Saturday, April 30, 2011

Applesauce oatmeal muffins

Are you a "sugar in the morning" type of person?  I certainly am.  I'm always craving something sweet when I get out of bed in the morning.  But I also try to make breakfast my healthiest meal, since it sets the course for good eating choices throughout the day.

I think muffins are the perfect package of sweet and healthy. And one muffin (in a regular size tin) offers instant portion control.  I like to bake up a batch of muffins on the weekend, then keep them in the freezer, so I'm not tempted to eat the entire batch at once. When breakfast time rolls around, I just take a muffin out the freezer, then pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds.  Instant breakfast!

A thoughtful co-worker passed along a recent clipping from the Omaha World Herald that featured reader-submitted muffin recipes.  Over the next few weeks, I'm going to try these recipes out for myself and share them with you. Because we all deserve a sweet start to the day!


Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins
From Omaha World Herald
  • 1/2 C. butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C. applesauce
  • 1/2 C. raisins
  • 1 C. quick cook oatmeal
  • 1/2 C. nuts
Cream butter, sugar and egg until fluffy; mix dry ingredients and add alternately with applesauce.  Add raisins, oatmeal and nuts.  Mix well. Spoon into 12 paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Feel free to add dried cranberries, chopped dates or even chopped apple.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Aerogarden: Month 4

OK.  One last Aerogarden update for the year.  I'm down to the last two weeks of fertilizer packets, and then I'm going to put these Aerogardens away until December rolls around again.

Of the three herb pods, the thyme is the last one left.  It's actually been thriving now that it doesn't have to compete with the dill.  It's grown bushy and tall.

I had to trim the petunias back a couple weeks ago because they got too leggy and were bumping up against the grow light.  I also was having a tough time keeping them well watered.  They were sucking up a bowl of water every two days!  When I couldn't keep up with the watering, the petunias started to wilt.  I still have one of the three petunia pods that's doing pretty well, thanks to the trim I gave it to promote blooming.

Hope you've enjoyed watching these Aerogardens grow over the winter months.  Now let's head outside and get our summer gardens ready!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Not according to plans

Happy Easter, everyone!  I'm enjoying the day here at home with my hubby.  For weeks, I've been planning my Easter day menu.  I went out and bought the best ham I could find.  I decided to baste the ham with a glaze made from my homemade apricot jam, which I tried last year to great success.  Unfortunately, I left the ham in the oven a little too long, and I ended up burning the apricot glaze on the ham.  I'll spare you the picture -- it wasn't pretty. 

I also tried my first-ever attempt at deviled eggs.  They looked pretty, but didn't taste all the great.  So I'll spare you that recipe, as well.

My garden plans also have been on hold.  We've had every-other-day rain showers for the last couple weeks, and temperatures dipped into the low 30s earlier this week.  Needless to say, the seeds I planted in early April just aren't growing.

And if the weather wasn't challenging enough, I'm also battling the rabbits.  The little buggers have already eaten the cauliflower and broccoli plants in my garden, except for one I managed to save with a make-shift cage. 

Unbelieveably, the rabbits have also eaten my tulip bulbs.  I've been planting tulips for a couple years now, and I've never seen a rabbit eat the leaves off a tulip.  Thankfully, the rabbits haven't touched my mini-tulips, so there's a little early season color to brighten up my garden.

Oh, and I probably shouldn't mention this -- it even makes me quesy, but we've also been overwhelmed by garter snakes that have taken residence underneath our backporch.  Needless to say, it makes me a little nervous to be out in the garden, knowing that a snake might cross my path.

So it's been an odd couple weeks -- between the weather and the wildlife.  I'm hoping things turn around and go my way again soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I walked out to my car the other day and saw a bit of a mess on my front porch.

I looked up and saw that a new family has moved into the neighborhood.

Not sure how long they will stay.  But I hope they don't mind sharing the front porch.

Happy spring, everyone!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Strawberry pot

Oh how I adore strawberries!  I buy them every week in the spring to add to my morning bowl of cereal or oatmeal.  We also like to mix strawberries in with our lettuce salads. 

But I'm pretty picky when it comes to strawberries.  I only buy them when they are in season, and I have to stop and "sniff" the cartons of strawberries at the store until I buy it. If it smells like berries, I know they are ripe.  I also have to check the bottom to make sure there are no squished or moldy strawberries in the package. Unfortunately, I still usually come home with some moldy strawberries.

I loved picking berries from a local strawberry patch last year, but the season is so short, and I usually only have time to visit the farm on the weekends.  I've always toyed with the idea of growing my own strawberries, but I don't like the look of backyard strawberry beds.  They usually end up looking weedy by mid-summer.

A couple weeks ago, I visited a local Earl May garden center to buy a few spring bulbs, and I saw a table of tiny strawberry plants.  There were two varieties -- a June-bearing strawberry and an ever-bearing strawberry, which is supposed to continue producing fruit throughout the summer.  On a whim, I bought the ever-bearing strawberries.  I figured I could plant them in one of my bucket containers and see if they will grow.

Well, when I got back home and looked up some information on growing container strawberries, I discovered that it's best to grow strawberries in specially-designed strawberry pots, which is pretty much a clay pot with holes along the side for planting strawberries.  Strawberry plants have shallow roots, so they overcrowd each other and need room to grow. 

Based on this advice, I searched for a "Stack-a-Pot" to plant the strawberries.  I'm glad I ended up buying the 14-quart Stack-a-Pot (not the more expensive 30 quart), because it looks great on my back porch.  If the strawberries don't grow, I'll just use these stackable pots to grow herbs. (I left the bottom stack empty for flowers or herbs. I'll probably move the bottom to the top later in the summer.)

If you're wondering why there's water collected on the bottom, we received a half inch of rain before this photo was taken.

I'll keep you updated if I end up with any strawberries this spring.  All I want is a few berries for my cereal bowl.  Hoping for success!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Candy bar cookie

Hello, everyone!  The unexpected sunny weather has put me in a great mood.  My hubby took me out to eat tonight, so I'm fighting off a food coma at the moment and am barely able to keep my eyes open.  But I wanted to urge you to bake up these toasted coconut toffee cookies ASAP.

My hubby calls these candy bar cookies, because they offer that great combination of caramel, chocolate and coconut flavors.  This is definitely one of my top five favorite cookies.  Try them for yourself!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Let the gardening begin!

I couldn't wait any longer.  I broke out the gardening gloves and planted a few veggie seeds to jump start my cool-season garden.

I planted one row of radishes and carrots, one row of lettuces and spinach, and one row of sugar-snap peas.  I figured if they don't grow, I still have plenty of seeds - and time - to plant more seeds in the next couple weeks. 

It felt so good to be back out in the garden again.  I love gardening this time of year -- no weeds and no bugs!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Waiting (impatiently) for spring

I've definitely got a full-fledged case of spring fever.  I wish we could just skip April and May and go right to summer's warm temperatures and sunny days. You can imagine I was a little disappointed when I woke up last week to see this outside my window.

It's hard enough to get up in the dark every morning (I'm still adjusting to the time change) without wondering if I need to scrape the snow off the car.

I've also been super busy at work, so to distract myself from worrying about deadlines, I turn to my favorite hobbies.  I drove all over town trying to find the ingredients for these Sunflower Chip Cookies.  They just made me think spring!

Trader Joe's had a whole display of Sunflower Butter, but they were out of the sunflower seeds. So I stopped by a local Kum & Go gas station, and sure enough, I found the sunflower seeds there. That's where my husband always buys them; it's one of his favorite snacks.

Unfortunately, my hubby didn't really care for these cookies.  But I did discover that I love sunflower butter! Who would have guessed?

A couple days later, I saw another spring-time recipe for Strawberry Cake that I couldn't resist trying.  Really, I look for any excuse to buy strawberries.  And I was happy to see these were Florida-grown. Do you ever look at the country-of-origin labels on produce?  I try to buy USA-grown whenever possible. I'm a big supporter of American farmers.

Anyhow, back to the cake, it turned out beautiful.  But again, my (picky) husband wasn't a fan.  He said he expects a cake to "wow" him, and this one didn't.  I disagree, however.  I thought this was a lovely, old-fashioned cake.

One more sign of spring for me is the beginning of the 5K race season.  I ran the Iowa State University Doughnut Run 5K this weekend.  Sadly, the race was a little too fast, so I couldn't stomach eating any doughnuts while running like the college kids can.  But I got this cool glass to take home. 

How are you getting ready for spring?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Aerogarden: Month 3

 Well, it's been a fun couple months watching my little Aerogardens sprout and grow. I really appreciated these mini-gardens in the winter, when the nights were so dark and long.

Unfortunately, my Aerogardens are struggling at this point. I forgot to water the herb aerogarden a couple weeks back (for some reason, the time-to-water indicator lights don't work on my Aerogardens), and the dill didn't recover. That's OK, though. It turned out to be an odd variety of dill, not at all like the dill in my garden. My husband said the Aerogarden dill had little to no flavor when he cooked with it.

The petunias were supposed to cascade, but instead, they grew tall. My hubby said it was probably because they didn't get enough light, which makes sense, considering that I keep them in a rather dark entryway.

Even though they don't look so pretty now, it's still fun to see the Aerogarden seeds grow throughout the winter months. Now I'm looking forward to warmer days so I can get my early spring garden started outside. Right now, the temps are 30 degrees, a little cold for this time of year. But I hope to get a few seeds planted maybe next weekend. Wish me luck!
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