Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vegan [Banana PB] Fudge Brownies

I was in the market for a new brownie recipe to try (my friend and I were sharing a craving) and was sent this via Pinterest to try. I didn't do the original (9 x 13 of brownies is way too much to have around the house), so I had to make some changes.

These. Are. Amazing.

I'm allowed to say that, right?

Also, they're not awful for you. The way I made them, there's no oil, low sugar, and plenty of chocolate.


Vegan [Banana PB] Fudge Brownies

Ingredients:

- 1 (overly ripe) mashed banana
- 1/3 C peanut butter
- 1/2 C milk (almond or soy to make it vegan)
- 2/3 C unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

- 2/3 C all purpose, unbleached flour
- 2/3 C brown sugar
- 1/2 C [special dark] cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt

- 1/2 C chocolate chips


Directions:

- Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 8 x 8 baking dish.

- Whisk together your banana, peanut butter, milk, applesauce, and vanilla until well combined. Gradually add your dry ingredients (minus the chocolate chips-- save those for last!)

The dough will be thick-ish.

- Fold in your chocolate chips last.
- Using a spatula, pour/scoop the batter into your prepared dish. Smooth the batter as evenly as possible.
- Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. *Note: Be careful not to over bake, because then they wou't be "fudgy".)*

Monday, August 11, 2014

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (with a surprise in the middle)

These cookies are super easy-- something to throw together if you have friends or family about to show up and you want your kitchen to smell wonderful, but maybe want to do a little more than just the break-and-bake cookies. Plus, who can pass up on coconut?

Oh, and the surprise inside? If you have some Hershey Kisses handy, they give the cookies a little extra chocolate-boost. (Which is always amazing, am I right?)

They also have the Michael & Clark seal of approval, just so ya know.


Ingredients:

- 1/4 C butter, softened
- 3 TBSP Coconut Oil, melted
- 1/2 C brown sugar
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 C all purpose, unbleached flour
- 1/2 C chocolate chips
- 1/4 - 1/2 C unsweetened coconut flakes
- 12 - 18 Hershey Kisses (optional)


Directions:

- Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare your baking sheet by spraying or lining with parchment paper.
- Using a handheld or standing mixer, blend your butter and oil together. Then mix in your sugars until fluffy.
- Add your egg and vanilla to the mixture.
- *Optional: Mix your dry ingredients (flour, salter, baking powder & soda) in a medium-sized bowl.* Add your dry ingredients in batches to mix your batter more thoroughly.
- Fold in your chocolate chips and coconut flakes.

- Using a cookie scoop, scoop your dough and place on the cookie sheet.

If you are adding Hershey Kisses put about 1/2 the amount of dough in your cookie scoop, then push a Hershey Kiss into the middle and cover the bottom with more dough. If you have a medium-sized scoop, it works perfectly. *Note: If you do not have a cookie scoop, you can simply shape the dough around the Hershey Kiss, about 2-3 tablespoons worth.*


- Bake for 8 - 11 minutes. Remove immediately to cooling rack.

In my opinion, you can never have enough chocolate-- or coconut. Enjoy!

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Unofficial Offical #PitchWars Mentee Bio

Well, here goes.

I've been struggling with writing this bio for the past couple of days. This is partially due to family being in town, and partially because I was overwhelmed by everyone else's awesome-ness that I was swept away! If you don't know what #PitchWars is-- please read about it here. It's an amazing opportunity/contest where you get to pitch your book to mentors, and if you're selected you get to work with someone awesome that will help you whip your manuscript into shape for the agent round.

This is my first time entering the contest, and I know it's just as tough on the mentors as it is on everyone entering the contest. I mean, there are 75 mentors and hundreds of authors. So, guys, just remember....

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I'm hoping that my manuscript, MISSING, a YA Contemporary with suspense will speak to you so you don't feel like doing this to me after that (possibly embarrassing) moment.

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So. For real. This is me.


And here are some things about me.

1. I'm a SAHM, Writer, and Editor.

I am a blessed twenty-something who gets to stay home and take care of my just about three-year-old son. My husband climbs towers for a living (I don't envy him, but he loves it), and I work weekly for Engagement 101 Magazine. You can follow the link to check out some cool posts if you're in the market for getting engaged/married. I also blog on her and share tons of things from recipes to stories about my life.

2. My life changed in inexplicable ways at the ages of 15 and 18.

When I was 15 years old, my best friend went missing. This is the basis for my manuscript. I feel like there are very few stories that deal with this topic, and it's one that-- sadly-- is very real to many people. I was shoved into the adult world much earlier than I wanted to be, though I don't pretend that I simply became an adult because I went through the process of being part of a missing person's case-- nor do I claim I'm the only one at the time who felt the way I did. But, this is part of what made me start thinking of my book, although ten years ago I never would have imagined it would bring me to where I am.

My friend and me about a month before she went missing.

When I was 18 years old I was dating my high school sweetheart and we were already engaged just a couple weeks into college away from home. My parents had moved to Germany with the Army and I was looking forward to so many things-- as most 18 year olds do. Then I got a late-night phone call : my friend's remains had been found. Three years of no clues and no trace, and a random search on a somewhat deserted road lead to her discovery. When that happened, my now-husband and I decided we weren't going to wait until others would approve of us getting married, because we knew what we wanted and we had a first-hand experience of how little time one can be allotted. We walked down to the courthouse one week later and told our parents via email that we were married.

Yeah. We did.

My hubby and I the day we got married. Our seven-year anniversary is coming up! I am also working on another project MARRIED IN COLLEGE. Can't imagine where I got the inspiration, can you?


3. I've always been a writer.

While I have my "officials" ranging from having the most-read column for REALITY Check Girl Magazine and writing for Engagement 101, my writing started in about fourth grade. My teacher told me that she'd give me an extra day to get my homework in, which had been left at home, if I wrote her a story. I don't even remember what the story was about-- I think it had something to do with Sir Francis Drake and a sea monster-- but needless to say she wasn't disappointed. I was told from then on that I had to dedicate my first book to her. I still intend to keep that promise.

My writer's blood comes honestly. My grandfather was an English teacher and my mother was a Creative Writing major that has had a ridiculous amount of experience. When I got to college, I had two choices-- be responsible and major in English Education, or major in Creative Writing. Guess which I chose?

For a very long time, I knew what I wanted to write but I was still "too close" to many of the subjects. Turning my own missing-person's experience into a novel seemed like a wonderful idea... but actually making it fiction meant that I had to give it as much time as needed. If you ask my editor from Stark Contrast Editing or my wonderful CP Nikki -- they'll tell you that even in the beginning it was a little hard to give me feedback or ideas because I'd get defensive. BUT please don't let that scare you off! I promise that I have now acquired an amazingly tough skin and I'm open to suggestions and edits (as long as you're the kind of mentor that will talk it out with me-- and I don't mean you have to be nice about it, either).



Random Facts About Me

- I will read just about everything. Truly. When I was younger I had that "too cool for school" attitude and wanted to read all the classics before I read contemporaries. I am now catching up with contemporaries, putting the classics on hold. My favorite books are still Jane Eyre, Captain From Castille, The Harry Potter books, and THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON series.

- My favorite "inspiration" movies are: Under the Tuscan Sun, Julie & Julia, Finding Forrester, Miss Potter, and The Help. (The only one I'm uncertain of being a book is Finding Forrester-- all others I've also read or researched.)

- I play two instruments. I started playing piano when I was seven and started playing flute when I was nine. In high school I was all-county/district and my senior year I was lead-marching-band-dork, otherwise known as drum major. Despite my desires and attempts to get just as involved in theatre as I could, I was essentially shunned by the teacher (though not by the peers) because of my band loyalties. I still pick them up so my three-year-old will dance, or we'll have jam-sessions with my husband on the guitar. We are a very musically-focused family in our spare time, and it makes for wonderful memories.

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Please excuse me if I'm using too many GIFs-- I might have just learned how to use them and it's super exciting.

- My father is a minister and former Army Chaplain. I spent my childhood moving from place to place and was the only one of my sisters (I have two) who got to go to the same high school for four straight years. My older sister went to three, and my younger sister has the record of four. I absolutely loved military life, though now that I'm older I'm not so sure I want to spend our time moving around. My husband also grew up in a military family (Marines), and is a Marine Reservist himself.

- We just moved from NC to AZ... and I'm not exactly lovin' it. I spent most of my time in the Midwest and on the East Coast, though I was born in Idaho. This is my first experience with the South West and while I love getting to tell my friends it's sunny and 75 when it's 30 and snowing where they are-- really I miss the snow. This will be my first fall without the leaves and the cooler weather and I have to admit I might already be slightly bitter. However, I'm super excited about the adventure, and know that it's just another step in the right direction for our family.

- My husband and I have a bucket list that mostly involves traveling. Ever since we were first married and got to visit Germany and Paris, we've been aching to go more places. Things from "Rent a cabin in Scotland so Emily can write" to "Hike in New Zealand" to "Climb Mount Everest" are on there. (OK... Clark wants to climb Mount Everest, but I will cheer him on from the base camp if I can!) This bucket list only grows as our family does, because obviously "Take our kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" is on there.


So, that's me. Regardless of if you select me or not, it's been awesome browsing the mentors and mentees pieces and getting to know everyone. Thanks for considering me, and I hope you enjoy my YA Contemp, MISSING.

PSSST-- pick me.
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Check out other mentees bios by going here!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Citrus Tea Muffins

Hello all.

I have a lot of recipes saved that I intend to share with you. I've been so swept up in working on my YA novel and being a wife/mother that I admit you've been neglected. That happens. Sometimes things have to be put aside for a while-- but hopefully I'm making an excellent return to the blogosphere!

In order to do that successfully, I knew I had to start with a wonderful recipe-- so I hope you approve in my choice. I've been procrastibaking a lot (Procrastination- Baking). It tends to happen when I'm writing and working and all that jazz. Luckily, Michael doesn't seem to mind. He loves getting creative in the kitchen with me.

Citrus Tea Muffins


Note: This is a half-batch recipe (it makes six muffins). For a full recipe, make sure to double up!

Ingredients:

MUFFINS:
- 1/4 C butter, softened
- 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce
- 1/4 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract *optional*
- 3/4 C flour (I did 1/2 C unbleached all purpose and 1/4 C whole wheat)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 - 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 - 1 tsp lime zest

OPTIONAL GLAZE/ TOPPING:

- 1/2 C powdered sugar
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- 1/2 tsp butter, softened
- 1/4 tsp vanilla

- 1 tsp shredded coconut
- 1/2 tsp lime zest
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest

Directions:

- Preheat your oven to 350 and line your muffin tin/ spray with cooking spray. *Remember this is a half recipe unless doubled*.

- Beat softened butter until fluffy. Mix in your applesauce, sugar, egg, and lemon extract.
- Gradually add your dry ingredients, including your zests.
- Use 1/4 C of mix for each muffin, approximately. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, depending on your oven. Check with a toothpick to make sure they're cooked all the way through. Remove to baking rack to cool.


-While they're cooling, combine your powdered sugar, citrus juices, butter, and vanilla for your glaze. In a separate bowl, toss together your zests and coconut (if using).
-When the muffins are cool, drizzle the glaze over them, then sprinkle the topping on that. Let sit for a few minutes before serving so the topping stays put.



Recipe adapted from Positively Splendid.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

25/52 & 26/52

" A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2014. "


Last week we were out in the heat no matter how hot. We were suffering from cabin fever and could not be kept indoors. Michael was one happy camper to get out and play some baseball.


Our neighborhood is graced with a splash pad... so if you come by our house and find it empty, that's the next place you should look. Michael does lap after lap and will not tire of it-- even after running it for an hour.

Part of Practising Simplicity's 52 Project.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Author Blog Hop: My Writing Process

I'm (once again) trying to catch up on things and figured I should do this one first. I've been tagged by the lovely Mrs. Healthy Ever After, aka Nikki Roberti Miller, for this blog hop.


WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Right now I have two work-in-progresses. I’ve been editing my YA Contemporary MISSING with Katelyn Stark of Stark Contrast Editing for the past six months or so, chapter by chapter, line by line. It's been an incredible process because somehow I never realized just how much WORK it is to edit and revise, or "re-envision". Katelyn is so wonderful and patient to work with. I definitely start out with the dry bones when I'm writing. I get all on paper that I want to get there, I've just never really combed back through it before. This time around, adding so much more to it with guidance has been a real treat almost. I mean, it's really hard, but it's a lot of fun, too. I can see such a difference with my writing. Annnnyway, this piece is about 16-year-old Annie who finds out her best friend has gone missing. Then, years later, her friend's remains are found. We grow with Annie through the process of trying to move on from this defining moment in her life, and go with her as she tries to uncover the truth of what happened.

My other work-in-progress is a NA piece. I haven't quite figured out if I should call it a collection of short stories or if it's just broken up chapters. It's called Married in College-- a fictionalized account of when my husband and I were first married. We eloped when we were 18, so you can imagine there's a lot to share in there!

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

MISSING is different to me because I don't think I've really found something quite like it. I've read a few YA that deal with missing friends or losing friends to drunk driving, but never one that goes down deep to the bones of the issue. My best friend went missing when I was 16, so I drew from that to write this book. It wasn't an easy process at all, but I think my experience of going through having a missing friend myself really brings this story to life in a new way. In the end, it's not necessarily figuring out what happened to the friend, but how to live with it.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I started writing YA and NA because when I was younger I actually disliked reading contemporary writing. You'd find me reading Jane Austen and Shakespeare over books like Where the Red Fern Grows. I think the first contemporary story I started getting into was Harry Potter (go figure). One of the only reasons it was actually exciting was because my parents weren't too keen on me reading it, and then my best friend in fifth grade bought me the first two for my birthday.


HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I work differently with every project. No lie. I started working on MISSING in college, and then had to take quite a break from it because I was writing it too close to home. When I got the motivation to start working on it again, I actually wrote a chapter that's in the middle of the book now. I just needed to get something on paper. THEN I made an outline of chapters, which was very vague. It basically just had a thing or two written down that I knew what I wanted to happen. Even now I've gone back and changed it so much from what it was originally thought out to be like, but that makes me so happy because I think it's better than I first imagined. I really think I have Nikki and Katelyn to thank for that. I work best bouncing ideas off of people and I'm really open to feedback/suggestions (after a few nudges, that is).

With Married in College, it started as a column for REALITY Check Girl Magazine, an online magazine I worked for in college. Now, with Nikki insisting it must be a book, I just sat down one day with the motivation and wrote out the first chapter. Now I'm combing over the chapter again and again until it's where I want it to be, which is so different than MISSING.

When it comes to plotter vs. pantser, I'm definitely a combination. I like to get something down on paper, writing until I know I've really got something in the making. Then I go back and start listing everything I want to happen-- stories I know I want to share, characters I want to introduce, drama I want to unfold, etc; however, that doesn't mean it will all happen. MISSING was initially going to be written from two characters' point-of-views, and then I changed my mind because I loved my MC too much.

Basically I'm all over the place and, really, I don't have a concise writing process.



And that’s me! Thank you for tagging me, Nikki. If anyone else would like to join, please comment below and then tag me when you share your writing process!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

23/52 & 24/52

" A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2014. "


Michael is making leaps and bounds with his potty training, though I still see some bumps ahead of us. We try to encourage him as much as we can, so when he last made some progress-- he became SUPER MICHAEL!


Sometimes we need to just get outside, even if it's 105. The sprinkler is positively perfect for days where our grass isn't jungle-length and it's "cool" enough where we won't be too hot with the water going.

Part of Practising Simplicity's 52 Project.