Tuesday, January 27, 2015

30 Second Brownie

30 Second Brownie!
This little brownie is just a bit of sweetness.  Perfect for dessert or a little midnight snack.  This recipe is so easy that there's really not much to say.  I'll let the pictures do the talking!

Gather dry ingredients

Carob chips are optional (and delicious)

All mixed up

Spray jar to prevent sticking

Ready to bake
cook for 30 seconds

One more thing!
Ready to eat!


30 Second Brownie
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 carob (or chocolate) chips (optional)
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons milk  (non-dairy milk is fine)
1 teaspoon oil (canola or coconut)
Drop of vanilla extract
Spray a coffee cup or ramekin with vegetable cooking spray.  In the cup combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until no lumps remain.  Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in chips (optional)
Bake in the microwave on high for 30 seconds.  You may need to add 5 more seconds (maybe 5 more after that, depending on your microwave)… but don’t be tempted to overcook or it will be rubbery!
 It should be moist on the bottom and will continue cooking as it sets.
Serve with chocolate sauce…a sprinkle of powdered sugar…whipped cream or eat plain as a brownie.
For more recipes, CLICK here!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Preparing for a Storm

As we waited for Hurricane Sandy to make landfall back in 2012 I created the power outage section of blog post.  Today (Jan 26, 2015) we're waiting for another storm.  This time there's a giant blizzard bearing down on the east coast.  I, for one, am excited!  So as we prepare for snowzilla I'm updating my storm prep blog to include tips for a winter storm 


1.  Park strategically!  If you live on a secondary street or a street that is slow to get plowed consider parking (legally) on a nearby main street.  Main streets usually get plowed first so you're less likely to be stuck in the house, on your block or in your neighborhood.  There is a small business near me that has plenty of parking.  For a few bucks he'll let me park in his lot.

2.  Know local snow regulations!  In many communities the laws change based on the weather.  In my community it's illegal to park on side streets when the snow falls.  That means you can't park in front of your own house.  The last thing you want in a big storm is a ticket or to be towed.  Know the laws and obey them!

3.  Stock up.  Yes you'll need bread, eggs, toilet paper and milk.   Don't forget hot cocoa, fire wood and the adult beverage of your choice.

4.  Birth Control.  There's an excellent chance that you'll be spending extra time with the one you love.  Be prepared.

5.  But a black out light.  This is a flash light that stays plugged in in a common area of the house.  (Ours is plugged in in the main hallway).  When the lights go out this light automatically comes on.  It's rechargeable and lights our way when the power goes out.  There are various versions of these lights.  I bought mine from Home Depot for about $12.  Eton makes a light called the Black Out Buddy.

6.  Have cash on hand, especially small bills.  It can be a challenge to break large bills when everything is fine.  Save yourself a headache and keep smaller bills on hand.  They're useful for tipping a shoveler, bartering with neighbors or a quick trip to the store.

7.  Keep healthy snacks on hand.  Chips and popcorn are great, but make sure you keep fresh fruit in the mix.  Greasy snacks may make you feel bloated and sluggish.  Apples, oranges and bananas are a nice alternative to unhealthy treats.

8.  Charge all of your electronics, even the ones you don't use that often.  If your main phone or tablet goes out, it's nice to have a back up both for communication and entertainment.

9. Inflate your sleds!  Inflatable sleds can take FOREVER to blow up.  Inflate them early so you're all ready to go!

10.  Identify the good sled hills and map your route!  Know where to go once the snow is done falling.

11.  Find a great recipe for snow ice cream.  There are tons of them on the Internet!  I even have one on this blog.

12.  Prepare to work from home for a few days.  Make sure that your home computer has necessary and or updated software so that you can telecommute with ease!  Also, keep the phone number for tech support on hand.


1. Pack a suitcase (including medication and toys) before the lights go out. That way everything is ready in case you need to evacuate.

2. Add bags of ice to your freezer.  It will keep food cold longer while the power is out.

3. If you have a deep freezer, put all the food from the fridge in the deep freeze to minimize loss.

4. If you evacuate to a hotel, bring an electric skillet or electric griddle, food and a cooler. Cooking in your room will save money.

5. In advance of a storm locate books, board games, toys and other entertainment that doesn't require electricity.  Crayons, paper and art supplies can be a real life saver if you have kids.

6. Make a communication plan with friends and family.  Decide in advance if you will stay in touch via phone, text, email or some other way.

7. If you evacuate to a friend's house, bring the fresh food from your fridge. You can share your food with your hosts and keep in from spoiling at your house while you're gone.

8. If you evacuate to a hotel, ask about their plan for hotel guests should the power go out. Some hotels have will have a generator that provides for in room power only. Meaning there will be no lights in the halls. Other hotels will have full power throughout the facility.

9. If you evacuate to a hotel, bring a swimsuit. An indoor pool is a great way to pass the time.

10. If you have a fireplace, pick up firewood before the storm.

11. If you have a gas stove you can likely cook even though the lights are out. Use a match to light the burners.

12. Charge all electronic devices (phones, games, iPod/iPad, portable DVD player) and locate car chargers.

13.  Clean the house before the storm.  It's easier to locate necessary items if they are in their rightful place.  Also, there's nothing worse than stepping on toys, valuables or a wayward battery in the dark.

14.  Stock up on pet food and supplies including litter, newspaper and wee wee pads.  If your pet needs to potty indoors, being prepared can reduce the mess, odor and frustration.

15.  Sign up for text alerts from your state emergency management center and local utility companies.

16.  If you participate in a credit card or hotel points program, check you point balance.  You may be able to use points for a local hotel, flights or gas.

17.  Ask about distress rates at local hotels and apartment buildings.  During a recent storm our local hotel was sold out but a nearby luxury apartment building rented out their model units for a very good rate.  The apartment building didn't advertise the rentals, but offered the available units to area families that called and asked.

18.   If you have to leave your home, leave your porch light on.  This allows friends and neighbors check if your power is on without entering your house.

19.  Go for a walk or exercise before the storm.  You'll likely feel less restless when stuck inside if you have a good workout under your belt.

20.  Keep a camera handy.  Not only can you record fun storm memories, but you'll also be able to photograph any damage to your home, car or other property.

Be safe and enjoy the storm!

Author's Note:  This post was originally written for the Huffington Post' Parents section.  I wrote this back in 2012 on the heels of a giant storm that knocked out our power for a couple of days.  Today (2014) as I'm watching devastating storms rip through the Midwest and south of the United States I hope people find some of this information helpful.  

When this piece originally appeared in Huff Po some people were upset about my electric skillet suggestion.  I will simply say, use your best judgement and comply with state and local standards (as well as common sense).

Be safe out there people!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lemon Snack Cake - with variations

Lemon Snack Cake

I grew up eating snake cake and naturally assumed that everyone knew about them.  Turns out, not everyone knows.

A snack cake is a small cake that's easy to make.  They usually serve 6-8 people and they can be mixed and baked in the same pan.  It's literally so easy that a child could do it.

This cake makes a great mid week dessert.

This recipe comes from the Land o Lakes page and I've been making it for YEARS!


Preparation time: 15 min Baking time: 30 min
Yield: 8 servings

Cake Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Egg
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (optional)
1/4 cup butter or Margarine, melted OR canola oil
3/4 cup milk

Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter or Margarine, melted
2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.  While you could mix and bake this cake in 1 pan, I usually don't.  In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt lemon zest, butter and milk.  Mix well with a fork.  Break up any lumps.

3.  Lightly greased an 8-inch square baking pan. Pour batter into the pan.

4.  Bake 30 minutes.

Once you remove the hot cake from the oven begin mixing the glaze.  For the glaze combine powdered sugar, butter and lemon juice in a bowl.

You can pour the glaze over the hot cake or wait for the cake to cool and spread it over the cooled cake.


Lemon Coconut cake - substitute light coconut milk for regular milk.  For a deeper richer favor you could use regular coconut milk.  DO NOT use coconut cream!

Vanilla Cake - omit the lemon zest in the cake batter.  Use milk instead of lemon juice in the glaze.

Cake for a crowd:  If you're serving more than just a few people, double or triple this recipe.  Bake in a 13x9 cake pan.

Breakfast Cake:  Bake the cake in a loaf pan.  Cool completely and slice for a light breakfast treat.

Unglazed Cake in 9" pan


*  This cake can be made with soy or any other non-dairy milk.
*  This is a great first cake recipe for kids who are learning to cook/bake/measure.
*  When its warm, this cake is very soft, slice with care.
*  I've tried this recipe with a variety of juices (orange, grapefruit, lime and lemon).  While it tastes fine with other juices lemon definitely yields the best result.

For more recipes and cooking tips, click HERE!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Finding Comfort - Winter Survival Guide

My real life
Baby it's cold outside!!

My preferred life

All I want to do is curl up in my bed!

What follows are my best tips for maintaining sanity during these cold winter months.

Tip #1  Make Your Bed Warm and Cozy
I know you don't think I was going to say "make your bed as in 'MAKE' your bed."  No ma'am!  Whether you're a bed maker or not (I'm not) make your bed super cozy!  I like LOTS of pillows, my down comforter (a MUST HAVE) and jersey knit sheets.

My favorite spot in ALL THE WORLD!
We have a queen size bed, but I always buy a King Size Comforter and Duvet.  My hubby is a cover hog, PLUS the extra fabric is so Cuddlelicious!

Jersey Knit Sheets feel like soft t-shirts
These days fancy hotels have Pillow Menus.  I like a good pillow, but really, what I need is a sheet menu!  I'll choose Jersey Knit every time!  Sweet baby Jesus, it's like sleeping in the clouds!

From your comfortable nest you're ready to reign over your comfort kingdom!

Relaxing in my comfort kingdom!

Tip #2 Surround Yourself with Positive Vibes
That's so vague and hippy, dippy but stay with me - I'll explain.  Bring into your space all the things that make you happy.

Kid Art makes my happy.

Interior design courtesy of  Destin
My middle son decorated our media closet with a trio of homemade Angry Birds.  The birds might be angry, but his art makes me smile.

Vintage family pix warm my heart.  Years ago an elderly relative told me that I should surround myself with pictures of my husband as a child.  She theorized that seeing him as a little boy would help me remember his innocence 
My husband circa 1978
Our home is filled with 70's era pix of my hubby and family.  

Tip #3 Share Your Space With a Trusted Friend!
I'm a busy working mom so I have to make time to relax!  After the kids go to bed I cuddle up with Wendy Williams (on DVR).  No I don't know Wendy personally -  she's a friend in my head.  We kee-kee about the Real Housewives and all the latest celebrity gossip.  

My girlfriend Wendy and I hang out every night!

I relax with Rachel Ray (Magazine), plan the weeks menus or just enjoy the pictures of food.  

Rachel Ray and Me
Sometime I share my space with Miss Daisy our little Yorkie poo!
Daisy is a bed hog!

Tip #3 Plan for Tomorrow
This is a tip that I've had to learn over time.  It doesn't do me any good to relax tonight if I'm going to be crazy in the morning.  I've learned to plan for the next day!

This little valet saves my sanity EVERY SINGLE MORNING!
Found this valet for $6 at GoodWill
My valet lives in our bathroom.  I dress her each night.  She holds tomorrow's outfit including socks and undies!

Ready for tomorrow
Organize yourself!
When you have time on a weekend, make yourself some kind of jewelry organizer.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  I made mine from stuff I had around the house.  It's just one more little thing to help you feel organized.

Here's another super simple necklace holder

Tip #4 Get a Good Night's Sleep!   
Imagine how great you'd feel if you gave yourself the gift of a good nights sleep each night.  I have to work at it!  Sometimes it works out - sometimes not.  When I can, I do my best to snuggle up and sleep well each night.  I turn off the TV, put the phones downstairs to charge and kill the lights.  I try to get to bed at a descent hour to I allow myself to unwind.  

I have a full time time, house, husband, dog and 3 kids at home.  Trust me when I tell you uninterrupted sleep can be tricky to come by.  I do my best though!

Bedtime companion #1
My cute hubby is a great sleep aid, but 1/2 a sleeping pill helps too!  I don't have trouble falling asleep, I have trouble staying asleep, so a little pill (sometime herbal, sometimes not) really does the trick.

Bedtime companion #2
It doesn't matter how I get there - I just need to get to sleep! (No- simply sleep is not paying my to plug their product.)    

Tip #5 - Remember - It's Not Forever!
No matter how much it feels like it now, winter won't last forever!  Before you know it you'll be dancing around in cute dresses and strappy sandals!  Just for today- get cozy and enjoy some much needed down time!