Monday, August 29, 2011

Sleeping Hans is a liar

Last night I was having some crazy vivid dreams. They involved some sort of cross between zombies and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was terrifying and felt so real and I couldn't get out of it! I even remember one point thinking - "It's just a dream. If I just walk this direction calmly and ignore the zombies, I can just walk into another dream." Needless to say, they were kind of wacky.

I heard the alarm go off at 6 for the gym and I was really struggling to get up. But then I remembered we're going to the beach this week, so it would really be better (for everyone) if I did. I rolled over and poked Hans.

"Hey, it's time to get up."
"... mmm...huh.. what?"
"It's time to get up and go to the gym."
"...[inaudible mumbling], it's not."
"Yes, it is. The alarm went off."
"No, it didn't."
"... what? are you sure?"
[rolls over and picks up his phone]
"Ya. It didn't go off. It's still nighttime."
".... did I DREAM that the alarm went off??"
[chuckling a little] "I guess so."
"Oh! I'm sorry... I can't believe I did that. I'll go back to sleep."

Later my body wakes itself up as it realizes how bright it is in the room. There's no way it's still before 6. I reach over Hans' nearly comatose body and pick up the phone. 7:30. That liar. That was no dream, the alarm really did go off. I guess someone just reeeaalllly didn't want to go to the gym. He claims to have no memory of this incident. Sure.....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday night

Watching tv with Ryleigh.
Love her.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Oliver actually playing

This never happens. So of course we had to document it. On occasion, our fat lump of a dog will actually play. We were visiting Hans' parents in Houston last weekend and our niece's dog, Gracie, wouldn't leave Oliver alone. We're glad because he needs someone to pester him into playtime.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Every time someone comes into my house, they ask "What's going on over there?" and point at my hideous wall.
Well, you see, I'm stuck. I started a project almost a month ago, got frustrated, and just stopped.

It's supposed to eventually be a photo/frame gallery. Like one of these prettier versions:
Pottery Barn
The Nester
Robeson Design
House of Smiths
But I can't figure out how I want it! Do I want perfectly even outer edges (like the third one down)? Or almost aligned, but not quite, like the fourth? Or do I try for something that's random, but doesn't look like total chaos?

And this is why there is just random paper stuck to my wall. Perhaps this weekend I'll finally gather the courage to dive back in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slow-cooker cheesecake

Did you know you can make cheesecake in a Crock Pot? I sure didn't. But now it's my secret weapon! I've never been able to make a decent cheesecake before. It always came out too dry, crumbly, cracked, etc - even with a water bath.

I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest, originally from Food and Wine. It requires a six-inch springform, so it's kind of a small cheesecake. But it's plenty, believe me! And you can find the Springform at Michaels.

What you need:
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

In a small bowl, mix together the graham crackers, butter, cinnamon and sugar. Press into the bottom and a little up the sides of the springform.

Notice I was lazy and didn't melt the butter first? Oh, well!

And then you need:
12 ounces cream cheese (I used the low-fat kind)
1 tablespoon flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream

At medium - medium/high speed, beat together the cream cheese, flour, sugar and eggs. It should take about two minutes until it's smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the almond extract and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Finally, beat in that sour cream until the whole mixture looks deliciously silky and creamy. Yum!

Pour into the prepared springform.
In the bottom of your slow cooker, add 1/2-1 inch of water. You're going to want the cheesecake to not touch the water. How you accomplish this is your call. I just use the little rack that came with it. I've seen some blogs where people make a ring out of aluminum foil and use that - that seems complicated, but to each their own.

Once you've added the water and the cheesecake is sitting above the water, add three layers of paper towels across the top BEFORE you put the lid on. Cook on high for two hours - it's absolutely important that you don't peak! It needs to stay sealed the whole time.

After two hours, turn off the slow cooker (still not peaking!) and allow it to sit for another hour. Then, pull out the cheesecake (which looks glorious at this point) and allow it to cool to room temperature, 30 min to an hour. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge for several hours. I think it's best to do this overnight so it has plenty of time.

And that's it! Serve and enjoy! Ours was supposed to have a blackberry sauce, but that didn't turn out so pretty. Tasty, but not pretty, so it's not pictured. Seriously, I think this is the most idiot-proof cheesecake ever.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The BEST chocolate chip cookies

Just look at those. Does it look like I'm lying?

I've never quite gotten the hang of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. My old roommate, Amy, used to make chocolate chip cookies I was jealous of. They were always moist, gooey and soft. I tried so many recipes and mine always seemed hard, dry and flat.

Until I found this recipe, originally from Pennies on a Platter. I made a couple tweaks, but I think the secret ingredient really knocks this one out of the park.

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 (3.4 oz) package vanilla pudding mix
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking soda
3 cups flour
12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together shortening and butter. Add in sugars and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Then add the secret ingredient...
... pudding! Mix in until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
In a separate bowl, mix together salt, soda and flour. Add to butter mixture all at once, beat until combined.
Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes. They should still look a little gooey!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet beehives

Because we have a small temple and it services such a large area, our youth unfortunately only get to visit the temple twice a year. Last Saturday was our second trip of the year - about the only reason I'll get up at 6 am on
a Saturday.

Thanks to Beehive advisor Alissa Turner for not only being an awesome teacher, but for snapping this pic of us with the beautiful, wonderful, smart Beehives. I love all these girls!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rob owes Hans big time

Our friends Rob and Danielle Ploeger recently had the cutest little girl ever (since me, of course. And until we have our own children).

Last week, Rob's parents flew in from Arizona for Ryleigh's baby blessing. Rob asked if Hans would substitute teach his primary class - the 11 year olds.

During music time, the class that sang the loudest got to dress up their teacher. And now Rob owes Hans.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream

This is not the cake I intended to make this weekend.

I wanted to just make any old cake, so I could practice decorating. I wanted to try an icing comb (never done that before) and work on making beaded borders.

a). I am not a huge fan of this icing comb. I think it's too angular and maybe I'd like a rounded one better. Still, I liked that it was an easy way to quickly dress up plain buttercream.

b). I bought a Wilton #12 tip on Saturday, but it mysteriously disappeared by the time I went to use it on Sunday. No beads for me. So I had fun making the top all spikey with my star tip.

I also intended to make the icing a fun color, but since my decorating plans were already kinda hosed, I left it as-is. And I kind of like it.

So while none of my decorating plans panned out, I did discover that this is my new favorite cake. Seriously. I love it. So. Much. It has some weird, weird ingredients in it (Olive oil? Balsamic Vinegar?) but it's incredibly moist, has a great crumb, and has just enough spice to make it interesting.

Oh, and adding cinnamon to a so-so buttercream made it out of this world. Further proof that cinnamon makes almost everything better.

Mexican chocolate cake (Recipe from BakedBree)

1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla

Add all dry ingredients to a bowl and whisk together to fully mixed.

In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Add all together to dry ingredients. Beat on medium-high, 1-2 minutes or until well combined.

Pour into buttered and floured pans. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (or that's what worked for my three 6-inch pans). Remove and allow to cool thoroughly.

Cinnamon butter cream
2 sticks unsalted butter; room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
~4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cream the butter and shortening. Add vanilla and cinnamon and combine well. Add the powdered sugar slowly, beating thoroughly between each addition.