July 25, 2012

recipe: chocolate mint pudding delight

As you know if you haven't been living under a rock, the season finale of The Bachelorette was Sunday night. I think Emily Maynard's season was my favorite yet—the guys seemed normal (mostly), Emily clearly had her head on straight, and we got to meet Sean Lowe (the man that, at least judging by Twitter, approximately 87,000 women want to marry. Including this woman).

Anyway, we had Bachelorette viewing parties at my parents' house throughout the season, and we decided to make snacks for the finale. My chocolate chip cookie dough dip got rave reviews from Al and my mom, and Janae loved Blendy's peanut butter bars, but my favorite was the chocolate/cheesecake/mint concoction I came up with. I adapted a recipe I found on Pinterest (where else?) to make this delightful dessert, which turned out remarkably similar to a dessert a woman at the church I grew up in brought to every potluck. Yummy! 

Chocolate Mint Pudding Delight
adapted from Mint Chocolate No Bake Cheesecake on mybakingaddiction.com.

1 (8 oz) brick Neufchatel (⅓ less fat cream cheese), softened
½ c powdered sugar
1 (8 oz) carton light whipped topping, divided
1½ c skim milk
1 (3.4 oz) pkg instant chocolate pudding
½ tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp peppermint extract*
¼ c Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add extracts and mix until incorporated. **Beat in ⅔ of the whipped topping (this can be approximate). Set aside. In another bowl, combine milk and instant pudding and whisk until thick. ***Spread cream cheese mixture in a serving bowl or 8x8 glass baking dish. Spread pudding on top of cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped topping and Andes chips. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

*Even though it doesn't sound like much, ⅛ tsp will make this pretty minty. Not a problem if you like a lot of mint (like me!), but you may want to just use a couple drops or leave it out completely. You could also go with other flavor combinations, like almond extract and Heath toffee pieces. The sky's the limit here!

**The original recipe said to gently fold in the whipped topping. As mine was still mostly frozen and I lacked the patience to wait for it to thaw, I just dumped it in and beat the living daylights out of it. And it turned out fine!

***This would look great layered in parfait glasses or individual ramekins.

The finished product. Thanks, Beth, for the beautiful Spanish serving dish!
I was too busy eating to get a picture on the plate, so this is
the best view of the layers you're going to get!
The cookie dough dip—basically the only thing we dipped into it was a spoon!
Blendy totally dominates the graham crackers for the peanut butter bars!

July 19, 2012

recipe: frosted molasses creams

Last week, I found this Pyrex set on sale at Amazon for $34.99. I bought it thinking I'd give away some pieces for shower or wedding gifts, but when I opened the box, I realized I wanted to keep it all! I also had this uncontrollable urge to bake something in one of the pieces.

Earlier this week, I had the best molasses cookies I've ever tasted at Das Dutch Kitchen in Dalton, Ohio. After I got home yesterday, I started looking for Amish molasses cookie recipes. The arrival of the Pyrex put my cookie baking on hold, but I still wanted molasses. Then I remembered my mom's frosted molasses creams recipe, which is kind of like a molasses cookie in bar form. As she wasn't home tonight to give me the recipe, I turned instead to the trusty internets. I ended up finding a recipe for frosted molasses bars that looked similar to Mom's recipe and adapted it a bit.

Frosted Molasses Creams
adapted from this recipe on Cooks.com

½ c shortening
½ c white sugar
1 egg
½ c molasses
½ c strong coffee (hot is okay)
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves

½ c butter
2 ½ c powdered sugar
2 T strong coffee

To make:
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream shortening and sugar. Stir in egg. Add molasses and coffee, beating for about 30 seconds. (At this point, the liquid may not be completely incorporated into the shortening/sugar mixture. That's okay.) Add dry ingredients, blending well. Pour into greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

For the frosting: 
Cream butter and sugar. Gradually add coffee and beat until smooth. (You may need to adjust the amount of coffee.) Spread on bars after they have cooled for 30 minutes.

These are seriously SO GOOD! I had to cover them up (with a nifty Pyrex lid, of course) so I would stop smelling them—and hopefully stop eating them!

The finished bars. Keep in mind that I never claimed to be a food photographer!
These go perfectly with a cup of coffee ... which you should have on hand
since you had to make coffee to go in the bars!

crafting with blendy & becky: vbs crafts

In June, I did a ton of crafting (all without Blendy) ... because I helped with VBS at my church, and I worked in crafts! We made one or two crafts each day, depending on the time. I had an absolute blast with the 18 kids who were part of the crafts camp! My official role at VBS was to be the special buddy of an autistic girl. She participated in crafts, so I did, too, and in the process got to know some really cool kids.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy being around kids. That sounds strange coming from someone who works at a school, but I'm not really around the young ones much. (That's not to say I don't enjoy the older ones ... you know I do!) When I quit helping with Awana at my parents' church two years ago, I was really burned out, and though I missed the kids, I knew it was time for me to step back. My experience with VBS reminded me just how great kids are! While I'm not ready to work in children's ministry on a weekly basis, I will definitely keep helping with VBS!

So during VBS, I made a lot of crafts, but I only got pictures of two: a tissue paper cross and prayer hands. I won't go into great detail on how to make these crafts—this post is basically just to prove that I did complete a craft project in June! (You can see my other crafting projects here.)
The tissue paper cross is pretty simple. You cut a cross shape out of cardboard, use a hole punch to make a bunch of holes, and stick tissue paper through them. Or you could just buy the kit from Oriental Trading!

The prayer hands are also ridiculously simple...but you'd probably have to buy hand cutouts somewhere. You just paint them (see how artistic I am???), and when they're dry, glue each hand to one side of a clothespin. Then you can hold prayer cards (or recipe cards) in them. Once again, here's an example from Oriental Trading.

Our July craft is going to be bath bombs, and Blendy will be doing this one with me. Stay tuned!

July 3, 2012

single at the wedding

My cousin married his high school sweetheart last Friday night. And for the first time in a very long time, I experienced only a twinge of wistful I-wish-I-had-a-man thinking while celebrating the joining of two lives.

I think the difference in my attitude at this wedding, as opposed to nearly every other wedding I've attended since I became of marriageable age more than a decade ago, stems from the fact that I am currently single by a deliberate, conscious choice. This will come as a surprise to many of you: not so long ago I was dating a really great guy, and then I chose to end it. The reasons aren't important to share; let's just say I'm completely confident in my decision and leave it at that.

As I watched Nate and Abbie say their vows, I thought about their love for each other; I thought about how Abbie lights up when Nate is in the room; I thought about my own single state. And I acknowledged, deep inside where I've always wondered if I'd ever find love, that I don't want to get married without the kind of love that Nate and Abbie share.

People marry for all sorts of reasons, and love doesn't always factor into the equation. But I know now that it needs to factor into my equation. And here's why: one of the things I learned about myself as a result of my failed relationship is that I really am okay being single. In fact, I rather like it, and I'm not going to give up the freedom I enjoy as a single, childless woman unless it's for the right guy. And if I'm okay being single, why on earth would I marry someone I didn't love? 

Rather than wallowing in self-pity, lamenting the fact that I don't have a man, I am going to continue to embrace the life God has given me! And while I will keep praying that God will one day grant me the husband and family I have longed for, I'm also praying that He will use me just as I am, providing me with the opportunities, friends, and relationships that I need in order to thrive as a single 

So back to the wedding: Nate and his bride were joined in a beautiful service, I had a great time catching up with family, and now life is continuing as usual. And you know what? I think I'll be just fine :-)

I neglected to get a picture of the bride and groom, but I did take a few of my sister and me! This is right before we left for the wedding.
It was like 100 degrees outside. No breeze. In the sun. I was hotter than I've been in a very long time!
But still, despite the heat, we were glad to be at the wedding!

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