My college aged daughter moved home to live with us for the summer and I have to say that it was just about the quickest three months of my life. Two years ago, when we moved her into her dorm room for the first time, I had prepared myself for the hardest goodbye of my life. My baby girl was moving away and I armed myself with an arsenal of coping mechanisms and a box of tissues to help myself deal with the transition of being an empty nester. I read the parenting books about the significance of "drop off day" written by all sorts of "experts" and I was prepared for the emotional flood. And believe me - there was a flood that day.
I was filled with overwhelming pride that she was attending the college of her dreams and sadness that her bright shining face would be absent from our dinner table every night. So on the day of her college drop off we carefully hauled tote after tote of bathroom necessities, school supplies and university sweatshirts into her unusually tiny dorm room on the 4th floor. After we organized her closet to Marie Kondo perfection and made her bed with the new sheets and comforter that she picked out for this exact occasion, we said our final goodbyes. The "experts were right" - it was hard. I may have let a few tears slip out before we left her room but I managed to mostly hold it together until we got to the car.
It was no surprise that it was hard to say goodbye and to leave her in that dorm room for the first time. What WAS a surprise is that there would be so many goodbyes over the next few years that would be equally heart wrenching. Why didn't the "experts" mention the goodbye when she moved back to school after her first Fall break? Christmas break? Summer vacation? It seems there's an endless stream of goodbyes when your child moves away to college. And in my experience - these subsequent goodbyes - don't get any easier with time. Silly me, I thought that once we got through the initial college drop off, each time she went back to school would be easier - turns out - I was wrong. Very wrong.
So last week I had to say goodbye again to my sweet daughter who moved back to school. Life feels differently when she's not in the house and it's going to take some getting used to not having her here again. It takes me about a week before I can even go into her room to change her sheets. 😥
Over the years, I've managed to come up with my own goodbye rituals when my kids go back to college. There's some crying, a lot of busy work and there's always some chocolate involved in my coping techniques. It's not the healthiest way of dealing with the emotional trauma but what can I say? Chocolate soothes my aching soul. So for all of you parents out there who may be struggling with the endless cycle of painful goodbyes of a college-aged child - whether it's the first goodbye or the 20th goodbye - I'm here to say I feel your pain and I've got your back. This Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie won't make the goodbyes any easier but it will help you feel better as you sit alone in your quieter than usual house.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Bake 35 minutes at 325. Cover with foil and bake another 10 minutes.
Let cool 15 minutes then cut into 12 wedges.
Chocolate and pasta are my comfort foods. (Not together obviously.) What do you eat when you need to really need something comforting and soothing? Send me your favorite comfort foods in the comments.
How do you feel about combined birthday celebrations? My birthday and my moms are only a day apart and over the years, we've had a lot of shared birthday festivities. As a child, I got so accustomed to celebrating our birthdays together that when I got married and moved away, it felt strange NOT to celebrate my birthday along with hers.
My birthday is the day before my moms, and looking back, I can't help but wonder how many years she had candles stuck into my day old, half eaten cake for her birthday. As a child, all caught up in the afterglow of my birthday festivities, I honestly don't remember her birthday cakes except for the years that both of our names were on one cake. With the exception of the few years that I went rogue and requested donuts or pie instead of cake, I'm fairly certain of the fact that my mom never had a birthday cake that was entirely her own for the 18 years that we lived together.
My mom and I live 750 miles apart now and we hardly ever get to celebrate our birthdays together. We have separate birthday cakes now and honestly - it's a little weird. Still to this day, I cut my cake on my birthday and on the next day, I eat another slice in honor of her birthday as well.
German Chocolate Cake
Coconut Pecan Filling
6 egg yolks
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, cubed
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz German chocolate, melted
4 large eggs, separated
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup water, room temperature
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/4 cups shortening
9 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
6-7 tbsp milk
I'm not sure how traditional German Chocolate Cake lovers will feel about chocolate fudge frosting on a German Chocolate cake and if I'm being completely honest - I was a bit skeptical as well. After one bite though, I was convinced that I'd never make another German Chocolate Cake without it again. Turns out - fudge frosting is the perfect compliment to the the creamy coconut pecan filling and moist cake. I have to give credit to America's Test Kitchen for the inspiration for this scrumptious creation. Once again - you've pushed the limits of my cake baking and I couldn't be happier.
Wedding bells are ringing loud and clear over here. Three bridal showers in three weeks is enough to put anybody in the mood to celebrate love. I've also become adept at ordering from Bed, Bath and Beyond and a master at wrapping awkward gifts like spatulas and colanders.
I loved celebrating these new marriages and I've got to say that the hostesses of these festive affairs, really out did themselves in the refreshment department. They created some of the most over top fabulous and delicious displays of nibbles for the bride and her guests. I'm talking about beef and chicken sliders, mini meatballs, turkey wraps, pimento cheese sandwiches, baskets of mini quiche and trays overflowing with fruit. It was all I could do to stop myself from filling TWO plates. 😂
Now let me tell you about the exquisite displays of dessert at these bridal showers. Chocolate covered strawberries, bundtinis, strawberry shortcakes, chocolate mousse, petit fours, cupcakes and beautiful jars filled with chocolate kisses, gum balls and candy. These Willy Wonka worthy dessert bars were absolutely irresistible. I'm pretty sure that I tried one of everything. 🎂
There's no way that I could replicate bridal shower provisions on a weekly basis but after three straight weeks of showers, my body now craves Saturday afternoon sugar. 🤣 I feel like I need to fill the refreshment gap of my shower-less Saturday afternoons. But what could possibly satisfy my sugar cravings? Triple Chocolate Sticky Buns should do the trick. I can't think of anything more decadent than a TRIPLE CHOCOLATE STICKY BUN.
Triple Chocolate Sticky Buns
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup whole milk
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Beginning with long edge, loosely roll up into a log. Pinch seam to seal.
Invert buns onto a platter.
You know that I'm all about breakfast recipes that I can make ahead of time. These sticky buns are the perfect make ahead recipe. Take the unbaked sticky buns out of the frig, let them rise on the counter for an hour, bake and serve. Easy peasy.
I'm not one to toot my own horn but I must say that I feel like I have some of the most delicious brownie and blondie recipes. My tried and true brownie and blondie recipes really are some of my favorite go-to desserts and I make over and over again. I certainly never felt deprived or like I was in NEED of a new brownie or blondie recipe but when Cook's Illustrated publishes a new recipe for Browned Butter Blondies, none of that matters. It doesn't matter how many other blondie recipes I already have in my index, Cook's Illustrated dessert recipes are too good to pass up.
This browned butter blondie recipe certainly did not disappoint. It lived up to every mouth watering expectation that I had. I love the simplicity of one pan desserts and this one is surprisingly simple for a Cook's Illustrated recipe. (Those of you who regularly subscribe to the magazine know exactly what I'm talking about.)
Browned Butter Blondies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
12 Tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon flake sea salt
Let blondies cool in pan for 2 hours. Remove from pan using foil sling and cut into 24 bars.
I've made this recipe several times already and I've made them both with and without chocolate chips. I like them both ways but I'm partial to anything with chocolate so that is my favorite.
I jumped on the mirrorless camera bandwagon almost 3 years ago and I finally decided it was time to take it off of auto mode and see what my camera could do. It's not that I was unhappy about my photos - I was just super hesitant about turning the dial away from the little green rectangle. Quite honestly, I have more faith in my camera to adjust all of my settings more than I do myself. (After all, my camera doesn't need progressive lenses to properly focus.) My camera can set the best white balance, shutter speed and aperture is less than a second - it takes me at least 4 minutes to accomplish the very same settings.
My camera is very intuitive and it does a great job of picking just the right settings for each picture. So why in the world would I ever want to override it and rely on my own limited knowledge? Honestly, most of the time I trust my camera more than myself, but there are a few times when I want to take my camera off of auto mode and choose my own settings. It's taken me 3 years but I'm finally moving my camera off of auto mode - for brief periods of time.
I'm still most comfortable letting my camera chose the best settings but after 10 hours of hands-on camera instruction, I apprehensively put myself in the drivers seat. Let's face it, I'm not trying to be a professional photographer but I do want to take be able to capture really great pictures.
The two waterfall pictures above were taken in the exact same spot but I adjusted the settings to create different effects. I'm going to need a lot more practice to really master my camera but I'm having fun learning. (Thank goodness we don't use film camera's anymore.) Waterfalls, sunsets and indoor portraits - these are all things that I'm trying to get better at photographing.
When I get frustrated, I go back to shooting what I know best --- food. It never moves, I can put it in the lighting that I want and it never squints in the sun. These ranger cookies are a photographers dream. Capturing the dark brown chips, the flecks of coconut, the golden oats and the bits of cereal is easy compared to getting a natural smile from a 5 year old boy.
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup rice crispy cereal
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Bake 10-12 minutes at 350.
Allow to cool 5 minutes on silpat before removing.
This cookie has all of my favorite things... oats, coconut, crispy rice and chocolate. I just can't imagine a better combination. I should rename these Amy's Cookies because they perfectly represent everything that I love in a cookie.
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