Podcasts and Netflix Days

Well it’s still winter here but with February winding down we are certainly edging closer to spring! As snow continues to blanket every inch and corner of the yard and slippery ice lines the driveway, it doesn’t leave many outside activities to do. There are outside sports such as walking, ( with careful watch of ice), snowshoeing and hiking. With that said, I must get snowshoeing!I have a pair in the garage but haven’t been at it this year or last.

Check out my podcast library for some ideas! It’s free with the Podcast app.

Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts such as Suzy Orman, the Financial whiz, the Goop Podcast with Gwyneth Paltro, and a few Homesteading podcasts. Listen to Simple Farmhouse Life with Lisa Bass, Old Fashioned on a Purpose with Jill Winger and Live Simply with Kristin Marr. They all present handy and interesting podcasts about cooking, planning, being frugal, canning, etc. I’m not a homesteader but I do live in a country home in a rural region of northern New Hampshire. I try to be frugal, plan my meals and costs according to supermarket sales and buy local meat when I can.

This is an old picture of me relaxing. I sure do miss that kitty Katie!

It’s a good season to watch Netflix as well. Tom and I have watched the first three seasons of Outlander and the fourth season on a Netflix dvd ( sent in the mail). We also watched Yellowstone with Kevin Costner. This series reminds me of the 80’s classic Dallas, about a turbulent family who are ranchers who fight, cheat, brand and even kill their hired help. Even though it sounds rough, it’s an entertaining show. Your guy seeking tv adventure will enjoy it!

If you’re looking for sentimental and feel good programming, check out Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings. It’s a season of mini stories about life, love, marriage and forgiveness. The mini season Virgin River is really good too! It features a young nurse relocates from busy LA to a rural small town in Northern California. Alexandra Breckinridge is outstanding and you may recognize her from playing Sophie on This is Us.

Other Netflix shows to watch are:

Eat Pray Love

When Calls the Heart

Holiday in the Wild

An oldie but goodie chick flick, The Notebook

I hope it’s just over a month until our snow melts and I post pictures and thoughts about outside, gardening and of the backyard.

What are you watching while experiencing cabin fever?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💜

Stretching for Sanity

It’s my latest love. It feels good from my head to my toes. It relaxes my body and settles my mind. My muscles flex and stretch. Stretching is pretty much a part of my exercise routine everyday. The Pilates on dvd, my athletic weights work- out on dvd all include sessions of stretching as a warm- up and cool down.

Everyday I challenge myself how I can incorporate more stretching my body into the day. Here are some ways I stretch while doing tasks:

While brushing my teeth I squat up and down squeezing my thighs, inner thighs and buttocks. It feels good to stand on my tippy toes and go up and down.

When I’m doing cooking pots and pans ( that I don’t put in the dishwasher) I stretch one leg at a time, kicking out.

In the morning when I’m blow drying my hair I stretch one leg at a time on the window sill and feel the muscle burn. It’s a great feeling!

You can simply stretch with the use of a chair!

The more I breathe deeply and stretch…the more I feel alive! It does my body good as well as my emotional well being. By working all my muscles, I’m investing in my health. After all I’m 50 now and it’s my obligation to myself to use what I’ve got. Want to know what’s crazy? I am moving more than I ever did in my twenties! I didn’t eat healthy in those days nor did I take care of my emotional well being. I would say I feel the best I’ve ever felt, simply because I’m doing the hard work!

My collection of exercise dvds

I’m thankful that I browsed through different exercise dvds such as Denise Austin’s Pilates and Ageless with Kathy Smith. I’ve also checked out Jillian Michaels on YouTube. I think variety is key to staying true to routine. Otherwise boredom kicks in and hearing and seeing an exercise routine for years gets old. I’m sick of one exercise dvd I’ve practiced on and off for fifteen years. It’s like playing a broken record…too much predictability, I know what the instructor is about to say and honestly I’m ready to move on. That’s okay…as I’ve found other dvds and videos to challenge myself.

If you’re craving a body stretch, start small. Try stretching while doing the dishes or brushing your teeth. Stretch before you go to bed or just after you wake up. Moving your body will make you feel flexible and so much better. Go to a yoga class or look up a video on YouTube. Trust me, it works and gets addicting as you increase it. It’s great for your emotional well- being as well.

Baking with Coconut Oil

As most of you must know by now, I love to bake! I live in the perfect region to do this, the Northeast. The seasons Fall and Winter host ample time to run the oven as the temperatures are cooler then. Running the oven helps heat our kitchen as well. I don’t bake as often in the summer unless it’s a rainy cool day or early in the morning.

About a year and a half back I read somewhere how bad Canola oil is for your health, my primary staple along with butter in my baked goods. After researching other options I decided to try using Coconut Oil. I found the cheapest options at Wal-mart just under $10 for a big jar. Then it was time to experiment and use it in recipes.

Early on I discovered that simple putting it in recipes from the jar wasn’t going to work smoothly. It’s a thick shortening like state and doesn’t cream well. Simply by trial and error I learned that melting it in a small pan before adding it to recipes did the trick. It adds a slight coconut flavor in goods, sometimes noticeable and others not. I recommend you to try it if you dislike coconut. My son Dylan doesn’t like coconut but enjoys my baked goods with it. Experiment and see the results.

I keep my Coconut Oil for a few months. Once it starts to smell rancid I throw it away. My latest jar I’ve had for awhile and it has kept well in the cool cupboard.

Try Coconut Oil in crepes and pancakes, cakes and cupcakes, zucchini breads and cookies and bars.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ☺️

Own Your Story

Presently I’m reading Michelle O’Bama’s autobiography Becoming. It’s on my Kindle, not my favorite way to read but it’s convenient. My old fashioned nature loves the crinkle of the paper pages and the hard binding as I read. But I’ll go with the times and sometimes read on my i-pad.

In the first few chapters O’Bama pens that we should all own our story. For you’ll always have it and no one can take it away. I know I’ve heard this before in different words and by someone else. Reading this recently was a great reminder to me that I am proud of my story, whatever has happened to me from the time I was a child to now is totally mine. I believe that everything that has transpired in my life has been for good reasons.

Let me ask you this…are you proud of your story? Has it molded you into the person you are today? Probably. If you’re not happy with what has happened in your life or who you really are you can change your narrative. You are the author, the person who can control how it goes.

I’m enjoying this autobiography. So far it describes her childhood and family as she grew up on the south side of Chicago. I look forward to hearing about her married life and of her daughters. I would recommend this book for a fresh look at Michelle O’Bama’s life.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

Baking and Hiding Treats!

Featuring Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

My healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies made with banana

Lately I have a problem. A sweet problem, that is. I want desperately to bake sweets to please my family and co- workers, yet the temptation that goes with having goodies in the house is too much for me. ( especially around the holidays) I make my husband hide the air tight cookie container but then he forgets where he has hidden it! Sounds like something I would do!

 

Once it gets frigid here with a blanket of snow everywhere there is a comfort of an oven baking. It warms the whole kitchen with a nesting glow and the scent of fresh baked goodies wafts throughout the house. I tend to bake with candles lit and my music playing in the background. I’m an old school baker as I wear my apron, use wooden spoons yet with a modern twist with the use of my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.

 

Here is a list of cookies and bars I enjoy to make.

  • M&M cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms ( with a Hershey’s kiss)
  • Lunch Lady Brownies
  • Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

Here is my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies recipe that I make often. They are delicious and are hard to eat just one! This isn’t the recipe made with banana but I’ll try to share that soon. 

The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • You will need :
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats, not instant
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional
  • 1 cup heaping semi- sweet chocolate chips

Combine egg,butter,sugars and vanilla in mixer. Beat on medium speed for four minutes until creamed and combined. Stop and scrape the sides of the mixer. Add oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, optional salt until just combined, about a minute.

Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add chocolate chips and beat until combined.

Using a large cookie scoop form equal sized balls and flatten slightly on cookie pan, about two inches apart. If you wish strategically place a few choc chips on each mound. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 11 minutes or until edges and top are set. Don’t overtake as cookies firm up as they cool. Cool on rack. Can be kept in airtight container for a week and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

I hope you will try this recipe. You can make it gluten free by using gluten free flour like oat flour. It may change the consistency but they will be amazing!Happy baking, my friends.

As I close this post I want to focus on positive thinking and faith. If you are going through troubles right now, please remember turning your thoughts ( and praying too if you practice that) to positive and uplifting ones, it will help. When I experienced health troubles for a few months I prayed for strength but acceptance as well. Any bad experience in your life is meant for a lesson. It’s power can build you up, to a stronger person with a new appreciation of all the wonders in life. Have faith that crooked roads lead to beautiful peaceful pastures! 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😘

Almond Butter Brownies, Gluten Free, Delicious!

This is my sweet sister- in- law Bev’s almond butter brownies. She found the recipe online somewhere and made these for our family Thanksgiving dinner. They are gluten free and healthy, using maple syrup instead of sugar but most importantly they are delicious! Even both my sons gobbled them up, convincing me to bake them for Christmas!

You will need:

  • 1/4 c. and 2 Tbls. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. Soft almond butter
  • 1/2 c. and 3 Tbls. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats crushed or I used 1/3 c. Oat flour. You can use almond flour instead if you wish
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease or line a 8 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes and let cool for an hour. Can be refrigerated for up to a week. Don’t overcook. These are soft, rich in flavor and fudgy. Delicious!

An up close photo of the last brownie!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕

Cookie Day 2019

A few years ago

Every year my mom, sister and niece gather with me to celebrate the holidays. Our true intention is to create a way to connect over a busy few weeks of the holidays. We soak it all in in one Saturday afternoon, gazing at our Christmas tree and decorations, toasting to our kinship and time together and lastly but not least, we bake cookies.

In previous years we have all brought ingredients to mix and bake one type of cookie. I’ve made peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate crinkles and cherry chocolate cookies in the past. Now that we’ve mastered this tradition we have gotten smarter. The three of us mix the dough ahead and bring to bake them together. This saves time and space, for four busy bakers in one kitchen can get confusing.

The last several years us girls held cookie day at my house. This year we had it at my sister’s new home about 45 minutes north of me. My mom met me at my house with all her goodies and we packed my car for the ride.

This year’s cookie day toast

My niece Ella Kate rolled out sugar cookies playfully while we listened to Christmas classics such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. We rolled and we laughed. We taste tested and reminisced of days of old when we were little girls at Christmas. My mom made coconut macaroons with a new twist, a plopped Hershey’s chocolate kiss on top. I made peanut butter blossoms with kisses. I designated Ella as my helper to unwrap all the kisses so that when the cookies were done we could quickly press them on each treat. One year I messed up by not preparing them ahead and in the time it took to unwrap them, the cookies started to cool and the kisses didn’t melt and stick. Take my advice, do the prep ahead of unwrapping so once the cookies come out of the oven, the kisses are ready!

We were all having such a good time baking, decorating and talking, I forgot that I had another bowl of chocolate kisses and started using my mom’s. The bowl was hidden among other plates and bowls and I discovered them after I used my mom’s! I easily get side tracked in a hoopla of fun but live and learn! No harm done.

While I’m talking about Christmas cookies I wish to share an awesome yummy cookie recipe I found on tv. For a few weeks I was hooked on watching Giada’s Holiday Handbook, watching her craft holiday treats for her family and friends. I jotted down a few recipes including her Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, little light whoopie pie like cookies with a peppermint filling inside. I made them for my family and co- workers and they were a hit!

  • Giada’s Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

You will need:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate ( cooled a bit)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. Nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt, I used nonfat
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

For peppermint frosting:

  • 2 sticks ( 1 c ) softened butter
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • dash salt
  • 8-10 peppermint patty candies chopped

Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients. Gradually fold in dry ingredients to the wet mixture. It will resemble cake batter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 F. Drop tablespoonfuls if dough, five across and 3 down on a standard baking sheet. Bake about 9 minutes.

Cool on rack. Meanwhile mix frosting together. Once cookies are cool, add filling on one cookie and sandwich with another. Can be refrigerated or kept in a sealed plastic container.

You can freeze any leftover frosting for another time. I tried it and it was delicious once I thawed it out.

Serve with pride and expect to have an empty serving platter after. They are delicious!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul😘

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

This is from the Rachel Ray magazine but I’ve adapted the recipe to be gluten free.

In autumn I get my trusty comfort food recipes out of my cookbook binder. Many recipes I have made and baked over the years, mostly by season. In the spring around Easter I make chewy lemon bars and in the summer I bake strawberry angel food cupcakes and chocolate zucchini bundt cake. Come winter it’s time for delicate and sweet Christmas cookies, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, homemade pizza, and my father- in – law’s beef stew. Now that fall has come I’m immersed in making apple crisp, pumpkin pancakes and brownies, crockpot baked beans and caramel apple cupcakes.

Years ago when the boys were little, we made caramel apples with the popsicle wooden sticks in them. We would roll them in chocolate chips, peanuts or coconut. Most of the time we made them around Halloween. Several years ago I was getting the Rachel Ray magazine, where I found some recipe keepers and good ideas. One day I found this delicious caramel apple cupcake recipe, reminding me of those caramel apples we made years ago. I baked them right away and everyone loved them! Now every October I make them at least once.

A look at my fall kitchen

This recipe I’ve adapted to be gluten free made with gluten free Bob’s all purpose baking flour. It’s appropriate for people who are watching gluten but it doesn’t compromise taste.

You will need:

1 1/4 cup flour ( I use Bob’s Gluten free all purpose flour)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 c melted coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla ( I use pure )

3 cups chopped apples

For topping:

1 1/2 cup unwrapped caramels

1 Tbl heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin pans or line with cupcake liners. In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. ( I mixed the dry ingredients in my mixer) In a separate bowl mix sugars and eggs until smooth. Stir in coconut oil and vanilla. Gradually combine dry and wet ingredients. Lastly gently add chopped apples. Spoon batter into muffin wells. Bake until golden about 25-30 minutes.

While the cupcakes bake, make the topping. Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small pan on medium heat on the stove. Stir often until melted. Once cupcakes are done and cooled, frost with caramel topping. Store at room temperature or in refrigerator.

 

 

Forgive my blurry photo but trust me, they are so so good!

These are messy but are delicious and okey gooey! In one day a dozen of them turned into 5! Eat them with a tall glass of milk or almond milk!

Happy Fall to y’all! I hope you are baking to your hearts content or doing what you love this season!

All My Best,

Mary 😄

Netflix Binging Recommendation

Recently someone recommended Outlander, a mini- series on Netflix. I started watching one afternoon while Tom was hunting. It took just a few scant minutes to become hooked…I absorbed the beautiful scenery, the costumes from the 19th century and a refreshing air of adventure drew me in. It starts out slow and sets the scene for the story. Hang in through the first few episodes. Picture a married British combat nurse during the post World War 2 era. All I say ( without giving too much away ) is that she goes to an ancient site where she slips back in time to the age of 1743. There her life takes a swift turn in the Scottish Highlands with the McKenzie clan. It’s riveting, exciting, has sexy scenes and more!

Watch Outlander and try not to get hooked! I can’t wait to turn Netflix on now…to fill up on the scenery and adventure! It’s simply wonderful and a vacation back from your armchair!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

It’s All About Tomatoes!

Last night we had a hard frost here in northern New Hampshire. Despite the glittery ice frosting the plants in the garden as well as the flowers in the window boxes, stark reminders of the growing season lie on the kitchen counter, fresh garden tomatoes. Red ripe juicy globes await to be roasted into sweet caramelized sauce. An overflowing bowl of more tomatoes will be simmered slowly into a thick spaghetti sauce for pasta.

Tomatoes ripening

Every late September into early October, I allot my weekends to put up my tomatoes. Sometimes I make spaghetti sauce and others I roast them. In preparation for the sauce, first I boil them with their skins on. After that I plunge the beauties into a cold water bath. This process makes it easier to skin them.

With cutting board and a sharp knife, I cut out bad spots. Next I load them in the blender and pulse it so they’re smooth. It’s time to simmer the sauce with basil, Oregano, Salt, Pepper, a tablespoon of Olive Oil and two tablespoons of sugar. I also add Prego Spaghetti sauce to thicken it. It still tastes homemade but hold together better in a thick yummy sauce.

Tomatoes are a wonderful tasty addition to stir frys, grilled cheese sandwiches, pesto veggie sandwiches and one of Tom’s favorites BLTs. Once you’ve home grown your own tomatoes, you get spoiled for the taste knocks it out of the ballpark and you can’t go back to store bought. The taste just isn’t the same!

Can you taste that scrumptious tomato? I’ll enjoy a few more before next September. The wait will be long and difficult, but it will be well worth the wait!

Until next time enjoy those fresh tomatoes!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕