Happy Birthday! Dominic Adam Turns 11

I now have an 11 year old.

I remember thinking last year, “Wow, I have a 10 year old,”  Somehow, this is equally as mind blowing. My little kiddo is not so little anymore. He’s growing up.

My son, Dominic Adam, turned 11 years old on June 10th. We celebrated the previous Sunday with a small gathering of family and friends at our house.  We had a really good time.

In addition to toys and clothes and other gifts, Dom received a brand new sleeping bag and his very own dome tent to use when we go camping. It’s currently still set up in the back yard.  He’s having a lot of fun with it.

The next day, Dom and I went on a day-hike at the Spicer Lake Nature Preserve. This is our favorite local hang out.   The highlight of the trip was the Painted Turtle that we met in the parking lot. Later, we came across a nesting site where several of the hatched eggs were still there.

We had a really good time wandering around the park.  It’s the perfect size for Dom as it only has approximately 4 miles of trails. We can hike the whole park and it doesn’t usually wear him out.

I am planning an over night camping trip for him on my next days off from work. He says he wants to go and is excited. Hopefully the weather isn’t too hot or stormy. I have a ton of ideas to keep him interested and from getting bored.

So excited.

Chicago Police Memorial Foundation Run To Remember 2016

On the morning of April 30, 2016,  I traveled to the city of Chicago to participate in the 12th annual Chicago Police Memorial Foundation Run To Remember 5K & walk. This was my fourth year participating in the event.

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation provides assistance to the families of police officers that have been killed in the line of duty and also for the officers who have been catastrophically injured in the line of duty.  They have also assisted in the purchase of ballistic vests for officers and aid the families of officers with seriously ill children.  They have been able to offer over 7.4 million dollars in assistance.  I am delighted to be a part of this every year.

You can learn more about that here.

The event starts at the Gold Families Memorial Park that is located next to Soldier Field. Soldier Field is home to the Chicago Bears. The event goes from the park along Lakeshore Dr. and then circles around along the shore of Lake Michigan. You pass by the Shedd Aquarium and also the Field Museum of Natural History.  During the last stretch of the race you pass by photographs of some of the fallen officers. It gives me goose bumps every single time. I am honored to be a part of this.

The race ends near the memorial wall in the Gold Star Families Memorial and Park.  Participants gather for a few hours to enjoy new friendships and refreshments at the after party. It’s a lot of fun and such a worth cause.

The goal for this year was $175,000 with $190,834.92 raised!!

The Annual Run to Remember is a 5K USATF certified chip-timed 5K Run combined with a noncompetitive 5K walk sponsored by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. The event also features a junior jog, and a family friendly after party with children’s activities. You can participate as a team or as an individual.

You can find out more on the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s website http://www.cpdmemorial.org/

The event next year is on May 6, 2017.  Save the date!

 

If You Eat Your Feelings, Make ‘Em Delicious! Baked Fudge

This is the post that is going to make you realize that I am a bad influence on you your new best friend.

It wasn’t an exceptionally stressful 12 hour shift today. I’m pretty sure I screwed something up to the point that I will likely hear about it. Nobody died, but that doesn’t matter. I’m stressed, I’m restless and I’m hungry.

So what’s better than drowning in your own self-loathing? Eating an amazingly delicious treat too late in the evening! I’ll hate myself in the morning. Remember though, I promised myself to live in the present.

Well, here we are friends, in the now.

Tonight, my feelings are going to taste like Baked Fudge. Very easy to make and the upside is that there’s a waiting period. It takes 45-50 minutes to bake, giving you time to think it through.

Should I eat this wonderful cup of joy at midnight?

Hell yea you should.   Just don’t do this everyday. Lucky for you, the recipe I am going to share with you doesn’t make very much. I usually split the batter into 3 individual 8oz, stoneware ramekins AKA little stoneware baking bowls.

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Flour,cocoa, sugar

 

Delicious batter…

 

Don't mind my outdated counter tops. I don't.

Don’t mind my outdated counter tops.

 

Three 8oz ramekins

Three 8oz ramekins

 

Place the ramekins into a pan that is half filled with water.

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The recipe I am using, and will provide below, will fill an 8 inch square baking dish. I like the ramekins because they assist with portion control.  Since I don’t have a lot of self control, they come in handy.  Also, if you want to make this for friends then you can share them individually, making their baked fudge experience extra special.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the upper crust is crispy and the rest of the batter is firm but not set. If you do the toothpick test, it shouldn’t come out clean. Your batter shouldn’t be runny.  If you pull this out of the oven and you’re not sure, put it back in for a couple more minutes.

Perfecto!

Perfecto!

Closer inspection?

Perfect- The upper crust should be crispy and will look like this.

Perfect- The upper crust should be crispy and will look like this.

What’s also great about this treat is that you can chose to use a topping, or not. Whipped cream is always good, so are strawberries and raspberries. Strawberries and raspberries are my two favorite fruits to enjoy with chocolate! I threw in the recipe to make your own whipped cream at the bottom.

Baked Fudge

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa – I used Hershey’s unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

To prepare:

Preheat your oven to 300-325 degrees, depending on your oven. I use a gas range and set my heat at 325 degrees.

Beat the eggs until they are light in color. Add sugar and beat until the mixture is well combined. Add the cocoa, flour, melted butter and Vanilla Extract. Mix until the batter is well combined.

Pour the batter into your ramekins or an 8 inch, square baking dish. Set the ramekins or the baking dish into a larger pan that is half filled with water.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the upper crust is crispy and the rest of the batter is firm, but not runny. If you do the toothpick test, it should not come out clean. If you remove your baked fudge from the over and you have second thoughts you can always stick it back in for a couple of more minutes.

I check on them after 45 minutes to see how they look. I usually bake them for 50 minutes and they are always perfect.

Like I mentioned above, I prefer to use a fruit topping, if I even add a topping. I also enjoy making my own whipped cream vs using store bought.

To make your own whipped cream, you will need:

  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Add the heavy cream and the sugar to a medium size bowl.  I use a regular hand held mixer, set on high. Mix the cream and sugar on high until the cream transitions into the whipped cream you know and love.  This can take up to 3-5 minutes.

When it’s done, you can either cover the bowl and use it or place the whipped cream into another container with a lid to keep in the refrigerator until it’s ready to be used again.

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Almost done!

I’ve had an hour to think about it. I am totally going to enjoy a ramekin of baked fudge goodness.  The other two I will save and take with me to work so I can have something sweet with my dinner.

This recipe is so easy and the result is so yummy!

What’s your favorite late night mistake snack?

How To Select and Clean A Pomegranate

Three perfect pomegranate's.

Three perfect pomegranate’s.

With the holidays coming and going, people like to not only decorate their homes for the season, but it also inspires them to try new things with the food they are preparing for family and friends. It seems that since the pomegranate began to gain popularity they have become a holiday season treat. I’ve also noticed that replicas of the pomegranate are being sold as decorations.

Inside of the shell that you see in the photo above are “arils” which are the fleshy seed that you eat. The pomegranate is the perfect  exotic garnish for any salad and not to mention the perfect snack all by itself. The arils also go great with sliced bananas, strawberries and blueberries. The arils are sweet and are crunchy. A lot of companies have tried to replicate the taste for various products that sort of taste like the cranberry. I do not think they are similar in taste.

Pomegranate’s are one of the oldest fruits on record and have been seen in writings and artifacts of many different cultures. The pomegranate is thought to be a native of Persia.  The growing seasons depends on where the tree is being grown. In the northern hemisphere it’s September-February while in the southern hemisphere it’s March-May.

Typically in the United States, where I am located, they start to show up in the grocery store around mid September. The brand that my local grocery store carries appear to be grown in California.  They retail anywhere from $2.99 each but are often on special at 2 for $5.00.  Around the holiday,s a lot of my local grocery stores and mega stores  sell them so cheaply that they practically give them away.

The only downfall to the pomegranate is that they can be a challenge to clean. I am going to give you some tips to ease you through the process.  It’s true that you can choose to purchase a container of arils that have already been cleaned off of the pomegranate, but you will pay twice the price for something you can do on your own.  You’ll get more for your money too,  if you’re using a lot of the fruit,  than you would if you were to purchase them in a container.

First, you need to select a pomegranate.  As with other things in life, size doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You want a pomegranate that is fairly heavy. This tells you that the pomegranate is full of ripe juicy arils and that’s what you want.  If you select a pomegranate based on size, without paying attention to its weight, you may be disappointed later when you cut it open to find that it doesn’t have a lot of arils on the inside. Or wasn’t quite ripe yet.

You also want to look at the skin and make sure that it is not wrinkled or rippled. This is a sign that the pomegranate has been sitting on the display for awhile. Also try to avoid ones that have cuts or bruises on the skin.   It is true that a pomegranate has a shelf life of up to three months, but since you’re standing in the grocery store making a new purchase, pass that one by if you can.  You don’t want to get home and find that your pomegranate is moldy on the inside.

Now that you have your pomegranate, you will want to prepare it to be cleaned.

I use my kitchen sink to soak the pomegranates in hot water for 30-40 minutes.  It’s as simple as filling your sink or a very large bowl full of hot water. How hot? A step above what you would hand wash your dishes in. Let them soak in the water for at least 30 minutes. You don’t have to keep the water hot just let them soak.  This will not damage the arils or make them mushy. When we are finished I am going to tell you to rinse them in cold water. That will crisp them again.

Let the pomegranates soak in hot water for 30-40 minutes.

Let the pomegranates soak in hot water for 30-40 minutes.

Next you will need a cutting board or something that you don’t mind cutting food on.

I suggest that you use a knife that is longer than your pomegranate. They aren’t terribly difficult to cut through, but a paring knife will be awkward.

Two warnings.

First, this is going to be a little messy. You may want to have a darker colored dish cloth or paper towel near by just in case.  The juice will stain your cutting board but cleaning with bleach will eliminate the stain.  You’ll want to look at the wall in front of you when you are done because you probably squirted juice on the wall.

Secondly, the rind or skin, may discolor your cuticles and finger nails.  When I clean my pomegranates I usually wear gloves. You’ll want to wear something that allows you to be able to move your fingers in a picking motion.  It hasn’t always happened but it only took one time for me to start using gloves. My fingers were stained yellow and it was not pretty.

Next, you’ll want to place your pomegranate so that it is upright, as it’s pictured below. You are going to cut it in half and then into four pieces. I start cutting in the middle of the top in an effort to make my pieces the same size.

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Cut the pomegranate in half, starting at the top.

Cut each half of the pomegranate in half again so you have four pieces.

Cut the pomegranate in half and then cut each piece until you have four pieces.

Cut the pomegranate in half and then cut each piece until you have four pieces.

Next, have a bowl or colander ready to catch your arils.  Hold one of the pieces in your hand. Take the thumb on each hand to fold the pieces backwards at the top and bottom, with your fingers supporting the middle.  The seeds will separate easily from the rind and fall in to the bowl. You simply keep picking at the arils until they are all gone from your piece.

Peel the rind back to expose the seeds.

Peel the rind back to expose the seeds.

It’s as simple as that.

Up close and personal with arils-

Up close and personal with arils-

When you are finished cleaning the arils from the pieces rinse them with cold water. Then simply let the water drain from the colander. When they are dry then place them into an airtight container and place them into the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.

I can clean three pomegranates in about twenty minutes and make a minimal mess. It’s seriously an art.

What do you think? Is this something that you are willing try? Have you cleaned your own pomegranate? How did it go?

Hello!! Welcome To My Blog

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Hello! My name is Jenn, I am a 30-something from the mid-western United States. I am a Public Servant, mom to a small human, dog mom to a Rottweiler and two Australian Cattle Dogs.

I enjoy camping, hiking and pretty much anything that involves the outdoors. I also enjoy attempting various “do it yourself” projects, photography, writing, cooking and living my life.

This is my third, and hopefully final attempt to start a blog. Over the years I have struggled to decide on a particular niche.  I don’t think that I really need one.  I’ve also overcome a lot in the past few years and have come out from under my rock to live again.

I decided to start this blog to chronicle my adventures in home improvement and my journey through life in addition to may to day musings.

I hope that you’ll follow along!