Triple Fudge Cake

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 box of chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup veg. oil
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix and oil until crumbly.  Take out 1 cup and set aside.  Add applesauce and eggs to larger mixture and beat until creamy.  Spread into a 13x9 pan sprayed with cooking spray and lightly floured.

In a small bowl, microwave 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and milk for about 1 minute.  Stir until creamy.  Drop by teaspoon full on batter, more along the edges than in the middle.

Stir remaining chocolate chips and pecans in the cup of batter that was set aside, and sprinkle on top of batter.

Bake 38 – 42 minutes, or until center is set.  Make sure you run a knife around the edges after removing.  Let cool completely before serving.

Gain 10 lbs after eating half the cake.  :)


5 Way to Simplify Your Cooking

I've been reading articles and talking to friends, and have found a few ways to simplify your time in the kitchen.  Here are my 5 favorites:

1. Use your crock pot.  In years past, I have only used my crock pot for making roast and potatoes.  That's one of my least favorite meals, so my crock pot has rarely seen the light of day.  However, after looking around online and talking to some other ladies, I have found many other ways to use it.  From beef stroganoff to spaghetti, to potato soup, to homemade barbecue, the crock pot cooks the meat while you're out, and makes the meat much more tender in the process.

2.  Use online cooking websites.  My favorite is allrecipes.com but there are several others.  What I like most about allrecipes is that you can search for a dish (Fried Chicken, for example), and then sort by rating, and you're virtually guaranteed a recipe that is fantastic.  There is also a tab called "Ingredient Search" which allows you to search for recipes by the ingredients you have on hand, or would like to use for that particular meal.  I use this all the time, especially during harvest time when veggies are plentiful.

3. Buy meat in bulk.  I have been doing this for a couple of years now, and am thankful every time I open the freezer.  I buy 5-10 lbs of beef, chicken breasts, or whatever meat is on sale.  Then I cook it, bag it by the pound, and freeze it for later.  When you want to make a dish of beef stroganoff in your crock pot, just grab the already cooked beef from the freezer and throw it in the pot.  Easy.

4. Sign up for an online cookbook. I've signed up for both free and paid versions of this, and my favorite version is TasteBook.  You can copy and paste recipes from any website, email, or document, and keep them all in one place.  And if you're ever at your parent's home and want to make a special dish, all your recipes are accessible.  I love this.  I use it all the time, and can now t hrow away all those random slips of paper in my makeshift recipe book.

5. Buy frozen veggies.  I don't always do this, because they are sometimes more expensive than fresh.  However, during winter and spring, this is a very time-saving and affordable way to keep those vegetables in you menu.  Corn, peas, green beans, spinach...all the frozen varieties contain the same vitamins and minerals that the fresh version have, and are usually already chopped and diced in the package.

So, get out your crock pot, grab a couple bags of frozen veggies, a baggie of ground beef from your freezer, add some tomato sauce and have some veggie soup tonight.

Happy Cooking!


Sometimes, When You Least Expect It

What is the one thing that always makes you happy?  Cooking?  Shopping?  Spending time with friends or family?  When I need a pick-me-up, I usually find a sitter and have a night out with my husband.  It's not usually fancy or exciting...just a few hours together away from the chaos that is our house.

For my oldest daughter, her biggest smile comes from being the center of attention.  As our oldest, those moments are fleeting to say the least.  But, when she has our undivided attention, she's happy.  She is happy being tickled, being watched while she carefully writes her spelling words, singing with all her heart, or (most recently) playing the piano while we sit and listen.  We've recently signed her up for ballet, which seems to be exactly what her heart desired.

For my baby girl, she is happiest when her Mommy and Daddy are happy.  She smiles when we smile, she laughs when we laugh, and she loves to be the one to make us do those things.  When she discovers that something she does makes us laugh, she will do it over and over and over...  :)  And it still works.

Our second child has proved to be more difficult.  Singing, performing, or being the center of attention do not make him happy.  As a matter of fact, these moments are when he tends to get himself in trouble.  On top of this difficulty is the fact that he is so very energetic.  Spring and Summer are mostly spent outdoors: riding bicycles, playing at the park, going on long walks.  Fall and Winter are not so easily filled, and this is a problem.  When he has no outlet for his energy, he gets in trouble because he tries to release it in ways that are not desired.  So, I began looking for solutions.  Last year, he was in a gymnastics class.  This class was very fun, and was a great outlet for his energy, but not quite what we were looking for.  We considered t-ball, but were told that four was really too young to begin. So, a few weeks ago, we signed him up for soccer.  And we finally hit the jackpot.

He received a couple of soccer balls when he was 3 and has always enjoyed kicking them around.  He was coordinated with the ball, and could run the length of our yard with it easily.  So, we went with it.  On first day of soccer practice, he was very timid.  And then I saw the smile.  The one I see from time to time at home when he is doing something he really loves.  During his game the week, I saw it a few more times.  And last week, that smile stayed on his face the whole time he was on the field.

Can I just say that my heart is overjoyed?  For once, we have found something that he can do with his whole heart.  He can run, he can kick, and he can try his best to be faster than everyone else around him.  It is even a setting in which it is encouraged to be aggressive.  My son is happy.

And as a Momma, when my kids are happy, I feel so blessed.  My cup runneth over.  :)

Do any of you have any suggestions on other activities we can try?  Any help is greatly apprecated.  Please keep us in your prayers, as this is only a small step in our continuing battle with self-control.


What Do You Think?

Parents - Are you aware that President Obama will be addressing K-6 students in their classrooms next Tuesday?  He is.


How do you feel about this?  Just interested in your thoughts...