Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Brownies

Everything taste better covered in chocolate. Chocolate is my best friend and my worst enemy at the same time. It definitely is not safe around me. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate any chocolate will do. There are times where nothing will crave my sweet tooth other than something smothered in chocolate. I can roam through the refrigerator looking for something semi-healthy to curve that craving, but I eventually cave and turn to my favorite chocolate dessert recipe. 

Brownies. But these are not just your ordinary brownies. During the holidays I do like to add pumpkin into them. Pumpkin is one of those items that when I see it in the grocery store for the first time mid-September-ish, I stock up. I hate that it is a seasonal item at most stores, because I could use it all year round, just like Eggnog. Oh do not get me started on my eggnog addiction. 

Not only is pumpkin healthy, I love the slight spiciness and soft sweetness it gives ordinary food. I hope you give this a try and do not blame me if it becomes a staple in your house!

Pumpkin Brownies

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3  cups of semisweet chocolate chips
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease a 9x13 pan and dust with cocoa powder. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Melt the butter in a bowl set over simmering water. Add 2 cups of the chocolate chips, remove from the heat, and stir until the chocolate melts. Set aside to cool completely. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cooled chocolate. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 cup of the chocolate chips, and the walnuts. Fold the flour mixture into the batter until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the center is puffed (the top may crack). The inside will still be very soft. Cool to room temperature before you cut them. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Customized coffee mugs

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. That aching sound that disturbs your sleep, especially aggravating on an early Monday morning. As I slowly pull myself out of bed, reach over for my glasses and quietly walk into the kitchen. Quietly being the key word. Every mother knows that those last few minutes before the children wake are some of the most enjoyable moments of the morning. Opening up my cabinet I search through my ever growing collection of coffee cups before I see one the makes me feel happy. If my husband is gone on business, it usually is one of the many cups that he sends home to me from the places he travels....Kuwait, Afghanistan,Washington State. I have a very worldly collection. Watching the keurig carousel spin around until I find the right coffee and within minutes I am in heaven. Each morning starts like this for me, I think the average mom cannot function without that trip to the coffee maker each morning .

Before the kids wake up I usually scan my emails and get lost in the world of pinterest. When I came up on the "permanent marker cups" I will admit, I got a little excited. Unfortunately that does not work. The marker comes right off. The solution, a paint/porcelain pen. They are only about $4 at the craft store and there is an array of colors. I grabbed a few old coffee cups or take a trip to the dollar store and let your imagination run wild.

Make sure you cup is clean.

Choose what you want to put on your cup. I choose one of my favorite quotes from The Notebook, "The best love is the kind that awakens the soul".

Now they say that you are supposed to bake it in your oven, yea, I do not have time for that. I found that if you place them in your dishwasher on the HEATED dry cycle, the marker will "bake" onto the cup. What is even better is that you can leave the house while they are in there! Well there you go. Now go enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween Door Hanger

It is that time of the year. Time to pull out and dust off all of those holiday decorations that have laid dormant in the garage for the past year. I love to make new decorations each year for my front door and windows. I know, I holiday crafting definitely makes it look like a hoarder lives in my garage!

This year I wanted to involve my kids in making decorations  Usually I am a little picky of what goes up, but this year my 6 year old wanted to get involved. So off to crafting heaven, or Hobby Lobby as it is better known, for some inspiration.

Instead of the normal wreaths I like to make, we decided to go for a door hanger. I love it! It was so easy to make and you do not just have to make it for Halloween, you can spell anything and decorate in anyway you want!

What you will need:

B, O, O wooden letters (any size you want)
scrapbook paper
wooden ghost (they came in a three pack)
mod podge
acrylic clear spray paint
hot glue gun

First, take each letter and trace it onto the back of your scrapbook paper. Then cut them out.

Paint on a light coat of mod podge on to the letter and apply your scrapbook paper. Then apply another thin layer on top of the paper making sure you get all of the crevices in the letters. This will help make sure the seams are sealed between the letter and the paper.

Hot glue the ghost onto your letters....wherever you want!

Take the out side and give them a spray, let dry. Give them about 3 coats.

Make sure you spray the ghost!

Cut three pieces of ribbon and tie your letters together. There you go! Go hang up your door hanger with pride!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ranch Dressing, the healthy way

I have to admit, one of my go to snacks are baby carrots and ranch dressing. Ranch dressing is my crack. I could put it on anything and everything. The only down side, its so unhealthy. Do not even get me started on reduced fat or fat free ranch, that in itself should be a crime.

Over the last 2 years, my New Years Resolutions have been to instill good eating habits in my family and stop cooking from boxes or cans. Well there are some things that I still use in cans, like veggies and tomatoes, but now about 95% of all the food we eat I make from scratch. Yes its hard, but is there really a price you can put on your kids health?

Now let me get off of my soap box and tell you about my wonderful discovery. You can make Ranch dressing at home, 3 ingredients. Do you see a trend in my recipes? I like good food that can be made fast and with few ingredients. Here is the best part, the WHOLE jar of dressing is only 255 calories, 1.75 grams of fat, 42g carbohydrates and 34g protein. Meaning you can indulge in a few more carrots and not feel guilty about it!

Homemade Ranch Dressing

1 cup Plain non-fat Greek Yogurt

1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing....NOT the dip mix.
1/2 cup of milk, I used 1%
a jar to put your dressing in 

Whisk together the 3 ingredients in a bowl. Pour into your jar and let refrigerate for at least an hour until you use it. Make sure before you use your dressing give it a little shake. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homemade finger paint

This morning we woke to cold weather, misty air and a light fog. Something you rarely see on the seashore.  It was a well welcomed treat especially seeing that this weekend we hit temperatures in the high 80's. Does mother nature not realize that it is October and we are so patiently waiting for a nice cool autumn.

Since it was cold and wet outside, I knew that I had to get creative to keep my active 2 year old happy and busy until nap time. That is a lot easier said then done.

He loves to color. It is one of the only things that can keep his attention for longer than 2 minutes, well other that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. After coloring he kept asking for paint. I went running to the closet to see if we had any watercolors left over, none. How did I forget I get more paint. Thank goodness I have an awesome "recipe" for homemade paint. It is so easy to make, easy to clean up and if they stick their messy hands into their mouths, well it wont do them any harm.

Here is what you will need to make the paint:

1/3 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup flour
food coloring
a bowl
a whisk
a clean jar or a squeeze bottle

Put the water, salt and flour in a bowl and start whisking. I actually sifted the flour first because it helped to keep lumps out of the mixture. Whisk until its mixture is nice a smooth. Now add whatever color you want. My little ones favorite color is blue, so I added 10 drops of blue coloring to the mixture. Have fun, be creative! Whisk it until all of the color is dispersed evenly. Here, you can either put it in a jar, like I did, to use as finger paint or you can put it in a squeeze bottle to use to doodle.

Word to the wise....use thick paper. Since the paint is water based it can soak through the paper especially in the hands of a toddler. I used paper grocery bags and it worked fine.

Hand it over to your kids and let them go wild. Do not worry if they spill it, it is so simple to clean up from the table, the floor or their clothes, just use a dishcloth with warm water and wipe up.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

3 Ingredient Mocha Frappe

Cold brew coffee.
Ice cold milk.
Yummy dark chocolate.
Good morning to you!

I have a always wanted to learn how to make frappuccinos at home since I now have a small obsession with them. Ever since I moved back to the East Coast and we easily have many days that are 100+, I had to find something to help curb that coffee craving. 

If you have never had cold brewed coffee on hand, it is so simple to make. Make a strong pot of coffee and place it in your fridge overnight. Voila, in the morning you have a nice cold container of coffee waiting for you right next to your gallon of milk. 

To make this even better, fill an ice cube tray with milk and let it freeze. Adding milk cubes to your frappe won't water it down  like regular ice cubes will. Now you have a cold brew frappe that rivals any coffee house offering. It is a good morning indeed. And don't judge me by my wine glass...sometimes you wake up wanting to feel a little fancy!

3 Ingredient Mocha Frappe

1 cup of cold coffee
about 8 milk ice cubes
3 tbsp of chocolate sauce

Place 1 cup coffee, 8 milk ice cubes and 3 tbsp of chocolate, or as much chocolate sauce as desired, in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Chocolate Elvis

I love smoothies and my favorite place to get them from has to be Planet Smoothie. Even though I have tried almost everyone of them, I had one down the street from my high school and I may or may not have skipped out at lunch time a couple times for them, I love the Chocolate Elvis.

Now that I am a mom, I rarely get around to buying a $5 smoothie, let alone there is not a Planet Smoothie anywhere close to me, I had to resort on creating my own. Let me tell you, this is a dead ringer for the Chocolate Elvis. I made my own little changes to the drink like using chocolate almond milk instead of frozen yogurt and chocolate sauce because a regular size Chocolate Elvis is almost 400 calories. So, I am going to give you both recipes, a 2 for 1 deal, who wouldn't love that!

Homemade Chocolate Elvis 2 ways


1 cup milk
2 squirts of chocolate sauce
1 ripe banana
a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter
a handful of ice

The semi-healthy version:

1 1/2 cups of chocolate almond milk
1 banana
heaping tablespoon of peanut butter
a handful of ice

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend! If notice that the smoothie is a little runny just add a couple more ice cubes. Pour in a glass and enjoy ♥

Monday, October 1, 2012

Easy No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

Cheesecake. Probably one of my most favorite desserts ever, yet I hate how long they take to bake. I am usually a "make everything from scratch" person, but this easy cheesecake is to die for. In all reality, it only has four ingredients. The fifth is completely up to you. The fifth ingredient could be chocolate for a chocolate cheesecake, lemon for a lemon cheesecake, some bourbon vanilla for a french vanilla cheesecake, oh you get the picture. You can customize it however you want.

Here is what you need

1 pie crust
2 packages of cream cheese
8 oz. cool whip
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips

Yep, that is it. So to start, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler and let it cool.

While the chocolate is cooling, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together.

Then add in the chocolate..yum, and turn the mixer on low and mix until the chocolate is incorporated. Take the bowl off of the mixer and fold in the cool whip.

When you are done it will be smooth and it will be thick.

 Scoop it all into the pie crust and refrigerate. You can eat it as soon as you want.  It might not be the most beautiful thing in the world but it is delish.