Pumpkin Chocolate Chip “Cake” Cookies & Ways to be Productive

For the past month I have been sitting at my desk (and in the library, on my bed, on my floor, and at my kitchen table…) trying to write my dissertation literature review for my masters. Page after page, journal article after journal article, I sat there trying to piece everything together. I soon realized that my productivity was dropping at a negative rate as my attempt to work carried on.  It appeared favourable to just sit there, hour upon hour, day upon day, until it was finished. People anticipate that deadline like it’s the best thing to ever happen because after it passes they know they will be free from the confines they currently find themselves in. So, if you could get it done ages before, wouldn’t that advance this enjoyment?

In reality, such a process isn’t as easy as it sounds. I found myself sitting there, looking at pages upon pages,  not comprehending a single thing. Even with a few thousand words already  written and  40+ journal articles sitting in the back of my head, I just couldn’t think. Some people would call it writers block, and that it was; an unwanted obstacle blocking me from finishing my paper well before the due date. Then I realized, what is the rush? It isn’t due for another couple of weeks, I am well ahead of the goals I had set for myself, and honestly my productivity was dropping. This was when I decided to take a step back and of instead bake something! (Surprising huh?!?) And with that my productivity rose the next day as if my mind was as rested as could be.

With this, I realized that all of those cliché articles about the things to do  for yourself to make you happy were actually effective. Doing those little things for yourself does help you be a happier and more productive person. By taking time to bake each Sunday I relaxed by mind for the upcoming week, and thanks to this I can now happily say I am finished with my paper a week before it is due (well I still have to read it over a few more times).

Thanks to this effective process, I decided to provide you with another one of those cliché lists of thing you can do to be more productive. It is actually a list of the things I like to do, and maybe you will as well! I added a few characteristics to make this list a little unique from all those other ones (although this might just be making it even more cliché!).

What makes it unique: First, I decided to not number this list. Why put a finite number to the amount of things you can do for yourself. Second, this list is not going to be composed of broad categories such as ‘exercise more’ or ‘sleep more’.. anyone can think of those! Instead I am going to list the specific things I enjoy doing for myself (and for others since I really enjoy doing things for others.)

So here it goes!

  • When I have had a really long and tiring day, I treat myself to one of my favorite things to eat. Whether that be a nice big bowl of tomato basil soup or a piping hot cup of hot chocolate, if my brain is tired then it is time to relax it a bit and treat my stomach as while I am at it.
  • When I really do need to get something finished sooner but I can’t seem to think properly, I go for a short run or I do one of those many mini cardio workouts on YouTube (Yes, some of them are lame but quite a few of them will actually give you a great workout- check them out!). I find that when my productive is really low, a little mindless working out is a great way to get the oxygen running through my body while relaxing my mind. Plus, when I have been sitting at a desk the whole day a little working out is a bit necessary.
  • When I have had a productive week and I know I have to be just as productive the next week, I take Sunday night (or afternoon) and I bake something. I had to put this one in there even though I just talked about it! Yes, I love to bake for others. Often times baking isn’t something I can just do every night of the week. So, to release the past week’s tension and to have a fresh start to the next week I take some time on Sunday to bake.
  • I like to throw in some light reading sporadically when I feel like it. This includes things such as a magazine or some Buzzfeed articles, things I can read but don’t take up too much thought to process. Plus, it is interesting to learn some facts or ideas you hadn’t known before.
  • I love to leave myself little notes here and there to encourage myself in little ways. When I know I have been super unhealthy I sometimes write one that says “Think Healthy” and I put it on my bulletin board next to my desk. When I am tired of doing so much mentally straining work for school I write a note that says something like “You got this” or “All this work will pay off in the future”… Little things that push me to do just a little bit more before calling it a night.
  • I drink a lot of water. It is awful to try focusing on a paper when my mouth is all dried out because I haven’t been drinking enough water while I work. It is such a distracting thing. So, I always have my water bottle near by to drink while I work.
  • Sometimes when I know I won’t be doing anymore work that night, I crack open the arts and crafts box while I watch Netflix in bed. Yes, it may sound like a childish thing to do, but you would be surprised how relaxing it is to spend time making a handcrafted card for someone’s birthday. Plus, if I didn’t have a productive day at work, I can always say I had a productive night of art and crafts! 😀
  • I try not to be that cliché person who reads lists such as these, agrees with everything they say, but then doesn’t do any of them. Most of these lists aren’t asking for much, although they often times are a bit too broad. If the list makes some good points that I agree with, I like to try them out for a bit. If it maked someone else happier or more productive, what would it hurt to see if it worked with me as well 🙂

Incase you didn’t get it from that last point, try some of these next time you have a looming deadline or just want to be more productive in general. See how they work for you! They have always helped me out so I hope they help you out as well and hopefully make your day a little brighter 🙂

Now time for some baking (I actually made these last week but I didn’t have time to write a post until now).

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip “Cake” Cookies

Pumpkin chocolate chip goodness in a cookie :)

Pumpkin chocolate chip goodness in a cookie 🙂

The dining hall at St. Lawrence used to have these amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cookies every so often! I had been craving these cookies so I decided to try and replicate the recipe. And, they actually tuned out pretty good! They are definitely come out a bit cake-like, but it really works well. I can imagine the recipe making really good pumpkin muffins as well! I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Steps

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, and sugars. Stir in oil, egg and vanilla.
  3. Mix together the milk and baking soda. Add to wet mixture.
  4. In a smaller bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and baking powder.
  5. Add dry mixture to wet mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Drop spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes or until lightly brown (I looked at the bottoms to see when they were done)
  8. Enjoy 🙂
The better tasted deli shish uncooked (try at your own risk)

The better tasted deli shish uncooked (try at your own risk)

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Yum!

Yum!

SONY DSC

These have a wonderful cake like consistency!

These have a wonderful cake like consistency!

What a pile!

What a pile!

Always remember to enjoy! (Although I hope that is something you don't forget :p)

Always remember to enjoy! (Although I hope that is something you don’t forget :p)

Advertisements

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread/Muffins & Memories of My Mom

One of the reasons I love to bake is because it allows me to have me time. It gives me time to be free of thoughts; to just relax both mentally and physically. Some people’s me time consists of lounging around the house, reading, getting a pedicure, etc. Mine consists of baking delicious things for others- something I enjoy so much (and hopefully the people they are given to enjoy it as well 😀 )

This past week I have been attempting to be extremely productive in order to get all of the assignments I have due over the next few weeks done. This means spending hours upon hours in the library every day. With so much mental activity, a little me time each day is a necessity to keeping my sanity.  So of course I had to bake this weekend (see recipe below). And, with baking often comes time to self-reflect on what has been happening in my life as well as time to reminisce about the past.

One thing I realised while enjoying my me time is how easy it is to let the time in-between remembering your past slip away. I realized that it had been quite a while since I had reminisced about what my Mother was like. I do think about her every day, but thinking about her and remembering what she was like are two different things. Now, I know some of this might be due to the fact that for the first time since her passing I am surrounded by people who don’t know her or my past, so of course conversations about what she was like or what we did don’t occur naturally. Even so, I have spent the past three and a half years keeping my memories of what she was like alive in my heart, so knowing this made me realize it was time to spend some time remembering.

So, I decided to take some time to remember the things I loved to do with my Mom, and now miss so dearly. Here are some of the memories I came up with.

  • I loved going grocery shopping with my Mom on weekend mornings. Here is an example of how much I loved it:

One day she tried to do me a favor by letting me sleep in and she left to go grocery shopping while I was still sleeping. I ended up waking up shortly after she left. As I searched the house wondering where so was, I became so upset as I realised that she had gone without me. I called her on the verge of tears wondering where she was. As I told her how much I loved grocery shopping with her every weekend I began to cry. Of course, I was probably sleep deprived from my busy schedule (hence the sleeping in favor) but I had felt hurt missing out on our weekly activity. She quickly turned around and was in the driveway within minutes, not realising that it was something I looked forward to every weekend.

  • I loved having my Mom as my taste-tester for everything I baked. I used to make her try everything. Although, I often disliked when she responded with a simple ‘that’s really good’. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know the things like if it was over cooked, if there wasn’t enough vanilla, or what actually made it good. And, of course she was my Mom so she was going to tell me everything was good, even if it wasn’t. She would just laugh at me when I used to hound her to tell me more about what made my baking good.
  • My favourite part about going to Kenny’s Drug Store with my Mom was that she would always slip two mini peppermint patties onto the counter at check out. Every single time we went to Kenny’s we always got a peppermint patty for each of us. And every time she opened hers, before she took that first bite, she would close her eyes and smell it. She explained that it was to open her senses, to allow her to fully enjoy the treat. I used to laugh about that. It seemed like such a funny thing to do. However, now year later, I find myself doing the exact same thing every time I eat a peppermint patty. And you know what.. it does arouse your senses and make for a better tasting experience!
  • I loved going on walks and runs with my Mom, even if they were often times after my own cross country practices or later in the evening. She used to always tell me it was okay if I wanted to go ahead; she never wanted to slow me down. But I hardly ever left her. I wasn’t running with her to be ahead of her the whole time. I was running with her to be with her, to show her trails she had never been on, and to run on trails she was too afraid to run on alone. But most of all I ran with her to be with her. I was always inspired at how dedicated she was to maintaining her health after she lost her weight. She made sure to be active as often as possible. I loved being able to help her reach her goals by being active with her.
  • I loved going to both of the Banker’s and Rulph’s apple orchards each fall with my Mom to go on wagon rides out to the pumpkin patches. Yes, each year we would go to both orchards. And yes, each time she would laugh at me for acting so embarrassed about going on a childish wagon ride with her Mother. But deep down I loved it. It was fun going out and picking pumpkins together. I can still see the smile on her face as we got on to what actually was a wagon filled with mostly little children and their parents. I would give anything to go on one of those rides once more with her.
  • I loved how we both had huge a sweet tooth, yet we both didn’t want to eat everything our sweet tooth’s craved. This sounds a bit confusing, but basically it means we were those people who split every sweet thing we bought. Yup, we split everything! A cookie from Rombach’s- split, a truffle from the chocolate store in the mall- split, a cider donut from Banker’s- split (yes, we even split cider donuts!) It allowed us to have a little bit of those special treats we loved without having too much. I loved this aspect of our relationship so much. It allowed us to bond over our love of sweets without indulging completely in what could be a very unhealthy hobby.
  • It wasn’t uncommon for me to get into the car after very hard test or a cross country race with scratch card awaiting my arrival. It was always the crossword kind (and sometimes the bingo type if the store didn’t have the crossword ones.) We always chose this one because it took time to complete. We would sit in the car, with a random book as our table, and slowly find the letters within the crossword puzzle. We didn’t even really play to win money. We knew the chances of winning were so slim. It was just fun and it was something we enjoyed doing together. During my first year of college I could be sure that every card she sent me would have a few crossword scratch cards in it. And every Christmas Eve night, when the whole family was together my Mom would pull out a whole pile of scratch cards, one for every member of the family, and we would scratch them together. We still carry that tradition every year, knowing she would still be doing it if she were there.
  • I love how my Mom always invited me to the different get-togethers that her friends hosted. Most children wouldn’t normally want to spend their Saturday nights with a group of their Mother’s friends. However, I loved such occasions. When I was in 10th grade (I am pretty sure it was 10th grade)  my Mom got a new job that came with a whole plethora of new friends, all of whom were very welcoming and active. I loved seeing her enjoyment in spending time with them, and I was so happy when she wanted to include me. We would go to dinner parties at Laura’s, spending the evening with good friends and great food. Every so often we would stop by her house on Sunday mornings with a few fresh treats from Rombach’s, ready to spend a couple of hours talking over a cup of coffee. We also would go to the jewellery parties that her friends hosted.  I especially enjoyed these as they often would include the purchase of a few pieces of jewellery :). To this day, you can find one of those rings she bought me at a jewellery party on my finger, reminding me of my Mother every time I look at it.

These are just a few of the things I loved doing with my Mother. They are the memories that keep what she was like alive in my heart. My Mom was a wonderful woman; a woman who should never be forgotten. She really enjoyed the simple things in life and was always willing to share them with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.

I believe that an important way to keep those that you love alive in your life is to spend time remember what made them special. So, my task for you is to take some time and think about what make’s the people you love, both dead and alive, so special. What did/do you do together? What are the little things that made/make them unique? What do you love about them? I know it can be a hard and sad task to do, but in the end it will allow you to reflect on someone you care about, it will warm your heart with memories filled with love, and it will add a little brightness to your day.

My Mom <3

My Mom ❤

Now lets bake 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread/Muffins

I realised it had been a while since I had made gluten-filled banana bread, and I had a few bananas that needed to be used up, so I decided to crack out a banana bread recipe for my housemates and classmates to try. Tryout this recipe, take some you time, and spend some time remember those you love… maybe you could even surprise them with one of these! I hope you enjoy 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 cups mashed bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or nuts if you want)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare muffin tin or loaf pans by buttering and flouring them.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars.
  4. Stir in vanilla and bananas.
  5. Stir in eggs, one at a time.
  6. Mix dry mix and chocolate into wet mix in three sections, until just blended.
  7. Pour into prepared pans.
  8. For muffins- Bake 20 minutes. For loaves bake about 45-55 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean).
  9. Let cool & enjoy 🙂

Yields: 24 muffins or 2 9×5 loaves.

This batter latest delicious uncooked! I definitely enjoyed licking the spoon after :p

This batter tasted so delicious uncooked! I definitely enjoyed licking the spoon after :p

Ready to bake :)

Ready to bake 🙂

DSC00778

SONY DSC

Using my creativity skills to make a mock-cooling rack.. haha

Using my creativity skills to make a mock-cooling rack.. haha

Melty chocolate and banana goodness.

Gooey chocolate and banana goodness.

SONY DSC

Extremely moist and delicious 🙂

One reason I love to chop my chocolate is because the little tiny pieces spread evenly throughout the batter making every bite have a little bits of chocolate while the big chunks make those bites even better :)

One reason I love to chop my chocolate is because the little tiny pieces spread evenly throughout the batter making every bite have little bits of chocolate, while the big chunks make those bites even better 🙂

Enjoy :)

Enjoy 🙂

Super Soft Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

There is nothing more beautiful than Scotland on a sunny day. Now, I know you are probably thinking about all the other beautiful places you have seen and are wondering what makes Scotland even more beautiful. I guess it has to do with the extreme weather contrasts to compare a sunny Scottish day too :p. The majority of the days seem to be pretty cloudy lately and it seems common to get quite a bit of rain. So, when you have bright blue skies, strikingly green grass, and vivacious views of the country side everything seems to have that ‘special pop‘ that makes the world around you seem so lively and so beautiful.

I was thinking about what made today so magnificent as I went on my early morning run. Nothing says ‘long run’ like a sunny Sunday after almost a week of straight rain, which is just what I went on- a long run (well only 7 miles, which is long for me right now, but not long for many out there). So I thought I would tell you of the views I saw during my run in hopes you will find them just as beautiful as I did.

 

My run started off a bit chilly.  As I ran past the Airthrey Castle I could see the last reminisces of the morning dew hiding in the shadows as the sun began to peak over the tower. As I turned to run around the lake the swans could be seen dipping their long necks in the water, looking for a hardy meal to start their day. The squirrels, rabbits and small birds seemed to scurry every which way as I ran through the tranquil paths which had yet to see a human since the dawning of the day.

I was reluctant to turn off the path around the lake as I had truly enjoyed experiencing the wildlife slowly awakening, much like the rest of campus, but I knew there would be more to see. As I ran up a hill, I passed small groups of athletes stumbling to their early morning workouts, probably thinking about their warm beds they were forced to leave, all of them so dedicated to the workouts that awaited their arrival. As I left campus I passed by quaint little cabins, all filled with sleeping students unaware of the beauty that lay just outside their doorsteps.

At this time my legs, quite sore from the past week of runs, began to feel refreshed as they knew they were about to experience something other than the grounds of campus bellow them. Although my run from here stuck to the pathways along the road, this did not diminish the day’s beauty, and the atmosphere was much like what I had experienced within  the stone walls around campus. I ran towards the Bridge of Allen, knowing that it was the views on my way back I was excited to see. As I ran back I could see the Stirling Castle, miles away glistening in the sun while overlooking the limitless valley below. Slightly further in the distance, the tops of windmills peeked out from between the hill tops, all of them resting for the winds yet to come. In the vast fields that lay just beside the road, cows scattered the area filling their stomachs and waiting to be milked by the nearby dairy farm. As I ran the sun warmed my face as the blue skies added a vivacious component to the usually gloomy view.

Again I was resistant about turning into campus and leaving such precious views behind, but my legs were tired and ready to bring me home. As I ran the path around the lake once more, I was surprised by the livelihood that had taken over the lake as the morning had passed. A young black lab played catch with its owner, individual runners passed by as they too enjoyed their morning run, two parents ran with their son, making sure he knew the advantages of a sunny day. Everyone, now fresh out of bed, was ready to enjoy the day by starting it off the active way.

As I ran around the rugby pitches in the last stretch of my run, I decided to stop and enjoy the view that lay ahead. In the sun, everything looked so beautiful, so bright. The grass, so brightly colored green perfectly contrasted the brilliant blue sky that was lightly scattered with puffy white clouds. It was a view worth stopping for. As I admired the view and the sun warmed my face, my stomach began to grumble and I knew it was time to go home and begin my day.

This was the view as I stopped for a few moments before I headed back home (I didnt take this today though)

This was the view as I stopped for a few moments before I headed back home (I didnt take this today though)

I believe that being active is a very important aspect to living a happy life. It is a great way to start your day off, it makes you feel good, and it helps you maintain a healthy life. I hope that this inspires you to get out there and enjoy the next sunny day. I guarantee it will brighten up you day 🙂

~~~

Super Soft Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

SONY DSC

So today I decided to attempt a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. I was in the mood to bake so I decided to make these for my housemate and for my class tomorrow. Even though they came out thin, they turned out very soft and delicious. I believe they were so thin because I accidentally melted some of the butter (I hadn’t softened it before) and the packages of pudding here are slightly smaller than the ones in the US. That being said, I hope you enjoy them as much as myself and my housemates have so far 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 packet instant vanilla pudding (3.4 oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp hot water
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix flour and salt in a bowl.
  3. In a larger bowl cream butter and sugars.
  4. Add in pudding mix.
  5. Stir in eggs one at a time.
  6. Mix in vanilla.
  7. Mix baking soda into the hot water. Add to the wet mixture.
  8. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture.
  9. Stir in chocolate chips
  10. Bake 10 minutes.
  11. Enjoy 🙂

Servings: 3 1/2 dozen cookies

I like to cut up bars of chocolate. For this recipe I used 1 large bar of semi sweet chocolate and 1 large bar of milk chocolate.

I like to cut up bars of chocolate instead of using packaged chips. For this recipe I used 1 large bar of semi sweet chocolate and 1 large bar of milk chocolate.

Ready to bake :)

Ready to bake 🙂

Yumm

They might not look it, but these are so moist and soft..Yumm 🙂

Goes great with a nice glass of cold milk :)

Goes great with a nice glass of cold milk 🙂

Enjoy :)

Thin but soft and delicious! Enjoy 🙂

Pumpkin Bread- And my normal pre-recipe banter

Well if it hasn’t been a while since my last post. Opps! But as things are, I haven’t really had much time to blog.. or even bake for that matter! You see, I have been pressed for time as I deal with the workload of my masters program- which is in a new city and in a different country; all with new tasks and adventures eating away at my days here. However, since this past week was mid-semester break, I worked extra hard to free up some time so that I could finally bake! Woohoo! 🙂

~~~ So lets get to it~~~~~

Coming to Scotland has been quite the adventure, even though I have done little traveling over the past two months (there’s no time for that). You see, it hasn’t been an adventure in the traveling sense at all. I guess this experience has actually been more a part of my adventure through life.  Now before you go off on how cheesy this all sounds, bear with me.

You see, I have always been one who loves to travel. I’m the “why settle down when there is a WHOLE world to explore” type. Or, at least I thought I was. Don’t get me wrong, I have done my fair share of traveling. I have been lucky enough to experience a variety of  adventures which have carried me to places like the top of the Eiffel Tower as the sun is setting, or to the city of Berlin to admire the street art which decorates almost every wall. I have even been blessed enough to experience the eyes of an elderly Nicaraguan woman as we put the final touches to what she would call her new home. I would say I have done a great few adventures. However, minus that latter of those examples, I would say these explorations haven’t been filled with the ‘meaningful lessons’ that come often come with the ‘deeper’ adventures of life- you know the ones I mean; the ones that make you truly adore every single thing around you.

So the lesson I am coming to terms with, as my time here in Scotland ticks on, is  to cherish your friends and family. Now, this sounds like a simple epiphany to have right? I mean, I have had it many times through out my life, as I am sure you have too. But each time seems to come from a different reasoning behind it, a different cause.

I have always been one to believe in cherishing everyone around you. I mean everyone around you does have a role in your life, and you can’t deny that, so why not cherish their existence? You never know when they will be gone. These are my views. What I live by. But then I realized, how can I cherish so many people yet want to constantly leave. I want  friends and family I can trust, which I believe I have. But then I spend my days exploring other places . Places so far away that almost a third of a year can pass before I can stand in front of a single one of those many people I love. It’s like a tug-a-war match; one side adores the life surrounded by a well-known set of friends and family while the other half has these wild dreams of the world outside her own- how do you find a balance?

I guess the answer I have come up with (and by all means you do not have to agree with me) is to just learn from your life’s adventures, acknowledge that your beliefs and views are able to change, and apply them to your future life adventures- a balance will naturally happen when you apply these lessons to the best of your ability. I have loved getting the chance to see the world outside my own, and I have loved experience the bonds that form within a series of friends and family- but  I can’t distribute all my time towards just one. Yes, my family will always be there for me (and I hope yours is there for you), and they want me to follow my dreams, even if that takes me half way around the world. But being that far away isn’t the same when it can’t be shared with the people you love. And at the end of the day, those people will be with you no matter what. They should be taken for granted. Instead they should be cherished, thought of always, kept in your heart, and visited as often as possible- things I plan on doing more from now on.

I guess I will bring it down to the second part of this lesson I have learned over the past few months (which I hope you can use to brighten up your life as well!) This is the concept that cherishing someone or something isn’t stagnate. Just like how the world around us continues to turn, the pages of our life are always being written (and sometimes rewritten). And, in these adventures, you can always find new ways to look at life, new ways to appreciate the people around you, new ways to show you care. And that doesn’t mean your old ways were wrong; it just means that you have learned a new lesson from life, a lesson that you can use when constructing the next chapter of your journey to make your life that much more meaningful and that much more bright.

As I sit and reflect on my time here, on both the high ends and the low, I can say I have truly gained a lot so far. This doesn’t just apply to the academic knowledge I am cramming into my head in massive amounts. This applies to the views on where I want my life to take me once this chapter comes to an end. I have had a blast traveling in every direction for quite some time now. But as these travels continue to twirl I have realized that I belong in a place closer to where my family is, where the people I care for and who car for me are- these are the places I want my life to take me next.

~~~ Nothing like a little heart-felt lesson to get you in the mood to bake!~~

Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

SONY DSC

It is Halloween time so of course the smell of pumpkin is in the air…. well it is in the northeastern part of the US at least. In Scotland on the other hand, finding a pumpkin treat is quite difficult. Lets just say, today I walked into a coffee shop called the ‘Pumpkin Cafe’ and they didn’t even have a single ‘pumpkin’ item for sale! Not even something shaped like a pumpkin! Ha! So I decided to make myself, and my housemates some pumpkin bread and muffins, since they too are just as ill-experienced with pumpkin items as that very sad cafe was today! While I was at it I carved myself a little pumpkin as well 🙂

I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  •  1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Ingredients for Streusel Topping (Optional)

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tbs butter, softened slightly
  • 4 tbs flour
  • 4 tbs rolled oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease 3 loaf pans (7×3 inches)- I made 12 muffins and distributed the rest of the batter into 2 loaf pans of unknown size (literally, it wasn’t on the package!)
  3. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.
  4. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
  5. Sift the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stir until just blended.
  6. Pour mixture into prepared pans.
  7. If you want to make streusel- mix flour, oats, and sugar into a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of batter.
  8. For loaves, bake 45-50 min. For muffins, bake 35 min. Or, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  9. Enjoy 🙂
IMG_2476

The ingredients

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Enjoy :)

Enjoy 🙂

Caramel Popcorn

We all know that time sure does fly by, although we often try to avoid thinking about it. Minutes turn in to hours, days turn in to weeks, months turn in to years. Before you know it, life has slipped through your fingers. Moments come and go, only lasting long enough for our minds to take a quick snapshot with the hopes that our memory will find it worthy enough to store away forever.

This is how I feel as I reflect on the past month; like time is flying by and all I want to do is find the remote and press pause. I want time to stand still, I want to remember everything. Where have the past few months gone? What have I been doing? How have I let a month slip in between my baking and more than a month slip in between my posts!?! Yikes!

Even though I haven’t been baking or blogging, I know I have immensely enjoyed everything I have done recently. Yet I still sit here wondering how all this time has gone by so quickly.

Reflecting back, I have actually been doing quite a lot. I have spent this time exploring the unfamiliar world of life after college, allowing new and exciting people into my life, spending time with family, traveling whenever I get the chance, and of course trying to be the best I can be– All things that I believe are time well spent. I have come to realize that I am happy to spend as much time to these things as possible, as they are the things that bring joy and brightness into my life. So I guess what I am trying to say, as I come to the end of my little reflection, is how important it is to take time to reflect on what you have been doing recently. Are you enjoying yourself? Are your recent activities worth your precious time? What, if anything, can be done differently? It’s nice to consistently look back on how life is being spent- it brings a breath of fresh air into any pressures on your life, it allows you reorganize what is important to yourself, it give your mind and memory a chance to catch up, and it allows you to see where your happiness truly stems from.

So take a moment, reflect on your life- hopefully it will brighten up your lives a little bit, and in return you could brighten up someone elses while you are at it 🙂

————————————-

One thing I love to make is caramel popcorn. This has always been the perfect thing to make when it comes to providing homemade gifts for large groups of people. Its quick, easy, can be made in bulk, and of course delicious.

This past 4th of July I decided to make it for a work BBQ I was going to. I have made it a few times for my company before so I knew it would be a huge hit.

I hope you enjoy it as much as they did! Remember, if you are going to try it you better be ready to eat a whole lot of it. Once you start is is really hard to stop!

Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8-10 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1 1/2 cup nuts
  • Oil or oil spray

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray two large pans with oil and divide the popcorn and nuts between them.
  2. Over medium heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan.
  3. Once melted mix in brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, string very often.
  4. Once the mixture is at a complete boil, let boil for 4 minutes without string.
  5. Once the 4 minutes is up, remove pot from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Stir well until mixture become a light caramel color and becomes very puffy.
  6. Pour mixture over the two pans of popcorn. Using a rubber spatula, mix the caramel and popcorn as much as possible.
  7. Bake for 1 hr, stirring mixture every 15 minutes.
  8. To cool, put parchment paper on your countertop and transfer popcorn onto it.
  9. Enjoy 🙂

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Try not to eat it all 🙂SONY DSCEnjoy 🙂

Carmel popcorn also makes really easy gifts or party favors. Just put some in a bag and tie a pretty ribbon around it and everyone will think it so creative and adorable!

Carmel popcorn also makes really easy gifts or party favors. Just put some in a bag and tie a pretty ribbon around it. Everyone will think it is so creative and adorable!

2nd Attempt at Gluten Free Banana Bread

Huge beads of rain bounce off my bedroom roof, creating a soft humming noise which would normally lure me into sleep.  The small spaces around my curtains briefly light up as a quick flash of lighting illuminates the sky beyond my windows. Its moments like this that used to rush me out of my cozy little room and into my parents’ room where I would nestle up next to my mom, in fear that my wildly active and naive imagination would come true. Years later, although the spontaneity of todays weather still brings a slight tremble into my bones, I find some sort of relaxing aurora to the unknown world beyond my curtains knowing that these small little storms are what make those bright, warm and sunny days so much more precious.

I sit here, trying to find mindless things to do as I continually procrastinate the unpacking that should be going on. I believe this is partially due to the denial I am in as I realize that I will never be moving back to St. Lawrence again and partially due to the fact that unpacking one large part of your life is quite a tedious and slow process. Its a form of denial every one of us goes through as one enchanting chapter of our life comes to an end and a concealed one sits in our impending future, just waiting to be opened.

Who knows what is to come in the pages that follow the conclusion of my life at SLU, who knows what chapters lie ahead. I guess I am pretty excited to find out what will arise as I start down a new path and who will be supporting me along the way. All I can say is that I hope I can share the happiness that each and every day brings to me with all of those around me. ❤

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One of the last weeks of college I decided to try out one more gluten free banana bread recipe. Knowing that once out of college I would really have no need to bake things gluten free, I decided to try a recipe I had been wanting to make for months. Turns out I like this recipe much more than the first one I posted 🙂

Here it is and I hope you enjoy!

SONY DSC

Gluten Free Banana Bread 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 dark organic chocolate bar, chopped

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, sugar, applesauce, oils and vanilla
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened
  5. Stir in chocolate
  6. Transfer into muffin tins or to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with cooking spray
  7. For muffins bake between 16-22 min, for loaves bake between 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean
  8. Enjoy 🙂

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Enjoy

Enjoy

Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies

As I sit outside on this warm spring afternoon soaking the sun’s rays (in hopes to rectify the vitamin D deficiency the long frosty winter months put us through up here) I realize how wonderful life truly is.

Even though its finals week here on campus, the sun always seems to pull people out from their study hibernation in order to enjoy a few hours of relaxation here and there. I know this from experience for just a few minutes ago I found myself locked inside doing work, feeling the sun’s heat peak through the painting studio’s windows. Today I am not the only one who has succumbed to this compulsion. A group of students are over at the BBQ pit enjoying a late lunch while probably reminiscing about the past year, students lying on blankets scatter the fields like some newfangled checkerboard, and every where you look people are running, biking, walking, or getting any bit of exercise they can. Even the dogs are enjoying these endless blue skies as their owners suddenly triple the lengths of their daily walks.

It is another picturesque day to add to the countless beauties that can be found in this world. All I can say, as the sun’s rays slowly make my eyes drift into a short nap, is that I am so fortunate to have the best group of friends and family anyone could ask for. I am here today, able to take in such beauties thanks to this support system, and because of that I am truly blessed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now on to some cookies 🙂

There is one recipe that I always turn to when I am in need of a quick dessert, Chocolate chip M&M cookies.

This is a recipe that I have been working on and perfecting over the past year and a half. I found its recipe origin one day while I was in Ireland and in need of something for an upcoming kayak water polo match. With a few little changes, the recipe was soon to be one of my favorites.

Here it is! Hope you guys enjoy it 🙂

Also, I only had older pictures of this recipe so sorry about the poor quality. Hopefully I will be updating them soon 🙂

Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies

Ingreidents

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp hot water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 large bar of dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup M&Ms

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Cream together butter and sugar
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time
  4. Stir in vanilla
  5. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to mix with salt
  6. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time
  7. Stir in chocolate pieces and M&Ms
  8. Bake for 8- 10 min.
  9. Enjoy 🙂
I dont know how I am not at least 30 pounds heavier...

I dont know how I am not at least 30 pounds heavier…

With M&Ms :)

With M&Ms 🙂

Without M&Ms

Without M&Ms