Upscale Brownie Bites

I love to cook, and bake.  There are two places I can be found when my mind is full, and that’s in a kitchen, or writing.  I’m a bit fonder of the results from my kitchen…or maybe I’m just more confident in them.  In all my kitchen endeavors, I seem to be known most for my baking.  This means every time we are invited somewhere, asked to bring something, or help out with food, I’m assigned dessert.  And I DO NOT mind a bit.  However, sometimes those things pile up.  Before you know it you’re taking cupcakes to the baseball party, end of the year party, and have to throw something together for those people coming over all in the same day.  Like I said, I DO NOT mind this.  But sometimes I have to shut down the perfectionistic and creative side that would love to make something fantastic, delicious, and spend all day in the kitchen doing so.  Sometimes, you just gotta get ‘er done, and not care if Creme Anglaise is a part of it or not.  So when I want fun with a little fancy and more importantly easy, I pull this out.

 

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There is one box mix in my pantry at all times, and only one.  I have tried lots and lots of brownie recipes from scratch, and they just don’t compare.  So whatever, Ghirardelli for life.  My one caveat to the directions is to add coconut oil instead of the canola/vegetable oil as directed.  It adds great flavor, and is healthier.  A dash or two of cinnamon and pinch of cayenne make things really fun if you’re feeling adventurous!

 

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I pour them in a mini muffin tin, sprayed with coconut oil and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Run a knife gently around them while still warm to help loosen them a bit.  Let cool completely then remove from pan.  You could stop right here and throw them on a plate, but I like to go a step further.  While the brownies are baking I make some ganache (recipe and directions here).  As I pop them out of the tin, I dunk the tops of them in ganache and lay them out for the chocolate to firm up a bit.  I then throw some berries (any kind will do) on top.  Blueberries and raspberries are pretty easy to plop on; for the strawberries I cut slits and spread them out like a fan, making those a bit more time consuming.  If you have mint or basil in your garden, throw a few sprigs on top (it adds great flavor too!) and you’re ready to go!

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These are great little hand held bites that are perfect for places where portability is key.  And they’re so pretty.  And easy.  And yummy.  And you should make them.  I won’t judge if only half of them make it to their intended destination because the others made it into your mouth.  That may or may not have happened here.  Maybe my intended destination was my mouth.

Parenting the Hard Ones

It’s been a hard day of parenting.  Like fall on the couch after they’re all in bed and start crying sort of day.

There was intentional disobedience, intention to harm, and then lots of lying…all in front of others.  And that was just one of them.

Maybe you don’t have a challenging kid.  Maybe your kid(s) is the one that listens when you tell them not to do something, and when they do something wrong, they fess up.  Enjoy that.  Thank God for that.  You may not relate to a lot of this post.

If however, you regularly find yourself dealing with similar situations that I described above, or constant challenging, disobedience, testing of the rules, etc., welcome to parenting a strong-willed, stubborn, maybe even rebellious kid.  I have two.  Payback really does suck, because I was that kid.  Sorry mom and dad.

It’s not easy to parent children like that.  It’s not easy to parent period, but this type seems to especially suck you dry of parental energy.  It’s REALLY hard to not discipline out of anger, or frustration, or dissapointment.  It’s an extreme challenge to parent in a Godly way regardless of your kids disposition.  In my somewhat short journey in attempting to do so these are a few things that have helped me in the process.
Parenting the Hard Ones

1. Label it.  For me, it’s been easier to see the personality for what it is, label my kids with it, and know that it’s a natural disposition.  One of my children literally came out stubborn.  The other started showing signs around 10 months.  The label isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, where I excuse their actions due to their nature.  It helps me remember that these tendencies aren’t indicative of something I did wrong, am not doing right, or even contributed to.  They are not behaving this way to disappoint or frustrate me.   They aren’t trying to overthrow me (although somedays it may really feel like it).  It’s just the way they are.  Which leads to…

2. Remember it’s a good thing.  There are times when I’m just so tired of the fight, and being intentional in how I parent.  Saying the same things day in and day out, for YEARS, and it still not getting through.  It’s then I try to remember that this personality type is a really great thing.  These are the world changers, the company CEO’s, risk takers and leaders.  I’ve loved this quote from Steve Jobs to help me keep it in perspective:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Sometimes I have to calm down and remind myself, that I am helping contribute and parent one of these potentials.  That molding, shaping and focusing any human is hard…especially those that fight it every step of the way; but how I shape their world, determines how they will shape theirs.

3. Walk away.  Maybe you don’t have an anger issue.  I didn’t think I did either until my kid pulled it out of me.  One of our biggest goals as parents is to never discipline angry.  This often means a long time in their room (or crib, back in the day) before discussions or consequences occur, and often more after.

4. Get to the heart.  Talk it out.  WHY are they doing it?  Not just the temporary results (wanted to, didn’t want to get in trouble, wanted to seem cool to others, etc). The deep roots.  For us this is where faith comes in.  Sin is why we all disobey, what sin is at the root of the action, spurring on the behavior?  I often have to ask myself this same questions.

5. Repent.  Apologize.  There really is an art to apologies, and it turns out very few adults know it.  We want to teach our kids how to apologize, mainly by example.  They see us apologize to each other, to others, and to them.  We have to apologize a lot.  One of my constant reminders when my kids say sorry is to say it in a sentence.  For example “I’m sorry I _____”.  I have a general rule that if there is an “if” or “but”, it’s not an apology.  Apologizing is important, not just to others, but to God.  We first need to apologize to Him for what we did, then to others.  As my kids get older I’ve found them at times, so grieved by the act of apologizing to God and to others, that I’ll wave additional consequences.

6. Love. After major instances (like today), I’ll often just spend a chunk of time with the guilty party talking it through (see #4).  While we are doing that, we usually are laying together, they’re sitting in my lap, or I’m holding their hands.  I don’t know about you, but when I do really dumb stuff, I want someone to hug me.  I want my children to know that just like Jesus, even when we do dumb things, that doesn’t make Him/us love less.  I may not like the choices/actions, but I always love them.  I want to love my kids like Christ has loved me.  Selflessly, not caught up in my hurt or embarassment, being gracious and patient.  Just like in my own life, a lot of time when I’m being a complete moron, it’s because I need to spend time with my Abba, Father.  I think they are the same way, needing to spend time with their Abba, Father, and their earthly parents, loving, affirming them, and pointing them back to Christ and being a physical representation of His love to them.

Parenting the Hard Ones

Being a parent is the hardest, most challenging job I’ve ever had.  Some days (like today) it’s draining, physically, mentally and emotionally.  You doubt your efforts and abilities.  You start to view your children and raising them as a burden and hassle instead of a gift and opportunity to positively affect the next generation (just me?).  I want to parent well, I believe we all do.  I want my kids to see Jesus in how I discipline and parent them, to see that they are a gift and treasure.    It’s then that I put them to bed, wait until they’re asleep and sneak in to check on them.  Each night I’m overwhelmed at their beauty, and the gift of life entrusted to me and my husband.  I take my shortcomings and failures to the foot of the cross, and start over.

Hopefully this encourages you that you’re not the only one out there fighting the good fight.  It is a fight!  It’s hard, but so good, and so worth it.  Press on, mama!

Salad for Dinner

I’m a seasonal eater. I like fruit and veg in season…they just taste better.  I also like eating cold things when it’s hot and hot things when it’s cold. I could live off soup during cool weather and when it starts getting warm, just give me salad.  I also find both a way to eat healthy, be budget conscious, and clear out whatever I need to in the fridge.

Thus the salad kick I’ve been on recently. The gorgeous heads of lettuce I’ve been finding at the farmers market and in my backyard garden have also helped fuel the abundance green on my table.

Here are a few of the salad we’ve been binging on recently:

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Turkey chopped salad. Provolone, tomato, cucumber, avocado, bacon, chopped turkey, with a white wine vinaigrette (white wine, EVOO, dijon, S&P). I made a sandwich with these same ingredients (turkey, lettuce, tomato, provolone, bacon and a drizzle of the vinaigrette) between two slices of thick whole wheat bread. These both were inspired by a trip (or three) to Kaldi’s coffee shop on are recent trip back home.  After going 3 times to have either the salad or the sandwich, I figured I better make an attempt at home.  They were a hit with everyone and now both are in permanent rotation thanks to their ease and tastiness.

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BBQ chicken salad. Lettuce (red leaf), corn, black beans, avocado, tomato, Colby Jack cheese, bacon, chopped chicken, and drizzles of bbq sauce and ranch dressing.  We buy a pint of ranch from Jim ‘N Nicks if we are in the area to use for salads, and veggies and dip.  Should I make my own…probably, but there’s is so good!  Most restaurants will sell you a container of their dressing, if you ask.

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Fried chicken salad. Butter lettuce, cheddar, corn, broccoli, tomato, hard boiled egg, carrot.  Basically whatever veg I have laying around, I throw in this.  I serve it with Bell and Evans gluten free chicken strips.  Two boxes for my family. (!).  Despite my best efforts, I have one kids whose favorite meal is still chicken fingers and fries.  He feels like this meal is a win because he gets chicken fingers, I feel like it’s a win because he has to eat salad with his chicken fingers. This is a pretty quick and easy meal to get on the table, and one that everyone likes…win!

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Steak salad.  I am paranoid about not having enough food for guests, so I always make an abundance.  The weekend we had friends over for flank steak (marinated in balsamic, soy sauce, worstechire sauce, garlic, and salt and pepper for 8 hours) was no exception.  Leftover steak being a perfect salad topping, that was where it headed.  I chopped it to make it easier to serve the kids, but strips would have been prettier.  Underneath it is cucumber, tomato, broccoli, carrots and red leaf butter lettuce.  I made Ina Garten’s green goddess salad dressing to go with it.

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This was just a simple salad for lunch one afternoon when I actually had a moment to make something.  Plus I was trying to savor my last few moments of silence before school was out, and a nice salad and book seemed like the perfect thing to do just that.  This was red leaf butter lettuce with shredded carrot, cucumber, chopped dill havarti cheese, and served with green goddess dressing.  This would also make a great side salad for dinner, or you could add some grilled chicken to make it an entree in itself!

Hopefully one of these will give you some inspiration to grab a head of lettuce, clear out your fridge and get a salad on the table!