Thursday, January 29, 2015

It Takes Two...

   Two ingredients that is. I kid you not.  You can make this impressive looking tasty little treat by using only two ingredients (three if you want to get fancy) and they require very little effort. What more can you ask for in a dessert? 

   I came across the recipe on Pinterest and I have to admit, I was skeptical.  Could something so simple really taste good?  I decided to throw caution to the wind and grabbed my apron and the Nutlella jar. Fortunately, I had some ready made pie crust in the fridge (I used Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust) so I was good to go. No shopping required. I began to think this was too good to be true.

You will need:
  • 1 jar of Nutella
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • Unroll the pie crust onto a sheet of parchment paper
  • Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter cut circles out of the dough and then roll the scraps into a ball 
  • Gently knead together the scraps, roll out the dough and make more circles
  Alas, this recipe called for something I did not have... a round cookie cutter.  I decided to improvise by using the top of a mason jar. It worked surprisingly well!

  • To give your finished pastry more shine and to aid in browning, brush the dough with an egg wash (simply beat an egg with a fork in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to apply it to your dough)
  • *The egg wash will also help to seal your edges and will moisture seal the bottom of your crust so the filling doesn't make it soggy
  • To form a square out of your round cut out, pinch the opposite sides of the circle together. It will look like this...

Turn the dough and do the same to the remaining sides so that it looks like this...

  • Be sure to pinch the corners firmly so that they stay closed while baking ( I tucked my corners around each side of the square)
  • With your fingers, open up the centre of each square and place a dollop of Nutella inside (I found using two butter knives the best way to do this)
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is golden brown 
  • Cool and serve or store in an air tight container (be warned, they won't last long!)

    If you want to get really fancy, you can even dress these little bites of heaven up by serving them with whipped cream and strawberries... yum!

    Or you can simply dust them with icing sugar ...

The bottom line? This recipe worked and the result was impressive and delicious!
 Thank you Made From Pinterest for posting this recipe. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Less is More...

     As part of my New Year's resolve to become more mindful and show more gratitude I picked up a book entitled Less is More; 101 ways to simplify your life by Domonique Bertolucci (yes my local friends, we do have it at our library!). I devoured it faster than my family did this batch of cookies! 

     So much of it was relevant and inspiring to me.  About a third of the way through this little book of wisdom, I came across a page that gave me pause.  In hopes that the author won't mind, here is an excerpt:

"Life is really simple,
but we insist on making it complicated."

Make it easy
     Don't keep struggling if something seems difficult. It really doesn't have to be.
There's a big difference between taking the easy way out and looking for a simple solution, so stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and ask yourself, 'How can I make this easier?' Then do it that way instead.
~ Domonique Bertolucci

     Looks good on paper right? I know what you're thinking. If we really stop to think about it though, how hard can it be to strive to make things easier? Seriously. 

     Let's start with this new recipe I found.  It really does not get much easier than this. The effort is minimal and the result is amazing. Try it, you'll see!

Here's What You'll Need
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped 
    Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees
    ~ Sift together the flour, the salt and the baking soda in a small bowl and set aside
    ~ Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter, and brown sugar and mix until fluffy
    ~ Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and milk
    ~ Add in the flour mixture and beat until combined
    ~ Shape dough into balls and place into an ungreased mini muffin tin

    ~ Bake for 10 minutes 
    ~ Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball
    ~ Let cookies cool in tin completely before carefully popping them out with a butter knife

        I even found a way to make these cookies much easier...

    I happened to have a tub of ready made peanut butter cookie dough in my fridge (thanks to a fundraiser at my daughter's school) so I didn't even have to prepare the dough! 

         One last thing... you'll notice in the above photo that I also used some Hersey's Kisses. They work just as well if you don't have any mini chocolate covered peanut butter cups on hand. Remember, it's all about making things easier. Work with what you've got. You'll be happier for it.

    Thanks to Six Sisters' Stuff for inspiring this wonderful recipe. 
    Visit their site for more great recipes or check out one of their awesome books!

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

    It's The Little Things...


       The new year, for me, is a time of transition.  It is the time of year when I look back and reflect upon the past year while trying to look forward into the new one. To be honest, I find the new year melancholy.  Amidst all of the reveling I can't help but focus on the year(s) gone by... how fast my children are growing up, those that we have loved and lost, things that have changed, and things that have not.

       Over the past few years I have had some significant changes in my life and because of that I have become more mindful about being grateful. I no longer focus on the negative, but try to embrace the positive.  One way I do so is by keeping a gratitude journal.  I know it sounds cheesy, but it really does help me to keep things in perspective.  While I don't write in it daily, I do try to write at least three things I am grateful for each week. Some weeks there are more entries, some weeks there are less. That's okay. It's not about the quantity, it's about the quality. 

       Once I started compiling a list of all that makes me thankful I became more aware of what I wanted to carry with me or create more of in the coming year. For me it's the simple things, but these are the things that we often take for granted.

       In an attempt to involve my family in my gratefulness project I created a Grateful Jar.  I introduced it to my family last year on New Year's Day.  I explained what it was for and placed it in a prominent spot on our kitchen counter. Beside it, I made sure there was a constant supply of small slips of paper and a pen. The idea was simple; starting on New Year's Day, and continuing on throughout the year, we were to put gratitude notes in the jar. The slips of paper were small to make the task seem less daunting. On the jar I wrote a list of ideas to write about:

    • good things that happened to you
    • surprise gifts
    • accomplished goals
    • "LOL!" moments
    • memories worth saving
    • daily blessings

     To my delight, the notes accumulated and on New Year's Eve we opened the jar and read all of the wonderful, silly, funny and awesome things we were grateful for throughout the past year.  Here are a few of my favourites: 

    • we had pizza
    • snow days
    • playing cards with Nanny & Papa
    • I scored a goal in hockey
    • eating rice with chopsticks #YOLO
    • good health
    • dinner tasted good 
    • sleeping in
    • Pillsbury Dough boy cookies ("Mom is clutch.")
    • getting a point in The Game of Things
    • I have good friends

        We had fun taking turns reading the notes out loud and remembering good times.  We were all surprised at how many notes there were! It is a humble reminder of how truly blessed we really are.  I recommend you try it. There are all sorts of inspiring ideas on Pinterest, but really all you need is a jar, some scrap paper and a pen. If you want to get creative I have attached a link to a free printable below.

     for a free printable tag thanks to

          Among the many things that the Gratitude Jar has taught me is that sometimes it is merely the thought that counts. I often get so caught up in trying to find the ' perfect recipe' that will please everyone when truthfully, most are happy with the thoughtfulness of the effort.  Hence, when I read the note that said "I am grateful for Pillsbury Dough boy cookies" I realized that perfecting a homemade batch of chocolate chip cookies isn't necessarily what is needed to please my kids. 

         I just so happened to have a leftover box of these cookies in the fridge....

     and when the kids arrived home from school to a fresh baked batch of Christmas cookies on a chilly January day they were all smiles.  Some days it's the thought that counts and for that I am grateful.

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Spreading Some Sunshine...

         I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful person a few years ago. On my journey of re-discovery she crossed my path and I'm sure it was no accident. Sadly, yesterday she lost her brave battle with cancer. Please, if you can, take the time to read her Manifesto of Gratitude. I'm posting her words on my blog with the hope that I can spread some of her sunshine. I feel we can all learn from her. She was such a caring and mindful person and I'm sure, though she is gone, she will live on in the hearts of all she touched. 

    Allison's Manifesto of Gratitude

        September 24, 2012 is significant day for me.  It’s an anniversary. A big one.  10 years ago today  I was diagnosed with a rare inoperable form of cancer called neuroendocrine-cancer on my pancreas (this is similar to what Steve Jobs of Apple had). I was 22 years old and it was the day that I was supposed to start my practice teaching placement for teachers college. The reason I am sharing this, is many people in my life have asked me to blog about this. I never really thought it would be that interesting to others.

         Since that day ten years ago my life has been filled with many opportunities and challenged I would never have imagined for myself and those around me. My life is so different now. Better, fuller, more complicated and when I look back on it all - I smile. It has been challenging for not just me but, the people around me. I am proud of how we have handled this and still handle this. I have never felt alone and I am eternally grateful for the positive energy the surrounds me and I try to share this with everyone whom I meet. The last ten years have had surgeries, chemo, hospital stays, trips to Europe for treatment, continued treatment, meeting and marrying my husband;  he is a part of my soul - happily ever after and loving him for me is like breathing, spending time with my family & friends and becoming a part of my large married family, growing an even stronger bond with my remarkable family who`s strength is unbelievable, my teaching career, having fun in life and growing older. I am so blessed. I like who I am better, today, 10 years later. I am proud of myself and who I have grown to become and am excited to continue on my life`s path and so much of this is because I have had a lot of help. Thank you.

         I choose to celebrate and mark this day, by thanking everyone.  There are people who have made a significant difference in my life in the past 10 years and will not read this, some have passed on, some do not have a computer, some I am not in contact with and some I do not even know personally.  I send out this love and thanks into the universe for everyone. Therefore I want to share the 10 most important lessons I have learned in my Manifesto of Gratitude of some lessons I have learned along the way.

    1. Be Brave – this is my mantra. I say it hundreds of times a day. I use it when I go to see my docs or when I am picking out an outfit. If I ever got a tattoo –it would say this. Be brave, be brave, be brave.

    2. Spend time with myself – I am fortunate to have finally realized that I need to rest, relax and listen to myself. I am a lot smarter then I give myself credit. I know a lot of answers of things that I wonder. By spending time with myself I can hear my inner voice. Sitting quietly or singing at the top of my lungs. Hanging out with me gives me time to connect to myself. Yoga and meditation really allow me to do this. My yoga experiences have been heavenly and I am blessed to have had wonderful teachers.

    3. Pray – I do this not just for what I need but, also for others. Often.             
    My two favourite prayers are:

    The prayer of St. Francis
     ( also a favorite mantra of mine)
    Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.
    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    A Buddhist prayer 

    Let all things be healthy.
    Let all things be peaceful.
    Count your blessings at least once a day.
    Forgive those who have hurt you; forgive those who have offended you.
    But most of all forgive yourself for what you have done, and for what you have failed to do.
    What is done, there is no need to speak of.
    What is past, there is no need to blame.
    Have self-control, self-knowledge, self-respect, and the courage to dare.
    Strive to make the spot where you stand beautiful.
    Then harmony, happiness, and longevity will follow you all your days and all your ways.

    4. Things do not go as planned: so deal with it – sure, it is ok to not like it.  If I can change things I will. If I cannot, I choose to go with it. Life to me is not a fight. It`s a song and I need to play on. Even if I play the wrong note, I know to keep playing on. By developing a stronger set of coping techniques is important for everyone – it has been essential for me.

    5. Gratitude- every night before bed my husband and I say ‘thank you’ to each other. For our lives, the day, our experiences. I try to exercise as much gratitude as I am able to. When I exhale, I try to breath out `thank yous`` as often as possible. If I can help someone, I try my best to help anyone in whatever way I may be able to. So many people help me on my path and I am honoured to show gratitude by helping whenever I can.  Give back as often as possible.

    6. Smile & Laugh – authentically, whenever, until my cheeks hurt, in my sleep, as often as possible.

    7. Give Energy to positive things -That is one reason I do not often talk about having cancer. It’s a part of my life, but not MY life. I am happy to talk about it, however, I like talking about cooking, fun, music, travelling and being happy. Hence, my manifesto. I try to release the things in my life that are not serving me or causing unneeded stress. Some things are unavoidable and that is why giving energy to positive things helps me deal with not-so-positive times.

    8. Forgive – nobody is perfect. I am not, but my inner voice is really good at telling me I should be. To take a good look at myself and forgive is a life-long process. To forgive others is tough too. I believe that people (myself included) have trouble forgiving out of fear. So to be brave and face that fear is the ultimate personal freedom.

    9. Treat myself & make bad choices – drink one more glass of wine or do an extra shot, eat a piece or two of cake, stay up too late, eat something a little too spicy or maybe deep fried. I do not mean anything too crazy, however the term crazy is relative to your gage for crazy.  I believe in life we regret more the things we don’t do, then the things we have done. I do not exercise this even moment of my day. However, my philosophy is 80:20. 80% of the time I do make best to make the absolute best choices that I am able to make (diet, exercise, keeping stress levels low, surrounding myself with calm and authentic people). Then there is the 20% of my life. It is the Chinese food  I love Chinese food), the vanilla cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles ( I try to avoid sugar at all costs), the bottle of wine I will open and finish with my husband. Why do I do these things, it is because sometimes I want to. Sometimes, this 20% actually makes my 80% better. I have less stress because I do not feel like I am sacrificing what I want, rather actively choosing what’s best for me.

    10. Lead by Example  I think about this every day. Who do I admire, why do I admire them, how can I be like that. I am thankful for the lessons that have taught me how not behave as well. One of my favourite teachers, Ajhan Brahm (a Buddhist monk) talks about how sometime people show us examples of how to conduct ourselves or how not conduct ourselves. I try to lead by an example of the people who have inspired me. I even have a sign in my classroom that says this.

         I want to close this with Thank You. I hold in my heart all of the love and support from everyone and I am humbled daily by the positive people and support.  Letters, cards, texts, emails, visits, prayers, well-wishes, hugs, lunches, smiles, flowers, phone calls, silly times, serious times, holding of my hand, taking time off to be with me, and moments that could go to moon and back if they were listed. All of these things are etched on my heart. My loving parents always told me the best gift you can give someone is your time. I remember every second of time. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.