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Keeping your hand towel where it should be! Simplifying & Organizing Tips

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Ok, so maybe this only happened at my house but it seemed like whenever I went into the bathroom to wash my hands the hand towel has been thrown on the counter or floor-gross! I change hand towels often, usually daily, and I want it to stay put once I hang it up! Anyway, if you’re like me than you will probably appreciate this tip. I know I’m not the first or only one to think of this but I came up with this last year when we were running a school in Japan and successfully kept all the hand towels hung up in the school bathrooms and kitchen with this tip. Sometimes it’s the little things! So here’s the tip…

Tip: Once you hang up a fresh towel, use a binder clip or clothes pin to keep the towel in place. You can even fold the towel over it so you don’t see it if you like.

Another tip that goes along with this that I’ve discovered is putting an extra hand towel lower where young kids can reach. Some places, like in our bathroom, the younger kids can’t reach the towel without climbing on the counter and as we know, the easier it is for kids to wash their hands, the better! I use this over the cupboard door towel rack but many kinds of hooks would also work.

Give it a try at your home and let me know what you think!

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5 minute Chocolate Lava Cakes

These chocolate lava cakes are a new and delicious discovery here at our little apartment in Japan. I looked up several recipes on Pinterest and tried one but it wasn’t quite right so after changing a few things I think I now have the perfect, super fast, delicious and great-to-make-in-a-tiny-apartment-when-you-don’t-have-an-oven recipe! I hope you enjoy these as much as we do. And let me know what delicious variations you come up with. Happy chocolating!

 

5 minute Chocolate Lava Cakes

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup all purpose flour (強力粉 in Japan works great)
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg – beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter (or vegetable oil)
  • 10 chocolate chips or 2 truffles*

Directions:

In a small bowl mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, and melted butter. Divide between 2 mugs, ramekins or small ceramic bowls. Push 5 chocolate chips or  1 truffle into each mug*.

Microwave on high for 1  minute 30 seconds. It will still look a little gooey but don’t over bake it!  Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

It’s quite fabulous with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on top or a little sprinkled powdered sugar.

*You can also use caramels, Andes mints or peanut butter in place of the chocolate chips in the middle.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com

The Perfect (yet, simple!) Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com

This recipe comes to you after many years of chocolate chip cookie research.  (You know this is coming: It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.) Like most American women, I adore chocolate chip cookies and have made and sampled many, many, many of them and although there is room for different kinds of chocolate chip cookies to reign supreme in your own cravings kingdom, I like the kind that are chewy yet puffy and soft, a little tiny bit gooey on the inside and crisp on the edges.  NOT          flat and greasy.   Unfortunately, making a flat and greasy chocolate chips cookie seems to be the default outcome for many if not most recipes.  (I know, I know #firstworldprobs for sure!)  I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching why this is and how to avoid it (As anyone who has attended my meal planning class can attest, I’m a little obsessive about these things!) and will spare you all the scientific explanations, but finally came up with what I dare to deem as the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe!  Chewy, puffy, gooey, crisp bites of heaven that are laced with plenty of semi sweet chocolate and NOT flat AND are easy to prepare in one bowl in a dangerously short amount of time.  You can thank me later for now, go and get started on these!

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
Yummm!

Ingredients:
-1/2 c (1 cube) butter, slightly softened
-3/4 c white sugar
-3/4 c brown sugar
-2 eggs
-2 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 1/4 to 2 1/2 c flour (see instructions)
-1 c (1/2 bag) chocolate chips,

Instructions
1- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2- Soften the butter, but only a tiny bit!  (Either leave it on the counter for an hour or so or if it’s straight out of the fridge microwave it for 5-10 seconds, but no more.)
3- In a large bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid mixer so I put it in the bowl that goes with that) cream the butter and sugars really well (cream means to beat together on a high speed until they are nice and fluffy and all combined.)

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
Creamed butter and white and brown sugars

4- Beat in the 2 eggs on medium speed or a minute or so until combined and scrape the edges of the bowl.

5- Then beat in the vanilla, soda & salt just until combined and scrape the edges of the bowl again.

6- Gradually beat in the 2 1/4 cups of flour on medium to low speed (I do a little with the mixer and then gently finish mixing in the flour by hand with a spoon-these keeps your cookies from being tough but you can do it all in the mixer too, just don’t over do it.) and if it doesn’t seem thick enough (see the following picture), add a little more flour, up to the extra 1/4 for a total of 2 1/2 cups.  I’ve found from living in Hawaii, Japan and dry Utah that the flour amount can make a big difference depending on a lot of variables.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
Your dough should be very thick like this, getting difficult to stir

7- Then gently mix in the chocolate chips.  Feel free to add in extra chips if you want (and who doesn’t want more chocolate?!)

8- Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  I tend to do mine on the small side, maybe a tablespoon of dough rounded into a ball, but you can go bigger if you prefer.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
I love the silcone baking mats but they aren’t necessary for this recipe

9- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. (depending on the size of dough balls and how brown you like your cookies.)

*I like to bake up a batch and then refrigerate or freeze the rest so I can bake them fresh whenever we plan to eat/serve them.  For the freezer I roll the dough into balls and place them carefully into a flat Ziploc gallon freezer bag (that is labeled with the kind of cookies and baking instructions) and then carefully, keeping the bag flat, move it to the freezer.  Then you can get that bag out anytime and put the number of cookies you want to bake on your baking sheet to defrost a little and put the bag with the rest of the cookie dough balls in the freezer again.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
Ready for the freezer

**A big thanks to my friend, Nick, for being a consultant on this recipe.  He and his wife are pretty much amazing at anything in the kitchen.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe plantomakeitsimple.com
And as my husband and kids would say “perfect for dunking in milk!”
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My Food Philosophy (for me and my family)

1-Keep it simple! (big surprise there) No crazy fad diets or strict eating plans or avoiding entire food groups etc.

2- Make a meal plan so we can enjoy healthy, yummy, inexpensive meals that are easy to prepare and don’t stress me out.  If I want to I can go all out and make something extravagant (and I DO love to do that sometimes!)but those kinds of things won’t be on my go-to meal plan so they don’t become an excuse when I’m tired or sick to order pizza.

3-Eat real, unprocessed food.  And make it local and organic as much as I can. (I adore local farms! My favorite one in the Salt Lake area of Utah is Peterson Family Farm and on the leeward side of Oahu is Kahumana Farm.)

4-Make eating out a special occasion that doesn’t happen often and is somewhere we really love and enjoy.

5-Eat together as a family at home. the same meal (no “kids food”). at the same time. At the table with out TV.

6-Eat lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruit.  Eat some whole milk, cheese/dairy , eggs and fish.  And a little meat.  Mainly drink just water and lots of it.

7-Eat sweets and desserts sparingly and when you do eat them make sure they are amazing and don’t feel guilty!

8-Avoid fake food like: shortening, margarine, artificial sweeteners, fast food and most packaged food.

9-Completely avoid, alcohol, coffee, tea (except non-caffeinated types) and soda.  (I chose to do this for religious and health reasons)

10-Don’t let food control my life by over eating or always stressing about eating too much, losing weight etc. Enjoy it, be thankful for it and enjoy feeding others.

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Brown your ground beef in the crock pot-yes, really!

This is one of those things that I wish I would have figured out years ago! For some reason I don’t like browning ground beef.  I know it’s not that hard or time-consuming but when it’s 5 pm (often referred to as “the witching hour” at my house) and everyone is hungry, tired and grumpy and your staring at a chunk of frozen, raw ground beef that you have to thaw in the microwave, then brown to even start your dinner…well, let’s just say the temptation to order pizza goes way up!  After I figured out that this road block for me I started browning ground beef in large quantities in an electric skillet as soon as I came home from grocery shopping and freezing the beef but as of the past year or so I moved that up a notch on the simple-ness ladder (Oh, there IS such a ladder in my house!) and have loved it!  I can tell from the collective sighs and “oohs” and “ahh”s in my meal planning classes that I’m not the only one!

Browning your Ground Beef in the Crock Pot

1-Put all or a majority of your ground beef in the crock pot on low with garlic and onions (fresh or dried) and leave it on low for 8 hours or so, stirring and breaking up the meat occasionally.

Put your ground beef in the crock pot when you get home from the store and brown it! That way you can bag it and freeze it and it's ready to go for spaghetti, taco salad, etc. plantomakeitsimple.com
You can put a small amount or much larger amount of fresh or frozen ground beef in the crock pot, like this.

2-You can let the meat cool down a bit and then use a slotted spoon to put the meat in freezer bags and lay them flat in your freezer.  That way when you’re making spaghetti, or my Three Cheese Pasta Bake or taco salad or whatever you can just grab a bag of already browned ground beef and toss it in!

Put your ground beef in the crock pot when you get home from the store and brown it! plantomakeitsimple.com
Break it up a little and stir while it’s browning in the crock pot.
Browned meat, bagged up and ready to freeze for spaghetti, taco salad, etc. plantomakeitsimple.com
Browned, cooled, bagged, labeled and ready to freeze

Note: If you plan to make hamburgers or meatloaf with your ground beef you’ll want to leave enough of the ground beef not cooked and just freeze the portion you need raw in a Ziploc freezer bag.  I like to form the hamburger patties using a measuring cup and freeze them like that so they’re ready to go. Give this a try and let me know how it changes your life for the better!

I have this crock pot and I love it!