staying hungry : cake box cookies

Let me show you something that will make you want to hug me:

Let me tell you something that will make you want to rise up and call everything and everyone blessed:

There are 4 ingredients in these cookies…and one of them is boxed cake mix.

AND THEY ARE AMAZING!!!

I’m not even kidding. These rank among the best cookies I’ve ever had. They are perfectly textured – soft yet chewy – rich, and decadent. And they’re definitely the easiest I’ve ever made. I think I’m bringing a version of these to any and every social event I attend from now until eternity. Amen.

Thanks to Cookies and Cups (and Lovin’ from the Oven) for originally posting this recipe!

Cake Box Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Pillsbury Dark Chocolate with Pudding)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • Mix-ins (I used the mini Reese’s because on Fridays I don’t have the patience to unwrap 30 bite size Reese’s)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Empty the cake mix into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and the oil (I skipped this step…don’t do that). Stir the wet mixture into the cake mix until just combined (it will be thicker than thick), then add in the Reese’s or add-in of your choice.

I made 12 big cookies and baked them for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through because my oven hails from earlier times (think covered wagons) and tends to heat unevenly (think Pisa).

IDEAS:

My brain is exploding with other ideas. Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies! Vanilla Candy Bar Cookies! Marble Chocolate Chunk with Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cookies!

I think I might have to steal the corner market on cake box cookies because oh my word…I’m in love.

Happy baking! Let me know what you discover!

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staying hungry : favorite repeat! salsa chicken! and more!

I was a whirlwind of kitchen productivity on Sunday.

Two hours yielded a decent bounty. To the tune of:

1. Salsa Chicken

Yes, this is my dinner challenge meal this week. And yes, it’s totally a repeat. But I can’t help it! I’ve been wanting to make it again ever since I made it the first time in January!

2. Lunch Salads

I came home from the farmer’s market very enthusiastic about fresh greens. So I decided to make all of my salads for the week, because, you know, that’s not crazy. In the mix: Spinach, Arugula, Beets, Blueberries, Tuna, Sheep’s Milk Feta, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Apple Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette. It just works.

3. Raspberry Peach Iced Green Tea

This was such a happy accident. I started off making peach tea but didn’t have enough tea bags. So I thought I’d just throw some raspberry bags in and call it a day. But I didn’t have enough of those either. So in went two green tea bags just for the heck of it to complete the tea bag to water ratio. And of my goodness…a star was born. So good.

4. Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies

These guys need no introduction. Please make them soon. For your own sake.

I know some people don’t enjoy cooking, but I think for me it’s active therapy. Seriously. The combination of productivity and healthy food and creativity and Sunday sports and/or good music in the background…it’s like all of my favorite things in one place. Sunday afternoons in the kitchen fill my heart up and keep me sane.

Anyone else?

staying faithful : imaginary problems

[This is a fake post scheduled pre-trip. Right now I’m probably doing anything and everything in my power to soak up as much warmth as possible over the course of 48 hours. There is likely sweet tea involved. There is definitely Chick-fil-A involved. Full updates next week!]

The kids that I nanny for are a brother and sister, 2 and 4, respectively. They play really well together. But as siblings, it’s in the contract that they get into arguments at least once per hour. It’s relational law.

More often than not, these spats revolve around whatever imaginary game they happen to be playing at the moment. My favorite is when they FREAK OUT over the injustices that have just befallen them at the hands of each other’s imaginary actions. Last week we were playing with their kitchen set. Brother is pretending to make a tray of imaginary cookies, big ones and small ones, as per his description. Sister proceeds to gobble up said invisible baked goods. Brother turns to me and, with a look of horror, wails, “SHE ATE ALL OF THE BIG ONES!!!”

Troubleshooting these situations is always an adventure because you can’t just whip out a tub of imaginary big cookie dough to make another batch, as per my initial attempt. Oh, no! That’s just unacceptable. What needs to happen is an official time reversal in which, as it turns out, Sister did not eat all of the big ones, and there are still some left over for him and me there in the corner of the tray. We just couldn’t see them originally because they were hiding underneath the flower decals on the baking pan.

Duh.

The imaginary crises bring me no end of joy because it’s so funny to see what they come up with and what solution they’ll agree to. But on the other hand, I really love those kids like you would not believe, so I want to fix all of their problems, imaginary or not. And last week while I was desperately seeking a solution that would result in a healing of the Big Cookie Wound, I thought about how much easier it would be to solve an actual, tangible problem – one that was not controlled by the highly subjective entity that is 2 year old logic.

And then…because I can’t turn off the wheels that create odd connections in my brain…I thought about how much easier my life would be if it were not controlled by the highly subjective entity that is my human logic.

Because, really, about 99% of the time I do the same thing the kids do. I work myself into a panic about imaginary problems that only exist in my overactive mind. Problems about what may or may not happen to my parents, my friends, myself. Questions about where I may or may not live or what kind of career I may or may not have. Crises that involve wondering whether or not I’ll ever see a Packers game at Lambeau Field or live within walking distance to Trader Joe’s or Jamba Juice or Chick-fil-A.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

But they are imaginary things of my own creation. There is nothing real about them. It’s just as foolish to get my feathers ruffled over potential future employment opportunities as it is to be outraged at the violation of imaginary personal property. It’s literally no different.

It makes me think of this:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

[Isaiah 55:8-11]

…and this:

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

[Matthew 6:33-34]

It would be so helpful to remember those verses more often.

And as for the imaginary problems I just can’t quit no matter how hard I try? God wants to take care of those too, even though they’re fake! I wanted to comfort my little baker in his grief over stolen cookies – whether they were real or not didn’t matter. I wasn’t judging him or discounting him on account of the fact that we were trying to solve a problem about air…it felt real to him so it mattered to me. If that’s how I feel about a child I just get to play with on weekdays, imagine how much greater the love of God for his children and their problems – real or imaginary.

So, friends, may all of your big cookies be real ones. Eaten only by you, and not your sister. And may the fake ones either disappear or be given to the Lord, who is ready and willing to take good care of them – and you, too.

good things : sugar coma

Dessert and I…we’re BFF’s.

One time I was at a wedding sitting next to someone I didn’t know. We were making small talk when it was announced that the cupcakes were about to be served. “Oh my word…” I started, “I can’t wait to try these!!!” I then listed in order which ones I was most excited about (probably overkill). To which she replied, “Oh…I’m not really a dessert person.” To which I replied, “I don’t understand. What do you eat?” To which she replied, “I like cheesy things.”

And then I decided that we couldn’t be fake wedding friends anymore.

If you are in the cheesy camp then this post probably won’t make any sense to you. However, if you are normal are in the dessert camp, then you’re going to be inordinately excited about what follows (and I wholeheartedly support that!).

Yesterday I realized that I’ve been pinning/bookmarking quite a few desserts lately. And not just any desserts…over the top indulgent desserts. Since I do not wish to be thrice my size and/or instantly obtain diabetes I can’t make all of these recipes come to life at one time. It’s the sad truth.

But I can share them with all of you!

Here’s what I’d be making in the next 24 hours if sugar suddenly took on the nutritional properties of spinach:

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these caramel brownies

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these brownie cookies with peanut butter frosting (OH MY WORD…)

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these homemade snickers bars

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these chocolate peanut butter cup cookies

these chocolate chip s’mookies

these salty caramel oat bars

this mocha coconut fudge

and…most definitely…these risque brownies

I think I need to go for a run.

the 25 days of pinning : [day 2]

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pinned here via here

I have been ALL ABOUT the above Christmas newlywed session posted on The Sweetest Occasion earlier this week. Oh my goodness…it’s amazing!

Also amazing: I went through this week’s backlog of Google Reader posts tonight and found 8,000 new recipes I want to give a pre-Christmas-baking trial run this weekend. Or 8. But still:

cranberry oat banana bread

hot cocoa cookies

double chocolate ginger hazelnut cookies

soft gingersnap cookies

cake batter chocolate bark

eggnog breakfast crumble crunch cake

spiced sweet potato blondies with cranberries and white chocolate

salty caramel oat bars

Oh, man. I’m in trouble.

the (many) dailies : 11/9/11 – 11/12/11

Well…sometimes a week just swallows you whole! Here’s what’s been going down over the past few days:

daily word: These verses have been near and dear this week, Philippians 2:14-16:

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.”

daily sweat: A little CrossFit here, a little running there, and a little bit of Arc Trainer just because I forgot how much I liked it!

daily dish: Piecing together random leftovers to make meals has been the name of the game this week. That, and these AMAZING cookies…which have been consumed enthusiastically since Thursday.

daily miles:

Day 65: like watching pavement-colored paint dry

Day 66: miscellany

Day 67: act justly, love mercy, walk humbly, eat chocolate

Day 68: the meat of the matter

(Somehow I managed to block Day 68 from my roadtrip memories…but now it’s back in all it’s gory glory.)

21 days: Surprisingly, fairly consistent! I’d say I’m 2.5/3 this week…with the .5 going to aforementioned baked goods and their enthusiastic consumption.

beka stays faithful : loving the sad days

Today, I was sad.

It wasn’t a bad day by any means. Nothing unpleasant happened directly to me. But I was heavy-hearted for a few people I know and love and a lot of people I don’t know but love anyway. Friends who are dealing with very hard things and strangers who are dealing with very profound tragedy. And it just made me sad about how life can be sometimes, especially as it relates to our human nature. How easily and quietly we are deceived and led astray. How loss seems to pop up at the worst times. And it made my heart sink down to my feet and my eyes water with unstoppable tears.

Days like today? They’re blessings. They make sure our hearts are still pliable. But they’re still sad.

So I did a couple of things.

I prayed. A lot. Because Jesus said that in this world we’d have trouble, but to take heart, because he has overcome the world.

I baked cookies. A lot of them. Because there’s something therapeutic about creaming butter and sugar. And cookies just make everything better.

And then, in an attempt to turn things in a more positive direction, I watched this video, which I had been saving in Google Reader for just about forever (and almost deleted several times). I thought it was going to be cheery.

Bawled my eyes out. I went looking for a paddle since I cried a RIVER in my apartment after watching it.

But you know? It wasn’t cheery, but it did turn things around. Because it so beautifully represented just what makes the sad days sad and the happy days happy and the everydays worthwhile; that faith, hope, and love are the three pillars of a life well-lived, but that love is the greatest of them all.

I know I’m one sappy sentiment shy of turning into a Maple tree, but really, if you can, make it a point to go out of your way to love the people you interact with this weekend, whether they’re old friends or complete strangers. It’s probably more important than any of us really know.

beka stays faithful : using the leaves

I have a small kitchen. You’d know that if I’d finally get around to taking pictures and posting them, but for now just visualize very tall white cabinets and very high ceilings and very little counter space. There’s a table in the kitchen that is slender in the middle, but has two leaves that fold out to the side, tripling the amount of space available for use. On most days I keep the leaves down because I don’t need the extra table space so I prefer the extra kitchen space.

What happens, more often that not, is that because I use the leaves so rarely I forget that they’re there. And then when I find myself mixing batter on the floor or using the top of the microwave to roll out cookies, I get frustrated and start to complain. I bemoan having so little work space. I wonder where in the world I’m going to beat the eggs?! When…let’s recall…I actually have ample space on which to mix the batter, roll the dough, beat the eggs. I just forget that it’s there.

Last weekend, with a pile of dishes scattered on any available flat space and irritation increasing by the minute, I remembered the leaves. And, because I’m a freak I can’t help but function in analogies, I wondered how often I make an unnecessary mess – not of strewn baking sheets and flour, but of everyday life problems – by forgetting to rely on the “leaves” the Lord has built into my life: reading his Word, spending time in prayer, turning to the multitude of friends and family he’s blessed me with. How often do I complain that I don’t have what I need when in reality I have exactly what I need, I just forget that it’s there?

As per the use of my table, it happens more often than not.

From James 5:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Here’s to using the leaves: to reading, to praying, to being invested in relationships.

And here’s to making cookies. Delicious and thought-provoking. Win win.