Sunday, April 29, 2012

Punch in the Face--REBOUND!

If you've been reading lately, you'll know that I have been having some not-so-great days lately...

To be less ambiguous, I'll explain why Friday particularly was so bad.  Originally, I had run for class president for 10th grade.  I sort of knew I wasn't going to win, considering who one of the other candidates was (think friendly, popular, super outgoing...).  Well, it was still a mini punch at my self esteem when I heard he won--with no run off!

Not to worry, I still had a chance to run for student council rep.  I wasn't really worried at all for this considering I was a rep this year.  Anyway, fast forward to Friday when I found out I didn't even get voted for rep.  It did not compute!  There are a whole slew of reasons why I think the results were bogus, but I'm going to keep them to myself.  Had it been Friday afternoon when I wrote this post, yes, I probably would be listing them (in addition to reasons why I hate people in general) ;)  But, I've had the weekend to get over it.  Every time I think about it I still feel a mini punch in the gut, but oh well.  As my mom continues to say: Student politics are fickle.

Now, I'm viewing this as a learning opportunity.  At least I tried.  I gave a speech in front of my whole grade.  I may have even left some ideas that stuck with the people that did make student council and will hopefully consider them for next year.

Anyway, Friday was such a down-in-the-dumps day for me that I didn't really fully appreciate something good that also happened.  My trainer, Barb, asked me if I'd take my favorite horse, Zeus, to a combined test that they're going to next weekend.  I like to think of this as proof that at least some one, somewhere values what I do.  There are plenty of other riders that could've taken Zeus to the show (just as there were a whole slew of candidates for student council), but, it was ME that was asked to take Zeus!  YAYAYAYA!!!!

Anyway, she said that they might be going.  I really hope I'm not getting my hopes up for nothing...

But if we are going--WOOHOO!  I'm so excited!! It's at Frazier Farm on May 6th.  And you can guarantee that it will make for some super awesome blog posts!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Butterscotch Cheerio Treats

Nice, Mel! ;) She was on the farthest courts from the stands and I couldn't get any closer...lucky I had my new zoom lens!  I did get some really cool shots of random girls on the closer courts.

Ok, after lots of bad news and an overall bad day I really needed to take my mind off things.  I went to the movies with my sister and downed a large popcorn and a box of pretzel m and ms while watching The Lucky One with Zac Efron.  Well, it helped a little bit...

I decided that I would make something easy for Mel's tennis match today.  And by easy I mean no-bake, using up ingredients I have on hand, and not spending more than 20 minutes on it.  Well, Butterscotch Cheerio Treats it is!

Butterscotch Cheerio Treats


1 bag of marshmallows
1/4 cup cup plus 2 Tb butter
7 cups dulce de leche cheerios
unknown amount of coconut that I had in the freezer*

*I'm not sure if I actually added enough coconut to make a difference in flavor or texture, but I wanted to use up the remains of a bag so I tossed it in...


1. In a large bowl dump entire bag of marshmallows and butter.
2. Microwave for 1 minute or until butter is melted.
3. Stir in cheerios and butterscotch chips.
3. Spray a 9x13 pan and dump marshmallow-cheerio blob into it.
4. Spray your fingers and press the mix evenly into the pan.
5. Let set up for about 30 minutes (you can put it in the fridge to speed this up).

Yes, you guessed it.  This is just rice krispie treats but with cheerios and some other crazy stuff mixed in.  I also used a spastic amount of butter but I was using up the butter that was in our butter dish so that's how I came to this amount.  Hey, whatever works... ;)

I cut it into 24 squares but you can definitely cut however many you'd like depending on what size you want.  

There was only about 1/3 cup of coconut left in that bag so you can just pretend it's not there...

Bowl o' marshmallow (uhh and butter!)


Mmmmm butterscotch...and some stupid leftover coconut (except coconut is not stupid, the amount of coconut I used was stupid)

Spray your it or you will not end up with a pretty pan like this.  You will end up with a chunky monkey pan that's half stuck to your utensil.

Isn't he cute?!!?? 

I resisted these guys until after the match...and then I had 2 small ones biggest ones I could find.  They were super yummy.  I definitely think the cheerios held up well with the butterscotch chips because they were similar sized if you get what I mean.  But, I think there's something about a classic rice krispie that just trumps all others...  Lucky for me I bought 3 extra bags of marshmallows at the grocery store this morning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The bread lasted barely 24 hours...maybe 25.  I brought one and half loaves to school (sliced) and it was gone by the end of the day.  And I may or may not have had half a loaf after school...  I can definitely say this bread is better the next day after having been in an airtight container over night.

Grrrr...I should start making stuff that I don't like to eat.  Perhaps my next post will be Bacon Brownies.  Other people will eat them (which is what I aim for when baking) but I will be able to resist (I don't like bacon).

Y' know, that doesn't actually sound like a bad idea at all....HAHAHA get ready everyone..I'm gonna make bacon brownies!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tagalong Bread

Don't you love those weeks (and days) where you're just happy to be alive?

The little things that make life sweet...  Owning your bio test.  Hearing people say they wish you had been elected student council president.  Hearing people say they will vote for you for student council rep. Going to bed early.  Reading a good book Harry Potter.  

Well, this is one of those weeks for me.  And, to top it all off, I don't have much homework!  What does that mean?  I'm baking something for adviser group, of course!  Chocolate Peanut Butter Tagalong Bread to be exact.  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tagalong Bread (yields 2 loaves)

adapted from Something Swanky

3 cups all purpose flour
3 T cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 lightly packed brown sugar
1 T baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 box of tagalongs, crushed
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large mashed banana
2 T oil
1 egg


1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Whisk together dry ingredients, reserving a heaping tablespoon.
3. Stir in wet ingredients, careful not to over mix.
4. Add chocolate chips and crushed cookies to reserved dry mix and toss to combine.
5. Fold in the cookies and chocolate chips until just distributed.
6. Pour batter into 2 greased and parchment-lined loaf pans.
7. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (one of my loaves took 36 and the other took about 40)
8. Cool before cutting with a serrated knife.  

imagine there is a lovely jar of peanut butter...

whisk, whisk, whisk

crush, crush, crush!
 shake, shake, shake!

Combine the wet and the dry and you get something AHmazing

But as soon as you add the cookies and chocolate...

You get batter o' heaven

Sorry for these extremely lackluster photos.  My mom is on a trip to Gettysburg and borrowed my camera.  I probably could've gotten better pictures with my iPhone, but I decided to use my old sony cyber-shot for the directions...Oh well.

See!!? This iPhone picture ^ is better!  Can you believe how good the cameras in phones are getting...

As I was cutting this bread I enjoyed the ends...and then I fixed myself a little dessert (ya' know, just making sure it's suitable for my adviser group tomorrow morning):

I enjoyed it with a good book... :D

But then of course it seemed too much like breakfast after dinner so I just needed to do this:
Yes, that is whipped cream.  And yes, this piece is considerably thicker than the previous one.  One slice of this bread technically has 1/24 of a banana in it so it's healthy! ;)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A New Lens and Some Amazonian Goodies

As a reward for my good grades because my mom wanted another lens for "my" camera a new lens came in the mail the other day.

I got a Nikon D3100 for Christmas that came with a really good, basic lens that works in about every situation you could think of.  It's an 18-55mm and has served me well in my photography class this semester.  But, whether it be me or my mom, the both of us wanted a nice zoom lens.

And now I'm about to reveal how I do my research for just about any product.


Enter, Amazon.  It's my go-to place for everything.  I look up reviews on the most random things.  I just bought a pair of Lilly shorts (don't worry they were actually from the Amazon-Lilly store, not some weirdo knock-off) from it.

Electronics to beauty products, ebooks for my kindle to discontinued candy, Amazon has it all.

Anyway, back to my research.  Basically I just started searching Nikon lenses and found one that wasn't $1,000 but still had good reviews.


I think other people are realizing that Amazon is an awesome place to get whatever you want.  For Christmas, besides getting a super awesome camera, I got 2 $50 Amazon gift cards!

"What should we get Valerie for Christmas?"
"I don't know.  Does she still like Polly Pocket?"
"She's 15...I don't think so."   (actually, Polly Pocket was the coolest thing ever!!!!!)
"We could get her a necklace."
"Ok, does she wear gold or silver?"
"Uhhh!  I give up let's just get her an Amazon gift card."

So I know some people do not like receiving gift cards because they think they're impersonal.  Well, I am NOT one of those people.  Honestly, if you don't know what to get me...get me a gift card to a store that I've mentioned I like.  Here's a list to make things easier:

Barnes and Noble <----- I have over $200 on my card thanks to the compiling of book cards from birthdays and Christmases past...
J. Crew
Ralph Lauren (if you really want to put A LOT on the card) ;)
Local jewelry stores
Department stores in the area
Amazon... teehee

Just don't, I repeat don't get a me a gift card for Forever 21 unless you want it to sit in my wallet, unused until I finally decide to take 2 hours to sift through junk to find something halfway decent to spend it on.

Anyway, back to the Amazon gift cards.  I recently entered a photography contest that my school library was hosting.  The contest was to take a library book with you on spring break and take a picture of it.  Well, I took mine to Naples, Florida and took a picture of it on the beach.  The top 5 pictures either got a movie theater gift card or an Amazon gift card.  And thanks to this picture I now have a $15 Amazon gift card! yay!

Oh, and my second choice picture was this one.  But, just in case I didn't feel like sharing my beach bod with the librarians...or with the rest of the school (they emailed everyone the winning photos) I decided against it.  But, I still think it's cute.

FYI, I did not actually finish start this book.  Rather I enjoyed my Harry Potter books and my kindle.  But come one, isn't vacation about reading whatever you want??

Enjoy the spring!

Thin Mint Brownie Bites--Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!

This year my mom bought one box each of the "good kind" of girl scout cookies--samoas, thin mints, tagalongs...y' know which ones I'm talking about.  Well, I've decided instead of eating them (psshhh who eats girl scout cookies???) ;) I'll bake with them.  And, after diving into the far side of our pantry, I discovered a mix for mint brownies--how perfect is that?

I decided to make these "cute" by baking them in a mini cupcake tin, but you can definitely do these in a regular pan if you'd like.

Thin Mint Brownie Bites

1 Box Pillsbury Mint Chocolate Brownies
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
3 tablespoons water
"a few handfuls" Nestle swirled chocolate and mint chips
1 Roll of thin mint girl scout cookies (16 cookies)


1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Set aside 12 thin mint cookies, cut in half and crush remaining 4
3. Mix brownie mix, chocolate chips, oil, egg, water, and crushed cookies
4. Scoop batter into mini muffin tin, sprayed
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes
6. Remove from oven and immediately stick half a cookie in each brownie
7. Let cool for 15 minutes and transfer brownies to a rack to continue cooling
8. Store in an airtight container or eat them right away because the best kind of brownie is one that is still warm and gooey. 

Yes, both the girl scout cookies and chocolate chips have been "used" prior to this recipe...
The recipe was more of a dump all things mint and chocolate into the batter in hopes of using them up.

I love the swirled chips...

Brownie batter: a beautiful thing.  I could probably write a song about it, or a maybe a haiku...

Brownie batter: yum!
I could eat you all day long.
I need bigger pants.

Spray makes the world go round.  What would we do without Pam?

These strongly remind me of sharks.  That's kind of creepy.  And I DO NOT LIKE sharks.  They scare me so much.  One of my mini hidden fears is being attacked by a shark while swimming in the ocean.  That's partially why I'm not really an ocean swimmer fan.  I prefer pools (or even lakes or rivers or ponds!).  

Fancy chocolate squiggle.  Now it looks like a shark with seaweed on it. Sort of...

I brought these to the Parent Council auction that my school was hosting tonight.  I wanted the student volunteers to have something tasty to snack on.  Plus, my sort of new thing is that I like making stuff and then forcing other to people to try eat all of them.  

They were a big hit with everyone.  The only person who didn't have one besides me (don't worry I made up for it later) was my friend who said she doesn't like mint.  I assured her there was no real mint in them, only "thin mint". hehe

She still wouldn't try one.  Poo :(  Oh well, her loss.

By the way, when I said I made up for not having one of these, I meant it!  At the auction one of the jobs for the student volunteers was to pass the h'ordeuvres (I think I got that right...).  Well, let's just say I didn't have any of the pizza that they gave the volunteers either.  I felt it was my duty as a good server to try everything I was passing out.  I mean come on, what if someone wanted my opinion of the dish?  My two favorites were the goat cheese and mushroom on crostini and the chicken empanadas with guacamole.  My least favorite was the sweet pea hummus on was :(((((  or maybe I'm exaggerating just a little because I did have a lot of people say it was pretty good.  

Besides single handedly eating half the food that the caterers brought for the event, I also polished off a good 15 truffles as well as who knows how many shortbreads for dessert.  Please don't tell.
Then, at the very end of the night at checkout there was a candy bar set up.  Oh-my-goodness-why-did-I-wear-my-tight-pants-tonight!  

My goodie bag filled with chocolate covered pretzels, truffles, and taffy.  

Look how cute these chocolate covered oreos are!  I love the school logo on them--so perfect for the occasion.

Tonight was definitely a fun, yet tiring event.  My mom, who has been working her butt off for the past few weeks didn't have much time to look for items tonight because she was busy working.  We did end up getting a painting she bid on as well as an afternoon at a makeup store in town called Benefit that I put us down for.  I'd say it was a steal considering we were only the second bidder and got it for half it's retail price...
Overall, good night!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Me and Cake, Yeah, We're Frenemies

What do you do when you mess up your first cake?  Bake another one of course!  I wanted to bake a cake for my term paper party but ended up breaking it while taking it out of the pan...

Near tears, tired, emotional, angry...It was the night before my paper was do and everything was going wrong.  Hey!  I just wanted to do something nice to celebrate the end of this paper and things weren't going my way.

With my mom's help we quickly got another cake in the oven and I was on my way.
Not too shabby, I'd say...

But what to do with the broken cake... It sat out for a few days, but that didn't matter.  Today I decided to make cake balls/truffles/bites whatever you want to call them.

the workstation: as you can see I cut off the very edges that were a little too dark for the cake balls
I used a very large bowl which made the crumbling and mixing very easy.

I added about 3/4 of the can of frosting and mixed up the cake "dough" with a rounded spatula.

and a mini scoop works wonderfully for getting consistently shaped balls

I put these in the refrigerator for an hour or so...

colored sanding sugar

white wilton candy melt, hearts, sprinkles, ya' know, the usual decorating stuff :)
so this was my "kiddie" tray but I promise you I made a fancy looking tray but I didn't get pictures of it...
cool edible decorating pens

hello there, little guys

I ran out of the candy melt a little more than halfway through so I melted some semi sweet chocolate...AND THEN I was a bad girl.  I reserved the last three cake balls to be dipped into the chocolate that I mixed peanut butter into.  I had a fair amount left... that I may or may not have finished eating with a spoon...

 Yup, that's it.  I don't really care to share how much of the cake "dough" I ended up eating, or how many of the toppings I ended up eating...but let's just say it served as a very nice dinner...

Fast forward to after the weekend.  I told myself I was going to give ALL OF THE CAKE BALLS AWAY.  Well, false.  I surrendered and had about 4 or 5 today...ummm oops?  Nahh they were tasty so it was worth it.

I will take the rest (maybe after a few more...) to school on Thursday.  Why not tomorrow you ask?  Because I'm taking in these bars of yummy-ness to school tomorrow.  :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Baking in a Bikini? You Bet!

the remains of the Easter decorations... I guess Mother's Day is next...

Today I had the day off from school for professional development day.  Teachers sit through meetings all day and the students have an extra day to catch up on work, relax, or concoct in the kitchen to their hearts' content.

First I must say something about the weather.  It was GORGEOUS today!  Definitely the kind of day that has you aching for summer.  High 70s, sunny, blue sky.  Not a bad day to have off from school...

After heading out to get froyo for lunch (you read that right, I had it for lunch, not after), I came home and wanted to sit by the pool.  But, not before I had the urge to make something in the kitchen.  Actually, I wanted to make it for my sister to take to her tennis match, but it wasn't finished cooling in time.

Anyway, I decided that being home alone on a gorgeous day I would my bikini.  Weird?  I don't think so.  I was wearing an apron at least!

First thing I made was a dump bar.  Literally I dumped everything into the pan and baked.  :)

Layer 1: refrigerated sugar cookie dough (I had bought two rolls but only ended up using one for my rainbow pinwheel cookies)  I actually pressed this down, not really dumping
Layer 2: semi sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and heath bar toffee bits
Layer 3: sweetened condensed milk
Layer 4: flaked coconut
Layer 5: the remaining semi sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and heath bar toffee bits

I'm not exactly sure how long it baked for because I originally put it in for 15 minutes but that was WAY too short and ended up putting it back in for probably 15 more minutes, maybe 20...

First time out of the oven...not nearly done but still looks mighty yummy.

These things are deadly.  Lucky I was wearing my bikini because if my tummy weren't in site I would've eaten the whole pan with no shame.  But, I resisted to just picking off the "scraps" that stuck to the knife, spatula, pan, and maybe the ones that I pulled off the bars themselves...

Wait for it...wait for it...

The gooeyness is calling my name!

Sweet, gooey, caramelly, buttery, toffee-y, chocolatey, chewy.  If I didn't care about appearing somewhat sane, I would've hidden in my playroom with the whole pan and scarfed them down as I watched my latest netflix, John Tucker Must Die.  Seeing as I like to occasionally appear somewhat normal, I let these babies cool, cut them up into generous squares and packaged them up for either my mom to take to work or for me to take to school.  I haven't decided who gets to be blessed with these bars of heaven yet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greek Easter

Greek Easter.  Oh boy.  Food, family, fun.

 Greek people really know how to throw a killer party and my aunt and uncle have been hosting for over 10 years.  We arrived around noon ate continually until six when we left (or at least I did!).  I think it's all the little things that make Greek Easter really special.  Cracking red eggs, watching the uncles baste the lamb with ouzo, the little things...

Here are a few pictures to show you a glimpse of the fun I had today.

There were even more tables set up like this one full of food.

Lamb fresh off the spit.

Watching the lamb on the spit.