Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

With Thanksgiving on my mind and the lingering feeling of still being too full from yesterday, I decided a pumpkin recipe was in order.  We received this recipe from a family friend and my older sister Jessie made them to take to Thanksgiving and they were delicious!!

photo-6Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
~1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
~1 1/2 cups sugar
~1 cup pumpkin puree
~1 egg
~1 tsp vanilla
~2 1/2 cups flour
~1 tsp baking soda
~1 tsp baking powder
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1 tsp nutmeg
~1/2 tsp salt
~16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium speed with a mixer until fluffy.  Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla and beat until well blended.  In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (flour, soda, powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt).  Add this dry mixture to the wet pumpkin mixture and mix well.  Hand stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by heaping teaspoons 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned, but be sure to not over bake.  It makes roughly 3 dozen cookies and can also be topped with cream cheese frosting if desired.  🙂

The Heart of a Champion

At church a few weeks ago we had a panel of people from within the church who were deemed “champions”.  When we hear the word champion, our first thought goes to athletic champions, but this panel challenged me to see the possibility for champion status within all of us, no matter what we are fighting for.  If we can all be champions in an area of life that we are passionate about, the only question that remains is, do you have the heart of a champion?  These are some of the qualities I learned about and aspire to carry on my own journey:

1) all champions walk through challenges, battles, and defeat
2) behind every champion are other champions (family, friends, coaches, coworkers, etc.) who believe wholeheartedly in the champion and support them
3) they have learned to love defeat, grow from it, and bounce back
4) champions acknowledge the mental side and train their minds to believe it is possible, no matter what the world says
5) what others may deem as a sacrifice, champions see dedication as a passionate, joy-filled pursuit of a goal
6) champions recognize and acknowledge their weaknesses as endless room for growth, rather than shy away from them
7) they are passionate about making other champions by pouring into the lives of others

While I am sure there are many other qualities that champions possess, these are the ones I am going to strive after.  We can all be our own version of a champion if we find a cause we are passionate about and fight for it unrelentingly.  Let’s get to it, for our world needs more champions!

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

We made this Chicken Tortilla Soup in the Crock-Pot for a Halloween Party we had a few weeks ago and it was so good and easy, I am making it again today for a Mexican potluck! The aroma of it is already thick in the air…..is it dinner yet?  It’s delicious on its own, but it is hard to resist if you add lots of cheese and/or sour cream before indulging.

chicken tortilla soupChicken Tortilla Soup
-4 cups chicken broth
-1 can (15oz) petite diced tomatoes
-1 can (10oz) enchilada sauce
-1 can (4oz) diced green chilies
-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
-10oz frozen corn kernels
-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1 medium onion, diced
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 tsp of chili powder
-1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove the chicken from the soup near the end, shred into bite-sized pieces, and return to the soup.  Garnish to your heart’s content with cilantro, cheese, sour cream, avocado, and tortilla chips.  Bon Appétit!!

Calling out Truth

“We respond to our environment according to the way we see ourselves.  Words spoken to us become names we carry in our hearts.  These names paint a portrait of us in our imagination and become the lenses through which we view our world. ….We will always act out of who we believe we are…”(62-63)

I have been slowly reading a book entitled The Supernatural Ways of Royalty and when I came across this quote it got me thinking: Who do I believe that I am?  What are the words that people have spoken over me and are speaking over me that I carry in my heart?  Through what lenses am I viewing the world and how is that impacting my reactions to the world around me?  I believe these are questions we should all be asking ourselves.

As I have reflected on these questions, I discovered that some of the things people have spoken over me that are implanted in my heart are not truths about me.  It is time to challenge and replace those ideas!  And, at the same time, I can identify a multitude of truths that have been spoken over me and have helped shape me to who I am today.  I am so grateful for the people in my life up to this point who have spoken these truths over me and for those who will do so going forward.

While I know I still have a lot to learn, I am now more aware of what I believe about myself and what I allow people to speak over me.  In our world, there are so many people speaking things over us and we can choose what we give our attention to and how we spend our time.  We need people in our lives who are calling us into greatness and stirring up in us belief in what we can do.  I believe that anything can be possible with an unwavering belief in ourselves and a support system who pours truth into us.  It’s time to start believing and have people around us who believe too!

Date Nut Breads

The to-die-for Sticky Date Pudding has me on a date kick, so in the spirit, here is another date recipe. My teammate Lauren unearthed this recipe from over 10 years ago so I had to try it…old recipes are the best!!  In my naïve thinking I thought somehow after it baked I wouldn’t actually taste the coffee in the original recipe, but the coffee taste was very present.  Both of my roommates loved it with the coffee, but I thought it tasted like dirt (I am not a fan of coffee).  I was determined to try again so that I could actually give it a fair evaluation.  I did some research, altered the recipe a bit and loved it!  It is a very moist, delicious bread!  I am providing both recipes so you can choose depending on your preference.  Enjoy!

date nut breadCoffee Date Nut Bread
1 cup of hot coffee
1 cup (or more) of chopped dates
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 ½ cups of flour
1 cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325.  Mix hot coffee, dates, and baking soda.  Let soak while preparing the rest of the bread (but do not let soak for more than 10 minutes).  Mix the remaining ingredients and then fold the coffee/date mixture into the remaining ingredients.  Pour into the pan and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Spiced Date Nut Bread
1 cup of hot water
1 cup (or more) of chopped dates
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3/4 cups of white flour
3/4 cups of wheat flour
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8-1/4 teaspoon of cloves

Preheat the oven to 325.  Mix hot water, dates, and baking soda.  Let soak while preparing the rest of the bread (can soak for up to 30 minutes).  Mix the remaining ingredients and then fold the water/date mixture into the remaining ingredients.  Pour into the pan and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Sticky Date Pudding

Until a few weeks ago, I had never even heard of sticky date pudding.  But then I heard about it for a few weeks before I finally gave in and made it (in hopes that the not-so-subtle hints my teammate Lauren was dropping for me to make the cake would cease).  Boy am I glad I finally took the hint and made it!! It is delicious and would be the perfect dessert after Thanksgiving, or really any time you can come up with an excuse to make it.

Sticky Date Pudding
(adapted from an Australian recipe)

date pudding slicecake:
-1 cup of pitted, chopped dates
-1 teaspoon of baking soda
-1 ½ cups of boiling water
-½ cup of butter
-1 cup of brown sugar
-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
-2 eggs
-1 ¾ cups of self-raising flour **(see below)

caramel sauce:
-1 cup of brown sugar
-1 ¼ cup of half and half
-½ teaspoon of vanilla
-1/4 cup of butter

Directions:
entire date pudding cakePreheat the oven to 350.  Grease and flour an 8×8 or round cake pan.  Place the dates and baking soda in a bowl and pour the boiling water over.  Let stand for 20 minutes.  Using an electric mixture (or just muscle in my case), beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Using a large metal spoon fold in the flour mixture and then add the date mixture until thoroughly combined.  Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick entered in the center comes out clean.  Turn immediately onto a plate (I turned it onto one plate and then flipped that over onto another plate so the pudding was face up).  In the last 15-20 minutes while the pudding is baking, prepare the sauce.  Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring continuously, until the sauce comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer (the original recipe called for 2 minutes, but I probably simmered it for about 10 because my timing was a bit off, but it still worked great!).  Ideally the timing works out so that it is done simmering right as you take the pudding out of the oven.  Pierce the pudding all over with a skewer.  Pour ½-¾ cup of warm sauce over the warm pudding.  Let stand for 10 minutes and then serve, drizzling the left over sauce on top.

**Self-raising flour: if you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own.  The basic conversion is 1 cup of flour + 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder + ½ teaspoon of salt.  To get the 1 ¾ cups as called for in the recipe, I just doubled this (2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt and then removed ¼ of a cup of the mixture).

Lauren loving it!

Notes/Variations:
-I used Medjool Dates and once they were pitted and sliced it measured to about 1 1/2 cups total (I didn’t pack them down tightly, just allowed them to space out as they did when placed in the measuring cup)
-I went the tried and true method, but you can also play around and add walnuts for an extra crunch or even try adding a teaspoon of brandy to the mixture before baking

Enjoy!!!

Balsamic Feta Salmon

For my first recipe, I decided to go simple, real simple.  I made this for dinner last night for the first time and while I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, it was great! The delicious combination of feta, balsamic, and salmon was a pleasant surprise.  And, the great thing is, you don’t need a bunch of random spices that cost an arm and a leg to throw it together!

Balsamic Feta Salmon

Balsamic Feta Salmon
-1 salmon filet
-feta cheese
-balsamic dressing or glaze (I used a balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the salmon on a piece of foil in a baking dish. Coat the salmon lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle as much feta cheese on top as you desire. Then top with balsamic and enclose the salmon in the foil.  Bake for 20-30 mins or until the salmon is a lighter salmon color throughout and enjoy!