Friday Reflections – March 31

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Last night JP made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner as part of a school project. It turned out really well and besides a few burnt fingertips, I think we may have a new cook in the family.

The sun is finally peeking out from the clouds and the daffodils are in full bloom. This week has had its ups (before mentioned daffodils, open-minded children, morning show with amazing coffee and lots of friends) and its downs (a stubborn receptionist, a late night fight and cramming to finish a school project). I come to the end of the week with a sigh of relief but also with the feeling that I really experienced and lived what we call LIFE. I hope your week was full of love and laughter as well. Enjoy Friday!

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This cake was a team effort. My mother-in-law sweetly had the cake baked and the party decorations up (the dining room was floor to ceiling Pokemon!) It was definitely a birthday to remember. Happy 7th Birthday Kai!
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Spring in a vase.
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I made Turkey Minestrone Soup from Rustic Joyful Food and it was so tasty. The recipe called for ditalini pasta but I wasn’t able to find it and was going to get the small elbows instead. A quick Google search informed me that there are certain pastas that are specifically for soup so I looked again and spied this cute alphabet pasta on the top shelf. So fun!
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The local radio station KEXP is constantly streaming in our house and going to their new home down by the Space Needle has been on our list of places to go. They have in-studio performances almost daily that are free to the public. Tuesday morning we finally made it down and it was absolutely amazing. La Marzocca coffee is exceptional and seeing Kate Tempest live was riveting. Her thought provoking lyrics and emotional energy is mind blowing.
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I love this collection of plants at my wonderful friend’s house. I was in need of some emotional comfort that morning and left her home feeling cared for and recharged.
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Leave it to Martha to get this cleaning procrastinator to dig out the vacuum and get to work on ridding the house of dust. Her article on how many chemicals are in dust and the “right” way to dust and vacuum (start from the ceiling and move down to the floors) was what I needed to get motivated for a bit of spring cleaning.

Afternoon Snack Pumpkin Muffins

fullsizeoutput_3da4Sometimes when life feels bumpy and what worked smoothly last month doesn’t feel smooth anymore, I want to take a hammer to it all and start over. I start making chore charts, sticker charts, afternoon schedules – anything to make the family run the way I want or expect. In reality, usually just a minor change can make a difference. Lately, the afternoon snack seems to be the problem area. I decided to get my chisel and set to work.

Our schedule is pretty much the same each day. School gets out, we play on the playground and then walk home. I unlock the door and remind them to take their lunch boxes and folders out of their backpacks and to go and wash their hands. Now begins the scramble to the pantry. The first child calls out “Mom can I have” and then the other “Mom I want”. I answer with a yes, no, then a yes. Cupboards banging, drawers opening. Pretzels flying. This week I decided to do something different.

First, I did a pantry clean up. I realized that the easiest items to reach were the treats and pre-packaged items. I changed that and stuck those in a bin on another shelf higher up. Now they look and see nuts, dried fruit, and some crackers. Secondly, we slow it down. Lunch time was not all that long ago. No need to rush in and finish snack within 15 minutes of walking in the door. There is plenty of afternoon left, I guarantee it. Instead of snack being the first thing that happens, we all take a few minutes and relax and then I tell them that I will go make snack and will let them know when its ready. Simple really.

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Lastly, this next step is really the most important change. I decided to  start planning out the snack. I was worried this would be disappointing to them. I thought that they liked being able to make these choices on their own, but you know what? I think they were as frustrated with the afternoons as I was and don’t seem to mind one bit. The food is served more family style (or party style) so each child can choose what they want of each item.

As an added bonus, since moving beyond the bunny cracker I’ve noticed that we’ve been able to get a little more variety into our mini-meal. Here are a few of the new(ish) items I’ve added to the rotation.

  • Air popped popcorn (going to add nutritional yeast this week and see how that goes)
  • Hummus and pitas
  • Mini bagels topped with blueberry whipped cream cheese (thawed blueberries whipped with cream cheese and a little lemon zest)
  • Tortillas rolled up with Nutella and bananas

This week I decided to make whole wheat pumpkin muffins. I have made these so many times and absolutely love them. They are the perfect addition to our after school routine.

It has been so nice not having to field so many “can I have” questions and to just enjoy catching up after the school day. I think this change will stay – unlike the chore chart.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

I originally found this recipe on allrecipes.com and have made adjustments over the years. You can replace half of the oil with applesauce if preferred. This recipe makes 24 regular muffins or like me, you can make twelve regular and twenty-four mini muffins like I have shown above. I like having both sizes on hand and they freeze great. You could also leave the batter in the refrigerator and bake them off each day as needed. The batter would keep for 3 days. Of course you could throw in some toasted nuts or chocolate chips if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup mild tasting oil (such as canola or vegetable)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Preheat over to 350° F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl whisk flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and spices and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, oil and eggs. Use a wooden spoon and stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture. Stop mixing when flour has been incorporated. Add milk and incorporate. The batter will be loosen and be less dense.

Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and bake. The mini muffins take about ten minutes and the larger ones are done in around twenty minutes. A toothpick will come out clean and the tops will spring back when touched. Let the muffins cool a few minutes and then remove from the pan. Let cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze.

Enjoy!

Friday Reflections – March 24

Spring finally arrived and we are so excited! Today my little guy turns 7 years old and my heart is bursting with love and pride. I hope you have had a wonderful week and have been able to slow down and appreciate the small joys that every day life brings as well.

Happy Friday Friends!

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The wooden eggs my children and I painted with friends and they are right in the middle of the table to remind me that Spring is here!

 

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Spring soccer has begun! Bring on the mud.
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I finally picked up the March cookbook club book and boy is it amazing. Hoping I have the time to make a few of these gems – mainly the pistachio cream and banana bites. Yum!
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Finished all the marshmallow fondant for the birthday boy’s cake. Fingers crossed it will be as good as the picture I found on the internet. Ha!

 

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This is all that is left of the play date party we had at the park. I just love seeing all the handmade cards, they just melt my heart.

Friday Reflections – March 17

Each week has its share of small joys sprinkled in among the dishes and struggles. I thought I’d share some of mine and would love to hear about yours. Happy Friday Friends!

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Kai was invited to his first roller skating party and had such a fun time flying around the rink.

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JP came to the grocery store with me after school and was so helpful. He also decided he wanted to try a red pepper. Celebrate the small victories friends!

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We had a fun play date painting wooden eggs. My friend and I decided to take after the children and just go.for.it. Mix it up, use LOTS of gold and everything will be ok.

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Pecan tassies always remind me of mini pecan pies, which is my absolute favorite pie. I’ve been wanting to make them and realized that Pi Day would be the perfect time. I love the cream cheese crust and the nutty caramel filling. Yum!

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I met a friend at the plant nursery and wanted every single indoor and outdoor planter, stuffed to the brim with greenery. Finished off with lunch under the heat lamps feeling very thankful for some blue sky.

Spiced Yeast Cake

 

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As the season begins to change from winter to spring, I find myself wanting it to hold off a little longer. I feel like I have unfinished business to attend to before those long stalks of rhubarb beckon me. Crocuses are starting to peak out from the ground and I know it won’t be long before the city bursts into bloom. Yet, I haven’t made that turkey minestrone soup yet or the pecan sandies like I intended. This spiced yeast cake has also been on my mind these last couple months.

Parenthood is the same way right?  I feel the steady tick of the clock and I wonder if I’m ready for this season to end. I just got my feet under me. Nevertheless, I see the signs and know that we are headed into a new phase. Did we accomplish enough? The little one can tie his shoes and read chapter books. The older one can manage his school work and swim. I see them building friendships and managing their emotions. I see the signs and know that ready or not, here we come.

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Buttered pan with almonds.
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This is the sponge before adding the rest of the cake ingredients.
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The cake is fully risen when it is 1/2 inch or so under the rim.

Spiced Yeast Cake

About a year ago I read an article about the long tradition of yeast cakes. Prior to 1843 when baking powder came around to give us our lift, yeast was used instead. I’m intrigued by the depth of a cake that uses yeast instead of baking powder or baking soda. This cake is a cross between cinnamon raisin bread and spiced coffee cake. It makes you want to slow down and curl up with a cup of tea. The recipe below is adapted from an old recipe for Election Cake, which is the American version of a yeast cake. If you are interested, read this article by Greg Patent to learn more about this old American tradition. I’d say we could all use a little cake right now, so go ahead and give this one a try and tell me what you think.

Ingredients
Sponge:
3 1/3 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Cake:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup orange juice
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice (or as much as needed to get desired consistency)

Instructions
Sponge:
Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium until the milk is warm (around 110 degrees). Pour into a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining sponge ingredients and using a hand mixer, mix for 2 minutes on a medium speed. The sponge will thicken up. Cover and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
Cake:
In a small bowl combine orange juice, raisons and dried cranberries. Microwave for 45 seconds and set aside.
Generously butter a 10-inch bundt pan. Sprinkle almonds over pan and gently press into the pan in a single layer. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
Add butter and sugar to the bowl of your mixer and cream until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce speed and incorporate eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla extract. Add the sponge mixture and mix until well combined. Spoon in flour mixture in three additions. Mix on low after each addition to fully combine. The batter will be smooth and thick. Mix in dried fruit with their juices.
Using a spatula, distribute the batter evenly around pan and smooth top. Cover and let rise for a couple hours on a draft free counter. Resist the urge to rush this part. You can also stick this in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly over night and bake in the morning. The batter should fill about half the pan before rising.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place oven rack in center of oven.
After the cake has risen, place pan on a baking sheet (in case of overflow) and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and spoon over cooled cake. Serve at room temperature.