Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge

Who wants to take a ride in the Way Back Machine? 

Growing up, we had gardens for days.  A flower garden in the side yard, vegetable garden in the back yard, fruit trees (and strawberries) in the front yard.  Every year my brother and I got to help pick out what we wanted to plant (I always picked watermelon, pumpkins, and lilies).  And in the summer, before dinner, my mom would send me out to harvest fresh salad ingredients. 

I have fond memories of our garden, and looked forward to one day having one with my kids.  Apartment life was not conducive to gardens.  Even the herbs I tried to grow just didn't thrive.  Of course, it didn't help I stripped them bare pretty quickly.  (I use lots of herbs when cooking).

When we moved to our current house, I really wanted a garden, but there's a reason we nicknamed our home "the Gopher House."   It just didn't seem in the cards.

But then L&O planted a raised bed garden in her backyard a couple years ago.  And it's been VERY successful.  And I've been VERY jealous.  I want her green thumb so badly!  We were chatting last week and I told this to her and she gave me a couple ideas.  Including the fact that her neighbor has a garden in a galvanized steel water trough in his front yard.  Then she sent me pictures. 

I took them to Thatboy and he....immediately shot it down.  No room, where would we put it, not on his precious grass.   I showed him the area I had planned out for it - not on his precious grass - and he still wasn't convinced.  But a trip to the local feed store and he started seeing my vision. 

We also had been talking about a getting a lemon tree for years and years now - since the apartment time.  So as long as we were picking up gardening equipment, a lemon tree made its way into our car too.  Yippee!!!!  The boys helped us transplant it into a pot - so it can come with us wherever we end up.

Then we got to work on the real garden.  It was a multi-day project.  Perfect for the long weekend.  Thatboy drilled holes in the bottom of the trough one day, and the next we filled it!  I gridded it out during naptime, and after the boys came out and each got to take a square.  Thatbaby's pick was carrots, so he got two little squares for those.  He also got to plant our mint (Thatboy's pick - so we could have mojitos this summer).  Thatkid picked "pickles" and tomatoes - both cherry and heirloom.  So he got 3 squares.  Thatboy also picked tomatoes, so we're going to be very tomato heavy if all works out.  The final square went to my pick - lemon cucumbers.  I don't even know what they'll be like, but it sounds interesting!

I'll keep you updated on our little garden's progress.  If all goes well I might be able to convince Thatboy into expanding next year!

The other creation from the holiday weekend is the easiest fudge you will ever make.  If you microwave something, does it even count as cooking?  Microwave chocolate, microwave peanut butter, and let the fridge do the rest of the work.  Gives you more time for outside pursuits!

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge (From Cooking Light)
1 can fat free sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsweetened dark cocoa
1/4 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  1. Line an 8 inch square glass or ceramic baking dish with wax paper.  Place 9 Tbsp milk in a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Add chocolate chips, cocoa, and coffee granules.  Microwave 1 minute or until melted.
  3. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Spread into prepared pan.
  4. Combine remaining milk, peanut butter chips, and peanut butter in a microwaveable bowl.  Microwave for 1 minute or until melted.
  5. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla.  
  6. Spread evenly over chocolate layer.
  7. Sprinkle with peanuts.  Cover and chill 2 hours.  Cut into 25 squares.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

IT'S FINALLY PICNIC SEASON!  'Tis the season for outdoor concerts, movies, and theater!

Except Mother Nature didn't get the memo.

Friday night found us bundled up at Moonlight Amphitheater to watch Classic Albums Live perform Abbey Road.  The band, who hailed for Canada, remarked that it's warmer where they came from than here in San Diego.  Yay May Gray!

I thought this would be a good concert for the boys since they already are REALLY familiar with Beatles music.  In fact, for a while Fool on the Hill was Thatkid's favorite song.

And I was right.  They had a great time dancing along to the music and singing bits and pieces they knew.  Like Maxwell's Silver Hammer.  In fact, I was planning on leaving during intermission, after they played the album, but Thatkid begged us to stay for the second half when they were going to play other non-Abbey Road songs.

The night ended with a resounding version of Twist and Shout, and Thatkid was thrilled to join in on the shouting part. And the twisting part.  Both boys fell asleep on the way home.

This was a pretty successful picnic as well.  The thing that I love about Moonlight Amphitheater is that they open early so you can grab a spot of the grass and eat before the show.  I've upped my game since last year - Thatboy and I munched on salad with lemon garlic shrimp and I cut up a watermelon for snacking.  The boys were less impressive with their selection of peanut butter and jelly and Gusher fruit snacks.  And of course, dessert is a necessity for every picnic.  Thatboy asked me to pick up some chocolate for snacking a couple weeks back, so naturally I grabbed the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joes which are some of the best things on Earth.  But apparently not for Thatboy who said they weren't exactly what he wanted.  No problem, I can turn those things into cookies - or more specifically blondies.  The recipe calls for 4 regular sized peanut butter cups, but I doubled it for the mini guys.  Then threw a couple more in for good measure.

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies (From Cooking Light)
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Combine peanut butter, butter, milk, vanilla and eggs in a separate bowl.
  3. Add peanut butter mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Scrape batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spary.  
  6. Arrange peanut butter cups over batter.  Bake for 19 minutes or until cooked through.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cut into 20 bars.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Roasted Banana Pudding

This weekend was a very important weekend for just about everyone on the face of the Earth - Mother's Day.  It's important because even if you're not a mother, presumably you had one.  And whether or not you're close with your mom, whether or not she was there, it is undeniable that you wouldn't be here if not for her.  It's a day to celebrate the women in our lives who made us who we are - not just the one who gave birth to us.  And my friends and I celebrate each other, because it's also a day to celebrate the women who made us the mothers we are to our own children.

My Mother's Day started off on Friday with the Kindergarten Mother's Day presentation.

They've been planning for weeks.  They greeted all of us moms with songs they had been practicing.

And then we were presented with a "forever bouquet."

Next we were sent to a couple stations to do crafts "with" our children.  Which really entailed me watching my child do crafts.

We sat as they read us the books they had written about us.  Apparently I need to work on not forgetting how much I love Thatkid.  I'm not too worried though since I'm as nice as lions.  I also love that Thatbrother made a couple of appearances.

And then we were given a special gift.  If anyone has any ideas on where or how to display my tile, I'm all ears.

That night, Thatboy also brought me home a special treat.

After being awoke at 5:55am, because Mother's Day means very little to my kids, Sunday morning we headed up to have breakfast with Thatmom.

We made a brief stop on our way to our actual destination.  Thatboy saw a winery and figured, why not?  So we stopped and had a glass as the boys ran around, climbing rocks and exploring a meditation garden.

After a glass, we were on our way to our real afternoon plans.

A camel dairy! 

If you know me, you know I love camels.  So when I saw that the camel dairy not too far away was having an open farm day on Mother's Day, I suggested it to Thatboy, who thought it was a great idea.

We started out by watching the "Animal Show" where we got to meet the farm's resident birds, dogs, and the ambassador camel - Jasmine.

After the animal show it was camel feeding time!  Camels apparently LOVE apples.  So we were each given an apple on a stick and these guys came right up to grab it from us. 

There were rumors about cuddling, but really, once your apples were gone, these guys were not interested in you. 

Thatbaby was too little to feed the camels, they have a 4 and up rule.  But he was not too little to feed the sheep in Sheeptown.  He was pretty cute calling them over and giving them their food.

One of the neat things about the Camel Dairy is that they've got some new baby camels.  The little guy on the left was just a month old.  And his best friend there, on the right is 8 months old!

The 8 month old thought Thatbaby was super neat-o.  He felt the same way.

Before we left, we made sure to get in a camel ride.  Thatkid wanted to ride on his own, which was fine with us.

Thatbaby refused to ride alone.  Or with his brother.  He would only go on with me.

My annual picture with the boys.....not cooperating with my annual picture with the boys.

When the Camel dairy closed, we headed into town for dinner at a place Thatboy had found.  It was one of those places where EVERYTHING on the menu looked amazing.  And we ordered too much food, and had to take a bunch home.  Even Thatkid asked if the restaurant was famous, because "the macaroni and cheese is so good."

Thatboy also got dessert to take home.  He prepped me ahead of time that he wanted to get pudding if they had pudding.  The man loves pudding.  So when he heard that they had butterscotch pudding he was all in.  Unfortunately, it was the most disappointing part of the dinner. Probably because he's used to really good pudding.  And I'm not tooting my own horn - we go to restaurants with really good pudding.  Which is not to say I don't try my hand at pudding every now and again.  Like this banana pudding.  I can't even really take credit for this one - roasting the bananas makes for a great caramelization and adds depth to the flavor.  I don't even have to do much of anything to make it taste delicious!

Roasted Banana Pudding (From Cooking Light)
5 ripe unpeeled bananas
2 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 container Cool Whip
45 vanilla wafers, divided
  1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Place banana on a pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove 3 bananas and cool completely.  Peel and cut into 1/2 inch slices, set aside. 
  2. Bake remaining 2 bananas an additional 20 minutes.  Carefully peel these bananas and place in a small bowl.  Mash with a fork until smooth.
  3. Combine milk and 1/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring to a simmer.
  4. Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk.  
  5. Gradually add hot milk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Return milk mixture to pan and cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.
  6. Add mashed bananas, butter and vanilla, stirring until butter melts.  Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture comes to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  7. Fold half of the cool whip into pudding.
  8. Spread 1 cup custard evenly over the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.  
  9. Top with 20 vanilla wagers and half of reserved banana slices.
  10. Spoon half of remaining custard over banana.
  11. Repeat procedure with 20 wafers, remaining banana slices, and remaining custard.  
  12. Spread remaining half of whipped topping evenly over top. 
  13. Crush 5 wafers, sprinkle over top.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday Runday: Revel Mt. Charleston

On April 4, SDMom texted me asking if there was anyway I'd be able to run a half marathon with her at the end of the Vegas.

Not going to lie, I wasn't super-de-dooper excited about another half because I was fiercely undertrained without enough time or motivation to actually change that.  BUT I've run a half marathon with SDMom being seriously undertrained before, and if you're going to do it, she's the woman to do it with.  Add to that a girls weekend with her?  I signed on.

The day before the race she picked me up and we drove out to Vegas.  Car trips are a true test to friendship, and while I was convinced she would at some point leave me in the desert, she didn't.  The hours passed quickly as we talked and drove.

We got to the Expo with plenty of time to spare. We got our bibs and bags and SDMom greeted every person there, because she knew every person there.  Which is one of my favorite things about her.  I'm not joking she knows everyone. 

A couple photo ops and we were back in the car, heading to the hotel.  We met some of SDMom's friends for dinner, and then tucked in to bed.  We had an early morning ahead of us!

4:30am found us heading out to the buses that would take us part way up Mt. Charleston to the staging area.  There was a brief moment where the bus needed to turn around on a narrow road on the mountain in which I was sure we were going to die, but other than that, we made it with no incidents.

The staging area was dark, and the wind was blowing so much that even though it wasn't cold temperature-wise, we were all freezing.  Which is where I give my kudos to the race planners who were handing out mylar to wrap ourselves in.   They were also playing some great music which pumped up the crowd.  And we bounced around watching the sun rise over the mountains.

When the sun was up, we could see that some of the mountains were still covered in snow.  SDMom mentioned that the year before there was snow at the staging area, so we were thankful for warmer, albeit windy, weather.

The race had a really interesting start.  At the start time, we started heading over to the start line.  Which isn't unusual.  I've run several races where the staging area was a bit away from the start line, and usually they walk you over, then countdown and send you off.  But this race, we walked to the start line and just kept going.

The first 8 miles were all downhill.  And despite the fact we planned on taking it really slow, and walking portions of every mile, we found our time was pretty impressive.  Even with stopping at water stops so SDMom could say hi to friends (EVERYONE you guys, she knows EVERYONE.  I feel like I'm with a celebrity when I'm with her).  This was especially nice because it was starting to warm up.

By the time we got to mile 8, it was hot, flat, with no source of shade.  So our time became MUCH less impressive.

But you know what made it all worthwhile?  Other than the company?  THEY HAD POPSICLES AT THE AID STATIONS!

Not every aid station, but at two of them.  And both times I was more than happy to grab a popsicle and take a little walk break.

When we finished our last popsicle, it was time to run to the finish. 

Where there was a medal waiting for us.

And more photo opportunities.

And beer.

After the race it was time to play.  We headed over to the Vegas sign so we could get a picture with our medals. This was not my first time in Vegas by a longshot, but it was my first time at the Vegas sign!

Then it was lunch and showers and margaritas!

It ended up being a very low key evening, because when you get two old moms together in Vegas, all they want to do is relax without children clinging all over them.  Plus, I have never made any pretense that I wasn't super boring.

Sunday morning we were back in the car and headed home!  Race weekend complete!

The race was a great one if you're looking to PR.  The mostly downhill course made it really easy to get some speed under your belt before the flat area kicks in.  The race organizers threw in some great perks - like popsicles, and pizza and beer at the end, and a hat in the swag bag.   I don't know if I'd run it again, but the company was so good it's not entirely out of the question.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream

Due to a number of events we're participating in this year, we have become members of the Children's Discovery Museum.  We love bringing the boys here, so really the membership was a no-brainer.  There are PBS workshops with their favorite shows, summer concerts, and of course, the museum itself.

One of the perks of membership is special members only events throughout the year.  Last week we went to our first one, the Fruiti Tutti night.  The kids loved that the museum was less crowded than normal and they got to monopolize their favorite exhibits, instead of sharing with other kids.

While Thatbaby went crazy inside with keyboards and floating balls, Thatkid headed outside to the art corner where all sorts of fruit based art projects were set up for the kids to do.

Thatkid decided to make a lemon for himself, and a watermelon for his brother.

Meanwhile, Thatbaby stayed cool at the water table and the garden.

They provided dinner for everyone, or rather, Farmer Boys provided dinner - chicken tenders for this kids, hamburgers, and grilled chicken salads for the adults.  And obviously, fruit.

After dinner, there were fruity sorbets from Escogelato.  We all ended up with Passion Fruit.

A couple days later, we found ourselves back at the museum again - this time for Thatkid's school fieldtrip.

The kids were learning about forces, and the museum provided them with some hands on learning experiences. The kids loved it. 

After they were given free time to run around and play.

The only thing missing was the ice cream.  But we could take care of that at home.  And lemon - in keeping with the fruit theme.  Lemon is the perfect spring flavor, and while lemon sorbet is fairly common, lemon ice cream is a little more unique.  My neighbors brought us over a bag of the sweetest, juiciest lemons, and I'm using them in everything.  The buttermilk helps to add a nice tang, which serves to balance the flavors.

Lemon-Buttermilk Ice Cream (From Cooking Light)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 10 lemons)
2 cups half and half
2 cups whole milk
2 cups nonfat buttermilk
  1. Combine sugar and juice in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves.
  2. Add half and half, whole milk, and buttermilk.  Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container.  Cover and freeze 1 hour, until firm.