Monday, June 2, 2014

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

Over the past few months (year), I have been up and down with my baking.  I have given up sugar for a spurt here and there.  My son has given up sugar for a month here and there, and I have noticed changes in him for the better when he does.

Well, that's part of the reason why I haven't been on here.  It is very hard to have a blog to inspire people to bake and cook from scratch when I am also trying to inspire people to eat less sugar and live a healthy lifestyle.  I'm stuck in the middle.

I'm hoping that those of you who follow me are at the same point and that I am inspiring you to stop buying processed foods and start making your own from home.  I just can't shake eating sugar and sweets and at the times when I have completely given it up, the day I'm done, I just want to eat cookies.  I find that when I bake, I am happy.  When I find a delicious recipe from scratch that I love, I want to share it.  I want to inspire you to get in the kitchen and cook- I hope that you will learn something new and bring it to the table for your family to enjoy.

I am spending more and more time in my kitchen these days, trying to use all fresh ingredients and making more and more on my own.  I seem to make a dessert on the weekends and try to make it last through the week, unless I find a rare gem, like this, which it was made on Sunday for Easter, then again on Tuesday for dessert for the rest of the week.

OK, fine, then again a few weeks later, because after all, there are carrots in them, so they are kind of healthy...  If you have a BBQ or party to go to this summer, I highly recommend bringing these.  You they will not disappoint.
Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies-
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter- room temp (important)
1 egg - room temperature (important)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup finely shredded or grated carrots

3 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup ( half stick) unsalted butter- room temp
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup confectioners sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350'.

2) In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside

3) In bowl of mixer, beat butter for 2 min until creamy- add in brown sugar and beat again on medium until fluffy.  Scrape down sides.

4) Add egg and vanilla, beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Scrape down sides.

5) Add in dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl.  Add in oats and carrots, mix until incorporated.  Scrape bowl, then mix one final time.

6) Drop 1 TBSP sized rounds of batter onto cookie sheet.  Bake approx 11-14 minutes.  Halfway through baking, rotate cookie sheet.  Depending on your oven, the cooking time will vary.  Smaller cookies will take about 11 min, whereas larger will take up to 14.

7) Remove cookies from oven and let cool.  Set cookies onto baking rack to cool completely before filling.

8) Prepare filling:  Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl of stand mixer for 8 minutes, will be light and fluffy- I promise, mix for the whole 8  minutes on medium-high.  Add vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat again for 8 more minutes, stopping halfway through to scrape sides once.  Put filling into a bag and pipe onto a cookie, press another cookie on top to make a sandwich.

Makes approx 20 small whoopie pies.

Adapted from Annie's Eats.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

End of another school year

I can't believe another school year has ended.

Day 1:  August 20- Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade
Last Day: May 28- Now 1st Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, and 6th Grade (Jr High -yikes)

Monday, February 10, 2014

CrossFit- a community I'm part of

I started sending out motivational emails to members of our crossfit box.  I've been dying to get back to this blog, so I figured I'd post some here because they may help motivate others who read this blog.

This week, I was inspired to talk about the community I've become a part of at crossfit.

A few weeks ago, I was at my neighborhood book club and one of the mom's was talking about how when she went to playgroup with her kids' friends, sometimes she felt uncomfortable because she oftentimes didn't get along with the parents- she felt like the only way she could meet people was through her kids' friends and she wasn't able to choose what their moms were like.

"CrossFit is community."

My kids went to a birthday party yesterday, for one of their crossfit friends and low and behold many of their parents were there and they were my crossfit friends. I did not feel awkward and stand in the corner playing words with friends on my phone because I didn't know any of the other parents, I was able to smile and carry on an actual adult conversation.   

“Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don't do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.”  -Rachel Naomi Remen

This week, I started a "hands free" rule for myself, from when the kids get home from school until after dinner.  I realized that quick Facebook checks, text messages, etc. were starting to take me away from my life.  I could be having a conversation with my child or my husband, but instead I would be glued to my phone.  Have you ever realized how many conversations you miss because of technology or convenience?  

-ATM at bank, avoid talking to the teller
-self checkout at grocery store- avoid the cashier
-text message someone-avoid the phone call
-order stamps online or from a machine- avoid the postal clerk or mail man
-send e-gifts- why give it in person

These are just a few examples of conversations we are no longer having.  As a mom of 5, if I'm not working, sometimes, I don't even get to talk to an adult all day long, which is why that birthday party meant so much yesterday, my kids got to play with their friends and I got to talk to my friends, like an adult, about things we all enjoyed.

Long story short- at CrossFit, we have to talk to each other- at the Y, we did not have to, at LifeTime fitness, you did not.  

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation."-Plato

We have set classes we prefer to attend.  5:30 AM, it takes a special person to work out at that time, 6:35- well heck there's an application, 7:30- they're all so quiet, hoping Scott won't cancel the class we just created, they're just happy for that time slot, 8:30- if you like to workout alone, 9:30- yes!!! the kids are at school now, 4:30- left work early, they're all business ready to burn off their aggression, 5:30, 6:30-pm- waiting patiently for the new box so they can have kids at the same time and have space in their classes, bunch of fun ladies at 6:30, 7:30- seriously, who works out that late anyways???  

If you don't show up, you are missed.  Have you ever gotten a text asking where you were or even worse, the dreaded Facebook post that you are tagged in, calling you out to the entire box?  We don't just work out together, we know each other, we see each other's weaknesses, hear moaning and groaning that is usually left for behind closed doors.  Talk about peeing our pants or even worse....   We actually have to talk to each other and we want to.  I love hearing people talking happily amongst themselves.  

"Through others we become ourselves." -Lev S. Vygotsky

I'm an adult and I'm having fun.  I read an article about CrossFit recently and it was entitled "where everybody knows your name".  It's true, most people do know your name here.  For most of us, this isn't a place to join and come once a month, we're in it for the long haul.  I do take pride in the fact that almost all of us do know each other, even if our paths haven't crossed yet.  This box is kind of like our Cheers.

Have you ever had that awkward moment when you walk into a class you normally don't WOD with and no one knows you?, then like a miracle, someone walks in that you know and it's the biggest relief, or all of the sudden, everyone just starts shaking your hand and introducing themselves to you like you're a day one.  Gotta love it, you'd never get that at spin class at the Y, you'd just slink into the back on the bike in the shadow with no light above it and go on your merry way silently- Not here!

A few weeks ago, Rob wrote in the Facebook group about how he was so glad to be back after time off from an injury.  I really understood him- you get in this group of people that you can truly be yourself with, without worrying about being fired (like at work) or being judged and then when you don't have it- you realize it was what you were missing in life all along.  For some of us, crossfit is a chance to have an identity (even if it is under the cover of our box nickname), to be who we want to be, or to become someone better.  It gives us the sense of small community that is so oftentimes missed in this fast paced world we live in.  It gives us opportunities to converse with actual adults, to meet people whose paths we would never have crossed before, to put ourselves on an equal level with many others, to give ourselves the gift of health, to give our children opportunities for fitness education, and to just be better.

Is this your first time reading one of these emails- welcome!  You will never be the same.  

“Most of the problems with the bodies and minds of the folks occupying the current culture involve an unwillingness to do anything hard, or anything that they’d rather not do. I applaud your resolve, and I welcome you to the community of people who have decided that EASY will no longer suffice”. 

This week it's Valentine's day- a day which many proclaim as a Hallmark holiday- not me.  I choose to use it as a day to make sure to tell important people in my life that I love them because sometimes we just take it for granted.  I also choose to take it as a day to make it extra fun and special for my kids- if we don't make some days extra special, then they're all just ordinary.  Choose to make this day special for yourself, for your family, for your friends, for a random stranger, for your entire WOD group- you are an adult and you are alive and you have opportunities, don't let them pass unnoticed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homemade Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Hi, I'm back!  I have not forgotten about this blog.  I often write posts in my head, when I can't find the time to sit and type.  I feel as though, now, four months into the school year, I'm getting back on my feet after having kids home all summer and homeschooling one last year.

This recipe for jellied cranberry sauce is so good, it prompted me to FINALLY get back on here!  When I was a kid, a special treat with a meal would consist of a small amount of cranberry sauce or apple sauce.  I remember on Thanksgiving being able to have more than just a small amount of cranberry sauce and it was delicious!

The past two years, I have made my own cranberry sauce (more of a relish style).  This year, I found this recipe for jellied cranberry sauce and I had to share.  I know it's a favorite at my parent's house and people who might not be compelled to try the relish would love this recipe.  It is my goal to eliminate prepackaged and processed foods from my eating.  For the past three weeks, I have not eaten much sugar and little to no grains.  I am not above eating sugar or grains, I just like to make these products myself, so I know what I am putting into my mouth.  I find eating healthy is not a cold turkey and you're done deal, it takes a long time.  My way is do it myself first, then move on to elimination, portion control, etc. If I can't do it myself, I wonder should I be eating it.

At any rate, this sauce came out just like store bought, but with no chemicals.  It's easy and delicious, I hope that I will inspire someone to try to make their own cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving.
Jellied Cranberry Sauce:

2 bags cranberries
2 cups sugar (sugar in the raw is ok too)
juice from 1 orange- then add water so it totals 2 cups liquid
zest from half of the orange

1) Put all ingredients in stockpot and bring to a boil.
2) Let boil for ten minutes, cranberries will start to pop- I gently mashed the berries against the side of the pan.
3) Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve- press hard on the berries to remove juices and pulp.  I ended up putting the remnants from the sieve into a cheesecloth and squeezing out more liquid afterwards.
4) Place in air tight container in refrigerator for up to one week, or seal in a canning jar by boiling in water for 15-20 minutes.  Jar should be ~1" below water level.
Jar can be stored at room temp for one year if sealed.

Once refrigerated, if you use a jar that is straight (wide mouth)- you should be able to overturn and get the sauce to pop out of the "mold".  I will just scoop mine out, as I did not have a straight style jar.
Source:  Foodie with Family (I halfed her recipe and got 3 pints )

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recent photos

Here are a few photos I had to submit for my new online photography class.  A head shot, partial body shot, and full body shot.  Last summer, I couldn't even put pigtails in her hair, she is growing up too fast.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Black Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream

I'm baaaack and hopefully for good.  I realized today that July is National Ice Cream Month.  I thought I'd make my comeback with this amazing ice cream that I made last weekend.  I got a vitamix recently so I've been hitting up the farmer's market hard every weekend to stock my freezer full of farm grown local fruit for my smoothies.  Last week, I came across black raspberries.

The sighting of the black raspberries was kind of nostalgic for me. I  had never actually seen them for sale before, but back in Massachusetts, black raspberry is one of my favorite flavors to get at the local ice cream shop.  Here, where I live now, there are not very many local dairy bars that have a variety of hard ice cream flavors, it's mostly soft serve, so it makes me sad that my kids miss out on that experience.  I immediately bought a quart of black raspberries and went home that very day to make black raspberry ice cream.  I don't know who I was with, but I think it was my dad, that ordered it with jimmies- black raspberry with chocolate-you can't go wrong.

I recently purchased David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.  It has been on my wishlist for a very long time.  I decided to buy it because my son expressed interest in learning how to make ice cream.  As I was searching for a black raspberry ice cream recipe, I pulled out the book and there it was, "raspberry swirl ice cream".  If you are looking for a fun way to introduce new fruits to a picky kids, here you go! All of my kids ate it and liked it.  It is good to know that the ice cream is actually made with real, local berries.  If you can't find black raspberries, I'm positive it will be just as delicious with red ones, which are also in season now.
Black Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream:

Ice Cream:
1 cup Whole Milk (if you use low fat, it will not turn out as creamy)
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
5 Egg Yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla

Black Raspberry Swirl:
1 1/2 cup black raspberries (fresh or frozen)
3 TBSP Sugar
1 TBSP vodka

1) Make the raspberry swirl.  Mash the raspberries together with the sugar and vodka.  (The vodka helps the ice cream stay smooth- I did not have vodka, but since I make my own vanilla with vodka, I used 1 TBSP vanilla)- I also was lazy and just mashed it together in my food processor, just way easier.  Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, and strain the raspberry mixture to remove the seeds.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

2) For the ice cream, place egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and whisk.

3) Place milk, sugar, and salt in medium sauce pan, warm it to about 175'.

4) While milk mixture is warming, pour cream into a large bowl, with a mesh sieve over it.

5) Once milk mixture is warm, pour half of it over the egg yolks, stirring constantly.  This is called tempering the eggs.  Pour this mixture back into the pan with the rest of the milk mixture.  Continue heating, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan.  The mixture should reach about 185', you will notice it will thicken like a custard, and coat the spatula.  Remove from heat.

6) Pour custard mixture through mesh sieve into cream.  Stir in the vanilla and stir until cool, over an ice bath.  Once mixture is cool, cover and place in the refrigerator to chill.  Once the mixture is chilled, about 1 hour, you can churn in your ice cream maker, according to directions.

7) Chill the container you will be storing the ice cream in in your freezer.  When the ice cream is done churning, layer a scoop of ice cream, spread a thin layer of raspberry swirl, then ice cream, etc until you have filled the container.  Freeze until ready to serve.
Source:  Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

School Year 2012-2013

This was a hard year for me, homeschooling 1, having 2 in public school, 2 others at home, demanding attention, starting to work part time, and a husband that travels, made for a LOT!  Can I just say that I am GLAD that the school year is over.  I feel like it went by fast now that it's over, and I didn't even get to see these guys grow.

First Day of School August 2012 (Grade 1, 2, 4)
Last Day of School May 2013