Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo {book review}

When I saw that bloggingforbooks was offering review copies of Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up I could not have been more excited! I was just looking at this book over at bn.com and researching her a bit online before I took the plunge on her method. 

For me, I am trying to become "clutter-free" and minimize our belongings. We are aiming for memories over things at my house. Since my dad and grandparents have all passed away, my house has accumulated a lot of things. Granted, I love the things, but they are taking over our modest house. 
I completed the 30 Bags in 30 Days challenge and found it liberating and definitely life-changing. Just seeing how much stuff I could get rid of was a challenge for me and almost disgusting to see (we waste so much money). 
But, after it was done, things slowly get crazy again!
Reading about the KonMari method by Marie Kondo was liberating. Just hearing about the method and its proven success made me feel hopeful. I could visualize my house after using her method. I envisioned the stacks of things I pulled out during the 30 Days challenge, that I just put back - but now I could see getting rid of them is okay!
I devoured the book in one day, highlighting, noting, and ear-tagging page corners so I could find my favorite quotes and sections easily. 
I set to work immediately utilizing her method tackling first my clothes. This time I followed the KonMari way and pulled EVERYTHING out to sort through. Even though I had just done this a few months ago and got rid of a garbage bag filled with clothes, this time I got rid of 2 1/2 more garbage bags! I haven't even added many clothes since my last clean-out either! It was amazing. I even followed her method on folding clothes for proper storage, and it is so much better! It isn't really any more time-consuming, but it makes me feel fresher, cleaner, just happier when I go to find clothes to wear. 
One thing that she repeats over and over is to tidy by category. This alone was mind blowing for me because I have always cleaned by room or zone, like the desk or the kitchen drawers. 
Just completing my clothes was seriously a life-changing and eye-opening moment for me. I know it seems crazy that that thing alone could have such an impact, but it did. I was able to get rid of one storage bin I was using for clothes and 2 shelves with hooks on my walls that I was using for hats and scarves. Freeing up that space clears up so much room and my wall just looks crisp and nice again. It is refreshing to see it. (Now to get my husband on board with his side of closet...)
I am taking her book one step at a time. I am tackling shoes right now and coats. It is cold in Iowa, so it is perfect right now to match up mittens and get rid of those that don't have a mate. 
While reading Marie's book you can tell she definitely has a passion (if not obsession) about tidying up, which is all the more reason to trust her. At first I was skeptical about holding every item and asking "does it bring me joy"? 
Honestly, after doing it hundreds of times now I can say it works!
There is so much that I have just because - just like Kondo says happens.
Her book opens up your brain to understand some of the rationing your brain goes through for keeping things and it is so true. I'm not a hugely sentimental person, and Kondo made me realize that holding onto an item for a memory, not because it brings me joy is pointless. The memory I will always have - the item itself doesn't matter. 
I must admit that I do still throw things away happily as I come across them. Since KonMari is done in steps, I haven't reached some areas, but if I happen across something that I know I will toss out when I get there, I just do it then. 
I would give this book one hundred stars if I could and I have already verbally recommended it to so many people. I think every one who wants to experience life without clutter and start creating memories without stuff, and focus on life - not things...NEED to get this book ASAP!

You can purchase the book here

*I received a copy of this book from from bloggingforbooks.org in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin Bread

Fall brings out the baker in us all...right?
If you enjoy baking bread and you enjoy pumpkin, then this is the perfect recipe for you!
My grandma always baked up this recipe in little loaves, wrap them up and toss them in the freezer (this bread freezes really well) and thaw one out whenever someone was coming over to have a little snack.
I have tried so many pumpkin bread recipes, as well as other people's pumpkin bread, and nothing compares to this one. For me at least.
Perhaps it is because the one I was raised munching on (my daughter loves it just as much as I did at her age) or maybe it is because it is full of rich flavor, moist, dense - but not too dense, and easily to adapt by adding walnuts to (try it at least once that way). So good.
I either bake them in mini loaves as well, or just one big loaf (9x5), but there is always a bit of batter left over, so I simple pour the remaining into paper-lined cupcake tin cavities and bake up a few pumpkin muffins. I then snack on those while I am impatiently waiting for the bread to cool!
I like to eat it while it is still a bit warm with some butter on it.
It melts in just perfectly and mmm..okay. I made myself drool.
Just kidding.

Okay, I'm not kidding :)

Pumpkin Bread

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 60 min
Ingredients (1 loaf)
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamaon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-15oz can pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup water
  • optional
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 small package dates
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt - set aside.
in a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening and sugar together until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Mix in the pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin until no white streaks remain.
Pour the water in gently and stir until inorporated.
Fold in the walnuts and/or dates, if desired.
Pour batter into a prepared 9x5 loaf pan, or mini loaves, or in cupcake tin.
Bake for 60 minues, until center is not jiggly and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
*Adjust baking times if making small loaves or muffins.
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A SWEET {cookbook} Giveaway!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (er - Beggar's Night?)
I'm sure you are all digging through your kiddo's candy buckets to "make sure it is all safe" and sorting out the good ones for yourself...that's just not what my hubs and I do, right?
Well if all that candy doesn't have you on a sugar high, then perhaps you need to enter this giveaway!
I recently published a cookbook review on Food Network's cookbook Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More. You can read that post here if you'd like (I'd like you to if you haven't because it really is a great sweets book).

I was asked to provide a giveaway from Crown Publishing Group for one new copy of this fantastic book to one of my blog readers!
Exciting stuff!
If you like to bake sweet things, then this is for you. Even if you are a newbie in the kitchen. 
This cookbook includes a big section on frozen desserts also that are absolutely divine! I mean, check out that cover snapshot!
I received my copy through Blogging for Books, whom is handling choosing the random winner and all the shipping deets of the actual cookbook.
The contest runs through the November 25, 2014, so spread the word!
Click HERE to go to the entry form and fill out the information needed.
Just copy and paste the URL from this page into the box provided so they know which contest you are entering.
GOOD LUCK! And sweet baking :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ooey-Gooey Marshmallow Bars

Over this past weekend my daughter was down with some sort of ailment.
It wasn't strep throat, wasn't ear infection...yet it was something that made her wail out in pain and couldn't move her neck due to swelling.
I can't stand to my little lady not feeling well, so when we had to pick up some new pain reliever (seriously, why does it expire so quickly?) we also tossed a nice fluffy pillow, a new Frozen blanket, a fluffy heating pad, ice cream, and a movie in the cart.
We then spent the entire weekend in bed or on the couch lounging around.
On Sunday morning the hubs went out for a morning hunt and I was itching to make something to snack on during the day.
I decided to make some Rice Krispie bars.
But...I wanted something utterly delicious.
I mean, gooey. Marshmallowy. Soft.
Have you ever had a Rice Krispie bar that was hard and it ripped up your mouth?
Well, I wanted something soft and tasty.
So, my daughter and I (luckily she was able to get out of bed without bawling in pain that morning) set to work making these delicious Ooey-Gooey Marshmallow Bars.

We kind of made these by mistake actually. I had every intention to not use near as many marshmallows as we did, but my daughter is trying to figure out the whole "stop pouring something out when the measuring cup is full" thing. 
However, without her doing what she did, these wouldn't have been near as wonderful as they are. 
The hubs came home and yelled out from the kitchen, "can I eat these?" Because, well I bake a lot for special orders and typically he isn't allowed to eat anything in the kitchen cooling.
I told him yes and his reaction?
"Oh my God! Why haven't you made these before?"
After his next bar..."these are so good."
Then his next..."seriously, these are really good. Make these any time."
They are fairly inexpensive to make (even though we used 2 1/2 bags of mini marshmallows). 
Each bag cost 98 cents, and crisp rice cereal (generic all the way) is inexpensive also. I love treats that don't cost a lot to make, and as great as these taste - it is a good thing because you'll want to make them all the time!
A total winner in my book. And now I can never go back to the "other" original bars.

Ooey-Gooey Marshmallow Bars

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min

Ingredients (16 bars)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 10 cups mini marshmallows
  • 8 cups crisp rice cereal (Rice Krispies)
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
Lightly spray a 10x10 or a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large stock pot, over low heat, melt the butter.
Once it is completely melted, add 10 cups of the marshmallows.
Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted completely and smooth.
Turn off the heat and stir in the cereal until it is well coated.
Fold in the 4 cups of marshmallows so they are distributed throughout the cereal mixture.
Pour into the baking dish as evenly as possible.
Cover with wax paper and press to fill in the corners of the pan and even out the krispies.
Let cool completely before cutting into bars.
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Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen {a cookbook review}

Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen

This is a cookbook that displays southern baking at its best!
If you are new to baking, or even an experienced baker this book is full of delicious recipes that should be part of any one's staple go-to goodies to bake. 
The book is bursting with wonderful pies, bars, cakes and I was so excited to see a cheesecake section!
Francine Bryson gives wonderful little tips that I already utilize. Anyone who bakes a lot, or for a living, know that using salted butter and self-rising flour save a lot of time. I was glad to see her recipes reflect these little shortcuts. 
If you are looking for a great variety of pie crust recipes, Bryson has shared just about every known recipe that anyone can master. I plan on whipping (or try to whip up) her Upside-Down Apple-Pecan Pie for our family Thanksgiving this year. It looks absolutely a-maz-ing!
Yesterday I did manage to whip up her Chocolate Silk Pie and it came out perfectly! 
I can honestly say that I don't think there is a recipe in this entire book that I wouldn't enjoy. I obviously have a sweet tooth and bake a lot, but something about her cookbook is just...refreshing and impressive!
There is so much goodness jammed into the pages of this book.
The only thing that makes me sad is that aren't enough pictures of the finished products! 
I love to see how they look before I make something so I have something aspire to...which this cookbook is lacking. 
Perhaps it for the best so I'm not intimidated...but overall this is just wonderful!

*I received this cookbook at no cost from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

You may purchase this delightful baking book here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies

Fall is in full swing. I've been putting the hot apple cider through my Keurig on a daily basis.
And, well...yesterday was one of those day I just felt like baking a batch of cookies and letting the delicious aroma fill the house.
You ever have those days?
I may have those days a few times a week...but I don't act out on them as much as I'd like to.
Since I bake a lot of special order cakes and cookies, just trying new recipes gets pushed to the back burner.
Well not yesterday!
I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe tucked away safely in my recipe box that had a technique I hadn't tried yet.
Grinding the oatmeal that mixes in with the flour.
Such a marvelous idea!
I love oatmeal cookies, but the fine texture of the oatmeal when it is ground is pretty amazing in these. You can taste the oatmeal, but the big flakes of it aren't there to overwhelm the chips.
I don't know if that makes any sense to you. But, it does to me. So that is that :)

I aboslutely love tossing walnuts into my chocolate chip cookie recipes.
I haven't shared a recipe yet on my blog with walnuts in the cookie dough, but you can easily add them to any recipe. I just omit for "chocolate chip cookie purposes" but not today my friends, not today.

Do not overbake these cookies. They will become hard overnight. So bake them and take them out when they still look underbaked in the centers. As they cool and sit for a few hours, they will be the perfect softness. If you bake them until they look baked up more completely, they will harden after a bit. Unless you plan on consuming all 6 or 7 dozen cookies within a short time-frame after baking.

Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 8 min
Ingredients (6-7 dozen)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups uncooked oats (quick or regular)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition.
Mix in the vanilla.
In a food processer, grind the oatmeal until finely ground.
Combine the ground oatmeal and flour in a separate mixing bowl.
Whisk in the baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Slowly add the oatmeal/flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well.
After full combined together, mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
Use a cookie scoop, or drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on a baking sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake for 8 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned and center is almost baked through.
Let rest on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes before moving onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

Do you ever have those times that you just simply feel overwhelmed by life?
That has been me lately.
Life at my house has just been busy. Getting into the swing of our new routine with our daughter in school, me finishing up my last two terms of college, my baking has kept me super busy...plus our jobs. Yikes. Crazy busy.
Plus, to top it all off, we had to renovate our bathroom...I'm working on a post about that...
So, needless to say - I haven't had time to blog much lately.
I think about it every day and then something else comes up and before I know it, I am exhausted and ready for bed. So I go to bed, that way I have energy to get through the next day.
The only good thing about not blogging lately is that I have a notebook full of things to blog about. That's good, right?

But, I did get some extra baking in for funsies this week.
I have lots of zucchini and wanted to try something a bit different. Out came the trusty recipe box and I found an interesting one...this gem for Pineapple Zucchini Bread.

At first, I was like...oh heck no. That cannot be tasty.
Then, I kept thinking about it as I browsed through the other recipes. 
Before I knew it, I was shredding zucchini as I was reading over the recipe card.
I was making it. 
And it was delicious.

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 60 min
Ingredients (1 loaf)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup drained, crushed pineapple
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat the eggs until fluffy.
Add the vanilla and mix well.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the grated zucchini, flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder.
Stir in the oil and sugar until a wet batter forms.
Fold in the walnuts and crushed pineapple.
Spread into a greased loaf pan.
Bake for 60 minutes, or until browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 15 minutes before letting cool on wire rack.
Slice and serve when cooled.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blueberry & Lemon Scones

I have developed something of an...addiction to scones. It seems that I cannot get enough of them! I have mentioned in another scone post that I hate paying the absurd amount for them at cafes and have initiated  trying out my hand at making my own scones.
I am in scone heaven.
It took me several attempts to make these ones though.
Too dry.
Too hard.
Then too moist.
They fell apart.
Then...perfection! I adapted a recipe slightly from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book and these delightful morsels of blueberry (with lemon icing) perfection came out.

I have made more of glaze for all my scone attempts, until this one. 
I decided to leave the icing a bit thicker and I am so glad I did.
The lemon flavor really shines through and the bit of tartness with the full blueberry flavor really mesh nicely together.
So nicely.
I devoured ate two right after icing them.

Let's look at the beauties once or twice more...

I rolled these out directly onto my baking pan (which I use my trusty Threshold baking sheet from Target...it is my absolute favorite baking sheet), then I just cut the circle into wedges and slid them apart from each other slightly before baking.
But you could use a scone/wedge pan, or do it on a counter and then place them on a baking sheet. Whatever is easiest for you!
You could also add milk to the icing (I didn't for this recipe). I really wanted to taste the lemon, so I used 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in one cup of powdered sugar to create the thick icing.
I am so very glad I did!
Blueberry & Lemon Scones

by Emily Chhouy
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Ingredients (8 wedges)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pint (6oz) fresh blueberries
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In a small combine the beaten eggs, heavy cream and blueberries.
Toss well and set aside.
In a medium bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt,
Using a pastry blending, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Create a well in the center of the flour crumbs.
Add the cream mixture with the blueberries into the well.
Fold gently until the flour is moistened and the batter is thick.
Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, or a nonstick baking sheet and make into a large disc.
Cut into 8 wedges, pulling them apart before baking, or placing apart on a baking sheet.
Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned and they are no longer doughy.
Set out to cool on the baking sheet, or remove the scones to a wire cooling rack with foil or wax paper placed underneath.
In another bowl, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice until desired consistency is reached.
Add milk to thin if you wish.
Ice the tops of the scones while still warm.
Serve warm, and best to be eaten the same day as made.
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