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Lemon Strawberry Dutch Baby

Hello! I’m still here, occasionally baking but haven’t posted anything new. There are so many recipes on my list that I want to try but keep finding myself outside soaking up the sun and warmth instead of hanging out in the kitchen. These gorgeous summer days won’t last long and I have to enjoy every second in the great outdoors!

It’s no secret that Half Baked Harvest recipes are some of my favorites! I follow her blog, own her cookbooks and have made lots of her dishes–BIG FAN! Dutch Baby has been on that recipe list of mine I mentioned earlier and I finally got to it.

I don’t know about you but every single day feels the same around here. We’re still staying close to home, wearing masks if we venture out and trying to shake up meal time with new recipes. One day flows into the next, boredom and moods creep in on a regular basis and it gets kind of old.

Carrie and I have oatmeal or a smoothie almost every morning for breakfast. When I saw this Lemon Strawberry Dutch Baby in my Instagram feed, I decided today would be a great day for a summer breakfast that didn’t involve oatmeal or frozen fruit and a blender. It does involve a cast iron skillet, fresh strawberries and lemon sugar and that’s just fine with me! Have you ever made one? I’ve got some fresh peaches and I’ll use those next round.

This recipe is really easy to whip up, uses ingredients you probably have on hand and is versatile enough that you can substitute any fruit and make it your own! The credit for this recipe goes to Half Baked Harvest but I swapped out the whole milk for almond milk and used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour. It turned out just fine!

My new skillet from Lodge is amazing in every way! I love Rosie the Riveter and having her stamped into the bottom of this pan makes me feel stronger. It may be all in my head but at this point in the COVID Pandemic, I need all the strength I can find. Baking is my outlet for stress and it’s also the way I enjoy showing those I love that I care about them! Rosie and I rolled up our sleeves and got this Dutch Baby going!

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Strawberries, lemon sugar and simple ingredients come together magically to create a delicious, light dish.

The original recipe calls for a whipped ricotta to serve on top, which sounds amazing! I made vanilla whipped cream because Carrie LOVES whipped cream and it’s what I had in the fridge. I woke her up, told her to hustle downstairs so we could get into this thing!

DELICIOUS! I’m so happy to start my weekend with this beauty! Find the recipe here and make it!

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Off to squeeze in a hike and enjoy this beautiful day! Happy weekend friends!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Quaran-TEEN creative dinners

I’ve been quite impressed with Carrie’s attitude and creativity during our stay at home time; she’s actually thriving. She’s in online classes most of the day. During her lunch hour, we’re doing home workouts. She set goals and is sticking with her plans to achieve them. I’m watching her get stronger both physically and emotionally. She’s trying and learning new things. At a time when she could be complaining of boredom and isolating herself in her room, she’s enjoying life! She’s making the most of our time together and taking pride in the fact that she’s doing her part to help save lives by staying home.

She came up with a creative way to bring  more fun to dinner time by planning themed dinners. Love it! We put our heads together and figured out meals based on things we had in stock and off she went.

Here’s the thing, I HAD THE BEST TIME! Somehow, Carrie’s ideas transported us to a  new restaurant every night! She made cute invitations (until our printer ran out of ink) and gave us details for each evening. We prepared the meals together and Carrie was our server but she also dined with us!

Sleeper Sunday: Eat breakfast food for dinner, wear pjs and dine on the couch.
Menu: Eggs, Rosie’s Rivets with dipping sauces and apple butter and oranges.

I don’t have any pics of us in our PJs but we wore them and ate while sitting on the couch, which we never do. Can I just tell you how much apple butter (homemade by my daughter, Hannah) elevates Rosie’s Rivets?! Game changer!

Meditation Monday: Channel our inner zen and have a calming, nutritious meal.
Menu: Buddha-ish bowls full of greens, cucumber, nuts and falafel

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This was very tasty and I felt good getting lots of veggies and healthy foods in! The weather was decent so we took it outside and soaked up the peaceful sounds of spring peepers. Namaste!

Talian Tuesday: Not much explanation needed!
Menu: Homemade naan bread pizzas and bread to dip in olive oil. CARBS galore!

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We lucked out with another pleasant evening, so we made our pizzas and dined outside. The meal was delicious and I could’ve eaten another pizza and loaf of bread! We love to make pizzas, so this was a meal we were all looking forward to! I’m still full! Mangia!

Waikiki Wednesday: This was scheduled to be Tropical Thursday but the weather was amazing so Carrie switched the days and we really embraced the tropical theme outside!
Menu: Bowls filled with rice, grilled veggies, roasted sweet potatoes, beans and grilled pineapple and fresh fruit salad with shredded coconut.  Grown ups had Masthead Brewing Company beer and Carrie had sparkling water.

ALOHA! My favorite night! We dressed in tropical clothes, brought Fifi the flamingo to the deck and plugged in the string lights. Carrie created a tropical music playlist and really set the mood. Everything combined, made me feel like I was in paradise! Look at that sunset. We laughed, danced, ate and had a blast! I can’t wait to do a dinner like this again!

Hibachi Thursday: Carrie planned to be our chef and was certain about what she wanted to grill for us. Super happy we switched nights because it was cold and rainy and an indoor Hibachi grill experience was perfect!
Menu: Carrots, onions, peas, eggs, rice and sesame seeds prepared before our eyes!

Carrie made her hat and we stuck the griddle on the table and away she went! How cute is she? She diced and grilled away! She even did a few tricks. We all agreed we want to do this again soon! Best Hibachi experience I’ve ever had!

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Fancy Friday: Get dressed up for a nice dinner!
Menu: Pumpkin Sage Lasagna, homemade spelt bread and a freezer find of pumpkin roll and brownies for dessert. Random, but it was all DELICIOUS! 

I’ve been sporting leggings and sweatshirts for over a month. It felt good to put on a dress and throw on a little lip gloss! We truly worked with what we had on hand for this meal idea. It came together and worked out perfectly (pumpkin-ish theme). Carrie played classical music, we cut flowers from our yard and lit candles. It was very nice and felt like a fine dining experience, right inside our house.

Carrie, you’re the best! Thank you for filling me with tremendous joy and keeping me excited for dinner time! I love you!

If you’re looking for something fun to do, here you go! It doesn’t have to be every night, you could just pick a couple nights. Play music, use what food you have, do some dancing and you’ve got yourself a fun-filled time! Carrie is already thinking about future themes! I can hardly wait!

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From the heart,
Shannon

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Embracing the new

Hello! I hope you’re well! This is day 34 of social distancing for me. My family is healthy and has somewhat acclimated to our current reality.  There’s definitely a lot going on and so much is out of our control.

I’m trying to embrace the new. New routines, recipes, local businesses, ways of connecting with friends and family, workout programs, wines, hairstyles and t-shirt/legging combinations :). Today, I’m sharing a couple of my amazing new finds.

Last week was our first Perfectly Imperfect Produce delivery. I’ve wanted to order for a while and, with COVID-19 stay at home orders in full swing, it seemed like the ideal time to support a local, woman-owned business and keep me out of stores. We ordered the Large Organic size box which was full of fruits and veggies AND it was delivered! We were also able to make a contribution toward additional boxes Perfectly Imperfect Produce is supplying to health care workers. Perfect!

The box included Swiss Chard. I’ve only had Swiss Chard a couple times from Carrie’s school garden and I think I just chopped some up and put it in a salad. I knew I had to use all of the contents in the box! I’m determined to bring every single food item in our kitchen to new life by transforming it into a yummy breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. I went straight to one of my favorite books, The Vegetable Butcher. I highly recommend this book!

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What can I make with Swiss Chard? My answer? Well, Cara Mangini’s answer–Swiss Chard Crostata with Fennel Seed Crust. After a quick scan of necessary ingredients, I was certain I had everything to make it or could easily improvise. I whipped up the dough for the crostata crust the day before Easter and it was easy. The next day I made the filling and baked the whole thing for our Easter meal. I’ve never made a crust without butter! This recipe had me intrigued and I couldn’t wait to get it all together!

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I didn’t get any photos of the preparation process but here’s one of the finished crostata. It’s so pretty! The crust is unique and full of flavor from the olive oil and fennel seeds. The filling is lovely and balanced. We devoured it!

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This recipe is a keeper (I’m linking it to a site that has permission to publish the recipe)! One of the things I’ve enjoyed during quarantine is trying new recipes and experimenting with different ingredients based on what we have on hand. Are you trying new recipes or creating dishes from your pantry and refrigerator finds? I’d love to hear! Stay home and stay well!

From the heart,
Shannon

SWISS CHARD CROSTATA WITH FENNEL SEED CRUST

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Simple Healthy Granola

Hi! I posted pics of my granola on Instagram and received interest from several followers to share the recipe so, here it is!

I’ve experimented with many different granola recipes over the years and this one can easily be made to fit your lifestyle. When I can’t make it, I buy Whirlybird Granola, started by an amazing woman from Cincinnati. It’s delicious and super clean/healthy!

This homemade granola recipe isn’t too sweet, provides amazing crunch and, most importantly, it’s HEALTHY! It comes together quickly and one tip I have is to buy some of the nuts and seeds from the bulk bins available in most stores so you just get what you need without spending a lot of money.

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I start with local oats from Mud Run Farm; rolled oats work best. Combine the oats with olive oil, local maple syrup and salt and bake. Then I add lots of seeds and a variety of nuts. I love walnuts but Carrie asked to leave them out of this batch. You can add whatever seeds and nuts you like. The biggest problem with homemade granola? I eat it by the handful, spoonful, by itself, on top of my yogurt, in a bowl with  non-dairy milk and fruit, breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snacks in between. I have no willpower when it comes to granola!

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The bowl pictured above is from Coconut Bowls. Their bowls give me a warm, breezy tropical feel. Daisy too! 🙂 I’d love to hear all the ways you enjoy your granola and any fun combinations you’ve come up with. If you make this one, please let me know how you like it!

From the heart,
Shannon

Simple Healthy Granola

Ingredients
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I highly recommend local oats if you can find them!)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pure maple syrup (Local is best!)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon (Adjust this amount or experiment with different spices like pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, ginger or anything that sounds good to you!)
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw walnut halves
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
Optional: 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, oil, syrup, cinnamon and salt. Toss well to coat evenly. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  3. Remove the baking sheet and stir in the almonds, walnuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds. Bake, stirring halfway through to brown evenly, an additional 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Let cool completely, then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  5. Store the granola in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Put some granola in a Mason jar as a cute gift idea! 🙂
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Handwritten Treasures

Happy 2020! It sounds so cool, doesn’t it? I remember being a kid and imagining all the amazing inventions that would exist by the year 2020. Technology has certainly come a long way and I’m grateful for the advances that make our lives easier!

As a foodie, technology has definitely enhanced my life in the kitchen. It’s incredibly simple to find, read and print recipes online in a matter of seconds. Appliances such as my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixers make mixing up anything a breeze and my recent addiction to Instant Pot has inspired me to make new recipes like homemade ramen in a flash.

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A few months ago, I was looking for something and found the binder that holds my collection of handwritten recipes from family and friends. I flipped through them and couldn’t remember the last time someone actually wrote a recipe for me or the last time I wrote a recipe. In this digital age, handwritten anything feels special.

Some of the recipe cards are from people who’ve passed and I spent the next hour looking at these cards in a very different way than I had before. The love and time that went into making food for family, parties, funerals and holidays came through in the cards that had a few stains and creases. As I looked through them, something deep within me stirred. I pictured my grandma, mom, aunts taking time to sit down, find a decent pen or pencil and share a piece of themselves on a 4×6 index card or scrap piece of paper; writing their best cursive and simply drawing a line through mistakes made along the way. Kind of a nice thought, isn’t it? Simply draw a line through our mistakes and keep writing our stories. I like that.

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Small sample of some of my handwritten cards.

These cards are tokens of love, just like the many meals we’ve shared. Food is our most fundamental way of communicating. Good times and bad. Laughter and silence. Memories and new beginnings.

I pictured my loved ones in their kitchens just as I’d seen them for years preparing dishes using real ingredients and no fancy gadgets. Cookbooks weren’t piled up and the ones that did exist were usually held together with string or tape, the pages were stuck together and notes were written in margins about the latest Bible verse to read or a little tidbit about combining sweet milk and vinegar to make buttermilk.

I visualized them wiping their hands on aprons and finding joy in the simple act of cooking. They weren’t distracted by taking an Instagram worthy photo or making their finished plates look like something from a Five-Star restaurant.  They simply wanted to deliver a plate full of love. Some of my fondest memories are set in kitchens.

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Mammaw Brooks in her Kentucky kitchen.

Once I snapped out of my stroll down memory lane, I realized my daughters don’t have a keepsake of handwritten recipes. What kind of mother am I?! I mean, it’s probably not a big void in their lives but it’s something I value and want them to have. Especially, since they both love to make and eat food! Also, I miss cursive and teaching kids how to write all pretty and…well, I’ll get back on task now.

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Hannah and Carrie several years ago with matching buns!

I went right to my computer for ideas for a recipe box that I could give Hannah and Carrie as Christmas gifts. Etsy to the rescue! I found a sweet little box and adorable dividers and cards at a shop named Gertie’s Attic. I ordered 2 sets right away! The shop owner is great to work with and even sent me extra cards.

I mailed the recipe cards, along with a note explaining to the recipients what my plan was. I received handwritten recipes back within a couple days! Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends really came through and it was quite a treat to read their selected recipes. Of course, I also included a few from Casey and me.

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Hannah and Carrie were really surprised and had a great time flipping through the recipes! In this year of 2020 (still can’t believe it!), I’m reminded of the importance of technological progress. I’m also thankful for simple, meaningful gifts that are intended to remind my girls they’re connected to something greater and loved beyond measure.

I hope 2020 is full of wonderful times and delicious food!

From the heart,
Shannon

Do you have special handwritten recipes? Feel free to share them with me!

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Christmas Cookie Swap

Hi! I hope your holiday activities are bringing you lots of joy and very little stress!

A few weeks ago, I sent a quick message to a handful of friends I haven’t seen in a while to see if they’d be available for a Christmas Cookie Swap. The cookie part was really just an excuse to get us together, eat snacks, have a couple drinks and catch up. Of course, I was excited when most of them could make it and was super excited to see what kinds of cookies they’d bring!

It means the world to me to get time with friends and I don’t do it nearly enough. When I do, I’m so grateful for the time and laughs! I made a few savory appetizers including a cheese board and these little Greek bites. Easy and cute!

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I also whipped up Holiday Cheermeister Bourbon Punch from one of my favorite bloggers, Half Baked Harvest. It was delicious and the perfect holiday cocktail! I didn’t get a picture but there are lots on HBH’s site. Trust me, it’s beautiful and it goes down real nice!

My cookie for the evening was a Brown Butter Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Chip cookie. Hannah introduced me to these a few weeks ago. They’re one of my new favorite cookies! You can find the recipe here on Baker by Nature’s site. Please add these to your cookie recipe files! Also, I think Santa would be quite grateful to have one or two of these on Christmas Eve!

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The cookies my friends brought were AMAZING!

Snickerdoodles. Seriously, so good! I always thought Snickerdoodles were thin and crispy. These were fluffy and chewy and I ate way too many! No I didn’t!

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. I’ve never had these before and have always found them to be so pretty. They’re beautiful and they didn’t disappoint on flavor! Chocolatey and gooey!

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Traditional Almond Biscotti. These just feel special! I had a quick bite last night but really enjoyed two of these with my coffee this morning. Light and perfect for dunking and the anise flavor makes them divine! What a treat!

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Red Velvet Thumbprints. Come on!!! They taste as good as they look! I love how pretty these are! So festive and yummy! Again, Santa would be grateful for these on his/her plate!

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Pretty neat, huh? I had a great time with the exception of missing a few gals who couldn’t join. When I got the wheels in motion to host this, I found all kinds of ways on Pinterest to do a Cookie Swap/Exchange. I kept this simple. Everyone made 7 dozen cookies and showed up. We had snacks, drinks and then filled our containers and shared a little about why we chose our cookies and/or where the recipes came from. Some of these are Grandma’s recipes! I love that!

It’s a busy time and I’m so grateful I got to spend some of it with dear friends! Thanks for showing up, ladies, and sharing your cookie creations!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Nothing Bundt Apples and Cider

Do you know the bundt cake scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It’s the one where Maria Portokalos receives a cake from Ian’s mom. She has no idea what it is. Finally, she says, “It’s a cake! I know! Thank you! Thank you very, very much…There’s a hole in this cake.” Maria had the hardest time understanding why there was a hole in the cake and she put a plant in the center. It cracks me up every single time!

How did the bundt cake come to be? I did a little searching and found a fascinating article on Food 52 about the history of our beloved bundt cake, specifically, the bundt pan. I’m going to summarize the article but it’s definitely worth a read!

In the 1950’s, H. David Dalquist of Minneapolis, created and trademarked the word Bundt which is actually a variation of the German word bund, which translates to “association.” Dave hoped Bundts would inspire the gathering together of people. I don’t know about you, but if there’s bundt cake, I’m happy to gather!

Dave and his wife Dotty founded Nordic Ware in 1946. They made Scandinavian inspired bakeware. They were approached by a Jewish women’s group who were in need of a traditional old world cake pan. They needed one with a hole in the middle. Dave and Dotty agreed to make them but the pans didn’t sell right away. It wasn’t until the 60’s that a local Texas woman made a “Tunnel of Fudge Cake,” which required a bundt pan and featured a filling of Pillsbury frosting, as her entry for the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. She was awarded 2nd Place prize, and many bakers wanted the recipe. They also needed bundt cake pans!

Today I’m making an Apple Cider Bundt Cake with Brown-Butter Apple Cider Glaze. Not only is it apple season but it’s also my oldest daughter, Hannah’s, birthday! I won’t see her but I still feel the need to make a cake to celebrate her amazing soul! You definitely don’t need an excuse or reason to make this cake so just go for it. I promise this is unlike any cake you’ve probably had. It’s delicious!

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This cake recipe is inspired by several recipes. I wanted something that included apple cider because we have tons of it in the fridge, fresh apples, spices and a rich glaze. Something a little more warm and special than the standard powdered sugar and milk drizzle. I combined various ideas and decided to go with a bundt pan. That’s what got me wondering about the history of bundt cakes.

Simple, seasonal ingredients. Local flour, eggs, apples and cider. Yes!

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Prep the bundt pan. Hannah’s turning 24 so that’s my love note inside. 🙂 Generously butter the pan, a dusting of flour, then a note!

Combine dry ingredients, shred the apples and place the sugars, eggs, oil, applesauce, apple cider and vanilla in a mixing bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients, add the dry and gently fold in the apples. Inhale. It smells divine!

Pour that beautiful batter into your prepared bundt pan and into the oven she goes!

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Bake the cake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let it cool for about 10-12 minutes then invert the pan onto a cake plate or serving dish. Let her cool.

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While the cake cools, there are dishes to be done. Why do I love baking? Ha! I’m just keeping it real! At least my Halloween mugs are there to cheer me on!

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Ready to dirty up more dishes? Time to make the glaze. Sift powdered sugar and add either vanilla bean seeds or the vanilla bean paste. Brown the butter and add to the sugar then whisk in half and half and apple cider. Brown-butter has a nutty, rich flavor. It can burn easily so be careful on this step.

Here’s what not to do! Don’t try to put the glaze on while the cake is even the least bit warm! Oops! I’ll try to be more patient!

Once the cake is really cool, add the glaze and that’s it! I picked up some gorgeous flowers at the farmers’ market this morning and added them to the photo session. We just did a Facetime with Hannah and now I’m going to dig into this cake! It’s a really easy cake to make and perfect for a fall birthday. It would be delicious with warm apple cider (with or without bourbon), ice cream and mostly shared with family and friends.

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You could also tap into your inner Maria Portokalos and stick a plant in the center to really fancy it up!

From the heart,
Shannon

Apple Cider Bundt Cake with Brown-Butter Glaze

Ingredients:
Cake:
1 TBSP unsalted butter and some flour for preparing the pan
4 medium apples – peeled, cored, & shredded
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used local whole wheat pastry flour)
1 TBSP baking powder
1 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tsp. vanilla

Brown-Butter Glaze:
2 to 3 TBSP half and half
2 to 3 TBSP apple cider
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
vanilla bean seeds scraped from a vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 oz. unsalted butter
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions:
Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Get butter and flour in every single crevice.

Stir the shredded apple with lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the white sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, apple cider, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Then add the flour mixture and combine once again. Gently fold in the apples until they are evenly distributed. Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto your serving platter. Let it cool completely.

Brown-Butter Glaze:.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds or paste.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the butter until golden brown. It should smell delicious and toasty. Do not let it burn. Heat it for 5-8 minutes. Strain the browned butter to remove the darker pieces. Pour browned butter into the powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Add 2 tablespoons of the half and half, add a little apple cider then add the vanilla. Stir vigorously until smooth. You want the glaze to be thick, but easily pourable. If it seems too thick, add the remaining tablespoon of half and half. Pour the glaze over the cake. Let it set then slice and serve!

Nordic Ware Bundt article from Food 52

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West we go!

Right now I’m sitting in a hotel in Reno, NV.  Today is the first day we haven’t logged some serious miles since last Wednesday when we set out for our summer adventure to the western part of the U.S.  We’ve already had some amazing experiences on this trip.  My husband, Casey, suggested I write about our trip and share it here.  I’ve always thought of this blog as a place for recipes and sharing food ideas.  We were talking in the car somewhere between Colorado and Nevada that the flour on my apron can be anything that makes me happy.  Carrie gave me a whole different perspective on what it means to have “flour on your apron.”  Therefore, this Floured Apron site can be a place to share joy, even if food isn’t involved.  I may be sleep deprived and a little bored from staring out the car window for days but I think she’s onto something and I’m going to go out on a limb here and make this post about our adventure and not about food!  I’ll mostly focus my posts on food but sprinkling in some of our life could be fun too! 🙂

This is the second consecutive year we’ve made the drive from Ohio to California.  Yes, it’s long.  Yes, it’s hard.  Yes, it’s exhausting.  It’s also fun and cool to see many things we otherwise wouldn’t from the air.  When we get to where we’re going, we kind of forget how much it sucked to be in the car for hours on end.  It’s ok when we’re in areas that are well populated and offer some healthy food options or we’re still able to enjoy our homemade snacks.  When we get out in the middle of nowhere, things get tough and we get crabby!

I’m married to a pilot which means we should be able to fly for a discount and get where we want to go.  So, why don’t we?  Two words:  Daisy Mae (our beagle).  I know we could kennel her or find a dog sitter but she really does enjoy the trips we take.  Also, we like to have a car to get around and not spend the money on flights, rental cars and other things.

Last year’s drive left me with a sense of accomplishment.  We planned to drive to Lake Tahoe to spend a couple weeks.  Casey, my husband, couldn’t be with us on the trip out, so it was Carrie, Daisy and me.  We drove from Ohio on Route 80 through IN, IL, NE, IA, WY and UT.  We met up with Casey and finished the drive to Reno and made our way to Lake Tahoe.  Long days of driving, audio books, car games, DQ Blizzards, rest stops, coffee, truck stops and hotels made for a tired mama.  Did I mention I had to unload and reload suitcases, dog stuff, snack stuff and whatever else couldn’t be left in the car about 80 million times?  After several hours of driving.  However, when we saw that beautiful blue lake, the frustration and exhaustion turned to excitement and energy!

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This year, we planned a similar vacation because we’re combining it with a summer camp experience for Carrie.  We all hit the road last Wednesday with a plan to visit Denver, CO then go to Tahoe.  Route 80 was the lucky highway!  Last year, Carrie and I found a silly go-kart place in Nebraska.  She really wanted to go back, which made me happy that some of the little fun things we did mattered and stuck with her.

After miles of corn fields, it was time for go-karts and bumper boats.

That was a nice break from the car and definitely gave us all some laughs!  From there we pressed on to Colorado.  The next day, we made a quick stop at the U.S. Air Force Academy.  The campus is huge and impressive.  This is the Cadet Chapel.

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The next morning, we met up with my brother who just happened to be driving through the area.  He’s a truck driver and was returning from California.  Bonus!  Look at that cute hat Carrie picked up at the USAFA!  🙂

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While we were in the Colorado Springs area, we went to Garden of the Gods Park, a registered National Natural Landmark.  It was incredible!  We did a short hike and climbed on rocks.  There were prickly pears blooming and the landscape was stunning.  Don’t get me started on that blue sky and all the colors in these photos.

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The next day we left for Salt Lake City.  That portion of the drive was eight hours and we decided to stop at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Best. Decision. Ever.  We took my brother’s advice on a shorter route (191N) and that portion of the drive delivered magnificent scenery.

Arches was designated as a national monument in 1929 by President Herbert Hoover.  It was designated as a national park 42 years later.  The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.

It was extremely hot and dogs aren’t permitted on the trails so Casey and I tag teamed with Carrie to get as close as we could to those amazing works of art.  Seriously, some of the most breathtaking landscapes that Mother Nature has to offer.

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Skyline Arch

The drive through the park was about 14 miles.  Going in and up was great but the drive down gave us a more incredible show.  I’d highly recommend driving to the end and take it all in on the way back down!  We stopped in the visitor center to grab t-shirts and post cards not realizing they would be closing in 5 minutes.  It was a quick selection and sprint to the car for a wallet.  We were all moved by this National Park excursion and the enormity of it all.  Thank you, Moab and Arches for showing us your beauty!  If you haven’t been, add this one to your list!

We made it to the hotel in SLC for a night of sleep then we pressed on for the final eight hour stretch to Reno, NV for a couple days.  By this point, we’re still smiling but feeling the fatigue and sense of not being settled.  Lots of time in the car, in and out of hotels and gas stations isn’t for the weak!  We got this and we all know what’s waiting for us!  That’ll be the next post.

Have you taken a big road trip?  I’d love to hear about it along with any travel tips!  I have a long way to go with my packing skills (sorry, Casey!) and hotel finesse.  I don’t like hotels but I’m grateful for them when we all need a break.  I absolutely love Colorado and I’m thrilled we were able to see more of it.  The mountains and trees are gorgeous.  I’m excited to get into our rental at Tahoe because it’s one of my happy places!

The journey over the past week has filled my soul and put some new flour on my apron!  Enjoy wherever this 4th of July takes you and, if you get a chance to see the wonders of this country in person, I hope you do it.  America is BIG and BEAUTIFUL!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Bread · Recipes · Uncategorized

School’s Out (and a banana bread recipe)

It’s the end of the school year.  Wait, what?  Wasn’t it just December? We were so exhausted from all the homework, studying, play rehearsals, field hockey games and practices, voice lessons, ski club, swim meets, theatre classes, lacrosse games and practices, birthday parties and everyday school and work life.  It felt like there was no end in sight!  Yet, here we are and school is winding down and summer break is here and I’m not at all sad about it!

Last summer, was the summer dreams are made of.  We went on an amazing trip out west.  Carrie, Daisy (our beagle) and I drove across the country from Ohio and met up with Casey (my husband) in Salt Lake City, then headed to Lake Tahoe.   The drive was long, tiring and exhilarating all at once!  Daisy was so confused but quickly learned about long stretches in the car, bathroom breaks at random gas station grassy areas and hotel elevators.  It was quite the adventure driving to Tahoe.  Once there, we hiked, swam and played continuously for a couple weeks.  Carrie turned twelve in Tahoe and I wanted to stay in those moments forever.

We left (reluctantly) and she started 7th grade with all the excitement the start of the school year brings.  We heard this year would be brutal and that was no lie.  She’s learned a great deal about time management, BIG school projects, hours of studying and relationships (good and bad).  I learned a lot about patience, acceptance and letting go and maybe some new wines I hadn’t tried. 🙂  Middle school is hard!  Of course, she got through it and I’m so proud of her for trying new things, getting good grades and navigating through some tough situations!

We usually go all out on end of the year teacher gifts.  Last year, we made these cute baskets for DIY Sparkling Rosemary Lemonade and relaxation.  Big surprise…I like to go the homemade route!  They were so fun and the teachers loved them!  As a matter of fact, most of them told me the only thing missing was vodka.  Truth!

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This year, Carrie’s a little older and we’ve done teacher gifts throughout the year and I’m not sure it’s still “cool” to give teachers big homemade presents.  So, for the last day, we chose to do something a little more simple by making homemade banana bread and include sweet notes and gift cards from Carrie.  Teachers work countless hours and we hope this small, but loving, treat helps them know how much we appreciate them!

I’m sharing a banana bread recipe I’ve made for years.  It’s not heavy because it calls for yogurt instead of a ton of butter and oil.  You can also make it your own by adding all sorts of things like coconut, chocolate chips, toasted walnuts, pecans, cinnamon…the sky’s the limit!  Go BANANAS!  I’ve included other options below in the recipe.

You’ll start with some super ripe bananas (I didn’t get a picture of those before I started making this recipe).  Measure out your dry ingredients, prep loaf pans and combine the small amount of butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy and add eggs, one at a time.  Then add mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla.

I made three recipes here and I wanted to make mini loaves.  I wash and reuse the foil loaf pans and simply spray them with coconut oil.  You can use a larger pan or make muffins, just adjust baking time. I also use really good vanilla when I bake.  My favorite is Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract and I mostly buy it on Amazon. I buy in bulk and just keep refilling my smaller jar.  Can you tell it’s been with me forever?

Once the batter is combined, pour into pans or muffin tins.

For this recipe, I kept the batter plain because I didn’t want to worry about nut allergies or anything.  To make it feel a little more special, I love to sprinkle raw/turbinado sugar on top to give the bread a little crunch and fun sparkle.

Bake the bread and let cool slightly, then remove from pans and allow it to completely cool on a rack. By now, your house will smell amazing and you should probably make sure the bread is everything you want it to be.  Have a fresh, warm slice.  Smear it with almond butter or peanut butter or cream cheese or honey.  Brew a pot of coffee.  Take a moment to breathe and indulge.  Yes, please do all of this because it’s almost SUMMER!

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Back to the task at hand.  Once our loaves cooled, we placed them in bags and attached notes from Carrie.  I love that she enjoys hand-writing thank you notes.  She took some time and reflected on her school year and thought about what each teacher means to her.  Writing thank-you notes and giving a homemade gift is such a win-win.  It feels good all around!

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This bread is so easy, makes the perfect gift for anyone in your life and can be frozen for special weekend breakfasts and snacks.  Heck, you don’t even have to wait for the weekend!  I saved a loaf to have for our first official day of summer break breakfast.  Yes! I hope you make it and love it and give it!

Classic Banana Bread

Ingredients
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or use whole wheat pastry flour (I love King Arthur flours)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (you can use coconut sugar or granulated white sugar)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray (coconut is my preferred)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.  Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan (or mini size pan or muffin tins) coated with cooking spray.
  6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour (or less if you use a smaller pan) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap or place in a storage container to keep fresh. Freezes beautifully!

Your can make this banana bread fit what you’re craving by following some of these options:
Marble style: Stir 1 cup batter and 1/2 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips together in a small bowl. Spoon plain batter into pan, alternating with dollops of chocolate-chip batter. Drag a knife through batter to swirl. Bake as directed.

Berry style:  Fold 1 cup fresh blueberries into batter. Bake as directed.

French-toast: Cut bread into 3/4-inch slices. Toast until slightly crisp on both sides. Whisk together 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste as well as a pinch of salt in a shallow bowl. Dip bread in mixture, let excess drip off, then place on a hot griddle, turning once.

Chocolate-chip style: Fold 1 cup dark  or semi sweet chocolate chips into batter. Bake as directed.

Streusel style: Combine 2 Tbsp. rolled oats, 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. butter, melted, and 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg in a medium bowl. Divide batter among 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Top with streusel. Bake at 350°F until done, about 25 minutes.

Coconut style:  Fold 1 cup shredded coconut into batter.  You can even add lime juice and zest or make a lime glaze for the top to take you away to the tropics.  Bake as directed.

*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine

 

 

Uncategorized

Home is where your MOM is

“Home is where your Mom is” is on a cute little sign my oldest daughter gave me when she first went away to college.  I made chocolate chip cookies this week for Carrie’s final lacrosse game (because that’s a big part of my mom role!) and had them cooling on the counter in front of this little sign.  It made me smile to think of my oldest and also got me thinking about Mother’s Day and what I love about it.

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My oldest daughter, Hannah, and I were super close (fortunately, we still are!) and it was difficult beyond words for me to be 9 hours away from her when she started college.  When she went away, our family moved as well.  Our “home” as we knew it was no more.  It was a time filled with change, excitement, fear and adjustment.  I’d gone through this before with my own parents and this notion of “home” being associated with a house was lost.  What I realized, through Hannah, was love = home.

Growing up, I remember making little cards and gifts for my mom but, to be honest, nothing really sticks out for me about what we did for her for Mother’s Day.  When I became a mom, Mother’s Day was a day dedicated to spending time with my daughter.  I worked in a corporate marketing job and our days and weeks were busy with early morning and late night day care runs, working nights after she went to bed, and simply doing all the other things to get by as a single mom.   When Mother’s Day rolled around, I just wanted to be still and enjoy a full day of mommy/daughter time!

I started a Mother’s Day tradition with my daughter of going to a local greenhouse to buy flowers we could plant in pots to enjoy all summer long.   She and I would go to church, then head to the greenhouse and spend the day enjoying each other and planting flowers.  It was special to us and super low key.  We looked forward to it every year!  Eleven years later, when my second daughter came along, we continued the tradition for several years.  Mother’s Day has never felt high pressure to me.  I think I’ve always looked forward to it as a day to focus on my kids and take a day to not feel guilty for just being with them and savoring the entire day.  I take my Mother’s Day over the top by having them sleep with me the night before and all of us waking up in the same bed Mother’s Day morning!

My oldest lives in another state and my youngest is almost 13.  This Mother’s Day will be spent working on a big school project and that’s fine with me.  We’ll Facetime with Hannah, my mom, my mother-in-law and my stepmom throughout the day and soak in all the feelings of home.  Connecting, sharing stories from our week and seeing each other laugh and feel all the happy!

Being a mom is my favorite role.  It certainly has its fair share of the 3 Fs:  frustration, fatigue and failure.  Thankfully, it’s mostly full of joy, pride and love that I never knew before.  It’s the role in my life that fills me the most and causes me the most worry.  I adore my girls and love our close connection to each other.  I’m their biggest fan and love them more than they can ever know.  I always want to feel like home to them no matter how far apart we are or what day of the year it is.

For all the moms who are expecting, have newborns, toddlers, teens, kids in college, or kids who’ve become adults and left home to start their own lives, I wish you a Mother’s Day full of what makes you feel good! For all the moms who’ve experienced loss and find yourselves sad on this day, my hope for you is that you can surround yourself with people who love you and make you feel good because we all deserve that.   For all the people who are fortunate to have a mom around, I hope you find a feeling of home when you see or talk with her.

A Mother’s Day packed with dedicated time and love (and maybe cookies) is a day that sounds amazing to me!  Feel free to share your Mother’s Day traditions or, if it’s different every year, I’d love to hear all about it!

From the heart,
Shannon

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