An Ode to Snow Days {and a Recipe for Snowflake Cake!}

We've had a handful of snow days so far this winter, and I look forward to each and every one.

As long as there aren't too many back-to-back, that is. A girl has her limits, you know, and it would only be a matter of time before my sanity boards a flight to warmer climates. I wish I could go with it, but alas, I'm stuck here in a polar vortex with four crazy lovely children.

But snow days do bring with them a sort of magic. It blows in across the threshold in the wee hours of the morning, along with the frigid air desperately seeking refuge from the winter wonderland outside as daddy trudges out the door on his way to work. A gratitude and relief takes up residence inside our cozy walls as we anticipate a day of nothing and everything all at the same time.

Snow, as unwelcome as it can be after Christmas, makes room. Shifts priorities. It moves responsibility to the side and sets childlike freedom in it's place. It takes away routine and instead brings fun and excitement. It pushes work to the bottom of the list and chooses to showcase rest and quality time together first.

I know that every day can't be a snow day, but I do look forward to them with as much anticipation as my children. And I'll continue to cherish any that blow our way. So without further ado...

Ode to Snow Days
By Jacqui Roberts

Oh, eagerly envisaged days of no school…
Temperatures plummet, flurries swirl in globe-like
The freezing cold holds promise of lingering leisure.
Anticipated by student, sage and parents alike
We wish and hope and pray for an ensuing snow day.
With a penny under the pillow of each little tyke,
Pajamas on backwards, ice cubes down the toilet, 
Elation is well-earned upon receiving the call.

Cue the deleted alarms, warm covers and cuddles
To sleep in past eight and make a big brunch,
Which really becomes lunch, as time is muddled.
But there are no complaints, no room for that,
Only giggles and shrieks from sibling huddles.
Building forts, watching movies, sipping cocoa
Mom, enjoying the mess, leaves cleaning for later

Most of the day, that is, until the children must go
Outside to play in the soft, sparkling white
That fell all night under a cover of deep indigo.
The same sky, now a bright blue, offers opportunity
For endless tumbling, unlike falling dominos.
We treasure the impromptu gift, time to be together
A poignant blend of laughing, fighting and affection.


To continue the wintery spirit, I have a new recipe for you! It reminds me of a fresh dusting of powder on a chilly snow day, but words do it no justice...

You guys, this cake. I just can't even.

If you're a fan of coconut cake, YOU WILL LOVE THIS. Period. End of story. Even if you don't think you love coconut cake, you still need to try it, because you will now.

I started with iambaker's homemade yellow cake mix and made a few adjustments and some complimentary frosting. Her recipe is the best homemade cake I have ever had--infinitely better then the store-bought kind, and with ingredients you already have in your pantry. 

This is the perfect cake recipe for a snow day, but you certainly don't have to wait for the next one before you make it. Enjoy!

Snowflake Cake
{makes one 9x13 cake}

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Place all ingredients into a stand mixer (or a large bowl to mix by hand) and mix a few minutes until only small lumps remain. Pour into greased baking dish and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until the cake is fully cooked in the middle. Let cool.

And I have to say something else. I know that the ingredients call for regular, processed flour and refined white sugar (insert horrified emoji + thumbs down), but listen: IT'S CAKE. If there's one thing I've learned about whole-grain, non-refined foods on this whole food journey, it's that they don't translate well into cake form. They just don't. Believe me, I've tried.

Cake, by very definition, isn't supposed to be good for you, people, so just suck it up and use the flour and sugar. Because bad cake is worse then no cake at all. If you don't eat the whole thing yourself, you'll be just fine, okay? And if that's challenging for you, I have a solution: have a whole mess of kids and they'll eat most of it before you even get the chance. It works for me. 

Snowflake Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut {sprinkle on top}

Cream butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the vanilla, powdered sugar and coconut, mixing periodically until fully combined. Frost cooled cake with an offset spatula, covering evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup coconut on top. Nature's sprinkles are the best kind!

My kids loved this cake so much it only lasted 24 hours at our house…

Hope yours do, too! 

Winter Cranberry Mandarin Jam

There's no need for cranberries to disappear after Thanksgiving, and if you're anything like me, you have a few bags sitting in the freezer that you bought at bargain prices around the holidays. If you don't find something to do with those delicious berries, however, they might just sit there until next Thanksgiving rolls around. 

Psssst… By the way, if they do, they'll still be perfectly edible. Trust me. 

So what's a girl to do with her now random bag of cranberries? Pair it with some juicy, sweet mandarin oranges, which are currently in season, and you've got yourself a tangy, delicious winter jam. Biscuits just got an upgrade, y'all.

Winter Cranberry Mandarin Jam

1 bag fresh cranberries
3 Mandarin oranges, peeled and separated 
1 cup water
3/4-1 cup sugar {or sugar substitute}
1/4 cup chia seeds

Place the ingredients {except chia seeds} into a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low until berries start to burst, about 10 minutes. Mash and continue cooking another 10 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup chia seeds. As the jam cools, the chia seeds will soak up the remaining water and thicken it further. Place in an airtight container once cooled and store in the refrigerator. 


October 11: The Best Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

I know that "the best" may seem like a prideful exaggeration, but trust me, it really is THE BEST. And if you don't believe me, take it from my pickiest eater child, who exclaimed:

"Oh man!! Mom!! This is awesome!!"

So, put this yumminess in the oven to warm up your house on a crisp, chilly day, like today! I promise, if autumn had a taste, this would be it!

Note: The amount of pumpkin in this recipe will create a little bit of gooeyness on the bottom of the loaf due to some settling, which I happen to love! What is "pumpkin" bread without a lot of pumpkin, after all? If you don't, just use less pumpkin.

The Best Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips
{makes 1 9x5 inch loaf}

2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted {or one stick butter}
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves, allspice, ginger, & nutmeg
{or sub 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice}
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, optional
{but seriously, is chocolate ever really optional??}

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coat your loaf pan with coconut oil or butter, whichever you prefer. Combine all the wet ingredients. Combine the ingredients in a single bowl in the order they're mentioned--no wet, dry, folding, mixing nonsense. Then stir in the chocolate chips. The batter will be thick, so after you scrape it into the loaf pan, level out the top with a spatula. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until center is cooked through. Let cool about ten minutes before removing from the pan.

For less fat content, you can substitute applesauce for the coconut oil/butter. And note that, as with all whole/real food recipes, it's best to use organic ingredients as much as possible.


And use the Pinterest button below to save it for later.

July 28: Poor Man's Alfredo

Ruby lost her FIRST tooth tonight!! Clayton lost another one, too. Busy night here for the Tooth Fairy!

I haven't posted a new recipe in a while, basically because I haven't been cooking.

What have we been eating then, you ask?

Well, I have been "cooking," which is similar to actual cooking, except without the recipes and hours spent in the kitchen. It basically involves pulling something out of the fridge and slapping it on a plate, having it delivered, or throwing it on the grill. And some days, if I absolutely must, I expend the extra effort required to put something in the crock pot ahead of time, and it cooks for me. Peanut butter and jelly, lots and lots of hot dogs {if you happen to notice my children glowing in the dark, this is probably why}, fruits and vegetables, lunch meat, hummus, pasta, cheese quesadillas, pizza, salad, and grilled chicken. Between baseball games/practice almost every night this summer and the thought of dragging four children to the grocery store, that's really the best I could manage.

Summertime food motto: If it ain't cheap, quick, and easy, it ain't happening.

But I came up with a random but very tasty concoction at lunch today that was instantly a HUGE hit, so I thought I'd pass it along. I called it Poor Man's Alfredo, because whether you can't afford the time it takes to make gourmet Alfredo sauce or you think the traditional ingredients are too expensive or you just don't feel like running out to the store, this recipe is for you. Instead of heavy cream, which I never seem to have on hand, this recipe uses the cheaper and more readily available substitute of milk and cream cheese. And at the first bite, it was unanimously kid-approved. :)

Poor Man's Alfredo

1 lb pasta cooked al dente
4 T butter
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 cup whole milk
4 oz. Aged cheese {Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago}, shredded
Garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste

Cook the pasta of your choice according to the package instructions, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water before straining. Do not rinse or oil the pasta. Using the same pot or another heavy bottomed skillet, add the butter, cream cheese, and milk into the pot and whisk together on medium-low heat until combined. Slowly add in the shredded aged cheese, whisking continually. Once cheese melts and sauce thickens, add garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the pasta back in and stir to combine with the sauce. Add reserved pasta water as necessary if sauce is too thick. Serve immediately. Great topped with grape tomatoes, balsamic drizzle, and grilled chicken breast. 


July 3: The Perfect Oatmeal

We've been eating oatmeal almost daily for breakfast this week, and I do my best to make it taste like an oatmeal cookie. Because, who wouldn't want to eat an oatmeal cookie everyday for breakfast??? 

The perfect oatmeal = butter + a little brown sugar + cinnamon + dash nutmeg + vanilla. 

And if you're looking to win some brownie points, add some chocolate chips. :) 

Disclaimer: You may end up with children who have chocolate smeared on their forehead, face, hands, & clothes. But they will love it.

You're welcome.

And P.S., we did more then this today, like watched movies & played outside & went to SAMs Club & Aldi, & drank some wine after a long day, but it's like it didn't happen if there's not a photo... I swear it did. Trust me.