Friday, March 29, 2013

Flashback Friday: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

I know this is hard to believe, but I actually baked something including both chocolate and bananas without even opening the peanut butter.  I mean, peanut butter would obviously be good here, but it's not part of the tradition with this recipe.

Saturday mornings at our house usually involved a special breakfast.  More often than not my mom stirred up a batch of muffins from this Granny's Muffin House cookbook. The batter takes only a few minutes to stir together and they're out of the oven in less than 15 minutes.  Mini muffins quickly found their way into eager hands and disappeared in no time flat.  The book features a basic muffin recipe with seasonal variations and mix-ins from cover to cover.  This banana chocolate chip version was by far my favorite.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts: Another List

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

Like I explained here I find it helpful to make lists of what I'm thankful for.  It may seem silly or trivial, but try it out for yourself and you'll find out just what I mean.

a big round full moon
cheery yellow daffodils
new learning opportunities
ambidextrous scissors
spell check
moonlight shadows on clouds
sunshine and slightly warmer weather
conversations that make you think
choices and decisions
planning via lists
pictures and memories
care-free laughter and songs of children
clean socks
when every clean sock has a matching clean sock in the same load
the twinkle in an eye that accompanies a smile
thoughtfulness and concern of a friend
a good stretch
lint rollers
lip balm
laundry baskets
unhurried time
making up words
the hope and promise of spring
trust and patience
working alarm clocks
large cutting boards
fresh rosemary
helping hands
selfless sacrifice
intricate patterns in unexpected places

Food for Thought: "The great gift of Easter is hope- Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake. -Basil Hume 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Gingered Carrot-Pineapple Slaw

I have a stack of old magazines lingering in my room.  And by lingering I mean collecting dust.  Don't get me wrong, I read them cover to cover multiple times, but when the pile is literally knee-deep it's time to do some recycling.  About a third of these magazines are food magazines.  I decided (again) to page through them just one more time before tossing them for good.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday's Twist: Cranberry-Orange Party Mix

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

You should probably know that I'm the annoying type of party mix eater who picks out all the corn Chex and leaves the wheat ones behind.  My handfuls just happen to be more strategic, especially if honey roasted peanuts and dried cranberries are involved.  I really did put wheat Chex in this batch, I promise.  I didn't even notice until afterwords that my subconscious selected mostly corn and rice cereal for the bowl above.  I'm also guilty of snitching the pretzels, but let's not start on that.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mindful Monday: From Microwaves to Lava Lamps

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

I've been thinking about a lot of deeper stuff lately, but not necessarily stuff I want to fully hash out here.  At least not yet.  I guess we'll just go with random bits and pieces.

1. Watch carefully when you start using a new microwave.  I had the times for everything from hot chocolate to frozen broccoli perfected on our old microwave.  New microwaves mean figuring out new times.

2.  On the plus side, the popcorn button actually works just right for popcorn.  As an added bonus the word "enjoy" flashes across the top rather than "end" if you use the popcorn button.  I'm not sure if that's ridiculous, clever or completely unimportant.

3. Life doesn't always take the path you imagine.  It's not necessarily better or worse than what you once envisioned, just different.  Kind of like, "hmmmm, that's interesting, I wonder what's next?"

4. Do you ever take several hours to do something that should take less than 20 minutes because you're obsessing over details?  Arrrg, I hate when I do that.

5. I knew that cream of tartar is added to egg whites to increase stability and volume, but I didn't know that cream of tartar is a byproduct of making wine.  The fine white powder is deposited on the inside of wine barrels.  It helps prevent sugar syrups from crystallizing and is thus added to candy and frosting for a creamier consistency.

6.  I keep going to look something up on my computer, then remembering I lost it all.  Back up your files in multiple places.  This public service announcement has been brought to you by a remorseful procrastinator.

7. Turtle beans.  Did you know that black beans are also called turtle beans? Clearly you needed to know this on a Monday.

8. I got two somewhat contradictory messages from two similar sources this week.  It forced me to stop and really think about which one was right.  Were my motives for agreeing based on what I wanted to hear or what I knew was right?  Could they both be right?  There's a fine line between helpful compromise and dangerous compromise.

9. Lava lamps and bubble lights. You just never know what will bounce across my mind at any given second.  Thanks to the Internet my curiosity on how things work is quickly quenched.

Food for Thought: "Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating  desire which transcends everything." -Napoleon Hill

Friday, March 22, 2013

Flashback Friday: Family Favorite Sugar Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

If cookie dough could tell stories, I might be in trouble.  You see, every time my mom made this cookie dough, little hands snuck into the bowl to pinch off pieces when no one was looking.  Remember when I told you about those two little girls "helping" in the kitchen?  When those same two girls were old enough to know better, they still snuck so much dough my mom once had to make another batch.  Oops.

When the dough actually made it to the cookie stage, my brother and I got to help decorate.  Putting sprinkles on Christmas angels takes some serious concentration and teamwork.  Birthday parities often included themed cookie decorating sessions with all the colored frosting and sprinkles a kid could wish for.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts: Gentleness

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. -Proverbs 25:15

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. -Matthew 11:29

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. -Galatians 5:22-23

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. -Ephesians 4:2

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. -Philippians 4:4-5

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12

You beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. -1 Peter 3:3-4

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. -1 Peter 3:15

Still hungry? Check out similar posts on these words patiencepeacehopetrustfreejoywaittruthself-controllovewisdommind

Food for Thought: "The source of a true smile is an awakened mind. Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding." -Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Egg Adventures

This week we're fully embracing the random and not so much the recipe.  In other words, I've had lots of kitchen 'adventures' lately.  Where to start?  Hmmm, since it's almost Easter, let's start with eggs. 

Finding myself with far too many eggs in the fridge I decided it was the perfect time for some egg experiments.  Thee experiments at once if you really must know.  I planned to feature eggs both yesterday and today, but by the time I finished I was about ready to throw eggs at the wall and then stress-bake an eggless cake.   I resisted both and continued peeling those extremely stubborn eggs and turned them into egg salad.  Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself again.  

In conjunction with tea from Monday I planned to share Chinese Tea Eggs with you. I dabbled with them last year but haven't tried them since.  I think the eggs below were the first food photo I took with my then new camera.  The crackled appearance seemed like a fun twist for Easter so I set out to make them again.

After hard-boiling the eggs then steeping them for hours in tea, soy sauce and spices you have flavored eggs with an almost stained glass appearance   However, if you put them in the center of the top shelf in my fridge, you will have frozen hard-boiled eggs with shattered shells that rip and tear the rubbery yet frozen egg.  What fun.  Needless to say I wasn't up for another round.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday's Twist: Whipped Honey and Lemon-Rosemary Honey

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

I performed an operation yesterday with my dad.  It turns out my vintage mixer isn't quite as spry as it appeared to be two months ago.  I think it has arthritis.  Instead of its effortless whir, the gears and joints started to sound like nails on a chalk board.  I suppose it was to be expected seeing as she was built between 1944 and 1953.  Invasive surgery was our only option.

We prodded and pried then whacked and wiggled.  Much to my horror I have now seen her greasy, grimy guts.  And let me tell you, there's a lot of grease.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not a good 1/4 cupful of ancient grease with far too much resemblance in both color and consistency to earwax.  But hey, it was better than blood.  At first I thought it was old Crisco and was ready to wipe out every last glob.  Thankfully my dad reminded me that grease keeps the gears working.  It was intentionally placed lubrication, not rancid Crisco or cookie dough. We (ummm, he) spread the grease back around and we eventually got everything sealed back up.   I'm happy to report our patient is back to moving with soundless ease.  With no complaints of pain or grinding joints she even felt up for a little something new, whipped honey.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mindful Monday: African Tea Time

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to attend an international tea.  We sipped a variety of teas and coffees while nibbling on sweets from around the globe such as African mandazi and Turkish delight.  Each table was decorated with a variety of teapots and teacups.  Naturally, I gravitated towards the table with a blue theme.

While enjoying our beverages and treats we were both encouraged and challenged by speakers from other countries.  Many cultures use the tea hour as a time to slow down.  As one speaker pointed out, we Americans schedule ourselves down to every minute.  I'll leave by 3:15 have 20 minutes to run into the store, 5 minutes to drive downtown, 7 more to drive by the ATM, then 12 minutes to get gas before I  have to meet so-and-so.  Sound familiar?  When every last minute is crammed full, we need to reevaluate our use of time.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Flashback Friday: Date-Filled Oatmeal Cookies

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

I wonder if making old-fashioned recipes turns you into an old lady.  I certainly feel like a boring old lady when I make recipes like this one, not to mention all those recipes for bread and cookies with molasses.  At least this recipe features dates rather than wrinkled prunes.  Dates I can handle, though my personal preference would include chocolate or peanut butter and random variations like pretzels, rosemary or smoked paprika.  Nope, that doesn't sound old ladyish to me.  I guess I'm still young in my cookie tastes.

But anyway, we should get to these date-stuffed cookies before I do turn into an old lady.  These crispy cookies come from my  grandma's cousin, Edythe, on mom's side of the family.  My mom was kind enough to tell me about the version my grandma made around the holidays.  The bottom cookie was round while the top had a flower shape.  The "petals" were pressed down with a fingertip to seal in the sticky date filling.  We found the actual cookie cutter my grandma used on the bottom layer but couldn't find the exact one she used on top.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts: Distracted Avoidance

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

1. Some people name their cars and some name their appliances.  My friend has a Kitchen Aid named Esmeralda.  I'm trying to think of a name for this mixer.  Any ideas?  I'm thinking an older name since it's such an old mixer.  Gertrude?  Mabel?  Gretchen?  Please shout out your suggestions.

2.  Today is Pi Day.  Pi as in the mathematical constant that begins with 3.14.  Get it?  March 3rd, 3-14.  We should celebrate by making pie.  Actually National Pie Day is in January and I missed it.  To make up for it we'll just make two pies and eat 3.14 slices.  Sound like a plan?

3. Now I may be the only one who does this, but I'm guessing you can relate.  Do you ever find yourself doing just about everything but what your supposed to be doing?  Let's say, just as an example, you should be writing a blog post.  Actually you should have written it hours ago and be asleep.  Yes, considering you have to go into work early you definitely should be in bed or at least close to it.  But instead you're watching a movie with your brother.  And hoping you can think of something to write about.  Because watching a movie will help you concentrate, work faster and get to sleep sooner.  Oh, and research shows that these combined activities also reduce stress, increase life span and lead to the discovery of time travel.  Say what?  Never mind.

4.  The mirror image of 3.14 kind of looks like Pie.

5.  I've had this song running through my head all day.

6.  The new toothpaste I'm using is really foamy.  I'm not too sure about it yet.

7.  Don't brush you teeth and then eat grapefruit.

8. Lip gloss before coffee is also not advised.

9. The word of the day is quirk.  I'll have to add quirk to my list of words I like.  After I start that list.

10.  Yep, told ya I couldn't think of anything to write about.  Let's just leave it at that.

Food for Thought: "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor." -Truman Capote

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Banana-Raisin Brown Bread

Once again I fell for a deal.  I really need to stop checking the kitchen section of the thrift store every time I get groceries.  But they're right next to each other and you just never know what someone might get rid of.  I've always got my eye out for All-Clad pans, vintage Pyrex bowls, cute props and cookbooks.  Thankfully I don't find what I'm looking for most of the time.  This time, however, I couldn't pass up these shimmering measuring spoons and a miniature ceramic loaf pan.  I literally stood there for 5 minutes trying to decide if I was really going to buy them.  Then I walked around another 10 minutes hoping to change my mind.  As you can see that strategy didn't work.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday's Twist: Orange-Ginger Caramel Corn

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

I found a new way to predict winter storms and snow days.  When Melissa has the urge to make popcorn, a winter storm is coming.  Even though I'd just made these popcorn balls during last week's snow day, I had the urge to make caramel corn.  Not long afterword a winter storm blew in another snow day.  While it's not much in the way of a weather pattern it does warrant a winter storm warning: imminent danger if stranded inside with a bowl of this crunchy orange-ginger caramel corn with cranberries and peanuts.  Proceed at your own risk.

While my popcorn impulses don't necessarily indicate winter storms, they are often times a result of the ever churning storm in my brain.  This recipe randomly jumped out of my brain around Christmas, right after I made gingerbread popcorn.  It came without warning and with such intensity that before I knew it, there was a batch of popcorn at my finger tips.  A friend asked me where I got the idea, and I said  "umm...I don't know? head?"  In the aftermath of said storm I happened to scribble down the measurements I used.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mindful Monday: The Mind Itself

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

It's time to take a look at some verses relating to the mind itself.

God is not a human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? -Numbers 23:19

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. -Deuteronomy 11:18

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? -Psalm 8:3-4

Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind. -Psalm 26:2

A man is praised according to his wisdom, but men with warped minds are despised. -Proverbs 12:8

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26:3

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. -Lamentations 3:21-23

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. -John 15:18

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. -Romans 8:5-6

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2

No eye has seen, no ear has hear, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. -1 Corinthians 2:9

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpents cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. -2 Corinthians 11:3

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. -Colossians 3:2

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. -1 Peter 4:7

Still hungry? Check out similar posts on these words patiencepeacehopetrustfreejoywaittruthself-controllovewisdom

Food for Thought: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. -Mark 12:30

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Flashback Friday: Popcorn Balls

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

A snow day means pure excitement, right?  I'd say any day is perfect for a school snow day, unless it's the day of a much anticipated class party.  You know, the grade school class parties you had on the last day before a long break or at the end of the quarter.  Snow days were not as welcome on those special days.

More often than not my mom made popcorn balls with us for our class parties.  We'd make red and green popcorn balls for Christmas parties, pink for Valentine's Day and orange for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes we would just pick our favorite color and go from there.  It was pretty cool to have your very own popcorn ball in a fun color.

Oddly enough, I remember making these on the kitchen floor.  We weren't quite tall enough to work at the counter and chairs had this funny tendency to tip over if wiggly children were atop.  The air-popper came down to floor level and we watched the kernels pop with more delight and excitement than you can imagine.  Gooey marshmallows magically puffed and then changed color when the gelatin was added.  After thoroughly spreading butter all over our hands we shaped sticky palm-fulls into balls, just like snow balls.  Each was then wrapped in plastic wrap so every kid in the class could have one.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts: Thanks Again

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

It's time for another thankful list.

softly falling snow
fuzzy pajamas
snow shovels
a good book to read
afternoon sunlight streaming in the window
curling up in the sun to read
longer daylight hours
fresh vegetables
warm coats
ice skates
weather mild enough to go for a walk
wool hat knit by a friend
wool socks knit by another friend
dry shoes (as opposed to ones still wet from snow)
comfortable shoes
when you give and realize you've been given more in return
understanding not expressed in words
learning new tricks and tips
fresh opportunity and new possibility
accomplishing a significant item on the to-do list
small victories
finding my favorite tea at a new store for an even lower price
white and purple stripes in the cross-section of a red onion
ice that crackles when stepped on
winter sunshine in open blue skies
freshness of cold winter air
a faithful promise
new ideas
smiling faces
true friends

Food for Thought: "Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus." -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Random Recipe Wednesday: Carrot Cake Breakfast Bites

Sometimes I get things a little backwards and eat cookie dough for breakfast.  This time I made what some would call breakfast cookies and ate them for supper, snacks and pretty much everything but breakfast.

I hesitate to even say breakfast cookie, because these really aren't cookies.  Let's call them breakfast bites.  Without any butter, oil or sugar you can not have a cookie.  What we do have is a hearty and satisfying breakfast/snack that leaves you feeling full, healthy and energized.  Dried fruit, nuts and oats are ground in the food processor then mixed with shredded carrot and apple and a mashed banana.  See, it's breakfasty but it's not a cookie.

Tuesday's Twist: Microwave Sweet Potato Chips

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Some of you know about my microwave experiments driven by curiosity.  Last week I set out to make potato chips.  You can imagine my surprise when the microwave produced crispier results than the oven.  Since it worked so well with regular potatoes I decided to give sweet potatoes a try as well.

Sweet potato fries usually fall on the softer side, so I expected limp, soggy slices instead of chips.  Once again the microwave produced crunchy chips, even without oil.  All you need are sweet potatoes, a microwave with a turntable and parchment paper.  Oh, and the time and patience to watch the microwave action carefully.  If you don't babysit these little guys, they can go from a crispy crunch to carbon rather quickly.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mindful Monday: The Mouse and the Shovel

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

Random things from the weekend, plus a few other items that jumped into my train of thought.

1. You never know when a snow shovel in the back of your trunk will come in handy.  Let's say you decide to go to an outdoor ice rink but when you get to where you think the rink is located all you see is a snowy field.  If you do a little digging you might find an ice rink covered in 4-6 inches of snow too stiff to skate through.  But if you have a snow shovel in your trunk, you can shovel off a small loop to skate laps on.

2. By the time you finish the loop, you may or may not continue with your intent to shovel out the center.  Suddenly it looks like a rather large area to shovel while wearing skates.  However, a few laps around the loop will make you wish for a larger path.  Or maybe a snowplow instead of a shovel.  Better yet, a Zamboni.
p.s. Zamboni rates right up there on my list of cool-sounding words.
p.p.s. Just like Kleenex is a brand name for facial tissue, Zamboni is a brand of ice resurfacers.  I didn't know that, but maybe you did.

3. The saying, 'once in a blue moon' actually has nothing to do with the moon appearing blue.  Bummer.  When two full moons occur during the same month the second is called a blue moon.  This actually happens once every two to three years.  The next blue moon will occur on July 31st, 2015.

4. Back to the ice skates I mentioned earlier.  In the figure skating world you buy your boots and blades separately.  This pair has been disassembled for roughly 10 years, or whenever I last upgraded.  I didn't want to use my 'new' skates on an outdoor rink, so my dad helped me remount the blades to the boots.  There's a reason you don't do that at home.  It' called center of balance.  Oh well, they still work much better for stroking laps than as closet floor decorations.

5. The gin part of cotton gin comes from the word engine.

6. If you have a dream that you're all cozy and tucked under the blankets but then a mouse crawls across the comforter and scampers across your head, you just might wake up.  And if you wake up, you wonder if you woke up from a bad dream about a mouse or because there actually is a mouse lurking near your pillow.  It can take some convincing to fall back asleep.  Maybe I need a snow shovel under my bed.

Food for Thought: "The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is." -Ann Voskamp

Friday, March 1, 2013

Flashback Friday: Swedish Rye Bread

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

What can I say, I felt like baking bread again.  After Tuesday's citrus soup and Wednesday's casserole with caraway a loaf of bread featuring both citrus and caraway seemed appropriate.  A few weeks ago I shared my Great-Grandma's Rye Bread with you.  There are several rye bread recipes in the family all of which are fairly similar.  One can almost piece together the recipes, tracing the transformations created by passing the recipe from one family member to the next.

Rather than try all the variations, I decided to combine the overlapping features for an all-inclusive loaf.  What is boils down to (errr, bakes up to) is a rye loaf sweetened with molasses and laced with orange, caraway and raisins.  Orange takes center stage in this sweet loaf while caraway lingers in the background.  Raisins make an occasional appearance as well thanks to my Great-Aunt Irene.