I’m Baaacckk and Blogging for Mental Health 2015

Hi all, It has been almost a year since I have been on this site.

It is absolutely ridiculous for me to think about that.

Luckily it has not been almost a year since I have baked anything – that would have been ridiculous. 🙂

Life has been incredibly busy – since last year this time I have gotten two promotions at work, gotten engaged, gotten married, moved to a new house, tried to decorate said house, and a whole lot of other amazing things.

Now I am back and I hope to keep it going for a little while.

With that I am going to make some pretty delicious cookies. At least I hope they will be – I am writing while I mix these little guys up and we will see how they turn out.

Also, while I write and bake I have been watching these awesome videos from Brene Brown. Love her and her thoughts.

Have you guys seen these yet? They are incredibly adorable and spot on.

The first one is empathy vs. sympathy and then the second one is on blame and how it corrodes empathy.

Mind = Blown.

Also as a part of this blog post I am renewing my pledge to blog for mental health.

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

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I have done this pledge the past two years you can read those here and here. If you are interested in the campaign (click here) you should definitely do it as well. As many people we have speaking out against the stigma against mental health the bigger our impact will be!

Now that you have these in your thoughts. Pop some of these cookies in your mouth and I will be back soon!


nutty thumbrints

Nutty Chocolate Thumbprints (from Southern Living January 2015)

Yield: 42 cookies

For the cookies:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 (4-oz.) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp. milk, at room temperature
To make the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat 1/2 cup butter at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add brown sugar and 3/4 cup powdered sugar; beat until well blended. Beat in 3/4 cup peanut butter, scraping down sides as needed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to medium-low, and gradually add flour mixture, beating just until blended. Scoop the dough onto cookies sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb into each ball, forming an indentation. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until set; cool 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and cool 15 minutes.
To make the filling:
Beat 1/4 cup peanut butter and 2 Tbsp. butter at medium speed until smooth. Microwave chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Add melted chocolate to peanut butter mixture, and beat at medium speed just until blended. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar to peanut butter mixture alternately with 2 Tbsp. milk, beginning with sugar. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Beat in up to 1 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Spoon filling into a zip-top plastic bag; snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole, and pipe filling into indentations in cookies.
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Mardi Gras King Cake

king cake sugared

Every year in one way or another I celebrate Mardi Gras. This has been happening for as long as I remember thanks to my mom.

She introduced me to the New Orleans culture and therefore this delicious holiday. I remember bring King Cakes to school since I was at least in 2nd grade (if not before).

king cake dough

Last year I made a few but this year the one I made definitely turned out much better. Proof that practice makes better (not yet perfect). Maybe not the case for this blog, but hopefully some more mental health related topics will come to me soon!

king cake dough finished

This is a fairly simple recipe that only takes a little patience to get right something I did not have a ton of last year. But this year. I had the whole day off yesterday so I had plenty of patience to work on this king cake.

king cake dough rolled

Filled with cinnamon, sugar, and butter. Absolutely delicious. Rolled up and formed into a circle. Nothing could be better!

king cake circle

Except to bake it and cover it in icing.

king cake iced

Yep. That is the way to go. Cover it purple, yellow, and green sanding sugar. Perfection. Couple it with some coffee in the morning, snack on it during the day, or a sweet treat after dinner. Really anytime can work. Enjoy!

Traditional King Cake

8 ounces of sour cream

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (100° to me110°)

1 tablespoon sugar

1  large egg, lightly beaten

3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles

To make the cake:

Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.

Stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.

Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (1 to 1 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.

Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cake on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.

King Cake Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Splash vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

To make the glaze: Stir together first 4 ingredients. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.

Red Velvet Cheescake Layer Cake

It is two for one Valentine treat day!

cheesecake batter

Not too much to chat about I just wanted to give you a special extra little treat. I hope you are having a great day!

red velvet layer

Red Velvet Cheesecake Layer Cake

Ingredients

For the cheesecake:

1  (12-oz.) package white chocolate morsels

5  (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the cake:

1 cup butter, softened

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

6 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 (8-oz.) container sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 (1-oz.) bottles red liquid food coloring

3 (8-in.) round disposable aluminum foil cake pans

For the white chocolate frosting:

2 (4-oz.) white chocolate baking bars, chopped

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup butter, softened

1 (32-oz.) package powdered sugar, sifted

1/8 teaspoon salt

cake and frosting

To make the cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 300°. Line bottom and sides of 2 8 inch cake pans with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.

Microwave white chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl according to package directions; cool 10 minutes.

Beat cream cheese and melted chocolate at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in 1 Tbsp. vanilla. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake at 300° for 30 to 35 minutes or until almost set. Turn oven off. Let cheesecakes stand in oven, with door closed, 30 minutes. Remove from oven to wire racks; cool completely (about 1 1/2 hours). Cover and chill 8 hours, or freeze 24 hours to 2 days.

To make the red velvet cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat 1 cup butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add 6 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in 2 tsp. vanilla; stir in food coloring. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 24 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely (about 1 hour).

To make the frosting:

Whisk together chocolate and 1/2 cup boiling water until chocolate melts. Cool 20 minutes; chill 30 minutes.

Beat 1 cup butter and chilled chocolate mixture at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed 1 minute. Increase speed to high; beat 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar and salt, beating at low speed until blended. Increase speed to high; beat 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth and fluffy.

To assemble the cake:

finished cake

Place 1 layer Red Velvet on a serving platter. Top with 1 layer Cheesecake. Repeat with remaining layers of Red Velvet and Cheesecake, alternating and ending with Red Velvet on top. Spread top and sides of cake with White Chocolate Frosting. Store in refrigerator.

Valentine’s Heart Sugar Cookies

First, Happy Valentines Day!

heart cut outs

Second, I have accomplished my goal of the sugar cookie quest (almost – not quite cookie cutter perfect but close enough) – you should most definitely make these slice and bake cookies. They are the most adorable thing ever. Even if some of the hearts look a little blob-ish. In this case for me, it is the thought and effort put into these little guys that count. Not to mention now I never need to buy the store bought ones again. (Not that I ever have in over 8 years.. but I always wanted my sugar cookies to have a little flair!)

Think of the possibilities of what you can put in this little sugar cookie!! You want colored dough on the outside?!? Go for it. You want to make them for every holiday that you can Google? Do it… I may just because I can now.

finished hearts

Now that I have the technique down, the fun I can have with making these little guys is endless.

The endlessness of the cookie possibilities is astounding. Much like the endless possibilities of using suicide prevention techniques (yes, I am getting incredible at these segues). That is what I have been up to these past weeks.. Learning about suicide prevention and going to trainings to become certified to prevent suicide in those that are having active suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

I did it through an amazing organization that works in all types of trainings for suicide prevention for all types of people. You should look into one of them if you are at all interested.

I heard a recent statistic that said that people who receives some type of suicide prevention training, feel more competent when helping someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts. That increased feeling of competence  is proven to get the person in need to resources that will help them. This may sound rather like.. umm duh. But the coolest thing about this point is that you don’t have to be the person who is taking all of the responsibility for the person’s life. All you have to do is learn to ask the question “are you feeling suicidal?” however you want and then be the bridge to resources. Those resources could be 911, a crisis hotline, or even an emergency room.

prebaked cookies

The best thing you can do is ask and then redirect to someone that can really help. The pressure to keep watch over the person or be with them through the entire crisis can now be relieved.

Just ask.

I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day. If you are at all interested in any of the trainings that are in the link above. Do the quick Google search and see the options around you.

sugared cookie

Oh and make these cookies. You will be greatly rewarded for your effort (fortune cookie sounding?).

Valentine (or anytime) Slice and Bake Cookies

Inspired by: Lauren’s latest

Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2 sticks butter

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

a few dabs of red gel food coloring

extra sugar for dusting

Directions:

In a small bowl stir flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in egg and vanilla. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients. Once dough has come together, remove 2/3 of it to a separate bowl. Stir in the red food coloring to the remaining 1/3 of the dough until uniform in color.

Roll red dough out into a 1 inch slab. Cut out heart shapes and stack them together. Chill to harden to prevent smooshing (yep that is a technical baking word) of the cut out shape.

Roll remaining regular colored dough out and cover each row of stacked hearts being careful to keep them together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside. Remove cookie dough logs from fridge and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. Spring top of cookie with sugar. Place onto prepared baking sheet leaving 1 inch around each cookie. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookie is barely golden brown on the bottom and isn’t shiny. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before cooling completely on wire rack.

White Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookie

batter and white chips

So I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions… Wait, what?! Am I still on this topic?!.. it’s almost February.

Yeah, I know. It is a little late to be bringing this up but just hear me out.

Instead I made a list of 25 things I wanted to do with my 25th year on my birthday last year. I am a little more than halfway through my list and my 25th year. And the twelfth thing on my list was to make 12 small monthly goals. My goal for January, you ask?

Prioritizing my life. Sounds a little out there I know, but it was something I needed to do.

sugars

Mainly because I had four jobs, two of which were not in any way related to my career aspirations but I was keeping them on because I “liked” them and I am was not really good at quitting things (or being an adult).

But by prioritizing my life I have become a better adult (at least I think so). What are my priorities?

My career.

My relationships (especially with that special boy in my life).

And my health.

I decided if I am doing something that does not support these three things then it is out of my life. At least for the mean time. So I quit one job, a hobby (yeah you can do that), and stood up for myself in my relationship with my room mates. Yeah it has been an adult filled week for me.

Cocoa and flour

But something this week and (new-ish) year has caused me to focus on is mindfulness. Something I have always struggled with.. especially in the realm of compromising myself and my goals.

So yes this is still going to be a mental health post (and luckily I consider this blog in the priority realm of my career). Mindfulness is something that I have come to realize is a huge gigantic concern when you think of mental health. I consider it a step beyond awareness. In a sense, the practice of awareness.

So mindfulness is what I have been doing. That is how I am now approaching life and all that I do, including my baking! (and can I just say that it has been a huge help in the kitchen?!?)

Mindfulness in the kitchen (and in life) requires you to get off autopilot and actually approach things with a different perspective. It causes you to think and plan and assess at every stage. It is also is a huge stress reliever – especially when it comes to baking.

The first thing that I began practicing when it came to mindfulness in the kitchen is just slowing down. I began prepping my ingredients (think mise en place) and making sure I actually had everything I needed before I started. Yeah, because running to the store to get some more sugar, butter, and/or eggs in the middle of mixing things together is not ideal (see above – serious stress reliever).

finished cookie

You would think this process would cause more stress. I always did. “Do I seriously need to measure everything out and put it in separate bowls so that I can add the right ingredient at the right time. I don’t want to do all of those dishes! Yeah I am just going to throw things in and see what happens.” Cue forgetting to add the vanilla, salt, and/or oil to a recipe and being more than a little upset it didn’t come out the way I wanted. Not to mention cleaning up the flour that was all over the kitchen and myself because I was flying through the baking.

No more flying. I actually enjoy the process of baking. Why was I trying to speed through it? Begin serious life reflection. (And to be perfectly honest clean up is significantly easier than before!!! BONUS!)

White Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookie

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate chips

To make cookies:

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine flour, soda, cocoa powder, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in white chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough for one hour and up to 24 hours.

Scoop dough with an ice cream disher (you can use any size, I prefer a bigger one) onto prepared baking sheets (either use parchment paper or silpat).

Bake at 350 F for 8 to 14 minutes, depending on how done you want them. Enjoy!

Blog for Mental Health 2014

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“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.” 

Above is my pledge for the intentions of my blog for this year. You can check out my pledge from last year as well. Also, if you are a blogger that would like to make this pledge, you can check out this website and find out more about the pledge and what it means to take it.

As a part of the pledge you are encouraged to tell as much or as little as you want about your experiences with mental health.

First off, I am currently pursuing my licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy so career-wise I am immersed in mental health on a daily basis. Secondly, but not really disconnected from the first point, I have my own experiences with mental illness and so you could definitely consider me a “wounded healer” and I have been on that self-discovery journey since high school. I plan on sharing more with you as the year goes on but am a little raw right now so that is going to have to wait.

My intentions of this blog are to bring mental health resources and news to you and with that give you a few recipes to use if you are so inclined. If you have been following me at all before this point you know that I love to cook and have begun experimenting with creating my own recipes which sometimes do not produce the results I am expecting.

 

Iced Gingerbread Men

Christmas does not feel complete without a cookie shaped into a fun holiday shape and decorated with icing.cutter and dough

This year my cookie of choice is the gingerbread man cut with a vintage cutter given to by my grandmother a few years ago. I haven’t quite given up on my sugar cookie quest, but I need to rethink my approach.

I have actually not been a fan of gingerbread for the majority of my life, with the exception of the houses that I always decorate to my heart’s content. Up until last year I would immediately spit out any gingerbread cookie, but I finally tasted a recipe that I fell in love with.

cut gingers

Now I am sharing it with you and I don’t believe any Christmas will be complete without this recipe from now on.

There are a lot of fun Christmas traditions around the world in this article and it definitely makes me want to include fun new ones next year.

Decorated gingersMerry Christmas Eve! Have fun baking up these delicious little guys!

Gingerbread Men

Yields 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg yolk

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the cookies:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.

Royal Icing

Recipe by Alton Brown

3 ounces pasteurized egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the icing:

In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy duty storage bag and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.