Happy Thanksgiving Baking

I woke up with Chuck this morning so I could make him breakfast and pack a lunch for him. He's got a big day at work today. I was really hungry and not as much sleepy after he left so I decided to make muffins.
It's 6 am and I'm making muffins.

Part of the reason for my insane desire to make muffins at all costs is the horrible disaster that my last batch of muffins ended in. I began with an idea to make some healthy muffins that Ruby and I could snack on when everyone else was eating cookies and brownies or cocoa puffs for breakfast. The only problem was I could think of where to find a good recipe. There were a lot of limitations: I wanted to use fresh roasted pumpkin, no chocolate of any kind, I didn't have oatmeal, bran or raisin bran cereal. Surprisingly that knocks out most online recipes! So I winged it. I tried to blend two different recipes and it just didn't work. They're eatable but not so enjoyable. Have you ever had that baking powder not enough sweet taste in baked goods? Yup. That's it.
Good news is that Ruby will probably eat them but I certainly can't pass any along to anyone else.

So... last night I had fitfull dreams about pumpkin bread, muffins and all sorts of randomness - thank you pregnancy hormones - and woke up with a renewed desire and drive to find a better recipe. And I did.
Where? On my own blog. Yup, I'm going to make Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread and Rye Pumpkin Muffins.
I don't know why I didn't think of them before?!?!

I'm also going to add blueberry muffins to the list and decided that America's Test Kitchen is the way to go with those. I don't have any yogurt so I'm going to substitute sour cream (and applesauce if necessary) but I'm sure their recipe can be trusted.

Well, have a wonderful day and a wonderful Thanksgiving. Remember that it's about being grateful for what we have not stressing out about what we don't whether it's because of finances or time.

Kitchen Curtain

I bought this towel recently with intentions of making it into an
apron but I think it may have found its home as my kitchen curtain.

Don't worry, I'm a professional.

You may not know this but there was a short time in my life when I was
a Kolache Baker. That's right, I was paid to make breakfast pastries.

Successfull Fall Decor

I finally made a seasonal banner! I've been wanting to make one for quite a while now, even as far back as spring of last year (I'm pretty sure I blogged about it if you'd like to check the archives). This one is pretty basic and definitely not top quality but as long as you don't scrutinize it I think it looks pretty autumnal and dresses up our kitchen/dining room nicely.

I really don't like decorating for holidays (and Chuck appreciates that) but I do like decorating for the seasons. I think mainly because the seasons don't change here like they do in MN.

I didn't spend anything on the banner as it was stuff I was given at different times. In keeping with the free decorations (and because all the stuff I've seen so far in the stores is rather cheesy looking) I decided to make some out of natural elements. On a few different walks Ruby and I gathered acorns and pretty leaves. Chuck actually put these adorable decorations together while I was sewing the banner. He's so creative. My only addition was the pine cone because I hadn't found the perfect one when he was creating.
We got the ornament hanger at Ikea and I love it because I can use it for all seasons, not just Christmas (although it was in their Christmas displays).

So the grand total for my new fall decor: $4 (for the ornament holder)


And don't my little salt/pepper birds look so cute!?

Next I'm going to attempt to make some autumn inspired throw pillows for the couch. I think that would be a nice addition and could go a long way to making our living space look for seasonal. 

How do you decorate for the seasons/holidays?

More Fall Baking

I did some more all baking last night and really love to do it. There was a short span of time when I felt that I couldn't bake sweet things because they weren't "good" for you to eat and I needed to focus on healthy things but then was reminded that there are more important things than health - like love, fellowship, enjoying life, and bringing joy to others lives. There really isn't an easier way to connect with neighbors than bringing them baked goods. I'm really excited about baked gifts for our neighbors this Christmas season.

I'd also like to add that I think I was making healthy eating an idol in my life. I felt that if I could feed my family the most nutritional things and the least unhealthy things other areas of my life would fall into place. I would be a better mother, wife and person. The only way I will become a better mom, wife or person is through Christ. I'm not even sure how it works exactly. I just know that I can't do it by myself. My best efforts will fall short of Christ's perfection and since He created everything and knows just how it should work I should ask for His help constantly. He gives me each day and each breathe. It's a pretty huge deal.

He's also given me a desire to love others and to share the joy of baking and eating wonderful foods. So bake I do. Here are the two recipes that I made last night and they were both given several thumbs up.

Almond Butternut Squash Muffins/Cupcakes (based on this recipe)
1 cup butternut squash puree
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
2/3 cup of sugar (half brown sugar if you desire, I'd use even less next time, maybe only 1/2 cup)
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 1/4 cups of flour
1/2 tsp almond flavor (or vanilla if you don't like almond but how can you not like almond?!)

1. Quarter and seed the squash. Place in a 9x13 pan with about 1/4 inch of water and bake for 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool and scoop out insides and puree in a food processor or blender if you desire. I didn't puree mine so there were some small chunks after I mixed it in. You could see the chunks in the final muffins but couldn't detect the texture or taste so I'll skip the pureeing again in the future.

2. In a large bowl, cream sugar, eggs, and butter. Add squash and flavoring.

3. Add dry ingredients being careful not to cover your kitchen in flour. I mix my dry ingredients in with a spatula before turning on my mixer but if you have a nice big stand mixer you of course don't need to worry so much. I'll admit I'm jealous of you fancy stand mixers - and even your not so fancy ones.

4. Divide batter evenly in greased or lined muffin tins, filling each cup about halfway. Bake at 350 F until tops spring back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes.

I made mini muffins and they took about 15 minutes to bake.

I was going to frost these with a chocolate buttercream but didn't have enough powdered sugar. They were delicious without the frosting but would have been quite amazing with. In case you'd like to frost them here's an easy recipes for you.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temp.
1 1/2 to 2 cups powerdered sugar
2 to 3 Tbs. cocoa powder
a few splashes of milk to reach the right consistancy

Cream the butter until smooth, add the sugar and cocoa and mix until smooth adding milk as needed

If, like me you have lots of apples this fall that need to be used you should put some into these apple bars. The first time I made them I added a layer of almond paste and last night I added a layer of caramel instead. Both were quite delightful. Neither time did I put the layer of corn flakes as I didn't have any and wasn't going to buy them just for this recipe. If you try a different variation (or use corn flakes) let me know how they turn out!!

Visitor From MN

My good friend Elaine visited for a day from MN. She and I went to
highschool together and she's really the only person I keep up with
from that time of my life.

Our vice principal used to mix us up although we've never thought we
looked that much alike. I stayed at her house during Marching Band
Camp. We occasionally finished each others sentences, cut each others
hair and wore each others clothes.
She's great.

We had a good visit and somehow forgot to take a picture until she was
getting ready to leave! But here's proof that she was here! Not the
best photo but maybe when we're old we'll at least remember that she
visited when I was pregnant and living in TX. Maybe - this photo isn't
really that descriptive.
Oh well, I love her.

Thanks for visiting Elaine, hopefully we'll see you again soon!

Rye Pumpkin Muffins

I was baking in another pregnancy craving stupor - this time for a
party and with bizarre idea that I should add rye flour to baked
goods. Pumpkin baked good specifically.
I, of course, could find no mention of this ever having been done and
documented online so I had to let my baby addled brain do the work. I
should start a rye flour fan club...

Here's the recipe as close as I can remember. I originally halved a
large batch of dough so I could make cookies and muffins but that's
sort of silly so next time I make the muffins this is what I'll do.

Rye Pumpkin Muffins
2 eggs
Up to 1 cup sugar
1 cup (1/2 can) pumpkin purée
1/2 cup butter, room temp.
1/4 cup canola or veggie oil
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
(or mixture of seasonings of your choice)
1/4 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients. Cream eggs, butter and sugar. Add pumpkin and oil
and mix well. Add wet to dry. It should be thinner than cookie dough
but thicker than pancake batter. I used a small measuring cup to fill
mini muffin cups for the party.

Bake @ 350 degrees F for 8 - 10 min (or so) for mini muffins and 15 -
20 or more for regular size.

I made frosting for mine with marscapone cheese and powdered sugar and
vanilla. They were awesome. And eaten faster than I could get a photo.


Fall playing and food

Things are going well around here for the most part. Ruby is growing every day and is very sweet, funny, curious, stubborn and a constant reminder of the depravity of man. It's daily that I think, "Wow, we really do need Christ." But I also often think about all the mysteries and miracles that God works and understands each day like how he creates life in the first place and how to grows babies into toddlers and gives them a wonderful thirst for learning and experiencing the world and joy.

I'm also growing (because Enzo is) and looking forward to the holidays. I've been doing a lot of baking and cooking lately and really enjoying entertaining friend. We had an informal cocktail type party last week and really enjoyed it. I love hosting, although I still have a hard time remaining calm and socializing, and plan to host more get-togethers as the weather cools. I have plans or pies (sweet and meat!), fudge, soups, spiced cider and other wonderful fall foods.

One of the dishes that I've been craving with the cooler weather is calico beans. I blogged about it already as it's my favorite food and have discovered recently that it's delightful with sauerkraut. I did quite a bit of reading about the health benefits of fermented foods and while I'm still in the early stages of experimenting I do like the sauerkraut that I made and we of course eat a lot of homemade yogurt.

One of the less healthy but wonderful foods that I've enjoyed lately are a variation of a recipe for "Cocoa Blocks" that I got from a friend. I made them for our party last week and they were a hit (as were the pumpkin muffs with mascarpone frosting but I'll post about those later). I've been wanting to add spice and more depth of flavor to everything lately so I decided I would add chili and cayenne to the recipe. I just added them "to taste" so don't have measurements to give you but here's the original recipe (based on a recipe by King Arthur Flour) if you'd like to give them a try. They're delightful melted in a cup of coffee as well!

Cocoa Blocks

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 cups milk chocolate (chopped chocolate bars or chips)
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate (chopped chocolate bars or chips)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate (about 2 1/2 blocks)
  • wooden sticks or toothpicks


1) Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2) Heat the cream and condensed milk over low heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; allow it to gently melt.
3) After about 10 minutes, return the chocolate mixture to low heat to completely melt the chocolate. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is thick and shiny. Add a few drops of flavoring oil if you like; hazelnut, coffee, or vanilla are popular flavors.
4) Pour the chocolate mixture into the pan; shake the pan gently to level. Sprinkle with cocoa, if desired. Set aside overnight to slowly set up.
5) Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn out onto a clean cutting surface.
6) Slice into 1 ¼" cubes. Heat a knife in hot water and wipe dry before each cut, for smoothest cuts.
7) Stick a wooden stick into the center of each block.
8) Roll in cocoa or crushed peppermint candy, if desired.
9) Wrap in waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap to store.
Yield: about 3 dozen blocks.

Recipe summary

Hands-on time: 20-45 mins.
Total time: 12-12 hrs 45 mins.
Yield: 3 dozen blocks