Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Orange Cinnamon Muffins

This recipe came from my local newspaper last week......when I saw it, I knew I just had to try it.  The sound of it reminded me of the tea my sister used to buy (maybe she still does, I dunno.....we haven't lived together for 9.5 years now), Orange Spice Tea.  I'm not much of a hot tea drinker, but I sure did like the smell of that one.

So here we are.

I did modify the recipe a little, because that's just what I do.  I used all white whole wheat flour, regular orange juice (not fresh squeezed) decreased the sugar by 1/4 c., and because I didn't soften my butter well enough before attempting to mix in the other wet ingredients, I ended up having to microwave the wet mixture to get it nice and melted.....I didn't think chunks of butter were gonna make a nice textured muffin.
And even with all that, they turned out delicious.

Nothing fancy, a little boring to look at, but very tasty.  My oldest 2 kids gobbled down two each before I realized what was happening and would have eaten more.  "These are an A+, Mom!" was their exclamations.

Can't get much better than an A+.  I'll take it.

Recipe: (includes my modifications)

2 c. flour (I used white whole wheat, but all purpose would be fine)
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 heaping t. cinnamon
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c. orange juice or tangerine juice
Grated rind of 1 large orange (or 2 tangerines)
1 c. chopped golden raisins or currants
Cinnamon sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Beat butter in a large mixer bowl until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, yogurt, and juice until smooth.  Beat in grated rind and flour mixture just until flour is moistened.  Gently fold in raisins.
Spoon evenly into 16-18 greased or paper lined muffin pans. Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar if desired.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.
Serve warm.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Visit from the Fam - Part 2

I couldn't resist posting some more photos from my parents' and  younger brother's visit earlier this month.  It was such a special time that we all will hold dear in our hearts for many years.
We got to enjoy a relatively cool evening (still rare around here) around the fire pit making s'mores. 
My parents couldn't remember the last time they had roasted marshmallows.

We took a trip to a local museum and enjoyed looking at all the fish and wildlife.  My brother Joseph and mom's hard to believe he's 24 years old and in his 2nd year of a MBA.  Where does the time go?
Annika at the museum.

My dad reading to the kids...they took advantage of having extra people around to read to them frequently..... 
as evidenced here as well.

Ellia and I at Colonial Williamsburg - chasing the big kids through the maze behind the Governor's Palace.
The second day at C.W. the kids got the chance to dip candles.  They liked the idea of it, but it took so long with all the lines of kids, we soon gave up and ended up with candles the size you would stick in a birthday cake.   

Much more to Corban's liking was climbing trees outside of the Capitol, while my parents were inside on the tour.  SO glad the kids and I skipped out on that one; it was a group of around 40 people, all middle-aged and older, and quite boring for young ones.  

In the Magazine, listening to the talk about weapons in the 1700's - it was very interesting to the adults, but the girls found more entertainment chatting with another pair of matching sisters. 
This was a wagon-of-sorts that the dad of the girls in the above photo designed and made a few years ago expressly for their family's yearly trip to C.W.  Hey, with a family of 6 kids, you gotta be creative dealing with all the complaints of "I'm tired", or "My feet hurt!". 
I thought it was awesome and had to take a picture. 

We stopped at a hat booth and the kids all wanted to try on various hats.  Which do you like the best?

Marissa wanted to try on every single girl hat they had....but the candy store down the street was calling us.

The bus rides were always popular, just as last year. 

Our trip to C.W. was a great success...we saw lots of things I didn't get photos of and made lots of memories just being together.  Looking forward to going again next year.

And......I thought I'd throw in a couple of random photos of Ellia and her discovery that the plastics drawer is incredibly fun to empty piece by piece onto the floor.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Breakfast Cake

Who wouldn't like cake for breakfast?  The kids were positively thrilled with the idea.  Plus, it makes a hearty, filling treat that all of us enjoyed, even as leftovers.  It does have a lot of butter, which I'm thinking I could replace some of with applesauce with good results, but the rest of the ingredients are wholesome and nutritious.  It's delicious hot or room temperature, served with a tall glass of milk.  

Note:  I have substituted 1/2 c. coconut oil with 1/2 c. applesauce for the butter with great results.  I have also used sucanat in place of the honey and just added a little extra milk. 

Update: I have discovered that baking this in a larger pan (than a 9x9") results in both a shorter baking time and more even baking (ie, the center and the edges get done at about the same time).  I have altered the recipe to reflect this change.  

Recipe: from Heavenly Homemakers

1 c. butter, melted and cooled
3/4 c. buttermilk (or regular)
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. oats
3/4 c. honey
2 eggs
1 t. sea salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1 c. raisins, chocolate chips, or other dried fruits

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients.  Pour into a greased 13 x 9" pan.   Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Just another Saturday Afternoon

I got up from a not-so-restful afternoon nap, looked out the window into my backyard, and saw this.

What can I say?

Life married to Grant is never dull.

Oh, what is that thing hanging from our swing set?  (Go ahead, click on the picture and take a closer look)

That is the ladder rack from Grant's truck.  He apparently decided to remove it.  By unbolting it, tying it onto the swing set and driving the truck away.  Or something like that.  I didn't actually watch.

It most of his plans do.

When things like this happen, I must admit, I'm really glad he's not like me.  Cautious - to a fault sometimes, worried, anxious about what could go wrong - if he were like me, life would be safe dull.  And a little adrenaline pounding excitement isn't such a bad thing.

I love my husband.  He balances me out so well.

Muffins that Taste Like Doughnuts

I read about these muffins on the Pioneer Woman's site....and I knew I had to try them.  I really love cake doughnuts and never buy them because of the bad ingredients.  I had high hopes for these......and while they don't taste "exactly" like doughnuts, they are truly delicious.  The kids loved them also....and I'm planning on rolling them in powdered sugar next time for a little variety.  

Recipe: (from Tasty Kitchen)

1-3/4 c. flour
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. oil
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
3/4 c.milk

1/4 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 12-muffin tin. 
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, combine oil, sugar, egg, and milk.  Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine.
Divide into muffin tins.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Meanwhile, prepare topping by melting butter in one bowl and combining sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.
Remove muffins while still hot. Roll each in butter (cover completely) and then in the cinnamon sugar.  Let cool.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"F" is for Fantastic Fudge

We're back to school this week after a two week break for my family we're also back to our Letter of the Week Service Projects.  

When I first started thinking about the letter F, all I could think of was Fish.  Or Falafel.  Frog legs?  None of which were viable options for taking to friends.  Then someone suggested Fudge, and I never looked back. 

Growing up, I remember only having fudge at Christmas time.  My grandma would make it in early-mid December, along with peanut brittle, divinity, and buck-eyes, and we would spend the holiday season gorging on such delicacies every time we visited her house, which was often since she and Granddad only lived 20 minutes away.  

Anyways.  It did feel a little strange to be making fudge in September, of all times.  But a little diversion from the tradition isn't a bad thing, I've decided.  Maybe I should spread out the holiday indulgences so we can get fat all year round appreciate them more individually.  

I don't have my grandma's recipe for fudge, I'll have to get that from my mom sometime.  This one is a bit different, but delicious just the same.  It's the basic recipe from Kraft Marshmallow Creme, so I'm told.  I didn't actually buy the Kraft stuff.....and apparently the recipe on the jar has changed recently and has people all in an uproar about it.  (Does spelling Cream "Creme" make it fancier somehow?)

We took the Fantastic Fudge to the F_____s, a wonderful older couple from our church who were so delighted to be visited by our family and touched that we thought of them.  Marissa (4.5) took the time today to draw them pictures of Flowers and Flags (fortunately two of her favorite things to draw anyways), which also tickled them.  

I saved the rest and froze stop myself from nibbling on it every time I enter my kitchen and consuming at least 1.5 lbs of fudge singlehandedly.  My hips do not need that.  


3 cups sugar
1-1/2 sticks butter (3/4 c.)
5 oz evaporated milk
12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream
1 t. vanilla
Chopped nuts, optional

Begin by preparing your pan.  Line a 11 x 7" (or 13 x 9" for thinner fudge) pan with foil, overlapping the ends, and butter the bottom. Set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and milk.  Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often.  Boil for 5 minutes, continuing to stir.  Remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips and stir until melted.  Add marshmallow cream and vanilla and stir until smooth.  Add nuts if desired.
Pour into prepared pan and chill until cooled.  (I sprinkled nuts on top of one half while still warm and pressed in lightly)
Once set, use foil to remove fudge from pan.  Cut into squares.  Can be stored at room temperature for very soft fudge or in the fridge for firmer fudge.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Visit from the Fam - September 2010 (Part 1)

My parents and younger brother Joseph came out for a wonderful visit, and we packed our days with lots of activities. One of the first days, we went for a walk at a nearby park. 

Annika got tired and persuaded Uncle Joseph to give her a little ride. 

We had to make a trip to the beach and were blessed with incredible weather.

My mom feeding Ellia grapes.

Corban had a soccer game - he's in the center with the ball.  He played well, but they lost.

We filled the visit with history, first taking a trip to Jamestown.  Annika still mooching rides off of people, Granddaddy this time. 

Jamestown has four main features: a museum, which we spend a little time in, an Indian village with lots of hand-on activities, 3 ships anchored on the James River that you can climb on and explore, and the English Fort built exactly like the one the original settlers built by hand.  

In the Indian village, we got to see how to make arrows.

The kids got to try scraping hides - one of the first steps to preparing the skin for making clothing.
It's hard work! 

We all enjoyed seeing the ships, replicas of the vessels upon which the first settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607.  It was remarkable how many people traveled on the small ships - and the living conditions they endured.

Grant and I on one of the three ships.

The girls got a little tired.  Granddaddy made a good pillow.

Hollowed out logs made good boats.

Corban trying on armor like the settlers wore.

Wow, now I could make some serious batches of soup in that pot!

Yeah, they were pretty wiped out by the end of the day.

The next day we made a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, our second visit but my parents' first. 
Here, Annika was peeking through the keyhole in the Governor's Palace.

We had to stop by the kids' favorite tree for some climbing.  Is that a cool tree, or what?

We got to see something really special - they were firing bricks, which is something they only typically do for 5 days once a year (in October), but this year were doing in September.  The brick-making process is just amazing.

They're loading the firewood to make it as hot as possible.

We finished the first day at Colonial Williamsburg by putting the kids in the stocks.  :)

More to come later.  I figured this was enough pictures for one day!

Fudgy Mint Squares

Chocolate and mint and cheesecake - hard to beat that!  This is very rich, no doubt about it.  Even I can be satisfied with a couple of small squares of this huge pieces here!  Great for serving a crowd, fantastic for making ahead and freezing (and even eating straight from the freezer, they don't get too solid) and lovely for holidays or just anytime.  

This time, however, I made a major goof.  I was making them for a friend who just had a baby and was just a little embarrassed to discover just before delivering them that I forgot to put in the mint extract!  It wouldn't have made much difference, if I hadn't put the green food coloring in there making it look like it was mint. It tastes really good without the mint.  But there it was, nice and green.  And no mint flavor.  Sorry Jenny!  
I can always use my very valid excuse that I was distracted by a screaming baby....which was the truth, but still.  
Anyways, these are a favorite with my family, mint or no mint, apparently. 

Recipe: (from Taste of Home)

10 T. butter (no substitutes), divided
3 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs, divided
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 (8 oz package) cream cheese, softened
1 T. cornstarch
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 t. peppermint extract
4 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 c. (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°. In a microwave safe bowl, melt 8 T. butter and unsweetened chocolate; cool slightly.  In a mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add the chocolate mixture; mix until blended.  Gradually beat in the flour. Spread in a greased 13 x 9" baking pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until top is set. 

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining butter.  Add cornstarch; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in milk and remaining egg.  Add extract and food coloring if desired.  Pour over crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until center is almost set.  Cool on a wire rack.

In a heavy saucepan (or in microwave-safe bowl), combine chocolate chips and cream.  Heat and stir until melted.  Cool for 30 minutes or until lukewarm, stirring occasionally.  Pour over cream cheese layer.  Chill for 2 hours or until set before cutting.   

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Cupcakes

Cheesecake Cupcakes.  I was intrigued.  The biggest draw for me was the easy crust - just drop a cookie in a cupcake liner and there you go!  The cheesecake part is delicious; you just can't go wrong with oreos and cream cheese together.  However, the original recipe didn't have the topping and after our first sample, both Grant and I decided they needed a bit more ooomph, which in this case translates... more chocolate.  The addition made a significant improvement in our minds....but feel free to leave it off if you so desire.  (but why would you?)

Grant also commented that it felt weird eating cheesecake like a cupcake..... he preferred eating it with a fork.   Me...I'm not so prim and proper.  Didn't bother me eating it straight from the liner one bit! 
I thought it was a fun and portable way to eat cheesecake, not to mention helps you limit portion size (assuming you only eat one).   

Recipe: (adapted from Handle the Heat) Yields 30-31 cupcakes

42 cream-filled cookies (such as Oreos), 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped
2 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
4 eggs (room temperature), lightly beaten
1 c. sour cream
pinch of salt

1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 T. butter
1 T. milk

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.

4. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight).

5. In a microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate chips, butter, and milk.  Spread about a teaspoon on top of each cheesecake cupcake and chill until set.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chicken Smothered with Onions

I made this recently when Grant was out of town and after the first bite, I had a feeling it would make regular
appearances in our house.  The kids ate around the onions a little, but overall they loved it and when Grant got to have the leftovers for lunch, he thought it was great as well. 

And me? 

Well, let's just say I was reluctant to give up the leftovers to Grant.  I almost didn't, if you want to know the truth.  But my conscience got the best of me. He was very grateful. 

The original recipe called for leaving the chicken breasts whole, but I figured I have to cut up chicken for my kids anyways, so I might as well cut it up before cooking to speed things up and hopefully stretch the dish a little further.  It worked just fine, so you can really do it however it suits you.

I like that it's fast, doesn't heat up the oven, and only dirties up one pan.  Oh, and I also like that it tastes REALLY good.  And don't forget the mashed potatoes - or even baked if you want to be a little healthier.  The gravy is just made for potatoes. 

Recipe: (from Good Cheap Eats)

4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
1-1/2 T. butter
2 large onions, sliced
3 T. flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dried or fresh parsley for garnish

Sprinkle chicken breasts generously with paprika, salt, and pepper. Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add chicken to skillet and brown on each side. Move to plate.
Place onions in the pan and stir into butter and drippings, scraping up any browned bits from pan. Cook until tender, stirring frequently. Add flour and stir for one minute.  Add chicken broth slowly and bring to boil. Put chicken back in pan, reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Add cream and nutmeg. Boil until gravy is thickened, stirring often.

Serve with mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of parsley for garnish.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Annika's Birthday Party

The preparations for the party began long before party day, as you might well imagine.  I created a couple of games that I had read about online and spent considerable time working on them in the evenings prior to last Saturday. Here I was copying a picture of the Siamese Cats from the movie onto a poster board to put as decoration on the wall.....for the following game:

I drew a picture of a fish bowl on a box and made "goldfish" out of felt, beans, and hot glue ('cause I don't sew.....maybe I'll learn someday).  The kids were supposed to "rescue" the goldfish from the Siamese Cats by tossing them into the fish bowl. 

You can see a bit of the picture I drew in the background.  The kids really loved this game!

Marissa with two of her very best friends.

For the next game, we pretended that I was the dogcatcher and the kids were playing Hot Potato with a package (which had many wrapped layers, each with a piece of candy in it).
When the music stopped, whomever had the package first got "caught" with the net, then they got to open one layer of the package and get the candy before they left the circle and the game continued.

One of the guests getting caught!  The kids thought this was hilarious!

It came down to Corban and his buddy Cort to determine the winner - Cort got the final prize of extra candy in the middle. 

Annika could not resist sticking her finger in the frosting before we sang to her. 

3-Years Old!  And proud of it!

She got some lovely gifts....

and had some help inspecting things!

Ellia got some special attention from a friend, who's own baby sister was just born yesterday!

We had lots of cake....still eating on the leftovers, actually.

And we had little bone cookies that the Marissa helped me ice and decorate.  Those were a big hit. 

The party was a great success and Annika had a wonderful time....Thanks to everyone who came and to my wonderful husband who cleaned up nearly everything singlehandedly to let me rest! 

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