baking

OREO CHEESECAKE BARS = TO DIE FOR

oreo cheesecake bars

A long, long time ago, I promised a certain someone that if they did me a favor that they could choose my next baking adventure.

Well he came through on that favor and dropped a hint that he was a big fan of Oreo cheesecake. Challenge accepted.

It took me way too long to hold up my end of the bargain, but I finally, FINALLY, made it happen. I whipped up these oreo cheesecake bars earlier this week and I have to admit, they are freaking fantastic. Like way too good. I wanted to eat them all, but I had already promised them to someone else. NEVER AGAIN! (kidding)

If you catch yourself drooling over this photo, don’t worry, these are super simple to make.

Shout out to Table for Two for bringing this into our lives.

Ingredients

For the crust:

23 Oreo cookies

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

6 tbsp. sugar

6 tbsp. sour cream, room temperature

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. salt

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line an 8×8 inch baking dish with parchment paper. Let the sides of the parchment paper hang over the edge of the baking dish; you’ll use this to help you remove it from the dish.

2. To make the crust, pulse the Oreos in a food processor until they are finely ground. Add in the melted butter and continue pulsing until the cookies are moist.

3. Press the ground Oreos into an even layer over the bottom of your baking dish. Bake the crust for 10 minutes and then set aside. Don’t turn the oven off!

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium high until light and smooth. Mix in the sugar until well-combined.

5. Blend in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Then, add egg and egg yolk until well-incorporated.

6. Stir in the chopped Oreos with a spatula.

7. Pour cheesecake batter over the crust and smooth out the top with the spatula. Bake for 40 minutes or until cheesecake is set around the edges but a little wobbly in the center.

8. Let cheesecake cool to room temperature (about 1 hour), then cover it and refrigerate until well chilled. If you want to be on the safe side, let it chill overnight, but a few hours should do it.

9. To cut the bars, lift the overhanging parchment paper from the pan and place it on a cutting board. Peel the paper away and slice into bars. Make sure you use a clean knife blade for each cut so you don’t mess up the cheesecake.

10. Devour. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve them. The creator of this recipe recommends keeping it in an airtight container for up to one week.

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baking

BANANA AND BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

blueberry banana muffins

I’m a little late on my promise to post this recipe. Oops!

Things have been kind of hectic lately. Work has been exhausting and nearly every weekend for the past month or so has been booked with family/friend obligations that have left me even more exhausted. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s meant pushing my blog down the priority list.

Hopefully things will start calming back down and I can settle back into my normal routine.

To make my breakfast a little more fun last week, I whipped up some blueberry banana muffins. I’d been meaning to make blueberry muffins and banana bread for awhile, but never got around to it. Finally, being half lazy and half inspired, I decided to combine them into one yummy treat.

I found tons of recips for blueberry-banana bread online. I went with this one from Damn Delicious. The recipe was for bread, but I decided to throw them into muffin tins. In hindsight I wish I would have made this as a bread because they weren’t as muffin-y texture wise as I had liked.

Further experiments with this combo are planned for the future.

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup blueberries

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl if your stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in eggs, buttermilk and vanilla until well combined.

5. Mash up your bananas, then add them to your stand mixer and beat until well combined.

6. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients until incorporated. Be careful not to over mix!

7. Fold in blueberries.

8. Divide batter evenly between cupcake tins. Place into the overn and bake for about 20-30 minutes. Baking times will vary a bit depending on your oven, so just keep an eye on them. When a tester inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean, you’ll know they’re ready.

9. Cool in the muffin tins for 15 minutes before tranferring to a wire rack to cool completely. And that’s it!

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baking

DARK CHOCOLATE & PISTACHIO COOKIES

dark chocolate/pistachio cookies

I’ve always been curious about pistachios, that cute little green nut, but never enough to actually try them. I knew the boyfriend was a fan and I’d heard friends and family rave about them, but you know me, I’m not one to try new things.

I pinned this recipe for dark chocolate chunk & pistachio cookies from one of my favorite blogs, Two Peas & Their Pod, months ago thinking maybe that could be my incentive to try them. When Jimmy’s birthday came around, I knew it was the perfect time to surprise him with these nummies.

Of course I let him be the first to try them, they were his birthday cookies after all. After he gave them the thumbs up I mustered up some courage to try them. And surprise! I like pistachios. At least, I like them when baked into a cookie with chocolate. I haven’t yet pushed myself to the point of trying a few out of the cannister I bought. Baby steps.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened/at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios, shells removed
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
Sea salt, for sprinkling on cookies

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.

4. With the mixer on a slow speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Don’t over mix!

5. Stir in the pistachios and chocolate chunks.

6. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, form tablespoons size balls of cookie dough. Place cookie dought on your prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle sea salt over cookie dough balls.

7. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Enjoy!

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life & love

LEARNING TO LET GO … AND FIND A NEW CAR

RIP car

This week, I thought I’d start things off a little different, and by different I mean crashing my car.

I thought I was off to a good start Monday: I was well rested, relatively cheery in the morning and was even wearing a cute outfit. I was convinced I was going to have a great day. Until a deer jumped the guardrail and ran onto the highway.

I saw the deer instantly, and when everyone around/in front of me started braking, I did the same. Problem is, I was too focused on what the car out front was doing that I lost track of the car directly in front of me. So even though I saw the car out front stop dead on the highway to avoid hitting that stupid deer, I did not see the car in front of stop to avoid hitting the first car. Oops.

I think the whole thing happened in less than 30 seconds. I can’t say for sure because I was so in shock about what happened that I couldn’t even figure out the poofy balloon thing was that was coming out of my steering wheel. I remember touching it and thinking, what am I feeling? What is this? What happened? It was only after realizing it was the airbag that everything came into focus.

I’m already a high stress anxiety prone individual, so needless to say I dissolved into a fit of hysteria that prompted the sheriff’s deputies to call the squad. I think I really freaked te EMT out, it was something about the way she was looking at me and her tone of voice. I wasn’t hurt, just really, really freaked out about everything.

And when I looked at the front of my car and saw how mangled it was and all this crap that was spilling out of it, oh yeah, and the smoke coming off it, I just lost my shit completely.

I think I was half losing it because I was involved in a trauma that psychological distress is common with, and half because I was worried about my car. I knew it was totaled, and the thought of having to face my parents and explain all of this and go through the process of getting a new car was too much for me to handle.

I don’t know how many times I told my parents I was sorry about the car. Cars are expensive enough without having just put four new tires on mine.  I also kept obsessing over the crash, asking over and over again if it was really my fault or if it was the people who stopped on the highway who were more to blame. I don’t know if I wanted my parents to tell me it wasn’t my fault or if I wanted them to yell at me and say it was.

I can’t handle the idea of letting them down or screwing up in any way, like ever.

It took my mom telling me that she “didn’t give a f**k about the car” before I finally believed the hours of my parents telling me all they cared about is the fact that I wasn’t hurt or in the hospital. I could have sworn they would be pissed about the car, but they really weren’t.

Accepting that fact and just letting go of what happened seemed impossible. But the more my parents told me they didn’t care about the car, the more my friends and coworkers told me the same thing and shared the stories about the times they totaled their cars, it got easier to accept.

I’ve always had a hard time letting go. I obsess over things and once I get started I can’t stop. I replay things in my mind from years ago wondering how I could have changed the outcome, or just replaying them to make myself feel bad for the stupid thing I did. It’s … unhealthy.

I could probably benefit from taking a note out of Queen Elsa’s book and just let it go. (Frozen anyone??)

I’m trying to learn to let things go. I’ve been doing a lot of deep breathing and thinking positive thoughts. Not sure if it’s working yet. I guess I’ll find out the next time something stressful pops up.

Until then, I’ll have searching for a new car to keep me busy.

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life & love

OUR PUPPY TURNED 1! WELL, SORT OF

Jordy's birthday

Exactly one year ago today, this amazing pup came into our lives.

It all started when I went on an assignment at the local animal shelter. I was working on a feature story for the newspaper about a pair of volunteers who had been working hard to turn the place around. I really only went to interview them at the shelter because it seemed convenient for the two of them, plus it would make for a better photo.

When I arrived at the shelter, the guy at the front desk told me it would be a few minutes before they were ready. To keep me entertained, he suggested I go walk around the kennel. And me being the animal lover I am jumped at the opportunity to get some puppy time.

And that’s when I met Jordy (who just jumped on the couch and gave me a big kiss).

Jordy came running right up to me when I walked in the door. It was his turn to have his cage cleaned, so he was just roaming around the kennel like he didn’t have a care in the world. I couldn’t help but melt a little inside when he jumped up and licked my face.

I can’t lie, I was in a vulnerable spot. My family dog, Lexxie, who I am convinced was the bestest cutest most loving and wonderful dog to ever exist, passed away around Christmas. And I was absolutely still not over it when I went to the shelter. But, again, I was only going to the shelter for the interview.

Eventually the volunteers showed up and I followed them to the office for the interview. We chat for an hour and I don’t think much about the cute puppy I met in the kennel, until it’s time for the photos. The photographer suggests we bring some dogs out and have them interact with the volunteers, then the volunteers asked if I wanted to pick the dogs, and guess who I picked? Yep, I picked Jordy.

When it came time to put him away, I was really starting to get sucked in. He was just SO cute. He was only three months old, he was super loving and quiet and he just seemed, I don’t know, perfect?

The more I thought about it, the more I started thinking, why not? Why not just adopt the puppy? In seconds the volunteers convinced me it was a great idea and I’m on the phone with James trying to convince him. A few minutes later, I was filling out the adoption paperwork and wondering if I was out of my mind.

The more I spent time with him, the more sure I felt about my decision. James loved him immediately, and we both couldn’t wait to move into our new apartment and become a little family together.

It pretty much turned out to be everything we thought it would be, and by that I mean it was freaking amazing.

It’s hard to think a year has gone by since we adopted Jordy. We’ve had our disagreements (he ate my shoes, ate my underwear, ate a hole in the wall, etc.), but overall I think James and I agree that it was one of the best things we’ve ever done.

Since Jordy was adopted, we’re not sure when his birthday is. So we decided to celebrate his adoption day as his birthday. We got him this cute little “Birthday Boy” scarf and a happy adoption day puppy pie.

Jordy basically inhaled the puppy pie. I think he enjoyed his little birthday celebration, I mean, look at that smile! I know I sure enjoyed it (:

Now that we’ve hit that milestone, I’m looking forward to what the next year holds for me and my puppy. I’m sure it will be as exciting, loving and sometimes frustrating as the first. I can’t wait.

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life & love

I SWEAR I’M STILL HERE

choose happy

Hello, Internet? This is Em. You know, the girl who writes this blog. Well tI just wanted to let you that I’m not dead, as evidenced by this very post. So you don’t have to worry about me.

K? We good?

I know it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted anything, but i just haven’t had the energy. I really haven’t had the energy to do much of anything other than dragging myself to and from work these days, and half the time I feel like I’m going to fall asleep at any moment.

Basically I’ve been in a … funk, I guess, for lack of a better word. It’s been coming on for months and it finally reared its ugly head a few weeks ago and I basically had to admit to myself that I was probably depressed.

You might ask why a 23 year old girl who has a kickass apartment. loving family, amazingly supportive and good looking boyfriend with a stable job, and a not so shitty job herself could be depressed. Well, it happens, and it happened to me.

I used to wonder if I suffered form bouts of depression, now I guess I know. And that’s sort of a depressing fact.

But the good news is, the days of laying in my bed alternating between binge watching House and 30 Rock are over. After a long talk with my best friend, my mom and James, I’ve realized that nothing is going to change until I do something.

So starting about a week ago, I started exercising again. It’s amazing what a little cardio and yoga will do for my energy and my mind. I’ve also tried to come home every day with at least half a smile on my face, a whole one if I can manage. I’m trying not to dwell on things that are out of my control, and focus on the things that are.

I also scheduled a doctor’s appointment to find out if this is scary real or just real enough to make life shitty for a few months before it all just fades away and I’m OK again. I’m a little nervous about that part, but it seemed like the right decision.

Anyway, I’m not writing this for the attention I’ll almost certainly get from concerned friends and coworkers, but just because it’s another way for me to just deal with it, to call it what it is and do everything I can to not let it control my life.

Today, I’m choosing to be happy. Hopefully it’s not a superficial happy where I just pretend, but true happiness.

I came home and was happy to see my dogs. I’m happy at the prospect of seeing James when he gets home, and for hopefully kicking some butt at our cornhole game later tonight. So I think I’m off to a good start.

It seems like a good strategy for every day, to choose happiness. It’s a very mindful thing. I think maybe I’ll try it again tomorrow …

Photo by Paper Coterie.

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DIY

DIY CLAY CATCH-ALLBOWL

clay catch-all bowl

 

Every morning I feel like I’m going on a treasure hunt for my keys. I never put them in the same place twice. They could be in my purse, clipped to the handle of my purse, on the bannister, on the counter under a bunch of junk, on my nightstand, the list goes on.

This is one of my morning routines that I’d like to see, well, less routine. I happened to pin this cute DIY jewelry dish on my pinterest board awhile back, and I suddenly realized that a little bowl on the bannister would be the perfect place to stash my keys.

So I picked up some crafting clay and away I went! This was my first time working with clay, and I have to say it was easier than I thought it would be but still somewhat challenging. Mostly because I’m a psycho OCD perfectionist and my bowl didn’t come out perfectly symmetric and I painted “keys” a little off center.

But as James reminded me, it’s the little imperfections in homemade items that make them what they are. I’ll probably have to tell myself that a million times before I get over it, but I’ll get there.

Supplies

8 oz of white crafting clay

X-acto knife

Copper paint

Paint brushes

Rolling pin

Parchment or wax paper

Small & medium size glass bowls

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.

2. Take the clay and knead it in your hands until it softens up, enough that you can shape it.

3. On a sheet of parchment or wax paper, roll out the clay to about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Note: The clay should be non-toxic, but the tutorial I used recommended using a rolling pin that was only used for crafts, not food. I took the advice and used an old fondant roller I no longer needed.

4. Take your small bowl and turn it upside onto the clay, pressing down slightly. Then, use the X-acto knife to cut around the edge of the bowl.

5. Remove the round piece of clay and gently lay it inside the medium size bowl. Try to place it inside the bowl so the edges are all even; make sure one side isn’t hanging down lower than the other.

6. Place the bowl in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes. While it’s baking, the clay should sink down a bit until it begins to take the shape of the bowl and the edges curve up a bit.

7. After it’s finished baking, remove the bowl from the oven. Do not remove the clay until it is 100 percent cooled.

8. Once it’s cooled, gently remove the clay from the glass bowl. You should have a nice clay bowl to work with. Now grab your paint and a paint brush, flip the bowl over and paint the outside. Let dry for about an hour.

9. Flip your bowl right side up and paint the trim in the same color.

10. Take a smaller paintbrush and carefully write ‘keys’ on the inside of the bowl. Try taking a few practice strokes on a piece of cardboard or paper first if you’re nervous. Let it dry for an hour or overnight and your bowl should be ready to hold your keys in the morning.

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