Sunday, June 15, 2014

S'mores Cookies

In the 1970’s my parents had 5 daughters. Since there were no sons -yet- and Dad still needed a helper, that helper was usually me.  Working closely with dad helped me develop a deep love and adoration for him.  As an adult, the most powerful reasons I love my dad are not because of the things we did together, but rather the things he taught me.  My foundation of a fervent testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ lay in the faith I had in my dad- that wherever he went, I would follow.  Winters in the southwest Iowa town I grew up in were very harsh.  When it snowed, it was often measured in feet, not inches.  Oft times, I was the daughter selected to go out and help my Dad shovel the walks.  As winter skies darkened in late afternoon, by the time dad returned from work, the light from the street lamp reflected on the snow to give a strange illumination to the task.  The sounds of the shovel scraping the sidewalk and Dad’s breath as he worked hard and quick became sounds of comfort for me.  I remember a particular evening that Dad had assigned me to help shovel the walks.  I was eight years old, short and scrawny.  There had been at least a foot and a half of new snow that day.  As I tried to walk down the steps to the sidewalk, trying to catch up to Dad, I could barely move.  Every time I put my foot down, it sank up past my knee in the fresh snow.  My Dad kept turning around and calling for me to catch up.  I was trying to be tough (certainly a trait I was known for) and move quickly towards Dad, but I was truly having a tough time moving at all.  I began to get frustrated and tears fell down my cheeks.  Dad turned around again to call to me, and saw me crying.  He came back to where I was struggling in the snow and pointed to his footsteps in the snow.  He told me that if I walked in his footsteps, I wouldn't get stuck.  He had paved the way with his larger boot.  We were both headed to the same place and all I needed to do was follow him.  And I did.  Not just in the snow that night, but in learning to live the gospel, and learning to enjoy the happiness that it brings to my life as I feel the love of my Heavenly Father and enjoy the blessings He grants me as I obey.
Today is a shout out to Dads everywhere for their selfless love they render on our behalf.  Time to give them all s’more of our love and appreciation!

S’mores Cookies
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ cup soft butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup graham crumbs
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugars.  Stir in egg and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients at once and stir until well mixed.  Roll into 16 balls.  Place on greased baking sheet.  Gently flatten just a bit.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 
Slice 8 campfire (the largest) size marshmallows in half.  Place the cut half down on the center of each baked cookie.  Return to the oven on the Broil setting for just a minute or until tops are toasty.  Place 1/16 of a Giant sized Hershey Bar in the center of each toasted marshmallow, slightly pressing down.  (You can also make smaller balls of dough, use regular sized marshmallows and portions of a 1.55 oz or Ling sized Hershey bar.)

I struggled in the snow—sometimes we are going to struggle in life.
As I began to cry, I received the comfort of a loving Father—this comfort is all of ours to claim, through the Holy Ghost, from a loving Father in Heaven.
I received guidance and direction as I was told to very simply follow in my Dad’s footsteps.—We have a brother who has gone before us, who has shown us how to live, all we need to do is follow Him.
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, my dad was beside me helping me pick my row of peas, snap my bowl of beans, and retrieving volleyballs as they soared in every which direction; he did so for my siblings as well, in the manner they most needed.  My Dad served his children first.  Perhaps, this is why he was so successful in teaching us the gospel.
And for that I think I’ll express S’more gratitude.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!!

I love you!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Reese's Peanut Butter Brookies

Today my eldest works his first shift as a staff member at his favorite childhood summer camp. It is a father-son basketball camp. When my boys were young, they excitedly looked forward to this opportunity for bonding over basketball and hoped to be among those who would win shooting competitions throughout the weekend and wear the title (prized t-shirt) “Camp Champion.”

Years ago I learned with perfect knowledge that a champion can come in 747th place.

(Many) years ago I was at the starting line of a triathlon. I was surrounded by thousands of fellow athletes. I was in awe of my surroundings and the magnitude of this race my friend had encouraged me to participate in with her. I recall the race director, Sally Edwards, leading the next wave of swimmers in a mantra. It was a group cheer. Ms. Edwards told us that the mantra could serve as a critical crutch if during our race we allowed self-doubt to enter our minds. We repeated the mantra several times as the start of our race drew near.
I am a swimmer
I am a cyclist
I am a runner
I am a triathlete
At this moment the significance of the mantra seemed lost amongst the waves of participants. Soon, my race began. I darted out into the water fast and strong. Moments later, self-doubt filled me as if it were literally trying to sink me. I exerted every bit of energy I could muster and as I thrashed in the water, I seemed to go absolutely nowhere. My thoughts moved quickly to:
What am I doing here?
What was I thinking?
I certainly did not train hard enough.
I can’t do this!!
In an instant, I saw my training partner swim next to me. My mind clicked “I am a swimmer…” As I resumed my rhythmic stroke and breath, I repeated in my mind the mantra:
I am a swimmer
I am a cyclist.
I am a runner
I am a triathlete.
Truly in that moment of despair, I leaned on a learned truth about myself. That mantra became a source of pivotal importance to the completion of my race. It helped me remember who I really was, and what I was capable of.

Later, I reflected- What makes a champion?
I truly believe there is a champion within each of us. I also believe that being a champion is not about reaching the finish line first…it’s about discovering our inner potential.
Certainly there are some champions in your life that would appreciate these treats.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Brookies
• Begin by mixing and a brownie mix according to package directions. (I use 2 mixes in a 10 x 15.5 airbake pan.)
• Spray pan with Pam Baking spray. Spread brownie batter into desired size pan.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 28-36 minutes. (This really depends on what size of pan you use. It may be a few minutes more or less depending on the thickness of the batter. Basically the brownie needs to be fully cooked.)
• Remove from oven and sprinkle with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I used 24 cups for 2 mixes) cut into small pieces.
• Mold Peanut Butter cookie batter (I used about 2/3 of this recipe) with your hands and piece together a layer of cookie dough to cover the baked brownies. Dough should be about ¼-3/8 inch thick.
• Bake an additional 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.
• Remove from oven. Cookie portion of bars will be soft, but will set up nicely. Over baking them will result in crunchy cookie and dry brownie layers.
• Drizzle the top with 2 oz. melted Hershey Bar.
Let set. Cut. Share.

“Camp Champions” will be named this weekend at the camp where B is coaching. My hope is that every kid in his group understands what a true champion is. Champions are those who keep getting up no matter how many times they fall (or get knocked) down. A lucky shot can win a kid a title and a t-shirt. But the kid who takes his new camp issued basketball home and shoots and dribbles everyday to get better is the real champion. The kid who offers a kind encouraging word to a fellow camper or teammate is the real champion. The kid who is thoughtful enough to thank his dad for spending time with him is the real champion. Share these treats and encourage yourself and those around you to celebrate the champion within.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Key Lime Coconut Fruit Dip

The other day I saw a quote that defined me.
"I danced like no one was watching but someone was watching, thought I was having a seizure and called an ambulance."
The worst grade I ever got in high school was a C in P.E. One quarter of my 4 years we did gymnastics. The teacher told me I worked hard, included all the important elements- except I had no grace...
Apparently, I exhibited this same flaw in the kitchen the other night. J was working on a school project at the kitchen table. W was working on his laptop nearby and I was bonding with my Kitchenaid. There had been a recipe in my head I was wanting to experiment with, so I got to work. The result?
Apparently I took a large rubber spatula and with all the absence of grace humanly possible I began to inhale this fruit dip.

Key Lime Coconut Fruit Dip
2 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup cream of coconut
12 oz. key lime yogurt
8 oz. Cool Whip
zest of 1 lime
*optional* 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Cream together softened cream cheese, cream of coconut, and yogurt. Fold in Cool Whip, lime zest and coconut. Let flavors meld a day (24 hours) before serving.

Did I forget to mention...Serve with fruit. In my kitchen this is completely optional. But perhaps the "Give me a spoon and get outta my way" mentality with resulting cream on my nose and chin, impairs the ability for others to concentrate on work or homework...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Miracle Cinnamon Rolls

A few weeks ago I attended my daughter's first Varsity Track and Field Meet.  In the hours that passed that evening, I couldn't help but be reminded of my own first Varsity Meet. 

It was 1984.  Our first four meets were rained out that year.  In week 5, we finally were blessed with a sunny clear day without the threat of thunderstorms.  Area coaches agreed to hold multiple large invitational’s the rest of the season to try and play catch up and give the athletes the opportunity to compete against each other.  So my first track meet was attended by eight area high schools. As we arrived at the stadium, I was completely awe struck.  There were so  so so many people.  I was a small town girl, and this was an awesome sight to see.  We were immediately given the instruction that we were not allowed on the football field as they were protecting it to look perfect for football in the fall.  A string about a foot high was placed around the entire perimeter to try and keep people off of the field.  Our team found a nice grassy spot on the embankment and set our bags there and took off for our warm up lap.  The upperclassmen on the team completely ditched me.  I knew that I was supposed to listen to the first call for my event and turn my entry card in at the scorer’s table.  After I did, I simply watched other teams’ runners and followed their lead.  When they stretched, I stretched, when they jogged around, I jogged around.  Soon I came back near the scorer’s table and saw the hurdles being moved onto the track.  I asked the nice lady at the scorer’s table if they had moved the mile run to be after the hurdles.  She jumped up and called the people putting hurdles on the track to get them off and told me the mile was getting started on the far side of the field.  In near disbelief combined with panic-stricken horror, I broke the big rule of running on the football field in an attempt to make my race.  I jumped over the string barrier sprinted as fast as a distance runner could sprint and when I was confident the race starter could hear me, as his gun was already raised to start the race, I screamed “Wait!”  At that moment I failed to navigate the string barrier on that side of the field and tripped, landing face down right at the starting line.  It was there that I uttered the most sincere fervent prayer of my life thus far.  I begged my Father in Heaven, whom I was desperately trying to believe in; with all the faith I could muster, to make me invisible…
When I heard giggles, I knew my prayer had gone unanswered. I prayed for a miracle- to become immediately invisible. But God had a different idea of a miracle. I ended up winning the race. 

This recipe is a spin off from Miracle Bread.  It’s simply a quicker version omitting the middle dough rising process.

Miracle Cinnamon Rolls 
 2 cups warm milk (microwave for 1-2 minutes)
2 T yeast
1/3- 1/2 cup sugar
Mix these three ingredients together and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast mixture is foamy.
Add :
¼ melted butter
1 egg
2 tsp. Salt
3 cups bread flour
Add 2-2 1/2 more cups of bread flour.
Use the Kitchenaid dough hook attachment for 5 minutes. (Or knead on your well-floured work surface).
Roll dough into a 20x14 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 4T soft butter and a mixture of:
1 1/2 cups brown sugar mixed with
3-4 Tablespoons cinnamon.
Roll dough up tightly the long way. Cut into 12 equal rolls. Place on a greased baking pan.
Let rise until double.
Bake at 335 degrees for 18-24 minutes.
Cool somewhat.
Frost, glaze, or dust with powdered sugar.

The lesson I needed to learn my freshman year of track- that we must all learn is that the Lord’s wisdom is greater than our own.  As we work to gain a relationship with our Heavenly Father- to know He is there and hears and answers our prayers, we may feel at times it’s hard, or not working.  To this, I turn to the message in “Good Things To Come”.   It’s a story of a young poor father having a hard time.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says the advice he would have given to himself, is the same advice I believe we need to hear as we try to progress.
“Don’t you quit… You keep trying… There is help and happiness ahead.”

Gratefully my daughter never found herself face down praying for a miracle during her first meet.  She simply prayed that God would help her do her best.  And her best was good enough for an 8th place finish in a field of over 50 competitors.  That sounds good enough to celebrate with some hot from the oven Miracle Cinnamon Rolls.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

S'mores Rice Krispy Treats

I need some more....
One of my favorite quotes is by Bishop Gary Stevenson. He says, "The 2000 stripling soldiers had countless moments to demonstrate their courage. Each of you will also have defining moments in your life requiring courage."
Who are the 2000 stripling warriors?
Those would be the examples I use to help teach my boys and now my daughter the importance of doing the right thing. To learn to stand for the right even if you sometimes feel alone in doing so. The scriptural account of those warriors can be found
What do I find so compelling about this story?
These warriors had courage, unselfishness and unwavering faith. But- where did they tag the source of it?
"...they had been taught by their mothers that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them."
So then I turn to myself and I tell myself that there are defining moments in my parenthood -requiring courage. Courage to keep trying. Courage to keep praying. Courage to increase my own faith. 
Because storms will come. Faith will be tested.
I feel like now is a time in my life that I will look back on and say it was a "defining moment".
So I'm needing to face that moment with some more courage.
Which of course makes me think of food. :)
And some more (s'more) treats :)
So here's a take on a Rice Krispy treat that will put s'more smiles on those whom you love who may be trying their best to have s'more courage.

S'mores Rice Krispy Treats
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows or
4 cups miniature marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies
3 cups small pieces graham crackers
Melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
Stir in Rice Krispies and graham cracker pieces.
Press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray.
Melt an 11.5 oz. package of milk chocolate chips and spread evenly over treats. Sprinkle with mini marshmallows and small graham pieces. Gently press them into chocolate. Drizzle with a few more oz. of milk chocolate (I warm it gently in the microwave in a freezer strength ziploc, cut a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag and drizzle.)

Sometimes I think our hardest battles are those requiring us to fight when no one else can see the opponent. Self doubt seems to often pack a Goliath sized punch. So today, I'm making this treat as I gather s'more courage to keep up the faith so that our warriors can one day say.
"I did not doubt, for my mother knew and taught me to________."

These are the grahams I buy to break up for this recipe.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Miracle Bread

My prayers as a mother have changed. I used to pray that the kids be safe, be protected, or even make a free throw in a tight game ;)
But lately I've reflected on my phase of motherhood and my roll.
I've learned that fear is the absence of faith. And that in faith my true desire is not that my kids be beneficiaries of miracles because I prayed for them; but rather that they pray themselves. My prayers are that my kids will have their hearts and their thoughts turn to their Father in Heaven. I believe in miracles - lots of them. Some are big and their impact is seen and felt by many. But I believe most miracles are small, insignificant to others, but provide the one who prayed in faith a true conviction and undeniable truth that they know their Father in Heaven is mindful of them.

Lately I've seen this small miracle in my kitchen and relished in the wonder, awe, and delight of the beneficiaries.

Miracle Bread
5 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 T salt
2 scant T dry yeast
3 T soft butter or oil
2 cups very warm water

Mix together dry ingredients. Add butter or oil and water. I use my kitchen aid  dough hook for 5-7 minutes.
Divide dough in half. Briefly roll out into 7x12  rectangle and then roll tightly into loaf, tucking the ends, or simply form the loaves without rolling. Place in two greased bread pans. Let rise in warm area until doubled + or as desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Brush with soft butter after removing it from the oven.
Some say its possible to go from flour to bread in an hour. It takes a little longer in my kitchen, but is impressively quick thus earning its name of Miracle Bread. The texture is different than typical homemade bread that you make with the conventional added steps of foaming the yeast and letting the dough rise before forming the loaves, but when called upon to help a neighbor or improve dinner in a hurry, I love this recipe!

My mantra over the past year has been to "Replace fear with faith".
-To Learn to follow the path before me in faith and delight in the miracles - be they small or significant- that undeniably light the path.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day, B sent me an email from college.  It read:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I don’t wanna edit these essays,
So- Can you?
I posted the rhyme on a social network site introducing it from my “firstborn”.  He was first to comment on my status and said he would rather be referred to as my “favorite child” instead of my “firstborn”.
It got me thinking about some of my favorite things and these new cookies are near the top of the list- just under my “favorite child”.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 grated 1.55oz. Hershey Bars
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups quick oats
2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Cream butter, peanut butter and sugars. Stir in eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate. Stir until well incorporated. Spoon cookies onto greased aluminum baking sheet. Flatten a bit with your fingers.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10+ minutes depending on size.

I’m sure thinking a lot lately about my favorite child, hoping he (or she) finds happiness in his (or her) every day journey. Over the past year, life has been full of transitions and re-defining normal.  The key to continued peace and happiness seems to be to simply take delight in the blessings of today.   No doubt I’m finding a bit of happiness in my new favorite treat.