Friday, December 19, 2014

White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies

Adjusting to married life is a lot of change, but totally doable. (side note: I fully endorse marriage - it has proven to be a very wonderful thing indeed! )

On the other hand, adjusting to a new kitchen and oven is a lot tougher than I thought it would be.  No one told me it would be this hard.  Many nights I go to bed crying after another failed attempt at baking something in my gas oven...half baked brownies and the other half burnt?  Ugh.  Is it me?  What can I do better?  How can I be better?  After over a month of trying to figure out how this new oven works I think I finally baked something that came out good!!!!!  

A real Christmas Miracle!!!!!

Just in time to bring some goodies to work!

I am wrapping up my last week of work at the company I have been at for the last 3 1/2 much change in my life over the last few months.  I am sad to go, but it is the right thing.  I have been blessed to be working with a great family of people over the last few years.  I started working here as a receptionist, and the plan was to do that for a few months then move on.  Somehow a few months turned into a few years and a few different positions within the company, it was a few good years!  Guess God had another plan for me.  Figured he needed me to stay grounded and in Texas for a while so I could somehow meet this wonderful man from East Texas and then marry him.  I really think that if I hadn't started working here I would have ended up relocating to another State again and never met my husband...

 Speaking of happens to be my husband's birthday today!  So big shout out to the most wonderful man I have ever met and ever been married too...haha : )  He has brought so much joy into my life that most days I can't even believe it.  I am so blessed to be his wife!  When he ate these bars last night he looked confused, don't think he was sure what he was eating : )

If you are reading this please say a birthday prayer for my man as he enters another year of life!

  • White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies
  • Adapted barely from Martha Stewart
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped, or chocolate chips (I used the Ghirardelli chips - I don't like the toll house ones - they don't melt as smoothly)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 17-by-12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. (Or if you don't have that - I used a 13x9 and an 8x8 cake pans) Line bottom with parchment cut to fit, and coat parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. Beat butter and brown and granulated sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate.
  3. Spread batter into prepared pan (s). Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares or desired shape.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Be sure to not over bake or they will not be chewy and will be dry. : (

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Carolina Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

I am willing to bet money that most American families still have leftover thanksgiving turkey in their fridges.  Turkey is like this weird miracle bird that no matter how much you eat - THERE IS STILL MORE TURKEY LEFT!  So crazy!  If Jesus had fed the crowds with rolls and turkey instead of loaves and fishes there would still be turkey in those baskets today!  True story.

In other news...I GOT MARRIED!  We are recovering from the wedding chaos et all and are trying to settle into our new home and our new lives.  God is good.  I have a whole laundry list of recipes to post - hopefully one day I will get around to them. : )

CarolinaTurkey and Sausage Gumbo

adapted from a Food and wine recipe

  1. 3 tablespoons vegetable  oil
  2. 3 tablespoons flour
  3. 2 onions, chopped
  4. 2 ribs celery, chopped small
  5. 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  6. 1 10-18 ounce package frozen sliced okra
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  9. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  10. 2 teaspoons salt
  11. 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  12. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  13. 1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 15-ounce can)
  14. 6 cups chicken stock (broth)
  15. 1/2 pound smoked sausage, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  16. 1 pound leftover turkey chopped up (you can also use chicken here if you want! )
  17. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, until starting to brown, about 4-8 minutes - whisk continuously and make sure it doesn't burn!  Reduce the heat to moderately low. Stir in the onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook until starting to soften, about 7 minutes. Add the okra, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  18. Stir in the broth and the smoked sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until just done, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf.
  19. Serve gumbo over rice.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gluten, refined Sugar, and Dairy free Pumpkin Bread that actually tastes good!

I'm getting married in 19 days.

I'm tired.  

My eye is twitching.

I can't sleep at night since I have millions of ideas running through my head...I mean who wouldn't be thinking of table runners and salt and pepper shakers at 2am?

I decided I hated my first dress option, so I bought a second one...haha...yeah I did...and now the mad rush to get it altered asap has begun.

I cry every time I get a negative RSVP from someone I really thought would come to my wedding, and who I really wanted to be there!  Turns out...most people who don't RSVP or RSVP late are not as we are following up with people this week the tears are more present then ever!  Blah.

Being a bride to be is stressful.  Seems like everyone has this ideal bride image in their head and I feel like people are pushing me to fit into that mold - updo hair, heavy makeup, sparkly high heels, uncomfortable dress that makes your waist look like it got eaten away at by termites and exposes your bare shoulders which makes you most likely to catch a cold or get frost bite.  I would like to say this is all a joke, but it is not - it is real.  I speak the truth.

I am not any of these things.  

I hate my hair up.  I like my hair down - it serves as a protection shield against the world...if I get scared I hide behind it - if I start to cry I can wipe my tears away on it - if I want to avoid conversation with someone I just turn my head and avoid eye contact with them...really, my poofy curly hair is like a secret weapon, and I need it more then ever as I enter into battle against....the WEDDING.

I do not like wearing heavy makeup!  It makes me feel so uncomfortable - makes me feel like I look like a drag queen, and an old one at that!  It makes me feel not like myself, and on my wedding day I would prefer to look and feel like myself...pretty sure my fiance wants to marry me and not some made up version of myself.

Dresses.  Oh Lordy, wedding dresses these days are so uncomfortable!  They are all poofy and princessy, with bodices that break your rib cage, over exaggerate chests, and over exposed all around! Shopping for one made me develop a nervous twitch, and I am glad I never have to do that again!

Now these are all my opinions and feelings - if you like these things and want to be a princess on your wedding day then that is great - wear your hair the way you like, the dress you want, and the makeup you love!  To each their own, and to me this is what I want.

Now in between all this madness and endless appointments I have had some pretty amazing showers thrown for me.  Andrew and I are blessed to have such a supportive community as we begin our married lives together.  My childhood friend and her Mom threw me a shower a few weeks ago, and everything they made for brunch was healthy!  It was so delicious and I ate everything!  Elizabeth was kind enough to share with me her recipe for pumpkin bread that was gluten, dairy, and refined sugar is so tasty!

I made this recipe this weekend and used the second loaf to make french toast on Sunday, which I dipped in the french toast batter then rolled in ground up pecans and Yummy.

19 days, and then I get to be married to the most wonderful man in the world.  Keep my eyes on the prize and my heart right with the Lord and it will all be good.  See you on the flip side of this WEDDING! : )

Perfect Pumpkin Bread (ie tasty, but healthy!)
Recipe from Elizabeth Elliott

¼ cup oil (I used canola, but other oils should work too!)
¼ cup coconut/palm/date sugar
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup applesauce
5 eggs
1 small can pumpkin
2 T vanilla

Mix well, then add:
1 ½ cup rice flour
¾ cup oat flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 T cinnamon
1 T nutmeg
1 T allspice
1 t cloves

Preheat oven to 350. Pour into 2 loaf pans (or makes approx. 18 muffins).  Bake approx. 20-30 minutes (until top cracks and toothpick comes out barely clean)  

Please note - these spice amounts are correct!  I thought they looked really high, but they make the bread very spicy and delicious - don't skimp on them!  I served this bread with honey butter and then maple butter.  Super good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fresh Peach Cake

I'm getting married in less than 2 months.  2 months.  Oy.

So much is going on that I am pretty sure I cannot tell the difference between left and right.  If you tell me to jump I won't ask "how high?", instead I will probably just go to bed.

Besides getting married I am also planning some big events in the next 3 months at work:

Charity Golf Tournament
Charity Lunch Fundraiser
Company Halloween Party
Company Christmas Party

On top of that, most of our marriage prep is happening in the next 2 months!  There was some confusion with getting a sponsor couple when we first got engaged, and now we are making up for lost time...which means...pretty much every single day up until we get married is booked solid.  Most days I feel like I will drown if I miss a beat and don't stay on task.  It really is overwhelming and daunting!

We were really looking forward to enjoying our engagement, really we were.  I pictured I would be this beaming person who couldn't stop smiling from my abundant happiness that was over flowing in my heart.  We would go on lots of dates and talk about how excited we were to get married and start our lives together.  We would both exercise like crazy every day so we would be in the best shape of our lives on our wedding day.  Lies.  All lies.

Instead, our engagement has been an endless slew of meeting after meeting, trip after trip, obligation after obligation, wedding planning and then more wedding planning.  Date night?  Um, what's that?  Ug.  And...I would be remiss if I failed to share with you that I still don't have a bartender lined up, invitations will be mailed out 2 weeks later than they should be, my dress is tight on me and I decided I don't like it, I don't have linens, I don't have flowers, I don't have dessert lined up...oh, and there may or may not be a party after our wedding...hell may freeze over - even here in Texas this is a real possibility.
photo by our awesome photographer Asia over at
I tell you these things, not to complain but to tell you I am grateful for the chaos.  I am grateful that I get to Marry the man God hand picked for me that will make the most amazing husband I could ever hope for.  I am grateful.  Even though things are crazy busy, and not what we expected, and at any moment I am sure I will get a call that our venue has been crushed by a semi truck...still...I am wicked excited to be getting married to this awesome Man of mine and have peace in my heart!  I keep waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me this is all just a dream, how could such a wonderful person want to marry little old me?  Sometimes things just don't make sense.

Like this cake.  Why on earth did I make this cake when I have so many other things I should be doing?

I have been taking a baking hiatus in an attempt to fit into my wedding dress from Hell...but then I got sick.  Knife in throat sore throat, feverish, you know how it goes.  So in the midst of being sick I decided to do the most sensible thing I could think of - I made this cake.  I am confident I made the right decision.

It was so yummy - perfect way to use up the peaches that were just a little over ripe.  I used yogurt instead of sour cream - either will do.  Also, I think it needed more peaches, so next time I would use 4-5 peaches instead of the 3.  Ina for the win again.  Trust her, she will not lead you astray.


Also, if you can - can you keep me and my fiance in your prayers as we approach the altar - we sure do need them!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A wedding and a peanut butter chocolate cookie

This past month my baby sister got married to a crazy red head.

It was a week of festivities with family, extended family, friends who are like family, friends, and enemies.

It was epic.

It was also exhausting...and I can't believe we are going to do it all again in 4 months for me!

Everything was beautiful and my sister did a great job being organized and on top of things.

As she walked down the aisle on my Dad's arm it seemed as if the entire church breathed a huge sigh of relief...almost as if saying "phew - we made it to this moment."  Emotions were high, and the tears were flowing.  I am pretty sure sleep deprivation helped with that one.  As my baby sister whispered her vows in front of us all and in front of God I couldn't help but think of all the memories we have shared, and all of a sudden she was that little girl again running around making goofy faces.  I know technically my parents were giving her away, but honestly I feel as if we all contributed somehow to the person she is today - and in a way - we were all collectively pushing her out the door and onto her new chapter in life.

Also - I made another cookie buffet for this wedding!  Did one for my other sister's wedding 4 years ago. This one was much better looking since I have improved my planning and baking skills!  I made all of the dough ahead of time, and then we hired an awesome lady to bake all of the dough for us.  She did a fantastic job - and the cookies were delicious!  This cookie was one of the favorites of the night and was the first empty jar!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 cup semi or dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle

attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together

the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the chocolate with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Fold in

the peanut butter chips and the chocolate chips.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, tablespoon sized cookies. Bake for 12-15

minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer 

to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Simple Almond Cake

Some things in life are simple.  Like this cake.

Some things in life are complicated.  Like planning your dream wedding in less than 6 months.

Way to suck the happiness out of our being newly engaged bliss.  Darn you logistics and details.  We started off great.  Epically smooth and great.

"Hello...Father Awesome...are you free to officiate our wedding in the Fall and do our marriage prep?"
"Super, glad that works for you."

Priest.  Check

"Hello....Church we want to get married in...are you available on this certain date that works for our priest?"
" way, that is good news indeed!  Put us on the books!"

Church.  Check

At this point we are high fiving each other for being so good at planning a wedding.  Boom.  We can do this all day long!  Bring it on.

"Hello...venue we like that looks like a giant log cabin in the middle of a fairytale forest...are you available on this certain date that works for our priest and our church?"
"What!  You just had a last minute cancellation for that date...shut up.  Can we come look at the facility tomorrow?  Great - see you then!"

"Hello beautiful venue.  We love you.  We can picture our wedding reception here...and I can bring in any food I like?  Make my own cake...etc.  Yes please."

To myself: "This is odd that things are working out so easily, I think I should sabotage this awesome plan and wait on signing for this ideal venue."

"Hello dream venue, yes we love you and want to make this happen but request a week to consider our options.  What?  3 other couples want to sign the dotted line?  We have to move how fast?"


"Hello dream venue, you are booked until Fall 2020 now?  Please excuse me while I go bang my head on my desk."

"Hello all other venues that don't even compare to our dream are booked until Fall 2020 too?"

Face Palm with both my palms and all the other random palms I can find.

And so the search for the ideal wedding reception venue continues...and in the meantime I will eat 12 candy bars, cry about 2 bucketful's of tears, google search every possible wedding venue related thing I can find, and quite possibly scare off my future husband.

And then...there was this cake.  So simple and unassuming.  It was surrounded by cakes that were prettier, more glamorous, and more appealing - but a midst her shining competition this little gem shone bright with authentic charm and poise.  Throw a dollop of fresh cream on top and she became the bell of the ball.

If only I could find a venue like this cake!

I advise you all to not plan weddings, and instead make this cake.  All the world's problems will slowly melt away.

*please note this story may have an element of hyperbole to it.  We (I) am not freaking out that much, and am really happy that I get to marry this pretty awesome man at the end of it all. : )  Super grateful and I know something will work out with our venue!  Prayers that we find something!

Simple Almond Cake
Adapted slightly from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, by Alice Medrich

3/4 cup plus 2 TBS almonds (whole, sliced, chopped - whatever you have)
1 cup plus 2 TBS granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
8 TBS unsalted butter, room temp
3 large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the sides and line the bottom of a round cake pan with a parchment circle. (do this by tracing a circle onto parchment the size of your pan and cutting it out)

Put the almonds, sugar, salt, and almond extract into a food processor and process until the nuts are finely pulverized.  Add the butter and pulse until blended.  Add the eggs and process until thoroughly blended.  Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until just incorporated.  Scrape bowl and pulse again.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack.

Once cool remove from pan.  Cover.  Keeps at room temp for several days, and tastes best after day 2.  Serve with fresh whipped cream and lovely seasonal berries.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Coconut Trail Mix for the journey ahead!

Guys.  Life is seriously like trail mix.  

Sometimes you stick your hand into the bag and get something you don't like - like dried banana slices or sunflower seeds...other times you stick your hand into the bag and get something amazing like dark chocolate chunks.  Guess its all about how you eat your trail mix...I take one look at the dried banana slice throw it out and go in for some more trail mix options.  Nothing stops me from searching for more of that chocolate.

Do you see where I am going with this?  For a while there it seemed like all I was getting out of life was dried up banana slices.  I was unemployed, lonely, and stuck in a slump and things just really weren't going my way.  I knew that God had an amazing plan for my life, I just couldn't seem to find it.  I would often find myself sitting at home bored to tears, and also covered in tears praying to God asking him for companionship, friends, and a job.  I found myself repeating over and over to myself and out loud my favorite scripture Jeremiah 29:11 

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

I found comfort in these words and kept reminding myself that God had a plan for me, and that plan was to be happy and that He would take care of me.  Finally things started to turn around, and I found a job, I found community and friendship, and I found Andrew.

Andrew is the dark chocolate in my life.  No really he is.  I mean he is the whitest boy you have ever seen, but to me he is dark chocolate...and not just some boring dark chocolate, but dark chocolate with sea salt on it : )  He makes my soul feel calm and happy!

Everything in our relationship has had this odd natural progression feel to it.  I don't really remember much about him from the first time we met at a Church BBQ, but I remember him from the second time I met him at Theology on Tap.  I left that event with my siblings and as we were talking about the different people that showed up, I remember saying to them that there was something so familiar to me about Andrew and that he just seemed like such an honest, trustworthy, and reliable guy.  We were friends for quite a while before we started dating, and I just always felt drawn to him.  If he wasn't at an event I was sad, if I knew he would be going to something - well then I was definitely planning on going too!

We are both incredibly awkward people so needless to say our relationship has been awkward - the kind of awkward like when you are talking to someone with a uni brow and you keep looking away because you don't know where else to look.  It was like this painful but happy dance of "here's my heart - can I trust you with it?" "um never mind, now I'm going to hide my heart from you" "Um, what exactly is your plan for us? "Um - I don't like that plan" "Okay, I like that plan"  "Here's my heart again"  We have had our fair share of fights and conflicts, but through it all we always want to fight through it together and we always seem to resolve things fairly and nicely!  It is pretty great if I do say so myself.  Winner winner chicken dinner!

This past week Andrew and I had been fighting - mostly because we missed each other, and he had gone out of town for some strange reason (which ended up being a good reason).  We hadn't really had much alone time in the last 3 weeks - and the distance barrier was showing itself in our conversations.  He called and said he was on his way back into town and wanted to take me to a fancy dinner.  I knew something was up because we NEVER go to fancy dinners - Sunday brunch is more our thing.  He also showed up an hour early and was suspiciously talking to my parents in the you see where I am going here?  We drove a back way to the restaurant and suddenly he pulled into our favorite park...oh boy...this was happening.  I tried to play it cool even though I knew what was coming.  We walked out onto a dock over the pond and in front of the sunset and he got right to the point.  Said he was sorry he made me mad and he was going to get me some flowers, but he got me something else instead!  He got down on both knees - he says it was one : ) - and proposed to me.  WHAT!!!!  I was oddly calm as this wave of peace washed over me and I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be and that I belonged by Andrew's side.  All of a sudden he looked so different to me and his courage made me so confident in my "yes".  

We are of course both on cloud nine...and probably cloud 12 and 15 as well!  We are super excited to spend the rest of our lives together and feel so blessed to have found each other.  Please keep us in your prayers as we begin our engagement process!  It is so much easier to take steps forward when you have confidence in your decision, and truly feel in your heart that this is God's plan for you.  I pray that you all find that courage in your hearts in whatever decisions you are facing today.  

Walk with courage, and make sure you bring some of this trail mix with you. : )

Eat your heart out,


Oh...and this trail mix was inspired by something I bought at the health food store the other day.  It is delicious and different -  truly it is!  No disappointing trail mix ingredients here : )

Coconut Maple Trail Mix
an original recipe from me!

4 Cups large flake shaved unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts
1/4 tsp kosher sea salt
4 TBS pure maple syrup

Toss these ingredients together then layer evenly on a large sheet tray.  Toast in 350 degree oven for 4 minutes.  Stir then toast another 4-6 minutes until golden brown.  Watch this pretty diligently since coconut can burn quickly if you don't pay attention!  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Once cool toss with the following:

1/2 cup raisins
cup chocolate chips (I like dark chips better but all we had were milk for this batch)

Combine and Eat!  This is really insanely great and you will become addicted.  Trust me : )  Store in well sealed container.  Would taste great on top of ice cream too!