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Matters of the heart

They say time flies when you’re having fun.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

And they also say you should probably create your wedding video prior to the eve of your first anniversary.

Well I say two out of three ain’t bad.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since our wedding day. On the one hand it feels like just yesterday we were finalizing details and using all the big-ticket grandparent prayers we could for what turned out to be a beautifully sunny and warm spring day. On the other hand it seems like so much has happened over the past 365 days:

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Dinner and a view. 🌅

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  • We enjoyed some romantic meals and date nights
  • And we had a lot of visitors

So since I’m sure my husband is already celebrating our anniversary across the world right now in Goa, India (barring another record heat-induced power outage), I thought I’d share my better late than never look back on the day that I was blessed with the opportunity to walk through life holding this guy’s hand.
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Sarah + Matt

(photos courtesy of the oh-so-talented Wright Photographs)

Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

It’s back!

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Happy HalloLaborDay! 🎃

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Candy Corn is back in your local grocery store folks! You only have 60 days to enjoy this treat so don’t delay. I don’t know about you but my Labor Day was filled with super sweet waxy triangles of awesomeness. So what if it felt like I was cheating on the holiday. We’re just friends I promise.

I figure if Candy Corn is back in stores then fall is just around the corner. And since it’s still 96 degrees outside and probably will be for the foreseeable future, I’ve thrown out all rules about when you should or shouldn’t make traditionally seasonal foods.

Truth is, I found rhubarb at the store last week and I couldn’t not buy it. Yes, I realize this stuff grows in ditches back in the Midwest but I can’t find it for the life of me down here so I have to take advantage when I get the chance. I was a little skeptical, having paid way too much for a pound of it, sure that it would taste like crap and not live up to my grandmother’s recipe, but man was I wrong.

So in honor of fall, candy corn and everything football, I figured this recipe deserved another share. Do me a favor and find some locally grown rhubarb though. I’d hate for you to make a scene in the grocery store like I did when you finally spot some of the fresh stuff.

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Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 C flour (plus 1 tsp more for pan)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 C rhubarb, chopped

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream sugar and shortening together. Add egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk flour and salt.

Gradually add flour and buttermilk, alternating once each is combined.

With a spatula, fold in chopped rhubarb.

In a prep bowl, whisk cinnamon and sugar. Pour over cake and tap until covered. Remove excess if necessary.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center. Let cool.

Serve with coffee in the morning, a mid-day snack or dessert in the evening.

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Cornbread Cake Crumble

Man I love subject lines chock full of alliteration. Can you blame me? It perfectly sums up what this recipe is; a mix of cornbread, cake and an awesome crumble on top.

And as much as I love alliteration, I love cornbread even more. Just don’t tell my good friend almond butter. I’m not sure love even covers my feelings on a good batch of cornbread. Adoration perhaps. Addiction probably. There may or may not have been an occasion where I single-handily devoured an entire basket of jalapeno cornbread in a suite at a NASCAR race a few years ago.

It’s probably because we’ve lived in the south for so long that I developed this fondness for cornbread. Just kidding. It’s a direct result of the countless visits my grandmother took my cousins and I on to good Old Country Buffet when we were little. And if they didn’t have cornbread, I opted for a cinnamon roll to go with my mac n’ cheese and orange drink right before I let my cousins tell me how to spend my $20 at the Toys “R” Us next door, likely in an altered state from the spike in glucose.

Those. Were. The. Days.

I saw this recipe from the How Sweet It Is blog a few weeks ago on Instagram and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Oh come on, you know you get hangry when you see all those food pictures on Instagram, too. If you ask me, there is no reason why likes or comments shouldn’t come with free samples. Just sayin’.

So as with most things I can’t get out of my head, I finally decided to try it. Don’t hate me ’cause I made it. Hate me because I haven’t figured out how to ship the free samples yet.

cornbread_cake_crumble

Cornbread Cake Crumble

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 C cornmeal
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 1 TBL + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a spring-form pan with parchment paper. I typically trace the bottom of my pan with a knife over the parchment (and on a cutting board) so I have a circle for the bottom. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Add melted butter and stir until just combined.

In a liquid measure blend eggs, milk and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir to blend. Pour batter into pan.

crumb topping

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. I realize this seems like an abundance of crumb topping. I hesitated too, but it’s worth it. Trust me.

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Top batter with crumb topping. Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean.

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I ran out of tomatoes so I couldn’t try the candied tomatoes that came with the recipe, but I will tell you that a healthy dose of honey is like heaven on a piece of this, too.

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Not too sweet. Not too savory. A combination confusing enough that you will be able to justify this cornbread cake crumble at nearly every meal.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Don’t you worry ’bout a thing

For some reason I’m really into song lyrics this weekend. Especially today. Today alone I’ve ‘felt the music’ several times.

It started this morning over coffee.

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Easy like Sunday morning

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Easy Like Sunday Morning (Lionel Richie)

And continued on our visit to the park to play in the snow.

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My kind of town

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My Kind of Town (Frank Sinatra)

But it really resonated with me today in church when I listened to the following gospel:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Don’t worry about what you are eating. Whether it be fat free, gluten free, carb free or meat free.

Be thankful you are fed.

Don’t worry about what you are wearing. If it’s Prada, JCrew, Target or Goodwill. Don’t worry about it.

Be thankful you are clothed.

All too often we get wrapped up in worrying about things that don’t matter. Materialistic things. Trivial things. And by filling our hearts with worry over the trivial things, we run out of space for the important stuff.

Are you fed? Are you clothed? Are you warm and loved? That’s all that you need. Worry about being a good person and the rest is taken care of.

sunset, la jolla

Have a wonderful week!

Recaps and Resolutions

It seems only fitting to take a few moments and reflect on 2013 before we head full-swing into the new year. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions, primarily because I’m just as guilty of letting them go as the next person, but I do feel that they serve a purpose. After all, it was nearly one year ago that I resolved to bring my blog back from hiatus and I’m proud to say it is one resolution I have kept up with for the entire year.

Resolutions may not work for everyone, but I’ve found that in order to succeed, I not only need to set goals, but to hold myself accountable for them. You can read more about that here. Let’s see how I did in 2013:

1) Blog Weekly

I’ll take your weekly and throw in another post. Believe it or not, I managed to post bi-weekly for the majority of 2013. At times it wasn’t easy, but it is nice to be able to look back and to reflect on the new beginnings, celebrations, laughs and trials of the past year. You seem to be liking the posts too.  According to my stats you guys enjoy cookie decorating, marathons gone wrong and super bowl recipes. You can thank Pinterest for that last one. This spicy chex mix went what the kids call ‘viral’ and single-handedly referred more visitors to the blog than anything else. I can’t say i’m mad, but I do hope 2014 brings folks to a few of my more sophisticated recipes. You know, the ones that involve a little more than adding spices and mixing in a large bowl?

2) Volunteer once a month

Unless you count volunteering your body for imminent danger by overtraining for the Chicago Marathon, I didn’t follow through with this resolution as I had intended. I did however, manage to raise over $1,200 in the process for PAWS Chicago, helping save the lives of over 5,850 cats and dogs this year. I look forward to continuing this effort throughout 2014. It’s truly a cause worth supporting.

3) Read more (must quantify goals, Sarah) Correction: Read 13 books in 2013

I’m starting to realize that running a marathon is my excuse for nearly every other failed resolution in the past year. I don’t even think I read one book in 2013, let alone 13. Do editing blog posts count? Do I get a personal pan pizza if I give it another go this year? 

4) Capture more life in photos (not just with iPhone)

My Instagram total is nearing 700 photos. And guess what? They were nearly all taken with my iPhone. Sue me. Well don’t actually. I think I do have some portion of copyright on the photos. Probably not. I did manage to follow through on this resolution and capture a lot more of my life (and food) with my DSLR. Here are just a few of my favorites:

IMG_3221 greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary photography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social bloggreater swiss mountain dog, swissy, puppyphotography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social blog IMG_2534[1]photography, children, nephews, springfield illinois, simply social bloggreater swiss mountain dog red white and blue trifle simply social blog baby girl homemade oreos sweet potato rosemary biscuits, savory scones, holiday recipes owen turns 7 IMG_3096 IMG_1204

5) Complete a Triathlon

See #1 and #2. No I did not complete a triathlon this year. I’ll admit, I was too scared to put ‘run a marathon’ when I wrote this last year so I felt a triathlon was a safe bet because I’ve always wanted to do one. It was shortly after I published this post that I decided to sign up for Chicago. And while I didn’t exactly have the best experience and still have a hard time calling myself a marathoner (pretty sure you need to do more than just one), I am very proud of myself for pushing through the pain and finishing. I’m also proud to report that I can once again run without pain for the first time since October 13th. So bring it on 2014! Let’s do a whole bunch of races that don’t include a distance of over 26 miles. 

As we enter into the New Year, I want to thank you for reading this blog and following me on this journey. Writing is a passion of mine and I look forward to continuing to share and overshare my experiences with you in 2014.

Now it’s your turn! Believe it or not I do get a little tired of talking to myself all the time. I’d love to hear from you. Don’t leave me hanging so early in the year!

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? 

Do you set monthly goals?

Did you follow through with any resolutions from last year? 

What is your biggest complaint about resolutions? 

What are you most looking forward to in 2014? 

Spooky Pumpkin Toffee Cookies

Pumpkin season is in full swing folks. And while I’m not exactly down with the PSL craze, I do love to put pumpkin into just about everything else from October through oh let’s just say February. If I’m baking you something during this time frame, it’s likely to include pumpkin. Sorry I’m not sorry.

I made this batch of pumpkin cookies for my girlfriend’s birthday last week. I knew she liked pumpkin and I figured she liked toffee but after I posted the picture on Instagram, my assumptions were confirmed.

pumpkin toffee chocolate chip cookies instagram simply social blog

Birthday baking. #Nailedit.

These cookies originally started out as an adaptation of this recipe from trusted recipe blog, Two Peas and their Pod, but like my other attempts at any cookie with pumpkin, they rose up like fluffy little clouds in a summer sky. Ah summer, wish you were here. Seriously though. Warm up Chicago!

As I watched these cookies bake, I noticed them fluffing up like crazy. Maybe it was because I didn’t quite have enough toffee to weigh them down (I ran out at 1/2 cup and added spooky chocolate chips to make up for it) or that pumpkin cookies and I just won’t have the same crispy and flat relationship that my other cookies and I have together, but they looked nothing like the original recipe.

It was at that point that I decided to scrap the salted caramel glaze and serve these gems on their own. They might be cuffins in terms of shape and fluff quotient, but they were tasty cuffins. So tasty that I made another batch for work again this week. And just like the movie they were Gone in 60 Seconds. Ok 60 minutes but close enough.

spooky pumpkin toffee chocolate chip cookies simply social blog

Pumpkin Toffee Cookies with Spooky Chocolate Chips

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground all-spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C canned pumpkin (I use Libby’s 100% pumpkin)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C Heath Toffee Bits (I used 1/2 C heath bits and 1 C spooky chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, powder, spices and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar until creamy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla, mixing between each ingredient. Once combined, slowly add dry ingredients to wet. Add in your choice of toffee or chocolate chips.

This makes a very sticky dough, so I suggest using a cookie scoop and spraying it with non-stick spray every 3 or 4 scoops. Trust me, you will be less inclined to throw the cookie dough at your counter or fridge because it just won’t release from the scoop.

These cooked up well (fluffy and soft) on my silpat and in a jelly roll pan. I don’t know why but I love my jelly roll pan for cookies. It’s just my thang. 

Bake for 15 minutes or until edges slightly brown. Note: these cookies won’t get crispy so they may look soft but are done after about 15 minutes.

Let cool in pan and then on wire rack.

Let your dog photobomb them again like he does every other baked good you make. Kid loves pumpkin, too!

pumpkin toffee chocolate chip cookies, simply social blog, swiss mountain dog photobomb

Looks like it’s going to be a perfect weekend for baking something with pumpkin. Everybody’s doing it.

Have a great day.

Sad Finn Diary

Last week I came across this sad dog diary video. There’s a cat version out there too. Take a minute and watch it.

Ok now stop laughing. Since I can’t get this out of my head, I thought I would let Finn share his take on this weekend’s activities. That and I realized my phone is chock full of sad Finn photos. So without further ado, I bring you the Sad Finn Diary.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary

Dear Diary,

My human has returned home from Minnesota and started grinding up all of her food instead of eating it whole. I know not yet the reason. She shoves perfectly shaped fruit into a loud machine until nothing is left but a pulp. Perhaps a form of self mutilation? I need more time to research. I have taken to eating items to induce sickness in solidarity. But for some reason my human is feeding me nothing but chicken and rice this week. It is delicious and I feel guilty but satisfied. I’m afraid she will have to learn this lesson on her own. Poor human.

http://instagram.com/p/a3bRYdTaaN/

My human shared my ‘tricks’ with the world through a new Instagram video feature this weekend. At least that’s what she told me. I don’t know what this Instagram she speaks so highly of but I don’t think I like it. Aside from the exhausting task that ‘high-fiving’ has on a 75 pound species like me, she asked me to do it twice. I can only assume this is because I knocked her device out of her hand the first time. I don’t think she realized I did it purposefully. I fear the device is brainwashing her. I must stop it.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary simply social blog

I received a new chewing device this weekend. Well two of them. I assume this is a sign that the other items in the house were not meant for this purpose. Specifically those that my humans sit on. I pretend to be interested as my humans try to decide what animal my new chewing device represents. The discussion of lobster versus sting ray goes on far longer than it should. Since I can’t don’t care to add anything to the conversation, I focus on the similarity in taste between my new plastic stick and the ottoman leg. I determine that this substitute will suffice for now. But not forever.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary simply social blog

On Sunday my humans took me for a ride in the car. I didn’t know where we were traveling but I was very excited nonetheless. As the building disappeared and the fields grew wider, I considered that they might be taking me back to my place of origin. I could not be sure. Contemplation makes me tired. I must rest.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary simply social blog

When we arrived at our destination I realized that my humans were meeting with other family members to sit under tents and talk. I spotted two other dogs across the yard. They looked familiar but it would take at least 15 minutes of butt-sniffing to determine how I knew them. Their humans called them by name: Harley and Charlie. According to my human they were my cousins. I’ve yet to determine how that is possible. 

golden retriever simply social blog

I soon realized that this wasn’t just a family gathering but a challenge of superiority between my kinfolk. The smell of grilled meat and beer wafted through the warm air as we clumsily tried to reacquaint ourselves after months of isolation. I chewed a stick to calm my nerves. It tasted much more authentic than the plastic version.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary simply social blog

There were children at the gathering as well. Some newer than others. My human thought they were adorable but to me they smelled of milk and mixed vegetables. To each their own I suppose.

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We left the gathering some time later and began our drive back home. Exhaustion from the day’s events soon sunk in. I didn’t reign superior on speed, agility or weightlifing, but I did manage to be the only one brave enough snatch the victory napkin flag from the matriarch. And for that I am proud. I will voluntarily wedge myself into the smallest nook of the floorboard and reflect on how I can improve my skills before the next gathering. 

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I am starting to think that my human is afraid of me. Nearly every morning after I show her how to pee outdoors, she puts me back inside and runs away. Just today she offered me a treat but then ran away before she delivered it. Is this some sort of sign? She did glance at that wicked device first.  I will pull all of the dish towels from the counter in protest until she returns home.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary simply social blog