

And Mommy & Daddy are just holding our breath waiting!

Come out when you're ready Baby Girl!  We are so excited to meet you!!

(Sorry about the slacking in blog-postings lately...  I promise I will be back to some sort of new normal eventually!  For now, thanks so much for your patience with me...  and don't forget to look through the archives for some great recipes!!)


cheesy chipotle barbeque meatloaf

So, when I realized this week that Baby Girl really could show up at any time now, I decided to finally do a mini freezer-cooking marathon.

One of the easiest things I made was meatloaf...  one of my favorite comfort foods that no one else in my family seems to care much about!

But, since I am the pregnant one and doing all the work, I decided to go with my own cravings this time.

The rest of the family won't starve, that's for sure!

I did try to make things a little more fun though, but making barbeque meatloaf laced with a nice kick of chipotle chili pepper and lots of chunks of mozzarella cheese.

I think my family might actually get a little excited about this meatloaf!

(Which is a good thing, since we have at least 2 meals worth in the freezer now!)

Cheesy Chipotle Barbeque Meatloaf Recipe

3 pounds ground beef
1 cup barbeque sauce, divided (1/2 cup + 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs or cracker crumbs, optional
1 1/2 cups diced mozzarella cheese

Place all the ingredients, except for 1/2 cup of the barbeque sauce, into a large bowl.  Quickly and gently mix all the ingredients together with your hands until everything is mixed.  Don't over work the meat or it will get tough!

Shape into loaves (this will make 2 large loaves, or 5-6 small loaves) and brush the tops with the remaining barbeque sauce.

Bake at 350º for 45-75 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves, until the meat is cooked through.

If you want to freeze some of the loaves (I freeze half to two-thirds of them, depending on how many people I am feeding with the first meal!), wrap them in foil unbaked and place them in a ziploc bag.


freezer cooking adventures...

Well, 3 pregnancies later I have finally accomplished something that has been on my to-do list each time but never happened...

I made several meals for my freezer, so we can actually eat more than canned chili and cereal when Baby Girl gets here and I am too tired to cook!

My mom came over this week to keep us company for a few days while Andrew was out of town.

Yesterday I got it in my head that I should do some freezer-feeding and since Grandma was here to help entertain the boys, I decided to actually do it!

Over the course of the afternoon, I ended up getting several meals ready and boy did that feel good!

I also snuck in a few minutes to organize our garage freezers so we can actually find those meals again in a few weeks, which felt almost as good as getting the meals ready themselves!

Nesting has officially come to town, I think!

All of these dishes I made on the smaller side, so that we don't have more than one meal and one meal of leftovers from each one.

Here's what I froze:

2 - 9" pans of my Tuna Casserole
6 - small-loaf size Cheesy Barbeque Chipotle Meatloaves
1 batch of Chili-Seasoned hamburger meat for tacos or chili later
2 batches of Hamburger Soup
1 big batch of Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff (we'll get at least 2 meals or a company meal out of this!)
oh and one more triple-batch of Raspberry Freezer Jam.

And I still have a big batch of our favorite Split Pea Soup to make (today or tomorrow...  I forgot to buy carrots for that one!) that will give us 3-4 meals worth!

Here's what I did:

I made the Tuna Casserole's except for baking, put into foil pans, covered with foil, placed in gallon ziplocs, labeled and froze.  (To serve, I will thaw overnight and bake at 350ºF until heated through and bubbly.)

For the meatloaves, I mixed all the ingredients, formed and placed into small foil loaf pans, covered with foil, placed into gallon ziplocs, labeled and froze.  (To serve, I will thaw overnight and bake at 350ºF until cooked through, brushing with more barbeque sauce if needed!)

I browned 3lbs of ground beef and seasoned with Homemade Chili Seasoning.  Half was used to make 2 batches of  Hamburger Soup and half was frozen in a ziploc to use later for tacos or chili making.

For the Hamburger Soup, I put all the ingredients, and the cooled, cooked hamburger into gallon ziplocs, labeled and froze.  (To serve, I will add corn - I was out - and then heat on the stove or slow cooker!)

I cooked my Slow Cooker Stroganoff as usual, except for adding the sour cream, let it cool and then placed it into a gallon ziploc, labeled and froze.  (To serve, I will reheat in the slow cooker, adding sour cream at the end, and serve with fresh cooked noodles.)

I will make my Split Pea soup as usual tomorrow and freeze into gallon ziplocs (probably will take 4), label and freeze.  (To serve, I will reheat on the stove or slow cooker!)

And...  we will eat well for a while at least!!

Do you freezer cook?  Or have you before??

What are your favorite recipes to freeze and reheat?  

I may do another day of this if I feel up to it, so I need some ideas!

(Fun story:  I *may* have sharpened my knives before I began, and I *may* have cut myself a few times with those newly sharp knives.  Here's a tip:  If you do the same, don't decide to cut up a bunch of fresh pineapple the next day!)


thick, creamy, luscious... Dove body wash! And a $500 spa gift card giveaway!

Yep, there's just no other way to describe this stuff!

The first squirt out of the bottle is impressive all on its own.  I was immediately impressed at how thick and creamy it is, and the smell is exactly what I like...

Fresh, clean, soap.

I am not a fan of getting out of the shower smelling like I rinsed my body off in sugar.  I like to smell soapy but not in an overwhelming way...  just, clean.

I was recently given a chance to try the new Dove Visible Care Renewing Body Wash from Dove's revolutionary new premium line, and I have really been impressed.

I have always had super dry and itchy skin, especially when I am pregnant, and I haven't been itchy or needed lotion at all since I started using this stuff.

That's pretty amazing to me!

And my super-sensitive pregnant nose also loves the way this smells, on me and on my husband.  There is nothing offensive about it and we all smell clean and fresh and sparkly.

Yep.  Sparkly.  That's how it smells.  Sparkly and fresh.

We have always been a Dove family, but this new line of body washes has the highest concentration of NutriumMoisture technology of all Dove products and we can definitely tell the difference.

There are 3 varieties of this new line:

  • Toning, promotes skin elasticity and strength
  • Renewing, nourishes and replenishes skin
  • Softening, softens skin and dry spots

We have been using the Renewing wash and my skin feels amazing.  (And I think it looks pretty great too!  No more dry patches or roughness...  just healthy, radiant skin.)

With regular use, this body wash gives you visibly more beautiful skin in just one week!

I really can't wait to try the Softening version when we run out of this bottle.  Especially this winter, I already know it will make a huge difference in how comfortable I feel in my skin!

Visit Dove's website for more information on their products and to learn more about why I love them so much as a company.

Their campaign to encourage real beauty and real women has always made me happy to show them my support and proud to use their products.  They promote a message I want my daughter to understand:

Real beauty is more about how you feel in your skin than how you look.  And real women do not look like the pictures in magazines!

Are you a Dove fan? What is your favorite thing about Dove or their products?


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fresh peach raspberry cobbler

Fresh, juicy peaches...  sweet, bursting berries...  summer really is here isn't it?!

I know some of you have been having summer for quite a while now, but here in the dreary NW, our sure-to-be-short summer has just begun.

The berries are ripe and ready for picking, the peaches are showing up at the markets, and corn on the cob is calling to us everywhere we turn!

I got some beautiful peaches last week but for some reason I kept forgetting to eat them.

(Ok, maybe I was just a teeny-bit distracted by the 20 pounds of sweet cherries I got at the same time!)

Well, the ignored peaches all ripened at exactly the same time on my counter and needed to be used and fast!

My first thought, of course, was a peach crisp, crumble or pie...  like I always do.

Then, I thought about it a bit more and decided to step out of my comfort-zone and try making a peach cobbler with them!

I know that's not all that far away from my comfort zone, but considering the fact that I have never actually even eaten a cobbler, let alone made one, this was an adventure for me.

And it was a fun one!

Although this didn't quite surpass my love of a brown sugary, oats & butter-topped fruit crisp, it was delicious and I'm sure I'll be venturing into the world of cobblers again!

Fresh Peach Raspberry Cobbler Recipe
adapted from Three Many Cooks

for the batter:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
for the fruit:
4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
2 cups raspberries, frozen for prettiest results
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Place the stick of butter into a 9x13" baking dish and place the dish into the oven until the butter is melted.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, gently toss together the peaches, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract.  Gently fold in the raspberries and set aside.

In another large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar & powder.  Whisk in the milk and almond extract until smooth.

Once the butter has melted in the oven, remove the hot pan and set it on a rack.  Pour the batter into the hot butter-filled pan and then gently spoon the peaches and berries all over the top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the batter is nice and golden brown all over.  Serve warm with lots of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!


homemade chili seasoning

Apparently one thing I have been craving this pregnancy is chili.

I can't even count how many times Andrew has made his famous Man Chili for me these last few months, and I always have intentions of freezing some for later but it disappears to fast!

With all that chili that making, it was only a matter of time before we ran out of chili seasoning blend and had to make our own.

I am super impressed with how this recipe turned out and I'm going to be making a nice big batch next time I get to a store with bulk spices!

The recipe below will make enough for 2 batches of Andrew's Man Chili...  (We make large batches of chili so we can freeze some...  this would be enough for probably 4 batches of regular chili!).

I will probably at least double this next time I make it, if not more, since this seasoning will also work great for tacos and more!

Homemade Chili Seasoning Recipe
adapted from My Baking Addiction

4 tablespoons mild chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (use less if you don't like much spice!)

Measure everything into a bowl, whisk well to combine and then transfer to a small jar or spice container for storage.


I am so excited...

...to be a part of Maytag Kitchen Ambassadors!

And now you're thinking "What in the world is that?!" and "Why is she so excited?", right?

Well, let me tell you!

As a part of Maytag's Kitchen Ambassador program, my family and I will be receiving a whole new suite of kitchen appliances from Maytag later this month!

(A new range, microwave, fridge and dishwasher!  Eeeek!!!!!  Can you feel the excitement?!)

Ok, so I know this may not be super exciting for you personally, but as my friends I hope you will be excited for me.  And I am thrilled to be able to try out these new appliances and tell you guys all about them!!

Yes, we have a very nice kitchen (thanks to my amazing kitchen designer/builder husband!) but our appliances seem to all be hitting that 10-ish year mark where they all start to die.

Or rather they all start to break down slowly and annoyingly (oven that doesn't heat well on the bottom, freezer with broken ice maker, dishwasher that just don't get the dishes very clean, microwave that sparks...) but not enough to justify buying new appliances when money is already tight.

Being a cook and a baker, having an oven that doesn't heat efficiently is probably my biggest frustration in life.

Being pregnant and needing to drink lots and lots of water makes me very frustrated to not have ice!

And...  I have to pretty much wash all of our dishes before they go into the dishwasher because it doesn't work well.  Basically, I am exhausted.

And this new set of kitchen appliances could not be coming at a better time, with baby #3 on the way in a few short weeks...  I need all the help in the kitchen that I can get!

Maybe they even be here soon enough for me to get some freezer-meal prep done for baby's arrival?!

I have to say I am most excited about the range (the oven has a much bigger capacity than our little convection oven) and the new fridge...  I can already feel my life getting a tiny bit easier just thinking about them.

I'm sure I will have lots to share with you guys (and some great pictures!) once the new appliances get here...

And lots more motivation to get into the kitchen and bake and cook new things for you, since I won't be working with appliances that drive me crazy!


I wrote this post participating in a Maytag Moms Dependable Kitchen Ambassador program by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Maytag.  I was provided with a Maytag kitchen appliances set, including a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, and range to facilitate my post.


mexican hot chocolate brownies

Do you ever just want to skip dinner all together and go straight for the dessert?

That's hard to get away with when you've got little kids around, but my boys were both asleep before 6:30 last night so I decided to just go for it.

We had warm-out-of-the-oven brownies topped with delicious, creamy ice cream and I have to say it was one of the best dinners I've had in a long time!

Of course I couldn't make just plain old everyday chocolate brownies.  Since I was splurging anyways, I really wanted to try something new and fun.

Well, actually - I am always looking for fun, new ways to spice up my brownies, but this time I decided to very literally spice them up!

I took the flavors of a Mexican hot chocolate:  Rich, dark chocolate... warm, comforting cinnamon... with a little spice hiding in the background...  and mixed them into my favorite fudgey, gooey brownies.

If you can get your hands on some Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, it adds an amazing depth of flavor to these brownies...  But if you can't, regular brown sugar will work just fine.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies Recipe

3/4 cup dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter, melted & divided (1/3 cup + 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 cup coconut sugar (or firmly packed brown sugar)
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 2/3 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9x13" glass baking dish with foil and generously grease the foil.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Stir in 1/3 cup of the melted butter until smooth. Stir in the boiling water until the mixture is smooth and thick.

Stir in the sugar and eggs with the remaining 1/3 cup melted butter.

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the flour, tossing to coat.

Into the chocolate mixture, stir in the remaining flour, extract, salt & spices until just smooth. Stir in the flour-coated chocolate chips and spread the mixture evenly into your prepared baking dish.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the pan. (It's always better to under-bake brownies than to over-bake them!)

Cool completely in the pan before cutting for the prettiest results...  or dig right in to the warm gooey brownies if you don't care!  :o)


'eat your greens!' smoothies

Yep.  That's what I'm calling these.  Because my kids won't eat leafy greens any other way.

They're toddlers, they're picky, and greens are just not on the list of 'acceptable' foods in their minds.

But I refuse to give up, which is where these smoothies come in.

Fresh leafy greens, yogurt, oats, fruit...  These smoothies do the trick every time.  I can fill them with as much green stuff as I want, and the kids have yet to turn them down.

And that makes this mama-heart happy!

(Especially when I am very pregnant, very tired, and really not wanting to cook...  which seems to be the case more and more these days.)

I use the oats primarily to bulk up the smoothie so I feel better about serving it to my kids as a meal.  Feel free to leave them out if you want, but you won't even know they're in there!

And if you think you're kiddos (or yourself) will be turned off by the color, use mostly dark berries for a nice purple smoothie.

*By the way, these smoothies freeze great...  so if you don't drink them all up at one sitting, throw the rest in the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge the next time you want them!

'Eat Your Greens!' Smoothie Recipe
serves 3-4

2-3 cups frozen fruit (strawberries, berries, banana, mango...  whatever you like!)
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2-1 cup juice or water
3-4 handfuls mixed greens or spinach

Place the fruit, yogurt, oats and 1/2 cup of water/juice into your food processor.  Process until very smooth, streaming in more liquid if needed so it's not too thick.

Take off the lid and add in the greens, filling the processor as full as possible...  it will blend down into nothing, don't worry!  Puree again until as smooth as you'd like, adding more greens if you couldn't fit them all in at first.

Taste for sweetness and thickness and add a bit more juice or water and a touch of honey if needed.

Serve to your kids and smile when they ask for more!


cardamom vanilla strawberry freezer jam

I have been stocking my freezer with jam ever since strawberry season opened a few weeks ago, and made my last few batches of strawberry yesterday.

I usually make a simple Fresh Strawberry Freezer Jam...  but I wanted to try something a little more fun with my last beautiful berries.

And since cardamom is one of my favorite spices to pair with fruit and a good vanilla bean never hurts anything...  I thought that would be a great place to start!

I loved the results and now I'm almost thinking about running out and getting some more berries from our local berry farm so I can make more.

Fortunately for my wallet, I am just too tired to do that...  so we'll have to wait until next year's crop, and I will have to ration out what I have for as long as I can!

Cardamom Vanilla Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe

6 tablespoons instant freezer jam pectin
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 cups smashed strawberries* (from about 1/2 flat or 4 pounds berries)

Wash and dry your freezer-safe containers.

*The easiest way to smashed fruit, after you have rinsed, dried and hulled:  Place in a large bowl and gently smash with a potato masher until mostly smashed with lots of small chunks of berries still visible. Measure out from this bowl... you will likely have a tiny bit extra.  (Or if you have snacked on the berries a bit, just the perfect amount!)

Split the vanilla bean down the center lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  (Stick the scraped out pod into a small jar and fill with sugar...  homemade vanilla sugar!!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, pectin, vanilla bean seeds and cardamom until combined. Measure in the 5 cups of smashed berries, stir to combine and then continue stirring for 3 minutes.

Pour the jam into your clean, dry containers, leaving 1/2" of headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer.  Cover and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so before transferring to the freezer.

Store in the freezer for up to a year. Once you open one and put it in the fridge, try to use it up within 3 weeks.


the best homemade nachos

Since I just seem to have no motivation to cook these days...  and even when I do get the urge, everything falls apart...  we have been having a lot of simple dinners lately.

Chili, Hot Dogs, Eggs, Nachos...

Fortunately we love nachos and these really are the best.

Yes, I said the best.  I know that is a very subjective word, but for us this is it.

A perfect meal, with every crispy chip full of flavorful meat, beans & veggies...

topped with a whole bunch of really good cheese...

and baked to perfection!

Of course this is best topped with sour cream and chopped avocados or homemade guacamole, but the basic sprinkling of salsa is what we end up having most of the time.

You really can't go wrong with homemade nachos...  top them with your favorite things and enjoy a great meal in minutes!

Sweet Anna's Homemade Nachos Recipe

tortilla chips (your favorite...  we like Kirkland Signature)
finely chopped onion
finely chopped jalapeños
finely chopped olives
black beans, rinsed and drained well
grilled chicken, chopped
cheddar cheese and/or pepper jack cheese, shredded
fresh salsa (your favorite kind!)

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Line a large baking sheet with foil and spread out the tortilla chips as evenly as possible in one layer.  Try not to let them pile up so that each chip gets it's own toppings.

Sprinkle the onion, jalapeños, olives, beans and chicken evenly over the chips.  Then top generously with shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden.

Serve with salsa - of course - and sour cream, avocados or guacamole if you like them.  Enjoy!


fighting my demons... aka the Terrible Twos Threes!

Sometimes I just can't even believe how angry my little toddler/preschooler can make me.

He pushes my buttons more than anyone ever has in my life, and as much joy as he brings me every day...  he also brings out the absolute worst in me.

I really never thought I had a problem with anger, or losing my temper, until Bjørn came along.

He is fiery, passionate, emotional, more stubborn than I am...  if that's even possible...  and now he is 3.  Terrible 2's were nothing compared to this...

Seriously.  Whoever coined the term "the terrible twos" obviously did not have a 3 year old yet.

I was unprepared for this experience and totally overcome.

Somedays I just want to run away.

Sometimes I want to disappear and come back when my little 3 year old is older and not so difficult. When he is potty-trained and sleeping regularly and listening at least some of the time...

Sometimes I just feel lost.

But I know that I am not alone.  I am not the only one who struggles.

I am not the only one who screams.

I absolutely love my little family and being a mom and I can't imagine my life being any different...  (although I'd maybe take 'easier' sometimes!) 

Yes... most days, I think we are doing pretty good if we are all still alive and breathing at the end of the day!  (Bonus points if one or all of us is not in tears by that point!)

Sometimes I look at my little handful angel and my heart just aches with so much love I can hardly breathe.  But other times I look at him and the world turns red!

Then I look at my sweet little baby Haakon (who's not so much of a baby these days!) and can't imagine that I will ever feel this frustrated with him.  And of course I realize that he will also be 3 someday!   And the cycle will start all over again.

Is it difficult?  Yes.  Painful??  Yes!  Necessary?!  Absolutely!

See, the thing is...  I really believe, as painful as it is sometimes (ok, most of the time), that God gives us the children we have to refine us.

The same ones who bring out the worst in us are also the ones who can help us find that place of wanting and trying to better ourselves.

They expose our worst traits and our deepest fears leaving us with no choice but to deal with the pain instead of stuffing it away.

Do I like seeing my demons surface?  Do I like feeling out of control... so full of anger and frustration that I can't even think straight??

Of course not!

But I do like knowing that these things exist inside of me, so that I can work on them now instead of 30 years from now.

It breaks my heart that Bjørn, my firstborn, has to bear the brunt of my pain, frustration, refining and learning...  but I pray every day that we will make it through this as a team, and that we will both be stronger people at the end.

All I can do is take things one moment at at time...  and pray for strength constantly!

I can tell you one thing for sure though...  I am getting pretty good at apologizing when I screw up.

And thankfully, Bjørn is great at forgiving and forgetting!  (Something I definitely need to work on better myself!)

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