Moving Again

Yes, we are moving yet again….

…to Sacramento!

I can’t believe it’s been 9 years since my parents and I took that long cross country drive from San Diego to Wisconsin.  Another 4 years after that, we drove from Wisconsin to Massachusetts in one very ltiring day.  It was intense.  And now this July, husband and I will be driving ourselves, Speedy the Chinchilla, and Mister Fish from Connecticut to California!

We had a pretty difficult time making the decision to take the job offered here or the one in California.  I won’t go into the details here for privacy reasons, but the hardest part was to know what we actually wanted — for David, in terms of his job/career, and for me, in terms of a possible residency/next steps.  We spent hours going over the pros and cons of each decision without knowing what it was that we actually preferred for ourselves.

As we shared our dilemma with friends and family, we heard over and over again, yeah…that’s a tough decision.  Sometimes it felt like my head was spinning with the choices as we went back and forth over and over again.  What helped me to calm down was when our small group prayed over us.  Specifically, they prayed that we would know what we actually wanted and then we could present those heart’s desires to God and ask for wisdom.  So that’s what we did.  I was finally able to admit that yes, I did want to be back in California so that I could be closer to my sister and parents, but I could also honestly say that I would be really happy and completely supportive if we stayed here.

This attitude was a huge change from where I started 9 years ago.  When I first moved away, all I could think about was going back to California.  I really loved Wisconsin and all of the awesome people that I met there.  But I had set my hope so much on being back in California that I cried on Match Day after I found out I was moving to Massachusetts (don’t worry, I made it home first).

But then being in Massachusetts turned out to be an enormous blessing.  I got to take weekend trips to visit my grandma in what would be her last years, which definitely would not have been possible in a surgery residency in California.  David and I got to spend Thanksgiving holidays (when we weren’t working) with my uncle, aunt, and cousins, which was SO much fun.  We both met amazing people who will be lifelong friends 🙂  We got to enjoy weekend visits in New York and Boston.   In fact, I was actually starting to get quite comfy here on the East Coast.  We don’t hate it here (maybe except for the endless winters…it’s snowing right now as I write this), which made the decision even tougher.

In the end, David stayed up all night the night before he was supposed to give his final answer to the place in California.  I’m not sure what he was thinking about, because I was sleeping quite soundly, knowing that whatever decision he made would turn out just fine 🙂

So that’s the story!  And now we are anticipating a move across the country in just a few short months.  It’s exciting to be starting a new chapter in a new city.  We’ll definitely miss our friends and family here, but our door is always open for guests! 🙂

Snickers Cheesecake Bars + Salted Caramel Recipe

I learned an important lesson these last couple of weeks – always share the desserts that you make!!  We didn’t share any of the cupcakes that were made in that last post, so I ended up eating a cupcake every day for a week.  So good, yet so bad.  Oops.

So anyways, here is something sweet to start off your week.  Make some to share! 🙂

As per usual, my recipe came from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  Great website for simple, delicious, and pretty desserts.

Snickers Cheesecake Bars

My modifications: I doubled the recipe to make a 9×13 pan and added a cup of peanut butter to the cheesecake batter.  I should probably just buy a 9×9 pan so I can stop having to double recipes all the time.  I also used all neufchatel cheese and it whipped up just fine.  Then I topped it with homemade salted caramel (Recipe below) and melted some chocolate to drizzle on top. YUM.

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Husband’s only critique was the the crust seemed a bit too crunchy, so he wanted me to try it with a brownie base next time.  Pure evil genius! 🙂

Here’s the recipe for homemade salted caramel, adapted from here.  It’s SO good and really easy!  This recipe makes enough to fill about 2/3 of a regular mason jar.

1 cup of white sugar
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Stir water and sugar in heavy sauce pan with high sides until combined over medium-high heat.  Swirl pan until sugar is evenly browned, dissolved and a bright amber color.
Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted (be careful, it’ll bubble and foam here!).  Then add cream, vanilla, and salt, and stir until combined.
Let cool to room temperature.  You can add an additional 1/2 tsp sea salt here if you want crunchy salt crystals in your caramel.  Store in glass jar and refrigerate.
When I’m ready to use it, I usually just take the lid off and microwave it 15 seconds at a time until the caramel is soft enough to drizzle. 🙂 Enjoy!

Frosting Win!

This week, I used our anniversary as an excuse to make more cupcakes.  And finally, after 2 previous attempts using 2 different recipes, I found a smooth, fluffy, not too sweet, not too buttery frosting that doesn’t make me want to wipe off my cupcake.

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I started by searching for “light not too sweet frosting.”  And what came up on the first page was a post by The Pioneer Woman about the best frosting.  A quick glance at some of the other recipes on the first page revealed that the magic ingredients are FLOUR and milk to balance the taste and mouthfeel of 2 sticks of butter.  Who would’ve thunk it?!?  I had seen this so-called “cooked flour frosting” during my previous frosting searches but it sounded gross so I had always glossed over it.  But if the Pioneer Woman says it’s good, then it must be good!

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Next, I looked for some ways to flavor it, because I had it in my head that I wanted to make coconut frosting to top a coconut cream cheese-filled chocolate cupcake.  So my next search was for “cooked flour frosting”, which landed me here.  I used this recipe, substituting the milk and cream for unsweetened coconut milk.  This recipe tweaks the technique of cooking the milk and flour by melting in the sugar also, which keeps it smooth (because apparently some people have had trouble with the frosting turning out gritty from the sugar).  Plus it gives very helpful troubleshooting tips and flavoring options like cream cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, nutella, etc.

IMG_5298Thanks for the lovely new cake stand, husband!

I found this frosting really easy to make.  The trick was to keep whisking and whisking the milk/flour/sugar mixture the whole time to prevent lumps from forming.  It’s a good arm workout!  After that, all you do is whip the room temp butter in your mixer until fluffy, then pour in the *cooled* flour mixture and add whatever flavors you want.  So simple!  The result was a yummy, not too sweet frosting that I could actually eat by the spoonful (which is the ultimate test for a frosting, right?).   🙂

Celebrating 2 Years

Today is our 2 year anniversary!  It feels like it has been so much longer, but in a good way. 🙂

Anyways, I am incredibly thankful every day for this hilarious, comforting, goofy silly, stubborn, forgiving, and sweet husband who also happens to be my best friend.  Yes, of course we have our rough moments and days, but I am so happy that I get to be married to this guy, especially with how much we’ve been through together already.  He has been so unbelievably supportive and comforting during this really difficult year.  I can’t wait for so many more years of doing life together!

We celebrated by spending a quiet weekend in the Berkshires at a B&B.  I loved our cozy room with a wood fireplace and beautiful view from the window.  We enjoyed plenty of delicious food of course, at breakfast and at our favorite restaurant in the Berkshires, Nudel. 🙂

I wanted to share some of our wedding photos but I can’t upload anything for some reason!

Anyways, happy anniversary to my husband!  And thank you to everyone who has been a part of our lives, both as individuals and a couple.  We love you!

Nutella Peanut Butter Banana Bread + Perfect Banana Bread recipe.

This is a post dedicated to banana bread, which I think is a delicious and not too unhealthy comfort food.  Husband says the smell of banana bread in the oven reminds him of Christmas.

I’ve been wanting to try this Nutella-swirled peanut butter banana bread ever since my mom sent me the link a couple months ago, and finally was able to make a double batch this past weekend.  One for us to keep, one for a friend 🙂  My Nutella didn’t swirl as nicely (or at all, really), but who cares?  It tasted SO good.  Slightly crispy on the outside Nutella topping, and deliciously soft and moist bread with a perfect balance of peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chips.  And this was even with not-quite-ripe-enough bananas!

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My recipe modifications – I added 1/4 cup of plain low-fat yogurt because my perfect banana bread recipe (see below) calls for yogurt to make it *always* moist and soft.  I also used peanut butter chips instead of chopped up Reese’s since I had some leftovers that I needed to finish up anyways.

So, after you make this fancy stuff and you feel like you just want something classic and delicious, try making the perfect banana bread, which was adapted from this recipe.  Ask anyone who has had it (husband, my parents, my sister, my neighbors)…this foolproof recipe makes some really yummy banana bread!

For one 9×5″ loaf:

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed (2 large, or 3 medium)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Plus 1/2 cup chocolate chips if you want 🙂
Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition.  Add in vanilla.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt separately, then add to butter/sugar/egg mixture.  Mix until flour mixture is just moistened.
4. Fold in yogurt, bananas, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips.
5. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before removing to cool on wire rack.