Happiness Project #84: Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake!

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It’s been 3 months since starting chemotherapy, and it’s been, without a doubt, the most difficult experience I’ve ever faced. I’m rarely feeling well enough to make it outside more or less whip up new blog posts. And I miss my life before cancer, in every way imaginable.

However, despite now normal neuropathy of my legs yesterday (where it’s painful to walk or stand), I was determined to share my newest, highly decadent milkshake, made with two of my favorite flavor combinations (a favorite combination to most everyone else, too): peanut butter and chocolate! Because you can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, right? Especially with a recipe THIS easy!

Here’s all you’ll need:

3 scoops natural chocolate ice cream (whatever your favorite brand)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1-1/2 cups whole milk

*cut up pieces of recesses peanut butter cups for garnish, optional

In a blender, combine all three ingredients and pulse a few minutes until fully combined and smooth. Depending on the size of your serving glasses, you’ll be able to serve 2 to 4 cupfuls.

This is a very thick milkshake so you’ll easily be able to use a spoon while indulging in it.

And can add or stir in cut up pieces of recesses peanut butter cups or mini milk chocolate chocolate chips as an additional garnish, too. Though not necessary. Trust me.

 

Happiness Project#81: Broccoli Salad with a side of Chemo!

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3 weeks ago I went in for my 7th surgery. To remove another tumor. But things didn’t quite go as planned or expected. Instead of leaving the operating room with one less adrenal gland, I ended up leaving without a full kidney as well. Though I wasn’t told WHY I had unexpectedly lost a kidney (throughout a grueling 10 hour surgery), until my 2nd recovery day in the hospital. To put it as simply as possibly, though not lightly at all, my 3 doctors took out my left kidney in response to a rapidly growing tumor that had gone from eating up my adrenal gland as well as encasing my entire kidney within the 3 months that I had been undergoing pre-surgical testing. 3 months. Needless to say, when the oncologist came over to my recovery bed, on that 2nd day within my 6 day hospital stay, and revealed to me the “news,” my heart froze, and my verbal response was nothing short of absolute silence. The 5th day, before the day of my release, the same doctor (now my official oncologist), visited me again to reveal that the preliminary testings from that unexpected tumor had come back as active (malignant) cancer. Yes, cancer. Stage 3 Ovarian cancer.

So with this shocking, unexpected diagnosis, my life has been turned completely (& brutally) shaken up, and turned upside down. Because after 11 years of benign tumors, severe endometriosis, depression, a panic disorder, menopause and more visits to the ER than a person could ever imagine, cancer was never something that I believed could ever happen. Not when I was still struggling with so much. Yet it’s happened. And nearly 3 weeks later, after hearing of my diagnosis, I’m still angry, and overwhelmed, and very scared.

Since meeting up with my regular MD, my surgeon, as well as the specialist who completed my first massive ovarian/tumor removal surgery nearly 11 years ago, within the past two weeks since being released from the hospital, I currently know just enough about my cancer to have a very general idea of the “plan.” Which means chemotherapy for the next 5 to 6 months. Though NO radiation. Which seems like a pretty significant blessing, in my book right now. This Wednesday though, will be the BIG day, when I meet up with my oncologist for the 1st time, to figure all of this out.

Until then, when I start my half year regiment of chemotherapy, until my body figures out what I can and cannot take, until I have a better idea of what I’m up against during this new battle of mine, I’ll scream, and cry, and rail against this Universe. A Universe that continues to push me beyond what I thought I was ever strong enough for. Because I’m beyond scared right now. In more ways than I can ever explain.

So for now, I wanted to leave you with the yummiest broccoli apple salad (or as I affectionately name as broccoli candy salad), that I have ever feasted upon. Feasted upon like I could eat this ENTIRE recipe all on my own. For real. Ready for your own?

3 cups uncooked broccoli florets, minced

1 cup shredded or finely diced pealed carrots

1 cup green grapes, rinsed

2-1/2 cups diced Gala apples (my personal favorite apple)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup low fat Greek vanilla yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

*1 cup dried cranberries, optional

You’ll need two medium sized mixing bowls for this salad.

In the first mixing bowl, combine the broccoli, carrots, grapes, and apples.

In the 2nd mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, mayonnaise, yogurt and lemon juice, until nice and creamy.

Drizzle the dressing onto the dry broccoli salad, and with either your fingers (who’s ready to get messy?) or a big wooden spoon, toss everything together until fully coated. Throw in some dried cranberries if you want an added pop of sweetness! Pop that pretty salad into the fridge to chill before serving!

And believe me when I say that this is one of those salads that you will never tire of. I could eat this every other day if I wanted. Because this is MY idea of candy salad! Try it. You’ll totally get it once you do!

In conclusion, I might not be blogging as many family recipes while undergoing the next 6 months of chemotherapy. It mostly depends on how well I handle everything. I will however, be blogging here, all about this unexpected new battle of mine. Because I know that I can’t fight this battle alone. Without those who love, encourage and hold me up. Those who are my army.

Until next time, all my love to you! xoxo

 

 

 

 

Happiness Project#80: Summer Peach Smoothie!

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Summer is officially upon us. Can you tell how excited I am? Yeah, not so much. Menopause, my friends. Menopause is just not fun in 90 degree heat. However, you know what I do LOVE about the summer? Playdates for my Daughter. Because not only are other preschool children out of school, but my Daughter’s 3 loving, amazing cousins are out on summer break too! Which means SO much love! Swimming, splash parks, playgrounds, legos, play-do, games! It’s adventure time!

The hardest part about living where we are, is that my sister, and my 3 nephews, live hours away from our area. Which leaves my Daughter with very few regular playmates. So traveling to hang out with her Auntie Lisa, and her Darren, Jax, and Jarod, is very obviously the best part of the year for her! Something that always brings tears to my eyes. You don’t know love until you see my Baby Girl surrounded by her cousins. It’s truly magical. Without a doubt, my little girl will move mountains with these three boys by her side.

So in anticipation of much cousin adventuring, I wanted to create a smoothie with my family’s favorite summer fruit (well, besides strawberries, that is): peaches! Thanks Be for luscious, juicy summer peaches! Bliss on earth, I say! Here’s to family, and peaches!

2 cups fresh, chopped peaches

3 to 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup crushed ice

3/4 cup whole milk

pinch of cinnamon

And here’s all you do: throw all of those ingredients into a blender, and blend together for a few minutes until everything is nice & mixed. And serve!

So I’d love to know what your summer plans are? What are you most looking forward to?

Happiness Project#79: Lemon Ice Cream Cake!

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Adult friendships are, well, difficult. To put it lightly. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have three very close adult friends in the last 20 years, two of which live out of state from me. And because of my naturally reclusive nature, made even more so since becoming bi-polar, with an anxiety disorder, it’s not easy for me to become attached to a new adult friend. Again, because of my reclusive nature. So when I have allowed myself to become very close to another female friend, I tend to give my all to that person. In every way that I’m physically & emotionally able to.

For over a year & a half, I became very close to a female friend living within my area. To where I truly loved this friend of mine, and would do virtually anything for her. A relationship that I believed was mutual. Until nearly 3 months ago, when I was slammed with a mountain load of physical & emotional stress, and felt myself spiraling down within my darkness. And felt like I could barely help myself, more or less anyone else. A situation which became depressively worse when this very close friend of mine all of sudden (out of nowhere), disappeared from my life, in every way. With no explanation or warning as to why. Which broke my heart, and left me feeling lost and confused.

Just recently, after initiating contact with my friend, and learning that our expectations within a friendship were, and had always been vastly different from one another’s, I realized that I could not hold on to a relationship that showed no possibility of a continuing friendship. So though it broke my heart all over again, I said goodbye to my friend of a year & half. Someone who I loved and cherished dearly. Because I knew that it was best for the both of us.

Through the entire waiting period in between when my friend disappeared, and then finally acknowledging that it was time to say goodbye, I realized something incredibly significant in regards to what I need and want within a true, real friendship. Or in this case, what was not acceptable to me, within (any) relationship. Which is this, no matter how harsh this may sound to those who don’t know or understand me: please do not ever just disappear, with no explanation, from the lives of those who love you. It’s one thing for a teenager to do such (because many teenagers may not understand the importance of honesty and communication within a long term relationship). But as a responsible, loving adult? Unacceptable to me. Because my heart is not disposable. When I name a person as a close friend, I don’t let go. I am fierce in the ways that I love and support those who love me back. Until it seems there’s nothing left to hold on to. Which is unfortunately how this friendship ended.

And though I still hold a great deal of love for this friend, I am honest enough within myself (& strong enough within my life experiences), to understand that not every person that I chose to love, will stay with me for the rest of my life. Because sometimes friends, as well as lovers, are only meant to walk with you for a season or two. Both a sad yet somehow beautiful experience. One that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

So in light of this sad occasion, I did what I always do to bring a little bit of sunshine back into my heart. I created a new recipe, with my favorite dessert flavor: lemon, combined with the comfort of ice cream, and the joy of cake. My Lemon Ice Cream Cake! Created with the many friends & loved ones of mine in mind. This is for you.

For the Lemon Cake:

3-1/2 cups cake flour

pinch of kosher salt

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

9 large eggs

Firstly, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9 inch loaf pans. Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

On a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, on high speed, until combined and fluffy. Scrape down the the bottom and both sides of the bowl. Add in the lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the 9 eggs. Now add the beaten eggs into the mixing bowl in 3 additions, at low speed, until throughly combined. Now add in the flour mixture, in 3 additions, until the complete batter is just incorporated. The cake batter will be thick and fragrant.

Divide and pour the cake batter into each of the two loaf pans. Pop the two pans into the oven and let bake for 55-60 minutes, until the edges of the cake are slightly brown.

Let the two cakes cool on a wire rack, at room temperature for a least 30 minutes before gently extracting them from each pan.

Now on to the fun and messy part!

With a large serrated knife, cut each loaf in half, so that there are two flat pieces of each cake. Layer each loaf pan with a large piece of saran wrap, so that there are two flaps of saran wrap hanging over the sides of each pan (like wings). Place the first layer of the cut cake on the bottom of each pan.

Grab your favorite vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, and scoop out two to three large globs of ice cream onto the two bottom cake layers. With a knife, smooth out the ice cream until it becomes a uniform flat layer.

Now, add on the top piece of the lemon cake, gently pressing the top cake into the layer of ice cream. Scoop out another two to large globs of ice cream, and (again) spread out the ice cream onto the top piece of the lemon cake. AND sprinkle with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Or layer with fresh cut berries, such as sliced strawberries and blueberries! Once you’re happy with adding on your favorite toppings, take the side hangings of the saran wrap and tightly wrap up each ice cream cake.

Deposit each of the two lemon cakes into the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving!

*Please note: when serving up each ice cream cake, use a large serrated knife, that has been dipped beforehand in hot water, to cut up each piece of cake.

Just know that these lovely little cakes will melt fast! Though perhaps not as quickly as they are consumed!

Happiness Project#78: Chocolate Chip Monkey Bread!

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In light of the recent tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo last weekend, this chocolate chip monkey bread recipe apparently was calling my name. Or my heart perhaps. And I couldn’t resist it’s pull.

The frenzy (& madness) that flooded social media after the tragic killing of the zoo’s incredibly popular silverback gorilla, Harambe, has drawn the attention of parents, zoo patrons, and animal right activists alike. And after watching an eye witness’ horrifying video of the terrifying encounter between the 4 year old boy, and Harambe the gorilla, I dove into the fray, as well.

As a parent, I believe that I am entirely responsible for the actions of my 3 year old daughter. Because she’s ONLY three, and because of this young age, relies entirely on myself & my husband for guidance, encouragement, and love. So because I accept full responsibility for her, I am incredibly vigilant with how I parent.

Thus being said, in response to the situation that led to the little boy falling into the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo, followed by a harrowing 10 minute encounter with the gorilla, Harambe, one incredibly important reminder came to mind. This being that all parents, no matter the situation, are responsible for the actions of their children, particularly, and especially, when a parent’s child is very young, and still learning prompts and behaviors from his or her adult figures. I know how brutal this may sound, and can only imagine how many individuals may not agree with my stance on responsible parenting. But this stance is something that I believe makes me a better person, and a better mother to my beautiful little girl. I believe that vigilance, because of how ever-changing this world is, is pivotal, and essential to my daughter’s well being, as well as to that of the general public.

Vigilance is not always easy. Especially with toddlers. But no matter how challenging it may be, it’s one of the most important aspects of who I am as a mother. Something I would never change. Because my daughter’s safety and happiness will always be worth it.

From last weekend’s tragedy, I hope that from this situation, good will come, and the importance of individual responsibility will be forefront within the near future.

So in honor of the gorilla named Harambe, and the legacy that he has left behind, I’m sharing this delightful, buttery, chocolatey monkey bread recipe for all who need a little bit of simple comfort. Here’s all you’ll need:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 cup salted butter, melted

1 (4 ounce) package cream cheese

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can giant refrigerated biscuits, 8 count

Firstly, preheat the over to 350d. Lightly butter a 9 inch round cake pan.

Mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Set aside.

Pop open the can of biscuits. On a wooden surface, flatten out each biscuit. Cut up the cream cheese in 8 small squares, and add 1 square to (the center of) each flatted biscuit. Press in a small handful of chocolate chips to each square of cream cheese. With your fingers, fold up each biscuit until all 8 biscuits resemble the shape of a ball.

Space out each biscuit ball into the buttered cake pan. With the melted butter, lightly brush the tops of each ball. Followed with a generous sprinkling of the cinnamon-sugar. Yummy!

Pop the pan into the oven and let bake for 18 minutes.

Pull out those lovely rolls of monkey bread from the oven, deposit the pan on a cooling rack, and throw on some more chocolate chips! Yes, MORE! Must I convince you?

From my heart to yours, and to all of the many grieving fans of the majestic, Harambe, may the memories of this gentle giant live on forever.

 

 

Happiness Project#77: Cookie Dough Milkshake!

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It’s time, my friends. Time to take a piece of my heart and run with it. I’m a strong advocate of helping those less fortunate than I. Particularly those who face circumstances that no one should ever have to face. Circumstances that become a battle for ones own life. Neuroblastoma. DIPG. Leukemia. Three pediatric cancers that effect the lives of those most precious, those most fragile: our children. Diseases that force the youngest of souls to loose so much, too much, of their own childhoods.

So in following my heart, and my desire to help where I’m most able, I recently created a community outreach project, Cheer Bear Mail, on Facebook. Where, with the help of my immediate community, I create Cheer Bear Mail packages for these children fighting pediatric cancer. Personalized packages including handwritten cards, books and toys, gathered together in one big bundle, to shower these brave young warriors with love, encouragement and a little bit of cheer. Because these children, who’s lives are riddled with pain, needles and hospital rooms, deserve all of this, and so much more.

If you’d like to join my Cheer Bear Mail project, by helping support children and their families effected by pediatric cancer, please visit my official page on Facebook!

So I guess you’re curious as to why this lovely milkshake has anything to do with Cheer Bear Mail? This yummy cookie dough milkshake was created specifically with a child’s spirit in mind. Because milkshakes remind me of summer. And the summer reminds me of children. Joyfully running though wet blades of grass. Gleefully kicking up sandy footprints. Begging for that one last Popsicle. Or THIS milkshake.

Here’s what you start with:

Chilled roll of chocolate chip cookie dough

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 cups of your favorite vanilla ice cream

1 cup of whole milk

Firstly, you’ll need to create the chocolate chip dough bits. Using whatever favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe that you prefer, create the cookie dough, and then tightly wrap up that cookie dough, to be placed in the freezer for at least one hour.

Once your cookie dough is very chilled, remove from the fridge, and with a small knife (or your fingers), roll up tiny sections of the dough, into quarter inch balls. Now depending on how many milkshakes you’d like to serve, you’ll only be using around a quarter of the whole cookie dough (to create 18-24 mini milkshake balls). With the remainder of that dough, you can easily rewrap it into a log, and freeze for another day.

Place the quarter inch balls on a cookie sheet, and freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Now to the milkshake.

In a blender, add in the sugar, vanilla ice cream and milk. Blend on low speed until fully mixed, and a bit frothy.

In 2 to 3 chilled glasses, pour in the milkshake. Followed by gently stirring in 3 to 4 of the chilled cookie dough balls. And serve, with spoon or straw. Or freeze for an additional 20 minutes for a thicker texture!

It’s a milkshake, after all. It’s supposed to be thick, creamy and wonderfully decadent!

From my heart to yours, may you, too, relive a piece of your own childhood, with this tasty cookie dough milkshake. That’s the beauty of living, right?

 

Happiness Project#75: Funfetti Cookie Cheesecake!

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Holy Sweetness! This cheesecake. This funfetti cookie cheesecake is quite possibly one of the yummiest things that I have ever wrapped my taste buds around. After toying with it’s balance through a couple of failed baking sessions. But at last, THIS. Which I am quite proud of, I must admit. Because unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all of our life, you can’t not like cookies, cake AND sprinkles. The best of everything dessert. In my humble opinion, at least.

This cheesecake has basically saved me. From my very turbulent heart. The past two weeks has been some of the most impossible weeks I’ve ever faced. In comparison to my very difficult stay in the mental ward, when I had been suicidal shortly after the birth of my daughter, 3 years ago. That’s how rough the past couple of weeks have been. From unexplainably losing a mommy friend of mine (one of my closest this past year & a half), to the tragic passing of one of my Crown Books comrades, to discovering that I have, yet again, another tumor rapidly creating mass chaos within my body, I was at the edge of my tolerance. For, well, everything. Including life in general.

However, thanks in part to a new support group of women that I’ve been interacting with, as well as the calming presence of my doctor, I’m feeling more optimistic and hopeful about where I am right now in life, than I have in years. YEARS. Which, in my life, is a cause for much celebration! Starting with THIS cheesecake. Something you do not want to miss out on. Trust me. Ready? You’ll need:

For the cookie crust:

24 pre-baked sugar cookies (which you can create from scratch or with pre-made freezer dough)

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

To prepare your cookie crust, first, finely crush up those 24 pre-baked sugar cookies in a food processor. Your cookie crumbs will want to resemble a texture akin to grainy sand.

Dump the crumbs into a small bowl. Add in the 1/2 cup of sprinkles, as well as the melted butter. With your hands, mix all three ingredients together until the full mixture is slightly moist.

Now to the 9 inch springfoam baking pan. Lightly grease the bottom of the pan, so that the cookie crust does not stick to the surface upon extraction. Preheat the oven to 325d. While the oven is warming up, take heavy ply aluminum foil and tightly wrap up the entire bottom and outside surface of the pan. This is to prevent water from seeping into the cheesecake layer while being baked. Once wrapped, take your funfetti cookie dough and firmly press into the bottom of the cheesecake pan. Bake this bottom layer in the oven for 8 minutes.

While your cookie layer is baking away, you can work on preparing the cheesecake layer. Here’s what you’ll need:

24 ounces of cream cheese, warmed to room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

3/4 cup whole milk

On a stand or with a hand held mixer, beat the cream cheese together with the sugar, until smooth. Add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl between each addition. Add in the vanilla extract, slowly followed by the whole milk. Mix well until your cheesecake batter is lump free.

By now, you”ll be able to take out the cookie layer from the oven. Let rest for a few minutes, at room temperature, before spooning in the cheesecake batter on top.

For this recipe, I used a water bath to control the overall temperature of the cheesecake while it was baking. For a water bath, take a tall lipped pan, or a turkey roasting dish (that is wider that the spring foam pan) and, after placing the cheesecake pan within it, slowly pour boiling water into the bathing pan, until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.

Let bake for 50 minutes, until the edges of the cheesecake is slightly firm to the touch, and the center of the cheesecake is slightly gooey.

Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest inside the oven, with the oven door cracked open, for 45 minutes to an hour.

Upon removing the cheesecake from the oven, smoothly remove from the water bath, and unwrap the cheesecake pan from the aluminum foil. Again, let stand, at room temperature for a good half hour.

Now comes the waiting. Cover the top of the cooled cheesecake with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for at least 7 hours.

Once you’re ready to serve (after that long 7 hour wait), remove the pan from the fridge, and gently pop open the pan. Now here’s the super important tip: when releasing the cheesecake from the pan, do not shake the cheesecake out of the pan. That was my mistake with my 1st failed recipe. Let the cheesecake pull away from the pan itself. Even if that means waiting a few minutes for it to do so on it’s own. Therefore, your lovely cookie cheesecake will come out nice and clean.

AND now sprinkle! With as many sprinkles as your happy heart desires! Must I say, the more the merrier? OR scoop on some cold vanilla ice cream. Because cookies, cake, sprinkles AND ice cream? Kinda brilliant!

Until next time, all my love! xoxoxo

 

 

 

Happiness Project:#73: Birthday Candy Popcorn Balls!

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It’s official. My beautiful Little Girl is now THREE! And although it makes me sad (because every year seems to go by faster), I can’t say enough of how proud I am with who this loving, affectionate, joyful, determined and feisty Little Girl of mine is becoming. Beyond with how she saves me, day in and day out, her unique light of being sparks up around her, no matter where she is or who she’s with. She’s my little firecracker. And yet, in many ways, nothing like me. Which I absolutely adore about her. I have a sneaky suspicion, that this Mischief Maker of mine will move mountains one day. Though she already does such, in my heart.

To celebrate the 3 years that my family & friends have been blessed with her presence, there was (obviously) a grand party in celebration. With Paw Patrol, Bubble Guppies, bubble wands, puppy masks, vanilla cupcakes, sprinkle marshmallow pops and these ridiculously tasty Candy Popcorn Balls! Which were gobbled up, by the kids and adults alike, and raved about as soon as they found their tabletop destination. And are incredibly easy (& wonderfully messy) to create! Because you all know how much I LOVE all things messy! Ha.

Here’s all you need:

1 baking sheet, covered with parchment paper

1 bag of fully popped unsalted, unbuttered popcorn

3 tablespoons salted butter, plus another half cup of softened butter (for greasing your hands)

2 cups mini marshmallows

Your favorite small candies (in this case, my daughter’s favorite candy: M&M’s)

*1 cup crushed pretzels (optional)

Firstly, pop that bag of popcorn. Sift through the bag of popcorn for any unpopped kernels to discard. Pour into a large bowl. Add in the candy and pretzels (if using). Mix well.

To create the marshmallow glue, heat up the 3 tablespoons of butter and marshmallows, in a medium sized pot, over medium-high heat. While the butter and marshmallows are melting, stir them both together, until both are fully melted. Remove from the stovetop.

Pour the marshmallow glue over the bowl of popcorn candy. Using your hands, mix everything very well, so that all of the popcorn is covered and sticky.

Now, the really, REALLY messy part! Which is kinda the best part, in my opinion. Lightly grease both your hands with a dab of the reserved, softened butter. Gently scoop out a small chunk of the well mixed popcorn, and firmly press into a 2 to 3 inch round ball. Place the still warm popcorn ball onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Grease both of your hands again before continuing on to creating the next popcorn ball. Please note: between each popcorn ball, grease your hands well. In order for the balls to keep their shape (& for all of those ingredients to stick together), shaping them in the palms of your buttered hands will essentially bind up the balls good & tight. Repeat this step until you’ve created 24-30 small popcorn balls.

Once all of those balls are created, pop the pan with that 2 dozen or so of them, into the fridge to chill, until ready to serve. And by serve, I really mean, disappear. All you need to do is turn your back for a few minutes and POOF, they’re GONE! Trust me. It’s a fairly satisfying thing to experience.

Much THANKS to my fellow blogger friend, over at Crafty Cooking Mama, for the recipe inspiration! Her Candy Corn Popcorn Balls look PERFECT for Fall parties!

 

Happiness Project#72: Carrot Cake Pops!

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Valentines Day. Most of you know how I feel about Valentines Day. I’m not a believer. For many reasons, though mostly because of how disturbingly commercialized it is (in the US, at least). No matter my many disagreements with this specific day though, I do, however believe in love. Real love. That’s shown and celebrated, in no matter how small or grand a way, every day. And is no more or less significant because of any “holiday.”

So while standing firm in my own beliefs on love & relationships, I finally had the time to re-create one of my favorite cakes into what I call a “messy” cake pop treat. Because, well, I LIKE being a messy baker. It’s kinda freeing in this way. And fun. WAY more fun! My Chloe Girl agrees, wholeheartedly. Ha.

Hence these super yummy, and delightfully pink Carrot Cake Pops! With a whole lot of sprinkles and whole lot of LOVE! So from my heart to yours, here you go…

For the Carrot Cake, you’ll need:

2 cups cake flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

pinch of kosher salt

4 eggs

1-1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Firstly, preheat your oven to 350d. Lightly butter a square glass baking dish.

On a stand mixer, or by hand held, mix all of the dry ingredients together, until well combined.

Add in each egg, one at a time, until fully mixed with the dry ingredients. Followed with stirring in the vegetable oil until the full mixture becomes thick and creamy.

Now, slowly add in first the carrots, and then the pecans. Stir with a wooden spoon until also fully combined.

Pour the entire cake mixture into the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula.

Pop that cake into the oven and let bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Once the cake is nicely baked through, let the entire dish cool on a wire rack for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

While the cake is cooling, prepare your cream cheese frosting. Need a new homemade cream cheese frosting that you’ll use for just about everything? Here’s my favorite go to:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, softened at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Firstly, combine the butter and cream cheese into the bowl on your stand mixture. Whip up until fully combined.

Add in the 3 cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl, at the finish of adding in all 3 cups.

Add in the vanilla extract, and then the heavy whipping cream. Whip together, at high speed, for 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside the bowl of frosting.

Now the messy part, which I kinda love! Taking the dish with the fully cooled carrot cake, dig your hands into that perfect cake and crumble all of it up. ALL of it. Anyone else breaking into a happy dance? Ha.

Once that cake is fully crumbled, drop in a cup of the cream cheese frosting onto that crumbled cake. With your hands (again), kneed the frosting into the crumble. The goal is for that cake crumble to become moist enough to roll up into 2 inch cake balls. So you’ll need to continue to add in another cupful or two of frosting to the crumble, until you’re able to roll up 18 to 20 carrot cake balls. Messy, yes, but SO darn FUN!!!

Place each cake ball onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

5 minutes before that hour is up, take a 12oz bag of white or vanilla candy melts and warm up, in 20 seconds intervals, in the microwave, until fully melted and creamy.

Take the fully chilled carrot cake balls out of the fridge and set next to the bowl with the melted candy melts. Prepare to get MESSY (again)! To the point where donning that favorite kitchen apron of yours is recommended. Very recommended.

With a large slotted spoon, dip each cake ball into the melted candy, ensuring that each ball is fully coated before gently depositing each coated cake ball onto the same parchment lined baking sheet that they were chilled on. After each ball is coated, take a lollipop stick and insert into each pop. Followed by sprinkling each cake pop with your favorite colored sugar crystals. In this case, pink. LOTS of pink.

Let your fully decorated cake pops sit at room temperature, until fully hardened. And eat. Or gift to those you love. Since these are LOVE pops!

May your every day, be a day for love. And a day for giving. Especially when giving involves your favorite cake pop.

Happiness Project#70: Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting!

bbfrosting

Being a Mom, with physical and mental limitations, is rough sometimes. So many of my friends see me as such an easy going, cheerful person, but within myself, I’m much more serious than most know. Particularly when I’m sick. Which seems to be ALL the time. Which isn’t any real surprise. I’ve battled illness since the day I was born, 3 months premature, so I’m not sure why I thought that once I became a Mother, I wouldn’t struggle with constant illness. I must have been a tad delusional.

The hardship with being consistently ill, is that I am NOT a good patient. And can be super hard on myself because of it. More often than not, I rely on my Mom to help me be with my toddler, and it’s still a near daily struggle to be…accepting of this. Accepting that I’m not like the “normal” self sufficient Mother of this generation. That canceling playdates and outings to the playground or bookstore or local zoo, is “my” norm. And that I’m not a failure as a Mom because of it. See? Self-deprecation at it’s worse.

Unfortunately, this past week has been another of my “bad” weeks. And today I wanted to scream out to the Universe how frustrating it is. But I didn’t. And opted instead to pour out these feelings through black words on a keyboard. Because blogging isn’t just about entertainment for me, it’s also about therapy. Therapy through sweet, yummy, drool worthy things. Thanks be for this therapeutic little world of mine. Something that I’ve found that I can always turn to. No matter my good or bad days.

Today’s little bright spot of mine? This lovely, fragrant blueberry cream-cheese frosting! That anyone can whip up and LOVE. Anyone. Trust me.

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

8oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature

pinch of kosher salt

4 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Firstly, the blueberries. Rinse and pat dry. Using either a blender or food processor, pulverize the blueberries until smooth and creamy (no lumps). Pour out into a small bowl and set aside.

On a stand (or hand held) mixer, drop the softened butter and cream cheese into the mixing bowl and beat on medium speed, until fully mixed. Drop the mixer down to a slower speed and add in the 4 cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Once fully incorporated, add in the pinch of salt. Bump up the speed to medium and add in the cup of blueberries. Mix until fully incorporated. Lastly, add in up to 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, to create volume.

AND frost! Cookies. Or cupcakes. Or bagels. Or use this fruity frosting as a fruit dip! Because not only does this smell DIVINE but the frosting in and of itself, is kinda (just kinda) pretty too! Right?

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