Saturday, October 29, 2011

Almond Poppyseed Bread

I have always loved the almond poppyseed muffins from Costco, so when I saw this recipe from Our Best Bites, I immediately wanted to give it a try.  The texture of this bread is just perfect, more like a cupcake than a bread.  And while I love the light, sweet almond flavor, the orangey glaze gives it a little tang and makes it even more interesting.

Now, having said that, this is my least favorite of all the quick breads I've posted about.  And when I brought samples of all these breads to a mom's brunch, hardly anybody chose to eat this bread.  I think it's because this isn't a typical autumn bread, and also because it didn't present as well as the ones with the caramel frosting or the toasted coconut.  This just looks a little plain.  But it really is delicious!

Almond Poppyseed Bread
makes 2  9 x 5" loaf pans

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/8 cups canola oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 c milk
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp almond flavoring

1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond flavoring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bottom of two 9 x 5" loaf pans with PAM baking spray.

Mix wet ingredients together.  Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Pour into prepared loaf pans.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour (bake for only 40 minutes if using smaller pans).

When cooled, make glaze by stirring all ingredients together.  Pour over bread.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Banana Coconut Bread with Lime Glaze

I do not really like banana bread, probably because I do not really like bananas.  But, my girls love it and so I make it whenever I have a bunch of overripe bananas so that they can have something more interesting for breakfast than Cheerios.  Usually I make Jane's chocolate chip banana bread, but I saw this recipe from Our Best Bites and thought it sounded delicious.  I love coconut, and I love lime, and I really love glazes, so I was hoping that all those flavors would drown out the banana flavor.  I was right - they did!  Oh, to be fair, you could still taste the banana, but it blended so nicely with all the other tropical flavors that it wasn't objectionable in the least. 

I took this bread to a mom's group brunch, along with three other quick breads, and everybody raved about it.  I had to send the recipe to the hostess so she could distribute it to the other guests.  So, if you're looking to change up your standard banana bread, give this a try!

Banana Coconut Bread with Lime Glaze
makes 1 9x5" loaf pan (or 1 8x4" loaf pan and 1 soup can)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup real butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 large bananas
1/4 cup key lime flavored yogurt
3 tbsp apple cider (can use milk or apple juice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Topping: 2 tbsp additional coconut
Glaze: 1/2 cup powdered sugar whisked with 1 1/2 tbsp key lime juice

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray bottom of pan with PAM baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add bananas and mix on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add eggs, vanilla, yogurt, and cider; beat until blended.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in coconut.

Pour into pan.  Sprinkle additional shredded coconut over the top.  Bake at 350F for:
45 minutes (small loaf pan and soup can)
60 minutes (large loaf pan)
Check at 35 minutes to see if coconut is getting too brown; if so, cover with aluminum foil for remaining baking time.  Use a toothpick or skewer to test if bread is done; if skewer is removed cleanly, then bread is done.

Once done, let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on cooling rack.  Meanwhile, stir together lime juice and powdered sugar to make a glaze.  Pour over bread once the bread is cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Caramel Apple Bread

This is the second apple bread recipe that I tried; I saw a photo of this bread on pinterest and was sold on the delicious looking glaze.  The recipe is originally from Pass the Sushi, but I did make a few changes (most noticeably, I decreased the nutmeg.)

I tasted this bread plain, and was not impressed.  You couldn't taste apples at all; I guess the shredded apples just provided moisture to the bread.  I surprised myself by preferring the apple chunks in the previous bread.  And the flavor was still overwhelmingly nutmeggy, so I'd pretty much determined that this was not a keeper recipe.  And then I tried the glaze.  OH. YUM.  It's this delicious caramelized brown sugary frosting, and it is delicious on apple bread. 

So, next time I make apple bread, I will make the bread from the previous recipe and the glaze from this recipe, and then I think it will be perfect.  (But I am posting the bread recipe here as a reminder to myself that this is not the best way to make apple bread.)

Caramel Glazed Apple Bread
makes 2 8x4" loaves

1 1/2 cups shredded peeled baking apples (2 large)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray the bottom of two 8 x 4" loaf pans with Pam baking spray. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, brown sugar, buttermilk, oil and eggs.  Add all dry ingredients and stir just until mixed.  Pour into loaf pans.

Bake at 350F for 35 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack.  While bread is cooling, make the glaze.

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add brown sugar and cook on high for two minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk, stir to combine, and remove from heat.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then stir in powdered sugar.  If the caramel has become too solid, heat gently and add an additional tbsp of milk until a nice smooth glaze can be made.  Drizzle over bread immediately.

Can also be baked in soup cans - will make 4 or 5 soup can loaves.  Baking time will still be 35 minutes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gigantic Bubbles

Amelia's preschool has activity bags that kids can take home and play with.  Last week we borrowed the Bubbles bag, which contained a large bubble wand and recipes for making your own bubbles juice.  Here's what we learned:
  • You definitely need glycerin to blow the big bubbles!  I found a bottle of glycerin at Target; a 6oz bottle cost about $6.  I couldn't find a bulk bottle of glycerin at Walgreens, but you can also order it on amazon.  The more glycerin you add, the better the bubbles seem to stay together.  
  • The directions that we had said to store the bubble overnight in the fridge for best results, but we found that it worked fine right after mixing.
  • Make more bubble solution than you think you will need.
  • Bubbles work best on cool, cloudy days without much wind, but some wind will help the bubbles form.

So, here are the two bubble recipes that we tried using glycerin:

2 8oz bottles of bubbles
1/4 cup glycerin
1/4 cup dishwashing liquid

2 cups water
1 cup dishwashing soap
3 tbsp glycerin
1/2 tsp sugar

For both recipe, just mix the ingredients in a large container (I use a large lidded yogurt container) and pour into the bubble tray.  Both recipes worked well.

Ben was the only one who could get the big bubbles to work, but Amelia had fun using the wand to blow hundreds of little bubbles.
Even Megan tried to blow bubbles, but she mostly just ended up with bubble juice in her hair.  She had fun watching them, although you can't tell from this picture.  I was having a hard time getting good pictures of bubbles, I think everyone was moving to fast for the camera to focus.  A whole bunch of the neighbor kids came over to chase the bubbles and try to pop them.  We were very popular.  :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Patch, take 2

We went back to Jerry's orchard last weekend to pick out small pumpkins for the girls.  Jerry was out in the apple orchard picking the last few apples from the trees to feed to the goats, and he told us we could take a few apples for ourselves, too.  We picked a few Tolmen Sweet and they were very good, sweet with almost a pineapple note.  Jerry said that variety is over 140 years old.   Megan thinks now that she's a big girl and has 6 teeth, she can eat a whole apple herself.  

She did very well to start with, but then she tried to eat the core, so I had to step in and take the apple away.

The girls had fun choosing their pumpkins.  Megan, of course, wanted to carry her pumpkin around all by herself; we helped her choose a smaller pumpkin that was easier to manage.

Great teamwork by my girls!  We ended up getting an Amelia sized pumpkin, a Megan sized pumpkin, and then two of the fancy pumpkin/gourds that we are going to paint if we ever find the time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Bread

We've had to stop our food challenge blog, since Becky and David are too busy to keep up with it now that the school year has started.  But I'd like to continue it since it forces me to be more creative about finding new recipes and makes me more interested in cooking dinner.  So I decided that I would continue it on my own by giving myself little challenges occasionally.  

Maybe because the weather started getting cooler, or because I had to bring a dish to a brunch, or maybe because I have apples coming out of my ears from all the apples that we picked, but I decided to start my challenge with quick breads, specifically apple bread.  The following recipe is a modification of a highly rated recipe.  The bread was very good; I liked the apple chunks, but it seemed to be missing something.

I baked a few small loaves in clean tomato cans to give to Amelia's preschool teachers as a little teacher appreciation present.  Amelia painted red apples on brown paper bags, and I drew stems and leaves to decorate the cans.  We put together a cute little basket with some fresh-picked apples, a few toffee apples that I made and decorated with M&Ms, and a loaf of this bread.

Apple Bread
makes two 8 x 4" loaf pans

2 cups sugar (next time try less)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup natural applesauce
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 cups diced peeled apples (about 1 1/2 large apples)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray two 8 x 4" loaf pans with PAM baking spray.

Combine first 5 ingredients, stirring until well-mixed.  Add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.  Stir in apples.  Pour into prepared loaf pans.

Bake at 350F for 40 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Door County Vacation - Saturday

We spent the morning at Whitefish Dunes State Park, where it was pretty windy and chilly.  The waves were really crashing on the beach (at least, crashing for Lake Michigan).  So, the girls stayed dry!  We played with the sand on the beach and made a sand castle and a sand turtle.  And we found part of a jawbone from some kind of animal - the ranger thought it could be either a small deer or a fish.  Wouldn't you think those animal's jawbones would look pretty dissimilar?  Megan had fun playing with Grandpa and trying to put her fingers in his nose.  She is excited that she can find noses now, and sometimes gets a little carried away.

For lunch we went to PC Junction, which I would definitely recommend if you are in Door County with kids.  We had to wait for our table, so we played outside.  They had a kind of go-kart track, but Amelia wasn't quite big enough to pedal them by herself, so we grabbed a family jeep, and drove her around.  It was really fun, although hard to steer!  They also had a large wooden train, which Amelia loved.

But the best part of this restaurant was inside - we sat at a bar, and a train delivered our food!  Our stop was Fish Creek, and the cook would shout out "Next Stop, Fish Creek" and then the train would stop in front of us, and we could take our food off.  The girls thought this was so fun!  Here we are getting our food:

When the train wasn't busy delivering food, the waitresses would put silly singing stuffed animals or a bubble blower on it.  It pretty much ran around the bar all the time.  Megan was fascinated, and stood on my lap the entire time trying to touch the engine.  I don't think she ate anything.

Amelia still talks about how much fun she had at the train restaurant.

And then we drove home.  Sad day.  Megan was a better traveler; I ignored her until she fell asleep.  She only slept for 40 minutes, but then it was just about time to stop and get an ice cream treat at Culver's . So I just had to entertain her the last half of the trip, and I had plenty of toys for that.  Her favorite toy was the little Buzz Lightyear than Jane had brought.  Who would have thought?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Door County Vacation - Thursday & Friday

You're probably tired of hearing about our vacation already, but I only have a few days left!

On Thursday, the Door County state parks were finally open again after the terrible windstorm they had had the previous week that resulted in a lot of downed trees.  We drove through Peninsula State Park, saw the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and stopped at Nicolet Bay Beach so that the girls could, once again, play in the sand and get all wet.  This time, I was smart enough to take Megan's overalls off before she waded in the water, but I didn't bring a clean shirt.  So she ate our picnic lunch wearing just her overalls.  With her four little uneven front teeth and her overalls, we called her a cute little redneck baby.

That evening we went back to Peninsula State Park to watch the sunset.  While Ben and Jeff took pictures, the girls played with the rocks.  Amelia liked to throw the rocks in the water and listen to the different sounds they made "Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk."  It was another beautiful sunset, but my favorite photo is this one of Megan and I snuggling in the cool weather.

On Friday, we went to the playground and the beach in Sister Bay, and this time I was finally prepared!  I brought a complete change of clothes for Megan.  And as you can see, she needed it!  We built a sand castle with a moat and a rock tower, although the sand eroded pretty quickly when Amelia poured the water meant for the moat right over the castle.  Oops!  True to form, Megan liked to destroy our castles before we could get them finished.  Amelia and I had fun dropping rocks off the pier.

After talking about my girls getting soaked at the beach four days in a row, I feel like I need to point out that the weather was beautiful for October (65 - 70 most days) but it wasn't warm enough to wear bathing suits or really to get in the water at all.  But Megan  loved it anyway!

Oh, and one of our favorite things to look for was the goats on the roof of Al Johnson's Swedish restaurant  We ate at the restaurant earlier in the week, and Amelia thought it was a riot that there were goats on the roof eating the grass.  Although she was quick to point out that you couldn't hear them from inside the restaurant.  Every time we drove past, we had to look for the goats again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Megan uses a spoon

I gave Megan a bowl of applesauce and a spoon today.  After she got over the hissy fit she threw because she had to wear a bib, she picked up the spoon and went to town.  She didn't even make much of a mess, until she started trying to eat yogurt with her fingers.

Notice anything interesting about Megan using a spoon?  Uncle Brian or Uncle Dan, especially?

I made some peanut butter apple bars this week, and let Amelia lick the peanut butter frosting bowl.  She tried to put her whole head inside.  I think she liked it.  :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Megan and Daddy

Megan woke up two nights ago while Ben and I were still awake, so I brought her into the living room to snuggle with Ben for a little bit.  After they read her new favorite book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Ben asked her to identify body parts.  She can successfully find her head, hair, ears, nose, eyes, mouth, chin, fingers, toes, and her favorite: bellybutton.  Here she is finding her ears:

Here she is finding Daddy's chin:

And here she is finding Daddy's nose:

Yes, her finger is up Daddy's nose.  :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Megan's new expression

Megan has just started making this very funny face:

I think she likes the mohawk look.

I gave her a bath yesterday while Amelia was in preschool, and she loved having the whole tub to herself and getting to splash as much as she wanted to.

I am trying to get her to talk more, and it's working a little.  She now regularly says the following words: up, done, down, fruit, boon (balloon), poop; she has occasionally said: mama, dada; she makes the following animal sounds: baa (sheep), baw (chicken), woofwoofwoofwoof (puppy), urrhh (elephant, complete with hand motion).  And she says shhh with her finger on her mouth.  I think that's pretty good for 15 months, don't you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Door County Vacation - Wednesday

Okay, I'll have to apologize in advance for all the photos in this post, but there were so many good ones because we had such a fantastic day!  You can just skim them quickly.  :)

Our condo complex had a beautiful walking trail that we took advantage of as often as we could.  On Wednesday, we ventured off the condo trail and onto the snowmobile trail and walked really quite a long ways, at least for a toddler and a preschooler.  We taught Amelia to make arrows in the dirt on the trail to show those behind us which direction we had taken.  She enjoyed going exploring, and getting to choose the trails that we would take.  Megan needed lots of "power assists" and got carried most of the way, but I think she had fun, too.
We went to Schoep's Dairy Farm for lunch, because they claimed to have the best grilled cheese sandwiches in Door County.  We were disappointed to find out that their grilled cheese was made with white bread and American cheese.  Really?  American cheese makes the best grilled cheese?  In WISCONSIN?  At a DAIRY FARM?  These people were crazy.

But, crazy or not, they had a fun little farm.  Amelia really liked going down the ice cream slide and playing in the hay bale maze (although it was a little too easy to cheat - it was only one hay bale high.)  We also looked at the animals, because Megan loves to see animals up close.  And then inside, they had a milking parlor with a glass viewing area, so we watched some cows getting milked.  It was really neat, I have never seen that before!  When I asked Amelia what her favorite part of the day was, she said "When one of the cows peed!"  Here is a photo of Amelia hugging the great big cow.

We went into town to eat lunch (no way were we having grilled cheese sandwiches with American cheese) and then we got ice cream for a treat.  Jeff's favorite part of the day was sharing his ice cream with two cute baby birds:

Then after naptime we went to Fish Creek Beach to play in the sand.  The girls had a blast playing with their shovels and buckets, and of course, they were completely soaked again by the time we left.  I think I took the three photos below.  Jeff, you will notice that I cropped you out of them.  Ha ha!

And for sunset, we went to the aptly named Sunset Beach.  We lucked into a beautiful sunset, and I asked Ben to take some silhouette photos.  I think they turned out amazing!  The first one is me getting ready to toss Megan into the air (she loves that!) and the second is our family waving good night to the sun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Door County Vacation - Tuesday

All right, Ben has finished loading his photos onto the computer, so I can get back to our vacation.  Oh, and these pictures were taken mostly by Jeff and Ben, so thanks to them for the great photos!

The next day we took the ferry to Washington Island.  It was the first time Megan and Amelia had been on a boat, and Megan loved it!  She wanted to look over the railing at the water, and I had to hold on pretty tight because she seemed determined to reach it.  Then she wanted to explore the ferry, and we were kept busy helping her walk laps around the boat.  Amelia wanted nothing more than to sit on Grandma's lap at first and watch the water from a distance, but on the return ferry, she did venture away from the safety of Grandma's lap to look at the water. 

Our favorite part of Washington Island was Schoolhouse Beach, which has beautiful pebbles instead of sand.  Amelia made towers and Megan destroyed them.  Jeff even made an arch!  We looked at all the different shaped rocks - we found circle, squares and triangles.  The water was perfectly clear, and the underwater rocks were beautiful!  The girls both enjoyed throwing rocks in the water, although once again, I had to hold onto Megan to make sure she didn't go headfirst into the water.  I didn't do very well, because she was soaking by the time we left the beach.  I hadn't brought a change of clothes, so she had to wear her extra fleece jacket as pants the rest of the day. 


We also toured the farm, where Amelia and Dinah (the cat) got to ride a wooden horse.  The farm had some pretty chickens that Amelia got to feed, but otherwise it was mostly displays of old equipment that the girls were not very interested in.

Finally, we climbed the lookout tower (Amelia and Grandma counted 193 steps!)  and had a great view of the gorgeous fall trees.  Jeff and Jane always try to take a photo of their feet somewhere scenic on vacation, and Amelia wanted to get her feet in the shot, too.