3rd Grade Bake Sale

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My boys’ grade had a bake sale to benefit Heifer International. They were hoping to buy a goat or maybe a cow for a family in a developing country.

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We decided to make milk chocolate chip cookies with sea salt and sugar cookie with sprinkles to donate.

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We had fun baking them all up. The kitchen aid definitely got a workout mixing ten dozen cookies to sell.

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The sale was so successful during the two days it ran that they decided to extend it to a third day. We had fun baking and selling cookies and I’m so happy to be a part of a school that supports such great causes.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Soufflés

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I have never made a soufflé. But it turns out to be the perfect recipe for procrastinators, so now it’s pretty much my favorite thing ever.

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Butter and chocolate get melted together. Egg yolks and cinnamon are whisked in. Egg whites get beaten to stiff peaks and gently folded in.

My ramekins were only four ounces instead of the six listed in the recipe, but I had just enough to fill them. I liked the cinnamon-sugar coating that was added before filling, it provided a nice contrast to the deep chocolate flavor.

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I baked mine for eight minutes and checked on them. They seemed pretty set but had not risen quite as much as I had expected. I pulled them thinking they might be ready, but dipping a spoon in showed that they weren’t quite done yet. I didn’t want to poison my children so I baked them another six minutes and they got a nice cracked crown and looked puffier. The inside was more dense and melty as opposed to mousse-like as well.

Four were a perfect amount for my family of two adults and three kids, but if we were expecting company I would double the recipe. I agree that this would be the perfect fall pre-holiday treat, but since it’s already getting pretty warm here in Texas I don’t think I’d make it again until the end of summer.

Go see how my fellow bakers fared!!

Next up: Classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting! Now that’s perfect for this time of year, can’t wait!!

I Had the Time of My Life

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Back in August when my awesome boys were turning eight I found the perfect gift: a hearse limo tour of some of the haunted spots in Austin.

I was so super excited and I couldn’t wait to take them on it. But a few days before our scheduled tour, the original limo was in a car accident and totaled.

Heartbroken, I took the boys on a walking ghost tour instead. That was really fun and we had a great time together but I still couldn’t wait until Haunted ATX had a new limo that was ready to go. Recently I noticed an Amazon deal (a Groupon-style coupon) and I jumped at the chance to finally go on the tour.

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*photo from HauntedATX

The one downside to our tour was that it started at 11 PM. I had a long day at work and I was tired and the boys had been at school all day, but we were all so excited. I wasn’t sure if it would be able to stay up until 1 AM but somehow we made it. (even though they fell asleep in the car on the way home and slept until noon the next day)

First up on the tour was the Clay Pit Indian restaurant, haunted by the ghost of two young boys and a lady of the evening, all of whom died there many years ago.

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Our next stop was the Tavern, an old bar haunted by a ghost named Emily whose shoes are kept behind glass on a wall upstairs:

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After that we went to a spot covered on the walking tour: The famously haunted Driskill Hotel:

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Our last spot was a ride out to the Texas State Hospital, haunted by the ghosts of tortured souls institutionalized many years ago:

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So the tour was a big hit for my littles and we all had a great time munching on snacks from Whole Foods and waving at astonished drivers in cars behind us as we cruised around Austin in a hearse.

If you’re ever in the mood for some spooky fun, I highly recommend it.

Fleeting Moments of Happiness

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My favorite part of being married is seeing my sweet man’s secret sides, and letting him see mine.

I get to see him with bed head and unshaven. Barefoot and making our morning coffee. I get to his face illuminated by the screen of his iPad when we watch a movie late at night after we put the kids to bed.

We have mumbled conversations in the middle of the night when one of us has a bad dream. We fall back asleep with my head in the spot that fits perfectly under his shoulder.

I’ve seen him cry. I’ve seen him laugh so hard he can barely breathe. I’ve seen him so angry I thought his head might explode. I fall asleep to the rhythmic sounds of his snoring breathing.

I sit next to him at the kitchen table when he is wearing nothing but a t shirt and boxers. I wash and fold those same boxers. He pulls my long hair out of our bathroom drain. He makes my coffee and tea ridiculously sweet, much sweeter than he would ever make for himself–because he knows I love it.

He pulls out my balled-up socks, tangled in our sheets. He knows that I wear them because I go to bed with freezing feet that somehow turn burning hot around 4am. He lets me tuck my freezing feet in between his ankles. He thinks my toes are cute. (they’re not)

He sees me with no makeup, smeared makeup, bleary-eyed. He sees me under-caffeinated and flustered. He doesn’t care which outfit I choose because he thinks I look pretty in anything. He has willingly bought the same brand of flip-flops as me every single year for five years. We somehow stumbled upon an unspoken agreement to shop for them right as the wildflowers start to dot grass next to the Texas highways. I see him slip his feet into them as he cooks us dinner or chases one of the kids.

Everyone else sees us showered and focused and guarded. They get ‘everything’s fine’ and ‘what can I do for you.’ They don’t us sick or sad or sobbing. When we are out in the world we are able to be our strong public selves because we know when we get home we can fall into the sanctuary that we have created together.

Never settle for someone who will hold your soft sides against you…

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Baked Sunday Mornings: Peanut Butter Chocolate Whirligigs

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I haven’t been around for a few recipes. I had toned down my kitchen activities because I realized that a full year of frantic baking adds about ten pounds of unwanted girth. However, I really love baking and (eating) baked goods so I *have* to exercise really regularly to counteract the less desirable effects.

I’m hoping to find some balance.

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But, chocolate and peanut butter is NOT a combination I can resist and I have missed baking so I made this yummy cookies.

As fun as it is to say whirligig I do think there are better ways to enjoy chocolate ganache with peanut butter cookies. My dough was a bit crumbly and even though most of my whirligigs turned out fine, a few fell apart and needed minor surgery. The cookies themselves were a bit fragile and hard to eat as well.

I think next time I will either put the dough in mini muffin tins and put chocolate in the centers or make round cookies and dip half in chocolate.

Either way, the soft cookies with the chocolate swirls were a big hit with my family and they were more than happy to pick up the fallen pieces.

Go see how everyone else liked them!

Next up: Cinnamon Chocolate Souffles. Yum!!

****UPDATE: Ok, after the cookies cooled they were far more stable. More soft/less crumbly. And I still love, love, love the flavor. I still don’t know if I’ll make the effort to do the double chill/roll again, though.***

Baked Sunday Mornings: Bale Bars

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*Sigh* This was not a sexy recipe. The name, the color of the ingredients, the finished product…just–no.

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I LOVED the Good Morning Sunshine Bars and I was hoping that these would be a lighter, blonder version of those perfect no-bake yummies. But–nope.

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The recipe was very straightforward and easy. Melt the butter, add sugar and cream…eventually finishing up with Fleur de Sel, vanilla, white chocolate and peanut butter. The gooey stuff gets poured over peanuts and crushed pretzels and is supposed to chill into a delicious bar.

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I had a bit of an issue early on–I went to put the pretzels in the food processor to chop them up and…nothing. It didn’t start. It was plugged in, everything seemed ok but nothing happened. I panicked thinking my new(ish) giant, beloved food processor was kaput.

Feeling cranky, I put the pretzels in a baggie and crushed them with a rolling pin. I felt like Wilma Flintstone…I love my gadgets. After I crushed the pretzels by hand I realized that part of the top was on backwards. Once I flipped it around, it sprung to life. I had already added the peanuts so I moved on.

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I did get to use a new toy–my kitchen scale, a Christmas present from my honey. I hadn’t tried it out yet and I loved it. It’s amazing how completely wrong my estimates turned out to be when trying to eyeball amounts. It was fun to measure out the ingredients exactly, and I thought that my bars would be pretty spot on. The only thing I did differently was use creamy peanut butter. I never buy chunky and I didn’t think as I grabbed a jar for the recipe. I didn’t want to make my own–I was glad to have a simple recipe that didn’t require much effort this time around. I don’t think that substitution mattered much, though.

I finished up last night and covered the pan with plastic wrap to chill overnight. I was looking forward to having one with coffee this morning. They didn’t cut very nicely…the bars were pretty crumbly. I thought that maybe I didn’t coat the mixture evenly enough before pressing into the pan. If I hadn’t have measured everything out exactly I would have thought that my amounts were off. But nevertheless, the bars were pretty disappointing. The color did nothing to make me want to eat them. I thought about drizzling something on top: caramel or white chocolate or even milk or dark chocolate, but they kind of felt like a lost cause.

I tried to use a cookie cutter to cut out a cute heart shape for my picture but got a mound of crumbs instead, so I grabbed the ends of the parchment and tossed the whole thing in the trash. Maybe not getting the pretzels pulverized as much by hand as I would have by machine was part of the problem. Whatever the cause, they just didn’t work out for me.

I left the plate of squares out for my boys and even they weren’t interested. It was surprising that an easy recipe was a bust. Ah, well. Maybe some of my fellow bakers had better luck.

Next up: Lime Angel Food Cake with Lime Glaze. Awesome, I’ve always wanted to make an angel food cake! My boys won’t love the lime, but that’s ok–more for me!

Caught Up!

Ok, I think I have finally written all the random blog entries that have been floating around unwritten in my brain. :) 2014 is off to a great start so far. My babies are all doing great, my husband and I are fantastic, work is going well and I am excited to see what this year has in store for us!

How has 2014 treated you so far?

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