Flavors of the Week

Happy happy Friday! Guess who has the day off?

ME!

I feel like you probably don’t think I ever work on Fridays. For the past several weeks I have had a few Fridays off, but that is all about to change. This was our busy season at work, so we had extended hours, including Sundays. Whoever worked the Sunday shift got the following Friday off. I worked Sunday this past Sunday, therefore have today off. Get it now?

Well, starting Monday we go back to our normal schedule so no special three days weekends anymore. But no extra short one day weekends either!

I will be making the most of this long weekend, because Greg and I are going to Charlotte for his family reunion. Of course, I’m not going empty handed. I made a little somethin’-somethin’ but that’s for another time.

I treated myself to a few…well, treats that I want to tell you about. And the flavor of my week was pumpkin.

It started with what was supposed to be an innocent stroll inside of Starbucks to pick up a tea to take to work. Instead, this giant iced pumpkin scone captured my eye and the rest is history.
I remember having one of these last year and absolutely loved it. Maybe my expectations were a little too high, because this was good, but didn’t quite hit the spot like I thought it would.
A few days later I stole a slice of bread from Great Harvest. 
Ok, I didn’t steal it. But they give free samples of such big slices I always feel so bad walking in for the sample and leaving. I usually browse around and stare wide-eyed at the enormous muffins, scones and cookies in the display. And then I leave. I guess I probably look more strange doing that than if I just left right away, huh?
I might have to go back and buy a loaf of this bread though, because that sample was toooo good. It was pumpkin bread filled with a fruit, nut and cinnamon swirl. 
And then there was the frozen yogurt time. 
My office is about four minutes from the shopping center where Menchie’s is (and Starbucks and Great Harvest actually). But I am proud to say this was the first time I let the temptation get to me while I was at work. I had the late shift and was heading back to the office around 7pm and NEEDED this fro yo to  get me through the next few hours of work. 
Mission accomplished. I mixed a little brownie batter yogurt with NY cheesecake yogurt. Then topped it with oreos, frosted animal crackers, and caramel syrup. Delish. 
Normally my favorite thing about Menchie’s is that I can eat my dessert, but still be healthy with small-ish portions and fruit toppings. That just wasn’t going to do it for me this night though. But hey, everything in moderation 😉
I can’t wait until Menchie’s gets pumpkin yogurt…I know it’s only a matter of time. 
Not that I need more pumpkin….just to summarize, within the past week or so I’ve had: a pumpkin scone, pumpkin bread, pumpkin smoothie, pumpkin pancakes (twice!), anddd some other pumpkin things I haven’t told you about yet. Like oatmeal and ice cream. 
Oh my goodness I’m going to turn into a pumpkin!
I could live with that. 

Pumpkin Pancakes X 2

I’m a little late on the National Pancake Day bandwagon. FYI, the holiday was this past Monday. Just because I’m late on the blogging though, doesn’t mean I didn’t celebrate. And boy did I celebrate.

On Monday, Greg and I had BFD. 
Some of you may know that those are my initials (minus one letter….yes, I have two middle names, which I hear makes me even more southern-like). But that also stands for Breakfast For Dinner. 
Greg doesn’t like pumpkin (only a little bit crazy, right?), so I was kind enough to make him regular pancakes. I, on the other hand, came up with best pancakes the season of fall could ever ask for. 
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes. The pumpkin flavor was faint, but still noticeable. 
The pancakes were served with maple sausage links and cheesy scrambled eggs on the side. Mmmm, mmmm. That night, Greg and I once again proclaimed our love for breakfast for dinner.
On Tuesday afternoon, I got a text from Greg that said, “How do you feel about making BFD again?”
Done.
Maybe this National Pancake Day thing should be turned into Pancake Week. Actually, there probably already is a pancake week. There’s a week for everything so I wouldn’t be surprised. 

I knew I would be making the pumpkin pancakes again, no questions asked. Only this time, I had to make one modification. Ok, two modifications. Wait, wait, THREE modifications.

1. Add more pumpkin puree.
2. Add butterscotch chips in addition to the chocolate chips.
3. Double the recipe.

Now we’re talkin.

BFD two nights in a row was such a good idea. I don’t think I could have made it a third, but two was perfect. It gave me the chance to work on the pancake recipe to get it juuuust right and relive the heavenliness.

We also switched up the side dishes for the second night. I had spicy sausage patties and a sliced apple (had to squeeze a little healthfulness in there). Our sausage patties were much better than the links I had bought only because they were on sale. I won’t be buying those again. Then again, the links were about half the calories so maybe it would be worth it. Yeahhh maybe not. Flavor wins out on this one.

I cannot express enough how much I {heart} pancakes. If pancakes had their own country, I would be the president…or princess. I would rather be a princess than a president.

When I go to a restaurant that serves breakfast all day, like my childhood fave Bob Evans, I rarely stray from the breakfast menu. But we’ve talked about this before.

I hope you’re not sick of pumpkin yet, because it’s not going anywhere anytime soon! Still to come: pumpkin cookies, cupcakes, oatmeal and cake bars.

Pumpkin Pancakes
(Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

Makes about 6 medium pancakes

Ingredients*:
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 2/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk (I used skim)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butterscotch chips

Directions:
1. Grease large skillet and place over medium-low heat.
2. Meanwhile, combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients and whisk until just combined.
3. Add pumpkin puree and candy chips. Stir until evenly incorporated.
4. Pour batter onto heated skillet to desired size. Cook until batter becomes bubbly then flip. Cook another 2-3 minutes**. Avoid flipping pancakes more than once.
5. Repeat until all batter is used. Serve pancakes warm and top with whipped cream and/or syrup.

*Proportions of ingredients for the recipe shown here were increased from the original recipe to make the amount I needed. That is why some of the measurements seem a bit odd.

**Tip- If you are anything like me, waiting on pancakes to took can make you very impatient. But it really is best to cook pancakes on low heat for a longer period of time, rather than turning up the heat to cook them more quickly.

Double Chocolate Cupcake for a Birthday Boy!

Happy 5th Birthday to my Sweet Mauro!


             
I cannot believe this precious boy, who I am blessed enough to call my cousin, is FIVE YEARS OLD today. I started babysitting him on a very regular basis when I was still in high school and he was just a few months old. We have the most special bond and I am about to tear up just thinking about it! 
I missed him soooo much when I moved to Charleston for college. I was extremely homesick in general those first several weeks away at school, so my mom bought me a flight home just in time for Mauro’s first birthday party! I was so excited I got to go and even more excited to surprise my Aunt Angela, Mauro’s mom (since I knew Mauro wouldn’t actually know the difference whether I was there or not). 
There he is about to dig into his 1st Birthday cupcake.
Although I would love more than anything to be with him to celebrate his 5th birthday today, I can’t. That is why I am sending my love and birthday wishes through the internet. 
Mauro, you’re in kindergarden now so maybe you can read this? You always were the smartest baby I knew. (Seriously people, he is a genius). I love you and miss you SO much! 
I will enjoy this double chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting for the both of us today. I owe you one you can eat for yourself next time I see you. 
Happy Birthday Mauro!!! 
I hope everyone has a great day. We’re half way through the week, YAY!
Double Chocolate Cupcakes (For Two)
(Adapted from Dessert For Two)
Makes 2 large cupcakes
Ingredients:
1/3 cup flour
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a standard size muffin tin, place paper liners in two wells and fill the remaining wells half way with water (to allow for even cooking).
2. In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder. 
3. In a separate small bowl combine oil, vanilla and brown sugar until well combined.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, alternating between oil mixture and milk. Stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into the two muffin tin liners and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
6. Let cool completely before frosting with your choice of flavor (I used Pillsbury Vanilla). Top with sprinkles if desired. 

Can I Take Your Order?

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It will be the debut of my first completed order of cookies.

Not that I have ever had an uncompleted order. But this one was close. Thanks to FedEx, the shipment didn’t make it to their destination in Columbus on time. The cookies were supposed to make their appearance on Sunday at the Ohio State vs. Michigan soccer game. Apparently the delivery man doesn’t understand the seriousness of delicately decorated baked goods arriving on time.

Someone in my household was telling me I needed to “simmer down.” He thought I was getting too worked up over the whole thing. This someone, like Mr. FedEx Man, doesn’t realize how important a cookie delivery is either.

It’s ok, I understand. Maybe there was something more important to delivery, like…a baby? Yeah right. FedEx delivery man, consider yourself forgiven this time. But next time you may not be so lucky.

Anyway, back to the food.

My cousin Sage plays soccer for OSU, so my aunt and uncle placed the order for the tailgate they were having before the game.

I was thrilled to have business and couldn’t wait to get started on their custom order! I knew I would stick with my go-to sugar cookie recipe. I have been making them a lot lately. But these would be the best ones yet.

I made soccer balls….

…A little more challenging than I was expecting, but I thought they turned out so cute!
I also made various other OSU themed designs. 
#5 for my favorite soccer player…which was also my number back in my water polo-playing days. So sentimental. 
Ok, I know these ones look a little purple. I wasn’t going crazy mixing up my team colors, but it was hard to make gray from scratch! Have you ever tried? I thought a little black mixed with white made gray. Apparently it makes purple. 
Lesson learned.
I know there is no way the icing designs on the cookies stayed this crisp on their extra long voyage north. Even if I hadn’t packed them like the biggest baking amateur in the world, four days of traveling in the heat probably didn’t keep them looking their best.
I heard they still look great, but I’m a little nervous to know exactly what that means. 

So, if you happen to be one of those people at the tailgate tomorrow that see my cookies, just remember…they really did look good at one point! See above for proof 🙂

Thank you SO much to my Uncle Matt and Aunt Maria who gave me my first real business in what I hope will become much larger over the next few years. I really wish the cookies had made it for the tailgate for the Michigan game, but at least the Buckeyes won. Now everyone can enjoy them before the even more important game tomorrow against the defending national champs!

O-H!….



Cheesy Apple Sandwiches

A few months ago I was introduced to the cheese and apple combination. Now that I think about it, I always knew the two went well together. Cheese plates are often served with fruits like apples and grapes. And I love a good cheese plate (wine required).

I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the sandwich for the first time, but kind of forgot about it until yesterday. I didn’t have any regular bread in the house, but did have Arnold Sandwich Thins. I love those things by the way. So that was the first variation. The second? I have been dying for a grilled cheese sandwich, and thought a grilled apple and cheese sandwich would be just as good!

Well, I was only partly right. It was good. But I liked it better on normal sandwich bread. Sandwich thins don’t toast as well. As much as I love them, they are best left in their natural form.
I also used provolone cheese, when cheddar is really the way to go. I knew this instantly after my first bite, so I jumped up from my seat to grab the cheddar and tucked some inside the sandwich. The cheddar helped liven up the sandwich, in flavor and color. And we all know how important it is for the food to look pretty. I really liked the combination of different cheeses, rather than just one over the other. 
Unfortunately, I was too hungry to get this cheesy model back in a presentable condition for photographs. I ate her without giving her a second chance with the camera.
It may not look like anything fancy, and it’s not, but if you need a light, simple sandwich to throw together, this is a good choice. 

But it can use some work. I’ll let you know when it reaches perfection 🙂
Have you ever made grilled apple and cheese sandwiches? Are there any other ingredients that go well with them?
Cheesy Apple Sandwich
Makes 1 sandwich
Ingredients:
1 Sandwich thin (or two slices of your choice of bread)
2 teaspoons butter
1/3 medium apple, sliced
1-2 slices of cheese (I recommend using at lease one slice of cheddar)
Directions:
1. Heat skillet over medium heat. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. 
2. Place one slice of bread, butter-side down on skillet and top with cheese and apple slices. Lay other slice of bread on top, butter-side up. 
3. Cook 1-2 minutes. Flip sandwich and cook another 1-2 minutes. 
4. Remove from heat and serve warm. 

Sunday Blessings – Always By Our Side

“Footprints in the Sand” is one of my favorite poems. Most have you have probably read it countless times, but in case you haven’t read it, it is about how God carries us through the difficult times in our lives. He is constantly by our side and lifting us up when we need him the most. 
If that is not encouraging, I don’t know what is.
I love this verse too:
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
-Deuteronomy 31:6

Poems and Bible verses about courage, strength and fearlessness lift me up more than any others. No matter how big or small a problem is that I am dealing with, reading something like that verse above always usually works to keep me positive. I’m only human and I will make the mistake of not trusting God at times. 
Even though my brothers can carry Brooke and I through the sand, we live most of our lives hundreds of miles apart from each other. God is right next to us throughout the entire day. 
I have learned that God will always take care of me as long as I put my faith in him. He is there for us to lean on and ask for help when we need it. Not only is He there for us, but he actually wants us to ask him for help.
I remember the weeks leading up to and following my graduation in May. I was beginning to panic because I did not have a job lined up. I had interviewed for a couple of positions, but nothing was looking too good. I was becoming desperate and about to start applying for waitress positions, something I really did not want to have to do. I remember going to the pool most afternoons (that was one perk of being jobless- I could lay at the pool all day and work on my tan!) and closing my eyes to pray as hard as I could that God would help me find the right job. I was scared and asked him to somehow help me figure out how I was going to pay for everything I needed in life. 
Then one day, I had just finished moving out of my old apartment and into the new one when I got the phone call offering me the job. I was ecstatic. I realized God had been looking out for me the whole time. Not only was He teaching me to trust Him, but He was also teaching me about patience. I can’t expect my prayers to be answered instantly, but they will be answered in God’s time. 
Just this past week, I had to call on Him for courage to speak with people about touchy subjects and to motivate me to get out of bed early in the morning to fit a workout into my day. He provides me with mental and physical strength, and sometimes even puts me through a little pain in the form of a headache to let me know I’m overworking myself. But He always relieves that pain after a nice nap 🙂 
When God helps me through these smaller challenges, it prepares me for when I need Him for the bigger things. He’s a smart man (or woman maybe?…but I honestly doubt it). He knows what he is doing with our lives and trusting in Him is all we can do. 

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Ahhh. Fall is officially here. Cool weather and all. Ok, not quite cool weather. But it’s only been around 85 degrees! Compared to 95 or 100, it feels pretty nice.

With the start of fall, like many many others, I am looking forward to all of the pumpkin coming back into my life. Or should I say, I am looking forward to all of the pumpkin that will be in. my. belly.

I haven’t yet purchased my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte this season (although I did buy a pumpkin scone last week). Since it is still fairly warm outside, I wanted to find a more refreshing way to enjoy pumpkin without the heat of a hot latte.

Enter: Chilled Pumpkin Spice Smoothie.

I was hesitant to open a whole can of pumpkin when I knew I would only need a portion of it for this smoothie. I hate letting food go to waste more than ANYTHING. I figured it would be worth it and I would just have to come up with something pumpkin again tomorrow. And the next day if necessary. 
For this smoothie, I researched some different recipes, but came up with my own combination of ingredients. 
I have had trouble with smoothies in the past–mostly not being able to get the right consistency. Either too runny, too icy or too bland. 
The smoothie angels were on my side with this one though. Without using any ice, I was able to make a truly smooth smoothie. It was thick enough not to suck it down completely in a matter of seconds, but thin enough to drink through the straw at a leisurely pace. 

Yes, consuming at a leisurely pace is an important factor in determining the quality of a smoothie. Of course you want it to be enjoyable, but that also means you want it to last for as long as possible, right?
Because when drinking a relatively healthy smoothie tastes like eating a big slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, that is something worth dragging out as long as possible. 
Drink this precious pumpkin treat sitting on your couch in your pajamas, or take it to work in a travel mug. Either way, enjoy every last sip.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
Makes 1 smoothie (about 12oz)
Ingredients:
1 banana, frozen and sliced
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (I used non-fat)
1/4 cup milk (I used skim)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
2 tablespoons whipped cream for topping (optional)
Directions:
1. Combine first five ingredients in blender. Blend on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, or until fully mixed.
2. Add pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend on low speed for another 10-15 seconds. 
3. Pour smoothie into glass and top with whipped cream. 
(For a chilled smoothie, pour into glass and place in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before drinking)