Jalapeno Mac and Cheese {and Life Updates}

You have to know that I made this recipe super simple and totally skimped on the cheese (I went generic), and it still turned out extremely flavorful and fulfilling!

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I feel like that is definitely saying something!!!

Last week, I got back to the cookbooks and back into the kitchen and it was glorious!

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Let me tell you that life has been packed full and fun, but the BOY and I have also enjoyed our down time sitting in front of the fire.  Friday night, we watched an episode of Sherlock without doing anything else…no computers, no wine or popcorn, just lights off snuggled up with Cooper enjoying the quirky show’s start of the season.

Speaking of starts, how are you adjusting to the start of the new year???

We had the most incredible New Years Eve weekend in Wisconsin with a couple of couples, two dogs, and a baby.  We cooked meals, played games, went for walks, and rang in 2017 with tons of enthusiasm and joy. 

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I can’t say that I could ask for a better way to start the year.  I have a bunch of goals/plans/ideas for 2017 but I feel like I am still wrapping my head around the quick finish to 2016 and all of the changes that came our way.

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For the most part, we are settled.  We love our new place (that we are renting) and our neighborhood.  Like I said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a wine bar, yoga studio, and coffee shop directly across the street. I am working two newish jobs and both are going well along with treating some private clients and teaching private yoga sessions.  All in all, work is time consuming and fulfilling.

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Since the weather got COLD COLD COLD, I have been taking the workouts indoors.  The BOY and I were doing some personal training at the end of last year, but taking a (hopefully quick) break from it right now.  I am exploring and growing on my yoga mat and meeting friends at the barre for a totally different workout.  With an evolving schedule, finding time for workouts and self care has been tough, but I think I found my stride.

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I am teaching a bunch of kids yoga and working HARD to find some consistent adult classes in the city.  We are meeting new friends and reconnecting with old friends.  For the most part, Cooper is settling in to his new home. I think he misses the stairs (we’ve caught him trying to sneak out our door for the stairs a few times), but loves finding new places to hide (ie his new Amazon box) and continues to try to eat everything.

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The BOY won the commute lottery and living this close to work has been great for him. He also loves that any kind of food he wants can be delivered to our front door by Eat24, Amazon, or anyone else delivering Thai, Mediterranean, or Chicago style pizza.  A day doesn’t go by where he hasn’t found a new restaurant in the neighborhood that we HAVE to try.

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Which brings us back to the food.  In attempt to be fiscally and waist line responsible, we have been cooking in a bunch this month and eating out less.  In an attempt to make this process less painful, I decided to make a feast last week.  This Mac N Cheese recipe seemed like the perfect hearty food for a cold Friday night and for protein, we whipped up a batch of Clean Meatballs.

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This mac n cheese recipe was easy and low fuss but the flavor was fantastic!  And I promise it wasn’t too spicy!  The meatballs were random but pretty amazing!  Even the BOY was talking about how much he liked them. 

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Friday night, I ate mine with a side of Mac N Cheese, but Saturday leftovers were all about the spaghetti squash.

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This week, we made Clean Sloppy Joe’s and Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork!  Our meal plan is looking even better with a bottle of Cooper’s Hawk wine : )

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What are your 2017 goals???  Any life updates???

Spicy Mac and Cheese

From The Whole Foods Market Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese
  • 1 lb penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs (I used crusty bread in the food processor)
  • Vegetable oil or Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and add onion, garlic, cumin, and coriander.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, or until onion is soft.  Mix in the flour, and cook mixture over moderate heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Using a wire whisk, slowly incorporate the milk into the onion mixture until the flour and milk are blended.  Bring this to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and stir in the jalapeno pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, and tomatoes with their juice.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mozzarella, cheddar, and Swiss cheese, blending until well mixed.  Combine the sauce and cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl.  Place the sauced pasta in a 9 inch greased baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix the parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs.  Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumb topping over the pasta. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

 

Turkey Meatballs
The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey or chicken
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 T. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 T. fresh basil, finely chopped
2 T. fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, place egg and breadcrumbs or oat bran.  Add spices and mix well.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Using an ice cream scoop make meatballs and place on prepared cookie sheet.  Place in hot oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

I Don’t Know the Last Time…

I spent time in my kitchen cooking, baking, and then cooking some more.

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Bet you thought I was going to say blogging…

I guess you were right too!

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So, where have I been? Well…it’s a pretty long list!

 

Champaign for Christmas

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Yoga Six

Working

Mariano’s

Wisconsin for New Years

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Attempting Barre

Reading

Drinking Bubbles

Doing yoga on the Sky Deck

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Meeting Friends at Begyle Brewery

Baking Banana Bread

Teaching Kids Yoga

Taking Pics with the World Series Trophy

Rockclimbing

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Cuddling with Cooper

Meal Planning

Traveling to DC

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Told you it was a long list : )  Did I mention that it was also a fun one!

So here I am back at the blogging with Cooper on my lap and I’ve got some recipes for you. 

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Last Friday, after a busy morning, I decided to spend a bit of time in my kitchen.  Isn’t the whole point of having this awesome kitchen actually using it?

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The more challenging problem has been coming up with some down time to sit, type, and share all the amazing recipes with you.  With some help from impromptu house guests (my mom and dad), I made meatballs, jalapeno mac n cheese, Red Velvet Cake Batter Dip, and the most incredible Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars.

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I was a bit worried about the looks of these bars, but looks can be deceiving!

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These bars are absolutely delicious!

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And were met with rave reviews from everyone who tried them!

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Of course, I went dessert first, but I should also share with you the recipe I found in the Whole Foods Market Cookbook for Jalapeno Mac N Cheese.  And I will…just not tonight because I have to run.  We’ve got Saturday night dinner plans with friends (and I am bringing these oldie but goodie salad…Mmm!)

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What are you cooking and baking this winter???

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

From Mom Endeavors

Ingredients

  • ½ C butter
  • ½ C brown sugar
  • ⅓ C peanut butter
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C oatmeal
  • ¼ tsp salt

Frosting

  • 1 C chocolate chips
  • ½ C powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp milk
  • ½ C peanut butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix sugars, egg, and butters.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and oatmeal.
  4. Spread mixture into a 9×13 pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. While that bakes, prepare the frosting (mix together the powdered sugar, milk, and peanut butter).
  6. Remove pan from oven and while hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips. When melted, swirl with the frosting.
  7. Enjoy!

I’ve Got a Good One For You…

But don’t’ be mad at me!

Although I am sharing a recipe, it is neither hearty nor healthy but instead a sinfully delicious dessert!  I probably should have stared with a confession…I LOVE cake batter and could binge on it all day long!  Okay, maybe not super surprising based on the amount of cake mix recipes this blog has on it, but still not easy to say type out loud.

Life for the BOY, Cooper, and I continues to be super busy and super amazing!!!

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Cooper love all the city has to offer, especially the food.

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Here he is attempting to hone in on our biscuits from Bang Bang!

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The BOY is also adjusting well to city life.  Last weekend, we celebrating his birthday with dinner at Bavette’s followed by cocktails at Band of Bohemia.

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This past week, the weather was incredible and I took full advantage by biking to work on Thursday.

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It takes a lot of planning, but is totally worth it!  I am thankful to have a job where you can show up and work in your ‘active ware’ straight off your bike.  This Thursday, we did a work potluck.  Although I signed up for an ap, I was craving something sweet and happy.

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Wednesday night, I walked over to Mariano’s and came back with the ingredients to make one of the many Cake Batter Dips on my Pinterest board.

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First I threw a batch of 2 Ingredient Muffins (with chocolate cake mix) into the oven and then pulled out my handheld mixer for work on the dip.

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If I told you this dip was good, you probably wouldn’t be surprised but downright bingeable, you might accuse me of exaggerations…

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But trust me, the BOY, and my coworkers when I tell you that this recipe is nothing shy of divine!

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I served it with graham sticks which were the perfect vehicle and compliment to this sweet dip!

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This dip is great to make the night before and travels well (even in a backpack on a bike).

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After work on Thursday, I met up with the BOY and my SIL for date night at Big Star.  We had the BEST night eating dinner outside appreciating the 70 degree evening (and the pitcher of margaritas)!

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Overall, it was a day of delcioiusness!

Enjoy!

Cake Batter Dip

From Fresh April Flours

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • Half of a box of Funfetti Cake Mix (approximately 1 ½ cups dry)
  • 6 Tablespoons milk (any milk is fine…I happened to have whole in the house)
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup sprinkles plus more for decorating

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and no lumps remain.
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the Funfetti mix. Add half of the milk and and mix until combined. Add remaining Funfetti mix and milk and increase mixer to medium speed to blend.
  3. Again, reduce mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar. Increase mixer to medium speed and blend until completely combined.
  4. Stir in sprinkles with a spatula. Serve with pretzels, graham crackers, cookies, or your favorite crunchy treat. Cake batter dip will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

A Chocolate Problem…

What’s worse than a sunshine problem…clearly a chocolate problem!  Ha ha!

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I mean…it’s much better than focusing on any real life problems.  Right?!

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I am a huge fan of mouse and have made a few different recipes.  You may remember that I tried once to do it with coconut milk and it was a major fail.  I put that behind me and decided to try again last weekend when we hosted friends for Sunday night dinner.

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This recipe was simple enough but I bought some amazing store-made fudge as a back up.

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The fudge was appreciated and enjoyed but certainly not necessary sine this mousse/pudding turned out delicious!

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The BOY and our guests enjoyed it, even with the missing dairy.

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And I LOVED every chocolately bite!

 

Other Life Updates…

-To combat my chocolate problem and in appreciation of the sunshine problem, I have exploring new routes in my running shoes lately, which feels amazing!

-We celebrated the BOY’s birthday this past weekend starting Friday night with dinner at home and the Indiana game.  I made Chrissy Teigen’s meatloaf and I highly recommend it!

-Last night we went to Bavette’s for dinner, and I highly recommend that as well!

-I have been trying a bunch of yoga studios and classes trying to find the right fit…I’ll keep you posted!

-My crockpot has been super busy as always.  This week I went to the archives to make Crockpot Chicken Caccitore.

-We are super excited to host Thanksgiving again this year…can’t believe it’s less than 2 weeks away!

 

Dark Chocolate Coconut Pudding

From Stupid Easy Paleo

Ingredients

  • 2 cups full-fat coconut milk
  • 100 g of 85% to 90% dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used Godiva)
  • 1 tbsp high-quality gelatin
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Heat the coconut milk on medium-low in a heavy-bottomed pot. You want to warm it enough to dissolve the gelatin but not boil. Add the chocolate and whisk constantly until it melts.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the gelatin by slowly pouring as you whisk. If you just dump the whole tablespoon in, it’ll get clumpy.
  3. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour into your desired glasses or cups and chill for at least 2 hours or until set.

Burgers, Brownies, and BS

The BOY and I got invited to a Burgers, Brownies, and BS party for Monday night’s debate, and because we live in the city, we were able to go…on a school night.  Not surprisingly, I only supplied the brownies.  And maybe a bit of BS!

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Also because we live in the city, we have been SO BUSY that I haven’t been able to sit down and share this recipe or do  much of anything except work and play.  So for that reason, the BOY and I are spending Saturday night in chilaxing, watching TV, and doing a bit of laundry.  Sometimes, life is just too exciting  : )

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So the real reason for this post is not political or to tell you how much fun I’ve been having lately although that might come up…It’s brownies!!!

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I went outside the norm and whipped up my first batch of black bean brownies!

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They were surprisingly easy and even more surprisingly tasty!

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Our game plan was to make a batch of homemade ice cream to serve with them.  However, we didn’t freeze our ice cream bowl overnight and sadly the ice cream stayed in liquid form.

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So instead, we concocted Brownie Cookie Dough Surprise (which really doesn’t have a surprise) and just consists of the brownies (warmed up is best!) topped with the cookie dough that didn’t go into our ice cream, whip cream, and a raspberry on top.  They were a HUGE hit and I don’t think anybody minded one bit.  The debate on the other hand…that is a whole another story…

Do you ever hide sub beans or healthy foods into your desserts?

 

Black Bean Brownies

From Chocolate Covered Katie

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder (10g)
  • 1/2 cup quick oats (40g)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (75g)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil (40g)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips (115-140g) (Not optional. Omit at your own risk.)
  • optional: more chips, for presentation (I used white chocolate because that’s what I had)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.)

Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up!

Makes 9-12 brownies.

Pumpkin Banana Pecan Bread

If overripe bananas can’t get me back in the kitchen, I don’t know what can!

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I am totally out of the habit of cooking and baking.  Although we did impose our meal planning and lunch prep on my parents when we lived there, I didn’t do too much of the making of the food.  After 2 weeks in Chicago, I am beginning to adjust to my new schedule. I still work 4 long days but now I have Fridays off instead of Mondays. I must say, I liked it best when I had both Fridays and Mondays off this summer, but it was just temporary : )  Fridays off is a bigger change than you think…especially since I’ve been working the same schedule for like 7 or 8 years.  It means that my Sundays need to be productive.  Ugh!

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The BOY and I were out late last night at a wedding dancing our hearts out and making new friends.  It was a slow start to our day, but we had to shake off the sleep because we were hosting the BOYs aunts for lunch!  There was still a bit to do making our house a little neater…you know like piling boxes in the corner. Ha ha!

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We had a fantastic time showing them our new place and catching up over lunch and tasty food.  They left around 3:30pm and the BOY and I decided that we needed an afternoon of lounging around.  I don’t think we’ve had a lazy day of TV in a LONG time.  I walked over to the grocery store (with my cart) for a few week day essentials and then prepped veggie bags and snacks.  I threw an easy Monday night dinner in the crockpot and turned those overripe bananas into bread.

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Although I didn’t have much success with the oven on Friday, I wanted to give it another try!

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I had the bananas but was feeling for a bit of fall, so I chose a banana and pumpkin bread from Skinny Taste.

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This bread is really soft and delicious and I love the addition of pecans.  PERFECT!

I am bringing one loaf to work tomorrow and saving the other for our upcoming trip to Door County!

Don’t get too excited about hearing from me again as I have a busy week ahead but as we head into fall, I figured you all could use a bite of this bread : )

 

Pumpkin Banana Pecan Bread

From Skinny Taste

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups white whole wheat or all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, not packed
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cup (3 medium) ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz (3/4 cup) chopped pecans
  • baking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 8×5 inch loaf pans with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin spice, cinnamon and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg whites, pumpkin, bananas, apple sauce and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

Add flour mixture and pecans, then blend at low speed until combined. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into loaf pans and bake on the center rack for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

OMG! Worst Blogger Ever Award!

Friends…old and new! How are you???  Where has the time gone???

I swear it was like yesterday that I was blogging up a storm and then I took a quick break to move in with my P’s, start a new job, get my yoga certificate, enjoy summer, then move again (this time to Chicago), start another new job, unpack…and…Yeah…I’m still not unpacked…and yeah, I seem to still be on a break.  But anyways, the point is it is mid September and I haven’t blogged in a month.  Which earns me the Worst Blogger Ever Award!

So just a quick update…the BOY, Cooper, and I moved into the city Labor Day Weekend and we haven’t slowed down since.

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With help, we have been unpacking a million boxes (with many more to go)…

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I started another new job, cut off all of my hair again, and haven’t cooked a thing.

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Which might be why you haven’t heard from me.  I am working two part time jobs, learning the ropes, teaching a ton of yoga classes (last week, I taught 4 kids classes), exploring the city by bike, drinking wine, buying new furniture, and eating all of the Thai food my tummy can handle,

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Check me out…I’m a bike commuter!

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I bought a bubbie cart so I can walk to the HUGE Mariano’s down the block.

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Which is what I did this afternoon.  Have I mentioned that I live across the street from a yoga studio?!  It is right in between a coffee shop and wine bar and it makes me happy every time I look out the window.

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So this morning, I went to the most amazing yoga class, then came home to organize our bathroom.  Cooper had an afternoon vet appointment, which was very traumatic for both of us.  He wouldn’t go into his crate so we were super late.  When we got home, he ran and hid under the bed, so I took my bubbie cart to the grocery store.

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I’m sure you guys missed me but I am guessing that you missed Cooper more so I threw in a few of his pics.  After a busy week, I was happy to make dinner and decided on this Island Pork Tenderloin.  I came back from the grocery store and got started on dessert first.  As I was pulling out all of the ingredients, I realized that I didn’t have sugar.  Luckily, the BOY passes the store on his walk home from the train so he swung by and picked up sugar.

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Just some Friday night baking essentials.  My dessert came together easily except I couldn’t find sprinkles anywhere in our house. I tried all of my many kitchen cabinets and drawers (my new kitchen also makes me happy!) but there were no sprinkles.  I gave up and subbed in white chocolate chips for the sprinkles and threw some in the middle and on top.

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Apparently I am also the worst baker ever…ha ha!  Although I thought I had everything timed out, it appears our oven is not so strong so everything took WAY TOO LONG!  That being said, the bars still turned out phenomenal and were devoured by the BOY and I after dinner. 

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I just couldn’t decide if I like the crunchy sugary ends or the ooey gooey middle better!

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I kept the recipe as written below but know that this is a very forgiving dessert so you can probably whip it together with whatever you have in your pantry!  Even if you haven’t even unpacked all your pantry boxes : )

I have no idea what my blogging future holds but hoping to check in with ya’ll more often!

What’d I miss with you guys???

 

Cake Batter Sugar Cookie Bars

From Today’s Creative Life

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cup of gluten free flour or regular flour
  • ¼ cup of Nonpareil or sprinkles to mix in
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Nonpareil or sprinkles for the top of the batter before baking

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease an 8" x 8" baking pan and set aside.
  3. Carefully melt white chocolate chips at 50% power in microwave, stirring often to make sure they don’t burn. Once they are just about melted, stir in softened butter and remaining ingredients (except sprinkles) which you will want to fold in gently at the very end. Spread dough into pan and cover the top of the dough with the remaining sprinkles.
  4. Bake for about 22 minutes or until the bars begin to turn golden around the edges of the pan.
  5. The bars will be a bit gooey when you remove them from the oven, they will continue to set as they cool for 30 minutes to an hour.
  6. Enjoy!!!