Recipes for Writers (& Other Busy Folk) | Apple Crisp (with Extra Crisp)

Need a dessert idea that is easy enough to put together with the Kindergarten and under crowd? Apple crisp is the tastiest solution.

There are no eggs to worry about, and if a few apple slices get eaten in the preparation process, there are worse things that you could eat raw. Plus, this is a crowd-pleaser for young and old alike. In fact, it is my wife’s favorite dessert.

If the recipe below looks different from other Apple Crisp recipes you’ve seen, it is probably because my family likes to quadruple the amount of sugary, crispy goodness that sits on top of the apples. Judge us if you want to, but you should try it our way before you treat us too harshly.

100_1332Apple Crisp (with Extra Crisp)

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups of Apples (6 Large Ones that are Pie-Friendly like Granny Smiths)
  • 3 Cups of packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 Cups of Flour
  • 2 Cups of Quick-Cooking Oats
  • 3 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 3 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 2 Sticks of Margarine (1 Cup), softened

Recipe Yield – 12 Servings  |  Prep Time – 30 minutes  |  Total Time – 1 Hour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Peel, core, and cut your apples to your desired slice width (thinner for more of a pie-like consistency, thicker for a bit of crunch). Put the slices into a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Soften the margarine and cut it into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix it up until it forms some clumps. Pour the mixture over the top of the apples in the pan.

Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Let it cool for a bit. A good way to help the cooling process is by covering it in French Vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

7 Fun Mistletoe Facts

Yesterday, I shared the story of Baldur, the Norse god who was killed by an enchanted mistletoe arrow. Perhaps until yesterday, you had gone your entire life without knowing the pagan origins of that Christmas mistletoe tradition. Well, that was but one of many fascinating things about mistletoe.

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Mistletoe growing in the branch of a tree.

Did you know…

  • that the word mistletoe is a compound Old English word combining “mistel” (which means “dung”) and “tan” (which means twig) because it looks a bit like bird poop on a stick?
  • that mistletoe doesn’t grow on the ground; it only grows in tree branches as a parasitic plant that burrows into a tree for nutrition?
  • that the berries of a mistletoe plant remain sticky after ingestion by birds so they have to scrape it off their legs onto tree branches, thus enabling a greater chance of being planted?
  • that because it looks a bit like bird poop and is planted via bird droppings, people used to think that mistletoe grew from birds themselves?
  • that the kissing tradition only lasts as long as there are berries on the mistletoe? With each kiss, a berry is to be plucked off and when they are all gone, no more kisses are to be stolen beneath the sprig.
  • that druids used mistletoe in an elixir to cure infertility and a range of poisons?
  • that a French belief suggested that mistletoe is poisonous because it grew on the tree that was cut down to make the cross upon which Jesus was crucified? Thus it was cursed and forbidden to grow upon the ground which is why it only grows in branches.

And now you probably know more about mistletoe than will ever be required of you. But knowledge is power, so enjoy it.

In case you think I made any of this up, feel free to check my sources:

I am addicted to the donuts at Post Family Farm.

Sometimes, it just feels good to come out and admit something like that. If you’ve been to Post Family Farm in Hudsonville, Michigan, then you know what I’m talking about.

mosey_family_farmMy wife and I took the kids this past weekend to Post Family Farm. Our eldest went earlier in the week with her preschool class and they sent her home with a pumpkin and a coupon to come back. Since we haven’t been able to get to an apple orchard yet this year, we decided that this might be a fun autumn activity alternative, so we packed up our boots (because mud happens on the farm) and drove out.

We all had a great time. The only downside (aside from the cost of visiting on the weekend (serious, go during the week if you can)) was the weather, which was so nice that everyone brought their families out for a bit of fun. But the kids did well, even with the long lines, and enjoyed a ride on the barrel train, met a few farm animals, went on a hayride, and picked a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch.

We waited until the end of our trip to brave the line for the donuts. Everyone who has ever mentioned Post Family Farm has brought up their homemade pumpkin donuts as the main reason to visit. We weren’t about to miss out on something so legendary, even if we had to wait for a full half hour in line to get them.

I wish I had taken some pictures before we gobbled them up, but as soon as we had them in our hands, taking pictures was the last thing on our minds. Oh man. They were so good. Upon finishing our half-dozen, I immediately regretted that I hadn’t got the full dozen.

So if you are in the Hudsonville area and you want a bit of family entertainment (and  mind-blowing donuts), stop into Post Family Farm.

I am sharing my Lego love with the next generation.

I collect Lego sets. It’s one of those things about me that makes me who I am. I’ve accepted this. My wife has accepted this. Everyone is fine with the fact that I collect Lego sets.

But there are problems with Lego set collecting.

  • I would always like more Lego sets.
  • I don’t have enough room to display the Lego sets that I currently own.
  • My children are a bit young to fully appreciate Lego.

And so, once my kids were born, my Lego sets have been banished to the far-flung (and out-of-reach) places in the outer depths of my house. I peek in every now and again to make sure that everyone is happy. I even add to my collection from time to time. But once the set it put together, I place it with the others, store the box in the attic, and leave it be.

But my kids are getting older. And while it might have once been true that they saw my Lego collection as a colorful feast of bite-sized plastic, I think they know better now.

You see, I’ve been getting them hooked slowly on gateway toys like Quatro blocks (4x the size of normal Lego) and then Duplo blocks (2x the size of normal Lego). So I think they have a taste for awesomeness.

Now, I have a choice to make. I can bring my Lego sets in, fully assembled, and hope that they will play with them as is (knowing full well that this will never happen). Or I can take everything apart and introduce them to a box of possibilities, with which they can make their own sets (as I did when I was their age).

I am choosing the latter. Let them stretch their imaginations as I learn to stretch my love of Lego to include them inside. It’s a good thing that I love my kids more than almost anything else (I’m looking at you, my beautiful wife).

Recipes for Writers (& Other Busy Folk) | Oreo Truffles

Nothing says “writer fuel” like chocolate covered cookie balls, and my go-to solution is the blessed Oreo Truffle.

photo by: Kraft

photo by: Kraft

Whether it is for a holiday get-together or sustenance for a few more calorie-enriched chapters in your book, nothing beats this recipe. Plus, if you bring in a plate of these bad boys to your work, you’ll be more popular than a generous boss at bonus time.

Seriously. They are good. And perhaps better, they are easy. Just a few ingredients and a careful eye to make sure that you are melting chocolate and not scorching it.

We got the recipe from Kraft, so don’t get mad at me if your waistline grows in proportion to your truffle consumption. Blame them.

Oreo Truffles

Ingredients

  • 36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided
  • 1 pkg.  (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 4 pkg.  (4 oz. each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, broken into pieces, melted

Recipe Yield – 48 Servings  |  Prep Time – 30 minutes  |  Total Time – 1.5 Hours

Directions

Save out a handful of cookie crumbs. Mix cream cheese and remaining cookie crumbs until blended.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second increments so it doesn’t burn.

Shape the cookie crumb/cream cheese mixture into 48 (1-inch) balls. Use a couple of forks (like the mouth of a crane, not stabbing them) to dip into melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs. (Hint – You’ll want to sprinkle as you go because the chocolate will dry fast and then your crumbs won’t stick to the truffle top).

Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. If you want to save time, you can throw them in the freezer for about a half hour. Keep them cold until you are ready to serve them. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories 100; Total Fat 6g; Saturated Fat 3.5g; Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 60mg; Total Carbohydrates 12g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 1g; Iron 4%DV

Requiem for a Stay-cation

Vacations are over too soon.

Last week, I got to spend the entire week with my family. It was beautiful.

We cleaned the house better than it has been cleaned in a while. I power mopped our faux-wood floors while my wife scrubbed dog drool off the baseboards. We rented a carpet cleaner and went to town on our carpets and furniture. We daily cursed our dog’s habit of shedding and flinging drool everywhere. But in the end, our house was good enough to show professionally.

And we had fun. We took the girls to storytime at the library. My oldest got some great exposure to other kids her age (which she doesn’t normally get) and my youngest grooved along to the singing and dancing. We went to the zoo instead of the children’s museum (because it was about half the price), and we petted some goats and saw the bears being fed (the bears were not fed goats though, they keep most of the animals separate). My wife and I saw Iron Man 3 at the cheap theater. And we went to the mall for jeans and a carousel ride.

And now we are back to work. But that isn’t really a bad thing. My wife and I enjoy our jobs, and there is something to be said for going to bed earlier than 10:30pm, especially when the reason you are staying up late is to clean dog drool off of stuff.

But just for a minute, let us remember the stay-cation as it was, with a series of photos from the zoo.

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Some kids get their photos taken with John Ball by sitting on the lap of statue, but that seemed like a lot of work when they are already happily buckled into their double stroller.

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Here is my beautiful wife making a “why are you taking my picture?” face.

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Said my daughter of this cat, “That kitty is bigger than Aunt Dawn’s kitty.” Knowing the cat she is talking about, this cat is certainly taller, but I bet they weight about the same.

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This isn’t a great shot due to the reflection, but you can tell that my girls are pretty fearless when it comes to 800 lb bears within inches of their faces.

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My oldest dutifully looking my direction, even though there are cool wallabies to see behind her.

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I believe she is happy about playing on the train, but it is possible she’s just bearing her teeth to passersby as a way of claiming the train as her own.

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Does any child glow quite as bright as a red-haired child?

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Here I am with my youngest, picking up some neat goat diseases. Just kidding, there’s hand sanitizer posted just outside the petting area.

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You may notice a mark on my youngest’s cheek. She was recently in an off-off-broadway run of the toddler edition of Scarface. She played the title character.

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And back to the train for a 3/4 family photo. Also, what was my oldest’s favorite thing at the zoo? The animals? No. It was this train.

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I’m pretty sure that she is considering moving in.

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After a brief close encounter in the aviary, we beat a hasty retreat, which is good, because I am no fan of birds. They might as well have called this part of the zoo the “Get pooped on” room.

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High-Fiving a Gorilla.

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Here I am with my oldest. We just told the goat that the tree was made of candy. Silly goat.

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And finally, as we left the zoo, we encountered a sea monster in the pond by the parking lot. It seems peaceful enough, until you get too close.

Video Fun with Rhett & Link

Normally, I put some links up on Friday to awesome blogs or writing-related stuff that I’ve experienced during the week. This week, I just wanted to have a bit of fun.

Meet Rhett & Link.

The videos and lyrics are clean. In fact, these are the same guys that to the songs about the books of the Bible for Phil Vischer’s JellyTelly programming. “Rub Some Bacon On It” is just an all-around wonderful song, and the rest of these are good songs with amazingly edited videos.

Anyway, enjoy the videos below!