Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Layered Mocha Cheesecake

This delectable dessert was adapted from Taste of Home (Feb/Mar 2008) issue. It was actually on the cover. It is truly a wonderful dessert - but I am writing the recipe with another topping, because the original, although tasty, was too hard to cut. Even though I do not like coffee, I still love this cheesecake. The coffee flavor is subtle and wonderfully partnered with chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.


1-1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used Teddy Grahams, but you could use Oreos or chocolate graham crackers.)
1/4 cup butter, melted

2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2-1/2 T. instant coffee granules
1 T. boiling water
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t. vanilla extract

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up, or 1/2 cup chocolate morsels
1 ounce butter (2 T.)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine cookie crumbs and butter; press onto the bottomof a greased 9-in. springform pan. In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, water and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and flour until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into one portion; pour over crust. Stir coffee mixture into the remaining batter; spoon over chocolate layer.

Place pan on a baking sheet (to catch spills). Bake for 45-55 minutes or until center is just set and top appearts dull. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to losen; cool 1 hour longer. Rerigerate overnight.

In a microwave safe bowl, bring butter and cream to a boil. Stir in chocolate until melted. Add vanilla and sugar. Pour over cheesecake and chill until set. Refrigerate leftovers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roasted Carrots

Simple, delicious, and healthy. What more could you ask for?

This recipe came from the Pioneer Woman's site......and makes a great side dish for a variety of meats. Mine turned out a wee bit burnt in a few places....only because when they were done, the meat being grilled wasn't, and I didn't want them to get cold, so I kept them in the turned-off oven. Without really checking on them. Oops. But they were caramelized and sweet and yummy anyways.

Served 5 adults and 3 young kids. So figure maybe 6 adults.


12 carrots, peeled or scrubbed
1/4 c. olive oil
thyme (her recipe called for fresh....I used dried)
kosher salt
chopped green onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.
Cut carrots if necessary to make them even in size. I ended up cutting most of them in half.
Lay them out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.
Sprinkle with either a handful of fresh thyme or a few shakes of the dried.
Give a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Roast uncovered for 35-40 minutes. They'll be soft and wrinkly.
Throw a few chopped green onions on top if desired....not necessary, but nice.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quick Update

Life has been pretty crazy around here - Grant's parents have been visiting from California, and we've had a lot of shopping, baking, trying to nap, and general life activities going on. I have lots of new recipes that I'm working on posting, but for now, here's just a few photos of the family.

All my children - Whew! I have FOUR kids!

Ellia - 1 month old. 12/22/09

12-27-09 - Our first family photo with Ellia!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quips from the Kids

No new recipes floating around....we've been incredibly blessed to receive meals from friends for the past week, so I haven't been cooking at all! Now I'm back to the old grind....hahaha......just in time for Grant's parents to arrive in a couple of days.

Just thought I'd write down a couple of funny things the girls have said in the past week. Last Friday, I was driving with the kids to Grant's work to meet him for a potluck lunch (holiday party) and Ellia was screaming inconsolably. Marissa (4) sits next to her and was desperately trying to calm her with the pacifier, and it just wasn't working. She hollered over the noise,

"Mom, I think you need to milk the baby!!!"

The next story needs a little history explained.

During the last few months of my pregnancy, Annika (2) became obsessed with getting piggyback rides. Once she asked me for one, and I replied, "No, I can't. Mommy doesn't feel well." She nodded understandingly and stated, "Oh, baby in the belly. Ok, I get piggyback ride from Daddy!"
Well, a few days ago, we were sitting at the table finishing up dinner and she said,

"Hey Mommy. Baby in the belly?"

I replied, "Annika, you know I don't have a baby in my belly anymore. We have little Ellia right here."

"Ok, Mommy give me piggyback ride!"

Clever girl. I forgot to give her the piggyback ride, though. I really did forget.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake

When I first decided to try out this cheesecake, about five years ago, Grant was very dubious.
"It's not chocolate", he complained. "It won't be any good."
After his first bite, he changed his mind.
This is now one of his favorite desserts.

Around that time, we were invited to some friends' home for dinner. I offered to bring dessert, and took this. Unbeknownst to me, we weren't the only people invited....there was another couple we had never met there. And the dinner wasn't just an ordinary dinner, it was an incredible six-course meal that lasted over two hours (in which I had my first experience eating rabbit and lamb, I might add). During dinner conversation, it was revealed that the husband of the other visiting couple had been a chef - in fancy schmancy restaurants - for over ten years in his past.

Geez. And he was going to be eating my cheesecake.

When dessert was served, I tried not to be nervous as everyone dug in.

Mr. Ex-Chef savored his first bite and proclaimed, "It doesn't get any better than this!"

I will never forget that.

Some of the measurements may seem a bit weird....that's because I increased the filling from the original recipe by 1/2 and some of the amounts were difficult to accurately measure.

I'll try to post my recipe for sugared pecans soon....they're awesome!


1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (use your blender!)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 heaping cup white sugar, divided
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
caramel ice-cream topping (optional)
sugared pecans (optional)
sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed gingersnap cookies, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend heaping 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining mixture.

Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.

Bake 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until filling is set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Allow to cool before removing pan rim. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve with fresh whipped cream, caramel topping, and sugared pecans if desired.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

German Pancake

This came from SnoWhite and my family absolutely loved it! We normally have pancakes for breakfast on Saturdays, but today I just wasn't in the mood for them. This fit the bill for something easy and quick and super delicious! We will keep this around for sure.
It's really like a dense cake, not too sweet, but definitely not eggy like some German pancakes I've tried.


2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
1 T baking powder
1 T butter

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, sugar and vanilla.
Then, in another bowl, combine flours, wheat germ and baking powder.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and stir until well mixed.
Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes.
While the mix sits, preheat your oven to 400. Melt 1 T butter in a glass pie plate (or an 8x8 pan would work just fine) as the oven preheats.
When the butter is melted, and your 10 minute time is up, pour the batter into the hot pie plate.
Bake for ~15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
While the pancake bakes, prepare a fruity syrup. I used mixed berries to make a doubled version of this.

Serve warm, topped with warm fruit. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top, if desired.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ellia's Birth Story

Ellia's birth couldn't have been more perfect. There were so many answers to prayer regarding a variety of issues, and I am filled with gratitude to God for working everything out so wonderfully.

One of the things I was praying about was that she would come after my mom arrived on Nov. 18 to help out, five days before my due date. Obviously, I didn't want to have her before mom got here, as the plan was for mom to watch the older kids while we went to the hospital. Several friends had graciously offered to help out, but I knew it wouldn't be the same as having Nonny in the house with us, ready at any moment to send us off. So I heaved a huge sigh of relief the minute we picked Nonny up from the airport and Ellia was still waiting to come.

Secondly, I didn't want her to come until after the 20th, when some friends were having a baby shower for me. I had asked to have it after my mom got here, so she could meet my friends and be a part of that special time. Friday the 20th was the date chosen for the shower. Since the due date was the 23rd, we were really pushing it close. Add to that, I just had a feeling that Ellia was going to come early. I didn't know how early, but it was this hunch I had. So I was definitely nervous that I would go into labor and the shower would have to be cancelled.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. Here are a few photos of the most wonderful baby shower I've ever was a precious time with very special friends.

The cake, made by the hostess and my dear friend, Ellen

Ellen and me

My mom and me

Group picture - aren't they beautiful ladies?

Another group picture, this time with my mom

Another thing I was concerned about was the drive to the birthing center. The only two ways for us to get there (one direct way, one extremely round-about way) both include a bridge tunnel across part of the Chesapeake Bay. There are certain times of the day, or when random accidents happen, when the tunnels are completely gummed up with traffic and a typically 25 minute drive can easily turn into a two to three hour trip. Not what you want when a baby is coming!

So basically, I decided that Ellia was going to come on the weekend, when at least the rush hour(s) traffic wouldn't be an issue. Yes, my friends laughed at me for being so specific, but I was not going to give up hope. Delivering on the weekend was also important to me because I didn't want to go into labor while Grant was at work. Since he works at a secure facility, he's not allowed to have his cell phone in the building, and he's often not at his desk due to meetings and such, and therefore he's frequently unreachable. He did give me a list of other people in the building I could call if necessary, but that certainly wasn't my first choice. So when Saturday the 21st came and went, I won't deny that I was a bit disappointed.

But Sunday morning I awoke around 4:30 with a contraction and I was very excited - so much so that I had a hard time trying to go back to sleep. I rested for an hour, with contractions coming every 8-10 minutes. Nothing painful, but real nonetheless. I finally got up and decided to shower and finish packing my bag.

I woke Grant at about 6:30 and told him today was the day. He practically bounded out of bed!

We finished all the packing and getting ready and told the kids that we would be having a baby today. They were ecstatic - but we had to remind them that they wouldn't get to see her until the next day when we came home. Corban stated, "Mom, even if it is a girl, I'm still really excited to meet her!"

The morning puttered on, with me questioning whether or not to call the midwife, wondering what I should expect. The contractions gradually got more intense, but not any closer together than 4-5 minutes. I did call the midwife, Tara, at around 10:30. She advised me to just wait at home and call her when I felt ready to come in, so she'd be waiting for me.

Later in the morning, I started experiencing a visual disturbance called an aura, which precedes a semi-migraine. I haven't had one in years - and for obvious reasons was a bit distressed to have such a possiblity while in labor. I went up to bed and rested for about 30 minutes, during which the contractions slowed down and eventually the aura went away. When I got up, the contractions picked up in intensity quite a bit and although they still weren't closer together, I decided it would be best to just head to the hospital. I called Tara to let her know we were coming, Grant finished cooking hot dogs for the kids for lunch, and we headed out.
The traffic was perfect on the way to the hospital, and it took us less than 25 minutes to get there. I only had four contractions in the car. We got checked in a little after 1:00 pm, and I was instructed to get in the lovely gown provided and either sit in a rocker or lie in the bed for 20 minutes with the monitor on - so they could check Ellia's heart rate during contractions. I opted for the chair.

When that was all done, Tara came in and checked my cervix - I was dilated to 4 cm, when she checked me it stretched to 5 cm, and she said she "could" stretch it to 6 cm, it was so loose. I was given the go-ahead to do whatever I wanted, except I couldn't use the tub yet. She didn't want me to get in too soon and slow labor down, plus it was too hot anyways. They started bringing in ice to try to cool it down after a little while.

The bed - where Ellia was delivered

The tub - with me in the background blogging!

Taking a break from typing to concentrate on relaxing through a contraction.

Around 3:30, Tara came and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did - and I was at 7 cm. I got approval to get in the tub. Right after getting in, I had one very strong contraction, then had a break for a few minutes. This photo was taken at 3:35 pm. Little did we know she'd be born 12 minutes later!

I went for 4-5 minutes without having a contraction and was actually concerned that getting in the tub was a bad decision because it was slowing labor, but the break was so nice, I didn't want to get out just yet. Then an incredibly powerful contraction hit that was accompanied by the irresistible urge to push. (One remarkable fact about this labor that I realized afterwards was that the transition phase - that time between usually 7 or 8 cm and fully dilated where you feel out of control, panicky, nauseous, and in general the worst during labor - it didn't happen. Yes, I obviously had the dilation progress, but I never experienced those feelings like I did in my other labors. Everything just happened too fast for that. )

Immediately I gasped to Grant the best I could what was happening, and he rushed to the door to summon Tara and Connie, my nurse. They were knee-deep in paperwork and apparently not expecting me to have progressed so quickly! They rushed in and asked if I wanted to deliver in the water.

I did not. My primary reason was that when you deliver in the water, they have to cut the cord quickly and get you out quickly, so they can assess any issues with bleeding and all that. My real desire was to leave the cord intact until it stopped pulsing, so I figured the standard bed delivery would be best.

As I climbed out of the tub, I had another contraction and began to be afraid I wouldn't MAKE it to the bed! They wrapped me in towels and got me over there somehow, and I firmly instructed Grant to get behind me (sitting so I could lean on him), and since I've delivered in that position before, he knew exactly what I meant and was there instantly. My first push on the bed resulted in my water breaking, which had meconium in it, so Tara hollered for the pediatrician to be called STAT. As she calmly explained to me that I would be able to hold the baby for a minute, but that she would have to be given to the doctor for examination pretty much right away, the pediatrician showed up with a fast it seemed like they were just waiting outside the door.

The contractions pretty much didn't stop at all and I was just pushing for a couple of minutes total, Tara telling me to push gently and breathe the whole time, when Ellia was just born. She had a lusty cry right away, a good indication of no problems, and was handed to me for just a few seconds before they whisked her over to examine her. She had an Apgar score of 9, so obviously there were no issues.

I had no tearing or related issues and felt the best I ever had after a delivery.

The next day - this is Nell, one of the other midwives - she's painting Ellia's feet pink to put her footprints on the wall in the birthing center.

Making her mark!

Ellia's feet are at the top of the second row from the left.

In her carseat, ready for the trip home, 24 hours after delivery.

We are so incredibly blessed to have this precious little girl in our family - and her name, which means "God has answered my prayers", is quite fitting. God really did answer all of our prayers and desires surrounding her birth and I couldn't have planned it better myself!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our New Addition

Ellia Renee
Born on November 22, 2009
3:47 PM
9.00 lb, 21.5" long

Labor Day Post 6

4:30 She's here!! Arrived at ~3:47
Ok, so I posted at 3:35 last... Rebekah was in the tub and sooooo under control that I thought for sure we had some time to go... In fact, when she got checked just before getting in the tub, I made sure to set Rebekah's expectations low by telling her to not be disappointed if there had not been much progress since we got admitted.

Needless to say after trying a couple of positions and a couple of hard contractions Rebekah told me she felt the urge to push. I had just enough time to get to the door, call for help, and get back to Rebekah. Four contractions happened back to back as we got her out of the tub and over to the bed. Rebekah told me to get behind her (for support while she pushed). Two minutes later... BABY! There was meconium in the bag of waters, so the pediatrician was called in with much haste, but thankfully all was good and Baby came out testing her lungs with a good vocal call!

Of course there are a lot more details (like her name) but those will come later ;)

Labor Day Post #5 - In the Tub Now

3:35 Grant here... Rebekah is doing great, she's dilated at 7cm and has settled into the hot tub. She's trying out different positions and handling things like a CHAMP!

Labor Day - Post 4

2:45 - We've been at the Birthing Center for awhile now.....when I got here, they hooked me up to a monitor for 20 minutes or so to make sure the baby was handling contractions just fine. She is. I was dilated 5 cm. when the midwife, Tara, checked me.....and she said my water could break at any second. Contractions are coming around 2-3 minutes apart, We're listening to an awesome Plumb CD that is so peaceful. I can't get in the tub yet, the water was too hot and they're cooling it with ice cubes.

Labor Day - Post 3

12:35 - Headed to the hospital.....I just had a issue with an aura, which is a vision disturbance that precludes a migraine....I laid down and rested for about 20 minutes and the aura is gone, thankfully I only have a smidge of a headache. Weird....haven't had something like that in a long time. Contractions eased a bit while I was resting...but now that I'm up, they're kicking in pretty good. Hopefully things will go fast at the birthing center!

Labor Day - Post 2

10:00 - Contractions are steady at about 4-5 minutes apart....definitely intensifying. I've finally given the answering service a call....should hear back from the midwife soon.

Labor Day - Post 1

I woke up this morning around 4:30 with mild they continued, about 8-10 minutes apart, I tried to rest until around 5:30, when I finally got up and showered and started the rest of my packing for the hospital. I am confident that our baby will be born today! I just can't wait to meet her! Right now, at 7:30, my contractions are about 4-5 minutes apart, strong enough that I can't walk through them, but I can still talk. Haven't called the midwife yet.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin) Scones

I saw this recipe on Tammy's Recipes (made with pumpkin) and knew I had to try them. I adore scones, and pumpkin is wonderful in baked goods, so I figured it would be a winner. Oh yes. Well, actually, I did change the recipe a bit to make it a bit healthier, and I had some frozen sweet potato puree begging to be used instead of opening a can of pumpkin, so I made that substitution too. The smell coming out of my kitchen.....just divine. And the flavor was perfect....just the right amount of spice. My version is double what hers is written as, so it yields 16 scones. I knew 8 just wouldn't be enough for my hungry brood! And the leftovers were just tasty the next morning.


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 T. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
12 tablespoons butter, sliced and chilled (1-1/2 sticks)
1 cup sweet potato or pumpkin puree
2/3 cup whole milk (a little more may be needed)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cinnamon Icing Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 10 ingredients (dry). Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.
3. In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, sugar, and vanilla.
4. Add to dry mixture and stir just until mixture forms a thick dough. Use your (clean) hands to knead the dough once or twice, pressing it together. (For more tender scones, don't over-knead.)
5. On a lightly floured surface, form dough into a 2 circles, about 3/4 inch thick. Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut each circle into 8 wedges/triangles. Place wedges on an ungreased baking sheet, not touching.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until scones are lightly browned on the bottom.
7. Make icing by whisking together the icing ingredients, adding just enough milk to make a drizzling consistency. Icing can be drizzled over warm or hot scones, or brushed on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

This delicious cheesecake is from Taste of Home....I've made it a few times and we think it's wonderful. I did add the ganache topping.....because a little extra chocolate never hurt anything. And I have even gone to the lengths of decorating the top with Andes Mints....but this time I left them off. If you like chocolate and mint, this is definitely a cheesecake you'll have to try.


1 package (10 ounces) chocolate-covered mint cookies, crushed (I used the Great Value brand from Wal-Mart...but Grasshopper cookies work well too. Puree them up in the blender for the least mess.)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
5 teaspoons cornstarch
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or milk (I used milk)
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 to 4 drops green food coloring, optional
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Topping: (to be made the next day)
1 cup chocolate chips
3 T. milk
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°.
In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan. This will appear very wet and mushy - don't worry about it. Stick it in the oven for 5-6 minutes and then let it cool a bit.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Add eggs and egg yolk; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in the cream, extracts and food coloring if desired. Fold in chocolate chips (Note: I tossed the chocolate chips with a bit of flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom....didn't work. They all sunk anyways. Maybe I stirred too much.) Pour into crust. Place pan on a baking sheet - DON'T forget to do this...or you WILL end up with a bunch of goo in the bottom of your oven. NOT fun.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

Make Topping:
Heat chocolate chips and milk in a microwave safe bowl and stir until smooth. Add vanilla. Pour on chilled cheesecake and refrigerate to set.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This and That

Just a few personal updates on the family...for those who are interested (Hi, Grandparents!).

Corban and Marissa have finished a session of swim lessons, with Corban passing Level 2 and Marissa passing Level 1 (Red Cross standards). They both loved it tremendously and can't wait to get signed up for more classes. Maybe in the spring.....I just don't see myself packing up a newborn and 2-year old twice a week to take older siblings to swim lessons in the dead of winter. Not gonna happen.

Annika is taking a parent/child gymnastics class and has an absolute blast - it's special time with Daddy and she gets to jump and climb and swing to her little heart's content. Marissa is a bit jealous and keeps asking when she gets to take gymnastics again too....but back to that whole scheduling thing....I just don't know how I can swing it for awhile.

Pregnancy - Thank God it's almost over! I'm doing fine, check-ups have been perfect, I'm just tired of being pregnant. I don't sleep well due to aching hips and pelvic pain, so I'm in a fairly constant state of tiredness. Yeah.....I know.....that's not gonna change for the next year.
I am so thankful for a healthy pregnancy and baby, though, so I really shouldn't complain.

All of the hospitals in our area have adopted a policy prohibiting all visitors under age 18 to prevent the spread of H1N1 and the flu. I was bummed to hear about that, since that means the kids won't get to come visit me and the baby while we're in the hospital.

The good news is, for the first time I tested negative for Group B Strep (a common bacteria in the birth canal found in at least 30% of women at any given time that is harmless to the mother but has the slim chance of causing sickness in the baby). There are several reasons I'm thrilled about that:

1. I don't have to have antibiotics (or an IV, for that matter) during labor this time!!
2. I don't have to rush to the hospital as fast because I don't have to get the antibiotics 4 hours before delivering - do you know how hard it is to know you have at least 4 hours left in labor??
3. When the mother has GBS, even if she gets antibiotics at the proper time before delivery, the pediatricians won't let the baby leave the hospital until 48 hours after delivery just for monitoring purposes. Now I don't have to worry about that and can plan on the standard 24 hour discharge that is typical for my Birthing Center. This is especially nice since the kids can't come visit us.

My mom is due to arrive in five days.....can't wait to see her! And dad is coming a few days after that. The kids are so excited - Annika keeps saying, "Nonny coming soon. Granddaddy coming soon too. Granddaddy give me piggyback rides!!" (Hope your back is nice and strong, Dad!)

Corban (6) and Marissa (4) just had their well check-ups:

Corban is 51-1/4" tall (the height of an average 8.5 year old) and 54.5 lbs
Marissa is 41-1/4" tall (75 percentile) and 36 lbs.

Both have perfect blood counts, vision and hearing. Marissa was especially excited to pee in a cup for the first time. Big thrill there.

It is such a blessing to have healthy children. Even ones who make little nests in the closet in the bonus room for their nap instead of lying on the couch like you'd think they would.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I got this recipe from my Taste of Home Cookies that book! These are absolutely delicious....I thought so, anyways. Grant isn't a fan of nuts in cookies, so he requested that I make them with smooth peanut butter next time....but I think the chunky peanut butter adds a lot of great texture. Either way, the flavor of these cookies is just wonderful!

Note: Be sure to check your oven for any spills....from say, a cheesecake that leaked yesterday....before preheating it and baking your cookies....or you may end up with a small oven fire like I did. I'm just sayin'.


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup chunky peanut butter
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat)
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars; beat in peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute before removing to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4-5 dozen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honeybun Cake

I made this for my MOPS group a couple of weeks ago. I have always enjoyed honeybuns and had this saved in my recipe box on Allrecipes for a few years now. I didn't make it exactly as directed (big surprise) and omitted the glaze, since it was for brunch and not "dessert" and I didn't want it too sweet. It was plenty sweet and great for a dessert anyways....although I have to say that it didn't really remind me of a honeybun. It's just a good cake!


1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Chopped nuts, optional

Glaze: (Optional)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, oil, eggs and sour cream. Stir by hand approximately 50 strokes, or until most large lumps are gone. Pour half of the batter into an ungreased 9x13 inch glass baking dish. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle half of it over the batter in the cake pan. Spoon the other half of the batter into the cake pan, then top with the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Twirl the cake with a butter knife or icing knife until it looks like a honey bun (or whatever design you want to make). Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Frost cake while it is still fairly hot. Serve warm.
To Make the frosting: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner's sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Caramel Apple Bars

I got this from Allrecipes a couple of years ago and just made it for the second time last week. These are so delicious! Even my chocolate-loving husband thinks they're great. The only exception was my 2-year old....who has seemingly found the one dessert she doesn't like. Maybe it's a texture thing. I dunno. But our friends who ate them had nothing but compliments.
This time of making them, I only had half a bag of caramels in the pantry, but I also had nearly a full jar of caramel ice cream topping. I just mixed them together to pour on the apples. Tasted great! However, if you were to use only ice cream topping, I'm guessing your finished product would be more gooey (not necessarily in a good way) and not hold together as well.

Note: I have only served these cold because they'll hold together in a bar shape and be a finger food better that way - but I know they would be amazing served warm with some vanilla ice cream. I may have to try that next time.


1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
2-3 T. milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 cups apple - peeled, cored and chopped (I used 2 large Granny Smith and 1 Gala)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar and butter until smooth. Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, oats, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Set aside 2 cups of this mixture. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, toss apples with lemon juice, then toss them with the 3 tablespoons of flour. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the prepared crust. In a small saucepan over medium heat (or in the microwave), melt caramels with milk, stirring frequently until smooth. Pour the melted caramels evenly over the apples. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the top of the apple layer. Press down lightly.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender. Cool in fridge before cutting and refrigerate any leftover bars.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Cake

This is one of the easiest recipes you can make and it's always a big hit. Relatively healthy, too...if you leave off the frosting. But who would want to do that???? Seriously, though, you could make this into muffins instead, omit the frosting, and have them for breakfast....yum!
I have gotten so many compliments on this cake, though, that it's almost embarrassing to admit how simple it is to make.


1 spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 eggs
1/4 cup water (optional)

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
cinnamon (optional)
chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously grease and flour a bundt pan. Combine the spice cake mix, pumpkin, and eggs in a mixing bowl and stir for 2 minutes, medium speed. If you want the mixture a bit thinner (it is fairly thick, but works either way), add the water. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack completely before removing from pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Spread on top and sides of cooled cake. Sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped nuts if desired. Refrigerate until serving.

Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies

This is one of the recipes I submitted to Pillsbury for their BakeOff contest. Unfortunately, neither this nor any of my other recipes were selected, but there's always next time. I think this recipe is a winner, myself. Of course, I love anything with peanut butter and chocolate.....I pity the people who have nut allergies because I can't imagine not having this timeless combination.
You can use any brownie mix you prefer, or even make them from scratch if you want.....I just used the mix to qualify the recipe for the contest. I don't really prefer Pillsbury brownies, if the truth be told. This time I used a Duncan Hines mix and it was really good.


1 box family size (13 x 9") brownie mix
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 (12 oz) package white chocolate chips
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Combine brownie mix, water, oil, and eggs as directed on box. Spread into a greased 13 x 9" pan and bake for 28 minutes, or until nearly done. Don't overbake!!! These are much better a little on the soft side.
Cool on a wire rack.
In a saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. Heat and stir until it bubbles and remove from heat. Add white chocolate chips and stir until melted. Add vanilla.
Gently spread on top of the brownies and level as much as possible. Chill until set.
Cut into small squares to serve. Store in refrigerator for optimal freshness.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flower with Stem Cake

Made for my daughter Marissa's 4th birthday party, this cake was inspired by several I saw on this site......I just combined the different ideas to make what I needed.

I borrowed some candy molds from a friend and made little white chocolate lollipops (tinted blue and yellow to match the cake) as party favors. My first time making such things....they were lots of fun and turned out super cute. My kids loved them!

So on to the cake. A couple of days before the party, I baked a yellow cake - about half of the batter made 12 smallish cupcakes, the rest of it went into a 9"round pan. If I had an 8", I would have used that, but I don't. I also baked a chocolate cake in a 13 x 9" pan. All of these were wrapped in foil and frozen once cooled.

I had to trim down the circle to get the cupcakes to fit around it appropriately. I set one cupcake aside with the intention of making a ladybug out of it.....but by the time I got finished with the rest of the cake, I was too exhausted (36 weeks pregnant here) to put out the effort, so that cupcake didn't get used.

I cut the stem and leaves out of the chocolate cake, using only about half of the cake. I had almost an entire 13 x 9" pan filled with leftover scraps from both cakes!

I decided to use a true crumb coat this time, after doing extensive reading about the tremendous benefits. Well, I apparently did something very wrong, because it was nothing but frustrating and nearly tear-inducing for me. I made extra of the (high humidity) Wilton Buttercream frosting and thinned it with some milk to make it easily spreadable. I covered all of the cake with a light coat and was very pleased with how it seemed to seal in the crumbs.


Due to the nature of how my cake is set up with lots of pieces, and my cake board is HUGE, I couldn't fit it into the fridge, as is recommended. But many websites said that the crumb coat would set up on its own in a couple of hours.


Mine didn't. After letting it sit for at least 2 hours, it was still completely wet to the touch.
The problem with this is that now, when I'm trying to complete the cake, not only is there white, semi-slimy frosting on there that got mixed in with my colored frosting and compromised the tint, the cake is no longer frozen and therefore was so fragile in some places (particularly on the stem and leaves) that it was falling apart and creating more crumbs than I could imagine.

I have never been so agitated with a cake in my life.

Thankfully, I managed to pull it all together somehow (while hanging on to my sanity by a thread) and the end result was a lovely cake that my daughter adored and my husband declared as one of his top 2 favorites of the decorated cakes I've ever made (which is about 12 cakes, that I can remember).

I gave the whole flower part a coating of light yellow frosting, drew the outline of the flower petals and center with a toothpick, and piped in the colors with one of the star tips. I added the yellow lines (not intending for it to look like the sun, but it kinda does) and also piped blue stars around the bottom of the cake.

The stem is obviously a light green, with a darker green for the outline and piping around the edges.

So there you have it. I will only attempt a crumb coat again if I had the room in my fridge to chill the cake. Unless anyone has any other tips that might help me avoid such disaster the next time.
Thank you.

Mocha Fudge Cookies

This came from my Taste of Home Cookies and Bars cookbook....and is an amazing recipe. We had them at Corban's birthday party and then at our small group the next day....and everyone absolutely loved them. The coffee flavor is very subtle, which is nice because I'm not a coffee drinker. It really just enhances the chocolate. They're great with or without nuts. Try'll like them.


1 cup butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1-1/2 t. instant coffee granules
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 T. vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large bowl, melt butter and 1 cup chocolate chips in the microwave (or use your stovetop if desired). Stir until smooth. Combine the sugar, cocoa, and coffee; add butter mixture and stir. Stir in brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to chocolate mixture. Stir in the walnuts and remaining chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Remove to wire racks to cool.
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