I absolutely loved school up until fourth grade. Before that I was a whiz at coloring in the lines, memorized the pledge of allegiance in under a week, and considered my teacher to be my very best friend. When fourth grade rolled around I discovered math was more than simple addition or subtraction, a spelling test now consisted of words that had more than two syllables in them, and to my utter dismay it was no longer ok to take a quick cat nap in the middle of the school day.

After struggling year after year just to maintain a C average I gave up and concentrated on the things I was good at, being the class clown and attending as many social events as I could. My parents and teachers did the best they could to encourage, motivate, and threaten me into doing better in school. As much as I wanted to do good in school, it  just wasn’t my thing and I had a very hard time trying to find my role as a student. Because of that I adopted a “can’t do, so why even bother” attitude that took me years to shake. As a young adult I either gave up when things got hard, or did just the minimum of what was required of me.

I finally got sick of this mind set one Thanksgiving while trying to help my sister-in-laws in the kitchen. It was my job to make the whipped cream for the pies and of course I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. Instead I whipped the cream much to long and accidentally made butter. Lame. I also tried to help make a lemon meringue pie but was quickly relieved from my duties when someone noticed I wasn’t really taking my job seriously. I went home that night slightly embarrassed and sick of allowing myself to give up on things so easily.

I feel like I’ve come a long way since being voted most likely to be in summer school. Hey, I was pretty proud of that title back then and it was 100% true! Instead of being defeated by my mistakes I’ve decided to learn and grow from then. Sounds hokey I know but that took me a long time to figure out!  Every once in a while that little voice that tells me I can’t do something creeps into my head. I’m much better at ignoring it, but sometimes it can keep me from trying seemingly simple things.

Take making a pie for example, sounds easy enough but so many things could go wrong! The crust could come out tough and bland, the filling could be too runny, or too sweet, or not sweet enough! So much to worry about I’m just going to throw in the towel before I even begin….

NO! We are going to roll up our sleeves and make the most delicious berry pie we have ever tasted. Our crust WILL be flakey, the berries WILL be the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and we WILL top our beautiful pie with homemade whipped cream! We will be proud of our berry pie come dessert time and pat ourselves on the back. Not just for the mouth watering pie we made but also for not backing down from a challenge.

For years my teachers told my parents if I just applied myself I would do great in school. The problem was I just didn’t care about academics, but I am so glad I have finally found some things I love and want to put my heart into. My family, my friends, and this berry pie.

I am inspired to cook by all sorts of things. Lately it has been by all of the beautiful fruits and veggies summer has been providing us. Sometimes I am sparked by a meal that I have had in a restaurant and other times I simply cook what I am craving.  A few weeks ago I found my inspiration for this dessert  in kind of a silly place.

Promise you wont laugh?

I was totally inspired by The Housewives of New Jersey. Hey! You said you weren’t going to laugh!

Ok, so do you remember the episode where the girls went to Teresa’s cabin for a weekend full of wine and shootin guns? Alright, remember the part where they all got kinda drunk and had a pizza making contest? Is it me or did this footage strike you as probably the most real situation this show has ever aired? Anyways I thought it was such a great idea, drink some wine with your friends and make pizza! Do you remember which pizza won? It wasn’t a pizza at all but a Nutella calzone.

Holy smokes.

I have never heard of a Nutella calzone before, is there really such a thing? I wanted to make it immediately. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since then and in that time have really thought this creation through. For starters a whole Nutella calzone sounds awesome, but I don’t really think it’s practical. A person would more than likely get sick of it half way though eating it and end up throwing a good part of it away, tragic. Second is pizza dough really the way to go here? I think a flaky pie crust would be much better, and third just Nutella? I think we can figure out something else to put in there that would only enhance and not compete with Nutella’s creamy hazelnut goodness.

I give you the Nutella and banana empanada! These little treats almost remind me of a chocolate homerun pie, except these taste incredible. This dessert bakes up quick and topped with a little powdered sugar these buttery empanadas are a Nutella lovers dream. I’m hoping after my husband eats them he will never again question my desire to watch Housewives of New Jersey or any other silly show on Bravo for that matter!

My boys and I are killing it this summer!

We are sleeping in late (8am!) and swimming everyday. We are all caught up on our cartoons, made a pretty good dent in our summer reading books, and have had TWO weeknight sleepovers at our cousin’s house.

We have been drinking lemon-aid by the pitcher full and have eaten our weight in popsicles. We have had so many popsicles in fact that we are getting a little sick of what’s out there. Huge dilemma, I know. We’ve already ploughed through our beginning-of-summer-box-of-otter-pops. Of course we have picked out our favorites and now only the lame orange ones are left. We’ve tried several healthy fruit only popsicles and I am not the biggest fan of how expensive they can be or that they come four to a box. Four popsicles?! That is so not going to work in this house. I never buy fudgesicles because not everybody likes them (sad I know) and nothing else in the frozen treat isle has caught our eye.

We decided to take matters into our own hands and concoct our own popsicles. I found this Paula Deen recipe online a few weeks ago and thought it would be perfect for us. She originally made hers with fresh strawberries and banana pudding, but we decided to make ours with fresh blackberries and vanilla pudding.

The ingredients for this creamy popsicle were easy to blend up and only took a few hours to freeze. I can’t wait to try other fruits like nectarines, peaches, and I bet kiwis would taste super good! The posibilites for this treat are endless and I wish our lazy summer days could go on forever as well.

Sometimes you just need to jump right into things head first. Who cares if you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ll figure it out as you go right? Right.

This was my logic when I decided to run my first full marathon. I had absolutely no business running a marathon and was humbled to the ground when it was all over. Did I learn a lot in those 26.2 miles? Yes. Did I almost kill myself in the process? You bet.

Let me give you the back story on how I got myself into that mess. The year prior a few girlfriends asked me to be on a relay team and run a 7 mile leg of the CIM. That was my first experience with marathons (and running outside in general) and I thought it was amazing. I loved the cheers from the crowd, the energy from the other runners, and that wonderful feeling of accomplishment when it was all over. I figured if running 7 miles felt good, running the whole thing must be amazing!

My husband on the other hand knew very well what we were getting into (he’s done a few triathlons) and he kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to do this. “Yes!” I would reply. “We are going to have so much fun out there together, just you wait!”

That morning I woke up excited and chatty, while he was silent and reverent. I was busy snapping pictures of us on the bus, updating my facebook status, and admiring my new running shoes when I should have been praying for my life. The fist part of the race went great. We were running at a strong pace, keeping a good time and I was loving all the music on my playlist. We even high-fived and the 13 mile mark and I felt like we had it in the bag.

At the 15 mile mark I hit a wall. Everything hurt. I found no comfort in walking (or standing) and I just wanted to quit. My sweet husband even told me it was ok if I stopped, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t finish this. My saving grace was my girlfriend who finished before I did was waiting for us at the 25 mile mark to cheer us on. She saw the look on my face, grabbed my hand and ran the last mile with me. I was in tears when I crossed the finish line and was so thankful it was all over.

How I felt about the marathon before I ran it is exactly how I felt about baking with yeast for the first time. A little intimidated, but how hard could it be right? I’m so glad I jumped right into it by making these yummy, gooey, pecan filled cinnamon rolls! Buttery, sticky, homemade goodness in a pan.

I learned a lot in the process of making these, and much like running another marathon I am excited and will be more prepared for the next time around.

Look out mile 15, I’m coming for you.

Continued from the “What to Feed an Army” post, here are those brownies I promised. And you thought I was going to keep them all to myself…

When I was a teenager we always, ALWAYS had three things in our freezer. Frozen concentrated pink lemon aid, pizza rolls (perfect late night snacking for slumber parties), and rocky road ice cream. My dad’s love for rocky road ice cream knows no end. He is absolutely devoted to it. I’m pretty sure if I went over to visit him right now there would be a carton of Breyer’s rocky road in his freezer.  I would put money on it, 10 bucks at least…

My dad is also famous for his love of chocolate. Now I have met some chocoholics, but none as serious as my dad & I have happily inherited this love for chocolate from him (I also got his eyes & sparkling wit;).

Now my chocoholism comes in waves and will just hit me like a ton of bricks at a moments notice. For example I could be folding laundry, minding my own business and BAM!! I NEED M&M’S RIGHT NOW!!!! When this happens I pray I can find some form of chocolate to inhale. More often than not my boys have already ransacked the pantry (even my hiding spots) and the only form of chocolate we have in the house is a teeny tiny tootsie roll left over from last Halloween.

Not gunna cut it.

So inspired by my dad’s love of rocky road ice cream I came up with these. The first time I made them I used mini marshmallows, and it was good but I knew they could be better. My husband told me his mother used to make brownies kinda like these and would spread Jet-Puffed marshmallow cream on top. Genius…

Tripple Chocolate Chip Birthday Cookies

So I have to be honest here, baking really isn’t my thing.

Don’t get me wrong,

I occasionally enjoy to bake things & I always like to eat baked things but baking just for the sake of baking? Nahhhh. I don’t know what my deal is. Maybe it’s my lack of sweet tooth (which is replaced by a wine and cheese tooth) or maybe I love the freedom of making stuff up as I go when I cook. Come to think of it measuring cups do make me feel a little clausterphobic.

Hmmmmm…

Whatever it is, it was trumped by my love for my nine year old when he asked me to make him some cookies to share with his class for his birthday. He was very specific, they had to be chocolate, they had to have sprinkles, they cannot be store bought, and they wanted milk to go with it. So I rolled up my sleeves & came up with these. (I honestly didn’t mean for that last line to rhyme, but I’m kinda glad it did.)