Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Cake

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Keeping the Home | 2 comments

Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Cake recipe

I’m not a huge fan of cake, but when I saw this recipe in a cookbook I desperately wanted to try it. Perhaps it was just because I was hungry. After all, I was thumbing through the cookbook while sitting in a lab waiting room during a 3 hour glucose tolerance test for which I’d been fasting! Regardless of why it sounded good, I’m glad I tried it.

Ingredients

(Adapted from the Hot Fudge Cake recipe in the 2010 Taste of Home Annual Recipes cookbook.)

  • 1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar or coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 6 tablespoons baking cocoa, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Instructions

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the milk, butter, and vanilla; stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.

Spread into a 3-quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips. In another bowl, combine the remaining brown sugar and cocoa; stir in the boiling water. Pour over the batter (do not stir).

Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm. Top with ice cream, if desired. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Cake recipe

Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Cake recipe

Notes

This is a great recipe for the summer months because it uses the slow cooker instead of the oven—the kitchen doesn’t get hot while it cooks! Though it is called a cake, it has more of a fudge brownie texture. I’m not too fond of the texture of cake, so this makes it quite fabulous.

This cake is super rich. I didn’t want it to be too sweet, so I used half regular and half dark baking cocoa. Though the ice cream is optional, it complimented the cake perfectly. It’s not a particularly healthy treat (though it’s worth the splurge!), so I used white whole wheat flour and coconut sugar in order to make the dessert a bit more nutritious.

The original recipe recommended that the cake cook on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. My slow cooker gets really hot, so I cooked mine on low for about 2 1/2 hours instead. Keep a close eye on it while it’s cooking so you can adapt the cooking time to your slow cooker. This cake is best served right when it finishes cooking (if you do have leftovers, I recommend reheating them before you eat them).

Sounds good, huh? You won’t regret making it!

 

Related posts:

Shared on the following link-ups: Whatever Goes Wednesday, WholeHearted Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, One Project at a Time & Homemade Tuesdays.

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Christmas in July: Paying for Christmas Gifts with Credit Card Points

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Managing Finances | 2 comments

The cost of Christmas gifts can really add up. In today’s installment of Christmas in July 2014, we’ll look at a novel way to pay for Christmas gifts. If you missed the initial installment (which describes the purpose of Christmas in July), you can read it here.

Christmas in July: Paying for Christmas Gifts with Credit Card Points

Credit cards are a contentious subject, especially among individuals who seek to be free of debt. Some individuals shun them completely. My husband and I, on the other hand, do not find credit cards to be in conflict with our goal of debt-free living. If used judiciously, they do not lead to debt.

In reality, we use our credit cards quite often. As a result, we don’t have to pay for Christmas gifts. Here’s how:

  • We are selective about which credit cards we have. None of our cards have annual fees and all of them offer rewards programs where we earn points with each purchase we make.
  • We use the cards on purchases we would make even if we didn’t have the cards. We charge routine expenses on our cards (gasoline, groceries, car insurance, etc.). We do not charge items simply because we have available credit.
  • We pay off our cards in full each month. We do not carry balances on our cards, so we are not charged interest.
  • Each Christmas we use the points we’ve accumulated during the past year to purchase Christmas gifts. We’re able to apply points to the purchase of various gift cards and products online or to reimburse ourselves for purchases made in person. For two years now, we have been able to purchase almost all of our Christmas gifts using credit card points! We do not have to save up throughout the year or draw money from our monthly budget to make these purchases.

Because the credit cards do not cost us anything (no fees and no interest), we’re essentially getting the Christmas gifts for free!

This approach works well for us, but it is not for everyone. I would not recommend this strategy for those who have credit card debt or those who are not disciplined enough or not financially capable of paying off their cards each month. If you’re in one of these situations, it’ll only cause problems for you. However, if you’re able to use your credit cards in a manner similar to how we use them, then this might be a great way for you to pay for Christmas gifts.

What strategies do you use to pay for Christmas gifts each year?

 

Related posts:

Shared on the following link-up: Monday’s Musings.

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Choosing to Find Your Spouse Attractive

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Enriching Marriage | 5 comments

I’m amazed at how my appreciation for my husband’s physical attributes has grown throughout our marriage. Though I found him attractive when I married him, I find him even more attractive now.

Choosing to Find Your Spouse Attractive

I remember back in my single days having conversations with other single ladies and single guys about attractiveness. There was this overall feeling that our standards for attractiveness are inherent—we don’t consciously choose them. Some women naturally prefer tall guys, some women naturally prefer blue eyes, etc.

This fatalistic view of attractiveness led many of these single men and women to overlook wonderful, God-fearing individuals who would make great spouses simply because they were not attracted to them.

This view of attractiveness poses challenges for married individuals, too. Time tends to usher in grey hairs, weight gain, wrinkles, etc. Even if you marry a person who is the epitome of attractiveness, the traits you find to be attractive may someday fade and be replaced by traits you find to be unattractive.

I realized the limitations of this view of attractiveness when I read Sacred Marriage for the first time. The author, Gary Thomas, wrote this about his wife, Lisa, and attractiveness:

For instance, marriage calls us to redirect our desires to be focused on one woman or one man in particular rather than on society’s view of attractive women or men in general.

On the day I was married, I began praying, “Lord, help me to define beauty by Lisa’s body. Shape my desires so that I am attracted only to her.” I knew from the book of Proverbs that I was to take delight in my wife, not in women in general…

I cannot fully explain without embarrassing my wife, so I’m going to speak generally. God has answered my prayer. The physical characteristics that distinguish my wife are the characteristics that I generally find most attractive in other women.

What a different way of thinking than the view I described above! We are not at the mercy of what we naturally find attractive. We can ask the Lord to help us define attractiveness by the appearances of our spouses.

To be perfectly honest with you, I do think that a lot of our understanding of attractiveness is inherent. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s fixed. After all, we’re naturally inclined to sin, too. My inherent inclination is to lie and cheat, but I can avoid these behaviors because I’m not controlled by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit (Romans 8:9). This same Spirit can move in our hearts to help us define beauty by our spouses.

I made the choice to find my husband attractive when I began praying during our engagement that I would define attractiveness by his appearance. I’ve never struggled to find him attractive, so perhaps this was completely unnecessary. However, given how much my attraction to him grows with each passing day, I’m glad I did.

Have you ever thought to pray about how you define attractiveness? Choose to find your spouse attractive by joining me in praying that you’ll define physical beauty by your spouse’s appearance.

 

Related posts:

Shared on the following link-ups: Works for Me Wednesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Motivation Monday, Living Proverbs 31, Making Your Home Sing, Essential Fridays, Thrive @ Home & Thriving Thursday.

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Line Drying Clothes Indoors

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Keeping the Home, Managing Finances | 5 comments

When we first got married, my husband was surprised to find that I hang some of my clothes on racks to dry them instead of using the dryer. Though he encouraged me to toss them in the dryer for convenience, I’ve continued line drying a significant amount of my clothing.

Line Drying Clothes Indoors

Of course, it would be easier to line dry clothes on an outdoor clothesline than it is to line dry them inside. Unfortunately, this really isn’t an option where we live. We’d have to hang the line in the front yard of our townhome. I’m not sure our neighbors would appreciate this, plus the neighbor kids get into enough mischief in our yard as it is—I’d hate to see what they’d do with clothes that were hung out to dry!

If an outdoor line isn’t an option, then why am I so bent on line drying clothes? I have a couple of motivations. One is preserving my clothes. Clothes can shrink in the dryer. Moreover, dryers can weaken the fabrics in clothing, causing them to wear out quickly (see tips on making clothes last longer here). Another motivation is saving electricity (and the money required to pay for electricity). Dryers consume quite a bit of power, so line drying clothes can cut back on energy usage. Of course, line drying clothes will not by itself solve the energy consumption problem we have in the U.S., but it is a simple approach that can save a little here and there.

Whether you’re concerned about energy consumption and making clothes last or not, you may find yourself needing to line dry clothes at some point. If your dryer stops working and you can’t afford to replace it immediately, this may be a temporary solution for you.

Strategies for line drying clothes indoors

Here are strategies I’ve used to successfully line dry clothes inside.

Use wire shelves or movable racks to hang clothes

Simple wire shelves and movable racks are affordable structures that can effectively suspend clothes as they dry. I suspend clothes from one wire shelf that hangs in our bedroom and from one movable rack that I place in various locations throughout the house.

Movable drying rack to line dry clothes

Movable drying rack to line dry clothes

If you’re looking to purchase a movable rack, there are a number of innovative ones available (see examples here and here).

Honey-Can-Do Drying Rack

Badoogi Drying Rack

Place movable racks in areas where there is airflow

Air movement is critical if clothes are to dry in a timely manner. If you live in a humid region, this is also important to prevent mold or mildew growth in areas where clothes are dried. Airflow can exist because of cross ventilation from open windows, ceiling fans, standalone fans, or space heaters. Though fans and space heaters do use electricity, using them for an hour or two will use less electricity than using the dryer.

Place movable racks in sunlight or by heat sources

Heat will help clothes dry more quickly. Heat can come from sunlight or from a heating source like a wood burning stove, radiator, or heating vent. Some people report that they’ve had clothes fade when they’ve hung them in sunlight, so be careful leaving them in the sunlight for too long.

Don’t use too much soap

If you use too much soap, it might not all rinse out in the wash. This means the soap will leave a residue on clothing, which might cause clothes to become stiff. This stiffness will be more noticeable on line dried clothes than clothes dried in a dryer.

Avoid using fabric softeners

Fabric softeners contain softening chemicals such as quaternary ammonium compounds that are asthmagens (substances that can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people). There is also concern that the antimicrobial properties of some of these substances may contribute to antibiotic resistance (read more about the concerns here). If you don’t want these potentially harmful substances floating around your home, then avoid fabric softeners. White vinegar can be used to soften fabrics instead (the vinegar can also help remove buildup from soap).

If needed, you can always toss your clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes or so to finish them after they’ve hung for a while. This will help them dry more quickly and will eliminate any stiffness.

Though I do line dry clothes like t-shirts, slacks, and blouses, I continue to use the dryer for towels and jeans. I’ve found this works best for us because it saves time and keeps the towels from developing a mildewy scent.

Do you line dry any of your clothes indoors? What strategies make this work for you?

 

Related posts:

Shared on the following link-ups: WholeHearted Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday & Titus 2sday.

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Christmas in July 2014

Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Keeping the Home | 6 comments

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. It is only July, but I am already thinking of Christmas. As I explained in last year’s introduction to Christmas in July, I am not attempting to minimize the celebrations that occur between now and Christmas, nor am I promoting “Christmas creep” (the phenomenon of retailers exploiting the commercialized status of Christmas by moving up the start of the shopping season). I’m planning for Christmas early so my family and I can maintain focus on the real reason we celebrate.

Christmas in July 2014

The Christmas season is stressful for many Americans. In fact, researchers found the following in one study:

  • An increase in stress during the Christmas season is experienced by 38% of Americans.
  • Christmas stress is disproportionately felt by women (44% percent of women report an increase in stress compared to 31% of men). Women report having a hard time relaxing due to preparations associated with family celebrations (e.g., gift shopping, cooking, cleaning).
  • Individuals of both genders who report an increase in stress around Christmas are more likely than those who don’t experience increased stress to worry about money and buying gifts.

Planning early is one way we can enjoy traditions (time with family, traditional treats, gift exchanges, decorations, etc.) without losing focus on our celebration of the Savior whose birth we’re commemorating (Luke 2:1-20).

Last year we examined four Christmas in July topics:

Over the next few weeks we’ll examine three new topics:

How do you approach Christmas preparations? Do you wait for the last minute or do you start early? If you start early, what sort of tasks do you address ahead of the Christmas season?

 

Related posts:

Shared on the following link-ups: Living Proverbs 31, Motivation Monday & Thriving Thursday.

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Taking Interest in the Things That Interest Your Husband

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in Enriching Marriage | 10 comments

My husband is into a lot of things that just don’t hold my interest—cars, yard projects, sci-fi movies, soccer, etc. Though it might be easiest to encourage him to pursue these on his own or to ignore them and try to get him into things that interest me, I’ve been making an effort to learn about his interests and engage in activities related to them.

Taking Interest in the Things That Interest Your Husband

Recently this has entailed watching World Cup soccer games. The sport has always seemed boring to me, but my husband loves it. He grew up playing it and even played in college. I’ve patiently watched games and asked questions about strategy or about why certain penalties were given. I’ve learned a lot about the game, but I think I’ve learned even more about my husband.

I don’t want to overlook the need that men have for guy time and solitude. Husbands need time with their male friends. Sometimes these interactions provide opportunities for my husband to engage in his interests. There are also times when husbands need to relax and unwind by themselves. My husband may choose to engage in his interests at these times. I will not encroach upon guy time or solitude, but there are a lot of times when my husband wants to engage in his interests when he’s not with guy friends and he’s not trying to be alone. It’s during these times that I’m trying to learn more about his interests.

Why learn about your husband’s interests

It’s pretty normal for husbands and wives to have their own hobbies, so is it really important for me to learn about my husband’s interests? I think it is.

  • It shows him that I care. Learning about my husband’s interests shows him that I care about him as a person. I’m not just interested in who he is as a financial provider for our family or who he is as the father of our child. I’m genuinely interested in him as a person.
  • It allows me to learn more about him. I’m able to understand my husband better when I know what it is exactly about a particular sport or genre of movie that captivates his attention. This provides insight into how to communicate with him and encourage him.
  • It provides opportunities to spend time with him. My husband spends most of his waking hours at work. Thus, I’m eager for any and all time I can spend with him. Even if we engage in some activity I don’t particularly enjoy, I’m still spending time with him, so it’s time well spent. Moreover, when it’s an activity my husband loves, he tends to view it as quality time, so this makes him feel loved.

I know my husband appreciates my efforts because he mentioned in a very touching status update on Facebook that he enjoyed getting to watch soccer with his wife. Who knows? I just might grow to enjoy one of his interests!

Does your husband have interests that you don’t share? Have you tried to learn more about these?

 

Related posts:

Shared on the following link-ups: Works for Me Wednesday, WholeHearted Wednesday, Titus 2sday & Titus 2 Tuesday.

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