Monday, October 28, 2013

We're Two!

For two years y'all have been my faithful readers. I'm happy to entertain, encourage, and inspire.

Thank you all for a tasty, exciting, fun, and beautiful two years.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dessert of the Month

Earlier this month we celebrated a milestone over here. It was my father's 50th birthday.

Way back in July, Mama and I decided we were going to plan a big surprise party for Daddy. To say he never makes a "big deal" out of his birthday is putting it nicely lightly, cough, cough. It's a man thing, I know. My husband's the same way....remember his milestone, the big 3-0. My father is the silent type, not quite anti-social, but he's very content in relaxing at home. Everyone in the family is well aware of this, so you can imagine the plotting and planning that went into his party, which we set for a few weeks after his birthday so he wouldn't suspect a thing....but that is for another post.*

This post is all about this delicious chocolate cake, which I made for my father to celebrate his 50th. The entire family was getting together for a good ol' family reunion a few days before his birthday. Even though we were planning this big surprise party, Mama knew we had to do something ("it's his 50th, for crying out loud") or he would suspect something was, indeed, UP. So she called me a week before asking if I could make a chocolate cake, a little "surprise" to acknowledge his day. 

Yes, of course. If there was only one word I could use to describe my father when it comes to anything food-related, it would be chocoholic. When I first saw this recipe I knew it had my father's name all over it, and it included wine. Hello. Celebration right there.

I am serious as a heart attack when I say this is the only chocolate cake I will make. When I want sugar and I'm celebrating and not interested in being super healthy, this is it. When someone requests a chocolate cake, this Chocolate Cake with Pinot Noir Frosting is what they'll get. Ah-mazingly moist. Simple. Perfection. My only complaint, if you will, is the frosting is a tad too sweet for my liking....for Daddy, it was perfect. The wine is only in the frosting, which I might change up the next time I make it by adding it to the actual cake instead of the vanilla. Everyone thought there was espresso in the cake, and there wasn't (but I like that idea, definitely...). I think it was the Pinot Noir enhancing the chocolate. The frosting was fluffy and beautiful though. And, as Jenna stated in her post, the cake is so light it just goes down too easy.

A hands-down-winner, my friends.

Happy 50th, Daddy! You definitely don't look it :)

Since this cake was for Daddy and it was his 50th, I didn't health-ify it. My only changes consisted of a mix between white and whole wheat pastry flours, 1 flax egg, and 4 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar. And maybe a few more splashes of wine ;)

Seriously, check out this delicious chocolate cake! Well done, Jenna.

Yes, this cake is fabulous. Perfect for the chocolate-lover in your life.

*More on Daddy's surprise party later!


With Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Boss' Pumpkin Bread

It's Celebrate Your Boss Day!

I kind of have two, so I'm giving a shout-out to Amanda as well as my boss Lori. I have a fantastic boss (and, who am I kidding, a great department, too!) and I do not take that for granted one bit. I'm sure every single one of you knows how hard it is to find someone in management who actually does his/her job well, cares about the people he/she oversees, and encourages creativity while not afraid to rein you in if needed. I've been in this environment for almost 18 months and I can't wait to go to work every morning. I know I have a boss who truly cares about me, one I'm not afraid to go to if I have ideas, suggestions, or opinions to voice, and I know she will back me up if and when I need her.


Last year at our End-of-Summer-Reading meeting, she brought in her pumpkin bread to share with her worn-out, stretched thin staff. (Yes, last year's SRP was insane....and next year's might be too. This year's was smooth-sailing, but I digress.)

And this bread is AWESOME.

Are you ready for what I'm about to share?

I am not a pumpkin fan. [GASP]

I know. Never have been. I love everything fall, except the taste of pumpkin. I avoid pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving like it's the plague. (However, last Thanksgiving I realized fennel IS the plague and must be forever avoided. Mama, none of that this year!) I don't drink pumpkin spice lattes nor like anything pumpkin-flavored. That was until last year when I tried my boss' pumpkin bread. Mainly because she's my boss and I was being social and polite. I'm so happy Mama raised me right! We had a "one-bite" rule in our house.

I admit, this bread wasn't too sweet and the pumpkin wasn't overpowering. It was perfect. Thanks to my boss, I now like pumpkin. I'm still not a huge fan and won't be ordering Pumpkin Spice Lattes over Caramel Apple Ciders or asking anyone to pass the pumpkin pie anytime soon. But this bread, yes, I like. I even put pumpkin in my morning porridge and added some to my Earl Grey latte. Mmmmm.

What I really enjoy about this pumpkin bread recipe is how moist it is. I do not like dry, crumbly bread. No thank you. The applesauce really gives it the texture I desire, and I think enhances the pumpkin flavor. (And, of course, the following recipe includes my subtle substitution: cutting the sugar in half and doubling the vanilla extract....instead of vanilla I used vanilla almond milk. Soooo good.)

Pumpkin Bread
*slightly adapted from my boss' recipe

Yields: 2 loaves (16 slices)

3 1/2 c flour (mixture of regular and whole wheat pastry flours) 
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp cloves
1/4 c plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 c sugar
2 cups packed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup water
2 tsp vanilla almond milk

Preheat over 350 degrees. Butter and flour to loaf pans and set aside. In a large bowl, sift flour, soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves together. Mix together the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Add the dry to the wet in two batches, mixing well in between. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Nutritional Information
Per slice: 173 calories, 4 protein, 18 sugar, 4 fiber

It's perfect with a giant mug of coffee!

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mr. B's 3-0

Happy birthday, Mr. B. I'm a little late.

Yes, the husband has turned 30. And he didn't want anyone to make a big deal. He wanted no party and no special dinner. He wanted his new tool chest for the garage and a dinner with his wife at our favorite local Mexican restaurant. What he got was hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Huh?!

Yes. Unfortunately, we discovered my husband, at the age of 30, is not immune to this children's disease. And we have no idea where he caught it from. Well, in theory, we do. He hasn't been anywhere (except home and work) and hasn't been around a single child in a few months. So he either caught it a work, possibly an inmate was carrying the disease (gotta love working the county jail), or I carried the disease, unknowingly because I'm immune, thank God, home from my job (gotta love being a children's librarian). But I haven't  heard any parents mention any illnesses going around. And, no, Mr. B hasn't been to the county fair....

Yet, he definitely had this disease. It started with a seriously high fever for two days. Then the fever left and he broke out in an awful rash. The poor thing was covered in red bumps: in his nose, ears, mouth, down his throat, on his back, hands, face, and feet. Thankfully, they didn't itch and only the ones in his throat were painful. He was really bad for about two days. The antibiotics brought them out, and after another four to five days the bumps were gone completely. Except now, three weeks later, where the bumps on his hands used to be, his hands are....peeling? Ick. He celebrated his birthday at the doctor's office, confined to the spare bedroom, then confined to the couch to watch the 49ers play, and with a lot of chicken broth. I celebrated his birthday by following him around, disinfecting everything he touched.

Because his mother and step-father are so kind, on his birthday they used their truck and brought my husband the tool chest since he couldn't go and get it himself. So along with his new present, he also received a bag of "Get Well" goodies from yours truly. A birthday card and a "get well" card.

A week later, when Mr. B finally felt up to it, we hit up La Terraza's for his celebratory birthday dinner. Then I surprised him with the huge 49ers' banner with all of their Super Bowls rightly displayed (five, in case you're counting) he's been wanting. His man cave is oh, so close to being finished.

Finally, this past weekend we celebrated the Big 3-0 with his must-have cookie cake. Except this year I attempted a homemade cookie cake, baked in my cast iron skillet. A few notes on that: 1) It was a little thick for my liking...definitely "cake-y." Next time, I need either a bigger cast iron skillet, or I'll forgo the skillet and use a baking sheet or cake pan. Mr. B and I both agreed we like it thinner. 2) The homemade version didn't make my teeth want to fall out, which we both appreciated. Making it from scratch allowed me to control the sugar content. Score. 3) "[I] must not forget the icing next year. Not as much as [the store] uses, but some. And I like the sprinkles."

Thank you. Mr. B; duly noted.

I used the Pioneer Woman's cookie cake recipe with a few substitutions, of course. I used a mixture of white and whole wheat pastry flour, replaced half the butter with plain Greek yogurt, omitted the instant coffee (because it's for Mr. B or I probably would have doubled that...yum), and split the sugar in half, replacing the other half and the vanilla extract called for with 1 Tbsp of vanilla almond milk. And, don't tell him this, but I used a flax egg as well. Oh, and then of course he didn't want any of the hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, or nuts. Just a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, please.

Also, today is National Dessert Day and one must celebrate. Why not enjoy this day to its fullest with this tasty Cast Iron Skillet Cookie Cake? (Pssst, it's National Cookie Month, too. You're welcome.)

Thirty is rough. Good thing I have a few years. ;)

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Photo an Hour

7 AM

8 AM

9 AM

10 AM

11 AM

12 AM


2 PM

3 PM

4 PM

5 PM

6 PM

7 PM

8 PM

9 PM

Mr. B and I were off on the same day finally and with no place to be, so we took advantage and went shopping....which didn't last long because we had to get groceries and had to be home by early afternoon because someone was coming to install our new thermostat system. Mr. B is all excited because he can control the temperature through the app on my phone...boys and their toys. Plus, I had book club and I LOVE seeing my girls and catching up. But the hubby and I were able to fit in a walk to the park. It was a GORGEOUS fall day.

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sweet B's Most Popular

It's been almost two years now and out of all the recipes I shared on Sweet B, my Cold Vegetable Pizza has blown the other recipes out of the water! I mean, good night (!), there were many other dishes high up there, but the reviews and re-pins of those aren't even close*. I'm pretty excited because this Cold Pizza is pretty awesome. It's fast, simple, and tasty, which makes it a great crowd-pleaser. But if you have men around, like Mr. B, they each might need their own. Just giving you a heads up. Annnd, it's very versatile; just throw on whatever vegetables you have on hand...a great way to clean out the fridge.

Anyhoo, let's dig in to the recipes y'all can't get enough of and re-visit most often.

However, first I want to talk about my honorable mention, Chicken Wild Rice Salad. Mainly because it's a perfect dish for this time of year (any time of the year, really,) and it's even better when you make a big batch of it on Sunday and take it to work for lunch all week long. The flavors have a chance to settle and merry, and the salty rice with the savory chicken with the crunchy almonds and the sweetness of the cranberries and carrots and the strong spices are...beautiful. Delicious. It's by far one of my favorite and most go-to recipes.

And now here's a look at your top 10 favorites.

#10 Three-way tie between Lemon Bread, Spiced Apple Stir-Fry, and Zesty Broccoli Dip.

Y'all can't decide which you like better, the smell of fresh lemon bread floating through your kitchen, the apples and spice concoction which is best over vanilla ice cream, or the hot and cheesy broccoli dip with crackers. I don't blame ya, I couldn't choose either!

#9 Blueberry Zucchini Bread

While this hasn't been available as long as some of the other recipes, this delectable, summer bread has made it into your top 10 and, I must say with all of the feedback, I'm shocked it's not number one. I'm beyond happy to hear my readers love zucchini bread as much as I do (...just maybe not the grating part).

#8 Perfect Granola Bars

Yes, I do mean perfect when I say perfect, especially since this recipe is a great base for other protein granola. Whether you leave it in bar form or crumble it on top of yogurt or add it to milk, this granola is versatile, simple, and healthy! Also, it makes a great neighborly gift around the holidays....

#7 Tiramisu Cheesecake Bars

To be honest, I forgot all about these scrumptious bars completely. You, however, have not. I'm thinking I might get back in the kitchen to whip up a batch of these pretty soon. Chocolate, cream cheese, hazelnut coffee, and cookie dough all sound way too yummy right about now.

#6 Browned Butter Cookies with Caramel Frosting (a.k.a. Mr. B's favorite)

If I didn't know any better, I'd say Mr. B might have had something to do with the ranking of these cookies. But I do know better. Because every Christmas these little bites of heaven are the first cookies asked for and the first to disappear from the cookie platter. They are at the top of every holiday to-bake list. No matter how many batches or double batches I bake, I can't seem to make enough of these!

#5 Raspberry Banana Protein Shake

Yay! My protein shake sparked some interest. And from what I can tell, many of you like raspberries, so I will try to feature a few more berry-filled recipes! I can't tell you how many times my smoothies save me from leaving the house famished in the morning. They're quick to throw together, and out the door you go. And frozen berries work just fine, too.

#4 Grandma Barb's Cut Outs

Shout out to my Grandma Barb and her mouth-watering secret cream cheese sugar cookie recipe that has been a family staple for ages. (Well, it's not a secret anymore, and btw, don't tell her that!) No matter what holiday we're celebrating, or who's hosting, these cookies will be there. They will be in sight, easily available, and one can be found in each hand. I'd be disappointed if these didn't make the list.

#3 Beef Stroganoff

This has been on the site the least amount of time and has soared through the ranks. Given time, I'm sure it will give my Cold Vegetable Pizza a run for its money. And why shouldn't it? Everyone loves classic, comfort food. :)

#2 Almond Blueberry Cookies (my favorite)

We like our desserts around here. Apparently, so do you, which is why we're life-long friends, you know?

Which is also why this top 10 is littered with delicious, sweet recipes. But these take the cake err, cookie. My Almond Blueberry Cookies are my absolute favorite cookie in the entire world. Ever. And I'm ecstatic to see you think so, too. I tend to lean on the healthier, lighter side of sweets. Replacing ingredients, making recipes "better" for you so you don't feel guilty about eating that slice of cake, or about the eighth cookie you just devoured. But not these babies. I only make them at Christmas and I splurge. Don't ruin a favorite. (Which is what Mr. B tries to tell me every time I try to "healthify" his chocolate chip cookies. But, in my defense, I never mess with his Brown Butters ---> see above.)

If I was sick the entire month of December, and couldn't make a single cookie, I'd find some way to make these. Mr. B can rely on my friend to make his Brown Butters, and the rest of the family can rely on Grandma Barb for the cut-outs, but these beauties...I will make them. They might not make it to the oven, but I will enjoy this cookie. By the spoonful, if needed.

#1 Cold Vegetable Pizza

And, of course, your all-time favorite.....


*These top 10 selections were polled the last Sunday, prior to this post.

Keep visiting; I love to hear your feedback!

With Love and God Bless,