Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blueberry Muffins

There have been many muffin recipes come and go through our kitchen, but there is one that stands out as a favorite for my entire family. My kids, husband, and grandfather love these muffins. The great thing about it is that it can be a blueberry muffin recipe or a chocolate chip mini muffin recipe (the latter will be a different blog post for a different day). Today it is blueberry muffins, and, as I write this, the number that are left from the batch I made earlier is dwindling... These muffins are great for breakfast or a snack or just because you want one (confession: I am currently eating one for "artistic inspiration"). Look at these muffins, don't they just beg to be eaten?

Blueberry Muffin Recipe:
Yield: 24 muffins


3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray muffin tin with oil (I do not like paper liners).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined.  Next, mix in the milk, oil, and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon to combine (do not overmix).  The batter will be very thick: this is normal!  Now, fold in the blueberries.

Here is where I am going to let you in on my secret for filling the muffin tins.  Using an ice cream scooper, scoop the muffin batter and fill the muffin tins 3/4 full.  Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the coarse sugar.

Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.  Increase temperature to 375°F and bake for 2 minutes.  Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes (not that I can ever wait that long before slathering on butter and popping them in my mouth).

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Front Porch Container Gardening

Planting season is the time of year I look forward to; it's a time for things to begin anew again, a time to get dirt under your nails.  I have an abundance of pots at my house, so many that I can't even fill all of them because there is no room for them all on my porch, flower beds, or patio.  If I have a hoarding tendency, it is probably toward pots (probably a few other things too if I'm honest or if you ask my husband).  I have containers in a few different areas of my house: the front porch, the front flower bed, and the back patio (for now....).  Because there are so many of them, I like to plan what I'm going to plant in each one of them.  This is a process that I have built on for years.  I have had to start over a couple of times because we have moved to different growing zones, but I always keep a record of what works (and especially what doesn't).  I also like to draw diagrams of my containers and of what and how many plants I will put into each container.

Below are the plans from my Sketchbook (pages 1 and 2) for my Front Porch Containers.  I am starting with these because I love to sit on my front porch and drink coffee, watch the kids play, people watch, read, and look at my plants.  We moved into our current house two years ago when I was very pregnant with our fourth daughter, so that first spring and summer I was not able to really get into the landscaping and gardening of our house.  This will be the second spring that I have been able to do that.  Last spring we ripped out all of the builder-grade landscaping and started over (there was nothing wrong with the builder-grade plants, but I wanted to put my own stamp on the house....and it's what we do everywhere we live so why stop now?).

Page 1 of ROF Sketchbook: Front Porch Containers

Page 2 of ROF Sketchbook: Front Porch Containers

Now for the pictures of the plants that I planted in those pots:

Front Door Red Container: Tall Tropical Plant and Dragon Wing Begonias

Big Green Container: Lantana, Sweet Potato Vine, & Verbena (Red)

Front Porch Containers: Variegated Ginger, New Guinea Impatiens, Coleus, Bacopa, Dragon Wing Begonias

Front Porch Containers

View from my rocking chair.

I hope you enjoyed a partial view of my Front Porch.  I will share the plans for my Front Flower Bed Containers next week.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken

I know this recipe is all over the internet and has been for the past few years (wow, time flies).  As a matter of fact I originally posted this in January of 2012.  But, I am cooking this today and it smells so good that I thought I owed it to you to share it again (just in case you forgot about it).  So, here it is (again):

Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
(recipe follows)
Serves 6-8 (depending on the size of your chicken)

This is the "before" picture...I just put it in the slow cooker.

Rub Ingredients:
4 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic pepper
 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Other Ingredients:
1 roasting or fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 lbs per original recipe; note: I usually use a 5-6 lb chicken and cook it longer because I have a big family.)
1 medium to large chopped onion
1 pkg (16 oz) baby carrots or 4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped into halves or thirds
4 celery stalks, cut in thirds
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 lemon, quartered

  1. Combine rub ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Remove chicken from packaging and remove neck and pouch with organs (Note: if you are planning on freezing the chicken before cooking, remove the organs and neck first because it is much easier than trying to remove it after thawing).  Discard parts.  Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Rub garlic all over outside of the chicken.  Put garlic inside the chicken.
  4. Rub the rub all over the outside and inside the chicken.  Add quartered lemon to the inside of the chicken.
  5. Place onions, carrots, and celery inside the slow cooker.  Place chicken on top of the vegetables.  Cover slow cooker and cook chicken on low for 4-8 hours (a 4 lb chicken will take about 6 hours and an 8 lb chicken will take about 8 hours.  The time will depend on your slow cooker and the size of your chicken).  Note: do not add any liquid to the slow cooker; I know it looks dry, but it will make its own juices.  Cook until the internal temperature of the leg is at 160ยบ or use a pop-up thermometer.
  6. Remove the chicken and place in a 9x13 glass baking dish.  Place baking dish in the oven under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes. 
  7. Serve.
Modified from food.com.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sticks and Stones: Words Really Do Hurt

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me..."  This is what we teach our children, to not let words hurt them.  This phrase that we too learned as children, but we have learned to not be true, and it is something that we should not be teaching our children.  Words do hurt, they can hurt more than sticks and stones.

I haven't blogged (not a blog without a project) in quite some time now.  The main reason, and one that will plague me for the rest of my life, is that someone made fun of me.  I know, it's juvenile, but it still made me second guess everything that I said [wrote] or even did, and no matter how long ago it is, there will still be that nagging voice inside my head thinking "what will people say if I write this?"  Thick-skinned I am not, but I can take it much better from people that I do not know than people that I know and thought I was close to.  That is the problem, I knew them well, and they went out of their way to make fun of me and my blog and my life.  That being said, I know that I should not have let that bother me, but it did.  And it made me think.  Have I ever made other people feel bad about themselves because of something that I said?  That is when it occurred to me, words really do hurt no matter how old you are.

I have seen words hurled at others out of anger or stress and it was like a slap in the face for that person.  I have seen words hissed in moments of anger and watched the person react as if they had been struck.  Words can be poison, something that can never be taken back once they have been used.  People can forgive the person for saying them, but forgetting the words is another story all together because they affect you, change you, make you into someone that you were not before those words were used.

This brings me to our children.  Do you watch what you say to them?  Your words will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  Do your words make them a better person or do they tear them down?  In a moment of joking, do you tease your child and create some kind of self consciousness about them that wasn't there before?  Or do you build them up so that they can withstand the hailstorm of words that will come from the outside world during their lifetime?  Or maybe it is your quieter words, the "not right now" or "I'm busy" or "I don't have time for this" that make their eyes sting and their hearts feel heavy.  I have been guilty, I am sure you have been guilty, because I know that parenting is hard and sometimes you feel like you don't have time or you are busy or it is the last straw on your back that is about to make it break.  But just remember that in a few short years they will not want your time or your attention.  It will be you who wants their attention and when they tell you that "not right now" or "I'm busy" or they "don't have time" remember where they first heard those words and how to use them.  Remember that you taught them how to use words that hit the heart like sticks and stones.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homemade Teacher Christmas Gift: Hot Chocolate Mix

Christmas time: time of giving gifts.  I think that I have mentioned before that in another life (back in my 20s), I was a high school teacher. I always enjoyed the gifts given to me by students that were something that I could use and/or were homemade.  As my children have gotten older, they have acquired more teachers (currently I only have two of four in school) for a total of thirteen teachers (that is A LOT) this year.  I know that is a big number, and it will only continue to grow through the years, but I do think that it is important to give all of their teachers gifts to show appreciation for teaching my children.  With that being said, I decided to make the teachers a homemade gift this year. We (the children can help too) made hot chocolate mix in a mason jar.  This makes a big batch which made it an easy choice for making for several teachers (and we get to keep and use the mix that was leftover). 

Here is the final product:

Hot Chocolate Mix

To make the labels, I just created a design on the computer (in Microsoft Word), printed on white card stock, cut out, and attached the labels to the Mason jar with double stick tape. Tie a Christmas ribbon or twine around the top, and the present is complete.  I also included a round label for the top with a "To" and "From":

Hot Chocolate Mix

Materials Needed for Packaging:
  1. Glass Mason jar
  2. White card stock paper
  3. Double stick tape
  4. Christmas ribbon
  5. Hot Chocolate Mix (recipe below)

Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe:
2 lb box Nestles Quik
1 lb box powdered sugar
11 oz. jar Coffee Mate (Original)
8 qt. box powdered milk

Directions for making the mix:  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Sift ingredients together and store in jars.

Directions for using the mix: Fill cup half full of hot chocolate mix.  Fill 3/4 of the cup with hot water.  Stir to dissolve mix.  Fill the rest of the cup with milk.  Optional: add a dash of vanilla.

Note: This makes approximately 19 cups of dry mix.  I used about 3 cups per Mason jar.

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