Even More Berry Baking

After multiple Berry Baking posts, I thought I was done, but there’s one more. I had seen a few friends post pictures on facebook of their Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream desserts. I wasn’t sure how I felt about blueberries and zucchini together, though we love both, but the pictures of the finished products looked pretty amazing.

We had blueberries and zucchini and we had bought some round cake tins but hadn’t used them yet, and it would mean a first attempt at buttercream, so we figured we’d try it.

The cakes came out pretty. I did use some white wheat flour as a sub for all white flour, and I used 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce as a sub for 1/2 of the oil.

b z cakes

What I didn’t really anticipate is that the cakes would be dome shaped, which doesn’t make for easy stacking. I tried to shave some of the higher spots off.

shaving cake

I’m not sure it really helped. I think I would have needed to cut the entire top off of both cakes for them to really look like the picture in the recipe.

The buttercream was easier than I anticipated and looked pretty. I did not use any zest, just the lemon juice.

lemon buttercream

I definitely need some practice spreading buttercream icing. Due to the domed cake, there were some gaps on the sides.

spreading buttercream

Not perfect, but passable in looks and VERY delicious. This goes in the favorites folder!

finished b z cake

slice of b z cake

b z cake inside

Something the author pointed out in the blog post is that this was originally a “bread” recipe, so don’t be surprised if it’s a dense, heavy cake. We also found it was easier to slice after being refrigerated, the buttercream didn’t ooze out of the middle like in the picture above.

Fargo’s Balls

No, I’m not talking about THOSE balls, the shelter we adopted him from neuters/spays all animals before adoption. I’m talking about the many balls he likes to play with. He likes to play with them so much that wonderful people give them to him as gifts.

You might recall it all started with the soccer ball during the coldest days of Winter, when it was too cold outside for the amount of activity he needed (and we needed) to remain sane. The soccer ball has been well loved and has been outside most of the Spring and Summer.

soccer ball shed

mangled ball

Next came the blue ball, a Jolly Ball, a thoughtful surprise gift from a friend and fellow dog lover. You can tell this picture was taken a few weeks ago, before the drought.

blue ball

He loves to bite it and stomp on it and feel the air come out of the little valve hole.

blue ball2

Then there was the BIG red ball, which the fawn liked too, but which popped pretty quickly when it got shoved under the composter. So, grandma and papa got him a BIG pink ball. Boy, can he dribble that ball across the yard at top speed. He can also run into everything with the ball at top speed, which is not necessarily a good thing.

pink ball

It has lasted way longer than anticipated, but it’s deflated enough that he can grab it and carry it around. And you can see that he also has another Jolly Ball, a red one, that is pretty solid but good for pushing/dribbling around the yard.

It’s a big decision which to play with each time we go outside. What I now understand, is that it’s never too hot for BALL!

balls 2

balls

 

Berry Baking IV

The past few years a berry baking favorite has been Blueberry Buckle. This is one that hubby enjoys putting together and our family/friends look forward to it. I must say that he’s not quite a neat a baker as I am. I like to put things away as I use them since we have so little counter space to begin with, but baking chaos seems to work for him.

messy counter

We are also different in that I tend to mess with recipes a little bit while he sticks to them like glue. Luckily we have mostly both been successful with goody outcomes ranging from good to amazing. Blueberry buckle not only includes a lot of home grown blueberries,

20160716_105144

but also crumble on top…everyone loves crumble!

blueberry buckle

It’s almost a shame to cut it, and it’s actually not easy to cut it, but we manage.

slice of buckle

We also made a few blueberry pies, the one I made was good, but soupy because I forgot to add the tapioca…oops! This doesn’t get its own post because it’s frozen crust and a basic Joy of Cooking recipe. It is yummy though.

blueberry pie

I think Fargo is getting tired of all of the blueberry picking.

fargo blueberries

Between Fargo and the growing garden, we do have a lovely views while picking.

blueberry garden

We really need rain at this point. I think we’ve had about a tenth of an inch in a month. It’s time for Mother Nature to share some liquid with our gardens.

Unique Visitors

Over the past few weeks, we have had a few unique visitors stop by. Actually, since we’ve moved in we’ve had many interesting visitors, some I’d be happy to never see again (though hubby may not agree), and others make me smile.

One evening, not long after we moved into this house, there was a bear at the back of the property which I didn’t see. I let our yellow lab out and he took off barking and growling across the yard which he had never done before. It was then that I saw a bear climbing a tree with our dog yelling at it from the base of the tree. I screamed COME quite few times, in more and more of a panic, and finally he came back to the house. The bear climbed down and took off on his merry way. That is an experience we have not repeated and I hope to never repeat, especially since Fargo might want to play with a bear…yikes!

The summer we brought Fargo home, we had a few turkey hens who decided our trees were the perfect roosting spots for them and their poults. It was cool for a while when they showed up in the mornings and the evenings, until our yard became an obstacle course of turkey poop, which puppy Fargo wanted to eat. We still see turkeys, which we enjoy, but luckily they haven’t been here quite so frequently.

turkeys

This year, we had a hummingbird visit…in our garage. As much as I love to see hummingbirds flitting around our flowers or feeders, having this one in the garage was not a positive experience.

hummingbird

As you can see, that sucker loved the ceiling. I could not get it to fly low enough to go out the garage door. I lowered the door part way to make an opening at the top…nope. I looked for help online and tried standing still holding a rake up high for it to land on so that I could slowly move it out the door…nope. I left the garage door cracked all night for it to leave…nope. The next morning I looked in the garage and it was sleeping on the motor to open/close the door. I decided to try and open the window at the back of the garage, which was no easy task given how much “stuff” is piled in front of it. I then punched out the screen. That little birdie was tired and I was able to use the girls’ old butterfly net to “help” it out the window. Hoping I didn’t hurt it at all, but it certainly couldn’t stay in the garage.

One afternoon when I was sitting out back, this little guy showed up.

moth

mothII

I thought this was pretty cool. Til it wasn’t. That bugger wouldn’t get off! And once I did manage to shake it off, it started dive bombing me. Turned a little traumatic, I must say.

A few weeks ago, my parents came in. They like to bring balls for Fargo (more on Fargo’s balls in another post). This time they brought a big, bouncy red ball. We left it outside for a while and there was another creature who thought it looked fun.

bambi

When we put the bird feeders out, we get lots of fun visitors, including woodpeckers.

woodpecker

woodpecker II

We get human visitors on occasion, and we always enjoy them as well.

 

Berry Baking III

We are still picking berries, though we’re down to just blueberries. Before I get to the recipe for this post, Triple Berry Oat Muffins, thought I’d share some fun berry pictures.

This was the end of the strawberries with the very first of the black raspberries.

mixed berries

This is our black raspberry patch, before the cut back of new growth, and after.

pre trim berries

colorful berries

At the time I made the muffins (and I made three batches within a few days), we were down to only 2 types of berries in the house. The same friend who posted the muffin recipe had just picked strawberries and offered to share, so it was Triple Berry time.

I enjoy recipes with oats in them, I make the Dark Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies all of the time. I was excited to use a muffin recipe with oats. What I did not want was a super sweet muffin, so I decided to add the cinnamon into the muffin batter and forego the topping.

Here is the pretty mix of berries with the flour/oats.

berries flour

This is what it looks like before it hits the muffin tin.

berry muffin batter

It’s sort of a lumpy bumpy mess. But, the baked muffins sure looked pretty. I’ve been using coconut oil spray to grease all of my baking dishes/tins/etc and so far, it’s worked out well.

pretty muffins

berry muffins

These were a hit. I even baked one batch to freeze and give away, which I love to do. I also used some wheat flour instead of all white flour and that worked out as well. I’ll be making these again, even if the next batch is only double berry vs triple berry.

 

New Sneaks New Training Cycle

It’s that time once again, since back in April I (insanely) decided to register for another race. Actually, 3 races…two shorter events on Saturday and a Half on Sunday. I have so many incredibly amazing running friends who eat endurance events for breakfasts, and I wanted to be like them (and the medals from last year were WAY cool).

Most of my amazing friends could go out and do the three events I registered for without breaking a sweat. But for me, every mile is an effort, and it takes me a long time to build up enough umph to make it through a Half, let alone adding a good chunk of miles the day before. Unlike the Half in April, my goals for race weekend have nothing to do with speed, and everything to do with getting to each finish line. It will be a bonus if I can get to the finish line of the Half and feel human!

Whether it was a good idea or not, I registered, so here I go with the 14 week training plan again. I am going to stick with the same plan I used for the April event, but I’m bumping the Fri/Sun miles to Sat/Sun to get used to running longer back-to-back miles. We’ll see how that goes and whether I’ll need to do that on alternating weeks in order to save my legs…and sanity.

Just in time for the new training cycle came new sneakers. You all may remember my Sneaker Rant a few months back. I was very unhappy, and I wasn’t the only one, about the changes that Hoka One One made to the Cliftons when designing the 2’s. Well, the 3’s came out on July 1, I bought a pair that day, and they arrived a week later.

clifton 3s

Thank goodness Hoka went back to a lot of the things I loved about the original Clifton. The sneaks immediately felt good when I put them on. I’m pretty sure my feet were actually telling me they were happy! I’ve since run in them twice. The first time was a 5 miler on the treadmill. Outside of a little heat on the balls of my feet towards the end, they were great. The second was a outdoor 3.6 miler and again, overall great, just a few little things that I think will work themselves out.

Speaking of that 3.6 miler, it was yesterday morning. I woke up a little late and started talking myself into just heading to the dreadmill in the basement. This, of course, was after I had to talk myself out of ditching the run completely. In the end, I got my rear in gear and drove to my usual running spot.

It was an incredibly beautiful morning and I was so very glad I pushed myself out the door.

mm morning run

It was a morning for running outside. It was a morning made for reflection on the seemingly insane world we live in. It was a morning for me to try and appreciate running alone, which is not one of my strengths.  It was even a morning for a few hill repeats.

Berry Baking II

On the same day that I made the Berry Crumb Bars from the previous post, I also made a recipe I saw posted by another friend on facebook.  Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars sounded lovely and refreshing, and also called for zesting lemons, which I knew how to do at that point.

The recipe used a graham cracker crust, and this might sound ridiculous, but I wanted to use a crust I baked myself and not one that started with pre-made graham crackers. I remembered the base layer for the Boozy Pecan Praline Bars I made a few months back and thought it would work well with the cheesecake.

According to this recipe, you bake the crust first. Sure looked and smelled good.

cookie crust

I think that the next time I make any cheesecake, I am going to put the cream cheese in the microwave, even if it has been setting out and it is room temperature. No matter how much I mix it, it still seems to have chunks in it. I also tried to use up some coconut sugar, which affected the color a bit.

Pre-bake pic, you can’t really tell the color difference, but you can see the cream cheese chunks.

lemon cheesecake pre-bake

Post-bake doesn’t really look much different, mostly the color of the blueberries. I may have used more blueberries than called for because the idea was to use up blueberries!

lemon cheesecake post bake

Thoughts on this recipe include, two lemons was too much lemon for us. The lemon flavor was pretty overpowering, especially if the idea is to focus on the blueberries (which it was in our case). The cookie bottom was good and held up after a day of sitting in the fridge. I already mentioned the cream cheese and coconut sugar issues. Given that we really enjoyed some of the other berry recipes we tried, this one is good, but probably lands more towards the bottom of the list.

 

Berry Baking I

It is berry time. As I previously mentioned, the strawberry crop this year was not stellar, but the blueberries and black raspberries have been plentiful. I posted a request for favorite black raspberry recipes on facebook and my friend, Beth, shared one for Blueberry Crumb Bars and said she thought black raspberries would work in it as well.

I did a few new things with this recipe, I zested a lemon (I looked up how to do this on the google machine…as my youngest calls it).

lemon zesting

I used a pastry cutter, not only for butter, but also for an egg.

pastry cutter butter and egg

After I put the layers together and began baking it, I remembered I wanted to take a picture before putting it in the oven. When I opened the oven for the picture, I was really unsure as to how it would turn out with the big blobs of butter all over the place. There is A LOT of butter in this recipe.

berry bar oven

I was also a little nervous about the moisture content of the black raspberries versus the blueberries, so I added a bit of extra cornstarch. I subbed in half white wheat flour for the white flour, which I often do, but this time I wasn’t sure about that decision.

It sure looked beautiful when I pulled it from the oven.

20160702_153322

Even more beautiful when I cut it and I could see the layers.

berry bar layers

Luckily, all of my worrying was for nothing because the crumb bars were amazing! As a matter of fact, there is another batch in the oven right now. The filling is closer to half and half blueberries and black raspberries, as the blueberry crop is coming on strong right now as the black raspberries are on their way out.

Amazing!!

berry bar close

Evil Round Bales

Our Fargo is a happy guy! I love watching him play, his ears flopping, his personality shining through. But there are serious times when inanimate objects randomly show up, or are not where they are supposed to be, and then, look out!

Take these evil round bales, for example. One day the field is tall crops, the next day it’s mowed down, and then the next…evil round bales…

round bales

Boy did Fargo give them a piece of his mind. There was no way those round bales were coming any closer. He yelled at them for a good 20 minutes! That was fun.

Later on, he started up again, but this time I’m not sure it was the round bales he was yelling at.

round bales deer

It was time for the deer parade. Usually Fargo isn’t bothered by the deer, but in combination with the evil round bales, they were a problem. The round bales were gone when I got home from work today, so Fargo did his job and sent them on their way.

It was hard work, now he can rest.

fargo seal

Still PB Cookie Challanged

Given how much we love peanut butter around here, I thought I’d make another stab at a peanut butter cookie. I also thought I’d try to use a recipe without flour. And chocolate always makes things better, right? So, a recipe with peanut butter and chocolate must be a good one. I chose Sally’s Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cookie recipe.

Actually, this recipe uses almond butter, and has a link with instructions on how to make homemade almond butter. I have almonds but I didn’t have enough, so I subbed peanut butter. How different can one nut butter be from another? Good question. I also used Special Dark cocoa, because, “dark chocolate” is in the title.

First thing, the batter was awfully hard to get mixed:

choc pb batter

Second thing, the cookies NEVER look like they do in the picture!

choc pb uncooked

I even tried to flatten them with a spoon, like she recommends and I added chips on top because I had so much trouble mixing the batter that I didn’t want to try and mix in the chips too.

The cookies look almost exactly the same cooked as they do uncooked.

choc pb baked

The flavor is good, though maybe a little overwhelming with the dark chocolate cocoa. They still just want to fall apart when touched. I can’t get that part right. These cookies likely won’t go in the favorites.