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.

collage-2017-07-24

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.

IMG_28891

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.

1930642_24512892725_8586_n

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.

1607-BourekWed-2121

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.

Advertisements

No Bake Monster Cookies

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a picture on Facebook of some cookies her daughter had created for 4-H. One of the cookies was a no bake monster cookie. I asked her for the recipe and she said they had found it on Pinterest. Since I follow her on Pinterest, I checked out her pins. This recipe is super easy and protein packed. It’s quick and easy but not as good as my mom’s original monster cookie recipe. My husband agreed. However, I did get a chance to use my my new cookie scoop I got as a wedding gift.

No Bake Monster Cookies by The Baker Mama
FullSizeRender (7)2 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. mini M&Ms

Mix together oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, and extract. Then, stir in chocolate chips and M&Ms. Scoop into round balls on parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before eating. Once solid, you can transfer to an airtight container so they don’t dry out.

Notes:

  • I used reduced fat creamy peanut butter but the original recipe says you can also use crunchy peanut butter.
  • I used regular sized chocolate chips and M&Ms. They worked but the might have stayed together better if I had used the mini sizes.

Healthy Haystacks

It feels like it has been forever since I have written a blog post. That’s probably has been. In addition to working two jobs, Jeremiah and I have spent the better part of the last three months planning, packing, moving, and (still) unpacking. It’s super exciting because we finally have a place together with all of our stuff. Well, almost all of stuff. We did have to get rid of a few things to move into together.

In addition to keeping busy with all of this stuff, I took on another task. Yesterday and today, I made 120 cookies for Family Volunteer Night at work. I know, am I completely insane? Well, it had to be done. My boss promised we would have a healthy cookie as the volunteers left. Needing all hands on deck for tonight, we just didn’t have enough people at work to make them. Here is the quick and easy recipe I prepared in my beautiful new kitchen. Please note though, this is one of those recipes you’ll want to put on an apron to make. Peanut butter is super messy.

HaystackHealthy Haystacks by Harvesters’ Nutrition Department
1 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. butterscotch chips
2 c. Fiber One bran cereal
1/2 c. dry roasted peanuts
1/2 c. dried cranberries (craisins) 

Cover two cookie sheets with wax paper. In a large bowl, mix peanut butter and butterscotch chips. Microwave for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes stirring every 30 seconds. (Use a potholder while stirring and removing from oven as it will be hot.) Then, add cereal, nuts, and cranberries. Once completely coated, spoon onto wax paper. Refrigerate until firm and serve. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Nutrition Information: Makes 32 servings. 101 Calories, 7 g. fat, 10 g. carbs, 3 g. fiber, 3 g. protein, and 80 mg. sodium.

Notes:

  • I omitted the nuts and doubled the cranberries.
  • You can substitute other dried fruit such as raisins or cherries.

Cheerios Treats

Not exactly the healthiest way to eat Cheerios but definitely a tasty treat.

Cheerio TreatsCheerios Treats from Pinterest
1 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
5 c. Cheerios

Bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil over a medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter. Add Cheerios. Drop spoonfuls on waxed paper.

Notes:

  • I used reduced fat peanut butter.
  • I used Honey Nut Cheerios but Multi-Grain contain 3 g. less of sugar per serving.

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.

Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Bars

This recipe was a lot of work but turned out good. It is rich so cut bars into small pieces and share with others.

100_1192Peanut Butter Caramel Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from Mom on Time Out
Caramel Filling
11 oz. caramels
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
4 T. butter

Cookie Dough
12 T. butter, softened
2 c. brown sugar
½ c. creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 c. oats
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 c. chocolate chips
1. Peanut butter chips
1. C. Heath bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 cake pan with parchment paper or foil. On a medium-low heat, melt caramels, butter, and sweetened condensed milk. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add peanut butter. Add eggs. Add vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture. Stir in chips. Put 2/3 of dough in the bottom of the lined pan. Pour caramel over dough. Top with drops of remaining dough. Bake for 30 minutes and cool.

Notes:

  • I used fat free sweetened condensed milk and a smaller bag of caramels.
  • I used reduced fat creamy peanut butter.
  • I used one cup from a bag of chocolate chip and peanut butter chips mixed together, one and half cups of chocolate chips, and ¾ c. Heath bits.

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.

Monster Dip

If you have followed my blog for awhile, you might know I love M&Ms. In fact, a eat a few of them out of my candy dish probably every day. One of my all time favorite cookies is Monster Cookies because it contains M&Ms. My mother makes them perfectly but mine never turn out quite as good.

A few days ago, I spotted this recipe on an old friend from high school’s Facebook page. I just knew I had to make it. Without eggs, you can eat the raw dish without having to worry about salmonella like you do when you sample uncooked cookie dough. I’ve tried this dip with Teddy Grams, pretzels, and apples. I liked it the best on pretzels. I think it might also be good on graham or animal crackers.

Monster Cookie DipMonster Dip
1 package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. peanut butter
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 c. oats (less makes a smoother dip)
2/3 c. M&Ms
1 c. chocolate chips

Use a mixer to blend cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter until smooth. Add powder sugar, brown sugar, flour, and vanilla. Add oats. Stir in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Refrigerate until serving. It makes a large storage container full.

Notes:

  • I used reduced fat cream cheese and peanut butter.
  • I only used 1 1/2 c. oats and my recipe was fairly smooth.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

My mother makes the best peanut butter star cookies. Super easy, few ingredients, and nice peanut butter taste.

Picture from Betty Crocker

Picture from Betty Crocker

Peanut Butter Blossoms by Kathy Bourek
1 egg
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. sugar
Brach’s Stars candies

Mix egg, sugar, and peanut butter together. Spoon into round balls and place on cookie sheet. Top each cookie with a star candy and press down. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.

 Note: You have to use the Brach’s Stars. If you bake the cookie with Hershey’s Kisses, it will burn the top of the cookie.

I Think My Oven Hates Me

I’m sure we have all thought it at least once. A recipe that you love when somebody else makes it doesn’t turn out quite the same when you make it. What did I do wrong? You check with the original recipe provider just to make sure you didn’t miss any ingredients. You ask what brands they used. You might even try using different bake ware. As a last resort you watch them make the recipe. But you still can’t get the recipe to come out just right. That’s when I blame my oven.

The recipe for me that seems to keep eluding me is Monster Cookies. One of my favorite memories from my childhood is making cookies with my mom. When I was really little my mother stayed home with me and did the books for my parents gas/service station. My mother was always cooking up something in the kitchen and trying new recipes. She also baked lots of desserts for funerals at our church. But my mom always let me help her make cookies.

We usually made Chocolate Chip Cookies. For helping, I got to eat the leftover batter in the bowl. (Yes, this was before we knew the salmonella from raw eggs was bad for you and the invention of Cookie Dough ice cream.) I have always loved chocolate, especially M&Ms. As a kid, I didn’t get to eat chocolate very often because my sister was allergic. (She ate too many solid chocolate Easter Bunnies as a kid. And I’m sorry but carob is not chocolate!) Monster Cookies were great because they included chocolate chips and M&Ms. What’s not to love.

I can’t tell you how many times I have made this recipe and I still can’t get it to look like my mother’s Monster Cookies. They taste fine but they look flat. At first, I thought it was because I was using reduced fat peanut butter so I switched to regular. They still looked flat. Then, I left the dough in the fridge over night to get stiffer. No change. I decided to cook them on a regular cookie sheet as opposed to a mat or air bake pan. Still no change.

I told my sister that it must be because I used generic oatmeal. My sister made me feel better when she told me that her cookies looked just like mine and she uses Quaker oatmeal. Steph also reminded me that my mother had baked the cookies at her house, with her ingredients and magically got the cookies to not look flat.

I share this recipe in hopes your cookies look like they do when my mother bakes them. Even if they don’t, I promise they still taste exactly the same. Pure heaven!

Monster Cookies by Kathy Bourek

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 and 1/2 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 and 1/2 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. oatmeal
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. M&Ms

Cream together first three ingredients. Continue to add ingredients and stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.