Biscoff Filled Brownie Bites

I have something delicious to share with you – if you are a lover of gooey brownies, this may become your new favorite treat!  If you have ever eaten cookie butter off a spoon, arm yourself with a pastry bag and get ready to bake!

My favorite doughnut shop in Chicago (and there are many to choose from) has an amazing “Biscoff Pocket” doughnut that is melt in your mouth amazing!  This was my first introduction to filling something with Biscoff and I have been on the hunt for a second option ever since.

Biscoff is the European standard for “cookie butter”, or as they call it (said with a british accent to make it extra fancy) “cookie spread”.  If you have ever flown on a European carrier or train, chances are you have had one of the cookies with coffee service.  The cookie is buttery, nutty, and slightly caramel in flavor.  It is not too sweet, which makes it the perfect filling for the very sweet brownies.

Biscoff Filled Brownie Bites Recipe Mini Brownie Bites filled with cookie butter, best brownie recipe, best dessert for a party

There are so many great brownie recipes out there to fit your particular cooking style.  If you are a purest, this recipe from King Arthur is sure to please (espresso optional, but delicious).  If coconut oil is your go to “fat”, this recipe will be a perfect match for you.  Finally, if you think cookie butter doesn’t sound like a match for nutella – I dare you to go the whole 9 yards and make this recipe, then fill with biscoff! Also, if you are feeling like you need to eat these quicker than measuring ingredients will allow, just pick up a box of this and move on!

Biscoff Filled Brownie Bites Recipe Mini Brownie Bites filled with cookie butter, best brownie recipe, best dessert for a party

Once you have your brownie recipe chosen, you will need a mini muffin pan and liners.  Fill the liners about 3/4 of the way full.  Your recipe should yield between 18-24 brownie bites.  Brownies generally have a very similar cooking time, so 20 minutes should be appropriate for your mini brownies.  If they do not seem set, give them 5 minutes more.  We want them on the “gooey” side, so a little underdone is better than overdone.

Once they are done cooking, take them out of the oven.  Fill a pastry bag with half a jar of Biscoff.  (For a quick pastry bag, take a quart sized ziploc, fill, and then cut off about 1/2 inch of the tip on a diagonal.) Next, plug the tip of the pastry bag about half way into the center of the brownie bite and squeeze enough of the cookie butter in that it just meets the top of the center.  Move on and fill each brownie in the same method.  If you need to add more to the pastry bag, it just means you are doing an “extra good” job!

Biscoff Filled Brownie Bites Recipe Mini Brownie Bites filled with cookie butter, best brownie recipe, best dessert for a party

Once you are done, the hardest part comes….waiting!  TRUST ME – give them time to completely cool.  This could be a few hours or overnight.  Waiting is the hardest part, but they taste even better once they are set (with coffee the next morning).

Biscoff Filled Brownie Bites Recipe Mini Brownie Bites filled with cookie butter, best brownie recipe, best dessert for a party

Enjoy!

Friday Fodder – Dinosaurs & Astroids

One of my goals with this blog is to be a source of topics for Moms to chat about.  Many of us spend most of our day thinking about the health, growth, milestones, and simple joys of our babies.  So, when it comes to cocktail party time (or when we would like to talk about something other than babies with friends), even though we have all the same thoughts and beliefs we did before becoming Moms, that Mom brain takes over and it is a tough to pull up a topic.

So – introducing “Friday Fodder” – something to make you think, laugh, imagine, and give you something else to talk about.

Dinosaurs & Astroids

As I rocked William to sleep one day this week, I took note of his pjs – Dinosaurs wearing pajamas.  Puzzling I thought.  My mind wandered, I’ve never seen an “atomically correct” dinosaur.  Wait, that would have to be “atomically imagined” because the soft tissue would be long gone.  Has anyone ever depicted male and female dinosaurs?  Would T-Rex look much different – scarier or strange – if he were “complete”?

My mind wandered further – there are male AND female dinosaurs then.  I never think of dinosaurs and gender.  It seems that growing up there are boy dinos, the big scary T-Rex, and girl dinos, the triceratops in Land Before Time had earings I believe.

Dinosaur Gender and Mating Habits, friday folder, interesting topic to think about, cocktail party conversation

All of these thoughts sent me to the internet over nap time.  I could not find one single article or imagining, but then I happened upon this article.  This is the best I could conjure up on dinosaurs and their mating habits.

“Rather than having a mammalian setup like ours, what they would have is—and this is seen in both crocodilians and birds—a sort of a cloaca. They’d have a one-stop orifice. It wouldn’t be like budgies, or pigeons, or other birds that reproduce with a “cloacal kiss,” with no external genitalia to move the sperm from male to female. Instead, we expect dinosaurs to be more like archaic birds, crocodiles, and alligators in that there would be some kind of organ to allow the passage of sperm between the two. How big that would have been, what it would look like—that’s anybody’s guess. Especially when you figure that there were over 1800 genera of dinosaurs during their prehistoric heyday, and you look at the differences in genital anatomy in birds today—even with just ducks, it’s mind-boggling—so, you know, does Stegosaurus have a weird prehensile thing to get around all that armor? It’s possible, we don’t really know.”

The article is worth a skim.  It takes you down the path of understanding a section of biology you may not have thought about before.

 

…and that brings us to astroids. 

Earth from from one million miles away, Deep Space Climate Observatory, NASA, Friday Foder Skylines and Sunshine Blog

There are many theories to why dinosaurs became extinct.  Most scientist believe that a change in climate or food supply lead to their demise.  There is also a theory based on “a distinct layer of iridium–an element found in abundance only in space–that corresponds to the precise time the dinosaurs died. This suggests that a comet, asteroid or meteor impact event may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.” (read more)

That reminded me of a segment I heard this week on All Things Considered.  In an interview with scientist and former astronaut Ed Lu, they discussed the risk of a large astroid striking Earth and what could be done to prevent it.  It turns out that science is actually very close and united on the subject of how to prevent this “global natural disaster”, just not how to pay for it.

Lu is working on the creation of an astroid detection telescope that could be placed in space to spot any astroids large enough to threaten the planet.  This telescope would then be paired with a system to simply knock those astroids off course.  So, the problem is not science, it is funding.  This project has an estimated budget of $500 million and only $10 million has been raised.

There is a UN committee that discusses these things, but according to the article, there is absolutely no coordinated effort to pay for preventing these “global natural disasters”.  If I have my dollar ready – where do I send it?

 

If you haven’t taken the time to look at photos from space recently, take a few minutes and try out one of these links.  I find that thinking about space opens my mind, puts things into perspective and brings up more questions than answers.

Did you see the photos of Pluto taken from the New Horizons spacecraft?  Gives the dwarf planet a bit more dimension.

My favorite is always the spectacular images released from Hubble.  These images make space look alive and vivid.

Have you ever spotted the International Space Station flying overhead?  Know when to look up.

How to Photograph Your Children on a Swing

City Moms know what to do when the clock strikes 4:30 pm – head to the local playground!

Swings are one of the simplest and greatest joys of childhood.  From a baby kicking his chubby legs to a tween doing a flip, swings are a great place to capture your little ones at play.  They can also be one of the toughest places to take a great photograph.  Luckily, there are a few easy steps that will improve your outcomes.

How to Photograph your child on a swing

1). Shoot early in the morning, late in the day, in the shade, or with the sun at your child’s back.

You hear this time and time again, but it really is the easiest way to ensure a correctly exposed photograph.  You do not want your child to be squinting and you do not want to have any strong shadows hiding their smile.  If you are in open shade, that is perfect.  If you are in sunlight, choose to photograph in the direction that will place the sunlight behind your child.

How to Photograph your child on a swing

2). Open up your aperture if shooting in true manual mode.  If you are not shooting in manual mode, choose the “Shutter Priority Setting”.

A wide aperture will give you a larger focal plane, which will make it easier to ensure that your child is in focus since they will be moving.  If you are unsure of how to set your camera up in full manual mode, go for shutter priority.  This is the “Tv” setting on your camera’s dial.  Set this speed to no less than 1/500th of a second if the lighting will allow.  If this is not possible based on the widest aperture of your lens and a lower lighting scenario, go as low as 1/250th, but try to slow down your child.

Provenzano Family_Retouched_03

3).  Choose to either focus on shooting your child when they are all the way back in their swinging path or all the way forward.

Switching between photographing your child as they come forward and back makes focusing a nightmare!  If you choose to only photograph them when they are closest to you or furthest from you, you can aim your focus more accurately.  You can always switch and then photograph them in the opposite position, but I usually try to shoot a few photographs in one position, reset, and then shoot in the other position.  You may miss a smile here or there, but there will be more!

4).  For babies, swinging high is not necessary.

If you are photographing a younger baby in a baby swing, you do not need to push them very high to elicit a squeal.  You can gently let them swing back and forth while adding in a song or your own fun noises/laughter.  The combination of your attention and happiness paired with the swing will make them smile and kick with excitement.  This will make it easier for you to photograph and safer for you to step back a bit.

How to take a better photograph of your child in a swing - photos to take during baby's first year

It is always safest and easiest to have another adult on hand when photographing a child.  That way when you step back you can focus on the camera and capturing the best photograph.

I would love to see photographs you’ve captured of your children at play.  Please link below and I will stop by!

Happy clicking!

Sesame Street Gets a New Address

The newest generation will have to update their parents on how to get to Sesame Street.  Begining as early as Fall 2015, the award winning and long running children’s show will now be airing all of it’s new episodes on HBO.  The next 5 seasons will air on HBO first, but rest assured, the show will still be a fixture on PBS.

Kermit on Sesame Street Sign

As part of the deal, the newest episodes will air on PBS 9 months after their original air date.  This is similar to the way we all watch Downton Abbey. In case you didn’t know, those episodes air on the BBC in the UK first and we see them about 6 months later.  Or, as die hard fans see it, an eternity!!!

Additionally, the best news of all is that the episodes will now be free to PBS.  If you remember back to the 2012 presidential campaign, you can’t defund Big Bird.  PBS currently pays Sesame Workshop, the producers of Sesame Street, $4 million annually.  While that is a drop in the bucket to a company earning handsomly on royalties and licensing, it is a lot for a non-profit public television network.

HBO is truly home to most of the show we watch. Our favorite comedy is Veep (which makes us laugh every time), the belief that John Snow is alive will bring us back to GOT, and they have adopted our favorite correspondent, John Oliver.  I’ve heard time and time again that a partnership with HBO production has strengthened and freed writers/comedians. Sesame Street has long been known for their excellent programming and surprise celeb appearances.  I think it is possible that a partnership with HBO could strengthen the show even further for our children.

So, PBS will continue to air new and old episodes of Sesame Street, HBO will expand funding leading to an increase in production quantity (and most likey quality), and the show is now secure for another generation.  I would also add that, as a traveling family, the prospect of Sesame Street on demand through an app I already use, is a major perk!