Monthly Archives: September 2009

Apple Strudel Muffins

Made these muffins today and they are SO good!  I got the recipe from allrecipes.com, my favorite recipe source, but changed it a bit based on reviewer comments.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!  Enjoy!

Apple Strudel Muffins

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 c. butter (1 stick)

1/2 c. white sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/4 t. vanilla

1 c. chopped apples

1 c. grated apples

Topping

1/3 c. packed brown sugar

1 T. all-purpose flour

1/8 t. cinnamon

1 T. butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth.  Mix in vanilla.  Stir in apples, then gradually add in flour mixture.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin.

For topping, mix brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Cut in the butter until mixture is like coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle over tops of batter in muffin pan.

Bake 20 min. in preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool 5 min. before removing from pan.  Cool on a wire rack.

IMG_5557

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Oven Pancake Recipe

As requested, here is the recipe for the oven pancake from my last post.  I didn’t have any raisins on hand, so I just increased the apples to 1.5, and I also used margarine instead of butter.  I also skipped the powdered sugar and drizzled on some maple syrup when serving.  It was FABULOUS and I will be making this again.

Apple-Raisin Oven Pancake (from Gooseberry Patch Fall Favorites)

1 apple, cored, peeled and sliced

1/3 c. raisins

2 T. brown sugar, packed

1/2 t. cinnamon

4 eggs

2/3 c. milk

2/3 c. all-purpose flour

2 T. butter, melted

Garnish: powdered sugar

Toss together apple slices, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon; spoon into a greased 9″ pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees fro 10-15 min.  Remove from oven; set aside.  Whisk together eggs, milk, flour and butter; pour over apple mixture.  Increase oven temp to 450 degrees; bake until golden, about 15 min.  Pancake will puff up and will fall slightly when removed from oven.  Sprinkle w/ powdered sugar; slice into wedges and serve warm.

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A New Love of Cooking

I’ve fallen in love with cooking again.  I used to love trying new recipes and making fancy dinners for my husband, but now I’m falling in love with good old-fashioned baking, canning and cooking w/ fresh produce.

This summer we decided to experiment and grow some tomatoes and basil in pots on our deck.  I had no idea how things would turn out, but it’s been wonderful!  Last week I canned four pints of salsa using roma and beefmaster tomatoes.   After a few more tomatoes ripen I’m hoping to can some pizza sauce.  I’ve made three or four batches of pesto throughout the summer from just one basil plant.  Last night I made caprese salad with our cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and some fresh mozzarella.  Over the last few weeks I’ve loved picking tomatoes to add to various salads and dishes without having to pick any up at the store.  I can’t wait until next year, when I can apply what I learned this year and do it all again!  Next year I’m growing LOTS more basil so I can make and freeze pesto to last us through winter.  It has become a new family favorite!  I’m also going to try some different tomato varieties (we did roma, cherry, and beefmaster this year).  It’s made me wish I didn’t live in the woods so I could grow a proper garden.  I think I’ll have to come up with a new patio furniture arrangement on the deck next year so I have room for more pots!

Our first three ripe tomatoes, one of each!  My biggest Beefmaster at 1.25lbs!

Our first three ripe tomatoes, one of each! My biggest Beefmaster at 1.25lbs!

Salsa!

Salsa!

We also went apple picking for the first time this year.  We had no idea what we were doing.  We wandered around the orchard until I asked another couple if they knew much about apples.  The lady told me we were by the cortland apples and if I was looking for good baking apples, these were it!  So, the kids and my husband and I had fun picking 29 lbs. of apples.  Yesterday we spent a good part of the day cooking apples.  My hubby did all the peeling, we both chopped and I cooked.  We made apple butter in the slow cooker, canned 8 pints of applesauce (4 plain, 4 cinnamon), and made spiced slow-cooker applesauce which we had with dinner.  I also made an apple oven-pancake for breakfast (sinfully good!) and apple crisp for dessert.  I still have a lot of apples left and plan to do some baking with them throughout the week.  I printed some recipes for apple muffins and apple bread.  I might also make some apple cake.  There are so many things you can make with apples!  And most of it is freezable, which means we won’t overdose on apples by eating all this stuff at once.  🙂  I think apple picking will become a new tradition for us, just as strawberry picking has.

Apple Oven Pancake

Apple Oven Pancake

Cinnamon and plain applesauce

Cinnamon and plain applesauce

I’m dying to have a really big baking day.  I wish the boys were old enough to help, because baking with them in the kitchen can be a challenge.  I’ll have to bake a little here and there for now I think.  I have recipes swirling in my head for things I want to make.  I think it’s because fall is such a great time for baking.  I’m craving pumpkin bread, carrot muffins, and more of those apple goodies.  Hopefully I can take an afternoon or two this week to get some of these things baked and in the freezer to enjoy whenever the mood strikes!

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School Daze

My baby girl is in Kindergarten.  *Cry!*  Well, it’s not so bad.  😉  I did, of course, have  a short cry on her first day.  I was fine until that big yellow bus rounded the corner and was out of sight and I knew my little girl was officially off to school for the next 13 years or more!  The school year has gotten off to an interesting start though.  The first week of school Emily was so excited to go that she kept waking up 30 min. earlier than I planned to wake her.  I was so worried that she wouldn’t make it through the week, but she did great.  The second week of school was a little more bumpy than the first.  Emily came home one day and said that she didn’t finish her lunch because she was crying.  She cried during lunch and recess because she “missed mama so much!”.  I tried to comfort her and hoped that it wouldn’t happen again (although it did feel good to know that she misses me as much as I miss her!).  It happened again though, two days later and her teacher had to leave her lunch break to calm Emily down and get her to eat a little.  Oh boy.  Then came the third week.  This past Monday, Emily started crying and saying she didn’t want to go to school while we were out in the driveway waiting for her bus.  When the bus arrived she wouldn’t budge.  I tried carrying her to the bus and coaxing her on.  Her bus-driver and one of her friends were also trying hard to get her on the bus, but she wouldn’t let go of me.  I had to let the bus go and take Em back into the house.  Now we had a problem.  I had to call my husband, who ended up leaving work just after arriving (he has a 45 mile commute) so he could take her to school.  Josh was sick that morning so I wasn’t able to drive her in myself.  I had to call her teacher and explain the situation.  She gave me some tips and things to try which helped a lot.  She got to school at about 10am and cried when Daddy couldn’t walk her to her classroom and she was taken by the school secretary.  I wasn’t sure what to expect for the rest of the day, but thankfully it went well.  Emily decided that school is “too long” and she just misses being at home and is afraid she’s missing out on something that her brothers and I are doing without her.  Throughout the rest of the week, she got a special snack (chocolate teddy grahams) if she had “no tears” at school and had a good day.  Tuesday she started to cry a little in the morning, but got excited for the events she knew were taking place at school that day and did just fine.  The rest of the week, she got home proudly saying that she had a good day with a smile on her face.  Hopefully this means her transition troubles are over, but we’ll see how next week goes.  She’s still not grasping the concept of school during the weekdays and no school on the weekend, but I’m sure it will start to make sense after a while.  It seems full day kindergarten is a lot for a 5 year old to handle.  Her preschool was only 2.5 hrs., three times a week, so to go from that to five 7 hr. days is quite a jump.  I’m sure she’ll be settled into the routine soon enough though.  I know I’m still adjusting myself!

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Earning Points to get FREE Stuff Online

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a LONG time.  When I got introduced to the world of coupons and CVS, I also started learning about websites where you could earn money/gift cards by completing surveys or clicking on emails.  I’ve been doing this since January and feel like I have enough experience now to share some sites that are worthwhile, and also share what I’ve learned (the good and the bad!).  First, a list of sites I recommend if you’re interested in trying this out for yourself:

  • MyPoints:  This is by far my favorite point-earning site.  There are a variety of ways to earn points on MyPoints.  First is email click-thrus; you receive an email, click on the link to the partner site, earn 5 points.  Second, you can earn points when you sign up for offers w/ MyPoints partners.  Third, you can earn points (per dollar) when you shop online w/ any of the merchants partnered w/ MyPoints (there are many!!).  Fourth, you can earn points when you are invited to complete a survey (10 points if you click but don’t qualify, 50 points or more if you complete the survey).  Fifth, you can earn points for printing and redeeming coupons from MyPoints (partnered w/ coupons.com).  Finally, there are LOTS of other point earning opportunities on the website, that I won’t even get into.  I’ve been using MyPoints since January and am near cashing out my third $10 gift card.  I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but the only methods of point-earning I have used so far are the email click-thru’s, surveys, and coupons.  It doesn’t take a lot of my time and the points add up fairly quickly.  If you like to shop online, MyPoints is definitely worth checking out.  They are partnered w/ so many online retailers, if you’re going to shop online you may as well earn points and get some money back.  The thing I like most is that there are so many different ways to earn points, especially without having to spend money or sign up for anything.
  • Lightspeed Panel:   This is a survey site, and probably my favorite of the few I participate in.  They send surveys fairly often and the point system seems very well-matched to the amount of time each survey requires.  I do the surveys when I find the time.  Unfortunately, this means I do miss out on some of them, as they do expire after a certain amount of time or # of participants.  But, I have earned a $20 Chili’s gift card that my hubby and I used for a cheap date night!
  • Ipsos I-Say:   This is another survey site I like.  They don’t send surveys very often, but the point system is pretty fair here as well.  I believe this site is geared towards women only, but I’m not 100% sure.  I have earned enough points to cash out $10 and it looks like they recently changed to paying out by check rather than gift cards, so I will soon be redeeming my points for a check!

Of course, these are not the only sites I have tried.  There are many others, most of them survey sites, that I’ve decided are not worth my time.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned and things to avoid.

  • If you sign up for any points/survey sites you will get a LOT of email.  If you do want to try these out, set up a separate email account just for this purpose.  TRUST me, you do NOT want all of this email in your regular personal inbox.  You will be overwhelmed with clutter.  I have a separate hotmail account that I use for all points/survey sites as well as coupon sites, cooking newsletters, and other various online junk.  I have absolutely NO personal emails going to this account.  I have told no one the address.  That way, if I’m too busy to deal w/ these emails, I can just let them pile up and get back to them whenever I have the time and it doesn’t feel like clutter.
  • Beware of survey sites that give you opportunities to win monthly prizes rather than earning points.  These are a total waste of time.  These sites tend to send LOTS of survey invites and you can spend hours completing them and never get anything to show for it.  Thankfully I figured out pretty early which sites these were and I just click right past their invitations when they show up in my inbox.  Really, I should remove myself from their panels and be done with it.  A project for another day…
  • Always check out the details of how/when sites allow you to redeem your points.  Some are very reasonable, but others make you wait until you reach a fairly high dollar amount before you can cash out.  One example is InboxDollars.  I belong to this site and I do their email click-thrus.  It’s similar to MyPoints, but instead of points you earn money.  You get a whopping 2 cents for clicking on emails.  There are also 50 cent and $1 surveys that come along (not often).  You can also earn dollars by signing up for various partner offers.  Some of them may be of interest, but most are not.  They will not send you a check until you reach $30.  I’ve been clicking on emails since January and have earned a couple dollars on surveys and am only at $19.78.  If I’m lucky, I’ll have that $30 by the end of the year.  I’m sticking with it until I get that $30 and after that, I’m probably going to drop it.
  • Beware of sites that want you to spend money to earn points/money.  I came across several points/survey sites that want you to buy things.  This is obviously counter-productive.  Don’t do it!  One survey site which claimed very high payouts for completing surveys, always had a product you had to purchase to review in the survey.  There was always a significant up-front investment, though you were supposed to get your money back on most of them.  These just screamed DANGER to me, so I avoided them at all costs.
  • Stay away from survey “headhunters”.  There are sites out there, even some that advertise on TV, claiming you can make TONS of money doing online surveys if you sign up with them.  What they do is sign you up with several other survey sites, which have many different methods of paying out or earning points and to keep up with all of them would take all of your time.  It’s not worth it.  You won’t make thousands of dollars doing this.
  • You won’t qualify for everything.  I have one survey site that sends me an invitation, maybe once a week, and I NEVER qualify for their surveys.  They are actually one of the higher paying sites, that pays by check, but their surveys are always so specific that either I don’t meet the qualifications, or my demographic is already filled by the time I click the link.  Another one I’m going to drop out of.  Not worth my time to constantly be told no.
  • Click-thru emails expire, so don’t ignore them too long!  Sometimes I let mine pile up for a week before I get to them and some expire fairly quickly.  MyPoints is really good about putting the “expiration date” in bold at the bottom of each email.  Usually you have at least a week to click and earn your 5 points, but it is possible to miss out if you let it sit too long.

If you think you might be interested in trying this stuff out, just remember to be smart about the sites you choose, set up a separate dedicated email for these sites, and don’t spend tons of time on it.  It can be a time suck if you let it.  I do it when I have a few minutes to spare and it gets me gift cards for stores that I regularly shop at, so I look at it as a small way to get a few extra dollars to spend.  It’s just for fun, not for income.  The fun part was using my $10 CVS card to pay for several deal-making trips and using my $10 Target card to get my daughter’s backpack, lunch bag and several school supplies.  Also that cheap date night w/ hubby, that was fun too!  If you do want to sign up for MyPoints, let me know.  I can send you a referral email (and earn points if you sign up!).  Tee hee!  Gotta take the opportunities when they come, right?  Anyway, I hope this info was useful in case anyone was wondering about these types of websites.

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Cozi Family Calendar

Have you heard of Cozi yet?  I’d seen it mentioned on a few blogs and thought I’d check it out.  It’s a totally free site with a family calendar, shopping lists and family journal for jotting down quick memories.  It also has a photo collage screen saver you can download.  So far, I’ve only been using the family calendar, but I REALLY like it.  Now that Emily is in school, there are so many little things to keep track of (special theme days, fundraisers, PTO meetings, etc.).  It’s just too much to cram into my wall calendar, and I’ve been terrible with keeping up w/ a handwritten calendar anyway.  It was time to try something new.  The calendar allows you to choose a color for each person so each event is color coded.  The calendar adjusts to fit as many things as you need for each day.  I also like how easy it is to type in a calendar entry.  You just have to click on the date you want, type in “Erica, Work, 9:15-11:15” and it puts the info right in there.  You can also click on your entries and choose options for recurring events.  So simple!  I’ve got my work schedule in there, as well as my club meetings.  Whenever Emily brings home papers from school with important dates, I enter those as well.  I’m also able to keep better track of my husband’s work events.  I review my calendar online every morning when I check the weather/email/facebook, and I know exactly what needs to be done.  I’m so glad I decided to try it.  It’s definitely making life a little bit more organized.  If you have a crazy schedule like I do, I definitely recommend checking it out.

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To-Do List Revisited

After checking up on my goals for the year, I also remembered I had a long to-do list I wrote, back in March.  Let’s see how that’s going also…

  • Catch up on filing and shredding old documents  Done, but they’re starting to pile up again!
  • Rearrange office to a more appealing and more functional layout  Done
  • Move old entertainment center to the basement (in the summer w/ hubby’s help!)  Done
  • Move console table to the living room and possibly sew a table runner or cover for it  Table is moved, no cover made yet
  • Sew curtains for the living room using silk panel from our old house  NOT done
  • Sew curtains for the entryway windows using sheer fabric (bought for the old house and never used!)  NOT done
  • Finish Halloween wall-hanging quilt BEFORE Halloween  DONE!
  • Quilt Americana wall hanging for the downstairs bedroom/craft room  Haven’t touched it yet (top is done)
  • Work on mini-wall hanging for my bedroom  Top is done, layers are pinned together, ready to quilt
  • Start playing my viola again (and buy new strings!)  Haven’t touched it yet  😦
  • Scrapbook  I’ve done a little; boys’ newborn pics, music stuff, 30th bday
  • Sort through kids’ old clothes and baby toys and price them for the GBAMOM Resale in May  Done, but now I need to get ready for the Fall Resale in October!
  • Plan our family vacation and hopefully a camping trip w/ some old college friends  Family vacation done, camping will probably have to wait til next year

Looks like I’m doing alright.  Hopefully I’ll find some time for that viola yet!  Also looks like I need to write a new list!  😉

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