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Friday, October 30, 2009


With trick-or-treat being tonight, and Halloween tomorrow, I realized I am running out of time for creepy treats! So, for snack today, I made the kids Bug-apillars. They are super easy to make, and took less than 10 minutes to put together.

You could probably figure out the recipe on your own, but if not:

banana, peanut butter, raisins, pretzels
Slice banana and put back together with pb in between.  Add pretzels for legs, and raisins for eyes. You could also use fruit roll up or licorice for a tongue, but I didn't have anything like that.

The kids were surprised by their creepy-crawly snack.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Guts & Mommy Dogs

Tis the season, for Pumpkins!! As I was grocery shopping the other day
I thought I should stock up on pumpkin for all the yummy pumpkin baking that I do every year.  I love to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies--anything with pumpkin and cream cheese frosting makes it seem like fall! 

Yes, I could have done it the easy way and bought cans of pumpkin.  All the hard work is done for you, and put in those cans so they are ready when you are-- but, what is the fun in that?  Plus, when you do make pumpkin puree yourself, it does taste so much better and is cheaper.  Also, you can whip up baby food while you are at it, if you have an infant at your house.  I have had a couple people ask how it's done--so, although there is more than one way to skin a pumpkin, I will tell you the way I have found is the easiest.
I purchase a pie pumpkin, which are marked that way in grocery stores--and you will know them because they are much smaller than the traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  However, if you get the wrong kind of pumpkin--it is not that big of a deal.  I used Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins last year.  This year I used 3 pie pumpkins at $2 a piece.

I cut the pumpkins in half- this is a tedious task because I am always afraid I am going to cut off a finger :(.  Some people cut theirs in pieces--but that is just way too much cutting in  my opinion, why higher your risk for lost appendages?  You cover the pumpkin halves with aluminum foil, and place them in the oven at about 350 for about an hour or so.  You want them to be tender enough so the "guts" scrape right out and away from the skin.  You may also choose to sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or pumpkin spice inside the halves before you put them in the oven.  This is not necessarily for taste reasons, but it makes your house smell so yummy.

After the pumpkins are baked, carefully take them out of the oven, and while they are still hot--use a potholder and hang on to them as you scoop out the insides.  I left the other pieces in the oven until I was ready to scrape those also.

Then you will simply place the pieces of, "guts," into your food processor or blender even--and blend until it looks like baby food.  The puree will be much lighter than the can-version, so don't be alarmed.  I think all their additives make it darker?   Then you will need to pour or scoop the puree into a storage container.  I have found that the quart ziploc bags work the best-because they hold exactly 2 cups, which is about how much is in a can of pumpkin puree at the store.  Lay them flat so they freeze nicely.  I did not have quart ziplocs when I made this batch, so I used gallon bags.  It worked fine, I will just have to measure as I go.

My 3 pie pumpkins made approx 1/2 gallon each- I put them into 3 bags, so they would lay flat and freeze well.  I only froze 2, because I plan on making something pumpkin this week yet!  Also, it works nicely if you have a 2nd person holding the bag as you fill them.  My husband did that for me last year--but this year he wasn't here--and I missed that extra help.

The same day, I must have been in the Halloween mood--because I also made the kids mummy hot dogs.  It's very simple to do--and takes very little time.  You purchase pizza dough in a can, and unroll it.  Cut off thin strips of the dough--and roll it between your hands so it creates a "snake."  Then wrap the hot dog like a mummy, leaving space for his face to peek out.  Bake at 350 until the dough looks golden brown on the edges.  I added mustard-eyes and a ketchup-smile.  The kids loved them, but since they had no idea what a, "mummy," was--they called them, "mommy-dogs."  So, apparently, I must walk around the house wrapped in pizza dough?

Pardon the 3rd Mummy who looks as if he is coming, "unraveled."

Bulgar Honey Wheat Bread

My mom has a very giving heart, she loves to give, give, give.  She is constantly thinking of others when she is out and about, and picking up something that they would love-  The two people she does this the most for is her 2 grandkids-- which both belong to me.  There isn't a time that she sees them, that she doesn't have a surprise for both of them.  It could be Hannah Montana candy, clothes, or decorations for their room.  She also gives me things--random things for me do to, "something," with-- it could be craft related or home decor- But, this past weekend she brought me Bulgar Wheat.   She had purchased it for a recipe, and didn't care for the recipe--so in a way she challenged me to find something to make with it--and, I was up for the challenge!

I found a lot of recipes that sounded rather-- yucky--.  Then, I thought that since it was wheat-- it should be good in a bread.  However, since it was pretty course it would need to soften a little--and it would need something sweet to digress the eater from the healthy qualities of the bread.

1 1/2 c. uncooked bulgar wheat (may have to get at health food store)
4 1/2 c. boiling water
3/4 c. honey
3 tbsp. cooking oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 pkgs. active dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
10 c. flour  -I know-- WOW

****Before I start the rest, if you do not have a big, heavy duty mixer--do not do this full recipe--be sure to half it- I don't want any burnt up motors!  Mine is supposed to be handle -- mine is supposed to handle up to 14 cups of flour, but I am not sure about the smaller kitchenaid. ****

Combine bulgar, boiling water, honey, oil and salt in large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast to warm water and let stand a few minutes. Stir to dissolve. Add to bulgar-honey mixture. Blend in flour in 3 parts beating after each addition until dough leaves sides of bowl. (Dough will be soft)Turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, elastic and does not stick when punched with fingers (about 5 minutes). Place in greased bowl turning to grease all sides. Cover with waxed paper and then a towel. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk (about 2 hours). Punch down and divide dough in half. Shape into loaves.
Place in greased 9x5x3 loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Bake at 350 degree oven 45-50 minutes.

At first I was going to make 1/2 this much--but, I screwed up on my salt and oil--and had to make twice as much-  I still just made 2 loaves--but, they were BIG loaves!  Also, I got new yeast, because I had been suspecting my other yeast (which I bought in bulk) was not working any longer--and evidently I was correct- because this bread rose like crazy!

If you are a health-food lover, you will love this bread!  It is hearty with a hint of sweetness.  I love the texture that the wheat creates.  I will be rotating this in, with the breads that I make--at least until my bulgar wheat is gone! Also, it tastes great with homemade apple butter---which is good, because I made another batch with the leftover apples!

Thanks again mom, for the bulgar wheat!
Saturday, October 24, 2009

egg carton is to pumpkin as clothes pin is to bat

Hopefully, I didn't make anyone cringe at the memory of those awful standardized tests we had to take in school---

The kids and I have been lucky enough, to have a regular, "date" on Wednesdays for the past month, with some good friends.  The mommy's hang out and the daughters hang out--and Jaxen hangs on everyone :).

When the weather was  nice, we let the kids play outside on the swingset, while the mommies chatted and baked.  (We both enjoy baking/cooking)  But, since it has gotten cooler outside, we have been planning indoor activities for the kids.  A couple of weeks ago, it didn't seem like we had enough planned for them--because they lost interest quickly.  So, this past week we decided to overload them on activities.  What we didn't realize was that really, we were only overloading ourselves.

We thought it would be fun, to make Halloween-themed sugar cookies- because when isn't it a good idea to make sugar cookies??  While the dough was chilling, we started the kids on 2 other activities-

The first activity was to trace, and cut shapes for bats.  The bats only had 2 body parts--thankfully!!  The bat wings and bodies were free-handed and then traced by the children, and cut out of black construction paper. Then a mommy got the job of gluing the bats to black clothes pins, so the bats could clip onto different things around the house.  These turned out very cute--and are super simple to do!

Now, we should have just stuck to this, "craft," and then did cookies--but, this Mom is a little too "krafty" --(those of you, who know me before I was married, will get this joke ;)).
So, instead we went to the next project-- pumpkins made from egg cartons.  Well, for this the other mom, Jamie, had to cut the cups of the egg carton out so that we could glue them together.  Regular glue did not work, so we got out a couple of hot glue guns and made them work :).  Luckily, they dried fast this way--and the kids could get right to painting, to make them look like pumpkins!!

We covered the kids in smocks, sat them down with these tiny paintbrushes, and let them begin to paint these very porous egg carton pieces.  We knew right away, that bigger paintbrushes would have been smarter-- oh well-- The kids would paint the pumpkin MOSTLY, and then Jamie and I would quickly try to paint the rest of it ;).  Then they were off to dry, while we started to roll out the cookie dough- *are you getting tired yet?

(The faces were drawn on later by a mom with permanent marker, and pipe cleaners were used for the stems)

Well you all should know how to make sugar cookies--so I will spare you the details.  The sugar cookie dough turned out perfect, and the rolling out and cutting went smoothly-- (we sent the kids to play).  They baked and cooled while the moms made 3 different colors of frosting for our pumpkins, bats, ghosts and cats.  Jaxen was very antsy during this part--wanting to get his fingers in the dough and the frosting, whenever we weren't or were looking!  2 mothers and 1 2 year old boy-- We were no match for his sneaky ways!!

The mothers were getting tired, and decided it would be better if we frosted the top layer and then let them decorate with the MANY candy decorations that were available to them.  That was probably the best idea, we moms, had all day!  But, needless to say the candy did get a little out of control!  The first cookie Jamie's daughter made had a piece of chocolate candy on every centimeter I think!  Then, my favorite cookie topping, the "crunchy balls," spilled all over the floor.  (This is not the technical name, at least I don't think so--but, they are the tiny round ball decorations that crunch when you eat them).  The container was nearly full, and then.........not so much.....and, if you have ever tried cleaning those little suckers up off the floor--you would swear you would never buy them again!  We actually had to take the shop vac out, and Jamie swept them towards me, who was holding the shop vac hose.  This seriously took about 10 minutes or so...and while the moms were preoccupied, the kids took the opportunity to frantically eat from their candy buffet!

We should have taken a picture of the moms at the end of our playdate-- we were covered in paint, flour, frosting...with crunchy balls stuck to our feet.  We had used all of our energy, patience, wit and management skills for the day--and we never even got to have any "mom-talk."  But, we have learned our lesson--and learned it well.  There will ever only be 1 craft and 1 food activity--or maybe we will mix them together, because we may enjoy crafting, cooking and baking--but doing those things with 3 toddlers and a baby--is just plain CRAZY!!

However, we do have some mighty cute decorations for Halloween--but as a warning to my readers--DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!!!!!
Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Butter and Apple Sauce

A trip to the Orchard is always fun--and we always seem to have more apples than we know what to do with!  This year it was a little cold, so we started off our trip with some hot chocolate and caramel apples.  The kids got to play in the corn, and had a great time!  We went to a chemistry show where Alexis got to be the, "lovely assistant,"  we pretended to be the 3 little pigs, we jumped on a huge air pillow, we slid down a very long slide--and we picked LOTS OF APPLES!

Thankfully. with the help from my PC peeler/corer-- we were able to quickly start making yummy apple treats.  Kyle joined in the fun, and made a caramel apple crisp-- while the kids helped me peel and chop apples for Apple Butter and Applesauce.

The Apple Butter, was a crock-pot version recipe, that I adapted.  I loved the day-long simmering method--because it was easy, and it made the house smell amazing.  The applesauce we made was a pot on the stove, version--but also turned out yummy.

The recipe for the Apple Butter--which is best served warm-- is:

  • 5 1/2 pounds apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped ( I used my apple peeler/corer and vidalia chopper)
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • dash or two of salt
Place apples in a slow cooker. Combine sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt; pour over apples and mix well. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown, stirring occasionally (stir more frequently as it thickens to prevent sticking). Uncover and cook on low 1 hour longer. Blend with hand mixer, or something similar. Spoon into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-in. headspace (important, one of my containers leaked out overnight). Cover and refrigerate.

I still warm up my apple butter before serving it, because I think it tastes best this way.

Yum Yum Yummy--I think I will go have a slice of bread with some apple butter now!

mmm...Okay, I am back-- Now, for the applesauce.  My DH had a sore throat, and stayed home from work, and was telling me how nothing sounded good to eat, on his sensitive throat.  I named some things that might sound nice on his throat--one of them being applesauce.  He said, oh yeah--that sounds good.  And, of course with all the apples, and no store-bought applesauce--it meant making it from scratch. :)  We like homemade from the heart around here--so, to work I went.  It was actually very easy.

I peeled, cored and chopped several apples and put them in a pot. (approx 3 lbs)  I covered them just enough with water, and turned on the heat.  I let them simmer until apples were tender-- about 15-20 minutes.  Squirt about 1 Tb of lemon juice on top, add a little sugar, depending on how sweet you like it-- and then blend in a blender til desired consistency.  I only added 1/4 cup of sugar, but some people would prefer to add much more.  Chill.

I served this for dinner with my Truffle Pot Roast and the kids just gobbled it up-- adding just a little cinnamon to the tops of their servings.

We still have about 1/2 peck of apples left--so, I will be making some apple pie, and some more applesauce this week!

*note: I made a 2nd batch of applesauce, added about 1/4 cup white sugar, cinnamon  and some freshly ground nutmeg, and a couple shakes of vanilla sugar!! I couldn't stop eating it!
Friday, October 9, 2009

Beer Bread

I love me some beer bread---it is the best reason to go to a Tastefully Simple party :).  However, I don't like paying over $5,00 for simple ingredients I am sure to have in my pantry.

So, I set out to find a comparable bread that I could make without having to contact, order and wait for a TS representative.  I wanted the airy, yet hearty texture--and the subtle sweetness that goes well with EVERYTHING!

After a little research, I quickly realized the only things that come in that little packet for $5.50 is flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.... hmmm... I have that in my pantry on any given day, don't you?

  • 3 cups flour (sifted-this is important!)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 (12 ounce) can beer (experiment with which beer you like best, in the bread)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup melted butter (depending on your personal tastes)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients and beer.

Pour into a greased loaf pan.

Pour melted butter over mixture.

Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes. (watch it though, because all ovens are different--I took my loaf 8 minutes early, and it was PERFECT)

Of course, you can just mix up the dry ingredients, with attached instructions and a bottle of beer, to make a beer bread gift!!  If you are giving work or at a school--it is probably a good idea to leave the beer at home!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Upcycling an Oatmeal Container

My darling daughter, is very interested in upcycling.  She likes to save every single container we empty.  She uses a spaghetti jar, for a bug catcher-- a butter container to hold her special treasures--I have to admit, I would rather just throw them into the recycle bin, because I have bought store-made bug catchers, and store-made treasure holders.  But,they are never as loved as her upcycled ones.   My daughter is naturally green, I guess-- and she does not get it from me. 

Recently, she has started to rub off on me.  I saved an ice cream tub, and an oatmeal container. They sat on my counter for a week!  I almost threw them into the recycling bin severeal times.  I resisted, and finally this morning the kids got to make their very own Halloween decoration.

It was a simple kids project, nothing fancy, and no special supplies were needed.  It was perfect for the Rainy day that we are having today!

We used the oatmeal container, construction paper and glue.  I did roll up brown paper for the stem and cut a whole in the bottom of the oatmeal container (top of the jack-o-lantern) to slip it thru.  The kids had a fun time, tearing the construction paper and sticking it with glue all over the container.  So, if you empty an oatmeal container before Halloween, you might want to try this fun and quick activity with your kiddos.
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