5 Reasons Why You Should Learn to Cook

By Food No Comments

Le’ts start out with the fundamental question, why should you bother learning to cook? There are meal kits that can be sent to you with the easiest of instructions, there are microwave and oven ready meals that require no time, and there’s always take out. So why should you bother to learn how to cook? I would argue it’s because when you learn to cook, you gain more than you would believe. Below are 5 reasons that I believe you should learn to cook; I hope that they encourage you to give it a try!

1. Cooking from Home is Healthier

Let me preface this by saying that of course you can make unhealthy things at home! What I am saying is that by cooking from home, you are more inclined to choose and make healthier foods. When you make your food at home you are aware of what is being put in your food and you will slowly start to lower the number of unhealthy items as you see how much you are actually consuming. A good example of this is baking, shortbread cookies are melt in your mouth good but the reason for this is the insane amount of butter that’s involved. When you make shortbread cookies yourself and see how much butter you have to put in it helps you put in perspective how much you should eat and how often. I’ve lowered the amounts of butter and oils I cook with too as I have learned over time I don’t need as much to still get a great taste! Healthy cooking doesn’t happen overnight but it will happen the more you choose to cook at home.

2. Brings Families Together

Cooking and eating at home has a way of bringing families together. It leads to more family dinners and more quality time spent together. I don’t know if its because someone slaved away cooking the meal and everyone feels obligated to sit together or if its just something about a home cooked meal that brings people together; regardless it’s always done the trick. Home cooked meals bring us together and in my opinion, bond us together in ways we couldn’t have imagined. If you are wanting to find a way to spend more quality time with your loved ones, get out a pan and cook a meal!

3. Saves Money

With todays inflation this may not seem true, but it is in fact still true! You will inevitably save more money by going to the store and buying the ingredients to make dinners at home. That’s because you can use many of the ingredients for several meals, leftovers and more. In general I spend around $100-$120 a week and that covers all our dinners, lunches and breakfasts for the week. When my husband and I go out it’s almost always a minimum of $20 for a meal, for a week that would be well over $140 just for seven meals. That doesn’t include snacks, breakfast or lunch. Yes going out to eat is more convenient and less time consuming, but it is rarely the cheaper option.

4. Creative Outlet for You and Kids

This is one of my favorite parts of cooking and baking, trying new recipes and putting your own twist on the recipe. The more I cook the more confident I am changing ingredients or trying a recipe in a new way. I am also thrilled to introduce my daughter to cooking as I hope it’s a great way for her to express herself as well as learn a lifelong skill. You can incorporate your kids by letting them decorate, help measure or stir ingredients together. It bonds you together as a family and also let’s your kid learn new skills that they will always take with them. Get creative with your ingredients and make cooking and eating a fun experience!

5. Stress Reliever

This is one of the main reasons I started to get into cooking, it was an outlet for me to relive my stress. I naturally have a lot of stress and anxiety and cooking helps me to detach and relax. There’s also a long of banging, mixing, and other things that you can do when cooking that are helpful stress relievers. I also love that’s it’s a hobby that you get immediate rewards from. As soon as your item is done cooking, you get to try it! You get a stress reliever and a treat all in one go. I’ve tried so many crafts and other hobbies and lost interest immediately. Cooking is the one thing I have continued to do and enjoy and it’s one of my go-to stress relievers.

Learning to cook takes time and can be challenging, but its worth taking the time to learn. It’s a skill that will always come in handy.

If your interested in some recipes I’ve reviewed and love, head to my Recipe Review page here: RECIPE REVIEWS.

For recipes I love and food videos I’ve done, check out my Pinterest page here: Cultivate Confidence Pinterest

How to Make Ovaltine Cheesecake

By Food No Comments

There are very few desserts as widely celebrated as a good cheesecake! I have been wanting to expand my husband and I’s palette this year, so I asked for a few new cookbooks for Christmas. One of them was this book of Hawaiian Recipes and this Ovaltine cheesecake was one of the dessert options. My parents and sister were coming for Christmas, and I wanted to do something special. If you’d ever watched the movie, A Christmas Story, theres a part that says “Don’t forget to drink your Ovaltine”. I thought this would be the perfect way to blend a new recipe in with the holidays. My family got a kick out of it when I told them I had bought Ovaltine especially for this cheesecake! However, they were pleasantly surprised by how good it turned out.

The Ovaltine is present in two parts of this Ovaltine cheesecake, the crust and the topping. The crust is the perfect place for the Ovaltine because all it really does is give it a chocolate taste. You would never know that it was Ovaltine in there. The topping of this Ovaltine Cheesecake is powdered Ovaltine and that’s a bit more of a giveaway. If you’ve never had Ovaltine before, I would compare it to something like powdered Nesquik.

Overall Review: 5/5

I loved this Ovaltine Cheesecake, it was honestly so good and different. I like that it was unique but also still had the classic cheesecake feel as well. Sometimes its just a few changes that make all the difference. Don’t be scared off because Ovaltine is an older brand that is not as widely used today. Take the chance on this recipe and bake this cheesecake for your next get together. You’ll be shocked at the positive response you get back!

xoxo- Kayla

For more of our recipe reviews: Recipe Reviews

To order your copy of Cook Real Hawai’i, click HERE.

Condensed Milk Cheesecake with Ovaltine Crust

From: Cook Real Hawai'i

  • Butter (For greasing)
  • 1 1/4 cups Vanilla Wafers (Finely crusted)
  • 1/2 cup Ovaltine powder, plus 2 tbsp for garnish
  • 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • Salt
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 16 oz Cream Cheese (Room Temperature )
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 (13.5oz) can Sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease your 9-inch pie pan with butter

  2. In a large bowl, mix your wafer crumbs, 1/2 cup Ovaltine powder, melted butter, and a pinch of salt until moist crumbs form. Move to the greased pan and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides as much as you can. Bake until lightly browned. Should take about 10 minutes. Remove and cool but do not turn off the oven.

Cheesecake Filling

  1. While your crust bakes, mix the cream cheese & sour cream using a mixer, until smooth and fluffy. Slowly fold in the condensed milk until fully incorporated. Add in the eggs and lemon juice and combine. Pour mixture into your cooled crust.

  2. Place your cheesecake in the oven and bake until center is set (only a small circle in the center should jiggle). You can stick a toothpick in and if it comes out clean your cheesecake is ready to be taken out. Remove and cool for an hour. Dust with your 2 tablespoons of Ovaltine powder and then serve.

How to Make Philly Cheesesteaks – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

We have lived in Pennsylvania for almost two years and I still haven’t been to Philadelphia to get an authentic Philly Cheesesteak! Don’t ask me how that has happened, but it has! So, when I saw this recipe in the Magnolia Table cookbook, I had to give it a shot. These weren’t hard to make at all, but did take a bit of time. The area I struggled with the most was finding the right buns at the grocery store! I mean who is making all the philly cheesesteaks out here and hogging the buns! I ended up having to use what’s called a sausage bun instead because there weren’t any other options. Very annoying, but you do what you got to do.

These philly cheesesteaks were easy to make and were extremely tasty. Definitely worth the time and money to make! This isn’t the cheapest recipe because I had to buy ribeye and that can get very expensive for just a single dinner. The rest of the ingredients aren’t expensive but that cut of meat can be, so just be aware when you go shopping. I don’t think it would be a big issue to swap for a cheaper meat if you are on a budget.

Overall Review: 5/5

I thought these philly cheesesteaks were very good and I loved how easy it was to customize it for my husbands allergies. The cheese is the last step which makes it easy to leave off and accommodate his allergy. He didn’t complain either that they didn’t taste good, even though his weren’t technically ‘cheesesteaks’. Mine had plenty of cheese and were so tasty! Completely worth the time to cook, assemble and broil them!

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think! xoxo-Kayla

Magnolia Table Cookbook- Buy it HERE

For more recipe reviews, head to our page HERE

Philly Cheesesteaks

From Magnolia Table Volume 2

  • 2 pds Rib eye or Strip Steak
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Fajita Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Yellow Onion (medium)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper (cut into 1/2 inch wide strips)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper (cut into 1/2 inch wide strips)
  • 2 Poblano Peppers (seeded) (cut into 1/2 inch wide strips)
  • 6 Hoagie/Steak Rolls (or whatever you can find!)
  • Pepper Jack Cheese Slices
  1. Freeze thawed steak for 10 minutes to make steak easier to cut. After slice against the grain into 1/4 inch wide strips

  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil over high heat. Add half the steak and season with 1/2 tsp of fajita seasoning. Stir occasionally until browned. I found it took about 5-6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil (I place in microwave to help keep warm). Repeat the process for the second half of the uncooked steak. Once cooked place with your other cooked steak to keep warm.

  3. Reduce the heat of the skillet to medium/medium-high and add butter and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Heat until the butter starts to bubble. Add onion, salt and black pepper and cook until onion is softened and translucent. This takes about 6-7 minutes.

  4. Add bell peppers, poblano peppers and 1 tsp of fajita seasoning and saute. Stir often until peppers and onions are carmaelized. I found this takes at minimum 20 minutes if not a bit longer.

  5. Turn your broiler on high and have a rack a few inches from the heat. Prep a baking sheet with foil.

  6. Add steak to the skillet and toss to combine. Heat through for about 5 minutes and then remove from heat.

  7. Open rolls and set on the baking pan. Divide the steak and pepper mixture amont the rolls and cover with slices of cheese. These are open faced sandwiches so the cheese can melt appropriately.

  8. Broil until cheese begins to bubble, about 3-4 minutes. Watch carefully so they don't burn. Serve immediately and enjoy!

How to Make Peanut Butter Brownies – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

Is there anything better than chocolate and peanut butter? It’s one of my favorite dessert combinations! I decided to make these Peanut Butter Brownies when we were headed to a friends for dinner. They are very rich so a little goes a long way, but they are AMAZING. The only obstacle of note is that each layer needs to set before you can continue, so be sure to make these the night before or plan accordingly.

My failures: I definitely did NOT add enough powdered sugar to the final layer. I was in a hurry because I was running out of time before we needed to leave for dinner. Don’t rush that last layer!! It needs to be a lot thicker than I made it and it needs the full amount of time in the freezer. Because I didn’t add enough powdered sugar it wouldn’t set right. So please be aware and cautious when you make it, don’t skimp on the powdered sugar! 🙂

You also want to make sure you heat your knife before cutting the brownies. They have been in the freezer for a while so this will make it easier for you to cut. I just run the knife over warm water and then wipe off excess water before cutting. Repeat as necessary to make cleaner cut brownies.

Overall Review 4.5/5

These peanut butter brownies are amazing! They are fudgy, with the perfect balance of chocolate and peanut butter. This recipe makes plenty because they are a very rich brownie. They would be perfect for a get together, party or if you wanted to hand out treats to friends. A little goes a long way with these brownies! I do think that if you are in a time crunch and don’t want to spend the time making the homemade brownies, you could do a box brownie and still get a good taste. The homemade brownies are fr superior in my opinion, but getting that top layer correct is more important!

For more recipes from Magnolia Table Cookbook Volume 2: CLICK HERE. For more recipe reviews head to our page: HERE.

Lucy’s Peanut Butter Brownies

From Magnolia Table Cookbook Volume 2

Brownies (bottom layer)

  • 1 cup Unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups Granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4 Large Eggs

Topping (Middle Layer)

  • 1 16 oz Jar of Creamy Peanut Butter

Frosting (Top Layer)

  • 8 tbsp Unsalted Butter (1 stick )
  • 10 Large Marshmallows
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar (More for thicker frosting )
  • 1/3 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Brownies (bottom layer)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan with cooking spray

  2. Heat a small saucepan over low heat and add butter. Wait until butter has melted and whisk in the cocoa. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

  3. In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, combine granulated sugar, flour and salt. Add the cooled cocoa butter mixture and mix on medium speed until well mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla slowly and mix until well combined.

  4. Spread your brownie mixture evenly over your prepared baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted only comes out with a few crumbs. (if your oven runs hot, watch carefully so it doesn't over bake)

  5. Let brownies cool completely. This can take anywhere from 30-40 minutes.

Topping (Middle Layer)

  1. Take your peanut butter and place in microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds to soften and make easier to spread. Stir heated peanut butter and spread on top of cooled brownies. Once this layer is on, put brownies in the freezer for 30-60 minutes.

Frosting (Top Layer)

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and marshmellows. Once melted add powdered sugar, milk and cocoa. Stir until completely smooth. I recommend using more sugar to make it a thicker frosting (but this is up to you).

  2. Spread this mixture on top of the peanut butter layer and freeze for another 30-40 minutes.

  3. Once completed, heat a knife under warm water, wipe off excess water and cut brownies into squares. It's up to you how many you want and how big the squares are, but it should make at least 20-24 brownies.

How to Make Waffles with Strawberry Butter – Magnolia Butter

By Food No Comments

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work, it doesn’t matter. But work is third.” – Amy Poehler

Who doesn’t love a good homemade waffle?! I always think that homemade waffles are much lighter than out of the box or freezer. Makes the waffles easier to eat and it doesn’t feel like they sit as heavy in your stomach. These waffles with strawberry butter are one of my favorite recipes from the Magnolia Table Volume 2 cookbook. I opted to try them for dinner one night and they ended up being exactly what we wanted.

These waffles with strawberry butter are very light and airy. The waffles have a very different consistency than ones that come out of a box, they are more like a sponge cake texture than the thick batter you are used to with waffles. I will say that pairing these waffles with the strawberry butter and vanilla maple syrup makes all the difference. The strawberry butter and vanilla maple syrup aren’t too sugary as to overpower the waffle. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of sugar in this recipe, but it doesn’t taste like a mouthful of sugar. Which is why I do recommend taking the time to make the butter and syrup even if you have regular butter and syrup at home.

Overall Review: 4/5

The only reason I would give this recipe a 4 instead of a 5 is because folding in the egg whites just wouldn’t work. I don’t know if it’s on my end and I did something wrong or what, but I couldn’t get it to cooperate. I ended up having to use a whisk to get the egg whites to incorporate at all, which I’m pretty sure is a cooking sin! ha! But I did what I had to do to make it work and it still ended up tasting great! These are very light waffles, so I did end up eating more than normal just because they weren’t sitting so heavy in my stomach. So be aware, these waffles with strawberry butter can cause you to eat more than you planned!

The strawberry butter and the vanilla syrup recipe can be found in her cookbook which you can find here: Magnolia Table Volume 2. If you are interested in more recipe reviews, head to our page here: Recipe Reviews.

Waffles with Strawberry Butter

From Magnolia Table Volume 2 Cookbook

  • Waffle Iron
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs Seperated
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Strawberry Butter ((Magnolia Table recipe))
  • Vanilla Maple Syrup ((Magnolia Table recipe))
  1. Prep your waffle iron with cooking spray, and heat to medium heat.

  2. Using a sifter combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a medium bowl.

  3. Using an electric mixer and a separate bowl, mix the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks take about 2 minutes and the peaks should stand straight up when you life the beaters.

  4. In a third bowl, mix the egg yolks, milk, oil and vanilla extract. Once combined add the flour and mix just until incorporated. It's important not to overmix your batter.

  5. Once mixed, fold in your egg whites. When I folded in the egg whites I found they wouldn't combine quite right, I ended up whisking them a bit to incorporate better. I'm sure that's a cardinal sin of cooking but they just wouldn't fold into the batter for me, so just be patient if you can!

  6. Waffles need about a 1/2 cup of batter poured into the waffle iron. Cook until the waffle is golden brown and be sure to spray cooking spray between each waffle.

  7. Serve with the homemade Strawberry Butter and Vanilla Maple Syrup.

How to Make French Toast with Vanilla Maple Syrup – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

I love french toast on a normal day, but on Christmas, I truly believe its a breakfast staple. This French Toast from the Magnolia Table cookbook (volume 2) is so easy to make but so tasty! I love the simple additions that take the flavor profile to the next level.

First things first, you need to start with the vanilla maple syrup. It takes 20 minutes of simmering to get the syrup completed so make sure that you start this first. It’s an extremely simple syrup to make so don’t worry about the difficulties, it’s just the timing you need to be aware of. Also, make sure to have a mason jar with you to store the syrup in as you will end up making more than you need for the french toast. I also went ahead and made the strawberry butter she mentions in the instructions. The strawberry butter is easy to make as well and adds a nice punch to your french toast. My suggestion is to start with the syrup and the strawberry butter, once those are completed, make your french toast so everything is ready to be assembled.

The only issue I had was not reading the strawberry butter instructions beforehand and whipping the butter on its own. But! It turned out nicely anyways and I’m happy with the taste. I chose to only make half the strawberry butter that it calls for and found that it was more than enough. If you opt to make the entire amount you will definitely have leftovers that you can use for toast or french toast in the following days.

Overall Review: 5/5

Overall, this recipe does have three parts to it, but the taste is amazing! You can premake the syrup and butter ahead of time and that will allow you to throw together the french toast and be good to go. I’m not going to lie and say that this is the best thing you will ever eat in your life, but it is a great french toast recipe and worthy of your time. I am interested in remaking the strawberry butter with raspberries as I think that would be a fun way to spruce up my next recipe. For more recipe reviews head to our page: Recipe Reviews.

Magnolia Table Volume 2: Order Here

French Toast with Vanilla Maple Syrup

From Magnolia Table Volume 2

  • 12 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 2 tbsp Light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 12 slices White Bread, brioche or challah (3/4 inch thick)
  • 1/3 cup Vanilla Maple Syrup
  • 6 tbsp Strawberry Butter
  • Powdered Sugar (Dusting)
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Set a wire rack on a sheet pan.

  2. In a large skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of butter over low heat until melted

  3. In a large bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon. Take your melted butter and pour over the cinnamon sugar mix and whisk to incorporate. Add the cream and vanilla and whisk until well incorporated. Add eggs and whisk until completely smooth (a few minutes). Set aside

  4. Heat the skillet on medium and add a tablespoon of butter to coat the pan.

  5. Without crowding the skillet, dip the bread in the batter mixture, coating all of the bread and letting the excess drip off.

  6. Place coated bread in the skillet and cook until golden brown (5-6 minutes total). You will need to flip halfway through. Once cooked, place on wire rack on sheet pan and place in oven to keep warm.

  7. Repeat for all slices of bread. Don't forget to coat the pan in butter after each batch.

  8. Once you are done, add a dollop of strawberry butter on your french toast and drizzle with the warmed vanilla maple syrup. Dust with as much powdered sugar as you like and enjoy!

How to Make Double Crusted Key Lime Pie – Magnolia Table

By Food No Comments

Everyone makes cookies during the holidays, this year I decided to go another direction and try a Double Crusted Key Lime Pie. OH. MY. GOSH. So good and so refreshing after a big holiday dinner! It’s also one of the easiest pies I’ve ever made which makes it even better. I love everything about the Magnolia Table cookbooks and have rarely been disappointed in a recipe. The Key Lime Pie recipe is one of my favorites due to its simplicity and taste.

My first key lime pie that I fell in love with was from this whole in the wall chili bar in Los Angelos. I was slightly afraid as key lime pie didn’t exactly fit the asthetic of the chili bar, but oh my gosh it was amazing. Ever since then I’ve been dying for a good key lime pie and haven’t found one. I’m so excited that this pie has fit the bill and I will be recreating this recipe moving forward.

Areas that I had to make adjustments: I decided to make this pie during the holidays so access to ingredients I needed was slightly difficult. For instance, I could not find key limes anywhere so I had to go with standard limes. Additionally I gave up squeezing said limes after about 4-5 of them! haha. So I used the pre-squeezed lime juice you get at the store. Yes, yes I know that is not what the recipe says but I was exhausted and wanted to stop squeezing limes. It seemed to work out just fine using that lime juice as everyone seemed to enjoy it! I also completely forgot to get the lime zest for the top as we were already in the car on the way to dinner when I remembered, so I did miss a final step! Oh the holidays and the forgetfulness that comes with it.

Overall Review: 5/5

Overall, this double crusted key lime pie was delicious, easy to make and the perfect dessert after a big meal. Of course you can make this pie at anytime, but I do suggest making this for holiday dinners. We tend to go toward our classic desserts during the holidays and making a change can be just the ticket! Key lime pie is a much lighter dessert than some of the other pies that you traditionally make. Add some whip cream at the end and you are sure to have no leftovers. Fun fact, Key Lime Pie is actually not a green color, very much a yellowish color due to the egg yolks. So don’t be surprised by the color of the pie, the taste is worth it!

If you decide to make this recipe, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. For more recipe reviews head to our page here: Recipe Reviews.

Key Lime Pie

From Magnolia Table, Volume 2

  • Pie pan

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 2 cups Cinnamon Graham Crackers
  • 6 tbsp Melted Butter

Key Lime Filling

  • 1 14.5 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 cup Key Lime Juice ((or regular limes))
  • 1 tsp Lime Zest
  • 4 Large Egg Yolks
  • 1 Large Egg
  • Whipping Cream (Topping)

Graham Cracker Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit

  2. Add crumbled graham cracker and 6 tbsps melted butter to a medium bowl and mix until all the cracker crumbles have been coated.

  3. Once coated, add graham cracker crumbs to your ungreased pie pan and press into a crust. Biggest issue to make sure there are no holes.

  4. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown not burned. Set aside to cool for about 10-12 minutes. Keep oven preheated.

Key Lime Filling

  1. In a separate bowl, add sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, lime zest, large egg yolks, and large egg. Once combined, pour into your cooled pie crust and then bake in the oven for about 14-15 minutes. You want the filling to set, basically wiggle like jello and not pour out of the pan.

  2. Once your filling is set, take out of the oven and cool for 1 hour.

  3. After your pie is completely cooled, place the pie, uncovered, in the fridge for 3 hours. Then serve with lime zest and whip cream!

Why It’s Okay to Formula Feed and Breastfeed Your Baby

By Lifestyle No Comments

I had no desire to breastfeed my kids. All my life the concept of breastfeeding made me uncomfortable and wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I thought, why would I want to breastfeed when I could be perfectly happy giving my baby a bottle of formula. After we found out we were having our daughter, I broached the subject with my husband. He is a surgeon and asked if I would just give it a shot for the health benefits of breastfeeding. I told him I would give it a shot, but no guarantees. What ended up happening was far beyond what I thought; there was an option to formula feed and breastfeed my daughter.

Fast forward several months and my daughter was born prematurely and was in the NICU. She was so little and helpless, weighing only 4 pounds. I was still uneasy just because of how tiny she was. It wasn’t until I talked to the nurses in the NICU that I realized we could give her formula and I could try breastfeeding. I swear in all the mommy blogs I read, no one ever offered this as an option. It was always, breastfed or formula fed but never an option to combine. To use both as a hybrid was our best option at that time. I would come in to visit and try to breastfeed for as long as she was able and willing too, but if I wasn’t there and we were out of pumped breast milk, they formula fed her. In fact, her first feed outside the womb was formula because I wasn’t cleared to come down to the NICU. And as crazy as it was, I look back and know that it was okay. Sometimes its hard to trust that anyone but us has our child’s best interest in mind, but let me tell you that those NICU nurses had my daughters best interest in mind.

They wanted me to breastfeed, to pump when I could, but they also gave my daughter formula when she was hungry. It was okay to use the formula and it was what was best for her. Having formula that helped fill her tummy allowed her to grow incredibly well and leave the NICU after just nine days, a miracle as she came 6 weeks early! Breastfeeding didn’t come easily as I’d never done it before and didn’t know if it was working, what to do, etc. As heartbreaking as being in the NICU can be, having on call lactation specialists was a huge blessing. They spent several hours by my side helping me and Mia and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. My daughter is a healthy, happy and thriving 5 month old baby and that is due to all the people in the NICU who were kind and graceful.

My biggest takeaway is that they WANTED us to continue giving her formula when we left the NICU. It’s not like they were saying breast is best so screw formula. They said, hey breastfeeding has a ton of great benefits, but so does formula. Formula helps keep my baby full while my supply increased, it allowed me breaks from feeding, it allowed my daughter to grow faster as she had a fuller belly. It also gave me such peace that if breastfeeding were to go south or we were to struggle that I would have another option. Because ultimately all I cared about was that she was healthy and growing, breastfed or formula fed was less important. So for the next 2 months we did a hybrid feeding system and it worked well! We supplemented with formula every once in a while but in general we did mostly breastfeeding.

Now we are almost at 6 months and she is exclusively breastfed which is something I would have never thought I’d do, let alone enjoy doing! You never know what your baby feeding journey will look like, but just have faith that there are endless resources, doctors, nurses and lactation consultants willing and able to help you. Whether you formula feed or breastfeed or combo hybrid feed; your baby will be just fine and love you just as much! You’ve got this mamma, stay strong!

For more lifestyle blogs head to our page: Confident Lifestyle

How to Make Mint Chocolate Brownies

By Food No Comments

Peppermint is iconic, especially around the holidays. Peppermint hot cocoa, peppermint patties, candy canes and more. My husband spent an entire evening one day browsing Pinterest with me for mint flavored desserts. These mint chocolate brownies popped up and I knew this is what I wanted to make.

Let me just start off by saying that these brownies take TIME. Lots of time for layers to cool and set, so don’t make this if you are on a time crunch! The brownie base is honestly so easy to make and is delicious, I will be using that layer for other brownie recipes in the future as it was so easy and tasty!

When it comes to the mint layer, be careful! You are adding peppermint extract and that stuff is intense and if you accidentally put too much in you won’t be able to eat the brownies they will be so strong. The amount they recommend is pretty strong, I personally think that the brownies taste a lot like a peppermint patty. If you don’t want your peppermint to be too strong, I would put half of the recommended amount and once its combined taste it and see if it’s too your liking. Additionally, this layer is where you add the food coloring to make it green. Be light on the food coloring, one drop was perfect for a light mint green look. Remember you can’t take back food coloring once its in there!

The top and final layer is basically a layer of yummy chocolate. its butter and chocolate melted together and poured on top. Pour this in the center of the brownie and spread from there. You will have a little drip off the side but it shouldn’t be bad. This chocolate mixture cools pretty quickly so be quick about spreading it!

Overall Review: 4.8/5

These brownies are so tasty and rich! However, they do take a significant amount of time due to cooling and setting times. You just need to go into these knowing that it will take a little bit to complete these mint chocolate brownies. Otherwise, be ready for a tasty and amazing brownie!

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Recipe From: Sally's Baking Addiction

Brownie Layer

  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 8 oz Semi sweet chocolate (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups Light brown sugar (Packed)
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp All purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Mint Frosting Layer

  • 1/2 cup Unsalted butter (Room temperature )
  • 2 cups Confectioners sugar
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • 1 1/4 tbsp Peppermint extract
  • Optional: 1 drop liquid or gel green food coloring

Chocolate Layer

  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Brownie Layer

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir constantly until completed melted and combined.

  2. Remove from heat and pour into mixing bowl, allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with foil or paper and leave an overhang on the sides. (set aside)

  4. Whisk granulated sugar and brown sugars into the cooled chocolate/butter mixture. Add eggs one at a time and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla.

  5. Gently fold in salt, flour and cocoa powder. Pour into your baking pan and bake for 35 minutes. My oven runs hot, so it took only 30 minutes to cook completely. It's highly recommended to check your brownies at 30 minutes. (You know its complete when you insert a toothpick and only a few crumbs come out.)

  6. Brownies need to completely cool IN THE PAN before you move them to a wire rack. Once cool, lift the foil and move to the wire rack. Leave uncut and to the side until you have the mint frosting layer ready.

Mint Frosting Layer

  1. In a medium or large bowl, use a mixer and beat the butter on medium until smooth and creamy. 2 minutes should do the trick. Once completed add confectioners sugar and milk. This takes another 2 minutes on medium speed and then high speed for another minute.

  2. Add peppermint extract (if you want a more mild mint flavor start with half the extract and add as desired) as well as your green food coloring. Beat on high for a minute. Take your frosting and evenly distribute it on top of your uncut brownies. Then place your brownies in the fridge to set on the brownies (1 hour minimum-up to 4 hours).

Chocolate Layer

  1. In a saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate. Stir consistently as it will stick if you don't, this will take about 5 minutes. Once melted with no lumps, pour over your brownies. Start pouring in the middle and then spread out to the edges with a spatula. Let the brownies chill in the fridge (1 hour minimum-overnight).

  2. Once chocolate has been chilled and is set (firm), remove from fridge and cut into squares with a sharp knife. Cover tightly and place leftovers in the fridge.

Top 9 Gift Ideas for Your Husband this Christmas

By Lifestyle No Comments

One of the hardest people to shop for is my husband. It’s not that he doesn’t have a ton of hobbies, its that his hobbies are so expensive. So today I wanted to go over husband gifts that satisfy every price range and are sure to bring a smile to his face! These are gifts that from my experience seem to work great and are easy to find via the links below each picture. I hope you are able to find the perfect gift for your husband this holiday season! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

You’d think that as long as Yeti tumblers have been around that this wouldn’t be a good gift anymore. I would beg to differ, I swear my husband can’t get enough of these and is always looking at the newest colors that come out! Easy to find and an inexpensive and practice gift. Prices range from $20-$40 depending on size. Amazon – CLICK HERE

These headphones are the perfect gift for any husband! These have great sound and are useful for any activity or sport that your husband enjoys! Target – CLICK HERE

Small, compact, quick heating and perfect for heating coffee, food and more! This easy to use and carry cooking system is perfect for campers, hikers, sportsman and more! Check it out here!

So my husband and his co-residents go really into paintball this year and its amazing how much fun they had. You don’t have to be experienced to enjoy this fun activity and it’s the perfect getaway for any spouse! I even had fun! Check out these sets that will get you everything you need to go have fun! Amazon – CLICK HERE

Fishing is an easy and practice hobby for anyone, especially the man in your life! Get him this nice rod & reel combo and you will get some time alone while hes out fishing! It’s guaranteed to be a hit! Bass Pro Shops- CLICK HERE

Smokers are great for anyone who wants to get their spouse out cooking so you don’t have too! You are (mostly) guaranteed an amazing meal with this smoker and it will keep you from cooking dinner a few nights! If you have any good smoker recipes, let everyone know in the comments below. Cabelas –

Pocket knives always come in handy and I don’t think you can ever have too many. These knives are extremely useful and are very budget friendly. There’s a ton of styles and choices so head over to Bass Pro and pick the one that’s best for your man! Bass Pro Shops- CLICK HERE

Am I the only one who gets sick of the disposable hand warmers? Seriously, they don’t last long and are a pain to use. These deluxe hand warmer heaters look like the perfect solution to that problem, they are definitely on my Christmas list this year!

Finally, the catch all, can’t go wrong gift. These Yeti coolers are easily one of the best gifts you can get. Anyone can use these for a multitude of activities and they work beautifully. Plus Yeti has come out with a ton of colors for you to choose from! Amazon: CLICK HERE

Remember that no matter what you decide to get, whats most important is the thought behind it. Husband gifts don’t have to be intimidating, put some love into it and you are guaranteed to have a hit on your hands!