The Dress

I’m sure you all saw the story on the news last week about Alfred Angelo bridal stores closing last week amid bankruptcy. Probably tens of thousands of brides who have shelled out thousands of dollars for dress are now left hanging. As a somewhat resent bride, my heart just sank for these women. I remember the anxiety of dress shopping. First, there is the fear that nothing will fit when you go to try on dresses. I’ve never been a size 5 and bridal dresses are ever smaller than normal stuff you buy in the store. Then, there is the budget. I just go into shock when I see young women setting budgets for dress on “Say Yes to the Dress” at $3,500-$6,000+. For a dress you will wear only once? How much are you spending on the rest of the wedding?

I was very lucky my mom offered to pay for my wedding dress. Jeremiah and I paid for the wedding ourselves. I tell you what, every couple should have to do that. It really makes you think twice about what you are spending your money on and how many people you invite. Even small weddings aren’t cheap. There is food, a DJ, photographer, hair/make-up, favors, and the list goes on and on. I think we had a nice wedding and were we able to pay for it 100% without taking on debt. (We are both Dave Ramsey grads.) It also taught us some very important lessons in saving for a house. Just a little over a year after our big day, we will have the down payment for our dream home.

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Pictures of dresses that didn’t become “The dress”.

Back to the dress. My mom and I went three stores. The first store was Belle Vogue. Going here first was like when we decided to spend the first two days of our honeymoon at the JW San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa before staying at a HomeAway rental. The service at Belle Vogue was amazing, the lighting was great, and the dresses actually came in sizes that I could try on. Our second stop was Natalie M’s. In this store, the service was still good, lighting wasn’t as good, brides had to share the big mirror, and the dresses weren’t quite as nice material. I did really like an Alfredo Angelo dress in this store. Our final stop was David’s Bridal. Anyone who loves anyone should never let a bride go to this store. The service was terrible, the dressing room was too small, and the dresses are very plain.

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Mom, my sister Stephanie, and I when I picked “The Dress”.

At first, I just couldn’t get past the cost of the dress. I work at a nonprofit and this was the first wedding expense we were figuring out. I only showed pictures of me in the dresses to just a couple of people. Everyone awed when they saw me in the dress I ended up picking. I returned to my first two stores to try on my top three favorite picks. The moment I put back on my Stella York, I knew it was the dress.

I know this sounds a little crazy but one of the reasons I liked it was because this dress was handmade in Australia. I knew how well they paid their workers and that my dress was less likely to get caught up in customs. Even then, I nervously waited for a phone call throughout the month of March to tell me my dress was here. Patience isn’t my best virtue so I asked while picking up my bridesmaid dresses. The good news is that it had just arrived in the shipment that day. Since Jeremiah was with me, I scheduled a time to come back later that week and asked a dear friend to join me as my mom lives so far away.

Almost a year and half later, Alfredo Angelo files bankruptcy. I think about all those women who don’t have dresses and are out the tons of money they spent on the dresses. You know best case scenario is that they will get back pennies on the dollar. But it also made me think back to my friend Jen’s wedding.

Jenny and I are friends from college. Roommates by Residence Hall chance, we have lived together in three different places and remained friends (miraculously) for 20 years. God, I feel old as I realize this. Jen officiated my wedding. I was lucky enough to stand up for her 12? years ago. But Jen’s wedding also had a dress fiasco.

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Bridesmaid bonded forever

Jen hired a small local businesswoman to make her dress. This same woman was also making articles of clothing for her mother, bridesmaids, flower girl, ring bearers, and candle lighters. The day before Jen’s wedding, I arrived in small town Nebraska. I went to pick up my dress and my jacket still wasn’t done. I thought this was odd but the seamstress said she’s have everything ready the next morning. The morning of Jen’s wedding, Jen got a call while we were at the hair studio. It was the seamstress. The dresses weren’t ready yet but they would be ready at Noon. Jen left us bridesmaids to go get her hair done at another salon. All five bridesmaids started talking and figured out that three of our dresses weren’t done. When the dresses weren’t at the auditorium at 12:45PM, we deciphered a plan to get and finish them. We are so lucky that Jen has a cousin who owns a sewing machine store. (Thank you small town Nebraska). Two bridesmaids went to get the clothes. The rest of us hopped in a van heading over to her cousin’s house. Luckily, she has three sewing machines in her basement. We also took Jen’s mom and another bridesmaid’s mother as none of us bridesmaids had sewing skills. When the other bridesmaids arrived with the items, we discovered the problem was bigger than we through. The only things that were done was Jen’s dress, the flower girl’s dress, and two bridesmaids’ dresses. My dress was almost completely done. We decided to scrap the jackets and focus on finishing the dresses. One bridesmaid’s dress was literally still in pieces. But first, we had to finish Jen’s mom’s dress so we could send her back to the house to help Jen get ready. The next few hours were a whirlwind in which the boys’ vest became just bow ties. You’d be amazed how good the bridesmaids became with scissors and hand stitching. The bottom of dresses were sergered instead of properly hemmed. But we got it done. And thank goodness because the nicest thing I had packed was a black cardigan and the nearest major city to find something had a home football game so traffic would have been crazy.

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Photo by Joseph Sands Images

I am happy to report, Jen and Brad had a great Muppet themed wedding. In fact, their Muppet character Pez dispensers for kids are the reason Jeremiah and I had Minion Pez dispensers for kids at our wedding. My nephew Brock still talks about those Pez dispensers from Jen’s wedding. The cake was delicious and who could forget every possible flavor of pie. Although I wish I could have been there to help Jen get ready, I hope she had as much as fun as I did at the reception.

Here’s hoping all those brides currently in distress look back on this moment as just a little hiccup in planning the biggest day of their lives. The years of marriage is what’s most important, right?

Today, I share recipe from our wedding cookbook from these dear friends. Since Jen and the kids have allergies, I think you will enjoy this spin on Rice Crispy Treats. It’s corn syrup free.

Brad’s Rice Krispie Bars
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter or Sunbutter
1 c. cane sugar syrup (Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
6 c. Rice Krispies
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips (optional)

Combine sugar and syrup over a medium heat to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Stir until blended. Pour sugar mixture over Rice Krispies. Mix until well coated. Then, spread into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Microwave chips until melted and spread over bars. Refrigerate until set.

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Weight Watchers Candy

I made this recipe and shared it with my boyfriend. He thinks it taste like a Whatchamacallit candy bar. I liked it enough I made it again less than a week later to share with my sister. I love that the recipe is small enough that you don’t end up with a bunch of leftover and over eat  this treat.

Weight Watchers CandyWeight Watchers Candy from Pinterest
1 Hershey candy bar
1/4 c. reduced fat peanut butter
1 c. Fiber One cereal

Melt chocolate and peanut butter. Stir in cereal. Refrigerate until solid.

Notes:

  • I used Honey Clusters Fiber One cereal.
  • The recipe said it made eight pieces of candy at 1 WW point each. I made four pieces instead – making them 2 WW point each.

Are You a Chocoholic?

Calling all chocoholics – this rich recipe is for you. Be sure to serve it warm with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream to help tame this chocolate dish. I could only eat piece once every couple of days.

Chocolate CobblerChocolate Cobbler from Pinterest
1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
7 T. cocoa powder, divided
1 ¼ c. sugar, divided
½ c. milk
1/3 c. melted butter
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
½ c. brown sugar
1 ½ c. hot tap water

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, 3 T. cocoa, and ¾ c. sugar. Stir in milk, butter, and vanilla. Pour into 8” baking dish. In a small bowl, mix ½ c. sugar, brown sugar, and 4 T. cocoa. Sprinkle over batter. Pour over water. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Wacky and Wild Stuff

It’s been so long since Johnny Carson retired from The Tonight Show that Jay Leno is about to hand it off for the second time. Johnny was from the town of Norfolk, NE – where half my family lives. And like me, Johnny was an alum of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Although I don’t think he ever had this cookie in mind, one of his catch phrases popped into my head when I ran across this recipe.

If you’ve even been in one of those fancy chocolate shops like at Crown Center, you’ve probably noticed they make chocolate covered potato chips. In fact, the new “it” taste is salted caramel mocha. It’s everywhere – including my favorite Starbucks drink.

When I ran across this recipe on Pinterest, I thought to myself “I have to try this recipe”. I figured it would either be the best or the worst cookie I ever made. Although I don’t think it is better than my Chocolate Crinkle recipe or will be as popular as my Weight Watchers three-ingredient cookie recipe, I did enjoy it and will definitely make it again.

Sweet & salty cookiesSweet and Salty Potato Chip Toffee Cookies from Pinterest
2 c. plus 2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. crushed chips (I used Reduced Fat Ruffles)
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. Heath bits or chopped Heath candy bar

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl, blend together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture and beat. Fold in chips, chocolate chips, and Heath bits. Chill for 30 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Goodbye 2013

Looking back at 2013, I thought I would share a few of my favorite new recipes. In no particular order, here are my top 13:
Breakfast QuicheBreakfast recipes:

Dinner recipes:

Dessert recipes:

An Amber Original

Back in my Komen days, I remember going with our Community Outreach Manager to Atchison to present our first grant to the hospital. As the only hospital/imaging center serving that region of northeast Kansas, they hosted a big pink party to celebrate. One of the things their chef made was these amazing chocolate cookies with Raspberry M&Ms. I was in love. Although I haven’t been able to locate a recipe for these delicious cookies, I opted to take my best cookie recipe, remove the confectioner sugar, and add raspberry M&Ms. My you enjoys these as much as my Marriott co-workers did. They will melt in your mouth when served warm.

Chocolate Raspberry CookiesChocolate Raspberry Cookies by Amber Bourek
3/4 c. Butter, melted
1/2 c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 c. Sugar
2 c. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 c. Chocolate Chips
1/2 c. Raspberry M&Ms

In a large bowl, mix butter, cocoa, and sugar. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use an electric mixer to add eggs and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Slowly add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate overnight. Roll into balls and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used mini-chocolate chips and it wasn’t as rich as I would have liked. I’d recommend using Milk Chocolate regular sized chips. You might even want to use 3/4 cup.
  • I used 1/2 c. Raspberry M&Ms. That put only about one M&M per cookie. You might want to use 3/4 or 1 cup of M&Ms.
  • I didn’t add but you could easily add a tsp. of raspberry syrup instead of adding more M&Ms.

Chocolate Dump Cake

You may have started wondering if I was still writing this blog. The answer is yes but I’ve been busy. I recently started a new job – as a volunteer manager. It’s a crazy busy time of the year and I’m learning a new job so it’s been keeping me pretty busy. In addition to my new job, I am still working at the hotel. I also have some blogs I need to write for another nonprofit agency. Until my life settles into my “new normal”, this blog will have to hold you over for a little while til I have more time to bake than just throwing a frozen pizza in the oven. It’s times like this when I wonder how people juggle work, family, and still have the energy to do fun things.

I’m super excited to share this recipe with you because it is just four ingredients. It’s a super easy and very delicious dessert.

Chocolate Dump CakeChocolate Dump Cake from Pinterest
1 box of chocolate cake
1 box chocolate pudding
1 3/4 c. milk
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Mix milk and pudding. Add box of cake mix and stir. Pour into 9 x 13 pan. Scatter with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used sugar free pudding. I think you could also use a sugar free cake to make it healthier.
  • I used skim milk and it still turned out fluffy. I think I cooked it for 25 minutes to prevent it from burning.
  • I also cut the amount of chocolate chips to 3/4 c. and it still had a great chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I first saw this recipe on Facebook. It got buried in my Facebook timeline and I had to go search the internet to find it. As a single person, it make way more than I can eat to decided to share it with my co-workers. They loved it and I hope you will too. It’s a good balance of chocolate and peanut butter.

Chocolate Peanut Butter BarsChocolate Peanut Butter Bars
2 c. instant oatmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
1 3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. of butter (2 sticks)
1/2 c. chopped peanuts
1 c. chocolate chips
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 can sweet and condensed milk (14 oz.)
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter

Mix together oats, brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Cut in butter. Save 1 1/2 cups. Stir in egg to bowl and press in the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. In a separate bowl, stir together sweet and condensed milk and peanut butter. Pour over crust. Sprinkle crumble, chocolate chips, and nuts. Bake 15 minutes more.

Notes:

  • I omitted the peanuts.
  • I used Fat Free sweet and condensed milk and reduced fat peanut butter.

Thin Mint Chex Mix

I love Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. I usually buy three boxes when they are one sale. Frozen Thin Mints with cold milk is such a refreshing treat anytime of the year. I also like to find recipes where I can incorporate these sweet treats. This one came from Pinterest. If you didn’t stock pile for the year like I did, you can also substitute Keebler’s version available throughout the year in your grocer’s cracker/cookie aisle.

Mint Chex MixThin Mint Chex Mix from Pinterest

Chocolate Thin Mint Chex
5 c. Rice Chex cereal
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
12 Thin Mint cookies, finely crushed
1/4 c. powdered sugar

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 1/2 minute on high, then stir every 20-30 seconds until melted. Coat Chex, add cookies and stir. Add powder sugar and stir again.

White Chocolate Chex
5 c. Rice Chex
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips or almond bark (add green dye if desired)
3/4 c. powdered sugar

Melt chocolate and add green dye. Coat cereal and stir. Add powdered sugar and stir.

Mix both cereals together and let cool before serving.

Chocolate Crinkles

Everybody has a signature dish they make. For me, these cookies are my signature dish. My mother used to make them when I was a kid and I loved them. When I was in college, my mother bought me this Family Circle Holiday Cookie Cookbook. The recipe in the book had chocolate chips – something my mother hadn’t put in hers. I have to say – I think my recipe is better then. Best when served warm from the oven – they melt in your mouth.

I used to bake Chocolate Crinkles for volunteer trainings when I worked at Hope House. I would always put the extras in the mailroom for the staff to enjoy. It took a while but my friend Trish finally figured out I was the one making these cookies. For the baby shower for her twins a few years ago, she asked me to make these cookies. I hope you love them as much as she does.

Chocolate CrinklesChocolate Crinkles by Amber Bourek
3/4 c. Butter, melted
1/2 c. Unsweeted Cocoa Powder
1 c. Sugar
2 c. Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 bag Chocolate Chips
Confectioner’s Sugar

In a large bowl, mix butter, cocoa, and sugar. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use an electric mixer to add eggs and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Slowly add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate overnight. Roll into balls and roll in confectioner’s sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.