Easy, Scrumptious Apple Dumpling Cobbler

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(Becky, the Mama.)

What is it about being snowed in that turns even makes even the most anti-cooking folks fire up the oven and don an apron? Here’s a recipe that is not only easy to make, and scrumptious,  but will make your house smell like Pure Love.

I know, I know… the last recipe I posted was an apple dessert, too.  But as you read in that post,  I had somehow purchased THREE  huge bags of apples and so, forgive me,  but since I am still up to my ears in apples…. here’s another  fabulous apple recipe I created that used up the last of my surplus.   You’ll take one bite and think, “Oh. My. Goodness. This tastes like my grandmother’s home-made apple dumplings.”  (And if you didn’t have an Apple Dumpling-Baking-Granny,  the Apple Dumplings at Cracker Barrel are a pretty close second.)

A few decades ago, my mother went through a spell of baking Apple Dumplings from a recipe in the red and white checked Better & Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  They were delicious!  People raved about them and begged for more.   But they were also a LOT of trouble.   For my taste they were also a little too sweet and there was too much pastry-to-apples ratio.

This recipe is ridiculously fast and easy and creates a just-right-sweet “cobbler” of apples that make their own “dumplin’ syrup” and is topped with just one flaky pastry crust (thank you Pillsbury for making this part simple, too). Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in Apple Dumplin’ Gang Heaven.

One hint:  the only time-consuming part of this dish is peeling and chopping apples.  To make this effort go faster, conscript every able-bodied adult and child over 8 years-old to come in the kitchen and peel at least 2 apples each, while you do the chopping. Promise them they will be sweetly rewarded for their labor.

Finally, a little bit of fun news from “First Magazine for Women” (you will often see this at  grocery check-out counters).  Last week the editor of the magazine gave a lovely review for our book, Nourished.  Here’s a picture of the article:

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As long as you are huddled up inside eating dumplings this week you might as well buy a copy of our funny, uplifting, practical book to cozy up and read as well.  🙂  And our heart-felt thanks to those of you who have already read the book and perhaps posted a review on your blog or on Amazon or sent us a note or email.   We are soooo thankful for your encouragement!  Be sure to join us on our Facebook Fan Page, too, at We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.

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Apple Dumpling Cobbler

6 to 8 peeled, chopped apples (about teaspoon size pieces) to make about 6 cups total

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1 small to medium fresh lemon

1/2 t. salt

1 T. flour

2 T. butter

1 Pillsbury  refrigerated pie crust

Sugar and Cinnamon to sprinkle on top (about 1 T. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon, but just eyeball it to your liking)

Directions

Turn oven to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl put apples, brown and white sugars, flour, spices and  salt.  Mix thoroughly.  Butter a 9 by 11 casserole pan and pour the apple mixture into it.   Squeeze a fresh lemon over the top of the apples and then dot with butter.   Place one Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust on top of the apples, tearing it and patching it (pinch pieces together) to create a rustic, “quilted-together” pastry crust as shown below.   Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.   Note that you just kind of  loosely fold the edges and tuck them around the apples.  I also cut a heart shape in the middle, though as you can see, I am not a pastry artist.  No worries about it looking messy, it will come out delicious and beautiful.

DSC_0198Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden and flaky and apples pierce easily with a fork and the juices are golden brown and syrupy.   Serve warm, using a big spoon to place in bowls,  and top with ice cream.

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Ultimate, Everything Pumpkin Bread (with cherries, nuts, sunflower seeds and cream cheese)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday, Colorado was cool, misty and alive with Fall color.  I snapped this picture out my upstairs bedroom window . Through the window pane and the mist, the photo came out looking like a painting, so beautiful it seemed almost unreal.
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On a day like that, what else is there to do but curl up with a book and a blanket, take a long nap, then wake up, pad to the kitchen and bake pumpkin bread?

I searched for what I hoped would be the perfect recipe for pumpkin bread: I wanted it to be moist, spicy and full of tasty surprises.  I narrowed it down to six recipes.  In the end,  I threw elements from all six recipes into the bowl and pans, adding special tweaks of my own. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d doubled the spices, used both brown and white sugar plus a tad of maple syrup, folded chopped pecans and dried cherries into the batter.  Then I thought, “Why not?”  as I plopped dollops of whipped cream cheese in the middle of the batter. Then I wondered, “What could make a nice sweet n’ salty crunchy top crust?” I reached for brown sugar and roasted salted sunflower seed kernels.  Then I popped the loaves into the oven and waited.  I had created either a masterpiece, or disaster.  I worried I might  have tweaked this recipe to death.

Well, I am pleased to announce the results are in and they are a 10.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the BEST pumpkin bread I have ever tasted, moist with deep flavor and so many treats-to-the-senses per bite: the sweet tartness of the cherries, the smooth bits of cream cheese and satisfying chew of baked-in-pecans.  The crunchy crust… with a hint of salt and sugar..oh. my.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself next time the baking mood hits you on one of these cool fall days that beckon you to the kitchen. And feel free to tweak away and make the recipe even more your own– switch out the dried cherries for any dried fruit you like, or use chocolate chips (hmmm… white chocolate chips? Butterscotch chips?).  Use nuts you prefer or have on hand.  I never let what’s not in my pantry keep me from making a recipe.  Go with what you’ve got,  what sounds good… and most of all,have fun.

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Becky’s Epic Pumpkin Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

3 cups flour 

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. ginger

1/2 t. cloves

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. almond extract (optional)

1 1/2 t. salt 

3 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

4 eggs

2 T. maple syrup

2 cans (16 oz each) pumpkin 

2/3 cup light oil  (I used olive oil as it was all I had on hand.  Worked beautifully.) 

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (can use up to 2/3 cup if you love nuts)

1/2 cup roughly dried cherries or cranberries  (can use up to 2/3 cup if you prefer more dried-fruit-per-bite)

whipped cream cheese ( I used a light variety that comes in a tub)…  about 1/2  to 2/3 cup

For Topping:  

1/4 to 1/3 cup brown or turbinado sugar 

1/3 to 1/2  cup roasted, salted sunflower seed kernels  (If you can find fresh roasted pumpkin seeds this are also delicious instead of the sunflower seed kernels,  as are sliced almonds.)

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add eggs, syrup, pumpkin, oil.  Whisk the wet ingredients together as you slowly incorporate the dry ingredients as well.  Finish stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly folding in pecans and dried cherries.  

Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Pour (or spoon) 1/4 of the batter into each pan, and spread evenly.  Then dollop heaping teaspoons of whipped cream cheese across the surface of the batter in both pans.  Pour the remaining batter over the top of the cream cheese, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Smooth with spatula.

Sprinkle the tops of the batter with brown or turbinado sugar and sunflower seeds.  

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. 

Cool thoroughly before serving.  I think the flavors of this bread get better as it sits and cools.   Freezes beautifully. 

Note: I made this at high altitude with no problem.  Many quick breads use more baking soda, but I just hate the after-taste of baking soda. This option rises perfectly, but without that funky  soda aftertaste…

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Chewy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars with Buttery Chocolate Frosting

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“What WERE those things?” my friend Ingrid asked.  “They were aaaamzing.”

What those “things” were is my new favorite super easy “cookie”  recipe that is impossible to resist.  These chewy, peanutty bars with soft butter chocolate frosting have everything going for them:

First, you probably have the ingredients for them on hand right now.

Secondly, they have fiber and protein to help slow down the absorption of sugar, so  you and your kids or guests can enjoy an indulgent treat with less of a sugar rush.  (I confess to have eaten a couple of them with an ice cold glass of milk and happily called it breakfast.)

They only take about 5 minutes to mix, just 18 to 20 minutes to bake. Cool to the touch, frost, cut and serve a bunch.  This makes them the perfect dessert to bake for last-minute guests, to satisfy a gotta-have-it-now craving for a sweet treat, or make n’ take to a potluck or bake sale.

Making a pan of bar cookies is so much faster and easier than baking cookies… and, I’ve not yet met a cookie I like as well as these peanuty chocolate babies.  Be sure to save the link to this recipe because I think you’ll use it again and again.

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Chewy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Frosting
(24 to 30 bars depending on what size you’d like them to be)
1/2 c. butter (or 1/4 c. coconut oil and 1/4 c. butter)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c.  sugar (I use organic)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour  (or 3/4 c. flour plus 1/4 c. hemp seeds or ground flax  or wheat germ)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. rolled oats
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, course chopped (I actually like them in whole or halved)
Directions:
Beat butter and peanut butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir together flour (Or flour and seed mixture) baking soda and salt, add to beaten mixture and beat until blended, stir in oats and peanutss. Spread mixture into 9″x13″ pan.
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Bake in 350 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Let it cool, then frost with the following:
Buttery Chocolate Frosting
1/4 cup softened butter
2 T. Hershey’s Cocoa
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 to 4 T. milk
Cream butter with cocoa.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and 1 T. of milk.   Mix, adding 1 T of milk at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy and easily spreadable.  Pour over bars, spread evenly to edges.  Cut bars in squares and serve.
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Easy Rustic Cherry Blueberry Pastry-Style Cobbler

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(Becky, the Mama.)  I just returned from bringing this simple cobbler to my pastor Hugh Halter’s new ranch house for a pot luck lunch on the back porch.  It is mid-January but I do believe God decided to borrow a perfect Spring Day from April, and drop it on us today as an early treat.   Hugh is also a passionate author and storyteller (his latest book, Flesh,just released this week), and we share a mutual love of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.  Today he made a yummy creamy lentil soup and a delicious quinoa salad with cranberries, diced sweet potatoes and pears with a light vinaigrette.  What can I say? The man knows his way around the Bible, a horse barn and the kitchen.

So it was no small compliment when he strode out to the back porch and hollered out, “Becky Johnson! Did you make that cobbler?”

“I did,” I said.

“Well, it just changed my life. That might be the best dessert I’ve ever tasted.”

I thought about calling this “Change Your Life Cobbler,” but decided that might be over-promising a wee bit.  But I will tell you that there are few desserts you can make that will garner as many kudos, for as little trouble to make,  as this recipe.  It is one of my standard throw-together-in-a-hurry desserts for a crowd.

Using frozen fruit and Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, you can assemble this dish in about five minutes.  It does take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook, however.  It’s nice to pop in the oven if you are having company for dinner,  while you prepare the rest of the meal.  Or if you are having folks over  for dessert only, pop it in the oven then you can go take a nice bath and get yourself ready for their arrival.   A  little Blue Bell vanilla ice cream on top never hurt anybody.  Some of the crust may sink a little into the berries as it cooks.  No worries as I think this  makes the cobbler tastes even better, with the pastry having different textures. You want it look rustic and free-formed,  like a farmer’s wife just made it.

Try this cobbler with other combinations of fruit,  fresh or frozen.  Peaches, Apples, Rhubarb, and Raspberries would also be delicious. If you like you can add a little cinnamon or nutmeg, vanilla or almond flavoring for variety.

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Easy Rustic Cherry Blueberry Pastry-Style Cobbler

4 cups frozen blueberries (you may also use fresh if in season and on sale)

2 1/2  cups frozen dark sweet pitted cherries

1 1/2 cups sugar (plus 2 more T. for sprinkling on top later)

1/2 c. flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Juice of one fresh lemon

2 T. butter

2 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, unrolled

Directions:

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.

Put the fruit in the biggest bowl you have (can be frozen or thawed at this point).  Toss with sugar, flour, salt and lemon juice.  Pour into a lightly greased, large,  oblong Pyrex pan.

Take small pinches of the butter and dot it all over the top of the fruit.

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Place one pie crust at the end of the pan, and lightly tuck it in to place. Tear the other pie crust in pieces to fit the oblong plan as best you can,  and pinch any seams together, free form, like a patchwork quilt. I like to make an edge and flute it a little bit, but do not worry about making it perfect.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut a few designs in the pastry to allow the juice to steam through.   Sprinkle the top top of the pastry with 2 T. sugar.

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Bake for 1 hour if the fruit is frozen,  for about 45 minutes if thawed.  You want the pastry to be very golden and juice to be thickened.  Let it sit at least 15 to 30 minutes before serving.   Is wonderful plain or with a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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MOIST Chocolate Layer Cake with Buttery Mocha Frosting (& Story of My Daughter’s Unforgettable Birth)

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Today is my daughter’s 30th birthday!  Sadly, Rachel lives too far away to celebrate with in person  today (she is in Texas,  and I am in Colorado). So I’ve had to make do with texts, Facebook posts, emails,  phone calls, Twitter and now, a blog in her honor!

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I have great stories about each of my children’s entrances into the world, but Rachel’s birth story wins the Most Exciting Award, hands down.

She was born three days after Christmas.  From December 23 to December 28, I  was the proverbial pot waiting to boil, only in my case my visiting family  was waiting for me to give birth.  It was the coldest winter on record in Texas and ice had frozen inside the windows.  After enjoying my two sons who were age 3 and 5, I could not help dreaming of a baby girl.  Ultrasound pictures were rare in those days, so we did not know the sex ahead of time.

Because my previous home births had involved long painful labors, when I woke up with contractions this third time around, they weren’t terribly painful.  So I decided to just lie still, on my side,  in the peaceful darkness and labor quietly by the light of the Christmas tree.  I didn’t want to wake my husband, parents or sister who were visiting us over the holidays, until I was sure I needed help.  This plan went surprisingly well, until I felt something like the urge to push.

I decided to wake up my husband with this news.  His eyes grew large as he announced, “Becky, I see the baby’s head!”  This set off a Three Ring Circus with my Dad manning the wall phone in the kitchen talking to the midwife, then shouting directions to my mother who was standing in the living room, who relayed them to my then-husband standing at the end of my bed, like a baseball catcher. My college-aged, organized little sister, who is not fond of feeling out of control was, I believe, hiding in the guestroom taking notes in her journal under“Things I Must Never Ever Do.”

The ice on the highways was so thick, and I’d waited so long to sound the “Baby is Coming!” alarm, that the midwife could not possibly get there before the baby’s entrance.  Rachel slipped into the world and soon, into my arms, fairly easily.  However, she was not breathing on her own, so I reached into our “Home Birth Kit”,  grabbed a suctioning bulb and went to work.  It wasn’t long before she took her first beautiful breath. We looked in each other’s eyes and made friends immediately. I named her Rachel Praise, after my sister Rachel.  Interestingly, the two Rachels in our family both prefer less-crazy, less-messy lives than I’ve lived. Lives where they keep schedules, know what day it is, give birth in hospitals and don’t mind “bothering” other people when they go into labor.  However, all three of us love to laugh and ended up writing books of family humor.  (My sister’s latest is The Well-Lived Laugh –ebook download is just $1.00 this week,  and ours is We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.)

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As soon as I could stand and walk, I scooped up my new daughter and headed to a store, with her big brothers dressed in cowboy boots and hats trailing behind. I walked in and bought 3 lacy bonnets. Before the days of hair bows on stretch lace, it was a frilly bonnet that would say to the world, “Baby GIRL here!” and I wanted the world to know my beautiful newborn was a SHE.

Besides remembering the story of Rachel’s birth (as I do every year on this day in some way),  I decided to have a piece of this incredibly moist and buttery, made-from-scratch homemade chocolate cake in her honor.  In fact, I had it for breakfast… because these are the kinds of sacrifices mothers make for their birthday girls.

This cake is a variation of the famous recipe on the back of Hershey’s Cocoa.  The frosting is extra rich, soft and fluffy – made with lots butter and melted chocolate.

 You are most welcome to join us in celebrating Rachel’s birthday today by whipping up this cake.  Then stand back and watch people swoon.  Seriously it is the kind of chocolate cake that provokes moans not unlike those of Meg Ryan’s in the movie,”When Harry Met Sally”.

Happy Birthday, Dear Rachel!  I am so glad you were born.  So proud of you as a wife and mother.  So thrilled that we got to write a blog and book together this year.  So many good things have happened in the world, because you were born.

 Now, let’s eat cake!

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MOIST, Chocolate Layer Cake with Buttery Mocha Frosting

Ingredients (Adjusted for High Altitude,  See “Normal Altitude*” measurement adjustments below)

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons sugar*

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder*

1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda*

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk*

1/2 cup light oil such as sunflower, canola or light olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 T. instant coffee (or 1 cup strong hot coffee, brewed)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.  I use Pam spray.  Then cut a circle of wax or parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan.  Re-spray the top of parchment with Pam lightly.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Carefully, stir in hot coffee, with the mixer on low, or use a hand whisk.  The batter will be very thin. Pour batter evenly  into prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with fluffy mocha frosting.

  • Normal Altitude Measurements:  2 cups sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup milk
  • Vegans: substitute milk with soy or almond milk; use Earth Balance Butter Sticks in place of dairy butter, and Ener-G Egg replacer for eggs.

Buttery Mocha Frosting

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or morsels  (Vegans use dairy-free chocolate chips)
1 cup  (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature (really important this be at room temp)  (Vegans use Earth balance butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 – 5  Tablespoons Strong coffee, cooled

Carefully melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or use the microwave but watch carefully, only nuking 10 seconds at a time, just until you can stir it smoothly.

Beat the butter until it is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, the melted chocolate,  and then add one tablespoon of coffee at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy and will spread easily, but don’t whip it.  Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

This cake is best served at room temperature.    If I make it a day ahead, I put it in the fridge and then let the cake sit at room temperature for several hours so the frosting will soften up to serve the next day. My favorite way to handle leftovers (if there are any) is to cut slices and wrap them individually, very well,  in plastic wrap.  Then when I want a piece, I unwrap it and put it on a place, and microwave it about 15 seconds to soften.

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Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars

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I just returned home to Denver after a fabulous road trip with my husband Greg, to visit my daughter (co-author, co-blogger, co-conspirator), Rachel and her little family in Texas.

Her little boy Jackson, the most cheerful 2 year-old in the Lone Star State, greeted us at the door as if we’ve never been gone, and we were instant buddies again.

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We loved watching him play in his “beach” (sandbox), help his dad out with yard work….

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and make himself at home in the kitchen.

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(He disappeared for 20 seconds and Rachel found Jackson eating this tub of vegan butter, and when she took it from him – quick as a flash, he grabbed another unopened tub and ran with it to the other side of the house, as if the butter tub was a football and he was toddler quarterback.)

Speaking of football and butter…. funny lady Anita Renfro posted this cartoon yesterday that cracked me up, because this could easily be me and Rachel watching Chopped, while our husbands watch Monday Night Football.

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And speaking of cooking and football…

I just may have created the perfect football snack. These Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars are a cross between a granola bar, a Pay Day candy bar,  a Reeses and Rice Crispy Treats.  They are also vegan, gluten-free (if you use gluten-free oats), chocked full of protein, healthy fiber, Omega 3s.  But your guests and kids will never guess these treats are mostly good for them.

The great thing about this basic recipe is that you can really be creative with what you like, and what you have on hand to make it your own.  They are perfect to tuck into your kids’ lunches.  Kids prefer these to cookies, in fact, and you can be sure that they are getting plenty of fiber and protein to help slow the absorption of sugar.  So no sugar crashes as happens so often with cookies.

Go, Team, Go!

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Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars

½ cup peanut butter (I used the natural kind)

½ cup agave nectar (you can substitute honey or brown rice syrup if you prefer)

1 ½ T. coconut oil (or olive oil)

2 T. pure maple syrup

¼ cup brown sugar

½ t. sea salt

1 t. vanilla

2 cups oats (use gluten-free oats if you want to make this recipe gluten free)

2 cups cocoa crisped rice cereal  (I used a brand from the natural cereal section)

½ cup hemp seed or wheat germ or flax meal

2/3 cup chopped peanuts (I used a mixture of plain roasted and honey nut. They were already in fairly small pieces so I didn’t chop them.)

Directions:

Preheat 350 degree

In a saucepan mix the first 6 ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add vanilla.  In a large bowl  place oats, rice cereal, hemp seed (or wheat germ or flax), and nuts.  Pour the hot peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and combine well. Pour all into a pan that has been greased with coconut oil or olive oil. Pat the mixture down firmly, using a piece of plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to your hands.

Bake for 15 minutes, let cool and then let harden in fridge (or freezer, if you are in a hurry).  Then using a sharp knife, cut into squares or rectangles.  (Or footballs, if you are feeling creative!)

Variations: Add coconut, chocolate chips or dried fruit. Use other nuts besides peanuts, and another nut butter instead of peanut butter, especially if you worry about peanut allergies.  Almonds and almond butter or cashews and cashew butter would be delicious. Try another kind of crispy, light cereal for cocoa rice crisp cereal.  (I have used Corn Chex, crushed, with good results.)

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Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Pie with Warm Fudge Sauce

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This week marked our wedding anniversary. I asked my six-year-old grandson George if he’d like to help me make an “Anniversary Pie” for his Poppy.
“Is it your secret recipe?” he asked. (He saw a cooking show where some chef talked about a secret recipe and has been curious about any “secret recipes” I might have lurking in my brain.)

“Yes!” I said. “It will be OUR secret recipe because I’m making it up right now, with you.”

“How long have you and Poppy been married?” Georgie asked.

“For nine years now!”

“And you and Poppy never fight and you never died! You did good!”

Forget Disneyland. In my husband’s arms is my happiest place on earth.

 

Indeed, that might be the hallmark of a great marriage: you don’t fight and you don’t die. In fact, in a great marriage, you thrive, you blossom, you grow.

Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook Status about Greg, my husband, the Love of My Life:
“Nine years ago today, I married Greg Johnson, and each day of those nine years have been the happiest and most peaceful, fulfilling and giving, romantic and stable of my entire life. When you live with someone whose eyes always mirror love, delight, acceptance… when you know you are cherished every moment of every day, it changes you into the best possible version of yourself. And you have so much more to give to the world, because your brain is no longer working so hard to simply try to survive or make sense of your life. Being well loved expands your capacity to love and be more present to others. I love and adore you, Mr. Johnson for who you are and who you have helped me become when I am with you. Who knew marriage could really be like this, ‘after all these years’?

A wonderful marriage is definitely worth celebrating. One of my husband’s favorite treats is mint chocolate chip ice cream. One of my favorite treats is warm chocolate sauce. This ice cream pie, like us, is the perfect marriage of both.

Now that I’ve shared our secret to a happy marriage (choose to cherish each other daily), I’ll go ahead share my “secret recipe” (shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone) for this absolutely mouth-watering, silly-easy, pie. It’s wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day, and you’ll spend just a few minutes in the kitchen putting it together.

And speakin’ of happy marriages, and the color green…  our lime green book, Nourished, is full of tips to nourish both your own life and your marriage! grunge image of a field

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Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Pie with Warm Fudge Sauce

Ingredients:
One pre-made chocolate graham cracker or chocolate cookie pie shell
1 quart of your favorite chocolate chip ice cream (I’m from Texas and partial to Blue Bell “the best ice cream in the country”)
One recipe chocolate sauce (below)
About 10 Andes Mint Candies

Chocolate Sauce
1 c. half n’ half
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ t. vanilla
Pinch salt

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Instructions:

Let ice cream soften just enough so that you can scoop and pack it into pre-made chocolate pie shell. Decorate the top of the ice cream pie with Andes Chocolate Mints, by cutting them at a diagonal and placing around the pie in a pretty design.

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Cover with plastic wrap and let harden in freezer.
Simmer half n’ half in a small saucepan, add the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and well mixed.  Add vanilla and salt. Remove from stove and let cool until warm but not piping hot. (Leftover sauce will keep in fridge for a week or more.  Just microwave a few seconds to reheat and liquefy.)

Cut and serve the ice cream pie, drizzling some of the warm sauce over the top and serve immediately.

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Crunchy Amaretto French Toast

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I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point Sunday nights became our traditional Breakfast-for-Dinner Night.  In addition, when someone is feeling poorly, breakfast may be summoned at anytime of day.  There’s something comforting about a bowl of soft scrambled eggs and buttered toast when you aren’t feeling quite up to par

Yesterday, my six-year-old grandson Georgie battled a headache off and on all day. By evening, when  I got him in our tub — usually a special treat because it is so big — he looked a sad figure, sitting there in the water, holding his forehead in his hand. “Nonny,” he said pitifully,”will you please go to my Mom’s bathroom and get the Ocean Breeze soap that she usually uses? I just can’t deal with other people’s soap right now.”

I am pretty sure this will be our family’s new phrase in response to generic overwhelm: “I just can’t deal with other people’s soap right now.”  Whether your family enjoys  a traditional “Breakfast for Dinner Night,” or someone’s needing a little comfort food or “you just can’t deal with other’s people’s soap anymore,” here’s a dish sure to comfort and please, anytime of day or night.

I love French Toast, but when the bread has not only been dipped in egg (flavored with Amaretto) but also coated with a thin layer of  sliced almonds before being grilled in butter… well, as my husband Greg said, “That’s the best French toast I’ve ever had in my life.”  Top these crunchy, almondy French toast with butter, fresh sliced strawberries, real maple syrup and serve with a side of sizzling bacon or sausage and your day (whether it’s morning or evening) will take a sharp and instant turn for the cheerier.  And vegans, do not worry! There’s a terrific vegan alternative for this recipe at the end of the post.

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Crunchy Amoretto French Toast

Serves Two (Makes 4 pieces of toast)

4 slices bread (I’m partial to potato bread for French toast)

2 large eggs, beaten

2 T. almond milk (or dairy milk)

1 t. almond flavoring or amaretto liqueur

Small pinch salt

¼ c. sliced almonds

2 t. butter plus 1 t. olive oil for pan

Sliced fresh strawberries (or any kind of berries you like) – about ¼ cup per person

Softened butter and genuine maple syrup

Heat skillet to medium high, melting the butter with the olive oil and mixing in the pan with the edge of a pancake turner.  In a low wide bowl mix beaten eggs, milk, almond flavoring or liqueur and pinch salt. Dip bread, both sides, into the egg mixture, shaking off excess.  Lay each piece carefully in the hot skillet, and then sprinkle the tops, evenly, with about a tablespoon of the sliced almonds. Using the back of the spatula pat the nuts into the bread with gentle pressure (this will help them stick when you turn the bread).  When the bottom of the toast is getting golden brown, gently turn the bread with a wide pancake turner,  and cook until the almond-side of the toast is  golden, fragrant, toasty and crunchy.  Top with berries, soft butter and a nice drizzle of real maple syrup.

Vegan Version. Use 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk plus 1 T. flour, 1 T. nutritional yeast (gives it an “eggy flavor”) and 1 T. maple syrup and 1 t. almond flavoring or amaretto for the “egg  mixture.”  Substitute vegan butter for the dairy butter.   This will actually coat six pieces of French toast rather than four.

More Variations:  Try adding cinnamon or nutmeg to the egg batter; or use orange juice instead of almond milk and a bit of orange zest. Thawed, heated sweetened previously frozen dark sweet cherries would also be wonderful with this. Substitute vanilla or rum flavoring for the amaretto or almond.

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Banana Nut Soft Serve [Two Ingredients, Dairy-Free, Sugar Free]

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Jackson is 22 months old now and at that stage where he’s learning new words every day and starting to string together words to make phrases and sentences like these:

“Hoo Hoo” (Whoohoo whith his hands thrown in the air.)

“Cool man” (I don’t know where he picked up this phrase, but it’s super cute.)

“Yayyy, I did it!” (Even if he didn’t actually do whatever IT is, he celebrates every little effort with such enthusiasm. It’s contagious.)

“Leeeeeet’s GO!” (That combined with “Run momma” is turning him into a little personal trainer!)

“Yes.” (Finally, he is saying “yes,” instead of always “no,” in the most adorably assertive and confident way.)

Of course, with this precious phase, also comes the less than adorable phrases, like “Chur turn” (Your turn…which actually means my turn. And it’s always “chur turn”) and “Miiiine!”

My favorite phrase of late, though, is “Tank choo ma ma.” He emphasizes each syllable and I can tell he really has to work to say it. It’s a sweet labor of love and it’s reserved for his truly most satisfying moments of deep gratitude, like when I served him chocolate “ice cream” made of bananas and cocoa for a morning snack last week. “Choc! Tank choo ma ma!”

This idea for banana soft serve has been circulating for years. It’s not new, but I’ve turned a few people toward it this week with my Instagram picture of Jackson enjoying his morning ice cream treat and thought maybe some of our readers have yet to try it as well. The basic recipe is just frozen bananas processed in a blender. It’s magical! The bananas just whip right into a thick creamy soft serve that is delicious on it’s own. You can make all sorts of flavors: chocolate peanut butter, strawberry banana, cinnamon and sugar…wherever your taste buds take you. This version is one of my favorites. You can use peanut butter instead of peanuts, but I really love the texture and flavor from the whole peanuts.

Ready in under five minutes, it makes the perfect healthy summer snack, or even breakfast. You’ll earn some serious cool mom or dad points putting a bowl of this in front of your kids first thing in the morning!

Peanut Banana Soft Serve

Banana Nut Soft Serve

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 frozen bananas, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons peanuts (I used organic unsalted)
sprinkle of sea salt (unless peanuts are salted)

Directions

Put ingredients in a food processor and blend, stopping and scraping the sides as needed until it turns to the texture of a thick soft serve ice cream. Then stop. You don’t want to over blend or it will have more of a melty soft serve texture (not bad, but not as good either).

Peanut Banana Ice Cream

For this portion size, I use the smallest bowl on my food processor so I don’t have to stop and scrape the sides as often.  (It will be very loud at first, that’s okay, just be prepared.)

Serve immediately with a few extra peanuts and another sprinkle of sea salt on top for some extra crunch. I’ve heard this does not refreeze well, though I’ve never had any left to try. 🙂 You can buy yourself a little time keeping it chilled in the freezer, but it’s best to serve right away.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Banana Nut Soft Serve
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ZP

 

Have you made Banana Soft Serve?

What are your favorite flavor combinations?

What are your favorite toddler phrases and phases?

 

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook ThumbnailA little book update:

Zondervan, our publisher, has been so supportive of our book (coming out August 6). We’re having such a great publishing experience! They just decided to do an audio version of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook and invited my mom and I to record it. One of us will be recording in the studio most of the week, each of us having two 5-7 hour days in studio. Prayers for good health appreciated. The following week I’m heading to Colorado (with Jackson in tow) to join mom for a photo shoot for a major Christian publication. We’re so grateful for all the encouragement and support we’ve received…and for our fabulous readers at the blog.

We also got all of the endorsements in for the book. Wow! We are floored by the generosity of our fellow authors. Click on the picture of the book above to read the endorsements and find lots of knew authors to friend and follow.


Trail Mix Parfaits

Trail Mix Parfaits

I have to admit, I’ve not been doing a lot of recipe creating lately. With the book editing and recipe testing process, I think I’ve caught a case of creativity burnout. When this happens, I know it’s time to break out my cookbooks and open up my pinterest boards and go back to where my passion for cooking began: following recipes. Following a good recipe is like doing a puzzle. Corners go here,  edges go there, this piece goes here, this piece goes there … and before you know it you’ve methodically created something new and complete … and lovely … and hopefully delicious, in the case of recipes.

When I haven’t been following other people’s recipes lately, I’ve been throwing together salads and smoothies from the greens in my garden.  This is my first year to have a garden. I’ve already killed all the tomatoes and peppers and most of the herbs, but my greens are growing like weeds. I’ve not made anything terribly innovate with them yet, but oh my goodness, the simple pleasure of walking out my back door, picking some fresh spinach or swiss chard and enjoying a meal with it minutes later. I have been missing out!

I plan on doing a garden post and a recipe round up post soon with some of the hits during my recipe creating hiatus and my adventures as a newbie gardener.

Though my creativity neurons took a leave of absence, I think they may be slowly returning. I’ve made a few very simple recipes the last few days that have knocked my socks off. Like canteloupe dressed with honey, lime, and cayenne pepper or Tajin seasoning. So simple, yet so delicious. Or like yesterdays breakfast, a Trail Mix Parfait: layered ingredients you’d typically find in trail mix, like nuts and seeds and dried fruit and chocolate, slightly warmed and topped with diced bananas. Can I just say, yum!! I just had it again and thought, maybe I finally have a recipe worth blogging after my long dry spell. It’s kind of a recipe that’s almost not a recipe, but it’s so good, it’s worth putting out there anyway. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Other noteworthy updates:

  • I’m guest pinning this week at The Christian Mama’s Guide facebook page on Cooking with Kids. Come join us there for fun ideas to get your kids excited about food. Just in time for summer when the kids will be home “helping” you in the kitchen, whether you like it or not!
  • My lovely co-blogger and mother had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I totally missed a chance to do a birthday post. Mom, I love you! Happy Birthday. I cannot believe we get to share so much of our life together, from work to play, even when we are far away.
  • Jackson and I are heading to Colorado this week to spend a few days at my mom’s. We’re taking publicity pictures for the book, having a meeting with our editor about the next book, and hopefully spending some quality time cooking together in the kitchen … with Jackson and my nephew George sitting on the counter helping us. 🙂

And now for that recipe I promised….

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Trail Mix Parfaits

Serves 1

1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, mixed nuts–I like unsalted walnuts or pecans best)
2 tablespoons dried fruit (like raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, or bananas)
1 tablespoon seeds (like hemp, sunflower, chias, or sesame)
2 tablespoons chocolate chips (I like the dairy-free, soy-free ones by Enjoy Life)
2 tablespoons diced bananas or yogurt (like So Delicious Coconut Yogurt)

Directions

In a glass bowl or glass, layer nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and chocolate chips. Warm in microwave for 30 seconds or until chocolate just starts to melt. Don’t let chocolate burn. Top with bananas and/or yogurt. Enjoy.

If you gently stir it as you eat, the chocolate will coat the rest of the trail mix. Oooey, gooey gooodness.

If you gently stir it as you eat, the chocolate will coat the rest of the trail mix. Oooey, gooey gooodness.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Trail Mix Parfaits
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Xv