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Archive for June, 2011

There are certain specifications my cookies generally need to meet. For the most part, I do not like hard cookies. I prefer them soft. For the most part I do not like flat cookies. I prefer them fluffy. And for the most part, I require that my cookies have a very sweet element to them, whether that be chocolate chips or icing or whatnot.

This last requirement has kept me away from peanut butter cookies in the past. I’m not completely opposed to them, but if I’m going to eat a cookie, it better have all my requirements.

Then I realized the obvious-chocolate chips could just be added into a peanut butter cookie recipe…

A little bit of chocolate and these cookies met all my requirements! Of course, now I don’t think I could ever go back to eat a simply peanut butter cookie…from now on, these cookies will have to have chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream together margarine and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add peanut butter and mix.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix into peanut butter mixture. Add chocolate chips.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper and spoon dough onto sheets.

Bake for ~12 minutes @ 375F

This recipe is very easy and the cookies quick to make. I definitely recommend it!

Today’s Sweetness: Hubby has been out of town since Monday and he comes home tonight!

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My Weightloss Journey

Weight is something a lot of people struggle with, myself being one of them. This has been a lifelong struggle and a struggle that I am finding increasingly is important to share to give people encouragement and hope.

Growing up, I was a pretty normal sized child for the most part.

Of course, I was young but I can’t remember any issues with my weight before the age of 7 or 8. At that point in my life, my family moved from Winnipeg to Alberta and that is when my issues with weight began. Over the course of my elementary and jr. high years, I began to emotionally eat. I would eat when I was happy, I would eat when I was sad, I would eat when I was bored, and I would eat when I was stressed out. I’ve never been athletically gifted and I wasn’t interested in sports so there was a lack of exercise in my life. Couple that with overeating, and the weight starts piling on fast. By time I was graduating jr. high, I was one of the largest people in my class and had my fair share of fat comments directed at me.

High school made my eating habits much worse because suddenly I was in a school with a cafeteria full of junk food and vending machines down almost every hallway. At the same time, I was becoming more and more self conscious of my weight and desperately wanting to change it. I tried many different diets but each time I would last a few days and then when I saw no change happening, I would fall back into my old eating habits.

This pattern continued into college and by time I was 21, I was over 200lbs.

At that point, something clicked in my head and I knew I had to change the path I was headed down. It was the day after my 21st birthday when I decided to change my life.

I became obsessed with learning about healthy eating and exercise. I read as much as I could online and saw that normal people could lose weight the “old fashioned way”-by healthy eating and exercise. I ditched any ideas about any trendy diets that were out there and stuck to counting my calories in and counting my calories out.

I remember buying a scale a couple days into this lifestyle change and looking at the number, not knowing how I had let myself get to that point. However, in the back of my mind, a voice said to me “This is the biggest number you will ever see on this scale so don’t worry.”

I became pretty strict with my workout routine. I would work out on the treadmill  for almost an hour every day, never missing a day. I also religiously counted any calories I ate, determined to stay below a certain number. And it worked. I was losing on average 2 lbs a week and four months after I started, I was down 30 lbs.

At this point, I slowed down a little. I let myself have days off from working out and didn’t count calories so strictly. I went a few months where I would work out a few days a week, try and eat right, but not make too much of an effort. I was now at a weight that felt good to me and not losing any weight for the time being didn’t bother me too much.

It was about a year later when I decided I wanted to lose more weight. I once again began watching what I ate and exercising regularly. The weight dropped off again, and I arrived at a weight that was very close to ideal for my age and height. I have fluctuated around that weight each year since then, but I am now at a place where I am at peace with my weight.

One issue I have had is keeping diligent with this. Once you are at a weight you like, it’s easy to slip back into old eating patterns and skip workouts here and there. However, I know that weight is something I will struggle with for my whole life. It is not something that will one day go away. Accepting that has helped me not look at exercise and healthy eating as something that I have to do. Instead, it’s part of my everyday life.

Losing weight was the biggest challenge I ever took on and it has been one of the most satisfying goals to reach. I don’t believe this journey will ever be truly over, but I am happy with the path I am on now.

 

Today’s Sweetness: A vanilla latte first thing in the morning

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Last week, a lemon meringue pie was brought into my work. Lemon meringue pie is one of my favorite types of pie and it inspired me to make a lemon creation of my own. I stumbled upon lemon-limoncello cupcakes at www.browneyedbaker.com and couldn’t wait to try them!

These cupcakes are the perfect dessert for a summer evening and will satisfy any lemon lover out there. I brought them to a family dinner and they were the perfect end to the meal!

Cupcakes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

In an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat for a minute.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest and mix until just incorporated.

Divide the batter into cupcake tins (mine made 17 cupcakes). Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely

Lemon Curd
Zest of 2 lemons
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

In a saucepan, combine the zest, lemon juice, and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk. Whisk the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper them and then pour back into the saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk the mixture constantly until it thickens (should only take a few minutes). Remove from the heat and place in the fridge to cool completely.

I misread the instructions to this and put the juice of two lemons instead of the zest. That first batch was TART! Luckily I had just enough lemon juice to make a second, correct batch!

Icing
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy. Add in the limoncello and beat for an additional minute. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

Now it’s time to assemble these cupcakes!

Scoop out the middle of each cupcake. I didn’t have a good spoon to do this so I just used a knife to cut a circle in the middle of the cupcake and then popped out the center. Spoon the lemon curd into the center of each cupcake.

Put the icing into a pastry bag and top each cupcake. Garnish with fruit.

The cupcakes turned out great and very delicious. A little messy to eat, but that’s what napkins are for!

When I first read the recipe it sounded like a lot of lemon so I made a raspberry curd to go in the middle of some of the cupcakes. The curd didn’t thicken very well though so I ditched that idea and just went with straight lemon. The all lemon cupcakes weren’t overwhelming so that was good. I think a different fruit curd would taste delicious in these cupcakes though. I will have to bake this recipe again soon and try that.

Today’s Sweetness: A night to myself tonight to relax at home.

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Hubby and I moved into our first house last April. It was a new house in a new area which meant that our house sat in a lot of dirt. Last summer our project was the front yard-we put in grass, a bush garden, and a tree. And the project this year-the backyard.

A backyard of dirt is not fun when it is raining and your dog needs to go outside to go to the bathroom.

The deck was done a couple weeks ago and the next step-the garage. The building started last night. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a builder so I did my part: I baked them some of my special chocolate chip cookies

I would share the recipe…but it’s kind of a secret recipe so… ask me, and I’ll gladly bake you a batch!

The boys worked until it started raining last night, prepping for the big Saturday build. The weather was calling for rain, but luck was on our side and it held off all day.

This morning, building started at around 9am. I wanted to contribute to the whole experience, so I went shopping for a few hours.

I left to this view

And I came home to this!

The boys did a GREAT job getting it up! It makes the backyard look completely different and I couldn’t be happier to have a garage standing in my backyard. There’s still a lot of work to do on the garage but today’s progress was awesome.

Today’s Sweetness: Remember the robin I talked about a few days ago who has made its home in our neighborhood? Well, this little robin seems to have made its home right in our backyard! Under our deck are 4 nests, in various stages of being done

Tomorrow I am off to buy a bird feeder for this sweet birdy.

 

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D.A.T.E. Night

It was a cold winter evening in January when I got a text from a friend who was out at dinner with some other friends. In a flurry of about five back to back text messages, he announced that he and the other people he was with had decided that we all needed some excitement in our lives. That we needed a night out each week that would give us new experiences and brighten up the week. It was out of this idea that D.A.T.E. night was born. Since we all knew that Tuesdays were the worst day of the week, we decided to announce Tuesday evening as the official D.A.T.E. night.

Over a potluck meal a couple weeks later, a group of about 12 of us made a list of over 50 activities we could do each week and hammered out the rules of D.A.T.E. night. Attendance was mandatory, only work was an excuse (we argued over whether being sick was and whether the person would need to bring a doctor’s note and finally decided sickness was no excuse). One person from the group would be in charge of picking an even and planning D.A.T.E. night for that week. Each week, points would be awarded based on attendance. There was also the possibility for bonus points if you did something particularly note worthy that night. At the one year mark, we would have a party and the person with the most points would get something special.

Since that night we have had a D.A.T.E. night each week. Some of our activities have been surprise birthday parties, bowling, karaoke, extreme crouquet, laser quest,  sledding, and a Hawaiian Night.

Bonus points have been awarded for various things. From being the brunt of a joke to dressing up in costume to Hawaiian night to almost breaking a tailbone on a not well thought out toboggan jump.

Who would have thought that a simple idea like this would change the way you look at a week. Tuesdays suddenly became a great day. Wednesdays weren’t too much worse because you had the D.A.T.E. night points email to look forward to.

It was such a simple idea at the beginning and has probably been (and continues to be) one of the highlights of this year. It’s definitely brought my competitive side a little more in the open…

Life just seems that much more fun with D.A.T.E. night. I encourage all of you to start a D.A.T.E. night with your friends. Or come join ours!

 

Today’s Sweetness: Marinated Steaks

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I had a lot of fruit in my fridge so I decided to use some of it in baking last night. I didn’t really have a recipe to use so I just kind of combined a few recipes into…something. I don’t know what exactly I would call it…

So I might have had a few bites before I took the picture…

Crust:
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp butter

Fruit Filling:
1.5 cups rhubarb
1.5 cups strawberries
1.5 cups blueberries
2 tbsp water
2 tsp cornstarch

Topping:
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chocolate pieces

Melt the butter and mix it with the graham cracker crumbs. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 9 greased pan.

Place all three fruits in a saucepan, over medium-high heat until they are warm (don’t boil them). In a separate bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Once the fruit is warm, mix in the cornstarch/water mixture and stir until it has thickened up.

Spread the fruit on top of the graham crust.

Mix together the flour and brown sugar until combined. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the butter into the mixture until it is crumbly.  Spread over the top of the fruit.

The Hershey Kisses chocolate pieces got added in because they were sitting in my pantry and I was starting to feel bad about sneaking a couple every hour or so. They need to get used up so they went on top of the crumbs. Adding chocolate to things is usually a pretty good idea.

Bake at 350F for approximately 45 minutes.

It turned out to be a bit crumbly but that was alright with me. I bet it would taste 100 times better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream but we didn’t have any in the house.  Next time…

Today’s Sweetness: A beautiful sunny day outside! It has been 5 days since I woke up to blue sky

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Rainy Weekend

Well it was a very rainy weekend in our neighborhood. It poured all day Saturday and rained off and on Sunday. There were a few sunny breaks though and I managed to take advantage of those and take the dog for a walk. He tried to show me the joys of splashing through puddles but I left that to him and just enjoyed the sun.

On Friday night Hubby took me on a beautiful date to a fancy restaurant downtown. Neither of had been there before and it was a great experience!

The food was delicious and the service great. I even got some flowers out of the deal!

The rainy Saturday was a perfect day for baking! I had some fresh strawberries laying around and wanted to put them to use so I decided to make some cupcakes.

We all know that strawberries are 100% better when chocolate is included so I stuck some pieces of chocolate in the cupcakes before they went into the oven.

Unfortunately, I filled the cupcake cups too full on a couple of the cupcakes so they overflowed and made a bit of a mess.

Fortunately, Hubby and I took care of the problem.

I added some strawberries to my tried and true icing recipe and it turned out beautifully! Add some more fresh strawberries and a bit of chocolate to the top and they were compete.

The cupcakes were fresh and summery, unlike the weather. They were the perfect way to forget about the wet day outside.

Luckily I have strawberries left over because yesterday I got a bagfull of rhubarb from my mother in law’s garden. Now to find a good strawberry-rhubarb recipe for tonight…

The Weekend Sweetness: The little robin who has made it’s home in my neighborhood, even with all the construction going on. I love hearing it’s little song every morning and night.

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