Peach Crisp

– johanna | October 21st, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

Upon their arrival, early American settlers had to make do with what they had. Common ingredients used back in England were in short supply or non existant in the new world. The colonists learned to use variations of fruits and meats available to them in traditional English recipes such as crisps, cobblers, Betty, grunts, and the like.

Crisps and cobblers were thought of as common food. They were reserved for the family. One would never serve a crisp to company. Pioneers traveling across the country ate cobblers for both breakfast and dinner. They were easier to make given the limited resources on the trail.

Crisps are just as popular today as they were in Medieval Europe. They are available at many restaurants and back yard barbecues. Crisps are often served with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.

5 large ripe peaches, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 chopped pecans
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To peel the peaches bring a stock pot filled with water to a boil. Cut a small X on the bottom of each peach. Add peaches to the boiling water and simmer for 30-60 seconds. Remove peaches from the pot and place in a bowl of ice water. Allow peaches to cool slightly. The skins should slip right off.

Toss peaches with lemon juice and zest. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla and salt. Divide evenly among ramekins or place in a 8X8 pan.

Combine all the topping ingredients in a food processor. Pulse about 30 seconds until combined. Or mix with fingers until the mixture is clumpy and crumbly. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if needed.

Top each ramekin or 8X8 inch pan with topping. Don’t pack too tightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.

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Halloween Mystery Dinner

– johanna | October 18th, 2011

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Photo: by Bunny Cakes


Slug Butter beer

Black Quagmire Potion


Freshly Picked Graveyard Morsels

Skinned Vampire Fingers

Zombie Brains

Crispy Fried Bat Wings

Main Course:

Roasted Heart of Troll

Ogre Eyeball Sub


Snickers Cheesecake

Fruity Ghosts and Pumpkins

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

– johanna | October 14th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Snacks

Fall finally arrived last weekend. Rainy and cold. It was heavenly. Thanks to Emily, my brother’s wife, the pantry is well stocked with canned pumpkin. Last year I was complaining about not being able to find canned pumpkin in the supermarket during the month of October. Emily made sure I had a few extra cans tucked away in the pantry to use this fall. This year we are hardly into october and I have used up two of those cans. The onset of rainy cold fall weather called for a batch of pumpkin muffins.

My favorite pumpkin recipe used to be Pumpkin Chip Cookies. I especially liked the ones from a grocery store in Utah. I searched recipe after recipe trying to find an exact match. Baked and baked, with unsuccessful results, until I found the closest contender on Joy the Baker. They were soft with a hint of spices just as I remembered. Pumpkin chocolate cookies are no longer my favorite. Although they still bring a smile to my lips as I remember wonderful dear friends I once shared them with.

Pumpkin Chip Muffins are similar to the cookie in taste. However, many people find the cake texture of the cookie to be annoying. If this is the case a chocolate chip pumpkin muffin might make more sense.

Source: Thorp House Inn of Fish Creek, WI
1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal, optional
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pre-spiced)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a standard muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and cloves.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, and melted butter.  Add the pumpkin mixture all at once to the flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened (batter may be a bit lumpy).  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into the 12 prepared muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or just until a wooden toothpick inserted into centers of the muffins comes out clean. Do not over bake. Let sit in the muffin pan to cool for 2 to 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups.

Yield:  12 standard size muffins

–This recipe calls for mace. Mace is the outer red webbing of a nutmeg seed. Add it if available. Otherwise omit it and add a hint more of nutmeg.

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Apple Harvest Festival

– johanna | October 11th, 2011

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Photo: Courtesy of Istock Photo

One of my favorite children’s books is, “The Blackberry Mouse” by Matthew Grimsdale. “The Blackberry Mouse” is a wonderful tale about a greedy young mouse who learns a valuable lesson about friendship. The story ends with Mouse and his neighborhood friends gathered together around the table enjoying a blackberry feast. There is blackberry jam, blackberry jelly, blackberry pies, lots and lots of blackberry tarts, and blackberry juice.

September marks the beginning of apple season. Mounds of succulent apples have already made their way to the market. The fall apple harvest reminds me of Mouse’s elaborate table laden with delectable blackberry goodies. There are so many wonderful edible creations to make with apples. What better way to celebrate the fall apple harvest than with an Apple Feast.

Many apple farms across California open their orchards to the public to celebrate the apple harvest. U-Pick It farms are ideal for an adventurous family outing. Although, the fun need not stop once the basket is filled. The real excitement begins at home making apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie, apple turnovers… However, fanfare such as this should never be enjoyed alone.

Mouse, in the story Blackberry Mouse, recognized that blackberries are nice but even better when you share them. Preserved goods such as jams and butters make perfect gifts for Christmas or to say “Thank You”. Tasty cakes, muffins and turnovers make the grand beginnings for a family apple festival.

Photo: Courtesy of

An Apple Festival can be a small intimate gathering with family and/or friends. Or a grand event involving the neighborhood or community. Fun activities and good food made with apples are a must to pull off a successful Apple Feast.

**For those with allergies to apples substitute pears.

Apple Festival Activities:
Apple Bobbing Fill a large container with water and apples. Bob for apples using only your mouth, no hands. Or attach apples to a string- participants must pull the apple from the string using only their mouth, no hands allowed.

Apple Toss Stand in two lines. Each person has a partner. Toss the apple to your partner. If they catch it you both take a step back. If you drop it you are out. Last couple standing wins.
Apple Darts Attach ‘red balloons’ to a board or wall. Participants throw darts to try to pop a balloon. If offering prizes place a ticket or several tickets in each balloon that can be exchanged for treats and prizes.
Apple Tasting- Display a variety of different types of apples. Place each variety on its own plate. Label. Keep a tally of who likes what best.

Apple Crafts:

Apple Treats:

1. Apple Butter 2. Fruit Leather 3. Applesauce 4. Apple Dip 5. Apple Cake 6. Apple Turnovers 7. Praline Apple Bread 8. Autumn Cheesecake 9. Caramel Apples (caramel sauce) 10. Apple Cider 11. Fried Apples Pies 12. Spiked Apple Cake 13. Apple Zeppole 14. Apple Cider Doughnuts 15. Apple shaped cupcakes 16. Apple Pie-rate Ship 17. Apple Crisp 18. Fried Apple Fritters 19. Apple Spiced Punch 20. Apple Muffins 21. Apple Scones, Walnut Apple Scones 22. Apple Dumplings 23. Almond Apple Strudel Bars 24. Apple Pie 25. Candied Apples 26. Apple Strudel Bars 27. Creamy Apple Chicken Chili 28. Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

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Southern Cottage Pie

– johanna | October 7th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

This version of Shepherds Pie, as it is referred to in America, is reminiscent of an old time country diner in the South. The flavor is superb. The bacon pieces sprinkled on top adds a little extra pizazz.

A traditional Cottage Pie would include both meat and more vegetables similar to Ellie Krieger’s Cauliflower with Mashed Potatoes Shepherds Pie. However, if you are searching for more of a meat and potatoes manly style pie, a Southern Cottage Pie is sure to hit the spot.

Source: Christine Fernandez
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup mushrooms
1 medium onion chopped
5 slices of pre cooked bacon
3 cups of beef broth
2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons of flour
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of milk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
6 large potatoes

Place potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring up to a boil. Season water with salt and boil potatoes until tender.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef to the pan and caramelize the meat. Add in the mushrooms and onions and cook until tender,then season with salt and pepper.

While meat cooks heat a small sauce pot over medium heat and melt butter, whisk the flour into butter, cook 2 minutes then whisk beef stock into flour, add Worcestershire and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Thicken.

Pour gravy over meat and turn on broiler.

Place drained potatoes back into the pot you cooked them in to dry them out a little. Mash potatoes with egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, milk and 2 tablespoons of butter. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and spread across the top of the meat in an even layer. Garnish the potatoes with bacon and place under broiler to crisp and brown the potatoes, 2 to 3 minutes.

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November Website Review: Toad Haven

– johanna | October 1st, 2011

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF

Toad Haven is more than just an educational family blog. It is a wonderland of ideas to keep kids entertained on a rainy day, to help kids learn a hard to understand concept, or for exploring the world around us. Think school projects. I have not seen many science fair projects about baking salmon in the dishwasher?

Toad Haven offers links to online educational games and fun activities for home, school, or church settings. Most of the ideas can be adapted for preschool to high school learners; utilizing many common items found around the house. The site is sorted by areas of study for ease in finding help in a particular course of study. Toad Haven is an educational resource for both home and community schoolers alike.

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