Thursday, January 31, 2013

Outrageous Caramel Brownies

This is seriously one of my favorite desserts. I LOVE chocolately desserts that have other flavors involved. These fudgy brownies have crunchy pecans and gooey caramel! YUM! Hopefully the pictures and step-by-step directions will make you want to go make right now! :) And yes, I just finished licking caramel off my fingers from eating one!

Here we go! The ingredients:

~1 bag of caramel squares--unwrapped (my mom added DUH! in her recipe here which cracks me up every time I read it)
~1/2 cup evaporated milk
~1 cup butter/margarine
~2 tsp vanilla
~2 cups sugar
~4 eggs, slightly beaten
~1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
~3/4 cup cocoa powder
~1/4 tsp salt
~2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks/chips, divided
~1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
~1 tsp vegetable oil

Heat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan...or use non-stick foil, which is what I did.

Heat the caramels and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently, until caramels are melted and smooth.


 Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.

 I actually have both meltings going on at the same time. So that the caramel is still warm when the batter is ready.

Before I even turned on the stovetop, I "Rachel Ray'ed" the rest of the recipe. To "Rachel Ray" a recipe is a term that my mom and I came up with. It means to pre-measure all the ingredients and have them in various dishes and containers ready to just pour as you go. You know...just like you see on Rachel Ray or any cooking show where they just grab a little bowl that has the pre-measured ingredient in it and they don't have to get out their measuring cups/spoons. I find that I then only have to read the ingredient list once and the baking part is much smoother with everything ready to go. Here all all my ingredients lined up in the order I need to add them.

 Once the butter is melted, stir in sugar, vanilla and eggs until well blended.

Stir in flour, cocoa, and salt.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips and 1 cup of the pecans.

Spread the batter evenly in the 9x13 pan.
Gently and evenly drizzle melted caramel over the batter preventing caramel from reaching the bottom of the bars. Caramel will cover the entire surface of batter.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until set.

  Heat remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and the oil in a saucepan over low heat.

Stirring frequently until smooth.

 Drizzle over warm brownies. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of pecans.

Cool 20 minutes. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until chocolate is set before cutting.

I personally like to let my brownie be at room temperature for a short while before I eat...that way the chocolate softens up to a fudgy yumminess  and the caramel is soft and gooey...oh yum!

Let me know if you make these and what you think! Happy baking!

Winter Decor

Okay, so originally this post was called "January Decor" when I loaded all the pictures a couple weeks ago. But seeing as I have been incredibly busy and it is now the last day of January, I changed it to Winter Decor so I don't seem as behind as I just admitted I am. Oi vey!

I hated taking down my Christmas decorations. But then I welcomed the opportunity to re-decorate. After having LOTS of stuff for Christmas, I wanted to slim down and have some simple, clean decor in blues and whites. Here is my "mantle":

Closer view. Yes the smoke alarm is in the reflection of the mirror, believe me that was the best angle for taking a picture of a mirror. :S

I found some fonts and snowflakes online that I tried to copy. This was much harder than the tree I drew last month, but I'm really proud and happy with how it turned out. I want to keep trying fun fonts.

The snowflake candle holder (above) and white candle (below) were both gifts from some of my students.

I decided to use my Silhouette and some of my fun Winter paper to make some snowflakes for a banner on the mirror. I downloaded the snowflakes from the online Silhouette store here and my paper was purchased with a coupon at JoAnn's.

The other 2 snowflakes.

This blue end table is a recent addition. A girl from my parent's church moved and my parents bought this for me. It fit so perfect with my decor this month.

A printable my mom printed for me and had in my house when I returned from my honeymoon. I used a glittery ribbon from a wedding present to fill my floating candle bowl and a snowflake candle.

Another printable my mom made for me. Fake white daisies that were gifts from my Kindergarten students last year helped add the fresh and simple element. White candles and my light blue Parker Mini Bowl from Crate&Barrel with peppermint kisses.

Did you decorate for winter? To be honest, I don't know if I will get any Valentine's decorations up this year but at least this can stay for another little while :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pray for Teachers!

 My mom sent me the following email:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:

'Let me see if I've got this right.

'You want me to go into that room all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.

'You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.

'You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job.

'You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.

'You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card.

'You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.

'You want me to do all this, and then you tell me......


This was nominated for email of the year - DE

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homemade Taco Seasoning

I have had a lot of frozen chicken that I have been planning to thaw and cook in the crockpot for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes. When I saw this idea on Pinterest, I knew it was the perfect time to do it.

The pin led me to the blog Rachel Shultz for the recipe. I had all but two of the spices so I got them at the grocery store this morning and then got to making it this afternoon.

 I used the small Rubbermaid container to shake all the spices together. I looked at a package of taco seasoning at the store and the serving information said it contained 12t of mix. The recipe for my crockpot taco chicken said to use one packet. I did the math and realized Rachel's recipe made about 7t of mix so I doubled it. 

Here is the beautiful mixture of spices before I added the cumin, salt, and pepper. 

I added the taco mix and one can of chicken broth to about 15 pieces of frozen chicken tenders. Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Take the chicken out and let it cool on a cutting mat. 

 Then use two forks to shred all the meat up.
You can save it in the refrigerator for use that week or freeze it for future use.

Thanks Rachel for a great (and healthier) substitute to taco seasoning!

What will 2013 bring?

Well I can already tell you it's brought 2 firsts for me...and it's only day 3?!?!

Today I purchased alcohol for the very first time. I have had drinks before, but it's also been at friend's house, or an all-inclusive setting so I've never actually paid for it or been asked for my I.D. So why, you may ask, did this "first" happen today? Today is my husband's birthday! I am making a nice dinner for him and thought I would get some white wine to go with it. I had NO clue what to get. If I hadn't texted a couple friends for suggestions, I would have just picked the bottle with the coolest looking label. I ended up getting Chateau Ste Michelle Sweet Reisling. Sounds fancy huh? If we like it, I'm going to write it down so we actually can remember next time! (I also plan to keep the bottle for some fun craft!)

The second "first" (does that even make sense?) was also related to this birthday dinner in that I purchased and will be cooking steak. I grew up in a no-red-meat home and so I asked my husband what kind of cut and then just picked the best looking one. We'll see how it goes!

As far as what else 2013 might have in store for me...
I'm not super into resolutions, because they never last through January for me. I can't make daily expectations, it just doesn't happen. So instead, I have been thinking about some goals I have for the whole year. Now some (or all) of them might seem pretty easy to reach, but I tend to take on too much and then get overwhelmed and not accomplish anything so I'm going to set reasonable, attainable goals so that I can look back next year and feel like I did a good job.

Here are my goals for this year:
~to exercise more--yes this is vague, but again I can't say "once a week" or whatever because some weeks are just crazier than others. I will know if I exercised more than last year seeing as last year my exercising consisted of daily workouts from April to May in preparation for my wedding. So if I can keep a somewhat regular schedule going to our gym I will be happy. I have gone 3 times this week already :) that will quickly change once school starts again on Monday.

~to read more--I haven't read for pleasure since I graduated from High School! Oh wait...I DID read the 3 Hunger Games books but 3 books in 4 years...that is so sad. Growing up, I had a book in my hand all the time, I devoured books. I want to get back into reading. To enjoy it, to want to pick up my book, to not be able to put it down. Please help me by suggesting good reads! I would be happy if I read at least 5 books for pleasure this year.

~to craft more--now that I have a Silhouette AND a Project Life, I have great excuses to get my craft on! I would also love to work on some DIY furniture projects and various Pinterest ideas whether for myself or gifts. Let the craftiness come!

~to make a recipe binder--I have SO many recipes dog-earred in Rachel Ray magazines and on Pinterest. I would like to actually combine everything into one binder so I can find things.

~to grow my blog--I would love to increase my followers, comments, etc. I'm not expecting or wanting to become a big-time blog this year, I would just like to grow a little bit.

Besides my goals, here are some things I am hoping will happen this year:
~be re-hired at the school I currently teach at, but I would prefer 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd grade.
~start a couple's Bible study with a few couples we know
~take a fun trip somewhere

What are some of your goals? What are you hoping will happen?