Lucky New Year

Although we didn’t succeed in eating any black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, 2014 is starting out to be a pretty lucky year for us! On Sunday we stopped by Earthfare (our favorite grocery store) to check out their natural health fair, including vendors, samples, and a drawing. And later that afternoon we got a call telling us that we had won the grand prize in the drawing! It’s a basket full of natural health goodies and $100 Lululemon gift card. We were beyond surprised!

20140124-213137.jpg Also, I didn’t win it, but I was able to get a belated Christmas present of an iPad Air, which I consider pretty lucky! Matt and I got our iPad 2’s the day they came out a few years ago, and I use mine for everything. When we were in Norway last year my iPad had a very unfortunate encounter with the real tile floor in our apartment which cracked the screen. Rather than pay to replace the screen (which is very pricey) we decided to wait and see about getting a new iPad when the next version was released. And here it is! It’s sooo much lighter than my old one and the retina display is incredible. I wasn’t really a fan of the Smart Cover color options this time, so I went with this neat origami case from moshi that works in much the same way.

20140124-215028.jpg It also has a translucent hard shell on the back for added protection against tile floors.

And in case you’d like to know, the other two big presents I got for Christmas were these awesome Keen boots. They’re so awesome, in fact, that I’m pretty sure I’ve worn them on every outing except once since Christmas. And that was the day it was so unseasonably warm that I wore my Toms without socks.

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…and the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer. It was a complete surprise, and I was so excited! I tried it out a few weeks ago with a pumpkin frozen yogurt recipe using one of the ten (!) cans of pumpkin purée that I made from just the two pumpkins from my garden. It turned out pretty good, and I can’t wait to try more recipes.

P.S. Finally took the ornaments off the Christmas tree today. Yay, me!

Happy New Year!

Hope your holidays were as much fun as ours. Now that we’re back from our Christmas travels, I thought I would share with you some of the things we made to give as presents this year.

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Peppermint bark, roasted maple pecans, and pumpkin mini loaves.

I’ve been sort of obsessed with peppermint bark this winter, but I had never tried making it before. Turns out you shouldn’t use all that peppermint dust from the crushed candy canes on the top since it forms sort of a solid, not so pretty surface…

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Oh well. It still tasted good. And the super cute Martha Stewart box certainly didn’t hurt either.

The maple pecans are super easy to make. Matt even made some himself earlier this year (and that’s saying something). You can find the recipe at Vegetarian Times if you want to try it out.

The pumpkin bread is something that I’ve been making for breakfast (in muffin form) since the fall. I made the less healthy, more dessert-like version for gifts, but here’s the recipe that I made more suitable for an everyday muffin.

First you need: a pumpkin! This is the other half of the one I used to make the herb roasted winter vegetables.

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Making your own pumpkin purée is really easy, cheaper than buying canned pumpkin, and also a great way to put your fall decorations to use. The first step is to stick the pumpkin in the oven at 400 degrees for 1-2 hours. After it’s cooled, scoop out the stringy stuff and seeds (and roast them later!). I’m not sure if regular pie pumpkins work this way, but most of the skin peeled right off of my decorative pumpkins after roasting them. Then chop the pumpkin up, purée it in a food processor, and tada!

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I put mine in containers to freeze for future muffins. Those Ball freezer jars on the right are my favorite, because they hold the same amount as a normal can.

Mixing up the muffins only takes about 10 minutes. Be sure to mix the dry and wet ingredients separately before combining them, since too much stirring the end product make for not as tender muffins.

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Fill your cooking spray coated muffin pan about 3/4 full of batter.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, and enjoy! As an added bonus, one muffin will knock your vitamin A for the day out of the ballpark.

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Here’s the whole recipe. It took me a while (like, since October) to come up with the final version, so I think I can confidently call them “perfect”. The perfect balance of healthy and delicious.

Perfect Pumpkin Muffins

Dry ingredients:
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon sodium free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Wet ingredients:
15 ounces pumpkin purée (of course you can use the canned version if you weren’t feeling so adventurous!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Whisk together wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined.
4. Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full).
5. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for regular muffins, 15-17 minutes for mini-muffins.

Christmas music marathon!

Or so I like to refer to this annual weekend. When you’re a musician, the weeks leading up to Christmas are not only the most wonderful time of the year – they’re also the most busiest time of the year. We’re currently about at the halfway point for our music marathon, which includes:

(last) Sunday: Church Street UMC rehearsal for the Lessons and Carols service
Monday: Knoxville Choral Society rehearsal for the Clayton Holiday Concerts
Tuesday: KCS dress rehearsal with the KSO for the Clayton Concerts
Wednesday: Church Street UMC rehearsal for Lessons and Carols
Thursday: KCS dress rehearsal with the KSO for the Clayton Concerts
Friday: Clayton Concert
Saturday (today): First Methodist Oak Ridge rehearsal for their Christmas service (our friend Andrew hired us to sing with his choir there), back to back Clayton Concerts
Sunday: Lessons and Carols (both services), Clayton Concert, FUMC Oak Ridge service
Monday: FUMC Oak Ridge service

We have dinner provided in between the two Clayton Concerts today, so now we’re just waiting around for the second concert to start. Wish us luck!

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