Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve kind of been on a cookie kick lately, especially if the cookies come from a cake mix! The last cookie that I made was the strawberry lemonade cookies. It was a pleasant surprise when I was looking at one of my favorite blogs, Sally’s Baking Addiction, and she had a recipe for strawberry chocolate chip cookies! Exactly what the girls’ night that I was going to needed, it was like chocolate covered strawberry, who doesn’t love those? Not only are these delicious summer cookies, but they could also be used for a cute Valentine’s day gift. When I made the other cake batter cookies I noticed the dough was really sticky, and for me personally I don’t care much for that so I added a little flour to this recipe. Needless to say it was a huge hit, and super quick to make. By the time the oven was done preheating the cookies were mixed and ready to go straight into the warm oven, so it might be a great idea to have some chocolate chips and strawberry cake mix always on hand for any last minute get togethers.

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 box of strawberry cake mix
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In the first bowl mix together all the dry ingredients; cake mix, flour, and baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl, all the remaining ingredients minus the chocolate chips, whisk together the wet and dry ingredients. Make sure to break up any clumps that might happen, I notice this tends to happen with prepackaged mixes.
3. After the ingredients are well mixed, fold in the chocolate chips. I sometimes prefer smaller cookies, so about 1 to 1 ½ tbsps. worth of dough is rolled into balls and dropped onto a cookie sheet.
4. If you make cookies that are smaller than the original recipe calls for bake for 6-8 minutes. Or 8-10 minutes for larger cookies.

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Some other easy cookie recipes to try
Flourless peanut butter cookies (gluten free!)
Strawberry Lemonade cookies
Lemon Sugar cookies

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Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

I feel as if strawberry lemonade is one of the staples of summer life. Not gonna lie here guys, I still love Kool-Aid Strawberry Lemonade, it’s just so good! When I saw a recipe for strawberry lemonade cookies, how could I resist? If you are wondering where I found this recipe, it was Pinterest, and then was directed to this delightful site. Let me just tell you, I made these for this past Saturday to give to my friend Kate who is moving. I posted some pictures on Twitter, and needless to say people were asking for them so I’ll be making them again for this weekends’ game night!

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 package of lemon cake mix
1 package of strawberry cake mix
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil, per each batter
2 tsp pure lemon extract
2/3 cup confectioners’’ sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. Pour lemon cake mix in a large bowl and the strawberry cake mix into another bowl. Stir in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1 tsp lemon extract into each of the separate flavored cake batters and mix until well blended.
3. Take 2 rounded teaspoons of lemon batter and roll into a ball. Do the same with the strawberry batter. Combine the lemon and strawberry dough’s to make one large ball.
4. Drop the dough into a bowl of confectioners’ sugar. Roll them around until they are lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 10 minutes (honestly I only baked mine for 6 minutes…) in the preheated oven, until bottoms are light brown and the insides are chewy. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. These are also great the next day too.

Do you have a favorite summertime cookie, you’d love to share? Post a link in the comments section if you do. Also I’m looking for some yummy Christmas cookie recipes, I know I know, it’s still July! Well I’m going to try and do the 12 days of cookies again this year, and I might as well plan what cookies I want to make now so I don’t get overwhelmed with the holidays and completely forget!

Love lemons? I sure do, here’s some other recipes with lemon:
Lemon Sugar Cookies
Zucchini in Parchment
Hummus

Stuffed tomatoes

As summer approaches I tend to look for recipes that are light, and use fresh in season produce. One thing I’ve noticed is there always seems to be an overflow of tomatoes, not that I mind, thankfully there are lots of uses for tomatoes in cooking.

Stuffed tomatoes
original here

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Ingredients:

2 large tomatoes
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2/3 cup cottage cheese
¼ cup diced cucumber
1 tbsp + 1 tsp snipped chives

Directions:

1. Trim off top ½ inch tomato and remove core. Scoop out ½ the flesh and make a bowl. Discard seeds, dice remaining flesh and reserve. Season inside of tomato shell with kosher salt and pepper.

2. Whisk together olive oil and white wine vinegar. Combine with cottage cheese, cucumbers reserve tomato flesh and 1 tbsp chives. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

3. Stuff cottage cheese mixture into tomato shells and serve.

Some other tomato recipes I love!
Zucchini Pizza
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Lasagna Cups
Avocado Southwestern Salsa
Simple Tomato Sauce
Baked Tomato and Mozzarella

**Hey guys, it’s also the 1 year anniversary of my first blog post! Wow who knew I would actually keep up with this? Not me! But I’m so happy I did, I’ve cooked and baked so many different things this year; it’s been amazing!!**

Whittleton Branch Trail

I posted a the below picture on my Facebook wall and one of the comments that was posted by a friend was, “Is that a northern Copperhead aka poisonous?” You know what? That question made me realize several things, first I need to make sure I can identify the poisonous animals/bugs in the area, two that we are really lucky not to have gotten bitten, and three, yes I believe it was a baby copperhead snake.

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To be honest this past weekend when I went hiking was the first time I’d ever seen a snake by the trail, and it just goes to show how important it is to stay on the trail! If we hadn’t been on the trail, where we could see the ground there is no doubt in my mind that sooner or later one of us would have been bitten by a snake. Which brings me to another safety point; don’t hike by yourself, please. Even Bear Grylls has a camera crew with him.

Alrighty! Now on with the fun stuff, the hike! I was pleasantly surprised when my friend Kelsey texted me and asked if I wanted to go hiking. You better believe I did! Wittleton Trail is also at a camp site, we had to ask where the trailhead was, I was super pumped about going on a new (to me) trail! If you are planning on taking this trail, the hikers parking is at the front of the campgrounds, and then follow the road to the end of the campgrounds and there is the trailhead. Now we’re off!

Nature absolutely amazes me, for instance look at these trees that are growing on the side of a massive boulder! Could you do this? I think not!

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The total mileage of this trail was right around 4 miles, we actually took two trails, the first was trail #216, Wittleton Branch Trail (1.80 miles, one way) and the second was trail #217, Wittleton Arch (.20 miles, one way).

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There were several bridges that we got to cross, like this mossy bridge.

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The water was a bit low, which made for the below picture a lot easier, as this would have been an active stream we would have had to hike up to continue on the trail.

20130617-192640.jpg That is one thing I really like about the trails in the Gorge, is that sometimes you have to hike up a streambed to continue on your path. That was something I had never encountered before in the forest preserves of the Chicagoland area. Here is another streambed that is all dry.

20130617-192732.jpg Let me tell you, even if there was water hiking through it would have been worth it! look at these trees!

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Along the trail to the arch there were several nice green cliffs along the way

20130617-192942.jpg Spring is a great time to hike in Kentucky, it is just SO green!!

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We made it!!

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20130617-193204.jpg There was a little bit of a waterfall, again I believe if the water levels were higher it would have been a bigger waterfall!

Another trailed marked off my Spring/Summer Bucket List! Click here to see all I’m trying to accomplish this year!

Check out my other hikes in the Boone National Forest:
Gray’s Arch
Double Arch

Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My! Zoo 2

The main part of going to a zoo is of course to see the animals. I find it so interesting that zoos in the middle of a city seem to transport you to a completely different place. I forgot that we were in the middle of Cincinnati, but to the residents that live within close proximity of the zoo I wonder what it is like to randomly hear an elephant, or a lion roar in the morning? I remember when the circus came to town not too long ago that I was taken by surprised when I hear an elephant on my way out of work. To ensure we saw everything the Cincinnati Zoo had to offer we checked our map and made a plan to head out after lunch. 20130430-112104.jpg
One of the first places we went after lunch was the Cat Canyon. The path lead us into the Night Predators house, now this next picture is quite scary, Kristen took this picture and did a stare down with this animal. To be honest I’m not sure what this animal was but I do know two things, 1) it’s a predator for sure and 2) if it ever got out it would track us down. At first I thought this was fake because of how still it was, but no, it is real. 20130430-112143.jpg Outside of the Night Predator house we saw a mountain lion; again, seeing these animals up close really gives you a sense that these are really wild animals. Cognitively I know this, but seeing them stare me down is something different. 20130430-112216.jpg The next animal was a white tiger! This took me back to when I was about 11 or 12 years ago and my parents and I took a road trip to California and we stopped off in Las Vegas for a couple of days. I remember seeing the white tigers there and it was awesome! This tiger is a little blurry but he was sleeping anyways. 20130430-112255.jpg All of the big cats in the Cat Canyon that were awake; they were alert and all seemed to just stare right at you. There was a large viewing area in the tiger enclosure; the two tigers were right up next to the glass walking back and forth. 20130430-112418.jpg20130430-112433.jpg The last cat in this area was the snow leopard. 20130430-112525.jpg
At work I had a conversation with a coworker after looking at the pictures I took of two different rhinoceros, I was convinced that they were some kind of modern day dinosaurs. I googled it, and was wrong, not this first nor the last time I’m sure, but look at these guys!
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I found the orangutan to be the most interesting primate we saw at this zoo, the gorillas were lying down and hiding, which is understandable I would probably do the same if I was in their situation. There was a baby primate sleeping which was really cute!

20130430-112736.jpg This orangutan kind of reminded me of big foot in Harry and the Hendersons.

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20130430-112905.jpg There were some monkeys that were having a blast swinging around, to which my friend Carolyn mentioned that she wished she looked that cool on the monkey bars…

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Lions are the King of the jungle! And these two lions at were taking that responsibly with ease and grace expected of one in power. They were taking a power nap!!

20130430-113049.jpg Now an animal I would expect to be taking a nap was ACTIVE! I mean we watched this sloth move non-stop for a good 15 minutes! For some reason I thought sloths just kind of slept a lot and didn’t move, but this little guy proved that thought wrong.

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Do you know what Kristen’s favorite animal is? I didn’t until this trip, it is a polar bear!!

20130430-113627.jpg The first time we walked by the polar bears they were sleeping, so we went and saw the lions, which were also sleeping. When we came back the polar bears were active!!

20130430-113719.jpg We walked through the childrens petting zoo, and near the end was some penguins! A couple of years ago there was an event downtown, and they brought a penguin! I got to pet a penguin, they even had stickers that you got to wear after you petted the little guy!! And yes, I was in my 20s when this happened, but you better believe I wore that sticker with pride! This little penguin was splashing around in the water, so cute right?! Kyle thought he was trying to splash us, I don’t know but either way he was adorable!

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As a little girl I remember going to Brookfield Zoo that we would walk in and take the first right we could and there would be the zebras! These zebras were pretty much chilling like I remember the other zebras doing at Brookfield.

20130430-113956.jpg Interesting fact… I went to a Renaissances Fair in Wisconsin several years ago and got to pet a zebra, and ride an elephant! Elephants might have been one of the last animals we visited, but it is Carolyn’s favorite animal!! We spend a decent amount of time hanging out at this exhibit. It took us about 15 minutes to realize that there was more than one elephant in the habitat! There were in fact 3 elephants in there!!

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Stay tuned, because the next, and last post about our trip to the Cincinnati Zoo is going to be something you don’t want to miss!

For more on my trip to the zoo and other summer adventures check out the below links!
Adventure planning
Cincinnati Zoo

Cincinnati Zoo

There is something to be said about the people you experience life with, good people can make any place into an awesome once in a lifetime trip! The people I went to the zoo with are a bunch of fun loving people who made the most of this zoo, so if you all have never been to this zoo it is definitely one I would recommend going. First of all it is one of only 5 zoos in the world that have a smart phone app, cool right. Not only can the gps be used to pinpoint your location on their interactive map, it also has the schedule and a whole list of animal bios at your fingertips. This post will talk about what we experienced at the zoo with some pictures; there will be a second post of pretty much just pictures of the animals and a final one of all the funny poses we did! We didn’t even get into the park before a photo opportunity presented itself! Now being a true gentleman our friend Kyle helped all of us girls to be able to sit on the large rhino and then jumped on the smaller one, much to the amusement of the random people we asked to take our picture.

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Before we embarked on this adventure I asked around and was told that the cheetah run was a must see and to feed the giraffes. Conveniently they are located almost right next to one another, with the feeding the giraffes scheduled first

20130429-121308.jpg and then the cheetah run was scheduled to go on right afterwards. While we waited for the cheetah run

20130429-121354.jpg we chit chatted about our plans for the day and how hungry we were. Kyle super excited that we were going to lunch after the cheetah run.

20130429-121437.jpg Right before the cheetahs were to run, the zoo keepers spoke about what an amazingly powerful animal the cheetah was, and how they helped train them. Now cheetahs do love to run and are the fastest animal on land, but they are still wild and dangerous animals. This was clearly demonstrated when the second cheetah did not want to give up what she chased (they exchange the toy with a bowl of fresh meat). The zookeepers were very cautious with trying to get the toy back, and actually just left the cheetah alone for a while before they even tried to get it.

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One of the things the Cincinnati Zoo is known for is it’s tulips. The website says it’s one of the largest displays of tulips in the Midwest.

20130429-121626.jpg There were tulips everywhere and they were beautiful! There was a wide variety of colors

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20130429-122035.jpg So of course we posed with the flowers in the background.

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Not only were the flowers beautiful but the entire zoo was like a beautifully manicured park that had animals.

20130429-122241.jpg Stay tuned for more animals and funny pictures to come :)

What’s you’re favorite thing about visiting a zoo? Which is your favorite zoo to visit?

One more thing crossed off my list of things to do this summer!

Cincinnati Zoo part 2

Relax! And be still!

Ever have those days, weeks, months were you seem to be going non stop, that even when you have a day off you fill it with plans so not to be caught sitting still? I have a major problem with slowing down, unplugging, and just being still, so as a challenge I’ve been trying to have a couple of hours a week where I’m just still and don’t do anything. Have you ever tried to sit and just be still? It is really hard! I live within walking distance of a park and even bought a nice picnic type blanket to go to the park with.

A friend is staying with me for a while and today we both had the day off, so we went to the park for the morning. We brought blankets, books, my bible, snacks and what seemed like everything we needed, except the bug spray. Amanda was pretty sure we were sitting by an ant hill, and she was probably right because there was a lot of ants. We were chit chatting as I was finishing up the last of my coffee and the conversation turned to yoga. Since I taught yoga in high school and college we decided to have our own mini class right there in the park. In the years that I taught it was always within the confines of a health club, it was refreshing to get outside in God’s creation and just focus on relaxing and resting! I was so glad she brought it up.

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We ended up staying at the park for about 3 hours or so, I’ve come to realize that for myself, at least, that I need a while to unwind before I can start to really rest and be still. It really was a great way to spend the morning and I feel refreshed for the week ahead. Also I find that when I let myself become still I am able to focus better and I’m a lot happier as well. Now I’m hanging out on the couch eating frozen grapes, which of you’ve never eaten before I would highly recommend. Just wash the amount of grapes you would normally eat in a sitting and stick them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, a yummy healthy snack for summer. Hope your weekend is a good one!