11.27.2013

rocky road fudge

If I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t really like marshmallows. I never have. Unless they’re roasted and gooey, sandwiched between two graham crackers with a melted chocolate bar on top, I’m not a big fan. I also am not a huge fudge person – so much fudge I’ve had is thick, dense, and way too sweet. But this recipe – for homemade rocky road fudge – changed my life.
Last Christmas Eve, while celebrating with my husband’s extended family, I couldn’t help but stare into a holiday tin filled with bumpy chocolate squares. I asked what it was and I was told it was rocky road fudge. Knowing my feelings toward both fudge and marshmallows, I wasn’t incredibly interested. My husband encouraged me to try a piece. Let’s just say, I think I had consumed 6 of those little bumpy squares by the time the night was over.
This recipe is a family one passed down from Dustin’s Great Aunt. In the Hoffstrom family, it is made exclusively at Christmastime. In our family, I make it year round. I also should mention that I’m passionate about peanuts…especially Spanish peanuts. This fudge is so light and airy, you won’t even feel guilty devouring it. I will include Aunt Mabel’s original recipe and also note how I modify it to amp up the peanuts.
Aunt Mabel’s Rocky Road Fudge
Ingredients:
1 package chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate chips)
1 package butterscotch chips
3 cups mini marshamallows (I drop it down to 2 cups)
1 cup Spanish peanuts (I double it to 2 cups)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Directions:
In a double boiler on the stovetop, melt chocolate chips, butterscotch chips & peanut butter. Transfer to large bowl and mix in mini marshmallows and peanuts.
Pour into a greased 9x13 pan (I line mine with parchment paper).
Let set up in fridge for 2-3 hours or until firm. In the fall and winter, I store mine covered on the kitchen counter at room temperature because I don’t like them to be too firm, but in the summer they should be refrigerated or you’ll end up with a melty pile of mallows. Cut into small squares and enjoy. 
P.S. Here’s a sneak peek of the family photos we recently had done with Sophisticated Grace Photography.
Seriously, could Olivia get any cuter?
Happy Wednesday!

11.24.2013

'tis the season

 Our house is filled with the scents of the holidays – chestnut & clove, vanilla cedarwood & fresh eucalyptus. Soon we will be putting out evergreen branches & mistletoe, prepping for turkey day & starting all our holiday shopping soon after. 
Every day just gets more exciting as the winter holidays approach. This Thanksgiving and Christmas will be the most memorable of our life thus far, since we’ll be celebrating with a little babe in tow. I’ve already started working on all the special gifts we’ll be giving to Olivia this year, planning my 25 Days of Christmas book list for Via, purchasing the perfect advent calendar, finding stocking stuffers for my hubby & shopping for all my holiday outfits. 
Last weekend, while Dustin was out of town, my mom and I had a fun weekend together. I had the whole weekend off work and we spent our time together doing some of our favorite things – we spent Friday evening strolling along Grand Avenue, shopping, a light dinner at CafĂ© Latte (+ our favorite slice of cheesecake with berry preserves of course), and finding some special things for the holidays.
We bought Olivia her very 1st ornament – a duckie ugling. If you haven’t seen them or heard of them before, they are adorable little ducks handmade in St. Paul from recycled sweaters. It’s always fun to start new traditions – esp. with a little babe – and I decided every year it would be tradition to buy her a new duckie ugling ornament for the tree. It will be a fun way to look back on each year of her life. To end the night, we had to stop at Creative Kidstuff and we spotted the perfect photo op for Miss Via. They even had the book “Olivia Helps with Christmas” for her to pose with!
  
I title this one the ”I can’t believe I have to wait 46 more days until Christmas” photo. 
On Saturday I enjoyed sleeping in and running some errands. Sometimes the days with no real agenda are the best days. Then dinner with a wonderful friend of mine at our favorite spot. Afterward, some shopping with Mom & lounging at home.
On Sunday we went to the MOA for a book signing by one of my favorite celebrities. I don’t follow many celebrities or their lives because that’s just never been my personality, but one person I have always admired and loved watching is Giada de Laurentiis – award winning Food Network author and television host. We purchased her newest cookbook, “Giada’s Feel Good Food,” which includes 120 of her healthiest and lightest recipes plus all her tips and tricks to staying so fit.
I had the book dedicated to Olivia and even Via got to meet Giada when we went up on stage. I can’t wait to start raising Via on healthy, wholesome cooking and will one day give the cookbook to her as a gift. Bonus – as we were walking off stage, Giada got up and posed with us for a photo! God’s favor for sure, because no one else was given this opportunity.
 On top of all that, I found a beautiful black dress (Old Navy…35% off!) that will be PERFECT with all kinds of fun tights and boots for the holidays. Now I’m on the hunt for the perfect accessories for it. After the MOA we ventured to IKEA…a place I could easily spend hours in. We spotted a beautiful turquoise cart that I knew would be perfect for our basement in Via’s play corner. Dustin and I put it together on Sunday night and I can’t wait to fill it with new books and toys for the holidays.
We also purchased shelves for the nursery that I had been eyeing for ages. They are the perfect size & a super reasonable price. I finally feel like our gallery wall/nursery book nook is complete! (I’m sure we’ll be adding more of these shelves in other rooms of our house before too long).
It was a blessing to have Dustin home on Sunday night and hear all about his weekend away with my Dad and all the other guys from our church on the Men’s Advance. This year’s theme was “MAN UP!” and their weekend was filled with great teachings, lots of food, some football, and plenty of stories.

Monday was back to a more normal routine – a dentist visit, grocery shopping, baking a chocolate cake and entertaining good family friends in the evening. Tuesday morning I went to my girls of grace group at church and then a few more errands.  House-cleaning & laundry. The usual stuff. I surprisingly love doing laundry – especially folding it all & putting it away. It is so rewarding to see an empty hamper in the bathroom closet and all my clean clothes for the week ready to be worn. On Tuesday afternoon I introduced Olivia to solid foods for the first time. We are approaching food with the “Baby Led Weaning” (also called “Baby Led Solids”) method. If you’re interested in finding more out, check out this book.




Some of the best and healthiest foods that we are starting Via with over the next weeks and months are avocados, sweet potatoes, steamed squash, steamed cauliflower and cooked egg yolks (NO egg whites). I started with sliced avocado and while Via didn’t seem to be in love with it, I think it will grow on her.








Happy hump day.
XOXO from our squeaky clean little bean.

8.26.2013

staying at home | our routine

As many of you know, I am a stay-at-home momma to Olivia. This truly is my dream job.
(Well, being a mom in general is my dream job. I think I’ve wanted to be a momma since I could walk and talk and probably even before I knew what being a momma entailed.)
Tonight I thought I’d write a post on my routine with Olivia & a few details of being a stay-at-home mom.
First off, Olivia is a dream baby. Seriously, she makes it easy for me to be her mom. I told Dustin that if all our babies were this easy, I would have 10. Well, at least 6. While I never really get a “day off,” so to speak (once you become a mom, you don’t ever stop), every day I spend with my little love is just wonderful. Being a stay at home mom (& a mom in general) is most definitely work worth doing. I still get tired and some days I just want to stay in bed until the late afternoon hours, but as soon as I get out of bed, I tip toe into Via’s nursery and peek on her laying quietly in her bassinet. In the past week, I’ve caught her smiling in her sleep when I’ve snuck in. I don’t know if she knows I’m there or if she is just having sweet dreams; either way, it’s a win.
—-
My husband Dustin is working full-time, which is what allows me to stay at home (thanks, love). I work part-time at an incredibly fun giftshop (with even more incredible people!) called Patina. There are several locations but I work at the one in NE Mpls and it is bomb. On top of that, I have been applying for part-time RN positions with a few leads & interviews here and there. I think its important to stay busy and put my energy into activities outside our home, although nothing beats being a wife & a mom.
Here is a little snapshot into our daily routine:
Between 8am & 9am – I wake up. A quick peek on Via & a hot shower.
Between 9am & 10am – Olivia wakes up. I give her lots of kisses; she gives me lots of smiles.
She starts her morning with some time in the swing – Olivia loves to look at the birds spinning around and listen to some music. After 10-15 minutes of that (& while I enjoy my breakfast), it’s time for Olivia to eat.
After her morning feeding comes play time, around 11am. We play with toys, play on the playmat, snuggle in bed, look out the window (because its WAY too hot to actually go outside), read books, snuggle some more, and practice a little crawling. I’ve recently started putting her in her jump-a-roo (similar to an exersaucer) and she loves it! In addition to music, ours makes the sounds of elephants and lions and she seems to really get a kick out of that.
Between Noon & 12:30 – Time for lunch.
Olivia is usually hungry by 12:30pm (if not earlier), so she eats and then I try to keep her up for 15-20 more minutes before her afternoon nap. That “keeping her up” time either involves more playtime or an afternoon bath (depending on our schedule).
By 1pm, she is ready for a nap. She usually naps from 1:15-4pm, depending on how tired she is & how busy we’ve been that day.
Once she’s up from her nap, Dustin is home from work & ready to play with her! This is my time to clean a bit, prep dinner, do some reading, hit the gym, take a nap myself, or play with them! If the weather is nice, we’ll take an afternoon walk – either with the stroller or the ergo. Olivia loves to lay in the bassinet of her stroller so she can stretch and wiggle. She LOVES to wiggle.
By 6pm, the little lady is hungry again. Time for another feeding.
Afterward, she either takes a short snooze (30-45 minutes) or plays on her playmat. We eat dinner and then one of us usually cuddles and holds her while the other does dishes, packs a lunch, pays bills, etc.
8pm – bathtime. My favorite time of the day. I get to pamper my little lady and put her in cute pajamas.
9pm – bedtime bottle. Usually Dustin gives her bedtime bottle to her and then reads or sings to her.
Between 9:30 and 10pm – we kiss her goodnight & miss her until morning.
——-
I never thought I would miss my baby so much when she sleeps, but I do. I am able to get so much done during her naps (which is a huge blessing), but some mornings I feel like I’m waiting for her to wake up so we can play. She is my little bringer of joy (which is what her middle name means..more on that later).
Some days we take walks in the morning, most days we visit Grandma Bea, some afternoons my Mom babysits so Dustin and I can do something fun together, and some nights I go to work and Dustin gets to hang with the little babe. But for the most part, we’ve established a great routine.
Typically 5 feedings a day:
10am, 12:30pm, 4pm, 6pm, 9pm
Two naps: 1-4pm & 7-7:30pm

A bath either in the early afternoon or before bed.
Bedtime @ 10pm.  
(Playtime all day long.)
There are many benefits to being a stay at home mom, and I feel mighty privileged. I know so many moms who – for many different reasons – can’t stay at home full time. Every day I thank God for the life He has given me for this season. I don’t ever want to miss a moment with Olivia because every minute that passes she is growing one moment older. But being away from her for a few hours at work or at the gym also has its benefits, in that I get time to myself to restore my mind and/or body, and then coming home to her is even more fun because I’ve missed her dearly.
To all you readers out there that are expecting now or hoping to have babies in the future – it rocks. Being a momma (especially staying at home) is the best job in the world. And like me, you’ll probably miss them when they sleep.
XO
p.s. our bedroom is filled with the most amazing scent right now…illume’swoodfire candle is burning. If you don’t have one, go get one (we just got them back in at patina).
Just perfect for welcoming fall.

8.20.2013

carrot cake

Okay, so carrot cake in & of itself isn’t a “meal,” usually. But considering it has gluten free flour (grains), carrots (vegetable), pineapple & applesauce (fruit), walnuts (omega-3s), cream cheese & butter (dairy)…and coconut (fats)…it pretty much covers all food groups, right?
(let’s just pretend it does & leave it at that)
my hubby's favorite carrot cake
 
This recipe is so easy. Especially for how delicious it is.
It’s a “1-2-3” recipe, and the frosting is a breeze (& truly divine).
cake ingredients
“one”
1 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
2 c sugar
                                                    
3 eggs
“two”
2 c flour
                                                      
1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder                         
1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon
“three”
2 c grated carrots                                
1 c coconut

1 c chopped nuts (optional)
                 
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup Dole crushed pineapple in juice (not drained!)
cream cheese frosting
1/2 c butter (softened)                
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 tsp vanilla                                               
1 lb powdered sugar (approx. 3.5-4 cups)
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine #1 ingredients. Add #2 ingredients. Stir in #3 ingredients.

3. Pour into two 8 or 9-inch pans.
            Note: I traced the pan onto parchment paper and then had perfect circles to line the pans with and the cake came out without any problem!

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely (I moved mine to a cooling rack after 10 minutes out of the oven)
For the frosting:
5. Beat the butter and cream cheese until nice and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
6. Invert the cake onto a cake plate or stand. Apply a generous dollop of frosting and spread…Gently place the second cake on top and continue frosting. Garnish with nuts of your choice and/or coconut or leave plain & simple!
Happy Monday.

8.17.2013

homemade nutter butters

well to start this weekend off right, some girlfriends & I decided to get together and do some baking. We did this a few weeks ago and discovered how delicious a thai quinoa salad & nutella donuts can be. Well, we were feeling ambitious this week and thought we would try our hand at homemade nutter butters (gluten free of course). The little babe slept the whole time we were busy in the kitchen, despite the clanging pots and pans. 
yep, she’s perfect.
& she’s asleep on me while I type this entry, holding onto my arms & snuggling my neck.
(P.S. being a momma is the best)
All you need to know is that if these little gems are up on the blog, they made the cut (AND got Dustin’s rating of 4.5/5, which is pretty darn good considering he’s not a “peanut butter cookie” kinda guy)
homemade nutter butters (gluten free)
Foreword: this recipe contains 4 sticks of butter. Alarming, I know. But this recipe makes approximately 194020 cookes. Okay…so not that many, but we had 4 plates full and more on pans and cooling racks. That being said, we agreed upon a few things for the next time we venture into nutter-butter land: 
1.     Cut the recipe in half (unless you have a million neighbors to share these with) 
2.     Modify the frosting – decrease the powdered sugar to 2.5-3 cups (instead of 4 cups) and amp up the crunchy peanut butter to 1.5-2 cups (instead of 1 cup).
3.     Make them smaller than you think you should, because they expand a lot! The recipe says to roll them into 1-inch balls, but we did that and they were huge, so we rolled them much smaller for our second (& 3, & 4, & 5, & 6) batch.
4.     Don’t overcrowd the pans, they expand & you want them to have their space! 
5.     Even without modifying it, the frosting is so good it could be eaten off a spoon, or a graham cracker, or a piece of chocolate, or on icecream….okay, you get the idea. 
Ingredients for Cookies:
    1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
    1 cup creamy peanut butter
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup light brown sugar, packed
    2 eggs
    2 tsp vanilla
    2 1/2 cups flour (William’s Sonoma Cup4Cup)
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    Approx 1/2 cup extra sugar for rolling
Ingredients for Filling:
    1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
    1 cup crunchy peanut butter, room temperature
    4 cups powdered sugar
    2-3 tablespoons milk
 Instructions
1.    In electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter, and sugars until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds on medium-high speed. Lower mixer to medium and add eggs and vanilla continuing to mix until combined. Turn mixer to low and add in flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix until combined. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375°
2.   Form chilled dough first into 1-inch balls and then form into a log shape. Roll the log-shaped dough in extra granulated sugar and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Using a fork press down on cookie creating a criss-cross pattern. Pinch the center to create the peanut shape.
3.   Bake for 6-8 minutes until edges are lightly golden. Cool on baking sheet 2-3 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to continue cooling.
4.   For the Filling:
a.    In a large bowl beat butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Slowly add in your powdered sugar and turn mixer speed up to medium and beat until filling is smooth. Add your milk, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
b.    Spread a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the bottom of one of the peanut butter cookies and then top with another cookie to create a sandwich.
Happy weekend to all. We’ll be enjoying ours with grilled chicken caesar salads, fresh sweet peaches, a movie or two & of course, hanging with our favorite little tot.
XOXO

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