Wednesday

Zach's Chocolate Chip Pancakes


Meet my trusty pancake maker, Zach.
When he's in charge, pancakes are his choice and chocolate chips are a must.



  
Recipe

4 cups flour
8 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp sugar
4 eggs (beaten)
3 1/2 cup milk
6 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
In a separate bowl, beat eggs, then add to flour mixture.
Add milk and butter.
Mix well until clumps are gone.

Pour by 1/4 cup spoonfuls on electric griddle set at 350.
Add chocolate chips to batter on griddle and flip em' when they're golden.


This recipe makes a TON, but have no fear-
A fridge full of pancakes for the week sure beats cereal
...and making breakfast before school starts!

Tuesday

Pumpkin Sheet Cake & Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


 Honestly, this recipe needs no introduction. 
It's soooo good in a deliciously simple, crowd-pleaser kind of way.

Pumpkin Cake Recipe

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
16oz can of pumpkin
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven at 350
Mix together eggs, sugar, and oil and beat until thick.
Add pumpkin and continue to mix.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Add to pumpkin mixture

Pour into greased jelly roll pan
Bake 20-25 minutes

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Recipe

1 cube butter at room temperature
1 8oz cube of cream cheese at room temperature
 1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream butter and cream cheese 
Add vanilla and cinnamon
Add powdered sugar one cup at a time,
scraping the sides of the bowl, mix well.
 


On Healthy Living

Seems a little strange to throw a healthy living section on a baking blog, 

Am I right? 

Welcome to the story of me: one complicated, all over the map gal 
who just doesn't quite know exactly what she wants to be when she grows up

...still. 

It all started in college.
I was studying Exercise and Wellness and loved all things body, nutrition, and exercise.
I was working on pre-requisites for P.A school, volunteering at the hospital,
doing an internship at an Alzheimer's nursing facility, and taking classes to 
certify in phlebotomy (that's right, I used to be a vampire).

Sometimes the load felt heavy. Sometimes I needed a little break.
Sometimes I'd ditch class all together, crank up some tunes, and bake my heart out.
It was just what I needed.

It worked so much to my advantage that 
I once noticed that it was the cute guy's birthday across the way.
I took him some cookies from one of my baking episodes.
Truthfully, I had no intentions other than I needed to give some cookies away-
he was always friendly, definitely not bad on the eyes and really fun to talk to.

We were married 8 months later.

Today, I find myself still baking to relieve stress, still feeding that cute boy across the way, and still loving all things health, body, and science. I am kind of a nerd about it... and once in a while I have a thing or two to say about it. As much as I love baking and gathering, I too love feeding my family well, creating healthy habits, and taking care of the amazing gift that is our physical body.

I can promise you one thing though...
I am a firm believer in all things baked goods being delicious.

If you are going to eat a cookie, eat a delicious one made with butter and sugar.

I'm also a firm believer in disease prevention through nutrition and exercise
{I told you...I'm complicated, a walking contradiction if you will}

So have your delicious cookie- 
Just don't eat 9 of them- all things in moderation.

love, Heather

Monday

Snickerdoodle Bars

Soft, chewy, just the right amount of sugar AND made from things that are usually sitting in my pantry...Snickerdoodle Bars are a treasure!

I first came across this recipe for my sister's wedding reception. 
Her husband isn't a huge fan of frosting but loves a good cinnamon dessert and 
we wanted to make sure the spread included something delicious for him.

 For the reception, we cut them into squares, placed them in fun cupcake wrappers, 
and served them from a painted wooden tray- easy, cute, & a HUGE hit.

If you like a good snicker-doodle, I promise, you will LOVE this!
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Recipe
 
5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  4 teaspoons baking powder
  1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  4 cups packed brown sugar
  2 cups butter, at room temperature
  4 eggs, at room temperature
 4 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup white sugar
  4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Lightly grease your big cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
In a separate bowl (I used my Bosch) beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. 
Spread evenly in the prepared pan. 
Combine your sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. 
Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. 
Cool slightly. 
Cut into bars with a plastic knife 

After eating one of these bars out of the oven yesterday, 
I decided next time we need to top it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream




Fresh Strawberry Pie

This recipe comes from my dear friend Jill {who is an amazing cook and baker}. 
She taught me to make this pie when I was first married and it has always been a favorite of ours. 
The second strawberries are tasty and on sale, we make a pie.

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Start by washing your strawberries and letting them dry thoroughly.

Bake up your favorite pie crust 
{homemade is always fabulous, I love Martha Stewart's recipe}.

In a hurry? Buy Marie Callender's frozen pie crust, it's tasty.

Whichever pie crust you use, make sure you poke holes in it with a fork before baking 
to avoid bubbles in your crust. 

Let your pie crust cool.

Cut the tops of your strawberries and place them in your cooled pie crust. {Make it look pretty}.

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Now it's time for the glaze

Strawberry Pie Glaze:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry jello mix

Begin by dissolving the sugar into the water. 

Add to saucepan.

Over medium heat, whisk in cornstarch.

Bring this mixture to a boil and continue to stir until the white, 
opaque mixture becomes translucent and thick.
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Once your mixture has reached this point, remove it from the heat and stir in the strawberry jello. 

Mix well, and then pour over your pie crust with strawberries. 

Make sure to cover each berry without letting the mixture spill over the sides.

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Refrigerate your pie for AT LEAST 4 hours. 

Patience is key: it is worth it though.

After your wait is over, slice it up and top it with whipped cream 
{and go ahead and serve yourself a slice for breakfast the next day- you won't regret it}


Come Unto Me...I will Give You Rest

Reposted from April 19, 2014

This passage from Matthew, quoting Jesus Christ, has served as an anchor to me as of late. 

It has provoked so many thoughts and feelings 
while strengthening my knowledge and love for my Savior.

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I find it overwhelmingly comforting, because for me it's almost tactile. 

I can feel it. 

"Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden"

That provokes such imagery for me. 

As a wife, mother, and woman; it is easy and oft to feel heavy laden.
At times, it feels as though no matter how hard you work-
the weight of the world seems to sit right there, yoked upon your shoulders.

I don't know if I basked in ignorance before, or if this is "growing up",
 but life is far more often hills and valleys than steady and straight.
On top of that, it is never-slowing-down. 

Sometimes we feel immense joy, gratitude, happiness. 
 Sometimes we have sorrows, heartache, and worry.
Sometimes we have it all at the same time. 
 ...sometimes it just feels like more than we can carry.

The load doesn't have to be ours to carry alone...
and that is what Easter is all about to me. 

It is as though, in the midst of feeling down trodden, 
when I feel as though I can't even fathom to put one foot in front of the other,
Christ puts a loving hand on my shoulder and says 

"Let me take that for you"

There isn't a soul on the earth that can bring the insurmountable 
comfort and rest to a person that He can.
He makes it possible to carry all that we have to carry.
He takes our weaknesses and makes them our greatest strengths,
if we so allow it.

...and I am profoundly grateful for it. 

I am particularly humbled this time of year as I reflect on the sacrifices Christ made for me.

For You

I know that He lives, He knows us as individuals. 

Because of Him, I can find rest.

So can you

Happy Easter.


Big Bottom Bundt Cake

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I had my first big bottom cupcake years ago from my dear friend Cyndi...
I have craved them ever since.

Being a lover of bundt cakes, I decided to give it a try and it's wonderful!

The Big Bottom part is merely a cheesecake like goodness added to your favorite chocolate cake recipe. As a bundt cake, it comes out moist and delicious, with a little cheesecake in every bite.

Here's how I made this one:

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Mix together your favorite Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake

1 box Devils Food Cake Mix
4 eggs
1 cup Sour Cream
1 small box of chocolate pudding

Pre-heat your oven to 350

Mix the cake mix, eggs, and sour cream until fully incorporated. 

Add pudding until mixed through. 

Grease the heck out of your bundt pan 
(sticky bundt cakes are the worst-I like to use good ol' trusty PAM)

Pour batter into greased pan and spread evenly 

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Big Bottom Cream Cheese Layer

1 block of softened cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth. 

Fold in Chocolate chips. 

Spread layer on top of your chocolate cake mix layer.

Bake 40-45 minutes.

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Can you see the cheesecake goodness at the bottom?

After the cake has completely cooled (this prevents melted frosting). 
Make your favorite Cream Cheese frosting and spread it, pipe it, plop it on, however you wish. Throw some sprinkles on top for good measure.

These sprinkles are Ghirardelli chocolate: this means they aren't waxy and fake tasting. 
They are the real deal. Found them at a baking supply store in downtown Phoenix. Best buy ever.

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My favorite Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 block softened Cream Cheese 
1 cube of softened butter (always butter)
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups Powdered Sugar

Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. 
Slowly incorporate powdered sugar.

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

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This meal is my husbands VERY favorite. He always begs me to make a TON so he can have left overs. The funny thing? No matter how much I make, it's never enough. They really are that good. On Sunday, my little helper and I made dinner for my parents, brother, and sister and fam. I love this new phase she is in where she wants to be helping. The best part? She's good. Like really good! I dig that too. She and I made tortilla soup, enchiladas, mexican rice and green salsa. It was a blast...not to mention delicious. Watch out for Hadley's Cafe one day. Has a nice ring doesn't it?

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Recipe

6 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons lime juice (1-2 large limes)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded (3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 package corn tortillas- you can use flour- I prefer corn
1 pound Monterey jack cheese, shredded
16 ounces green enchilada sauce
1 cup heavy cream

Instruction

Place shredded chicken, honey, lime juice, chili powder and garlic powder 
in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Mix enchilada sauce and cream in separate bowl.
Lightly spray 9x13 with nonstick cooking spray and spread 2/3 cup of 
enchilada sauce mixture on the bottom.
Fill corn tortillas with chicken and cheese and roll em' up.
After your pan is full, pour remaining sauce on top of 
enchiladas and top with cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
{I like to cover my enchiladas until the last 10 minutes or so}

Caramel Corn

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This recipe is a holiday favorite of ours, and one of my Zach's most favorite treats.
He kept begging and begging and begging and begging that we have it, so we threw on a Christmas movie and made it. Just the two of us. I hope he always wants to help me in the kitchen, but I understand he may "grow out of that",  so I have made it a goal to take advantage of more opportunities like this one.  He was a great help!

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We begin with the butter. 4 sticks. Do you know what this means?
...It's bound to be delicious.
Melt that deliciousness down in a saucepan.

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Next, we are going to add 2 cups of brown sugar and 1 cup Karo Syrup. 
Stir this mixture until well blended and comes to a rolling boil. 
Once boiling, set your timer for 5 minutes and STOP STIRRING. 
That's right, nothing but boiling for 5 minutes. 
Make sure you are at medium heat and watch to make sure it isn't about to boil over- 
in that case, turn down your heat.

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Remember that helper of mine? Ain't he cute? There's some sort of crazy physiological response that comes with a 10 year old boy...any time you try to take their picture, they make a face, or a sound effect, or both. 

Every. Single. Time.

After the 5 minutes is up, remove your saucepan from the heat and add 1 can of Eagle Brand goodness and 1 tsp vanilla. Make sure you mix this well, taking time to really incorporate the condensed milk. 

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Once your caramel is mixed through, pour it over your popcorn. 
I usually pop 3 bags of microwave popcorn.

I've yet to venture into my own popcorn popping, but if you popped your own, rather than used the bags, I'm sure it would be even that more amazing.

My favorite way to do this is to pop the popcorn, pour the bags onto 2 cookie sheets and sift out the kernels- no one likes to bite into a kernel (speaking from experience here). After all the kernels are out and the popcorn is ready, I start the caramel making business.

You can even add some cashews, or pecans to the mix. Those are delicious too!

R E C I P E
2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Cups Butter
1 Cup Karo Syrup
1 Can Eagle Brand Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla
3 Bags Microwave Popcorn

In saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar and Karo. Bring to boil. Turn to medium heat and let boil for 5 minutes. DO NOT STIR. Turn off the heat and add Eagle Brand Milk and vanilla. Also add nuts if you'd like. Pour over popcorn and devour.

On being thirty-something

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This may just be my opinion, but come on thirties, I really want to like you. On one hand, my thirties have been liberating. Turning thirty made me feel like maybe I wasn't "that" stupid anymore. For many of life's experiences it just isn't my first rodeo and I appreciate that. I am less to dwell on the opinions of others and I don't put up with being taken advantage of like I did in my twenties. I really like that too. But I also feel that at 33, I entered into my junior high phase of adult hood.

What is this?!?

A good 25 pound gain, breaking out like a teenager, weird skin things, hormones all over the map, exhausted but not able to sleep....I can go on and on.  I have sat in multiple Dr/ holistic/ personal trainer/ med spa offices asking professionals to "fix me". My OB-GYN says most people don't even know PMS until their thirties. Well that's a fun time, PMS takes up about half of my life. HALF...that's no way to live (or to be lived with). Some say I have too few hormones, others say too many. I have been told by three different people that the good news is that I am fat all over (still on the fence about that being good news) so losing weight will "be fun". Gosh, I wish it were fun. Everyone tells me I have too much stress (show me a thirty something Mom that doesn't). I should exercise just for that reason. Everyday. Well that would be awesome if I weren't so stinking tired. I don't mean to complain, I am grateful to be relatively healthy and able to do all I need to. It's just a lot to take in- I have changed my diet, my birth control, the vitamins I take, the way I exercise, the way I take care of my skin, how I handle stress...

This thirty something thing isn't for the birds.

Thirty, Flirty and Thriving is more like Thirty, Grouchy, and Starving

Or maybe it's just me?!? Maybe people love thirties?...I bet they are the gals that love pregnancy too.

Some girls have all the luck.

In any case, I just turned 34 and I'm taking these thirties head on. Sure I have a few more lines on my face (mixed with acne), and a grey hair or two that pop right out of my crazy poodle curly hair (also a new thirty something arrival). People may call me ma'am more often than not and others give me advice for "older ladies".  Well, I have decided I'm just going to own it and figure out what it is my body is trying to tell me.  Or maybe I am going to learn how to do my best and just be content with what I have been given (I sure hate learning that). Here's to the rest of my thirties- I've decided I will do my darndest to find a way to like you again- we've got six years to figure this out.

It's a Wonderful Life

This Christmas season, I have been particularly obsessed with the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." So much so, that today is the 14th of December and I have just finished watching it for the 4th time. I have seen this movie all my life, and LOVED it, but this year...this year is different. This year, the lessons taught in one of the greatest movies of all time (in my humble opinion) are poignantly relatable and I am left in tears as I find myself reflecting on my own life.

I know we all find ourselves at one time or another feeling like George Baily. Feeling defeated, rejected, having our character questioned, feeling like a failure. This pretty much sums up 2014 for us. There have been times where I have literally been picked up off the floor, not quite sure how to fathom life. I will honestly and somewhat sheepishly admit that I don't know that I have ever so questioned my faith, wondering if this is it...this is what it's all about? I signed up for this? On purpose?

...In same breath, I must tell you that I too have never felt as George Bailey did at the end of the movie, so utterly and completely, joyfully, grateful for the things that matter most. Having never had such a vivid appreciation for life, family, friends, and especially for faith. I questioned God, and He answered. We have experienced so many tender mercies this last few months, I will forever be changed by them. Without writing a memoir, we have felt carried through many trials including an unexpected job loss, and crazy enough, wouldn't trade any of it for the world. There is an unexplainable, undeniable, sweet feeling of comfort that comes when you feel that there is nowhere to go but up. Having nothing to give but faith, prayer, and fasting, we know that these things have blessed our life. We have literally felt the blessings that have come from dear family and friends praying, fasting, and being so generous on our behalf. Just like the movie, after feeling as though all is lost, George realizes that he has everything and more. I too pull my family in a little closer, hug them a little tighter, and am moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of life long friends.

It truly is a wonderful life.
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Cookie Love: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

Is there anything more delicious than an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie? 
 Nothing to me says comfort like a warm, chewy, slightly undercooked oatmeal chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. DELISH.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream to that goodness...HEAVEN. Cookies are my jam. I'd take a delicious cookie over any ole' piece of pie, cake, crisp, you name it. Cookie wins in my book. I have had the hardest time deciding what my "signature" go-to oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe is. I have made DOZENS of recipes. Nothing I've made lives up to a few of my bakery favorites...until possibly now. I have played with this recipe and tweaked it here and there and by golly, I think I have it.


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RECIPE:
4 large eggs room temperature
4 sticks of butter room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons vanilla extract (yes that says tablespoons)
6 cups old fashioned oats
3 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 cups milk chocolate chips 
(or semi-sweet, or whatever you fancy, butterscotch, white chocolate, 
peanut butter...there's no bad choice here friends)

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Begin by creaming your butter and sugars. I love to use my Bosch (and just so ya'll know, the Bosch is on sale at Costco...for much cheaper than I bought mine for AND with way more included. Seriously. If I could buy you one, I would. It's that fantastic).

After your butter and sugars are creamed, add your vanilla. Then your eggs-one by one until incorporated.
Sift flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Add and only mix until incorporated. Don't over mix here.
Then add your oats and then your chocolate chips. Don't over mix here either.
Scoop dough with a cookie scoop (or a big spoon) and place on your cookie sheet.
HERE'S THE KICKER
Refrigerate your dough balls for at least 2 hours. I know...this doesn't seem fair. BUT, it helps so your cookies keep from spreading too thin, and keeps that crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside goodness going on. Try it.
But try some dough first.

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When you are ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 8-11 minutes.
Mine were delicious at about 9.
Brown on top, gooey in the middle- TO DIE FOR
Nothing makes your house feel like home like the smell of cookies baking in your oven. If you time it right so the kids are smacked in the face with such aromas when they walk in the door from school...you might even become their favorite over Dad...for at least a minute or two.

Dinner Diaries: Caprese

   
Recipe
Sliced, high quality mozzarella. 
Sliced tomato.
Chopped [or not chopped] basil. 
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Balsamic glaze 
[ To make the glaze you will need to reduce the vinegar- which is a fancy way to say simmer it on low in a pan for 30 or so minutes until you have reached your desired consistency. Mmmmm, it's sweet and delicious!]

Dinner Diaries: Taco Soup

Dear Taco Soup,
My go-to 6 ingredient delicious little dinner.
I've been making this soup since my college days and it never disappoints.
 
 

Recipe
1 lb ground meat
1 can diced tomatoes:you can purée first if you have friends who don't "like chunks"
1 can corn
1 small can diced green chilies
1 can kidney beans (or white beans)
1/2 jar of salsa or taco sauce
A shake or two of hot sauce never hurt anyone-but you can leave it out too.

Directions
Cook and brown your ground meat in a large sauce pan or stock pot. Drain fat. 
Open your cans and pour them in (don't drain them). 
Continue to cook on stove top until heated through.
Top with toppings if you so wish. 

tortilla chips
sour cream
diced avocado
shredded cheese
hot sauce
That is all friends.
That is all.
It's simple, but it's tasty. I promise.