wagon ride through apple orchard

Apple Bread and an apple orchard

Apples are kind of a big deal around here. The University of Minnesota makes news each time it announces a new variety. Apple orchards aren’t hard to come by. In fact, there are so many it can be hard to pick just one. We’ve tried out several over the years and they each offer their own little twist on the experience.

Apples available for pick your own

This year we tried another new one  and we might have just found our annual orchard! Applewood Orchard in Lakeville, MN is close to the cities, but rural enough to be a nice day trip. We recommend getting there at opening, especially on days with gorgeous weather, as the parking lot fills quickly.

Walking through the shed you will find some pre-bagged apples, apple cider, caramel apples, and, of course, apple pies. Grab your picker, basket, and bag before heading out the back towards the orchard. They even offer cute little wagons for free that are perfect for toting several baskets for serious pickers or little helpers who tire out. With sixteen varieties of apples you are sure to find something you like the whole season.

Exploring Applewood Orchard Lakeville MN

Even though the grounds are walkable, there is a hayride offered in a loop that drops you off half-way though the orchards or at the corn maze. Best of all the hayride is free so if you find yourself loaded down with apples you can wait for the tractor to come back around and hop on.

Besides apples and the corn maze your family can find fun on the playground or riding the mini John Deere tractors around the little course. And what would a fall stop be without pumpkins! We walked out with two pumpkins for Halloween along with an amazing apple pie and seven pounds of apples.

It just felt right with the temperatures dipping and all the fun we had picking these apples to turn some of them into a delicious apple bread for family breakfast.

Homemade apple bread

Apple Bread
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 20minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 20minutes
Cook Time
  1. Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  2. Add egg, egg white, applesauce, vegetable oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Fold in the diced apples. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with a cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. You can bake it a little longer if you prefer it less moist. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out of pan.
  5. Slice and enjoy with warm apple cider or coffee for a cozy fall breakfast.

Share This:

Coffee: A beautiful relationship

Like any good relationship, my courtship with coffee has evolved and deepened. My first taste of coffee came as a kid when my grandma use to give us milk and coffee. Mostly milk with a little splash of coffee . . . so really light brown milk.

When we met again I was far from home living the craziness that is the first year of college. We often met at The Union in the center of campus, coffee wearing the trendy green straw dressed as a frappuccino. Possibly a step closer to the real thing, but still in that sweet early phase when you can’t get enough. Of course, college ended and jobs and the responsibilities of real life hit me hard. Our relationship had evolved to quick and naked jolts of energy before leaving the house. You know, the time in a relationship where you are past trying to impress and you’re just comfortable and don’t always recognize what they do for you.

As always, life continued to evolve and my first baby came into my life. And my reliance on and appreciation for that glorious taste of sanity grew each day. Of course, then coffee went and surprised me and evolved to a smooth delight with the strength to support me all day. When your love for something you thought you knew forwards and backwards is renewed and strengthened – that was cold-press and me. Now we’ve settled into that phase where we just are what we are. We don’t care who judges us for spending to much time together or thinks we should get out with others . . . we are two cubes in a cup and happy as can be.

The Best At Home Cold Press Coffee

1 lb beans, coarsely ground

1 gallon water

Equipment: large bowl or container with a lid; wire mesh strainer; paper filter

Cold press grounds with water

Add the coarsely ground beans to the large container and cover with the gallon of cold water. Stir slightly so all of the grounds are wet. Cover the container and place in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, place a paper filter in the wire mesh strainer over another large bowl or carafe. Pour the coffee/water mixture through the filter to strain out the grounds.

Finished cold press coffee

Enjoy the cold press over ice with your favorite add-ins and watered down to your desired strength. I prefer to use filtered water and add a splash of almond milk, but you do you.

Cold press can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days (if it lasts that long 🙂 )



Share This:

chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is it just me or has there already been a National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day this year? Oh, who cares though; we don’t need a special day to celebrate the world’s favorite cookie!

our favorite cookiesThis iconic sweet has millions of recipes claiming to be the best and we have tried our fair share at our house. From skookies to browned butter to chickpea based healthy bars we’ve enjoyed them all, but one recipe has stood out as our favorite. This recipe does take more time than your basic recipe, but every extra minute is worth the wait.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (originally appeared on Delish)
Servings Prep Time
24Cookies 20minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
24Cookies 20minutes
Cook Time
  1. Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and whip until combined.
  2. In medium bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir into the butter mixture and fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  3. Divide dough into 24 balls about 1 1/2-inch each. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and slightly flatten. Place baking sheets in freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. While dough is in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Remove the dough balls from the freezer and bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Let cool on pan for few minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely.

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

It is hard to believe it was a year ago that we welcomed our baby boy to the world. It has been a crazy year adjusting to having two little ones in the house, long commutes, and finding time for ourselves. But one thing that doesn’t take any adjustment is my love for birthdays and celebrating.

Little man turns one

My husband isn’t a huge fan of birthday celebrations, but I think each year is a milestone of accomplishments, lessons learned, growth, and memories. So we ALWAYS celebrate in our house, I’m baking so it is my rules. And really who is going to turn down a special treat . . . no one in my house!

Of course, even when celebrating I want to make sure we are being good to ourselves. So not every special occasion includes a sugar bomb. Don’t get me wrong we LOVE sugar in all of its processed sparkly glory. If you follow me on Instagram you have probably noticed plenty of ice cream cones and crazy donuts 😃 But sometimes it is just about getting something a little sweet without all the bad stuff. Which is why I love this recipe!

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

healthy peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars

1 (15oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter (you can sub creamy if you prefer)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, reserve 1/4 cup for the top
sea salt to sprinkle on top
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 9″ tart pan or glass baking dish and set aside. (I prefer the tart pan because I think the triangles make it feel more special)
2. Put all ingredients except the chocolate chips and sea salt in a food processor.
3. Blend until smooth.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Pour dough into prepared pan and spread out evenly.
6. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips and sea salt.
7. Bake 20-25 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
8. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
9. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
We enjoy these bars for special occasions or just because we have a massive sweet tooth at our house. Don’t worry though, we are celebrating little man’s birthday over the weekend with some real sugary cupcakes and frosting.

Share This:

Giant Irish Soda Muffins (that aren’t green)

It doesn’t seem like we should be talking about St. Patrick’s Day yet. And it definitely doesn’t seem like Easter should be just around the corner.

But here we are, nearly halfway through March. So the green is sneaking up on us . . . even if it is only in the form of glittery shamrocks and leprechaun hats. Hopefully, we will soon see some green sneaking out of the ground and sprouting from our flowerbeds.

Until then I will just enjoy a celebration of the Emerald Isle with some good food. I’ve never really understood the fascination with coloring foods green that should not be green so I am going for some actual greens instead. I suppose when you think Irish cuisine most people don’t think of greens anyway. You think of sausage, fish and chips, and other plain colored items. However, a few years ago I read a wonderful piece in Travel & Leisure that gave me a whole new perspective on Irish cooking.

My favorite still remains the traditional soda bread, but I’ve been getting inspired by a few Irish dishes online as well. Here are a few of our favs and our favorite soda muffins to go along with whatever you choose this St. Patrick’s Day. muffins

Corned Beef and Vegetables

Beef and Stout Casserole with Herby Dumplings

Sausages Baked with Beans and Eggs

Roast Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce

Irish Soda Muffins
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6large muffins 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
6large muffins 15minutes
Cook Time
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray six 1-cup muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. 3. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated as small pea like pieces.
  4. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to blend.
  5. 5. Spoon muffin batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. 6. Remove muffins from oven and let cool slightly on a rack prior to turning out.

Share This:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

As I’ve said before, I love quinoa. It is perfect for cold or warm dishes. You can toss it with veggies, fruits, nuts . . . really anything. It can be the base for a savory or sweet dish.

Quinoa flour, that was something new. I’ve been seeing more recipes that use alternative flours – coconut flour, oat flour, tapioca flour – and I was ready to branch out from my normal whole wheat and all purpose for something a little different. Family breakfast seemed like the perfect opportunity for a little experimentation because who wants to be the only taste tester.

Getting inspiration from Monique over at Ambitious Kitchen I settled on a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe for a first try.

This sweet bread made a perfect Valentine's Day breakfast.

This sweet bread made a perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast.

Note: After doing a little research online I found it is important to toast the quinoa flour to take out some of the quinoa flavor. Monique used the stove top method, but I preferred the oven method and just did the whole bag at once. For this method, spread the flour out on baking sheets covered in foil or parchment paper and bake at 215 degrees for 2 ½ to 3 hours. The flour will lose its quinoa smell and can then be kept in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer for 8 months.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 15minutes
Cook Time
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8x4 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. 3. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, agave, egg, peanut butter, and almond milk until creamy.
  4. 4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  5. 5. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out of the pan.

Pink angel food cake and family traditions

Those moments when you feel like things just aren’t going according to your carefully laid plans . . .

For my three year old, these moments usually end in pouty lips and tears with some occasional yelling. Oh, if only it was still that easy! However, I am pretty sure that my employer and the general public would not stand for a 30 something woman falling apart in the grocery store aisle.

So, I bite my tongue, hold back the tears, and find my “happy place”. For me, there are two things I turn to that do not rely on someone else– my running shoes and my oven. There is an innate appeal about the smell of something baking and the heat slowly filling the kitchen that makes me feel wrapped in a cocoon of security and positivity.

Growing up I heard stories of my great grandmother preparing angel food cake smeared in pink icing for birthdays. When I recently needed a little “me” time in the kitchen I figured what better positive memory to wrap myself in than a sugary pink, light and fluffy cake?

great gmas cake

My mother enjoying her birthday cake from grandma.

So with flour, sifter, sugar, and butter at hand I started my baker’s motivation.

Angel Food Cake (recipe from Taste of Home)

1 1/4 cups egg whites

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup cake flour

1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Place the oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift 1/2 cup sugar and the flour together twice; set aside.
  4. Add cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar 2 Tbsp at a time while beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
  5. Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove any air pockets.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and the top appears dry.
  7. Remove from the oven and invert pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.


1/2 cup butter, softened

4 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

5 to 6 Tbsp milk

A few drops of red food coloring

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
  2. Beat in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and the milk to reach the right consistency.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to desired hue.

Angel food

I have to admit it tasted delicious, but I don’t know how great grandma did it. Frosting an angel food cake is hard! Would I do it again? Of course, it is a part of the past of my family and one I might introduce to Olivia.

Don’t forget to enjoy your own family traditions.

Share This:

Quick summer quinoa salad

I feel like this week flew by. I haven’t had time to stop and think about anything, including meals. It is weeks like these where it seems it would be easier to just pick up the phone and order take-out or pop a frozen pizza in the oven. However, I know that doing either of those things probably wouldn’t make me feel any more awake or aware and I would feel crappy about what I ate.

It is weeks like these that I tend to get creative with what is in my pantry. That would be where this meal came from.

bowl of summer happy

Quick Summer Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa (3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 ½ cup water

12 oz. fruit salsa

½ cup roasted unsalted nuts

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese


Place the water and dry quinoa in a pot on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the head, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Once the water is absorbed, remove from the heat and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking, place the fruit salsa including any juices into a large bowl. Chop the nuts (we used roasted almonds) and add to bowl. Crumble in the cheese.

Add the quinoa to the dish and toss.

Serve with pita, naan, or top with chicken or other protein.

quinoa salad

4 servings                                                                ENJOY!!!!!

Note: I used mango fruit salsa from Lunds & Byerlys, which is made on site. I recommend a salsa made by your local grocery store or a store bought one that is low in sugar and salts. Or it is super easy to make your own and store for later use.

Share This:

Teachers and lemon raspberry muffins

I have always loved learning and school and I hope we can instill the same passion in Olivia. As much as I love learning in general, it always helps to have a great teacher. We should celebrate these teachers year round, but especially this week. We should recognize their hard work, long hours, patience, and unwavering support.

Hopefully, we have all had at least one teacher that sparked something in us. Someone who could make you dig deeper than you thought possible, believe in your own talents, or just make you realize that you are not alone.

For me, there was Mrs. Gaither, who made me believe in myself again. Mr. Williams, who encouraged my love of reading and writing (and look where I am today). Mrs. Lane, who made science a passion and proved it could be entertaining. Mr. Paternoster, who made me proud to be one of the “smart kids” and reminded us that teachers are pretty cool people. Really the list could go on and on because I was blessed with a collection of amazing teachers and still am to this day.

Olivia has already had a handful of teachers in her young life and if they are an example of what is to come then I know she will be in good hands. To honor them and share a little of our love with them we made them some beautiful Lemon Raspberry muffins. Just a nice way to kick off their week . . . we hope they enjoyed them and we hope you do too.

Be sure to thank the teachers in your life and let them know their work is appreciated and making a difference.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins – from Eating Well 



1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon, trying not to get the pith (white layer). Combine the zest and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the zest chopped into the sugar.

lemon sugar

Add the wet ingredients: buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Pulse until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix just until almost blended. Gently fold in the raspberries, trying not to break them.


Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray and evenly divide the batter between the cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the edges and tops are golden. Let cool slightly before turning out of the pan.


Share This:

Pistachio muffins for a little comfort

**spoiler alert for Grey’s Anatomy fans who’ve been living under a rock this past week**

I am not an emotional eater, but every once in a while you need something special in your belly to feed your happiness.

If you are a Grey’s Anatomy fan you might be looking for some comfort food just like me. I know it has been almost a week, but we all still haven’t gotten over the death of Derek Shepherd (aka Dr. McDreamy). Some people turn to ice cream or cheesy lasagna, but my go-to is muffins. There is something soothing about starting your day with a moist slightly sweet muffin.

So hopefully these pistachio muffins will soothe whatever is bothering you . . .

Pistachio muffinsPistachio Muffins – adapted from Food Pleasure and Health
Makes 6 jumbo muffins (I mean who eats one little muffin anyway)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp all spice
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup shelled, roasted salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Measure your milk and add the lemon juice. Allow to sit until needed – the milk will thicken like buttermilk.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice.

In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients and gently whisk – milk, oil, vanilla extract, and egg.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spray a six jumbo muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the cups and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pistachios.

Bake the muffins for 15-17 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let set in the pan a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Share This: