Sunday, September 29, 2013

What I'm Reading

I've been a busy little reader. And while my "read" list is ever-growing, my "to-read" list doesn't seem to budge. Hmmmmm.....

The Red Garden (Alice Hoffman)
Fall Book Club Read

By far this has been my favorite recent read. It's comprised of short-story like chapters depicting a small town in Massachusetts and its inhabitants spanning a few centuries, from it's founding in 1750 to (what seems) present day. The way the stories are set-up allows for easy reading before bed and doesn't necessarily require you to remember everything about each character or scenario. It's much easier for me to pick out the one story I didn't care for verses trying to decided among many which is my favorite. Hoffman's writing is intriguing and unforgettable. I definitely suggest picking up this read!

City of Bones (Cassandra Clare)
The first book in the Mortal Instruments series

Ugh. I read the first and second installments in this YA-Stephenie-Meyer's-world-meets-Buffy-and-other-creatures-of-the-night-stuff series, and while it's better than Twilight, it's not by much. I recommend skipping this series and just watching the movie (although I'm forgoing that as well; it barely made anything in theaters). I find it hard to believe Clare still has a plot for a sixth book.

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Sharon Lathan)
The entire Darcy Saga, books #1-5
Re-read #1-2.

This saga is definite fluff when it comes to my reading shelf. I normally don't like when other authors carry on someone else's story, adding more to beloved characters. However, as I said this is fluff reading, and it entertains me when I'm in the mood for something quick, easy, and light. And who doesn't want to hear more about Mr. Darcy and his beautiful estate? Yet, while entertaining and very corny, Lathan does give the leading man characteristics I'm positive Austen would find disapproving. But, you must take it for what it is. Fluff.

The Duck Commander Family
(Willie & Korie Robertson)

This show. I can't get enough. It cracks me up. The Robertson's crack me up. It's nice to see fame and fortune don't always change people. I've never been a huge fan of Willie; he seems whiny and self-absorbed on the show. But reading about his life, values, faith, and determination was inspiring and, I'll admit, quite surprising. I learned a few things I didn't know, as well, and am looking forward to reading Phil's book Happy, Happy Happy.

White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming-of-Age Story (Jenna Weber)

I've been a follower of Jenna's blog, Eat, Live, Run, for a few years now and was extremely happy for her when her book was published. (I'm just so sad it took me this long to finally get a hold of it!) Reading about her culinary school and life experiences was enlightening, inspiring, and motivational. Her writing is very straight-forward, not groundbreaking or anything, but heartfelt and full of truth, doubt and, at times, pain.

And here's a sneak peek at my "research" pile. I enjoy learning about food, the body, nutrition, and what diets are current fads. I like to know my stuff, and while I never diet myself, I'm constantly changing up my own eating keep my metabolism guessing, when my food seems too routine, when I'm bored, or want to try something new. Plus, I like the challenge. I finished 5:2 and VB6 and discovered I already use a combination of these "diets" in my own lifestyle. Kudos to me.

Have you read any good books lately? Share your good reads below!

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, September 23, 2013

{Quick Appetizers} Crescents Galore!

Ahhh, crescent rolls. So easy, so versatile, so melt-in-your-mouth tasty. They're perfect all on their own. However, they're even tastier kicked up a notch. Crescent rolls are a staple in my household when it comes to appetizers, crowds, and game day. I have tried a plethora of crescent recipes, and below I included all my (and Mr. B's, of course,) appetizer favorites. So, take your pick (pssst...there are 6 of them)!

All you need is one 8-count can of crescent rolls, regular or jumbo is fine, (or more depending on the crowd you're serving), an ungreased baking sheet, an oven set to 375 degrees, and more or less of the following ingredients:

Crescent Poppers
3 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp Neufchatel cream cheese, softened

Unroll crescents, separate and cut each one in half (giving you 16 poppers). Add a dollop of cream cheese to the center of each. Layer on a few pieces of bacon and pepper. (Add more jalapeno slices for more spice.) Fold sides up and twist at top to seal. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes.

Pepperoni Crescents
mini turkey pepperonis
4 pieces mozzarella string cheese, halved
garlic powder
pizza sauce, warmed (optional)

Unroll crescents and separate. Place a few mini pepperonis and one half of the string cheese in the center of each crescent segment. Fold sides up and twist at top to seal. Place on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with garlic powder. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes. Serve with pizza sauce.

Taco Rolls
3 oz Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
2 tsp homemade taco seasoning mix
3/4 c shredded chicken (a great way to use up leftover chicken!)
1/3 c salsa
1/4 c shredded cheese, Mexican blend

Unroll crescents and separate. Combine cream cheese and taco seasoning; mix until smooth. Spread 2 teaspoons on each crescent, almost to the edges. Add a tablespoon of shredded chicken and a small dollop of salsa. Roll up, enclosing on all sides so it doesn't ooze out while in the oven, and place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes.

Brie, Fruit & Nut Wraps
Brie cheese, peeled and sliced
apple slices (pear slices work well here, too)
nuts of choice (walnuts, pecans, almonds....)

Unroll crescents and separate. Layer each crescent with a small slice of cheese, fruit, and a nut. Tightly roll up each crescent, making sure all sides are pinched closed. Place on prepared baking sheet. Lightly drizzle with honey. Bake at 375 degrees for 11-13 minutes. [Yes, a glass of wine, or tea, is a must with these!]

These crescent rolls are perfect for game day appetizers, sides, snacks, brunch, AND dessert. Also, don't forget to check out my Cold Vegetable Pizza, which uses a package of crescent rolls as its crust. It's a definite winner, along with my gooey Ham Cheese Crescents!

Check back for the Crescents Galore Dessert version!

With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dessert of the Month

I'm a huge nut fan. Almonds. Walnuts. Pecans. Cashews. Peanuts. I don't discriminate; I love them all. However, the expensive pistachio is my absolute favorite. Go figure. What can I say? I have a very mature palette. Since this delicious green nut tends to be a bit pricey, I usually only buy pistachios around Christmastime because the green makes for festive treats, naturally. However, a while back my co-worker generously gave me a bag of her pistachios. I was thankful and extremely happy. I enjoyed a few handfuls of them until I stumbled across this Pistachio Cake recipe on Pinterest. I knew I had to make this dessert and soon, which (if you know me) is odd because, unlike nuts, I am not a cake fan. I prefer creamy cheesecake. Or a warm, gooey cobbler. Or a giant bowl of ice cream. Or a fudge-y brownie. If there is cake, chances are I will pass.

But this cake included pistachios and claimed to be "skinny." Which is automatically good for you, obviously. And another bonus: Cool Whip frosting instead of the sugar-and-butter-loaded stuff usually slathered all over a cake in which the sugar smell alone hurts my teeth. Yes, I wanted to make this. I decided to postpone baking this cake until Labor Day when there would be plenty of people around to eat it, and the chances of it dying in my fridge would be slim. <--- ha!

Light and fluffy frosting is always a good sign.

Alas, this idea did not go as planned. The morning of my little Labor Day get-together, my oven decided it wasn't going to work. "Mine [was] broken" <---I can't say that without thinking of the scene in Pretty Woman (my favorite movie, btw) where they're at the opera and she thinks her glasses are broken. LOVE. <3

Anyhoo, the stove top and broiler both worked, but the oven did not. I discovered this when I was making my father and I crescent rolls for breakfast and the oven was taking for.ever. to preheat. (At least I didn't have the cake batter mixed and ready to go in....then I'd have been very angry.) Why?! I'd been craving this cake for over a month. Now, I had to run out and buy some pre-made cake-thing because I couldn't make anything. Grrrr.....I was not happy but the party must go on.

To make a long story short (as Mr. B says) the party went well, no one knew why the oven wouldn't work, and Mr. B wasn't "pleased" with the idea of purchasing a new oven. But the very next day, while cooking dinner on the stove top, I decided to turn the oven on just to see what would happen. Lo and behold it worked! No idea why, or how, but we had an oven again.

The first thing I put in that oven was this cake. And, yes, I had no one to share it with.

It was delicious and I thought it seemed quite rich and heavy despite the "skinny" claim. I guess that's a good thing when you're eating something healthy and it doesn't taste healthy. I think my father would approve. Too bad he wasn't there to enjoy it. However, I was able to pass off some to my step father-in-law. He found it quite delectable. The only adjustment I made to the recipe was the milk. I used almond milk in the frosting instead of regular. Head on over to Skinny Mom's blog for the full recipe to this delicious Skinny Pistachio Cake.

This cake is super easy to throw together and decently healthy. However, next time I'd prefer a homemade white cake as opposed to the box mix, which will take a little bit more time. But when it comes to eating healthy and paying attention to what goes in your's worth the extra few minutes.

With Love and God Bless,

Friday, September 13, 2013

House Update: The Kitchen

Y'all, it's been one year and the kitchen is almost finished!!!

These last few weeks Daddy has been up installing the new counter tops and, my favorite piece, the island. It's beautiful and completes the kitchen, while providing storage for pots, pans, jars, AND my cookbooks! My father does amazing and gorgeous work; he is unbelievably talented at his craft. Mr. B and I have done so much to this kitchen, not because it needed it (other than the fact that the wallpaper needed to come down) but we wanted to make it our own, or I should say my own since I'm the one actually in the kitchen.

Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

Ughhh....other than the wallpaper, the kitchen was absolutely fine. There wasn't anything wrong with it, we just wanted it updated. To make it our own. We updated the refrigerator, mainly because it kept freezing our food, and Mr. B surprised me by installing a new microwave while I was in Chicago. He was tired of looking at the messed up door. We drew out a plan and a timeline on what we wanted to do with our new home, saved up the money, and now--one year later--my kitchen is complete (almost). Once Mr. B and I finished painting, Daddy came up to install the back splash, which I love.

But the counter tops, I despised. They had to go. I mean they were okay, but I know what my father can do. I watched him build and supply many, many customers with beautiful cabinets and counter tops over the years, and I knew (finally!) it was my turn. And it's absolutely perfect. I am in love with my kitchen.

Isn't it beautiful?! I keep smiling like a little schoolgirl with a crush every time I walk into this kitchen.

I continue to be in awe of what my father can do at his craft. It's absolutely flawless, and his attention to detail is superb. He really keeps in mind what the customer wants and he delivers. When he was asking me questions about the island, at the time, I had no idea which side I wanted to display the cookbooks or the storage doors. It makes you really think about your space. And that's what he does. Daddy makes you think about what works best for you. How I actually use my kitchen, what's convenient to me, where do we walk, how much space do we need to open the fridge and the dishwasher....He's brilliant.

And if you're interested, visit his Facebook page, Creative Woodworks, for an estimate, or to contact him with any questions. (There are also pictures of his other beautiful wood works, so check it out!)

And, now, a sneak peek at the dining room....

Here's a closer look at my new coffee/tea bar!!!

We re-purposed the old island by turning it into the coffee bar I have longed for desperately since I was in college. Eventually I plan to paint it and strip the wood, and possibly have my father install a shelf, or drawer, of some sort in place of the stools. Also, I'd like to put a shelving unit above the bar along with some coffee and tea decor. It's a work in progress. But more importantly, I'm loving the free counter top space!

One room at a time....

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I'm currently....

Watching... (football, obviously...) Rizzoli & Isles. I've been a huge fan of this show since it first aired, but now I'm missing out on the new season since we decided to get rid of cable. So now I'm watching the previous seasons (thanks to my library) on DVD. And can I just say how sad I am about the passing of Lee Thompson Young? (I remember watching him on the Disney Channel!) How one can get that lonely and nobody know will forever be a mystery. This news hit a little close to home; a few family members of mine lost a friend of theirs a few weeks ago to suicide. It's the most selfish thing a human being can do. She left behind a loving husband and eight kids. I pray that family, and Young's, finds strength through our Father to get through this difficult time.

Oh, by the way, it just happens to be World Suicide Prevention Day. If you, or anybody you know, ever have suicidal thoughts, I pray you speak to someone. People care. Strangers do care and will listen. And God is always listening and will comfort those who call upon Him.

Eating...zucchini bread. And more zucchini bread. People keep giving me zucchinis and requesting bread, and I'm flattered that everyone likes my bread. But.grating.all.of.that.zucchini. Good night! At least my arm is getting a work out! I made at least a dozen loaves in the last two months, trying various zucchini bread recipes and combinations. Yet, my favorite is still my own Blueberry Zucchini Bread.

Planning... I have a few major birthdays coming up in my family. I'm knee-deep in birthday gift ideas....that's all I have to say about that ;)

Reading... the young adult Mortal Instruments series. And, to be honest, I'm not impressed. I could take it or leave it, but since I've already invested the time to read the first two installments, I'm sure I'll make time to finish the rest. (It's YA; they're pretty quick reads.) My advice: watch the movie. (Though I haven't seen it yet, I'm not really impressed by the trailer either. Boo.) 

Inspired by.... my new yoga class. A yoga studio, One Love Yoga Boutique, just opened up less than 10 minutes from my house, in my old college neighborhood of Kent, OH. I attended my first class (my first yoga class ever, that is. Gasp! I know, you'd think I'd be coming and going from class after class, but nope. I'm self-taught) and absolutely fell in love with the quaint boutique. The friendly staff and instructors. The studio. The Robeks kiosk. And the practice. I plan to devout a whole post to this experience, so stay tuned!

Excited about... I was excited about my brother flying home this weekend for two family weddings. However yesterday, he made the unfortunate telephone call to inform me he had to cancel his flight due to an emergency at work. Now, I'm bummed. Sad. Depressed at the thought that I'll have to wait until Christmas to see him. I miss him. I miss making him dinner and treats, seeing his car pull up, and his stupid, brotherly smirks, and much more. But I digress. (I'm still super excited about the weddings and seeing the rest of my family.)

On a more positive note, I'm excited for everything fall. Because it's my favorite. Bring on comfy sweaters, chilly mornings, beautiful colors, apple cider, and boots.

With Love and God Bless,

Sunday, September 8, 2013

B's Perfect Granola Bars

I like to know what goes into my granola bars, which is way I try my hardest to eat only homemade bars. I'm a huge fan of making food in my own kitchen, knowing I put only the best ingredients, and no preservatives, in my food. These Perfect Granola Bars are just that.

I like controlling the amount of sugar, fat, protein, and fiber that goes into my food. I feel better about what I'm eating, I feel healthier, knowledgeable, and definitely not guilty! It's very liberating.

I used to be hooked on Larabars; they're delicious, organic, and a perfect snack, but I found them to be way too sweet. Too sweet to eat for breakfast or pre/post workout or for a middle-of-the-day snack. The bars are primarily made of dates, which contain their own fair share of sugar. However, I do enjoy these tremendously as a dessert bar when I'm trying to eat clean. The cherry pie ones are my favorite.

But these bars are also very versatile. Use them crumbled in a bowl with some almond milk, crumbled on top of fruit, or as a crumb topping on your favorite peach cobbler or ice cream...or simply enjoy them as a bar.

Perfect Granola Bars
*makes 9 bars (recipe can be easily adjusted to amount needed)

2 c rolled oats (or gluten-free oats)
1 T chia seeds
1/4 c unsalted nuts of choice
1/4 c nut butter, melted
1/4 c honey, agave, or brown rice syrup (sometimes I forgo this and just do a full 1/2 c of nut butter)
optional add-ins: flaxseed, other nuts, dried fruit, mini bittersweet chocolate chips, protein powder

Preheat oven 350 degrees and coat a baking dish (whatever size you need; I used a 9" glass pie dish this time) with cooking spray. Mix oats, nuts, chia seeds, nut butter, and honey in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add in any extras, if desired. *Note: you may need to mix in a little bit more of the nut butter or honey, as needed, with each addition add-in. Press mixture into prepared dish and bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool, completely, in baking dish before cutting into bars. (This can be made vegan by excluding the chocolate chips.)

Sometimes I'll add protein powder and decrease the amount of honey. I don't like my granola bars too sweet, so if I'm adding dried fruit or mini chocolate chips (something that adds its own sweetness) I will decrease the amount of sugar I'm adding.

Depending on your add-ins, the calorie count can be anywhere between 160-200 per bar. I try to keep the sugar below 9 grams, while upping the fiber and protein.


With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Best of the Best: Coretta Scott King

This summer, while completely immersed in Caldecotts, my co-worker and I read also all of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Illustrator award winners and honors. There are significantly less books for this award than the Caldecotts (and you can peruse that post here), mainly because this award was first given in 2006, so it didn't take very long. The CSK awards are annually given to outstanding books for young adults and children by African American illustrators that reflect the African American culture (

Current CSK Illustrator Winner, Knock, Knock

The following (in alphabetical order by title) are my Coretta Scott King Illustrator favorites, as reviewed through my account.

However, my favorite CSK Illustrator is We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. Kadir Nelson's artwork is utterly fascinating, beautiful, amazing, richly-colored, and brilliant. His illustrations and techniques are instantly recognizable, and honestly, his pictures hold so much emotion and feeling one doesn't even have to glance at the text to understand the story. I think I'm partial to We Are the Ship because I'm a lover of baseball. Oh, and, as I was able to catch a few glimpses of him at ALA this year (he was signing autographs and every time his tables were a mile long), he is easy on the eyes.

*Updated March 2014

With Love and God Bless,