Cupcakes!

I have been gone for way too long!  I’ve been baking!  Briar Rose Cupcakery has become a reality but doesn’t have it’s own website yet-just a FB page.  For those who don’t subscribe to FB I will be using my blog as a place to post for Briar Rose Cupcakery.

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Greetings food enthusiasts!  I am hoping you will forgive my lack of posts!  I have a reason though and she is a really cute one!  I’ll explain…

I love baking (obviously…) but that didn’t happen suddenly when I turned 25.  No, I spent countless hours begging mom to mess up her kitchen so I could make cookies, banana bread, or muffins-you get the idea.  All the moms I know are super busy (including me) so I understand now why my own mom often said, “no,” when I wanted to mess up her kitchen.

What if there was someone small and cute that could walk kiddos through paleo and/vegan recipes that would make just one serving and keep the mess down as well? I met someone who could do just exactly that, so I hired her!  I am proud to introduce my first and only employee, Squeak.cabin 1

She comes from a family who live in a wheat field.  When they discovered that she couldn’t eat gluten, dairy or regular sugar…it was a really difficult adjustment.  She sadly put her measuring spoons and bowls away and stayed out of the kitchen.   She was feeling lonely and left out of life and parties.

Then, in late winter that year she started to experiment in the kitchen again.  She just wanted something tasty, chewy and sweet!  She threw a lot of trials in the garbage but then one afternoon…she took a bite of a vanilla bean mug cake that she had been working on for a while…and it was good!!  That one success pulled her back into her favorite spot, the kitchen!

She is now perfecting different recipes and fun options for sleepovers that can be enjoyed by gluten eating AND Paleo kiddos (or mousies) alike!  You see why I had to hire her!  She will be sharing regularly on the Briar Rose page.  Today she has a pumpkin spice mug cake recipe to share, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Living in the wheat field was proving to be very difficult and finding a reliable crow to fly her to work in the morning just wasn’t working out.  I offered her a place to live as part of her contract and she accepted.  Mouse real estate is a pretty difficult business right now so we opted to build and renovate a spot for her.  That did take a good bit of effort but she now has a cozy cabin to call home.cabin 9

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Squeak

I love autumn!!  The coolness, the spices, the steam coming off a morning cup of hot chocolate or tea…  There’s nothing like walking home from the bus stop or school and kicking leaves in crisp air.  On such a day it’s perfect to have something hot and full of fall spices.  So today, we’re making pumpkin spice mug cake.  Now, the mug that I use only holds about 6oz.  If your mug is a similar size then use the half size recipe.  If it holds 8-10 oz you can use the full size recipe without having to clean up the microwave afterwards.

*The first thing to do is to get out a cereal bowl for mixing.  It’s just easier than mixing in a mug.

*Dump all the ingredients in your bowl and mix the ingredients well.  I use a little tiny whisk but you can also use a spoon.pumpkin spice mugcake mix 2

*Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients, scrape your dough into your mug.  I use a little rubber spatula for that but once again, a spoon will work.pumpkin spice mugcake mix

*Microwave your mug cake for 3-5 minutes.  The half size mug cake should be done in three minutes, while the full size might need a little more time.

I test my mug cake with a toothpick or cake tester and when it comes out clean it’s all done.pumpkin spice mugcake 2

Pumpkin Spice mug cake (full size)

½ cup canned pumpkin puree

2 Tbsp milk of choice (I used coconut but any milk will work)

4 Tbsp almond flour

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp coconut or date sugar

2 Tbsp gluten free flour of choice with xanthan gum (I use Namaste)

 

Half size for small mugs

¼ cup canned pumpkin puree

1 Tbsp milk of choice

2 Tbsp almond flour

¼ tsp baking soda

Pinch of baking powder

Pinch of salt

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp coconut sugar

1 Tbsp gluten free flour of choice with xanthan gum

pumpkin spice mugcake

I will admit, when my mug cake was done and came out of the microwave, I had an immediate thought…ice cream!!  I eat a coconut ice cream that isn’t sweetened with sugar and it turned out to be the perfect topping!

Until next time my friends, remember that even though life isn’t perfect, mugcakes can be!

 

Christmas Hostess in Peace, not Pieces

The Christmas Hostess

This has been my busiest Christmas season yet!  Each year I think it’s busy and I make plans to change my ways the following year to make it less hectic.  I implement a new and improved holiday plan and the season speeds by faster than the year beforimg_2323e it.  #Fail

I asked myself:  What are the BEST Christmas times?  For me it’s baking, having fun with friends and family and slowing down to enjoy the wonder of Christmas.  That last one can be elusive!  My daughter’s dog, Mia has it figured out though…If I had complete control over everything I would slow down to have fun instead of speed up.   It’s a novel concept, but one I plan to explore.

How might I accomplish this?  Well, first I need to see the frenzy for what it is.  In retail, we have projections of sales based on the previous year and then we are supposed to exceed the previous year by a certain percentage.  In essence, making every year, “The best year ever!”  We have a tendency to do this around Christmas.

The Bible has the word,” Selah”, in it a lot.  It means to “pause, to lift up, to praise”.  So, if I am going to add “Selah” to my Christmas schedule it means that I will pause, worship God, and thank Him for His blessings.  That requires room in the schedule…  One cannot “Selah” catnap style.  But where to find the room?img_2206

It occurs to me that in adding quantity to my Christmas schedule I am loosing quality.  This happens a lot when something is good and the desire is to increase quantity so that there is more…good…and that’s better right?  Or is it?

We all will be making lots of decisions.  Some things are not in our control, that’s true, but they are in God’s control.  The things that are in our control CAN be managed.  The things that God is in control of, we should let Him manage.  Then absolutely nothing is out of control…no matter what it looks like.img_2312

If nothing is truly out of control then we can give ourselves permission to relax.  The Bible says that you can’t add anything to your life by worrying. (Lea Freitas paraphrase) If that’s true, then we can’t add wonder to Christmas by fretting over the details of this project or that party.

In the history of the human existence, what does it matter?  I have a thought, and this will be my challenge for Christmases to come.  My new holiday plan is to focus on the things that matter and allow them to take precedence.  img_2313Watching Christmas movies while decorating, walking in the snow, baking with my daughter.  If those are the truly important things then I will put them on the top of my priority list and other things may not find a space on the schedule, instead of the other way around.

In this spirit, I wish to share some good old fashioned fun.  Games are how people used to have fun.  Laughter around the living room or dining table is indicative of quality time.  Games cost money, I know.  However, I am including two games in this post that will cost you nothing as my Christmas gift.   First, a Christmas jeopardy game-or trivia-however you would like to play it.  Then, dinner entertainment.img_2316

We’ll address the latter first…  When extended family is coming over for dinner and there are differing views on politics, religion or other touchy topics, it can be a stressful dinner.  Some families make rules about what can be discussed at the table and even that doesn’t work.  Whether this is an issue or not, here’s an idea.

Put place cards at each plate with the person’s name on one side and a character on the back.  Choose appropriate characters for each person, i.e., someone they are very familiar with.  A young girl might be Elsa, a young boy one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Chewbacca if they are not the type to want to enter into discussion.img_2261

Grandpa could be John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, maybe Dad can be Jeff Foxworthy. I would want to be Queen Elizabeth…you get the idea.  Then any discussion that takes place must be done in character.   Lord willing, laughter and not tension will be the result!

Ok, now for trivia…  If you want to have some fun at dinner you can write a few of the questions and answers down on a paper (or back of place card) at each plate.  Then everyone has a few questions to ask the table and everyone can ponder and/or discuss them.

The other way to play this one is to get a board and make categories and then assign boxes with point amounts in them for each question.  When the questions are answered I cross them off and when all the questions have been exhausted the person with the most points wins.  The winning prize can be anything from first dibs at dessert to a gift card to a favorite family store.

Until next time; may your cider be crisp, your biscuits fluffy, and your gravy be lump free!

img_2315Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

 

Christmas Jeopardy

*no copyright or infringement as I researched these myself. 

Christ Child

  1. Who was the first ancestor or father recorded in the family lineage of Jesus?

*Father Abraham

  1. Who actually named baby Jesus?

*The Angel

  1. What does Emmanuel mean?

*God with us

  1. What was the name of the Angel that appeared to Mary?

*Gabriel

  1. In what country was Jesus born?

*Judea

  1. According to “the law” parents had to offer something in the temple if the first born was a boy.

What was it?

*2 turtle doves or 2 young pigeons

  1. According to the book of Mark, how many angels appeared to the shepherds?

*A heavenly host

  1. What is the definition of a heavenly host?

*Angelic army

  1.    What song did the Angels sing to the Shepherds?

*Glory to God in the Highest

  1. Joseph’s family was from:

*Bethlehem

  1. How many wise men or magi came?

*The Bible says what they brought but never mentioned how many there were.

  1. Who directed Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?

*Ceasar

 

Candy    *Example:  A confectionary walking brace=Candy caneimg_2318

  1. Another word for giggle

*Snicker

  1. Also a white rapper

*M&M

  1. Famous swashbuckling trio

*3 musketeers

  1. Favorite Day for working folks

*Payday

  1.      Something ships always have on board in case someone falls over

*Lifesaver

  1.     Exploding suns

*Starburst

  1.     A thingamabob or a

*Whatchamacallit

  1.      Klutz who drops things

*Butterfinger

  1.      Explosive gravel

*Pop Rocks

  1.       Cheerful cattle farmer

*Jolly Rancher

  1.     Misfiring moo juice

*Mild Dud

  1. Know it alls

*Smarties

 

Winter Trivia

  1. Can it snow from clear skies?

*Yes, ice crystimg_2278als can form when temps are in the single digits or colder from moisture in the air.

  1. On Average, one inch of rain is equivalent to how many inches f snow?

*10 inches

  1. How many times a year does the sun rise and set in the arctic?

*Once

  1. What is “hoar” frost

*Frost that looks like hair, as it is the word for hair from old English.

  1. What side of a building will have the most and best icecicles?

*South Side

  1. What is a toque?

*Word Canadians use for winter hat

  1. What percentage of fresh snow is composed of air?

*80%

  1. The world record for snowfall in a 24 hr period that we know of happened last spring in Caprocotta, Italy.  Was it under or over 100 inches?

*It was 100.8 inches

  1. What country can claim the honor of inventing the snowmobile?

*Canada

  1. Curling is one of 4 winter Olympic sports contested indoors.  What are the other 3?

*Hockey, Figure skating, speed skating

  1. Only 2 countries south of the equator have won medals in the winter Olympics.  Australia and?

*New Zealand

  1. Can it ever be too cold to snow?

*No, Antarctica often gets snow when it’s well below zero.  And frosty double for who answers correctly!  Coldest temperature ever recorded was -128, where was it?  Antarctic

 

Christmas movies and plays

  1. In Frosty the snowman, who brought Frosty back to life?

*Santa

  1. In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” what biological shortcoming made the Grinch so mean?

*His heart was 2 sizes too small

  1. Who lost $8,000 in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

*Uncle Billy

  1. Who said, “God bless us, everyone”?

*Tiny Tim

  1. In what city did “Miracle on 34th St.” take place?

*New York

  1. In “A Charlie Brown Christmas” who plays the innkeeper in their play?

*Pigpen

  1. What is the name of the little girl in most versions of the Nutcracker?

*Clara

  1. What did the Grinch use to pull his sled?

*his dog

  1. Frosty double:  In “It’s a Wonderful Life” who starred as George Bailey?

*Jimmy Stewart

  1. What’s Frosty’s nose made out of?

*Button

  1. How does Scrooge improve Cratchit’s life the day after Christmas?

*He gives him a raise

  1. In the classic Claymation, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, what was Rudolph’s father’s name?

*Donner

 

Christmas Songs and Poems

  1. What is the biggest selling Christmas single of all time?

*White Christmas

  1. Where was I when I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus?

*On the stairs

  1. What carol contains the line, “O Tidings of comfort and Joy?”

*God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

  1. What gift did “my true love” give to me on the 6th day of Christmas?

*Six geese a laying

  1. What Reindeer is never mentioned in “Twas the Night Before Christmas”?

*Rudolph

  1. In the chipmunk Christmas song-what does Alvin want for Christmas?

*Hula hoop

  1. In what Christmas carol is figgy pudding demanded?

*We wish you a Merry Christmas

  1. What song was originally titled, “One horse open sleigh?”

*Jingle Bells

  1. Visions of what dance in children’s heads?

*Sugarplums

  1. What song does a caroler sing outside of scrooge’s office?

*God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

  1. Frozen Double!  Who wrote:  “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

                *Clement C. Moore

  1. On every street corner you hear what?

*Silver bells

 

Random Christmas Trivia

  1. Name the reindeer whose names begin with “D”

*Dasher, Donner, Dancer

  1. What holiday drink has milk, sugar and eggs?

*Egg nog

  1. What type of canned pie filling is a big seller at Christmas?

*Pumpkin

  1. Traditionally, does the oldest or youngest family member open the first present?

*youngest

  1. What Holiday film annually appears on television more than 300 times?

*It’s a Wonderful Life.

  1. Frozen double!  What country started the tradition of exchanging gifts for Christmas?

                *Rome, Italy

  1. What is the most popular tree topper?

*Angel

  1. What did the little Drummer Boy give to the Christ Child?

*A song on his drum

  1. What are elves touted to wear on the tips of their shoes?

*Bells

  1. What are small, inexpensive gifts usually called at Christmas?

*Stocking stuffers

  1. What men’s grooming appliance became a sled for Santa in commercials of the 60s?

*Norelco shaver

  1.     A classic, ancient Christmas cake from the 1400s

*fruitcake.

 

Christmas Hymns

  1. …Stay by my side til morning is nigh.

*Away in a manger

  1. …holy infant, so tender and mild…

*Hark the Herald Angels Sing

  1. ….ransom captive Israel…

*O come, O come, Emanuel

  1. …shepherds why this jubilee…

*Angels we have heard on high

  1. …follow me in merry measure…

*Deck the Halls

  1. …over the hills and everywhere…

*Go tell it on the mountain

  1. …to save us all from satan’s power when we were gone astray…

*God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

  1. …from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold…

*It came upon a midnight clear

  1. …whom shepherds guard and angels sing…

*What child is this

  1. …guide us to thy perfect light…

*We three kings

  1. …was certain poor shepherds…

*First Noel

  1. …Come and behold him…

*O come all ye faithful

 

Christmas Food

  1. What would you be drinking if you had Gludwein?

*Mulled wine

  1. What is a Buche de Noel?  Commonly eaten in France at Christmas?

*Yule log

  1. Stollen is the traditional cake of what country?

*Germany

  1. What name is given small sausages wrapped in bacon, a staple at a British Christmas dinner?

*Pigs in blankets

  1. Who is responsible for the red and white costume of Santa?

*Coca Cola

  1. What is the name of the skin that hangs from a turkey’s neck?

*Wattle

  1. Which spirit is traditionally added to butter and served with Christmas pudding?

*Brandy

  1. Bread sauce is traditionally flavored with:

* Cloves

  1. Peppermint sticks have been popular for centuries, but which century did the candy cane appear in?

*1640 Germany

  1. How did the Puritans celebrate Christmas with food?

*They fasted

  1. What pudding do Americans often substitute for figgy pudding?

*persimmon pudding

  1. What traditional cake includes in the recipe to be wrapped in spirit soaked cloth and aged for a month at least?

*fruit cake

 

 

Mountain Berry Muffins

There are many things that cannot be done when one is a child, but there are a few, and berry picking is among them. 

I think it might have started out as a way for Mom to keep my Sister and I occupied when we went to fell trees for firewood.  Woodcutting is time consuming business and of course, not on the list of “items for small children to help with”. 

Our trips of old always began with the windows down for air circulation and quiet hopes and prayers that the truck wouldn’t overheat before we got where we were going-we squished all four of us in the dusty family truck and left from Cobalt Station further into the woods in search of dead trees.

The spring water run off areas, or what the Forest Service termed “roads,” kept the going slow enough that we sometimes ended up with gusts of exhaust filling the cab.  I was known for getting carsick so I usually got the window seat.  This allowed me to drape my arm and sometimes head out the open window like a last sardine who simply refused to resign itself to the can.  The smell of hot pickup truck interspersed with pines all part of the outing.

Mom and Dad stopped occasionally looking for trees the size they needed.  After an interminable time in my “sardine in need of escape mode,” Mom and Dad would declare that we had found what we needed and breakout was possible.

I started walking immediately to dispel the headache being in any vehicle caused.  It was better than “tossing my cookies”, but still seemed a bit of unfair gene inheritance.  The family dog, Sunset, jumped from the back of the truck and started sniffing for vermin to chase.  Dad hauled his chainsaw from the truck and Mom gave us instructions.

After Mom’s required lecture on how to remember not to get lost forever or get killed by falling trees, we got turned loose with a measuring cup from the kitchen, the hunt for berries was on!  My sister was the keeper of said cup, seeing as how she was older and wiser, (or so she claimed) so we split up to look for berries-then worked together once they were found.   The strawberries were about as big as your pinkie finger, but they were full of enough flavor to fill a berry 4 times their size.  All we needed was one cup…

Getting firewood and berry picking was part of our family culture growing up.  The berry muffins were always amazing and the perfect reward for diligently picking sweet little forest gems.

This was something that was never repeated once we moved from Cobalt Ranger station when I was 11.  Our new home wasn’t high in the mountains and the forest there wasn’t full of wild berries.  This part of my culture got a bit lost in the recesses of my mind for quite a few years.

Then last spring when I returned to Cobalt I realized that many things I had simply thought to be a lost bit of sweetness in my past didn’t need to stay lost.  Thanks to my Sister who still has the recipe we used for those muffins (still older and wiser I guess)and to a friend who adores the forest as much as I do; this summer I was able to reclaim some of my heritage and to share it with my daughter as well.

No matter how busy life was, last summer we took one day a week and piled all the kids together and went out to the woods.  Things rarely progressed as we planned but we never failed to have a great time

In an attempt to find huckleberries, my friend and I planned an outing and packed lunch.  We drove out of town and then turned off onto an old road that went over the mountain. Since the going was slow- we tossed the kids in the back of my friend’s truck and off we bumped.

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We stopped multiple times, looking at the shrubbery to see if we had found what we were looking for.  We were a bit disappointed to find plants, but no berries.  We paused for lunch and then wandered through the forest away from the road, and our little hike was rewarded!

One of the kids found a ripe huckleberry and then another.  I paused to smile and found, surrounding me, wild strawberries.  The boys started eating every berry they could wrap their fingers around while the girls meticulously picked and saved.

Kids talked and laughed, the buzz of forest bugs and chatter of chipmunks blended with the sound of the pine trees.  It was a perfect day in the forest and calmed my spirit.  The kids had a wonderful time, got dirty and berry stained, conquered a few rocks, tried to get us to drive faster over ruts and bumps when they were in the back of the truck and of course, picked enough berries for one batch of muffins.

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There are many things that I can’t eat now but this recipe works the same if you need to substitute gluten free flour, vegan butter, coconut milk or anything else like that.  Its simplicity allows it to be flexible. img_1616-1

Mountain Berry Muffins

1 7/8 Cup flour

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 Tbs-1/2 cup sugar (you can substitute maple sugar or granulated honey)

1 egg

1 Cup milk

¼ cup melted butter

*Combine the egg, milk and melted butter and mix.  Sift together dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients-mixing gently. 

*Mix one cup of berries with ¼ cup of flower and then fold into the batter.  Line muffin tin with paper or lightly oil, then fill cups 2/3 full.

*Heat oven to 400 degrees and put muffins in for 10 minutes.  Then sprinkle with maple sugar or raw sugar and put back in for 5 minutes (optional).