Showing posts with label Delicious Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delicious Food. Show all posts

19 August 2014

Easy Chocolate Fudge Crackle Ice Cream Topping

This post could also be titled Great Things To Do With Trader Joes Coconut Oil and Chocolate Chips. I didn't invent this, I am just passing it along from the geniuses at Trader Joes. If you need a little midweek pick-me-up this might be just the treat to do it!

There's nothing better while shopping at Trader Joes (besides the amazing prices!) than getting a tasty treat at the sample counter. On a Saturday night recently after a movie we popped in to pick up a few things. At the tasting table there was ice cream with chocolate crackle topping. It was SO good. So we inquired further and got the very complicated (not) recipe firsthand and immediately bought a bag of Trader Joes semi-sweet chocolate chips.

By the way the woman at the food bar said she believes these are the best chocolate chips available and that she uses them exclusively. That is a pretty good recommendation. I did like the flavor and I generally don't like semi-sweet chocolate. I'm a milk chocolate girl all the way.

My favorite chocolate chips are Guittard milk chocolate which I have sworn by for years. Unfortunately TJs doesn't sell milk chocolate chips as least that's what I heard at the store we were at. So I won't be able totally switching over.

After making this recipe at home I am sure I would like it much more if it were milk chocolate, but that's just me. Most people like a little bit darker chocolate than I do. I have just never liked semi-sweet or dark chocolate.

Here's the easy recipe. Melt chocolate and mix with coconut oil until you get a fudge sauce consistency. When the sauce hits the ice cream it solidifies to a yummy crackly topping. So good.

More details. I usually melt my chocolate in the microwave. For a cup of chocolate chips or candy chocolate I use about one minute on high in the microwave. I usually use my two-cup glass liquid measuring cup to do this because it has a handy handle to hold onto while I stir the chocolate a time or two during the process.

Once your chocolate is melted you can start adding the coconut oil little by little. I keep my coconut oil in the fridge to hopefully keep it fresher. This keeps it a cold solid so it takes a little more work to get it melted. I just scooped it out with a spoon and added it to the chocolate and stirred it in. It melted down just fine from the heat of the chocolate. You can always pop the bowl back in the microwave for a few seconds if you a more heat to melt down the coconut oil.

Two Sundays ago I whipped up a pan of my favorite simple brownies, and a quick batch of homemade vanilla ice cream (super easy with this), and with some serious plans for this new chocolate crackle topping. Let me just say no one in the house was opposed to my idea and it was greatly enjoyed!

This would be a great idea for a dinner party dessert too. You can make the brownies the day before, of course you can just buy ice cream instead of make it, and the topping you can whip up while chatting with guests in just a couple of minutes. It's fast and easy to plate up too.

You can make it super glam if you decorate the plate a bit with some strawberry, caramel or vanilla topping in a squeeze tube before you put plate the actual dessert. Here are some great ideas for plate decorating with sauces.

If you try it, let me know how it goes!

image by kalanicut

16 June 2014

Now Is My Time #24: Good Summer Traditions

Based on the past weekend I think we've found our summer groove. I'm happy about that because that means, I hope, that we will make the most of this summer from start to finish. We're into a bit of a routine with the little person's days now that school is out.

She is settling in with a lot of reading, two books last week and a trip to the library to join the summer reading program. We are also getting in the flow with all of the things we hope to have her learn and master this summer, including some cooking, taking on more chores around the house and keeping the school skills fresh.

This past weekend was nothing if not relaxing. We slept an amazing amount, rested at home and had lots of chances to get out and see friends and do things too. We kept meals simple with lots of fresh fruit and salads.

Here are a few things we got into a groove with that I hope will stay with us for the summer.

1) Light, Healthy Eating: We always eat pretty healthily around here but I love the simplicity of our meals and all the fresh fruits, vegetables, nutrient packed smoothies and big delicious salads.

2) Rest: We need the rest. It feels good. Getting plenty of sleep is good and needed for all of us. Keeps the body and mind healthy and strong.

3) Time With Friends: We have a fantastic group of friends right now. In the past week we've spent time with single friends, married couples, an older widower and families with kids. It's good for our family's souls to spend time with friends and it makes our life richer. More of this please.

4) Nights Out: We have started going to the park in the evenings. I love living in a neighborhood where many of the kids go to the same school. This means that walking around our neighborhood or going to the park we get to see friends we know and The Bug has lots of kids to play with.

Now that school is out, the park is much more crowded as parents get their kids out of apartments now that they aren't in school all day. Every night there are friends at the park for The Bug to play with and it's good to get her running around at high speed burning energy and staying fit. I like taking a bag of magazines to look at and I can sit and enjoy myself on a nearby bench while The Man plays basketball and the little one runs with friends. I get a little me time at the same time after doing my workouts earlier in the day.

5) Walking & Riding Bikes: We are trying to use our feet more for errands and incorporate exercise into our daily routines. Our area doesn't necessarily feel like a neighborhood that has everything, but if you can ignore all the traffic, you realize we do really have just about everything we need within walking distance of our house.

There are fantastic restaurants, places to go for a treat, post office, clothing, hardware, craft and grocery stores all within a few blocks. We also find we enjoy the neighborhood a lot more when we can actually look around. Walking and on bikes we see and appreciate a lot more of the beauty around us.

6) Creativity: I have been on a bender to do some creative projects this weekend. It's always a little scary when I get in that mood because it could mean I get into all sorts of mischief. I have a little craft project I am going to do today with some clay I have tucked away in a drawer. We also have sewing to do.

We are getting the art supplies out more and I have a great list of fun projects I'd like to try. A mountain of rubber band bracelets were made here this weekend. It's a great time to make bracelets of all kinds, since we're a stacked bracelet loving clan. We have a full drawer of goodies we can play with.

7) New Things & New Places: We have been visiting new neighborhoods and doing things we haven't done before. I have really enjoyed this the past few weeks and want to keep it up over the summer. It invigorates me to do news things in the city I've lived in most of my adult life and in a city this big that is easy to do without going to far from home.

We had a lot of BIG hopes for this summer that so far just haven't worked out, but we're making the very best of it and trying to live happily every day anyway. These little things in small moments are bringing joy and happiness to our life and helping us live the fullest with what we have.

23 May 2014

Beach Bonfire: Crossing An Item Off The Bucket List

Had a fun day yesterday. I met a new friend early for a great two hour workout walk on the palisades. We had such a fun time getting to know each other. She is one of those people who comes into a new place and she's reaching out to people getting to know everyone instead of vice versa. She's great.

We had a nice time and she had her yummy baby with her, who is just so cute you can barely stand it. Such a sweetie pie. I mentioned to her that later in the evening we were crossing off a bucket list item, having our first beach bonfire picnic. You might wander why when we go to the beach so often we have never done this. Most beaches in our area do not allow fires, so you have to drive some distance to a beach where you can build a fire. My friend asked where we were doing it and said she'd always wanted to do that. So I said let's cross it off our bucket lists together. Come with us.

She and her husband and baby did come and along with one our very favorite couples we gathered at the beach last night. It was a little hectic getting there with the pre-holiday rush hour traffic but we made it in fine time, got the fire going and started roasting bacon wrapped hot dogs and corn-on-the-cob and set out watermelon, chips, veggies and homemade ranch dressing. It seemed like most of us had had a busy day and were a little tired so the food seemed to taste extra delicious.

We got cozy, had a lot of laughs and had a really nice time. For dessert we had gourmet S'mores with candy bar variations. Super delicious and one of my favorite treats. Even with all the experimenting I came to the realization that I like the original milk chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers version best. Mmm, yum.

It was the perfect first beach bonfire party and I am quite certain it will not be the last. Now that we have the fixings for beach parties organized I am sure we will keep doing more of it. I have been having thoughts of fun groups of friends we could gather with there for family night activities and fun during the summer.

It was so lovely to spend the evening doing one of those Southern California activities I've always wanted to do. It's all part of my Now Is My Time initiative to really enjoy living in this area and try to see every inch of its fun and beauty. So far this year we've done several of these new adventures and I am so happy about it. It was a great start to the holiday weekend!

Have you crossed anything fun off your bucket list lately? Do you have something you're working towards now? Hope you in the U.S. have a fantastic holiday. Happy weekend to all.

20 May 2014

Nutritious Dinners: Main Course Salads

With all the heat we've been experiencing we've been craving fewer large meals and we've been doing a lot more foraging small snacks throughout the day. I have been avoiding turning on the oven at all costs because we just don't need more heat. So dinners have been a little interesting the past couple of weeks.

I have been wanting to help my family become salad lovers. They eat lots of salad but the idea of salad being the main course on the table just hasn't sat well with them so I haven't done it. After reading a healthy living magazine at the gym while I was cycling as fast as I could and climbing pretend mountains on a treadmill I got really inspired that last night was the night to make it happen. We had a very nice little grocery shop on Saturday night so the fridge is full of yummy stuff that would make a fantastic salad. I schemed it all out on my way home.

When I got home and was immediately asked what was for dinner, I didn't get much enthusiasm when I said Spinach Salad with Chicken. But I tried to up the excitement with the idea of homemade Ranch Dressing, garlic toast and watermelon on the side. Plus, I said we have berries and angel food cake for dessert! Still I kept getting requests from the little one "can we change the menu?" Oh, the adversity.

But I pressed forward anyway. I made a big beautiful salad with spinach, carrots, tomatoes, homegrown green pepper, onion, cranberries and mandarin oranges. I would've loved to have some jicama to add with it. It was a bold array of colors and by the time I put the chicken on top I couldn't wait to dive into it.

By now I had also gotten two thumbs up on the Ranch Dressing even though I wasn't loving it. Too much dill, too much olive oil. But I hoped if I let the flavors meld for a while in the fridge that maybe it would be okay. I'm using Greek yogurt for all my dressings by the way.

While I was making dinner, The Man was on the other side of the kitchen making his super power smoothie. When I say other side of the kitchen, imagine him about six inches away. It's a small galley kitchen. His smoothies are insanely healthy, they now have at least 10 ingredients and they taste good. It's like eating a days worth of vegetables in one 12 ounce glass. Good stuff. I want to start doing one of these for meals, breakfast or lunch. Just waiting in the fridge it makes the whole "what am I going to have for breakfast (or lunch)" much easier.

Once we sat down together at the table, it was covered with delicious, healthy food that was so beautiful, colorful and fresh looking. At this point all commentary on salad for dinner stopped and everyone was just excited to fill their plates with food. We piled salad high, passed around hot garlic bread and watermelon and found the new dressing to taste pretty good on the many kinds of vegetables. Soon everyone was devouring the delicious, flavorful meal. Dinner was amazing because we took hold of nature's bounty and it fed us well.

I think we've crossed over into Saladville and I'm looking forward to a summer full of great fresh fruits and vegetables. I think the family, especially the little one, now realizes that they can trust that I am going to put a delicious meal on the table that they will like. Just because I switch up the menu it is not cause for concern or need to campaign to go back to regular favorites. I am glad I was not swayed by the initial lack of excitement. Now my next job is to come up with a bunch of fun, different salads. I'm excited to take our healthy eating to a new level with a few less carbs and more protein and a lot more vegetables and fruit.

So my question for you is, what fun things do you put on green salads? I need more ideas.

image via MCA

23 April 2014

LIfe Changing Idea: Serve Dinner On A Platter

image via

Many of you are probably familiar with Chef Lucinda Scala Quinn. She's part of the Martha Stewart Omnimedia clan, TV host, etc. I love to cook but I've never been into "the food world" much and so while I know the names of many of today's celebrity chefs I rarely turn my head when I see mention of them on TV or in a magazine. So it was unusual that yesterday I decided to read an article, while at the doctor's office, in the May 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living about a day in the life of Lucinda Scala Quinn.

But how glad I am that I did because in one short sentence she said something that rocked my world and changed how I will do dinner from now on for probably the rest of my life. She said she serves all the food for dinner to the table on one large platter. Why have I never thought of that? Why have I been plating things up so often or putting everything on serving plates and in bowls when it totally wasn't necessary?

Now of course this is totally situational. You wouldn't dump soup and rolls on a platter together and splash them all over the table. You wouldn't put foods that need to be chilled onto a platter with hot foods. But if you're serving meat, potatoes and a vegetable it makes total sense to put it together nicely on a platter which is easy to cover and keep warm until everyone is seated. It also is much easier to put in the middle of the table so everyone can reach. No passing dishes around. Dinner is available in front of everyone at the same time.

Last Friday I served green beans with our steak, potatoes and breaded mushrooms. They got set aside and at the end of the meal I realized we hadn't eaten them. This would not be a problem if the steaks, potatoes, mushrooms and green beans had been beautifully arranged on one large tray.

I own a lot of beautiful platters that just sit in a drawer unless I am entertaining. Well I'm now entertaining the idea they they need to be out and used often. Imagine one trip to the table instead of multiple trips with a variety of dishes. Less dishes to wash too. I just love this idea. It is so simple but feels so life changing.

The vision of food beautifully arranged on a tray excited me too. It sounds so pretty and visually appealing to the family to see it all lovingly presented together. It kind of makes every day feel like Thanksgiving. Even if you buy a roasted chicken and just quickly whip up some side dishes think how gorgeous it would all look on a pretty platter.

I'm pulling my platters out people! It's time to start using them and using fewer dishes and making my life simpler. This is one reason I love to read. You never know what little tidbit you might find on the pages of a magazine that will change the way you live your life. Thanks Lucinda Scala Quinn!

P.S. That's Lucinda there on the left along with Martha and the Everyday Food TV team. Notice she's posing with meals presented on platters.

04 April 2014

Cold Weather & Speaking Out Your Dreams

I can feel that we are fully into our usual crazy busy Spring season. Three birthdays in eleven weeks, school holidays, a busy extra-curricular activities schedule, Easter...oh, so many things going on. The weeks just seem to fly by. I get organized over the weekend and by Thursday I often miss posting something here.

It has been "cold" for us this week and by that I mean we wore long sleeves, layered tops, shoes, socks, jackets and even the occasional scarf. We even got to wear the new Patagonia super light down jackets we got on clearance last fall - finally. A yucky cold wind has been howling and messing up hair and blowing things around all week too. We still have all the windows open much of the day and sometimes at night, but my feet get very cold and I have to really bundle up.

We've been able to enjoy the fireplace and I've been heating up a microwave heating pad to take to bed with me. I've always said Spring is the worst weather we have all year. Spring Break visitors please dress appropriately, don't bring tank tops and shorts to LA in April or May. Bring a warm jacket.

During hot weather I will go long stretches not using the stove because it makes the house so hot. Heating up the house and enjoying a nice warm, cozy dinner has been perfect for this week. We also wolfed down a pot of homemade chicken soup with the most fantastic new "special" bread I found at the grocery store this week-- Rustic bread with sesame seeds. It was amazing and there were only three small slices left when dinner ended. It was a small loaf, but no one held back slathering the butter on the gorgeous slices and savoring every delicious bite.

I am refocusing on Now Is My Time again. I have been focusing on self-care efforts but I haven't been wearing my mantra to the full-extent yet. I'll post more about that on Monday. Now Is My Time is also about making dreams come true. I've set a tight goal to finish the novel I've been working on. Once I am done with that, I have a little dream of a gallery show of my torn paper art to start working on.

You can see some simple examples of my torn paper art at Margot Madison Creative and here. I was thinking about what kind of theme I would work from and it totally came to me this week and I started taking notes. When the time is right, I'll make it happen. The theme will be something along the lines of Finding Joy In Every Day. Shocking, right? Doesn't sound like me at all, waha. Anyway, another part of Now Is My Time is being braver about putting the dreams out there, so I'm doing that, speaking them publicly.

We're looking forward to a peaceful, quiet weekend. Sunday we're having friends over and I am thinking about what kind of simple morning spread I can put out for breakfast. I'm thinking Scandinavian style with beautiful breads, meats, cheeses, jams and fruit. Later in the day we will enjoy a eggs, bacon and pancake extravaganza. I should tell you more about our pancake parties sometime. Should be a lovely "stay at home" day.

I just dropped another wish into my prayer wish jar this morning. It was a beautiful one. Now to go work on making that happen. Sending you love and best wishes. Hope you find the joy awaiting you in your day today.

P.S. If you are looking for some great peaceful music to calm the soul, I love my "meditation music" station on Pandora. It's free, lovely when you are trying to center yourself and create a great environment in your space.

image by kalanicut - a pretty sight on the walk home from school pick up last week.

14 January 2014

A Pin Test #20: No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

image via Pinterest

I have wanted a recipe for Peanut Butter Bars since I was in grade school. These were hands down one of the favorite items on our school lunch room's menu. So I'm not sure why it's taken me a few decades to actually get on this, get a recipe and try making these for the first time. But I finally did it. Another childhood dream brought to fruition! Would it surprise you to hear that I don't really like peanut butter, unless it's with jam or jelly on a sandwich or with chocolate or as a peanut butter cookie. I would never eat a spoonful of peanut butter...ick.

So I had to Pin Test this no-bake recipe on Christmas Day. Luckily we took half the pan with us to dinner with friends - and there was nothing left on the tray when we left. That's a good sign.

I made a little mistake on these. It calls for one cup peanut butter for the base mixture and then four tablespoons peanut butter to mix with the chocolate for the frosting. I was not paying attention and added the four tablespoons into the base mixture. No one could tell the difference but I noticed in the end it made the base mixture a little too soft and sticky, although they totally kept their shape and did firm up after refrigeration. I just think it would've been a little bit better without that extra four tablespoons of peanut butter. I prefer my bars a little bit drier and crunchy.

Also I used milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips for the top layer. I have never liked semi-sweet or dark chocolate. The milk chocolate was absolutely perfect for my tastes and was certainly chocolate-y enough.  Several of the recipes use a chocolate frosting instead of melted chocolate. I am sure our grade school version was frosted. I think I lean towards the melted chocolate option instead of chocolate frosting, but either way they would be delicious.

Overall, these were quick and easy and most importantly, fantastically delicious. I think next I want to try a baked version with oatmeal, to see which I ultimately like better. I'd like to pull one good peanut butter bar recipe into my regular "quick and easy treats up my sleeve" repertoire. They are a great treat to take to a party, school or church function. If you try these, let me know how you like them...and remember that extra four tablespoons of peanut butter goes into the melted chocolate for the "frosting".

07 January 2014

A Pin Test #19: Roasted Garlic Mushrooms

image via Pinterest

It's time for another Pin Test and this week I'm sharing a recipe I tried for the first time on Christmas Eve. We love mushrooms with steak and since I was making two beautiful filet mignons as the centerpiece for our dinner I knew we had to have some mushrooms too. The Man loves garlic and he loves lemons so when I saw this recipe it had his name written all over it.

The recipe for Roasted Garlic Mushrooms was quite easy. The trickiest part was dealing with the breadcrumbs and garlic butter. That gets pretty messy. I used a small bowl for my breadcrumbs and by the time I was done there was quite a breadcrumbs mess all over my counter top. Had I used a bigger bowl it might've been less messy on the kitchen but I was still washing my hands after every few mushrooms because they had so much butter and breadcrumbs on them.

I put on a lot of breadcrumbs so that they were totally coated. That gave us a nice crispy coating all over them mushrooms and we were happy with that. The one thing I forgot to do was add the salt and pepper to the mix. I used salted butter because that was all I had so I held back on adding additional salt in the beginning. But I just totally forgot to put the pepper in.

So when we tried out first mushroom it didn't have too much flavor to it. But when we added the pepper and a little salt these babies popped with deliciousness and you could taste all the different seasoning flavors. These were such a success that The Man was stealing them off of my plate at the table even though there were many more on the pan at the stove. I was glad I made plenty. This was one successful Pin Test. If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments section below. 

28 November 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 Style

Thanksgiving Day is here again. I am hoping our day starts out with a lovely bike ride at the beach. These are the days when I am happy to spend the holiday in a warm climate. Yesterday we had the most lovely afternoon at the park, our little family, playing soccer, basketball and on the playground in short sleeves. The leaves were falling, the sun was low in the sky and it was just beautiful.

I was sitting on the side of the basketball court taking it all in and asking God to help me be thankful for every bit of such a beautiful day. When we got home I got cooking for Thanksgiving Day and for dinner. It was quite a feat to try to figure out how to bake four pies and a pizza from between five and nine in the evening, but it all worked out perfectly and thanks to a snack after the park, eating dinner a little later than normal was totally fine. The biggest distraction was that The Man decided to start the Star Wars series just as I started cooking. I'm guessing the marathon will continue tomorrow as well.

I destroyed the kitchen a few times over yesterday and ran the dishwasher three times. The final time it was only about three quarters full, but I figured I would rather have everything clean and all the tools and utensils washed and ready to start the day today.

Today shouldn't be too crazy. The Man and Bug are on table setting detail. We are going to spatchcock the turkey -- hello only 70 minutes cooking time! Then we'll whip up stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, carrots to go with it. Shouldn't take too long at all. I have everything pretty much prepped and ready to go.

The pies look really delicious so I can't wait to cut into them. This is the first time I have ever made pie for Thanksgiving, that task has always gone to someone else. But I have been a long-time pie maker so it wasn't too much of a stretch. There's a carton of vanilla ice cream just waiting in the fridge for a hot slice of pie. Tonight we'll have family holiday movie night which sounds like the perfect time for a leftover turkey sandwich on a dinner roll and another piece of pie. 

Here is my wish to you that this Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful one for you, filled with people you love, good food and safe travels. I'll see you back here on Friday ready to jump full on into the Christmas season. It will already be December this weekend. Unbelievable.

29 October 2013

My Favorite Brownie Recipe: Very Dangerous

A few weeks ago I had an inkling for a good brownie. I wanted the recipe my mom made growing up, but I didn't think she was home. So I started perusing (or maybe it was "desperately searching") the internet for a recipe sounded similar. I wanted a brownie that wasn't too fudgy or too chocolatey. I didn't want it too cake like. I wanted a firm, slightly dense recipe with nuts. I wanted a recipe that didn't need frosting or anything else to make it delicious. Just a good, basic brownie.

In what may turn out to be a "much to my detriment" outcome, I found the perfect recipe and it was exactly what I was looking for. Shortly after that I realized I was short on butter & it was late and I had a kiddo in bed so that meant no leaving the house. But luckily I was able to half the recipe perfectly.

I've now made this recipe three times over the past month or so -- and that was holding myself back, let me tell you. There are a few things I've learned. First, make sure the pan is very well greased since these are a dryer brownie and second, I learned that larger chunks of walnut are much better than small chopped bits. As a child we always made the brownies with chopped walnuts. I was lucky enough to have a few bags of walnuts The Man's aunt gave us straight from a walnut farm in Northern California. I followed the recipe and took the walnut halves and just broke them into two or three pieces with my hands instead of chopping the walnuts. The brownies were better and the nuts were more tasty this way. There's something about sinking your teeth into a bite of brownie with a big chunk of walnut that is just amazingly delicious.

I cut back just a little bit on the amount of cocoa I used, maybe just a little less than 1/2 cup. On one batch I had just a little more than 1/2 cup and they quickly became a little too chocolatey for me. But that is all personal preference. Here's the third thing I learned although I refuse to admit that it was by personal experience (haha)-- don't even fool yourself into thinking your going to put some of these in the freezer for later on. Not happening.

Well, now that I think back I actually learned one other lesson - a somewhat horrifying one - after making these brownies. I learned there is something very, very wrong with The Man. He walked in after I made these one day and said, "Why did you make brownies?" What kind of crazy person response is that? A "normal" person would've responded perhaps like this "Wow! You made brownies! You should do this more often!!!" or "Brownies! You read my mind! These look amazing!" or "Brownies are the food of the gods! Give me the entire pan, I demand it immediately!" Apparently I have aligned myself with another human being who does not fully understand or appreciate the beauty of a perfect brownie. This is very bewildering and perplexing! I must now rethink some things. wink. wink.

This recipe would be perfect for making brownie fudge sundaes or with vanilla ice cream. It's an easy "make ahead" option for entertaining and easy to cut up in lovely shapes if you need to take a treat to an event. A light dusting of powdered sugar would not be bad at all, but I don't think these need it at all. It might make them more festive for a holiday event. Imagine cutting them out in the shape of a Christmas tree and then dusting them with powdered sugar. Cute...and crazy delicious... (Plus if you cut them into shapes you would be forced to eat all the edge crumbs!)

Lastly please note that the cooking time says 20-30 minutes. That's a little broad, right? For a full pan in my oven I set the timer for 25 minutes and then ended up going just about up to 30 minutes. I cooked the brownies until the edges pulled away from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle came out clean. I am sure if you want them a little more fudgy you can just decrease the cooking time.

Quick and Easy Brownies

2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
½ c. cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
½  teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½  cup walnut halves


1. Melt the butter or margarine and mix all ingredients in the order given.

2. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 20-30 minutes in a 9x13 inch greased pan.

image also via

19 August 2013

Why Do I Have This Crummy Cook Book?

Two weeks as I was planning meals for first week of school I started consulting some cookbooks. I am bad with cookbooks. I won't let myself buy them anymore, but I do have quite a few and I don't use them. Some I've hung onto for years knowing that some day I would want to cook from them. Well someday is here and I'm realizing something.

I looked at a recipe book full of salads. I do love salad but I hated all but one of the salads shown in the entire book. Why did I still have this cookbook on my shelves?! Why did I even buy it in the first place. I realized it's now 16 years old. What the what? Getting it out of my life now.

Then I looked at another cookbook for slow-cooker meals. Again, the majority of the recipes sounded pretty awful to me. This got me thinking about that shelf of cookbooks in my kitchen and in larger matters about getting rid of things I don't need, use or actually like. Sorry, you know this topic is pretty much constantly on my mind. Thank you for indulging me.

For some reason books, particularly cookbooks often get a pass when I'm cleansing my life. But now my attention is turned directly at them. I do collect recipes and put them in binders and I have a nice system worked out for that. Usually if I need a recipe I just hop on the internet and find exactly what I want. But the cookbooks I've collected tend to just sit and gather dust. This week I am really going to look through them and weed some out.

Another set of books I'm seriously thinking about weeding through are all my old travel guides from my once upon a time world travels. I'm not sure they really hold any particular value anymore when everything has changed in all those countries and information is so readily available on the internet. I could keep them for historical record, but I don't think that is really necessary. Maybe if there are a couple with a lot of actual notes from trips I would keep those, but otherwise, they not needed.

I'm never sure what to do with books, if I should start an Amazon account for used booksellers or it I should just donate them and move on with life. If any of you had made this decision I'd love to hear how you did it and how that worked for you. I doubt the paperbacks are of much value but other books might be.

18 June 2013

Recipes For The Summer Berry Season

image via

We have a good supply of berries in stores here in California for most of the year. In January and February the strawberry quality goes way down hill for a few weeks but we are so lucky to have easy access to beautiful, locally grown produce all year round. I have been enjoying summer meals which to me becomes very simple.

Lately we've been eating meals like chicken with strawberries, blueberries and grapes, or with a simple salad or fresh corn. Summer meals remind me so much of my childhood eating the bounty of the farm garden - MINUS the mountains of zucchini and yellow squash.

We had way too much squash when I was a kid and that fact that it grew cheap and easy and my Dad loved squash only made the appearance of it on the family dinner table more prevalent, it was almost nightly. Sigh. But I still remember happily waiting each summer for the fresh peas, green beans and corn to ripen and make their first appearances at dinner.

After making blueberry sauce for pancakes and waffles last week and fresh strawberry shortcake for dinner dessert recently, I have my eye on berry recipes and they seem to be everywhere right now. Here are a few favorites I thought I would share with you.

Do you have a favorite berry recipe or dish you crave every summer? Hope you find something here that will be fun to make for your next gathering or to feed your next craving.

03 April 2013

Jumbleberry Pie

image via

This past weekend I saw Jumbleberry Pie at the grocery store. There isn't any dessert I enjoy more than hot berry pie with vanilla ice cream. So I picked one up along with a carton of high grade vanilla ice cream. It was heavenly.

Jumbleberry pie is a mix of a variety of berries so you get lots of different flavors and textures. I heat up a slice for about a minute in the microwave, then scoop some ice cream on top and let it sit for a couple of minutes. The pie cools, the ice cream melts a a little and it is pure heaven on a spoon.

I have never made Jumbleberry pie. Pie making was kind of my thing when I was a teenager, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've actually made a real pie since high school. That's a little sad. Maybe pie making needs to be my thing again. Maybe I need to start making Jumbleberry pies. It's a thought. Maybe it could be my go-to dessert. It would be a good combo with my steaks, or mac and cheese, or other go to dinner party foods.

Here is a link to the highest rated Jumbleberry pie recipe I could find. It's called Double Crust Jumble Berry Pie from Maybe I'll try this sometime soon. If you decide to try it, let me know.

15 March 2013

Class Birthday Treats - Chocolate Pretzels

Over the past weeks I've put some thought into what we could take to our The Bug's school class for her birthday. I wanted to find something that didn't involve me making a special trip to the school, interrupting the class time or food that needed to be served. I wanted something that could be very quickly handed out at the end of the day. So I came up with the idea of putting something in small packages with a cute handmade tag similar to what we did for our Valentine's Day school treats. Again all inspired by Gabby Blair at Design Mom

I didn't feel like baking and wanted to come up with something simple that was somewhat sturdy. So I decided to try to make chocolate covered pretzels. I worked in a chocolate factory in college so I figured it wouldn't be too hard to  figure it all out. The entire process took me about 4 hours but it was late, I was tired and was doing a lot of experimentation. I am sure I could cut my time down to less than 2 hours for the entire project now that I've done these once. Using the fridge to quickly cool the chocolate made a major difference in how fast I could get these done.

I bought four bags of Bavarian pretzels in hopes that out of all those bags I would be able to get 52 unbroken pretzels. You'll be entertained to hear that is exactly how many I got out of those four bags.  But I still have a ton of broken pretzels which I'm not thrilled about. If I were to do this again I would use the thick sticks. But for this project I just wanted to keep the bags small and square and the Bavarian pretzel shape seemed perfect for that. My budget for this project was about $22 but I probably could've saved a bundle going to Costco to buy one giant box of pretzels instead of four bags of trendy brand pretzels at the grocery store. My only costs were the pretzels, chocolate and small bags. I already have everything else I needed.

Here is the supply list:  Bavarian pretzels, chocolate candy-making wafers, plastic treat bags, paper and glue for tags and a stapler. I used two bags of white chocolate wafers and one bag of pink.

Here are the steps:

Step One: Sift through the pretzels to find the whole ones. I I figured two per treat bag and needed 26 bags.

Step Two: Put wax paper on cookie sheets to set dipped pretzels on to set up.

Step Three: Melt chocolate according to directions on the back of the bag. I used the microwave and it was great. I used a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup to melt and dip the pretzels.

Step Four:  Dip pretzels in the melted chocolate and tap the flat bottom gently on the edge of the measuring cup to even out the chocolate and shake off excess. This tapping process really helps the chocolate settle and look much more uniform and pretty.

Step Five: Lay pretzels on the waxed paper and allow chocolate to firm up. Speed things up a lot by putting the cookie sheets in the fridge for 15 minutes or so. On the counter they will take considerable longer to firm up.

Step Six: While letting the chocolate on the pretzels firm up, start making the card tags. I used scrap cardstock I had so I had a nice bright array of colors and patterns. I used the paper cutter to keep my sizes all similar and sharp looking. I folded them all in half and made a very nice crease at the top with my bone folder.

Step Seven: Cut up small tags of light colored cardstock to write the message on. I knew that with the array of dark and patterned papers I was using for the card it would be very hard to write anything legible on them.

Step Eight: Stamped a pink flower in the corner of my little tags, wrote Happy Birthday and my daughter's name and used glue dots to attach them to the folded cards. I put the tags a little higher than middle on the cards so that I would have enough space to staple the tags onto the bag at the bottom of the card.

Step Nine: Melt pink chocolate to drizzle over the top of the white chocolate  I had to add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the chocolate to thin it a bit. Allow drizzled chocolate to firm up. Again use the fridge to speed things up. Apparently I am not that good of a drizzler. It took me until the very last couple of pretzels to really get it looking decent. But I'm just going to be okay with that because these are for six year old kids and they just want to gobble them up.

Step Ten: Put two pretzels in each bag, facing forward then staple the tag onto the top of the bag. And you're done.

I put them all in a pretty paper bag for her to take to school. I hope they will be enjoyed. I won't hesitate to make these again, but I will do things a little differently next time now that I've learned a few things. If you have any tips or decide to try these I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

01 March 2013

My Favorite Healthy Lunch: Burger In A Bowl

image via

I mentioned my new favorite lunch recently and someone asked what a Burger In A Bowl was. So I thought I'd do a quick post on how I whip mine up. Burger In A Bowl is a pretty simple deal, it's a delish hamburger on top of a bed of greens.

Burger:  I mix the first three ingredient well in a bowl, form a patty then add the pepper to both sides before cooking. I add the salt just before serving.

Lowfat ground beef
Minced onion
Minced garlic
Freshly groud pepper

Greens: Fill up a bowl with the good stuff. I use romaine or spinach, but any green or mixed greens work.

Extras: I like to chop up the burger and add a tablespoon of barbecue sauce or throw some cranberries in with the greens to top it off.

I usually cook up two or three burgers then warm them up for lunch or dinner a few times a week. It's a quick fix when all you need to do is heat up the burger and throw some washed greens in a bowl.

19 November 2012

Pick Me Ups For Gloomy Weather Days

image via

It's been dark and cool here more than usual lately. On the rare days when the sunshine isn't blazing in the sky it's a bit of a shock to the system for us SoCal people. While it's a nice change of pace, it can be a tad bit depressing too. So while I was sitting inside on a cold, dark day I decided to create a list. Here are 10 Pick Me Ups For Gloomy Weather Days.

None of these is a mind-blowing or shockingly new idea, but I find that sometimes on a gloomy day I'll slip into the blues a bit before I even realize what has happened. So if I have a little reminder list to review I can very easily and quickly find a few things there that turn the mood around and bring out your inner sunshine instantly. 

1. Light candles! -- I love having a 100-pack of IKEA tea lights on hand at all times.

2. Put on cheery music. -- Try Michael Buble Christmas on Pandora. A great mix.

3. Put a pot of good scents on the stove. -- Try this Pin Test recipe I love.

4. Make soup, buy bread, make a salad. -- Here's a favorite salad and Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.

5. Exercise -- It keeps your energy high and keeps you healthy. A few other healthy winter tips here.

6. Talk to friends -- The best therapy ever.

7. Do something creative -- Here are a few ideas for you to try.

8. Watch a fun movie -- It's a great time for silly holiday movies. Something like this.

9. Read a good book -- Blankets, a cozy corner. Mmm. Maybe with a little one and this.

10. Plan, Dream, Scheme --It a great time to make a Vision Board or map out your Dream Life!

11. BONUS: Do something kind for someone else. -- This picks the spirits up immediately.

Do you have a favorite you would add to the list. Add it in the comments section below. I love your fresh ideas. Hope this list will help you keep spirits high this winter and focus your energies on things that bring joy and connection with life. Have a fantastic day!

16 May 2012

Have You Had An Amazing Lunch Lately?

Every once in a while, and often on my birthday, I make a serious attempt to have a really amazing lunch experience. To sit in a place with stunning views with charming people I enjoy and food that puts a smile on my face.

A thoughtful, intentioned lunch takes eating lunch from the duldrums of downing a sandwich at your desk or while milling around the kitchen as you multi-task to a much higher plane. In many countries a meal is art and no matter how simple or complicated, partakers are expected to sit, relax, savor and appreciate. Most people are not so great at this anymore. I'm glad there are people out there to remind us, to remind me.

I recently had lunch at a restaurant on this lovely beach overlooking a beautiful island and water in hues of blues to astound the eye. Chips and salsa were the first item on the menu. We were all pretty courageous salsa fans, but the salsa was so hot that we all had a fiery pepper experience like we'd never experienced. Choking, coughing and crying ensued. Looking more closely at the salsa I realized it was full of blazing hot pepper seeds. Thanks to our host, in short order we had a large bowl of mild salsa fresca brought to our table and the "salsa from hell" was moved to the far side of the table.

Sitting looking at the view, listening to the lapping waves and watching dozens of small fish leaping together out of the water, I was reminded again of the elevated joy of a happy, thoughtful, beautiful, delicious lunch. Taking the time, reminds me of all the good things of life: nature, good company, healthy foods, the ability to taste and enjoy food, eyes to see, ears to hear, loving friends and family, and so much more. I am determined to make this enjoying lunch stuff a more deliberate practice in my life!

Do you have a favorite lunch ritual or spot to enjoy an elevated lunch? Have you taken the opportunity for such a lunch lately? I hope well all get an chance to enjoy lunch in an fantastic way soon!

images via kalanicut

30 April 2012

Sunshine Milkshakes

image via

Happy Monday Friends. I hope your week is off to a good start. After a pretty hectic few days, the weekend was all about having a little down time and serious relaxation. Thursday night I went to the grocery store and picked up containers of vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries. I whipped up some delicious fresh strawberry milkshakes which were quickly devoured. The next day we finished off the strawberries on pancakes.

Then over the weekend I remembered one of my all-time favorite treats. And since I've been working so hard lately taking care of all sorts of things, I thought I deserved it. I put several scoops of vanilla ice cream in the blender then covered it with orange juice and blended that baby up.

Orange juice shakes, aka Sunshine Shakes, are just the best. Simple, refreshing, and oh so delicious.They are the perfect summer treat and so easy to make. I can't remember the last time I had an orange juice shake so obviously it's been far, far too long.

How about you? Are you a fan of Sunshine Shakes? Do you have a favorite comfort food milkshake?

06 April 2012

A Weekend Treat - Talenti Gelato

image via Talenti

I believe in living a balanced life. So since yesterday was all about brutal workouts, I thought we needed to balance that out with a delicious treat that is starting to appear in stores all around the country - Talenti Gelato and Sorbet.

We have our favorite Gelato shop but it's a good 45 minutes from our house, not too practical when you have a late night craving. But now amazing gelato is available at the grocery store around the corner. Talenti is made from the best quality ingredients and less calories than traditional ice cream.

It's hard to choose a favorite flavor, there are so many delicious chocolate, carmel, cookie and fruit versions to choose from. I loved the sea salt caramel and would definitely like to try the Caramel Cookie Crunch, Black Cherry, Caribbean Coconut and Sicilian Pistacio. For you Sorbet fans there are some amazing fruit flavors.You can see the entire product line here.

It could be very challenging for some to not eat the entire container in one sitting. We first tried Talenti a few months ago in San Diego. Now it's fun to see it popping up in more and more grocery stores near home. If you want to find Talenti deliciousness near your home check here to find stores and locations near you. I promise you won't be disappointed. You deserve it after all you've accomplished this week, right?

Have a fantastic weekend. We start Spring Break as of today, which we are really looking forward to. A week with more kid fun and less grown up obligations. That sounds fantastic!

20 December 2011

A Great Cookie With a Good Book

image via Wendy McClure

Yesterday was a gnarly day. That's the only way I can describe it. Long and gnarly. By the end of it, I was so tired I was rushing people through eating an ice cream cone so I could get home. It ended nicely though with a lovely concert, many delightful friends, a viewing of a favorite Christmas special The Snowman and frosting some delicious gingerbread cookies. Being at home made me feel so completely happy.

Today I thought I would share with you two things that are perfect for a night at home, away from the crowds, obligations, outside stresses and unpleasant tasks: a favorite cookie recipe and the current book I am reading.

As you may remember, last year about this time I started reading The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder with The Bug. It has been a most delightful experience every night possible. We are now on the second to last book and I am thinking hard about what book series we'll pick up after that.

As we have read these books I have sought ought more information about the Ingalls family including a biography titled Laura Ingalls Wilder (Essential Lives) by Emma Carlson Berne. I decided this week to read The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. It is an interesting tale of one Laura Ingalls Wilder fan's effort to step into "Laura World" and experience life as described in the fictionalized, yet somewhat truth-based book series penned by Mrs. Wilder. It's a fun and interesting read, perfect for winter reading.

Pairing that up with a favorite winter cookie, gingerbread and a cup of tea would be a perfect match. Here's the link to the gingerbread recipe I have been using for several years with great success. My favorite thing to do is  use a star-shaped cookie cutter, then ice them to look like snowflakes sprinkled with chunky white sugar crystals. They are so pretty and taste so good with a tangy lemon frosting.

Hope you are having some peaceful, enjoyable nights this holiday season. There is something nice about how the shorter days and colder nights encourage us to gather together indoors, get cozy and do enjoyable wintry activities. I'm looking forward to lots more of that this holiday season.


Related Posts with Thumbnails