One Year Later.... our reminder of Tropical Storm Irene

One year ago today my toddler was due to have her 1st birthday. In addition to all the normal preparations involving food and decorations we were "battening down the hatches" and fielding cancellations from out of state guests. Hurricane Irene was due to come and given what our town had faced merely from rain in May we weren't taking any chances.

Our town- May 2012
In the midst of decorating cupcakes, we stocked up our water supply and rescheduled my son's flight back to Washington to avoid inevitable cancellations. Where we live we aren't worried about our house, but the road through town tends to flood on both ends leaving the possibility that we won't be able to get in our out for a few days.

A celebration ensued. Cupcakes were eaten. Guests were sent home with food that would spoil if we lost power and we all planned to hunker down through the storm.

Mmm, hurricane cupcakes.

Ready for rain

Boots ready to go.

Have I mentioned I'm a social media junkie? We all breathed a sigh of relief when the storm was downgraded. Then, it happened. From all over the state images started pouring in- of bridges being washed away, cars traveling down rivers, gulleys where roads had been. Questions ensued and twitter had the closest things to answers. We were lucky, although fully prepared the storm spared most of our town. Others were not so lucky. At the time I was traveling for work and had to get very creative with routes in and out of Vermont. Folks lost everything they had and are still recovering. Vermonters came together in a way that is rare and the state truly had a neighborhood feel. And it made me love Vermont even more. But what I love the most about Irene? Meet my hurricane baby:

If you told me last year at my daughter's birthday party that we'd be celebrating her 2nd birthday with a 3 month old I would have called you crazy. She is my happy piece in the sadness of the storm.

20 Chore, 20 Hour Tuesday

Today will go down in my personal history as a huge pain in my rear. I understand this. My son flies back to his dad's in Washington at the crack of dawn Wednesday morning. The nearest nonstop airport is in Boston, 4 hours away and sadly my requests for night flight just didn't work out. So, since I have prior commitments at home for some committees I'm on Tuesday night we will be leaving at the crack of midnight Tuesday to drive down for a 7am flight. And by we I mean me, the boy, and the 3 month old. In theory they'll both sleep on the way down. She'll wake up as I'm checking him in and I can nurse her while we wait for his flight. Then I'll get out of Boston as soon as the flight is in the air, drive an hour to my parents and take a quick nap before heading home. I know you're all extremely jealous.

1. Go do hours at coffee roaster client.
2. Send out pirate press release. Yes, I really just typed that- did I mention I work with a pirate? Don't worry, he's friendly.

3. Pick up paycheck from the center.
4. Pick up farm share.
5. Stop by post office to return PO Box keys & reclaim deposit. (Forgot to get the 2nd key from my husband's set so I'll do this Wednesday afternoon.)
6. Drop off sign up sheet for toddler soccer. (stay tuned on that- I feel that there will be many humorous posts that arise from watching a bunch of knee high screamers running around yelling Mine!)
7. Return library books & pick up son's reading prize. (They were closed when we went by.)
8. Toddler's 2 year checkup.

9. Finish packing my son's bag for Washington.
10. Find his school supply list.
11. Order the missing items on Staples to ship to him there. After 3 failed logins, one computer malfunction and the cart logging me out while I looked for a coupon I give up. This will have to be done later.
12. Pack backpack w/ snacks, electronics, and a sweatshirt.
13. Pack my snackbag for the car.
14. Pack diaper bag for the trip.
15. Find Target gift card and put in car along w/ coupons. May as well take advantage of the NH pass-through.

16. Split up meat in fridge & freeze it.
17. Put cabbage in fridge in downstairs freezer.
18. Bake banana chocolate chip muffins. (They were incredibly popular in our house.)

19. Call & schedule chimney sweep to come in mid-September.
20. Write thank you notes from baby gifts and send the final 3.
21. Take pictures of items to sell on Kid Swap in hopes of uploading them Wednesday morning.

22. Pin Beet Cupcake post.
23. Tweet Beet Cupcake post.
24. Facebook Beet Cupcake post.
25. Post Irene one year later post.

It's a three cup coffee day I think!


Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

"There are beets in these? Really?" That was the overwhelming reaction to the cupcakes I served at my daughter's birthday party this weekend. The next statement, "So that's what you're doing with all those beets!" (I had been posting pictures like this for weeks.)

As part of our CSA share I signed up for the extra cost "preserver" option. I had been getting a lot of "second" beets. That's right, it's not just Old Navy Outlet shirts that are seconds. Some beets are just not as pretty as others and these aren't sold to restaurants. Lucky for me I just puree them and then they look beautiful. All of the above beets were topped & tailed (translation- I chopped the roots and tops off) and then they roasted in the crockpot for a few hours. I pureed them peels and all and measured 12 oz into each freezer bag. Seal them, double checking to make sure the top is sealed, and then spread the bag flat. You can store a ton of them in very little space in the freezer this way. Since they are thin they also thaw very quickly. The cupcakes made from these are moist, gooey and delicious. They are like individual brownies or chocolate cakes.

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups pureed beets (you can use a can of beets & puree them if you'd like- a 15 oz can with a little additional water would do the trick)
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 + 1/8 cup milk (can be replaced w/ non dairy milk for vegan)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips (can be replaced w/ carob chips for vegan version) The chocolate chips add a gooey decadent feel to the cupcakes- reduce the amount if you don't want them as gooey.

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In mixer, mix together beet puree, flour, sugar, cocoa, and milk. (I measure everything out using a 1/4 cup measure- then I use the same cup to "dose" out each cupcake into the pan, only 1 cup to wash then!). Add the salt, soda, and powder and mix. Add the chocolate chips and mix to distribute. The batter will look luscious and red velvet-esque.

Use liners! These moist cupcakes are easiest to store when in liners.
3. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Take out and let them cool. Resist the temptation to eat them all. If you're throwing a monster birthday party for your 2 year old feel free to frost them and give them eyes made out of candy :) They also freeze fantastically and can be pulled out and microwaved for 30-60 seconds for a quick chocolate fix that's chock full of veggies!


No Crumb Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

My kids love muffins, particularly my toddler. If it's in muffin form she'll eat it. I love my kids but I don't love the disastrous crumb graveyards they leave everywhere after eating muffins. Enter my no crumb muffin. Yes, it's a bold statement to make but these muffins bind together so well I've even been known to hand my son one to eat in the car. These muffins are heavier than a normal muffin and have none of the "fluff" of a traditional muffin. That heaviness fills little bellies up and keeps them satisfied for hours.

See, no crumbs- even after gnawing thru one side. Chocolate face on the other hand is another matter.
No Crumb Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 12 large muffins or 18 medium ones

4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup Stonyfield Farm Lowfat Banilla Yogurt (you can substitute your favorite flavor)
2 3/4 cup flour
6 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.
Mash bananas (I was lazy and just whisked them in the mixer. Add in all other ingredients except chocolate chips. Mix until all ingredients are blended. Add chocolate chips and blend until incorporated. Scoop into muffin tins. Fill all the way for 12 muffins. If you fill 2/3 full it will make 18 muffins. They puff up quite a bit.
Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy the easiest banana muffins ever, you can thank me for the lack of crumbs later :) 

Variation: Just made these with blueberry yogurt, cinnamon, and blueberries instead of chocolate chips- still used the banana. They are awesome but turned out a creepy gray color. May use this for Halloween!


20 Chore Tuesday #2

Last week's chore roundup worked out really well for me. I tend to do really well when there is public accountability so here goes again. 20 Chores I'd like to do. I was steaming right along on house stuff Monday until the baby decided not to sleep anymore so they are all moving to Tuesday.

20 chore tuesday


1. 1 recipe blog post (I'm a little behind. We went on vacation this weekend and last week was all prep.) Got a few precious minutes Thursday morning to finish this.
2. Traveling while breastfeeding blog post for TravelingMom.
3. Nursing Bra review for TravelingMom.
4. Montreal post for TravelingMom.
5. Update client website.

Birthday Party
6. Stop wasting time on Pinterest and just choose a darn theme for the toddler's 2nd birthday party.

7. Pick up farm share.
8. Cook a double batch of onion relish.
9. Can & process onion relish.
10. Decide what to do with the bowl of radishes and do it.
11. Peel and top & tail the bag of beets.
12. Slice beets & can them.
13. Pack bag of preserved goods to bring to the farmers this week.
14. Bake 2 loaves bread.

15. Load & run dishwasher.
16. Empty and put away dishwasher.

House cleaning
17. Bring giant rug upstairs to bedroom & lay it down.
18. Empty white dresser we're selling and bring it into the hallway.
19. Bring white armoire into room and hang clothes in it.
20. Vacuum bottom floor.
21.  Clear kitchen counters, wipe them down & reset.
22. Wipe down cabinets in kitchen with wood spray.

Just finished my cup of coffee and crossing my fingers that the baby naps today and the 8 year old is agreeable because some of these will be hard to do with a baby strapped to me.


20 Chore Tuesday AKA The Motivation to Preserve

I'm a fan of Emily over at Joyful Abode partially because I think we're living parallel baby-wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, breastfeeding lives with our matchingly spaced toddlers and babies. Now I have one more reason to love her with this new 20 Chore Tuesday Linkup because let's face it- I sometimes lack motivation.
20 chore tuesday

Here is my list for today:

1. Puree, bag & freeze the 10 lbs of beets from the crockpot.
2. Pickle the 20 lbs of green beans.

3. Hot water process the dilly bean pickles.
4. Empty dishwasher & put away dishes in rack.
5. Clean out fridge so I can fit farm stuff. Finally got this done on Friday.
6. Pick up farm share.
7. Chop 6 lbs onions for onion relish. The baby decided to be cooperative so I did this 1st thing Wednesday morning.
8. Pack farm lettuce into mason jars for this weeks salads.
9. Snap ends off of the 20 more lbs of beans I pick up while husband and I are watching Chopped on Hulu tonight. (Our version of date night :) ) - The beans won't be ready till the end of the week so we'll have to move this to Thursday. Instead we ate ice cream and watched Chopped :)

10. Make more laundry detergent.
11. Do a load of laundry.
12. Fold & put away laundry.

12. Sweep stairs.
13. Sweep and mop entryway. Got the 8 yr old to do this Wednesday morning. Haha! The power of Swiffer love.
14. Sweep upstairs bathroom.Squeezed this in right before my shower after I had my son pull everything up off the floor.
15. Clean toilet. (does pouring bleach in it count? that's all I've done so far.) Managed to get my scrub & clean on pre-shower Wednesday morning.
16. Clean vanity.
17. Clean bathtub.
18. Mop floor.8 yo did this for me after I swept Wednesday morning.

19. Call passport agency and check on son's passport status.

20. Got through office supply stash and cross items we have off of son's required school supply list.

Whew! Good thing I had coffee this morning!


Squash and Cheese, Macaroni's Healthy Cousin

I believe that last week included a holiday known as "National Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day". Even if you don't have a green thumb, zucchini and squash in gardens tend to do what bunnies do- multiply! Then you are left with an assortment of baseball bat sized zucchinis and you're begging folks to take squash home every time they come over. One particularly abundant year I sent our UPS man off with a bag of produce.
This was one day's harvest. I swear they weren't there the day before when I looked!
If you're reading this maybe you were one of the thousands of folks "googling" - What can I do with 15 pounds of squash? Well, the childhood blue box macaroni and cheese got fancied up a bit in our house.  Whether you have kids who don't love veggies or you're trying to cut out pasta, using squash as the macaroni has delicious results.

Ooey Gooey Squash and Cheese
(serves 4 hearty servings)

A glut of zucchini or squash, I used about 2 1/2 lbs- chopped into rounds it was close to 8 cups of summer squash
2 TBS oil (I used olive oil.)
3 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Wash the squash. I leave the skin on otherwise that texture ends up a little- well, squashy- after you cook it. If the squash is large slice it lengthwise and remove the seeds. (Bonus on this preparation is that you end up with elbow macaroni shaped slices.) Slice squash into 1/4" thick slices.

2. In a stockpot heat up 2 TBS oil. Add the squash and saute gently for 3-5 minutes flipping to coat all the slices. Turn the heat down to low and cover. The squash will continue to steam. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

3. In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Measure out your milk. When the butter is melted add the floor and whisk gently to make a smooth paste.
Slowly whisk in the milk to form a roux (basically a white gravy). Add in salt, pepper, paprika, and mustard.

Add the cheese, stirring gently to mix. Let it heat until melted completely.

4. Pour cheese sauce over the squash and stir gently until all the squash is coated in ooey, gooey melted cheese. Serve to a happy family and enjoy!

Note: This is great in the fridge as leftovers for quick kid lunches.


Pineapple Basil Jam

Nothing better than jam and fresh baked bread!

I have a Ball jar problem. I see them in the store and I have to have them. I have stacks of flats in my home and once they're staring me in the face I spend hours in the kitchen playing around with ideas until things work.

This isn't even all of them.

Our farm share has been yielding copious amounts of the most beautiful basil. Now I love pesto as much as the next girl (maybe more, I'm allergic to pine nuts so I have to make my own to ensure it's safe for me) but I wasn't feeling inspired to make some. So I left the basil in the fridge for a few days and was the creepy lady who pulled out the bag occasionally just to sniff it.

I had been toying with the idea of a pineapple jelly when I realized that the flavors would compliment each other. It was a huge hit. Yasmina licked it off of cracker after cracker at dinner and demanded more, I used it to glaze chicken one night, and the cherry on the sundae was that it won both a blue ribbon and a best of show ribbon at our regional fair. (My husband demands that I insert here the fact that I competed against and beat Amish people. Apparently, he is impressed with their jam making skills and this elevates my win.)

She is a big fan of the giant purple ribbon.

I hope you enjoy it! This is actually a great beginner's jam so if you're just starting out try it....

Pineapple Basil Jam
(makes 6 12 oz jelly jars) and a tiny bit extra to go into the fridge for snacking

1 20 oz can of pineapple (you can use crushed or food process rings or chunks)
1 1/2 cups basil, chopped (you can use unpretty basil that has a few spots since you'll be discarding the boiled leaves)
3 cups water
1.75 oz pectin powder (Make sure you weigh this out.)
3 cups sugar

Note: For this recipe you will need prepared canning jars. For instructions on preparing jars for canning visit the Ball website, 2nd question down. You will also need a prepared ladle so keep that in mind and boil it when you do the jars!

1. Boil chopped basil in water for 10 minutes. Take it off the heat, cover &  let it sit for 10 additional minutes. Strain into a bowl discarding the basil and reserving the water. Measure out 2 1/2 cups of the basil water for the jam.

2. Pour can of crushed pineapple into saucepan.
Add the 2 1/2 cups of basil water.

3. Add 3 cups of sugar and bring it up to a rolling boil. A rolling boil means that when it boils and you go to stir it it continues to boil. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to ensure that the sugar gets incorporated completely.

4. Add pectin powder to boiling mixture and stir well to mix in. Boil for 1 minute at a high boil.

5. Remove from the heat and use the wooden spoon to skim the foam off the top of the jam. Discard the foam. Using a sterilized ladle fill the prepared jars leaving 1/4" of room at the top (called headspace). I visualize my pinky finger on it's side as the amount of space I need to leave. There is usually about 4-6 oz extra of jam. I put that in a container in the fridge to eat right away.

I did my 1st batch in big jars, then wised up.
6. Process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove them and put them somewhere where they can sit quietly undisturbed for 24 hours. You may here occasional pinging noises as the jars settle that is okay. The next day make sure all the seals are sucked down and discard anything that did not properly seal. Label and date them and store them for later use. Yum :)