October review 2017

October was a crazy busy month that needs recapping. At the beginning of the month, my Mom came to stay with us for the week. She blessed us by watched Zach overnight so Luke and I could go away for our 5th year Anniversary. Yes, it’s been five years.

It took several months to pump and save up the milk needed for that one night away, but it was worth it. We drove out to Westport where we visited for Valentine’s day last year (for more see Day-cation) and stayed in a cottage on the jetty with ocean views. We toured Westport Winery, they had good red wines. Then we tried a unique dinner from Aloha Alabama, a Hawaiian/Southern BBQ fusion restaurant.  I had my first Poke bowl and Luke of course had brisket and ribs, it was great. We thoroughly enjoyed the first full night of sleep in more than four months. In the morning we stopped by Granny Hazels for specialty chocolates, and a thank you treat for Mom, then got coffee and headed back home. It was the perfect get-away.

That week Mom and I did fall baking and holiday décor shopping. I treated Mom to the Country Chicks Fall Festival  at the local fair grounds. We loved exploring vendor after vendor or shabby chic and country themed fall décor and goods. The place with abundant with pumpkins, wreaths, and holiday signs. We walked away with a felt green pumpkin and a used very cheap Pendleton wool blanket as well plenty of ideas for home decor.

The next weekend Mom and I drove down to Stevenson WA, along the gorge, where I helped Mom-in-law with a day conference while my Mom, once again watched Zach. The next day we met my Dad for lunch in Woodburn, did a little Christmas shopping, then Zach and I drove back home in time for our small group at church that night.

We had one full week and weekend to re-group, during which we fought seasonal colds. Then we left at the beginning of the next week for Luke’s parent’s place. Luke and John left early Tuesday morning for a week of hunting at their “elk camp”. Mom-in-law and I had the week together with Zach. During the week, I got a few Christmas cookies made (yes I have to start this early to get them all done; at least this year). We also did Christmas shopping, went to a few meetings, and Zach did a great photo shoot. Zach’s great-grandmother visited on the weekend, then the men came back on Sunday afternoon.

We packed up and left the next morning headed back home then took the CRV in for work. The next day was of course Halloween. On Halloween Zach turned 5 months (more on this to come)! I drove Luke back and forth to work and used the car to run errands and take Zach to a doctor’s appointment.

Because of the crazy-busy month we did not have time to work out any creative or special family costumes like you see all over facebook or pinterest. But Zach and Luke were able to show-case what I got Luke for father’s day: coordinating star wars shirts. I was also wearing a black and grey shirt with yellow words “star wars” on it (although no pics of me).

We ate my homemade pumpkin sausage sauce over gnocchi, our Halloween/Fall Fest special dinner. Then we got in the car (for the fifth time that day) and drove over to the church’s Fall Fest. We toured the games and activities checking them out for future years. Since we live on a country road, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters but think the church’s fall fest will be a fun alternative in future years.

So, that is our October, and why I was too busy to be blogging. How has your fall been going?

 

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Christmas Cookies 2016

Every Christmas I embark on a epic cookie baking session. This year is no exception. Actually, because I am closer to family the cookie tins have increased this year. In spite of working with a new oven with less counter space nothing seems to keep me from the joy of holiday baking.

So what’s on the list for this year?

White Chocolate Peppermint :

This year I am going to try a new method for making these minty favorites. In the past I have struggled with the cookies flattening. My current theory is that they are weighed down by the andes peppermint chunks in them. To try to prevent this, I am going to melt the peppermint with the white chocolate and only sprinkle a few morsels on top afterward. We will see if that makes a difference.

White chocolate dipped Ginger:

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These are my new favorites. I made them for the first time last year and they went over so well I’m making a larger batch this time. They are a bit more time consuming as they require cooling before dipping or decorating but they are so yummy and they catch everyone’s eye. For more see:

https://agreenesadventures.org/2015/12/23/christmas-cookies-2015/

Chocolate Bakers:

A basic for chocolate lovers. I have done several variations on this over the years including adding chili to make them more like Mexican Coco and of course also peppermint. But classics are still great. I’ll try to get a recipe out for those to you soon.

Holiday M and M:

Speaking of classics. This is a basic as it gets, well at least for me. The secret I find to these salty and sweet upscale chocolate chips is the use of a little bit of oat flour and vanilla pudding mix to keep them moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

Holiday Red Velvet :

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In the past I’ve made these with holiday velvet cake mixes, cookies come in both red and green. The green ones don’t seem to go over as well even though they taste the same. So instead of making it extra colorful we are skipping the grinch coloring this year.

For a recipe see:

https://agreenesadventures.org/2015/12/22/holiday-velvet-cookies/

Organic Gluten Free No White Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

This is my new experiment this year. I took a basic oatmeal cookie recipe and did some work substituting ingredients. I was able to come up with an alternative to meet the needs of a few family members with food allergies, something I completely understand.  (for more on this put the words “tree nuts” and “barley” into my search box on this blog). If this goes well and I get thumbs up from those who will enjoy them then a recipe may be down the road for this as well.

In addition to these wonderful cookies I am making a few candies and snacks including peanut brittle, butterscotch haystacks, and spicy cajun peanuts to name a few.

Are any of these your favorites? If not what is your favorite holiday treat?

Holiday Velvet Cookies

So if you follow my blog at all you know I love to bake and most of all to bake cookies. And Christmas is the perfect time of year to experiment with new recipes.  This year I did two new experiments.

In the past I have worked with several different cake mixes to make cookies for more on this see 4th of July funfetti cookies or strawberry cheesecake cookies.

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So when I saw in the store a holiday velvet cake mix I thought: why not? I have before done a cake mix cookie for Christmas with the funfetti cake, but I had to add a lot of food coloring to make them festive.

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So this year the color was already in the mix and they turned out great! Similar to the other cake mix cookies I used the cake mix, vegetable oil, but this time I also add a little extra coco for a stronger velvet taste and cheesecake pudding mix.

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Here’s the full recipe below.

Holiday Velvet Cheesecake Cookies

Makes about 32 cookies

Prep time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

  • 1 box Holiday Funfetti cake mix
  • 1 ½ small box instant cheesecake pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ C of flour
  • ¼ C coco
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white baking chips, divided

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, vegetable oil spray, or a Silpat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, coco and flour
  3. Add in the 3 eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla until a dough forms
  4.  Stir in  the white chips.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart.
  6. Press a few chips onto the tops of each cookie or seasonal sprinkles

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies just start to lightly brown.

 

The centers will still be very soft – that’s okay!

Cool for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

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To make them extra festive I rolled the tops of the cookies in red, white, and green sprinkles and placed a snowflake on each. They are bright, ,moist, colorful and most of all taste great!

And for the second experiment . . .  you’ll have to wait for the next blog.

Busy Holiday Season

It has been a very busy holiday season. Because I am a teacher not only is the holiday season busy because of holiday parties, gift-buying, etc. but also because I am grading final project and proctoring finals.

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I am in the count-down, not to Christmas, but to the end of the semester. T-minus 8 days. In those 8 days I have 25 final tests and 17 research papers to grade. Almost there (with many cups of coffee).

That of course does not include:: taking, creating, and writing holiday cards, strategizing long distance about presents and wish lists, and planning holiday travels or outings.

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In this busy-ness it is difficult to focus on the importance of the season, to find rest, to be present in the traditions and activities. But I have managed to enjoy participating in our church Christmas choir, going caroling, and of course holiday baking (more on this to come). These types of actives help me de-stress and re-focus.

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This weekend Luke and I plan to get and decorate our Christmas tree and  the outside of the house. Both will be new challenges since we were not home last Christmas.

Plus we have to consider what to put on the tree with a curious almost 6 month old puppy (who I have already had to scold for trying to steal candy canes off a shelf).

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But I am looking forward to it and am going to do my best to be in the moment enjoying these activities instead of thinking about grades and grading.

Anyone else struggle to stay focus on the importance of the season? Some advice I am working on myself: take breaks, do de-stressing activites, rest, laugh, determine to not over multi-task, and get time for yourself and others.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season.