Category Archives: homemade

Hershey Bar Cake

Yesterday was my last day working for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. The seasonal position started in April and ended in October so I knew it wasn’t forever going in but it is still sad to say goodbye. I loved everything about working there; my co-workers are all wonderful, caring people and my work was interesting and varied. I learned a lot about myself this summer and a lot about what kind of work I’d like to pursue in the future. They say when one door closes another one opens and behind the second door there’s cake! (That transition was a little forced, sorry)

I made this cake for my mom’s birthday because it’s her favorite since she was a little girl. This is quite possibly the best chocolate cake recipe ever in the history of ever. Just sayin’.

Also, I lost a lot of pictures when I did an update to my phone so unfortunately the pictures of her birthday party were among those that have gone missing. 😦

Ingredients:

  • 6 (1.55 ounce) Hershey’s milk chocolate bars
  • 1-1/2 cups Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside. 
In a microwave safe bowl combine the candy bars and the syrup. Microwave in increments until melted stirring occasionally. Set aside. 
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. 
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Add melted chocolate, beating well. 
In another bowl, combine flour and baking soda. 

Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to sugar mixture. Beat well after each addition. 
Add vanilla. 
Pour batter into prepared pan(s). 
Bake for 45 minutes.
Then cover with aluminum foil and cool in pan for 15 minutes. 
Turn over onto wire rack. 
Dust with powdered sugar, frost it, drizzle with icing or leave it. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
“This cake has a hole in it.”
“You fixed it!”

12 Weeks of Wellness: Create

Studies show that the majority of people eat fewer than 70% of meals at homes. Reclaim your kitchen, reinstate family dinner, eat together, learn to cook and shop for food (don’t forget your reusable shopping bags!), invest in and value your food, and plant a garden to grow your own ingredients. During the 11th week of wellness, I encourage you to make at least 90% of meals at home. 

Check out my recipes page for ideas.

This week create: eat only food that was prepared at home

Click the week for more information for why these are important to your wellness

Vegetarianize Your Meal

This will be a quick post for Food Fun Friday. If you’re trying to cut back on your meat consumption for whatever reason (you love animals, your health or the environment) you might want to know how to substitute tofu for ground beef or turkey in a recipe. Here’s how…

Freeze one package of firm tofu. Open package, dump block into a colander in the sink. Use you hand to crumble the tofu into pieces. 
Heat two tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add tofu crumbles. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast. Stir until heated through.
Use in any recipe as you would ground meat. Like in Chili.

No Fuss Ice Cream

The weather is cooling down so I’m trying to get as many frozen treats in before the outside becomes just as frozen. This Food Fun Friday recipe is for ice cream that you can make at home even if you don’t have an fancy smancy ice cream maker.

The basic recipe calls for one 14-oz can condensed milk, 1 pint whipping cream and 2 tsp. vanilla. You can add anything else you want for other flavors. I used Nutella because, well do I really need a reason?
Pour whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl. Then use a mixer to whip it until stiff peaks form (5-8 minutes).
Warm 1/2 cup of Nutella in the microwave until liquidy (if you have a soften or melt button pre-programmed into your microwave use that. If not change the power to about 30% and microwave for 1 minute, checking occasionally.
Fold in melted Nutella.
Spoon in about another half cup of Nutella (not melted) and continue folding. To form swirls don’t mix in completely. Pour the mixture into a bread loaf pan. Cover and freeze for at least 8 hours before serving.
Feel free to lick the spoon, Nutella is the best thing on Earth.
Once frozen enjoy your delicious homemade treat.
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? I think we’re all clear on what mine is. 🙂

6 Real Food Kitchen Staples

In an effort to both save money and cut out processed food further I learned to make my own kitchen staples. In this post I will share a few recipes for items I like to make at home instead of buying the bottled-version in store (for less cost to boot).

*Here’s a tip: save your old condiment and spice containers to use as storage. 

Homemade Ketchup 

I love ketchup; it could be considered it’s own food group in my opinion (If I could live on ketchup and cinnamon I would… not necessarily mixed together). The ingredient list for Heinz actually isn’t that bad (especially if you buy the simply ketchup version, which doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup) but this homemade version is much cheaper.

Six in the Suburbs

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dry Ground Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 scant teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 pinches of Ground Clove
  • 2 pinches of Allspice
  • 1 pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  • 2/3 cup Water
  • 4 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Store in an airtight container overnight for maximum marriage of flavors.

Homemade Mustard 

As much as I like ketchup is about the amount that I don’t like mustard. But I’m told that other people like mustard for some reason so I decided to include it. It’s actually fun to make mustard because you can use really whatever spices you like.

My research actually didn’t turn up any store-bought mustard’s that contain “bad” ingredients (even the store-brand) but I’m told that the better the mustard the higher the expense so now you can make gourmet mustard for a fraction of the cost.

Relishing It

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/3 cup water 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar 
  • Your pick of spices (to taste), optional

Directions:
Soak the mustard seeds in the vinegar and water, making sure the seeds are covered by the liquid. Leave soaking for 2 days.

Add the sugar and spices (allspice and turmeric are boyfriend’s preference) to the seeds mixture. Begin with about 1 tsp. of each spice. Blend mixture until it reaches desired consistency, adding water if needed. Let it sit in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two before trying it out.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

This Old El Paso Taco Seasoning isn’t actually representative of the whole market. You can buy McCormick’s if you don’t want to make your own spice mix. I’m always partial to making it myself because I can use more or less to suit my own taste. In addition to being perfect for tacos, this mix is great for flavoring burgers and chili. See how I used this mix in Rainbow Chicken Fajitas.

Homemade Barbeque Sauce  

I also a huge fan of barbecue sauce. I like it like I like my men: hot and smoky (haha just kidding, sorta). My favorite brand is Stubb’s which is tangier (and less unhealthy) than most. Barbecue sauce, in general, has a lot of sugar in it so making your own can really cut down on this. You can also, as with everything else in this list, customize the flavor profile.

Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar 
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (you can use your homemade ketchup or store-bought) 
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 2 tablespoons honey 
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard 
  • 2 teaspoons paprika 
  • 2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper 
  • 2 dashes hot pepper sauce  

Directions:
Combine all ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves. Store in an airtight container. To make it smoky tasting add 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke per 1 cup sauce. For a spicier sauce add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper per 1 cup of sauce.

Homemade Salsa

For me, making salsa is more about flavor than anything else (including ingredients or cost). I’ve just about had it with the stuff you can buy at the grocery store. Click through to the tutorial for my favorite salsa recipe.

Homemade Ranch Dressing 

Ranch Dressing is one of those sauces that we like to put on pretty much everything. As you can see above the list ingredient in store-bought variety is pretty extensive. Here is a recipe for ranch in which you can really customize every piece of it.

You can use fresh or dried herbs. Depending on how you like your ranch (more creamy or more tangy) you can play with the quantities of mayonnaise (creamy) and yogurt (tangy) or you can use sour cream in place of yogurt. I’ve tried this recipe with buttermilk (which further enhances the tanginess), 1% milk (which is somewhat of a non-flavor), almond milk (my favorite, it rounds out the flavor in my opinion) and soymilk (sort of adds a sweetness). Finally, I have listed just a few optional ingredients you could use to further personalize your ranch; really there are probably hundreds.

Barefeet in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 Clove (to 2 Cloves) Garlic 
  • Salt (to taste) 
  • 1/4 cup Italian Flat-leaf Parsley 
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives 
  • 1/2 cup(Real) Mayonnaise 
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt 
  • Milk (to desired consistency) 
  • Other optional ingredients (to taste): White Vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, Fresh Dill, Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Fresh Oregano, Tabasco etc.

Directions:
Crush garlic into a paste with a fork. Finely mince parley and chives. Whisk together the mayonnaise and yogurt. Add milk to desired consistency. Next, stir in garlic, parsley and chives. Add mix in seasonings to taste. Store in an air-tight container in fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Well there you have it. Six new condiment recipes to add to your arsenal of real food eating. Happy Friday!

Birthday Peach Snickerdoodles

Right before my birthday in June my co-worker Sally asked me ever so sneakily, “If someone were to make you cookies or cupcakes what would be your favorite flavor?” I answered Snickerdoodles because I lurve cinnamon oh so very much. On my birthday, I arrived at work and this was waiting in my cubicle.

The fish is an inside joke

So, as her birthday approached in August I wanted to return the gesture. Equally sneakily, I asked, “If you had to choose your favorite cake, pie or cookie flavor what would you choose?” She said peach pie and snickerdoodle cookies. Being the genius that I am, I combined the two.

Fortunately, it is currently peach season and my dad had just brought a box of peaches home with him from the western slope. In order to use them before spoiling my mom busily made peach jam, peach salsa, peach cobbler etc. and I made peach snickerdoodles.

This recipe makes 3.5 dozen cookies, which is a lot but I gave away about half. You could probably half the recipe but it was too complicated for me to figure out.

Select four medium peaches

Peel and dice (I used a knife, but blanching or a peeler would work too)
Add 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup margarine, 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cup sugar to a food processor

Mix well, then add half of the diced peaches

Mix 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoon cream of tarter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoon in a large mixing bowl

Add pureed peach mixture

Mix until evenly blended

Add remaining peaches

Fold peaches into batter. Batter will be very wet. Dollop spoonfuls onto greased, parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. Sprinkle with mixture of 4 teaspoon cinnamon  and 4 tablespoon sugar. Cook at 400°F for 11 minutes or until just browned on top. Cookies will be soft.

Let cool on wire racks.

Make a lovely birthday card and deliver to recipient.

Hahaha I crack myself up!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature, cubed
  • 1/2 margarine, room temperature, spoonfuls
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 4 Tb sugar, divided use
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 fresh peaches, peeled, seeded, diced, divided use
  • 2 tsp plus 4 tsp cinnamon, divided use

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a food processor, cream together the butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the eggs. Add half of the diced peaches and puree until smooth. In a large bowl combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the creamed ingredients from the food processor. Fold in the remaining diced peaches. In a smaller bowl combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Drop a rounded tablespoon of cookie batter (the batter is very moist) onto the cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake for 11 minutes.

Happy Friday!

Yak Chili

My parents were vegetarian throughout my childhood and during my teen years they had added white meat (birds) back into their diet. Considering I was dependent on them very much for food my diet mimicked theirs. Therefore, when I started becoming interested in cooking, I watched my mom to learn from her by example. This meant I never really learned how to cook red meat (mammals).

A friend of mine has a yak ranch in Fairplay, CO and I bought a pound of ground meat. I had this meat that I didn’t know how to cook but was interested in trying. I scoured Pinterest for yak meat recipes. I found some ideas but in the end I used the recipes to teach me how to cook the meat properly and added it to a chili. Chili is the best.

To start you need to brown the meat. Yak meat needs to be cooked slowly in order to preserve the flavor. You can also use ground beef or turkey. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of a large pot. Heat up the oil on medium low and add a pound of meat with one chopped onion.

Cook at a consistent, medium heat until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent.

mmmm steamy!

Drain the liquid from the pan to cut the fat, or leave it in to increase flavor. Add a can of diced tomatoes with liquid.

Drain liquid from three cans of beans. Use some combination of chili beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans etc.

Then add the beans to the pot.

Add a can of tomato sauce, a cup of frozen corn,1 teaspoon paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoons garlic powder.

Let the liquid cook out for about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Serve topped with cheese with a side of bread or Fritos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. of ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 3 cans of beans (kidney, pinto, black etc.)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions:

Brown the meat in the bottom of a large pot in a tablespoon of oil with chopped onions on medium heat. Add diced tomatoes with liquid. Drain beans of liquid then add beans to pot. Add the can of tomato sauce, corn and spices. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add salt to taste after cooking (salt makes beans tough, add it later to prevent this). Enjoy 🙂

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How to Make Butter, Buttermilk and Buttermilk Cake

 My mom had some leftover buttermilk from another recipe, which I find is often the case considering it comes from the store in large quantities, so we searched for a way to use it. We hoped that what we found would be a cake, because we love cake.

I found a recipe for a cake, which I altered a little to suit our needs. Mostly this means subbing softened butter for shortening, reducing the sugar content and number of eggs and increasing the buttermilk content. It also means adding dried cherries and miniature chocolate chips because, let’s face it, nothing can taste bad when it has cherries and chocolate in it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • *add-ins to your desired concentration optional*


Directions: 

Beat sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs together with spoon or mixer.  Mix flour, salt and baking soda with a wire whisk in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and continue mixing until smooth. Add in cherries, chocolate chips or other mix-ins. Pour into greased, 9×13 cake pan and bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until centers tests done.  Let cool and serve from pan.

Yum… Buttermilk cake.

Interestingly, I recently learned how to make butter and buttermilk at home. You can learn this (and many other things, like how-to make soap, shingles and cooking in a wood oven) if you come to the free Summer Heritage Event tomorrow evening at 5:30-7pm at Walker Ranch, just west of Boulder. But I’ll enlighten you here in case you can’t attend this event.

It’s so unbelievably easy, and delicious you will be surprised you haven’t been doing it yourself for ages. Take a pint of whipping cream, pour it in a mason jar (you can do it in batches if your jar isn’t large enough). Be sure the lid is on tightly, then shake the jar up and down to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees.

Photo from I’d Eat It

Side note: This is also an excellent arm workout, probably where the shake-a-weight idea came from.

The whipping cream will start getting really thick and you won’t feel it moving around much. If you opened the jar now, you would have whipped cream, but keep shaking with that steady beat. Eventually (between ten and 30 minutes) the side of the jar, which were coated, will become clear. The butter will form a solid mass in the center of the jar and the liquid you see is buttermilk.

Add two ice cube to the jar to solidify the butter and separate the liquid from it. You can then pour off the buttermilk, collect and store it in a airtight container.

You are now a certified 19th century prairie wife (Not meant to be sexist but that’s the way it was in those days).

How do you use up leftover ingredients?

Homemade Any-Nut Butter

 
Nut butters are quick and easy way to make a meal, but unfortunately the cheaper one are packed with sugars that gives you an sugar spike in energy and then a super crash shortly after. The ones with less sugar are more expensive and sometimes it is hard to justify that cost. Lucky for you, now I’m going to let you in on a secret: nut butters are the easiest most mindless thing you can make in your kitchen as long as you have a food processor or blender. Making nut butter at home is so simple and cheap, you seriously won’t believe it’s this easy.

You can use this recipe for walnut, hazelnut, almond, peanut, cashew, pecan, etc. butter. Now my plant nerd is going to come out real quick so bear with me: not all of these are actually “nuts,” for example a peanut is actually a legume and an almond is a seed inside what is called a drupe. But in the world eating, we don’t specify such things and refer to them in an umbrella category of nuts… and I’m NUTS about each and every one… groan I let out my bad joke side too, sorry.

Ingredients:

2 cups of your favorite nut
Mix-ins such as salt, honey, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place nuts in one layer on baking sheet and roast for about 12 minutes. This time may vary depending on oven, so keep an eye on it between 8-15 minutes. For raw nut butters: skip the roasting. Add nuts to a food processor and pulse. You will have to scrape down the sides about every two minutes or so. It starts out making a meal, but will eventually turn into a paste. Just continue to process and scrape down the sides. Add any mix-in you like and enjoy!

Peanut Butter

 no extra ingredients, just peanuts…

 A few pulses later,

and a few more,

starting to look like peanut butter,

Perfect! Took about 10 minutes. I keep old containers and rinse them out so I always have a few peanut butter jars around but any airtight container in the fridge is fine. Estimated cost: $2.00/12 oz (Average jar holds about 16 oz and cost around $5.00)

Almond Joy Butter

 Almonds… mmmm…


Add some cocoa powder and coconut flakes to taste

 Pulse…

 If it’s dry or chalky add some almond milk (about a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency)

 Looking good keep pulsing.

Done! This one took about 20 minutes of pulsing and it smells heavenly without any added sugar. Yay! Estimated cost: $7.00/24 oz (Average jar is about 16 oz and cost about $9.00)

Save money: check
Improve health: check
Winning

Tell me about nut butters you’ve made in the comments 🙂
 

Spiced Couscous and Turkey

It’s Foodie Friday Maggie’s Mind Mumblesians, and I have a recipe that would be a great to use for leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving you can go the deli at your local grocery store and ask for one slice of turkey cut 1/2 inch thick (chicken works well too). For me it cost about $7.00.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

Start by breaking up the turkey with a knife into bite-sized pieces, and collecting the other ingredients…

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey


Slice the 4 medium carrots and 4 spring onions. chop up 1/2 cup cilantro. Boil 2 1/4 cups of water, add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon  salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the carrots and cook about 3-4 minutes until tender but still crisp. Drain the carrots reserving the liquid (scroll down for a hot and steamy picture).

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

Measure 1 cup couscous into a heat-proof bowl, then add the turkey to the bowl and pour in 1 cup of the cook liquid. Stir until mixed and cover tightly. Let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds and 1/4 cup golden raisins, the spring onions and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly about 2-3 minutes until nuts are toasted. Stir in the cilantro. You can practically smell this picture!

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey


Divide the couscous and turkey among bowls (serves 4), top with carrot and some of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle with almond mixture and more cilantro (we all know how much I love cilantro). Top with plain Greek yogurt and/or harissa or other hot sauce.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

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Why I Don’t Make Apple Sandwiches (anymore)

I remember when I first discovered apple sandwiches on pinterest. I thought the idea was so novel and I’m sure you’ve seen the idea floating around the internet. I decided to try it out. It was seriously the best thing I ever tasted. I ate it at least once every day. This is the general process.

Slice the apple. Using a cookie cutter or apple corer cut out the core, or a knife works too but it’s not as neat looking. Can we just take a minute to notice the lime green (I guess you would actually call it apple green) apple shaped cutting board and the lime green (again probably apple green) apple-picture apple corer. This is very matchey-match, is it not? Totally unintentional.

Spread your peanut butter. I like creamy but crunchy works fine.

Sprinkle some granola on two of your apple slices and add chocolate chips or raisins to the other two (or more granola).

Then stick it together.

After a while this process became irksome to me. Peanut butter does not like to stick to apples; I got more on my hands than the slices. The granola always landed everywhere but the peanut butter and precision with the chocolate chips was tedious. So now I cut apples like a normal person…

Add some granola and chocolate chips to a small dish,

Smear in some peanut butter,

And stir it around. It’s the same flavor combination with about half the work. You’re welcome.

Oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

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Rainbow Chicken Fajitas

Rainbow Chicken Fajitas are named such because they are made with a rainbow of vegetables. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who were expecting to see the newest addition to the My Little Ponies family.

This is Rainbow Fajitas; note the chile pepper cutie mark.

Anyway, it’s Food Fun Friday so I’ll get on with the recipe. This is a meal I have been making since I lived at home. It was one of those my mom taught me: basic and quick for nights when we had a lot going on and she didn’t have time to be super creative. Now that I live on my own I make it quite frequently (I often don’t have time to be creative). The point:

  • It’s a delicious meal that doesn’t take too much time (prep, cook or clean-up), basically a one pan meal,
  • I have made it for friends multiple times and always receive compliments, and 
  • when I tell my boyfriend it’s fajita night the response is always enthusiastic (and he doesn’t even like bell pepper that much!)

       Start by preparing your vegetables. I used red, orange and yellow bell peppers because they were a dollar per pepper at the grocery store. I wanted to add more color so I also used a red onion and some zucchini. Any vegetable you have in your inventory would work beautifully; traditionally peppers and onions are involved. Cut everything into somewhat equal-sized sticks.

      Set aside the veggies while you cook the chicken. I always use chicken for fajitas because it’s how I learned; I’m sure it is just as simple to use steak. King Soopers just introduced a new meat brand, which is free range, so they were having a sale on all meat produced by this brand (meat sales are the best sales, especially free-range meat sales).

      Slice the chicken breast into strips. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet.

      Let sizzle for about 3 minutes then flip chicken strips. It’s important to not stir the chicken around in the pan too much because it makes the meat very tough if jostled too much. If you are worried about burning it, reduce the heat (and increase the time cooked).

      After another 3 minutes cooking on the other side they should be cooked through, if they aren’t done you can continue cooking now. They also continue cooking while wrapped in foil and later, when added to the skillet again with the vegetables. So I wouldn’t worry too much.

      Lay out a piece of aluminum foil on the counter, remove chicken from the pan and place on foil.

      Wrap chicken in the foil to keep warm while veggies cook.

      Add a little bit more oil to the skillet and heat over medium. Add the prepared vegetables to the skillet.

      You can buy the packets at the store, McCormick’s is the only one that I know of that doesn’t pack their seasoning packets with preservatives. I make my own mix and keep it in a spice jar. I use it for tacos and fajita’s both. Sometimes I mix it in with ground turkey for burgers as well, and it’s great for chili. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: multi-purpose is a college girls best friend.

      Here is the recipe for my mix:

      Cook veggies until tender. Then add about half a cup of water and 3 tablespoons of fajita seasoning, stir the vegetables to coat them in the seasoning. 

      Now unwrap your chicken. Pour any liquid that has gathered in your packet out in the sink, then add the chicken to the skillet and stir. Cook until water mostly evaporates.

      Serve wrapped in a warm tortilla with beans (I made “refried” beans the same day, what a treat to have beans straight from the crock-pot), cheese, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, etc. Whatever suits your fancy! Smaller fajita tortillas are really the best for this recipe, we only had burrito tortillas and they worked fine. We just had monster fajitas!

      Don’t show these to Chipotle; If I ever need a job there, this is evidence against my burrito wrapping skills.

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      Slow-cooker (not so) Refried Beans

      I honestly had no idea the you could make refried beans at home. Or at least I never really thought about it. It’s most likely because I am probably the only person in the world who actually enjoys re-fried beans from a can, Rosarita vegetarian refried beans to be specific (which coincidentally have the exact same ingredient list as the ones not specifically marked vegetarian).

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker (not so) Refried Beans

      I pinned a while back a tutorial for cooking dried beans in the slow cooker over at Budget Bytes. As I was reading through it for the garbanzo beans I used in the Butternut Squash Autumn Stew, I noticed a recipe in the side-bar for “not refried beans.” I was intrigued so I clicked the link. I guess you can’t really call these “refried” or even “fried,” because they are cooked in the slow-cooker. But they do taste very like refried beans. In fact, I think they taste better because they aren’t weighed down with a million pounds of lard (actually there is no fat added).

      The story actually starts about a month ago. I bought this bag of pinto beans because it was $2.00.

      That’s right, that says 4lbs. So I had this bag of beans with not really a clue what I should do with it. And that’s when I discover the not re-fried beans recipe. It was fate. So I measure out the 2 cups of beans required for this recipe and got creative with my storage of the remaining 3 pounds (2 cups of beans equals 1 pounds, in case you were wondering. Now you know).

      So, since it’s Food Fun Friday, I will now instruct you in the delicate art and science of slow-cooker beans. Measure out 2 cups of beans (1 pound). Sort and wash the beans, then chop up one medium-sized onion and add it to the slow-cooker.

      Then add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1 tsp black pepper.

      Next, add the sorted and washed beans along with 6 cups of water and, say it with me now “Set it and forget it.” (Set it: low, forget it: 8 hours or 4-5 hours on high). Return to a heavenly smell and this:

      Removed some of the liquid (about 1 1/2 cups) to make it easier to mash the beans. Then using a potato masher start smooshing (this is a technical term) the beans. You could also use a hand mixer.

      Smoosh until there are only a few recognizable beans remaining. Then store it all in airtight containers.

      The original recipe says that this make about the same amount as 3 cans, but this quantity shouldn’t scare you because it is freezable. It was wonderful in the burrito I had for dinner (There really is no better taste than re-fried beans and melted cheese). It would be a perfect layer in 7-layer dip or by itself with tortilla chips.

      Burrito Making 101:

      Spread the beans
      Sprinkle the cheese
       Broil on lo in the oven for about 10 minutes
      Enjoy every bite!
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      Butternut Squash Autumn Stew

      The air feels crisp and cool, leaves are creating a beautiful mosaic of colors across the landscape and the days are growing shorter, which means it’s time to make soup!

      Every year I always elect to craft a butternut squash stew; to me it screams fall. Therefore every year as the sales on butternut squashes begin I pick one up. I must be blocking the fact that every year it’s actually me who’s screaming (and fall is not mentioned once in said screaming). I wonder why I never remember how awful it is to deal with butternut squashes probably some psychological blockage. Well I am reminding you now to save you the trouble. They are literally the worst vegetable. And here’s why:

      1. They are impossible to slice into when raw. Are they made of steel or what?
      2. You also cannot peel them when raw. They wear the armor of the gods.
      3. After you cook them, you can’t peel them without burning the skin right off your fingers.

        On the other hand, butternut squash is also one of the most delicious vegetables and they’re packed with vitamins and other wonderful things your body needs. So here’s my solution, buy a bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash and save yourself the hacking, prying, swearing, and crying.

        If you, like me, enjoy torturing yourself this is how you tackle the Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail-bunny-like squash:

        (Aside: this is a somewhat obscure reference so I will spell it out for you: the knights in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, underestimated the rabbit because it was cute and cuddly and did not intimidate them; then the bunny lurched at one of them and ate his face off. The butternut squash appears inviting and agreeable but then it turns on you becoming an impenetrable fortress. Was this allegory too much of a leap?)

        Right, sorry about the silliness… Back to squash (which is in no way silly):
        1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
        2. Cut the squash in half. Spoon out seeds and goop (technical term); save seeds.
        3. Pour a thin layer of water into a baking pan or cookie sheet with sides.
        4. Place the cut side of the squash face down in the water.
        5. Slide tray into oven and bake for 40 minutes or until fork easily pierces flesh of squash.

        Toss the seeds with salt and toast in toaster oven until crispy 🙂

        While the squash is baking, prepare your other veggies. Finely chop 1 medium onion, peel 3 potatoes and an apple, then chop, setting one potato aside from the others.

        Bring 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add 1 1/2 pound chicken thighs and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and place on a plate to cool. Pour broth into a bowl.

        Meanwhile bring about 3 cups of water to boil in a separate pot. Add the apple and two of the potatoes. Cook until tender then drain water and add to a food processor. When squash is finished baking scoop half of the squash into the food processor and set the other half aside to cool. Pulse the potato, apple and squash until smooth. This thickens and adds a creaminess to the soup/stew without adding fat.

        Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and the third potato cook until onions are translucent, add 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (we enjoy spicy food here, feel free to reduce or omit this ingredient if you prefer non-spicy), 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon celery salt. Stir until you catch a strong whiff of garlic (about 30 seconds), then pour in the reserved chicken broth. Reduce heat to simmer.

        With a fork and knife and fingers… remove the skins from the chicken. Then remove the chicken from the bones. Add chicken to simmering pot. Then add pureed potato, apple, squash mixture to the pot. Add one 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes as well (with liquid).

        Return to the other half of the squash that you set aside. Cut cubes into the squash and remove skin. Add squash cubes to the pot. Then add 1 cup (ish) chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Stir until everything is heated. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste).

        Serve over cooked quinoa or brown rice or with bread.

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        Ingredients

        • 1.5 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
        • 2 tablespoons olive oil
        • 1.5 lb chicken thighs
        • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
        • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
        • 2 cloves garlic, minced
        • 3 1/2 cup chicken broth
        • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
        • 1 apple, peeled and cubed
        • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
        • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
        • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
        • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
        • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
        • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
        • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
        • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
        • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
        • 1 cup garbanzo beans

        Well that’s a long list now isn’t it… trust me it’s worth it! (See that bowl of apples? my grandma gave me even more after I made the apple butter… look out for apple cake and applesauce posts coming soon!)

        What’s your favorite fall soup?

        Just say no . . . to canned beans

        It’s Food Fun Friday, and after you read this post you will seriously be kicking yourself that you haven’t been cooking your own beans in the slow cooker all along.

        3 Reasons to buy dried beans over canned beans:

          1. Money – You can get three cans worth of beans from a single bag of dried beans. Taking that into consideration it’s cheaper in the long run.
          2. Health – Canned beans have a ton of sodium in them. All that extra salt is unnecessary and unhealthy. Dried beans on the other hand are simply beans, not other ingredients (except the occasional pebble, which you should refrain from eating as a rule of thumb)
          3. Environment – buying in bulk is better for the environment because there is less packaging and therefore less waste.

          Are you convinced yet? If not, perhaps the ease of the process will help… To the tutorial!

          Empty the beans onto a flat surface and remove any bad looking beans, pebbles etc. Pour into a colander and rinse with warm water. Add beans to your slow-cooker.

          For every pound (2 cups) of beans add 6 cups of water.

          Leave to cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. There will still be water in the cooker even when they are done. They should be tender.

          Remove from slow-cooker either by draining in a colander or with a slotted spoon. Store in an airtight container. This makes about three cans of beans, but don’t worry about the quantity, if needed beans are freezable.

          This tutorial applies to all kinds of beans. We don’t discriminate here on Maggie’s Mind Mumbles.

          Keep your eyes peeled for Fall-is-here stew using these chickpeas/garbanzo beans!

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          Questions? Comments? Leave them below.

          Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          On the first day of October it only seems fitting to post a recipe for pumpkin muffins…

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Whenever I make up a new recipe it is always a messy process. The first step is always the idea that acts as a catalyst for the rest. In this case the trigger was pumpkin. As the chill in the air gets stronger I always start craving pumpkin everything. It doesn’t help matters that Starbucks incessantly advertises the pumpkin spice latte, or that the scent of pumpkin bagels can be detected wafting halfway across campus, or that people insist on pinning every pumpkin recipe that comes under detection. Regardless of how the idea came to me, come it did.

          The next step is generally in what form do I want to eat the craving (sometimes this is linked to the first step, as in “I am craving tomato soup,” rather than simply tomato). I decided muffins would be the best mode of consumption. Muffins are compact on-the-go type foods. Sometimes you need that kind of thing around the house.

          Then comes the Googling and the comparing and the improvising. I tend to have about 13 web pages open along with at least two cookbooks on my lap. “A cup and a half of oil; that’s outrageous! I’ll need to reduce that, Maple syrup? Nope don’t have any of that, I’ll use brown sugar… What’s the conversion factor again? Baking powder, baking soda, salt… How can I slip some flax seed in? Can I use almond milk and yogurt instead of milk?”

          It’s a nightmare, honestly. But, it’s definitely rewarding when something wonderful comes out of all this hard work. Luckily this is one of those times. This is what my recipe card looked like after all of that.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          I wanted to use flax seed to give them some more nutrition. Flax seed can increase the fiber, unsaturated healthy fats, phytoestrogens and omega-3 content when added to foods.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Flax seed

           In a medium-sized mixing bowl add 1 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup flax seed, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          I wanted a lot of spice flavor so for the spices I used cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. I prefer the flavor of ceylon “true” cinnamon because it is sweeter than the cassia variety (most of the store bought cinnamon is cassia). Cinnamon is my favorite flavor, in Maggie’s world, we look for excuses to add cinnamon.

          To the flour mixture add, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin is the best pumpkin puree out there. I’m not usually able to tell the difference between store-brand and name-brand products so I tend to stick with store-brand because they are cheaper. In this case there is no comparison. I am generally disappointed with the quality of the store-brand pumpkin purees.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Pour the entire 15-ounce can of pumpkin into a larger mixing bowl. (Be sure to remove any large metal items that fall in).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Add 3/4 cup brown sugar to the bowl.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Next add 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Then an egg…

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Mix it all together then add the dry ingredients.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Whisk together all the ingredients until just mixed.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Then add about 1 1/2 cups of your mix-ins (I used 3/4 cup walnuts and 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Spoon into greased muffin tins. Each cup should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full. (I hope this picture doesn’t give you vertigo. I’ve rotated it every possible way, it’s just a weird angle).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          Cool in pan for ten minutes then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
          Yummy! Hello autumn; I welcome you with open arms…
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

          …as long as I can eat one of these everyday for the duration of the season. Please and thank you!

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          Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

          I’m not really sure when or why this obsession started but I am an absolute grilled cheese fanatic! And don’t even get me started on tomato soup. Campbell’s tomato soup is a staple in my kitchen. But wouldn’t you know, it’s not really the healthiest of choices: it’s packed with sodium and sugar (as most condensed soups are), so I have been avoiding buying it lately.

          The other night I had an extreme craving, it was intense (like camping… get it? *nudge nudge*). And, can you believe, I had nary a can of the delicious red stuff, like I said I’ve been avoiding it. BUT, I did just happen to have four large tomatoes. I thought to myself, as I often do, “I could probably whip together some tomato soup from these… How hard could it be?” Later that night, as I was enjoying my wonderful warm cheesey sandwich covered in tomato-ey soupiness I answered myself: “Not hard at all… not… hard… at all.”


          So here’s what I did. (I only made enough for two bowls because I didn’t want too much leftover, so double or even triple to recipe for a larger batch).

          First, I cored the tomatoes (no goopy middle in my soup!) and cubed them. Then I sliced half an onion, crushed a LARGE clove of garlic, (seriously, it probably was about 3 regular sized cloves). I put all of this into a large pot and then I added 2 bay leaves (they’re kinda old so I have to use two). I also poured in a cup of water, and tossed in a chicken boullion cube, 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon cloves.


          I brought this to a boil and left to simmer, covered for 20 minutes.


          After 20 minutes I poured it into the food processor and blended until it was smooth. (For a thinner soup, run it through a food mill instead of the food processor. I don’t have a food mill but I’ve been told it’s a magical experience to make soup with one.)


          I then made a roux in the empty pot using 2 tablespoons of butter, melted, and 2 tablespoons of flour. I cooked that over medium heat until it was light brown and then poured the vegetable mixture back into the pot. (look at that beautiful moment captured on film, a bubble popped… electric) (<— that was a Gwen Stefani reference)


          I added 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar and brought it back to a boil. Then I let it simmer again while I made my grilled cheese.

          I melted some butter in a pan,


          placed a slice of bread on top and spread it around to coat the bread in the butter,


          sprinkled some cheese over the bread (ALWAYS use shredded cheese in grilled cheese. It may be a bit more technical to flip but it melts much more evenly),


          topped it with another slice of bread,


          and cooked until the cheese was mostly melted, (oops! slightly burnt)


          Before flipping I added some more butter and let that melt, then I placed the sandwich over the butter and spread it around again.

          Then I dished out some tomato soup into a bowl, cut the sandwich in half and settled down to watch an episode of Futurama. 😉


          Oh my, that looks so good; I’m going to have to make this again!


          One thing is certain, I will not be needing to buy Campbell’s in a can anymore.

          Stop looking because these are the best brownies you will ever find…

          As many of you know I am a firm believer in eating healthy. I am also a firm believer that denying yourself something is not healthy, especially when that something is chocolate. So to clarify my firm beliefs… Moderation is key. That is why everyone needs to have a good brownie recipe. I honestly think it should be included in life’s handbook. 

          Here’s some information on chocolate (*I am not a doctor, please consult your doctor for more information on the following*):

          • Cocoa contains flavenol, a type of flavenoid and natural occurring antioxidant, which researchers suggest may protect neurons (Huffington Post, 2012)
          • The antioxidants in cocoa can also prevent aging caused by free radicals, which may lead to heart disease (Cleveland Clinic, 2012)
          • Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and cholesterol (Longevity, 2009)
          • Dark chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine and other stimulating substances (Longevity, 2009)
          • It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant (Longevity, 2009)
          • Dark chocolate also increases endorphin production, which increase pleasure (Longevity, 2009)
          • Surprisingly dark chocolate can prevent diabetes (Women’s Health, 2012)
          • It can reduce stress (Women’s Health, 2012)
          • And help protect against sun damage (Women’s Health, 2012)
          • On top of all this it tastes goooooood!
          Like I said, moderation is key and be sure that your grabbing a quality bar of dark chocolate, and you can receive some of these benefits and more.


          So brownies… My idea of the perfect brownie is crispy crust, gooey inside, chocolate chips, not frosting, no nuts, and not too cakey or fudgey. This is it. This covers all bases for my ideal brownie. This recipe has a short ingredients list so be sure to use quality chocolate.

          Add 1 1/2 cup sugar to a mixing bowl,


          Pour in 3/4 cup flour,


          Then add 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate cocoa powder).


          Crack three eggs into the bowl…


          Add 3/4 cup melted butter (I have no idea why the butter looks neon in this picture)


          And 1/2 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I used salted butter). Then mix it together; don’t mix too thoroughly just enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients.



          Mix in chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips).


          Pour the batter into a greased baking dish. That is the best looking chocolate batter I have ever seen. I’m totally drooling.


          Bake at 325 for 30 minutes (sorry it’s a bit blurry, I was shaking with happiness). Test with a toothpick for doneness (remember there are chocolate chips in there so your first poke might not come out clean.


          Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes (or as long as you can wait… I made it 2 minutes). Cut into cubes and serve with a nice cold glass of milk.


          I had almond milk which was quite delicious…


          Brownies: seriously the best things on the planet. These are the perfect balance between fudgey and cakey, with the signature brownie crispy crust.

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          Parmesan Chicken

          I have been making this recipe for parmesan chicken longer than any other. In fact it was the first dinner I ever cooked on my own. I was in a Food Fun class in middle school and one of our assignments was to cook dinner for our family. We had to present pictures and the recipe in a presentation to the class. (I wish I still had the pictures from then; they’re probably in a box at my parents house somewhere). It is really simple and easy to modify for variety.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken


          I like to make an assembly line of my ingredients: 

          • Chicken (free-range, hormone free, on sale yay!), 
          • Two eggs, slightly beaten (I usually used a stick of butter, melted but I didn’t have any…), 
          • Some breading mixture (The original recipe 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs. I used 1/4 cup parmesan, 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and some paprika, black pepper, salt, italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder… I didn’t really measure just added what I thought looked good… it was for science), and
          • A greased baking dish,
          • All lined up to next to the oven, pre-heated to 450.
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

          I took a total of zero pictures during the following steps; if you try this recipe you will see why. My hands were quite literally caked in bread-y goodness and it would have just been a big old mess. So you will just have to use your imagination skills.


          Basically you take your chicken and coat it in the eggs. Then roll it around in the bread crumb mixture and place it in the pan. Repeat for all your chickens.

          Usually if there is leftover butter I will pour it over the chicken but since I used eggs I didn’t do this. Butter really works much better from my experience. I also sprinkle leftover breadcrumbs over the chicken. Bake for 40 minutes.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken


          Serve with salad, bread and your favorite beer. Yummy!

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

          Variations:
          1. After baking 20 minutes remove from oven and pour marinara sauce over chicken and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve over spaghetti with more marinara sauce.
          2. Like I’ve said, use butter instead of eggs.
          I’ve taken the leftover chicken for lunch in a quesadilla…

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
          chees and chicken quesadilla, carrot sticks with ranch and some seaweed 😉

          And to add to this salad…

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
          Hard-boiled egg, pile o’ veggies and some chicken goodness.

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          How do you use your leftovers? 

          Slow-cooker Apple Butter

          In my plum cake post I talked about the plums my grandmother gave me. Well, the same day she gave me a dozen apples. I knew I needed to make something with the apples to use them up before they went bad. Enter: Apple Butter

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          I started by gathering my supplies: washed apples, bowl for peels, peeler. And found a comfortable place with a nice view: my porch at my outdoor table.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          It took about an hour to peel all the apples… (Julia Child never had this kind of problem peeling apples… then again Julia Child probably had an apple peeler)

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          I turned it into a bit of a game; here’s my longest peel (the whole apple without breaking) I am an apple peeling champ!

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter


          Then I cored and cubed the apples and added them to the crock-pot and gathered the remaining ingredients.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          Next, I added 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon allspice (next time I will probably use less sugar because it turned out very sweet since the apples add their own sweetness).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          Then I left it for 10 hours and checked it.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          It was still pretty liquid-y so I gave it a couple (2) more hours until it was mostly all evaporated. I put it all in the blender to blend it smooth.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          And poured it into jars… I froze the little one and left the big one in the fridge.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter


          It tastes wonderful by the spoonful but a few suggestions: added to plain yogurt and mixed with granola, mixed with boiling water for apple cider or spread on toast.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple ButterMaggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

          You can make most fruit butters this way. I’d like to try pumpkin butter this fall.

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          How have you used apple butter? What other fruit butters have you tried?

          Farmers’ Market Vegetable Stew

          It’s the time of the year when vegetables are plentiful and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them all. When I visited my mom two weeks ago we made this soup with many of the vegetables from her garden. 

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew



          Chop up 1/2 cup onions, 1 cup carrots, 1 pound potatoes, 1 bell peppers of your preferred color, and 2 zucchinis. Mince 3 cloves of garlic.

          Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes until softened.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

          Add the potatoes, zucchini and a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes (drained).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

          Stir together 2 tespoons dijon mustard, 1 teaspoons minced ginger, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning. Add 4 tablespoons vegetable broth then add to the pot. Pour in 1 3/4 cup vegetable broth.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

          Add bell peppers and some fresh basil.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

          Then add the swiss chard.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

          Then pour in some leftover red wine 😉 we used about half a cup of cabarnet. Allow to boil then turn down heat to low. Cover and let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add one can of chickpeas.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

          Serve with bread and wine. Have some plum cake for dessert.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

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          *Side note: Leftover wine can be frozen in an ice cube tray for use in soups and sauces.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Freeze wine in and ice cube tray

          How have you used your fresh produce this season?

          Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          This is a great example of older generations passing on their knowledge and experience to the younger generation. My grandma makes a delicious plum cake. Recently she picked about three million (this is an exaggeration it was more like 1 million) plums from the plum trees at my childhood church. She gave a sack and the recipe for said cake to me, my mom, and my aunt at my cousin and uncle’s birthday party.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


          Coincidentally, I needed to bring a dessert to my Rangeland Ecology Club meeting that week and I was stoked to get a chance to bring this dish.

          I got out my food processor, added 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon lemon peel.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          I pulsed all this in the processor, then I added 1/2 cup butter.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          I pulsed that too, and added the 1/4 cup milk and an egg.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          So I pulsed that into a soft dough, just like the recipe said. I removed this dough and pressed it into a buttered baking dish.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


          Then I washed all the plums…

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


          Cut them in half, took out the pit and pressed the cut side into the dough, cut side down. I fit as many in as possible, as the recipe tells me too.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


          All of that was perfect… but that’s the end to that. Here’s where everything went wrong…

          The recipe my grandma gave me says 

          “Top with:
          1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon”

          Do you see why I was confused? Does this mean 1 cup sugar? Did she write that twice by accident? I decided that the second 1/2 cup sugar was mistakenly added twice. (I was wrong, as you will see).

          So I went along, mixed together the 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 sup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          And I sprinkled it over the plums in the baking pan. I remember thinking to myself, this looks very dry. I had experience once with a cobbler in which the topping didn’t mix well enough with the butter so I had a floury substance left on the top. Gross! But I figured the plums were juicy so they must contribute the liquid that moistens the topping. Again how wrong I was.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          Hahaha! I can only laugh at myself at this point. I stuck the whole thing in the oven, (which was pre-heated to 375), and set the timer for 45 minutes (anxiously waiting for the brown, bubbly and juicy dessert the recipe promised. 


          It was not brown, it was still white. Bubbly and juicy were covered. I thought at this point something is wrong. So I sprinkled some water over the still dry flour parts (I have no idea what drove me to do this). I ended up with a gel type top over a pastry base. 

          I took it to the Range Club meeting (I cannot believe I served this to the general public) and though it looked gross (not as gross as this picture shows, but still gross), Range Club people are a nice group and they ate it. The whole thing was gone by the end of the meeting. I managed to get a small piece and it actually had a quite good flavor. So now that I’ve talked it up a bit I will show you a picture of it. Please don’t laugh…

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


          Oh gosh, it looks worse every time I look at it. If I didn’t know what this was I probably would not have eaten it. Like I said, Range Club people are a nice group.

          So now I will tell you what I did wrong, (some of you probably already know).

          I told you my grandma gave the recipe and a bag of plums to my mom as well. I was visiting her this weekend while my dad was out of town. She made the plum cake too. I was watching her make it to try to figure out my mistake. Right before she put it in the oven I said to her, “mine didn’t look like that.”

          She turned to me and said, “Oh, did you see what the recipe said? There’s a typo.”

          I said, “Ya I saw that, but I just ignored the second sugar.”

          She laughed a little, “It’s a standard strudel recipe, one of the sugars was supposed to say butter.”

          So it was BUTTER! Of course, I even thought of that while I was thoroughly messing up my plum cake. Here’s what it was supposed to look like.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

          A thing of beauty! My mother is a kitchen wizard. But there you have it: my grandma and my mom will never stop passing down their wisdom and helping me grow in my baking journey.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

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          Tell me about you baking mishaps, so I don’t feel like I’m the only one. 🙂

          Crispy-Outside, Soft-Inside Baked Tofu Cubes in Stir-Fry

          Here’s a story for you, the other day I went to the grocery store for a block of tofu and some yogurt. I went to the yogurt section (which by the way, I am convinced they move everything around before I arrive just to confuse me) and picked out a tub. A strange sight uncovered itself as I approached the tofu display: a large group of people clustered around curiously eyeing the suspicious white blocks of soy bean curd.
          I have never seen so many people looking at tofu. Here in Fort Collins most people pass by without batting an eye. Not today, it was tofu awareness day and I missed the memo. I excused myself through the ten or so people, checked prices, and grabbed a block of firm for $2.99.
          As I started to walk away one woman called after me, “Excuse me but, we’ve just been discussing and, how do you cook that?”
          Feeling like Martha Stewart must every day of her life, I walked back and told them.
          I said, “You can cut it into any shape and size pieces you like, slabs or cubes, whatever. Most people I know fry these in oil in a pan, which works just fine, but I personally have another technique…”
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          I went on to describe the following procedure, which results in crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, restaurant-like tofu cubes. In this method, the tofu is baked and not fry you can cut back on some (minimal amounts of) fat. I used the tofu I bought in a stir-fry.
          Cut the tofu into slabs, cubes of your preferred size. If you want to get real crazy, pull out some cookie cutters. Nothing says fun like star-shaped tofu!

          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          Lay a cloth towel on the counter (NOT terrycloth, unless you enjoy bits of fuzz in your food). Arrange the tofu cubes on the towel in a single layer. Cover with a second cloth (again, I cannot emphasize enough, NOT terrycloth). I used a single cloth folded in half because I only had one clean.

          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          Place a flat surface, like a cutting board, over the towel. Then put something heavy on the cutting board. Leave for 20 minutes. (Or skip all that nonsense and buy a tofu press).
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          While you wait cut up some veggies (yes I did make a yin-yang out of my peas and carrots). Use any combination of veggies you like. I’d recommend broccoli, carrots, snow peas, soybeans, water chestnuts, onions, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, corn, zucchini or other squash, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes. Really any vegetable is great. That’s the beauty of a stir-fry: you can use whatever is in your refrigerator or pantry at the time.
          Mix your sauce: I made a simple sauce of water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and cornstarch. This is another great thing about stir-fries, you can use whatever sauce you want. There are infinite combinations of sauces and vegetables.
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
          After 20 minutes spray a baking sheet with cooking oil (I love my misto) and line the tofu cubes on the baking sheet. Set to the side.
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          Start cooking some rice, or noodles according to the package directions. Heat some oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes. After about thirty seconds add your veggies and stir.
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          Turn your oven to broil and place the baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes. The cubes like to jump around (sometimes off the sheet!)
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
          Continue stirring veggies (Don’t forget to check on your rice or noodles!)
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          Remove the baking sheet of tofu from the oven and flip the cubes over to cook the other side for 5 minutes.

          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
          Add the sauce to the veggies; keep stirring. When the tofu is done add the cubes to the stir-fry (if you can stop yourself from eating them all straight off the pan).
          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

          Serve with rice. 🙂

          cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

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          40 Real Food Kitchen Essentials

          As I am a poor college student, many of these tools and appliances are still but a dream. However, I have compiled a list of everything I either use currently or know would be useful to me in my quest to eat only real food.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: 40 Real Food Kitchen Essentials

          Tools:

          ziploc, food storage, lunch


          Ziploc Divided Lunchbox
          This is great for taking lunches to work or school. Cheap, comes in a pack of 2, and it doesn’t leak at least not between compartments. I bought mine from King Soopers but I’m sure is available at many stores.

          $6.78 on Amazon
          to go coffee cup


          Ceramic Coffee Mug
          It’s tempting to stop for coffee in the morning (especially now that there is a drive-thru starbucks on my way to school). I see these all over local coffee shops in all kinds of patterns. Save money AND no waste.

          $11.90 on Amazon

          thermos, soup

          Thermos Jar
          I will admit that I actually did buy this thermos jar with the Hello Kitty print. It’s awesome for taking oatmeal on days I get to school early, or when I want soup for lunch. Definitely worth it if you like a variety for lunches.

          $15.99 on Amazon

          popsicles, homemade, molds


          Popsicle Molds
          I love frozen treats but most store-bought are packed with sugar. I like to make smoothies and pour them into the molds for healthy popsicles (what a concept). I bought some very like these at a party store.

          $6.40 on Amazon
          colorful mixing bowls, food preparation


          Melamine Mixing Bowls
          My wonderful Aunt bought me a set of mixing bowls for a birthday present. They are somewhat like these: colorful, nesting and come with lids. I love them because I can use them for storage too (double-duty is a college girls best friend).

          $33.45 on Amazon
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          High Quality Pots and Pans
          Something I really want, but can’t justify the price tag when I have a set that cook just fine. These are very expensive but I bet they cook beautifully. Plan: gradually add a new pan as the old ones wear out.

          $239.99 at Kohl’s
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          High Quality Knives
          Another item on my wish list: knives. Chopping is a big part of cooking from scratch and higher quality knives last a lot longer. Keep them sharp with a sharpener.

          $179.99 at Kohl’s


          stainless steel measuring cups, cooking, food preparation

          Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons
          I have used five sets of measuring cups and spoons since I’ve been living on my own and it is so annoying when the painted measurement rubs off. Stainless steel sets usually have the measurement stamped into the metal and are more durable than their plastic counterpart.

          $7.15 on Amazon

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          Cast-Iron Skillet
          My fabulous grandmother bought one of these for me for a birthday gift. Sometimes a slightly high-maintenance addition to my kitchen, still one I could never live without. Don’t forget to season it! (Also BAM! cuz mine is from Emeril)

          $32.99 on Wayfair

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          Misto
          The newest addition to my kitchen, and I’m so excited about it! Fill with your favorite cooking oil and use in place of cooking spray (cut out all those nasty propellants). I bought this one at a local cooking store for $9.99. There were many options to choose from.

          $18.86 on Boncui

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          Mesh Strainer

          I bought this when I tried making almond milk last spring. Now I use it in place of a juicer (tried using a real juicer for a while but found it to be too messy and hard to save the pulp for making crackers). Also useful for making chicken or vegetable stock.

          $17.99 on Wayfair
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          Ice Cube Tray With Lid
          I use these for obvious things like freezing water (I don’t have a fancy refrigerator that makes ice cubes), but also for freezing small portions of pesto, chicken or vegetable stock, leftover wine, fresh herbs (for use in the winter), applesauce, and marinara sauce. The lids make it less messy.

          $5.52 on Wayfair

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          Apple Slicer/Corer
          A basic kitchen essential. I usually prefer to just slice apples with a knife since this doesn’t remove all the seeds usually but when I’m in a hurry this is perfect for quick jobs.

          $9.99 on Wayfair

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          Whisks

          Another basic kitchen tool, but one I use often. Just the thing for scrambled eggs, pancakes and mixing sauces, Don’t find yourself without one. (Before I bought one of these I just used a fork).

          $19.95 on Sur la Table

          An obvious addition to any kitchen that wants to protect their counters (I DO want my security deposit back). There is controversy over wooden versus plastic cutting boards, after some research I found that it really doesn’t matter (I have one of each). Just find one that doesn’t warp or stain.

          $18.32 on Amazon

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          Ladle
          An additional basic kitchen need ladles can be used for serving a million different dishes. Before I bought mine (which came in a set of spoons), serving dinner was a much messier task.

          $13.00 on Sur la Table

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          Spoons (Wooden and Plastic)
          One more kitchen basic. I have three of each (possibly a bit excessive but it happens when you combine kitchens with someone else). Wooden spoons sometimes stain so I only use them when cooking pasta or stirring dry ingredients.

          $15.99 at Kohl’s

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          Rolling PinA somewhat recent addition to my kitchen, I use this mostly for pie crusts (we love pie!) but it’s also essential during Christmas cookie season. I bought mine at target and there are so many varieties that it’s best to just find what works for you.


          $17.00 on Sur la Table


          tortilla press, sur la table



          Tortilla Press
          I’ve been told that tortilla making is easy, especially when you own one of these presses. I don’t yet own one but it is another item that you can find on my wish list.

          $19.99 on Sur la table

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          Tortilla Warmer

          Not just for Mexican restaurants anymore this tortilla warmer is perfect to keep homemade tortillas warm and fresh. (Not yet owned, on my wishlist).

          $9.95 at Sur la Table


          ceramic, mortar and pestle



          Mortar and Pestle

          I was so excited when I bought my little mortar and pestle at a spice store. I use it for crushing both dried and fresh herbs.

          $9.31 on Amazon

          tofu press


          Tofu Press
          I had no idea these were so pricey. If you have to cash they’re exceptionally useful when preparing restaurant worthy tofu (tofu tips to be published soon). Two cutting boards works well for me currently.

          $41.95 on Amazon

          salad dressing bottle, measurements, homemade

          Salad Dressing Bottle
          This is the best for making salad dressings at home. I don’t have one because we’re using up our vast stores of store-bought salad dressing (for some reason we buy one almost every time we go to the store).

          $6.74 on Amazon


          tea-rex, tea strainer

          Tea Ball
          I just have a regular old mesh tea ball, but the TEA-rex makes me laugh. I love these for loose-leaf teas you can buy at most tea shops (or collect herbs in the wild).

          $9.98 on Amazon


          Appliances:


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          Food Processor
          This is another recent addition to my kitchen (thanks to my grandma). I’m so excited to finally have one because I’ve been noticing a definite need for one. Salsa, pesto, hummus, and a million other things… here I come!

          $159.00 at Sur la Table
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          Mini Chopper

          I’ve had this for quite a while. It’s awesome for shopping ginger, garlic, or small batches of anything I would use the large food processor for.

          $59.99 at Kohl’s
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          Crock-Pot

          I am still amazed by (and learning about) all the things you can do with a Crock-pot. I love mine for days I know I’ll be home late. What a great feeling to come home and dinner is already prepared.

          $59.99 at Kohl’s
          george foreman grill



          George Foreman Grill
          I am a huge fan of grilled cheese so I love this appliance. Mostly I use it to make sandwiches more interesting but we have tried burgers and chicken on it with success. I actually found mine at a garage sale.

          $32.95 on Amazon
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          Ice Cream Maker
          There are not words to describe how badly I want one of these. After trying home-made ice cream on one of my ranch visits last summer I just don’t enjoy the taste of ice cream from the box (as much) anymore. Plus you can control the amount of sweetener and the flavor you add. One day I will have you my pretty.

          $59.95 on Sur la Table

          Bread Maker
          My boyfriend’s father has a bread-maker and he makes the BEST bread in the world. I would like to give bread-making a try and this model has caught my eye. My friend bought a bread-maker on Craig’s list for $5.00 (that actually works) so that’s probably where I’ll start looking.

          $141.99 on Wayfair

          waffle iron


          Waffle Iron
          Try as I might, I can’t live without waffles. I don’t like Belgium waffles though. It took me a very long time to find a non-Belgium waffle maker, but I love it very much!

          $40 at JC Penny

          Probably my most used appliance (at least before I got the food processor) because it did double-duty. I love smoothies in the morning so for me this is essential.

          $29.99 at Target

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          Food Dehydrator
          One more item on my to-buy list, a dehydrator seems extremely useful to me. I plan to use it for backpacking food, homemade fruit leather and homemade jerky and I’m sure I could come up with a few other ideas.

          $99.99 at Kohl’s

          Books and Movies:

          omnivore's dilemna, michael pollan, book cover


          by Michael Pollan


          in defense of food, michael polla, book cover


          by Michael Pollan


          food rules, michael pollan, book cover


          by Michael Pollan


          food inc., documentary, movie cover


          a Documentary


          quick-fix vegetarian, robin robertson, book cover, cookbook


          By Robin Robertson


          ancient grains for modern meals, maria speck, book cover, cookbook


          By Maria Speck


          my father's daughter, gwenyth paltrow, book cover, cookbook


          By Gwyneth Paltrow


          the future of food, documentary, movie cover


          a Documentary


          fast-food nations, eric schlosser, book cover, documentary


          by Eric Schlosser

          Heart Friendship Bracelet

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Heart Pattern Friendship Bracelet



          When I was an adorable, little, red-headed girl, with fat cheeks, and freckles in numbers rivaling stars in the sky (okay I still look like that 😉 ) I was a Girl Scout. I went to Girl Scout day camp and Girl Scout overnight camp and Girl Scout meetings (and I sold Girl Scout cookies!). While I learned many the great things they teach you in Girl Scouts, one thing I will probably never be able to forget is how to make friendship bracelets. That muscle memory stuff is great isn’t it, especially considering friendship bracelets are now sold in store (what?) for $15 (what?!).

          So, since we all know just how much I love making things myself I will go through the mantra again:

          1. you get to choose your own preference…
          2. you spend less money… and
          3. you form a deeper connection with the things you own because you crafted it with your own two hands.


          This tutorial walks you through the steps of making a friendship bracelet with a heart pattern. Enjoy!

          To start you need to cut your strings. Pick two colors. Hold your arms straight out perpendicular to your body, from fingertip to fingertip is how long your string should be. Cut four strands, two for each color. Fold the string in half take the fold and make a knot close to the end. This loop will be used to clasp the bracelet, so make it small but big enough that a knot can go through.

          embroidery floss, heart pattern, friendship bracelet


          Tape your strings down to a flat surface (or if your old school  safety pin then to your jeans), so that it is tightly secured. Order your strings the same as in the image above. Whichever color is on the outside will be the color of your hearts. Number the position of the strings from left to right 1-8.

          Now, I would like to explain the knot… There is the going left knot and the going right knot.

          *Tip: The illustrations below show on top both knots going forward and below that one knot going forward and one going backward. I noticed that two of my heart strings got more use than the other two. When you are knotting one pink around another, you can switch the dominant strings using the bottom illustration knot.

          embroidery floss, heart pattern, friendship bracelet


          To go right take the string in the number one position, lay it over the second string take it back under the second string and pull it through the loop.

          embroidery floss, heart pattern, friendship bracelet


          Going left is the same process as going right; only you wrap the eighth string around the seventh string in the opposite direction.

          Each time you make a knot you will do this knot twice.

          embroidery floss, heart pattern, friendship bracelet

          1. Like I said you will have your string laid out in the order shown.

          2. Take string 1 and knot it twice around string 2 then string 3 and finally 4. Then, take string 8 and knot it around string 7, string 6 and finally string 5. Finally knot the middle strings together (going left or right, it doesn’t matter)

          3. Follow the same steps as above for the next row with the second color.

          4. Now take the second string and knot it going left around the first string and the seventh string going right around the eighth.

          5. Fill in the space by taking the second string and knotting it (going right) around strings 3 and 4 and the seventh string (going left) around strings 6 and 5.

          6. Now again take the second string and knot it going left around the first string and the seventh string going right around the eighth.

          7. Fill in the space again by taking the second string and knotting it (going right) around strings 3 and 4 and the seventh string (going left) around strings 6 and 5.

          8. Knot string 1 and 2-4 (going right) and string 8 around 7-5 (going left). This is step 1 again completing the heart.

          9. Repeat step 2-8 until the bracelet is the length you like (I usually do about 52 rows).


          Now that you know the basic you can do many patterns. Try one on the friendship bracelet website.


          “Make new Friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. A circle’s round, it has no end. That’s how long I want to be your friend.”

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          Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade

          As you probably know by now I love summertime and I have a lot of favorite things about summer. It’ll be at least four more posts before I stop saying THIS is my favorite thing about summer so bear with me. I love going to Starbucks in the summer for a grande passion tea lemonade with one pump; it’s a guilty pleasure. But I don’t love the price that could very easily empty my bank account.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//:  Make it at Home - Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade


          SO I asked them what tea they use in their passion tea lemonade and they told me (It’s Tazo the Starbucks tea brand and they actually sell it at the store).

          You can get this kind that’s iced tea ready (make a bunch at once and store it in the pitcher in the fridge). Or they sell a box of individual servings (make it one cup at a time). At Target it was $4.95 (same as a box at Starbucks) but in an online search I found it for a little cheaper.

          After drinking it a little I realized it was very similar to the Celestial Seasonings tea I bought at the factory for $2.85.


          Anyway, to make the Starbucks version of the delicious pink drink is quite simple. Make the tea according to the package, juice some lemons, add a little of your preferred sweetener (if you like it sweetened), chill in the fridge, enjoy!

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          Origami Gift Box


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          Origami box, paper, gift box, recycled magazine



          We all know that giftwrap can be expensive. I don’t want to spend as much (or more) on the paper, bag, and bow as I did on what’s inside. In the past I have been known to make the wrapping as much a part of the gift as what’s inside by using a purse, basket or tote bag. I also like to “be green,” so to speak and recycle old newspaper and magazines as wrapping paper. This is a tutorial on making gift boxes from magazine pages.

          Origami box, paper, gift box, recycled magazine


          What you’ll need:

          • Scissors
          • Paper
          • Ruler
          • Glue-stick (optional)


          Origami box, paper, gift box, recycled magazine

          1. Find some paper with a pretty design. The paper must be a perfect square, cut off extra length to make it a square. I used a magazine page (doubled up with a second page glued to the back for sturdiness). Pay attention to what is at the center of the square when cutting, this will be the top of the box.

          2. Place the pretty side face down. Fold the square on the diagonal in half, both ways.

          3. With the pretty side down fold each corner into the center to make a small square.

          4. Unfold two opposite corners. Taking the edges that are still folded down, fold again lining the edge up with the tip of the corner. Do this for the opposite side. Then fold down the other two corners and repeat.

          5. Unfold all folds. Find the creases of the small square at the very center of your paper. Lightly draw the outline on the not pretty side of your paper to make sure you don’t over cut in the next step.

          6. Cut in from the edge of the paper along the creases as shown in image 6 above. Don’t over cut.

          7. Fold along all crease on the sides with tabs (triangles) as shown.

          8. Fold the final two edges over the tabs and press down to “stick.”

          9. True origami doesn’t need glue but since this is a gift I didn’t want the sides to pop up so I glue down the corners. You can also cut out a small square of pretty paper that fits in the box and glue that over the corners. You can see that I did that in the image below.


          Origami box, paper, gift box, recycled magazine


          If you want to make a box with a lid the lid paper needs to be slightly larger than the bottom. My box is about 2 1/4” when completed. The bottom was 6” and the top was 6 1/4”. If you want a bigger box (about 4 1/4″) use 12” for the top and 11 1/2” for the bottom; for a smaller box (about 1 3/4″) use 5” for the top and 4 13/16” for the bottom.

          If you forget how to do proportions here is a link to a calculator.

          Plug in 2.25 (the size of my completed box) on the top of the fraction to the left and 6 (the size of the bottom paper) on the bottom of the fraction on the left.

          Plug in the size you want your box to be on the top of the fraction on the left. The equation will return the size you should cut your bottom piece.

          Then plug in 6 and 6.25 on the fraction on the left and whatever number you got back from the previous step. Now the equation will tell you how big to cut the top piece.

          Or you could just guess… testing on scratch paper never hurt anyone.

          Origami box, paper, gift box, recycled magazine

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          Edamame Hummus

          Hummus is one of the best things in life, and adding a few soybeans can only help. The first time I had edamame hummus was my freshman year at CSU. There was always some hummus at the salad bar and very rarely they served edamame hummus. Those were good days, but now I make it at home whenever I want.


          Gather your ingredients: some edamame hummus recipes use only soybeans and no chickpeas, but I love chickpeas so I use both, tahini is optional but tastes yummy (I didn’t have any), ¼ cup water, lemon zest and juice, smashed garlic, salt, cumin, coriander and olive oil.



          Boil the edamame (fun fact: edamame is actually the Japanese word for soybeans in the shell, when you buy shelled soybeans they’re actually called, “mukimame”) according to package directions. Drain and add to a blender or food processor.



          Add the drained chickpeas to the blender or food processor.



          I’ve never figured out if it’s easier to zest first and juice after or vice versa. I juice first. Roll the lemon on the counter to loosen the juices before cutting it in half and juicing it.

          Then add the water, lemon zest and juice and olive oil (I used 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil to add a little of that sesame flavor since I didn’t have tahini)… Followed by the tahini (if using) garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander.


          Pulse the blender or food processor until smooth. Add more water if mixture is too thick; add more soy beans if it’s too runny. Taste test and adjust spices to preference.


          Serve with vegetables, pita chips, pretzels, or whatever you fancy. This stuff is blended gold my friends. 🙂 AND now you have another dip to serve at your next St. Patrick’s Day party (besides guacamole I mean). Yay!

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          Total Time: 15 minutes Difficulty: Easy Yield: 1 ¼ cup


          Ingredients:

          • 1 ½ cup frozen shelled green soybeans
          • 1 can drained chickpeas
          • ¼ cup tahini (optional)
          • ¼ cup water
          • ½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
          • 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), juiced
          • 1 clove garlic, smashed
          • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
          • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
          • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
          • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

          Suggested serving: Sliced cucumbers, celery, olives, and pita

          Directions:
          Boil the beans in salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, or microwave, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. In a food processor, puree the edamame, tahini, water, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, cumin, and coriander until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix until absorbed. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the parsley and drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with the suggested vegetables, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week (this time is very finicky, check for signs of spoilage such as ingredient separation, off taste or smell and slimy appearance).

          Fruit by the (almost) Foot

          As a kid I was a huge fan of fruit gummies like Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit Gushers (though I very rarely received them at home). Now, that I’m an adult (sorta) I have had a few cravings for them.

          If you take a look at a box of strawberry flavored Fruit By the Foot by Betty Crocker you might see these ingredients:


          From the name you would assume there’d be a lot of fruit in it but actually you find it’s just sugar and preservatives. It’s number four on a list of 9 Kid Foods to Avoid created by Time.

          Here is a recipe for fruit leather from Out of the Box Food. Tastes delicious, not too difficult to make, and you can adjust the amount of sweetener, the flavor, and the size to suit your fancy. I am seriously in love with homemade stuff!

          I got mixed berries because… berries. Other fruit combinations can be found at the end of this post. I used agave nectar because it doesn’t add much flavor but honey or maple syrup can be used as well (or none of the above).

          Start by cutting the two sheets of parchment paper to fit the cookie sheets. Rub some butter on the paper so the rolls will peel off easily and set them aside. I’m not sure how necessary the greasing step is but I am afraid to test these without it.

          Add all ingredients to the blender (not the butter, like I said it’s for greasing).

          Then blend the heck outta those fruits!

          At this point you could strain the puree to remove the seeds (there are soooo many seeds). I didn’t because I like to keep things simple and don’t like washing dishes… These are life-changing decisions, my friends. Divide the puree evenly between the two cookie sheets and spread thin with a rubber spatula.

          This is my third time making these and I elected to use the sun to dry them in order to save energy. I was worried about bugs and stuff but then I decided to not worry about bugs and stuff. If you do worry about bugs, heat the oven to 150 °F (or as low as yours goes) and place the two cookie sheets in the oven as it is heating up. If your oven has a convection setting this would be an excellent occasion to use it. If you’re lucky enough to have one this recipe is perfect for a dehydrator. My oven only goes to 170 °F so the first time I made these I let the oven heat up all the way gave it five minutes and turned it off. After 20 minutes I’d turn it on again. It was very tedious but it worked. The second time I made these I forgot to alternate heating times and the rolls got super crispy around the edges, and pretty much all over, which made me angry.

          When the rolls aren’t wet any longer take them out of the oven (or bring them inside). Wait for them to cool, which doesn’t take long, and cut into whatever size and shape you want. I leave the parchment paper on the rolls as I roll them up so it’s on the outside (like a real fruit by the foot). Store in an airtight container. As far as I can tell they last forever if you don’t eat them all at once.

          Somewhat of a high maintenance recipe since you really have to be around the whole time they are drying (unless you use the sun and are not worried about bugs or wind, then you can just leave them out all day). One idea is to make these and refrigerate the puree until just after dinner. Turn the oven on until bedtime and turn it off when you go to sleep.

          MORE FRUIT COMBINATION IDEAS:
          Yellow: 1 fresh mango, 7 oz dried apricots, the juice of one orange
          Purple:  20 oz frozen mixed berries and 1 fresh banana
          Green: Kiwi, mango and mint leaves
          Blue: Blueberries and grape juice
          Red: Strawberries and banana

          Spices to try: Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mace, mint, basil, extracts, citrus juices and peels, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Use sparingly, start with 1/8 teaspoon for each 2 cups of pureé.

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          MAKES: 12, 2” x 14” rolls
          TIME: Preparation – 10 minutes, Drying – 5 to 7 hours with convection oven; 8 to 10 hours with standard oven; more if drying by sun. Also depends on thickness of puree.

          INGREDIENTS:

          • 20 oz. frozen fruit
          • ¼ cup agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup (can use less or omit completely)
          • Butter for greasing

          DIRECTIONS:

          Cut parchment paper to fit on two cookie sheets with raised edges. Grease parchment paper with butter. Defrost berries and add to blender with sweetener. Blend until smooth. Divide puree between cookie sheets, spread thin with a spatula. Heat oven to 150 °F (my oven only goes down to 170 °F so I watch them carefully so they don’t burn). Another option is to leave rolls out in the sun to dry. Or better yet, use a dehydrator. When fruit is dry remove the cookie sheets from the oven. When cool cut into 2” strips, roll tightly and store in air-tight container.

          What flavor combinations have you tried?

          Zucchini Bread – Homemade Style

          One thing I forgot to mention in Summer Lovin’ post last week is all the fresh produce from my mom’s garden. I probably forgot since I don’t live there much in the summer anymore, but my childhood is full of baby carrots covered in dirt, tomatoes that I can only describe as nature’s candy, and zucchini bread (or at least those are the things I loved the most from her garden).

          I wanted to make zucchini bread but my mom warned me that many of the recipes contain a lot of oil. After a lot of research and some improvisation I think I’ve concocted perhaps the perfect recipe. You be the judge.


          Start by preheating the oven and preparing an 8-inch loaf pan (I got to use my Misto!).

          Grate zucchini(s); you can peel them before hand, I personally like the peel in the bread so I don’t. I used the largest grate size on my 4-sided cheese-grater. You can use the smallest side (or an attachment on your food processor)… it really depends on preference.

          Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

          Doesn’t that just look sooooo appetizing? Whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, honey, and vanilla in a larger second bowl. The honey is from the bee hive on some land my Range Club manages just north of Fort Collins… Yay local stuff!

          Add flour mixture to the larger bowl and stir until well combined.

          Fold in grated zucchini.

          Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean – 50 to 60 minutes.

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          Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on rack.

          Ingredients:

          • Cooking spray
          • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt
          • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
          • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
          • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
          • 1 egg
          • 1/4 cup oil
          • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
          • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
          • 1/2 cup honey
          • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
          • 1 cup grated zucchini

          Instructions:

          Preheat oven to 325 °F. Spray an 8-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, honey and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in zucchini, then transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until risen, deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean – 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes, remove bread from pan and continue cooling on rack.

          Restaurant-Style Salsa at Home

          Salsa is a big deal in my world and I am very picky about it. I hate chunks (except in fresh pico de gallo) and I love cilantro… a lot of cilantro… like the whole bunch, and it’s gotta be spicy. I’ve tried many a jar of salsa in my life (all 22 years of it) and I keep coming back to homemade (which is good since I’m all about homemade everything now). It tastes better, you get to choose your preferences, it’s super simple (if you have a food processor or blender), it’s cheaper and you can make as much (or as little) as you want!


          I see no downside.


          Three tomatoes (Reid used half of one of these tomatoes for breakfast without knowing they were for the salsa, it’ll be interesting to see how I will peel this one), one onion, one jalepeño pepper, one (two small) Fresno chile (from my garden), two cloves of garlic, lime juice (it’s best fresh but I didn’t have one), salt, cumin, cilantro

          Peel the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for a few minutes then and submerging them in ice water. Skins practically fall off. It’s okay to skip this step, there will just be some skins in the salsa but that’s really not noticeable.

          Dice half an onion and chop the tomatoes. Add the onion and tomato to the food processor.

          Mince the garlic and cut up the peppers; keep the seeds, you’re tough and can handle it. Then add the garlic and peppers to the food processor.

          Add ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground cumin and about three tablespoons lime juice.

          Now, add ½ to 1 cup cilantro. I seriously love cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro much use less (but I will mock you).

          AND pulse, pulse, pulse… a couple more times, and a couple more, about 10 to 15 times oughta do it. I like NO chunks. If you like chunkier salsa… pulse less.

          Be sure to taste test and alter seasonings/add more cilantro. Then if you can avoid the temptation of gobbling it all up right then, cover it and put it in the refrigerator for about an hour so the flavors can fuse and stuff.

          Doesn’t that just look awful? I’ll take one for the team and eat it all. You owe me one. (Those tortilla chips are La Favorita brand, ingredients: ground yellow corn, water, soybean oil, salt, trace of lime. Not bad.)

          Prep Time: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 12

          Ingredients:

          • 3 Medium Tomatoes
          • 2 whole Jalepeño peppers
          • ¼ cup Chopped Onion
          • 2 Clove Garlic
          • ¼ teaspoon Salt
          • ¼ teaspoon Ground Cumin
          • ½ cup Cilantro (more!)
          • ½ whole Lime Juice

          Instructions:

          Peel tomatoes. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse until salsa is the consistency you like. Test flavor; adjust spices. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips, nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, eggs, etc.

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          I’ve made this salsa from The Pioneer Woman many times. With my new “real food” kick I shied away from using canned tomatoes because they contained calcium chloride. At the store I had no idea what this was so I bought fresh tomatoes and peppers (and had some from my garden). After doing some research (and remembering my chemistry… duh!) I’ve learned that calcium chloride is basically harmless (and is found in most milk products in higher concentrations than a can of tomatoes). The more you know…

          However, I am very pleased with the results using fresh tomatoes so really it’s a moot point.

          50 (or so) Date Ideas

          Date night ideas, popsicle stick jar



          We are BORED! Bored out of our minds. Bored with ourselves, bored with our stuff, bored with our house, bored with our day-to-day lives. Just plain bored. It’s about time to spice things up around here. We want more time with each other, more time without stuff, more time away from the house, more excitement and creativity. I found an idea on Pinterest (regretfully I forgot to pin it and have no link) to fill a jar with popsicles sticks each with a date idea written on it. We went ahead and gave it a try.

          First we gathered our supplies:

          Date night ideas, popsicle stick jar 
          multi-colored popsicle sticks, thin point Sharpies, two plastic bags (one for new ideas and one for used ideas), and sustenance


          We assigned the colors of the popsicle sticks as follows:

          • Red = Things to do at home
          • Yellow = Free things
          • Green = $
          • Blue = $$$

          We then started brainstorming ideas and writing them down, some examples are listed here:

          • Go to the local art museum
          • Take a brewery tour
          • Write a novel
          • Buy coloring books and color in them
          • Make a home video
          • Rent a hotel room for the night
          • etc.

          Originally we were going to use bags but I found this jar in my cabinet so the new ideas were placed in it when completed (used ideas still go in a little bag).

          Date night ideas, popsicle stick jar


          We didn’t fill in all of the popsicle sticks so we made one that says simple “Make new popsicle sticks.”

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          For ideas for your own popsicle stick dates follow the links below.


          What are some of your great date-night ideas?

          Small Space Gardening on a Budget

          My Grandpa bought me a book called In a Japanese Garden by Charmaine Aserappa with original woodcuts by Akiko Maomura for my birthday. It is full of short phrases about each component of a Japanese garden and a corresponding image (woodcut).  At the end there is a description of Japanese gardens and what they mean, “not merely decorative, but meticulously designed and maintained as meditative spaces for contemplation, refreshment and reflection.” I hope I can find both refreshment and order in my garden space.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget



          If you’ve read my other posts you may know that this summer my biggest project has been my balcony garden. It all began with the Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1 and Part 2. While the gutter garden was certainly the most intensive of my projects this summer, it was not the only one.  You may remember this flower tower mentioned in this post; let me tell you how I made my version.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget My Version


          Materials:

          • Decreasing sizes of pots – you can use any number of pots I used four (they should have holes in the bottom).  I got the three terra cotta pots from Michael’s for fairly cheap (sale + coupons) and the big plastic pot from WalMart for about $7 bucks and I didn’t need to buy a water collection dish because it has it’s own draining mechanism built it.
          • Long metal rod – I used one of those threaded rods they have at Home Depot. I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what it’s actually for but it was cheaper than buying rebar (and I didn’t have to cut it).
          • Plants – I lucked out because the King Soopers had a big sale on flowers (10 4-packs for $10) I also bought the potato vines for about $2.50 because I love the way they look. Any annuals will do, you could even plant edible plants or herbs.
          • Soil – I used some with water beads since it’s been so dry, but any kind will do.


          You start by filling the base pot half-full with soil. Stick the rod in the center, slide the next pot down the rod.  Fill that pot halfway with soil and repeat the process with the remaining pots. If the rod sticks out the top, simply add more soil between pots. Then plant your flowers or what have you as you normally would. Simple right?

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget “Be the bud. Prepare to blossom.”


          The remaining flowers are planted in flowerpots around the railings.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget “Be the gardener. Create order.”


          I also mentioned that I wanted to plant tomatoes and peppers in pots. I used water walls to increase their growing season. Here are my results.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget I used fallen branches as support (free vs. not free… I choose free)
          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a BudgetThis is the third ripe tomato so far.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget My First Pepper


          My strawberry plant is in a hanging basket. It’s been doing well, only the birds keep getting the fruit before I do. I would mind more if they weren’t so dang cute and didn’t sing such pretty songs to me while I drink my tea in the morning.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


          I also ended up planting peas from seed using this tutorial. They started out growing like mad; I harvested two bowls of peas in their peak. However, it turns out container gardening is quite difficult.  I think I over-watered them causing their roots to run out of oxygen and rot, finally they started dying off. I’m too embarrassed to share the picture. On the bright side there is some re-growth now that the soil has dried out a bit.

          The final addition to my farm was sort of last minute. I had an extra pot and some carrot seeds so I planted them in the pot. I’ve never heard of this being done and this is crazy (but here’s my number, so call me maybe). Anyway we’ll see how it turns out; all I have at the moment is greens. I did a thinning last week so hopefully the carrots start being carrots.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget My watering can is in the front (isn’t it cute?). The carrots are in the terra cotta pot just behind the watering can.


          As for this project, I couldn’t figure out a way to stabilize it. I think the best way would be to drive the rebar deep into the ground.  Well I don’t have ground, I have concrete and a wooden railing.  I scratched that project but my grandmother found these cute colorful pots at the dollar store.  She bought a bunch and I am using them for herbs (I realize now this is better because I can bring them inside this winter). P.S. Notice the tomato on the window sill through the window. 🙂

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget 


          From left to right: dill, cilantro (used to be cilantro), spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, basil, spring onions
          They sit on my air conditioner


          “Be the seasons. Welcome change.”

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a BudgetRosemary Bush

          I wanted a way to enjoy my space so I have been keeping my eyes open for a small-ish patio set.  This bistro set caught my eye at Home Depot. At that point I told my parents about it and guess what I got for my birthday? Well see for yourself.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget
          It didn’t come with the cushions, those were a separate gift from my grandparents.


          You can see the grill in the background; Reid has wanted a grill since, as long as I’ve known him (and we just celebrated our 3 year anniversary last week). We found this charcoal grill at a flea market in south (SOUTH) Fort Collins for $12.  One night he was grilling as the sun was setting and it started getting too dark for him to see. He used his camping headlamp that night but the next day he went out and got a strand of lights to hang from the ceiling. Now it feels like an outdoor café.

          “Be the moth. Seek the light.
          Be the lantern. Guide the lost.”

          We also found two wind chimes (and I made a third)

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget “Be the wind chime. Let the breeze blow through you. Turn the storms into song.”


          Now that all the hard work is done I have had the chance to relax in and enjoy the space. We eat dinner at our café, I read books in the morning with my breakfast and tea, and I tend and water the plants (the best part of container gardening is that there are no weeds, only insect pests). Though it took most of my savings to set it up I have no regrets about the rewarding outcome. My first real experience with gardening has overall been successful, maybe not bountiful, but successful none-the-less.

          Leave a comment; I need all the advice I can get. What are your best gardening tips?

          Hanging Gutter Garden Part 2: Putting it Together

          I know it has been over 3 months since Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1: Adventures in Home Depot. But I do have excuses. One excuse is that I lost my camera battery charger and I could not take pictures of my progress, another is that I’m lazy. But, just before the backpacking extravaganza (and after losing Reid’s camera in the Canyonlands) I broke down and purchased a new (expensive) charger (with LED charging screen and European outlet adapter).

          Now that I have the means to take picture I figured it was about time to share my patio garden with you lovely people.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden

          As I said in this post, I wanted to create the hanging gutter garden like this one.

          For mine I didn’t have the fancy pants hardware (or the fancy pants bank account). I used the gutter given to me by the gutter guys (A story told here). I also purchased a plastic gutter for $5 at Resource 2000, where they sell salvaged construction materials.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden The finished product – metal gutter


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden Bottom Level = Lettuce


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden Middle Level = Radishes (recently harvested and replanted)


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden Top Level = Spinach (recently replanted due to struggling first crop)


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden The finished product – plastic gutter


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden All Levels = salad mix (sprouting)


          The materials:

          • 1 gutter cut into three equal parts (process is almost identical no matter the material, I tried with both plastic and metal gutters)
          • 6 gutter caps – the plastic ones are quite nice and can be purchased at Home Depot, Metal are also nice but mine had to be bent to fit the gutter, which was quite a process.
          • 2 hooks – I chose some that screw into a drilled hole
          • 16’ of 1/8” steel cable cut into 6 equal lengths (or as much as you’ll need to fill your space, gutters should be at least 18” apart to allow adequate sun exposure and plant growth) – I bought this kit at walmart because I was there buying pots and it was the only cable they had. The kit actually came in handy as the clips (though not exactly what I was looking for) worked perfectly. As I worked I realized I needed 32” of cable for both my gutter gardens so I ended up having to go to Home Depot for a yard of steel cable.
          • 12 clips – 6 came in the kit mentioned above and there was another pack nearby without 3 clips (no cable) so I bought two of these packs.
          • 2 thimbles – these came in the kit mentioned above but they are also sold alone


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden
          Above = clips, Below = thimble,
          • Wire Cutters – sharpened
          • Electric drill – with attachments for drilling holes large enough for the steel wire to go through and for tightening nuts on the clips

          Step 1. Cut the gutters
          The gutter man who gave it to me cut the metal gutter in uneven thirds; my dad then cut into equal length pieces. I sawed the plastic gutter into (almost) equal thirds (I did it all by myself thank you).

          Step 2. Drill holes
          My dad helped me drill two holes, large enough for the steel cable to fit through, across from each other on each end, and one hole at the center of the base on each end (6 holes per gutter section).

          Step 3. Fit the end caps
          This part was quite complicated for the metal gutter. The plastic gutter was simple, the caps fit perfectly. My Metal Gutter was not the exact shape of the cap. My dad used pliers to shape the end of the gutter to fit into the cap and a rubber mallet to force it in where it wasn’t exactly perfect. He did this for each of the 6 end caps and I am so grateful for that. If you buy your gutter where you buy your end cap this shouldn’t be a problem for you, mine came from different sources.

          Step 4. Cut steel cable into 6 36” sections
          We definitely over estimated the amount of steel cable to use. My dad and I were not at my apartment during the building process so we wanted to give ourselves some extra. You might not need so much extra slack when building your gutter garden. Be careful when cutting the wire, it tend to fray; very sharp wire cutters can help prevent fraying.

          Step 5. Thread the steel cable
          With one end shorter than the other thread the cable through the two holes at the top of the gutter. This can be quite difficult if the cable has frayed. Also be prepared to be poked with sharp metal; gloves are probably a good idea at this point.

          Step 6. Secure the cable
          Loosen the nuts on the clip and thread both ends of the cable through the clip. Pull the clip down on the cable where its not pulling to much but is tight. Finagle the cable so the short end only pokes out of the clip about an inch and tighten the nuts on the clip, a little on each nut so it tightens evenly. Repeat this process (step 5 and 6) for each gutter on each end (a total of 6 times)

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden

          The Metal Gutter


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden

          The Plastic Gutter


          Step 7. Connect the pieces
          Starting with the gutter section you want at the base of your garden thread the long end of the cable through the hole in the base of the middle gutter section. Attach a clip around this single end of cable and tighten. Make sure the clip is at the length you want. Do this on both ends, keeping the gutter level. Do the same thing with the middle gutter and the top gutter. Leave the top gutter for now.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden The Metal Gutter


          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden The Plastic Gutter


          Step 8. Hanging the dang thing
          This was another complicated step. The whole contraption is very heavy, awkward and dynamic. This stage was obviously done at my apartment with my boyfriends help to replace my dad. There is most definitely a better way than how we did this but I am the queen of doing things in the most complicated way. We measured the distance between cables, drilled holes for the screw hook and screwed them in. Then we hauled the apparatus up a step stool and one of our kitchen chairs between the two of us. I stabilized my end as he threaded a clip onto the cable then a thimble around the hook and tightened it. We kept the thing slightly above the railing so that when we screwed it down it would be tight. Mind you this took many, many, many, many, MANY tries because there were so many pieces to hold steady at a precise place, but we finally got it and 3 months later it looks fantastic.

          Side note: The method above details how we hung the metal gutters. For the plastic gutters we screwed the bottom gutter onto the railing first, but we couldn’t get it tight enough at the top and it looks like it’s leaning forward since the hooks at the top and the screws at the base are not directly vertical. Therefore we developed the method above, which was also difficult but returned better results.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Hanging Gutter Garden 
          The Hook in the Ceiling


          These gutters dry out VERY fast, especially in an arid climate like Colorado. I have struggled with wilting, browning, and flat out dying plants in these gutters since planting. I have discovered that on hot days I must water them twice: once in the morning and once in the evening, in order to keep them healthy. Someone in a more humid environment might not experience these problems.

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          How did you like this post? Are you interested in making a gutter garden? Do you have questions about my process? Leave a comment.

          Homemade Tagalongs

          …(or as they’re known elsewhere Peanut Butter Patties)

          Suite Pea's Kitchen showcased by Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Homemade Tagalongs

          As you know I love to use Pinterest.  I’ve mentioned that I actually use a few of the things I pin.  One (mentioned yesterday) is fitness, another is recipes.  As usual, I was perusing the Pinterest community and discovered this little beauty of a recipe for Tagalongs from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.  I have been saving it for a special occasion, but finally yesterday I couldn’t wait any longer.  I had to try me some Tagalongs – homemade style.  So I got out all my baking gear and began.

          When I bake usually I like to listen to some good music but yesterday I already had my Pandora set to the preset “Pop and Hip Hop Power Workout Station” (I was getting my 5-4-3-2-1 on) so I just left it (that’s funny because it’s not good music… get it?) It was quite fun dancing to this type of music and I highly recommend it for future baking projects.

          Anyway, Tagalongs

          tagalongs, girl scout cookies, peanut butter, chocolate
          Image Credit: Little Brownie Bakers
          This is what Tagalongs look like from the box



          Now, normally I would not wish to take away from the Girl Scouts and their one major fundraiser they have all year; after all I was one once.  However $4.00 for a box of cookies is a bit pricey for a college student who needs to buy real food.  The only problem is I absolutely love Tagalongs.  I used to keep the box in my room so greedy hands belonging to my sister and parents would not defile my tasty bits of heaven.  I weighed it in my head in front of that little table the girls had set up outside of King Soopers grocery store: do I want to spend my $4.00 on some cookies or something more nutritious.  Now, I no longer have to shed out precious cash for happiness and the recipe makes enough that I don’t mind sharing.

          tagalongs, peanut butter, chocolate, cookie, homemade, girl scout cookies
          Image Credit: Christina of Suite Pea’s Kitchen
          Her’s look way better than mine…
          Chocolate is super messy”


          This recipe on the Sweet Pea’s Kitchen blog is fantastic.  It took FOREVER to make (possibly due to all the dancing) but let me tell you something, it is totally worth it.  These cookies are delicious and they taste a bazillion times better than the boxed variety.

          So I really wanted to do a step-by-step post of my progress while baking (complete with the proper dance move technique for each task) but, alas, my camera charger is nowhere to be found.  Without pictures I feel this post would be a bit bland so I’ll just stick with my fantabulous review of this recipe and let you read the step-by-step on Sweet Pea’s Kitchen.

          My only edits:  I added about a tablespoon of water to the chocolate to spread it a bit further and to make it more liquidy.  The peanut butter filling is REALLY sweet so next time I will probably add less sugar.  My batch only made two dozen (the recipe says 3 dozen) which leads me to believe I made the cookies too big.  This is probably true because with the filling and the chocolate it is very rich and hard to finish just one cookie.  Definitely a death-by-chocolate type of dessert, but yummers!


          Happy Baking!

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          Would you prefer the boxed variety or these homemade delicacies?  How do you get your bake on?  Care to share a recipe I should try?