S’mores Cereal bars

This post has been a long time in the making. Like, literally the whole summer. I made these months ago, and still think about them! They photographed beautifully and tasted just as yummy.

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I haven’t made cereal bars in forever, and let’s face it, the classic Rice Krispie treat is amazeballs. But what I really love about cereal bars is the ability to customize them. Throw in my latest love, also known as Marshmallow Fluff, and you’ve got an easy, tasty and kid friendly snack!

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But then I started thinking that with summer happening, s’mores sounded yummy…I had marshmallow fluff on the brain, a box of Golden Graham cereal, and chocolate chips…do you see where my tummy was going?!

When thinking about these bars, I totally overthought the concept, but I’m really excited by how thick and marshmallowy they turned out. I threw in extra marshmallows when I added the chocolate chips and I think that helped create pillowy pockets of marshmallowy goodness within the s’mores bars.

 

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These cereal bars are super easy to make but I do recommend refrigeration.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mini marshmallows (1 cup for melting, 1 cup for after)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 6-8 cups Golden Grahams (I used closer to 8 but it’s definitely your preference!)
  • 1 jar (13 oz) marshmallow fluff
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Look at your oven and say, “Not today, Homeslice!”
  2. Lightly spray a 9×13 pan with Pam (or line with parchment paper).
  3. Pour cereal into large bowl, set aside.
  4. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add 1 cup marshmallows and melt, stirring frequently until smooth.
  5. Pour melted marshmallow over cereal, then add in the fluff.
  6. Stir gently. Add in the remaining cup of marshmallows and stir to combine.
  7. Sprinkle in half a cup (or so) of chocolate chips and store to distribute throughout. You can kinda eyeball it at this point, if you want more chips, add more.
  8. Press into the prepared pan, but don’t beat it down, just gently press. I don’t like compacted bars…
  9. Sprinkle extra chips and marshmallows over top. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  10. Cut into bars and enjoy!

 

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and I have to giggle. You guys have obviously seen those super cute, perfectly put together blogs, where they expertly arrange photograph sessions, everything is beautiful and they always have *the best* props?

I was just excited to have a green/white striped straw that I swiped from the toddler’s drink cup! HA!

I am pretending to be a fighter.

The phone rings, and since I knew to expect this call, I answer quickly.

He is polite, introducing himself, asking after me. Asks for me as “Mrs” in his respectful tone. 

“Can you tell me if she is home, I need to speak with her.” 

I know he does, and I confirm that he is, indeed, speaking to me. This is met with a moment of quiet, and I instinctively know he’s questioning if he’s dialed the right number, when he says, 

“I am looking for a Mrs. Coconuts to schedule an oxygen delivery. Do I have the correct Mrs. Coconuts?”

Quietly, I spoke, “I’m sure you’re used to much older voices when scheduling deliveries, however, you do have the proper Mrs. Coconuts.”

Again, another silence, and I could almost imagine that he was thinking his next statement through, “I did think your voice was young, not nearly the type I’m used to. Are you alright?”

“Aside from being tired, yessir I’m alright.”

“So…,” pause, “how…? I mean…” Vocal confusion, “why…? If you don’t mind me asking?”

I know he’s very curious. He has the prescription from my doctor that says 24/7 Oxygen, 2L an hour (not much but more than a typical woman my age should require).

So I try my best to easily explain my ongoing-not-easy-health-hell… “I have a myositis that causes inflammation. It has recently spread to my lungs, which has brought me to this point.”

Another pause then, “We don’t have to deliver now, are you sure you are ready for this?”

And everything swirling in me is screaming no, please, no. I’m too young for oxygen. I’m 31. 31.

But as calmly, and bravely as I could, I say, “I have to be. I can’t let it beat me.”

It’s a trigger. It’s been three years.

Things have been crazy busy around the Coconuts household recently. Many new life experiences intertwined with daily routines, leaves us thankful for our blessings while recognizing the tenuous thread that holds our lives together. All too often we forget to see the miracles that comprise our stories; often forgetting that we, ourselves, are such incredible miracles. It takes dramatic events to remind us to open our hearts further and grasp at the pearls of beauty that grow from the banal events of day to day living.

When faced with incredible painful fear for the future, something as simple as your loved ones faces become the ambrosia that we drink in; desperate for one more glance, fearful of our last breath and what that would hold.

Am I the only one that holds this pain? The only person who still feels the sharp stab in my heart and the anguish in the pit of my stomach. The last memory of that precious little life deeply guarded in the farthest reaches of my heart, to be remembered by me, and me alone. I feel that way. I fear I am the only living human who remembers the child that was lost in my womb. The little one who arrived in this world in a rush of blood on the anguished cries of her mother. The one who is not spoken about. Words are truly unnecessary as the pain and regret stain my soul and quietly speak volumes.

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I’ve not opened up about the baby. Few know of the circumstances, yet none speak of it. As if to speak of it would mar the beauty of the life we’ve crafted. And yet still, occasionally there is the oft well-meaning comment that states I have two living children – appreciate that…at least you have “X,Y,Z.”

Please don’t say that to anyone who has experienced the loss of a little one. Ever. Even with the best of intentions that is salt to the wound. Yes, I have two living children. But it would never erase the pain or the guilt.

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It’s been three years. I look at my boys, and I tell them everyday how much I love them. I see in them the beauty of creation, the life of innocence, the trust, their dad, parts of me, love of life. I want to preserve that in them forever. Encourage them to see the good in the world and create great change.

I look at my boys and wonder how my little love lost would have spiced up our world. Would she be have liked superheroes? Chocolate chip cookies? Would I have sewn more, collecting patterns for frilly dresses done up in comic book fabric? My blue eyes? Her daddy’s brown hair?

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These are the thoughts that swirl, always. It seems a constant reminder of the life I couldn’t keep. My hands are shaking, and my heart is racing as I type these words. This reminder. This memorial. The little life of which only I seem to remember and pine for.

I have three children. One is crafted in the ephemeral, golden dust of the Universe, and two of them happily shenanigate with me in this realm.

There will always be the question of what if, there will always be the twist of my stomach at the memory, but as with all things, time blurs the edges a little bit. Makes it easier to compartmentalize the pain but it never ends. I will mourn the little life that touched me. I will always love her.

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Brown Sugar Cookie Bars

I’m way behind on my posting. So awful! I have a ton of reasons, and they’re all fantastic, but I will, however, spare you and jump right in.

I recently tried a new recipe, it’s Pioneer Woman, so you *know* it will be superb. I dawdled on making this recipe for a while, because I love to make my own recipes. But lately, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t created anything new and really wanted a quick treat.

I didn’t want cookies (I know, blasphemy, right!) but I really wanted that brown sugary goodness of a chocolate chip cookie.

Enter the “Spreads” from Pioneer Woman. The lady is brilliant.

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Even Mr. Coconuts was enthusiastic about the recipe but he requested that I do the chips the way “He likes them.” To keep you from too much suspense, I have a canister where I blend together semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips. Nothing fancy, I just pour both bags in, then shake the container. Voila. He loves it, haha.

I happily whipped up this recipe (SO easy!) and was thrilled with the results. I ended up doing two batches because the first one disappeared rather quickly.

Even the Littlest Coconut loved the Spreads, reaching as tall as possible to beg for more (I’m laughing quite happily at the memory!).

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So I must say, this recipe would is a perfect treat. It’s easy, yummy, and soooo satisfying. Plus, these bars are easily customizable – you could add pecans/walnuts, white chocolate, peanut butter on top or even in the bars. I chose to follow the original instruction, the only difference is that I added a mixture of semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips on top.

Plans are already in the works to make a batch of these bars next week. We have some very special, much loved guests coming to stay for the summer and I can’t wait to spoil them with some baked goodness!!

Brown Sugar Cookie Bars
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 -1 cup chocolate chips (any mixture/variety you wish!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. These don’t need to wait or chill or any of that impatience-ness.

In a medium bowl, quickly whisk the flour and salt together.

In a mixer, beat brown sugar and butter. Add egg, followed by the vanilla. Slowly combine the wet with the dry (i.e. put in the flour/salt mixture).

Make sure to mix well. I used my mixer for most of this process, but after adding the flour I switched over to using a sturdy spatula and my good old fashioned arm muscles to ensure a well blended mass.

Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Using a spatula (I used one with a flat side, like a scraper) spread the dough onto the sheet, until it is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thin.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are a nice light brown.

Pull it out and immediately sprinkle chips over the top, I wanted a nice coverage so I used quite a bit. Put back in the oven for a minute or so (just long enough to melt the chips).

Pull back out and gently spread the melted chips over the bar, carefully smearing chocolate all the way to the edges (chocolate coverage, amiright?!).

Now comes the hardest part – the chocolate needs to set before you can touch it. So put in fridge for at least half an hour. Then you can cut/devour.

Just like that, super easy and DELISH!

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I must apologize for the photos. The Littlest Coconut decided that my nice camera was a great toy, and sadly, he dropped it when pulling it off the table. It’s been toddler-fried.

Hopefully these photos will make do until I can get better…

 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies for Rynn

The Littlest Coconuts is a huge fan of sweets, chocolate in particular. The saying is that a person has a sweet tooth, and I’m fairly certain that Rynn is growing a mouthful. One of his most recent favorite treats is a Pepperidge Farm brand chocolate cookie that Grandma bought.

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Those cookies are pretty great, but they tend to crumble in his little hands, leaving a not-so-great mess.

Since I always have cookies on the brain, I started thinking about making Rynn some knock-off chocolate cookies that weren’t quite so sweet and that were firmer and could hold up well in toddler whirlwinds.

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But the catch was that I only had two tablespoons of cocoa powder! So what is a gal supposed to do??

Throw in some Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Pudding mix and hope for the best haha!

I can’t really call it a secret ingredient, but it does make these cookies special. It provides such a smooth chocolate flavor without overwhelming your taste buds.

Nailed it. And they’re pretty, too!

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Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 box (3.5 ounces or so) Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Pudding mix

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder; set aside.
  2. In mixer, whip the butter and sugar until fluffy and gorgeous. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Follow this up with the vanilla.
  3. Slowly add in the pudding mix and beat until combined.
  4. Now it’s time to combine the wet with the dry. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until all of it is combined in. This may become thick, and you may need to use your arm powers to get it done, but that’s good.
  5. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap and roll into a tube. Toss in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° and prepare your baking sheets with either a silpat or parchment paper.
  7. Pull dough out of fridge and create 1″ balls. Place the cookie balls on your baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes (depending on your stove, 11 was perfect here).
  8. Let cool thoroughly *on the baking sheet* before transferring to plate, mouth, tray, etc. (It’s important to let them cool on the baking sheet. When you transfer them to a wire rack, it lets the air cool them from under, letting some valuable moistness slip away. We don’t want that on these babies).

This recipe will make about 4 dozen cookies.

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They are firm, yet soft, with slightly crisp edges and a chewy center. They are sturdy, too, and held up very well in Rynn’s chubby fingers. I chose not to add any chips or additional candies in them since I wanted to treat him with chocolate cookies but not overly sweet cookies; however, I’m fairly certain that M&M’s or even chocolate chips would only boost the flavor of these cookies.

 

And so now it seems as though all of my boys have a favorite cookie. Ethan loves my chocolate chip cookies, Joey adores my Snickerdoodles, and Rynn can’t resist these new chocolate sugar cookies.

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Irresistible. Chocolate. Cake. 

You guys know that I am a cookie lady. I love cookies. Love creating new recipes and sampling them (even the failures).

But lately I’ve been in a rut. A cookie rut. I never thought that I’d ever say that…but it’s true, and I took a break.

I’m currently working on a new recipe, but it hasn’t panned out yet. Think cinnamon imperials, sugar cookies…right now they’re just hot messes, haha.

But today I decided a cake was in order.

A from scratch, chocolate, homemade confection topped with a generous layer of my momma’s homemade chocolate frosting.

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It was the mother in law’s birthday after all.

A special occasion.

A nice excuse to try my hand at caking it up. Just don’t overbake it like your friendly neighborhood Coconut 😆

This cake is so moist and chocolately without being overwhelming.

 

It’s delightfully chocolately without being too chocolately, while still managing to be light and fluffy.

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The frosting is one that I grew up with, and it brings back all these memories of my momma singing along to Meatloaf while hand mixing a huge bowl of this scrumptious chocolate deliciousness. I would always hover, waiting so impatiently, for a taste! I so loved to lick the spoon!

 

This cake and my momma’s frosting is a match made in proverbial heaven.

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For the record, this is not my original cake recipe,  I found this chocolate cake recipe from Nelliebellie.com the chocolate icing is a family recipe that I tweaked to fit my tastes (and trust me, I’ve had a lot of tastes!!).

If you look closely, you’ll recognize it as the same chocolate frosting I used for Baby Coconuts’ first birthday party, in my Birthday on A Budget post.

This frosting is one that I’ve used quite often, since it is so easy to whip up. Even easier with a stand mixer!

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⇒ Chocolate Cake ⇐

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp (1 and a half sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease bottom of baking pan (I used two 9″ round pans).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and a prayer for our first homemade cake. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, generously beat the butter (don’t beat it like you’re sending it to the hospital, just, ya’know, whip it. And whip it good.) After about 30-45 seconds, add in the sugar, just a little at a time, allowing it to blend together.
  4. Pour in the vanilla. Blend well.
  5. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Don’t let any shells in. That sucks.
  6. Now slowly add the flour mixture, making sure to combine it thoroughly. (The mixture was thickish at this point. I had to stop the mixer, lift the lid, and use a spatula to physically pull the bottom to the top and blend to ensure it was mixed properly).
  7. Very carefully pour in the milk, a little at a time, beating after each addition. You’ll know when the batter is ready. It will be smooth and dreamy. Like Luke Cage.
  8. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes. It is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool completely. Then smother in the deliciousness that is chocolate frosting!
  11. EAT.

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I think this is my first time sharing two recipes in one post. It’s kinda exciting. Daunting at the same time. But fun!
This recipe is The Best.
Make a bowl of it and just eat it. But don’t get sick and blame me. Have some self-control, love.
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⇒ Momma’s Chocolate Frosting ⇐
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp (I like to use sticks)
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (more or less on taste!)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (more or less on taste!)
  • 2 tbsp milk (or half and half)

Directions

  1. Beat the butter until it is super fluffy and smooth. Don’t give me side-eye, just do it. You’ll see it change and you’ll be so happy!
  2. Add the cocoa and combine well.
  3. (This part is important) Add the confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time, thoroughly beating the ingredients and tasting after each addition. If the frosting still tastes like butter, add more sugar.
  4. If the frosting gets too thick, add a few splashes of milk to loosen it up.
  5. You can play with it, adding more or less cocoa, confectioner’s sugar and milk until you get the taste and consistency that you want.
  6. There really is no way to ruin this frosting. Trust me, you can’t go wrong!

 

Now combine the two and tell me how yummy they are together!

But seriously, let the cake cool enough before frosting. Or else you get disappearing frosting between the layers. It’s a divine smooshery of cake and frosting melting together, but I like how cakes look when they have that thick layer of frosting between the cakes parts.

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Overall, this was a hit. And it kinda makes me want to bake more cakes. From scratch. Like, on purpose and stuff.

 

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Birthday on a budget

My darling littlest coconut turned one last week. I’m not sure how that happened, or even why the days have gone by so very quickly, but there he is, a chubby, sticky, happy little One Year Old.

First birthday

My baby, my little tiny human, is leveling up.

We had a small celebration with cousins, and we were so lucky that some out of town family was able to be here to join our fun.

Unfortunately, the party was around the same time as Thanksgiving, and let’s be honest, funds are not unlimited.

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I spent less than $7 on this party. Since we had a huge turkey dinner the day before (with the same people), we decided to have a simple party with chocolate chip cookies, cake, sweet tea, and Kool-aid (I’m a Southern girl, what can I say, haha).

I only needed to buy a few items for the party – cake mix ($1.48), icing ($1.25), table cloth ($1) and balloons (2 packs at $1 each).

Total cost (before tax): $5.73

 

After scouring Pinterest, craft magazines and Party City.com, I knew that I wanted a star theme with a birthday banner, a centerpiece, cupcake toppers, high chair swag, and a cute birthday sign.

There was no cost for the decorations, outside of the balloons, because I raided my craft stash.

I’m one of those crazy people who loves craft supplies. I will buy something because it’s pretty, or on sale, or there, then stash it away.

The stash in question this time was paper. I have too much paper (but I will never admit that, ever again!)

To keep it simple, and to not overwhelm me, I chose a basic primary color scheme and since Teeny Coconut loves red, it was an easy choice!

The biggest project was the birthday banner, which created a fun, whimsical effect when hung.

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The banner took a bit longer than anticipated, and Mr. Coconuts questioned my sanity (he pointed out I could’ve bought one for a buck at the Dollar Tree. And you could. But this one has style. It has spunk. It was made by me!)

It was simple, though. Here’s my process – using my cricut (or any cutter, or even your hands!) I cut out stars. Lots of stars. 30 each of red, green, blue, and orange. My stars were 1 3/4″ high. I also cut out the phrase, “Happy Birthday” in Don Juan font with each letter 7″ high and 3″ wide.

Next I stacked up the stars in the order I wanted them on the banner – orange, blue, red, green; then I pulled out my sewing machine, chose a coordinating thread color and off I went.

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Super simple. Just sew the stars, leaving a tiny bit of thread in between. Mine aren’t perfect, but the overall effect was so cool. Once I had about 15-20 stars (I lost count) I started adding in the letters. I patterned a star in between in each letter. After I finished the letters, I just sewed all the stars. I figured after the banner was completed, I could hang it up and cut off what I needed in order to make the banner the perfect size.

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I used the banner bits as further birthday decor and as the high chair swag.

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The centerpiece is another star project. I already had the red mason jar and thought it would be a perfect addition. I then used bamboo kebab skewers to attach stars in various shapes. The “1” is Birthday Bash font from Cricut Design Space.

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The picks are really easy to assemble. Cut out two of the image you want on the stick, and using a good quality glue stick, liberally apply glue to both sides, place the skewer on the wrong side of one image then layer with the top portion, lining up the image. Press the edges down firmly. Let dry over night and ta-daaaaa! (I’m sure this could be the same process you would use to make photo booth props.)

Same process for the cupcake toppers and smash cake decorations, but with toothpicks. So cute.

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My favorite part, however, is the framed saying. Oh, how I love that. I already have it hanging up in his room, with plans to drape stars around it on the wall.

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I found the inspiration on Pinterest, and whipped it up using my cricut, vinyl, paper, free fonts, glitter and glue (I already had the frame in my craft closet).

I had a brilliant idea, too! I didn’t want to hang it because I wanted it displayed on the table, so I used my recipe book holder to keep it sturdy and prominent on the table. Brilliant!

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The star theme really worked out. It was so easy to incorporate stars and primary colors and it didn’t cost me over $7 for everything…and I love it.

It was definitely a day to remember.

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