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 💜

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 ☺️

Spending More Time With Family & Friends

Okay let’s be honest here! How many of you truly keep your New Year’s resolution and honor it throughout the whole year? I’ve never kept my intention, not from not caring about it but life gets busy with work and commitments and it gets pushed to the wayside. With that….it’s lost and forgotten replaced with to do lists, bills to pay, etc.

My interest in setting a new year goal for 2020 was sparked by my daughter- in-law Lexy. She shared that she and her best friend were getting together to set New Years goals. I liked the idea of sharing with a friend for accountability sake but it can also turn into a fascinating conversation. Sharing your positive intentions for the new year opens up channels of new ideas and thoughts fostered through friendship. I have always kept my resolutions private and perhaps that’s why I’ve failed at them. Maybe I’ll start shouting from the rooftops of my goal, with a true desire to reach it.

This year I honestly intend to spend more time with friends and family, especially since I’m feeling better. I may go to lunch more often, make a few more phone calls, write quick sweet notes and send them in the mail. I want to see my mom and dad more, making the trips to their homes. I’m blessed to still have them and their spouses alive, in their seventies and early eighties. They mean the world to me and I want them to know how fortunate and happy I feel to have them.

When our Florida family comes in the summer I wish to connect through down to earth talks, nice country walks or by lounging on our deck in the sunshine. I want to hear stories of how their life is going down there and have Tom reminisce of old times growing up and of relatives passed but not forgotten.

This year I vow that I’ll try to keep this goal alive and not hidden. I wish to connect more, talk more, laugh more and let my friends and family know how precious they are to me. 2020 will be an amazing year of wonderful possibilities to carry my resolution through. I pray to God for me to carry it through and reach out to people even more than I have!

What’s your New Year’s resolution and what is your strategy for keeping it alive and going all year?

All My Best for the new year,

Mary🎉🥰

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 😘

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😘

Gluten Free Apple Crisp

Years ago my co-worker Judy gave me her apple crisp recipe that has become one of my family’s favorite desserts. Every fall I make it several times and then again on Thanksgiving for Dylan. It always comes out bubbly and delicious and usually my family eats it all the same day! Now that I need to bake differently, (if I’m going to have any) I’m adjusting my recipes to be gluten free. Here’s my adapted recipe that worked for me. Ignore the salt…haha…I didn’t use any but had a brain cramp that I needed it. 😂

You will need:

  • 5 cups sliced apples ( peeled)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar ( I use 3/4 and it’s just as sweet)
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Gluten Free flour
  • 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon, sometimes I add more
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold

Begin by peeling and slicing the apples. Place in a buttered 13x 9 pan or a 9 inch square pan. Combine flour, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar. Press mixture on apples. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. It’s great with almond ice cream or whipped cream or simply alone. Enjoy warm or cold.

See it’s so good that it’s almost gone! I just made this!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. I’ve had a few days off due to staff development ( I opted out of it as I’m taking a 12 hour course the next few months) and tomorrow off to observe Columbus Day. I plan to bake cookies for work, rake my back lawn and do my Pilates dvd that I love.

All My Best,

Mary

My Gluten Free Journey

Okay friends I need to share with you what’s going on with me. For awhile now ( just over a year and a half) I have noticed that certain foods irritate my stomach and I’ve experienced significant changes, which led me to the doctor. Of course he had no answers for me. In the past I’ve had trouble and had to solve my own problem by taking note of what I ate and the reactions the food caused. In a few weeks I learned that eating dairy products and drinking milk made my stomach sick and upset my stools. Now I know I’m lactose intolerant.

I’ve figured out that breads, ( I only eat oat bran bakery bread but it’s not gluten free) cereals, oats that aren’t gluten free, dressings with gluten and rice pilaf mixes are all not agreeing with me. It’s been a challenge to change our eating habits and it’s more expensive at the grocery store! ( I ask you why do the healthiest foods cost more?) Every time I eat any of these foods I have gas and some bloating and undesirable stools.

Two months later and I think I’ve figured out how to eat so my body is happy and calm. I mostly avoid granolas unless they are gluten free, most breads, salad dressings and sauces such as rice pilaf mixes. I’ve learned to shop the gluten free section at the grocery store and on Amazon Prime. I eat more fruit in the morning, skip cereals and breads and if I do have toast it’s gluten free. Canyon Bakehouse gluten free bread is my choice for now. I put it in the freezer and take out a slice when I wish to.

I used to think the gluten free idea was crazy but now that it affects me, I know well that it’s a real thing affecting many people. It takes much planning, shopping, searching and patience to maintain my path to wellness. Sometimes I cheat and eat something with gluten or dairy and soon after pay for it. Even if the food tastes good I try to remember the ending result and how my body doesn’t accept it. I think I’ve done well in a short time and feel healthier and balanced. The last challenge is finding gluten free foods at restaurants. That’s where searching the web pays off, you can look at menus ahead and see the healthy gf options.

This is my personal journey, one that I’ve had to rack my brain over without a doctor’s help. Sometimes I wonder why this food intolerance has plagued me but asking this question doesn’t change anything. So I accept it and deal. Move on and focus on eating that makes my body whole and healthy. If you are also on this path, I wish you the power to accept and learn all you can about it.

Until next time be well, my friends. It’s October here with a colorful array of foliage. Probably the next post I write will share fall moments with you.

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 💕

Garden Highlights

Well the gardening season is approaching it’s end in northern New Hampshire. So far we have only had a frost or two, enough to blacken and crinkle the plant leaves. I’ve been spending my time picking tomatoes, carrots and the last of the zucchini and broccoli. Every time I’m ready to bid goodbye to all the picking and vegetable gathering, a growth spurt comes out of nowhere. The sunny pleasant days are tending to the zucchini plants, still surprising me with little deep green beauties, a harvest of close to two months! ( Even with frosted leaves!) Teeny green broccoli sprigs tower above the plants, making it easy to snip them off. Carrots continue to grow and thrive, as well as the snappy healthy tops. I’ve always thought they look perfect for a garnish!

About a week ago Tom and Dylan moved the greenhouse to the garden from the back tall grass. Tom cleverly placed it over our best tomato plants. I’ve been watering them and picking as many red ones as I can. Because the season is ending soon, I’m picking the green tomatoes as well and bringing them inside. It works really well to ripen them in paper bags, then I make my homemade pasta sauce for the freezer. That way we can enjoy the taste of the garden in the long winter months!

My Butternut squash plants grew long vines which I draped over our fence. Here and there squashes grew amongst the leaves sporting a deep green color. For weeks I’ve waited for them to turn a tan color with no avail. I think this happened in previous years but I don’t remember if I left them on the vine or picked them. Any suggestions from my fellow gardeners? I do love Butternut squash and hope I can eat these!

Here is a sample of my late September harvest! The wooden tray I picked up at the annual Chelsea Flea Market held in July. It’s handy because there are two holes on each side for gathering. Next year I may fashion tough rope handles through them.

As September closes and our leaves turn red, yellow and pink, my garden is slowing turning brown and eventually everything will be put to bed. It’s been a great growing season with my favorites being cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and fresh basil. I’ll truly miss my morning jaunts deep in the growing vines beyond our home. The bird songs, bright sunshine, buzzing busy bees and lovely Monarch Butterflies will remain in my memory as special accompaniments to the garden.

With fall here and weather changes rolling in, I succumb to the natural order of things. All good things must end, therefore my joy of gardening can be pushed aside until next May. In the meantime I’ll pour over photos and sketch a plot map for next year.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕

Everything Zucchini!

73E72BFD-1E28-4EC7-897D-36D2FD76B957.jpeg Most gardeners know there’s a harvest time of scarcity and a time of plenty. Usually when the garden starts producing, it’s slow. I pick rich green leaves of lettuce and herbs first while I patiently wait for other veggies to be ready. It’s mid- August and I’ve been picking zucchini consistently for about two weeks. Most days I pick at least two or three green squashes. Bringing my kitchen shears comes in handy as I need them to cut the thick stem while I hold the squash stem tightly with my other hand and twist it. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a severed stem. This happened to me the other day forcing me to use that squash right away. It seems to dry out without a stem. Some ways I use zucchini are: zucchini mini bread chocolate zucchini bread zucchini carrot muffins chocolate zucchini cake stuffed zucchini with hamburger, rice, chopped tomatoes and cheese ( made pretty closely to stuffed peppers but in a hollowed out zucchini squash ) sautéed zucchini with summer squash ( in butter) zucchini spice whoopie pies ( see a recipe soon!)
d3d8e54f-ad67-4993-9d58-89fcbcacccf2
Can you spy the zucchini sandwiched between the corn and broccoli?
However you use this hearty vegetable, it will surely satisfy your family! Thankfully zucchini is easy to grow and hard to kill. No matter the weather, the plants always grow well with enough weeding and watering. Every year I tend to have too much of it so I share with family and my co- workers. In past years I’ve grown less but this year I had a lot from seeds, about eight vivacious plants. All My Best, Heart and Soul 🥰