Monday, August 18, 2014

Smore Bars

Ahhh Summertime, how quickly it goes!  A few blinks and my short time off from work goes by in an instant.  We have had a ton of fun this summer, but it's back to work I go.  As you read this, I will be sitting in my in-service meetings.  While I enjoy the fresh start and the excitement of a new school year, I'm not sure I'm ready to transition back to the grind of working everyday.  I sure do love my summers!


This sweet treat today is a great one to bring back memories of summer - camping, hiking, bonfires, and of course, s'mores!  I was lucky enough to be able to go camping three times with my husband this summer (and with both sets of our parents as well, one time each, and one time with my friends).  Of course, every time we go camping, we make s'mores!
I have a coworker who has a major sweet tooth, and I love making treats to bring with me when I have to travel to the office every month.  For a long time, he has been requesting a Hershey cookie with graham crackers.  I hadn't heard of such a thing, but of course, was able to find something on Pinterest!  I made these s'more bars to celebrate the end of summer (or if you happen to read this in the middle of winter, it can be a sweet reminder of summer!).  

S'more Bars
Recipe Adapted from: I Heart Naptime

Ingredients:
  • Crust:
    • 1/2 cup melted butter
    • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • Dough
    • 2 cups brown sugar
    • 2/3 cup butter
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 1/2 cup flour
    • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • Topping
    • 1 Hershey bar - break each little bar into pieces
    • 1 Graham cracker - break into pieces
    • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows


Directions:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. 
Make the crust by combining the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl using a fork.  You will need about 8 crackers (full sheets) to create the crust.  Once the crust has been made, line a 9x13 pan with foil and press the crust into the pan.  
Next cream the butter and sugar together, then add in eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.  Add in the baking powder and salt, then mix in the flour.  Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.
Once the dough is made, flour your hands and press the dough on top of the crust and flatten it out.
Then add the topping of graham cracker pieces, broken chocolate, and left over mini marshmallows. 
Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Test middle with a tooth pick.  Dough will be soft, but toothpick should come out clean. 
Allow bars to cool completely before cutting.  Then enjoy with ice cream or a tall glass of milk!



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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#100 Happy Days (vol. 4)

Here's an update on my 100 happy days.  Since I don't have a fancy phone (I have a dumb phone, lol), it's hard for me to always remember to grab a picture everyday, but I do what I can.  
Have a wonderful day and make sure to look for the happy moments in each day!

Day 38 (7/24) - Another great night at Volleyball in the valley.  My serving was spot on again and I served 10 in a row in both the first and the last game!

Day 39 - Woot!  Productive day!  I have happy moments to share today, cause I have two mega happy moments.  1 - I did my first big vinyl project and labeled my Tupperware.  2 - I ran 4 miles!!!  In 40 minutes!!!!  This is a huge deal for me!  Personal best for both distance and length of time being able to run.  




Day 40 - Went to see Legally Blonde the musical at the local theater with my nice neighbor while M was working

Day 41 - Bonfire and popcorn with my husband - love relaxing evenings!

Day 42 - Still loving my flowers :) 

Day 43 Finally Finally Finally got the insurance straightened out for allergy shots! (8+ months in the making!)

Day 44 (7/30) - First corn on the cob for the season - yum!

Day 45 - Very impressed with myself and these cookies!

Day 46 (8/1) - Got to see family and celebrate at the Grooms Dinner

Day 47 - My little brother got married!!!!

Day 48 - I am so honored to be a godmother for the first time - sweet little Max!

Day 49 - I have a car... with a working air conditioning!

Day 50 (Halfway to 100!) (8/5)  Our power is back on (after being out since 4 pm yesterday!) And since I had to clear out the fridge, it got a good cleaning.

Day 51 - A daytrip to Noah's Ark with family topped off by some amazing pizza at MooseJaw.  So Thankful the weather stayed nice and I didn't get too cold!

Day 52 - Enjoyed playing volleyball with a super big group!

Day 53 - Saw the Beach Boys in concert!

Day 54 - Matt's cousin got Married!

Day 55 - My parents joined us in Lanesboro for biking

Day 56 - More biking - we got in 37.5 miles and stayed dry!

Day 57 - Rollerblading to round out our active camping trip

Day 58 (8/13) - Enjoyed the sunshine of my lunch walk on my first day back to work.





Monday, August 4, 2014

Crockpot honey chicken and Quinoa

Whew!  My brother is married and I become a godmother - what a weekend!  So much fun and so much celebrating!  It was a wonderful time and everything went smoothly - more on that later this week :)
After such a long and busy weekend, the last thing I want to do (especially in a warm kitchen) is spend hours cooking or have the oven on heating up the house.  Today, I'm all about relaxing (and tending my dancing feet, lol).  Enter a crock-pot dinner.  I love love love the simplicity of crock-pot dinners.  They come together in minutes, cook during the day (but don't heat up the house!), and are ready whenever my husband gets home from work.  Adding in the new super-food of Quinoa is a bonus too :)

PS - this was my first time trying quinoa.  It's pretty plain tasting and has a bit of a nutty flavor, but a different kind of an aftertaste.  I think a smaller potion than pictured here, or with some kind of sauce would be a bit better (but that might defeat the healthy benefits of the quinoa.  Have you cooked with quinoa before?  What's your favorite recipe?  Any suggestions for me?

Honey Chicken with Quinoa
Recipe adapted from: I <3 Naptime

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (ok if frozen)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or rice

Directions:
Put chicken breast in the bottom of the crock-pot.  Combine the soy sauce, honey, olive oil, onion powder, minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and stir until well combined.  Pour mixture over chicken.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Chicken should easily fall apart.
Cook quinoa in boiling water or cook rice according to directions.
When chicken is done, serve chicken over quinoa
Enjoy!


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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wedding Dress Shower Invitation set

As I mentioned earlier this week, my brother is getting married at the end of this week - such excitement!  Of course, we had to celebrate welcoming my brother's fiance into our family.  I'm so excited to be gaining a sister.  It's always been just my brother and I, it's nice to see our family growing a bit as we get married.  To celebrate the upcoming wedding, I offered to host a shower for my side of the family.  I had lots of fun putting my Silhouette to use (and some of my new found Royal Icing skills!)

Invitations
First off, I made the shower invitations.  I looked at hundreds (ok maybe not hundreds, but it seemed like it) of ideas on Pinterest.  And then I ran out of time, lol, and needed something relatively simple.  This idea fit the bill for the most part.  I used a dress card from the Silhouette store, but cut it in half.  
First I wrote out my text in Microsoft word so I could use the spell check.  Then I transferred my text and placed a text box inside the dress shape in Silhouette Studio. Next i used the print and cut feature (my first time!), to cut out two dresses per sheet of paper.  I cut the top half of the dress out of a pretty silver paper and glued that on top of the dress with the text.  Then I used a hot glue gun to glue the tulle over the top, an finally added a blue bow (to hide my glue marks!).  
Other than the fact that neither my mom or I caught the fact that I wrote down 2013 instead of 2014, I was really really happy with how these turned out :)


Gift - Dishcloths and Thank Yous
So once the invitations were out, I needed to come up with a gift for the lucky bride to be.  I wanted to come up with something small, but useful for my future sister in law.  Keeping with her wedding theme of blue and sliver, I made her some blue dishcloths (because I make a pair for every bridal shower I'm invited to), and then I decided to make some thank you notes to match the invitations.  When my aunt threw a shower for me when I was engaged, she gave me a set of thank you notes that matched the invitations that had been sent out.  I found it to be a very thoughtful gift and it made it very easy to quickly write my thanks yous after the shower.  Since this was my first time hosting a shower on my own, I wanted to do the same thing for my future sister-in-law.
I used the same dress card pattern as I did for the invitations, but added blue ribbons and a thanks stamp from Paper Smooches. 

Dessert
I made a simple meal for lunch during the shower, but I wanted to go a little bit fancier for dessert.  After checking with the bride to be, I learned that she preferred cookies over cake (which was just fine with me).  This gave me another chance to practice my royal icing skills.  I found a dress cookie cutter at Williams Sonama and decided to make hearts for something a little smaller (and simpler!).  The cookies were definitely a big hit with my guests!  I put their initials on the hearts and created white dresses with blue sashes and bows.  

  

Now to prep desserts for the grooms dinner and pack for a weekend full of fun!
Have a great day!


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Bachelorette Cookies - Royal Icing

My "little" brother is getting married at the end of the week.  I can't believe it!!!  While he is certainly not little anymore (in fact, he' been taller than me since high school), it's still a little weird for him to be getting married.  Despite that fact that he's getting married makes me feel incredibly old, I am over the moon happy for him and his bride to be.  There's been a lot of celebrating going on recently, and of course, I've been baking and crafting to celebrate the occasion, because that's what I do :)

I hosted a shower for my sister-in-law-to be, and I'll share details on that soon, but first I couldn't wait to share these bachelorette party cookies.  Can you say cute and fun?  Even better - they are Delicious - with a capital D.  Love love Love these cookies.  

  

I had been wanting to try royal icing for a long time, but had been a little (or a lot) intimidated by it.  This occasion gave me the push I needed (with a little inspiration from Pinterest!)
After giving the Royal Icing a try, I have to say that it is definitely not as scary as I thought, however, it IS time consuming.  So not something I want to do all the time, but for an added "WOW!" factor, it's certainly possible.  Royal icing gives you a lot more detail when frosting cookies, so f you are looking for something fancier, definitely give it a try.  If it's your first time doing royal icing, I recommend attempting now more than 2-3 colors - it will make your life much easier, I promise! 
Just a note - the meringue powder for the icing can be found at either a craft store (like Hobby Lobby or Michael s, in their baking isle) or at the grocery store.


Royal Icing Bachelorette Cookies
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP meringue powder
  • 5 TBSP water (plus more later for thinning)


Since this is a bit of a special recipe, there are also some tools you will need.  
  • Sugar cookies (make sure they are completely cooled!)
  • Gel Icing colors (I use Wilton brand)
  • Small containers with lids for each color of icing you want to use
  • Spoons
  • Toothpicks
  • Pastry bags with small round tips (I use size 2 or 3 for flooding, and smaller/other sizes for designs and decorating)
  • Squeeze bottles

Instructions:
First things first, you'll need to make your icing.  Combine the powdered sugar, meringue power, and water in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low until well blended, then keep mixing!  You will want to mix for about 5 minutes until the icing has a matte appearance (it should not be shiny at all).  Now you will need to add a tiny amount of water - start with 1/2 teaspoons, until it becomes piping consistency.  Piping consistency is when you pick some icing up with a spoon and let it run back into the bowl, it should take about 5 seconds for the icing to be reabsorbed into the rest of the icing.  You can also test out a small amount in your pastry bag as well.  Try not to let your icing get too runny at this point (although if it does get too runny, you can add more powdered sugar to stiffen it up)
*Hint - while you are working with royal icing, make sure to keep any icing you are using covered in a container so that it does not harden on you!  Any pastry bags you are not using (but have incing in them) should be stood up in a glass with a bit of water in the bottom so that the icing in the tip does not harden)*
Ok, so now you have piping icing.  The next step is to tint your icing the color you want to outline your cookies.  Once your icing is colored, you are going to pipe a border around the edge of each cookie.  Let the icing set and harden.  
Next step will be flooding your cookies.  Once your border has hardened, you are going to thin out some more icing.  Take some of your icing in a separate bowl, and add a tiny bit more water.  Now you want the icing to flow off a spoon and disappear in 2-3 seconds back into the bowl of icing.  Let the icing stand about 5 minutes to let any bubble come to the surface, then give the icing one more gentle stir to pop the bubbles (this will save you time later).  Once icing is thinned out, use your squeeze bottles to "flood" your cookie with your main color of icing.  *Hint, you can use a toothpick to help drag the icing to the corners of your cookie if need.  Toothpicks also work great to pop any air bubbles that appear on your cookie.  
Before moving on the the next step, let you cookies dry and harden really well.  You can even leave them out overnight, if needed, to make sure the icing is completely dry.  depending on the weather or the temperature of your kitchen, your cookies could be dry in an hour, but wait longer if you are unsure.  The royal icing helps seal in the moisture of the cookie, so depending what type of sugar cookie you use, you shouldn't have to worry about them drying out. 
Finally, once your main color is done, you are ready to decorate with your piping icing again.  Let dry for at least an hour before packaging or storing.  I do not recommend freezing cookies that have been decorated with royal icing as the icing with gather condensation in the freezer and look funny. 
Congratulations!  You did it!  You decorated with Royal Icing!

To make lingerie cookies, I used a heart cookie cutter - who knew?!



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Truly Lovely

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#100 Happy Days (vol. 3)

Ok, this post is getting really long and I'm missing some pictures - I'm sorry!  But enjoy my happy moments from the last few weeks :)


Day 16 (7/1) Lazy day with some reading :)


Day 17 - My flowers are blooming!


Day 18 - Went to see a friend's band play

Day 19 - Happy 4th of July!  We had great weather for our badminton games :)

Day 20 (7/5) - Date night with my husband :)

Day 21 - In between rain showers went rollerblading!

Day 22 - We avoided the rain and got some volleyball in!

Day 23 - So proud of myself for cleaning out my closet and my dresser.  Have two bags of clothes to donate!

Day 24 - Woodfired Pizza with my mom in the teeny tiny town of Berne

Day 25 (7/10) - Laundry and getting ready for camping again!

Day 26 - Another hiking club password

Day 27 - Celebrating my birthday with friends (and later family), my friends even surprised me with a birthday muffin while camping

Day 28 - Monday night means volleyball night - love this Monday night tradition!  Matt even played this week

Day 29 - Breaking in the new measuring spoons and cups I got for my birthday

Day 30 (7/16) - so happy with how my flowers are doing this summer!

Day 31 - Tried a new recipe of chicken and potato kabobs - definitely a keeper and recipe coming soon!

Day 32 - Capped off the night with some awesome weather for volleyball in the valley.

Day 33 - Bachelorette party one of two for the weekend - celebrating with my husband's cousin!

Day 34 - Celebrated my future Sister-in-Law's bachelorette party - I'm pretty proud of the garter set I made.
Day 35 - Saw an Eagle while Canoeing

Day 36- we won two games in volleyball tonight!!!!  And I served 10 in a row to help lift out team to victory in the first game - it was an awesome feeling!

Day 37 (7/23) - Visit from my momma!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gluten Free Strawberry Muffins

Love Love Love me some summer produce!  One of my all time favorites - strawberries!  I get so excited when the Driscoll strawberries start appearing in stores and the prices on berries start to drop - it means strawberry season is on the way!  This year our strawberry season was a bit late (due to our late spring) and only started in mid-June.  I, however, was super happy with the late season, since the opening of strawberry picking coincided with my first day off for summer!  I got a little over zealous (of course) when I first went picking, and picked about six pounds (Side note - I love that there is a pick-your-own strawberry patch just outside of town - literally less than 10 minutes away.  Makes it easy to go every few days so we can always have fresh strawberries to eat as long as they are in season!). 

So, I had six pounds of strawberries, and while my husband is a champion strawberry eater, this was a bit much for just the two of us.  I also knew I didn't want to freeze the berries, as I haven't really found myself using up the berries I freeze - they just don't compare with the fresh ones!  So while I was definitely enjoying strawberries, yogurt, and my homemade granola for breakfast, I needed another way to use up some berries.


So I did what any girl does and headed to Pinterest and started searching for strawberry recipes.  I found a few strawberry muffin recipes and was intrigued.  When I saw this one was even "healthy" I knew I wanted to give it a try right away.  These muffins are about 110 calories each - perfect for breakfast for my husband or a morning snack for me - and they're delicious!

Gluten Free Strawberry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Dashing Dish

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (may also use Greek yogurt)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup Driscoll strawberries (diced and patted dry)
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin tins with silicone muffin cups, or use a silicone muffin tin.  (The regular paper cupcake liners do not work well with this recipe, if you don't have silicone muffin cups or a silicone muffin pan, use foil liners instead)
Place the oats in a blender or food processor and chop them up until they are a fine powder.  Blend in yogurt, eggs, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and mix until smooth.  Stir in strawberries by hand.
Divide batter into 12 muffins and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Eat warm, eat when cooled, or freeze for a later date!
Enjoy!

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