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!

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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)

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 🙂

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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 🙂

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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.

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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 🙂

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Super Soft Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

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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 🙂

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.

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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