31 days of letters... in 2012

I'm joining in this fun writing exercise with the nesting place for the month of October...

It's a challenge to write for 31 days straight, every single day, about one topic.

I love to write, and I don't feel like I push myself enough in this area, so I wanted to join this challenge.

The topic I chose:

Yep, starting tomorrow, there will be 31 days of letters.

Letters to my daughter, my sons, my husband, my parents...  at this point I don't exactly know.  Maybe not all to my family, but mostly, and we're all really family right?  All I know right now is that there will be letters.  Lots of them.  31 to be exact.

And don't worry, I will still be posting recipes.  So that means there will be multiple postings some days.  But I love writing and couldn't resist this challenge for myself!

If you're interested in joining...  Go to nesting place and check it out.

Oh, and I'll be linking all the posts back up here so that we can find them all easily in one place!


31 Days of Letters

  (day 1)  a letter to my sons...
  (day 2)  a letter to
  (day 3)  a letter to
  (day 4)  a letter to
  (day 5)  a letter to
  (day 6)  a letter to
  (day 7)  a letter to
  (day 8)  a letter to
  (day 9)  a letter to
(day 10)  a letter to
(day 11)  a letter to
(day 12)  a letter to
(day 13)  a letter to
(day 14)  a letter to
(day 15)  a letter to
(day 16)  a letter to
(day 17)  a letter to
(day 18)  a letter to
(day 19)  a letter to
(day 20)  a letter to
(day 21)  a letter to
(day 22)  a letter to
(day 23)  a letter to
(day 24)  a letter to
(day 25)  a letter to
(day 26)  a letter to
(day 27)  a letter to
(day 28)  a letter to
(day 29)  a letter to
(day 30)  a letter to
(day 31)  a letter to


pumpkin pie coconut macaroons

As if the name doesn't tell you enough...  these are a chewy, moist, delicious little coconutty bite of pumpkin pie bliss in a macaroon form!

And to make things even better (for me at least! Ha!), they are dairy-free!  (And even gluten-free too, I think!)  YAY!

I have been so grumpy lately without my dairy.  Baby Girl isn't showing any great signs of improvement yet, but it's only been a few days so I guess we've still got a ways to go on that.

I am so hoping this helps her feel better, but at the same time I am hoping it doesn't help at all.  :o/  Selfish, huh?

Anyways, these little dairy-free gems (all macaroons are dairy free, so I didn't do anything sneaky to these, in case you were wondering!) really are delicious.  Super simple to throw together and taste like a little bit of autumn-joy in your mouth.

Especially with a big cup of coffee...  because we all know coffee makes sweets taste better, right?


Pumpkin Pie Coconut Macaroons Recipe
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes about 2 1/2 dozen small cookies

2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup pumpkin purée

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the coconut for about 1 minute.  Add in the sugar, spice & salt and pulse for another minute.

Pour in the egg whites while the food processor is running and continue to process for another minute.  Add in the pumpkin and pulse a few seconds to combine.

Drop with a small scoop onto the prepared baking sheets (the cookies won't spread much).  Bake each sheet for 25-32 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown on top.  Remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking sheets.

These are one of the very few cookies that, in my opinion, actually store better not in an airtight container...  they stay crispier on the outside while still nice and chewy inside that way!




Joining Lisa-Jo and gang for Five Minute Friday again...

No editing, no censoring, etc...  just raw, focused writing for 5 minutes.

And...  GO:



I am grasping at threads in this new life of mine.  This new normal we are trying to establish with a new member in our family.

 My boys are grasping at their past and their comforts.  I am grasping at a dream of what will be.

Once we get through this struggle.  Once we get to the other side of this race, this marathon...  this ironman that is parenting babies and toddlers.

Yes, I know that older kids, tweens, teens, adults...  all posses their own intricate difficulties, but I am so looking forward to that difference.
I love my children so much.  I don't love this stage that is whining and crying and not-able-to-reason or even understand sometimes what we are saying to them and trying to teach them.

I don't love diapers and potty training and endless sticky messes of oatmeal on hands and faces and hair and tables and chairs and floors and everywhere else they can get to before we catch them with the rag.

I am so excited for parenting my little family:  stage 2.  And even though that stage seems so far away from us...  I know it will be here before we know it.

And so, for now, I am focusing on none other than rocking, snuggling and holding my sweet babies.  

Because, you know, they just don't keep.

No matter how hard we grasp.


hearty beef & bean soup... on the stovetop or in the slow cooker!

Tender, melt-in-your mouth chunks of beef, with a flavor-packed broth and a bunch of beans, veggies and potatoes.  This is a perfect hearty fall soup for these chilly evenings that are approaching!

I think I could eat soup every day and not get tired of it.  Soup is definitely near the top of my list of all-time favorite foods...  but oddly enough I always forget how much I love it until I am eating it.

I'm actually pretty sure I've never met a soup I didn't like.  Obviously some are more loved than others, but I love soup in every form.  Thin, thick, creamy, brothy, meaty, light...  There are just so many amazing options, it never gets old for me.

This soup started out as a clean-out-the-fridge dinner, but as ingredients got thrown into the pot I realized how tasty it was getting.  By dinner time, I knew I had to share this with you and will definitely be making it again!

I absolutely love the beef in here.  Tender, juicy and packed full of flavor...  so comforting and satisfying!

Hearty Beef & Bean Soup Recipe

2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 long celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large baking potato, raw or leftover baked, chopped
3 cans beans, rinsed (I used 2 black & 1 garbanzo!)
4 cups beef or chicken stock
4 cups water
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt & pepper, to taste

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the bacon fat (if you don't have any, olive oil will work) over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion, carrots and celery until soft and slightly browned.  Stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute or two until very fragrant.

Push the veggies all to the sides and dump the meat into the center to brown a little before adding in the rest of the ingredients.

Bring everything to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for as long as possible for best results, but at least 6 hours if you are using regular stew meat.

This is a soup that tastes better the longer it simmers.  You could even start it one night and reheat it the next for amazing results!

OR brown all the veggies and meat and then dump it and everything else into the slow cooker on low for 8-12 hours for an almost hands-free meal.  Yum!


what we're into... September 2012

I love this posting by Sarah Bessey about what she's into each month, and I think I want to join her in this.

It's such a fun way to peek into someone's life, and great way to record memories of my own life!

(Join us, if you'd like...  I'd love to know what you're into!)

What I'm Trying To Read
(because we all know I'm not getting a chance to actually finish reading anything these days!)

Me, Myself & Lies - by Jennifer Rothschild

She's Gonna Blow!:  real help for mom's dealing with anger - by Julie Ann Barnhill

Devotions For Sacred Parenting - by Gary Thomas

What We're Watching
(We don't have regular TV, so we're pretty much a Netflix & DVD only household.)

I just finished Eureka (loved it!), then Warehouse 13 (liked it) and now I've just started Parenthood and I'm absolutely loving it!

Andrew and I also just started White Collar together...

and the boys are loving Ice Age 1&2, Toy Story 1&2... and whatever else I make them watch when I get sick of those 4 movies!

What We're Listening To

In the car we've been rotating VeggieTales WorshipLittle People Christmas and an old favorite Chris Tomlin Live.  Quite the variety, huh?

On Pandora, we've been loving the Winter Song station for a super-relaxing mama/baby channel!  (Thanks for the suggestion Lisa Jo!)

And the husband is loving his usual (somewhat annoying to me!) dubstep.  :o)  (Which leads me to a burning question:  Do you and your husband/significant other enjoy the same music?)

What's In The Kitchen

Well, this is usually a fun one for me, but you might be surprised by our September.  We have been eating a lot of cup-o-noodles and oatmeals.  Yep.  Life has been that crazy!

Yes, I have done a little cooking & baking (pumpkin caramel pecan rolls, pumpkin spice syrup, roasted cauliflower mac & cheese), but the majority of our days have been finishing off the freezer meals and eating as quick and easy as possible.

On another note, Baby Girl and I are trying a Dairy-Free diet as of a few days ago.  She is NOT a happy camper and I am finally ready to try this last resort.  I hate to see her suffer.  And I hate to give up dairy (one of my favorite things!).  It is a major struggle and sacrifice.  But I sure do love her a whole lot!

What Blogs I'm Loving

My favorite new-to-me find this month:  Lisa-Jo Baker (Tales from a Gypsy Mama).  I am absolutely in love with Lisa-Jo and everything she writes.  Seriously brought to tears or cheers almost every time I read her stuff!!

My favorite not-so-new-to-me blog's:  My Kitchen Addiction, Annie's Eats, Gimme Some Oven & He Sows, She Sews.  Check them out!

And that's about it for the September edition of What We're Into!  Unless there's something else you'd like to know?!


pumpkin spice caramel pecan rolls

Rich, decadent, gooey caramel pecan rolls, laced with an cozy hint of pumpkin and spice...  these are easy, delicious and a perfect treat for fall!

Fall is in the air, even though it has been in the 70s here this week, and I am so so ready for it.

I just adore the fresh, clean change in the air.  School starts again, routine is put back into place, home is welcoming and cozy, coffee is sipped, candles are burned, treats are baked...

This particular treat is one more hit for my pumpkin obsession...  these were actually inspired by my favorite fall treat, Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

I got this original caramel roll recipe from my sweet friend, Amy, and it has been a staple in our house ever since.  I can't even begin to count how many times I have made these!

I especially love that I can make these the night before and let them rise in the fridge to bake off fresh in the morning.

Whenever we have company, it's one of my favorite ways to spoil them - without killing myself in the process!

Pumpkin Spice Caramel Pecan Rolls Recipe

2 cups chopped pecans
2 loaves frozen bread dough (rhodes brand works well), mostly thawed
1 1/4 cups butter
1 large package vanilla pudding mix (cook, not instant!)
1 regular package butterscotch pudding mix (cook, not instant!)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Grease a 9x13" or larger baking dish with lots of butter. Sprinkle the chopped pecans into the bottom of the dish. Cut the thawed bread dough into small chunks (scissors work really well for this!) and spread out on top of the pecans, filling the pan evenly.

In a medium saucepan, melt together the butter and the pudding mixes, brown sugar, pumpkin, spices and cream until smooth. Pour the caramel mixture over the dough in the baking dish.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, remove the pan from the fridge to warm up to room temperature and raise a bit more while you preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the rolls into the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a piece taken out of the center (or just a peek if you don't want to mess with the prettiness!) is cooked through and no longer doughy.

If you'd like, place a large platter over the top of the baking dish and gently flip the caramel rolls out onto the platter so the caramel sauce and pecans can pour all over the buns.


roasted cauliflower and chicken mac & cheese

I guess you could just call this a casserole, but it is full of noodles and a creamy, rich cheese sauce, so in my book it's a mac & cheese!

The roasted cauliflower & chicken add a ton of healthy flavor to this dish, and the noodles and gooey cheese sauce give you the satisfying comfort-food we all crave.

This was one of the best meals I have made in a long time (and not just because I haven't been cooking lately!)...  I think I ate half the pan myself!

If you don't have or don't care for curry, leave it & the lemon juice out.  It will still taste great, I promise.

My favorite part of this dinner:  Letting my toddlers steal 'bites' of my dinner - that they thought was just a big bowl of mac & cheese - and enjoying the fact that they were actually eating cauliflower and chicken!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken Mac & Cheese Recipe
inspired by Go Bold With Butter

8oz penne pasta
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (cheater-chicken, leftovers, boiled, etc.)
4 cups cauliflower florets (about one medium head)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk (or 1/2 cup lowfat milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream)
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, optional
juice of one lemon, optional
2 cups shredded cheese (I like a combination of cheddar and monterey jack)
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish and set aside.

Toss the cauliflower florets with 1 tablespoon melted butter or oil, salt & pepper to taste.  Spread evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and starting to turn golden.

Cook the noodles according to package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion until soft, about 5-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour evenly over the top and then cook, stirring continuously, until lightly golden brown.

Whisk in the stock & milk, a little bit at a time, until smooth and combined.  Stir in the seasonings & lemon juice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.

Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted and smooth.

Toss in the cooked noodles, chicken and roasted cauliflower to combine.  Taste for seasoning, adjust as desired, and dump into the greased baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly on top.

(*If you are going to freezer-meal this dish, stop here - cover well with foil and plastic wrap and then freeze.  When ready to use it, thaw slightly and add an additional 15-20 minutes to the baking time!)

Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and bake the dish for 35-45 minutes or so, until golden and bubbly.


what you may not see...

I am not perfect.  I am far from it.  Just about as far as a person can get, in fact!

Yes, I may bake pretty desserts and fancy from-scratch meals for my family.  And even somehow find the time to take pictures and share them with you.

But you know what?  The other half of the time, we eat cup-o-noodles or grilled cheese for dinner, and that's as good as it gets.

Sometimes a week consists of hot dogs and quesadillas and that fancy mac & cheese in the blue box.  And sometimes the best I can do is instant oatmeal and cold cereal.

But you know what else?  That's ok!  It's all ok, in fact.  My kids will survive, and thrive even... and we will all be ok.

Someday I will have time to cook healthy fancy love-seasoned meals at every turn, but right now, right now, I pour my heart and soul and tears into that mac & cheese and I pray that my kids would thrive in spite of it's processed neon-orange powder.

Yes, I strive for that unattainable 'perfection', because God asks us too.

But He also knows we will never make it on our own and that's all part of His plan.  If I was perfect, what would I need Him for?  Really!

But oh how I need Him.  Desperately.  As sure as I need water and rest and sunshine to survive...  I need Him.

Somedays I can't see past the mountains of laundry and the never ending "I'm hungry!"s and I start to drown in the mundane.

But He is always there.   Sometimes at that last breath, but always there.  Reaching out, holding me, and showing me His glory and His love.

Through the soft, sweet breath of my tiny baby daughter on my neck, He shows me.

Through the sloppy, sticky kisses of my 3 year old...  Who never tires of saying "I love you too, Mommy", for the hundredth time each day...  He shows me.

And even through the stubbornness and frustration of my willful 2 year old, He shows me.

Because in my pain and frustration with my son, I am often reminded that sometimes, ok most of the time even, I am that same stubborn 2 year old to My Father.

I don't listen well.  Certainly not the first time around.  I am rarely satisfied with what I have in the moment, and always seem to be asking for more.  I need constant supervision, and I always want to "do it myself"!

I sure am glad He has more patience than I do.


copycat Starbucks pumpkin spice sauce

I'm sure you have gathered lately that I have a bit of a pumpkin obsession.  I just can't get enough, once the weather starts to turn and fall is in the air.

Fall makes me so happy.

I love summer, for a minute, but it doesn't take long for it to get old.  I much prefer a cool, sunny fall day...  with the fresh smell of leaves and the breeze of change in the air.

I love sweaters, boots, scarves...  schedules, routines and activities.  Everything that is fall.

One of my favorite little fall indulgences are Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes and chais.  So festive, fallish, and delicious...  I could drink them every day if my wallet could afford it!

Of course every day is just too much, but I finally nailed down a recipe that is as close to Starbucks' as possible.  Now I get my fix whenever I want it, and without the guilt.

My favorite way to use this sauce is to put 1-2 tablespoons into a mug, fill it up with hot coffee and top with a splash of heavy cream.  Autumn in a cup.  Try it!

What's your favorite fall treat?

Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Sauce Recipe

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup pumpkin

In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat until clear and the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced a bit.

Pour into a jar and let cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.  The sauce is thick when cold.  It will melt just fine into your hot coffee!

This makes about 1 cup of sauce...  servings vary depending on how sweet you like your drinks.


the newest pumpkin recipe roundup

I did one of these last year...  but I realized that I have so many new pumpkin recipes (and I'm not done yet!) that it's time for a new pumpkin recipe roundup!

Did I ever tell you how much I like pumpkin?  What??  You figured it out already?

Ok, maybe it's a little bit obvious.

The first cold morning of fall each year, I become obsessed with pumpkin treats until Thanksgiving is over.

Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin chai, pumpkin chai, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin scones...  I just can't get enough!

It seems that every time I turn around I am thinking about a new way to use this favorite ingredient of mine.  And every time I go to the store, I grab a can or two (or 3 or 6, as soon as Costco starts carrying them again for the season!).

Well, enough blabbing about my pumpkin-love...  here's the latest:

(clockwise from top left) 

(again clockwise from top left) 

What I'm working on right now:  Pumpkin spice syrup (for lattes and my newest favorite - pumpkin chais!), and pumpkin pie slow-cooker oatmeal.  Keep your eyes open for these!

What is your favorite pumpkin treat?


this is just a season...

My first time joining Lisa-Jo and the mob for Five Minute Friday...

The rules are simple: no editing, no censoring, etc...  just raw, focused writing for 5 minutes.

(Side note:  This FMF is brought to you by my right hand.  My left is occupied by a sweet Baby Girl right now!)

And...  GO:


It's funny to me that my first 5 minute friday post is about focus.  Focus is something I don't have much of these days.

I was just thinking about this very topic today while making dinner.  It's almost impossible to focus on anything with a loud preschooler, a rambunctious toddler and a fussy brand new baby always needing your attention.

I am amazed that I get anything done right at all, let alone trying to do something new.

I can't even tell you how many recipes I have tried to create or recreate and have failed miserably at.  I just can't focus enough to get things right.

I feel like that Strawberry Shortcake dvd my boys love so much, where Apple Dumpling is all distracted and keeps adding the same ingredients to her cake over and over again.  It doesn't end well.

Nothing ends well anymore, it seems.  My days are spent trying to survive one minute to the next and counting down the hours 'til bedtime from the minute we all get up.

I know this is a season.  I know it will pass.  I have been here before, and I will get through it again.  I just miss my life, or rather - my mind, so much.  I miss focus.

I miss being able to whip up some beautifully delicious meal or treat, knowing all the while making it that it will taste good and I will be able to share it with people I love.

I miss the confidence that comes from focus.  I miss me.


Well, there's my 5 minute timer.  Thanks for giving me this space to write.  This was a fun game!  :o)

Five Minute Friday

a day in the life...

of my...  kitchen!

Just in case you've ever wondered 'how I do it' with all these littles underfoot, here's a glimpse into a day in my kitchen (or rather a day when cookies actually get baked!):

6:45am - coffee is turned on (Yay!!)

7:00am - I pour myself a cup of coffee and then the kitchen is immediately invaded by littles who are "SO hungry mommy!" and proceed to eat us out of house and home.  A typical breakfast:  scrambled eggs, yogurts while the eggs are cooking because they take too long.  Dry cereal after the yogurts are done, because the eggs are still not done and they're STARVING.  (All while holding a fussy little Maren.  Coffee is obviously forgotten and cold.)

7:15am - eggs are served, toast is made, because everyone is still hungry, and then hopefully I get to wash a few breakfast dishes and clean up before someone needs something else.

7:20am - I pour my 2nd attempt at a cup of coffee and get 2 sips before everyone is all of a sudden SO thirsty and more milk/water is needed and Baby Girl needs her morning cuddles.  (Coffee gets ignored and cold again.)

8:00am - I get to finish cleaning up the kitchen while Baby Girl naps and the boys play or watch Sesame Street.

8:30am - Baby Girl wakes up again and I quickly pour myself a new cup of coffee before sitting down to feed/cuddle her while we finish watching Sesame Street with the littles.

9:00am - the boys are "so huuuungry, mommy!" again and snack-time commences.

9:15am - the kitchen gets cleaned again and wiped down thoroughly so I can bake later if I get in the mood or find time!

10:00am - the boys are playing, the baby is napping in her swing, moby or ergo, and I start measuring out ingredients for cookies.

10:05am - the boys see what I'm doing and come running to "help" and "have one" of whatever is going on.

10:15am - ingredients are measured out and prepped, but Baby Girl decides she's hungry again and we're on hold.

11:00am - the boys are suddenly starving again, and lunchtime begins.

11:15am - the kitchen gets re-cleaned so I can finish the cookies.

11:30am - baby feeding time again, so baking is still on hold.

12:00pm - the dough is mixed together...  and then placed into the fridge because someone needs something...  again.

2:00pm - the oven is preheated and the cookies are formed and baked...  one sheet at a time...  while dinner is slowly prepped and made amidst all the interruptions and distractions.

5:00pm - the cookies are finally all baked, cooled and put away.  Dinner is served.

6:30pm - bedtimes snacks for the littles while I get a chance to clean up the kitchen.

7:00pm - boys are in bed and I get to wash all the dirty dishes without distraction.  (Our dishwasher is broken.  I actually don't mind washing dishes by hand, I just hate having to start and stop a million times!)

7:30pm - I prep the coffee maker for the morning and run a quick vacuum on the kitchen floor if I haven't had a chance yet... and then snuggle in my big comfy chair with my sweet baby girl. Finally getting to enjoy some quiet cuddles before we all crash for the night!

9:00pm - evening snack-time for me (and the husband, if he's home!) and another quick clean-up.

10:00pm - one last longing glance at my clean, quiet kitchen (man I wish I had the stamina to stay up all night and bake while the kids are sleeping!) and I'm off to bed to dream about all the things I wish I could be baking & cooking!

Whew!  I'm tired just reading all that again.

What does a day in your kitchen look like?


a new normal...

Trying to find a new normal these days is taking longer than I had hoped.

Well, actually, the kids and I are slowly adjusting as expected, but 'me time' has completely disappeared.

I'm pretty sure I haven't even shaved my legs since Maren was born because I haven't had time to take a long enough shower for that.  (Sorry if that just grossed you out...  but hey, at least I am taking a shower every day!  That's a feat in itself with 3 littles underfoot!)

What I miss most though, is my kitchen, and this blog.  I miss writing.  SO much.  I haven't even had enough time to write out Maren's birth story yet...  and she's over 7 weeks old!

I miss baking, and cooking, and creating new things in my favorite place...  my kitchen.

There are just so many distractions these days and time is so limited.  Even if I get a chance to bake something, I can't focus enough to do anything right unless I am making something I could make in my sleep (brownies, homemade mac & cheese, soup, etc.).

And you know what?  I miss you guys! 

I miss sharing my little space on the internet with you.  My little kitchen counter, where I often picture us sitting and chatting over a cup a coffee and a sweet new treat, whatever may be coming out of the oven at that moment.

I really do love and appreciate all of you.  I can't even express how much it means to me to know you are out there visiting with me, and that you care enough to come say hi once in a while.

Especially in this foggy-haze of newborn-land, and if you've been here before you know, it can be so lonely sometimes.  So beautiful, but so isolated.

I just can't wait to find a groove again in our new normal, and to have more treats for you to try.

Thanks for being so patient with me, friends.  I miss you too!


extra fudgy dark chocolate chip cookies

Fudgy, rich, soft and chewy dark chocolate chip cookies, with a touch of heat and a secret ingredient...  perfect with an ice cold glass of milk!

Instant pudding mix.  That's the secret ingredient!

I'm not normally a 'mix' girl, but I have been seeing a few 'pudding mix' cookies around lately and I just had to see what all the hype was about.

I just so happened to have a random box of chocolate fudge instant pudding sitting in my cupboard (that I don't even remember buying!), and this seemed like the perfect use for it.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with these cookies.  They are very soft, chewy, and packed full of flavor.  I can't wait to experiment making cookies with some funkier flavors of pudding mixes!

Please don't be afraid of the cayenne and cinnamon if you've never had spiced chocolate.  It's just a tiny hint in the cookies, but it makes a world of difference.  And your kids won't even notice...  if you're even gonna share with them, that is!

Extra Fudgy Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
inspired by two peas & their pod
makes about 7 dozen (depending on how much dough you eat!)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 6 (dry) ingredients;  set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the pudding mix, eggs and vanilla until smooth.

Mix in the dry ingredients until just well combined and then stir in the chocolate chips.  Drop with a small scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes, until the cookies are just set and no longer shiny looking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, and then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely before storing in tupperware in the freezer.


fresh blackberry margaritas

Fresh squeezed citrus, crushed wild blackberries, simple syrup...  and of course, some tequila & triple sec!

Summer is officially coming to an end, and kids are going back to school.

In my world, that's a celebration, since I love fall and can't wait for the season's change!  In my husband's world, summer ending is like a death and requires some mourning.

I don't know how it goes in your house, but mourning in this house involves margaritas.  Really good, homemade margaritas.

My husband has become somewhat of a margarita-king lately...  perfecting his recipe and loving to spoil our friends, family & guests with his homemade masterpiece.

This last weekend, he decided to switch things up a bit and make some blackberry margaritas.  And my word, they were delicious!!

Give these a try if you can snag a few handfuls of blackberries, and celebrate (or mourn, depending on how you feel) the end of summer with us!

Fresh Blackberry Margaritas Recipe
makes enough for 4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup simple syrup*
2 cups, or so, fresh blackberries
Triple Sec

*Make the simple syrup (recipe below) and let it cool.

In a pitcher, mix together the lemon & lime juices with the simple syrup (you can start with 1/2 cup and add more to taste if you're not sure how sweet you'd like things!).

For each margarita, place a handful of blackberries in a salt-rimmed large glass.  Muddle (smash with something blunt, like a muddler or the end of a spoon) until the berries are crushed.  

Fill the glass with ice, pour in a good splash of Triple Sec, a shot or two of tequila and then fill with the margarita mix.  Top with a couple of berries and serve!


Simple Syrup Recipe

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted and the syrup is clear.

Remove from the heat and let cool.  Store in a jar the fridge for up to several weeks!

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