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)

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

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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 🙂
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The ingredients

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

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Enjoy :)

Enjoy 🙂

Strawberry Shot Glass Cocktail (with a bit of emotional banter)

There are a few things that I absolutely love.

Of course I love my family and friends. The people that are there for you through thick or thin. You can show up to their doorstep on a Sunday morning and know you will be welcomed with an embracing hug, a warm cup of tea, and a compelling conversation. You can call them for hours in the middle of their work day just to laugh about something crazy you saw or work through the confusions of life. They walk with you on your journey of life, even though they are not compelled too.

I love the lessons I have learned throughout my life, the thought of the future, and of course everything the surrounds me today.

Although life can throw some curve balls which make you fall to your feet, I love how our bodies have this astounding ability to heal, grow, and continue to progress on. It is quite an amazing ability that is often times overlooked.

I love the warm feeling of the sun on a cozy spring day, the way the sun and moon never tire from playing chase around the earth, and of course the ways the stars look as you lay on a golf course in the middle of nowhere on a cloudless summer night.

When you think of it, when you take a moment to imagine all of the beauties, the wonders, and the satisfaction that surround us each an every day, it is hard not to find something to love.

Just take a moment to imagine the simple things in your life that you find fulfillment in, the things that are unique to your own awareness. Cherish these, never forget to admire these simple beauties that surround you each day, and hold them close to your heart.

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

Now that the emotional banter is over lets get to some cocktails, as these too are things that I love (on special occasions of course). 😀

So a few weeks ago during spring break Allie, Amanda, and I decided to experiment with some cocktails. Each night we attempted to make a different one. And let me tell you, the all turned out great. Here is one that we made which I thought you would like- I mean it has chocolate, strawberries, and liquor.. Whats not to love?

I am not sure where we found the idea, I think it was something one of our friends had liked on Facebook. Either way, the second I saw a picture of the I HAD to make them! We didn’t follow a specific recipe, we just did what we thought would work.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we did. 🙂

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Strawberry Shot Glass Cocktails

Ingredients

  • Strawberries
    • Try to get the largest ones you can find
    • Make sure you wash them and the pat them dry- otherwise the chocolate wont stick.
  • 1/2 cup melted chocolate
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Vanilla Vodka
  • Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
  • Whipped Cream (optional… but highly recommended)

Steps

  1. Prepare the strawberries. To do this first wash them and pat them dry. Cut off the tops and a small bit of the bottom point to make a flat bottom. Using a small melon scooper, hallow out the strawberries. Be careful not to hallow out too much and cut through the outer flesh.
  2. Dip the bottoms of the strawberries in the melted chocolate and place them on a plate covered with wax paper. Transfer them to the freezer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Mix equal parts vanilla vodka and chocolate liqueur. Mix in some chocolate syrup to your own preference.
  4. Remove the strawberries from the freezer. Pour the chocolate mixture into them and top with whipped cream.
  5. Enjoy 🙂

If you are making these for a party I recommended letting the strawberries sit in the freezer right up until a few minutes before the guests arrive. This way the shot glasses are sturdier and it helps chill the liquid a little bit.

Preparing the Strawberries

Preparing the Strawberries

How the look like once they have been hallowed out

How the look like once they have been hallowed out

All dipped in chocolate and ready to freeze

All dipped in chocolate and ready to freeze

Mix these with a little chocolate syrup and your half way to a sugar high :p

Mix these with a little chocolate syrup and your half way to a sugar high

Yum

Yum

Cheers!

Cheers!

Decided to whip up some whipped cream a little later- Definitely worth it!

Decided to whip up some whipped cream a little later- Definitely worth it!

Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Do you have a friend who has Celiacs disease or some form of Gluten intolerance? In this day and age who doesn’t? It seems like gluten allergies are popping up left and right! And, unfortunately for them most of the recipes that people bake are swarming with gluten!

I actually live with a friend who has had Celiacs disease for about 7 or so years! Although she is probably used to it by now, I can only imagine how annoying it is for her when she walks in at night and smells a fresh batch of cookies knowing she cannot have them. It always makes me feel a bit bad knowing about 95% of what I make is gluten filled. I always have the intention to make her something but it often falls through.

Up until this past week, every time I made something gluten free it was from a box. It always pains me to crack open those boxes, mix in a few eggs and water, and then bake. Its just not the same. And to me, a person who loves to bake, it feels like I’m cheating myself and the person i am making it for. However, in the past the thought of making something gluten free would force a huge dark cloud over my head- What if I did something wrong? What if gluten slipped in somewhere and I got a friend sick? I would hate to mess it up.

However, this week I put this fear a side and started exploring a new field of baking which I had yet to do. I did this by making a few different things as well as Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. Below is the recipe.

Hope it brightens up your gluten free friend as much as it did mine :p

Sorry for the lack of photos of each step, I made this recipe before I had this blog in mind.

Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tbs vegetable or sunflower seed oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 dark chocolate bar- chopped

Steps

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In small bowl, whisk together eggs, bananas, sugar, applesauce, oil, and vanilla
  3. Pour wet batter into dry mix. Mix. Stir in chocolate.
  4. Bake in greased muffin pan for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.

Enjoy 🙂

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I was a little nervous about how they would turn out.

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But they actually turned out great 🙂