Happy Father’s Day

Today we celebrated Father’s Day with Greg and later his dad, Steve. We’re leaving for vacation tomorrow and I wanted Greg to have a day for himself when he didn’t have to wake up early and drive most of the day, which will definitely be happening tomorrow.

Last night Caden slept over at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and I took Shepard out of the house as soon as he woke up, so Greg was able to sleep as late as he wanted for the first time in years! When I came back with the boys we opened presents and ate pancakes and bacon for a late breakfast.

I’m so blessed to have a husband who is such a wonderful daddy. Our boys don’t know how lucky they are to have a dad who is and will always will be so involved in their lives. He’s a treasure!

We gave Greg an electric bug zapper. He’s pretty obsessed with hunting down bugs when he sees them in the house, so it seemed like a good gift. I’m afraid he might become even more obsessed, though! He’s already zapped himself and killed three flies, leaving the house smelling like it’s on fire.

My gift – a biography about Christian Bale. Maybe a little more for me than for him. 🙂 Although he has quite a self admitted man crush on Christian Bale himself.

Really, such a good daddy. I’m so proud of him. Every day I’m always amazed at how great he is with the kids. I’m so thankful that he loves them and me and wants to always spend as much time with us as possible.

Later, we went to the park for a pizza picnic with Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Sarah. Shepard liked going on the playground with Grandma.

Throwing rocks in the stream is the best part about this park.

My budding photographer in action!

People are always snapping at Shepard to get his attention when they want to take a picture of him. So now he’s constantly coming up to me with his arms up snapping, hoping I’ll take another picture. He’s so adorable.

I thought this turned out to be a really cool family picture! I love how well our outfits go together without even trying!

The Noe men. I hope Caden and Shepard turn out to be as great of fathers as their daddy and grandpa. They have excellent examples to follow.

There was a horse and carriage parade in town that we stopped at after the park. The parade was literally just a lineup of horses pulling carriages and the whole thing lasted about five minutes. Caden and Shepard had a good time waving and yelling hi to everyone.

And we ended the day with the boys’ favorite activity – wrestle drops with Daddy. I’m not sure who named it this, but it’s basically just Greg throwing the boys up and dropping them on various furniture. They love it.

It turned out to be a pretty good day. We didn’t get to give Greg as much relaxation time as we had hoped, but I think he still enjoyed himself. We love and appreciate him so much. Happy Father’s Day!

Do What You Can Plan

I recently read the book You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth. While I didn’t like the book nearly as much as her recent devotional, there were a few points that really got my attention. The main one being her concept of the “Do What You Can Plan.”

Like a lot of people, I set very high standards for myself. I have a tendency to create lofty complicated goals, write out huge to do lists every day, and want to change everything lacking about myself and my relationships immediately. This kind of thinking automatically sets me up to fail. No matter how much I try and how far I push myself I’m never going to be fully happy with myself, my relationships, and the number of check marks off my list. Discouraging, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

The point of this plan is obvious – just do what you can! And accept the fact that it is enough. You are enough. Any effort you put into anything is enough because little by little you are growing. Little by little the jobs are getting done. You’re becoming a better mother, wife, friend, etc. with every step you take. You don’t have to get it all done at once.

This is a hard truth for me to swallow. Especially when it comes to my daily to do list. I take my housekeeping/family organizing duties seriously and I expect myself to get everything done on my lists every single day. At night when I’m looking back to see what’s left I often feel discouraged and frustrated. It doesn’t matter how many things I accomplished, I didn’t do it ALL.

This is also hard for me to take into practice when it comes to losing weight. I’ve been trying really hard this year to exercise every day with the hopeful intentions of losing weight and feeling better. The problem is I’ve been having a lot of setbacks – lots of illness, back pains, allergies, and just plain being too busy. But it shouldn’t matter. I don’t need to ride my bike for an hour every day. I just need to do what I can. Usually that means doing a short pilates video. But it doesn’t even have to be that. I can do things like park farther away from the store doors, do leg squats while I’m cooking dinner, etc. If I do what I can, every day, it will eventually pay off. I shouldn’t give up on a weight loss plan just because I don’t have the time or energy for extensive exercise every day.

I’m also going to try and accept this plan when it comes to saving money, paying off debt, finishing books, working on bigger projects, etc. I often get excited about new things – like a more efficient savings plan – and then become so frustrated because I can’t do it all at once. But dollar by dollar, it all counts. A few coupons here and there, saying no to splurge purchases – doing what I can, it all matters in the end.

This plan should work for relationships too. I shouldn’t get discouraged when I have a bad day with one of my kids. It’s not like one bad day means a bad relationship for life. I just need to turn things around and do what I can – sit down and read a few books with them, take them to the park for a break, or pull out a cookbook and find a snack to make together. If I do what I can with them, with my friends, with my parents and siblings, it all really does add up.

Do what you can. It’s a plan everyone can follow. Accept the fact that as long as you’re doing something – whatever you can fit into your life – you are doing enough. Don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, and don’t feel like you’re failing because you can’t do it all. Nobody can. Just do what you can!

These are a few of my favorite things…

It’s been another really rough week due to allergies I can’t seem to relieve and little to no sleep each and every night because of them. I’ve been a little cranky, to say the least. But I figured it was about time to write another post and decided I’d do it on some of my favorite things. They’re little things, but they make me happy, so I just thought I’d share!

Outremer Vanille Eau de Toilette

I’ve never been a very big perfume person. Most of the time they just give me a headache. I have gone through phases where I consistently put on some Victoria Secret Heavenly, but I get tired of it after a few days. Last weekend, however, I ventured into Anthropologie for the first time and this perfume immediately caught my eye since it appeared to be vanilla scented – something I’ve never realized existed before. I tried a tiny spritz and immediately fell in love. I definitely can’t say I’ve ever adored a perfume scent (unless you count almond scented lotions, which are to die for) until that day. Not buying it wasn’t even an option. It smells incredible. Just like pure, delectable, amazing vanilla. I’ve been spraying it on myself about ten times a day all week. I am in love. It makes me happy. 🙂

Small Wooden Jewelry Box

Okay, I also found this on my little shopping trip last weekend. I was shopping with my mom, future sister-in-law Brittany, and her mom, trying to find dresses for the moms to wear to the wedding. But Brittany also brought us to Anthropologie and her favorite store, Francesca’s – new stores to my mom and I. I found this little green jewelry box at Francesca’s and loved it. The style matches my tastes perfectly. And the color is an exact match for the quilt on our bed. And it just so happens I’ve been keeping my eye out for a jewelry box for my bracelets. I’ve become quite a bracelet person in the last few months and was thrilled to find a pretty little place to store them!

Loreal Colour Riche Le Balm

My mom first introduced me to this stuff around Christmas and it is amazing. Again, I have an on again off again relationship with lipsticks. In theory I like them, but I have a really hard time finding a shade I actually like on myself. These balms make it so easy, though – just about every color looks great! I’ve always been pretty obsessed with chapsticks and these are exactly like the best chapstick you’d ever find. They’re smooth and soft and leave your lips hydrated and pretty! I think I own all but two of the shades they make and I love them all. My favorites are the nourishing nude and heavenly berry. The colors are very subtle and will probably blend in with just about any skin color. They’re seriously awesome.

Jewelry by Lisa Leonard Designs

A few years ago I became really interested in handmade jewelry. The concept itself really intrigues me and I love how each piece is original and a lot of it can be personalized. I’m not sure how I ever stumbled across her, but Lisa Leonard is my jewelry designing idol. I love everything she makes and she’s constantly coming up with new things. So far I own nine of her necklaces and Greg and the boys gave me my first Lisa Leonard bracelet for Mother’s Day. I’d buy every single piece if I could afford it! They’re a lot more unique than a lot of the hand stamped jewelry out there. Higher quality and more unique. I love my jewelry by her!

 
Mezzetta Habanero Hot Sauce

I figured I should include one of my favorite foodie indulgences on the list. If you like hot things, this sauce is the best. I first bought it at Festival Foods in Bloomington, MN. And I LOVED it. Tacos are my favorite food and I’m always trying out new salsas and sauces. This is the first one that I liked so much I never wanted to get anything different again. Sadly, we moved from Minnesota and I went ONE WHOLE YEAR without this sauce. It was devastating. I could have ordered online, but shipping was insanely expensive and Greg forbid me from paying that much. So last October when we finally sold our house and went back to Minnesota for the closing, I had to make the trek up to Bloomington just to get more hot sauce. I bought the four bottles they had left. I’m down to two. It’s so good. So, so good.


I realize that there are much more important things in life than perfume, lipstick, and jewelry. But sometimes when life seems to be beating you down day after day, it helps to find pleasure in the little things. Anything that will lift your mood is a good thing. Even if it means spraying yourself with vanilla perfume every time you walk past your room!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cake (and Early Father’s Day)

Sometimes there are recipe ideas that I just can’t get out of my head. For me lately, it’s been the combination of cake and cheesecake. I’ve seen cakes like this, but I’ve been too nervous to try them until now. All I really needed, though, was a weekend with some extra time and an actual reason to make it so it’s not just sitting around for me to eat by myself for a week.

Yesterday we celebrated an early Father’s Day with my dad since we won’t be around on the actual holiday. My dad likes chocolate and peanut butter, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to finally make this cake.

My favorite part about experimental recipes is that I can combine parts of all different recipes, changing things up as I desire, and it will hopefully all come together for a beautiful and delicious dessert.

For the cake I used a doctored up milk chocolate box mix. It comes out extremely moist and solid – perfect for this layered cake.

The second layer is peanut butter cheesecake. This is the part I was most nervous about because I’ve never made a crustless cheesecake before and assumed it would be a disaster. I lined the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper and heavily sprayed the entire thing with nonstick spray and didn’t have a single problem getting it out. The important thing about the cheesecake, though, is that you need to make it a day ahead of time so it can be completely chilled before you take it out.

I used peanut butter ganache to hold the layers together. If I make this again I think I’ll use a lot more so you can actually see and taste it when the cake is together.

Topped with the other cake layer. For some reason my cakes turned out really lumpy. They tasted good, but looked funny.

Okay, this peanut butter frosting is amazing. I was eating it by the spoonful. It really tastes best the first day you make it. I’m definitely going to use this part of the recipe again for cupcakes, brownies, etc. It’s awesome.

And topped with more peanut butter ganache. I wanted to try it so bad that first night! Nothing is ever as good as it could be that first day.

I also made cookie dough dip for the party. I made some earlier this week just for the heck of it and my mom requested I make some more for Sunday. It was really good with pretzels and animal crackers.

Both dips are the same, I just added toffee bits to the one on the right. In my other batch I added peanut butter to half of it. The peanut butter was good, but made the dip so thick and hard after being refrigerated, it was hard to eat as a dip.

I also made bagel dip because that’s what I wanted. Greg’s cousin made some at our lake house party last weekend and I ate so much of it. Another very easy and very yummy party food.

Our father’s day celebration was pretty laid back. We spent most of the day just sitting or playing in the backyard.

Caden and Grandpa played in the sandbox. Shepard wasn’t feeling very well and stuck pretty close to Mommy and Daddy.

The pork chops that my mom and brother made. They were pretty delicious and I don’t eat pork chops – ever. My family makes all grilled food taste amazing.

My soon-to-be-sister-in-law stirring the Chinese Chicken Salad.

Another delicious party food. I love party food.

Grilled asparagus and potatoes. Also very tasty! And I don’t like asparagus much either.

The dads decided to take a nap after lunch. It was such a perfect day for just lounging around. Not too hot, not too cold.

The day only could have been better if my allergies hadn’t been so bad. They were TERRIBLE yesterday. I could barely breathe or see. No fun.

Back to the cake quick. It didn’t look as pretty the second day after I had it covered in plastic wrap. But it still tasted pretty good. Very rich, though. It probably wasn’t very smart to eat it immediately after lunch. None of us were hungry enough to really enjoy it.

I did have a second small piece later last night when I was hungrier. It is so good. The cheesecake layer makes it special. I love how perfect it looked on the inside. As much as I love to bake, I’m not that great with cakes, so I get excited when a recipe turns out so well!

Back outside enjoying the day.

Shepard looked like this most of the day. He wasn’t very happy. 🙁 I’m not sure what’s going on, but he’s been crying a lot the last few days. I feel bad for him. He can usually smile through anything, so he’s clearly in a lot of pain or something.

I was laying on the hills with the dogs for awhile. Juno decided to join me and eat some sticks right in my face. What a weird dog.

Pip is one of the funniest dogs I’ve ever seen. I just laugh when I see her. So funny looking!

My embrace the camera picture of the day. It’s kind of nice when my kids still show that they need me.

Anyway, that was our day and our cake!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Cake

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Layer

  • 2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Make sure to bake the cheesecake one day in advance so it can chill before using. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, and flour until light and smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in milk. Grease a 9″ springform pan very very well. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 260 degrees and bake for 50 minutes. Chill.

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 milk chocolate box cake mix
  • 1 package of instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Pour into two greased 9″ cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

This recipe makes enough frosting to cover and put between layers of a regular cake. You will have a lot of left overs for this particular recipe.

Beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the sides of the pan and add peanut butter. Beat 3-4 minutes until fluffy and well blended.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache

  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 tbs. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tbs. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half and half (or whipping cream)

Over a low to medium heat mix together all ingredients, stirring often until smooth.

Putting it all together…

Layer the cake, ganache, cheesecake, ganache, and cake. Cover in frosting. Pour the rest of the ganache over the top. Keep cake refrigerated. Enjoy! 

Shepard the Popover Baker

Popovers have been on my “Something I Want to Bake Someday Soon” list for a really long time. I only remember having popovers once in my life when I was pretty young. My mom made them and they were delicious. I think about them every once in awhile and then forget when I actually get to the kitchen. This morning, though, I was perusing Pinterest and came across a recipe where the blogger stated that her popover recipe is “the easiest thing she’s ever baked.” This definitely peaked my curiosity! It was morning, I was hungry, and easy is always good!

Shepard was the only one awake (Caden once again was up for a few hours in the night, therefore sleeping in much later than usual), so I decided to initiate him in the kitchen with his first baking experience. It’s not a big secret that I hate sharing my kitchen. Even with my kids. I know, I know, that makes me a terrible mom. I just like getting my recipes perfect – while keeping the kitchen clean. Which is nearly impossible with a three year old helper, and definitely impossible with a one year old! At any rate, the mixing process was pretty fast and Shepard mostly just watched. Only one spill occurred.

Shepard got pretty excited when he saw this brownie mix on the counter. It looked like a much better breakfast to him than this mystery bowl we were putting together!

Skipping to the finish product, they turned out pretty darn well. I wouldn’t say this recipe was super easy, though. First you whisk together two eggs and one cup of milk. Then you sprinkle in one cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then add one tablespoon of melted butter and whisk until smooth and bubbly. Cover and let sit for half an hour. In the meantime, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of oil in the ten outside cups of a muffin tin. Put the muffin pan in the oven to get hot. After half an hour quickly fill the pans with better and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Never open the oven door!

Overall, it was relatively simple and I’ll definitely be making them again. They were good. Especially when you can live on bread products alone, like me.

Shepard very steadily ate his whole popover. I simply put butter on them, but they could be filled with jam, topped with powdered sugar, or even turned savory with some cheese melted inside. Caden and I put honey on ours, though I preferred the plain butter version.

He wasn’t sure what to make of it.

He declared it good, but then only ate a few bites. I, however, ate four. Caden told me I better save some for Daddy. Then he said I was going to get sick. I guess sometimes kids do pay attention. If I’m enjoying something so much, it’s probably bad for me. They were very good, though. Give them a try!

Popovers

2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tbs melted butter
5 tsp oil

Whisk together eggs and milk. Sprinkle in flour and salt and mix with a spatula. Pour in melted butter and whisk everything until smooth and bubbly. Cover bowl with a cloth and let sit for 30 minutes.

While resting, heat oven to 450 degrees. Pour 1/2 tsp of oil in the ten outside cups of a muffin tin. Put pan in oven. After 30 minutes take pan out and fill cups as quickly as possible. Bake for 20 minutes. Lower heat to 350 and bake for 10 more minutes until golden brown. Eat warm!

Six Year Anniversary

Today we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. It’s amazing how much life can happen in six years. In the last six years we have lived in five different places. We’ve both had two different jobs. I’ve graduated from two educational programs. We bought and sold our first house. We traveled our dream vacation and went on many weekend getaways. We gave life to two beautiful little boys. We’ve been through the many ups and downs of married life.

Six feels like such a small number compared to the memories we’ve already shared together. Though to be fair, we were together six and a half years before we got married, so we really have twelve years of happiness behind us.

Every year on or right around our anniversary we take our big vacation of the year. This year was the exception and it felt a little weird sticking around home. We’re planning a vacation to Michigan in a few weeks so at least we’re not skipping out on a vacation all together. I just missed the excitement of being in a new and fun place while we celebrate.

To honor the day, Greg and I went on a date to Madison. Our first stop was Olbrich Gardens, one of Madison’s outdoor treasures. We walked through their gardens countless times during college so it was fun to go back. It’s the perfect time of year with so many flowers in bloom.

Afterward we had lunch at Great Dane, one of our favorite restaurants. Then we rented a movie to watch at home. Not the most exciting date, but at least we got to have some time to ourselves. That’s one of the great things about living by the grandparents – we can pretty much have dates whenever we want! That definitely wasn’t an option when we lived five hours away from everyone.

Olbrich is such a peaceful place.

I thought this was a fun picture. I set my camera on the ground with the self timer. It’s nice to get a picture with more than just our heads in the shot.

It was a nice day. I look forward to many, many more anniversaries. Married life is pretty awesome. 🙂

Cedar Lake

Every year sometime during Memorial weekend we go to Greg’s grandparents’ lake house for a day. It’s a fun time to just relax in the sun and have some fun. This year was a little harder for me because I woke up to the news that my aunt passed away. It wasn’t a surprise and I’m glad she no longer has to suffer. But she will be missed. Another loss for many. And as usual, it comes with the regret of not spending enough time together before it was too late. I tried to spend the day just enjoying my babies, but it was hard to think of little else.

We came to the lake once last year, but Shepard was too little to participate in any of the fun. He loved digging in the sand today. I’m glad I bought a big bucket of sand toys at Costco yesterday to take on our vacation next month!

It was everyone’s first weekend at the lake so the men had to put all the docks in the water first. Shepard and Caden were very confused by this.

Caden was really excited to be there and couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to go swimming with him. Despite the predicted 90 degree weather, I don’t think it ever reached above 75 and it was incredibly windy. So Caden had to satisfy his swimming needs by jumping into three inch water from the dock.

Shepard was content to play on the shore.

Caden and Grandma feeding the fish oatmeal.

Shepard is ready for his first boat ride! He thought the life jacket was pretty cool. A huge difference from Caden’s first boat ride at eight months when he screamed bloody murder the entire time we were on the boat!

Looking pretty spiffy himself.

The life jacket wasn’t so fun when forced to sit on Mommy’s lap.

He was a little scared once we started going. His snuggles made me feel better, though.

And he eventually fell asleep. I love my baby.

I love this guy too. I’m glad they were able to have such a fun day outside by the water. We really appreciate having the opportunity every summer to spend time here. It’s always a special treat.

Weekend Ramblings

I haven’t written in awhile, so I thought I’d use this bit of free time I’ve found to write a little update on life. And to just ramble a little.

It’s been a hard week. I feel like I’ve been walking in a fog, barely managing to function, let alone accomplish anything of importance. On Monday, Caden woke up with a cold. Fortunately, he was only bad for about a day. And he lets me wipe his nose, so it doesn’t feel like such a terrible thing. Shepard, on the other hand… He got his cold in full force Tuesday and it has yet to let up. I feel so bad for him because he’s clearly miserable, but there’s very little to be done about it. Neither of the kids are old enough for cold medicine yet, so they just have to suck it up and push through. On Thursday I was pretty desperate and bought just about every non-medicated healing agent I could find at Target to try and give him a little comfort. Saline spray, Vicks for babies, and honey flavored suckers for his cough. It helps a little, but not much. If he would just let us wipe his nose everything would be easier. But he fights with everything in him, screaming and crying, making the snotty stream that much worse. He’s not awake yet, but I really hope he’s cleared up by today.

My allergies have also been terrible this week. I’m not sure what I’m allergic to because I just started being affected by them last year. I think after living in Minnesota for four years, after coming back to Wisconsin something here must be different. And it’s annoying. Greg pointed out to me that I used to make fun of people with allergies because they really can’t be as bad as they make it out to be. Um…yeah, they are. So I’m sorry if I ever was unsympathetic to the allergy attacked people in my past. It’s pretty awful. For me the worst part is my itchy, burning eyes. I just want to tear them out. Sleeping has been hard too, I’m so stuffed up. Last year the allergies lasted about a month, so hopefully I only have a few weeks left. I don’t know how people with year long allergies manage. It’s really knocked me off my feet.

Overall, this has just been a very scattered and dysfunctional week. I couldn’t for the life of me come up with a daily meal plan, so every day I was scrambling to put food on the table. I was overwhelmed by making a grocery and coupon list, which is usually one of the most fun I things I do (hey, finding great deals IS fun!). Last week I started doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred and felt super motivated to start taking control of my life through exercise. But I was so tired this week I wasn’t even able to get through one full video. Anyway. I’m ready to move on. Hopefully this next week will be a lot better.

The highlight of my week was my date night with Greg. Once a week the boys go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a few hours and Greg and I have a “date night.” It usually consists of me making a meal that we love, but the boys wouldn’t eat and then Greg and I either watch a tv show together or go our separate ways and enjoy some personal time that’s so rare. The boys usually come up and I regret that Greg and I didn’t try harder to actually spend time together. Those times are rare too and we should really make the most of them. This week we did a lot better, though. We shared farmer’s market ravioli (which is amazing) and then went on a five mile bike ride through town. Biking is definitely my favorite form of exercise and I love that I’m finally able to make it a habit this year. After a few miles we stopped at a quiet park by the river and just sat and talked for awhile. In high school and college we spent a lot of time sitting and talking by water, and it was great to find a place where we can have those times again. Finally, we stopped at a restaurant on the way home to buy a bag of our favorite chips (they were out of hot salsa) to go. It was a perfect night!

And now for the holiday weekend! I’m starting it with one of these gorgeous chocolate chip muffins I made last night. Muffins are one baked item that continues to elude me, so I was shocked at how perfect these looked. They’re yummy too. In a little bit I’m heading to the farmer’s market with my mother-in-law. It’ll be a great way to get out of the house for awhile. I need it! Then tomorrow we’re spending the day at Greg’s grandparents’ lake house. And Monday is mine and Greg’s six year anniversary, so we’re having a date day. It should be a fantastic weekend!

Jalapeno Cheese Focaccia and the Blues

I have a serious obsession with Jalapeno Cheddar Focaccia Bread. It’s no secret that I’m a carb lover, but I think this bread beats out any other in my mind for tastiest bready treat ever. No joke. I crave this bread almost as much as I crave fried pickles. Which is saying a lot.

The problem, however, is that I can only find it at the grocery store. And it costs $4 for a small little round that I can usually down on my drive back home if I’m hungry enough. And the worst part – they only actually have the bread in stock about 25% of the time I go. So I’ve been on a mission to find/come up with my own recipe for it so I can satisfy my craving any time at home for a lot less money. And I’ve come close! This isn’t perfected yet, but it’s getting there.

The original directions for this recipe were really bizarre and unlike any other bread recipe I’ve ever seen. So I decided to take a chance and put it together in a way that made more sense to me. Starting with the usual first step – dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and let rest about ten minutes until frothy.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add one egg. At the last minute I decided to add 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary. Slowly mix in 2 1/2 more cups of flour until dough forms a ball. Knead or mix in mixer for five minutes. Place in a greased, covered bowl for one hour.

I wanted my focaccia to look just like the grocery store kind so after the dough rose I split it in two and pressed each ball into a greased cake pan. I then let it sit for 10 minutes while the oven preheated to 400 degrees. Next, use a knife to poke holes all over the dough. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each round. Top with jarred jalapeno peppers, sliced cheese (I used colby jack since I had it on hand, but cheddar would probably be better), and additional rosemary if you want. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with how this turned out. I really didn’t expect it to work since I never have luck with any kind of focaccia. In comparison, the grocery store variety is still better. The texture is a little softer and it tastes a little more oily. But I’m definitely not going to give up on making it at home. Next time I think I’ll be more vigorous in my knife poking and probably add more than 2 tablespoons of olive oil per loaf. I’ll also add more spices to the dough. And definitely use cheddar cheese. And finally, bake it more like 20 minutes instead of 25. My loaf was a mite too crunchy. Good stuff, though!

This has nothing to do with focaccia bread, but I got two cute Embrace the Camera pictures with Shepard yesterday.


He loves getting his picture taken right now, but he always whips around to try and see the back of my camera before I even had a chance to take the photo!

Greg got a harmonica for his birthday, so the boys have been fighting over this toy harmonica we have to be just like him. Shepard is surprisingly good at it for a 15 month old!

Here he is just sitting by himself playing away!

Jalapeno Cheddar Focaccia Bread

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbs yeast
2 tbs olive oil

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary
1 egg

4 tbs olive oil
1/3 cup jarred jalapeno peppers
1 tsp rosemary
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix water, yeast, and olive oil. Let sit for 10 minutes. Mix 1 cup of flour with the rest of dry ingredients. Add egg. Slowly add in the rest of the flour until combined. Knead for 5 minutes. Put in a covered bowl for one hour. Split into two greased cake pans. Let sit while oven preheats to 400 degrees. Poke holes in dough with knife. Drizzle olive oil over dough. Top with jalapenos, cheese, and rosemary. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Mother’s Day Cinnamon Rolls

Our family loves cinnamon rolls. I always have a stock of store bought rolls in the fridge for quick weekend breakfasts when I don’t feel like making anything more challenging. Last week with Mother’s Day coming up, I thought it would be an easy breakfast for Greg to make. But with some extra time on Friday I thought it would be nice to actually make cinnamon rolls from scratch instead. I always have mixed feelings about homemade cinnamon rolls. On one hand, they’re really really good. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to get them cooked properly. At least that seems to be my experience! So I went searching for a different recipe and came across a blogger who felt the same way about doughy undercooked cinnamon rolls. And of course the duh moment – don’t squish them all together in a tight pan and they probably won’t be so doughy!

To start the dough, mix 1 cup of warm milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast. Let sit for about ten minutes until bubbly. Mix in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup softened butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, 3 1/4 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of bread flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Knead for five minutes by hand or with your mixer. Put in an oiled, covered bowl and let rise for one hour. This is where I started having problems. My dough barely rose at all. I think I let it sit for close to three hours with almost no improvement. I finally decided to just go with it. I rolled it out and was impressed with how big I could make it. That’s another thing I get really annoyed with when making cinnamon rolls – the dough is so elastic that it’s nearly impossible to roll it out to a decent size. This dough was very pliable.

For the filling mix 1/2 cup of softened butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons of cinnamon.

My butter wasn’t as soft as it should have been. It was really hard to evenly spread out the mixture. I eventually gave up on that too. Once it’s in the oven the filling will melt and spread out anyway.

Roll up the dough as tightly as possible and slice into approximately one inch slices. I decided to try something different and only used half of the dough to make regular cinnamon rolls. I’ll show you what I did with the other half in a minute.

Lay rolls out on a pan, cover, and let rise for another hour. Mine did not at all after this. I’m not sure if I did something wrong or this dough is just more tempermental. Since I made these on Friday and Mother’s Day was Sunday, I put them in the freezer. Late Saturday night I moved them to the fridge and they were ready to be baked Sunday morning.

Much smaller than I was expecting, but they’re kind of cute! When you’re ready, bake them at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.

With the other half of the dough I attempted to be creative by slicing the roll into three strips, horizontally. Then I braided them and rolled them together to make a giant cinnamon roll.

We took the easy way out frosting these by using some leftover whipped vanilla frosting that was in the fridge. The original recipe includes a cream cheese frosting, but I knew Greg starts gagging when he sees the words cream cheese, so I decided not to even suggest he make it.

The large cinnamon roll looked pretty, but was overall a huge fail. I don’t think there was any way to cook the entire thing through without totally burning the outside.

The edges were good, but it was really a huge undercooked mess. The smaller rolls, though, were delicious! A little dense and the dough tasted a lot sweeter than regular cinnamon rolls. The additional spices in the dough made it unusual, but tasty. This is a recipe I’ll definitely be trying again – hopefully with slightly puffier results!

Mother’s Day Cinnamon Rolls

Dough:

1 cup warm milk
1 tbs sugar
2 1/2 tsp yeast
2 eggs
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup bread flour

Filling:

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbs cinnamon

Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

 To start the dough, mix 1 cup of warm milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast. Let sit for about ten minutes until bubbly. Mix in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup softened butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, 3 1/4 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of bread flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Knead for five minutes by hand or with your mixer. Put in an oiled, covered bowl and let rise for one hour.

Roll dough into a rectangle. Make filling by mixing all ingredients. Spread filling over dough, roll tightly, and slice into 1 inch slices. Cover and let rise for one hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Make cream cheese frosting by combining all ingredients. Spread over rolls and enjoy!