Heath Bar Chocolate Chip Blondies

 

Almost two months of summer left, and it already feels like it is ending.  Today is one of those low humidity, not too hot, rare for Virginia perfect summer days.  More like how our fall weather is, but without school and early sunsets.  Most of our 53 windows are open and a breeze is blowing through every room.

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The garden is moving into late summer, as the more fall colored sunflowers start to bloom, like Autumn Beauty, Chianti, and the second planting of Jua Maya

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The first batch of Silver Queen corn is getting cut down this afternoon, with fall sugar snap peas, scallions, spinach, and cilantro going in its place. We had a cool and rainy day yesterday, which seemed to remind everyone summer won’t be here forever.

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We baked this yummy treat together last week.  It will be a good one for lunch boxes and cooler days:

Toffee Chip Blondies

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-1 cup butter, melted

-1 3/4 cups light brown sugar

-2 eggs

-2 t. vanilla

-2 cups flour

–1/2 t. salt

-1 package of chocolate chips (12 oz)

-1 cup Heath bits

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line 9 x 13 casserole pan with foil, heavy duty if you have it, with enough overhang to make little foil handles.  Butter the foil.
  2. Using electric mixer, combine melted butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well combined.  Add flour and salt, beat for just a few seconds until flour is incorporated.  Gently stir in chocolate chips and Heath bits.
  3. Pour batter into pan, bake for 25 minutes.  The bars will cool to doneness and will look underbaked at first.  Allow to cool in the pan, removing with foil handles when completely cooled and ready to cut.

Marble Cake

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Our awful heat wave finally broke and we have been able to go outside again.  Windows open in the morning, time reading on the porch, garden work without feeling like you might actually die.  It is so nice.

This recipe is from Taste of Home, called Marvelous Marble Cake.  It was a lot of work (done 99% by my niece, INCLUDING THE DISHES!) and is VERY sweet.  I wouldn’t make it again but it will certainly get eaten.

 


Easy Shrimp Scampi

The only seafood anyone else in the family will eat is shrimp, and maybe a crab cake or crab dip once a year.  This is one of our favorite ways to eat it, and we always serve it with bread, salad, and fresh fruit for a fresh and easy meal.

Make sure the pasta starts cooking before you start the shrimp as it comes together very quickly.  Have your sides ready too.  The wine can be left out if you won’t drink the rest of the bottle.  It’s not worth opening one for the small amount that goes in the sauce.

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Shrimp Scampi Over Linguine

3 T. butter

3 T. olive oil

5 cloves of garlic

1/2 t. lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

Splash of dry white wine

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 t. salt

half a pint of cherry tomatoes (I used sungold)

ground pepper to taste

fresh or dried parsley, a few tablespoons fresh or teaspoon dried

pound of shrimp, peeled (previously frozen is fine)

box of linguine or other pasta

  1. Start cooking the pasta to al dente
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil together over low and sauce the garlic until no longer raw, about a minute or two
  3. Add the shrimp, whole cherry tomatoes, and salt, stirring until shrimp are almost cooked, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the black pepper, red pepper, lemon juice and zest, and white wine, and cook for three minutes more. Add fresh or dried parsley, just for color.
  5. Remove from heat and toss with pasta

 

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What I Wish I Had Known About Cloth Diapers From the Beginning

 

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When I was pregnant with Maddie, my first baby, I knew I wanted to cloth diaper.  I didn’t know anyone else who did it.  I’m not even sure how I heard about it.  Probably some weird eco-friendly baby guide.  I registered for pocket diapers, a brand called Oh Katy which is since out of business but very similar to Fuzzibuns and other popular pockets on the market today.  No one bought them for me.  Everyone thought I was weird.  I got them for myself after she was born.  I congratulated myself on my thriftiness and how hard I was working to save our family money.

Well.

My husband hated them, thought they stunk up the laundry room and refused to use them, (not that he used disposables either).  They could be folded up to fit a tiny baby but the folds made them bulky and her clothes didn’t fit right and I could barely buckle her into a car seat.  At about nine months they started leaking around the legs and had to have the elastic redone.  I have no idea how to do such a thing, so my mom worked on them for me, taking them two at a time to her house.  The microfiber seemed stinky even after a ton of hot washes, and yes I used the expensive Charlie’s Soap detergent and dried them outside.

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I switched to disposables for overnight, and for outings, and then eventually switched altogether after her first birthday.

Now on my third cloth diaper baby I wish I had known what I know now.

1. Prefolds until potty training

They are so much better than the microfiber pockets. No stuffing, no snaps, no stickiness after washing and much less leaking.  You will need different sizes of diapers and covers, but it is still less expensive than a whole suite of one size diapers that still don’t fit a newborn.  I still have the first diapers.  They still look great except for the leg elastic.  I will use them during potty training when their leakiness will be an advantage.

2. Use powdered Tide

I spent four years (two years for each of my first two babies) buying Charlie’s Soap which did pretty much nothing special.  I had read that not using an approved detergent such as Charlie’s or Green Mountain would void the warranty.  The warranty?  Were they thousands of dollars? Were they going  to spontaneously combust?  I just can’t fathom making a warranty claim on a diaper.  And not only was the the Charlie’s soap expensive, it did not clean nearly as well as Tide.  They spend millions on developing enzymes and cleaning agents.  It is going to clean better than an all natural powder.

3.  Use Dawn and bleach sparingly

I strip with Dawn once every other month or so.  This means washing with a tiny squirt of Dawn in the washing machine and then washing three times in hot water with no soap to rinse all the residue out.  The Dawn helps strip the diapers of any built up detergent residue that can hurt how absorbent the diapers are.

I use a splash of bleach only if I am washing on a cloudy or rainy day.  Otherwise I dry in the sun to bleach out stains (yes this really and truly works), freshen, and disinfect anything that escaped the hot water and detergent.

Doing these three things changed everything about cloth diapering for me.

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I love them now.  It’s not just the money saving aspect.  I love the routine of caring for them and I  think they look cute.  They are very little work for a lot of reward.

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Simple Sunday Roast Chicken

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It has been a quiet summer so far, relaxing at home, swimming in our water trough “pool”, taking out of focus pictures, etc.  My niece is visiting for six weeks and has been a great help around the house keeping the older girls entertained.

I have been trying to be careful to serve simple food since I know she is a little picky.  I already have three other picky eaters so adding another is a challenge.  I serve everything family style on big platters so she can take or leave whatever she would like.  This was a meal that pleased everyone and was easy for Sunday.   No last minute rushing, no sweating over the cooktop.

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First the chicken is rinsed, brought to room temp, and patted dry.  Then it is rubbed with kosher salt.  I make a mix of softened butter, onion powder, parsley, pepper, and thyme, and rub that on the skin.  It is baked at 350 on the convection roast setting for an hour and a half.  Easy as can be, no real recipe needed.  Whatever herbs and spices you have and your family likes will be fine.  If you don’t have a roasting pan, use a 9X13 casserole dish.  If you don’t have a convection oven, just keep checking the internal temp until it is 160 and the skin is browned.

I served it with a BLT salad (just a chopped salad with romaine, diced tomato, crumbled bacon, and ranch),  corn on the cob from the garden, and French rolls since Matt will only eat roast chicken as a chicken sandwich.

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The roll recipe comes from Bread Machine Magic.  The recipe is called “Authentic French Bread”, divided into rolls and baked for only 12 minutes.

It was a nice meal that could be prepared earlier in the day.  All that had to be done at the last minute was the corn, which is just steamed for four minutes in hot water, and to toss the salad with ranch.  Roast chicken is one of those things that looks impressive, but is a million times less work than a casserole or pasta dish.  Perfect for a Sunday.