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17 weeks: reasons it rocks to be pregnant

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I really love being pregnant.  At least I do for now.  :)  I might be singing a different tune come 38 weeks.

Top 10 reasons it rocks to be pregnant:

1. No period. Duh.

2.  It means you’re going to have a baby. Duh.

3.  People will give you maternity clothes or loan them to you when they find out you’re pregnant.  Unlike when you suddenly gain weight and have nothing to wear, when you’re pregnant you suddenly find yourself rich in new clothing without having to spend much.  Loves.

4.  You finally have an excuse for your pot belly.

5.  You no longer have to suck it in to look good.  Somehow you can look even better if you pooch your stomach out even further.  Awesome.

6.  Your boobs get huge(r).  Duh.

7.  In many cases (mine included) your hair gets thicker and shinier, and nails grow faster and get stronger.

8. You need 500 extra calories a day.  Yay for more food!

9. You’re not supposed to lift heavy things.  Which means you can get out of lifting heavy things when helping your sister move. Sweet.

10.  Your husband is so grateful for you doing all the hard baby-making work that he will do nice things for you like rubbing your tired feet at night before bed. *happy sigh*

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” Hannah ~ 1 Samuel 1:27

Just so happy right now. :)

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Taking a break

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Just wanted to let you know that I’m on a break and hope to be back next week or by Monday, the 18th, at the latest as that is reveal day for Group C (my group, the best group ;)) of The Secret Recipe Club.

In the mean time, I’ve updated my “Current Favorites” on my side bar with some romantic yumminess that might inspire you for Valentine’s Day.  I’ve already got my meal planned, how about you?

Much love and see you soon! :)

Barley with Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion

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This is one of the “meals” (it’s really a side dish but I like to eat it as a meal) I’ve been making for years and usually resurrect come fall/winter.  My family absolutely loves it too, even my little nephew (or at least he did at 4 years old, the last time he ate it)!  I appreciate delicious vegetarian meals that satisfy me and this one fits the bill fo sho. The combination of the creamy squash, chewy barley, crisp red pepper & apple, and the contrasting savories and sweetness–it’s all just magic to me.  And I guess if a four year old boy will relish something that only contains unrecognizable healthy ingredients, it is pretty magical.

Barley with Butternut Squash, Apple & Onion

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 cup uncooked barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups butternut squash, peeled & diced
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, diced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup fat-free chicken or vegetable broth

Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan; add barley. Cover saucepan and simmer barley until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes; drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add squash and cook, stirring often, until it’s starting to soften–about five minutes. Add the onion and red pepper and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Stir in apple, garlic, thyme, black pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until apple is almost tender, about 2 minutes; stir in broth, scraping bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Stir in cooked barley; toss over low heat to mix and coat. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 4, about 1 cup per serving.

Per serving: 192 calories; 4.2 g fat; 0 g cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 5 g protein; 5 Points Plus

Recipe source: WeightWatchers.com

Thankful Thursdays #96: Xena, The Warrior Princess


Xena: Warrior Princess

Oh yes that’s right.  I finally finally finally got myself a proper stand mixer.  A Breville BEM800XL Scraper Mixer Pro 5-Quart Die-Cast Stand Mixer to be exact! And oh yes, I really did name her Xena: Warrior Princess, because she is fierce and sexy.   Do you think I’m thankful and happy and ready to do a celebration tap dance on the rooftop? Well if you said yes to the former and no to the latter, then you’d be right!  But I’m even more thankful for the reason I received this mixer.

The Postcard Project Cookie Swap | veronicascornucopia.com

As you may know, I hosted a nation-wide cookie swap through my blog earlier this month.  Since I never did an an update, what you don’t know is that we had 72 participants and we swapped a total of 3,574 cookies.  Each person was only required to mail a dozen cookies to three people each (that’s 36 cookies per person) but we averaged more like 50 per person this year.  That is partly because our group just loves to bake and share generously, and partly because we had an extra incentive.

cookies-for-kids-cancer

One of our swappers, Marcia L., told us about Cookies for Kids Cancer, a nonprofit organization started by a mother of a young son who died of cancer to help raise money for pediatric cancer research and support families going through what she did with her own son.  The organization is geared to help you raise money for pediatric cancer by hosting bake sales and cookie swaps.

After learning about Glad’s matching program through which they would donate $1 per cookie swapped, I registered our swap and people went crazy with the swapping!  Marcia herself sent the most, with a total of 280.  She swapped with 15 people, and then volunteered as a “Cookie Angel” and sent cookies to a couple people who did not get their cookies.  She definitely was our star swapper, though we had many who went above and beyond (shout out to Eileen, Debbi, Shannon, Selby, Paula, Linda, Cynthia, Laurie, Eliza, Tamara, Sonya, Jessica, Jolie, Kathryn, Marlo, Kathleen, and Amber!), taking on extra matches and becoming cookie angels for those who got stuck with a dud swapper (thankfully we only had three this year, half as many as last year. Progress!).

After I counted our total and reported it to Glad, Marcia informed me of a perk for the hostess that I hadn’t been aware of when I signed up our swap.

Marcia reveals a bonus

I guess you can’t even tell I was excited can you? LOL!  Besides the wrong ill-fitting mixing bowl on my old mixer, it also had a beater that constantly fell out and had to be pushed back in.  In that video of Dennis making my birthday cake, if you fast forward to 1:52, you will hear the loose beater clacking against the other beater.  That went on for five minutes (Dennis thought that’s how it was supposed to sound-lol) and I gladly cut most of that footage.  So yes, to say I was thrilled is really an understatement.  I have wanted a proper mixer for no less than five years and just by doing something fun that helped pediatric cancer patients, I got my mixer.  Wow.

I’m so thankful for Marcia who told me about the Cookies for Kids Cancer organization.  I’m so thankful to all my swappers who did a little extra to help raise more money through our swap for pediatric cancer research.  And boy am I ever thankful to all the aforementioned people, Breville, and Cookies for Kids Cancer for making it possible for me to finally realize my dream of having a quality stand mixer.  I am so happy about this whole situation, it’s just a continuous circle of giving and helping!

Here’s a short video of me testing out my mixer for the first time and of course I initiated it with bread dough (I made my favorite Honey Oatmeal Bread). It handled it great and was so quiet, it didn’t even wake Dennis when I started it up at 3 am.  I’m a happy girl. :)

An Online Bake Sale for Suzie

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If you’ve never heard of an online bake sale fundraiser, you’re in for a real treat!  I’ve participated in several, and it’s always fun and rewarding (not to mention delicious!).  I’m going to be hosting one on Friday, November 2nd, to benefit Suzie of Two Dogs in the Kitchen.

Suzie has been faced with an awful set of circumstances recently.  At the beginning of the month, she lost her job the same day terrible pains started in her stomach, and she came down with pneumonia two days later.  Not having insurance, she didn’t want to go to the hospital until she could no longer tolerate the pain in her stomach.  (To give you an idea about Suzie, she once super-glued her hand back together when it wouldn’t stop bleeding after she mangled it with a mandoline so she wouldn’t have to go to the hospital.  And she says child birth was “easy.”  Yeah, she’s pretty hard core, so you know the pain had to be pretty bad for her to go in.)  They treated her for pneumonia and gave her a blood tranfusion (she was bleeding internally and still has blood in her urine) along with prescriptions for other problems she was having, like extremely low potassium, and told her she’d have to have her gallbladder out once she was over the pneumonia.  Soon she will be faced with a hospital bill that she has no way to pay, so I thought maybe me and my Cornicopi-cats, along with her friends and family, could all chip in and help her out so that she can worry about getting healthy instead of how she can afford to.

Here’s how it works: baked goods or other treats (like granola, homemade jelly, candy, etc) are donated to the bake sale by bloggers and friends.  On the day of the sale, I will have every donated item listed on my blog with a picture and the bidding will start at $15 per item.  The person with the highest bid by the end of the day wins, pays through her fundraising page, and their goodies are shipped.  Very cool, right?

I’ve already got some fabulous goodies donated from generous bloggers.  Ready for a sneak peak?

1 batch (about 2 1/2 dozen) Snickercrinkles (a cross between snickerdoodles and molasses crinkles) from Faith of An Edible Mosaic.

1 batch (about 5 dozen) Florentine Lace Cookies sandwiched with chocolate from Faith of An Edible Mosaic

A signed copy of Faith Gorsky’s An Edible Mosaic cookbook. (!)

1 lb. granola of your choice from Katrina of Baking and Boys!  Pictured is her basic granola and there will be many other choices, such as Banana Split Granola, Coconut Lime Granola with Pecans, & Dark Chocolate Chunk Granola to name a few.

1 dozen 4″ Jacque Torres’ New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies from Katrina of Baking and Boys!

Wookie Cookies from Debbi Does Dinner Healthy.  No wookies were harmed in the making of these double chocolate chip, cinnamon laced cookies. :)

Plum Jam and Country Peach Preserves from Natasha’s Kitchen.  I find her process for making the preserves very intriguing–she definitely has some patience!

Healthy Pumpkin Bread made with unsweetened applesauce and flax seed from Jorie of Midwest Maven.

Apple Cider Applesauce Coffee Cake from Suzanne of A Pug in the Kitchen

Brownie Pops from Angela of The Squishy Monster.

Pumpkin Granola from Sarah of The Pajama Chef.

IMG_7348

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from Joanne of Eats Well with Others.


A gift basket from Jane of The Healthy Beehive that includes 4 homemade jellies (raspberry jam, white balsamic peach jam, cantaloupe jelly, and cherry marmalade) and 4 bars of her homemade soap.

I’m donating 2 dozen of my Blue Ribbon Almond Fudge Cookies which are naturally gluten-free.

I’m also pitching in a batch of Cinnabon Caramel Corn, regular or vegan.

12 half-pint jars of Baja Fresh Salsa from Biz of My Bizzy Kitchen.

Two loaves of super moist Pumpkin Bread from The Gingersnap Girl. Gloria said this ships great, as she has sent it twice to the military overseas (pictured in one of her military shipment boxes).

1 dozen Double Chocolate Biscotti from Heather of Join Us, Pull up a Chair (pictured with nuts but the dozen up for sale will not have nuts).

From Azita of Fig & Quince, 1 batch (20 pieces minimum) of Toot, a Persian confection of marzipan flavored with rose water and cardamon, and fashioned to look like mulberries (toot means mulberry) with pistachio stems.

1/2 pint of Grape Jam with Orange Essence and 1/2 pint of Vintage Secret Family Recipe Grape Jelly, from Debra of Eliot’s Eats.  Both are made with her homegrown grapes.  Please note that although 7 jars are pictured, only TWO are up for auction.

Candy Cookies from Desi of Steak ‘n Potatoes Kinda Gurl.

2 dozen Ginger-Toffee-Molasses Cookies from Chris of The Cafe Sucre Farine.

1 dozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles from Renee of My Kitchen Adventures.

2 dozen Monster Cookies from Julie’s Eats & Treats.

A pumpkin gift basket including  Pumpkin Pie Biscotti drizzled with white chocolate, Pumpkin Pie Spice, and a batch of Spicy Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds from Alice of A Mama, A Baby, and a Shar-pei in the Kitchen. Will ship to the US, Italy, Portugal, Japan, the UK, and Canada – including any APO/FPO addresses.

2 half-pint jars of Kelly’s Jelly: 1 spiced pear, and 1 white peach, both made from the fruit she picked from her own trees.  Kelly is a co-worker of mine and she makes the BEST jelly.  I have a jar of each in my fridge right now and they are just so, so good.  Her pear jelly is my all-time favorite.

1/2 batch (about 3 1/2 cups) Coconut-Sour Cherry Granola from Melissa Likes to Eat. Will ship internationally.

2 dozen Butterfly-Stamped Sugar Cookies, individually bagged and tied with ribbons, from my friend Tina Freels. She’s a sugar artist and I can attest to her baking skills!  This is a nut-free item.

http://keepitsweet.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Chocolate-Chip-Cookies-13.jpg

1 dozen KISD Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies from Lauren of Keep it Sweet Desserts.

4 dozen Green Spelt Cookies from Angie’s Recipes. Ships to Germany only.

If you would like to donate something to the bake sale, you can send an email to me at vraklis@yahoo.com until Thursday at midnight, 11/1/12.  You don’t have to have a blog to donate something to the sale, but I will need a photo of it.  And I just can’t resist sharing this before you go….

I was trying to come up with a catchy name for Suzie’s fundraiser and of course Dennis always has an answer for everything.  When I asked him for a suggestion, he came up with this slogan.  I kinda love it and ended up using it on her fundraising page (hehe) and couldn’t resist making a spoof fundraiser poster with it. :)

If you’d like to make a donation outright or send her a hug, you can visit her fundraiser page.  See you November 2nd and bring your sweet tooth!

Friendship Fruit Cake

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I posted the recipe for the friendship fruitcake starter yesterday, and although the holidays are still far in the distance, I wanted to post the full recipe for the fruitcakes now to help you decide whether or not you want to embark upon this fruitcake adventure, because the decision will need to be made fairly soon.  The starter takes three weeks to make, and the cake itself takes a month.  So I figured you’d need a better description of the resulting cake and photos to help you understand why you should bother with any cake that is going to take this long to make.

After you have your starter ready, you will add peaches, pineapple, and maraschino cherries to it over time, along with copious amounts of sugar.  Your fruit will become essentially candied in it’s own sugary juices, giving you the most flavorful candied fruit you could ever add to fruitcake.  This fruit beats the stems off store-bought candied fruit.  It is just sooo….fruity.  Usually when I taste a candied cherry, it doesn’t taste like much except sweet.  This candied fruit is sweet, but has so much flavor!

The actual time you will spend working on the starter and the fruit is maybe a minute a day, and totally worth the result.  And if the fruit itself wasn’t enough, the recipe for the cake itself is outstanding.  I have two versions available, but both are moist and delicious, and studded with this magical fruit, nuts, and shredded coconut.  Absolutely fantastic and nothing like the fruit cake you last turned your nose up at.

Now, let’s talk about the batter that surrounds the fruit, nuts, and coconut.  Usually, friendship fruit cake is made with a cake mix.  Two of them, to be exact.  When I made this cake last year on Christmas eve, I only had one mix, and of course every grocery store was closed, and I couldn’t find a single convenience store that sold cake mixes.  Rather than let the lack of a second mix defeat me, I decided to halve the recipe for the cake (what I now call the “easy version” although technically it’s the “original version”) and use half the fruit for it, then make a batter from scratch to mix the remaining fruit into.

To tell you the truth, I really can not pick a favorite.  I love, love, love them both.  In fact, I actually would recommend you do the same as me, halving both recipes and using half the fruit in both to see if you can pick one.  (Just be very careful to halve everything–this can get tricky if you don’t physically write down the new measurements before starting.)  They are so different and both so good in their own way.

The cake mix cake is very moist, and very sweet with a great cake mix flavor.  I’d say the cake mix version has more of a holiday feel than the other, because it is sweeter.  The cream cheese cake is less sweet, the slight tang of the cream cheese pairing nicely with the sweet, candied fruit.  It tastes more “real,” for lack of a better word, more home made.  It seems more of like a cake to enjoy with tea, and this would be a great version to make throughout the year.  I keep wanting to pick the cream cheese one as my favorite, until I remember how nice the cake mix one was, so I have given up.  I leave the decision entirely up to you, but either way, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Friendship Fruit Cake

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Day 1
In a large glass bowl, combine:

  • 1 pint friendship fruit starter
  • 1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches with juice, each slice cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Stir every day for ten days.  When not stirring mixture, keep it covered with a splatter guard, paper towel, foil, or a loose lid. Let sit at room temperature. Do not refrigerate it or cover it airtight. A pan of water underneath the jar or bowl will keep the ants out, but I had no problem with bugs since I made mine in the winter.

Day 10
Add:

  • 1 (16 oz) can chunk pineapple with juice, each chunk cut in half
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Stir every day for ten days.

Day 20
Add:

  • 2 (10 oz) jars maraschino cherries, drained, and each cherry cut in half
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Stir every day for the final ten days.

Day 30
Drain fruit and reserve it and the liquid.  Pour the liquid into three glass pint jars.  Save one for yourself for your next fruit cake, and give two to friends, along with a copy of this recipe.  Cake must be started within 3 days after receiving the starter or you should freeze the starter to use at a later date. Do not use plastic or metal containers to store liquid.

~To make the cake~

Easy version

2 (18.25 oz) yellow or butter recipe golden cake mixes
2 (3.5 oz) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
8 eggs
2 cup raisins (golden or regular, or a combination)
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or four large loaf pans. In a very large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil and eggs.  Stir in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. The batter will be stiff. Spread batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Sit on wire racks and wait ten minutes before turning them out onto the racks to cool completely.  I spray my cakes thoroughly with water while cooling to help make them more moist—the water absorbs and does not change the flavor.  Store in an airtight container or wrap in plastic wrap.  Serve at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Version
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
8 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or 4 large loaf pans; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar.  Beat in the oil. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; the batter will be thick. When barely any streaks remain, mix in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter stirring well.  Scrape batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops.  Place the cakes in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Friendship Fruitcake Starter

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Yes, I know it isn’t even Halloween yet and you’re thinking I’m crazy for posting such an obvious December holiday-related recipe, but bear with me, I have good reason for posting this early. 

Many of us have heard of and possibly been gifted (AKA cursed) with friendship bread starter. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can either click here to find out more, or just pretend you never heard about it and maybe you can live out the rest of your life in friendship bread-less bliss. OK, I have to admit that friendship bread is delicious, but it never dies and once the starter infiltrates your circle of friends, you practically have to start shooting people to get them to stop pushing it off on you.

(Forgive me, I still suffer post-traumatic friendship bread disorder, despite my temporary reconciliation with the starter.)

Well, friendship fruitcake starter is a whole different ball of wax. This starter is not the same flour/sugar/milk mixture that is aged and fed like a sourdough, nor is it as widespread, at least not in my neck of the woods. This starter is a thick, red, fruity syrup that you use to candy real, non-dried fruit, and you have enough leftover after making your cakes that you can either pass it on to two other friends, or keep all three jars for yourself and freeze them to use throughout the year.

The kind of fruitcake you get from this starter is also unique. It is not the typical disgusting sickeningly-sweet brick you find in grocery stores.  In fact, I can tell you flat out that this is not only the only good fruitcake I have ever had in my life, it is actually so good that I would eat it any time of year, not just because it’s a holiday tradition.  Seriously, you’ve never had a non-alcoholic* fruitcake that tasted this good, and maybe not even one that has been completely doused with alcohol could be better than this.

*Brandy is used in this initial starter recipe, but since you are using it to candy fruit, and not adding the liquid itself to the cake, you will put very little alcohol into the cake because of it, and the amount you put in will bake out.  Also, once you make this starter, you never again have to add brandy to the future starters that come from this batch, so the percentage of alcohol will become nill after several batches.

If you don’t already have one of these starters in your freezer, and you would like to try this fruitcake for yourself, you will need to plan ahead and make the starter fairly soon, which is why I’m sharing the recipe for it now rather than after Thanksgiving.  The starter takes three weeks to make, and the fruitcake takes another month.  If you want to make small loaves as gifts before Christmas, start your starter now-within the next week or so.  If you want to have your fruitcake ready on Christmas day, start by November 4 or 5 at the very latest.  I guarantee you that you will have some very impressed people when you give them this fruitcake or at your party where you serve it, and many disappointed that you only have two starters to share.

I believe it will most likely take further persuasion on my part to convince you that this fruitcake is worth your time, so I will be following this recipe tomorrow with the two recipes I have for the cake itself, one using a mix, and one that I created from scratch.

*A big thank you to my friend Cheryl in Florida for passing the starter recipe and instructions on to me since she couldn’t give me one of her starters in person.*

Friendship Fruit Cake Starter

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (16 oz) can apricots, drained
1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches, drained
1 (10 oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained
1 1/4 cups brandy
1 1/4 cups sugar

Combine ingredients in a large glass jar or bowl and stir well.

Store at room temperature, covered with a lid or plastic wrap, for three weeks, stirring at least twice a week. Mixture will become more and more red as time passes.  This is what mine looked like on day 21:

Drain fruit and reserve the liquid. You should have two cups of liquid, and this is your starter.  It won’t look as red or thick as the photos above because those are photos of the starter you get after you use this initial starter to candy your fruit when you actually start making the cake.  The 2 cups of liquid you have now will all be used for candying fruit.

You can save the sweetened, brandied fruit for another use (topping on ice cream, turn it into jelly, etc.) or discard.

I added some cinnamon and instant pectin (it needed quite a lot, 1/2 cup if I remember correctly) to mine after pureeing in a food processor to make a brandied holiday fruit jam.  It wasn’t sweet enough, so I’d suggest adding your sweetener of choice if you go this route.

***

Wow, guys!  Thirty people signed up for the cookie swap as soon as it was open for business. I’m kinda scared of your enthusiasm, and excited by it at the same time. :D Rock on!

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