Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What are YOU making?

Today is Halloween (Yay!) which is an awesome "holiday"... I love the tricks and the treats, I love the bustling about the streets, the creepy music etc. I love all things Halloween. Since my two youngest ones were born however, we've been very laid back making our decorations family friendly for the most part and we certainly didn't go over the top in decorating this year. On one hand it's been great not stressing over it, but on the other hand I've sorta missed it. This year I put my extra efforts into making costumes for the two youngins. Pictures coming soon... promise!

However, the one thing that happens on Halloween morning is that I begin to think about how far behind I already am for the HOLIDAYS!! Hahaha Confused? Yeah, me too...

I love all things fall and I love all things Merry so from this day through Jan 1st is my favorite time of year. Last year I swore that I was going to make ALL handmade gifts for the next holiday. Well, here it is Halloween, just 54 days until Christmas and I have made a whopping 4 homemade holiday presents. This is crazy to me because my list of gifts to make is at about 18.  4 down, just 14 more to go...

I have been taking pictures of the homemade items that I've made so far but as you can imagine, I cannot post some of those until AFTER the holidays as I don't want to give anything away... but, here are a few sneak peeks of things still left on my list for various family/friends that I know that I wish I could find the time to make!! Click on the caption to take you directly to the blog/site for instructions and/or the pattern.

Knit Scarf

Peasant Dress
Owl Purse
Toiletry Bag

Gingerbread Playdough

Bathtub "Fairy Dust"
I Spy Bottles

So tell me, what are YOU planning on making?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What to do with all these apples?!

COOK OF COURSE!! (Warning, long post ahead with some mouthwatering recipes...)

I'm sure my family will be DONE with having anything "apple" by the end of the month but I just can't help it! I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR. Normally I make apple pies... it's my "thing".  This year I wanted to experiment with other recipes I've tried, new recipes and altered recipes... So here's what I've made since Monday's pickin':
  1. Apple, Orange & Fennel Roasted Chicken
  2. Apple Walnut Chicken Salad (Using leftover roasted chicken from the night before)
  3. Homemade Crockpot Applesauce
  4. Apple Skin "chips"
  5. Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
What's next? Who knows... I'll be trolling Pinterest tonight to see! I still have one whole peck of apples to use up! Canning? I wish! I don't know how. Someday.... maybe.

Okay, so I don't have a formal write up for recipe #1 and #2 but here's a quick pic of one of them and rundown for each:

This is my Apple, Orange & Fennel Roasted Chicken

After setting some veggies aside to roast I still had one orange and one fennel left in my veggie box in the fridge that needed to be used. So, I chunky chopped them, along with one onion, one apple from the orchard and some of the fennel fronds. I rubbed the chicken generously with Salt & Pepper, then rubbed it down with olive oil (lucky bird!), stuffed it with the chopped veggies n' fruit, tied 'er up then lightly browned her in my dutch oven with a bit more of olive oil, added about 1/4 cup of vegetable broth to the bottom of the pan, covered and put in the oven for maybe 90 min on 325 degrees. Served with roasted veggies (Purple potatoes, multi-colored carrots and brussel sprouts tossed with a bit of Olive Oil, S&P and two sprigs of rosemary).

The four of us didn't finish the bird so when it completely cooled down I pulled off all the extra chicken, slapped a bit of mayo n' mustard on it, added some fresh ground pepper, then added one chopped apple, a handful of chopped walnuts, mixed it up and then refrigerated overnight for sandwiches the next day.

Okay, so on to #3 - the Crockpot Applesauce. I've been making this in different variations for quite some years now. This one below is my current favorite. I adapted mine from the version I found on pinterest after having tried it a few weeks back. See the original here. The biggest difference between hers and mine? I don't add the 1tsp of lemon juice but I kept the lemon peel, I added two cinnamon sticks instead of one and I add nutmeg to mine. Everyone in this house agreed it was too lemony when we made the other version... it was good, just not a fan favorite in this house.

So here goes:



About 18 medium size apples, peeled and chopped somewhat evenly
1 3in strip of lemon peel
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 Tsp fresh grated nutmeg
4 Tbs light brown sugar

Start out by getting your ingredients ready:

Optional side note: Wash your apple skins thoroughly and set aside (we'll be making something with them)

Once all the apples are peeled, chopped and in the crockpot add the remaining ingredients on the top (I try to evenly sprinkle the nutmeg across the entire top of the apples)

Set your crockpot to low, put the lid on it and set your timer for 3 hours. At the 3hour alarm, open the crockpot, stir thoroughly (this is when the neighbors can likely smell something wonderful is brewin' at your house!). Put the lid back on and wait another 3 hours.

Okay, you're almost done! Here's what mine looked like at the end of the 6 hours:

Contents are HOT. Carefully remove the cinnamon sticks and the lemon peel. IF you are lucky enough to have an emulsion blender then this is where you'd put that baby directly into the crockpot and blend until smooth! Me, well I'm not so lucky... instead I use my food processor (okay, I guess I'm lucky there!). I spoon the apples from the crockpot into the food processor and blend that way. It took about three batches to get it finished doing it this way.

This time we went with smooth applesauce instead of chunky but that is up to you. Just blend until the consistency is to your liking. This batch gave us approximately 6 cups.

You could can this, give it away or whatever you choose, but 6 cups of applesauce in this house will barely last the week so I just put a lid on the bowl and into the fridge it went.

So try both, the one from Mommy Makes it Better is truly delicious, we just wanted less lemon really.

Next Up, #4


Apple Skins (washed well!)
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
2 Tsp Granulated Sugar
1Tsp Cinnamon

(There are TONS of variations of these online)

As I peeled the washed apple skins, I placed them in a bowl, sprinkled with about 1 Tsp of lemon juice and set aside while I worked out my Crockpot Applesauce.

When I was ready to finally give the skins some attention, I sprinkled them with the cinnamon and sugar, stirred it around a bit with my fingers.

spread them out on parchment paper and place them in the oven for about 1hr 45min on 225 degrees

They're not as pretty comin' out... but dang they taste good!! Let them cool a few minutes before tasting!


Last recipe of the day... #5



Fresh Apple Cake
2 1/4 C. all purpose flour
3/4 C. whole wheat flour
2 C. sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 C. Canola Blend oil
1/2 C. apple sauce - I used the Crockpot Apple Sauce but if you use store bought, use UNSWEETENED.
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 C. finely chopped apples
1 C. coarsely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (toasting is optional. I do this because it enhances the flavor)

Brown Sugar Glaze

1 C. tightly packed light brown sugar
1/3 C. butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp evaporated milk

This is also an adapted recipe I found on Pinterest. You can see the original here. As you will see from my list above, I pretty much copied the recipe, but I used all her "options" for like the whole wheat flour etc... I also, toasted the walnuts.

Get your ingredients ready (and washed!):

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease two 8in cake pans or one 13x9in pan (I did the two 8in so I could save the second one for another time). In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to mix everything together well. In a large bowl, beat the eggs a mixer at low speed until pale yellow and foamy (as per the original instructions). Add the oil and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the flour mixture and continue stirring the batter just until the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts, stir to mix them into the batter until fairly uniform.It should look something like this: 

Then divide the batter among the two pans:

Put the pans into the oven and bake 40-50 min depending on your oven. The cake should be pulling away from the sides of your pan and nicely golden brown like this:

While your cake is baking, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Then cook on low for 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the sauce over the warm cake, let cool and serve!

Now my final note is that although this cake is YUMMY, you may be tempted to just grab a fork and eat it all right then and there :) BUT try to save the other one for some lazy Saturday morning... defrosts quickly and tastes just as delicious! I am saving our second one for some company we're having in a few weeks... I'll call it coffee cake and we will eat it for breakfast.... Bwahahaha

And that's all folks! For now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall, Farms & Friends -

Recently, I joined a great mother's group in the Akron OH area called Mother's Together. I was able to attend my first outing this week to the Bauman Apple Orchard in Wittman OH!! Just right up my ally right?! So, naturally I decided that here in this house, the theme of the week this week will be APPLES!

We started out on a hayride out to what felt like the middle of the orchard, each person got to pick an apple of their choice from a nearby tree. This provided great photo opportunities.  Here are a few pics I got of my little Ry:

Afterward we took our hayride back to the barns where they were hard at work pressing apples, making cider! We got to see that process, as well as how they bag the apples, where they store them (brrrrr!) and then off we went to the hay maze and petting zoo area:

Before getting there, I was under the impression we'd be picking bushels of apples (hahaha!!) which in the end I'm glad wasn't the case as I don't know how much picking would have gotten done chasing after two little ones. One apple was plenty for the memory and on the way out we visited their shop to "pick" out some apples :)  Knowing full well I wanted some apples for making applesauce and baking bread, I went straight for the "Seconds" to get them at a wee bit more than 50% off. One bag (a peck) cost approximately $8.25 depending on the variety you chose. By buying seconds, I got two pecks for just $8 even. Score!! Yes, yes I do look for a bargain even if at an orchard!

These are my Pecks! Aren't they beautiful?! (Snort!)

Check back tomorrow for recipes and feedback on what we made with these!

Side Note: If any of you are new to Akron, or looking to expand your friends list, please please visit the Mother's Together facebook page. Maybe you too can join us for a meeting or an outing!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Christopher Columbus

This weeks Theme of the Week was Christopher Columbus-

I didn't really go over the top this week as it didn't seem to hold the attention of the little ones. However, we did read a couple books, we pretended to be on a boat and look for gold and we of course made a few crafts:

Handprint Nina

"painting glue" onto paper towel tube for a "Christopher Columbus" telescope

They work! ;)

Complete with a coloring page. This is my 3 year olds coloring - Awesome huh?! I found these coloring pages here.

Preveiw: Next week's theme is Apples!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Transportation Week

It's been several weeks, but I finally jumped back into "themes" to keep me on track at home with my lil guy. If you're just catching up or new to my site, basically I like to come up with a new Theme of the Week to keep me and the kiddos inspired for book reading, discussions and craft times.  Now that my daughter is attending Kindergarten, I took on a couple kiddos to watch during the day on a part time basis. This not only helps to fund my crafting addictions, it gives my youngest son some friends to play with while at home. Themes help me to stay on task!!

So, when I can, I will post some of the stuff we do around here. First up, Transportation Week! (This was actually done the week of Oct 1st - I'm trying to catch up!)

Our library is a GREAT resource and I use them weekly to help me out. They have these "Kits for Kids" that you can checkout for up to two weeks at a time and they usually include 4-5 books, a coordinating movie, a toy of some sort to match and an Activity Sheet that includes various songs or finger games to play that also coordinate with the theme. I picked Transportation for this one. See:

An example of something on the Activity Sheet is "Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire Truck" to the tune of 10 Little Indians-

Hurry, hurry drive the fire truck, (hands on steering wheel)
Hurry, hurry drive the fire truck
Hurry, hurry drive the fire truck

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! (Shake hand like ringing a bell)

Hurry, hurry, turn the corner (lean to the right)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner (lean to the left)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner (lean to both the left & the right)
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! (Shake hand like ringing a bell)

Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder (pretend to climb a ladder)
Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder
Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! (Shake hand like ringing a bell)

Wasn't that so cute? That was my sons favorite of the week.

CRAFT TIME!! We made stop lights first! I saw this idea on Pinterest but unfortunately didn't repin the idea so I cannot give proper credit. Using cheap construction paper, a circle cutter and crayons:

I used the circle cutter as a template only and traced the inside with the color coordinating crayon

I tore small pieces of the construction paper and put it in the middle of the table. The kids were to try and match the paper to the correct colored circle.

Ta-dah!! This is now taped on the front of my sons door :)

Second craft of the week was painting wooden cars or trains using Crayola's Washable Paint Markers (I LOVE these!):

Next up we made construction paper trucks using basic shapes. I got the idea from Brilliant Beginnings Preschool Blog. I pre-cut the shapes and then handed over the glue sticks and a sample picture. I let the kids glue them how they wanted them! So adorable they are!!

This was the precut layout and how I put them down in front of the kids

Hard at work!

All done!

This was lil baby A's final work

And this one was lil baby R's final work - complete with slobber LOL

We finished out the week with a stroll through our neighborhood looking for street signs. The kids pointed out the ones they saw and even included a fire hydrant :)

Of course we did other things like play with our train sets, I made sure that the toys I had out for circle time were cars or trucks or something related. It was a busy week of kids that week but we had a great time and hopefully they learned a thing or two!

Have you done something similar? Please, leave a comment! Thanks for stopping by!