Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cream Cheese? Yes, Please!

I don't know about you, but I pretty much devour any dessert with cream cheese in it - it's like my stomach cannot get full no matter how much of it I eat. When I was growing up, my birthday cake of choice was always a cheesecake, which my mom so lovingly made each year despite how much time it took and how busy she was (I'm the second oldest of 6 kids). I guess it's no big secret where my love of baking comes from! Anyway, as is my wont, I volunteered to bring dessert for Easter this year, and both of the things I brought were cream cheese-based: Strawberry Cheesecake Bars, and Key Lime Cream Cheese Dip. I've made both of these desserts before, and they always get rave reviews . . . and they're simple!

Strawberry Cheesecake Bars - Betty Crocker Recipe

1 pouch (1 lb.) sugar cookie mix
1/3 c. melted butter
2 Tbls. flour
1 egg
2 - 8 oz. pkgs. softened cream cheese
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 c. strawberry spreadable fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar cookie mix, butter, flour and 1 egg until thoroughly combined and press into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake 15-18 minutes until light golden brown. Cool while preparing cream cheese filling. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and eggs until thoroughly combined. Pour filling over crust. Pour strawberry fruit in three lines lengthwise (1/4 c. for each line) and draw a knife back and forth at 1 inch intervals to create a marbled effect. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool, cover, and store in refrigerator.
*Note - I use Dusty's grandma's homemade strawberry jam in place of the spreadable fruit and it's fantastic. I'm sure any strawberry jam would work, or raspberry would probably be delicious, too. Also, I haven't tried it, but to make this recipe even easier I bet it would work to just use a package of refrigerated sugar cookie dough and press that into the pan for the crust. Yum!

Key Lime Cream Cheese Dip

1 8 oz. pkg. softened 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 c. key lime or lime juice
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 8 oz. carton light cool whip

Beat the first three ingredients until smooth and creamy. Fold in the cool whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I serve it with vanilla wafers and graham crackers. Light (comparably), refreshing, and delicious.

On a side note, while I love anything cream cheese, I also love anything chocolate/peanut butter . . . and so does Dusty. So, with that in mind, I think the next recipe I'm going to try to develop is going to be brownies with a peanut butter cream cheese swirl.

P.S. The 7-Layer Cookies were a hit with my fam!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two Under 2

When my husband and I first found out that I was pregnant with our second baby we both went through a wide range of emotions. I won't lie, my first thought was probably something along the lines of, "Whoa, already?! I'm not sure if we're ready!"  BUT, that was followed closely by pure excitement. I think I was more nervous about how I would do it being home every day with two really little ones, whereas Dusty was more concerned with the financial aspects - that's usually how it works in our house. :) We're both pretty financially responsible, but he's the one to make sure we're on track as far as spending, saving, etc.

 As much as I loved being home with Asher for his first year, I was ecstatic to be able to teach at UNI during the fall of 2010, so I wasn't sure how it would be to be back home again. It was harder than I thought when it was just Asher and I - I definitely missed interacting with adults on a regular basis and being able to run an errand on a whim instead of making sure he was recently fed, had a diaper change, and that I had the diaper bag fully stocked. So, after teaching (which I LOVE), I didn't know if I was ready to be a stay-at-home mom again. But, the transition went a lot more smoothly than I (and probably Dusty, too) thought it would. I wouldn't trade the time I've had home with both boys for anything. There have definitely been wonderful days and well, to be frank, absolutely horrible days, but Asher and Aiden are little miracles and I see it in them every day.

My older sister, Libbi, and I are 21 months apart in age and really close, so Dusty and I were really excited to have our kids be close in age, too. When we found out we were having another boy, we were thrilled and couldn't stop picturing how they would grow up together and what types of mischief they might get into. Asher's already in the mischief stage - his big thing right now is to run away laughing every time we say it's time for bed . . . or a nap . . . or a diaper change - but he loves his little brother so much. It's really amazing to see it at such a young age! The other night Dusty was giving Asher supper while Aiden was on his playmat; when it was time to pray, Asher went over to Aiden and tried to fold his hands so he could pray, too. (I missed it, but apparently it was adorable.) He has also been known to try to share his snacks with Aiden - I just think it's so cute that they've already formed such a brotherly bond. Aiden is Mr. Smiley, and as long as Asher's not barrelling toward him, he loves to keep his brother in his sight. It's moments like those that help me realize how blessed I am.

With Good Friday and Easter coming up and having two sons of my own, it really helps me appreciate God's sacrifice of His own Son. It's something I can't imagine having to do (can you?), but makes me so very thankful. So even though it hasn't been all smiles and fun to have two under 2, it has definitely been a wonderful adventure so far and one of the best blessings.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maybe an introduction is in order

First of all, thanks for checking out my blog! As you may have guessed from the title, this blog is dedicated to my day-to-day life, which usually consists of taking care of my boys (hubby included), and if I'm lucky baking and/or reading a good book! I'm hoping to be able to post at least once a week - whether it's a new recipe, a book review, or maybe a parenting story (which tend to be humorous/frustrating with a toddler running around). Part of my intent with this blog is to help me keep my sanity as spring fever continues to hit hard at our house. :)

7-Layer Cookies

Almost everyone is familiar with the delicious and ever-popular 7-Layer Bars. The gooey goodness of chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, and nuts held together by a buttery graham cracker crust is a sure winner every time (except by those who can't eat nuts . . . sorry brother-in-law Jacey). Well, this post was inspired by my cousin, Chrissy. When she and my friend Deanna came to visit this past weekend, she told me about these cookies from Bruegger's that she absolutely loves that are similar to 7-Layer Bars, but in a cookie format. After hearing that, I was determined to attempt to try them myself because I love the bars, but cookies are so much more portable and toddler-friendly! I think they turned out really well - I'll be bringing some home for Easter and I'll let you know how they go over with my family!

1 c. butter or margerine
1 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips
1 c. pecans
1 c. coconut

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy - about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add salt, soda, flour and graham cracker crumbs and mix until just combined. Add in both chips, pecans, and coconut and stir until fully incorporated. Drop cookies on greased cookie sheets (or use parchment paper) and bake for 12-16 minutes. (Later batches of cookies seemed to brown more quickly.) Enjoy!
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think!