Monthly Archives: April 2012

Toffee Cookies

Heath Toffee Cookies

My husband and I both love Panera. Well…I love it, and he pretty much just likes it for the cookies. Last week, he brought home two toffee cookies, both for him (I prefer Asiago bagels, so that’s my treat), but of course, I stole a bite of his. I asked if they were out of chocolate-chip, to which he replied “no…I like the toffee cookies better.”

Huh?

It’s like I didn’t even know him. Toffee over chocolate-chip? Ok, ok, so I’m being a bit dramatic…but still.

As part of my thirty-before-thirty list, I am supposed to make ten new desserts, so I figured I’d try to find a recipe and make my husband some cookies that didn’t come from a bag or a bakery. That’s when I found Bakerella’s recipe for “Heathy Cookies,” and knew these were some I wanted to try.

I spent just about an hour or so prepping and baking, as this only makes about thirty cookies. I’m assuming they were a hit, as the first batch of twelve had six missing by the time I came out to check the cooling rack. I’ve modified the recipe a bit, as I didn’t have some of the ingredients she called for, and they were still great cookies. Enjoy!

Toffee Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1 cup light brown sugar (Bakerella’s version calls for dark brown sugar)
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cup (8 oz bag) Heath Toffee Bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In another bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and peanut butter, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. After the wet ingredients are well-mixed, add the flour mixture, and then stir in the toffee bits, saving a few (about 1/3 c.) to dip the tops of the cookies.

Bake the cookies for 9-10 minutes (I found the most success baking them for 9 minutes and 25 seconds.) Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for three minutes, and then transfer to a baking sheet.

As I said, this recipe makes thirty cookies, so I’d double the batch if you love toffee. My husband is on vacation tomorrow, and I fully expect to come home from work to find only a few left. Enjoy!

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Ode to WV Mountain Stage

I moved to Charleston, WV in the fall of 2000 to attend college. I grew up in a town that has less than 1,000 people, so moving to the state capitol was a huge deal for me. Granted, Charleston is a small city, but for me, it was a whole new place to explore. I could indulge in whatever I wanted to, because I had so many options to choose from. Music, however, wasn’t something I found easily, even in this “big city” I thought I had come to. That is, until I found WV Mountain Stage.

I had always heard of Mountain Stage, had always wondered what it was and who played there. At the time, the small set didn’t really appeal to me. I attended large concerts, and did so every summer. That was my style, the thing I loved (and still do). However, one artist named Danny Barnes opened for the Dave Matthews Band in the summer of 2010, and I loved him. He was unique, had a funky style, and I really enjoyed his set. I began to follow him on twitter @wildknees, and found out that he would be at WV Mountain Stage that winter. Little did I know, my new musical obsession would begin.

Thanks to Danny, I was able to get tickets to a sold-out show. My husband and I went to our first show together (he had been as a teenager to see Crash Test Dummies…remember them?) on Valentine’s Day 2011. I walked into a small theater, and immediately felt at home. I only knew one of the acts that was playing that night, but knew I would get to see four other bands play.

That night, I saw Danny Barnes, The Sweetback Sisters, Darrell Scott, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Robert Earl Keen. It was dubbed “Americana Night,” and was absolutely amazing. The acoustics were unlike any I had ever heard…I could hear everything perfectly, and the sound was fantastic. I was completely entranced the entire night by the music, plus I got to see a show that is taped for radio in person. The first thing i said to my husband when the show was over was that I had to come back-we had to come back as often as we could, no matter who was playing. Let’s just say I was more than a little excited.

I have since been to see about forty bands since the winter of 2011, some including Ha Ha Tonka, David Wax Museum, Bela Fleck, Dar Williams, Fitz & the Tantrums, Steven Kellogg & the Sixers, Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher (from the Punch Brothers), among several other amazing bands that I never would have had the opportunity to see, much less meet, had it not been for WV Mountain Stage.

I know my description of my experiences at Mountain Stage doesn’t do it the justice it deserves. If you’re close or ever have the chance to go (they often travel outside of Charleston), do yourself a favor and go. Check out their schedule on their website or by following their twitter feed @mountainstage. You won’t regret it, I promise. In fact, I’m actually counting down the time until I get to go again in June. It’s a hidden gem in West Virginia that makes me feel like I’m at my musical home, and when I buy my tickets, I always have something to look forward to.

I gush, I know…but I love it.

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Sick Girl.

This stuff? It’s been my saving grace since Saturday. My Mamaw told me about Oil of Oregano, and that she & my grandfather use it when they feel like they are about to get sick. You take 2-3 drops in about 1/2 cup of water two times a day, and it really helps. It’s not for the faint of heart, as it burns when it goes down, but it’s worth it. Promise.

Last week, one of my co-workers came in to work sick. I’m guilty of it myself, but he was actually told to go home and didn’t do it. Instead, he walked around the office telling everyone how sick he was, and at least three of us were all home yesterday with this nasty flu. Like I said, the Oil of Oregano has helped a lot and has kept me from going to the doctor, but it doesn’t cure the fatigue and general blah feelings I have.

Unfortunately, I’m staying home yet again today…I’m afraid I might fall asleep during a session, or sneeze and cough on my clients. That probably wouldn’t be a good thing.

Politely Declining.

Lola

I’m a mental health therapist, and love my job. I’m a “therapist-generalist,” which means that while my primary focus is children, that I see all different types of clients with just about every disorder you can think of. Yes, it can be very stressful, as I hear horrible stories, secrets that only I know, and nightmares that people have to live with each day. However, the majority of my job is rewarding, as I also get to¬† hear the good things-how people overcome obstacles, how they’ve reached a goal, or how they were able to think of a situation differently in order to change it for the better. I love what I do, and love that I am able to do it. However, there are a few things that are more difficult than I ever thought they could be.

When I was in graduate school, one of the first things we were told was that we needed to be aware of what makes us uncomfortable. Therapists aren’t perfect people, and we have to know who make us uncomfortable and what situations we can’t handle very well. Of course, many of us discussed “oh, I could never work with a pedophile,” while others said “I can’t work with someone who raped a woman.” These are very general things that make many people uncomfortable, but our professor wanted us to dig deeper, even for the little things. When I began thinking about it more, I realized that I would have a difficult time working with someone who hurts animals.

Yes, my primary focus is working with children, specifically ages 4-18. I’ve worked with kids in therapeutic environments for a few years now, and am surprised that I’ve only truly heard one story of how a child liked to hurt animals. It shocked me that hearing those details hurt me more than hearing about abuse or molestation, and it made me feel like a bad person. Why did this hurt me more than anything else? Why did it hit me so hard?

I still haven’t found those answers, but I now see why our professor wanted us to dig deep, and figure out what was difficult for us to handle-if we are too involved, offended, or hurt by a story or situation, we lose our ability to help effectively. This brings me to today’s request.

One of our local humane societies wants someone from our organization to give a presentation regarding stress management, because so many of the workers are suffering from anxiety due to their positions. These people are hard-working individuals who love animals, but a difficult part of their job is making the decision to euthanize animals, each and every day. I can’t imagine what that would be like, or how difficult that burden must be. In fact, I can’t think about it too much, or my heart begins to hurt and I become tearful. When my boss asked me if I would be interested in presenting to this population, I had to say no.

I feel guilty, because I feel as if I’m unwilling to help. At the same time, I know that after the presentation would be over, there would likely be several questions. I would hear stories about animals who had been abused, those who “had to be put down because it was the humane thing to do.” As professional as I am and can be, I know that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Those would be the stories that would haunt me, that I would come home with and dream about, and that’s why I had to say no.

It feels good to get this out, to explain my side of the story and to see if anyone had any thoughts. What would you do?

Grandma Bolyard’s Carrot Cake

Like everyone, I have very specific holiday memories. Each Easter, we always went to my Grandma’s house. No matter our ages, we always had Easter baskets, she made homemade peanut butter eggs, and we had a huge dinner. The table was always overflowing with food, so much so that it spilled over onto the stove, the counter, and she even kept her rolls on her washer (yep, her washer.) She had a “cold room” where she kept all the desserts, and this carrot cake was one of the many treats we had that we all looked forward to.

I’m not a big fan of carrot cake, but this recipe has always been one I’ve loved. It might have been because my Grandma always made it perfectly, and because of the memories that are attached to it. In her recipe, she even noted to use a wooden spoon to stir the ingredients-not a mixer-and my sister and I have both followed those directions carefully when making the cake.

It’s slightly labor-intensive, but worth the time it takes to make it. I now make it every Easter, and every once in a while I’ll take it to work. I never make it home with leftovers!

Grandma’s Carrot Cake

Cake Ingredients:

2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. buttermilk

2 c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 c. vegetable oil

1 c. walnuts (finely chopped)

3 eggs, beaten

8 oz. pineapple (drain slightly, but leave some juice)

2 c. grated carrots

3 1/2 oz. coconut (this equates to appx. 1/2 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 13×9 inch pan and set aside.

2. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl, and mix together. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, vegetable oil, and eggs with a wooden spoon until well-mixed. Stir in dry ingredients, and then add walnuts, pineapple, carrots, and coconut. The mixture will be very heavy.

4. Add batter to well-greased pan, and then bake for 50 minutes.

5. Let cool for at least one hour before frosting-I usually frost the next day if I can.

Frosting:

13 oz. cream cheese

1 lb. (3 1/2-4 c.) powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. butter or margarine

2 tsp. vanilla

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla, beat until smooth.

Enjoy!

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Sugar Cookies

I can’t help it, I love to bake. Call me domesticated, call me girly, but it makes me so happy to bake, especially for other people.

This Easter, I decided to bake every treat that I put in the Easter baskets for my family. I’m making several different things (mostly chocolate candies), but one thing that seems to go over well, no matter the holiday, are my sugar cookies.

I’m not sure where I found this recipe, but it’s very simple, and I’ve been able to perfect it by playing with both the amount of sugar and the temperature of my oven so that the cookies remain soft for a few days. These cookies are very Paula Deen-ish, because they call for a a full cup of butter vs. other recipes that typically just call for 1/2 cup of butter. I think that’s what makes all the difference.

These are really simple to make, and I encourage you to try them…good luck keeping any nearby, because they disappear quickly! I’m hiding them from my husband so they’ll actually stay around until Sunday…

Simple Sugar Cookies

Dry Ingredients:

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Wet Ingredients:

1 c. butter (I use 2 margarine sticks)

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and baking powder.) Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. It’s easiest to use a mixer for this, and ensure that the mixture is creamed well. Add egg and vanilla. Slowly blend in the dry ingredients. Roll dough into small balls, and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Pat the top of the cookies down slightly with the bottom of a teaspoon, and then add sprinkles or sugar crystals if desired.

4. Bake 8-10 minutes in preheated oven (I bake for 9 minutes, 25 seconds), or until the cookies are a golden color. Let the cookies stand on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Leave me a comment if you have any questions…I’d love to know if you try them!

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