Thursday, September 29, 2011

Working My Way to Chicago!

So I've made a couple of decisions the past few days.

Decision number one - I am setting up a stand at the New Columbia Apple Butter Festival. I'm not doing anything productive with my time, so why not crochet and bake to earn a little extra cash? I'm going to be selling...

Crocheted goods:
Scarves - $5
Hats - $4
Kitchen Towels - $3
Dishcloths - $1
Snowflakes - $3
Christmas Wall Decorations - $2

Baked goods:
Peanut Butter Banana Bread - $5
Chai Tea Bread - $5
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies - $1
S'mores Rice Krispie Treats - $1

I'm also toying with the idea of getting some waterfall, beach, and/or lake pics printed and matted to sell for $10. We'll see.... But the Festival is October 15th at the community center in New Columbia. You should all come buy things from me!

Decision number two is that I am going to Chicago. Since I started thinking about it, my unemployment kicked in, and now I'll hopefully make some cash from selling stuff, so I totally have the bank to go on an adventure. It's probably going to be for three nights, the third week of October. I'm going to stay in an awesome-looking but dirt-cheap hostel, see some shows, see the sights, and have a Chicago-style hot dog, and some Chicago deep dish pizza.

Another exciting thing in my life is that I may have a job! It's only a few hours a week, but it's in a theatre, 15 minutes from my house, and something to put on my resume. So going to Chicago is dependent on what my potential new boss says, but I don't think it will be a problem. It's actually in a movie theatre that does live shows sometimes, so I would be helping with lights/tech whenever they have a show. Sometimes I would work 10 hours a week, sometimes I'd work an hour a week. That's fine for me, though. It gives me flexibility for "real job" interviews and to do fun things, but it'll keep me from getting rusty and bored.

All-in-all, things are looking up, and I have a purpose in life again! You can look forward to a Chai Tea Bread recipe post, cuz I haven't made it yet, and I have to try it before trying to sell it to strangers!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Recipes

So I've actually had the opportunity to make quite a bit of food recently. It's very exciting! Now I'm thinking about having a stand at the New Columbia Apple Butter Festival. I would have some crocheted stuff, as well as baked goods. We'll see how much crocheting I get done in the next couple of weeks.

This last week, I made two things for which people seem to want the recipes. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Cinnamon Filling, and S'more Rice Krispie Treats. I decided that a blog post is the best way to circulate these recipes, while getting some extra views! (For those reading my blog just for these recipes, there are more if you look though my older posts - including my last post about Apple Slab Pie!)

With no further ado... Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, and S'mores Rice Krispie Treats!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple-Cinnamon Filling
makes about 14

2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. light brown sugar
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 large egg - beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. canned pumpkin puree

8oz. cream cheese - softened
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter - softened
2 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 C. powdered sugar - sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2-3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt.
2. Place the brown sugar and oil in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for one minute. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then the pumpkin. Stir in the sifted flour mixture and beat until thoroughly incorporated.
3. Spoon 28 mounds of batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, spaced a little apart to allow room for spreading. Bake, one sheet at a time, in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until risen and set. Cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling racks.

For the filling, place the cream cheese and butter in a bowl and beat together until well blended. Beat in the maple syrup, cinnamon, and powdered sugar until smooth.

To assemble, pipe or spread the filling on the flat side of half the cakes. Top with the other half to make whoopie pies!

(Sorry for the unappetizing photo... I hadn't planned on blogging about these, so there was only one left to get a picture of!)


S'mores Rice Krispie Treats
(Recipe from Glorious Treats)
makes 12 large treats

3 Tbsp. butter
40 regular marshmallows
5 C. Rice Krispies cereal
1 C. Golden Grahams cereal
1/2 C. mini chocolate chips
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (or about 1 C. chocolate chips)
6 full-sized graham crackers, broken in half
24 regular marshmallows

1. Butter (or spray lightly with cooking spray) a 9"x13" pan.
2. In a large microwave safe bowl, place 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into pieces), and 40 marshmallows. Microwave about 3 minutes (stirring after 2 minutes). Watch the microwave, cooking times may vary. Cook in microwave until butter and marshmallows are melted. Stir smooth.
3. Add the Rice Krispies and Golden Grahams cereals to melted marshmallows and stir to combine. Add mini chocolate chips, stir quickly, and immediately pour mixture into prepared 9"x13" pan. Press down into pan with spatula.
4. Melt semi-sweet chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a double boiler over medium heat. Heat until just melted. Spread chocolate on top of Rice Kripies mixture in pan. While the chocolate is still warm, lay graham cracker squares on top, leaving a bit of space between each cracker.
5. Put entire pan in the fridge or freezer (or a cool location) until the chocolate has set (about 20 minutes). Cut into squares with a sharp knife, using the lines between the graham crackers as a guide. Place treats on a large baking sheet, separated slightly.
6. Cut the 24 marshmallows in half and place cut side down onto graham crackers, 4 halves per treat. When all the graham crackers are topped with marshmallows, use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallow. OR, you can toast the marshmallows in the oven - preheat your oven to broil, place baking sheet of treats in the oven, leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Broil about 30 seconds - watch them, they can burn quickly! Pop them back in the fridge or cool location to re-harden after marshmallows are toasted. Enjoy!

(If you don't want huge treats, halve the graham crackers again before putting them on the chocolate, to make them half-sized.)

Since I don't have handy print-formatted recipes, just copy and paste into Word, or print the whole post. :-P Go forth and spread the deliciousness!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Amazing Apple Slab Pie

So every fall, I start to get the 100 Days of Holidays e-newsletter from Better Homes & Gardens. It starts at the beginning of fall and goes through Christmas. They have recipes, decorating ideas, crafts, etc. One recipe this year so far was Crumb-Topped Apple Slab Pie. It's basically an apple pie, but made in a jellyroll pan, so it can feed a crowd.

It was so much fun to make. I'm usually bad at crust, but this one was super easy.

I also hate prepping apples, but my mom and I got a new toy:

It's pretty much magic. Everyone in the world should have a peeler/corer/slicer.

I had to share this recipe. It was lots of fun to put together, and it looks amazing. I can't try it because it's for Mom to take to school, but it's basically a huge apple pie. It can't be anything but awesome.

Crumb-Topped Apple Slab Pie

(From Better Homes & Gardens)

2 1/4 C. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 C. butter-flavored shortening
8 Tbsp. cold water
2/3 C. sugar
1/3 C. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 1/2 lbs. baking apples - cored, peeled, and sliced

Crumb Topping:
1 C. quick oats
1 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. chopped pecans (optional)


Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil up over the edges of the pan. Spray lightly with non-stick spray and set aside.

For dough: In a large bowl, stir together the 2-1/4 C. flour and the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cold water over the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Using your fingers, gently knead the dough just until a ball forms.

Preheat oven to 375F. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle large enough to fill the pan. Wrap it around the rolling pin, and unroll it into the prepared baking pan. Ease dough into the pan and up the sides, being careful not to stretch it. Trim dough to fit the pan, where needed.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, the 1/3 C. flour, and the cinnamon; add apples. Toss lightly until apples are coated. Spoon apple mixture into dough-lined pan; spread evenly.

To make the crumb topping, stir together the quick oats, packed brown sugar, and 1/2 C. all-purpose flour. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until topping mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chopped pecans. Sprinkle topping over the apple mixture in the pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until apples are tender. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Cut into rectangles. Makes about 25 servings.

Enjoy! Feel free to leave comments about anything I should add to my fall baking agenda!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Time. is. flying. When did mid-September happen? I feel like it was just the other day I wrote my last post, and it's been over a week. Jeez.

My life hasn't been that exciting. I'm growing lazier by the day. I neeeed to get back to hiking. I bought that fancy new day pack and haven't used it yet! Maybe next week? It's tough now because my dad is starting Chemo and radiation on Monday, and we'll be at Cancer Care for a couple of hours everyday. Maybe I'll get my sister to take over one day so I can commune with nature.

I haven't really baked/cooked much, so I don't have any pictures or stories. I did make a pretty rad banana cake the other day, but didn't take pics. It wasn't that exciting, and it came out a little flat. I didn't sift my flour. Probably a mistake. Oh, well. It's still delicious.

My unemployment was approved, so I'm not slowly running out of money anymore! That kind of leads to the trip portion of this "Trip?" post. Since I have some cash flow now, I'm thinking about going somewhere. I'm actually thinking Chicago. I've never been to that city OR state. It's not too far to drive, and seems exciting. I found a couple of hostels that look decent, got great reviews, and are only about $30 a night.

I would probably plan on 3 nights at the hostel, with a day on each end for driving to and from. That would give me two full days in the city. I figure I can plan some things to check out, maybe take in a show, find some bars. I can explore for a couple of days, and maybe even take some resumes along and harass some theatres! Getting there would also take me through Indiana. Is there anything to see in Indiana? Then I could check off two more states for my 30 Things Before 30 list!

This is still just an idea I'm tossing around, but I'm itching to go somewhere new. Besides parking, I feel like I could make the whole trip cost less than $200, including the hostel, food, sights, etc. For gas, I might cash in some of my Mypoints points for gas gift cards. For parking, I would probably cough up the money for a garage, as street parking in any city scares me.

We'll see how long I remain unemployed, how my finances are in a few weeks, and how ambitious I am. If Chicago doesn't work out, maybe a few days in NYC are in order. That may be in order anyway. I can stay with my college roomie (yes, I'm inviting myself, you don't have a choice), so expenses would be minimal. I have a book that I bought when I lived in NYC for a summer of 1,001 things to do. I've done probably 200, but I could cross a few more of those off my list.... We'll see what happens!

I'll decide in a couple of weeks what I want to do. In the meanwhile, I'm GOING to get back to hiking. I shall also get back in the kitchen. If for no other reason than to have something to blog about!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Falling for Autumn!

Fall is by far my favorite season. I know it's technically still summer, but with all the rain the past few days cooling it off outside, and the start of school... it feels like fall to me.

The other night I put on some sweatpants, made some hot tea, grabbed a Pumpkin Spice Scone, and curled up on my bed with a book. Totally fall behavior. I love the colors, the smells, the weather (sans flooding...), the fairs and festivals.... Fall is just my season. Most of all, I love fall baking, and knowing that it leads to holiday baking.

While not terribly fall-y, I just made some Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins. I want to get a workout in tonight yet and not throw up mid-run, so I haven't tried them yet, but they look and smell amazing.

On a related note, I'm thinking about selling baked goods this fall/winter. If I decide to, I'll probably send an order sheet to school with my mom, and try to spread it through word-of-mouth. Since I'm unemployed and jonesing to bake more, this seems like a good way to get in the kitchen, as well as make some "dough". Pun definitely intended. :-P

Here's what I'm thinking about so far:

Banana Nut Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Cranberry Bread
Pumpkin-Banana Bread

Maple Pecan Muffins
Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Shoo-fly Pie
Candy Bar Pie
Sweet Potato Pie

Chocolate Chip Cookies
White Chocolate-Cherry Shortbread Cookies
Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Rolls
Jelly Rolls

Since a lot of people go out and buy goodies to take to parties, give as gifts, or just share with their family, I figure I'll be cheaper than most bakeries, and I can deliver right to the school since that's probably where most of my business would be. I haven't worked out prices yet, since I'm still just throwing the idea around. I can pull out some start-up money for supplies and containers, and hopefully I'll make back at least that much. If I'm lucky and turn a profit, well woo-hoo! Leave a comment and let me know if this is a good idea or not!

Well, as it's almost midnight, I guess I should get to working out. (Incidentally, I ran a whole MILE yesterday! I usually do anywhere from 2.5-4 miles on the treadmill, and run intervals. Up until yesterday, I'd been doing 1/2-mile intervals, but yesterday I did a mile at a time and didn't die! Yay, me! :-P)

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg
1 C. mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. hot water
1 1/2 C. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and bananas and mix well. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the hot water; add to banana mixture. Stir in the remaining ingredients, adding chocolate chips last. Spoon into a paper-lined 12-count muffin tin, dividing batter evenly between the twelve cups. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes - until domed, golden, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cookies and Fitness

So I know I've been neglecting my blog a bit. There's not a whole lot to blog about in my life at the moment. I've been officially unemployed for a five weeks now. (I finally swallowed my pride and filed for unemployment. I don't know yet if I've been approved, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.) I rarely go out, and when I do it's nothing really blog-worthy. I should really start hiking again. I got that PA Waterfalls book, and a new pack, so I think I have to start adventuring.

As much as I'm ready to move on with my life, in a way it's lucky that I'm home for awhile. I've been taking Dad to his appointments so Mom doesn't have to use all of her personal days and family sick days right away. He had his first major surgery - he got a feeding tube and medi-port put in. He's had consults with the chemo and radiation docs, so he should be starting treatments in the next week or two. The doctors seem optimistic for the most part, so we'll see what happens. We're taking it one step at a time.

I've also been keeping busy playing housewife. I sat down with my mom's sewing machine tonight (since mine is in storage), and fixed two shirts with broken seams, and took in seven shirts that were too big. I have to replace a zipper in a sweatshirt yet, but I didn't have one handy. I also made no-bake cookies tonight! We saw some at the store, and I had a request to make some.

Mmmmm. Molten chocolate goo. :-)

They're in the fridge now, setting up. I may have to have one after my yoga session. Which brings us to the fitness portion of "Cookies and Fitness". I've been doing really well with sticking to my work-out schedule. I've basically been going week-to-week and writing down what exercise(s) I'm going to do each day. It's been a month now, and I haven't missed one yet! Well... I've missed one here and there, but I always double up the next day and make it up.

I've mostly been running/jogging/walking about 4 times a week. It's amazing how much endurance I've built up in just a month. I also do a yoga session twice a week. I use the podcasts from YogaDownload. Some of them I love, and some I hate. Like the Detox Yoga #1 is totally my favorite. It's a lot of twisting the spine and organs to wring out the toxins, and they use some of my favorite poses. Core Yoga #1, on the other hand, is horrible and I can't do half of it. :-P

So I'm feeling pretty great, physically. I don't really see many changes yet, but I feel healthier, and I've lost a few pounds. I'm hopefully going to stick with it. It's pretty much part of my routine now, so it's gotten easier to make myself actually work out. By the time I find employment, I'll be smokin'.

I'll leave you with the recipe for No-Bake Cookies... probably the easiest cookie to make ever.

No-Bake Cookies

2 Tbsp. baking cocoa
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. butter or margarine
1/4 C. milk
1/4 C. peanut butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. quick oats

In a saucepan, boil cocoa, sugar, butter, and milk for a couple of minutes. Add vanilla and peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the oats.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. Refrigerate until firm.

**For a little crunch, use chunky p.b.**

Seriously, it takes about 5 minutes from the time you start till they hit the fridge. Give 'em half an hour to harden, and you're golden. Everyone loves No-Bake Cookies!