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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Handicapped by Technology

Is it just me or has society become handicapped by technology?
I'm a Realtor and was out showing lease houses this morning to a client. And after the very last house I showed him, my phone died (which I had been using for GPS). 
I was in Saginaw and I don't know my way around that city at all without some form of navigational help. But I thought to myself, "no problem - I've got this."
Not. So. Much.
I was trying to get to Grapevine but ended up in Lake Worth. Oops.
I then had to find a store that sold car chargers. And then I had to sit in the car & wait for my phone to charge enough to turn back on. I didn't want to attempt to drive anywhere without the GPS for fear of getting lost again.
My phone finally turned back on, I opened up Google Maps, and was back on the road, headed in the correct direction.
But that entire ordeal wasted an hour of my day. An hour!
And who knows peoples' phone numbers these days (besides a few close family members)?
Other constant technology uses:
-checking email
-watching Netflix
-surfing Pinterest
-looking up definitions or how to spell a word
-sending text messages (sometimes to avoid calling a person)
-MLS (multiple listing service for Realtors -- seriously, I don't know how real estate agents were able to get anything done before MLS came along)
and the list goes on and on.

Don't get me wrong, I love technology (but not as much as you, you see...) but it became painfully obvious to me today that I have come to rely on some forms of technology (namely my phone) way too much. 
Make sure you take time to pull away & detach from technology every once in a while. Enjoy this beautiful planet the Lord gave us!

What is your technology guilty pleasure?
What in your life would seemingly collapse without technology?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pinterest Top 10: Chocolate Cake Recipes

If you're anything like me, you love Pinterest.
And again, if you're anything like me, you pin a bunch of great ideas on Pinterest but only get around to doing/using about 10% of those pins.
I've decided to once a week give you a list of the top 10 pins (in my personal opinion) for different categories. And I would love for you to share your favorite pins for those categories, as well!
This week I thought I'd start out with something fun:
I mean come on, who doesn't love a delicious chocolate cake?!
Here we go!

#1. The Best Chocolate Cake {ever}
I see this one commonly described as: the Best Chocolate Cake {ever} so of course it needs to be #1! Head on over to Add a Pinch to see the full recipe along with many mouthwatering pictures [it's where I snagged the one above]. It's simple, moist, and delicious.

#2. Creamy Nutella Chocolate Cake
I have recently seen an influx of Nutella-based recipes on Pinterest and this brings joy to my mouth. I hope you have tried Nutella. But if you haven't, stop reading this post & immediately drive to the store & buy a container. It is a delicious mix of hazelnut & chocolate. Yum.
This recipe is from Luxe Finds and uses a Trader Joe's Cake Mix & a few other ingredients, including Nutella. Sounds delicious! In the picture above [found on their page] they have paired it will vanilla ice cream. Perfection!

#3. Midnight Sin Chocolate Cake
Oh, wow. I found this recipe on the Not So Humble Pie blog and it looks absolutely sinful! This picture from their page makes me not only want to bake this cake this instant, but it also makes me aware of my desire for the perfect white cake stand.
{I collect cake stands but that's an entirely different issue we'll talk about another day}
You can tell just by looking at this picture that is it moise & rich & will require a full glass of milk to finish. This one is a must-try.

#4. Almond Espresso Chocolate Cake
I love almond {flavoring, especially}.
I love espresso {peppermint mochas from Sbux are my weakness}.
I love chocolate {anything}.
So a cake that combines those three flavors is a little piece of heaven, in my opinion!
Taste of Home seemingly nailed-it with this recipe! Their picture above makes my mouth water. And I love that they garnished theirs with powdered sugar, chocolate shavings, and espresso beans. Precious. I WILL bake this in the near future -- I just need to find a reason to first!
{as if you really need a reason to bake a chocolate cake}

#5. Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake
I definitely thought I should feature a gluten-free cake in this list. I used to {attempt} to bake gluten-free desserts for a co-worker a few years ago. I was usually pretty disappointed with the end result. It always seemed to turn out dry and flat.
I found this recipe on King Arthur Flour and as you can see from their picture above, this recipe doesn't seem to have either of those problems!
[make sure you read their tips in this recipe to ensure the proper allergy-free results & best consistency]

#6. Chocolate Banana Cake with Buttercream Frosting
This next one I know is delicious because the recipe is endorsed by one of my favorite bloggers, Dara, over at The Hungry Momma blog. She's a whiz in the kitchen so whatever she tells you to do -- do it! This cake is yummy and delicious and sure to please the masses {even the little picky eaters in your life}. Mmmmmm.....
[keep your eyes out for that lovely Dara -- she's someone you want to keep up with in the future]

Time for the 7th Recipe Stretch -- or something like that.
Do you feel like you've gained a few extra pounds just by reading this recipes?
One fun idea is to bake and then give away! You could make your favorites & then take them up to your local fire station or police station & share the love with some of the bravest people around. <3

Now back to the grind.

#7. Fruit & Chocolate Cake Recipe
As you can tell from this picture from Food Lve, this recipe has a wonderful presentation. And it kind of makes you feel like you're eating healthy because hey, there's fruit on there!
{though this recipe is cheating a bit because let's be real, it's actually a brownie under there but who doesn't love brownies?}
I feel like this one would be lovely to bake & bring to a party. It's easy and looks delicious -- what more could you ask for?

#8. Coca-Cola Cake
I'm from the South {hooray for Texas} so I couldn't make a list of chocolate cake recipes without including a Coca-Cola cake. You can find many variations of this recipe all over the web. And as you can tell from this picture from Serious Eats, you actually use Coca-Cola when baking {hence the name}. This cake is moist, rich, and delicious.

#9. Julia Child's Queen of Sheba Cake
Why? Because what's a baking top 10 list without something by Julia Child? She's amazing.  So that means this cake is amazing. She is wonderful to watch on old cooking shows. She was real. She was talented. And she was funny!
Her recipes are usually trickier than the normal add-your-eggs-and-beat-then-pour-in-the-pan type of recipes. And this one fits that bill. It's not at an expert level, but don't try it when you have a toddler at your heels wanting to help and you're in a hurry to throw something in the oven. I am sure the end result of this one will be worth the extra effort! I found this recipe and picture on the Women's Health Magazine blog. 

And last but not least.....

#10. Vegan Chocolate Cake
Now I am not a vegan nor have I ever wanted to be a vegan (just a personal choice -- nothing against vegans of course). So why did I choose this one? Honestly, because my daughter picked it. My brain is tired from sifting {<--- baking humor} through so many chocolate cake recipes so I had my 2.5year-old daughter come point to a picture on Pinterest. But I think it's the perfect choice! I included a gluten-free cake so it only seems fitting that I'd also include a vegan cake. Vegans needs chocolate cake love, too! ;D
I found this recipe & picture on Hub Pages posted by Melissa Davis. 
P.S. You'll never guess the secret ingredient that helps this cake be soft & fluffy without using eggs!!

I hope you've enjoyed this week's edition of Pinterest Top 10.

Now I'm challenging you to pick one {or more} of these delicious chocolate cake recipes & try it out for yourself! I'd love to hear how they turned out!

And now I leave you with two {not-so} deep questions:

Is there a delicious chocolate cake recipe that you love that I didn't feature on this list?

What would you like the theme of next week's Pinterest Top 10 to be?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bountiful Baskets Coop

Have you ever tried a fruit & vegetable coop?
I participate in a local one pretty much every week (I just skip occassionaly if my schedule is super busy & I don't think I'll use all of the food before it goes bad).
My favorite one I've found is Bountiful Baskets.
They have pickup locations all over the US & it is surprisingly inexpensive!
Here is what I got this week for the amazing price of $16.50.
{this is also a great idea for those who juice, eat raw, or make homemade baby food}
10 apples
17 oranges
1 head of cabbage
1 head of cauliflower
1 container of cherry tomatoes
5 pears
8 bananas
2 cucumbers
2 yams
1 squash
I mean seriously, you can't beat this deal. And they also offer organic baskets, as well as a number of add-on baskets that vary week by week.
I highly recommend you check them out!
{Bountiful Baskets did not pay me for this post -- they do not even know I wrote this}
What is your favorite place to buy your fruits & veggies?
Have you ever tried a local fruit & vegetable coop?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mommy's Little Helper

My daughter, Reagan, is 2.5 yrs old. She makes me laugh daily. And she's already fiercely independent & so very smart. Of course, I'm her mother so it's possible that I'm a little biased...
When we were at the grocery store today she was walking beside me and was very concerned about getting things for her Daddy. She picked out his coffee and insisted we get him cake.
[fast forward to this evening] 
My angel wanted to help me bake Daddy a cake.
We were blessed to have a friend give us their wooden helper tower and my daughter loves it.
Any time I start cooking or baking, Reagan runs into the kitchen, pushes anything that might be in the tower onto the floor, and climbs up ready to lend a hand. 
She loves to help.
This mixer is my {second} best friend while baking.
Reagan REALLY wanted to help "open the eggs." 
Can you guess which one she helped me "open"?
I decided to use these silicon molds. 
But where my decision making failed, is the point where I forgot to spray them. Oops.
Reagan had a hard time practicing her patience while the cakes were in the oven.
Unfortunately she had to go to bed before they cooled down enough to frost them. 
{I did give her a mini one without frosting since she was such a big helper}
Some turned out cute....
... others, not so much. 
These may not be the prettiest cupcakes I've ever made but they are still delicious!

Do you have a child that loves to help you in the kitchen?
At what age did you start teaching them how to cook &/or bake?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Double Chocolate Banana Bread!

Last night I had some very ripe bananas. I usually just make a regular banana bread (and throw in some chocolate chips to make my hubby happy). But I was feeling adventurous so I searched my go-to site (Pinterest) for a chocolate banana bread recipe. 
There are tons.
But I settled on one I found on this blog: The Sisters Cafe
And let me tell you, these sisters did not disappoint!
So without further ado -- here's the recipe!

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 3)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

I love measuring out all of my ingredients before I begin. It helps ensure I don't miss any ingredients. And I feel like the whole baking process runs a lot more smoothly when I do this step.

And I tend to be pretty generous when measuring all chocolate ingredients... don't judge.

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of an 8x4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Now for mine I chose to use 3 small pans instead so I could gift one of the loaves. I probably should have gifted two of the loaves but chocolate doesn't last long in my home.
2. Beat sugar, eggs, and oil in a large bowl at medium speed until combined. 

3. Beat in banana and vanilla at low speed.

(gotta love an action shot)

4. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

5. Beat dry ingredients into banana mixture at low speed just until combined.

6. Stir in chocolate chips.

7. Pour batter into pan(s).

8. Your bake time will vary depending on the pan size(s) you choose. For one large pan, 60-70 minutes. For 3 small pans, 45-48 minutes (bread is done when toothpick inserted comes out clean).

(this has nothing to do with the recipe -- just wanted to show you the aftermath of my baking adventures)

Let your bread cool a bit...

... then enjoy! I chose to pair mine with some fresh strawberries since I happen to have a few containers full in my fridge right now. It was so yummy! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

So what kind of bread is your favorite to make? Banana? Pumpkin? Chocolate Banana?