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Trick or Treat?

Definitely Treat!!  I have very fond memories of trick or treating when I was a kid.  Remember when people gave out homemade treats?  I do, and my favorite treat was popcorn balls.  My grandma R’s neighbor, a lovely lady named Clara made popcorn balls every year for Halloween.  Her house was one of the first houses that we visited.  She would have a big basket filled with these sticky, chewy, sweet balls of gooey goodness.  More often than not, we ate the popcorn balls while we were pounding the pavement going to as many houses as we possibly could, filling our pillowcases almost to the top.  Oh no, we didn’t have those plastic molded jack-o-lanterns, we were hardcore. 

 The thing about getting all of that candy that I don’t remember for some reason is that I never really ate that much of my candy.  If I did, it was sweet tarts, Tootsie rolls, smarties, and dum dum suckers.  Oh sure, I got plenty of candy bars and chocolate treats, but I was always conned out of them.  One of my older brothers always made these deals (that seemed like I’d be crazy to pass it up) with me to trade my peanut butter cups and candy bars for bubble gum and sweet tarts. 

Several years back, Brian worked with a lady that would bring popcorn balls in for everyone, around this time of year.  Brian is a smart guy, he liked them so much that he asked her for the recipe.  She jotted it down on a small scrap of paper and that is what I use every year to make these yummy treats.  I don’t hand them out for trick or treaters, but I do make several batches and hand them out to family and friends.  I also bring them to get togethers during the fall and it never fails that someone will reminisce about them.  Now, they are a tradition again and I’m so happy to pass this recipe along to you.

Popcorn Balls

16 cups of popped popcorn -or- 4 bags of microwave popcorn (the regular size bag, which is I think 3.5 oz.)

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup water

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1 stick unsalted butter ( has to be butter, not margarine or a spread)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place popcorn in a very large bowl or container.  At this time, I also sort through the popcorn using another large bowl and a scoop to remove any unpopped kernels.

In medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, add sugar, water, corn syrup, and butter.  Bring to boil and let boil on medium to medium low heat until it reaches “soft ball” stage on candy thermometer. ( candy thermometers can be found at any department store or kitchen store) It needs to continue to cook at the soft ball stage for several minutes.  Do not stir this mixture, just let it keep boiling, making sure that the temperature on the thermometer stays constant.

(during this time, I used to stand and stare at the mixture while it was boiling away. Now, I know that I can let it boil away while I do other things in the kitchen, always keeping an eye on the mixture.)

Another way to check or know just when the syrup mixture is ready is to take a glass of cold water, dip a clean spoon into the boiling mixture and place a drop of the mixture into the cold water.  If it forms a little ball as it is dropped, it is ready.  If it disperses too quickly, it’s not ready.

After the boiled mixture is ready, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Step back slightly and do not stir the vanilla in.  It will bubble violently at first.  Immediately take this mixture to the large container of popcorn, pour over and stir.  Keep stirring until mixture has coated all of the popcorn.  The stirring will also cool the popcorn mixture enough to be handled and shaped.

After popcorn is well coated and cooled slightly, spray hands with Pam cooking spray and start molding the popcorn balls by taking a handful of popcorn and pressing firmly with both hands.  If you do not like to have your hands get messy, use gloves.

Place formed popcorn balls on wax paper lined trays and let cool.  Once cool, place in plastic baggies.  This recipe makes between 15 and 18 popcorn balls.

 

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Six Weeks

It has been nearly six weeks since I’ve made a post and that’s entirely too long.  What have you been up to in the past six weeks?  For me, the past six weeks have flown by!  We celebrated Brian’s 40th birthday, school started and it is going well.  Eli’s courses are: Intro to Psychology, Intro to Medicine, Algebra I, 20th Century Music, English (which includes literature, grammar, vocab and spelling), and American Government.  I cannot believe that he is a freshman this year.  We also  attended the wedding of a dear cousin, Abby and her husband, Justin.  I wish them well!   We’ve had two big trees cut down from our back yard, and I’ve read, “The Help”, and “A Raisin in the Sun”.  I’ve also kept myself busy with various other things that life hands me.  Somehow, the days fly by and before you know it, six weeks have passed. 

What are you going to be doing six weeks from now?  Besides the given daily tasks and everyday life, I am not really sure what I will be doing either.  The one thing that I do know what I will be doing is making more of my “six week muffins”. (If they’ve not all been baked and eaten by then)

 

I wanted to share this muffin recipe with everyone.  It is simple to make and is a great breakfast, snack, dessert, you name it!  Here is what you’ll need to make these muffins:

  • 1  15 ounce package Raisin Bran Cereal
  • 3 cups of Sugar
  • 1 quart of milk
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 (15-17 ounce) can of fruit cocktail, drained
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional)

In very large bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Bake in greased muffin tin at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

This recipe is very forgiving.  Instead of vegetable oil, I use canola oil.  I also use light fruit cocktail instead of fruit cocktail in heavy syrup.  I also like to add pumpkin pie spice in addition to the cinnamon.  Pumpkin Pie Spice has cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.  It gives the muffins a little more spice and the aroma that fills your house while you are baking these is amazing! 

You can also add your favorite sugar substitute for all or half of the recipe instead of all sugar.

You may be thinking that this sounds like a huge amount of ingredients and it is, but it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks!  I look ahead and see what the date for six weeks from today is and mark it on a piece of masking tape and attach that to the container that I put the muffin batter in.  Can you believe that it will be November 21, the week of Thanksgiving?? 

I promise that it will not take six weeks for me to post another recipe.  I’ve got many great recipes lined up to share!

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The Big 4-0!

Today is Friday, the 9th of September 2011.  FORTY years ago, my mother-in-law gave birth to a little baby boy, who would twenty-four (or so) years later become my husband.  I am so thankful for this fact!

   This time of year always takes me back to when Brian and I first started dating ( it was either late August or early September, I wasn’t one of those girls who kept track of things like that).  We were both working at St. Louis Children’s Hospital when he asked me if I wanted to go to the zoo and then get pizza afterward.  Back in those days we listened to REM, The Black Crows, and The Eagles ALOT.  We were pretty much inseparable.  Thinking back to those times always puts a smile on my face.  We’ve now lived together longer than we have lived separately (does that make sense?).  I cannot imagine what my life would be without him in it… and THAT makes total sense to me.

In the tradition of Pedro, “I built him a cake” for his birthday.  Sure, the cake could look better, but I used the secret ingredient.  And I think most things homemade taste better anyway. 

Brian, I hope that you enjoy your day.  You deserve all things good today.  I admire and love you more than words can say!  You are always there for me and always unconditional, You’re The Best!!  (I also love that when you sing, you sometimes sound like Kermit the frog) 

Happy 40th, Bri, I love you.

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Oh, I believe in yesterday

Yesterday was no different from most Saturdays for us this summer. We loaded up and headed to the pool with family (my two guys and myself, my younger brother and his family, and sometimes an extra cousin or two will come along).  I have decided that these trips to the pool have been the highlight of my summer.  The sun, the water, the steel palm trees, the water slide, the long underwater bench in the 3 foot side of the pool. Really, what’s not to like?

I came to the conclusion that I think I know why I love going to the pool so much with my family.  It is quality time.  I truly mean that.  It’s not just quality time for our family, but for everyone else that is there with their families.  I think for those of us that had season passes to our local pools when we were kids, it’s a bit of nostalgia for us.  It takes us back to a time when we had not a worry in the world, except for what our mom had packed for our picnic lunches that day.  If we were lucky, it was fried bologna sandwiches on white sandwich bread!!  We were happy to leave our video games at home.  For us, our video game (that was a big deal, mind you) was Pong.  Pong would still be there when we got back.  Nowadays, kids  have bigger and better toys than I ever did.   At the pool though, kids still play the same games we did: catch, keep away, see who can hold their breath the longest, who can make the biggest splash off of the diving board.  Their high-tech games would be there when they got back home also.

Not much has changed at the local pool.  Families still pack up: beach towels, goggles, rafts, tubes, sunscreen (okay, that part has changed, thank goodness), coolers with cold drinks.  You get the idea.  I’ve noticed something that I don’t see a lot of, even in our busy, stay connected world.  People at the pool are not walking with their head down staring at a phone screen, kids are playing together and for the most part, everyone is really friendly and happy!!  Amazing!

  Normally, I would have never talked to two guys sitting on the bench, totally rocking their brockabrellas to keep the sun off of their faces.  Nor would have I sat down beside them.  But, when you are at the pool, people let their guard down.  It’s as if we are all on a miniature vacation together.  It’s the simplicity of it all and I love it.

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Versatile Vinegar & Oil

My Great-Grandma B used “winegar” (she was German) to make one of our favorite summer salads, Cucumber Salad. 

This recipe for Cucumber Salad is a long time family favorite, but so is vinegar and oil slaw and vinegar and oil dressing for over your favorite garden greens.  They are all made from the same basic recipe. 

Vinegar and Oil Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or celery salt
  • Dash Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups sugar* (splenda can be used to replace all of the sugar or do a mixture of half sugar, half splenda for reduced sugar)

Whisk together in medium bowl, or what I do is put all of the ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake well until blended. 

At this point, you can add this mixture to:

  • Cucumber Salad:

2-4 Medium Cucumbers & 2-3 slices of Sweet Onion, Cherry Tomatoes, & Sliced Banana Peppers.  (onions, tomato, and peppers are optional)

  • Cole Slaw:

2 Bags of C0le Slaw Mix , or 1 Shredded head of Cabbage (to the head of cabbage you can add: few strips of bell pepper diced, a couple of green onions)

  • Tossed Garden Salad:

1 Large Bowl of Fresh Leaf Lettuce or Baby Field Greens, crumbled Bacon and a couple of slices of sweet onion.

If making the Cucumber Salad and Cole Slaw, mix everything together and let refrigerate for about 2 hours.

If making the tossed salad, dress the salad immediately before serving.   (you will not need the whole amount of dressing) Save remaining dressing in glass jar and refrigerate.

When I went to the garden today, this is what I found:

Normally, I would have baksets running over with cucumbers.  Not this year.  There are two reasons why I think we did not have as many to harvest.  #1) The heat  #2) I did not plant the same varieties as I had in previous years.  (because I could not find the seeds and I was impatient) I know, I know… there’s a moral to this story.  Live and learn, I guess.  I won’t make this mistake next year. 

I have a couple of cucumbers from a few days ago that I will add to these and make a cucumber salad today.  Did you notice the cucumber ball?  There’s a few of those out in the garden.  This is what the sad plants look like:

I hope you all try this recipe so it can become one of your family’s favorites!  Have a great day and stay cool.

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Hey Everyone!

Here goes! 

The first of the month is as good of a day as any to start a blog, right?  I hope to be able to share some of my thoughts, ideas, recipes, tips and lots of randomness. 

Today I shall talk about myself and my family.  My husband, Brian and I have been married for forever, I mean 16 years and still going strong!  He’s the exact opposite of me.  He’s quiet, a deep thinker, artistic, creative, a by the books kind of guy.  Me?  I’m usually not quiet, I’m more fly by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal.  I’m trying not to be as impulsive as I used to be, but it’s hard sometimes.  I’m not very precise either.  When I cook, I often follow recipes, but most of the time I use the recipe as a guide and put my own flare into the dish I’m cooking. 

Brian and I have one son, Eli.  He is 14 years old.  He’s not your typical 14-year-old boy in some ways.  He likes to hang out with us.  He likes to spend time with me.  He enjoys reading books, playing video games, staying up late, sleeping late and music (quite a wide variety from Katy Perry to Beethoven to Metallica).  He has a great sense of humor and is very witty.  I think he gets that from me. 🙂

I wanted to start this blog because SO many people have suggested to me that I should.  After much thought, I decided that I’d try it out.  I mostly want to share my passion for cooking and recipe sharing.  Nothing is more therapeutic for me than to cook an amazing dinner for my family or send a dish with Brian to take to work on “food day”.  The only way I can describe how it makes me feel is that I get so much joy from seeing others enjoy what I just created.  It’s an amazing feeling. 

I love to read cookbooks.  I read them like one would read a novel.  I look forward to sharing which cookbook that I am currently looking at.  Some of the cookbooks that I’ve acquired over the years are: the simple “church or organization compilations” (those are usually my favorite) , the very detailed type of cookbooks usually are ones that I will just browse through, and some of my cookbooks are falling apart at the seams.  I would also love to hear about or see which cookbooks are your favorites and why they are your favorite. 

I am so excited about sharing this blog with the world!  I would greatly appreciate your patience as this is a process for me, and hopefully I will be a quick learner.  I also wouldn’t mind your suggestions or feedback.  Have a wonderful day, everyone!

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