The Pioneer Woman Rocks

It was my turn to host book club this month, and I was looking for some new, fabulous, fun recipes to try on some of my best girlfriends. One of my favorite websites to peruse for entertainment as well as great baking ideas is The Pioneer Woman.  thepioneerwoman.com

These were so well-received and enjoyed that my book club friends wanted the recipes and I thought I’d share them with anyone else looking for a new recipe to try!

I’ll start with the dessert, as it was the favorite of the night.

The Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Nutella Strawberry Cake

Ingredients

  • Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cook Time: 18 Minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 12
  • Print Recipe
  • Ingredients
  • FOR THE CAKE:
  • 2 sticks Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cup Nutella
  • FOR THE STRAWBERRIES:
  • 2 pints Strawberries, Hulled And Sliced
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Preparation Instructions
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 round baking pans with parchment, then spray the parchment with baking spray.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa and stir it until smooth. Pour in the boiling water, let the mixture bubble up for 20 seconds or so, then turn it off and set it aside.
  4. In a measuring pitcher or bowl, mix together the buttermilk, baking soda, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in the hot chocolate mixture, stirring gently until it’s halfway combined and less hot. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and continue stirring gently until the batter is all combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake them for 17-20 minute, until they’re just set. Remove them from the pans and set them aside to cool completely.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the strawberries by stirring them with the sugar and the vanilla. Let them macerate for 15 minutes, then drain off the excess juice.
  8. Whip the cream with the powdered sugar.
  9. To assemble, turn one layer upside down on a serving platter. Spread half the Nutella all over the surface. Spread on half the whipped cream and top with half the strawberries Place the other layer upside down on top and repeat with the rest of the Nutella, whipped cream, and strawberries. Keep chilled until serving. Cut with a serrated knife!
  10. Note: Don’t assemble more than an hour before serving.
http://justalittlebs.com/2014/03/12/the-pioneer-woman-rocks/

This next one was good and had some “kick.”

 

The Pioneer Woman’s Hot Crab Dip

Ingredients

  • Ingredients
  • 2 packages 8 Ounce Cream Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 2 cans (7-ounce Each) Crabmeat (or Use Fresh Or Frozen)
  • 4 whole Green Onions, Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Whole Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Horseradish (more To Taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 5 dashes Tabasco (more Or Less To Taste)

Instructions

  1. Preparation Instructions
  2. Place cream cheese and mayonnaise in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat to combine. Add remaining ingredients except almonds and beat gently until just combined. Spoon into a heatproof baking dish. Sprinkle with slivered almonds, then bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and bubbly on top. Serve with corn chips or crackers.
http://justalittlebs.com/2014/03/12/the-pioneer-woman-rocks/

And finally, the one that was my favorite (and that I’m eating for lunch today!).

The Pioneer Woman’s Cheddar Puffs

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf Crusty French Bread, Cut Into 1-inch Cubes
  • 1/2 stick Butter
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Shallot, Minced *(I used Green Onion instead)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, Sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 2 whole Egg Whites, Beaten

Instructions

  1. Preparation Instructions
  2. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add Dijon and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add grated cheddar and stir until melted. Turn off heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in egg whites.
  4. Dunk bread cubes in cheese, coating thoroughly. Place on a nonstick baking mat or sheet of waxed paper and freeze for 20 minutes, uncovered. Remove frozen chunks from tray and place into a Ziploc bag. Store in the freezer.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place frozen cheese puffs on a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
http://justalittlebs.com/2014/03/12/the-pioneer-woman-rocks/

All credit (and glory) goes to The Pioneer Woman and her creative, deliciously-talented brain.  Enjoy!

Posted on March 12th, 2014 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Walking by Faith

Right at this moment I’m staring at a room full of high school juniors clad in green and white and gray and black with a goofy grin on my face.  Some of them are looking back at me, slightly confused at this strange blonde woman giving them such a ridiculously happy look. Some of them are slightly annoyed at my joyous mood, and who can blame them? After all, I’m not the one sitting in the classroom desk, facing a long day of lectures and assignments and homework.  And some of them – many, actually – smile back.  And even though I don’t really know them, I love them all.

One year ago, almost to the day, I was sitting at my surprise 40th birthday party telling my sister how I had experienced an “A-ha” moment where I felt the world opening up to me once again.  After 13 years of child-rearing, I had 3 in full-time school, and 2 in half-day school.  There was a little light at the end of the tunnel, a new transition about to occur. I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back into teaching. I know this is a common thing many female teachers do, but after being out of the classroom for 13 years, I wasn’t sure it was my calling any longer.  I didn’t know what this new path might be, but it just felt good to be able to consider some options.

Just months later, my husband and I found ourselves in a situation where we needed to fill a financial “gap” of sorts and out of this necessity, I called my friends at my former place of employment to see if they might need a substitute teacher. I was back in front of a classroom within the week.  Within a month, I was talking to my good friend Gina about possibly coming back next year as a substitute or some other part-time position. And now, 5 months later, I am applying to my college alma mater’s graduate program in order to not only garner enough credits to renew my teaching certificate, but eventually obtain a Master’s degree.

Oh my, how the tides have turned.

But while I chuckle at my newly-turned 40 year old self enjoying the thought of not teaching again, I know that moment was a turning point for me. I feel like I was opening a door – not one to a specific destination, but a door open to a new path. Now, don’t get me wrong – I struggle with change. And while the idea of a new phase of my journey sounded plausible – good, even – I was in no hurry to begin it. But now I have…

And it’s led me to being back in front of a group of kids – and I feel

Home.

I felt this way when I gave birth to Kate. God touched my heart and gave me such an experience of joy that it affirmed everything about being a mother to my children. And I feel this way today.  It’s hard to explain.

I mean, I am raising 5 children and tending to many of their needs – including dinner, bathing, homework, soccer practice, volleyball practice, girl scout meetings, art classes, etc, etc. And I am in charge of the building that houses us all and the labor that is required to keep it functioning and clean (ish).  And I am working many days out of the week currently in my role as substitute teacher.  And I still need to find time to communicate with my husband – not just about the details of our overly scheduled days – but about heart stuff, and life stuff, and just stuff.  And now I’m going to add school? And possibly full-time teaching? And who knows what else?

I should be stressed out of my mind, but instead I have a stupid grin on my face and my heart is singing.  And guess why?

I didn’t open that door. God did. He knows my heart and my strengths and my weaknesses and my hesitations and my stresses and my needs.  His Spirit was in that hospital room with me when I was holding my Kate – the daughter whose life would alter mine more substantially than I would ever realize in that moment.  And His Spirit was in that “A-ha” moment, readying me for this new journey. And His Spirit is with me now, providing the peace and joy I’m feeling as I take these new steps into what seems like certain chaos and struggle.

But I feel like I’m just walking simple steps of faith. I’m trying to stay open – a daily choice – to where He is guiding me.  I know it will be difficult and there will times I question it all.  But he doesn’t promise me that it will be easy…

Just that I will not be alone.

And it feels like

Home.

 

 

 

Posted on March 11th, 2014 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

A Prayer for a Weary Mom on (yet another) Snow Day

I was looking up patron saints or prayers for moms who are struggling with having all their kids home day after day after day after day…sorry, you get the idea. This winter we have had extended snow days that have happened to occur after holiday breaks and long weekends, making for – well – LONG days. (ohmygoshsoveryverylong) I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for so I decided to write my own:

  • Please have mercy on me, your unwashed, unbrushed, flannel pant-wearing, smelly pink fluffy slipper-wearing, wreck of a mom just barely hanging onto her sanity with bitten fingernails.
  • Please help me to find a quiet place where they – won’t – find – me: to whine, complain, argue, and scream.
  • When they find me, please help me to remember to breathe inward only to gently release the breath instead of expelling it with the force of a large dragon that spews mighty fire after being awakened from gentle slumber where he finally eats the dainty delicious princess.
  • When they tell me no, and you’re mean, and I hate you, and you’re the worst mom ever…please whisk me away to fields of daffodils where I am 10 pounds lighter wearing a white dress with handmade eyelet trim on which no one will ever spill or wipe or pull.
  • When I tell them no you can’t bounce that basketball on my dining room table, and no you may not bite your brother’s butt, and no you may not roller skate on the stairs…please help me to stand firm in the nasty pile of dog poop left by the sweet puppy who won’t go in the snow.
  • At the moment I feel as though I might explode like the great volcano that devastated Pompeii, and reduce their little witty-bitty self-esteems into piles of withering ash, please remind me of their infant fingers curled around mine back before they could talk, or walk, or blow nasty raspberries directly into my stern face.
  • Please have mercy on me when I bake oatmeal raisin cookies because I know my kids won’t eat them – and eat them all myself – in one sitting – while re-watching Downton Abbey.
  • Please have mercy on me when I take 2 showers – one because I needed it, and one because the water drowns out their never-ending noise.
  • Please help me to remain lighthearted when I mock their whining because I haven’t made tacos yet, oh when are you going to make tacos, I’m going to starve, what can I eat.
  • Help me to speak their names in love and kindness instead of the bitter, biting fury of the negative windchills trapping us all in this house together in the first place.
  • Please grant me speed and gazelle-like grace instead of the oatmeal raisin-cooking-eating butt when rescuing the entire loaf of bread from scattering across the kitchen floor before the dog gobbles it up like she hasn’t been fed a steady diet of who-knows-what-is-really-in-that-dogfood.
  • Please – oh please – fill my mouth with words of love and encouragement when my wayward husband texts about his oh-so-rough day.
  • Please…
  • Help…
  • Me…
  • finish these tacos before this child spills another loaf of bread.

Amen.

St. Jude, pray for us. (Patron Saint of hopeless causes)

St. Monica, pray for us. (Patron Saint of mothers, married women, and alcoholics)

 

 

Posted on January 21st, 2014 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

Raw

My grandmother just passed away a little over a week ago. On the morning of her funeral, I woke up from the best – and worst – dream of my life so far. I don’t remember any details of the story except that I had my Kate back. There was no visual of her, no sense of how old she was or where we were or anything. She was just by my side, and I was filled with such a sense of joy and completion. And then, somehow, she was taken away from me again…and I felt such devastation, I cannot even explain. And as I shared this with people in my dream, no one seemed to care.

No one seemed to care.

And with that, an 8 year old scab was wrenched from its sacred place, and I was Raw. Raw.  Raw. I couldn’t even brush my teeth that morning without crying. And there I was, back at the funeral home to face it once again: the casket, those reeking death lilies, the stifled whispers.

Raw.

But I am a master of disguise (at least in my own mind). I pulled it together, honored my Grandma, and enjoyed the time spent with my family. But the raw-ness did not dissipate. This Christmas has been extra difficult as a result. Every smile has felt sadness, every act of tradition a little empty, moments of togetherness  missing the one… the balance of bitter and sweet a little heavy on the bitter.

It didn’t take me back to the day of her death – not really. There has been significant healing under that scab. What an ugly word – scab. As I was looking up words in the thesaurus to replace it, I found the word, shell. I think this works as an even better description of how I felt – like the protective shell had been ripped apart, exposing such vulnerability and emptiness of which I have not felt in quite some time. That feeling of wholeness…of completion is not something I will ever experience again, not in this lifetime. There is much joy, and there is fulfillment, and happiness…but never completion. To have that again – even in a dream – and then lose it was heartbreaking.

And the most puzzling part of all this for me was the fact that when I lost her again in my dream, no one cared. They literally shrugged their shoulders and went back to their conversations. It wasn’t anyone specific, or anyone I recognized…it was more this general hurtful feeling of being very, very alone. As I’ve struggled with this dream – how to interpret it, how to understand it, if I should even give it my time or concern – I think I’ve reached some answers.

1. Funerals will just always be hard. Duh. There are things about them that touch raw, vulnerable places inside me. I am acutely aware that others around me lovingly want to protect me from this, and either are afraid to ask, or ask hesitantly if I’m okay. I want to encourage those people that it’s okay to ask me (or not). Kate’s funeral is one more piece of an intricate puzzle that weaves her together inside my heart. It’s a piece that holds sadness and anger, but most of that has been healed – it’s still there, but it’s been layered over with lots of time and love.

2. This one is key. I am alone. Ok, so before all of you quickly call, text, and message me that you’re there for me, I know you are – I know, really. But here is the cold, hard fact: I alone know what it means for me as mother to lose my daughter Kate. My husband, children, parents, friends, all know what it’s like to lose Kate, but they lost her as her father, her siblings, her grandparents, etc. Other friends who have lost children know what it means to lose their child. But there is an aspect of loss, of grief that will always hold loneliness. I think this was what that second part of my dream was trying to communicate.

3. Ultimately, I am never alone. So how about that for conflicting points?! Shortly after Kate died, one of my close friends had an image of God holding me in his hand. The ONLY reason I know I keep functioning, feel happiness, and continue life (incomplete) is because of the one who holds me. He has so, so many tools. I have an amazing support system who are always ready to give a quick hug or say a prayer. And even when I think I’m being super strong, they see through my charade and lift me up in ways that never cease to amaze me.

4. I am ashamed to admit that I’m jealous. I’m jealous that my grandparents and Grandma Cecil get to spend this time with Kate. I know my friend Linda is laughing with her constantly. It’s really not fair. It’s comforting that they are together. But it also kind of sucks, to be bluntly honest. I desperately hope I get to make up (somehow) all this lost time with her.

5. I still don’t know what to say to people at funerals. I put pressure on myself to know what to say, how to act…after all, I have firsthand experience with loss, right?   But this is where #2 comes in again. I lost my grandma, but my mom lost her MOM. That’s a big difference, one that I can’t begin to fathom. But I am a devout believer in grace. I try to remember that I don’t need to have the right words…I can be there, offer help, and offer hugs and encouragement. I hope that it’s enough even if it never feels like it.

6. Sometimes I pray that I can know she’s really okay – for proof of some sort. As a believer, I’m kind of ashamed to admit that. After that dream, I’m not sure I want to pray it anymore…it was too painful to have her and lose her again, even in a dream realm. But one day this week, I had this strange experience of light. Several times, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an unexplained light – almost like something shiny was reflecting the sun – but there was nothing I could find to explain it. It was so very comforting…after all, one of Kate’s earliest words was “light.” I’m just going to hold onto it and savor it as best I can.  Better to find comfort in the unexplained than to reason it all away.

7. Where there is room for more healing, there will be continued growth. And here is where I think I will end this reflection. I am frankly shocked at how raw I’ve been made to feel 8 years after losing Kate. My first thoughts upon having such heartache again were that I was regressing, or maybe I hadn’t faced something and had buried it…only to have to face it for real (or as my kids say, “for real life”) now – 8 years later. Obviously there is something to this. It was a not a dream to be dismissed or discarded, but an opportunity for reflection and growth. This is actually just occuring to me right now, as I’m writing these lines. I’m hopeful for what is yet to be discovered, unearthed. And I guess that’s what’s really at the core of this for me – HOPE. I’m hopeful that God continues to speak into this story in ways that redeem my loss, and speak to others of his love.  Maybe – no, I’m certain – it’s because I have such a strong foundation of love and support, that I’m even able to have this sort of dream and grow from it.

Just when I think I have it figured out. And maybe when I begin to get a little full of myself and my certainty. A little raw-ness for a lot of hope turns out to be a pretty good exchange. Guess that’s what I’ll be looking for in 2014.

 

Posted on December 26th, 2013 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

I Remember You

In honor of my Grandma, Vivian Zander:

 

I remember you… in a large farmhouse with rooms to explore, a large sunporch for playing with cousins, frolicking kittens (oh, how I wanted to sneak them into the car with me),  a hay-scented barn, rusty scalloped lawn chairs, cow fields full of patties, ripe bursting blackberries.

 

I remember you…at the kitchen sink, preparing a large breakfast for me while your teenage daughters whisked by, Carnation Instant Breakfast shake in hand.

 

I remember you… defending my litle sister when I picked on her…I’m glad she had you in her corner when I wasn’t playing nice.

 

I remember you…packing a special pb&j sandwich for me because I didn’t like ham.

 

I remember you…providing the sugar bowl for us when we had to eat  your “grown-up” cereal for breakfast.

 

I remember you… baking pies. Chocolate, banana cream, coconut cream…almost every night. Heavenly delicious-ness.

 

I remember you… sobbing at Grandpa’s funeral. It made such an impression that I can still hear it in my memory. I’m overwhelmed with joy that you are reunited once again.

 

I remember you… always ready to talk about anything St. Louis Cardinals. I  loved that you were such a fan.

 

I remember you…playing cards. One time I collected the wrong hand in Shanghai Rummy, and I was devastated.  You let it count, even though you were extremely competitive. True grandmotherly love at its best.

 

I remember you…and your expressive face. My mom makes some of the same expressions sometimes and I’ve never been more thankful for that.

 

I remember you… sitting in a chair by the dance floor at my wedding. You may have been the only person I stopped dancing to talk to, and I’m so glad I did.

 

I remember you…telling me how difficult it was to spend so much time raising a large family that would one day leave you. And how proud you were of them, but how much you missed each one.

 

I remember you…not saying a word to me in line at Kate’s funeral, and then finding out later it was because my mom told you I was worried about hearing any cliched platitudes and not knowing how to respond. I am forever glad you were there AND spoke to me.

 

Please keep an eye on my girl until I get there.

I love you, Grandma. I will remember you.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on December 11th, 2013 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

10 Signs Dad is Ruling the Roost

Last month I went back to work substitute teaching, and my husband has been in charge of getting two elementary school kids up and on the bus, and entertaining the kindergartener and preschooler until their afternoon school times. I’ve noticed some consistent behavior in this last month that has prompted the following thoughts.

 

Top 10 signs Dad is ruling the roost:

1. The dishes are disappearing from the kitchen cabinets and drawers. (In other words, they are in the bedrooms, basement, behind the couch, under the dining room table, in the bathroom sink, possibly in the trash.)

2. Lipstick and toothpaste tubes are found, chewed & demolished by a dog left unattended.

3. All the Halloween candy is gone within a month. 5 kids’ worth. 1 month.

4. The kids keep coming home from school wearing the same outfits I just cleaned and put in the top of their drawers.

5. Pre-packaged snacks FOR SCHOOL LUNCH USE ONLY are disappearing rapidly.

6. I’m pretty sure the kids are using the hand lotion in the bathroom to wash their hands.

7. None of my boys have underwear in the dirty clothes pile.

8. Brushing teeth once a day is better than not at all, right? Right?

9. Suggestions of a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich are met with blank stares unless I package it with cut-up apples, Sprite, and a toy.

10. There’s a mysterious brown stain in the middle of my bedroom floor for which no one is claiming any knowledge or responsibility.

 

They make substitute teaching feel like a day at the spa.

Posted on November 27th, 2013 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »

Like a Ghost

My alternative title for this post is “The Long and Winding Road”  because here’s the thing about grief:  it never ends.  Oh, the intensity of it lessens over time and it looks different every day; some days it’s even mostly absent.  But even in its absence, it is present as a ghost:  hovering, affecting, waiting.  One of the hardest things about my grief is that it is shared.  I feel like I have good outlets for dealing with those difficult moments.  I have patient friends willing to let me expound.  I am blessed with the ability to write as catharsis.  And I have an extremely supportive family who is always quick to sense when I need a hug, a supportive email, or even a change of subject.

But I am not the only one who lost Kate.

After the initial grieving period, my husband had a much different grieving process than I did.  This makes sense, of course, because grief touches every person differently at each stage.  There are many obvious contributing factors – gender, social roles, personality, upbringing, etc.  But regardless of why he acts the way he does, one thing remains troublesome – it is beyond my control.   UGH.  And in many ways, it is more excruciating to watch those you love grieve than to go through it yourself.  At least for me.

My husband’s grief – much like mine – rears its head in unpredictable moments.  This year he was unable to return to the type of job he was working at the time we lost our daughter, mostly because of the residual memories it stirred and the pain and stress that created.  And though I come from a strong matriarchal home and feel equipped to lead our family when called upon, to say that I feel most comfortable in that position would be a lie.  I rely on my husband’s strength and innate leadership (even when I don’t want to admit it), and to see him struggling is honest, but heavy.

My daughters’ grief is ever-evolving as they mature.  My oldest daughter is a nurturing caregiver by nature, and I think she keeps much of her thoughts about Kate inside so as not to upset anyone or bring additional pain.  Recently, however, she was speaking about her experience with losing Kate with some friends and was so emotionally affected that she shared it with me.  I am extremely thankful for the times she is willing to share her heart with me, but it is frustrating to be unable to fix her pain.  My second daughter has recently bemoaned the loss of a younger sister.  She mentioned it in passing, almost out of frustration, but there is pain and loss behind the complaints.

I don’t yet know what it will look like to raise three boys who lost a sister they will never know in this life.  Her name and story come up fairly often, but the limited relationship is almost a more painful burden to bear than if they had known and lost her.  My youngest son at age 3 has created several imaginary friends – one of whom is named Kate.  While I love that he has created some connection at least to her name, it is still not an easy thing to hear.

I don’t envision myself as a control freak, but when faced with this lack of control…

It’s all I can do to maintain a calm, collected front when really I feel like screaming inside ~ out of anger, out of frustration, out of unfairness, out of sadness. Oh, I cry if I need to cry and I speak honestly. I try to let them have the moment they need to and be there with them throughout it… some days it just bites that this is part of our story.

I know God is walking through this with me.  And I remind myself that he is walking with them, too. And then I remind myself that it’s okay to feel this way.  Grief is just like that ~ you kind of make it up as you go along.  But it is there ~ always there ~ like a ghost.

 

 

Posted on November 14th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

Back to School Again

Today is my first official day back in school as a teacher.  Although I am well-aware that “substitute teaching” bears a far less burden than full-time classroom teaching, I was still a bit apprehensive this morning, as I switched out my gray Converse comfies for my heeled camel-colored teacher boots.  I am blessed to return to the halls of Badin High, the school where I began and then ended my teaching career to begin a family; a hiatus that would span thirteen years and six children. The familiar smiles and warm encouragement offered courage and hope that it would all come back to me like the proverbial bike rider. Though there have been many changes – both in myself and to the school – in these past thirteen years, here are some things that I noticed today, on my inauguaral re-entry.

 

1.  Posters.  Where else do adults get to splatter posters all over their walls and have it be perfectly acceptable?

2.  Ceiling tiles and flourescent lighting = classic classroom.

3.  The girls still have better shoes and better fingernails than I do.

4.  You know the kid that acts all smart-aleky and silly, but then sits quietly and does his work?  He’s still there – and he might be my favorite.

5.  Being in a classroom this far away from the bathroom now and 13 (+6 kids) years ago is an entirely different experience.

6.  A turkey sandwich with string cheese, pretzels, and brownie in my 3 year old’s Avengers lunchbox was the perfect lunch.  But I can see why my kids tire of this by December.

7.  When I think of myself thirteen years ago, I cringe a little bit.  But the smiles, hugs, and chuckles I’ve received today remind me that there were some good parts, too.

8.  I used to do back handsprings across the gym floor.  The last time I did a somersault in the swimming pool, I was nauseous for 30 minutes.  No more back handsprings.

9.  The faculty lounge is still full of people who laugh a lot and love what they do.

10.  I still love high school kids.

Posted on October 28th, 2013 by LilBS  |  No Comments »

One Can of Pumpkin

I am not ready for fall.  Despite unseasonably chilly temperatures for August in Cincinnati, school supply shopping, and the calendar quickly filling up with fall activities, I am still holding onto summer.  I’m not really sure why.  This summer, like most for me, was largely about treading water and surviving my five kids with their constant needs and, well…noise.  But even though my eye has started twitching every time my 7 year old laughs and I feel as though my ears will start bleeding if one more whine occurs, I guess…I guess…I love these little knuckleheads and JUST MIGHT rejoice  miss them when school starts.

Sniff, sniff.

Regardless of those sentiments…there is still cleaning to be avoided and a can of pumpkin calling to me from the pantry.  And so begins my Saturday morning.  I will call it, “Fall is coming.”  Here is what I did with one 29 oz. can of pumpkin today:

Pumpkin Spice Creamer

Pumpkin Spice Creamer

From http://twelveoeight.blogspot.ca/search/label/Gluten%20Free%20Recipes?updated-max=2012-09-21T07:43:00-07:00&max-results=20&start=23&by-date=false I made Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups of low fat or skim milk
  • 1/2 of a 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling-just pumpkin)
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 2 rounded teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients well, use an immersion blender if you have one, and keep refrigerated. Shake well before using.
http://justalittlebs.com/2013/08/03/one-can-of-pumpkin/

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

I didn’t have the sweetened evaporated milk the recipe called for, but I found a link to make my own here http://www.thetipgarden.com/2011/11/make-your-own-sweetened-condensed-milk.html

DIY Sweetened Evaporated Milk

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup powdered milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar **(I used a full cup to make my coffee creamer sweeter.)**
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Instructions

  1. In small bowl combine the powdered milk and the sugar. Set aside. Put hot water into blender. Start blender. With blender going, pour in the powdered milk /sugar mixture. Blend until smooth. This recipe equals one can of store bought condensed milk.
http://justalittlebs.com/2013/08/03/one-can-of-pumpkin/

Banana Pumpkin Dog Treats

Banana Pumpkin Dog Treats

Then I made dog biscuits.  Yes, this is how desperate I was not to clean.  (Plus, they’ll make good presents for my dog-loving neighbors!)

My dog is spoiled, but I was not about to roll out and cut dog-bone-shaped biscuits.  This recipe was mix, pour, bake, and cut.  Easy peasy.  http://trap.it/aCnWCu

Banana Pumpkin Dog Treats

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 15 ounces canned pure pumpkin
  • 4 medium bananas, mashed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 11 x 15″ rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats and whole wheat flour. In a separate medium sized bowl, mash the bananas, mix in the eggs, oil, molasses, pumpkin and banana. When combined, add to try ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing down to pack together. Bake for 40-45 minutes until edges begin to brown and center is firm but spongy. Remove from the oven, cut into desired size squares.
http://justalittlebs.com/2013/08/03/one-can-of-pumpkin/

 

Her brother's famous pumpkin bread

Her brother’s famous pumpkin bread

I was almost there!  1 cup of pumpkin to go!  So I went with one of my favorite foods:  bread.  I found this recipe to try:  http://www.prettygoodfood.com/2011/02/my-brothers-famous-pumpkin-bread.html

Her brother’s famous pumpkin bread

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons all spice
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 4 eggs
  • 16 oz pumpkin puree

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9×5” loaf pans.
  2. Sift your dry ingredients into a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the center and add your wet ingredients.
  4. Mix until combined.
  5. Pour into pans.
  6. Bake for about 1 hour, or until no longer jiggly.
http://justalittlebs.com/2013/08/03/one-can-of-pumpkin/

Obviously, I halved it because I only had 1 cup of pumpkin left.

While I was mixing and baking, my kids have been happily playing.  (Translation:  they have been fighting and whining and trashing the house.)  Maybe I am ready for fall after all…

Spoiled Rotten

…we both are.

 

 

Posted on August 3rd, 2013 by LilBS  |  2 Comments »

Brow(zucchini)nies!

Brow(zucchini)nies

I planted zucchini in my garden last year and had an amazingly abundant crop.  And then I found out that NOBODY in my family likes zucchini.  I baked it, fried it, mixed it into casseroles….nothing worked.  It was as if my family had built-in zucchini sensors that sounded an alarm when the zucchini-beast threatened.

Seriously.

So I shredded my crop, stuffed it into ziploc bags, threw it out into the deep-freezer in the garage and, well…forgot about it.  Until my 5 year old made a very specific request yesterday.

“Mom, can you make brownies?  with icing?  and sprinkles?” (He has learned to be very specific, hasn’t he?  We’ll call that a life skill for now.)

With all that sugar being requested by that sweet little-face, I suddenly remembered that I had seen recipes for yummy zucchini brownies.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add a little veggie-love into his life (well-hidden, of course), and decided to find a recipe to try.  Here is the link where I ended up:  http://movitabeaucoup.com/2011/09/30/zucchini-brownies/

The coup was victorious!  The brownies are delicious!  And no zucchini alarms were sounded!  A successful mission for this sly mama.

Brow(zucchini)nies

Brow(zucchini)nies

I added cream cheese frosting that I made from this link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cream-cheese-frosting-recipe/index.html

Yum.

I may or may not have eaten a piece for breakfast.  Nah, the monkey did it.

Brow(zucchini)nies!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the oil mixture. Fold in the zucchini and walnuts/pecans (if using). When first combining the ingredients, they may seem dry, but as you fold in the zucchini, a doughy mixture will form. Trust me.
  4. Gently press the dough/batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until brownies spring back when gently touched or a cake tester comes out clean(ish).
http://justalittlebs.com/2013/07/31/browzucchininies/

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract
http://justalittlebs.com/2013/07/31/browzucchininies/

 

 

Posted on July 31st, 2013 by LilBS  |  1 Comment »