Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Munchies

I hope you all had a nice and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.  We sure did! It was the first time, in a long long time that we had an almost non-existent "to-do" list before the big feast!  The night before, when I knew we would be chilling all morning, I had asked the kids if they wanted me to bake something special in the morning.  I mean, c'mon-we pin all these pumpkin recipes, but we know we'll never make them unless it's specifically for Thanksgiving morning! Thankfully, I bought some extra cans of canned pumpkin so I could partake in the Thanksgiving morning bake off!  My baking these days primarily consists of royal icing cookies, so they were thrilled when I suggested a special Thanksgiving morning coffee cake! 

1/2 cup salted butter, almost melted (I used margarine)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
11/2 cups pumpkin
3 large eggs
21/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of the following: cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice 
a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves 

6 tablespoons of flour
6 tablespoons of white sugar
6 tablespoons of packed brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted (I used margarine) 

Maple Glaze:
2 tablespoons butter
11/4 cups powdered sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spray your pan-I used a regular round dish, although a 9x13 would have worked as well.  I had more than enough topping and glaze for this size pan, but the ratio of cake to topping was great.  

Use a mixer to mix the butter, sugar, pumpkin and eggs until smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and mix until combined.  Pour into your prepared pan.  

Make the topping by mixing all the ingredients together-I began mixing with a fork but ended up relenting and mixing with my hands. Top the batter with the topping. Bake for 45 minutes, however depending on your pan, it may take more or less time.  The toothpick method is a good rule of thumb here! 

When your cake is finished baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool a bit.  

Make the glaze by melting the butter, and then adding the powdered sugar.  Once the butter is incorporated into the powdered sugar, add in the liquid ingredients.  Almost immediately it will turn into the familiar glaze.  Stir on low heat, and once you feel it's the desired texture, drizzle right away onto the cake before the glaze solidifies.  

In true Aaryn, no filter fashion, I must be honest and tell you that I will not be making this recipe again.  The cake had the perfect texture, and the recipe was not difficult, the cake had no taste!  My kids loved the crumb topping; not only did they eat theirs-they insisted on eating our crumbs!  They totally boycotted the cake.  In fact, my 4 year old has requested different coffee cake for this weekend.  

And just because I need to showcase my other baking accomplishments: my Thanksgiving cookie set for our Thanksgiving feast 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Chat Books

With the passing of Thanksgiving, and the upcoming holiday season, I'm sure many of us are finding plenty of reasons to take pictures; most likely with our phone.  I recently found out about a free app called Chat Books which allows you to upload pictures and print off picture books.  When I originally heard about it, it was specifically for Instagram pictures.  However, you can actually upload pictures from your camera roll as well.  The reason I loved this concept was that because so many of our pictures, ok all of our pictures, come from the phone, you don't have to worry about the hassle of uploading from your phone to your computer, and then to an additional website. 

In May, and then again in August we traveled to visit my grandparents in Indiana.  I snapped tons of pictures and they were just sitting on my phone. Although they were uploaded to Facebook, because you know what they say, if it isn't on Facebook, it didn't happen.  But, I also knew my grandparents would love a hard copy to look at. It was really such a breeze to do this:.

There are currently two options for ordering Chat books. You can do a series, which allows them to access your photos from Instagram, Facebook, or you Favorites on your phone. Every picture from those databases is automatically uploaded to Chat books and every 60 pages prints off as an additional volume.  You are notified 3 days before the book prints and you can manually edit the album, including removing pictures, because, we all have had our kids taken embarrassing photos of ourselves, right? Or is it just me...anyway, the cost is cheap-$8 a book!  

The other option that I love is the custom book which allows you to access your photos from Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos or from your camera roll. You choose exactly which pictures you want and add captions.  What is really cool is that the date is included with each picture.  In this book you can have 60-365 pictures.  The price for this book ranges from $8 for the first 30 pages, and then becomes $1 for each 10 pages.  I was able to print around 120 pictures for about $25 a book.  Unfortunately I too hastily shipped them out to their final destination so I can't share my own pictures, but when I do it again, I'll be sure to share!

The pros-it's so simple, and since it can be done all from your phone, you can do it on the go, during lunch, or even in a boring meeting, but I wouldn't know about that! 
The cons-although the price is within the ballpark, it's actually cheaper than Costco, this is one of those cases where you get what you pay for.  The books are small-6x6,  but it didn't bother me because we know all things mini are adorable.  The other con I had was the that quality of the picture was very grainy.  The picture is still definitely clear enough to be worth the purchase and convenience, but you can definitely tell a difference in the quality of the printing and the pages.  

All in all, I would definitely do this again! 

*Chat Books has no idea who I am, other than my billing information ;)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Munchies...

Until my late twenties, I can't believe I'm actually typing out late twenties..hold me...I had sworn off mushrooms.  But then I married a guy who loved eggplant and mushrooms...hmm, can't be too bad.  I slowly started expanding my pallet and on a recent trip I had my first ever mushroom burger. Too bad I had promised the hubs half; I will not do that again!  It was so delicious and macro friendly I went on the hunt for our own.  Typically, hence the word burger, you need a grill, but I can attest you won't even notice one wasn't used!  Trust me!  I've made these twice in large batches and enjoyed them for dinner on the daily.  

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

4 portobello mushroom caps
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil 
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1 tablespoon minced garlic 
salt and pepper to taste 
4 1oz slices of cheese 

So, as usual, I have short cuts.  If you don't have enough, or any, balsamic vinegar just use red wine vinegar. Also, how great is it that the main spices are specifically supposed to be dried? Not only does that cut down on cost, it also way cuts down on prep time.  I of course, used dried minced garlic, and these still tasted amazing even though I was missing some of the ingredients.  I also used a spicy cheese; the original recipe calls for provolone cheese, but I wanted a bit more flavor.  

The first time I made these, the batch of mushrooms came from Fresh Direct.  The second time they came from the local grocery store with not so hot produce. Although I can't be certain, I'm thinking the quality of the mushrooms varies and will impact how easily they prep.  I'm sure it will also impact how well they taste, but I'll have to  rely on the hubs to fill me in on how his lunch was! 

Thankfully, or not so thankfully, I don't honestly know, since I took the comment's advice...but the person said to kind of skin the mushroom cap so to speak.  Under the edge of the cap you'll notice that the outer layer of skin can be peeled back, it's really easy to do. Doing that will allow it to soak up the marinade and not be as tough.  The recipe also assumes your mushroom caps are ready to go-mine were not, either time.  So after I peeled off the skin, I used a spoon to break off the remaining stem and clean out the guts.  

Mix all of the ingredients, minus the cheese, and then pour over the mushroom caps that are in your pan, cap side up! Let stand for 15 minutes, while turning the mushroom caps at least twice. I don't see why you can't let it marinade for longer, and turn more!  

The recipe then says to brush the grill grate with oil, and heat 5-8 minutes per side, while basting with the remaining marinade.  Now, since I don't have a grill, I moved my grate up to the top notch, and placed a foil sheet below.  Then I placed my caps directly onto the grate and turned the oven onto broil.  If you have a real oven with a flame running down the middle, be careful-I doubt it will take as long as mine did, but I don't have a flame for my broil.  I put it on 10 minutes each side, and for the last few minutes the second time, I added my slice of cheese. 

I wasn't really sure what a finished mushroom burger would look like, but after the 15-20 minutes I figured I'd give it a taste, and I was pleasantly surprised!  It tasted divine!  I couldn't believe it, but I then ate it for dinner the following three nights! I'm actually upset right now that I already planned and ate my egg whites for dinner before remembering the mushroom burgers! Oh well, maybe tomorrow night! Maybe you'll also be eating mushroom burgers for dinner! 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Smelly Bathroom

When you have small boys, your bathroom is bound to stink!  It's just a fact of life.  You know what makes it worse? When you have to share a bathroom!  The smell would come and go, but would be especially bad in the winter when we were running the heat.  We have baseboard heating, so you can imagine the pleasant smell that emits from that radiator...I tried cleaning regularly, buying sprays, room fresheners-nothing worked!  

At some point, I noticed my downstairs neighbor was cleaning with vinegar, and he professed how awesome it was for cutting germs and eliminating odors.  I was skeptical at first, but figured I had nothing to lose!  I was already using this Clorox mop  
which allows you to fill the canister with whichever solution you wish.  A bonus is the cloths are washable, so I bought a few and just toss them in the wash after one use.  This mop has really been worthwhile because I'm not committed to a particular solution.  So when I was ready to make the switch to vinegar, I could easily do so.  What I also like about cleaning with vinegar is it's ridiculously cheap.  I buy the huge containers at Costco for less than five dollars!   

The ratios I used for my cleaning solution were half water half vinegar, and then sprinkle in the baking soda-it will fizz up and then I stop adding!  Vinegar is known to cut grease and eliminate odors. Although, let's be honest-it has a pretty terrible odor, but it dissipates quickly.  But my bathroom odor, was out of control, and I really can't believe that this trick worked!  After all this time of trying different tricks and solutions, as well as just accepting that this is what my bathroom would smell like-the vinegar took it away! 

Now, there are two other tricks I learned about.  The first one is to put undiluted vinegar straight onto the culprit areas, aka the surrounding areas of the toilet, and the walls, and the over the toilet cabinet...yeah, maybe we need to work on this aiming thing.  Just imagine how post-wake up pees go...."watch where you'r peeing, keep your eyes on the toilet!"  I bought white towels, shocker right?!? But they can be bleached so I don't have to worry about towels getting dingy and gross, they can always be white!  I use bath towel size white towel and roll it into a thin long rectangle and then soak it with vinegar and lay it along the base of the toilet and let it sit.  
The second trick I was told was to leave a small amount of vinegar out in the bathroom as an odor eliminator.  I wasn't quite sure how I would manage to keep vinegar out in the open and now have it drank or spilled all over my bathroom, until I came across these beauties in Michaels.

I really loved the shabby chic, but didn't know what I would use it for.  But the glass container is perfect for the vinegar, and the two side glasses (which are attached) were perfect for adding some decoration to my bathroom. I don't care for fresh flowers, but these fake flowers were perfect, and if you are the type who loves fresh flowers in your home, check out BloomNation! They are a flower delivery company that supports local flourists through their online marketplace!  I bought two of these and made the exact same arrangement for both bathrooms.  My bathrooms are both original-so think pink and teal. That classic pink tile, tub and're seeing it right?  So I needed something easy on the eyes.  
I think this is so beautiful, catchy, easily fits into my decor, but also serves a function purpose. 

I added some lavender oil to my vinegar compartment, and for a bit it did help scent up the room.  The vinegar needs to be replaced already, I should say it has long needed to be replaced.  I might try one of these scents-maybe a fall scented one!    

And for those of you suffering from smelly bathroom syndrome, try the vinegar, I promise you, you'll be amazed, and you might thank me as well! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Munchies...Pumpkin

I guess it's fair to say that fall is in the house!  And with that comes all sorts of pumpkin love!  
But to be honest, I'm not really a pumpkin fan.  However, I do have two awesome pumpkin recipes to share with you.  

A few weeks back, what feels like eternity ago, but was really only 5ish weeks ago, for the Jewish holidays I made mini pumpkin pies at the request of my littles.  My kids must have had a huntch that my father loves pumpkin pie.  He has gone gluten free in recent years, so combined that with Hannah's allergies, I did a lot of bakin' from scratch!  At first it was consuming and way too stressful, but the end result was so worth it-it was the best pumpkin pie I've ever had.  It was so good that I'm actually so excited to be making this again for our upcoming Thanksgiving pot luck at work Monday afternoon!  

I didn't make my own crust, but the filling was to die for!

2 fresh small pumpkins 
1.2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
fresh ground nutmeg
fresh ground cinnamon
kosher salt 

At first I was really intimidated by this-I hate baking squash, potatoes, or any vegetable really because it doesn't usually come out down correctly.  This magically worked!  

Preheat your oven to 375.  Cut the tops off of the pumpkin and then cut the remaining pumpkin into quarters cleaning out the seeds and "guts" as they call them. 

Cover the pumpkin "meat" with butter and then sprinkle with the salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon (I used regular dried spices). 

Bake for 30 minutes or long enough that you can easily stab the "meat" with a fork. 

Let it cool, and then scoop out the "meat" from the skin.  You can mash or puree the pumpkin until you reach the desired consistency.  I pureed and then did a quick hand strain to get rid of the hard stringy parts.  

Recently I had the good fortune to make a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting for a 22nd birthday!  Of course I couldn't leave out royal icing cookies, so I added them in for a touch of decoration.

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This cake was so delicious.  I had leftovers so my husband took it to work and he gave me the message that this was the best one yet!  The frosting is also amazingly delicious because it's not your typical frosting-it's a heavier and does not have  a greasy texture.  It tastes more real, substantial.  

Pumpkin Sheet Cake  (I used a different frosting recipe which I'll share below)
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
2 cups white sugar 
1 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce since the comments said the cake was too oily with the full amount of oil)
4 eggs
2 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Beat the pumpkin, sugar, oil (and apple sauce).  Add in the eggs and mix well.
Add in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and beat until well blended.  
Pour the batter into a greased 15x10 baking pan (I used a regular 9x13 pan to give it more height)
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes-it will be longer since the cake is thicker.  

1 cup butter
1/2 cup Crisco
16 oz. cream cheese 
31/2 lbs. powdered sugar 
1 tablespoon vanilla 
1/2 teaspoons salt 

Mix it all together!  This recipe was incredible, but you might have to water it down a bit depending on what you're using it for.  Different consistency is needed for icing a cake vs making roses.  

I highly recommend using these recipes this fall season! Enjoy!!
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Apple & Eve Vox Box

I've blogged here a few times about a network called Influenster.  It's pretty neat, they send you products for free after qualifying, and all you have to do in return is use social media to advertise and give reviews!  
I recently qualified to review Apple & Eve Organic juice, and Apple & Eve organic Quenchers juice boxes.  At first I was a little disappointed that the vox box I qualified for wasn't the fashion or mommy box, hint hint Influenster, but when the juice came in super handy for one of my favorite alcoholic beverages, I quickly changed my mind! 

Let's talk about the Quenchers first.
The flavors are berrylicious lemonade, fruit punch burst, and razzberry apple splash. Unfortunately the razzberry apple splash isn't kosher, but luckily the other two flavors are! I just want to add that I love Apple & Eve juice-we don't drink it regularly, but when I do need to buy juice, I buy their product.  It's just so tasty and good quality!  

Now, I'm just going to be upfront and honest here-I know the true test would have been to let my kids taste these and ask them what they think, however, I had a (few) moments of selfishness and decided I needed to keep these for myself.  They contain 50% less sugar and are organic and with only 40 calories and 10 carbohydrates I knew that this would definitely spice up my day.  It was a small sacrifice, but big reward kind of treat and I definitely enjoyed sipping it on my way to work in the morning!  It wasn't too sweet, with just enough flavor to taste like juice without all the extra sugar and calories.  

I also received the Orange Pineapple Organics juice in my Vox Box 

Again, at first I was a little disappointed in the flavor, and it was just sitting in my refrigerator for just the right time!  Little did I know, that right time would include alcohol.  We were at neighbors and some of the ladies were wanted a nice beverage, but their house was out of juice.  I knew that I had this at home, so I ran home to get it and it was seriously the best addition. Sorry Apple & Eve, I'm sure your intention wasn't for your organic juice to be used in an alcoholic beverage, but it just couldn't be helped.  
Also, how cool is it that the container is eco-friendly? 
It is also available in Tart Cherry, that might be delicious in an alcoholic beverage, and in Natural Style Apple. 

All in all, if and when I'm on the hunt for kid friendly juice boxes, I will definitely look for Apple & Eve organic Quenchers.  

* I received these products for free in exchange for my views! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Monday Munchies...

Things have calmed down here, and I'm currently sitting at jury duty, so I figured I'd write about a recently enjoyed treat.  
I really can't believe I've never put this recipe on here, and I have to believe it's here, somewhere. 
It's funny how we forget our own winning recipes. My friend kept asking me for the chocolate cookies I make, and I finally got around to telling her how to find this great recipe on the internet.  And since then, they've been on repeat between her and all her sisters, and even my house as well!  

What's great about these cookies, besides that they are truly so good they might actually bring world peace, they are easy to make, take no oil (think less mess and easier clean up), and are actually meant to be done in a process.  I love baking in steps because I rarely have so much time I can devote in one day to baking.  It also freezes perfectly and you can freeze in whatever amount you want, so it makes for the perfect treat to keep in the freezer for just the right moment, the right last minute  moment.  

I promise you, people will love you forever with these cookies.  So go head, spread world peace.

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)
  1. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended (mixture may be crumbly). Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn't come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). Divide dough in half. Place each half on sheet of plastic wrap. Form each into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Wrap each in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD:Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. DO AHEAD:Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
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