Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pumpkin Cookies with Maple Brown Butter Frosting

I decided to make these cookies yesterday after realizing that I had some leftover pumpkin puree that needed to be used. 

And friends, they turned out SO yummy! 

I used my sugar cookie recipe as a guide, but then added and adjusted some things to make them a little different... 
and a lot more pumpkin-y!

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375*

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until mixed well, scraping sides with a spatula as needed. 

In a separate large bowl, whisk together both flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt. 

Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix on low until just combined, scraping sides with a spatula as needed. 

Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough onto baking sheets, leaving two inches between scoops.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are just golden. They won't flatten out very much. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. 

For the frosting::
Melt 4 tbsp butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Cook until butter just begins to brown, swirling pan as needed to prevent burning, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup pure maple syrup and 1 cup powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth. Pour into a small bowl, then dip the tops of the cookies into the frosting. Set back onto the cooling rack and allow frosting to harden.

Serve them to your family and friends and they will love you forever!

Small note-- I didn't measure the frosting ingredients when I was making it... so those are approximations. If it's too runny, add powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time. If it's too thick, add a  tablespoon of maple syrup at a time until it reaches a good consistency. It should be relatively thick so that lots of it sticks to the cookies ;) Because brown butter frosting is pretty much the yummiest thing ever!


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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Fall!!!

It's officially FALL!!! 

I couldn't be more happy that the calendar says it's fall and that our weather has decided to agree! We enjoyed mid-80's weather all weekend and even got some rain on Saturday. So refreshing!

I've been reading through the Bible over the past year, so each morning I make coffee, get the kids a little snack and drink, then sit down to read and enjoy my coffee. Since I decided to join the Bible study at my church, my mornings have shifted to doing Bible study homework... which takes a lot more time than my reading used to. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit it all in. But it's a Beth Moore study, so it's totally worth the effort!

 When I got Lexi dressed Friday morning, I realized that I could finally start using the dresses that have been hanging in her closet for months. When she was crawling everywhere, they just got in her way... but now that she's walking full time (yay!), we can actually get some use out of the 15+ dresses she has! Man, she's a cute kid :)

After we picked Jax up from school, I took the kids out to lunch at InNOut, then we made a quick trip to Target to pick up a few things. Jax was so sweet sharing his milkshake with his sister. He was saying "are you getting some, sis?" and then he looked at me and said "good, Mom, she's getting some". Such a sweet brother!

After naps we just played around the house. Lexi insisted on wearing Jax's backpack. Even with nothing in it, she still kept falling over. It's almost as big as her!

On Saturday I asked Ryan if I could have the day off, and he happily agreed! I picked up my mom and we went and got pedicures and lunch, then did some shopping. 

 After I dropped her back at home, I got a pumpkin scone (gobble gobble!) and some coffee at Starbucks, then went and got my car washed. It had been over a YEAR since it had been washed or vaccuumed... it desperately needed it! Once that was done, I ran to Michaels to pick up a few things before heading home. I was gone for over 6 hours and it was such a wonderful break from being a mommy! But I sure did miss my little family!

Saturday evening I was SO excited that the weather was cold enough for a hoodie and jammie pants! And I couldn't resist a little snuggle with Mojo bear. 

The kids and I ended up skipping church on Sunday morning because Jax had a cough and runny nose all weekend. While Ryan was at church, we made some shrinky dink jewelry and keychains. Jax made a Captain American shield necklace to match his Captain America shield. He was very proud of himself. 

We stayed in our jammies all day and just watched movies and football. It was a nice, relaxing day. AND our windows were open all day. You can't beat that!

I posted this recipe on Instagram yesterday (you can follow me @jennahansen). Easy, yummy, and made from scratch pumpkin spice coffee creamer. 

How was your weekend???


Friday, September 20, 2013

My "Real Food" Pantry

I've talked before about how we eat and the "rules" we follow. Basically, we don't eat processed stuff, avoid refined flours and sugars, and don't eat artificial colors or flavors. We don't eat this way 100% of the time, but it is most of the time. It's probably about 90% real food and 10% cheater food. 

I though it would be good to show you guys what our "real food" pantry looks like. We eat a lot of fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, and cheese... so you might think that we don't have much in our pantry. But we actually do! It's just not a lot of packaged, pre-made stuff. It's mostly staple items that we use to make our own foods, and snacks that we like to have on hand. 

1. Organic canned goods- green chiles, black beans, garbanzo beans (to make hummus), diced tomatoes, tomato sauce

2. Organic sugars- white cane sugar, brown sugar, powdered cane sugar (these aren't part of our real food rules, but we still use them in moderation)

3. All purpose flour (I sometimes use this in combination with whole wheat for things that need a little more rise to them.... bread, cakes, etc) and white whole wheat flour (which is 100% whole wheat, but less dense)

4. Cheater items ;) - chocolate chips, sprinkles, marshmallows. We keep these on hand for rare occasions... sometimes I just need some s'mores, ok?!

5. Totally skipped number 5 and I'm too lazy to re-do it... moving on...

6. Sauces & vinegars- balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, molasses

7. Organic peanut butter

8. Local, raw honey

9. Organic whole-wheat pasta

1. Organic brown rice
2. Organic rolled oats and organic steel cut oats ( I use these mostly to make granola) 

3. Larabars (in the bowl), homemade granola (in the plastic container)

4. Organic Gorilla Bunch cereal (It's made from just corn meal and cane sugar... it's the perfect finger food snack for the kids)

5. Whole grain snack crackers- Trader Joe's brand triscuits and Ak-Mak sesame crackers

6. Kids snacks- organic fruit leathers, organic raisins, freeze-dried fruit

7. Trader Joe's brand 3-ingredient potato chips (They are made with potatoes, olive oil, and salt)

8. Trader Joe's brand organic tortilla chips (These have a few more ingredients, but it's still a short list, and overall, they aren't too bad. We eat them in moderation)

So there you go... our real food pantry. 

We do our best to make our food and eat at home most of the time. When we go to other people's houses or out to eat, we don't worry too much about what we eat. We still try to avoid highly-processed things, but we know that as long as we do it at home the majority of the time, then we are doing the best we can. 

Do any of you have any other real food items that we should try??

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Caramelized Banana Bread with Brown Butter Glaze

This recipe is one that I found in Cooking Light a few years ago and have loved ever since. It is THE BEST banana bread you will ever have. Seriously. So so good. 
I've tweaked it a little to help it be a tiny bit closer to our real food rules (although it's still cheating a little bit because of the sugar). But you honestly cannot tell the difference. You would never know that it's made with whole wheat flour!

(hover over the picture above to pin it directly to Pinterest!)

Wanna make it yourself?? You know you do!
Here's the recipe...
-6 tbsp butter, divided in half
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-3 very ripe bananas, cut into pieces
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-2 tbsp olive oil
-2 tbsp gold rum
-2 eggs
-2 cups white whole wheat flour (I use Trader Joe's brand)
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
-1 tbsp half and half
-Preheat oven to 350*
-Melt 3 tbsp butter in a medium (10 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and bananas. Sauté for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Once slightly cooled, place mixture in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with a hand beater or in the stand mixer at medium speed until mostly smooth, about 2 minutes.
-In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, olive oil, rum, and eggs. 
-In another medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.
-Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the banana mixture. Starting and ending with flour mixture. Beat at a low speed until just combined.
-Scrape batter into a buttered and floured 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it. 
-Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.
-To make the glaze, melt the remaining 3 tbsp of butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Cook for three minutes until butter begins to brown, swirling the pan to prevent burning. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and half&half, and whisk until smooth. Pour over cooled bread and let stand until glaze hardens, about 1 hour.
One piece of advice? DON'T SKIP THE GLAZE!!! That stuff is worth it's weight in gold and is a huge part of what makes this bread so delish!

***I would love to hear if you end up making this bread. You definitely won't regret it!!!***

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Monday, September 16, 2013

:::Our Weekend:::

We had a busy weekend and it was a lot of fun! 
My parents came over for dinner and a movie on Friday night. 
We rented "Now You See Me"... have you seen it? It was so good!
Ryan had to work on Saturday so the kids and I just hung out, made waffles for breakfast, picked up around the house, and played. Lexi is always begging Jax to push her around on this thing. She loves it!

I was folding laundry in the living room and Lexi kept trying to put my clothes on. I finally helped her into one of my shirts. She was pretty darn happy.
Little moments like these make my heart explode.
I have always dreamed of having a baby girl, and she is my dream come true!

Jax wanted in on the fun, so he put on one of my shirts too.
These two (and their daddy) are my whole world!

Saturday evening we attended a fundraiser dinner for a local non-profit that my mom is involved with. We don't go on dates very often, and even when we do, we rarely get dressed up. Yay for nice clothes and an evening with just us!

Sunday morning we went to church, then Jax and I joined our BFF's for a movie at our local $3 theatre. We saw "Turbo" and it was a super cute movie. Jax loved it!

After the movies, we headed home and spent the afternoon playing, relaxing, and watching the Giants beat the Dodgers. Woohoo!

Jax wanted to do some worksheets, so I printed these from Pinterest. He knows all his numbers, but we are working on writing letter and spelling. So after he matched the letters, I had him take them back off and practice writing each letter.

And while Jax was being studious, this little girl was being WILD! She is so much more crazy, opinionated, and stubborn than her brother ever was at her age. We are in for it when she gets older! Ha!

Yesterday evening, we had friends bring over some pizza and we watched the Niners get slaughtered by the Seahawks. Such a disappointing game!!

How was your weekend???

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Five on Friday

It's time for Five on Friday again!!! Yay for Friday and the weekend! This week has been full of preschool for Jax, teething for Lexi and ElleJayPartyDecor'ing for me. Plus Ryan worked late a few nights, so overall it's been a long week. I'm so happy for the weekend, even though Ryan has to work tomorrow. Boo! But, we have two dinners to attend this weekend, so I'm looking forward to date nights and getting dressed up!!!

Here's my Five on Friday for this week...
1- During the summer, we eat pesto turkey burgers a couple times a month. They are so easy and SO good. We always pair them with grilled sweet potatoes, and usually watermelon. To make the burgers, all you do is mix 1 pound of ground turkey with 1/4 cup pesto, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix it all up, form into 4 patties, then grill until cooked through (about 5 minutes per side over high heat). Mix another 1/4 cup pesto with 1/4 cup mayo and spread that on the burger buns instead of regular mayo. Top with lettuce and grilled onions. Also, save some of that pesto mayo to dip your grilled sweet potatoes in., y'all!
2- When we had Jax's pirate party back in June, I was searching for a sugar cookie recipe to use to make "gold doubloons", aka- mini sugar cookies coated in gold sprinkles. I found a recipe that I decided to try and it was SO yummy. And you don't have to let the dough set in the fridge like most sugar cookie recipes, so it's a win in my book! It has since become our go-to recipe, but with a few tweaks for our taste. We made some the other day and used some Halloween sprinkles to make them a little more festive. 
Here is the recipe- 
1 cup white whole wheat flour 
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks of butter, softened but still cool
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl
Cream the butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp brown sugar together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined, scraping sides with a spatula as needed. In a separate medium bowl combine flours, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to mixer and mix until just combined. Dough will be crumbly. Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball, then roll in the bowl of sugar. Place on cookie sheet, repeating with cookies placed 2 inches apart. Take a flat-bottom glass, get the bottom wet, then dip in the bowl of sugar. Use the glass to flatten the cookies on the cookie sheet. The cookies will not expand while baking. Dip the glass in more sugar as needed to prevent sticking.  Bake at 375* for 9-11 minutes until edges are just golden. Cool on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.
3- I know you guys are probably sick of hearing about my Etsy shop, but I'm trying to build a business, so I can't not talk about it! And I'm pretty excited about some of the new stuff I added this week! Like these dinosaur cake toppers. How cute are they?! They can be made to match any color scheme! Also? I had to make a delicious chocolate cake in order to take this picture. Such a bummer. Wink wink. 

4- In case you missed my post on Wednesday, go HERE to check it out! It's all about our new money system with Jax and how we are trying to teach him the importance of tithing and saving.

5- And finally, this sweet girl is now walking about 50% of the time!! She has finally started choosing to walk, instead of only walking when we bribed/begged her. She is so tiny and looks so cute walking around the house. She gets so excited and starts trying to walk faster, then falls to the floor and laughs. It's pretty adorable! I can't believe she is about to be 15 months old!!!

I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend, sweet friends!

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teaching preschoolers about money

Let me start by saying that I am not a money expert or a preschooler expert. I just want to share what we are doing to help teach Jax about money. It may or may not work for your family. But if it does, great! And if not, I'd love to hear what is working for you!

Jax has had a piggy bank for a few years. Ryan got him a cool soldier one in Thailand, then Ryan's parents got him an actual piggy bank for Christmas last year. It's really cool because it counts the money as it you put it in, so you always know how much you have. 

When he was younger, this was all he really needed. But he's almost 4.5 now, and over the last few months we've started to struggle with teaching him how to save, and also how to give some of his money back to God. He was really resisting both of those things. He wanted to keep all of his money and use it to buy toys. So I knew we needed to figure out something different. 

Here is what I came up with.

I created these simple, color-coded labels (you can download them for free HERE!), taped them to mason jars that I already had, and VOILA, a brand new money system!

So to put this into action, Jax and I dumped his piggy bank out onto the floor. We separated the coins into like piles (quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies), and I took that opportunity to discuss what each coin was worth and how many of each equaled the other ones. After we talked about that, we took each pile and put one coin at a time in each jar. One by one by one until all the quarters were gone, then we moved onto the dimes... and so on until all the coins were in the new jars. 

After all the money was separated, I talked to Jax about how the system was going to work. 
*For the tithe jar- I explained the importance of giving some of our money back to God. I explained how everything we have comes from Him. I reminded Jax how we always say thank you to God when we are praying, and that this was another way to thank Him. I also told him that the Bible tells us how to handle our money, and that this was an important part of it.

*For the save jar- I let him pick something to save toward. He picked a trip to ChuckECheese for dinner and games. I told him that once we tithe, then we need to put money aside to save for bigger things. I explained how Ryan and I use this savings for things like a new car or furniture. And that we also use this in case anything unexpected happens and we need some last-minute money for something important. 

*For the spend jar- this is his discretionary fund. He is allowed to use this money however he wants, as long as Ryan and I approve of the item/timing. I explained to him that the more he adds money and the less he takes out, the more he will be able to afford. He immediately decided he wanted to go buy something at Target (we were headed there that morning), so I explained to him that it was fine, but once he spent his money, it was gone. If he found something else he wanted, then too bad. So we decided together that he would bring $1 to get something from the dollar section. I'm going to let him be in control of his spend jar, and hopefully this will be a great lesson in immediate versus delayed gratification. He's a spender (what kid isn't??), so I'm pretty sure that money will be gone quickly. 
For future money, he will put everything in his wallet (which just stays at our house. Ha!) until it is full, then we will dump it out and do the same thing that we did with emptying the piggy banks on the first place, separating the coins into each jar, one at a time.

I pray that these money lessons will be good lessons that stick. That they will begin to prepare Jax for more responsibility as he grows. And that someday, his future wife will thank us for it!

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Friends and Family... and something fun!

Hello there, Monday morning. It's not so nice to see you after such a relaxing weekend!

Actually, I honestly don't dread Mondays all too much. 
They are mostly just like any other day for me. The only thing that stinks is that Ryan has to go back to work. 
I love having him around all day on the weekends.
 So it's always a bummer when he has to head back to work on Monday morning.

We didn't have any plans this weekend, so we were able to just relax and spend time with some friends and family. 

On Friday, we watched our friend Max while his mama worked late. These two boys were born just 8 days apart. They sure do love each other!!

The boys actually went to sleep pretty easily, which was a huge surprise.... so when his mom came to pick him up, she ended up staying for awhile and we indulged in a pomegranate margarita. Or three. Oops.

We had a lazy morning on Saturday, then went to the park for a picnic lunch, then headed to my parents house to swim... Because it's still over 100* here every single day. GROSS.

Yesterday we had church in the morning, then Ryan had a meeting to go to, so my parents and I ran to the store to get some groceries

then ordered pizza and headed back to their house for lunch and some delicious homemade strawberry ice cream that my dad made. 

Last night we had some of our best friends over for BBQ and football! WOOHOO football season!!!


Remember that fun thing I mentioned above? Well here it is...

Go check out my friend Jen's blog for a chance to win a $25 credit to my Etsy shop!!!

I made her this cute banner to celebrate her favorite team! GO 'BAMA!