Number 8 + Vanilla Buttercream

Eight years ago, my first son was born. JP was such a cute baby! Long fingers and little dimpled cheeks. I remember that feeling of awe and indescribable accomplishment I felt when the doctor put his warm little body in my arms. It was an easy pregnancy and an easy birth.855217211_ad6648088c_o Each year that goes by, I am so happy to have him as my son. So happy to see the person that he is becoming. His big smile and big feelings make him who he is.

IMG_0300Eight years later, I realize that parenthood, like life, is a journey and “perfect” is not an option. The bond that connects us is strong, thick and tough. JP grows and changes and so do I. When he was first born it was so clear how much he needed me but I never realized how much I need him.

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Being his mom has changed me into the person I am today. And so with each year that passes, we celebrate! Another year of adventures and misadventures and there is no better way to celebrate than with a party and cake – lots of it.

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The cake of choice is white cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream. Buttercream is such a classic frosting and learning to make it has come in handy many times over the last couple years.  So let’s have our cake (and frosting!) and eat it too. Cheers!

xoxo,

Rachel

Vanilla Buttercream

The key to buttercream is to use unsalted butter where the only ingredient is cream and sifting the powdered sugar and measuring from the sifted sugar. I found adapted this recipe from savorysweetlife.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted plus more if needed depending on desired consistency
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus more if needed depending on desired consistency

Instructions

  1. Place butter into a medium bowl or your stand mixer. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment. Beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sifted powdered sugar and mix on low until the sugar has been incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium, add remaining ingredients and beat for 3 minutes. You will see the frosting get fluffier and smoother. If you would like your frosting a bit stiffer, add 1/2 cup more powdered sugar. If you would like your frosting thinner, add more milk 1 tablespoons at a time. Beat for another minute to incorporate and adjust if needed. I usually don’t need to add more than the 3 cups of powdered sugar or 2 tablespoons of milk.

Settling In & Hot Fudge

We finally moved into our new house! The move went so quick and smooth that I really have no complaints. The other house is cleaned and ready for another family to enjoy. Our new house has pictures hung and the kitchen is organized. Everyone is settled into our new space.

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The part that is not settled yet are my routines. I almost went to the old house the other day on the way home from the grocery store and I keep forgetting where I stuck the garbage bags. This is the first week back to school for the kids so pick up and drop off are all a little different. In the midst of this (smooth yet exhausting) upheaval, I went looking for dessert.

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As the weather starts to warm up (70 today!) and summer is starting to feel sooner rather than later, I craved an old classic: Hot Fudge. Growing up in Iowa, summers were hot and humid. Full of thunder storms and fireflies. I remember mom making hot fudge to top the homemade ice cream dad had made out on a hot summer night. Then there were the hot fudge sundaes from the $1 menu that my husband and I ate while snuggling on the couch.

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But why should ice cream get all the hot fudge love? Frozen banana slices with hot fudge on top is the perfect afternoon pick me up. I used Ashley Rodriguez’s new cookbook “Date Night In” for my hot fudge recipe. It uses heavy cream and bittersweet chocolate, which makes for a perfect complement to the sweet bananas. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and let me know if you give it a try!

xoxo,

Rachel

Bittersweet Hot Fudge

This recipe is just slightly adapted from “Date Night In” from Ashley Rodriquez.

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (just a pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, combine the heavy whipping cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Give it a quick, vigorous stir every 1 minute or so. Remove the pan from hear and stir in chocolate, butter, salt, and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use and microwave in short increments as needed.

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

It wasn’t until we moved to Seattle that I started staying home full time with our two boys. It seemed as if my little boys, age 6 months and 3 years, were always hungry. Snack time was constantly just around the corner. I started looking for some homemade snacks that I could make and granola bars were a good place to start. It was the perfect diversion from all the “at homeness”. Baking was just the thing I (we) needed to get through those long, hungry days.

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I’ve tried many granola bar recipes since then, but haven’t come across any that were a real keeper in our house. I wanted it to be made up of pantry staples, hold together, be (mildly) nutritious and of course taste great! I think I’ve finally found it.

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I love the combination of peanut butter and honey and the coconut and dried cranberries add a nice counterpoint to the sweet and salty. Now that you mention it, I did just finish off the last two bars so I guess its time to make another round – for the children of course.

xoxo,

Rachel

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

Makes 16 bars

This recipe is adapted from Momskitchenhandbook.com “Our of the Box Granola Bars”. I changed the ingredients slightly, as well as decided to add an egg white after mixing the dry and wet ingredients together. I feel like this really helped the bars to keep their shape, as well as made for a slightly softer bar.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats (I used Old Fashioned)
  • 2/3 cup rice krispy cereal
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup natural unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 egg white, whipped with a fork until slightly frothy

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9 in square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a couple inches overhang on the sides.

In a medium bowl, mix together oats, cereal, coconut, cranberries, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl combine honey, maple syrup, canola oil, water and peanut butter. Mix until combined and smooth. Pour honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well combined. Stir in frothy egg white and mix until incorporated. Smile and breath. Smell that? Yum!

Scrape mixture into the prepared pan and press into pan. I like to use a piece of parchment to press it down flat. If using a 9 in pan (as I did), the mixture will be a bit thinner and so if you like thicker bars, just don’t spread it all the way to the edges.

Place pan on the middle rack and bake for 25-30 minutes. The bars will be golden brown and firm. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then lift the bars out of pan using the overhang of parchment paper and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely and then cut. Store in airtight container. Enjoy!

New Adventures + Easy French Toast

I never realized how much I love Spring. I’m sure I always have but this year all the blossoms seem bigger and the floral scent more intense.

As with the trees and the flowers, I have felt a desire to grow and change. A readiness for new adventures.IMG_0166

Spring is the perfect time for change and this is good because this past February we were able to buy a house and are (finally!) moving in this week!

We spent Easter Sunday packing boxes, hiding Easter eggs, and reminiscing on all the great memories we’ve had in this house; but my favorite part was breakfast. We had planned to go out for breakfast but after waking up, we realized that we really just wanted to eat at home. Mike ran to the store to pick up the ingredients for my new (but old) favorite: French toast with toasted pecans. Such a perfect combination of sweet, savory, and ease.

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I have made this French toast for years now with all types of bread, but only recently added the toasted pecans for the topping. It has become my new favorite. It’s amazing how just one little ingredient can completely change a meal. The pecans add just the right amount of nutty crunch.  FullSizeRender

I hope you enjoy it as much as our family has and let me know if you give it a try!

xoxo,

Rachel

Toasted Pecans

Feel free to toast as many as you like for the french toast. Any extra pecans can be kept in an air tight container and used for salads, snacks, granola, or as a topping for oatmeal.

  • 1/2 cup raw pecans

Preheat oven to 350 and line a small baking sheet with foil. Spread raw pecans in a single layer on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack and roast 5-8 minutes turning once. Pecans are done when they smell nutty and taste crisp all the way through.

French Toast

This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook that I received as a wedding gift. I love the sprinkling of cinnamon. I usually add a bit more as I go along since the cinnamon tends to cling to the surface of the mixture. Serves 2-4 depending on the size of the bread, as well as how long you let the bread soak in the egg mixture.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk ( I usually use skim since that is what I have around)
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more as needed
  • 8 slices french bread
  • To serve: butter, pure maple syrup (warmed prior to serving), toasted pecans
  1. Preheat griddle to 350 or warm a skillet on the stove top. Spray with non-stick spray.
  2. In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, coating both sides and then using fingers to remove excess. Place on preheated griddle or pan.
  3.  Cook for 2-4 minutes or until golden, turning once. Repeat with remaining bread slices. Serve with butter, syrup, and toasted pecans.

Lunch Salad

A Place for Me

Life is feeling quite busy right now and I know I’m not alone in thinking this (just ask my husband!). It’s easy to spend all my time doing things for other people.  More and more I’m finding out how important it is that I carve out some time that is just me. No expectations just me by myself, sitting with my own thoughts. Most days this time is lunch.

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The kids are off to school and the laundry is in.  I’ve jogged around the neighborhood and run to the grocery store. Volunteered at the school and answered emails. Breakfast dishes are put away and now it’s noon and time to breath (and get out of these sweaty clothes!).

My go-to lunch is a pub style (pubby is what I call it) salad. Mildly indulgent and full of all the things I love. Lettuce, canned beans (black or garbanzo), cheese, veggies, and avocado. Finish with salt and pepper and a swirl of ranch dressing. Time to dig in!

Lunch Salad

Serves 1

Feel free to use whatever combinations you prefer but this is what I usually put in mine.

  • 2 cups baby spinach, slightly torn
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
  • Assorted vegetables and herbs – I used chopped celery and green onions today
  • 1/2 avocado, cut in large chunks
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese or 2 tbs crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbs ranch dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Using a large bowl, layer ingredients in order as listed. Mix and enjoy!