Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How to avoid the gooey gross

Recently I've become a huge fan of muffins. Maybe it's the lazy in me, but there is something about having your baked good - all wrapped up, no cutting necessary, single serving - done.

Before we went camping to Michigan I thought about making zucchini bread. I love it, but the foil is such a pain in the butt. When you unwrap it, the top is always gooey (why is it always gooey?) and gets stuck. Then you get it all over your hands, you cut a slice and it's all out of whack. One slice is perfect, the next looks like Edward-Scissor-Hands was practicing his bush cutting skills.

Enter - the muffin. Ohhhh the muffin! If I bake these in individual containment units then I can simply pluck one, unwrap like an amazing present, then top with some butter (or vegetable spread in my case) and partake. All this to say, I don't get gooey hands.

How'd it work?


Want to know what worked even better? The fact that our first morning we had rain, and I mean LOTS of rain. It was so easy to just eat muffins on a napkin rather than having to get cutting boards and extra space to deal with that mess. Want breakfast? Open the container- take a muffin. Done and done.

My children? Fruit Loops… bah… they don't know a good thing. Actually, Nicholas was all "eat eat!" so he did have some. Just be careful not to over pack your pan when you store them - you still could get some of gooey on you… those sneaky buggers.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp Salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour

Beat eggs till fluffy. Add sugar, Beat well. Stir in oil, vanilla, and zucchini. Then add dry ingredients. Turn into greased 9 x 13 pan or 2 loaf pans. Bake 325 for 30 and keep checking centers with a toothpick to be sure they come out clean.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Jackson turns 2! (Ok... a long time ago - let's not get all judgey judgey on the aunt huh?)

I have a really sad confession to make - I’m a lousy aunt. This sweet boy turned 2 in September, yes LAST year and just now I’m posting a picture of him and his cake. (cringe)

The request had been a train cake. We all know I don't do recognizable characters because let's be honest - they rarely are recognizable - let's not talk about the Cat in Hat Cake - I’m still recovering from that one.

Jackson seemed to like it, that's the important part, right? He ate the cupcakes anyway. I'll take it as a win.

Happy almost 2 1/2 Jackson!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Working on increasing my sprinkle budget...

Last Christmas I came upon an idea that I thought could be pretty fun for the kids – a Christmas cookie decorating party. What if I made a bunch of cut out cookies and my kids and my nephews and niece could get together to decorate them?

I will be honest – I kind of hate cut out cookies. Drop cookies are pretty much awesome – they don’t require extra refrigeration, rolling, resting, cutting, etc. I am a lazy baker – it’s true.

But for these kids? I’m more than willing to do it!

I made the doughs a week ahead and let them sit in the fridge. The night before I rolled out the doughs to the right depth. (Is depth the right word? My brain is so tired…) Thickness! Thickness is the word! The night before, I was still at a loss for frosting or glaze so I headed off to the internet… Found two recipes, figured I would try both. By far the winner was the Wilton Royal Icing. I used it in its stiffest form to put together my tiny gingerbread houses but then watered it down some for the main frosting. I did try another recipe that ended up much like glue… yuck. That stayed in the bowl.

Reading about other people’s decorating parties, I read squeeze bottles were the way to go – so I bought a bunch at Michaels. Also, my trusty helper Bronwyn sorted out 12 different kinds of decorations in 5 different mini muffin tins. This way each kid had their own set of decorations to eat or to put on their cookies.

The day of the party we had such a great time. Even the little guys did their own version of decorating and eating. I can certainly see making this a yearly event for the kids. After all – this is a great reason to increase my sprinkle budget for the year. Let’s be honest – that budget is always in need of some extra room. Let’s not talk about my cabinet space…

Recipes I used for this adventure:
Chocolate Cut Out Cookies - http://sweetopia.net/2013/12/chocolate-sugar-cookie-recipe-cut-out-cookies/
Vanilla Cut Out Cookies - http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2011/06/basic-sugar-cookie-recipe-2/
Royal Icing - http://www.wilton.com/royal-icing/WLRECIP-50.html

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas - 2016

May you have the gift of 

The blessing of 

and the peace of His

Merry Christmas!


Andy, Erin, Bronwyn, Nicholas and Rusty Raatjes

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cheesy Soup Goodness

Every year in December our hometown puts on quite a party. They call it Christmas in the Commons. We have an area called the Commons where the Village Hall, the Library, the Police Station and the Rec Center are all located. Each year they throw a giant Christmas party in the Commons. Santa and Mrs. Claus even come to see all the kids! Many of the musical groups from various schools come to play or sing, there are actual reindeer who come to be loved on. A local bakery provides cookies and hot cocoa and one of the banks provides popcorn. There are even horse-drawn carriage rides. This year we even have a 36 foot lit Santa – the largest in the US.

All of this to say – we went to this fun party and somehow our mayor worked it out with God, that for this great party, we got 7-8 inches of snow! Thankfully it wasn’t too cold, but it sure was pretty – and snowy.

We came home from being outside at the event and got all cozy, warm and dry. What better to warm your insides than comforting Cheesy Broccoli Soup? My friend Marcia brought us a container of this soup when we brought Nicholas home from the hospital. It should just be called “Comfort Soup” because that’s what it does. So very good. It’s also pretty easy to make and quick. Both my kid gobbled it up and Andy ate two bowls before venturing out into the cold to battle the snow with the snow thrower.

This is certainly a recipe to give a try – it also freezes well so you can make some for now and save some for later.

Cheesy Broccoli Soup
1 potato, peeled and shredded
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cups broccoli, washed and cut up
1 t. salt
4 t. granular chicken bouillon or 4 bouillon cubes
3 c. water
½ c. flour
½ c. margarine
½ t. salt
4 c. milk
4 oz. sliced Velveeta, American, or cheddar cheese

Place shredded potato, carrots, onion, broccoli, salt, chicken bouillon, and water in large kettle. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Make white sauce in another pan by melting the margarine, then stirring flour into melted margarine. Add salt and milk. Slowly add white sauce to broccoli mixture. Heat thoroughly. Do not boil. Add sliced cheese and stir until melted. Serve immediately. Good reheated.
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