Monday, August 30, 2010

Wise Choices and Cookies

So what do wise choices and cookies have in common?

Well, I taught the lesson in Young Women's on Sunday, which was about Wise Choices. I found this really great object lesson on Sugardoodle. As soon as I read it, I remembered one of the leaders when I was a young woman teaching something similar and knew I had to teach it to the girls!

A recipe for cookies {above} is handed out to the girls and they are told that we will be making cookies in class today. The only catch is that I don't really want to follow the recipe, because I'm pretty sure I know what I'm doing and that I can make the cookies just perfect without it.

So, ingredients such as pepper instead of salt, eggs with the shells, syrup instead of sugar, and cornmeal instead of oatmeal are added into the mix. It turns out yucky and completely not the right consistency for a dough. {The girls were totally grossed out by this, but also completely entertained and attentive}

This is just like life and our ability to choose. The Lord has given us a recipe to follow (commandments, etc.) and in order for us to achieve our desired result of eternal life and happiness (or edible cookies), we must follow that recipe exactly.

We talk more about agency and how each one of us has the power to choose for ourselves, what we want to do each and every day. With each choice there are consequences, when we make the right choice, we get good consequences in the form of blessings. When we make the wrong choice, we get bad consequences resulting in unhappiness.

We also talked about the Atonement and how, when we make wrong choices, we have the ability to repent and become clean through the Savior. We are not alone, we are not left here to fend for ourselves. We have the help and guidance of our leaders, good friends, the Holy Ghost, and the Savior's perfect example.

Each of the girls received edible cookies :) and two recipes. One for the cookies and also "God's Recipe for Happiness", which I've included below. It was a little reminder of the basic things that Heavenly Father asks of us in exchange for his guarantee to return to Him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zucchini Bread

This is, by far, my favorite Zucchini Bread recipe ever. It's moist, full of LOTS of zucchini, and includes yogurt as a moistener instead of oil like most others. I LOVE it.

I sometimes add chocolate chips to the recipe, but this particular occasion, I wanted it plain, simple, and with as little calories as possible!

Zucchini Bread
The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

2 zucchini (1 pound) ends trimmed
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat a 9×5 loaf pan with oil spray.
  2. Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Squeeze the zucchini between layers of paper towel or a clean dishcloth. Whisk the sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice together in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt together in a separate large bowl. Gently fold the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold in nuts (if using).
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 55 to 60 minutes.
  5. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.

New Couch Pillows

Lately, Michael and I have become frustrated with the state of our couch pillows. I bought them on a good deal at Ross, but who knew they could fall apart and that the fibers would catch and pull out like that?

So I decided instead of simply buying new pillows, I would make some myself! I researched it on the internet and my friend Dani and I got together one day to make use of her new sewing machine. (She also had a project to make some decorative pillows for her and her husband's bed).

Here's the before:

Not bad at all. This is in our apartment in Layton, so a bit different setup. But back to the pillows, we really like the look of everything, they were just falling apart!

And after:

I decided to go with a nice light green because our living room was greatly lacking in that area. I used the existing filler from the old pillows to make the 18X18 pillows. I bought some PolyFill and fabric quarters on sale at Joann's and made the blue 13X19 pillow in the middle.

Granted this is my first attempt at sewing pillows, so they are FAR from perfect, but I think they look nice for my maiden voyage. Michael was even impressed. I'm in the crafty mood a lot lately and this project got me itching to do more. Also, I'm craving my own sewing machine too. That's another thing for the wish list!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Give and Get is Here!

Give and Get is Here!: "Enjoy 30% off from August 26-29 at Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy and we'll donate 5% of what you spend to a non-profit."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What do these have in common?

They are all books from Penguin's Hardcover Classics. Editions of the world's favorite books with splendid packaging created by acclaimed designer Coralie Bickford-Smith. I think they are just about the prettiest books I've ever seen.

But the outside is not only what I'm so enthusiastic about. It is what's within that lights my fire. Well, let me show you.
Sense and Sensibility
Wuthering Heights
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Great Expectations
EmmaAlice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

All of these books I've read at one time or another, most of them in the 8th grade when I discovered my love for British literature. I had an amazing English teacher who fueled my fire and desire to immerse myself in the classics, and so I began a journey which changed my life forever.

I began with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, enthralled by the heroine and her Mr. Rochester. After, I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, sister to Charlotte, and was absorbed in the dark tale within. Great Expectations followed shortly, with Lewis Carroll's Alice after. The Austen novels were an adventure for a few years later in my life.

I think what I love most about British literature classics, is the depth of character and the LANGUAGE. I love the challenge of reading a book which makes me focus, as I must be absorbed in the antiquated language to fully comprehend the story and characters. It is beautiful and completely satisfying to finish reading one of these books, either being the first time or the tenth.

Sadly, during the course of many moves, I have lost my copies of these books and am without my favorites on the bookshelf. I'm mainly writing about these as a "hint" and dream for the future. Michael asked me recently about my upcoming birthday in October and what we were going to do for it as far as celebrations, etc. Well, I will state that while I love a good party, I would REALLY LOVE these books. I can just picture them, occupying a well deserved spot on our bookshelf, when I'm not reading them.

That being said, what are some of your favorite books that have enraptured you? Any fond memories of first time reads? What books do you read and reread? Please share!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday Cake

I made a homemade birthday cake for Young Women's yesterday. It was a grand celebration. We made necklaces and filled our tummies with sugary goodness.

Now, I do not have a picture of the cake, because plainly, I forgot to take one. But, it was beautiful. A simple two layer white cake with chocolate frosting and a dusting of powdered sugar on top.

Something like this. Just imagine the beauty!

Anyway, my reason for posting is that I want to share the recipes I used to make such a delicious creation. The white cake recipe is my all time favorite, moist, not overly sweet, and good. And the chocolate frosting is rich, creamy, and super easy. So, without further ya go!

White Cake
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Baking Book

4 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or shortening, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk

  1. Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour two 9x1-1/2-inch or 8x1-1/2-inch round cake pans or grease one 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set the pan(s) aside. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add egg whites 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Spread batter into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans, 30 to 35 minutes for 8-inch pans or 13x9-inch pan, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans. Cool thoroughly on racks. Or, place 13x9x2-inch cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly. Frost with desired frosting.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Recipe from

4 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup tablespoons butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioner's sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.
Makes enough to frost and fill a 9 inch layer cake.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wedding of an MT

Just the other weekend, my fellow MT (music therapy major) and friend, Brianna married!

Isn't she stunning? Brianna just finished her internship for music therapy in Arizona, and is now back in Utah, beginning a new phase of her life. Personally, I think it is the BEST and most REWARDING adventure!

He is a graduate of BYU, and she is a graduate of USU. Interesting, yet a perfect match!

The night was gorgeous, with an outdoor garden reception at her parent's home in Bountiful. They made their grand exit on her new hubby's motorcycle. Pretty sweet if you ask me.

Congratulation to the new Mr. and Mrs. Alley!

Monday, August 09, 2010

"Berry" Good Find

After my run today, I walked out in our backyard to water our plants.
While I was out there, I found some beautiful blackberries on a bush by our neighbor's apartment fence.

We've noticed the bushes growing for some time, and we've also noticed they've looked a bit unkempt. So, we're not sure if the people who originally planted the bushes are still living in the apartments next door.

Either way, there are quite a few bushes, and you know how berries can produce A LOT throughout the summer. These few blackberries were perfectly ripe, and I've not seen anybody out there tending or picking them, so I figured I'd pick them instead of letting them ruin!

They are juicy and tart, yet slightly sweet. I'm so excited to savor my favorite berry this week. Maybe if we are able to continue enjoying this find throughout the rest of the summer, I'll make some blackberry ice cream. Yum!

I must make these

Dear Bakerella,

You are a genius. An evil genius.

I try to practice restraint, but then you go and create something so wonderful I'm unable to resist.

See? Evil.

Soon, these will enter my repertoire of delicious desserts, sans the coffee biscuit crust. I'll substitute grahams or something.

I don't know whether to thank you or curse you for these cheesecake bars.

Oh well, I'm drooling so I think that constitutes love and gratitude.

Yours Truly,

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dream Home(s)

I took pictures of these homes when I was in Louisiana a couple summers back. They are what constitutes my dream home(s). Colonial style, with either red brick or white siding. Some with front porches. All with beautiful yards and foliage.

It's nice to dream/scheme of what might be, someday!

Love the driveway and french door style windows. I miss the HUGE oak trees and crepe myrtles of the South.

Love the pillars and the white pillared pergola on the side. And the window flower boxes on the second floor.

Love the side porch and pergola around. And all those windows with dark green shutters.

Love the large front porch. Perfect for sitting outside in the evenings in a rocking chair, sipping ice cold lemonade.

I grew up LOVING this house. It is owned by a family friend and prominent lawyer in the community. Love the red brick contrasted by green shutters. And the red brick steps up to the entryway with pillars. And the covered side porch. I could go on and on. This is my ultimate dream house and one which I refer back to whenever I hope for the future.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

In the Jungle

This is a video that my dear friend Camille (who is on a mission in Peurto Rico) and I made while having lunch in Cafe Rio a few years back. I'd forgotten about it until tonight. It brings such a smile to my face of how much fun Camille and I always have together. Now, I know some of you might not appreciate this, but there will be others who COMPLETELY understand. Either way, it's funny and silly and I LOVE IT. Hope you enjoy this little glimpse into what musicians, specifically singers, do in their spare time or while lunching in public. :)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Silhouette Giveaway

I'm crafty. Hehe.

But I don't get the opportunity to be so simply from lack of materials (or time, as is sometimes the case).

I would LOVE to have one of these in my life.

It would be perfect for gifts or general projects around the home.

Keep your fingers crossed that I win!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

This was my first attempt making this classic Cajun dish all by myself. It turned out spicy and full of flavor, as expected. Not bad for the maiden voyage, eh? (And yes, I did just refer to cooking in nautical terms.)

Red Beans and Rice
(adapted from Emeril's recipe)

1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped ham
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (Tony Chacere's or Slap Ya Mama)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
10 cups chicken stock, or water
4 cups cooked white rice
1/4 cup chopped green onions, garnish

  1. Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the oil in the pot. Season with the pepper and Cajun seasoning, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. 
  3. Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and sausage, and cook, stirring, to brown the sausage, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
  4. Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and starting to thicken, about 2 hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)
  5. Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
  6. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.
Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours Yields: 8 servings