Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mocha Chip (Nut Free) Biscotti

I love coffee (big surprise, right?) and I really enjoy biscotti. Have you ever tried to find a nut-free biscotti? It is hard to find. And, if you find biscotti that doesn't have nuts in it, it will have a nut warning on the label. That's my experience, anyway. I have been meaning to make my own biscotti for a while. I made Mocha Chip Biscotti today. My boys got their first taste of biscotti. It was tasty. I have another recipe for Cranberry Apricot Biscotti. I'll probably try that one out soon.

Mocha Chip (Nut Free) Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter (or margarine), softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and baking powder. Set aside. Beat butter and 3/4 cup of sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Dissolve 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules in 1 teaspoon warm water. Add with eggs. Add flour mixture; mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips into dough. Divide dough in half.

Form each half into a 7 by 2 inch log. Lightly spray pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place each log crosswise in pan about 4 inches apart.

Bake 30 minutes. Remove pan to cooling rack; let logs cool in pan 15 minutes.

Carefully remove logs to cutting board. With a bread knife, gently cut logs diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Arrange slices upright in pan, about 1 inch apart. Bake 20-25 minutes or until dry and crisp. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in a tightly covered container.

To drizzle with chocolate, microwave 1/3 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chipes and 2 tablespoons butter or margarine on high 1 minute; stir. Continue microwaving 10-30 seconds or until mixture is smooth when stirred. Drizzle over biscotti. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until chocolate drizzle is firm.

My recipe notes: I did not have miniature chocolate chips so I just chopped up some regular chocolate chips. I did not drizzle the chocolate. Turns out, I am not good at drizzling. Spreading chocolate works just as well (plus, there's more chocolate and that isn't a bad thing). I also did not put the biscotti in the refrigerator. It didn't take very long for the chocolate to get firm.

Check out other wonderful recipes at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More than I am

I'm not sure where I'm going with this post. Let me just put that out there before I begin.

I love to write. I write in random places- numerous journals that float around my home, on notebook paper, or in documents on my computer. Sometimes my words are just ramblings. Other times, they speak as an outpouring of my heart. I like to pray about what weighs on my heart. Sometimes, even when I don't know why, I want to share.

I started reading a book this week called "The Story of Jane". I picked it up randomly (or sort of randomly since the name Jane caught my attention) at the library. It's pretty interesting so far. Jane finds a package that contains the manuscript of a novel. The novel is her story. It contains intimate details of her life and she is left wondering who wrote the novel. I'm not even half way through the book so I can't recommend it, yet.

I have a good friend that is mourning the loss of a friend. The friend of my friend died suddenly- tragically.

Throughout the day I keep finding myself wondering about my life. What will my loved ones reminisce about when I am gone? If I am able to realize my life is about to end, will I be satisfied with how I lived out my days? What will the story of Jane Anne be?

It's almost too much to think about. But, I keep thinking about it anyway.

I am also thinking about friendships.

Several times this week, I have benefited from caring friends. Examples include: 1) A friend offered to watch my daughter so I could take my boys to an event. I showed up for the event on the wrong date. My friend came back the next day to do it again. 2) A friend brought me coffee and choose to hang out and talk while our kids played. 3) A friend called me after an email misunderstanding. 4) My son that has a peanut allergy went to dinner and to a movie with a friend. When I asked if the parent needed a refresher on the Epipen, he said that he rewatched the Epipen video that afternoon. 5) A friend asked me to watch her kids in a time of need. 6) A friend (my spouse) took on more work so I could continue with my already made plans. 7.) A friend called to ask if they could watch my kids during a meeting. 8) A friend made a meaningful compliment about my son.

Many times other people don't even realize that they made a difference in my day- or even my week. They can't know how much their kind word encouraged me. They cannot sense how much their act of kindness made me feel loved.

I want to be that kind of friend. I want to look for ways to serve others. I want to be there for them- not just when they ask. I want to sense needs and be more giving. I want to make the extra effort to do the little things. The little things can mean so much.

I'm not writing all of this down to suggest that I failing at my friendships or that I am dissatisfied with my life.

I'm just thinking it through, wanting to become more than I am.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Thanks Tank #124

Today's Thanks Tank List is a simple list of happy moments in my day:

The coffee was already brewed and in the coffee pot when I got up this morning.

I put my daughter's hair in pigtails this morning. She looks adorable with her hair in pigtails.

Mid-morning I made cinnamon rolls. I didn't tell anyone I was going to make them. My boys came bounding down the stairs, saying, "Cinnamon rolls, cinnamon rolls, We knew it: CINNAMON ROLLS!"

My kids and I sat around the table playing "Guess what animal I am thinking of". One person would think of an animal and then let the others ask yes or no questions until they got the answer right. We all took turns. Everyone had fun. The game went on and on until my oldest stumped us all. Turns out, he was thinking of Avatar ("which is an animal in Avatar world" - and no, he hasn't see the movie).

A friend of mine stayed at the house with my napping 2 year old so I could take the boys to see a OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) planetarium exhibit sponsored by our local library.

I cleaned up my kitchen today and then didn't cook dinner. My husband was willing to come home, pack up the kids, and head out for dinner. We took the kids out to a Pizza place + playland. It was a fantastic night.

The house is quiet. My boys, my man, and my little girl are all asleep.

Each day has blessings in it.
Today was a good day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What-in-the-World Wednesday

What in the world are they doing?

The same thing as these guys...

and these guys.

(Boy the guy on the left sure looks angry about the ant on his head.)

What in the world was I thinking letting my Sunshine (i.e., rough and tough 4 year old) show my (sure-to-be-a-tomboy) Princess how to hold an ant?

What in the world? Why is she so stinkin' cute (and happy) letting that ant crawl all over her hand?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Educate, educate, educate

My son that has a peanut allergy is 6. He is in Kindergarten. He's learning to read (and doing quite well, I might add). He cannot read a food label. He cannot look at a packaged food and know that it is safe or unsafe for him to eat. He has shown me time and time again, that he understands that his allergy is serious. I'll tell you about 2 scenarios. They are not the only times that his allergy awareness has paid off. They just represent how much he understands. My advice? Educate a child with a food allergy early. They can understand the seriousness without being scared. They can learn how to handle their allergy as they grow, almost in the same way that their other life skills (such as brushing their teeth or tying their shoes) sharpen.

Here are two situations where I can see the direct benefits of early allergy education:

In December we were given anonymous Christmas gifts from friends. We didn't know who our Secret Santas were. For one gift, the Santa left us cookies and a list of ingredients. The list made my husband and I smile. We felt sure the gifts were being left by close friends. We decided to let our son have one of the cookies. He asked us if we knew they were safe. We told him that we had a list of what was in the cookies. He asked if everything was safe. And, because we cannot lie, we told him everything was safe except that we did not know what brand the chocolate chips were. He then asked if he could just have one of "mom's cookies". He choose to eat one of my homemade cookies when his brothers were eating the "treat cookies". He choose the safe option.

We ended up thanking him later. We didn't make a big deal about it. We just told him that while we decided we were taking a small risk, he made the right choice. I felt stupid, like I didn't follow my own rules. I didn't. He did. Instead of beating myself up, I just decided to be grateful.

This week at school my son's class celebrated St. Patrick's day. They made Leprechan Traps and read stories about leprechans. On Friday, his teacher planned a special snack left from Leprechans. Normally, she leaves the snack boxes in the teacher's work room for me to okay. In fact, I write "OK" on each packaged item. My son is used to seeing the "OK" on every snack that comes into his classroom. For Friday's snack, I okayed the items and then she put them together as if they were left from the Leprechans. I received a call from the teacher that day. She was calling to ask if the Leprechans had called me to check and see if the food was safe. Little did I know, the whole class (including my son) was listening as she called. My son was very concerned about eating something that did not have a label. He asked several times if it was safe and then his teacher offered to call me. (Later I found out that the kids were concerned that the Leprechans would play a trick on us because they are so tricky. My son's teacher explained that Leprechans would never play a trick when it came to food allergies.)

I was blown away when I received the call from the teacher asking if I had a call from the Leprechans. I can't explain the emotion. I was proud of my son for taking it so serious. I was touched that the teacher called me like that (to validate his concern and not dismiss it in any way). Later my son asked me how I knew the food was safe. I told him the Leprechans left the labels for me to check. That made sense to him. He's still trying to figure out if the Leprechans that visited the class were real but he believes Leprechans are allergy conscious.

$2 Well Spent

The best $2 I spent all week was for a 4 pack of bubble wands.

When I was shopping, I almost put the bubble wands back. After all, I already have a large container of bubbles. I'm glad I spent the $2.

We had a blast blowing bubble this afternoon. It was a simple pleasure that made my day special. I must have taken 30 pictures of my kids. Their cuteness made me smile. Their happiness made me laugh. We were all laughing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Thanks Tank #123

This Thursday I am thankful for St. Patrick's Day. I am not Irish. I just had a lot of fun with my family bein' green. It was a much needed fun day in a week of busyness.

We were licking green whipped cream off of our mouths.

The kids were excited watching us pour the green milk.

We had both green milk and green (orange) juice.

Here's the green pancake batter. (Doesn't that color just scream delightful at you?)

Can you tell we had fun?

After Soccer Dad and Soccer Kid stopped goofing off got home from soccer, we had a green dessert.

It was so yummy. Here's a peek at it being made.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monster Cookies (without the scary peanut butter)

My oldest son went to play at a friend's house last week. When I went to pick him up, the friend's mom handed me a cookie recipe. She said that my son asked for the recipe and told her that I could substitute sunbutter for peanut butter.

I guess he liked the cookies.

He's never asked for a recipe before.

I gathered the ingredients (with a couple substitutions) and tried out the recipe.

They are quite good.

Monster Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (or margarine) softened
1 1/3 cup peanut butter (I used sunbutter)
3 eggs
3/4 tsp Karo syrup
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 cup oatmeal
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms (I used cadbury chocolates)

Mix ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for a minute and then remove to a cooling rack. Makes approximately 50 cookies.

Some recipes notes and pictures:

My second son has a peanut allergy. I used sunbutter and cadbury chocolates instead of peanut butter and M&Ms.

It took a couple of tries to get the cadbury eggs broken up but not crushed. The cookies might have been more colorful with M&Ms but the cadbury chocolates were a delicious substitute.

The cookies before they were baked.

The cookies before they were eaten. (No, we didn't eat them all... yet.)

I'm finishing this post quite late, as I wait for the cookies to finish baking. I am thinking about letting the kids try a cookie after breakfast (no, say it isn't so). If you read this first thing, check back to see how they like them.

Update: Well, the best moment was the smile I got from my 8 year old when I handed him the cookie. Soon after that, I was disappointed. He didn't like them. Apparently oatmeal cookies taste better to him fresh out of the oven. None of my boys like oatmeal cookies. I can't believe it. So, now either my husband (who loves them) or I will eat way too many cookies or I will give some away to local friends. I imagine I will do both.

2nd Update: I can't imagine why anyone is reading this again but if you are- here's the after school results. My 3rd son has decided he likes them. My 2nd son (the one with the peanut allergy) says, "they are okay". My oldest son decided he likes them- a lot- but he does not like cadbury chocolates. (I'm stunned. How can you not like cadbury chocolates?) Oh ya, and my daughter never had any issues with them. She didn't get to try one until after lunch and she wanted more than one.

If you like oatmeal cookies, you should try this recipe. It really is good.

Check out other wonderful recipes at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not where or what I long to be

It's Saturday night. I'm starting this post a little after 7:30. My 4 kids are in bed and I believe at least 3 of them are already asleep. I am listening to the hum (or more appropriately, the clanks) of my dryer. The house smells of cleaner- carpet cleaner. My living room carpet looks fantastic. I am enjoying a quiet house and time to myself.

It could be a perfect night. Except that nothing is quite right.

My alone time a result of my husband being gone to a dinner where I am supposed to be his date. My living room carpet was freshly cleaned today to remove the stain and stench of vomit. The dryer is running because I am still washing and drying clothes from a day that consisted of several clothes changes. Three out of my 4 kids threw up today. Two of them spent a good part of the night being sick.

I spent much of the day struggling with a bad attitude. And then, I gave in to it.

I came downstairs and considered checking my husband's facebook page. What? Yep. I didn't. This time.

I had a brief conversation today with my husband about whether or not my facebook fast has been good for me. I have succeeded in staying off facebook (except for a few times when I have looked over his shoulder). Is that enough to call it a successful fast. I don't know.

I do know that I have developed a longing for more. I want to be doing more. I want to be more dedicated. I don't want to let little struggles overwhelm me. When I am down and out, I want to pull from a higher source. I don't always do that. I didn't today.

I struggle.

Lent represents Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness. He was tested. He was offered the chance to be an earthly king. The wilderness-or desert- was a place of solitude and struggle. That's the way I think of it, anyway.

When Jesus went into the desert, he pushed aside all of the expectations and hopes of those around him. My Lent season means depriving myself of many "around" me. I am not connecting regularly with friends on facebook. My Lent experience is about deprivation. Since it is such a shallow deprivation compared to how little some in the world have, I hesitate to describe it that way. I am depriving myself of something and when I think about what that means in my everyday life, I shudder. I realize more and more that I am a slave to my desires. I want. I need. I deserve. Really, it's shockingly true to recognize the selfishness of my thoughts.

I deserve a Starbucks because, I took care of sick kids.
I deserve a date because, it has been so long since I have been on one.
I deserve sympathy because I have had a tough 2 days.

It is ridiculous. I admit I think that way way too often.

This Lent season, this hard-to-explain-to-friends-facebook-fast, is more than it appears on the surface. I thought I would be accomplishing more. I am struggling more.

It is a season of soul-searching. It is a time of reflection. I am slowly and sadly acknowledging that I am not what I long to be. It's a burden. But, it's also a beautiful struggle.

I have hope. I recognize emptiness in my life. I realize I long for things that amount to nothing. The world is in me. Desires that amount to death abound.

I have hope. In my vain attempt at creating discipline, I see my need for a Saviour.

My need is real.

And so, I press on through my Lent fast and my selfishness thoughts, looking forward to celebrating resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Thanks Tank #122

Each week I spend time thanking God for the wonderful things in my life. On Thursdays I make a list. This is my Thursday Thanks Tank.

Today, I am thankful for:

1. My husband encouraging my boys to be boys.

2. The opportunity for my son to participate in music at church.

3. My son's enjoyment of The Chronicles of Narnia.
He read the series in 2 weeks and then decided he wanted to read them all over again.

4. My daughter's mad face (makes me smile every time).

5. Snow Flurries (and my kids'excitement).

6. Moments when I set aside my To Do list and make time for more important activities with my kids (like a game of Checkers).

7. Boys, Water Guns, and Mud.
I won't even start to explain what they were doing. Just know, it was fun.

8. A fantastic first day of raffle ticket sales. Our elementary school PTO is holding a basket raffle. The baskets are showcased on our website. There are hundreds of dollars of products and gift certificates (click the basket name to see the list of gift cards and freebies). Today we had a great start to our raffle.

9. Iced Caramel Macchiatos. Yum. (Did you notice it in the above picture? Nothing like a latte to help with ticket sales!)

10. The wonderful person that found my daughter's security blanket (wherever she dropped it) and put it in the Lost and Found pile at school. (Seriously, can you believe the size of our "lost and found"?).

11. A wonderful friend of mine that watched my 4 kids (and her 4 kids) today while I was at the school selling raffle tickets. She's amazing (don't you agree?).

12. My daughter's new found obsession with her pink hat. She doesn't always get it on quite right but she is always cute.

Take time to be thankful today. It will be time well spent.