Monday, September 3

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

If you're like me you may be anxious for fall to sweep in and cool down these temperatures.  Bring on the pumpkin pickin' and apple pie makin'.  I am ready for fall.  Autumn doesn't officially start until September 22nd and the forecast still shows temps in the 90s but here's a little pumpkin recipe when the fall mood hits you and you just need that pumpkin flavor.

This muffin recipe is very light and moist.  The whole wheat, honey, raisins and walnuts makes it a great snack or breakfast I feel good about giving my family.  Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

  • heaping 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 (or up to 2) teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, depending on how spicy you like it
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350.
Cover raisins with hot water for several minutes.  Drain and dry on a paper towel.

In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, powder, soda and salt.  Make a well in the center and put in the eggs, pumpkin puree, oil and honey.  Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. 

Stir in raisins and walnuts.  Spoon batter into muffin tin, greased or lined with paper liners.  Bake for 20 minutes and cool in the pan.  Better yet, slice one open, smear on butter and enjoy while warm.  Yum!

*recipe adapted from a combination of various recipes found on All Recipes and Epicurious...and taste testing of course.

Thursday, August 30

A {Lady} Bug Hunt

Maggie requested a ladybug party for her third birthday so we made a few ladybugs...and caterpillars, and butterflies, and spiders and turned it into a big bug hunt and pizza making party.  Turns out kids can get excited about hunting anything!  Throw a couple hundred plastic bugs in the yard, give each kid a container and yell "Go!".  They love it.

Here are a few detail pics of how we turned our backyard into a bug hunt.

Making Ladybugs for her Party. Crafting with Maggie is my favorite part of putting her party together.

Caterpillar Cupcakes with Dirt Cupcakes and Worms.
{sources} grass and caterpillar cupcake holders from world market; I always use Magnolia Bakery  of NY's vanilla cupcake recipe

Bug Hunt Signs

Tables are decorated with rolls of moss from Hobby Lobby, the ladybugs Maggie made and bug  nets from Target $1 isle.  Blue and polka-dot plates from Oriental Trading Company.

Caterpillars crawl through mounds of strawberries for a sweet and healthy treat.
{to make} Place 10 - 12 green grapes on long skewers and cut off the sharp end; use vanilla icing to glue chocolate chips on as eyes

Maggie's Ladybugs
{to make} use 2' round hole punch and black card stock to make the dots and glue to red buckets; paint a round styrofoam ball black and add black pipe cleaners for antennas; hot glue goggly eyes

Each kids received their own bug bucket filled with grass to catch the little critters.
{source} containers from Oriental Trading and labels made at home using a Bugs Life font from FrontSpace.

Bug Bites goodie bags filled with gummy butterflies and worms.
{source} for candy

In an attempt to keep track of each kids' drink we provided straws with name tags.  No germ sharing going on here!

Eachk kiddo got a mini pizza crust and a butterfly bag filled with pizza toppings to make their own pizza.  Then we grilled them (the pizzas, not the kids) while the bug hunt was going on.

My uber talented husband created this photo board.  The pics of the kids with their faces as the bugs heads are so cute! Great memories for Maggie's photo album.

I totally stole this idea from Pottery Barn Kids -- check here for detail on how to make your own floating caterpillar.
Let's be serious -- their's is way better than mine but I'm okay with that.

Tailgating Party - 417 Home Magazine Shoot

Earlier this summer I got to realize one of my dreams...well, not so much a dream as a "that might be fun to do one day" type of thing.  I got to style a photo shoot for a magazine.  417 Home Magazine is the local home/design publication in southwest Missouri.  In their fall edition, out this week, they feature a few different examples of fall and winter celebrations from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  My celebration was a good ole' tailgate party.  We only had a few days to put it all together but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  Here's a little peak:

Game Time - A Tailgating Party
from 417 Home Magazine

Tuesday, July 31

Boys Clothes - Not Bad Afterall

When we found out we were having a boy I was so excited.  So was Jared.  But I knew shopping for him wouldn't be nearly as much fun as shopping for a girl.  At least I'd save some money! It seemed to me that infant and toddler boy clothes just aren't cute.  Everything I saw had cartoon characters on it or was covered in feminine embroidery -- not for me.  How wrong I was!  We've received some really awesome outfits as gifts, which has led me to be a fan of some great brands.

After three years with an adventurous daughter I've decided it's better to invest in a few quality pieces than a whole bunch of cheap pieces, that everything eventually goes on sale, and Old Navy is still the best place for plain colored shirts and pajamas.

Here are the cool boys clothing brands I've discovered (in case you're also searching for onesies without teddy bears or trains).

Thatcher was gifted this cute onesie this week from my dad and stepmom. Love it!
I also received an outfit for Maggie when she was a baby.  Their clothes are so soft and cute.

The rugby one pieces are awesome and I'm definiately ordering a thermal onesie (or two) for the fall..  The clothes are light weight and super soft. 

Great preppy one pieces!  We've been really fortunate (blessed, blessed, blessed) to receive a lot of hand-me-downs from my dear friend, Courtney.  Lucky for me her boys wore a lot of RL!

Mini Boden
I really like Mini Boden for both girls and boys.  It can be a bit pricy but they always send a discount code with their catalogs and the clothes are high quality and stand up to many wearings and washings.  You can't go wrong with Mini Boden.

The Good Ones is a new line for boys created by my favorite girls' line, Matilda Jane.  I haven't ordered anything from it yet but I really like the look of a lot of it, and I trust the brand. Let me know if you try it out.

Happy shopping for those handsome little guys.

Recipe Reviews: Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

I'm always looking for news ways to make easy weeknight meals.  Dishes must either (a) be quick and easy to prep during nap time and stored in fridge until dinner or (b) be super quick and easy to make at dinner time.  The best dishes are ones that bake in an oven for at least 30 minutes.  Here's how dinner time goes for me:

- preheat oven and take pre-prepped meal from fridge
- get baby undressed and ready for bath
- put meal in oven and set timer
- while meal is cooking give baby bath and put to bed (this takes about 30 minutes)
- once baby's asleep the rest of us sit down to dinner

Both of these recipes are easy to prep ahead.

I love this recipe.  The chicken is flavorful and moist.  She calls for boneless, skin on  chicken but I used split chicken breasts bone-in and skin-on. The lemon, garlic and thyme is a good combination but be sure to use more salt and pepper than you think you need, and broil the tops at the end of cooking.

This would have been really good, if I had remembered to add the Parmesan. Oops! I'll try this again some time.  It's a beautiful way to serve vegetables.  Here's a tip: cut your tomatoes thick, your potatoes thin and the squash in between.

Overall, a pretty decent dinner for a Monday night and our week got off to a healthy start.

Whenever I'm trying new recipes I make sure the next meal is an old favorite, just in case the new recipes were a flop.  So tonight we're having another Ina Garten recipe -- Weeknight Bolognese.  Everyone in my house devours it, just be careful of the red pepper! (I use whole wheat organic pasta shells, in case you're wondering how to substitute the white pasta).

Sunday, July 22

Sunday Pancakes

Usually I think everything is better from scratch.  Better for you and better taste.  I buy very little processed food, and have few boxes in my pantry, but there is one box I keep stocked -- Hodgson Mill pancake mixes.  Specifically I really like the Multi-grain Buttermilk Pancakes with Flax Seed.  I used to make pancakes from scratch but once I tried these there was no going back.  They're light and fluffy with a great texture and I'm comfortable with the ingredients.  Just add an egg, a tiny bit of oil and some milk.  The mix is a little thin at first but once it touches the heat it puffs up perfectly.  I mix in a few dark chocolate chips in a few for the kids and blueberries to a few more. 
 Hodgson Mill mixes are available at most grocers either in the cereal isle or the natural foods section.  Quick, easy, yummy breakfast! 

Today's sermon at the church we attend encouraged us to live for today, praising God and thanking him for all our blessings.  In the simple things, like pancakes on Sunday mornings, and in the much larger things God is to be given thanks.  Nothing in our lives is significant, nothing is good, nothing is fulfilling without knowing Jesus Christ.  So many are struggling and facing difficult circumstances, but today, if even for a moment I hope you, my friends, find a moment to thank God. 

Here's to a wonderful week...

Thursday, July 19

Lunch for a Lazy Lake Day

The perfect meal for a lazy day on the lake is something that requires no plate, no fork and makes no mess.  Everything is either eaten or thrown in the trash, and it's just enough to feed everyone lunch with no leftovers.  I think I have finally perfected my family's standard lake day meal.

Here's what I take:

Baked Mini Turkey Sandwiches
photo is before they were baked, but you get the idea
You can find many variations of the classic Kings Hawaiian ham sandwiches so to spare re-posting basically the same recipe, here's a link to The Girl Who Ate Everything.  Her variation is my favorite, except I use honey baked turkey because I hate ham.

I assemble the sandwiches the night before and pop them in the oven 20 minutes before we leave the house.  I wrap the sandwiches in foil and put them in an insulated bag.

To go with the sandwiches we take two types of fruit (like apples and pluots), a bag of chips and granola bars for a later snack. Some times I throw in a bag of carrots too.

So easy! And off we go to the lake with a yummy lunch everyone enjoys.
Don't we look like we're having fun?!

Wednesday, July 18

{Kids Stuff} Simple Pleasures

It doesn't take much to make a kid happy. Today we had watermelon for a snack. Outside. Naked.  Nothing better than eating cold watermelon outside on a hot day. Naked (the naked part was particularly important).

I just hosed her off before we came inside.  That was also a lot of fun! 

Monday, July 9

Ladies Lunch - Yellow and White

Every mommy deserves a break now and then and I know lots of ladies with young children who could use a day at the pool to relax, without chasing kids.  To give my girlfriends a relaxing afternoon I rented our neighborhood pool for a few hours and sent out an invitation to "Lunch and Lounge."  Mother Nature had other plans however and 30 minutes before our lunch was to start the rain came pouring down.  Plan B -- lunch in my kitchen.  It's not quite the same but at least my girlfriends could still get good use out of the babysitters they'd hired and have a nice lunch.  Here are some photos of our lemony, sunny lunch on a rainy day.  Even though there wasn't any swimming or suntanning it was still a nice time to get together.

Drink:  Lemonade Champagne Sparkler
Mix 1 cup champagne with 2 cups lemonade and 2 tablespoons cranberry juice.

I love to use inexpensive upholstery fabric for festive tablecloths.
Yellow tin buckets I found in my craft closet filled with Twizzlers was the only table decor.  Cute and sweet.
Every ladies lunch needs a sparkly drink.  For the water bottles (since we were supposed to be at the pool) I bought yellow and white stripped straws on Amazon.  The lemon keeps the straw from falling into the bottle.
We're never too old for polka-dots, especially when partnered with stripes.
Sweet, tart and not too heavy.  Lemon squares are such a refreshing dessert.

Sunday, July 8

Freezing Peaches

I just finished freezing the 50+ pounds of peaches Maggie and I recently picked.  To tell the truth, this took some work, but I think it'll be well worth it when I'm baking peach and blueberry pie this fall, or blending them into baby food this winter.  I'm not completely sure what I'll do with that many peaches but it makes me happy to know I have them and can use them when I want to.  Peaches make great marinades for pork, and I know I can use them in my morning protein smoothies.  Maybe I'll make peach scones ...the possibilities are endless.

Here's how I froze them:  (I chose freezing over canning because I've never liked canned fruit or vegetables)

To make peeling them easier bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.  Drop in 5 or 6 peaches and let boil for a minute or less.

Transfer peaches to an ice bath to stop them from cooking.

Use something slotted to transfer the peaches to avoid putting hot water in your ice bath.

This is the ideal result.  The skin should easily peel right off with a slight tug of your finger.  Every so often you'll get a stubborn one and will need to use a peeler, so keep it handy.

Peaches can make a huge mess.  I have two bowls ready and put a cutting board in a rimmed baking sheet.

Use one bowl for the peach peel and pits.  Use the other bowl for the peach slices.
To preserve the peaches for freezing I coated them with Fruit Fresh and 100% pure apple juice.

Use just enough juice to cover the peaches.

 Using a 1 cup measuring glass I transfer 2 cups peaches and juice to quart size Ziploc freezer bags.

Squeeze as much air out of the bags as you can before sealing.  If you feel you can't get all the air out, I've found using a simple straw and sucking it out is very effective.

Seal the bags and store them flat in your freezer.

End note:  To my friend and neighbor Patricia, thanks for the Fruit Fresh and for doing this with me.  Our adventure as fruit pickers and preservers is so much fun!