Ready for the First Day of School!

The summer went by way too quickly, and it’s already time for the first day of the 2019-2020 school year! Yesterday was spent doing a few last fun things before we get back to work…playing board games, baking cookies, building a Lego set, and having an Iron Man movies marathon:

Today, on the other hand, was “cleaning day.” We got the school ready (more or less) for another year of learning. Surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last year, just some minor rearranging, which is very unusual for us!

We had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner tonight…ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon, and root beer floats for dessert. We also watched Detective Pikachu, which was a really cute movie, even for someone like me, who isn’t too familiar with Pokemon.

And the outfits are ready for tomorrow morning!

Everything else that needs to be ready for tomorrow is good to go…I put the schultüte together (but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see their contents), organized the bookshelves, and got all the new workbooks sorted out and put on desks. I’m looking forward to beginning our 12th year of homeschooling!

A Story of Flan

Our summer school adventures usually involve cooking of some kind. Actually, that’s one of my favorite parts of summer school. Trying out ethnic recipes, or recipes from different periods of time, or that have to do with specific events…I love an excuse to try something new that we probably wouldn’t eat otherwise, learn some new cooking techniques, and make some family memories.

Since we’re learning about various European cultures this summer, we’ve been trying foods from various countries on The Continent. Tonight our focus was on Spain, with paella for dinner, and flan for dessert. I set out to make the flan yesterday, and while it boiled over in the oven, making the house smelled like burnt marshmallows, it looked just right in the pan. When I went to invert it onto a platter, however, only half of it came out. It didn’t look pretty at all, and you know how they say you eat with your eyes first…plus, I like these special meals to not only be delicious, but to look pretty, too!

So, the children ate messy flan scraps (it did taste good, at least), for dessert last night, and I made a second flan this morning. More burnt marshmallow scent, and this time, even after loosening it with a knife, jiggling it, and putting it in a warm water bath, the flan wouldn’t come out of the pan at all. Not even a tiny little bit.

So, I reached my frustration point. I wasn’t making a third flan, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to have something even remotely nice-looking to present to my family unless I started thinking outside of the box. And that’s when it hit me…I could try to use a biscuit cutter to free individual portions of the flan that might actually look not just presentable, but adorably delicious!

It worked. For reasons I don’t understand, the individual portions lifted out with no trouble…the caramel sauce even came out with them! Actually, they looked far nicer than if I had managed to get the whole flan on the platter in one piece.

So, we tried a new recipe from a country whose cuisine we don’t normally get to enjoy. But we also had a great life lesson about making lemons from lemonade (or mini flans from flan?) and thinking outside of the box when working in the kitchen! What a summer school win!

Tasty Tuesday–Ideas for Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite times of year! My children have come to expect me to tell the story of why Oktoberfest starts in September and to make all their favorite Oktoberfest treats. Here are the recipes I’ve shared over the years…pretty much just sides and desserts for some reason, but those are the most delicious kinds of recipes, right?

  • Homemade Pretzels–This is one of favorite recipes, not just for Oktoberfest, but in general, because everyone gets involved in helping shape the pretzels…we’ve had a lot of fun coming up with unique shapes over the years!
  • Cheddar and Beer Fondue–If you’re looking for a dip for pretzels (or brats, crusty bread, and baby gherkins), this is the recipe you want.
  • Spaetzle–I can make over a dozen batches of this recipe in a single week, because it’s one that everybody loves, and it goes with pretty much anything.
  • Apple Strudel–Technically, this is an Austrian recipe, but it’s still an Oktoberfest favorite around here!
  • Black Forest Cherry Torte–This is one of our all-time favorite cakes…I’ve made it not just for Oktoberfest, but for birthday, too!

What are your favorite Oktoberfest foods?

Christmas Baking 2017

Another Advent and Christmastide has come and gone all too quickly. As always, we enjoyed baking (and eating) a lot of treats along the way!

We didn’t make quite as many cookies this year, but we made all of our favorite kinds…thumbprints in two flavors (raspberry and apricot), chocolate peppermint crunch (those are the ones we didn’t make as many of…I only made about half of what we usually bake), sugar, and gingerbread:

Of course we had lussekattes on Santa Lucia Day!

Cherry coffee cake for Christmas Day morning:

I’ve made Oreo truffles in the past, but I’ve never made an Oreo truffle Christmas tree…pretty and delicious!

I baked three different cakes in about two weeks’ time. Chocolate for Jesus’ birthday, a more formal tuxedo cake for New Year’s, and a Guinness cake for Ryan’s Epiphany birthday:

It’s become a tradition for me to make baklava for Epiphany, too:

And one new recipe for a savory baked good…cheese thumbprints with pineapple jalapeño jelly. That recipe is definitely a keeper!

I’m always amazed by how many baking staples I go through at this time of year, and the kitchen is always busy, and smells kind of like a bakery for weeks on end. I will admit to looking forward to a break from various doughs and batters, though!

Tasty Tuesday–Nutella Pie

Just when you think I’ve run out of new pies to try!

Last year, I found a recipe for a Nutella pie, and Turkey immediately decided he wanted it to be “his” Thanksgiving pie. He liked it so much, he decided he wants it again this year, and I don’t blame him…it’s delicious. Of course, I’ve made my own little tweaks in the meantime, so here is my updated recipe!

For the filling:

  • Pre-made Oreo pie crust
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Beat cream cheese, Nutella, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. In another bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form; fold into Nutella mixture. Add to crust and chill for 30 minutes.

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

In small saucepan, bring the cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; let stand five minutes. Stir until smooth; cool to spreading consistency. Spread over pie; sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts. Chill for at least one hour.

Tasty Tuesday–Funfetti!

You know it’s a HOLIDAY at our house when Pillsbury Funfetti cupcakes arrive on the scene. Even though I do a lot of our baking from scratch, there’s something special about a Funfetti cake with brightly colored frosting and more Funfetti sprinkled on top! I think we’ve now tried all the seasonal varieties…Valentine’s, Spring, Halloween, Stars & Stripes, and the ubiquitous Holiday.

In addition to the seasonal varieties, I’ve made at least one of the other colorful varieties. What I’m really waiting for, though, is the day when they might make “Lucky” Funfetti with bright green frosting and shamrock sprinkles!

Tasty Tuesday–Apples!

The apple dessert contest on Sunday had me thinking…how many apple recipes have I shared over the years? There are actually more than I remembered, and they’re not all desserts…I even have a main course on the list!

How do you like to use apples in your cooking and baking?

The 9th Annual Apple Dessert Contest

At the end of August, I saw a contest that STL Today (the online home of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) was running. They were looking for apple recipes in two categories–pies, and other desserts. I entered a recipe in each category, and promptly forgot about it.

Then while Ryan was out-of-town, I received a phone call telling me that my apple-pumpkin bread had been chosen as a finalist in the dessert category! I was shocked, if only because I had put the contest out of my head, and also excited. Today was the big day (the contest was part of the St. Louis Builders Home and Remodeling Show), so after smelling the bread all throughout church, Sunday school, and choir rehearsal (I kept it with me all morning, because it was just too hot to risk leaving it in the car!), we headed west to the lovely Convention Center in St. Charles.

Now, I make this bread at least once a year in the fall, every year. I have done so for at least a decade. But I was really nervous about baking it yesterday, and I was worried that it was underdone and overdone, all at the same time. I also fussed over the presentation, until I came up with this (which I think looked pretty nice!):

If making the bread wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, waiting through the judging process was a nightmare!

But I had the best cheering section there (thank you family, for making me laugh when I felt like I was going to be sick!), and they were just as excited as I was when I placed second!

Even without the prizes (which were a wonderful surprise!), this was a fun thing to do. One thing you have to say about me…I’m always putting myself out there, and sometimes, like today, it pays off pretty well!