Friday, February 27, 2015

Milk Chocolate Truffles

I started making these rich, soft truffles years ago. It's really easy and makes a lot. The number of candies depends on the size of your candy mold. This time I didn't have enough milk chocolate so I added in some dark chocolate along with the milk chocolate so it's a bit darker than if you use just milk chocolate.

Here are some step-by-step directions showing the way that I make filled candies. I start by choosing a candy mold to use.

I melt the molding chocolate (also called candy melts) in the microwave just until melted and stir until smooth. I drop a dollop of the chocolate into each candy mold.

You can use utensils for this next part, but I use my finger to smooth the chocolate on the bottom and up the sides of the mold, forming a layer to make the hollow shell. Refrigerate this for a few minutes.

Remove the mold from the refrigerator and fill almost to the top with filling, being sure to gently push down to avoid air spaces in the finished candy.

Finish my placing another dollop of melted molding chocolate on top of filling to close the candy and make the base.

Place in refrigerator or freezer until the bottom of the candies looks completely frosted. Then gently pop candies out of mold.

Clean molds with hot water. (Do not put candy molds in dishwasher.)

Milk Chocolate Truffles
1 c. heavy cream
1 lb. 5 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
1 t. vanilla
3 oz. unsalted butter, melted
Molding milk chocolate

Melt molding chocolate and pour into candy molds (on bottom and up sides) to make shells. Refrigerate to harden. Heat the cream to the boiling point. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Let cool to around 98º, then add butter and stir.

Wait until filling starts to thicken, then transfer to candy bottle or pastry bag and pipe filling into cooled candy shells. Leave small space above filling then pour melted molding chocolate on top to make base of candy. Chill until hardened. Pop out of mold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Grilled Steak Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

This salad recipe is from Bon Appetit, but it was a little too plain for me. I love salads that are loaded with goodies so every bite is different and you never know just what will be that next forkfull, bursting with flavor.

The tomato vinaigrette is genius! I took a short cut and just threw some cut up tomato into a mini-food processor, skin and all, and I didn't remove the seeds. Then I added all the other vinaigrette ingredients. I used parmesan ciabatta rolls and cut them up and grilled them for the croutons and they were delish. I gotta do that with other salads too.

I used red onion since I couldn't find scallions at the grocery store where I was shopping. I added dried cherries and roasted red peppers to the whole salad that weren't in the original recipe. I like the cherries, but next time I might use blackberries instead. Mmmm. Blackberries in my salad. Then just to mine I added feta and candied pecans since I love both of them. You can see how to caramelize nuts on this other really delicious salad recipe post.

Wow!!! Crunch, flavor, vitamins, freshness, protein, so many good things packed into one salad.

Grilled Steak Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
1 lb. hanger, skirt, or flank steak
1 t. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato (about 6 oz.), halved
1 T. minced shallot
1 t. apple cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 c. plus 5 t. olive oil, divided
4 spring onions or 6 scallions, bulbs halved, dark-green parts discarded
5 (1/2-inch-thick) slices ciabatta
8 c. mixed summer lettuces (such as mizuna, baby mustard greens, and tatsoi)
3/4 c. fresh basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch strips
1 c. roasted red pepper, chopped
1/2 c. dried cherries or fresh blackberries
1/2 c. candied pecans
1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled 

Season steak with 1 tsp. salt and pepper; set aside. Grate cut sides of tomato on coarse holes of a box grater into a medium bowl down to the skin; discard skin. Add shallot and vinegar; whisk in 1/4 cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Tomato vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. 
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Toss spring onions in a medium bowl with 1 tsp. oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill onions until just tender, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 2-inch pieces.
Grill steak until seared and cooked to desired doneness, 3–5 minutes per side for medium-rare, depending on steak's thickness. Transfer to a cutting board. Let rest, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make croutons: Brush both sides of bread slices with remaining 4 tsp. oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill bread until dark golden brown and nicely charred in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Set toast aside until cool enough to handle, then break toast into roughly 1-inch pieces.
Thinly slice steak against the grain. Toss lettuces, basil, spring onions, croutons, roasted red peppers, cherries, pecans, feta, and some of the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add steak and toss gently to coat. Serve with remaining vinaigrette alongside.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Moving at the Speed of Light

I was really bummed that Alex didn't send any photos this week. He said that the week went by too quickly. So I used two of his photos from his pre-mission photo shoot.

In the letter to me he said that he didn't feel the bigger earthquake that was in Japan, but he felt a couple of smaller ones and the were "relaxing". Glad he thinks so. Here is his letter to everyone.

People often say that time is fixed. I'm here to tell you that it's not. I have experienced such an increase of time since coming on my mission. Weeks fly by, and yet each moment lasts a lifetime. This is probably one of the "how"s of missionary maturity growth rates. God is the source of all good, but it sure seems like He changes time for His missionaries.

This week's Kanji of the Week is: 求道者。 Kyudosha (cue-dough-sha). The literally translation of this word, is truth seeker. What it means in Church terms is "investigator."

And now for the weekly report:

Monday: Monday was nice as usual. We got to go back to the local Daiso, where I got a travel sized "go" board, and Elder O. got a watch, among a few other things. We then had a lesson with Mr. Hasebe. He is moving this week, so it was one of our last visits with him. We wanted to talk about faith, and really focus him even more on Christ; so that we did. It was a good lesson, and I hope it helped him come closer to Christ. 
My brain is a little fuzzy on that day right now, but after we got back from working at night, we discovered that Elder O. and Elder P. both got the same watch from Daiso. It was pretty funny to see their reactions when the found out.

Tuesday: We had another lesson with Mr. Hasebe, and in that lesson we focused on modern day prophets and watched one of the most recent talks by President Thomas S. Monson with him. We had a good time with him, and he seemed to like President Monson. After that we went back to the apartment and finished up the rest of the studies we had left because of the morning's DCS meeting. We then took a bus to the train station, and went up to a neighboring city to visit a less active. While on the way to her work, we got a text from her saying she was going to be at the station soon, but we ended up not being able to meet. We then had to go back down to Yonezawa, and it was late, so we returned to the apartment.

Wednesday: We went to English Lunch at YIRA (Yonezawa International Relations Association), where we met Brother Gessell who works there. After the lunch we were talking with the people there, and they randomly started asking us about the word of wisdom; specifically what we could and couldn't drink. It was odd, but really cool. We then went to the a place where we could get a language study in. The closest place to our appointment after that was in a mall, so we sat down in the cafeteria. There were these high school boys who came after awhile, and Elder O. tried to get them to teach us some Japanese by talking to them in English. One of the boys freaked out and went and found someone who could speak english. We had to explain to the man that came that we were fine, and I felt bad for the boy. They didn't end up teaching us Japanese though. We then had a quick lesson with Mr. Kato. He is an alcoholic, and was drinking when we got there. We asked him if he had any desire to stop, but he said no. We aren't sure if we can continue to teach him much longer.
We then had a cool English class, and a new student came. His name is Ryosuke. He's a really nice guy. In the class, we had the students make puppets for the play they have in the chinese new year party we're having soon.

Thursday: A lot of things kept swapping on us this day, but it all worked out for the good. We ended up spending a lot of our day planning for the upcoming week that day, so we didn't get to do much else.

Friday: We ended up going to a member's friends work, and talked with them both there for a while. We then walked up to the north part of town to a different member's house, where we talked a lot about patience and what it is and isn't. We then went back to the station to try and meet the less active we couldn't the other day, but the train ended up being so late that we couldn't. We posted some of the stake pamphlets we have and then went back to the apartment.

Saturday: We had "companion exchanges" that day, but quite a few of our activities were in the same spot at around the same time. All four of us went to lunch at YIRA to celebrate the Chinese New Year with them, and we had some really good chinese food, and an awesome presentation from a chinese woman. It really instilled in me a desire to go to China, but I am glad as it is that I have been given the opportunity to be in Japan.
We (Elder P. and I) then went to a lesson with Mr. Hasebe at the church. We cleared some confusion he had about 1 Nephi Chapter 21, and invited him to church. He said he had no problems at the moment and probably would. (Spoiler alert: he came!)
Following that we went to an activity center with the other two and played basket ball with some boys that we met two weeks ago, and also got to play with Ryosuke, because we invited him to come.
We then hurried home, changed back into normal attire (normal for us), and went and had a lesson with one of the other two's investigators. Elder P. hadn't met him yet (Mr. Saimaru), so we got to know him a bit more, and heard his life story. It was really interesting, and the spirit was really strong as Elder P. shared his testimony and story about his mother's conversion story.

Sunday: Church was normal, except that Mr. Hasebe came. It was a really unusually spiritual meeting, and it was amazing. I even think I saw a tear in Mr. Hasebe's eye. 
Following that, we headed back to the apartment for some more studies and a quick role play with the other two missionaries before heading out into the world. While in the world we visited two families. The first was a part member less active family, and the second was a man we met through housing a while ago. We got some good conversations out of them, and we were even invited into Mr. Takahashi's (the man we met a while ago) house to see a baby. The baby ended up being a co-workers who was there, and it was a bit odd, but it was a cute baby, and we got to talk for a while. The place we went was a bit far away from our apartment, so we walked back to the apartment for the night.

I really hope you enjoy reading these, and I hope that the spirit is there when you do so. Thank you all for all your love and support.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lava Cake Topped with Peanut Butter Cream

During the week I was trying to figure out what dessert to make. I was in the mood for peanut butter, but I have a daughter with nut allergies. So I decided to combine 2 desserts that I've been making for a long time and my daughter could just eat the cake without topping it with the cream.

You can use low-fat whipped topping and cream cheese like I always do to make a less-fat version.

Water is poured on top of the cake batter before baking, but the sauce ends up on the bottom of the cake.

I added crushed cookies on top for a crunch. My kids say I'm obsessed with having crunch in everything. Maybe I am, but I like the soft dessert better with more texture. 
Lava Cake Topped with Peanut Butter Cream

Peanut Butter Cream:
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. milk
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz.) container whipped topping, thawed
1 ¼ c. sugar, divided
1 c. flour
7 T. cocoa, divided
2 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
½ c. skim milk
1/3 c. margarine, melted
1½ t. vanilla
½ c. packed light brown sugar
1¼ c. hot water

5 Oreo cookies, crushed

Peanut Butter Cream: Combine powdered sugar, peanut butter, milk and cream cheese in a large bowl. With electric mixer, beat until fluffy. Fold in whipped topping. In same bowl or in a different freezer-proof container, place in freezer for at least 4 hours. Thaw for 10 minutes before serving.
For cake: Preheat oven to 350º. Stir together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, margarine and vanilla; beat until smooth. Spread batter into ungreased 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.

Stir together remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons cocoa; sprinkle evenly over batter. Pour water over top. DO NOT STIR. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Let stand 15 minutes, spoon into dessert dishes, spooning sauce from bottom of pan over top.

On top of each serving of Lava Cake, spoon Peanut Butter Cream and then sprinkle with crushed Oreo cookies.

This recipe linked at PinIt Pin Party

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nectarine and Avocado Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing

I love salad and fruit in salad and crunch in salad and flavorful dressings on salad. This salad from Oh My Veggies  has all of that! The crunch comes from wheat berries. I actually used spelt berries instead since that's what I found at the store. I bought plain tofu, but then marinated the tofu pieces in the dressing before adding to the salad.  Really, really fresh and good!

Nectarine and Avocado Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing
1 (5-oz.) pkg. spring mix salad greens
2 nectarines, pitted and sliced
1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
1 cup wheat berries, cooked according to package instructions and cooled
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 (8-oz.) package marinated tofu, cubed (optional)

Ginger-Lime Dressing:
1/4 c. lime juice
2 T. honey
2 T. tamari
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. minced cilantro
2 T. minced fresh mint
2 t. lime zest
2 t. minced ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Divide the greens into 4 large bowls. Place the nectarines, avocado, wheat berries, sliced onion, and tofu on top of the greens.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing onto the salads and serve.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Steakhouse Sweet Brown Molasses Bread

I've only been to Outback Steakhouse a couple of times and don't remember the bread there, but Autumn at It's Always Autumn loves it so much that she made this recipe to make it at home. It has an interesting ingredient...cocoa. It is light and has a nice flavor. I didn't use food coloring, like she suggested for a darker color, but the brown I got was just fine for me. Sabrina even ate them and she never eats brown bread.

The recipe is copyrighted so head over to It's Always Autumn to get the recipe for Steakhouse Sweet Brown Molasses Bread and give it a try.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Loaded Chicken or Tuna Salad with Greek Yogurt Garlic Ranch Mayo

This sandwich, which is at Parsley, Sage and Sweet is truly loaded with veggies and good taste. I used rotisserie chicken to make it quicker to make. I don't know how much of the special mayo I added into the salad, but I don't like mine very wet, so it wasn't a whole lot. When making the mayo, I didn't use any buttermilk. And I added chia seeds. Have you tried them? This was my first time and I just learned a little about them.

Apparently chia seeds were an important part of Aztec and Mayan diets and besides providing fiber, has protein, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals and provides antioxidants. They can be used as is (no soaking or cooking) so you can just sprinkle them on your food before eating or baking. And they don't really have a flavor so you don't have to worry about them changing the flavor of your food. I added a heaping tablespoon full into the salad and my daughter didn't even notice the seeds.

These were a huge hit here and are on my list to make again.

Loaded Chicken or Tuna Salad with Greek Yogurt Garlic Ranch Mayo
2 to 3 c. shredded chicken or 4 cans of white albacore tuna, drained
2 green onions, both the light and dark green parts, sliced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small carrot peeled and grated or shredded
2 large stalks of celery, finely diced
1 very small red onion or one-quarter of a large red onion, diced
1 to 3 avocados, depending on taste, each half slightly mashed
Garlic Greek Yogurt Ranch Mayo (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Greek Yogurt Garlic Ranch Mayo:
⅔ c. Greek Yogurt (Use all mayonnaise instead of yogurt, if desired)
2 to 3 T. mayonnaise
¼ c. chopped, fresh parsley
2 T. chopped, fresh chives
1 T. chopped, fresh dill weed
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ t. garlic powder
½ t. onion powder
¼ c. buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in as much of the Greek Yogurt ranch mayo to the salad ingredients as you desire.
The secret  is to cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors of the chicken salad and yogurt ranch to really meld.
Serve as sandwiches, slightly mashing an avocado on top or spreading the avocado on one or both slices of bread then layering lettuce and tomato, if desired, or roll into whole wheat flour tortilla wraps or flatbread.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Snow Lanterns and Missionary Work

This week p-day letter came with 16 pictures with a record 3 with Alex and only 1 food picture. We've been have record high temperatures this winter in Utah while it looks like it is just as snowy as ever in Yonezawa, Japan.

Alex sends me a personal email and then also the email that he sends for me to post for everyone on his Facebook page and here. He sends that email to several people who he keeps in touch with. Well, today I was checking to see if he was including someone who had asked to receive the emails when I noticed that he is now sending those emails to 3 "shimai", sister missionaries. He hasn't mentioned them in emails so I don't know if he met them in the MTC or during zone conference since I hadn't heard there were any sister missionaries in Yonezawa. Anyway, just got this momma mind wondering. Hehe

I asked him to tell me more about his companion and the other 2 elders who all live in the same apartment since he never tells me stories about them. This is all he said:

Elder Oslen is a big jokester, Elder Earl is a smart guy who knows a bit of Chinese as well as Japanese and English, and Elder Pierson is always singing and giving us riddles to solve. I think that the riddle solving is probably the funnest thing we've done together so far.
Alex and Elder O.

A lot of people who I talk to are surprised that they don't get a car since it's too snowy for bikes during the winter and very cold to walk in. I told Alex that and this was his response:

I am doing a lot of walking, but I've been using the bus a lot more this week. We don't have cars here because of how hard it is to get a license, and because the roads a lot smaller than roads back in America. We wouldn't have anywhere to park if we tried to drive cars around to peoples' houses.

I was reading a blog and it mentioned a senior sister missionary there who has taken (and failed) the test for a license three times. I guess they're more into perfectionism than we are in America or something. Anyway, here is Alex's letter.

This week has been very busy, and I am so glad for the time I have to be in Japan and working amongst my brethren and sisters in Japan. I am enjoying life and having tons of fun with festivals and teaching, and talking and all that fun stuff.

This week's Japanese "word" is not really a Japanese word, but something that was created for me this week. This is my name in Japanese (same pronunciation as my last name in Spanish): 芽道咲。 A member of the branch here gave me this name, because the three kanji it uses are the characters for sprout, road, and bloom. She said it tells how as I go through my mission, i plan seeds that start to sprout. After I pass the road of my mission, all the seeds that I planted bloom into beautiful flowers. It's pretty cool if you ask me.

And here are this weeks events in a nutshell.

Monday: It was a pretty laid back day. We did email, practised a bit of piano (I am playing the piano for the Hymns in our next Zone conference), and went back to the apartment. We stayed there until we needed to go to an appointment in the evening. We taught in that lesson about the Word of Wisdom that was given to Joseph Smith for the church, and followed up on his reading and praying. After that we walked pretty far south to visit a family and invite them to a Chinese New Year party we'll be having on the 28th.

Tuesday: We did a bit of planning for the Chinese New Year party, and after that went to an investigator who lives on the north side of town. We had a pretty normal lesson with him, but he is in his 60s and has been an alcoholic, so things are going very slow with him understanding what our message is. After that we went back and did a lot of calling and paperwork at the apartment, as well as some planning for our English class the next day.

Wednesday: We took as bus up in the morning to go to a restaurant called Tonpachi with the other two missionaries and one of our investigators. It is a tonkatsu place, a place that specializes in breaded cutlets (usually pork). It is a favorite amongst the missionaries in Yonezawa. After that, we back to the church with our investigator and had a lesson with him. We talked about his reasons for keeping our commitments, so that we could know how to help him the most. He said that he keeps them for the logical reasons, but that he really does want to know whether or not God exists, and wants to get that answer for himself. He's a good guy, and I'm a bit sad that he'll be moving soon.

We also went to visit a less active member, Brother Seino, and get to know him better. We definitely got to accomplish that goal from that visit. On our way to the church, we passed these three boys who were making a snow lantern. We asked them where we could sign up to make one, but they told us that it was too late for this year. They then told us that we could help them make it with them. So, we did. We got the foundational snow down, and then put these four boards of wood up and placed snow in it while someone stomped it and packed it down. We tied rope around the wood, and got about halfway done when we ran out of time. They told us we could help with the rest though, so we told them we would.
After that, we prepared for our english class, and had that. In there, we decided to have our students to a puppet show for the Chinese New Year party (in english), and so in that class we had them create a story with their own characters. It was a bit slow at first, but once they started to get going, they really enjoyed it!

Thursday: We had district meeting that day, and I had to give a training during the meeting. I had been preparing for it for about a week but I had gotten the topic wrong, so I had planned the wrong thing. Luckily, through the grace of God answering my prayers as I prepared my training, the things I had prepared easily switched to the right topic with just a focus on different elements. After that, we had another lesson with Mr. Hasebe (the third in the week). We talked a lot about his questions, and tending to his needs, so we didn't talk about one subject specifically. After that we went to make more English Class posters to post around town, and had a few studies at the apartment as we laminated the posters.
We then wanted to go to the train station to visit a less active member in a different town, and we stopped at two different people's houses on the way, and ran into a boy we met last week and talked to them for a bit of time. When we finally got to the station, we had missed the train by one minute. Oddly enough, the other two missionaries also missed a bus that was leaving from the station, so we got to ride the same bus on the way back to the apartment. We decided to do some work at the apartment since we missed the train, and that was the end of that day.

Friday: After our usual weekly planning, we went to a local hospital to see if there was anything for us to do there. The man we talked to didn't have anything for us to do, but he has our name and number on a file in case they do get something. Also, the man really seemed to love English (he was talking to us in English as best he could), so we gave him a flier for our English class. After that, we went back to the place where the boys were making a snow lantern, and helped out. They were really nice, and let us do a lot of the work of carving out all the snow. It was a really cool experience, and I am so glad that I got that item checked off my bucket list. It was a decent looking lantern too. After that we went to the church and had a lesson with one of the other two's investigators. It was a good lesson, and we got to find out what his favorite scripture was.
Proud lantern builders and new friends

Saturday: We made the recipe we got from Mrs. Momozono last week for lunch, and it was really delicious. After that we went to a member couples house and had a good lesson with them. After that we went back to the church and had a lesson with Mrs. Momozono's friend, because she herself couldn't make it. It was a really good lesson, and I think she might even have more interest than Mrs. Momozono. After that we went to the snow lantern festival over at the shrine (that's why we made a lantern), and it was really awesome. There was some really cool snow sculptures there, as well and some good food (although I didn't have too much because it was all so expensive).

Sunday: It was one of the member's birthdays, so I made some lemon squares for her in the morning to give to her after church. We had a pretty good time in church in primary, and I got to conduct the music this week. I also got the chance to bear my testimony for the first time in Japan during sacrament meeting.
After church we talked with the members for a while, while waiting for someone to take us to the festival again and "guide" us as an English practice. We got to hear some cool acapella groups there, and saw a man dressed up as a samurai.
From there we walked to the opposite end of town and met with a family with a member. We talked for half an hour but they were busy, so we didn't get to do too much with them. We got a ride back to our apartment, and got to finish all of our studies we couldn't do before church.

That was my week. Hope you all got something out of it, and were entertained ;)

I love you all, and pray for you!
Love, Elder ______
Alex's companion Elder O.

Snow Lantern Festival with drums

Apparently this is the box they use to make the snow block that starts their lantern. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Slow Cooker Lemon Pepper Chicken

This slow cooker recipe from The Recipe Critic is tasty with tender chicken. It isn't as quick to put together as Creamy Lemon Chicken since you have to bread and brown them before putting in the slow cooker, but it's worth the little bit of work. I even made it for some picky visitors who raved over it.

Slow Cooker Lemon Pepper Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c. flour
1 t. pepper
1/4 c. butter
1 pkg. dry Italian dressing mix
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your chicken by rinsing it and trimming the fat and cutting into pieces to resemble tenders.

In a shallow dish, combine the flour and pepper. Coat the chicken in the flour.

Melt the butter in a saucepan on your stovetop over medium heat. Once melted, brown each side of the chicken, but not cooking it throughout because they will cook in the crockpot.

Spray crockpot with cooking spray and place the chicken into the crockpot. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning package top of the chicken.

Mix together the lemon juice and chicken broth. Pour over the chicken and seasonings. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fudgy Dark Chocolate Avocado Cookies

Low fat, full of flavor and totally satisfied my chocolate craving! I got this recipe from Apple of My Eye  These cookies get their only fat from the avocado-- no oil or butter. I love dark chocolate, but for some reason I don't like Special Dark cocoa and that's the only dark chocolate cocoa that I've tried. So I used regular cocoa and these still turned out very dark. The only problem is that the batch only made 15 for me. I guess I made them a little large since the original recipe says it makes 18, which is still a very small batch.

On another note. I love how people stitch photos together vertically for their blogs, not like this collage below. I cannot figure out how to do that on PicMonkey (at least with the free version, maybe I need to pay for that??) or anything else yet. If anyone can help me or point me to a tutorial of how to do that, I'd love to learn.

Fudgy Dark Chocolate Avocado Cookies
1 ripe avocado, finely mashed
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
⅓ c. flour
½ t. baking soda
2 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

Combine the finely mashed avocado, white sugar, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, and baking soda. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Gently stir in the dark chocolate chunks.

Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, add one heaping tablespoon of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the top is set. Be sure not to overbake.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cherry Pie Bubble Breakfast Bake

Fast, sweet and easy! This recipe at The Taylor House uses refrigerated biscuits to whip up a quick breakfast or snack. I added almond extract to the glaze instead of vanilla and I sprinkled it with coconut. You can go crazy with varieties with this one! Add on nuts, mini chocolate chips, use different pie fillings like apple or lemon, whatever you're in the mood for.

Cherry Pie Bubble Breakfast Bake

3 tubes refrigerated biscuits
1 (20-oz.) can of cherry pie filling
2 t. cinnamon
1 c. powdered sugar
2 T. milk
1/2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut up each biscuit into fourths and place them all in a large bowl. Add the can of cherry pie filling and cinnamon to the biscuits and mix everything together.

Pour the entire mixture into a large baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Let it cool slightly

Mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla together to make a glaze and pour it over the entire dish.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Second Transfer, Second Week

This week in his letter to me, I felt as if I could hear Alex talking to me. It was nice because I miss his voice. He sent more photos, but only one with him in it. Someone please go over there and teach him how to take a selfie!

Well, I am glad to say that the transfer week didn't kill me (it's easy when you don't have to go anywhere), and I am getting along with the new elder just fine. I can't say that too much has really changed besides that, but I am fine with how things are!
Elder O.

In this email, and in future emails, I am going to start to include a Japanese word and the pronunciation of the word with every email.
This weeks word is: 聖書 Seisho (say-show), meaning Bible (Literally Holy Book).
And now for the synopsis of the week.

Monday: After emailing, we went to one of the local dollar stores. The dollar stores here are a lot different than in America, because they have basically everything you need at a decent price, and is all a dollar unless marked otherwise. Form there, I got a pen that writes like a brush, a fountain pen, earmuffs, slippers, a pencil sharpener, and rechargeable batters and charger for my electronic dictionary.
When we finished with that, we tried to catch a bus, but we were just barely late, so we had to walk all the way over to the church for a lesson. All in all, we got there in about half an hour (at a very quick pace).
There we had a lesson with Mr. Hasebe, and talked about the scriptures and how to study them effectively. After his lesson, we tried to visit a couple of people and find some people to teach, but those we planned on visiting weren't there, and we didn't find anyone either.

Tuesday: We went up north to a restaurant called Tonpachi for lunch, in honor of the leaving missionary (Elder W.). It was his last day in Yonezawa, and was worth the trip up there.
When we finished that, we went to the local mall to do some language study and prepare an english class lesson before going to visit an investigator who lived in the area. In the meeting with him, we went over more of the basics of how God is our Loving Heavenly Father, and why prayer to Him is important.
We then did some follow up on pamphlets we had posted at an apartment complex closer to our apartment. We didn't get too much from that, but we did get one girl to think about one of the questions on the pamphlet, and she said she'd read it.

Wednesday: We went to go visit a less active member, Brother Seino, with a different member Brother Hiroshi, and we talked about how we need to pray earnestly, from the heart, and with real intent on doing what you get as an answer. He seemed to be very touched by it.
We then had a lesson with Mr. Hasebe again, so we went back to the church, and talked about keeping the Sabbath day holy. We had a member there, Brother Keiichi, and his daughter. He said that he would keep the Sabbath by not purchasing anything on Sunday, and by not doing regular "weekend" activities, and also said he'd come to church.
After that, we had our English class. The class was normal, and all the usual students came. The only difference was that the new missionary came and I got to meet him before class started.

Thursday: We went to Sister Taira's house, and had a little role play lesson with her. We got some improvement points from her, and then talked for a bit longer about how she was doing, and so forth.
We then went to the closest bus stop, and sat there for a few moments before I looked at the bus schedule and noticed that we had missed the bus by 20 minutes because we had looked at the wrong bus schedule when we planned the day, so we had to once again walk back to the church for yet another lesson with Mr. Hasebe.
While we met, he asked us what kind of things were appropriate to pray for, and so we talked about that for the whole time. We also found out this week, that he will be moving to a different city at the end of the month, and so we will not be able to meet with him after that. But the missionaries in that area will be able to pick him right back up where we leave off. :D
I think we should start making more art with our snow in Utah.
Next we tried to visit a potential investigator who lived a fair distance away from us, but when we got there, they said that they'll check out our english class when they had time, and they'll see what they want after that.

Friday: After our weekly weekly planning session, we took a train up to a neighboring city to visit a less active member at her work. We got up there, and discovered that we had come to work during her off times (she works the evening and night shifts), and so we couldn't meet with her. We then took a train down to a different neighboring city, to meet with Sister Yoshida with the other two missionaries. She had prepared a nice dinner for us, and we did some role playing with her and her daughter to practice talking to friend about their religion. They did a really good job, after they got into the groove of things.
Me and the new elder (Elder P.) discovered that we both like a lot of the same things (including the japanese board game "go"), and so we talked a lot on the way back to the apartment about those things.

Saturday: We went to the Goto families house, an old couple who are both members, and talked about why we came on missions, and gave a priesthood blessing to Brother Goto. I got to anoint him with oil, and I did it in Japanese. Elder O. did the blessing for him.
We then went to the church for a lesson with Mrs. Momozono. We taught her in the english part of our lesson how to make a recipe, and during the gospel part talked about how the gospel can be such a blessing for her and for her kids, as well as any family, and how through prayer and this gospel we can raise our children to be happy and appreciative just like Nephi was of his parents (see 1 Nephi 1:1).
We then tried to go play basketball with a different less active, Brother Shimura, but he wasn't answering his door for whatever reason. The other two missionaries were waiting for us at the activity center, and so we called them and asked if there was anyone who wanted to play basketball with us there. There were some high school boys who said they'd like to, and so we rushed over. The game was really fun, although we lost by 2. As is customary to the Japanese mind, once you do something with foreigners, you need to get a picture with them, so we did just that.

Sunday: A very normal Sunday, it was. We got to the church, and were waiting for Mr. Hasebe, but he texted us to let us know that he couldn't make it after all because he needed to shovel his grandma's driveway. Besides that it was really nice being able to partake of the sacrament.
Afterwards, we taught a class to some of the members on how to be member missionaries. It was fun, and I got to bear my testimony to them about how the Lord will help them as they try their best.
We then went to visit Mr. Kato. With him, we talked even more about the basics, and did a follow up on how he was doing. He is still struggling to stop drinking alcohol, so we helped him with that.

We also tried to visit a couple of families, but they weren't home. On the way back to the apartment, we walked by one of the community centers and noticed that there was a festival going on. We walked into the building and were surrounded by kids and adults, and they were all asking us questions in english and in Japanese. Someone even bought us some soup so we could try it (we explained how we don't buy things on sunday).
After that, we walked back to the apartment, and had a regular night. I did get to play a game of go with Elder P. though, that was fun!
Hope you enjoyed the tales of Japan according to Elder _____. Tune in next week for more!
Love you all from the bottom of my heart!
 Elder _____

Over where?

"Earthquakes are actually quite common here in Japan, and in some areas get them almost every single day. It's nothing really scary, it just feels like a rocking, like you're on a boat or a ride of some kind. It's not really that scary to me. Most of the earthquakes that are on the news over there are, I hear, not really that big of a deal over here. In other words, what freaks people out over there in America really doesn't effect anything here."

When I asked him about his morning exercises he said, "In the mornings, it is usually very cold, so we stay indoors. We usually do stretches, and sit-ups and push-ups, and he sometimes does planks. That is the morning routine. There really isn't too many four square opportunities, and ping pong is definitely a cold option :P I'm glad that it's been warm there! It's been pretty warm here too, but I think the high was 3 degrees Celsius (~37°F)." 

Alex and his companion

Blueberry Cheesecake Crumb Cake

Bursting blueberries in every bite! I made this coffee cake that I found on  Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts  (even though it's not a ...