Harry Potter Induced Baking: Meet the Praline Snickerdoodle with Salted Caramel Drizzle

IMG_1831

Today was a cookie baking sort of day.

Do you even see that delicious blob of caramel-y goodness???

The sister-in-law wanted to watch Harry Potter this afternoon and watching Daniel Radcliffe save the wizarding world from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named always makes me want to bake a copious amount of cookies.

We started with a basic chocolate chip recipe based of this one. But we were left wanting something more. Something just as rich as chocolate sans chocolate.

So we got creative.

Necessity is the mother of invention after all. 

We gathered our basics:

flour, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, you know…the usual.

But then we had these English Toffee bits…and pecans.

So….we created Snickerdoodle Toffee Pecan Cookies with a Butterscotch Caramel Sea Salt Drizzle.

So it’s a little wordy…

I think I’ll just call them “Christmas Cookies” because I want to give them away at Christmas.

Or maybe Praline Snickerdoodles with Salted Caramel Drizzle..

Five bucks to the first person to come up with a better name. Really. 

How to Snickerdoodle: Yields: ~24 med. cookies — 15 minutes prep / 45-120 minutes total (depending on your patience level!) 

IMG_1830

1) Gather your ingredients

1 stick – unsalted butter

1/2 cup – Crisco shortening

2/3 cup – white sugar

3/4 cup – lightly packed brown sugar

1 egg

Splash – vanilla extract

1 tsp/ to taste – ground cinnamon

1 tsp – Cream of Tartar

1 tsp – baking soda

3 tsp – baking powder

3 tsp – sea salt – divided

2 cups – all purpose flour

3 Tbsp – cornstarch

1.25 cups – toffee bits

handful ~1/2 cup – finely crushed pecans

2) In a stand mixer/handheld mixer, cream butter, shortening, and sugars together until lightly combined.

3) Add egg, vanilla, cinnamon and lightly mix until combined

4) In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, powder, cornstarch, salt, and cream of tartar. Whisk together.

5) Turn mixer on low, (I use 2 on my KitchenAid stand mixer) and slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. I start with about 1 cup of dry and add in 1/3 cup intervals.

6) After dough is formed, pour in toffee bits and pecans and fold together until evenly distributed.

7) Cover dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but no more than 48 hours. (Or if you’re impatient like me, cover and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.)

8) While you’re waiting on your dough to chill, preheat the oven to 360º F and grab your favorite caramel sauce. I love Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel Sauce. Buy it here!

One of these days I’ll stop being afraid of caramel sauces…but for now, store bought is perfect. I’m not Ina Garten. Store bought will always be fine.

Tick Tock…

20 minutes/2 hours later….

9) Roll your dough into about 1″-1.5″ balls and place at least 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet

10) Bake for 10-13 minutes at 360ºF. Cooking times will vary, mine were perfect at 12 minutes but I’d say check on them at 9 minutes and definitely don’t bake longer than 14 minutes!

11) Remove your cookies from the oven and allow to sit on their sheet for at least 5 minutes! Don’t skip this step or else you’ll have broken, sad cookies.

12) Once 5 minutes have passed, place on a cookie cooling rack to continue cooling.

13) Once their just barely warm to the touch it’s time to drizzle! Drizzle your caramel sauce onto the cookies in whatever design you like using a spoon/knife. Be careful not to be too heavy handed. You don’t want to over power the nuttiness of the toffee and pecans.

14) After you’re done drizzling, sprinkle coarse sea salt over each cookie to help cut through the richness of the cookie.

That’s it! You’re done!

Share your recommendations, pictures, comments, questions below!

Stay smiling, stay baking, stay warm!!

Peace, love, and cookies.

Amen.

Advertisements

O Captain, my Captain! – Removing the Stigma of Depression

As the Jesus-loving, woman-empowering, body positive, socially conservative, do-it-yourself, homemaking, wife that I am, it is a very rare occurrence that our President says something that I can wholeheartedly get behind.

But that’s what happened when I saw the White House press release regarding the passing of Robin Williams on Monday night:

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 9.46.09 PM

As the language oriented person that I am, I appreciated the POTUS’ references to some of Williams’ most beloved characters – Adrian Cronauer in “Good Morning Vietnam”, Patch Adams, Genie in “Aladdin”, Mrs. Doubtfire, Tom Dobbs in “Man of the Year,” Philip Brainard in “Flubber,” and Peter Pan in “Hook.”

I found myself surprisingly upset by the news of Robin Willams’ passing. Usually, the lives and deaths of the rich and famous do nothing to my emotional stability or my outlook on life, but when I saw the news I couldn’t help but curl up and cry.dead-poets-society

I felt like I had just lost a member of my own family – like a favorite uncle. Even though Williams was a mega-star, I felt like I knew him personally after inviting him into my home and heart so many times. He made me laugh. He made me cry.

I found out about his passing seven minutes after the first report was released. Without thinking, I immediately got on Twitter and watched as my trends began to reflect the news. At one point all but one of the trends listed referenced Robin Williams- totaling over 1 million tweets a minute.

What an amazing outpouring of love and admiration! I was astounded at just how many people loved the man and his work. He was truly, truly loved.

Which begs the question: If he had known how much the world really loved and supported him, would he still have committed suicide?

We’ll never know the answer to that question and there is no time in this life for “what ifs” and “if only’s.”

What we do know is is that Robin Williams had been battling depression for years and depression is a very real and terrifying condition. As Katie Hurley from the Huffington Post says it:

“Suicide is a decision made out of desperation, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. The black hole that is clinical depression is all-consuming. Feeling like a burden to loved ones, feeling like there is no way out, feeling trapped and feeling isolated are all common among people who suffer from depression…soul-crushing depression that envelops them leaves them feeling like there is no alternative. Like the only way to get out is to opt out. And that is a devastating thought to endure.”

Depression is incredibly common, and most people will experience at least one depressive episode at least once in their life according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, not everyone experiences depression the same way and there are many signs and symptoms including but not limited to:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

One sad day or even a couple sad days does not mean you have depression. We all have those days, but if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms for any length of time, do not be afraid to talk to someone – preferably a doctor in addition to someone you trust. Remember that suicidal thoughts are not normal. You or someone you love begins having suicidal thoughts, please seek help.

If it is someone you love that is confiding in you remember the following according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Be sensitive – they obviously trust you and want to talk, so do not shut them down.
  • Be alert – look for warning signs such as: talking about death/dying, giving away possessions, buying a gun, increased risk taking behavior, withdrawing from social contact, etc.
  • Be direct – ask specific questions about how they think they’ll commit suicide. You want to find out if they’re in danger of acting on their thoughts.
    • e.g. They say they’re going to shoot themselves – do they have access to a gun?
      • How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
      • Do you ever feel like just giving up?
      • Are you thinking about dying?
      • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
      • Are you thinking about suicide?
      • Have you thought about how you would do it?
      • Do you know when you would do it?
      • Do you have the means to do it?

Important: if you suspect that someone is in danger of committing suicide:

  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room yourself.
  • Try to find out if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
  • Tell a family member or friend right away what’s going on.

Robin Williams death is a tragedy and his passing as left a genie shaped hole in all of our lives, yet in his death I hope that we as a society will be able to move forward with reshaping our ideas and stigmas surrounding depression, mental illness, and suicide. We are in no position to judge a person for how they view their lives or their actions. As Ms. Hurley asserts,

“Suicide is not selfish…Until you’ve stared down that level of depression, until you’ve lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness… you don’t get to make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won’t help the next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.”

In Dead Poets Society, Williams plays an English teacher at a strict all-boys prep school where he inspires boys to become freethinkers. He encourages them to stand on their desks so as to remind them that they must constantly view life from a different perspective. (view it here)

We must stand on our metaphorical desks and view his passing as an opportunity to change an aspect of our society that we are unhappy with.

So let’s move on from pointing fingers and blaming the person who took their own life, let’s work together to remove the stigma of depression and let everyone know that they are loved in spite of their illness, that they are no less of an amazing human being fraught with potential, that they are unique and have something incredible to offer the human race.

 We are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? -Robin Williams as  John Keating

What will your verse be?

Stay smiling, happy looks great on you.

How to Deal with Other Humans

Vex: to make (someone) feel annoyed, frustrated, or worried, esp. with trivial matters

The last couple days have been vexing.

Do you ever have those days where every thing is annoying? Like someone breathing too loud makes you want to go like Hulk-on-Loki-in-the-Avengers crazy? 

That’s been me the last couple days. Other humans (and the occasional dog) have basically made me want to pull my hair out.

From the guys behind me talking loudly during our lecture, to the bicyclist who almost knocked me over walking to my next class, to the students who wouldn’t allow a car to move because they kept walking in front of it, to the person who got into our car and stole all my country CDs, to my dog puking up all over the floor…it’s been a rough two days.

My frustrations started in my first class of the day. Two frat-guys were discussing their spring break plans to “get totally crunk bro.” After about 5 minutes of solid talking, I turned around and told that they they were being distracting as I was attempting to take notes and that they were disrespecting our professor by talking in class.

Confrontation is not something I particularly care for. My heart rate was spiked, my palms were clammy, and I’m sure my voice wasn’t as clear as it could have been, yet I spoke my peace. I called them out.

All of my frustrations got me thinking about myself though. About how what I get angry and annoyed about reflects about my personality and temperament. I found myself calling others out in my head…in my head I called them selfish and proud.

But then they called me a bitch. And continued talking after I turned back around.

So I spun back, stared them in the eye, and fired: “Are you serious? I just asked you to stop talking. You don’t have to be in lecture. You could leave and continue your conversation outside. You’re distracting me and disrespecting our professor. Stop talking.”

They called me a bitch one more time, but I didn’t hear a peep out of them the rest of class.

Even when you know that you did the right thing, being called a bitch at 9:45am is not the best way to start a morning. I’ll spare you all the details of my following encounters with humans, just know that by the end of the day – I was fed up with people.

All of my frustrations got me thinking about myself though. About how what I get angry and annoyed about reflects about my personality and temperament. I found myself calling others out in my head…in my head I called them selfish and proud.

But, I was the one being selfish and being proud.

And I most definitely was not being forgiving.

be-kind-for-everyone-you-meet-is-fighting-a-hard-battle“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Ian Maclaren

I love this quote because it creates a cause for compassion.

It gives me a reason to be forgiving consistently, even when other humans are driving me insane.

Also, it’s true.

Have you ever been stuck in rush hour traffic and just looked around?

You and approximately 10,000 other people are all experiencing the same thing at that moment. They have lives and families and heartache. Maybe one is attempting to get home to his wife and kids so that he can finally make it to his daughter’s softball game. Maybe another is trying to get to the hospital before a baby is born, or before a loved one passes away.

Yours is not the only story that is happening at any one moment ever. Your story and my story and your neighbors’ story are all existing in the same space.

This thought is humbling for me today. Every single person I meet is fighting a hard battle, therefore I will be kind, forgiving, and loving.

The Unsung Hero | Law Enforcement Wives

It is no question that being a law enforcement officer (LEO) is a demanding and dangerous profession. You work long hours because your shift never ends on time. You miss birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, sporting events, Church, family dinners because you got home late and/or get called out early. You put your life on the line everyday – on every stop, because you never know if this is going to be the guy that has a gun and is willing to use it. Your line of work demands perfection because if you make a mistake on a stop – people could die. You could die.

You are a hero.

You are a hero because in the face of danger you display courage and will for self sacrifice. 

And I thank you all so much for your service. 

But this post is not about you.

This post is about the unsung heroes — your wives.

Being a LEO wife myself, I know the struggle, stress, worry, and pride that goes into your day-to-day life. 

We are fierce. 

We are some of the strongest women I know.

We are strong because when our men walk out the door we know in our hearts that they may not come home on time – or at all. Every second is a gift. We do not get the privilege of staying mad. We swallow our pride, put a smile on our faces, and tell our dear husbands that we love him. Because we do. My husband and I make it a point to say “I love you” at the end of every phone call, before we go to sleep every night, and before we leave the house in the morning. We know all to well that our lives our precious and that our love is a gift to be cherished as his father (also a LEO) was murdered while in a foot pursuit while my husband was in high school. Some petty argument doesn’t change our love for each other, so why draw it out any longer than we have to? Life goes on, and we know that better than any one. 

We LEO wives know how to live on our own. If the house is dirty -we clean it; no matter what kind of day we had at work. If the laundry needs done, we do it. If there are children, there are PTA meetings, Brownies, Boy Scouts, sporting events, music lessons, the list goes on. And we will be chauffeurs and cheerleaders and we will assure them of Daddy’s love and explain that “he can’t be here because he’s protecting us right now.” 

There are nights when we wives will go to bed alone. Whether that’s because he’s working 3rd shift or because he has a mountain of paperwork that has to be done by tomorrow, it will happen. But there is not a sound more comforting than the garage door opening at 3AM, of him sneaking upstair so as not to wake you, and sliding into bed and pulling you in close. 

Our lives are ones of unpredictability. We do not get to have normal schedules like the rest of the world and it becomes apparent that the rest of the world doesn’t always realize that. We schedule life around his days off which typically fall in the middle of the week but are always subject to change.

Therefore we do not have the option to be high maintenance. When he calls on his shift, we answer; and if he hurriedly says “Gottagoloveyoubye” and hangs up…that’s okay. When we cook dinner for him because he thought he could come home to eat, but dinner goes cold and we eat alone…that’s okay. When we plan a trip that gets cancelled at the last minute because his days off got changed…that’s okay.

We learn very quickly that while we may not be in law enforcement, we are invested in it. Our lives are steeped in it. Our relationship is based more that just the two of us. It is Lord, husband+wife, post. 

Law enforcement officers are our everyday heroes to be sure, but the unsung heroes are the women who stand by them – for better or for worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. 

What Shall We Die For? | iHeartBible

One of my all time favorite movie series is Pirates of the Caribbean. I love how Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightly, and Orlando Bloom meld into their characters so fantastically. I become nearly convinced the Black Pearl is a real ship and that if I’m lucky I may catch a glimpse of the Flying Dutchman as a green flash on the horizon at sunset. But there is a speech spoken by Knightly’s character, Elizabeth Swan, in response to cries that all hope is lost that propels the third movie to its climax. 

[Crew] Our final hope has failed us.

[Elizabeth] “It’s not over.”

[Will] “There’s still a fight to be had.”

[Gibbs]”We’ve an armada against us, and with the Dutchman, there’s no chance.”

[Elizabeth] “There’s only a fool’s chance.”

[Barbossa] “Revenge won’t bring your father back, Miss Swann, and it’s not something I’m intending to die for.”

[Elizabeth] “You’re right. Then, what shall we die for? You will listen to me! (shouting) Listen! The Brethren will still be looking here, to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship?

NO. NO, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons. They will hear the ring of our swords, and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts.

Gentlemen. Hoist the colors!”

That line: “Then what shall we die for?” gives me chills every single time. It commands your attention and your thought. In Pirates they will die for freedom, a noble a cause as there ever was, but today’s verse isn’t about freedom. It’s about loving others and being willing to die for them.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

-John 15:12-14 (ESV)

I love the imagery this passage conveys. Jesus has just finished telling his disciples to abide in Him, that He is the true vine. I like to imagine the Disciples were confused at the end of this speech as they usually were, and that Jesus, seeing their faces, laughed gently to Himself and summed it all up telling them to love everyone as he loved them, and that the best way to demonstrate that is to die for your friends. I imagine at that line, the Disciples became even more confused and maybe even frightened, because Jesus is still with them. He isn’t dead. And they certainly do not want Him to die for them! But Jesus, unswayed by their looks continues on, telling them that they are His true friends if they do as he’s commanded them.

The passage today begins in John 15:12 with Jesus commanding us to love everyone as He loved us. So how did Jesus love us? Sacrificially, selflessly, unconditionally, generously, with forgiveness and compassion; He loved us with pure, true love. It is not fathomable for humans to love as Jesus loved on our own, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27, ESV), but as shown in Mark, it is possible with God’s help. Every day we must choose this sacrificial, unconditional love.

But how will we know if we are fully loving how Jesus loved?

Well the scripture for today answers that as well. In verse 13 it goes on, “Greater love has no on than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” If you will go so far as to die for your friends, who are imperfect, sinful people, then you know that you are loving as Jesus loved us. We know this because this verse is foreshadowing of Jesus being arrested, beaten, and crucified on the cross for every single one of us.

I like to think that verse 14 goes further than just the immediate passage. That while Jesus does what his Disciples to be willing to and even actually die for each other, that Jesus really means to keep all the commandment He has given them over His time with them.

I like to think that I would love those around me so selflessly that if the need arose I would indeed die for them, but hypotheticals are nothing compared to real-life scenarios. All I can do now is pray to for Christ to make me more like Him every day.

So what shall we die for?

Freedom? Happiness? Some other noble cause?

As for me, I would die out of love for my fellow man so that in so doing I demonstrate Christ’s love for others. And while I hope that day would never arise and that I may continue to die to myself out of love of others, if it should….I hope I would.

Stay Smiling!

Dare to be Humble | iHeartBible

I had an interview today with a technology company to write some operator manuals for them. It went really well, which I am thankful for, but I did remember one thing about myself today. Image

I hate interviews. 

I really hate selling myself and my qualifications to people. I feel like I’m bragging and my parents always taught me that I shouldn’t brag about my abilities. 

So interviews aren’t exactly my niche. 

I feel like Brendan Fraser in the little known, but well loved movie: Bedazzled. What he wants is a good thing, but selling your soul to the devil is not exactly the best way to obtain it. I didn’t sell my soul to the devil, I just signed on the metaphorical dotted line to write a few manuals. Either way though, my palms were sweaty and my heart rate was up. 

My minute, day-to-day anxieties are not the kind that are being discussed in this passage. Not that they don’t apply, but the author of the passage is really referring to life-altering, ground-breaking, riot inducing anxieties. 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, un

der the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Humility in this day and age seems to be a lost art. People are rebuked for humility. They are told that they are not powerful, driven people if they esteem themselves lower than another – to give credit where credit is due. But to be truly humble is to be truly free.Humilityis marked “by the absence of self-assertion or self-exaltation.” (Oxford English Dictionary) God wants us to stop asserting ourselves and puffing ourselves up. He wants us to just glorify him so that one day He may tell us: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” But He knows that this isn’t always going to be easy so he desires that after we have humbled ourselves, to throw our worries, cares, concerns, etc onto Him because He loves us. 

However, don’t take this verse too far and read into what is not there. 

Noticeably absent is the statement that says that if we are humble and cast our cares on Him that He will take our hurt and pain and worries away because He loves us. It does not say this. It actually says that there will be suffering, and that this same suffering is known to all Jesus followers around the globe.

But there is a glorious hope, that after we have suffered for a while the most High God will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 

I don’t want this post to come off as to never be self asserting, especially in the job sector, but there is a way to be humble. And that is to give all the glory to God. 

Stay Smiling!

Don’t Overlook a Must | iHeartBible

For some reason today I just don’t have a lot to say.

Maybe it’s because of the snow outside.

Maybe it’s because I have company over.

Maybe it’s because I have laundry to fold and dishes to wash.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t get much sleep last night.

Maybe it’s because I have piles of school work to do.

Well whatever it is….I don’t have many words today.

7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified,whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 7-12, ESV)

Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004).When we reach lows in our lives it is tempting to reach out and hope for something – someone to save us. But what this verse reminds us is that there is only salvation, redemption, in one person – Jesus Christ. There is only one person, one name that you need to call on – Jesus Christ.

I also love that Luke uses the adverb “must” in this context. It creates a sense of finality and urgency.  Must. To be obliged to. Something that should not be overlooked or missed.

Jesus was overlooked by many in his day, but we are told in this verse that He is the only one who can lift you up out of the pit.

There is no one else in all of Creation that is capable of fully understanding every single thing you are going through.

So tell him about it.

You don’t need to worry about whatever it is you’re dealing with.

Give it Jesus.

Because there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Stay Smiling!