Winding Down Summer

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Like a true Californian, I want all the perks of fall time without the weather becoming too much colder. We have some exiting things coming up like : a double date with our friends, an Ohio State football game, and apple picking. I’m looking forward to these events, though still wishing that the warm weather won’t be leaving us.

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Even though I have grown quite fond of the Buckeye state, it is hard for me to reconcile with the impending doom of winter. Earlier in the week, my mom sent me a picture of a shirt that said: “I bake because punching people is frowned upon.” I, of course, laughed… but then I thought a little deeper about it and my love for baking. When the weather changes, I really do go into baking mode, and you can find me in the kitchen almost every day working on a new treat. I always thought that it was because I liked to be by the warm oven while it is cooling off outside. Here is my new theory though, the kitchen is where my expertise in baking collides with irreconcilable mourning of summer.

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I don’t know how or when I will stop longing for sunshine. Of course, I am the one who made the decision to stay out here in Ohio, so there must have been a good reason for leaving California. But like most decisions, we forget why we make the changes we do. We choose to see the past through the most flattering of lenses. Even though I know this, the weather still tugs on my heart strings and makes me question where I live and why I can’t go back to the golden state. So, I bake. I measure, I read recipes, I focus… it is where what I don’t know collides with what I do know.

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My mind is clear when I am in the kitchen. I carefully read instructions, take care when using specific tools, and improve my technique when I can. Baking is some thing that, when you follow the instructions and do the best you can, you will always get a perfect result. In life, [or at least in my own life] the reaction is almost always opposite. You can try your best, do every thing “right” and things may still not work out. I can control the speed on my mixer, but what I can’t control is every element affecting my everyday life. And so, I bake…

Plum Upside Down Cake

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You know when you want to have a cheat meal without really cheating? That was the predicament I was in yesterday, when I desperately wanted to bake some thing in celebration of mine and J’s anniversary without totally ruining the liver cleanse I’m doing with my nutritionist. I still had a few “cheat” ingredients that don’t completely fit into my cleanse [hence, me calling it a “cheat”] but this recipe is 100% Paleo and delicious!

I got the recipe from Paleomg.com which is a fantastic resource for delicious clean food for every occasion. She uses peaches, but all I had on hand were plums. It was still delicious, and dare I say I may even prefer the plumbs! There were a few other modifications I used that I will highlight below.

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For the Plum topping:

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 plums, halved and sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
For the batter:
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ½ cups tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature, whisked
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ½ cup almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sauce pan, combine the coconut oil and sugar until sugar dissolves, then toss the plums in the sugar mixture until they are soft. Set plums aside to cool. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for your cake batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together all your wet ingredients until the sugar has dissolved. Mix both wet and dry ingredients together. In a round cake pan, spray with coconut oil and lie down a piece of parchment paper. Carefully arrange your plums on the bottom, then pour the cake batter on top, smoothing evenly with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes, then check on the cake. The top should have a brown crust beginning to form. Leave in the oven for 10 more minutes if it does not seem finished. Let cool for 10 minutes before flipping over your cake to reveal the plum topping! Enjoy.

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Yes, I made a small version for myself… for taste testing purposes! Have a good weekend, y’all!

5 Things I Love About Winter

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Being a Southern California native, there wasn’t a lot for me to love about winter when I first moved to the Ohio Valley. I mean sure, witnessing your first snowfall is pretty magical, but after that — then what?

In fact, I remember an encounter with my roommate during my very first winter here. I was shivering as I came back from class, complaining about the cold when she said, “Well, of course you’re cold… Where’s your winter jacket?” I was so confused and responded in all seriousness, “This IS my winter jacket,” while pointing down at the hoodie I was wearing. Um hello, when it’s below 60 degrees, you throw on a hoodie, duh. While my hoodie was adequate for San Diego winters, I was totally clueless about how to handle a real winter.

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As of this year, I will have spent a total of 5 winters back east, so I wanted to share with you, some genuine reasons to love winter. These are the little things I have to hold on to when I haven’t seen the sun shine for a week straight.

  1. Citrus season! Blood oranges and clementines, I seriously binge on these fruits in the winter. Not only are they at peak deliciousness, but they are reminiscent of warmer days.
  2. Natural Beauty. Ok so Ohio is pretty ugly once all the colorful fall leaves have disappeared from the trees, but it is redeemed through the beauty of snow fall. My favorite thing about a big snowstorm is walking outside just after the climax, to hear nothing but the sound of fresh snow beneath my boots.
  3. Indulgence. Of course the holiday season is the classic time to indulge, but if you know me, then you know I go hard all the way until spring. Hot beverages and baked goods just should not be limited to the holiday season, people! Nothing motivates me to preheat the oven and sip on hot cocoa like 30 degrees.
  4. Being stranded. Ok so this one is slightly romanticized. Being stranded in your car on the highway during a snowstorm would be bad… Having a legitimate excuse to stay in and cuddle? Not bad. When I see the snow covered road, I start praying for cancellation of any plans. In SoCal we could say “yeah, I tried to come see you, but I saw the traffic was just too bad.” Our 2 lane highway never has any traffic to rival that of the 405, so snow is all I have to work with in the way of canceling plans.
  5. Holiday denial. For some reason, people in Ohio keep lights and decorations up for longer, and not just because they’re lazy… it’s intentional. While I don’t know the exact reason why, I’d guess it’s because they don’t know how to reconcile still having snow, with out the enhancement of twinkling lights and happy snowmen. It’s much easier for the brain to live in a happy place of “Christmas wasn’t that long ago… it’s still the most wonderful time of the year! Surely if this snow is still festive then so are my holiday lights!” At least, that’s my thinking. I typically keep our holiday decorations up until Valentines day, where I then reluctantly pull out some pink and red decor, before the real excitement comes in March and I actually get to bust out the SPRING decorations!

What’s your favorite thing about winter?

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Pumpkin Crumb Cake

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I wanted a coffee cake, but I also wanted some thing a little more seasonal, and so I birthed this little recipe. It’s great to use your leftover pumpkin in, or you can take advantage of all the pumpkin your local grocery store has most likely marked down since it is after the Thanksgiving holiday.

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What you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s)

I begin by heating my oven to 350 degrees, and greasing a pan with some butter. I used a 9×13 dish. In a bowl, I mix all the DRY ingredients together [flour, salt, powder, soda, and spices… NOT sugar]. In a mixer, on medium speed, I mix softened butter with the sugar until beat together. I add the eggs to the mixer one by one, then I add the can of pumpkin. The texture of this mix will be some what chunky, that’s fine. Add half of your flour mixture to the electric mixer. Once it’s blended, add the other half of the flour and stir until completely mixed. Pour into the baking dish and set aside.

Crumb topping:

  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick COLD butter, cut into cubes 
  • 1/4 c. oats
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of flour

Combine all the ingredients in an electric mixer, until the cubes of butter have broken down into smaller balls, and all the cinnamon sugar is sticking. Sprinkle this mixture on top of your UNBAKED pumpkin cake, slightly pressing the sugar into the batter. Bake the entire cake for 60 minutes. Enjoy!

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Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

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Did you know Thanksgiving is only NINE days away?! Mamas are busy ladies, and it’s understandable that we end up unprepared during most of the holiday season. These important meals sneak up on you, and there’s panic when you realize you have no plan for what to bring.

I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving once, but since becoming a married woman, I feel it’s one of my responsibilities as a member of the family to bring something to Thanksgiving dinner. Growing up, you usually have 1-3 women who do ALL the cooking for 30 people. When you’re excuse is being a 10 year old kid, ok don’t pitch in, but once you have your own job and apartment, it’s time to bring some thing to Thanksgiving dinner. I felt I had even less of an excuse not to contribute when I was a newlywed, and all the women of the family had just spent hundreds of dollars on getting me kitchen supplies. It was time to put those handy tools and supplies to work!

Anyway, in light of the fast approaching holiday, I wanted to share my greatest Thanksgiving hits with you. It’s intimidating to share a recipe with family for the first time, especially during such an important meal. These recipes are pretty easy and don’t require too many ingredients. So, if you still don’t know what you’re bringing to Thanksgiving, hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you!

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Pumpkin Cupcakes – I brought these to my first Thanksgiving ever, with J’s family. If you’ve never brought anything to a Thanksgiving dinner before, you can’t go wrong with dessert! Since it was the first time I had ever spent Thanksgiving with a family other than my own, I wasn’t sure who typically brought what. I knew that in my family, certain members were known for certain dishes [everyone LOVES my Aunt Julie’s rolls, and Grandpa always did the gravy, etc.] so I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes by attempting a traditional side-dish. This recipe is delicious and a great alternative to having too many pies.

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Sweet potato hash – My second year with J’s family, was our first Thanksgiving as Mr & Mrs. I felt more confident to bring a dish to go with dinner, so I brought this sweet potato hash. My first year, I noticed that his family only did the sweet potatoes with marshmallow on top, so I thought I’d bring a savory version too. It was a big hit! Not to mention, a healthy hit, too! This recipe is a vegetarian version, but you can swap out the veggie patties for sausage patties and it tastes GREAT.

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Spinach Salad with pear and cranberry – I have to admit, while I found this recipe on my own, I was attempting to imitate a salad my Aunt Julie would bring to either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. When I was younger I thought the only dressing that could go on a salad was ranch. In the name of trying new things, I picked up a scoop of her sweet, fruity salad and immediately fell in love. I knew that the first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted, this side would definitely have to be on the table. I was cooking for 20+ traditional Italians and I wasn’t sure how a salad without Italian dressing would do with J’s crowd. Luckily, everyone LOVED it! In fact, I completely ran out of salad as people were asking for second and third helpings.

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Cornbread stuffing – For the most part, I try to stick to a gluten free diet… but around the holidays that can get pretty tough! Once I found Martha Stewart’s cornbread stuffing, it was a total game changer. I LOVE this recipe, and so did the rest of the family. I was able to make it gluten free by making my own corn bread from scratch, but you can make it as easy or as difficult as you want depending on how much time you actually end up having.

Those are by far the best recipes I’ve ever brought to Thanksgiving dinners in the past. Like I said, if you have extra time or are feeling especially domestic, you can personalize these recipes as little or as much as you want to! For the salad, I make my own candied pecans to sprinkle on top and some times, I even make the dressing from scratch. Hopefully some of these recipes inspire you and take some of the stress out of planning for the big turkey dinner next Thursday! Good Luck!

Weekly Reflection

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The past week flew by, but over the weekend I had some time to chill out and pack for our upcoming trip to California. Like every week, last week had its shares of “ups” and “downs.” I’m glad I get to start out this one packing for a trip to see my family and celebrate a highly anticipated wedding! The actual celebration takes place on October 31st, so we won’t be doing any traditional trick-or-treating, however, that hasn’t stopped me from putting up a few festive fall decoration around the house that are currently in tandem with many pink decorations from our gender reveal party.

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While a trip to California is a BIG thing to look forward to, I’ve also been trying to find joy in the little things as well. One of those things being baked goods, [I mean, just look at how festive that frankenstein green pistachio muffin is!] but also just spending some quality time alone with Sugar Plum. I know our days of “mommy and me” time are winding down as we approach my due date.

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And even though we won’t be trick-or-treating, that didn’t stop us from buying bella a little costume to dress up in. Not to mention it will be the perfect outfit to wear to Disneyland this week.

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Have a safe Halloween, everyone! I’ll be taking a little break from blogging while I spend time with family, but you can keep up with me on Instagram: @lilmissmotto

Peace Valley Apple Orchard

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Some of you may have seen our adorable family photos from the apple orchard up on facebook, but I saved some of them specifically for this blog post. That’s right, EXCLUSIVE adorable photos, right here. Now, up until last year, I had only really dabbled in photography and blogging. It wasn’t until our last trip to the apple orchard that I decided I had enough skill, time, and dedication to commit to this as a hobby, Our latest trip out to Peace Valley only reaffirmed that I love food, photography, and my babies, and have an indefinite amount to say about all three.

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The weather in Ohio is actually pretty nice this time of year. We occasionally get some rain and blustery days, but for the most part the sun is out and its warm without being humid [a huge relief for people in this area]. It was supposed to be cloudy yesterday and a bit “chilly” but it turned out to be sunny for most of the afternoon and warm, with just the faintest breeze.

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These orchard are a good 45 minute drive away from us. I thought our little town was “rural” when I first arrived some 5 years ago, but was I so wrong. We have things like a kroger and Walmart! Out in the boonies, where the farms and orchards are, you’re lucky if they have a Dollar General and you can expect to see a decent amount of Amish.

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OK, by “decent amount” I really mean you might see a horse and buggy, but hey – I’m guessing that’s more than you’d typically see in your hometown. Rural though it is, the drive is actually quite nice. Twists and turns through the Ohio valley, with the leave just beginning to change, was the perfect way for us to kick off fall.

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Since the orchards are among farms, there is a cute country store on the property that sells seasonal produce as well as jams, salsas, and preserves made locally. We ended our little adventure with warm apple dumplings served a la mode. YUM. Even though it’s a bit of a drive “just for apples,” I still like that our trip to the orchards has become a little tradition.

Easy Chicken Drumsticks

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Normally, I’m a chicken breast kind of woman, but when pregnancy gives you a red meat aversion, you kind of get sick of eating chicken breasts ALL the time (but you’re still totally not going to eat that nasty bloody meat). SO, I had to branch out a bit and so I went with my least-risky, next option: chicken drumsticks. If you had an awesome childhood, then you remember fighting your siblings for these tasty morsels out of all the other cuts of chicken in that KFC bucket. Ok, so maybe some of you didn’t, but in any case, drumsticks are an option that are both delicious and underrated.

Don’t be intimidated by the drumsticks, people! Like I said, least-risky…

I have a simple and delicious marinade that I use for these cuts, then all you have to do is pop them in the oven whenever you feel ready for it! I will warn you though, these take about an hour to cook, so don’t wait until you’re starving.

What you need:

  • 1 pound of chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • cup oil
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Place all of these ingredients in a big ziplock bag. Toss it between your hands a few times, to make sure everything is mixed together and evenly coated. You can set your bag in the fridge while it marinates. Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, but I usually do an hour. If you want, you could prepare these the night before and they’d have an excellent flavor by the time you got home from work to cook them. Anyway, Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place your drumsticks on a lined baking sheet [I use silicone baking mats, but parchment paper works just as well]. Bake your drummies at 375 for a half hour, then take them out and turn them over. Place them back in the oven to cook for another 30 minutes. Remember to flip them, I promise it’s worth it. This ensures a crispy outside, and a moist inside.

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We served this chicken with a side of summer cabbage slaw and it was a great combo! Enjoy.

Indulgent Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

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It’s been awhile since I did a recipe post! It’s also been awhile since I didn’t feel like I was going to hurl the moment I step foot into the kitchen….

Now this recipe has 4 bananas in it, so I kid myself into thinking it was somewhat healthy… it also has a half cup of sugar, a stick of butter, and 1 cup of chocolate chips. Mind you, this recipe makes 2 loaves so I mean, divide the calories right? In any case… I was feeling a little bit down on Monday. My birthday high was gone, I was experiencing some unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, and I was cooped up with our 1 year old. In the words of Jim Gaffigan, having 2+ more children can be depicted as such, “imagine you’re drowning… then some one hands you a baby.” Spot on.

I needed to do some thing just for me. Painting my nails seemed tedious, doing my hair and makeup was just straight-up pointless, so I went into the kitchen and grabbed my 10 oz bag of milk chocolate morsels from the cabinet [my solution to most problems…]

I have this gluten free blend of baking flour I’ve been wanting an excuse to use, as well as bananas that our new fruit-fly-houseguests had their eye on. So, I pulled up this recipe from GimmeDelicious and it was DELICIOUS. Moist, chocolately, banana-y, YUM.

I didn’t accomplish much else that day, but a day when I bake always feels victorious.

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[it was hard only have 1 bite…]

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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These are My father-in-law’s favorite cookie. Since it was Father’s Day this past weekend, I whipped up a special batch just for him!

What you need:
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
½ cup confectioners’ sugar or regular sugar***
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon corn syrup
1/3 cup of sprinkles

*** Using regular sugar will give your cookie density, more like a sugar cookie. Powdered sugar will give you a lighter consistency comparable to shortbread.

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. If you are not using parchment or a silicone baking mat, you do not need to grease the baking sheet.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together 1 stick of the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium-high.

3. Using a small cookie scoop or heaping teaspoons, roll the dough into balls, roll in your choice of sprinkles, and place 1-inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and make an indentation into the middle of each cookie. Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, 5 minutes more. Remove to cool.

4. Combine chocolate, 2 tablespoons butter, and corn syrup in a small heat-proof bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. (Alternately, you can microwave the mixture on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth.) When cookies are cool, fill the thumbprints with the chocolate mixture.

ENJOY!