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.

 

Pecan Pie Cake

Well I did it! I completed my challenge. I got all three posts done over the weekend. I am pretty proud of myself (with this recipe and the completion of my challenge).

pecan pie cake

I made this cake for Thanksgiving and it did not disappoint.

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It may have a confusing name, but the name describes it perfectly. It is all the elements of a pecan pie in cake form. Pie + Cake = Delicious!

Pinterest never disappoints! I actually got a variation of this recipe from this site. I toasted my pecans and did not use the frosting because I am not really into whipped cream frostings. EndingTheSilence

Another great thing I found from the internet is a new program offered by NAMI. One of the presenters gave their opinion on the program and why it is so different from the other programs teaching about mental illness.

Pecan Pie Cake

Yields 1 Three Layer 9-inch cake

Pecan Pie Filling

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup dark corn syrup

1/3 cup cornstarch

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups half-and-half
pinch salt
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
To make the filling:
Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan until smooth.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil for 1 minute,  or until thickened.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla.
Place a  sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from  forming, and chill at least 4 hours.
Pecan Pie Cake
3 cups pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle 2 cups toasted pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat  bottoms and sides of pans.

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Beat butter and  shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy, and gradually  add sugar, beating well.  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended  after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.
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Combine flour and  baking soda.  Add to butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning  and ending with flour  mixture.  Beat at low speed just until blended after each  addition.  Stir in remaining 1 cup pecans.
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Beat egg whites at  medium speed until stiff peaks form, and fold one third egg whites into batter.  Fold in remaining egg whites.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
To assemble the cake:
Put one layer pecan side up on plate, pour 1/3 of filling onto layer. Spread filling over layer without letting it flow over sides.
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Stack second layer on filling pecan side up, pour 1/3 of filling onto layer. Spread filling over layer without letting if flow over sides.
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Stack third layer on filling pecan side up, pour remaining 1/3 filling onto layer. Spread filling over layer. Decorate as desired.
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Pumpkin Ice Cream

This will be my last pumpkin post for the season. I have had a pretty good run. Muffins, pies, and now ice cream! And all made from some adorable little pumpkins I got from the farmer’s market.

I don’t have a lot to say about this recipe but that it was eaten pretty much all by me and within 72 hours of me making it. I can’t be helped around ice cream.

It’s an issue.

ice cream

This ice cream was pretty spectacular. So much so that this is the only picture I took of my half-eaten, somewhat melted first bowl of it. From this point on I ate it straight out of the container. No shame.

Something just as quick and fun as making this ice cream (maybe not quite as delicious) is getting you and your friends involved in an engaging text conversation over mental health issues. This new social movement started this past week on December 5th and is continuing until January 30th.

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I would love to hear how your experience went! So leave a comment below.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Yield 1 Quart

2 cups 2% milk

1 cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

5 tbsp fresh pumpkin puree

2 egg yolks

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Grated fresh nutmeg

Pinch of salt

To make the ice cream:

Combine the milk, cream, sugar and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree in a heavy sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium and bring the temperature to 180 F, stirring often. The milk should begin to foam on the top, but it should not come to a full boil. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining pumpkin puree, egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Temper the mixture by slowing pouring in ½ cup of the warm milk, while whisking vigorously.

Transfer the tempered egg mixture back to the pan of warm milk by pouring slowly and whisking constantly.
Return the pan to medium-low heat. Cook stirring often for about 5 minutes, until the milk begins to foam again, but do not allow it to come to a boil.

Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Freeze in a counter-top ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions. As the ice cream is freezing, grate fresh nutmeg into the container (make sure as much as possible that it is evenly distributed).

Apple Pie with Buttermilk Crust

Today is Veteran’s Day.

I couldn’t think of a better way to show my appreciation than to bake an apple pie.

apple pie leavesI have made this apple pie before many, many times. But I have added my favorite ingredient as of late into the crust: buttermilk.

This is also one of the easiest pies to make. Make the dough, mix the apples and sugar together, roll out the dough, put the apples in. Done.

Well.. maybe there are a few more steps but that is essentially it.

Another thing I thought about when thinking of Veteran’s Day was what these veterans bring back with them as they obtain the veteran status.

soldier ptsd

For veterans, some great resources that are available can be found here. For those of you that are not veterans, but would like to help listening is always my first option when offering help. Some of the things they may say may be horrifying to you, but its really not about you. The biggest thing you can do is be accepting of what they have to say.

Maybe even chat with them as you are baking this pie. Using your hands while chatting can really help the words flow.

apple pie crustMaking the dough and rolling it out.

dough wrappedGiving it time to chill can give you a moment to let them talk with you with your undivided attention.

apple peelPeeling the apples can be such mindless work that can put there mind at ease.

apples

Mixing up the apples and sugar. Pouring it in to the crust.

apple pie crust before

Covering up the apples with one whole sheet of pie crust is an option. Or you can cut it up into strips and have fun with it.

This is just one excuse to get in the kitchen, get your hands dirty, and chat with someone. Find something that works better for you or the other person.

Apple Pie with Buttermilk Crust

For the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening, chilled

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut and chilled

4 to 5 tablespoons iced buttermilk

To make the crust:

Combine flour and salt in food processor. Add shortening in chunks and pulse 2 or 3 times. Add butter and pulse until small chunks of dough form. Pour in tablespoons of iced buttermilk until dough barely comes together. Cover in plastic wrap and put dough in refrigerator to chill.

For the pie:

6 cups peeled, sliced apples

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

To make pie:

Roll half of pastry to 1/8- inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Place in a 9-inch pieplate; set aside.

Combine apple and lemon juice in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and next 4 ingredients. Spoon over apple mixture, tossing gently. Spoon filling evenly into pastry shell, and dot with butter.

Roll remaining pastry to 1/8-inch thickness, cut into strips and place over pie (you can also put whole pastry over pie and put slits in the top).

Bake at 450 F for 15 minutes, and reduce heat to 350 F, and bake 50 more minutes.

Halloween Leftovers, Part One – Candy Bar Brownies

I had a jam packed Halloween weekend.brownie batter candies

I hosted a party with costumes, friends, and, of course, food.

Leading up to the party I baked, decorated, and costumed myself.eggs

Also, I passed out candy to one child. One. I bought candy for at least 50 children.

So needless to say I had leftovers.

This month there is one important mental health awareness day. International Survivors of Suicide Day.

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When I first think of this day I think of those that tried to commit suicide but did not die. Instead this day is intended for those who were left behind after a loved one committed suicide.

What is left behind after someone takes their life? Questions with no answers.

Where do you begin? Can there be anyone who understands the complicated emotions? Is there anything to help? There are so many resources for those that have been left after a loved one has ended their life. There is support specifically for you.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a tremendous resource for those who need this specialized type of support and resource.

Brownie dry ingredients

So I am not sure if your trick or treaters were as sparse as mine, but I ended up with a lot of candy. Lots of leftovers. So what do you do when life hands you way too much candy and no one to give it away to?

Make brownies!

So that is exactly what I did…

snickers candy

I chopped those little guys up and scattered them across the top of some delicious triple chocolate brownies. That’s right.. Triple. Chocolate. Cocoa. Semisweet chips. White chocolate morsels.

chocolate chips

Candy Bar Brownies

Yield 24 brownies

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

3/4 cup butter, melted

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup white chocolate morsels

12 fun size Snickers bars, chopped – or as many as you need!

To make the brownies:

Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs and butter, stirring well. Stir in morsels. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle evenly with candy pieces; gently press candy into batter.

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Coconut Cake, Act Two

Last post I made a coconut cake and a mess.

Coconut cake layer

This post I made the coconut frosting and I am cleaning up the mess.

I have a new KitchenAid on its way. (Thank goodness for warranties and amazing customer service!)

I stressed quite a bit after the machinery break down and didn’t clean my dishes, but they are clean and put away now.

I made the frosting with a hand held mixer and got a nice arm workout in the meantime.

Mess officially cleaned.

7 minute frosting

Sometimes it feels important to take a time out. Stress becomes overwhelming and there is no need to continue trudging through the mess. It becomes counterproductive.

So this post is about taking a time-out for stress reduction. Sometimes it isn’t appropriate but in this case for me it was completely appropriate.

So how do you know when you should take a time-out?

I notice that I become flooded. My brain gets a little fuzzy and I have difficulty finishing anything effectively (Read: way too many mistakes are made in a short amount of time).

I have to have the awareness to stop what I am doing no matter how much I want to finish it. It is not going to get done well and that just stresses me out even more.

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I really wanted to post something yesterday in honor of National Depression Screening Day, but I was still on my time out because the thought of tackling the frosting while the memory of my KitchenAid breakdown was still fresh stressed me out.

I wouldn’t have done it well and I wanted to do it well. I was assessing my mental health surrounding this issue and decided this was the best route.

Would you like to assess your mental health in honor of National Depression Screening Day? Wonderful. Click here!

second layer

 

7 Minute Coconut Frosting

Recipe by Alton Brown, adapted

3 large egg whites

12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups

1/3 cup coconut water

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 to 10 ounces shredded coconut

To make the frosting:

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. In the meantime, place the egg whites, sugar, coconut water, cream of tartar and salt into a medium size-mixing bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water and immediately begin beating with an electric hand mixer set to low speed. Beat for 1 minute and then increase the speed to high and continue to beat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the coconut and vanilla extracts for 1 minute. Allow the frosting to sit for 5 minutes before using.

Place approximately 3/4 cup of the frosting on the first layer of cake, sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut and top with the next layer. Repeat until you reach the top layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.