Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Banana Split Dessert

Banana Split Dessert - The Cozy Nook

Every time I make this dessert I get raving reviews. Even this time when my dad asked me if I had made it and I said, “yes”, he had to ask my mom to double-check.

It’s so good and looks professional with all of its beautiful layers – graham cracker crust, sweetened and fluffed cream cheese, bananas, chocolate syrup, pineapple, whipped cream, pecans, and cherries. It’s decked out!

The original called for Cool Whip, but I always like to make homemade whipped cream. I am a bit of a purist in that way.

Banana Split Dessert
Printable Version

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 pkgs (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
3 ripe bananas, sliced
~1/3 cup chocolate syrup (I don’t usually measure. I just drizzle.)
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice; drained
2 cups homemade whipped cream (or 1 16 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 jar (6 oz.) maraschino cherries, drained and halved

In a 9 x 13 pan, stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 3 T of the sugar. Press firmly into the bottom of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese with the remaining sugar on medium speed until smooth. Spread evenly over the graham cracker layer. (This can be a bit tricky and take a little patience).

Spread banana slices on top of cream cheese layer.

Drizzle with 2 T chocolate syrup.

Spoon drained pineapple over bananas.

Spread whipped cream on top. (To make homemade whipped cream, whip 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream with 1 T of sugar until peaks are formed. Since there is a lot of sugar in other places in this recipe, I like the whipped cream to be less sweet).

Top with pecans and cherries.

Drizzle with remaining chocolate syrup.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Easter Dinner

Easter Dinner - The Cozy Nook

We had our Easter celebration early, this past weekend, due to extenuating circumstances.

I hosted a gathering with my family, and here is what we enjoyed:
*designates someone else brought the food

As you can see, I had a lot of assistance. My mom and sister brought a few dishes. My daughter (11 years old) made the fruit salad on her own, with a little bit of help from my 9 year old son.

Besides eating, we held our traditional events: a (boiled!) egg fight for everyone and an egg hunt for the kids. My mom puts little treasures - candy and money - inside plastic eggs. All of the kids have an assigned color, and they hunt feverishly for their prizes.

My daughter did ALL of the d├ęcor. She did such a lovely job. I was very pleased and impressed.

Easter Decor - The Cozy Nook

What are you serving/eating for Easter?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars - The Cozy Nook

The other day my teenage son found this recipe online and printed it.

For a couple days, I was being asked to make these bars.

I admit. I initially thought, “Can’t we just make our standby chocolate chip cookie recipe? How different can this be?”

Well, I gave in and made the recipe, and our dessert recipe collection is better for it.

These bars are truly scrumptious. They are soft, chewy, not overly sweet, and have just the right amount of peanut butter.

If you think you’ve tried enough chocolate chip recipes, just try one more. ~wink~

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Original found here
Printable Version
*I actually doubled the following recipe and cooked it in a 9x13 pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1/3 heaping cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 T vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 2 T, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Put melted butter into a large mixing bowl.

Let cool slightly and then whisk in peanut butter, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Add flour and stir until just combined. Don’t overly mix.

Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips.

Put batter into prepared pan. Smooth lightly and sprinkle with remaining 2 T of chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until done. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs, no batter.

Allow bars to cool in pan for 30 minutes before slicing and serving. (We only waited about 15 minutes. It’s hard to be patient for such things. ~wink~).

Bars will keep at room temperature, airtight, for up to one week or in the freezer for up to six months.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Do You Need Some Time “Off Duty”?

Do You Need Some Time Off Duty - The Cozy Nook

Recently I wrote about what to do if you are feeling overwhelmed.

When I sat down that day, to think about things, and strategize, I felt like something I really need in my life is more space…. more time… more room to breathe and just do something for myself, by myself.

As a homeschooling mom, I have to admit that life can feel overwhelming at times. Continually pouring out. Continually giving. Continually on demand.

The requests placed upon my life during this season are great.

I spoke to my husband about trying to make a regular “time out” for me – not just the usual breathers I try to take during the day, but a more specific, scheduled time out, where I can have some time to regroup.

When I have time to myself,
I gain perspective.
I gain strength.
I  gain CLARITY.
I gain peace.

This week, I went to Panera – just me and my good ol’ laptop, and I did something I love. I blogged.

I had some time, just to myself.

I had time away from the hustle and bustle and chaos of home and was able to refresh a bit, and it was good!

If you are feeling overwhelmed with life,
maybe you need some time “off duty”.

Maybe you need some time, just for you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cheesy Broccoli and Beef Casserole

Cheesy Broccoli and Beef Casserole - The Cozy Nook

This casserole is pretty perfect.

Ground beef, mushrooms, and onions in a cream sauce.
Topped with broccoli and cheese.

Yes, please!

… and with a pot of rice on the side, you’ve got completion!

Cheesy Broccoli and Beef Casserole
Original found here
Printable Version

4 T butter
2 or 3 ribs celery, diced
6 T flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
salt and pepper

2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets and steamed
2 pounds of ground beef
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
salt and pepper
16 oz. sour cream
16 oz. shredded Colby Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Make cream of celery soup base: (Original found here).

Melt butter in saucepan on medium heat.

Saute celery until well-cooked.

Add flour to saucepan, stirring and heating until mixture is bubbly.

Remove from heat and add broth and milk, gradually, stirring until smooth.

Return to heat and cook until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Make casserole:

In a skillet over medium heat, mix ground beef, mushrooms, and onion. Cook until beef is evenly browned; drain. Season with salt and pepper. Add cream of celery soup base and sour cream. Cook until heated through.

Transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Top with broccoli and cheese.

Bake about 1 hour, until casserole is bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve over rice, if desired.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What to Do When You Are Feeling Overwhelmed

What to Do When You Are Feeling Overwhelmed - The Cozy Nook

I had one of those moments about a week ago. Everything seemed completely overwhelming. Everywhere I looked there was something to “fix”. I felt overwhelmed – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I thought of what my husband always tells me to do.

Make a List!

First, make a list of the things that are bothering you.

This helps ease your mind, and you don’t have to keep rehearsing your worries. Those trying thoughts now have a different place to reside, on the piece of paper, and you can take your time to work through them.

Second, think about the things you can’t change.

Let’s face it. There are some things you have to accept about life and there are some things you can actually change in your life. Discerning the difference allows you to address both areas: acceptance and action.

The Serenity Prayer offers us peace:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Third, think of the things you can change and HOW you can change them.

How can you improve your situation? What can you do to make things better?

Last, make a list with some action items for improvement.

Now you have tangible ways to move forward and prevent feeling swamped in the future.

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break.

Find a quiet place, assess your situation,
and make a plan.

You’ll feel better!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why I’m Giving Up My Morning Chore

Why I'm Giving Up My Morning Chore - The Cozy Nook

The morning chore.

It sounds like a good idea.

It was a good idea, and it did work. It helped me feel like the day was starting off on the right foot.

Now, however, it doesn’t feel like a good idea any more. When I wake up in the morning my main priorities are to prepare myself for the day, to get my husband out the door successfully, and to help my children have a successful start to their days.

Preparing myself for the day includes any of the following:

  • Devotions: Bible reading and prayer
  • Exercise
  • Email/computer check-in
  • Shower, dress, makeup, and hair
  • Going over my “To Do” list
  • Eating a good breakfast

Getting my family ready for the day includes:

  • Making sure my husband has a lunch
  • Preparing a coffee for my husband
  • Waking up the children (which can be a chore in and of itself)
  • Feeding the family breakfast
  • Leading a devotional time with my children
  • Keeping my children moving and on track

All of the above tasks keep me plenty busy the first couple hours of the day and trying to accomplish a morning chore has just been stressful. It lessens my momentum for a productive, homeschool day.

To be honest, I am still trying to iron out my chore system, but instead of having a morning chore, I am trying to use the latter parts of the day, especially the evenings, to focus on any necessary chores for the day. Going to bed with a clean house feels refreshing and welcomes the new day tomorrow morning.

Sometimes I DO have to turn a blind eye to things that aren’t done during the early part of the day. I just mark them down on my list for later and try to stay focused on homeschooling well and helping the kids get their work done.

What works well for you?

When do you do your chores?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How Do You Define a Successful Day?

How Do You Define a Successful Day - The Cozy Nook

How do you define a successful day?

Stop and think for a moment. Maybe even write it down.

Currently, what things need to happen during the day to make you feel like today was successful?


Now think again. Look over your list.

Does your definition need to change?

Mine does.

For most of my life I have determined success by how well I have performed or how well things have gone.

  • What grade did I get?
  • Did I get everything done?
  • Was I perfect?
  • Were my children perfect? (which really means was I able to make them perfect)
  • Did something bad happen today?

Truth be told, I expected life to be perfect. I expected life to follow a routine pattern and be manageable, programmable, and infallible.

Now, as my days are less predictable, as I deal with some health challenges, and as my children’s hearts are maturing, I see that my definition of a successful day needs to change.

For all of us, a successful day is one where we:

  • TRY our best to live our priorities,
  • DO our best to be productive, and
  • BE the best people we can be, for God’s glory.

That’s it!

Try your best. Do your best. Be your best.

Let God do the rest.

Some days your best is not going to feel very good. Some days your best may seem very feeble and frail, lacking much.

Keep pushing on! Keep pressing on towards the goal!

We will fall short many times during the day.
Our days will fall short of our expectations.
Our realities will fall short of our dreams.
Our moments will fall short of our momentum.

However, we can still be successful!

Success does not equal perfection.

Success comes when we yield ourselves to God’s will for our lives, submit to our imperfect days, accept life as it is, intend to do our best, and purpose to live our priorities with tenacity and grace.