Celebrating October

For a week or so, I’d been semi-contemplating what to wear to work on Halloween. Office appropriate costumes, the announcement said. There would be trick-or-treating in the break room as well. Always being in touch with my inner child, I signed right up.

First I thought I might dress as the company VP. I could have pulled it off by wearing one of Mark’s dress shirts and my own pair of khaki dress pants. The VP has a strut that I can imitate pretty well. This would have been the icing on the cake of this costume. But I decided it would only have been funny to a select group of people. Then I thought about this leopard get-up that Kacey wore last year, but I tried it on last night and after checking myself out in the mirror, couldn’t imagine wearing it around the office all day. So around eight o’clock last night, I started rummaging around Kacey’s closet. I sent her a text message and asked if she still had any softball jerseys hanging around. She said she did, directed me to where to find them and asked if I was planning to dress up as her. I said I was. It turned out to be office appropriate and comfortable. And I was glad I made the effort. When I got to work, I was greeted by a rocker and a Catholic high school girl-jock, otherwise known as my office team mates.

Halloween 2013(The vampire teeth were my contribution to the treat pool. I bought about 90 sets of teeth last night for the office party!)

The house was full of other October activity this past week. While Kacey was home, she wanted to make Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin cookies.

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We made a double batch; half for her to take back to school and half for the rest of us to enjoy at home. These are one of our favorites! SO good!

Jake was hungry for something pumpkin-y too. He had asked a couple of weeks ago if I could make Pumpkin Spice bread. I didn’t have a recipe, having never made this kind of bread. But the first one I looked up sounded good. So after the cookies, we baked the Pumpkin Spice bread. And it was delicious! Jake proclaimed it to be amazing and phenomenal. Coming from a kid who doesn’t elaborate much on anything, I considered it high praise.

005bAnd it wouldn’t be Halloween without a jack-o-lantern, now would it? Last Friday while I was making hot dagos for dinner, Kacey eyed up the pumpkin I’d bought at the grocery store and had plunked on the front step. She announced that she was going to carve it. I said she should have at it. If it were left up to me, we’d just have a punkin. But thanks to Kacey, we now have a cyclops jack-o-lantern to greet the trick-or-treaters.

006bIt’s been cloudy and rainy the past couple of days. It’s done raining now,and it’s a cold night. But that won’t stop the trick-or-treaters. And we’re ready for ‘em!

Halloween 2013 BHard to believe tomorrow we turn the corner to November already!

 

 

 

 

Baked Concoction on a Stick

It’s state fair time in these parts. The Great Minnesota Get Together begins later this week and the hype is abundant. There are television and radio ads. There was an entire section of the Sunday paper dedicated to this year’s fair attractions. We’re even celebrating at the office. Employees could sign up to receive two tickets for fair admission this weekend (I did) and there’s a state fair themed baking contest taking place tomorrow. Since I’m all about having a little fun where the workday allows, I signed up for that too.

The contest rules stated that entries could be purchased or home-baked. Bribing of the judges is highly encouraged. (I didn’t attempt any bribery, only because my workload simply didn’t allow it.) Extra points are awarded for foods “on a stick” since the Minnesota State Fair is all about foods on a stick.

My creative juices began to churn. Since my company is a new subsidiary of our parent company, this contest is all new to me and my coworkers. The contest organizer explained to us that past entries have been as simple as Twinkies (still in their wrappers) taped to a stick. No way was I going to take such an easy way out. I had a few vague ideas over the past few days. I purchased baking items here and there. But I wasn’t sure until I began baking tonight, what I was actually going to make. That’s when it hit me. What do you think of these?

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar/Brownie Sandwiches on a Stick!

The filling is made of chocolate and butterscotch chips. I added a dollop of caramel on top of the frosting, just to make sure the sticks would stick and the whole concoction would hold together when a judge picks it up.

I tried a bit of one. I have to admit, it was pretty good, though I wouldn’t recommend eating a whole one all by yourself. You could go into sugar shock eating one of these babies! But I seriously think I could make a profit if I sold these things at the fair… with a side of ice cream! I think I’m gonna win tomorrow’s contest! And if not, oh well! Win or lose, it was fun to play along.

Christmas Activities

Wow, this blog has been sadly neglected. The Kitchen Aid, however, has been getting a workout. Kacey and I have been baking Christmas cookies.

Chocolate Crinkles

Chocolate Crinkles

Peanut Blossoms

Peanut Blossoms

Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

The Spritz cookies were made with my grandma’s cookie press. It worked like a charm!

Old-fashioned, but still works great!

Old-fashioned, but still works great!

And we used Grandma’s recipe too.

A TYPED recipe card!

A TYPED recipe card!

And we used Mark’s grandma’s recipe for these Sugar Cookies…

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Frosted Sugar Cookies

We’re almost done with our baking. I’m almost done with my shopping. There is still much wrapping to be done. And then hopefully I’ll have time to write about a really important event. If you’ve got connections with Santa’s elves, please send some my way. I could use a helping hand.

Grandma’s Recipes

My sister and I were hanging out at her house Sunday evening, just gabbing, making fun, laughing and all that good kind of stuff that sisters do. She fed me a homemade ice cream sandwich, made with homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with not-so homemade ice cream and a good sprinkling of extra chocolate chips.

And I felt no guilt whatsoever eating all of that sugar and deliciousness, because it was delicious, and I had been to the gym two days in a row!

After I enjoyed my ice cream cookie sandwich, we sat at her table. Suddenly, she got up and walked away and just as quickly returned with a recipe box which she plopped in front of me. I opened it up and found…

Grandma’s recipes.

A big smile spread across my face and I dug in. And my grandma came flooding back in my mind. See, my grandma had a way with recipes. She didn’t just have recipes, she collected them. She clipped them and she copied them. She made notes on them where she made adjustments to the measurements or process. Many of the recipes had a handwritten note to remind Grandma that she’d made a particular dish or dessert for a birthday party or an open house.

Wherever possible, Grandma would make note of who the recipe had originated with and she would often write whether it was good, or VERY good. She was also sure to document if a recipe was similar to another recipe she already had in her possession, as I realized when I came across the recipe for Scotcheroos which included a note stating, “O’Henry Bars,” which were one of Grandma’s standards!

I remember the Sundays we’d spend at my grandparents’ house and I remember looking at her recipes back then too. Sometimes Grandma would ask me to copy a recipe or two for her. Obviously, she asked my cousins to do the same when they visited too. So many of the recipes were neatly printed in a child’s writing. I loved to look through Grandma’s recipes even when I was a kid. The cards held the names of people in my grandma’s life, people I didn’t know. I tried to picture them based on their names. What kind of cakes were made by a woman named Agnes? Just how good was Beulah’s white bread? Just how short was Shorty Neumann and where did he learn to make dill pickles?

My grandma was green before being green was the thing to be. She wrote her recipes on scraps of paper, recycled index cards that my aunt brought home from her office job, and even… bank deposit slips.

My sister had just one small box of Grandma’s recipes. It was just one of the many Grandma left behind when she died. By the time my grandma passed away, she had box upon box of recipes she’d transcribed and collected over the years. And when Grandma’s children divided her possessions among them, my mom was either lucky enough or smart enough to find herself in possession of the collection.

There wasn’t anything my grandma couldn’t cook or bake. We loved her stewed chicken and a particular salad she made just for us kids, with lettuce, apple slices and mandarin oranges. But if you take a look through all of those recipes, you’re not likely to find most of Grandma’s standards documented on an index card. And all of those boxes mostly contained recipes for desserts anyway!

Looking through Grandma’s recipes brought her back to me and brought me back to her kitchen, where I’d kneel on a chair and watch her knead bread dough or prepare her delectable cake doughnuts. Sometimes she’d be mixing up a batch of our favorite no-bake peanut butter balls, letting us kids help measure, mix and stir and then roll out the balls on a cookie sheet. Many times, she’d be cooking up a banana or chocolate pudding to pour in graham cracker pie crust. Grandma knew how much we loved her goodies and there was never a shortage when we went to visit; never a shortage of treats accompanying us on our ride back home again either. Grandma loved us well and in many ways, but we sure liked how she loved us up with her home-baked treats.

The Fate of the Ginormous Zucchini

Have I ever mentioned that we have a garden in our back yard? And when I say we, I really mean Mark. Mark has a garden and Mark actually does more of the gardening work than I do. He plants the garden. He waters the garden. He … makes the kids weed the garden. He harvests the crops.

I eat things that come out of the garden. Unless those things are green beans. So that’s my contribution to the gardening. Eating. I’m helpful that way.

This year I requested that Mark plant some zucchini. I like to slice it up and grill it with a little olive oil and seasoning salt. So Mark planted zucchini for me. Last week, he suggested that I go pick my zucchini because he thought it was probably ready for picking. I said I would. But I didn’t.

A few days later, Kacey suggested I go pick my zucchini because she thought it was ready for picking. She said it was getting big. I said I would pick it, but I didn’t.

A few days after that, I came home to find that they had grown tired of waiting for me to pick my zucchini and they did it for me. And when they said it was getting big …

Cherry tomatoes added for perspective's sake!

“Big” may have been a slight understatement. I wasn’t even sure it was edible anymore, so I consulted the all-knowing Google and as it turns out, you can eat ginormous zucchini. It’s recommended that once your zucchini attains the circumference of a football, it is best used for baking.

We like baked goods!

Interesting fact about zucchini … once peeled, it sweats!

Ginormous zucchini, glistening with zucchini sweat

I perused my vast collection of church cookbooks for a zucchini bread recipe and found one that would make two good-sized loaves.

Delicious zucchini baked goodness!

And as it turns out, Google was right! Ginormous zucchini does make delicious baked goods. It was spectacular, sliced while still warm and served with a generous amount of real butter.

YUM!

I’ll share the recipe with you, but if you’re not into doing your own baking, you’re going to have to find your own 18 year-old kid who loves to bake to do it for you. Mine is not available.

Zucchini Bread

  • 4 C shredded zucchini
  • 2 1/2 C sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Blend all ingredients on low speed mixer for 1 minute. Beat on medium for 1 minute. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour at 325 degrees. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Makes 2 large loaves.

Happy eating!