Cheddar Biscuits (Red Lobster Copycat)

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Wow. This is so weird. Two recipes in a row!

I guess I’ve just been cooking a lot more than I’ve been crafting lately.

And this double recipe thing might be weird but it’s definitely also good because the last recipe I posted was ohmygoshsoyummy. And this recipe is also completely and totally delicious. Plus it’s waaaay easy and quick (the last one…not so much).

Did any of you guys take a Foods class in school? I mean, it’s really just cooking class, right? But I took Foods in 8th or 9th grade. And honestly, some of my favorite recipes came from that class (like the cinnamon rolls I make? Straight from Foods. Someday I’ll post the recipe here too because it is killer).

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Anyway, these biscuits could not be more simple or flavorful. The ingredients consist of totally normal things I always have on hand. And it’s a drop biscuit! No rolling/cookie cutting involved (which, let’s be real, that’s what turns me off of biscuit making almost every time).

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They’re brushed with a garlic buttery glaze and if you eat them while they’re hot, they practically melt in your mouth.

They are a total cinch and I love having this recipe in my arsenal as a quick easy addition to pretty much any meal.

Here’s the recipe (and a link, if you wanna print it out):

Cheddar Biscuits (Red Lobster Copycat)

Dough:
2 cups Bisquik*
½ teaspoon parsley flakes
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon Italian Seasoning
¾-1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (sharp cheddar is best, but just use what you have on hand)
⅔ cup cold milk
¼ cup butter, melted

Glaze:
¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon parsley flakes
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 450º. Combine Bisquik, parsley, garlic powder and Italian Seasoning. Add cheese and toss to coat. Stir in milk and butter. Drop by spoonfuls (about 16) onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly golden. While biscuits are baking, stir together all the ingredients in the glaze. When the biscuits are done, remove from oven and brush glaze on top of each biscuit. Serve warm.

*In a pinch if you don’t have Bisquick on hand, for this recipe you can mix together a scant 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt as a substitute.  (And sometimes if I’m making my own Bisquick mixture, I’ll make one of those cups of flour a cup of white whole wheat flour to be a bit healthier).

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Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

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A few years ago, Ben and I lived in China for a few months. And we happened to be living there during fall. China was totally awesome, by the way, but I really, really missed American food while we were there. Especially because, as the weather turned, I kept missing things like pumpkin bread and apple cider. Things that scream FALL.

I didn’t know about this Caramel Apple Cheesecake back then, and that’s a good thing because it would’ve just been added to my list of Fall Foods I Really Miss.

But now I DO know about this pie and I can’t go too long without making it. It is the stuff dreams are made of. And, not to worry, the pie is good any time of year! It’s cool so it’d truthfully be a great summertime treat, but I also think it’d be a very impressive addition to a Thanksgiving pie spread.

Maybe I’m biased because I am an unabashed caramel lover, but this pie is just about as perfect as food can be. The caramel kind of infuses its way into the crust creating a soft crunch. The spiced apples are tender and flavorful. And the cheesecake layer keeps things from getting too sweet. Mmmmm.

My point is, make this pie!!!! You will not regret it!

There are a lot of components to this pie and, in many cases, you can opt for a pre-made (store bought) version which takes out some of the labor. I honestly think that if you went the store bought route, you’d still come up with something totally impressive and delicious. I’ve only ever made each part of the pie and the effot absolutely pays off every time.

Also, I adapted this recipe slightly from the Brown Eyed Baker (who is one of my very favorite food bloggers-all her stuff is SO good! And her pictures are amazing). The main change I make is that I halve her apple layer because I don’t have a springform pan, but Ben and I agreed that the ratios in this version are spot on.

I said there are lots of layers…but don’t get overwhelmed. It’s really very simple.

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First, press your crust into a 9 inch pie plate.

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Pour your caramel into the crust.

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Add your chopped nuts.

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Then spoon on your apple mixture as evenly as you can.

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The cream cheese mixture goes on next. Then the pie goes into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, let it cool to room temperature, then put it in the fridge for 4 hours, or overnight.

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Right before serving, top with whipped cream, drizzle with extra caramel, and sprinkle with nuts.

Yes…lots of layers…but every layer is totally delicious and worth the time.

Here’s the recipe (and here’s a link for you to print it out):

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

For the Crust:
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
6 Tablespoons melted butter

For the Caramel and Nuts:
¾ cup caramel sauce
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

For the Apples:
2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

For the Cheesecake:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Topping:
Sweetened Whipped Cream
Caramel Sauce
Chopped walnuts or pecans

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. Make the Crust: Mix all the ingredients together and press into a 9 inch pie plate, allowing the crumbs to come about halfway up the side of the pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until the crust just starts to golden. Let cool for about 10 minutes before adding the next layer.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
  4. Pour the ¾ cup caramel sauce over the bottom of the crust (warm up your caramel just a bit if it’s store bought, so that it will spread easier). Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the top. Set aside.
  5. For the Apples: Melt the butter in a skillet pan over medium low heat. Add the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir. Let the apples cook until they are very tender and almost all of the liquid has evaporated. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally. When they are done, let the mixture cool for about 5-10 minutes then carefully spoon the apples and any remaining liquid on top of the caramel/nuts.
  6. For the Cheesecake: Beat all the ingredients together until they are well combined. Pour the mixture on top of the apples, making sure it is as even as possible.
  7. Bake the pie: Bake the pie at 350º for about 30 minutes, or until the cheesecake is set and doesn’t jiggle in the middle. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool until it comes to room temperature. Then cover the pie and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  8. Before serving, top the pie with sweetened whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts.

 

Notes:
-You could potentially use a store bought crust, caramel sauce, and perhaps even whipped topping to make the assembly a little easier.
-I always make my own caramel sauce, and while I’ve tried to make true caramel sauce, it never comes out just right. So I normally opt for an easy caramel sauce. I’ve used the Pioneer Woman’s with success (and it makes extra for the topping), although just googling “easy caramel sauce” comes up with plenty of recipes, so you could find one that suits what you have on hand or that could be made in the microwave.
-For the sweetened whipped cream, I whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, and then I add maple syrup to taste (just do about a teaspoon at a time) and continue whipping until the peaks become firm. You can sweeten with whatever you want/have on hand, but I like the maple flavor-it goes great with the apples!
-I’ve made this recipe as cupcakes and they turn out great! Just reduce the crust proportions to 1 cup graham cracker crumbs and ¼ cup of butter (cinnamon and sugar remain the same). For assembling the cupcakes, press 1 heaping Tablespoon of the crust into the cupcake liner, add the caramel, the nuts, the apples and 1 heaping Tablespoon of the cheesecake mixture per cupcake. Bake at 350º for about 15 minutes. Makes 12 cupcakes.
-I’ve doubled the recipe to fit in a 9×13 pan, which also turned out great.

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Ben’s Cozy Quilt

Are you guys getting fall weather yet? Because we are totally getting fall weather over here and I am loving it. It made me want to post a comfy cozy sewing project…but the problem is that I haven’t started a new sewing project in quite awhile…

So the project I’m showing you today isn’t new…in fact, I made it almost 2 years ago. But it was the first quilt I made from start to finish all by myself. Which is saying something because my mom has a quilting business and I’m pretty sure she could quilt and bind in her sleep, so I’ve always just had her finish off my quilt tops. But this one was pieced, quilted and bound all by ME!

Yes, it was 2 years ago but I’m still ridiculously proud.

Since my mom does run her own quilting business, I have learned certain ways when making quilts-especially to use thin batting so as to show off the quilting. And, let me tell you, it didn’t take long for Ben to complain about this.

“Your quilts are pretty, Kim. They really are. But they’re not warm and cozy.”

That’s what he said to me after refusing to use my homemade quilts on our bed.

I feel okay telling you guys this because apparently my dad finally said the same thing to my mom after 35 years of marriage. Ha!

So 2 years ago I decided that for Christmas, I’d make Ben the warmest and coziest quilt I could come up with. One with thick batting and minimal quilting.

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I wanted to make sure it maintained it’s manliness. And I didn’t want to do a ton of piecing (mostly so I could finish it by Christmas).

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I browsed online for ideas and I honestly can’t remember if I copied this particular square or if I made up something myself…but I made 4 of these just for the corners. The middle section of orange required no cutting or piecing-I just straightened out the edges of what came off the bolt. I wasn’t aiming for any quilt size in particular, and this turned out about the size of a large lap quilt. It covers Ben comfortably from his feet up to his chin…but I don’t think it could pass as a bedspread (on any size of bed).

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I stacked all the layers together which created just about the thickest blanket you’ve ever seen. Because of that, I opted to hand quilt this (also a first!). I kept the quilting verrrry simple. I quilted along all the seams and then just did a giant ‘X’ in the center.

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You can *kind of* see the quilting here. I also did the binding by hand. I (still) don’t have a thimble, so I ended up taping the ends of my fingers so they could handle all that needle pulling!

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Ha! I’m cheesy, but one of the fun parts of making your own quilts, especially if you’re giving them away, is to personalize them.

As far as fabric went for this particular quilt, I wanted things as soft as I could get them. I chose flannel for the top. The batting is the thickest I could find. And the back is this kind of furry minky. When I started the quilt, I had intentions to just use regular minky because it’s so soft, but I’m soooo glad I found this furry version. It helped the quilt be much more manly, thank heavens. And it is still super soft and cozy.

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I think I’m most proud of this quilt because Ben uses it almost every day. And if I’m using it, he’ll bring me a different blanket so that he can take what is rightfully his. That’s love (for a quilt) right there, folks.

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September in Review

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Good:

  • We started September off with an awesome trip to San Diego (thank you, Labor Day!). We have some friends who live there and they showed us The. Best. Time. Like, seriously, I don’t think there’s anything we didn’t do. Our schedule was jam-packed! We went on the most gorgeous sunset beach hike you can even imagine. Ben caught a handful of waves surfing (definitely helped that our friends are pro surfers AND pro teachers). We went to the San Diego Zoo which has been a long time bucket list item for us. And we got to hang out with some of our favorite people. It was seriously awesome.
  • Flagstaff took September very seriously by almost automatically handing us some delicious fall weather. The trees are turning, the air is crisp…oh, it really is just beautiful around here. I feel like the older I get, the more I love fall. I don’t think it hurts, either, that last year around this time was particularly anticipatory and exciting.
  • Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. If I’m being honest, I feel like that little sweet baby of mine could fit into ALL the categories of these monthly posts but this month I think she is most deserving of this one! She has been eating like a champ lately! She eats and seems to enjoy almost anything we put on her plate. She has another check up appointment with the specialists in just a couple of weeks and I’m reaaaaaally hoping it’ll be the last! I’m crossing my fingers she’s gained some good weight! But either way, I’m impressed with her progress with food and I think that counts for something, right? She is also just my favorite little human and is learning so many things. She’s starting to wave, she loves dancing to music (the more elevator-like, the better) and when she gets her hands on her hairbrush, she totally reaches up and brushes her hair. Ha! I love it every time.
  • I think fall offers so many exciting things and one of those things that I loooooove is  General Conference! I loved the Women’s session and can’t wait for rest of it.
  • Aaaaand hello, all the holidays, right??? I mean, they are just around the corner and that in and of itself is so exciting!

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Blah:

  • I can’t believe all the natural disasters I’ve been reading about in the news. It is so crazy and almost unbelievable. But I’m certainly praying for all those who have been affected in any way.
  • This month has been weird, for me, because I feel like I’ve been experiencing an extra dose of anxiety and worry. I feel like those are things I normally have to deal with and, honestly, am able to deal with. But this month I feel like there have been more things to worry about and more things to stress over. Luckily, Ben keeps me sane(ish).
  • Speaking of Ben…man, he has been so busy! It is crazy! He’s got the usual-classes and teaching-which keep him plenty busy but he’s also finishing up his thesis and getting ready for and taking the GRE. Plus, he’s started swimming every day, which makes me very proud but also means more time that he’s at the school. I miss him. But here’s to hoping that next semester has a little more breathing room.

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On My Brain:

  • This is absolutely 100% random…but I’ve recently discovered that I’m a candle kind of person. When we were first married I bought one of those electric wax warmers mostly because they’re cute. But I rarely used it because I feel like that first time you melt the wax it is like scent overload-it’s too strong! But after that first time, I feel like you don’t get much scent at all. I don’t know if I finally got rid of it or if we just lost it during our last move, but it has disappeared. Anyhow, we finally got around to buying a candle and I like it so much better! It can burn all day and I don’t get sick of the smell. And we bought a brand called Nature’s Wick and it’s extra magical because it has a wooden wick, so it crackles while you burn it. So cozy-I love it!
  • LDS Women’s Conference was just awesome this year. One of the things that really stood out to me was Sister Eubank’s comment about how we need to be articulate. It made me think mostly of social media and how I can improve the messages that I share online. Later, I was browsing Instagram and I saw a post from @22alfox (Al Carraway) where she talked about how discouraged she was getting by social media but that as she listened to the women’s session it hit her: “if we don’t share light, who will?” It was such an awesome reminder to me to be uplifting and positive in all my interactions (online and otherwise) and to clearly live what I believe.
  • We had a newly married couple give talks in church, and as the wife went on about how she and her husband had met and dated and eventually got married, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, we’re old!” Which, I don’t really think that 27 is old…it just made me realize that we definitely don’t fit into that category anymore (and haven’t for awhile). I mean, when people ask how Ben and I met, I can-and will-answer in just about two words. Ha!
  • Soooooo…Wendy is turning 1 so soon! It is crazy the amount of emotions that I’ve been feeling with this impending milestone! It seems like it’s happening too fast which makes me want to cry…but then I really think about all the learning and growing that we’ve both been doing and I just feel grateful and excited and happy. Seeing all the back-to-school posts over the past couple of months makes me think that maybe the emotions I’m feeling now are the same emotions I’ll be feeling when I send Wendy to kindergarten, or middle school or high school for the first time. Motherhood, you are weird. But I like you 🙂

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Books Lately

 

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Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This book’s about: an 11 year old sleuthing chemist, Flavia deLuce. She happens upon the victim of a murder outside her very own home. Instead of being scared, she’s rather excited and immediately gets to work to discover just what happened.

What I Thought:

  • The rhythm of this book was a little hard for me to get the hang of. Its wording is so unpredictable that it kind of tripped me up and as a result I had a hard time getting into it at first. But after powering through the first bit, I really did get into the story.
  • Flavia deLuce is such a hilarious and unexpected character. It was definitely a fresh read because of how unique a protagonist she is.
  • The book is written in first person and some of the things that Flavia says come straight out of left field and leave you laughing out loud. She has some seriously outlandish analogies.
  • The book has seemingly real characters with unique personalities…always a good thing.

Should You Read it?: I really enjoyed this book and I think it’s worth giving it a try! I did have a hard time getting into it, but once I did, it was a quick and entertaining read. This is the first in its series (I believe the series currently has 9 books) and I didn’t jump right into book #2…but with this fall weather I’m thinking I’m ready for another witty mystery to read. It’s entertaining, clean and clever.

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Cravings by Chrissy Tiegen

This book’s about: Food! It’s a cookbook:)

What I thought:

  • I just wanted to mention this book because I LOVE IT!!!!!!!! I’d been hearing about it all over online so I checked it out from our library and it is a gem!
  • I’m the weirdo who reads cookbooks cover to cover and this one is awesome and hilarious! I had no clue who Chrissy Tiegen was before I opened this book but it turns out she cracks me up! She does swear throughout the book, just FYI.
  • The recipes are so creative but also very simple. They don’t require weird ingredients or a ton of time. And they all look so good! Like so good that in the 2 weeks I had it checked out from the library I made almost a dozen of the recipes!
  • This cookbook was at the top of my birthday wish list and I was so excited that Ben got it for me!!! Definitely a cookbook worth owning.
  • I just really really REALLY want you guys to understand my love for this cookbook so I’m including this last but unnecessary bullet point. This book is so so good. The only sad part is that it doesn’t have a dessert section 😦 but other than that I’d say it’s pretty close to perfect (as I’m sure was communicated by my excessive use of exclamation points).

Should You Read It?: Obviously, I highly recommend it!

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book’s about: two separate people-a boy and girl-in the midst of World War II and how their vastly different lives are interconnected. The orphan boy, Werner, is living in Germany and trying to wade through the conflict of doing what’s right and doing what’s expected. Maurie-Laure is a blind girl who is learning how to cope with the changing world around her in occupied France.

What I thought:

  • This is the kind of book that I just had to let simmer for awhile before I could decide what I thought about it. There were so many good parts of the book but there were also parts that really bothered me, and, biggest of all, I just wasn’t sure how I felt about the ending. It left me a little unsatisfied. This is the kind of book that book clubs are made for.
  • Probably one of my favorite things about the book was the imagery. As mentioned above, one of the main characters is blind and it was so impressive to me how Doerr handled that. He really explains things using the 4 senses we’re not as used to reading about. It really put things into perspective to me.
  • I also absolutely loved the relationships he built within the book. The characters seemed so real to me with older, wiser relationships as well as young and insecure ones.
  • The story, in my opinion, was fairly unique with a mystical standpoint involving a cursed diamond. I personally enjoyed this little twist. And I also really enjoyed the layout of the book.
  • Not to end with the bad…but that’s exactly what I’m doing. There were so many impressive aspects to this novel that the things that didn’t jive with me really stood out in a bad way. As with any WWII novel, there are some incredibly unpleasant scenes, which is fine and even necessary. However, I felt like a few of the scenes that Doerr chose to add were completely unnecessary appendages, added only to shock the reader. That wasn’t my fave. And, as mentioned above, the ending really threw me off. The message was completely clear, but I was kind of like, “You wrote this entire (mostly) beautiful novel just to end it like that?”
  • Did any of you guys read it? And what did you think? I finished it months ago now, but I’m still not sure where I stand with it (insert eye roll emoji)…

Should You Read It?: I’m leaning more toward recommending this book than not recommending it. I think it has some great things to offer…just know that I didn’t love ALL of it.

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Your Baby’s First Year by The American Academy of Pediatrics

This book’s about: all the information you might need concerning your baby during his/her first year.

What I Thought:

  • My pediatrics office gave us this book on our first visit and it has turned out to be such a lifesaver for me! I know there are lots of people who love and feel comfortable turning to Google when they’ve got a question about their baby. I am not that person. I feel like, more often than not, my Google searches end in me reading some outlandish (and absolutely incorrect) information that turns me into a puddle of fear and worry. Luckily, this book covers just about everything you could ever worry about and since it was written by pediatricians, I feel like I can trust the information it gives me. When I see an issue or want more information about something regarding my baby, I first turn to the book. If I can’t find an answer there, I ask a family member or friend who is also a mother. If I still have questions I might turn to Google but I’m just as likely to write the question down and ask the doctor at our next visit. I can’t tell you the peace this has brought me because those mommy forums can get mean and crazy and, like I mentioned, totally inaccurate.
  • Just as an FYI, I have not read this book in full, nor do I plan to-I just read the sections I’m curious about.

Should You Read It?: If you fit into the category of new mom with a baby, I’d absolutely recommend buying yourself a copy-especially if you get sick of navigating your way through what the internet has to say about your baby.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

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I felt the need to post this recipe for two reason. Number One (and also most importantly): this soup is DE.LISH.OUS! It’s seriously so good. And, Number Two: I felt like I needed to prove that we actually do eat, you know, food! It’s not just muffins and treats here ALL the time…

But back to the soup…it’s a copycat from the Chicken Gnocchi Soup that you can order at Olive Garden!

For a long time, whenever the server at Olive Garden asked if I wanted soup or salad, I’d say salad because their salad (okay, really it’s the dressing!) is soooo yummy. But one time I changed things up and got their soup…particularly their chicken gnocchi soup…and now I will never go back! It’s just too good! And if you opt for the soup, you’re pretty full by the time your food comes out (the soup is bottomless!) which, to me, means meal for later!

So, there you have it. All the tricks to Olive Gardening successfully.

Another good trick is to just stay home and make this soup yourself. Because it’s just as good as the restaurant soup aaaaaaand it’s really, really easy to make.

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Here’s the recipe! And I put it on Google Docs (<–link!) if you want to print it out (hopefully it works:)

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups half and half (or 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream)
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 cups cooked chicken (diced or shredded)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
2-4 cups chicken broth
1 lb. gnocchi
1 cup spinach, chopped

In a large pot, over medium heat, saute olive oil, butter, onion, celery, and garlic until butter is melted. Add flour to the pot and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes. Continue stirring and slowly add half and half. Add carrots, chicken and seasonings. Let these ingredients simmer until the mixture becomes fairly thick. Then add the broth and let simmer again. While it’s simmering, bring a separate pot of water to boil and cook gnocchi according to package directions and then drain and set aside the cooked noodles. When the soup mixtures has thickened again (it will be less thick this time), add cooked gnocchi and spinach. Simmer until everything is heated through. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Notes:

-As with pretty much any soup I cook, I’m not afraid of adjusting the broth according to how many people are eating with us. If we have a couple people more, I’ll add an extra cup of broth (and maybe even some extra half and half). But if it’s just me and Ben, I’ll usually reduce the broth to 2 cups, otherwise I feel like my sweet husband gets all the good stuff while I’m left eating just the broth…which, don’t get me wrong, is delicious, but I need some substance!

-If you’re not familiar with gnocchi, it’s just a thick, soft type of pasta made out of potato. You can find it in pretty much any store next to the pasta/noodles. A sweet bonus with gnocchi is that it only takes 2-3 minutes to cook:)

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5 Things Friday: Favorite Religious Talks

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Listening to Conference 6 months ago

So, if you’re LDS you know that General Conference is right around the corner. General Conference happens twice a year and is just a time for us Mormons to hear inspiring messages from our religious leaders, including our apostles and our prophet.

General Conference is honestly something I look forward to so much. I love the extra family time. I love the messages. I love the opportunity to make goals. It’s just all sorts of awesome.

I think listening to and studying the conference talks is a great way to keep learning and growing. Unfortunately, I’m not always as good at reviewing past talks as I should be. However, now that we’re in September, with conference less than a month away, I’ve felt more inclined to give those most recent talks a listen before we bring in another conference to start studying.

If any of you have been more dedicated than me (not hard to do), and have run out of talks to listen to (not that that could ever happen), I thought I’d give a list of some of my all time favorite talks. I love them all for different reasons but they all help me feel the Spirit, which I think is the goal.

  1.  {Why Marriage, Why Family  By Elder D. Todd Christofferson}

Elder Christofferson is easily one of my favorite speakers. This talk is all about why marriage is worthwhile, not just for the couple but for society. This particular General Conference (April 2015) has SO many talks on marriage and they are all spot on! The quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in this particular talk is honestly one of the biggest reasons I love this message so much. It is so profound and just RIGHT.

2.{ Nevertheless I Went Forth By Anthony D. Perkins}

THIS talk…it’s actually a BYU devotional, so I don’t think it’s gotten the attention that it should get. It’s about making choices and following promptings and having faith. I think it really resonates with me because the path that Ben and I are on is looooong and it seems like there’s a major decision waiting to be made around every turn…but Elder Perkins calls young(ish) adulthood The Decade of Decisions which, it turns out, is very fitting. The talk is hilarious with great anecdotes. And the quote from Elder Holland at the end is a personal fave.

3. {We’ll Ascend Together By Linda K. Burton}

Yes…another talk on marriage! And guess what? This one is from that same conference (April 2015)! If nothing else, click on the link to see some of the sweetest pictures ever! I love everything about this talk especially the proverb Sister Burton shares.

4. {Charity Never Faileth By President Thomas S. Monson}

This talk is about charity and more specifically about not judging others. The story about the inn owner, Mary Bartels, is so sweet it makes me cry every time I read it. And in true President Monson fashion, there are plenty of stories, which always resonate with me.

5. {Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name By Elder David A. Bednar}

This is one of those talks that make me cry no matter how many times I’ve listened to it. And the first couple of times I couldn’t really place why the talk had such an impact on me. In this talk, Elder Bednar shares a portion of each of the last talks given by 6 of the brethren who’ve passed away since Bednar was called as an apostle. I finally realized that I love the talk so much because I love the leaders of our church so much. They are good, strong, inspired men and women who’ve been called of God. The love they have for each other and for us is so real.

 

 

The funny thing about sharing these talks is that the more I wrote about each one, the more I kept thinking of OTHER talks that I wanted to add to the list! Good stuff! And *Note to Self* Don’t forget that lots of great talks have been turned into Mormon Messages and only take a few minutes to watch:)

August in Review

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Good

  • Ben had a pretty good break in between summer school and the fall semester starting. We were planning on just doing a small trip to visit some friends but as so often happens (at least when one is married to Ben), we changed plans and headed north to visit family. It’s always nice to see everyone and it didn’t hurt that we had some extra fun outings-like going to Alpaca Day with Ben’s family and kayaking the Provo River with my family.
  • My sis-in-law cut my hair! It’s shorter than I usually do and I love it! You can *kind of* see it in the pic above.
  • August is birthday month for me and Ben! After visiting family, we used our birthdays as excuses to still do a couple of fun outings before school started and we have no regrets!
  • One of the fun outings we did was go to this wildlife park about an hour south of Flagstaff called Out of Africa. Admission is free during your birthday month so we thought we’d give it a shot and we were so impressed we went back a week later! The park has a good number of animals and we were so impressed with how natural their living spaces seemed. The animals seem totally healthy and happy. Part of admission is going on an open bus tour through an area where the animals are just kind of free range. The bus drove right up to a giraffe who we were able to feed celery sticks right out of our hands! We also got to see their Tiger Splash show which included 2 of their tigers and a handful of trainers playing around and doing tricks that involve water (because apparently tigers love to swim!). It was seriously so awesome. I highly recommend it if you’re in the area!
  • Last month I said that Flagstaff was gorgeous and I just have to jump in here and say that this month our little town has been breathtaking! If you have a hankering to visit Flagstaff, come in August. There are wildflowers everywhere!!!

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Blah

  • Wendy and I both got a cold after visiting family, and we’re both still working on getting over it. Ugh.
  • For the most part, I like sharing a birthday month with Ben. We are actually both used to sharing a birthday (he has the same birthday as his dad, and I’ve got a twin), so it works pretty well. But his birthday comes first and I kind of hate that. I feel like I have to set the stage for how the birthdays are going to go but I can’t do anything about it if he one ups me, you know? Like this year, I gave Ben some good stuff but when it was my turn, he spoiled the crap out of me! What am I supposed to do about that aside from turning back time? I guess I’ll just have to start figuring out how I can get even with him next year…

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On My Brain

  • This summer has been really great. Ben’s been more free than we were expecting him to be which has meant lots of time for all of us hanging out together. This month I’ve been really worried about school starting because it means going from majority of the day with Ben to majority of the day without Ben. Which, being more transparent, means more parenting duties for myself once school’s going. We were in a nice rhythm when Ben was super busy last year and I know we’ll get back into a good rhythm this year too…but it has still made me a little nervous!
  • It’s become very obvious to me that I am a lot less productive when Ben’s around (looooove you!) so I’ve also been thinking about what I want to get back in the swing of now he’s gone most of the day. Sewing and reading have been my major slacking points so they’re at the top of my to do list!

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Ben’s Program

Sorry for the hiatus in posting (well in a sorrynotsorry kind of way…). With school starting next week (SO glad Ben starts a little later…even if it does mean he starts on my birthday), we’ve been soaking in every last bit of summer that we can over here!

A year ago, I had the thought to post a little bit of information on the program Ben is currently in. We get A LOT of questions about what he’s doing…and (I don’t mean to sound rude here) I feel like the questions are less “how fascinating!” and more “I don’t get it.” Which is totally fine. Graduate programs are different than undergraduate programs and it seems to me that every graduate program is different than the next!

So here’s a breakdown of Ben’s schooling.

A Little Bit of Background

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Ben’s first day of school at BYU-I (Jan 2013)

When Ben and I first met, he told me he was planning on majoring in accounting. Now, accounting is obviously an important and respected profession…but my husband was and is not meant to be an accountant. It just isn’t Ben. So I think we both felt a lot better when he felt directed toward studying and teaching Spanish.

Ben got his undergrad at BYU-I in Spanish Education with a minor in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I know you’re wondering and the answer is yes, Ben served a Spanish Speaking mission (for our church) in Argentina.

During his Bachelor’s, Ben actually applied to 2 different Master’s Programs at 2 different times (his Master’s application process was anything but traditional); the first, he didn’t get into, and the second just didn’t feel right. So when Ben graduated, he was qualified to teach public school which lead us to our time in Alaska. I think Ben always kind of had a goal to do some sort of graduate program and I think that Alaska was the perfect hiatus from being a student. It was just a little reprieve before heading back into the world of schooling. While we were in Alaska, Ben applied for and was accepted into the program he’s in now (again, he only applied to one school…but so glad that this time it worked out!).

Ben’s Master’s Program

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Ben’s first day of school at NAU (Aug 2016)

The program Ben is currently in is called a Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish. I once had someone ask what kind of art Ben did…and it really threw me off. The art Ben does is the art of language??? Ha! Ben doesn’t really do art…the program focuses on Spanish and on Teaching.

So many people ask, “Isn’t Ben fluent already?” And Imma tell you right now NOT to ask Ben that question (he’s all, “What is fluency?”). I’m just going to say YES, HE IS FLUENT (he has a hard time claiming fluency because, for example, he isn’t familiar with, say, medical terminology in Spanish (or in English ,for that matter) BUT for all intents and purposes, the man knows his way around the Spanish language). His classes are less “Baño means bathroom” and more the study of syntax, grammar, literature, etc. It’s like how we speak English but we still take an English class.

Ben’s program culminates either in students doing student teaching or in conducting a research project and writing a thesis. Ben did student teaching with his undergrad, and so he is currently working on his thesis (a study on how perception of Spanish speakers affect one’s ability to learn the language).

Ben has said a handful of times, “Everyone should do a Master’s Degree-it goes by so quickly!” And it really has flown by. Master’s Degrees (I believe) are typically 2 year programs, so Ben is halfway through and going strong.

Ben’s Assistantship

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Proud wife moment! Ben has an actual office!

When we tell family members that Ben’s in school, lots reply with, “Wait-but I thought he was teaching!” Not to worry, he IS also teaching. Many graduate programs offer what is called an assistantship. From what I understand, assistantships vary greatly depending on what you’re studying. Since Ben is studying teaching, his assistantship is teaching. Ben teaches 2 Spanish classes on campus each semester. It’s different than student teaching in that Ben is totally in charge of his class. He’s THE teacher. He has one of his professors view his class once or twice a semester to offer a bit of feedback, but basically Ben’s in charge of content, teaching style, testing, etc. This has been such a great opportunity for Ben because he’s essentially doing what he’ll be doing for his career (teaching college) and he’s really been enjoying it.

This assistantship has also been a gigantic blessing because it has some perks, mainly that Ben’s tuition is free (I seriously cannot even tell you how grateful we are for that) and he gets a little stipend each month. We really are so grateful.

So, What’s Next?

I always have a hard time giving plans because if I’ve learned anything in life it is that you can’t plan on anything! But, truthfully and most likely, Ben will go on…to get a PhD! Now if you want to be overwhelmed, think about going to school for 10 years and not buying a house until you’re 40! Ha! Honestly, when Ben and I dreamed of him being a professor, we knew that 10 years of schooling was a real possibility but I don’t think we really knew what that would look like. We’ve taken his schooling one step at a time and I don’t think I could’ve done it any other way.

Right now, we’re planning on having Ben apply to PhD programs this fall (I know! So soon!). And we’ll (hopefully) know where we’re headed next around March of next year. You can definitely count on me keeping you all updated!

What’s All This Been Like for Me?

Honestly, this has been a crazy ride! Our decisions have definitely been spiritually lead (and hopefully they continue to be), but even so there have been so many times where one of us says, “Ugh! Can’t Ben just quit school? Can’t he just go work at a bank or something??” It’s funny how we can know exactly what’s right, but still somehow think we know a better way. Luckily, it seems like only one of us is doubting at a time and the other person is in a good position to hold strong to the goals we’ve made and know are right.

It’s also been pretty awesome to watch Ben grow and learn. I know I NEVER talk about how great Ben is (jk I pretty much talk about his awesomeness ALL the time) but watching him grow as a teacher has been really cool. I’ve had the opportunity to watch Ben in teaching situations throughout our whole marriage (China, Sunday school, Alaska, parenting, etc.) and I’ve been able to watch him grow into a compassionate, comfortable and effective teacher. That and having him stick to this crazy amount of schooling have really made me proud of him and all he’s done. And to see his accomplishments helps to solidify that this is right no matter how long of a road it seems to be.

So bring on the PhD!

Er, maybe just finishing his Master’s…we’ll deal with the PhD one year at a time…

Saucepan Brownies

So, guys, I know that there are not only a billion brownie recipes out there, I know that there are a billion delicious brownie recipes out there. I mean, brownies are chocolate which is practically a guarantee that they are going to be YUM. Right?

I personally have 3 favorite brownie recipes that I cycle through depending on the occasion.

I have one recipe that makes totally and completely over-the-top brownies that result in me feeling 100% satisfied, 100% guilty and 100% chubby. And then I have a recipe that tastes totally killer but is made with non-guilty ingredients (like coconut oil and whole wheat flour and coconut sugar) so I don’t have to feel bad for eating it (right?). And then there are these brownies.

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My I’m-Not-Feeling-Particularly-Sinful-OR-Particularly-Angelic-But-I-Could-Go-For-Something-Chocolatey Brownies.

In my opinion, the perfect brownie.

They’re soft and fudgy and chewy and not at all cakey because if you want cake-like brownies than just make some cake, gosh darn it.

The trick to making these successfully is to frost them RIGHT when they get out of the oven. Like, Oh hello, browniesWHAM!frosting. Super fast. The frosting kind of melds with the brownie so you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends and it turns into this fudginess that just melts in your mouth. Mmmmm. Delicious.

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Saucepan Brownies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 beaten eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Stir in cocoa powder. Turn off your stove and remove pan from heat. Let the pan cool enough that your eggs won’t cook when you stir them in. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the batter is set (it no longer jiggles). While the brownies are baking, make the frosting recipe (below). As soon as you remove the brownies from the oven, spread the frosting evenly on top. Let cool for about 20-30 minutes before cutting into bars.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (or cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the frosting, melt the butter. Add remaining ingredients and stir until completely smooth.