Monday, August 31, 2009

Best Brownies

When I made the "fat-free" cookies for me the other day, I made these brownies for the kids. It's great because you can mix it all in the saucepan with a wooden spoon. No need to pull out the mixer. These are fudgy.
½ c. butter
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
½ c. flour
¼ t. salt
¼ t. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease & flour an 8-inch square pan. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat in cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Steppin' Up

This is a story that I read years ago and shared it with Robin. It is one of his favorites that he has told to others many times. I can't find the original author, but if you search it, there are many versions of the story online. I don't know how many times in your life you've felt like an abandoned mule, but I'd imagine that we all do more than once in our lives. Will we let ourselves be buried or will be rise to the top?
A story is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. Somehow the mule fell into an unused well. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth saving. Instead he called his neighbors together and told them what happened. He enlisted their help to haul dirt to the well and bury the old mule in the well to put him out of his misery.

Initially the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back...a thought struck the mule. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a hovel load of dirt landed on his back...HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This the mule did, blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of the well!

What appeared to be burying him, actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity. That's life! If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give into panic, bitterness, or self-pity...The adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us! Remember that forgiveness, faith, prayer, praise and hope all are excellent ways to "Shake it off and step up" out of the wells in which we find ourselves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fat-free Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Yes, there is sugar, but fat-free! Who knew fat-free could taste this good? I made this for the first time today because I was craving chocolate, but have been trying to eat well. This certainly hit the spot. I found the cookie recipe at Recipezaar and then threw together a quick frosting to make the cookies even better. The frosting is great because it spreads easily, but stays in place. ----And don't forget to check the post below Teaching Your Children to Fly to enter for a chance for your own CD.

Update: I ate one of the cookies today (the day after I made them) and they are still very soft, but not as fudgy as yesterday. Still super good to me.

Cherie left a comment about her surprise that none of the ingredients had fat, which got me thinking and checking. Cocoa does actually have a little fat in it. The one I used says .5 g for 1 tablespoon and there is more than 1 tablespoon in there. The information I found says that egg whites have very little, if any, fat. The corn syrup I have doesn't have any fat. But of course, it's a carb and so is the sugar so our bodies can easily turn all that into fat. This is not health food for sure, but a better option than many other things I want to grab for my sweet tooth. :)

Fat-free Chewy Chocolate Cookies
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. light or dark corn syrup
3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray cookie sheets well with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir in corn syrup and egg white until blended (dough will be very thick and slightly sticky). Drop by rounded teaspoon onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or just until set (cookies will be soft when pressed). Do not overbake or they won't be fudgy. Cool on wire rack. Frost when cool.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
1 c. powdered sugar
1/8 c. unsweetened cocoa
1/8 t. salt
1/8 c. skim milk
1 t. almond extract


Combine all ingredients and mix until a smooth spreading consistency.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Amish Apple Cake

Amish Apple Cake
½ c. oil
¾ c. applesauce
1 ¾ c. sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
3 c. apples, cubed
1 c. walnuts or pecans

Do not preheat oven. Stir together oil, applesauce, sugar, eggs and vanilla together until well blended. Add dry ingredients; mix well then add apples and nuts. Batter will be very thick. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch dish. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Sift powdered sugar on top or make simple glaze and pour on top.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching Your Children to Fly

A year or so ago I got this great talk on CD by Merrilee Boyack. I talked about another one of her talks on CD called How Do I Change My Husband? on another post. This talk teaches a very practical approach to teaching our children the skills they will need to be independent adults. As Merrilee quotes, Ann Landers once said,

In the final analysis it’s not what you do for your children but what you’ve taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.”

Merrilee gives step-by-step instructions to implementing “The Plan”, a detailed list of what children can learn to do “year by year, to build confidence, life skills, and self-esteem.”
For example, she says that four year-olds should be able to:
Brush teeth
Make bed
Make own breakfast
Make sandwiches
Begin to clean room

While thirteen year-olds should (among other things on the list):
Sew simple items
Have own recipe files
Shop for groceries
Use ATM
Understand prescriptions
Learn meat-handling rules

The CD comes with a printed list of the skills to be learned at each age. One of the first things she says in the CD is that we are to take the list and modify it to the needs of our own family and abilities of our children. I definitely agree. But it is a great resource tool to make sure we are teaching the important things. I can’t believe that I have less than 5 years with my used to be baby, now 13 year old, taller-than-me son. Then he’ll be 18 years old!

I don’t know about you, but when I read parenting books, more often than not, I end up learning important things, but also in tears because of all the things I haven’t been doing right and how much work it really takes to be a good mother. So this time I decided to take President Monson’s advice:

Rather than continually dwelling on what still needs to be done, pause occasionally and reflect on all that you do and have done.”
Joy in the Journey”, 2008 BYU Women’s Conference

There are important things on the list that I haven’t taught my children yet. But some things they actually know how to do ahead of Merrilee’s schedule. A couple of years ago I started teaching my children how to pump gas. I get out with them and supervise, but they use the credit card in the machine, push the right buttons and pump the gas, everything. They even beg me to do it. When we go to the orthodontist, Alexander has to check in with the receptionist while I sit down in the waiting room. They all have favorite recipes in their files that I bought them. They know how to do quite a few things on the list.

One thing we do need to work on is how shy they all are. Merrilee talks about how doing many of the things on the list makes children confident in talking to adults and in front of others. We need to work on those. Elisa has a fear of public speaking so I told her that I thought she should run for student council, which requires the student to make a 2-minute speech in front of the whole school. Alex did it and enjoyed it. But Elisa burst into tears the second I said it. So we’ll be finding a different way to try to conquer her fear.

Anyway, it’s a great talk on CD! So besides a review, I am offering a copy (not MY copy, just an extra one I picked up) to one of my readers. And I’ll throw in chocolate because everything is better with chocolate--and you deserve it for making it through the whole post! To put your name in the hat, just leave me a comment below about something that your parents made you do when you were young that you didn’t want to, but now you appreciate learning. It’s that easy! Add a comment until midnight on September 1st and I'll post the lucky reader on the morning of the 2nd. Thanks for coming by my little blog.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

This month we went to Disneyland as a family, together with my brother and his awesome family. It was my first time there since 1987. Robin and the kids had never been. When we walked in, Main Street USA looked the same as I remembered, but as I looked down the path, I could see a small castle. What was this castle? I remembered that there was a huge Sleeping Beauty’s castle that I kept telling Sabrina about, but where was it? I honestly thought there was a different castle somewhere in the park so I pulled out the map that I had grabbed on the way in. Nope. No other castles. The castle had looked so much bigger with my child’s perspective and now that I’m older (although just a little taller) I see how it really is.

So now I have decided that every time I have a problem that seems to overwhelm me, I will call it my Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I am a child of God and don’t have the same perspective and view that He does. He can see why it is important and how small the problem really is in the eternal scheme. If I remember that it only seems like a big problem because I am looking at it like a child, maybe it will help me. For years, I have liked to go relax and think up on the mountains when I can look down on the city. It helps me see how many houses and buildings there are, all full of people, all with their own problems, many with problems more challenging than mine. It helps give me perspective.

And instead of trying to rush through or around the castle (problem) to get to the fun rides, I might be able to learn what I need to while I’m “stuck” in front of it. I might remember to have joy in the journey, enjoy the colors, the flowers around it, listening to sleeping beauty sing, even while I’m stuck standing in the heat while everyone around me seems to be having fun running from ride to ride.

“First, each one of you is living a life filled with much to do. I plead with you not to let the important things in life pass you by, planning instead for that illusive and non-existent future day when you’ll have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”
President Thomas S. Monson, “Joy in the Journey”, 2008 BYU Women’s Conference

Mine is a silly analogy, but that’s what came to my mind. Once I thought of it, I remembered a quote from my quote file. It is much more eloquent and true.

"A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle. Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective. Likewise, problems or trials in our lives need to be viewed in the perspective of scriptural doctrine. Otherwise they can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth." Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," General Conference, April 1996 (Ensign, May 1996, p. 24)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Funny Kids IV

This time I only have funnies from Elisa and Sabrina. I'll have to try to get some from Alex for next time.
The day after the re-dedication to the pioneer cemetery we went to last month, Elisa asked, “Is there another meaning to the word constipated?” I told her sometimes people use it to mean something that is very slow or too crowded, but not often and I was wondering what she was thinking of. Then she said, “They said it at the cemetery. Luckily I quickly realized she was thinking of when they said consecrated and I got to explain it. Hopefully she’ll remember the word next time we hear it at church so a strange picture doesn’t come to her mind.

Some of my readers may have actually read one of my July posts where I explained how Sabrina got cut on her foot and then hid in the bathroom crying in pain so she didn’t get in trouble for not sitting at the table and eating her food. A few weeks ago, Sabrina came to me and showed me an “owie” and said, “Look what happened. (And she explained what happened.) See, Mom, I learned I don’t have to suffocate alone.” Well, she learned most of the lesson. I told her she didn’t have to suffer alone, but I don’t want her to suffocate alone either.
When we were at Disneyland earlier this month, Sabrina was so excited about it she said to Elisa, “I’m so happy I just want to squeeze you like a pineapple!” None of us can figure out why she thinks we should squeeze a pineapple.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sour Cream Filled Chocolate Cherry Cookies

These are one of my new favorite cookies! So yummy! They come from Anna at Cookie Madness . Thanks, Anna, for sharing your creation!

I did make a few changes. I used tart cherries since that's what I found. Then the recipe as written yields 16 BIG cookies, but I wanted to share them with friends so I made 4 dozen out of the one batch. So they were a lot smaller and cooked faster. Since I had more than two cookie sheets going in once some were done, the whole changing the oven temperature part of the recipe didn't work for me. I just baked them at 335º for about 8-10 minutes. It worked for me. Also, I doubled the filling, but that was only enough for 3 dozen of the 4 dozen cookies. Next time I'll triple it, just for my taste. I probably used too much filling. Also I didn't have bleached flour so mine aren't as pretty and fat as Anna's. These are fudgy cookies with a delicious topping!
Sour Cream Filled Chocolate Cherry Cookies

1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 lg. eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. plus 2 T. Hershey’s dark cocoa powder
2 1/4 c. bleached all-purpose flour (bleached makes for fatter cookies)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1 c. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
Filling:
1/4 c. regular cold sour cream (not light)
1 t. egg yolk
2 1/2 t. sugar
3/4 t. flour
1/3 c. dried sour cherries, chopped (more or less)

Cream butter and sugar until well-blended; Add eggs and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Scrape sides of bowl and beat in cocoa powder, then scrape sides of bowl again making sure everything is well mixed.In a separate bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, salt and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Chill dough for 1 hour or more.

Prepare filling. Mix together sour cream, egg yolk, sugar and flour. Stir in the cherries.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Divide dough in half. Keep half the dough chilled and shape remaining dough into 8 equally sized balls. Working one dough ball at a time, mold a large hole in the dough and fill it with about a teaspoon of the sour cream mixture. Do this with 8 balls of dough and arrange them a few inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes. Without opening oven, reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 8 minutes or until cookies appear set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
While one batch cookies, make remaining 8 cookies.

My Target Deal Today!

Look what I just bought for $.29---yep, 29 cents!
The current Target price is $3.29. You can print this coupon for $2 off one from Dove AND go HERE and scroll down to find the Target coupon for $1 off Dove deodorant (and get others while you're there). You can use these two together! I found this deal at a great blog called Utah Deal Diva. While you are visiting there, enter to win the Thanksgiving Point 4-pack family tickets--if you'd be in the Utah County area to use them. But even if you aren't in Utah, she has lots of deals that you can use anywhere in the U.S.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Do You Do with Your Trash?

I am not creative at finding new uses for trash, but found an online magazine full of tons of ideas. Mostly they aren't instructions on how to do it. Either they are easy to see how to do it or photos of what people did to inspire you to do something as great. Robomargo



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Homestyle Refried Beans

The photo seems like a boring plate of refried beans, but this is my favorite recipe for pinto beans. I leave some of the beans partially whole when I mash and add a little extra water since that's how we like it.
Homestyle Refried Beans

2/3 c. onions, finely chopped
4 t. canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 (15 -ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. water
4 t. lime juice

In a large saucepan, saute the onion in oil until tender. Stir in the garlic, cumin, salt and cayenne; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add beans and mash. Add water; cook and stir until heated through and water is absorbed. It only takes a few minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in lime juice.
Yield: 2 2/3 cups

Monday, August 17, 2009

Over the Mountains and Through Nevada to Grandmother's House in California

Hello, my friendly readers! I have been on vacation, but am back home and ready to get back to blogging. My family and I drove to California and went to visit my Grandma Fannie, go to Disneyland and to the beach. My brother Jared and my sister-in-law Debbie had planned to go already and asked if we’d like to do our vacation together. So we went along with them and my two nephews. It was so fun to spend so much time with them.

When I was growing up we moved a lot. I never lived in the house my parents now live in. When I visit I feel at home because they live there, but I don’t have a lot of memories there like others who go back to the home they grew up in. But when I visited my Grandma, many memories came rushing back. She lives in the same house that she lived in since before I was born. I was born in California and used to live there (off and on) until I was in second grade. I realized when we were there how different the visit was for me than for my brother. He is nine years younger than me and never lived in California. He only visited a few times and didn’t know our grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins well while growing up. A lot in the neighborhood has changed, but Grandma’s front yard and house inside look the same, just some different plants and a new fountain that my two of my uncles made for my Grandpa not long before he passed away.

My Grandma Fannie has a huge garden with lots of different kinds of trees, flowers and plants. She knows the name of all of them. I sure didn’t get her green thumb!






Grandma Fannie has crocheted for many years. She made an afghan for each of her grandchildren when they were born. My mother continued that tradition and now I’m next to carry it on, but I can’t crochet more than a line. I do have some time to learn, luckily. Grandma made me pot holders and slippers for me, Elisa and Sabrina. It was so fun to get something that she made!

My grandma is also known for her great cooking and baking. Along with the delicious roast and side dishes she made for us the first day that we visited, she served these cute sandwiches that she made.
She told me that when she and my Grandpa Bill were married, they didn’t have enough money for a stove so she had to cook over fire. It would get so hot in Illinois that cooking was not easy in the summer. So after a while, she told him that if he would buy her an oven, she would bake for him every day. He saved money and bought her the oven and she kept her word, baking every day, along with the cooking. After many years of this, Grandpa told her, “You don’t have to keep that promise.” But she enjoys baking so she usually has some kind of dessert on the table for family and visitors to munch on.
I’ve always heard that in 1959 my grandpa was on the TV show “Queen for a Day” on a special “King for a Day” version and he won. Among his gifts he asked for were a talking Bible and a record player, both for my Uncle Mike who was mostly blind due to tubercular meningitis that he had when he was around 5 years old. My grandpa, a mail carrier, also was chauffeured around his route in a Cadillac. I got to see a few newspaper clippings of it that I don’t remember seeing. Since my grandpa just passed away this summer, it seemed hard on my grandma to talk about him, but at the same time I think she wanted to. It was fun to hear stories about them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Take 5 Cookies

Elisa and I like Take 5 candy bars so when I saw these at Cookies and Cups, we wanted to try them. I couldn't find a bag of snack size ones anywhere so I went online to see if they sell them. Apparently they do, but only around Halloween. So I just bought 6 candy bars and cut those to use. Pretty fun, big cookies!
Take 5 Cookies
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. smooth peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 bag Snack Size Hershey's Take 5 OR 6 -7 Regular Size
Cream butter, peanut butter and sugarsAdd eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients separately. Slowly add dry ingredients to mix. Add chocolate chips. Chill dough for about 2 hrs.
After dough is chilled preheat oven to 375°. Unwrap Take 5 bars and cut in half. Now take a large spoon-full of dough and cover each candy. Bake for about 7-8 minutes until cookie starts to brown around edges. Wait for them to cool and garnish with a drizzle of chocolate or caramel, if desired.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Junior Mint Brownies

I love Junior Mints so I tried them in these brownies from Cooking Light, March 1999. They came out of the oven pretty high, but then it sank. They aren't very thick, but they are fudgy and minty and low-fat!Junior Mint Brownies
1/4 c. butter
32 (about 3 oz.) Junior Mints
1 c. flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 lg. egg
1 lg. egg white

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine butter and mints in a 2-cup glass measure; microwave at high 30 seconds or until soft. Stir until smooth, and set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and salt in a bowl. Combine sugar, cocoa, egg, and egg white in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add mint mixture; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean; cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 16 brownies at 121 calories per brownie (Yeah, right. Like I ate 1/16 of a pan!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Oat Bread

If you've read my blog much, you know that I don't do well with yeast for some reason, but I want to get better. So I tried this recipe yesterday that I found on Budget Bites. Well, I didn't have enough time to let the bread rise as much as it should have since I started it in the afternoon (and we were hungry!), but even with a shortened rise time, it turned out very tasty! We were all fans, minus Sabrina. The honey on the crust gives it a nice sweet touch, but there's still good-for-you fiber in there. I can't wait to make it again and let it rise longer and remember to use the bread flour. Oat Bread
1 c. oats
2 c. boiling water
1/3 c. warm water (to activate yeast)
2 T. yeast (preferably rapid rise yeast)
1/2 c. honey
1 T. salt
2 T. melted butter or canola/vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. wheat flour
3 c. white flour (preferably bread flour)

In mixing bowl, add oats and boiling water to soak and soften. Meanwhile, place yeast and 1/3 cup water in a small bowl to allow yeast to activate.

Once the oats have softened a cooled a little, but are still warm, add the honey, salt, butter or oil, and yeast mixture. Mix together, then add flours. Continue mixing until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Place in greased bowl. Let rise, covered, until doubled.

Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and dust with oatmeal. Shape dough and place in pans. Lightly drizzle loaves with honey and then sprinkle with oats. Let rise again until the dough reaches the top of the pan.
Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 30-40 minutes or until you tap the top and it doesn't sink and that the loaf is golden brown.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'll Look on the Bright Side

Yesterday Sabrina asked me to do her hair. That is very rare since I usually have to beg her to at least let me put barrettes in it or put it in a ponytail. But this time she wanted me to put part of each side in pig tails and leave the rest out, like a floppy puppy dog ears-look. As I was doing her hair she said, "Mom, there are three things you are good at. One is baking. Two is being a mom and three is hair. Elisa and I laughed because I am really not good at hair-do's, unfortunately. I finished Sabrina's hair, but noticed that the two sides didn't have the same amount of hair in the pig tails. She said it was okay and went to look in the mirror. She looked and said, "It's okay mommy. At least you have the other two you're good at." BIG SMILE!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lemon Lime Baby Cakes with a Lemon Lime Drizzle

Stephanie shares some majorly good food on her blog Stephanie's Kitchen, where I found this gem, one of my new favorites. She created this recipe and named it baby cakes because they’re cute and little, but it’s a good name since anyone you give it to will say, “Oh, baby, these are good!” Really! They are melt-in-your mouth delicious. I’ve made two batches so far and plan to make another batch next week. Luckily I made them to give away so I only had 2 or I would have eaten the entire thing myself.
Lemon Lime Baby Cakes with a Lemon Lime Drizzle

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. fresh lime juice
1 T. fresh lemon zest
1 t. fresh lime zest
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract
1/2 c. plain yogurt
For the drizzle:
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Lemon and lime juice

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease the pan of your choice and fill the cups half way. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add lemon and lime juice and zests, vanilla and almond extract and yogurt. Mix and then add flour mixture. Mix just until combined and creamy. Bake for 15-17 minutes or baked through and when cooled, transfer to a wire rack.

In a small bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar and enough lemon and lime juice to make a nice consistency for the drizzle. Drizzle over the baby cakes.

Yield: 18 mini pound cakes using the mini cheesecake pan or 18 mini cakes using a mini muffin pan or 12 cakes using a regular muffin pan