Archive | May 2012

Sometimes

Sometimes

 
Sometimes you feel as though you are treading water
  other times you just want to sink to the bottom.

Sometimes you want to acknowledge your regrets
  other times you know others are taking care of that for you.

Sometimes you fight the fight for the right reason
  other times people fight it for you.

Sometimes you want to say “Enough”
  other times you know that someone somewhere may be rooting for you.

Sometimes you want it all to be over,
  other times no matter what promises to God you make, it is taken out of your hands and over before you want it to be.

Sometimes the biggest disappointments are solely on the shoulders of those you trusted most,
  other times the helping hand comes from a complete stranger.

Sometimes you are proud to be you
  other times you are embarassed to be.

Sometimes.

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Strawberries are popping up everywhere!

The promise of summer in our house brings joy to everyone, with its promise of sunshine, laughter, lemonade, barbecues and long days spent outdoors with family and friends alike.  In our house as I’m sure in many…it also brings forth an abundance of strawberries!  Even my one daughter who is allergic to them, will insure her intake of benadryl so she can imbibe in her favourite fruit!  It is a love affair that unlike any other is only fullfilled when the basket of berries is gone, and the last berry has been taken by the quickest draw…I laugh as some days the granddaughter darts in and grabs her reward, proceeding to taunt the Aunts with her beloved treasure, squealing in delight as the chase her around the room, knowing she will have devoured her joy before they can grab her.  The fun is in the chase…

In my home, cupcakes are the answer to every life woe, birthdays, celebrations, just because…and I can ensure their pleasure is enjoyed a little bit longer with a simple recipe.  Decorated with a Strawberry buttercream, and a center of real whip cream…everyone enjoys the first bite into the promise of something fresh and tasty.  

 

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Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

Yellow Cupcakes:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk at room temperature (I used skim)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners or grease the cups with butter or non-stick cooking spray; set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt; set aside

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on high speed for about 3 minutes or until mixture is well combined and thick

Add butter and oil and beat on high until well combined; scrape sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix for another minute

Reduce the speed to low and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and then 1/2 milk; add another 1/3 of dry ingredients and remaining milk; add remaining dry ingredients and remove from mixer immediately

Use a spatula to incorporate any dry ingredients that have are not fully combined; distribute batter evenly among cupcake cups with a ladle or ice cream scoop

Bake in center of oven for 13-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Allow cupcakes to cool for several minutes and then remove from tin and place on cooling rack; set aside and prepare buttercream

Strawberry Buttercream:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1/2 cup strawberry jelly

1 cup powdered sugar

Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on high speed for several minutes until butter is light and creamy

Add jelly and beat on high speed for one minute; scrape the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional minute

Add powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined; increase speed of mixer to high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy

Fill your piping bag with whip cream and insert into cupcake, so that you can fill with whip cream, place a half strawberry and then pipe or spread your buttercream onto the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Bite and enjoy!  Summer is here!

Saving yourself in 31 degree weathersummer

Summer weather has arrived…and I say bring it!  I love the sun shining, the heat, the tans…yes I am a bad person, I like to be golden…not burnt, not dark brown but golden.  Like a perfectly roasted marshmallow!  

I am excited at the sounds of laughter in the yard, children running up and down the street, and the smells of flowers in bloom. The thought of coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, and meals made to be eaten outdoors.  Summer bring froth the promise of beach trips, camping, fires and roasted marshmallows.  Cold drinks and freezies…this is the time of year that takes us back to our childhood.  We can smile at the memories we ourselves had and the ones we share with our children.

This summer I plan on making a lot of potato salad and light meals, cool but healthy at the same time.  My favourite dinner is baked ham and salads…the aroma is amazing, its easy and you can feed a family of five for less than 4.00 per person!  Served with refreshing Lemonade!

Perfect Lemonade Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup for more tang to your tastebuds)
  • 1 cup water (for the simple syrup)
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 to 4 cups cold water (to dilute)

1 Make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely.

2 While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 to 6 lemons, enough for one cup of juice.

3 Add the juice and the sugar water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. If the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.

Serve with ice, sliced lemons.

Yield: Serves 6.

 

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Life beyond a book…One page at a time

Sometimes…I wonder if it may not benefit us, to step back and ask ourselves…what would I do if I was the one who felt they were wronged or being replaced?..Give ourselves an honest answer, understanding we may not like it then move forward from there. Not every mother is out to get someone, out to banish the stepmother into another dimension, or out to make their ex husbands lives a living hell…it does happen yes, it has happened…however I alone   am in control of how I move forward from here.

Understanding that over the past 25 years (OMG), there have been moments of clarity, moments of regret, and moments where I wished the earth would crack and swallow the brats and no I do not mean my children…I also know as I’ve matured and lived this life, that no amount of education, preparation or imagination could have ever prepared me for…nor made me into the the parent or person I am today…parent in the form of step, bio and Court appointed. 
Yes my marriage failed, but it failed because I was a naive young woman who thought I could save the world…not realizing I may have to save myself when the time came. In a divorce there is always another side to the story…the wife, the husband, the child..and the unmitigated truth that lies in between the biases, hurt, anger, loss, grief and selfishness.
What I know to be true as a 45 year old, is far from that of a 20 year old.

Person I am in the form of if i was asked to describe myself…my short answer would be Divorced, Educated,Imaginative, Creatively Sarcastic Mother of Many, Family orientated, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, and Mamo, an Occasional screw up, Selfless yet selfish at the same time, Romantic…did I mention Creatively Sarcastic?

That would be my short description, yet is does not define who I am, or who I have become.  That alone is based on life experiences, events and education along the sometimes crooked path.  Who I am is based upon a variety of life experiences, lessons learned both good and bad, and events that I have had the pleasure of taking advantage of throughout the past 45 years. (If you ask me I will reply with a quick smile that I am 39.95 plus shipping and handling…taxes go up every year and so does shipping and handling!)  I am who I am based on tears, laughter, angst, anger, grief, drama, peer pressure, marriage, child birth and death.  I am not perfect, I am not imperfect…I am a person with feelings, thoughts, emotions, biases and beliefs.  I can be opinionated, I can be hyper, full of joy, and full of sadness sometimes all at the same time…but each time is a lesson learned, a page turned in this book that is my life.

I have wasted time in this life carrying baggage that was both mine and not mine to carry.  I have embraced new experiences, and for the sake of sanity abandoned some…but at no point have I ever stopped and said “I give up”.  I have opened doors to new experiences, and likewise I have closed some on the memories that just lead towards a dark place I chose not to go towards.  My children, all of them…from my stepdaughter right down to my youngest have taught me lessons along the way.  My ex husband in his own way taught me things that I never believed possible…and there are days I will laugh when I find myself caught in the middle of doing something, cursing him and his head full of ‘useless knowledge’.  I kid with my children that the neon sign on my front door saying Drop your child here is seen by everyone but me…yet they shake their head, and trust me when I open that door and offer what help we can.  I find that although it may involve stress, angst and tears…in the end it is one person that needed a hand, and I did what I could.  I have taught my children that buying the homeless man in McDonald’s a meal because he is sitting there looking miserable as they enjoy themselves…is the right thing to do, and they are proud when they share the memories of baking, cooking, wild water fights, sleepovers, tents in the living room even though they know I will be up in the morning cleaning like a fiend.  The pocket change spent as we share a treat from that infernal Ice cream truck (someone tell me WHY he comes at 5 pm?)…sometimes it is OK to have dessert first!  I have taught them that it is OK to talk to one another even if I may not be talking at the time…I have taught them, that no matter what the door will never be closed, the book will never stop turning pages, and the people that touched our lives in a positive or negative way…left an opportunity to teach us one more thing.  I have been adamant in my educating them on not choosing their friends based on sexual, religious, financial or racial differences…ignorance starts at home and grows outside of it.

One day the children will have all moved out, even though they swear they are staying til they are 40…the older one have moved out, moved on and are creating their own footprint.  They will have their own stories to tell, their own events that shape who they are, as previous ones shape who they are right now…and I will sit back, smile and watch as the story unfolds One page at a time, because although my role as their parent will never cease, it will be my joy to share in their adventure.

 

 

MMMMmmmmm Beef and Barley Soup (Even the kids will love)

Sometimes its the simplest things that satisfy the most!   These days, that simple little thing is my crock pot!  I can get up before my granddaughter, put on a pot of coffee, assemble what I need and then start my day…because by then she has realized I am up and she “needs me”.  After a minor break as I get her up, dressed and ready, she in her apron as my helper, ‘we’ put on dinner.  Funny enough she is a great helper, far surpassing that of her mother or Aunts before her.  Her patience in the kitchen is welcoming as we chat and bring together the final meal of the day.  I have learned so much from her, as she shares that ants do not like carrots, rabbits are her friends and celery is forever the enemy…LOL!  This is our time, sometimes…I am alone, especially if it involves spices, but she is my squishy…she loves to get her hands in there when I am squeamish…and who am I to argue ;).

Her favourite thing to ‘pot’ is soup. She loves to stack things in the crock pot ( note to self…always check pot before adding liquid, lego does NOT go in the soup).  My favourite thing is to make sure the kids are eating healthy, as I struggle to lose weight…Beef and Barley soup does the trick!  It is filling for me, healthy fro them, and shhhhhh don’t tell them, but it meets all four food groups.  I can serve it with a salad or with warm cheddar biscuits, and no one complains.  If I had only know this when the kids were smaller!

Here is one of our favourite recipes, she said we can share 🙂

1 1/2 lb beef stew meat
3  medium carrots, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
1  large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2  cloves garlic, finely chopped
2/3  cup  frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
2/3  cup uncooked pearl barley
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon pepper
1     can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
5 1/4  beef flavored broth (two 32-oz containers)
1     cup  frozen sweet peas, thawed
  • Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In cooker, mix all ingredients except peas.
  • Cover; cook on Low heat setting 9 to 10 hours.
  • Stir in peas. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 20 to 30 minutes longer or until peas are tender.
  • You can add the peas while you are whipping up the ever so easy Bisquick cheddar biscuits
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Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake bars

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars

  • Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars Recipe

 

There’s something dreamy about this cheesecake bar — maybe it’s the soft yellow hue of the lemony cheesecake against the dusky blue of fresh blueberries or maybe that soft buttery top. You could say it’s the zing of bright lemon or maybe the union of a buttery graham cracker crust against luscious and sweet cream cheese.

Whatever it is — it just plain works, and my granddaughter and I are able to agree this recipe combines her LOVE of blueberries with my taste for lemon beautifully.  Also, a little goes a long way towards satisfying your craving fro cheesecake, so I don’t feel guilt over breaking my diet.  I found it originally off of Betty Crocker, and llike most things Betty it has become a favourite in my house.

You really can’t start any cheesecake bar without making the perfect graham cracker crust. Crumbled up graham crackers, sugar, melted butter and lemon zest is all you’ll need. We use our food processor twice for this recipe, something that to be honest, we rarely do. We usually go the appliance-free route because we hate doing dishes, but in this case, it’s crazy easy when you use that food processor! If you don’t have one, though — add the graham crackers to a plastic bag, find something heavy and bash the heck out of them until fine crumbs then you can just stir everything else in with a spoon.

The base gets thrown in then patted down into a baking pan and baked just until it toasts. Then, you can make the luscious lemony cheesecake filling!

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars 2

Cream cheese, eggs, sugar as well as lemon juice AND zest come together for the filling. We rarely use citrus juice without using the zest these days — you can add so much flavor with that zest. It’s heart breaking to see others throw it out!

If you’re like me and are a zest lover — buy fresh citrus and give them a wash just to make sure nothing funky goes into your dessert. I find working with lemon at room temperature gives you that nice tang in flavour.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars 1

Give the food processor a quick rinse and use it for the second time to get our filling super smooth. If you don’t have a food processor or you just don’t feel like pulling it out from behind everything else in your pantry, you can totally use a hand blender.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars 3

After a few pulses, you’ll be left with a light yellow creamy filing (so pretty). Then, pour that on top of the baked crust, top with fresh blueberries and finish everything off with one of our favorite things — streusel. How can you go wrong with butter, sugar and flour?

Bake then allow to cool — in fact, if you’re okay with a little extra waiting time, once cool throw the whole pan into the freezer for 30 minutes to really firm up. This way, you can cut perfectly even cheesecake bars for when you want to present as a gift or during a dinner with friends.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars 4

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 9
These cheesecake bars are a dream. The lemony cheesecake matches perfectly with fresh blueberries and that buttery streusel really makes everything work. If you can’t find fresh blueberries, try ripe red raspberries or even blackberries. I prefer to stick to fresh berries for this, not frozen, since I like how the fresh berries stay intact while baking.When making these cheesecake bars, you really want them to be cold before cutting, so there is some time spent chilling the baked cheesecake.  As stated before, you can do the following to speed things up a bit, place the cheesecake into your freezer for 30 minutes instead of the refrigerator for 1 hour before cutting into bars.

Ingredients
  • For the Crust
  • 9 graham cracker rectangles
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • For the Cheesecake Filling
  • 2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • For the Streusel Topping
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Method
  1. Heat oven to 325°F then lightly spray an 8- or 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease with butter or oil.
  2. If you have a food processor, add graham crackers, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to it then cover and process until fine crumbs form. Add the melted butter then cover and process with until the cracker crumbs are evenly moistened.
  3. If you do not have or want to use a food processor, add graham crackers to a plastic bag then use something heavy such as a pan or rolling pan to bash the crackers until fine crumbs form. Then, add crumbs to a medium bowl along with 2 tablespoons of sugar, lemon zest and melted butter. Stir until the cracker crumbs are evenly moistened.
  4. Press graham cracker crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan and bake 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool 10-15 minutes.
  5. While the graham cracker base cools, make the cheesecake bar filling: If using a food processor, wipe it with a paper towel to remove any crumbs from earlier then add cream cheese, eggs, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Cover then process until smooth and creamy.
  6. If you do not have or do not want to use a food processor, use a hand blender to blend cream cheese, eggs, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar until smooth and creamy.
  7. Pour cheesecake filling over crust, and then top with blueberries.
  8. Make the streusel topping by adding brown sugar, flour and cold butter to a medium bowl then use a fork or your fingers to mix until crumbly, and then sprinkle over filling.
  9. Bake cheesecake 35 to 40 minutes or until topping is lightly browned and center is almost set (center should jiggle only slightly when moved).
  10. Cool 1 hour on at room temperature then refrigerate about 1 hour or until chilled. Cut into 9 bars.