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Monday, September 30, 2013

Apple Butter

A friend went to the apple orchard last weekend and posted that she was making apple butter.  Apple butter?!?  I completely forgot about apple butter and thought maybe you did too.  So here's a repost if you want to make your house smell like fall and have your tastebuds say mmmmmmmm.

I found the recipe here. But I didn't weigh my apples like she did because my scale needs a battery. 

Anyway, let's get this party started.

What you'll need:

5 1/2 lbs of apples peeled and chopped
3 C Sugar
1/4 Brown Sugar
3 t Cinnamon
2 t All Spice
1 t Ground Cloves
1/4 t Salt

Peel and chop you apples. I also ran them through the food processor a bit because she recommended it. Not sure it was completely necessary? Toss all the ingredients together and put in the crockpot on low. Cook 9-11 hours. Uncover, whisk a bit to break the apples up and cook another hour on low. It's ready to go.

Didn't have a scale so I filled up this colander

Top view

Chop them up a bit more

Throw your other stuff in the crockpot

Give it a good toss, cover, turn on low and come back in 10-12 hours.

Whisk it to get all the chunks worked out

Done...Now let's go make something YUMMY or you can be like Dylan and make a PB and Apple budda sandwich:)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Avocado Pit Removal

When I first started working at a deli years ago, I was in charge of the cold sandwiches.  A vegi sandwich with avocado was one of the choices.  I HATED making that sandwich.  The avocado completely intimidated me. 

Over the years I've learned a few tricks and the intimidation is completely gone so I thought I'd pass them along to you.

First, start with a ripe avocado.  You typically won't find the "perfect" avocado in the store ready to go so serving avocados requires a little bit of planning.  You will need to buy a few days ahead of when you'll need them.  They'll ripen faster on the counter.  I'm told they'll really ripen in a bag but I haven't tried that trick.
This is what a ripe avocado looks like. DARK green that is soft but not squishy.
How to get your pit out...Cut avocado in half, whack with a knife, give a twist of the wrist.
TA DA, out comes the pit. No fuss, no muss.
Take a big spoon and scoop out the yummy avocado.
Here they are ready to meet the fork for some mashing or a knife for slicing.
Now the choice is yours. Mash these babies until they are smooth or if you're like me and like a few chunks you can do that too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Couch to 5K

I think I might have told you that I was going to run a 5K to start my 45th year off with something healthy.  Alanna liked the idea so we signed up together for a fun Suds Run race.  Costumes are "suggested" but we opted to just run this year and they provide beer at the middle if you want and at the end, it was our birthday weekend afterall;)

I downloaded the free app to my phone and started the couch to 5K in enough time to take me into the race. 

What's that saying about best laid plans?  SUPER high temps and humidity slowed me down, shin splints, swollen ankles, sore knee, pain in my toes, blisters. Yeah, I had it all.  But, I didn't stop.  I repeated week 3 a couple of times and week 4 twice.  I never got past week 4.  For those of you that have never looked at couch to 5K, that means I never ran for more than 5 minutes at one time.  That's kind of a problem when you're planning on "running" 3.5 miles!

The night before the race Alanna talked me off of my ledge and told me that she would walk as often as I needed to.  Our goal was to finish under our age of 45.

Race day we had lovely weather.  Sun shining, nice breeze and a decent temp.  Our pre-race photos are all smiles:)

I didn't love the run from the beginning.  But I had Alanna next to me saying encouraging things.  Telling me to just keep a slow pace.  I had to walk a couple of times for a little bit because I had this nagging shin splint that surfaces about every 5th time I exercise.  We passed the mile 2 marker and my foot was completely numb!!  As in it felt like I had a brick in my tennis shoe instead of a foot!!  That's never happened before!  I slowed to a walk, shook my foot, stretched.  Nope, it was still numb.  What choice did I have, I had to finish so off we went again.  Alanna could have had a much better time but she stuck with me and we finished together at 40 minutes RUNNING!  I have to admit, I liked the accomplished feeling finishing gave me.

I was a little sore the day after but on Monday I was out walk/running again and I felt better immediately.  I haven't had a problem with my foot going numb again but will be getting some compression socks the next time I'm near a sporting goods store because from what I've researched, those should help with the ankle issues and/or numbness.

Not sure I'll run another 5K but I like the feeling of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and running definitely does that so I'm not saying never;)

At the finish, under the SUDS, toasting another year together and STILL smiling!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mixed Berry Cupcakes

Remember the bake sale from a few weeks ago?  Well this was cupcake number 2 that I made.  A simple white box cake mix made according to directions except use milk instead of water and add 2 t of Vanilla.  Fold in (that means gently stir in) 1/2 C Blueberries, Raspberries and Blackberries.

Scoop into cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 14-17 minutes, when you touch the top of the cake, it should pop right back up.

Remove from oven, cool, frost with cream cheese frosting and top with a berry so your customers know what they're buying.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting and top with a berry

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 brick Cream Cheese~softened, yep low fat
1 stick butter~softened
2 t Vanilla
4 C Powdered Sugar

Mix together, put in a frosting bag with a star tip and decorate OR simply frost the cupcakes with a knife.

Makes 30 cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sweet 16 Cake

Alanna's daughter Kayla turned 16 in August and I made this cake for her actual birthday.  I think the stand up letters make the cake more festive.  You can learn how to do them here.

Here's what you'll need:

1 3/4 C Flour
2 C Sugar
3/4 C Cocoa Powder
2 t Baking Soda
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Salt
2 Eggs
1 C Buttermilk
1/2 C Vegetable Oil ~ I used Canola
1 t Vanilla
1 C Strong Hot Black Coffee ~ I used Espresso Roast

Combine your dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients with the exception of coffee. Give it a couple of minutes with the electric mixer. Pour in black coffee and mix until incorporated. The batter is a bit thinner than a cake mix.  Pour into greased pan.  I used a round pan that took about 40 minutes at 350.  If you used a 13x9, I'd start with 20-25. Bake until toothpick comes out clean.

I cut the cake into three layers and put a chocolate cream cheese frosting inside.

This is what you'll need:

1 brick Cream Cheese~softened, yep low fat
1 stick butter~softened
2 t Vanilla
3 1/2 C Powdered Sugar
1/2 C Hershey Cocoa

Mix together and frost.

For the outside I did a simple chocolate buttercream but you could also use the chocolate cream cheese if you wanted.

Decorate with your chocolate toppers, refrigerate for about an hour and serve.

  The kids enjoying dinner with some fun masks.
 Happy Sweet 16 Kayla!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Super 16 Birthday Party

I don’t think I’ve had a party give me more anxiety than my son’s 16th.  I wanted it to be special.  I wanted it to be comparable to a SWEET 16.  Just because he’s a boy shouldn’t mean that he not have the fun decorations and “big deal” made.  I finally came up with SUPER 16 and made a play from the Superman logo and it was a hit.  The small problem is, you have to create everything yourself.  BUT it was all fairly easy and the end result was a big smile from a SUPER kid.

I started with having his Dad put a 16 inside of the superman logo.  From there it was just a matter of printing different sizes.  In Microsoft Word I also created a few POW, BANG, ZAP and Happy Birthdays.  To do that I went to insert, shapes and used the first star shape

 I also sent the logo to a local t-shirt place and had t-shirts made for all the kids that were coming.  Not only did the kids all love it including his friends, but so did he!!

He wanted cheeseburgers for the food so I did a topping bar with that and kept the rest simple with deviled eggs, tuna salad, potato salad, beans, vegi and fruit tray and chips.  The sweet table was where I had a little fun because Max has always been about the sugar! 

I created Super 16s with colored chocolate melts from Michaels.  I put the logo under wax paper and with a squeeze bottle created the toppers for the cupcakes and cookie cake.

I dunked Oreos in red and drizzled with yellow, dunked marshmallows on sticks into red melts and frosted rice krispy bars with yellow chocolate and sprinkled.  We also had Nana's fudge and I scooped ice cream into small cups for root beer floats.

I bought some cheap yellow, red and blue bags at the dollar store, printed out smaller Super 16s and made goodie bags which I just filled with candy and a juice jug.  And even though they didn't say so, I could tell the older kids liked getting a goodie bag as much as the youngest kid there. 

The banner was just 8x10 sheets of paper that I printed with a font of 650.  I also had blue star balloons lining the driveway that I taped Super 16s to. 

Lastly, my favorite photo of the day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Alanna!

Today is Alanna's birthday!  Our 29th birthday that we'll be celebrating together to be exact.  I know that's a tough thing to wrap your brain around because we're still just young chicks;) 

Over the years, I have strayed away or ended friendships for one reason or another.  And, I realized a few years back that it was the people that I could be quiet with that were the ones that mattered, the ones that I wanted to share my life with.  Alanna is my quiet friend, my loud friend, my get me off my butt or out of my funk friend, my friend I can count on and one of my best.  I wish her a year as fabulous as she is!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Creamy Spaghetti Pie

I've made spaghetti pie before but this was a little different because I used left over Creamy Italian Chicken Sauce.  It was hit with everyone!
Here's your ingredients for the sauce
16 oz pkg boneless chicken breast
1 pkg Italian Dressing Mix
1 pkg Cream Cheese~I use reduced fat
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup~I use 98% fat free
Put 1/2 cup water in bottom of crock pot. Place chicken in bottom. Sprinkle chicken with Italian Dressing Mix. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours. I will use frozen if I want to cook for 6. Shred chicken  and freeze half for another time.

Cook 1 small package of spaghetti noodles until they still have a little bite left to them, drain and pour into a bowl.

1/2- 3/4 container of ricotta cheese ~ I used light
4 ounces fresh parmesan
Half a bag of chopped spinach

Add 1/2 the Creamy Italian Sauce
Stir until well combined.

Pour into sprayed 13x9 cake pan.  Top with about 3 cups of your favorite red sauce (this was leftover for me too) and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes and serve.



Monday, September 9, 2013

Super 16

My baby is 16!!  I won't ask again where the time has gone even though I wonder how just yesterday he was my snuggly baby boy.

This year he's a sophomore in high school who will be playing hockey and baseball.  He's almost 6'1" and wears a size 12 shoe.  He is practicing his driving and working on his GPA so he can get his license.  He continually antagonizes his sister.  He loves his family and doesn't think twice when Alivia hands him a Barbie or an apron.  He is making appropriate decisions and is a good kid.  And, my favorite thing..he tells me he loves me whenever he gets out of the car whether it's when I'm dropping him at school, a friend's house or practice..every single time, no matter who is around and every single time my heart melts just a little bit.
His physical changes are evident to the naked eye but watching him mature this year has been an emotional journey for me.  He is starting to "get it".  Why he was raised with consequences, why I have expectations, that hard work will always pay off, manners will take you a LONG way and seeing first hand as a camp counselor what the result is when you aren't raised that way.  His frustration level was high a few days and when he'd tell me how awful the kids behavior was and that they respected (yes, he used that word) no one.  He said, "you would kick my butt if I behaved that way".  I told him that it's "easy" to not discipline your children or have expectations but look what happens when you take the easy road.  He shook his head and said, "yeah, that's just ridiculous".

He came home from a Twins game a month ago and said, "a lady at the game told me to tell you that you did a great job raising me".  I gave him the "huh" face.  He continued with, "She said that she was impressed with my manners and that you did a good job".  I told him that HE did the good job by using them when I wasn't around.

We've had a few growing pains this year but mostly we're evolving into a different kind of relationship.  My years of teaching and guidance have turned into reminders and words of support or encouragement.  I am SO proud of the person he has grown to be and look forward to watching him accomplish whatever it is he decides to tackle.

Happy Birthday Max!!  I hope your day is as SPECTACULAR AS YOU!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Memory

Today is an anniversary of sorts that I wish I didn't have.  It's the day that my Dad suddenly left us.  It's a day that is as vivid as yesterday.  I remember what I was doing, I remember what my kids were wearing, I remember the expression of every doctor that tried to help.  Every year I wish it were different, that I'd be able to wash those memories away. 

But today shouldn't be about that.  It should be about remembering the good times.  The goofy things that he did.  His corny jokes and horrible dancing.  The patience he had when he was trying to teach you something.  His long winded answers to questions, that you'd have to stop him and say, "and, the point is".  He'd laugh and finally give the condensed version.  Or his craziness in trying to get the "perfect" shot with his camera.  The man climbed a tree once so he could get a photo of my friends and I doing an AIDS walk.

I will also remember our walks down by Minnehaha Falls and sodas at Bridgeman's after.  It was Daddy/Daughter day.  I didn't realize at the time that those walks would be so precious to me.  That even now when I walk down there, his presence is strong.

I guess today is about being thankful for memories and trying to give that to my kids.  It's not the monetary things they will remember, it's the time spent with you that will ingrain in their brain and I for one would like to leave lots of imprints just like my Dad did.

Friday, September 6, 2013

First Day of School

Just a little bit late;)  The kids will be finishing their second week today.

Max started his sophomore year and he says he is going to work very hard on his grades this year.  His driver's license is tied to his GPA and right now it's not where it should be.  Silly boy didn't think I "meant" it when I stated that rule.  Always being consistent and truthful with my children apparently escapes their memory on occasion.  BUT...I've actually seen homework being done so I'm pretty optomistic he is taking me seriously now. 

I drive him to his bus stop since it's close to my work and he stepped out and stood there waiting for me.  He apparently remembers that no matter how old he is, he WILL pose for a first day of school photo:) 
Miss Claire had her first LAST day of middle school.  Alanna filled in again as photo Mom for the morning since I had to work.  She's excited to be the oldest in school and looking forward to what the year brings.  She is taking Spanish this year so we'll see what she retained from her first 4 years only being taught in Spanish.  She has also been hitting the books afterschool and that makes me happy.  Can't deny it, my baby girl is growing up.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Black and White Cupcakes

I had never heard of the "Black and White Cookie" until I saw a Seinfeld episode years ago.  Didn't quite get what the fuss was about because the cookie was a sugar cookie with half chocolate and half white frosting?  And?  Since I'm a fairly literal person, I also didn't get why it's called Black and White when it's technically Brown and White?  So yeah, it kinda bugged me.

At any rate it also stuck with me when it came time to make some cupcakes for a bake sale.  I always want to make something that isn't too crazy but that people wouldn't make at home so they'll buy.  I typically go BRIGHT for bake sales because they sell the best in my experience when kids are present.  But this was going to be a more mature crowd so this was time to break out the Black and White Cupcakes.  An added bonus people can see what they are getting.  And, did I mention they are EASY?

What you'll need:

One Devil's Food cake mix made according to directions using milk instead of water
One White cake mix made according to directions using milk instead of water

Fill cupcake liner with half of each cake mix, 3/4 full.  Bake according to box directions.


Frost with

Half of each batter.  Ready for the oven. 

 Out of the oven
 Frosted with a zig zag pattern because I'm fancy like that;)  But you could just as easily frost with a knife and use canned frosting to make your life easier.
Makes 48 cupcakes