5 Foods I Love in the Fall

It’s Friday! Here are my 5 favorite fall foods. Just because.

1. homemade apple pie, made from freshly picked Harlson apples and all the cinnamon you can find in a 5-mile radius…

…and made-from-scratch pie crust, mostly because I have an affinity for eating raw pie dough. It’s a strange disorder I inherited.

And now I’m gladly passing it along to my children.

We save enough dough to make the actual pie. Usually.

Mmmmm. Can you smell the cinnamon?

2. Honeycrisp apples — so sweet, so juicy, so uniquely Minnesotan!

3. Candy corn — and those cute little candy pumpkins. Yum!

4. Chex Mix — salty, crunchy, and nearly as addictive as candy corn!

5. “Simply Apple” apple juice — a new discovery this year. I don’t even like regular apple juice, but this is more like cider — only pasteurized. It is so delicious!

Here’s the recipe I use for made-from-scratch pie crust, which rolls out wonderfully when sandwiched between two sheets of generously floured wax paper, and it makes a deliciously flaky crust for nearly any pie.

Pie Crust

2 cups flour

2/3 cup shortening

1 tsp. salt

5-6 tablespoons ice water

Combine dry ingredients and use pastry cutter to mix. Add water and use fork to blend. Makes shell and top.

Favorite Warm-Weather Recipes

It’s prime time to dig out those recipes that our family enjoys during the warmer months. And why not start with dessert first?

cranking homemade ice cream by hand

Here’s the recipe* we use in our Old Fashioned Ice Cream Freezer to make homemade vanilla ice cream:

3¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tblsp. cornstarch

½ tsp. salt

1½ tblsp. vanilla

7 cups milk (I use whole milk)

5 eggs, beaten

2¾ cups heavy cream

1½ cups half and half

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, slowly stir in the milk, stirring constantly. Very slowly, add the beaten eggs and continue to stir. (I usually dip out some of the warm milk mixture and mix it with the beaten eggs and then add them in slowly — to keep them from cooking too fast.) Reduce heat to low and cook until mixture thickens slightly. Slowly add vanilla, half and half, and heavy cream. Pour into a large glass bowl and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours or until mixture has chilled. Remove from refrigerator. Pour mixture into the mixing canister and follow directions for your specific ice cream freezer.

*Note: In my opinion, homemade ice cream is only truly homemade when cranked by hand outside! In my family, freezers with an electric crank are considered cheating, especially when done in the kitchen sink! And you can tell my in-laws I said that!

By the way, the ice cream is even better when served with these chocolate cupcakes.

Short and Sweet

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” -Psalm 119:103 

After re-living my Florida vacation online, I’m tired! And I imagine you, my dear readers, are ready for something short and sweet.

So here it is.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cupcakes

http://www.hersheys.com/recipes/recipes/detail.asp?id=184

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • chocolate frosting (recipe follows)
Directions:1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

“PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. (I only soften mine so my icing stays fluffy and easier to decorate with.) Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

This recipe is tried and true. My mother used it my entire childhood for all our family birthday cakes. The appliances I use for this recipe are my KitchenAid Mixer and my Wilton Desssert Decorator Pro. Hint: The cupcakes look prettiest when baked in brown or black baking cups.

Out with the old and in with the new!

Most of you remember my Pyrex dinner nightmare a while back. If not, you can read all about it by clicking here.

The short story is my homemade chimichangas were ruined.

I ended up disposing of more than a dozen pieces of Pyrex glassware (in addition to those pieces that shattered into thousands of tiny shards). Out with the old!

Clearly, I needed some replacements! There were several suggestions from my loyal readers: cast iron, metal, stainless steel, Le Creuset, and Pampered Chef, the latter of which received the most votes. And since I happen to already own (and love) a number of Pampered Chef products, and since we go to church with a very nice lady who is a Pampered Chef consultant, that’s what we chose. 

Michael placed the order and decided to be very generous (mostly because he likes those chimichangas and wants to ensure I keep baking them). So, he purchased four new Pampered Chef baking stones. Two are 9X13 rectangular ones, and two are 9X9 square ones. All of them have a beautiful cranberry finish on the outside. And, the best part is, they are made in the USA!  That’s something to cheer about, so in with the new!

These bakers are eager to be seasoned, so now I just need to decide what to bake first! I’m thinking cinnamon rolls.

It’s a Boot Scootin’ Birthday!

This weekend we are celebrating the birthday of our little cowgirl!

We celebrated with peanuts, pretzels and homemade horse cupcakes corraled in a white picket fence.

We celebrated with cowgirl friends.

We celebrated with the cowgirl lil’ sister.

We celebrated with games.

We celebrated with horse-themed presents.

We celebrated with candles and singing.

We celebrated, and we thanked God for seven precious years with our sweet Linnea. May there be happy trails to number eight!

The Bread of Life

Last week we started memorizing John 6:35, talking about manna for the Israelites, and talking about Jesus feeding the multitude. We also had two science experiments involving yeast and balloons. Those were fun! And playing around with yeast just made me hungry for some homemade bread, which I usually only bake during the holidays. But, with the snow and all lately, it sort of feels like the holidays already. So last Thursday the girls helped me bake bread. We made more than two dozen brown-and-serve, clover-leaf hot rolls, which I froze, and also these three cute mini loafs. Yum!

breadoflife

“…I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

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For the record, we also made homemade butter, as part of our history lesson, to serve with our homemade bread. Let’s just say that wasn’t quite so photogenic or  yummy. But after all that butter churning shaking, Linnea and I both really appreciate Land O Lakes sweet cream butter on a totally new level!

Love and Hearts

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

What’s more heart-warming than a sweater knitted with love by your great-grandma? When we were in Washington in November, my grandma and I took the girls to pick out yarn. Then Grandma went to work knitting these beautiful sweaters for them. She mailed them shortly after Christmas. Don’t they look precious on my little sweethearts? 

When we picked up these photos at the drugstore this morning, Laurel (age 3) looked around and said quite matter-of-factly, “Well, it looks like they are ready for Valentine’s Day.” She seemed to think they were getting ready for a party rather than capitalizing on the holiday.

Of course it’s all hearts and love every where we go lately, so how fitting that I’ve been memorizing Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV). I am going to type it from memory just to test myself. Please leave a comment if you notice that I’ve left something out!

“Hear O Israel the LORD our God the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

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The girls and I made dozens of these sugar cookies today. We wore our matching pink aprons (thanks again, Aimee!) and destroyed the kitchen with sprinkles, sugar, flour and icing.

Sugar cookies were not something my mother ever made, so I’ve never been a huge fan of them. However, they happen to be Michael’s all-time favorite cookie. It’s tradition in our nearly 20-year history of Valentine’s together for me to make and decorate the cookies so he can consume most of them.

About six years ago my friend Dani gave me what I believe is the BEST EVER sugar cookie recipe. The dough rolls out better than any other recipe or store-bought dough I’ve tried. And the cookies are pretty tasty. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot since most sweets are incomplete without chocolate! Anyway, here’s the recipe: 

SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup softened butter

1.5 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 Tblsp. vanilla

3.5 cups flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Mix all together with beater and chill three to four hours. Roll out and cut into shapes. The thicker cookies are better. Bake about 11 minutes at 350 F (longer if you use airbake cookie sheets). Bake until cookies are just slightly brown on the edges.

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We also made these heart-shaped lollipops. We got the candy melts and molds at Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago. So fun and super easy!

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Here, Laurel is get ready to slurp up what we are calling “raspberry floats.” They are perfectly pink for Valentine’s Day or girly parties. You can mix it together in a punch bowl or in individual glasses if you are just serving a few. Here’s what you need:

RASPBERRY FLOATS

2-liter of raspberry gingerale

1/2 gallon of raspberry sherbert

a handful of fresh raspberries

Scoop sherbert into individual glasses or punch bowl. Pour in gingerale to finish filling the glass or bowl. Mix with a fork if necessary. Let stand for about 5 minutes so the sherbert melts a little. Garnish with a few fresh raspberries and enjoy!

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A Fairy Tea for Linnea’s 6th Birthday

Linnea is 6! Her party was a “fairy tea” with four of her little friends and her little sister. I served flower sandwiches, apple and pear slices, forest fairy trail mix, graham crackers iced with Pixie Dust, shortbread cookies, cranberry white chocolate scones with clotted cream, raspberry cups, chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and raspberry sherbert floats. I also served ginger peach tea, cinnamon plum tea, and lots of apple juice! All the girls looked so lovely, and they had fun decorating picture frames with ribbon and flowers. We read a book about creating fairy houses, and we played with tea sets and felt boards. It was a lot of fun! Many thanks to my dear cousin Rachel for all her help with the party preparations and the party crowd!

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