Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Got Zucchini? Try This!

Anyone else still have that late summer zucchini thriving in their garden? Or perhaps have some stashed in the freezer? That stuff is so prolific, but is one of those things that you just don't quite know what to do with it. Right?

I have been cooking mine occasionally with eggs in the morning (despite my kids thinking that's just pure disgusting), slicing it and dipping it in ranch dressing just like cucumbers and also tried Jamie's cake, which was delicious.

The other week I decided I needed to find another breakfast or snacking option for it that the kids would consider edible. Enter Pinterest, as always. I found it! THE RECIPE of yumminess. It's an award winning recipe and after making it in bread form (you can also do muffins if you wish), I understand why. Everyone here loved it, scarfed it down and most hardly noticed there was zucchini inside.


Zucchini Bread or Muffins

1 Large Egg, beaten
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup grated Zucchini (I used closer to 1 1/2 cups)
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg

*Optional: 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)

Brown Sugar Oat Streusel

2/3 cup Old Fashioned or Quick Oatmeal
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbs. Flour
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 cup Butter, cold

*Optional: 1 Tbs. semisweet chocolate chips

** I doubled the recipe to make the two loaf pans as pictured above.


  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9x5 (or 8x4) loaf pan with nonstick spray. If making muffins, preheat oven to 425F degrees and spray a 12-count pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Make the streusel first by combining the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter with two knives or a pasty cutter (preferred) - or you may use your hands. Mix until the streusel resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spoon. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the beaten egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla until evenly combined. In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Avoid overmixing.
  4. Spread batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake the bread for 20 minutes at 350F degrees. Remove from the oven and top with the streusel - press it down into the top. The reason you are adding it after 20 minutes is to prevent it from sinking to the bottom of the bread as it bakes. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I covered the bread loosely with aluminum foil after 35 total minutes to avoid the top from getting too brown. Allow bread to cool in the pan set on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before removing from the pan and serving.
  5. If making muffins, fill 9-10 muffin cups all the way to the top. Press the streusel into the tops of each muffin. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees and, keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees and continue to bake for an additional 13-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.
  6. Store leftover bread or muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Praying For Families & Preparing For Pope Francis

You know that the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia is just a few weeks away, right? After reading the latest Catholic Digest, I checked out their website full of information and prayers. Check it out out for yourself over here.

I've printed off the Prayer for Families leading up to the big events later next month. Join our family and print your own prayer to perhaps pray at mealtime with your loved ones gathered at the table.

This is the official Holy Family photo for the World Meeting. Isn't it lovely? That's St. Joachim and St. Anne in the background.

In the meantime while we are on baby watch for the next week and a half, I'm all like

And trying to come up with something super cool for us to do here during his visit. Maybe we can make it really memorable and have baby's baptism happen that weekend?

My parents found these Fans of Francis that we'll be waving as we watch as much of his visit as possible.

But I will admit that the little resident #1 Papa Francis fans may need one of these from Amazon before then as well:

Sure, God's wonderful plan for a family addition the same month the Pope visits the U.S. kind of thwarted any dreamy plans we had for possibly seeing him in person, but we'll be watching and for once all be in the same country with him. 

How exciting is that?

How about you? Are you getting ready for any Pope gazing or Pope watching plans?

Let's all be a part of the Pope-arazzi this month as we wait and also come together in prayer. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Recipe Winners

We'll also call these chocolate lovers delights because that's what both recipes really are. Delicious!

Lily and Jonah perused Pinterest quite a while back when deciding on their county fair baking projects. We found recipes that suited their ages and abilities and got to work in the test kitchen.

Both kids did amazingly well and were able to replicate perfection when it came time to present their desserts at the county fair. Thankfully, the rest of us were the happy recipients of the yumminess and the kids earned Blue Ribbons for both entries. Lily's was deemed State Fair worthy, but unfortunately she was the third alternate in the category and didn't get the State Fair trip. (Some of us may still be a wee bit bitter about that, but there's always next year!)

Lily's   Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bites:


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks)  butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature or almost melted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
additional miniature chocolate chips, if desired (to garnish the top)


Prepare the brownie layer- 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x9-inch pan with nonstick spray, then line with a strip of parchment or wax paper so that it covers the bottom and comes up two sides of the pan. Spray the parchment with nonstick spray too.

In a microwave safe bowl (or in the top of a double boiler or pan set on top of a pan of simmering water), microwave in 30 second bursts to melt butter and chocolate chips together until all is melted and smooth. Whisk in the sugars, then whisk in the eggs, vanilla and salt. Sift flour into the bowl and stir that in too. Scrape the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the brownie layer is cooked through (toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean). Place the pan of brownies in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process (or cool at room temperature and add the cookie dough layer later).

Prepare the cookie dough layer:

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, sugars and salt until soft and creamy (1 to 2 minutes). Mix in the milk and vanilla. Sprinkle in the flour and mix in until combined. Stir in the 1 cup of chocolate chips. Scoop the cookie dough onto the top of the brownies and spread onto the brownie layer. I find that it's easiest to do this if the brownie layer is chilled and firm. Wet your hands or spray them with nonstick spray and pat the cookie dough on top in a even layer. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top to create a nicer, visual appearance. For easy, clean cutting, chill the brownies (wrap the brownies with plastic wrap and chill until firm- 1 to 2 hours or up to 2 days).

Cut the brownies: Run a knife along the sides of the brownie pan and then use the parchment paper to lift the brownies from the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice the brownies with a sharp knife, wiping the knife with a paper towel between cuts. If you'd like all of your slices of brownies to look clean-cut without edges, use the knife to cut the sides of the brownies off before cutting pieces. Keep brownies slices covered and chilled until ready to serve.

We found these to be pretty rich, so we cut them in smaller squares and labeled them as "bites".

--(Original recipe found here)


Jonah's  S'mores Poke Cake: 

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tub (12 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips


  • Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Using an electric mixer, mix cake mix, eggs, water (amount indicated on box) and oil on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour cake batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes. 

          Using the handle of a cooking utensil or wooden spoon, poke random holes in the cake. In a                 microwave safe bowl, melt the marshmallow creme for 30-45 seconds and stir. Spread the                   creme over the cake, making sure to fill the holes. It does begin to harden after only a short                 time, so work quickly. 

          Spread the Cool Whip in an even layer over the cake and top with crushed graham crackers,                 marshmallows and chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

The kids also entered a few other categories including performing arts, digital photography, fine arts and presentation. They received all blue ribbons for each of their entries and worked hard to make their projects a success. 

Until next year, we are all ready to put aside the 4H projects and jumping right back into schoolwork.

These days sure fly on by!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Slush

If you have rhubarb in abundance like we do in our garden, you'll find this at least uses some of it. I recently posted a photo on Instagram of my evening treat and thought I'd share the recipe here. It's my go-to recipe to help cool off in the summertime that I've been making for a number of years now.

We generally fill our glasses to 2/3 full and then top it off with one of the beverages of choice: 

-Sierra Mist, 
-7 Up, 
-sparkling flavored water 
- club soda

If you're feeling really adventurous and want a little more kick, a little shot of Vodka or Gin can be added as well. 

6 cups (I even use 7 or 8 cups) chopped fresh or frozen Rhubarb, thawed

2 cups Strawberries (I used fresh this year)

7 cups Water, divided

2 cups Sugar

3/4 cup Orange Juice concentrate

3/4 cup Lemonade concentrate

*Note: I double the recipe to fit in a regular size ice cream bucket.

In a large saucepan, bring rhubarb, strawberries and 4 cups water (8 cups if doubling) to a boil. 

Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.

Mash rhubarb; strain.

Reserve juice and discard pulp.

Add sugar, concentrates and remaining water to rhubarb juice. 

Transfer to a freezer container and freeze.

Remove from the freezer 30-45 minutes before serving, scraping the surface as it thaws. 
Fill your glasses and top with your favorite fizzy beverage of choice.

Serve and ENJOY during this official last month of summer!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

When God Shows Up To Fill Our Cup

Summer and life are busy, crazy things. Summer life and pregnancy are just I don't know what. They're something. 

I've had this post roaming in my head for over a week and yet no perfect or flowery words can even skim the surface. It's like God is about some greater business and good deep within, but my humanness fails to fully put my finger on it. I partially blame hormones. There feels like there's been a lot of ups and downs, unrest and settled, calm and storms, but they are life. They are the life of a woman striving for God, fulfilling the duties of heart, home and family. 

This isn't a new role, but it feels like a different one. These changing seasons, whirling emotions.

Then there are radiant moments when God shows up in the form of other human beings. He shows me the loveliness that surrounds me and a village that fills the voids.

That village has longtime family and friends, those who are near and those who are far, some that have gone unmet and others that I've finally met. Throughout many summer days He blesses me with those relationships that sustain me and then there are the planned meetings that He sprinkles in just when the heart yearns the most. He knows what He's doing. 

He gently nudges and plans fall into place. 

He fills into hours so much joy, laughter, smiles, heart to heart chats, and listening ears, that could hardly be measured...

except in an immeasurably overflowing filled heart.

I'm not made to be alone. I'm not made to live only with my household family. He made me for the bigger picture, the one that He sees the completed end. I'm so glad He does.

So great is His love for me that He filled my village with grace filled, faithful, real people who support and encourage me along life's paths. 

Sometimes it takes great emptying of myself to see just exactly how wonderfully 
He will fill me back up again.

Read more about those smiles and blessings in the photos up above over at Jamie's where she talks about friendship and where Christine talks about the fun in getting together

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hazy Days Of Summer {Daybook}

Out my window... hot and humid. My flower gardens are in full bloom and looking great, but only due to the help of the garden hose last week. The vegetables are just starting in the garden and to keep everything thriving some nice soaking rains would be most welcome. Last night's downpour of rains, hail and strong winds may have done some damage to my plants, but I haven't been out to check it all over just yet.

Yesterday evening a bad storm rolled through that had us in the basement for quite a while before bedtime. Earlier, as the winds and weather started to switch, there was quite the cloud display.  We called them 'bubble clouds'.

Thinking about... making plans and baby names. I'm taking a look at what is left of the summer calendar and trying to fit in a couple more outings and to do projects, but feeling the weeks closing in. There's a lot still on there and a few more opportunities to make plans if I'm feeling up to being out and about in the coming weeks. As for baby names, I think we're set and we're trying the names out here and there. I find it most fun to hear the girls say the names and my heart melts. We found a new baby girl name to fall in love with recently, but since most votes are that this is a boy I guess it won't matter any way.

I am hearing...the sounds of electricity in full use around the house after a night without power. The washer, dryer, tv, refrigerator, etc are going full speed. It's funny how quiet the house can be without electricity juices keeping things running.

What I'm reading... a few books I recently ordered from Dynamic Catholic. After struggling to get into the last several books from the library, I was inspired to try three titles from DC. So far they are good reads to pick up when I have a few minutes while I get a chance to put my feet up.

From the kitchen... with the summer heat plus the pregnancy lack of ambition and appetite, I have been in a kitchen slump once again. Last week I made up a menu plan and went out to get the groceries for some meals so I can at least be ready to provide some good meals for everyone.

Here are a few meals on the menu:

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

Pork Chops O'Brien

Ritz Cracker Chicken

Chicken Cheese Rollups

The county fair test kitchen is once again open for business and taste testing. Lily was first up with her Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies on Friday. They were quite delicious and probably aren't doing a thing for the pregnancy weight gain. Next up, Jonah will be trying out a S'mores Poke Cake recipe for his fair entry. I'll have to keep you posted on how things go and share the end results.

From the schoolroom... school books have started to arrive. After spending over a month flipping through catalogs and looking online, Reed and I sat down last weekend to finally decide on which books to order for the kids and I got them ordered. Now once they are all here I can move on to the next task of lesson plans. I normally don't mind this process, but it's tough with the summer schedule and having a good amount of time to devote to them. Planning will be a little bit tricky this year too figuring in baby's arrival and newborn demands.

I also need to sit down and come up with what/how much preschool I want to do with the little girls. They were pretty interested last year and eager to be doing school like the big kids. I figure if I at least have things prepped and ready to go before baby it will be a whole lot easier to pull things out for them. I'm not going to push them a lot or over plan, but I do want them to have sit down school time at least some days each week.

Baby belly... 31 weeks. In some ways it's like "whoa, we're already this far" and in others more like "I still have to go through about nine more weeks?!" I humbly applaud you moms of many and those in the "advanced maternal age" category. I really don't know how you do it since this pregnancy seems determined to be my hardest and physically wearing despite me being in the best shape prior and during. I blame summer.

The toddlers are enjoying the baby and taking much more notice now that they are at just the right height for belly. They think feeling the baby move is a hoot and take advantage of hugging, poking and 'waking up' their sibling. I fully anticipate this fascination will last once he or she is on the outside as well.

The belly and toddler shot from up here:

Coming up this week...

- VBS for Jonah and Gianna. Lily will also be a helper this year. Margaret is about six months shy of the youngest age so that means mornings with mom this week.

- Lily's name day (St. Kateri Tekakwith, Lily of the Mohawks)

- 16 new baby chicks are due to arrive early this week

- Getting together with Jamie and her kiddos, plus hopefully other friend meet ups this week

Photo to share... I'm just  a little bit smitten with the four year old stage right now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June In The Rearview

Sometimes looking back makes me realize we did more than I thought and somewhere in the crazy there were memories. Here's a look back at June since the calendar pages turned and I barely recall all the moments until I look back at the photos.

Take a look, shall we?

Earlier in the month was a mommy-son date Saturday. Months ago, Jonah and I signed up for a 4H photography class that was held at a local state park. We spent the day learning simple photography tips and tricks, analyzing photos and taking walks around the scenic landscape to see what beauty we could capture. It was a good day with my boy and we both had an enjoyable time learning.

June we became determined potty trainers and set into full potty training mode. Heck, we even survived! It must have finally been time and the little Miss was ready. Having started and stopped a couple times in the last year or so due to issues that came up, I was hopeful this time around. We're now wearing big girl undies without issues, but we're still working on that #2. It takes time and this one has some constipation issues at times as well, so it will take more effort. Having gone through this three times already, I've had to accept it can take a while before perfection is attained. I'm just so excited to have her eager to go, knowing when she needs to do it and getting there in time. 

From the Baby Files, I'm currently 29+ weeks, but last week's doctor appointment had me measuring at 23 weeks. No, this is not a miscalculation leading to an October birth, but confirmation that I've got another low settled baby. Here's some photographic evidence from a week and a half ago:

From the Cuteness File, my Gianna all smiles and letting me catch her in one of my favorite toddler phases of sweetness. 

As for the big kids, they've spent the last month wandering around wondering how to fill their days without schoolwork. ha! That was part truth. I guess more like they've been enjoying their new found freedom which I happen to think sits on the brink of laziness at times. At least the first couple weeks it was that way and now we're settling in a bit more. Or maybe I'm too tired to care half the time and have adjusted to their lack of schedule. 

They did both have their first round of community ed classes last week and both participated in an Art Class. Being that I'm not really good at the arts nor painting, this is the first class for them to follow the knowledge and instruction of a local artist. They both enjoyed it and it was a good creative outlet for four mornings last week. 

They each did a canvas at first that was guided by the teacher, adding in details as they went along as a class. The last day, they each brought in their own photos from home to do a freestyle painting themselves. Both of them chose photos from our trip to Duluth last fall to recreate. 



Lily is now eager for her second painting/art class in August and Jonah will be a part of a Lego class then as well. What was I thinking making plans in the last weeks before baby?? Oh well. I won't be going that early, I can guarantee it. 

With the big kids at classes, the little girls and I kept busy with other things like errands, trips to the park and a walk along the bike trail while we waited for the kids. It gave us opportunities for extra girl time and selfies. 

We also took in a movie matinee last week as well. It was our last outing as a family (minus the tween who wasn't feeling up to it at the last minute) with our parish priest and it was his suggestion. We went to see Inside Out and it was Gianna and Margaret's first theater movie. You guessed it, they (and we all) loved it! I think I only took the newly potty trained gal to the bathroom three times during the movie. I highly recommend the movie. I'm kind of sentimental and like Margaret with the memories. I'm also a big Pixar movie fan, so it was another good hit and the outing created another memory of time with our priest for us to lock away.

Just this past Monday, Reed took the day off work for us to take a short day away. We've tried I think three or four times in June to make plans and each time didn't get to do what we'd planned due to uncooperative weather. So off we went on Monday to Brainerd, which as any Minnesotan would know leads to Paul Bunyan territory. We enjoyed the day with its own sets of highs and lows as any family day has, plus I had a couple kids with nuisance colds bugging them. 

On the way home we stopped by Camp Ripley and the military museum there since the big kids seemed intrigued as we passed by on the way to Brainerd. Camp Ripley is a 53,000 acre military and civilian training facility where many National Guards train and enlisted MN military go periodically or monthly for continued training. 

The end to our June came with the saddest part which was our parish priest's official last days. It's been a tough month as we prepared our hearts for his leaving. While change and a new pastor are inevitable, this one is a little more difficult because he wasn't set for a move this year and only recent diocesan developments even put his name on the list. We're also having a tough go of it since he was near and dear to each member of my family's hearts, even down to the toddlers. I wish you could hear how the kids talk about him and the girls draw pictures of him, color him pictures and always wanted to talk with him after Mass. Hopefully we'll be able to make the effort to plan visits (he'll be over an hour away in his new parishes) with him and remain in touch.

Now we're sailing into July and the calendar slots are more full than I anticipated. Part of that is just life activities and added to that is my now every other week prenatal appointments. We're full steam ahead!

On schedule for this month:

* piano lessons continue every other week with a new teacher for a trial period over the summer

* two prenatal appointments with my new midwife (my regular doc recently stopped delivering babies, so I needed to switch for now leading up to and including baby's delivery)

* baby's 32 week ultrasound to check growth and development

* 16 new baby chicks are set to arrive at our house in less than two weeks

* library story hour for the toddlers

* VBS for Jonah and Gianna, plus Lily will be a helper this year

* a parish festival or two that we hope to attend at a couple of our priest friends' parishes

* a farewell/We Love Jamie party that Christine and I are putting together

* patron Saint name days for Lily & Jonah

* 4H project prep for the county fair next month

I hope that your summers are going well and you have a great 4th of July weekend!

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