Friday, December 30, 2011

Pear and Cranberry Pie

We had a dear friend come for dinner, someone I have known for many years.  I picked up some fresh cranberries and pears, and decided I would make a pie for dessert.  I made a simple olive oil pie crust.  I don't carry shortening in my house, I actually haven't bought any in maybe a decade.  The olive oil crust suits us perfectly, and tastes delicious with the sweet and tart fruit filling.

Pear and Cranberry Pie

1 1/2 to 2 pears, depending on size, cored and sliced
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Stir the ingredients together in a bowl until the fruit is well coated and looks evenly distributed.  Place in the uncooked pie crust and then put the lattice or crust cutouts on top.  Bake at 325 for 40 minutes.  Keep warm in the oven at 250 until ready to serve.


Olive Oil Pie Crust

2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp ice cold water

Sift flour and salt into food processor with dough blade attachment.  Gradually pulse in olive oil, then ice water.  Pulse until just blended, no more.  Too much blending will make a tough dough.  Roll out about 2/3 of this ball between sheets of wax paper to make a thin bottom crust, and then use the remaining dough to shape out some lattice, leaves or other decorative top crust.  You could use it to make one thicker bottom crust, but one recipe was plenty for the pie I made.

This crust also makes a delicious savory pie, such as quiche. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Awesome Buttermilk Waffles

It's not often I post recipes from other websites, but if they turn out fabulous, I'm all for sharing!  We recently had brunch with my family, using someone's new Belgian waffle iron.  (I'm jealous.)  They didn't have a good waffle recipe, so I went upstairs and got on my mom's computer to do a little research.

I knew they had buttermilk and wanted to use it, and so I was on a mission to find a good waffle recipe using buttermilk, and not having any strange ingredients.  Here's what I found, and boy am I glad I found this (note the 5 stars) right on Martha Stewart's website.

Buttermilk Waffles 

Martha Stewart Living, June 1999

Serve warm with sweet butter and Fruit Syrups.
Yield Serves 4 to 6


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted unsalted butter, plus more for waffle iron
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Grease waffle iron with a small amount of melted butter, and heat. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour into dry mixture, and combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter.
  4. Ladle about 1/3 cup batter onto each section of the waffle grid; spread batter almost to the edges. Close lid, and bake 3 to 5 minutes, until no steam emerges from waffle iron.
  5. Transfer cooked waffles to a baking sheet; place in an oven set to low heat, about 200 degrees, while using remaining batter.


On the TV show, Martha used 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, instead of vanilla extract and baked waffles 5 to 7 minutes.

These waffles were light and fluffy, and very flavorful!  I made a double batch of my raspberry maple syrup for these. YUM!  Now I'm wanting a Belgian waffle iron to make tall fluffy waffles...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Giving

Last night our family read from 1 Peter 5: 1-7. We talked about what it means to be humble, what greed is, and putting others before us. Then we sat down at the table with strips of red, green and white foam (could be construction paper), a stapler and some pens. On each piece we wrote someone or a situation to be praying about. I didn't count, but based on how much I think I cut out, we probably had about 60. Then we linked them together in a chain, using the stapler. Then we went to a more comfortable place in the house and each prayed. We prayed that God would lift up each of those people and situations. The girls prayed, too, and it was so sweet.

Last year I shared with you a mission that we supported at Christmastime, when we bought a bed, food and Bibles for children and families in Haiti and Honduras, through Lifeline Christian Mission, a great organization that I know is reputable.

Another great organization that we learned more about this year is called Gospel for Asia. They have a Christmas campaign where you can donate things that will truly impact the lives of the recipients.
For example: "Have you ever received a rooster or hen as a Christmas present? Maybe not, but for a Dalit family, these animals are a welcome gift—and often the source of 200-300 eggs a year! And when the pair produces chicks, they will continue to provide nourishment and income."

It is so simple, and your children, if you have children, will also enjoy hearing about the different ways you can help families. Make them a part of this giving process!

"Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way."
1 Peter 5:2-3 (The Message)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent- New Book to Read with the Children

Last year we officially started the advent tradition of opening a new Christmas book and reading it to the children.  My mission was to find a book that reflected the true meaning of Christmas, and yet still captures the heart of a child.

If you read my post from last year, you know that we read a great book called The King's Christmas List, which is such a heartwarming story, and presents the opportunity to discuss giving to people in need.

This year I found a book at the Craftsmen's Christmas Classic show, held each year on Thanksgiving weekend, where everything is original crafted work.  There were a couple of vendors there who had authored or illustrated children's books, including the family of Phillip W. Rogers (I believe his sister was there on his behalf).

The book we selected was called Does God Celebrate Christmas? and is great discussion for the meaning of Christmas, the hustle and bustle of shopping for gifts, and a tactful approach to Santa and all the other fluff that people try to fill their holiday with.
I'm very glad we chose this book.  The girls seemed to really enjoy the story, enough to ask to hear it all over again!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Entertaining at Christmas

My mom had a Christmas party this weekend.  There were around 50 people in her home.  There was a lot of food, so that everyone could have a 'floating' dinner.  

Mom asked if I could make signs for some of the food items, so that people would not feel the need to ask what certain things were.

I came up with these little bags that contain soft peppermint sticks.  I took some copper wire and looped around a pencil, stuck the wire down into the peppermints, took a cellophane square and pulled the corners and sides up into a bag shape and tied it with a small piece of silver cord.  I punched out the scalloped oval and regular ovals, along with a tiny hole punch to fit the wire in.  Tightened the wire to hold the paper firm.

When the party was ending and people were leaving with goodies, we pulled the wire out and handed over the peppermints!

Another idea: These would make fun place cards for a festive Christmas table setting, which the guests could each take home afterwards!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So Many Ways with Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies are so often overlooked by more popular cookies, but I'm here to tell you that they are near the top of my list.  Where else can you find so many cool things to do with them?  In the past I have stamped them with a cookie stamp and hand painted them with edible paints.  Also I have sprinkled them with colored sugar crystals before baking.

This year I...

  • Dipped in milk chocolate and then chopped walnuts  (Let set on wax paper in the fridge.)
  • Dollop of milk chocolate and topped with Andes Mint Chips
  • Sandwiched with lemon curd, and dusted with powdered sugar

I got rave reviews at my mom's Christmas party.  The recipe came from Kids in the Holiday Kitchen which is a cookbook I talked about in my last post.  They were divine!

These last a while, so not only are they great to make ahead for a party, they would also be wonderful packaged up for a gift!

What do you do with shortbread cookies?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Salmon with Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce

So this is really a semi-homemade dinner, but I had to share for a few reasons.  One, I liked it a lot.  Two, my 6 year old daughter liked it so much she wanted me to make more for her LUNCHBOX (which I didn't actually do because I wasn't sure how to keep that warm).   Three, it's so easy.

I know I have talked before about The Fresh Market.  I've been a fan since childhood.  My mom and I went in there one afternoon while she was here visiting and they were doing some sampling, which spells trouble every time!  I walked out of there with 2 things that were not on my list that day, but both were well worth the extra money.  Here was one of the recipes being sampled: Garlic Sage Pork with Butternut Squash Sauce.  The other recipe was this: Fall Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette Both were delicious.   

Naturally I went home with Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce and some Cuisine Perel Blood Orange Vinegar and fennel!

Anyways, I got creative one weeknight when I knew we were having salmon for dinner but needed to keep my time in the kitchen at a minimum and yet still have a delicious dinner that kept everyone happy. The butternut squash pasta sauce contains roasted red peppers, garlic and onions, and makes for a very tasty flavor!  This is what I did:

Salmon with Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 (8oz) salmon fillets
1/2 cup Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
1/2 cup organic chicken broth

Saute the garlic in the oil on medium-high heat, until it just starts to turn color.  Add the salmon filets, top down and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Flip and cook for 3 minutes.  Gently stir in the sauce and broth and warm through.  It is ready to serve when your sauce is warm and your salmon is cooked to preference.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Baking, Festival of Trees, and giving to others!

This past weekend was full of fun Christmas activities for us, including baking Christmas cookies and brownies.  This year we added in scripture to talk about creation, from Genesis 1, to tie in to our creations.  This year, many of our goodies will be headed to my mom's Christmas party.  I set aside all of my favorite baking recipes this year and tried some from the book Kids in the Holiday Kitchen.  I made 3 recipes from this book and they all turned out very nice.  The shortbread cookies were my favorite, and I did several things with them (I will share details soon).

A small but exciting opportunity presented itself this week.  I ran into a dear friend at the store.  She was there with a college-age girl who was packing for a mission trip to Togo.  They were shopping for gifts for the children.  We decided to gather some things together to send with her, such as small toys, toothpaste, etc.  On Sunday, we delivered a small box of items at church, so that she could pack them with her stuff.  Please be in prayer for Ashley as she heads to Togo this week.  Also be in prayer for all of the children and others that she may touch on her journey!

We also brought some homemade turkey soup to a couple of elderly individuals who are in less fortunate conditions than us.  We hope they were blessed by our small offering.  We read scriptures to our girls about helping the poor, the orphans and widows.  We continually explain to them how much we have been blessed, by explaining how little others have, in comparison.

We also visited the Festival of Trees.  This event takes place at a local convention center and includes over 100 trees, all uniquely decorated.  It is a fundraiser for a local non-profit that "provides emotional support and resource information for families who have a child with a disability, chronic illness, premature birth and for families who have experienced the death of a child."  

We always enjoy seeing the trees, and our kids love it, too.  Each tree is accompanied by a sign that explains the name given to the theme, who sponsored it, and who it is in honor or memory of.  Here is a peek at some special designs from our visit this year.
 NC State Tree with flags, dogwood, cardinals, and I love the lighthouses made from TP tubes!
 This tree reminds me of the land of sweets from the Nutcracker!  This was my favorite.
 Of course there had to be a pirate tree, this is pirate country!  Arrrrrrgh!
 In memory of a young girl who touched so many hearts in our area, lost her battle with cancer this year.
 Pink Ribbon Tree
 I just loved the colors on this one!
 A couple of nicely decorated trees...
 Beach theme, I also loved the colors on this one, and loved how they used aqua cello wrap as decoration!

More to come on our advent activities, stay tuned.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 
1 John 3:17-18

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I love homemade pizza.  Fresh mozzarella, fresh basil... Tonight I made some pizza sauce, too.  I used to buy some great pizza sauce, but I can't find it at any of the stores here locally.  So I set out to make a sauce that my family could love.  It is so easy to make, I don't know why I haven't done it sooner.

This recipe makes enough sauce for 4-6 pizzas!  I was able to put 2 pints in the refrigerator after making 2 pizzas tonight.  You can refrigerate or freeze any remaining pizza sauce that you don't use right away.

Do you have any favorite homemade pizza toppings?  I love fresh spinach, basil, bell pepper, and sometimes pineapple.  If you're going to do fresh leafy greens such as basil or spinach, it's best to lay it down on the sauce, before the cheese goes on.  It will not smoke or dry out that way. 

Fresh mozzarella that comes in the form of a ball tastes nothing like the block mozzarella, so much so that I hate to even call the block real mozzarella.  It tastes incredible fresh and on pizza, so I really hope you'll make the change.  It really doesn't cost that much more!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

28 oz stewed tomatoes*
3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Bring the ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring regularly to heat more evenly.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

*I prefer Pomi brand, which comes in a 28oz box, and is BPA free.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reflections during the Christmas Season

My friend Rachel wrote a blog entry that I wanted to share.  Think about this as you are preparing for Christ's birthday.  Christmas is a time of giving, and are we giving for the right reasons?  Are we giving to the right people?  Are we following our instincts?

I'm once again doing 25 days of Advent with my girls.  Our focus is on giving, not getting, at Christmas. I have changed some of it, partly to adjust for changes in age, partly to improve upon things I learned from last year.  One thing that will not go away, however, is the discussions about those who do not have basic necessities such as food, or beds, or clean water, and supporting them. 

Christmas season is not meant to depress, but we should reflect on the true meaning of giving.  Respond to what your heart is calling you to do, and blessings will fill you with true joy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

...After the turkey

What to do with all of those leftovers... The weekend before Thanksgiving I made a 21-lb. turkey for my small family of 4.  I did it for several reasons.
  1. I love turkey.
  2. I bought it for $0.77/lb!  Yes, I spent about $15 on my huge turkey!  This is an incredible way to be frugal.  I bought 2 and kept one in the deep freezer for early spring.
  3. I can make it go far.  Turkey sandwiches with stuffing and cranberries are my favorite way to eat the leftovers.
  4. I can make it go far.  Freezing chopped or pulled turkey meat for other recipes in 2 cup freezer bags.
  5. I can make it go far.  Using 5 cups of pulled turkey meat, I can make 7 dinners and 9 lunches and still have some left.  How?  Turkey soup.  Perfect for a cool, crisp fall or winter day.  
And that's just what I did.  I made soup.  Just like mom does.  First, the broth, then the soup.  This is not a fast process, but the results are awesome.  All measurements are approximate.

Turkey Broth

1 large turkey carcass, some or most of the meat pulled off.  I do this the same night we have our turkey dinner.  I pull much of the meat off, shove the carcass into my big stockpot, put a lid on it, and then refrigerate until the next day.  If you have 3-5 hours to kill, then by all means, skip the fridge part.  For me, the next morning I pull out the stockpot, fill water to the top of the carcass, add a big handful of baby carrots (8-10), and toss in a tablespoon or so of celery seed.  If you have fresh celery, then use it instead!
Bring it all to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about 4-5 hours.    At this point you will have a bunch of stuff all floating around and will need to get it all out.  So break out a large platter, grab your tongs, your mesh colander and anything else that can help dig out all that stuff.  Last thing to do is to get a huge container or two to strain your stock into.  Pour your stock through a fine mesh colander into the containers.  Put them in the fridge and save for the next day.  Using a skimmer on the chilled stock, remove the fat off the top.    It's a lot of work but it's worth it for a delicious, healthy meal option.

Turkey Soup

Large stockpot of reduced fat turkey broth (see steps above)
5 cups chopped turkey
2 boxes of quick barley or 2 cups of whole pearled barley (it really doesn't matter which)
5 cups frozen mixed vegetables
36 oz chopped tomatoes (I used 1 and 1/3 of the boxes of Pomi chopped tomatoes)
3 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp fresh cracked pepper
2 Tbsp onion powder

Put everything EXCEPT CHOPPED TURKEY in the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for an hour. Add meat and warm through.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Butternut Squash & Cider Chicken Soup

I did some experimenting last weekend in the kitchen.  Turned out pretty good!  The butternut squash took on a sweet flavor that I thought was much less powerful than the traditional taste.  If I make it again, I think I'd double the parsnips, I just love their taste, and they help cut the sweetness in the broth as you're eating.

I froze this in lunch sized portions.  I had some for lunch on Monday with a hearty whole grain roll.  YUM!

Butternut Squash & Cider Chicken Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small sweet onion
1 cup sliced parsnips
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced in large cubes (3/4 inch or so)
2 cups apple cider
1.5 cups chicken stock
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Heat the oil and add the onions and garlic.  Saute for a couple of minutes to allow time for slight caramelizing.  Add parsnips, squash, cider, broth, pepper and cumin.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes or so, just long enough for your squash to easily be cut with your spoon.  Add the chicken.  Warm for another 10 minutes, then serve.


What's cooking up in your house?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When your kids love to craft... and autumn is here!

When your kids love to craft... and craft... and craft some more...  turn it into your decor. 

These things kept popping up all over the house this week.  Coasters.  She was on fall break from school all week.  We brought her to a place where she had spent her entire summer.  They let her make stuff.  She made a lot.

Needless to say, she loved my idea to display them elegantly, and I loved not having to explain that drinks might fall right off!  ;)

Anyone want to see how I did my autumn mantel? Well, here it is...

It finally cooled down this week, so it finally feels like fall- we went from 80's one day to 50's the next.  But I'm not complaining.  I love sweater season!  HAPPY FALL!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mom's Cherry Squares, Remade

I remember my mom making cherry squares growing up.  I'm not sure how often she made them, but they were dangerously delicious.  They still are.  I decided that they can still be delicious, but be made a little healthier.  I'm not saying my version is healthy (after all, it's still a dessert), just more so than the original.  The taste was not much different!  Did you know that cherries are known for their anti-inflammatory properties?

In my recipe, I tell you how to easily make your own cherry pie filling.  You can make ahead the pie filling if you like, just refrigerate until ready to use.  I recommend this, because with time, the juices come out and create the sauce.  As for pitting fresh cherries, I use the OXO Good Grips Cherry Pitter.  We love it (my husband even helps with pitting cherries)!
 'Sweet Cherry' Pie Filling

4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
juice of 1/2 lemon (1-2 Tbsp)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, stir ingredients and warm on med-high heat until sugar breaks down and dissolves.  Cover and reduce heat to med-low.  Heat them about 20 minutes to heat though and soften, stirring frequently.

Cherry Squares
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick butter
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla

Mix the ingredients together.  Spread 3/4 of the mix in a parchment-lined jelly-roll pan (10"x15"x1").  Spoon the cherry pie filling across the pan (on top).  It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, just make sure your cherries are somewhat evenly distributed.  The juices/sugar don't have to be evenly spread over every inch, just drizzled around.  Then spoon the remaining bar batter on.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or so.  The center needs to look cooked through before you pull it out.  Allow time to cool, then cut into bars.  Makes 24.

Have a delightful week!  Life is just a bowl of cherries~ just remember to throw out the pits!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Cheddar "Stuffed" French Toast - Your Mouth Will Thank You

On Saturday night, our family picked up a loaf of Panera's Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread, which we had them slice in the 'small' slices.  Our plans were to make French Toast after church.  The idea came to me as I thought about what I could do to add some 'wow' to the french toast.  Then the idea came to me.

So I sliced up some Empire apples, about 1 apple per person, maybe a little extra.  I peeled and sliced them, put them in a dutch oven on medium heat, and covered.  I stirred occasionally, but they only needed about 10 minutes of heat to start breaking down and getting warm.  Meanwhile, I grated about a cup of sharp cheddar cheese.

My husband cooked up our french toast, and it all came together like this:

We topped it off with some butter and a drizzle of organic pure maple syrup.  Delicious!  This would be a great idea for hosting a brunch!

It reminds me of an old bread recipe that I have made a couple of Christmases, Cheddar Apple Vanocka.  It's a traditional Czech Christmas bread filled with a cinnamon apple filling and cheddar cheese.

I love spending time in the kitchen with my family!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sweet granola

I love making granola.  When my daughter's school had granola on the needs list for their fundraiser breakfast, I offered to make some.  I had already made my Banana Bread for the same breakfast, but there were some items that didn't get signups, so I decided to help some more.

There are a lot of granola recipes out there, and they vary so much.  I will say from experience that I do not recommend using quick oats for your granola.  They make a much starchier taste, and if you're not careful it can also make your granola dry and chewy.

I wouldn't normally make something so sweet for our family.  Since this is for a more general population, I made a sweet, delicious version.  It clumps nicely, but not too much.  I used sweetened coconut, but unsweetened would also work well and would be my personal preference.  Since this was to be served with fruit and yogurt at the breakfast, I chose not to mix in any dried fruit.

Sweet Granola

5 cups whole oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Mix the above 'dry' ingredients.  Then in a separate bowl/measuring cup combine the following:

1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla

Blend the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well until the mixture is evenly moistened and not clumpy.  Lay out on nonstick foil in a jelly roll pan. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring once at 30 minutes.  Cool in pan, stirring after 30 minutes to break up into clumps.  Store in an airtight container.  Mix in 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries if you desire!

This would make a great gift for a friend or family member, as long as their diet is not restricted!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Berry Maple Syrup

As you may already know, I try very hard to provide foods that are made from whole foods.  I have not banned processed foods altogether, but I'm getting more and more concerned about what food companies are sneaking into our foods.

About once a week we have breakfast for dinner.  Sometimes it's eggs, sometimes pancakes or french toast.  For pancakes, we usually use my homemade mix that has oats and whole wheat flour in it, but also a favorite is Hodgeson Mill's Whole Wheat Pancake Mix.  In my quest to serve something healthy, I like to experiment ways to serve better toppings.  Anyone remember this?  Enter the berry syrup.

An easy way to introduce PURE maple syrup to your family, which tastes much different from the typical syrups you find on the shelves (most of which don't even contain real maple), is to add berries. 

Try this recipe, which provides fruit for your family along with natural pure maple syrup in the form of the perfect replacement for that-stuff-on-the-shelves-called-syrup.

Take about 1/2 cup Pure Maple Syrup (I recommend Full Circle USDA Organic 100% Pure Maple Syrup) and put into a medium saucepan.  Add 1 pint of washed berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries).  Heat on medium high heat just until it starts to boil, then turn the heat off.  Keep it chunky if you like, or use an immersion blender to make it smooth.  Serve warm!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oatmeal Cookies

Two Saturdays ago, the girls and I weathered the storm, Hurricane Irene, at home.  We were very fortunate to have power most of the day.  It went out about a dozen times through the day, but each time came back on within 60 seconds.  We were in the minority, for sure!

We played games, did some crafts, and baked cookies.  It was a good day of mother-daughter bonding.  I altered a recipe that I have from an old cookbook from The Fresh Market, adding in some whole wheat flour (half wheat, half white), and also changing some of the add-ins.

I split the cookie dough in half and in half I added 1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and in the other half I added 3/4 cup dried cranberries, zest of one orange, and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips.

These cookies were really tasty, and I could not tell that they were healthier than the original (which I had made once before).

If you make these, please let me know what add-ins you use, and whether you like them.  What would you add in?

"Hurricane" Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 cups oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups "add-ins" such as chocolate chips, walnuts, cranberries, white chocolate chips, orange zest or something else!  (I really loved 1/2 milk chocolate chips with 1/2 chopped walnuts!)

Preheat oven to 375.  Beat butter and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  In another bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate bowl.  Gradually add dry mixture to wet mixture in stages.  Stir in your add-ins.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet (recommend covering with parchment paper).  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.


I recommend baking a dozen or two, and freezing the rest on parchment.  Just put parchment on a cool cookie sheet, put rounded teaspoonfuls on the parchment (not touching).  Place in freezer.  Once frozen, remove from cookie sheet and place in freezer bag.  Next time you want cookies, you take the amount you need out, thaw for 15 minutes, and then bake per the recipe.  No more processed cookie dough from the grocery store!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer '11

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker (My backyard)
I know.  I've taken quite the hiatus from blogging, haven't I?  Here are some things I've done since strawberry picking and tart creating:

Making Strawberry Jam  ~ Family Time ~ Picking Blackberries
Making Blackberry Jam ~ Family Time ~ Freezing berries for year round
Photographing Birds in our Backyard ~ Dance Recital ~ Picnics in the Backyard
Tending to the Flowers ~ Family Time ~ Gardening
Baking Fresh Artisan Breads ~ Family Time ~ Helping Little Bike Riders
Blowing Bubbles and Drawing with Chalk ~ Family Time ~ Seeing old Friends
New Job ~ Family Time ~ Planning a Partial Bathroom Remodel
 Eating Ice Cream ~ Family Time
Putting the Girls into a Shared Room with Cool Bunk Beds
Watched my Girls Grow ~ Family Time ~ Celebrated with Friends
Fallen in Love with a New Locally Owned Restaurant ~ Family Time ~ Yoga
Power Walking ~ Family Time ~ Singing ~ Trying New Recipes
Running Crafts at VBS for 90+ K-5 kids ~ Family Time ~ Sleeping In on Saturdays
Reuniting with Family and Friends at Grandpa's Funeral ~ Family Time ~ Praying
Bringing Meals to Friends ~ Teaching my Girls How to Catch Fireflies
Reading 150 books to My Girls for the Library Summer Reading Program
Free Music At the Park complete with Picnics ~ Girls' Swimming Lessons
Buying More Organics and whole Foods ~ Family Time ~ Cooking

Recently I felt a tugging to come back to blogging.  So I'm planning to get back to it!  Hope you'll join me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Strawberry Season 2011 has commenced!

I took a week of "stay-cation" this past week.  One of my favorite springtime activities is picking strawberries, and it was the perfect week, because the weather played out just perfectly for strawberry season to begin on my week off!  I took my oldest daughter with me.  We picked 2 big flats of strawberries.  I froze many of them.  On Friday morning we had whole wheat pancakes with real whipped cream (unsweetened) and fresh strawberries (with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top).  Yum!

Today I made this tart, which I've had in my mind for quite some time.  I think you would love it.  It's light and very springy!  We delved into it after the youngest finished her nap today.  I heard "quite delicious" and "best dessert ever" from the family!  Hope you'll try it! 

I want to share with you two new strawberry tools that I bought recently, both of which were fantastic!  Easy to use and made my workload much lighter!  These tools really sped up the time I spent prepping!

The Chef'n StemGem and Sliceter were both awesome tools that I picked up at Sur La Table.  It appears they're also available elsewhere for the same prices.  Hulling the strawberries went much faster than using a paring knife, and only cut out the unnecessary parts.

So without further adieu...

Strawberry Citrus Tart (makes 2)

Tart Cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
pinch of salt
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 pint heavy whipping cream, whipped until stiff
1 jar lemon curd, chilled

Fresh sliced strawberries for top

For cake:
Prepare 2 tart pans (preferably the kind that will make a well in the center when flipped, such as Pampered Chef's) with cooking spray, a circle of parchment, and more cooking spray.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375.
In a prep bowl, mix sifted flour, salt and orange zest.  Set aside.  Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl until frothy.  Gradually beat in 1/4 cup granulated sugar; beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
In another bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed with 1/3 cup sugar until thick and lemon-colored, several minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.  Fold the flour mixture into the yolk mixture.  Fold the yolk mixture into the whites.  Spread evenly into the 2 tart pans.
Bake at 375 for 12 minutes.  Center should spring back when you gently push with your finger.  After cooling for 5 minutes, invert to your serving platter.  Cool. 

For filling, gently fold the lemon curd into the whipped cream until well blended.  Spread into the well of each cake.  Top with sliced strawberries and indulge. 

Go on, have a second piece.  I won't tell.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For the birds

I wrote this early last month, but didn't ever get around to editing and publishing... but I think it's still relevant, so here it is:

January is a month where many of us are uninspired to do anything.  Christmas and Thanksgiving put us into overload, we're recovering from all the activities, parties, cooking, baking... for me January is very inspiring.  When the snow comes here, it is very exciting because it doesn't happen much.  We've had snow several times this winter, which comes and goes very quickly.  My biggest inspiration for this project was seeing the birds after the snow melted.  As soon as the snow was melting and the ground was soggy, those birds were out in full force, looking for food.

When I went to pick up some groceries on Christmas vacation, they had some large pinecones on clearance, leftover from Christmas.  I bought them, and picked up a bag of bird seed on another day.

The girls and I sat down with 1/2 jar of cheap peanut butter, and covered the pine cones with peanut butter using plastic knives.  Then we rolled the cones in the bird seed.  I tied some twine to the top (tie it tightly), and then we hung them in the front and back yards (it's best to hang above a branch that will support a bird).  The seed left in the tub got sprinkled in the grass for the birds to also enjoy!

Now, we can enjoy watching the birds get some food to eat! 

Happy Winter!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Am I the only mom in the world who has kids that don't peel their crayons?  This year I decided to melt crayons into heart shaped ice cube trays, but the most difficult part was peeling all those crayons!  I used the double boiler method with some leftover food cans.  They turned out fine, but I think I took on too much this year, with 2 kids, we had to do enough for about 25 kids.  Hopefully they will use them!  I tied them into tiny cello bags with a bow on top.  I recruited daddy to help, since it ended up being more work than I bargained for.  This might be a great project for parents whose kids enjoy peeling all of their crayons.  It takes a LOT of crayons to do this.

Here's my oldest's lunch for Valentine's, complete with heart shaped PB&J and I hulled the strawberries in a way that, when sliced, looked like hearts!  Daddy wrote the message with a food marker.
I included this card and a simple bead bracelet in her lunchbox:
Hope your Valentine's is full of love and friendship!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Minute Muffins

Are you baking muffins but want instant gratification?  Or, do you have a little bit of muffin mix left after filling your muffin cups, and don't want to risk over-filling?

You're in luck!  There is a simple thing that you can do to have a muffin in a minute:

Grease a standard microwave-safe mug.  Put 1/4 cup (estimated) muffin mix in the mug.  Microwave for 1 minute.  You can use a toothpick or skewer to test, but do NOT over cook.  Scratch made muffins are typically light and airy, so 1 minute is plenty of time for most standard microwaves.

Use your skewer or a small knife to skim around the muffin (which should have pulled away from the sides of the mug if you greased it).  Dump it out onto a plate.  Eat while warm!

Now don't expect a pretty top, browned and crispy, like oven-baked muffins.  This is purely for instant gratification!  This is fantastic if your kids are pulling on your pant legs begging for a snack and/or you don't have time for them to wait!

I have a craft to share soon, inspired by the wintry weather and clearance sales after Christmas!  It was a great activity for the kids (and I enjoyed doing it, too)!