Friday, September 28, 2012

Morning Glory Muffins

Muffins are one of my favorite things to have for breakfast.

I usually end up making some sort of muffin once or twice a week.....usually featuring bananas, since it's rare that I don't have some languishing on my counter.
Because once a banana has even a hint of a brown spot on it, I'm not very likely to just eat it.  Oh, I might try to feed it to the kids.....but not many of them are willing eaters of plain, unadorned bananas.

These, however, do not have a smidgen of banana in them.

But there's lots of other good things, like applesauce, carrots, coconut, raisins, flaxseed, and whole wheat flour.  And they are delicious.
My children were excited to have something new and these were a definite hit.

My only complaint was that they didn't rise up very I suppose I could just make fewer of them next time and they'll be a bit bigger.

Morning Glory Muffins (adapted from Parade magazine)
Yield: 17-18 muffins

2 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil 
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups white whole wheat or all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place liners in 17 or 18 muffin cups.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, oil, applesauce, milk, and vanilla for one minute.  Add flour, brown sugar, flaxseed, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir just until combined.  (Don't overmix!)  Add carrots, coconut,  and raisins.  Mix gently.
Spoon batter into liners. Sprinkle with almonds if desired.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks.

Linked to Seasonal Inspiration

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mallow Brownie Bars

Can you ever have too many brownie variations?

Some of our favorites are Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies,  Triple Layer Fudgy Mint Cookie Brownies, and Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies, to name a few.

I'm adding these to the list.

After I made these for a pot-luck sort of thing, we were so enamored with them that I ended up keeping about a third of them home.  We just couldn't bear to share the whole batch.

The top layer was my favorite - creamy chocolate and peanut butter with the crunch of crispy rice cereal.  Add in the gooey marshmallow layer and the fudgy brownie on the bottom....well, let's just say they're really rich and you don't need a lot of them, but chances are you'll want to just keep taking one more little square.

'Cause they are such little squares, after all.  

Mallow Brownie Bars (from The Mandatory Mooch)

1 brownie mix (for 13 x 9" pan, plus eggs, oil, and water called for on box)
1 (10.5 oz) package miniature marshmallows
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1 T. butter
1-1/2 cups crispy rice cereal

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Pour into a greased 13 x 9" pan.  Bake at 350° for a couple minutes less than the recommended minimum time on the package (for my package, this was 22 minutes).
Top with marshmallows - bake 3 minutes longer.  Marshmallows will not be completely melted.
In a saucepan, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter.  Melt over medium-low heat until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in crispy rice cereal.
Spread over marshmallow layer.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before cutting into small bars.

Linked to Trick or Treat TuesdayCrazy Sweet Tuesday and  Crumbs and Chaos - Seasonal Inspiration

Monday, September 17, 2012

Love this Girl......

The Setting: Our dinner table.  Three oldest kids sit on a bench on one side, Ellia (2.5) sits at one end, Miranda (11 months) sits at the other end, and Grant and I sit on the other side.  Grant sits between me and Ellia.

We were doing our family devotional after dinner last night and Grant quoted something I had said earlier, then added, "What she said is so right."

Annika (5): "Who said that?"

Grant: "The pretty lady sitting next to me."

Ellia piped in: "You mean me?"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cowgirl (boy) Cookie Mix in a Jar

As I was trying to figure out what to do for party favors for Annika's birthday, I stumbled across this darling idea at Bakerella.    I simply couldn't resist.
Her idea had pink M&Ms also, which really made the cookies so feminine and adorable - but I decided to go with regular ones because (1.) I couldn't find pink M&Ms  (2.) If I had found pink M&Ms, they would have been at least 3x as expensive and (3.) Annika likes rainbow colors anyways.
I don't think anyone minded.

So I made up a batch of the cookies so we could taste them and I could take photos of the finished product.
Oh my goodness.  They were even better than I was expecting.
Grant put them right up there in his Favorite category.  I couldn't blame him.
They're just fabulous.

Bakerella also has a free downloadable PDF file with the labels that you can print out  - with options for Cowgirl Cookies in pink and Cowboy Cookies in brown, along with the little instructions for baking to cut out and tie to the jars.

Cowgirl Cookies (Mix in a Jar)

1-1/3 cups all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tap. salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup m&ms
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1-3 cup chopped pecans (optional, I did not include)

Stir all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Add in:
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) slightly melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together well.  You may need to use your hands to really get everything incorporated.  I did. 

Then roll the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls (or use a medium cookie scoop), place on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes in a preheated 350° oven.  I got about 25 cookies.

To make each  mix in a jar, you'll need the following:

  • 1 wide mouthed quart size jar
  • A 6" square of desired fabric
  • Ribbon or suede cord
  • Labels printed out on cardstock
  • A paper punch or decorative scissors for cutting out labels, if desired
  • Double sided tape

Layer the ingredients in like this:

First: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (mixed together in a small bowl first)
Second: oats
Third: m&ms
Fourth: chocolate chips
Fifth: brown sugar
Sixth: white sugar
Seventh: chopped pecans (if using)

Pack each level down really tightly.  Seriously.  In my first jar, I almost didn't even get all the white sugar in, so I was glad I wasn't using the pecans.  I honestly don't have any idea how Bakerella got pecans to fit into her jars, because mine were too packed.  But if you can do it, more power to you!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Creamy Slow Cooker Chicken and Biscuits - SRC

I first heard about the Secret Recipe Club (SRC) about nine months ago and I was instantly intrigued.  Food bloggers are put into groups and assigned another blog from which to make a recipe.  Then the group all reveals their chosen recipe on a designated Monday.  I thought that sounded like SO. MUCH. FUN.

I applied to be included, but there was a waiting list.  Boo. I'm not fond of waiting.  But in August, I finally got the word that I was in the club and in Group B.  Hurray!!

So my first assignment was Danielle, who has a really cool blog called Mostly Food and Crafts.
The first thing that I noticed about her was that she's from Nashville - instant connection here.
I lived in Nashville for two years after college, and that's where Grant and I met.
My older sister still lives outside of Nashville with her family.
LOVE that place.

Anyways, Danielle has some really cute craft ideas like Holiday Coasters, a Thankful Tablecloth, Photo Canvas Ornaments, and lots more.  Man, I wish I was crafty.  (or is it "craftsy"?)

A few of her recipes that I really want to try were the Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs,  Pumpkin Pie Smoothies, and  Slow Cooked Pernil (a Puerto Rican pulled pork).

However, as I perused her recipe index, I began to realize how little I cook with ethnic ingredients.

Yucca Fritters with a Sunshine Aioli  - wow, they looked great, and I had no idea what yucca was!

I never use goat cheese or feta cheese or garam marsala or tahini or artichokes or chickpeas.  Or cucumbers.  Or eggplant.  My goodness, I am pickier than I ever thought!

I have to say, I am inspired to step out of my comfort zone and try some new things, so thank you, Danielle!

But for this time, I chose something that I knew my family would all like - and boy, did I pick a winner.

It's similar to my Chicken Pot Pie, but since you toss everything in the crock pot, it's easier and quicker and my goodness, was it delicious.  It's got all the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, the chicken is tender and easy to shred, and the cream added in the last 30 minutes adds an incredible richness.  Grant and I agreed that this is a new favorite for sure.

The original called for some white wine, which I didn't have on hand, so I just added more broth.  I also added a sweet potato for extra nutrition and  I made the biscuits from scratch - but you can use canned ones if you want - whatever kind you like.

Creamy Slow Cooker Chicken and Biscuits 
(adapted from Mostly Food and Crafts, biscuits adapted from Allrecipes)

1 lb carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large sweet potato, diced into bite-size pieces
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
2-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. kosher salt 
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth 
2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup heavy cream (can add more if desired)
Extra salt and pepper to taste, if desired
*Biscuits (recipe follows), or use store bought ones, baked according to directions on can

In a crock pot, combine the carrots, celery, sweet potato, onion, and flour.  Place chicken on top and season with the poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Add the broth (and wine, if using) to the pot.  Cover the crock pot and cook until the chicken and vegetables are tender, on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.  (I actually started with frozen chicken breasts and cooked on low for 5 hours - turned out perfect.  Can vary depending on how hot your slow cooker gets.) 
About 30 minutes before serving, prepare the biscuits.
While they're baking, remove the chicken and shred it into bite sized pieces and return to crock pot.  Add the frozen peas, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and cover and cook until heated through.
To serve, place the bottom halves of the biscuits in shallow bowls, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining biscuit halves.


2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, very cold
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Grate cold butter into it, and combine with your fingers or a fork until the mixture has a fine crumb texture.  Stir in milk to make a soft dough.  A few additional drops of milk may be needed.  Knead 8-10 times, and then roll out to a thickness of at least 1/2 inch.  Cut into rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter. Place on baking sheet and allow to rest a few minutes.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Serve warm.

Linked to Trick or Treat Tuesday

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Horse Pasture Cake - and the Party Fun

Our sweet little Annika turned 5 on Thursday, September 6.  We had her
birthday party with a few friends last Saturday.
Since her favorite thing is horses right now, that's what she wanted for the theme....
and she was very specific that she wanted a "Horse Pasture Cake".  
Okay.  Got it.

If you ask Annika what her favorite color is, she'll reply, 
"I love all the colors in the world (or in the rainbow), but green and blue are my favorite."

That worked out perfectly with a horse pasture cake.  

I decided to make things easy on myself and make the decorations on top of the cake one of her presents, so I picked out a super cute Playmobil set to be the main attraction. 

Toys R Us was having a great sale on Playmobil - Buy 1 get one 40% off.  In addition, with ordering online, I got free shipping with an order over $49, so I took advantage of that and bought few different sets to have for the girls for their birthdays and maybe Christmas. LOVE getting bargains!

The cake is chocolate, made from scratch (recipe coming soon!) and is 15 x 11". 
I made it a couple of days in advance and froze it for easier frosting. 

I made a large batch of buttercream, ending up with a bit too much....but I'd rather have that than run out.
I left one bowl white, for frosting the sides.  I did that first.  
Then I tinted a bowl green....and frosted the top, leaving the corner unfrosted. 
Another bowl was light blue - and that became the pond.
Then I used the Wilton 4B tip for piping large blue shells around the base. 
The yellow border was a Wilton tip 18.
I placed the Playmobil set all over the cake how I wanted it - and then finished up with grass details using the Wilton tip 233 (grass tip). 
Finally I wrote the birthday message with Wilton tip 2 in yellow.

Super easy - fast - and thoroughly delighted Annika.  
I'd call that a success.

Her reaction at first seeing the cake.

The girls inspect the cake.  

Marissa was so excited to help decorate by setting up toy horses everywhere. 

One of the party games was "Stomp the Fly", where they had black balloons tied to their ankles and had to try to pop others' balloons before getting their own balloon popped.  Probably a game more suited for boys, as a few of the girls were afraid of the balloons popping....but it was hysterical to watch them play.

The balloons were tough to pop - even with kids sitting on them and bouncing!

Lydia, Natalee, Marissa, Annika, Elizabeth, and Hannah.  What a sweet bunch of girls.  
Annika loves her new umbrella.  

The other popular activity we did was to make Stick Horses.

I had printed out a template for a horse head here  and enlarged it, then traced around it on poster board 16 times (I needed 2 for each horse).  I bought long sticks for a dollar each at JoAnn's Fabric store and hot-glued each stick to a horse head, then used rubber cement to glue the other horse head on the other side.

The girls got to glue on googly eyes, yarn for manes, etc. and color their horses.  They all turned out so cute.  

The party favors were their horses on sticks, some Cow Tales candy, and a jar of Cowgirl Cookies Mix.  

Recipe coming soon!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

S'Mores on a Stick

This is just about as easy and fun of a treat as you can get. 

For Annika's 5th birthday party, the theme was "Horses".  The menu included grilled hot dogs, carrots with dip, sliced apples ('cause those are things that horses eat, of course), chips, trail mix, Haystack cookies, lemonade and root beer, and these little goodies.  I figured s'mores are a campfire treat, and cowboys sometimes ate around a campfire (although probably not s'mores....), so it sort of fit.

The kids didn't care if it fit the theme, they just loved them.  Loved. Them.  They all would have eaten fistfuls of them if I had let them, but since these were keeping them occupied while I was getting the cake and ice cream served, I didn't want them to eat too many.

I can't remember where I found the idea - I searched so many blogs and websites for horse party ideas and didn't bookmark everything.  I do know that where I saw it originally, they used lollipop sticks, but I figured that craft sticks were much cheaper and would work just fine.  They did.....but I'm sure lollipop sticks would be great too.

I think these would also be great rolled in chopped salted peanuts or pretzels instead of the graham crackers - or dipped in melted Nutella - or covered with cute colored sprinkles - or any number of crazy ways you could make them your own.

Kids love food on a stick, especially when there's marshmallows and chocolate involved - and let's be honest - the adults do too. 

S'Mores on a Stick
Yield: about 18

18 Large marshmallows
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1-1/2 graham cracker sheets

Craft sticks or lollipop sticks
Floral foam blocks (for holding the treats upright)

  1. Insert the sticks into the bottom of the marshmallows, making sure that they don't go all the way through to the other side.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and stir until smooth.
  3. Crush the graham crackers in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin and then pour into a bowl.
  4. Dip the marshmallows partially into the chocolate.  Scrape off any excess - you don't want it super thick.  You can also just use a spoon to spread the chocolate around on the marshmallows.
  5. Immediately roll the chocolate-dipped marshmallow in the graham cracker crumbs. 
  6. Set the stick upright into the floral foam.  Repeat until all the marshmallows are dipped. 
  7. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.  Best eaten the first day, but okay on the second.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mexican Bean Casserole

In our quest to eat less meat, I tend to gravitate towards bean dishes for our vegetarian options. 

This is a ridiculously simple meal that goes together in minutes and bakes quickly, so dinner is on the table in hardly any time at all. 
It's not overly spicy but definitely has a little kick - and when combined with the chips and salad ingredients, it tastes like a meatless taco salad.  We didn't miss the meat a bit. 

The big surprise was who liked it the most - little 10 month old Miranda.  That girl loves beans. We actually all loved it, except occasionally picky Ellia ("I don't LIKE beans," she wailed)- but she's 2 and that's her prerogative.
I've made it at least three times in the past month and a half, so that's saying something.  I don't repeat meals that frequently if they're not big favorites. 

Mexican Bean Casserole (adapted from Love Bakes Good Cakes)

Note: You may choose to use an envelope of taco seasoning in place of the spices if desired.  I have not tried this option and cannot testify of its results. 

2 cans (16 oz. each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (16 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained
8 oz. frozen corn (or 1 can (15 oz) whole kernel corn, drained)
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained slightly
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 Tbs. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

Optional - corn chips, lettuce, sour cream, jalapenos, black olives, and tomatoes/salsa

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the cheese and mix well. Pour evenly into a 13 x 9" pan.  Sprinkle with cheese. 
Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Serve with chips, lettuce, sour cream, jalapenos, black olives, and tomatoes/salsa if desired.

Linked to Trick or Treat Tuesday and 4 Moms Share Vegetarian Recipes
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