Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Pumpkin Streusel Bread

Happy Fall! 
Yes, I know it isn't technically fall yet, but the as soon as Labor Day is over it's fall in my mind.  Fall means changing leaves, crisper weather, and the need for all the cozy comfort food and treats. One of my favorite fall treats is pumpkin bread. I've been making this version since 2014, when a friend gave me a loaf of apple bread with streusel, and I thought it would be perfect on my pumpkin bread. Spoiler alert, it is amazing.

Pumpkin Bread Batter
1 can pumpkin puree (not pie, the regular 15 oz size pumpkin puree)
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (I use the vanilla bean paste)
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 flour (I do 1 1/4 reg & 1/2 whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup milk
optional chocolate chips - I usually do 1/2 plain & 1 cup of chocolate chips in the remaining batter.
Mix the pumpkin, eggs, butter, vanilla & sugar until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Preheat oven to 350.
Once smooth pour into pans - makes 1 2lb loaf & 1 mini loaf, 2 1lb loaves, or 4 mini loaves. 
Once you've poured into the desired pans, make your streusel topping.
Streusel Topping
6 TBS butter
2/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Hand cut together to make a crumble, or toss it in your mixer or food processor -it's such a small amount I hand cut/mixed it. 
Press the streusel onto your bread batter. I really pat it on so less will fall off as it rises in the oven. 
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes for full loaves, 30 minutes for mini loaves or 20 minutes for muffins. Since all ovens cook differently I would check at 35 and 20 minutes on loaves. Once your tooth pick pulls clean you're ready to pull. Let cool about 20 minutes before popping from the pan.


Quick Baking Time Guide - 350 degrees
for full loaf cook for 45 minutes
for mini loaves cook for 30 minutes
for muffins cook for 20 minutes

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Covid Check In

Do you remember your last normal day? March 13, 2020 for us (and by normal I mean we were still living our normal lives even though news of the Covid19 pandemic was inundating us). My Instagram post that day was a total #mombrag on my second grader - his carefully constructed Land Form Diorama, Excellence in Academics Award, Reading Iditaread Award, and Music Program...I had no idea that would be his last day of second grade. Boy O Boy has life changed in the  158 days since then - what feels like a lifetime ago. We've had our great days, like Easter and Birthdays; victories like teaching my oldest multiplication; and small family adventures exploring new places to hike. And of course, we've had some bad days where nothing seems to go right, and we stay in jammies all day. But all in all we are safe, entertained, and healthy.  
So, how does a social "go'er" "do'er" survive a quarantine? Well, you just do, as I'm sure you've discovered by now. The actual staying home part has been hard on us, we were so used to hitting museums, the zoo, parks, sports, activity centers, shopping, restaurants all the time. I spent the first half of quarantine stress baking all the things, and realizing how many necessities we were missing - new ipads, books, activities... and explaining to a 7, 3, and 1 year old why we couldn't go anywhere, often randomly hearing "mom when Covid is gone can we go to _____" poor sweet babies.  I went overboard for every holiday, bought every food they wanted, and just tried to keep our home life and light and fun as you can when you are safely trapped at home for the common good. 

The second half we hit the I'm tired of everything, there's nothing to eat, nothing to cook, nothing to do phase. And then we made a little escape and set things right in our world again. I've gone back to the therapy of the spin bike, which in the wise words of Elle Woods "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their [people], they just don't." But for real, I was the girl who worked out until the day before my last two babes were born, and for some reason this last go round it took me way too long to get back on that bike, but we've reconnected and it has been so good for my soul.

Since things don't seem to be going back to normal anytime soon, and we're all bound to hit that Covid Slump, I thought I'd share a few things that have helped our family during these unprecedented times. 

1. Exercise!  We have been going on way more family walks, rides, hikes, and hilarious attempts at family yoga. Sunshine and fresh air are good for the soul. When we move our bodies we are so much happier. And as I mentioned above Spin is one of my favorite things. We did a ton of research on the best spin bike when I was pregnant with our youngest  and after an entire year of research, test riding, reading reviews, we settled on the Keiser M3i

Occasionally I have little visitors during my workouts, but when you've got to spin, you've got to spin.
 I love this bike, we've had it for over two years now, and it is one of the best purchases we've ever made. It is seriously nicer than any spin bike any of my gyms have had! I ride 5-6 days a week, either during nap/quiet time or after the kids go to bed. I've also heard amazing things about the  Nordictrack, but haven't personally ridden it since it came out after we bought ours.

2. Keep a Schedule! I have found our days go much smoother when everyone knows what's expected of them and what the plan for the day is.  We have tried and failed at many new "chore" charts over the past six months, but what has worked the best for us, is a good old fashioned list. I created lists for littles, and then slipped them into clear page protectors so they can mark them off each day and I don't have to rewrite the list other than filling in a few blanks. I also try to plan at least 2 outings a week - a hike, trip to a new park, the zoo now that ours is open, or a visit to one of the 3 families we are distancing with.

When my 8 and 4 year old know what's on the agenda for the day, they are more likely to get through their lists quickly and without complaint. Here is what their lists look like. 
They earn points for the number of items completed each week which are added up for their goal prize. My eight year old is earning a yeti water bottle, and my four year old is earning a new dress up dress.

3. Celebrate! Find things to celebrate, whether it's a real event, something that make you happy, or just a random excuse. Last week I went to a few stores to get as many Polar jr. seltzer flavors as possible, and we had a tasting party with a fun charcuterie board. It was simple and the kids loved it. 
We've also had four Quarantine birthdays, with one more this month. Finding ways to make it special without the traditional big friend party was easier than I thought. I did everything we would normally do except invite people over, or have a party at a fun location. They all loved their birthdays! Kids are resilient, they roll with it, and were just happy to have their celebration. 

4. Say Yes! One of the hardest things about this pandemic is having to say "no" so often to things that used to be a yes. So we've started saying yes a whole lot more to other things. Reasonable dinner request - you bet.  Family game night, of course. A mile long list for the grocery store, I'm on it. Extra movie nights, okay. A snocone machine, why not. Seriously, the little snowie was one of our best quarantine purchases! It makes the best fluffy snow! We've had snocones on repeat!
I know we can't say yes to everything, but finding things we can make happen makes it so much easier to "navigate these unprecedented times". Find those little things that bring you joy and make them happen.

5. Be Grateful. It's so easy to focus on the disappointments, many of which are very big - cancelled trips that have been planned for months or even years, cancelled celebrations, the loss of jobs, the loss of health or loved ones...there are some very real things to be bummed or even distraught about, but if we wallow in our sorrow we miss the little things that keep life bright. If you're having one of those days, just think of three things you're grateful for - I promise it will lift your mood. Today I am grateful for air conditioning on this 100 degree day, the health of my family, and the leftover halibut in my fridge that which will make dinner a snap. It is a scientific fact that focusing on the positive lifts our mood. So, what are you grateful for today?

6. Just Breathe. Somedays it just feels so overwhelming that all you can do is take a deep breath, and mumble mantras to yourself. A few of my favorites are "I can do hard things", "This too shall pass", and "I'm tougher than this problem". It's okay to stay in your jammies all day and have a screen-marathon, so long as it isn't every day, and it isn't making you feel worse overall. 
It's okay to feel what you're feeling, this is a weird and stressful time, acknowledge your feelings, and when you feel ready make a plan to help yourself move to the next step. Maybe that's a walk, a long bath, or a drive alone, maybe that's admitting you need something bigger. If this isn't something you can navigate on your own, reach out to a friend or a mental health professional. Your mental health is too important to sweep under the proverbial rug. If you haven't been feeling right for more than a few weeks seek help. Help is there, don't be afraid to ask for what you need. This isn't going to last forever, we will make it through, and as always it's a little easier when we lean on each other - even if it's through phone lines and screens to keep us safe.  Stay safe friends, you've got this. 

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Friday, July 03, 2020

Spicy Pretzels - the perfect party snack

Happy Independence Day!
Did you forget to make something for a (socially distanced) gathering this Holiday weekend? If' so I've got the perfect, easy snack for you. Spicy Pretzels! When I lived in North Dakota we had the most amazing little company that made these seasoned pretzels, they were so good, but hard to find. So I did what I do, tinkered in the kitchen, and came up with my own. They are so good! My family prefers them to the name brand ones, and honestly, so do I.

I make these pretty much year round, but I especially love to make them as neighbor treats during the holidays.

1 large (party) bag of pretzels - i like Snyders sticks or 2 bags of the Winco braided sticks (shown here) 
3 TBS Ranch seasoning powder or 1 Packet
1 tsp Lemon Pepper
1 tsp cayenne or 2 tsp or Trader Joe's chili lime seasoning
1 tsp seasoning salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

The Assembly 
In a large ziplock mix up the spices 
Then add the oil and "massage" it until you have a smooth past.
Next add the pretzels, shake them up a few times, let them sit for 2-4 hours, shaking them every so often. 
Finally spread on a backing sheet and  bake at 200 for 20 minutes (I then leave them in the oven to cool for another 20 minutes). Trust me, they need to be baked, the flavors just don't pop the same without a quick bake.
Don't forget to share the pretzel love. Happy Quarantine Summer Friends. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Best Queso Ever

Happy Cinco De Mayo!
When we lived in Oklahoma I was introduced to queso - real queso. Before that all I knew of queso was from a jar in the chip aisle, which was always a hard pass from me. In OKC all the best Mexican restaurants started the meal with house made chips & tortillas, fresh salsa, and white queso. This my friends was one of the worst food discoveries ever. You know why? Because I learned that queso is good! When we moved to Texas it was even worse, because the queso was even better.
When we moved back to the Northwest good queso was hard to find. So I did what I do. I tinkered in the kitchen, tried this recipe, and that recipe, mixed it this way, and that way, and boom. Perfection. First things first, here's what you need to whip up the perfect queso.
16 Oz of Velveeta (I know, I know, but trust me)
12 Oz Roasted Salsa
1 4 oz can of Diced Green Chilies
1/2 Cup milk
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt (again - trust me on this)
1/2 Cup roughly copped cilantro
1/4 Cup Queso Fresco (optional but next level)
1 tsp of garlic salt
1 tsp of chili lime seasoning
This is a super easy one pot recipe!
In a sauce pan over Medium heat add Velveeta, milk, greek yogurt, and seasonings. Once smooth add in salsa, and green chilies. Once well combined add cilantro and queso fresco.
Top with an extra sprinkle of queso fresco and boom, perfect queso!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A New Version of Easter

We love Pottery Barn Kids Easter Baskets
If you've been here a minute, you know I absolutely love holidays! I love the traditions, the hype, the celebration, the food, the family time. I love finding the right details, and making it magical for my littles. Well, this year is going to be something else...if you've been living under a rock, I'll fill you in. We, world citizens scattered across the globe are facing an unprecedented pandemic of COVID-19 or Corona Virus, which is highly contagious disease that has basically hit every country. Corona virus, though not dangerous for the majority of us (imagine a really bad flu that lasts around 2 weeks), does disproportionately affect the immunocompromised, those with respiratory issues, and the elderly. In an effort to slow the spread, saving our healthcare workers, hopefully keeping hospitals from being overcrowded, and in turn saving more patients, governments around the world are implementing massive shutdowns, quarantines (both official shelter in place, and suggested physical distancing) and banning gatherings over 10 people in most areas. Schools, Activities, Churches, Gyms, Restaurants, Salons, etc. are closed. It is a surreal time, but for the sake of our kids, the sake of our sanity, we have to move forward with celebrations, even if they are different from what we are used to, what we long for. This is the year to make the best with what we've got, make happy memories amongst the uncertainty. We can do this. We can find the rainbow in this storm. So here are some of my favorite Easter traditions and basket stuffers that we can still pull off in these uncertain times.
One of my favorite things about Easter is dying eggs, I've always loved it! For my littles they use Qtips to dip into the dye and create patterns, as well as washable markers, but of course they insist on dunking a few. To help control the mess I lay an old towel out for them, this both protects the table and the eggs. They also direct me in what they want on eggs, I do my best to draw what they ask for and then they dye them - see funky bunny for reference. In addition I make them each an "egg of the year" with accomplishments they've made, things they love, and adjectives that fit them. They love it and love dying their special egg.  I usually do their eggs the night before so they are ready when it's time to dye and they don't have to wait for me to make them. I also have low expectations for how our eggs will turn out. We just go with the flow and hope for the best. 

On Easter morning the stairway is "blocked" with streamers, we leave a bar out for each kid so they can have a snack while they wait for everyone to wake up. No one is allowed to go down until everyone is up.  Once every one is up we start with the egg hunt.  There is a note at the top of the stairs saying how many eggs there are in each color and which color belongs to who, since I do color coded eggs for my kids to keep it fair. The eggs contain money, socks, and small treats. 

Once all of the eggs are found they can get their first basket clue. Baskets are hidden and the kids have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them. They love following the clues and guessing then next hiding spot - it's a great way to draw out the fun.

As for the baskets themselves, I tend to go a bit overboard. I use baskets as an excuse to give them their summer wardrobes, new swimwear, sandals, and other things they may need for summer.

One thing I feel like we always need come spring time are new outside Toys. We love this bubble maker, it works amazingly well. We are also huge fans of water games, so we love these mini Super Soaker and water balloons. My littles also love helping in the garden, so this green toys garden set is super fun. You can't go wrong with classics like a new kite, chalk, and this amazing sky ball - it had the best bounce!
Spring also seems to find us more on the go, so I love adding toys that travel well. I know I've professed my love of Melissa and Doug travel toys many times, they really are amazing! We seriously never leave home without our boogie boards! And no trip is complete in our family without a bag of Tegu Magnetic Blocks.
Spring is also a great time to restock those art supplies. Here are a few of our favorites:
And we can't forget the slime craze. How is that still a thing? But really we love Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty because it doesn't make a mess. It doesn't get stuck to things like most slimes or putties - if you are slime adverse - this is the thing for you! We are also huge fans of the Play Foam for the same reason, it's a great sensory toy that isn't super messy. And of course there's always the classic Play-Doh.

My kids also get a fun toy or two they like, such as Schleich animals and dinosaurs. This bunny hutch is one of my daughter's favorite toys, and all three kids still play with this amazing Trex - who just so happened to be featured on an episode of How It's Made. This year my daughter is getting these Crayola Scribble Scubbies. My oldest son will be getting a lego set.
For the littles we love all things Fat Brain Toys, and these Tommy Eggs are a huge favorite. You can also click here for more of my favorite baby toys. Also depending on the baby's age I like to add a few age appropriate treats or needed items like teethers, and bibs.
What's an Easter basket without a few great treats? We are huge fans of good chocolate, sour candies, and trying fun & unique things. Here are some of our favorites:
And of course, you could always add one of these to the basket like we'll be doing this year.
Yes, you read that right, we have missed having a beloved pup in our house. Our Bailey passed away last May after almost 14 years of being ours, it has been a long 10 months. He lived a long, well lived, well loved life. Knowing we wouldn't have him forever, we have spent the last 3 years researching the perfect dog and breeder for our family and are so excited to have found our match. The littles have asked, begged, pleaded for a new dog weekly, if not daily. We have told them we are getting a puppy, they've seen pictures of what our puppy will look like, but they have no idea that it is happening so soon! We have been discussing names for the past 5 weeks since they were born, and have some pretty good ideas, but haven't landed on the one yet. We cannot wait to surprise them with their new best friend.  An Easter puppy wasn't planned, but it is a perfect serendipitous timing. 

In this uncertain time, I hope you find the time to breath, to meditate, to love, and to celebrate. We are all in this together. With Love, Tiffany.

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