Jeannie's Healthy Breakfast Cookies

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What could be better than a cookie? How about a cookie that’s packed with nutrients and can be eaten anytime, especially for breakfast, guilt free?

I love cookies. They are my go-to when I want to whip up something with limited time, or don’t have much energy for other more entailed desserts. I’m sure this has NOTHING to do with the fact that cookies are also one of my favorite things to eat. It ends up turning into a win-win-win situation because I’m having fun, being productive, get to eat some of the ingredients while baking, get to eat some dough while baking, and BONUS if there is enough dough to actually be baked into cookies! So many wins.

I have to bring up the negative, however, to classic cookie baking. They’re kinda calorific and not very good for you. I’m all for eating cookies for breakfast, but that usually goes along with a sugar crash later on. What to do?

Bake healthy cookies! They have to be delicious of course, and not gross. I have just the recipe for you, made up by my mom many years ago when we needed a portable nutritious breakfast for a trip. This recipe has been in my recipe box ever since as “Jean’s breakfast cookies”, made with many adjustments because the add ins are very versatile depending on your tastes. My mom likes to be called Jeannie (not by her kids of course) so I adapted the title accordingly.

One thing this recipe is not is a taste-alike recipe to say, chocolate chip cookies with a surprise twist that it’s healthy. Nope, these cookies have a satisfyingly healthy look and taste and are upfront about it from the get go. They get positive feedback and recipe requests wherever they go!

The recipe that follows is just one version of many, many possibilities. Just keep in mind that major adjustments may need other adjustments. For example, if you don’t have any honey or maple syrup on hand for the sweetener, you could use raw or regular cane sugar. Substituting a liquid for a dry ingredient, however, will mean you may need more liquid from elsewhere. Maybe add another egg, a bit more oil, or even water until you get a cookie dough consistency once again. Other ideas to make the recipe your own:

  • Use any kind of flour you wish instead of wheat flour. Oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour…I often use wheat germ in place of part of the flour or flaxmeal, usually 1/4 cup.

  • If you want these cookies to be gluten-free, ensure that your oats are gluten-free, and use a gluten-free flour.

  • Change up the spices. Sometimes towards fall I also add a bit of ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Cardamom is also nice.

  • Beyond dried fruit and walnuts, get creative with your add-ins! Just try not to go too far beyond 1 cup, otherwise there might not be enough dough to hold everything together. In the photos on this post I used dried apples, dried cranberries, and walnuts. I’ve also added various combinations of dried cherries, prunes, dried apricots, raisins, dates, dried figs, dried pears, fresh apples, grated coconut, pecans, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, crystallized ginger, and anything else I had on hand!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!

Recipe adapted from my mama


Jeannie’s Healthy Breakfast Cookies

Makes about 18-22 cookies

Ingredients:

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  • 1/2 cup / 112g olive or coconut oil

  • generous 1/3 cup / 120g maple syrup or honey

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup / 120g all-purpose or whole wheat flour

  • 1 1/2 cups / 135g rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup / 90g flaxmeal

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

  • 3/4 cup / 105g nuts, roughly chopped

  • 1/2 apple, diced

  • 1/4 cup / 50g dried fruit, chopped if necessary

Directions:

Oven 375°F / 190°C. Baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.

  1. In a large bowl combine wet ingredients: oil, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla; beat with a spoon until smooth.

  2. In another medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, oats, flaxmeal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

  3. Add dry ingredients, nuts, apple, and dried fruit to wet ingredients, mix until well combined.

  4. Spoon generous tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly as they won’t spread much, leaving at least 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges turn lightly golden brown and centers are no longer doughy.

Jenny’s Notes:

  • you can make flaxmeal at home by simply processing some flaxseeds in a coffee or spice grinder.

  • olive oil has a rather strong taste so if you prefer to avoid that, try going with the coconut oil option or even a neutral oil like peanut oil.

  • 3 egg whites can be substituted for the 2 eggs for cholesterol-conscience people.

healthy, nutritious, cookies, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, dried fruit, apple, fall spices, oats, nuts, coconut, portable
breakfast, dessert, snack
American
Yield: 12-16 cookies
Author:

Jeannie's Breakfast Cookies

Healthy cookies packed with nutritious ingredients that make for a great breakfast or anytime snack. Dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and can easily be made gluten-free.
prep time: 20 Mcook time: 10 Mtotal time: 30 M

ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup / 112g olive oil or coconut oil
  • generous 1/3 cup / 120g maple syrup or honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup / 120g all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups / 135g rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup / 90g flaxmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup / 105g nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup / 50g dried fruit, chopped if necessary

instructions:

How to cook Jeannie's Breakfast Cookies

  1. Oven 375°F / 190°C. Baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine wet ingredients: oil, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla; beat with a spoon until smooth.
  3. In another medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, oats, flaxmeal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Add dry ingredients, nuts, apple, and dried fruit to wet ingredients, mix until well combined.
  5. Spoon generous tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly as they won’t spread much, leaving at least 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges turn lightly golden brown and centers are no longer doughy.

NOTES:

you can make flaxmeal at home by simply processing some flaxseeds in a coffee or spice grinder. olive oil has a rather strong taste so if you prefer to avoid that, try going with the coconut oil option or even a neutral oil like peanut oil. 3 egg whites can be substituted for the 2 eggs for cholesterol-conscience people.

Calories

265.40

Fat (grams)

15.87

Sat. Fat (grams)

2.49

Carbs (grams)

27.23

Fiber (grams)

3.34

Net carbs

23.89

Sugar (grams)

9.53

Protein (grams)

5.72

Sodium (milligrams)

188.36

Cholesterol (grams)

31.00
Nutritional information is approximate and based on 12 servings.
Created using The Recipes Generator
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Hard-to-Find Ingredients in Italy

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!

If you’re planning on spending any amount of time in Italy in which you will want to cook, bake, or generally not always eat in restaurants (I know, it’s hard, but your bank account will thank you!), this list might come in handy.

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You might think that Italy will have everything you need, they bake and cook so it’s just a matter of translating, right? Yes...and no. It’s not as different as it could be, I can imagine living in China or the DRC would present a bigger challenge for finding and cooking with familiar ingredients and brands. But this is still a “foreign” country and will present its unique challenges. The best way to tackle these challenges is to meet them head on, and hopefully with the ones that are important to you in your suitcase!

What follows is a list of ingredients and items that could fall into these categories: nonexistent - expensive - elusive - and, - it’s just not the same. Compiled from my own experience and that of fellow expat friends, I hope you find it helpful, and, as always, let me know in the comments below what should be added or your own stories! I’m sure there are things I don’t even think about that others might really miss!

Some ingredients are carried in all main grocery stores and just located in strange places, some are only found in specialty stores, and others you might want to consider bringing with you in your suitcase. Little Ethnic stores are your friends! Of course, this list is not all-inclusive, I chose not to list most of the items that are “name brand” or not mainstream; i.e. your favorite brand of laundry detergent might not exist, but there are plenty of other detergents that do exactly the same thing, so I don’t have Arm & Hammer listed as non existent, or likewise, I won’t have Andes Mints baking bits listed because most people wouldn’t think of those let alone miss them. Make sense? Ok let’s get grocery shopping!

The “American” Section at Vivimarket…yes! Betty Crocker strawberry frosting, I have missed thee! Not.

The “American” Section at Vivimarket…yes! Betty Crocker strawberry frosting, I have missed thee! Not.

  • Asian Ingredients - Ingredienti Asiatici

    If you want spring roll wraps, soy sauce, canned coconut milk, sriracha, or anything that’s more Asian than Italian, chances are you are not going to find it at the supermarket. The large Esselunga I shop at does have an Asian section (it’s a tiny end cap) but the prices are high. So, head to any Asian grocer instead! The products are authentic, variety greater, and prices much better! You might even end up with food items (we hope they’re food?!) you’ve never seen before to try, and it might remain a mystery because the packages often lack any English, Italian, or any Latin alphabet!

  • Apples - Mele

    I love apples. I don’t love apples in Italy. They are everywhere, but I can’t understand why they are gross. It can be apple season but when you bite into a beautiful apple you get a mouthful of pith. Blech. I grew up picking fresh apples every fall with my mom and siblings so maybe I’m just apple-spoiled? The only apples that I consistently like, crisp and sweet, are the Ambrosia apples at Esselunga.

  • Avocados - Avocado

    Avocados are found pretty easily, but they are expensive! They are usually between 3.50-5.50euro/kilo. And they’re not always the beloved Hass, often there is a smoother, greener variety that comes from Israel.

  • Baking Powder - Lievito in Polvere

    Baking powder doesn’t come in containers or tubs like it does in the States. You will usually find it in small packets (often with the artificial vanillin flavor) in the baking section…but beware! Rumor has it it doesn’t work well, causing desserts to rise too much too fast or not rising at all. I haven’t personally tried it, as this is something I bring with me and a container lasts a long time! You could try the self-raising flour, I’ve read that works reliably well.

  • Baking Soda - Bicarbonato di Sodio

    This is cheap and sold in all grocery stores, it’s just not in the baking section like you’d think it would be! Look on the end caps in some stores by the Alka Seltzers or by the bottled water or soft drinks in others.

  • Black Beans - Fagioli Neri

    Don’t ask me why, but the black beans are not always with the other beans at Italian grocer stores. Sometimes they don’t carry them, sometimes they are in a “special” section maybe with other seeds and nuts. But they do exist! Pinto beans however, are yet to be seen.

  • Cabbage - Cavolo

    Italians love their cabbage, especially when their cavolo nero or black cabbage comes into season. However, black cabbage seems more similar to kale than it does the variety of cabbage we use in the States, that light green head of cabbage. If you have a hankering to make say, sauerkraut or pickled purple cabbage, what do you do? Scour your nearest grocery store, I saw for the first time towards the back of produce section a “regular” head of cabbage! I have on occasion seen the purple cabbage, but because fruits and vegetables are still very much sold seasonably, you can’t count on them year round. The green cabbage I saw was called crauti, their name for sauerkraut, but I believe it’s also called cavolo cappuccio bianco.

  • Candy Bars and Candies - Barrette di Cioccolato e Caramelle

    You can find these here: Snickers, Mars, Twix, Kit Kat, Skittles (since last year), M&M’s, Smarties (the Canadian M&M’s), Lindt, Bounty, Lion, Ferrero Rocher, and various other European varieties. Reese’s can be found at Vivimarket in Florence for a significant price.

  • Canned Pumpkin Purée - Zucca in Scatola

    In Italy, this is liquid gold. To find pumpkin, you are going to need to go to specialty stores. In Florence, I know of two places that carry it. One is ViviMarket, the other is Pegna. Both places will run you about 4.60-4.80euro per 15 oz. can. I know. Like I said, liquid gold. You can find fresh pumpkin in the store, but it is not pie pumpkin and will give you a strange, strange pumpkin pie if you try and cook and purée it yourself.

  • Cereals - Cereali

    I rarely eat cereal and I doubt you are coming to Italy dreaming about cereal, but one can’t help but notice that though cereal and granola is easily found, the selection is definitely smaller than that of an American grocery store. I’d say this is for the better, but just in case you’re a Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops die hard, realize they might not have your favorite cereal beyond the basics. There are rice krispies for making homemade granola bars, desserts, and Rice Krisipie Treats, just so you know. :)

  • Cilantro - Coriandolo

    Fresh and dried parsley is everywhere, but cilantro? Not as much. I have found it on rare occasion in the grocery store, but you’ll have a much better chance if you head to any Asian grocer. And there are plenty, at least in Florence!

  • Chocolate Chips - Gocce di Cioccolato

    Regular-sized chocolate chips are not to be found, just mini. But there is something about chocolate chip cookies with mini chips that are just not the same. The minis are expensive, too, upwards of 2euro for 6 oz of chips/1 cup. Otherwise, you can buy a bar of chocolate for less and chop it yourself for custom chocolate chunks.

  • Dill - Aneto

    I haven’t come across dried dill here, but I can sometimes find fresh dill. But not always. So plan ahead if you want to make homemade pickles or add fresh dill to chicken salad, like I do. :)

  • Flour - Farina

    There is a plethora of flour here, no worries! The tricky part is figuring out which kind you need, because the types of flour go beyond just all-purpose, bread, and cake. Someday I will write a post dedicated to the flours here and how they are best utilized, but for now just a quick overview. First, there are the two kinds of (wheat) flours; hard wheat “grano duro” and soft wheat “grano tenero.” Hard wheat is mostly used for crusty bread, pizza, and pasta because it has a higher protein content, whereas the soft wheat is used for softer breads and desserts. Second, there is the grind of the flour noted by numbers: 00, 0, 1, and 2. 00 denotes the finest grind, 2 is the coarsest. Beyond this there are also all the specialty flours you can find, including: self-raising flour as mentioned above under baking powder, farina di manitoba which is closest to what we call bread flour, almond flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, rice flour, and more.

  • Grape Juice - Succo d’Uva

    For all the juice variety you can find, only some grocery stores carry grape juice, and it’s only ever one type. Usually purple grape juice, I’ve never seen white. It seems all their grape juice is made into wine, none leftover for juice, haha!

  • Gum - Gomma

    Yes, there is gum in Italy, but it’s a bit more expensive and not as good as American gum. Some of it is just gross, like licorice. If you like licorice, lucky you!

  • Hydrogen Peroxide - Perossido di Idrogeno/Acqua Ossigenata

    This is not food, but if you use it for disinfecting wounds, mouth wash, removing stains, or any of its numerous uses, it might be helpful for you to know that it is readily available here, but the packaging made it harder to locate. Its bottle is usually white and generic and small, not the signature large brown plastic I’m used to buying in America. Search near the bandages and eye drops!

  • Maple Syrup - Sciroppo d’Acero

    Maple syrup costs a small fortune. It can be found in most grocery stores and also at Vivimarket in Florence. A small bottle, roughly 8 oz, will cost you about 5-7euro. This is the real stuff, pure maple syrup and not high fructose corn syrup, but I believe Vivimarket carries the Aunt Jemima stuff if you’re feeling nostalgic, but I think a bottle of that will cost you more than a pure bottle, almost 8 euro! Ironic.

  • Marshmallows - Toffolette

    Marshmallows are available here, but don’t expect Jet-Puffed fluffy big white mallows. To be honest, I’ve never bought them, but I’ve always heard they are just plain weird with a texture like stale marshmallows.

  • Mexican Ingredients - Ingredienti Messicani

    Like the Asian ingredients, the Mexican ingredients can be found, but maybe less readily. There is a large Asian presence in Italy and no shortage of Asian grocers and restaurants, but the same cannot be said for Mexican. In Florence in fact, there is only one taco/burrito place I can think of. So you will have to find or make your own tortillas and sauces as best you can. Like the Asian section at the Esselunga I frequent, there is a small Mexican section with enchilada sauce, sour cream (it’s not refrigerated, I’m scared), refried beans, corn and flour tortillas, and other miscellaneous. Oh, and the can of refried beans costs more than 2euro. I would cook and mash my own, but I haven’t seen pinto beans here to make delicious refried beans. Black will have to do.

  • Molasses - Melassa

    I have tried to ask at Coop and Esselunga for Molasses with varying responses. One lady was convinced they carried it only to find they don’t, and the other lady just looked at me like I was crazy. I am happy to report that it can be found at some specialty stores, for sure at NaturaSi. They are the WholeFoods of Italy, high prices and all, but a good place to checkout for natural products and specialty items the mainstream stores might not carry!

  • Peanut Butter - Burro di Arachidi

    The main stores carry just Skippy, which costs almost 5 euro for a small bottle, or Calvé, a less expensive Dutch (?) brand. Natural peanut butter is not to be found, unless you can grind it yourself. But a life without peanut butter is sadness, so here’s the trick: go to the Chinese markets or Arab butchers, which carry more than just meat, and you’ll find the Calvé or other brands you probably haven’t heard of but for much more manageable prices. Then the next time you go back to the States stock up on Smucker’s and guard it with your life. If you’re interested in other butters, check out NaturaSi which has almond butter, peanut butter, and possibly some others.

  • Pecans - Noci Pecan

    I thought for a long time these were non existent here, but they just like to hide. They are usually not with the other nuts like walnuts and almonds, but if your local grocery store carries them they might be by the “party aisle,” or near the soft drinks, drink mixes, peanuts and party nut mixes. But be warned, an 80g bag will run you between 3 and 5 euro a bag. I splurged once and made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving….I spent 12euro just on the 2 cups (240g) of pecans. Ayayayay.

  • Pretzels - Salatini

    Similar to marshmallows, pretzels are available and stale tasting. These I did eat once, and haven’t again since. I bought them to make a pretzel crust for a pie, but after twirling around in my food blender for too long without breaking down, I realized these were not your ordinary pretzels. These are special stale pretzels best not used for crusts.

  • Salad Dressings - Condimenti per Insalata

    This probably doesn’t need to be translated because you won’t need to ask or look for it. Just bring it with you if it’s important to you, like Ranch. I never would’ve thought of this but I do have some friends that this was CRUCIAL for. Salads here are always dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sometimes balsamic vinegar. I’ve never turned back.

  • Sour Cream - Panna Acida

    I haven’t tried this yet, the fact that it’s not usually found in the refrigerated section scares me a bit. I know, I’m sure it’s like the shelf stable milk products, but still. This is found in the Mexican section at my local Esselunga.

  • Spices - Spezie

    Let’s talk about spices. When you think of Italian cooking, you can probably make a guess of which spices they will for sure have. Garlic, onion, parsley, oregano, basil, sage, bay leaf, cumin, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, marjoram, coriander, curry, and saffron are everywhere. Then there are whole cloves but no ground cloves. The first time I went to make a pumpkin pie I was trying to hand grate cloves…kids, don’t try this at home. Other spices like adobe chili, or smoked chilis, cardamom, mixes like garam marsala, or any ethnic spices that aren’t mainstream you will probably have to import yourself. Mint you can find at the Arab butcher shops.

  • Sweet Potatoes - Patate Dolci

    Sometimes I can find these at the grocery store, sometimes not. A more sure bet will be Vivimarket, which has them every time I have gone, and are usually grown in the US, yeah!

  • Vanilla Extract - Estratto di Vaniglia

    The REAL stuff, not imitation or vanillin like is found in every dessert here. And no, the real stuff doesn’t exist here. Either bring it with you or make your own! I usually bring a bottle with me to use while my homemade stuff is aging, it takes a minimum of 3 months.

Always remember, even when you’re missing your creature comfort food, that it’s not so bad eating food like this…

Always remember, even when you’re missing your creature comfort food, that it’s not so bad eating food like this…

How to Blog - By Someone Who Doesn't Know How

Photo Credit: Hannah Kelsey

Photo Credit: Hannah Kelsey

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using these links, Jennyblogs may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps to support Jennyblogs. For further information see the privacy policy. Grazie!

Oh hey there.  It's nice to see you here.  Looks like someone is curious about how to become a STAR blogger.  Beyond viral.  Basically means you're in the hall of fame for bloggers.  I can assure you, you have come to the right place.  In this humble post I will show you how to:

  1. Create interesting content

  2. Improve your writing

  3. Up the game on humor

  4. Get Your Point Across, Be Understood Really Well, Be Clear

  5. Take super-awesome-stunning-great photos

  6. Edit photos and choose filters

  7. Increase your intelligence

Don't have a blog?  No worries, number 7 still applies.  If you are thinking about starting a blog, I can help you.  

First, you'll need a blog.  We could make really extensive pro and con lists about all of the pros and cons about where to get a website, but hey, time is precious, right?  I'll save you the trouble: Get Squarespace.  There, no time wasted, no stress in having to make a decision, no taking into consideration what some of your specific needs might be.  Next, you'll want to pick out a name for your blog and get a domain to match.  Just like you wouldn't go out the door with your cell phone cover not matching your pillowcase, you need a good name and domain to match.  What's a domain? Idunnaknow.  Probably means you have dominion over your blog, and no one else.  Mwahahaha.  Because if they don't match, your name might lose syncretism with your domain, and the domain might decide it wants dominion and take over.  Thankfully it hasn't happened to me yet, but I thought I should warn you.  

So now you have a website and your domain.  Now what?  I'll be using a new baking post, a recipe and photos for Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies, to help demonstrate some of the techniques and strategies listed below. 

Create Interesting Content

To have a star blog, you need to have interesting stuff to write about.  For example, if you collect baseball cards, like animals, try the samples at Sam's Club on a regular basis, watch a ton of movies...There's also an appalling lack of political opinions out there.  Especially long rants, judgy articles, and arguments.  So you might want to consider putting yours out there, fill the gap, ya know.  Oh, and I almost forgot, baking blogs.  There aren't very many of those, either, that's why I decided to blog n' bake.  That and the baking/cooking section on Pinterest is a little lackluster.

Once you've found your niche, it's time to let the pen fly!  Or fingers, as you'd say in this day and age.  Always, always, ALWAYS start your blog out with a personal story or anecdote.  Make it at least 7 paragraphs long (the number of completion), and if you can start to weave in your actual content or recipe towards the end, that's toooootally cool.  Bonus if you can include an anecdote within the anecdote, or tie in 3 other stories during your main content.  The more the merrier!  This would also be a great spot to include your dog/cat's cute behavior for the last two weeks.  Keep your main content to a minimum, people's attention spans are rather short these days, and this is your blog, so you need to make sure you get your moment.  Include your opinion, your take, and advice on everything.  And be super transparent about everything, no walls.  Why else would people be reading your blog?  

Improve You're writing

Whilst blogging, you got to be ready to let your ideas fly.  Don't let grammer, spelling; and punk-you-a-shun get in you"re way.  There more like guidelines anyways.  If your bad at spelling or grammar doesn't come naturalmenty to you, don't use spell check and be like all those spelling bee medalists out there; no! You be you.  You do you.  If you spelled environment enviermant, leave it.  Empowerment to bad spellers everywhere.  Chances are people won't notice.  And time is money, people!  

Up the Game on Humor

Tell jokes.  Even if no one laughs in real life, or you forget the punch line.  Quote Parks and Rec and SNL constantly.  Give it the Girl Scout try.  No one was ever born funny, after all.  

Get Your Point Across, Be Understood Really Well, Be Clear

Don't be afraid to repeat yourself, be redundant, quote multiple sources to make just one point, or say the same thing twice. USE ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS as OFTEN as you WANT, and/or use BOLD or italic font.  Then you can step back and enjoy your blog for what it is, a piece of art, rather than just blah, blah, blah.  

Don't be afraid of clichés, catch-phrases, and idioms.  They always help to make your writing really clear and concise.  Otherwise your point might be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Stay away from euphemisms.  

Avoid big words.  Lots of little words make so much more sense.  The extraneity of lengthy words then becomes superfluous.

Take Super-awesome-stunning-great Photos

Now.  I know all your blogging friends have fancy-smchancy cameras that you're not allowed to touch, but I'm here to tell you that you can do better.  Why spend thousands of dollars when your iPhone 4 takes photos?  No reason, that's why.  No need to lug around a camera bag, buy and change out lens', or learn what all those little black buttons mean when you have everything you need in an iPhone.  Not to mention Beyonce's latest album and Snapchat.  

When your friends get to talking, you can just bring out your IDK to their ISO, your amateur to their aperture, your Boca Burger to their Bokeh.  

Multiple shots were taken in this exhibit to be examples, and show the transition from "follow camera techniques boring" to "create your own inspired masterpieces."

Multiple shots were taken in this exhibit to be examples, and show the transition from "follow camera techniques boring" to "create your own inspired masterpieces."

For lighting, direct sunlight or a bare bulb lit directly overhead your subject is fine.  A dark, rainy day works well, or better yet, night.  When working with humans or animals, you can best light their face by shining a light straight on, directly in front of their face.  Gently remind them to keep their eyes open.  A spray bottle can be used to gently mist their face and keep their eyes from drying out.  If no light source is available, flash is always a viable option.

Trying to find a "studio." Up against a wall, tight, uninspired...

Trying to find a "studio." Up against a wall, tight, uninspired...

When choosing a location, the messier the better.  Some may choose to have a special window, area, or even studio where they take their photos and do "sessions," but I believe this natural lighting and set-up area produces, stiff, unnatural, and  sterile photos.  You and your subject need inspiration, room to breathe.  In a corner, on the floor, or the front seat of your car is fine.  When the inspiration hits, you need to be ready with your phone held high, face close to the screen, and finger poised to snap the moment, soon to be forever encapsulated on your blog.  I recommend keeping your phone out at all times, taking photos at will.  Even if you don't remember the moment because you were so busy "capturing" it, you'll always have the photo.  And we all know that's more important than the actual experience in the long run.   

Blurry hand, bodies...this photo speaks of movement and life.

Blurry hand, bodies...this photo speaks of movement and life.

Having a background and props is essential.  What that background is and what those props are, less so.  No need for a plain wall behind.  To have chaos in your photo is to have life.  To create an au naturel photo that doesn't look "staged" or "set up" I like to grab the 12-56 objects in closest range to me and set them up haphazardly around the subject.  I then choose my angle, and snap.  Yes, one snap.  No multiple shots, re-angling, re-staging.  It is what it is, and that's how it's meant to be.  Animals, babies, blurry hands, and half-eaten pizza all help to liven up the photo.  

In the culmination of this art spread, please notice the parallelism, rhythm, and flow within. The echoes of the greens, connections between the browns, the cylinders. The keys seem to say, "choose your path" while though the pile of succulent cookies seems to beckon and say, "we offer life, sweet life, and money" you see the healthy apple is also saying, "eat of me!" Meanwhile, the beano reminds us that the remedy lies within, that life is time, take of yourself, and keep a dream journal.

In the culmination of this art spread, please notice the parallelism, rhythm, and flow within. The echoes of the greens, connections between the browns, the cylinders. The keys seem to say, "choose your path" while though the pile of succulent cookies seems to beckon and say, "we offer life, sweet life, and money" you see the healthy apple is also saying, "eat of me!" Meanwhile, the beano reminds us that the remedy lies within, that life is time, take of yourself, and keep a dream journal.

Everyone will be jealous.

Edit Photos and Choose Filters  

Here's how to take your photos to the next level.  You'll first need a photo editing program.  Higher end programs like PaintShop Pro, Final Cut, and Photo are ideal.  Then, modify away.  As a general rule, I think photos always look pro when you really crank the structure, saturation, and ombre.  If you have a ton of photos to share with the world and are short on time, filters are your friends.  X-Pro II, Lo-Fi, and Nashville are go to's.  

Increase Your Intelligence.

If you have made it this far, you have already acquired much intelligence along the way, all that stated above.  I have so much more I wish to impart to you, my young padowan, but I must first see how you bear up under this already great load.  So be free, conquer the world, and let your dreams take flight.  Remember as you soar high, to take others with you under your wing.  

Two more things before we part ways: One, this blog is completely facetious.  Happy April Fool's Day!  Don't take a word of it seriously.  Don't believe me?  Ask any of my seven followers.  Second, the cookies in the photos exhibited above are, despite the photos, really yummy.  Recipe below!

Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24-36 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder, regular or chocolate

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 2 tsp cornstarch

  • 3/4 cup oil or 1 cup butter, room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

  • 2 cups/12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Whisk together flour, malted milk powder, baking powder, salt, and cornstarch in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Beat together oil and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  If using butter, beat mixture until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add vanilla.  

Stir in dry ingredients until just combined.  Switch to a spoon and stir in chocolate chips.

Chill dough for 2 hours or up to 72 hours.  

When ready to bake the dough, preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Place the dough by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges begin to turn golden-brown.  

Jenny's Notes:

For reasons why chilling dough helps create beautiful cookies, see my notes on this chocolate chip cookie recipe.

To create a truly malted experience, replace chocolate chips with a package of chopped Whoppers.  Even milk chocolate chips are delicious.  

Recipe adapted from Cookies and Cups.

Scrumptious Apple Cake

One of the many things I love about Michigan is the diversity of seasons.  Autumn is no exception, with the leaves turning brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, burgundy, green, and brown.  I love a brilliant brown, don't you?  It's just the prettiest.  I kid, I'm already making fun of myself.  Back to how great Michigan and autumn is.  The dried cornstalks and gourds come out, decorating the fields and porches; pumpkins appear in all the stores, asking to be taken home and carved.  The air turns as crisp and refreshingly cool as the apples hanging on the trees in the orchards.  The cool, dewy mornings call for cozy sweaters, wool socks, warm scarves; the rainy afternoons make a crackling fire, a hot cup of apple cider, and a good book all but necessary.  Comforting squash soups and crusty breads, pumpkin pies and cinnamon rolls just out of the oven, and family nearby makes the dusk that comes sooner and sooner a welcome friend.  Autumn is wonderful, but Traverse City, Michigan, really is an idyllic place to experience it.   

Hannah, myself, and my mom apple picking

Hannah, myself, and my mom apple picking

And we all know, the food of choice in autumn is pumpkin.  So here is a recipe for Scrumptious Apple Cake.  Ha.  I just wanted to trick you into thinking this would be a recipe for something pumpkin.  Hehe.  There will be plenty of pumpkin in the near future, but today I wanted to share with you a guest recipe, Scrumptious Apple Cake by my mamma.  Yes, scrumptious is part of the title.  It is not simply a scrumptious Apple Cake, it is a scrumptious Scrumptious Apple Cake.  Trust her on this one.  

Now, if you have some fancy, two-tier frosted apple cake envisioned in your brain, erase that and think simple.  It's more like a moist bread.  9x13 pan.  I think I just felt some of you relax; "no cake tins?  Phew, 9x13 I can do..." and yes, it is so simple.  Did I mention scrumptious?   

The apples in this recipe are handpicked by my mom, Hannah, and yours truly.  Apple picking is one of the things I look forward to most in September, I recommend you find the nearest apple orchard and go!

Scrumptious Apple Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups peeled chopped apples
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

For the Cinnamon Topping

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Oven 350 Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9x13 in pan. 

Make the Cake

In a large bowl combine oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla; beat.  Stir in chopped apples. 

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add this mixture to first mixture and stir until combined.  Pour into prepared pan.

Make the Cinnamon Topping

In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle evenly over batter in pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Jenny's Notes:

My mom is very adverse to nuts in her desserts.  However, many people do enjoy nuts in their desserts, and if you do, a cup of chopped nuts added to the batter would do the trick.  You could also add about 1/2 cup chopped nuts to the topping.  *This note is not Jean-approved.  :)

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