diy: car air fresheners

It’s summer time and it seems like every time we plan a road trip with the kids, life gets in the way and we have a project or another matter to tend to. We have one we have been making some plans for and Andy and I are determined to make it happen before the end of the month. Any amount of time with all three of the munchkins doesn’t go without a few hiccups. Our little ones are actually great road warriors, but I was already mentally checking off in my head what oils I would be bringing for needed stress relief.

Lightbulb!

Diffusing is a major go to for mood in our house. While I don’t have a car diffuser (YET!) I had seen a few really cute ideas about making your own vent diffusers. Plus, who doesn’t love getting into a car that smells good?! It definitely distracts me from what is possibly living in my backseat that was left behind from my children. All you need is a few small craft supplies and you’re on your way to a better smelling car.

– felt

– small clothespins

– leather cord

– small poms

-hot glue gun

– scissors

– essential oils

I decided to go classic and used a basic tree cookie cutter to trace my shape on the felt, while it was folded in half, in order to give me two identical pieces. Cut a small piece of leather cord, and glue it inside the top before glueing the two pieces together.

So easy! These would make adorable gifts for people! Cut any shape you like and use 5-10 ¬†drops of essential oils on the felt before placing in the car. I love that it’s reusable and just a cute way to add personality to my car. I found that placing it on my dash vent while my car warmed up made for a smelly treat when we were ready to take off! (This will obviously yield better results when it’s cold, and your warm defrost is on.)

Next up was the vent diffusers. I glued a single pom on a clothespin (making sure it was one that fit well on my vents) and made enough to have a few up front and then a few to place on the vents above the kids’ seats. While they work great while we have the air on, I realize in the summer with the windows open or driving without air going, they won’t be as effective. A USB diffuser would definitely be better suited for that.

But this a simple idea for our upcoming road trip. Place a few drops of your favorite essential oils on the poms and clip them onto your vents, and away you go! I’m definitely thinking of using the blend Peace and Calming for the vents by the kids. ūüôā

living local

The idea of homesteading is really appealing to me  some people.

I personally am a fan of running water, daily showers and a cup of coffee I can enjoy in less than 5 minutes of prep. But the thought of foraging, living off the land and incorporating your surroundings into your life at home is something I can get behind. I’m pumped to have a garden that we’ve been able to eat out of all summer long, and I’m really excited to try out new recipes that let me play with flavors I don’t have access to during other parts of the year. Like fireweed blossoms.

fireweed

Fireweed is abundant everywhere in Alaska. It surrounds our backyard and whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or a walk in the woods, you’ll see it spread across the landscape. Fireweed ice cream is my absolute favorite and whatever restaurant is serving it, I’m sure to get double scoops.

So to feel like I was a real pioneer woman, I read a few articles on uses for fireweed blossoms and decided on a batch of jelly. You can’t go wrong with jelly.

We started with collecting our blossoms. I needed 8 cups of petals for my recipe. Hayden started out being a helper but was soon fired after she dumped out my first bucket of petals in the bushes. All 8 cups of clean, collected, ready to cook, petals. There might have been some choice words used in her direction.

laid out

pot

8 cups of petals were rinsed, dried off and put into a pot with water and lemon juice. Brought to a boil and simmered for 10 mins. After cooling slightly, the liquid got strained, making sure all parts of the flower were left out of the juice. Back in the pot to warm back up before adding the pectin. Sugar added and return to a hard boil for 1 minute. Pour into hot jars and seal. Easy as that my friends.

The recipe made for a small batch and I ended up with 7 small jars of delicious, sweet, purple jelly.

We did a taste test and it didn’t last long. It’s a very subtle flavor, sweet and not overpowering. The best description that comes to mind is a flowery grape flavor. Which I mean is probably what it says on store bought jars of it. It has a really pretty purple hue and makes for fancy toast.

toast

inside

It was a quick and easy project that had delicious results.

Now who wants a jar?!?!

jar

this round’s on me

One of my favorite things about summer is using fresh ingredients that are in season. I was spoiled growing up in the northwest with the fact that it wasn’t hard to buy just about any produce, any time of the year. Try buying peaches in Alaska come November. It simply won’t happen.

So I try to stock the kitchen with all that I can to get the most of it. Cherries has been our current kick. They are delicious and an easy snack for the kids. Plus, my lavender is rampant in the yard so this syrup recipe seemed liked the perfect plan. The actual recipe was for a lemonade using this syrup, but I mean how boring?

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My current obsession is sanpellegrino. Grapefruit is my favorite and orange and lemon are great for mixers. Feel free to use Sprite or 7 Up if that’s your kick. Over ice mix 1 part vodka, 1/2 part cherry lavender syrup and the top the glass with lemon sanpellegrino. I’m sure Sprite or 7 Up would be just as tasty, but the lemon soda is tart and the syrup is super sweet, so it’s the perfect combo.

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The syrup is best kept in a glass container in the refrigerator, ready to use for all your summer parties.

recipe

You can use this recipe and simply omit the alcohol for a kid friendly version, or increase your measurements and make a pitcher of this concoction. I promise it won’t last long! Cheers!

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brussels sprout salad

You either love them or hate them. And I LOVE them! But you can only eat steamed or saut√©ed sprouts before you need a change. So we’re going raw people.

This salad can be prepped ahead of time and holds up great overnight. It’s perfect for a quick lunch or as a side for your next barbecue.

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You only need brussels sprouts, tomatoes, chickpeas, feta and a nut blend of your choice. I used this salad topping which was a blueberry almond mix.

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As far as measurements go, adjust according to how many you are feeding. Altogether this made approx 2 1/2 cups of salad.

Cut off the stems of the sprouts and slice in halves. Finely slice the halves, making a slaw out of them. I like to take about half of my bag of sprouts and do this. It’s easy to then throw in other salads or use as a topping for sandwiches or wraps. If you have a food processor it makes this step easier. I don’t mind a little chop chop action.

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Now onto the dressing. This is one of my favorite salad dressings and like to have it on hand whenever I can. It’s a combo of two different ones. You can choose to make them all together or separate and combine like I did.

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In a measuring cup is a mixture of mayo and greek yogurt, sugar, apple cider vinegar and poppy seeds.

Then in a separate bowl make your creamy balsamic which is a simple base of mayo, yogurt, balsamic and oil. Throw in some garlic, mustard and brown sugar and mix in water until it’s nice and creamy.

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 Pour in your poppy seed dressing and add salt and pepper to taste.

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This recipe will make more than enough for your salad. Pour enough dressing over your chopped sprouts to coat and let them soak it up while you prep your other toppings. You can always cut this recipe in half or store it in the fridge for a later use. I use it on everything so I definitely make a full batch.

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Chop your tomatoes and add them along with the chickpeas and stir.

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Top your salad with feta and nuts. Choose to share your tasty treat. Or not. I won’t judge.

salad

Poppy seed Dressing:

3/4 c mayo- I did 1/2 yogurt, 1/2 mayo

1/3 c sugar

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp poppy seeds

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

3 tbsp mayo or same 1/2 and 1/2 combo here

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp mustard

1 tbsp garlic

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp water

salt and pepper to taste

Want another fabulous brussels sprout recipe? Make this pizza. It’s better than you would ever imagine.

deluxe taco pizza 

In the world of good eats, I pride myself on being good at a few things. I’d like to think I can make a mean batch of cookies, a delicious cocktail and one tasty pizza. This creation did not disappoint.

Crust. If your pizza has a bad crust or a bad sauce, its over. I have a few tried and true dough recipes and this one hands down is my favorite. It freezes well if you want to save it, and keeps good in the fridge for a later use also.

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Start with 1 1/8 cup of warm water. Warm, not hot. Yeast can be tricky. Cold water won’t activate it and hot water will kill it. A¬†package of yeast or if measured out,¬†2 1/4 tsp. Add a pinch of sugar, this will help get things moving. The sugar will feed your yeast and ensure your yeast is still active, it will be frothy and bubbly once you stir it.

Let that hang out while you gather your dry ingredients.

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp olive oil 

1 1/2 tsp salt

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Add your water and mix. Get your hands in there and knead it until it comes together. You might be tempted to add more flour because your hands are a sticky doughy mess. Don’t do it. Once that oil finally mixes in, it will soften and be easier to manage. Adding more flour is just going to dry out your end result.

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Place dough in well oiled bowl, cover and put in a warm spot in your kitchen. Let rise for at least one hour if not longer. Mine sat for a few hours before I messed with it. This gave me time to prep my toppings.

This is the part that makes this pizza deluxe. Some fancy toppings.

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All things magical happen when you use fresh herbs. Especially cilantro. This is going to be our sauce that we’ll add on top of everything.

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I roughly chopped a handful of cilantro and added it to about 1/2 cup of sour cream, a couple tablespoons of lime juice and one half of an avocado. Blend until smooth. I added a couple tablespoons of water to help break it all up.

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Putting it into a squeeze bottle is totally optional. I feel that it makes it easier at the end when I’m putting the pizza together.

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I might need to make more, because this bottle is going to get eaten all by myself. yuuummmmmm

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Chopped shallots and yellow tomatoes are my “salsa”. You can use any onion or tomato. I prefer shallots, they are a bit sweeter and once yellow tomatoes are in season, that’s the only tomato I buy.

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I browned a pound of ground turkey and once cooked, added taco seasoning and prepared the meat just as I would for actual tacos.

By this time, I can prepare my crust and prep my pizza. This recipe will make two pizzas. If you aren’t making two at that time, divide the dough in half and freeze or refrigerate for later. But if your like me, you’ll eat an entire pizza yourself and you need to make two to feed everyone else.

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Lightly flour your surface and roll your dough to desired thickness.

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Placed on greased pizza sheets and then brush the top with olive oil.

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Now we top them. The base is really simple. A can of refried beans split between the two. I read a lot of recipes that called for a mixture of beans and salsa and I really prefer just beans.

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Next up, cheese. I used a bag of store bought shredded Mexican blend. I’ve also done one with just pepper jack and it was just as good.

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Top with your cooked meat. I prefer ground turkey, even for my tacos, but you can use ground beef if you like.

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 Cook in a 400 degree oven until browned, approx 15 mins.

Let your pizzas cool down a bit and top with shredded lettuce. I used a bag of pre shredded iceberg lettuce, I like the crunch of it best.

Add your tomato shallot mix and drizzle your sauce over it.

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Now excuse me while I got back for seconds. Oh, who am I kidding? Fourths….

Deluxe Taco Pizza

dough:

1 1/8 cup warm water

2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) active dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp salt

toppings:

1 can refried beans

1 lb cooked ground turkey or beef

1 bag shredded cheese

chopped lettuce

chopped tomato and onion

sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tbsp lime juice

1/2 avocado

cilantro

 

sweet potato brownies

I really love being in the kitchen. Cooking and creating and trying new recipes are my way of relaxing. Plus, the end result pays off with something tasty.

Who doesn’t love brownies?!?! Two of my favorite brownie recipes involve black beans and zucchini. They help with that sweet tooth but cut down on the “bad stuff” and it’s fun to make people guess the secret ingredient.

So today’s brownie fix is going to be with sweet potatoes. I started by roasting a few in the oven this morning. I put mine in a 375 degree oven and went on my way with my morning coffee and 63 loads of laundry. It will take at least an hour depending on how big they are, so you can even do this part the day before.

I let mine roast just under an hour and half, let them cool and scooped out the goodness.

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I got about 2 cups from them, which for the recipe you’ll only need 1 1/2 cups. Reid loves sweet potato mash so looks like dinner is already ready for him.

Now you just need a few more ingredients.

I measured out my cashew butter and warmed it a bit so it was easier to blend. My favorite part of recipes like this are the fact that they come together so easily. No flour to sift or exact measurements needed. Brownies are forgiving.

Pour your batter in a greased 8×8 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. I added some dark chocolate chunks to mine right at the end as well. That’s optional, but I mean, why wouldn’t you?!

The hardest part of this will be letting them cool long enough. And not sticking your finger in them, woops.

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They turned out moist and fudgy and incredibly delicious. I mean just look at them…

Now excuse me while I hide from my children in the closet. With this plate.

chocolate quinoa cake

I did a previous post making two desserts that featured legumes. Is that right? Black beans and chickpeas are legumes, I think. Anyway, they are among a few healthy recipes that I’ve tested and loved. Now I have one more to add to the mix. Chocolate Quinoa Cake. In place of flour you use cooked quinoa. Lucky for me, I had an overload of it since I accidentally¬†doubled a recipe and had an overflow of the little grains around.

quinoa

It looks like rice krispie treats but it’s really not. I wish. Hey, I wonder if you could make them with quinoa? Probably not. Moving on.

ingrediants

Most everything needed for this cake I had on hand, with the exception of coconut milk, which I needed for the frosting. The most delicious frosting.

In a blender or food processor, you’re going to combine eggs, almond milk, and vanilla. Add in your cooked quinoa, melted coconut oil, and butter and blend until you get a smooth batter. Relatively smooth, it won’t resemble a box cake batter.

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Sift together your dry ingredients in a bowl. Cocoa, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add your blended ingredients and mix until well combined. Pour into your greased cake pans and put in your preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

oven cake

 

Now onto the amazing frosting. I would use this frosting for most anything else as well, and it can have so many variations. It takes just a little planning ahead, but having only two ingredients makes it so simple.

choc frost

You’ll need to stick a can of coconut milk in the fridge the night before, allowing the solid coconut to form at the top. You’ll open and scoop out this part into a bowl of chocolate chips. (No need to toss the rest, just stick in the fridge and use for other recipes)

can of choc

You’ll melt and stir, slowly. I did really small increments in the microwave but you could use a double boiler method if you prefer. Once melted and combined, allow to cool briefly then stick in the fridge for several hours to thicken back up. You’ll then remove and beat with a mixer until it reaches the consistency you like. Do your best to not eat most of it out of the bowl. Save some for the cake.

Once your cakes have cooled, remove from the pans and allow to rest and cool a bit longer. I used parchment paper which made handling so much easier since this cake is more fragile than a standard flour cake.

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From here on out you can probably figure out the rest. Make sure your layers are cool and it’s best to whip your frosting right before frosting your cake because once this frosting sits it starts to harden up again.

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final

I love this cake so much. It has all the elements of a delicious chocolate cake while making you feel a little bit better about yourself since it’s not loaded with all the “bad stuff.” I use quotes because I’m a big fan of the bad stuff so I don’t really think it’s bad. Those of you that are gluten free, this guy is right up your alley.

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This cake will fool the strictlers, wow your guests when you tell them what’s in it, and just might make the nay sayers change their mind about that silly little grain that most people can’t pronounce. KEEN-WAH. You’re welcome.

Chocolate Quinoa Cake

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

4 whole eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup evaporated cane juice sugar (or whatever sugar you prefer)

1 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

13.5 oz can full fat coconut milk- for frosting

10 oz bag chocolate chips- for frosting

tester23

 

 

 

 

 

 

diy: moon sand

Since having baby number two, it’s been a balancing act dividing my time between both kids. The perk of having a baby during the summer was that Hayden could go outside during the day and entertain herself. Now that the weather is getting colder, most activities are done inside. Despite my best efforts, after nursing and changing diapers, laundry and dishes, attempting a shower and eating a meal, Hayden often gets ignored. Thanks to Pinterest though I’ve pinned lots of fun projects for her. That way she gets something fun to do and it requires little assistance from me. It’s a win win for everyone. I don’t feel as guilty for not getting to spend as much time with her for the time being and she gets to be independent and creative.

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The highlight of this project is that it didn’t require I make an extra trip to the store for supplies. Flour and baby oil are really common products and I happened to have several empty totes on hand. I used one with a lid so that when she was done it could be easily stored until next time.
Measurements don’t have to be exact for this. I mixed roughly 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of oil. I opted to mix in a large kitchen bowl and dump into the tote but if you want you can certainly mix it in the same container your storing it in. It will only take a couple minutes to completely mix and it works best if you get your hands in there to mix it up. Plus you get to play a little bit yourself.

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Hayden has a large sandbox outside so we grabbed a couple tools from there and gave them a quick wash for the “inside sandbox” and she found all sorts of cups and Tupperware to build her castles with. She was busy with it for a good solid hour. An hour without asking me for fruit snacks 37 times. An hour that she didn’t ask to change the channel every 5 minutes. My living room stayed clean and I got to drink a cup of coffee in one sitting. She built and demolished over and over and when she was ready to be done, it was simply a quick washing of her hands and an easy sweep job around the kitchen table. There was no residue anywhere and her clothes weren’t destroyed. We threw the lid back on and set aside for another day of building!
For those of you that want to really go all out, you can change up the consistency and colors. Whatever suits your little ones sand box needs!

Black Bean Brownies and Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ready for some recipes that sound weird?!

I love new recipes and usually test out new desserts as often as I can. I’m definitely not above a cake recipe that asks for 3 cups of¬†butter or a batch of cookies that has 14 different kinds of candy in them. But the ones that call for¬†vegetables seem to always entice me.¬†If you haven’t tried¬†Red Velvet Cupcakes made with beets you¬†are missing out.¬†These are two of the recipes that are tried and true. I’ve made these brownies for several parties and they get gobbled up fast.

Black Bean Brownies adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups rinsed black beans (15 oz can)

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 cup oats

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup honey

1/4 cup coconut oil or vegetable oil (coconut oil tastes much better in my opinion)

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2-2/3 cup chocolate chips- your choice of dark, milk, semisweet

black beans

This is the easy part. Take all your ingredients, except the chocolate chips, and throw them in the blender. I melt my coconut oil a bit before hand so it all blends much easier.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sorry, should have told you that sooner.

Pour batter into greased 8×8 pan, I prefer to line my pan with tin foil, makes for easier removal and clean up. On top of your batter, sprinkle your chocolate and slightly push in.

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Bake for 15-18 minutes. A toothpick wont come out clean because these are a fudgier brownie, but they will be somewhat firm to the touch.

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While these are cooling, lets prepare the cookies.

Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cup rinsed chickpeas (15 oz can)

1/2 cup almond butter

1/4 cup coconut

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

dash of sea salt

1 tsp. of baking powder

1/2 cup chocolate chips

First off, shell your chickpeas. It isn’t a requirement but just like when you make hummus, shelled beans make the texture so much better. It’s somewhat time consuming but well worth it.

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Just like with the brownies, blend all your ingredients except the chocolate chips. I scooped mine into a bowl to mix in the chocolate and for easier handling.

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Your oven should still be set at 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non stick spray. Slightly wet your hands since the dough will be really sticky. Form into balls and flatten into a traditional¬†cookie shape. These won’t rise so whatever shape you form them into, they will stay.

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Bake for 15 minutes or slightly less if your oven runs hot like mine. Let cool along side your brownies.

Both recipes are refined sugar free, and gluten free, so they accommodate all sorts of people with food allergies or restrictions. And are super tasty at that!

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Now to see if they make it long enough to share.

52:8

Fate. It’s a funny thing. It can seem rather dramatic to feel like something was destined to happen. Sometimes, there is no other way to describe¬†it though. I experienced this today. My agenda was pretty open. Get some housework done, work on the yard a bit, read some more of a fantastic book my sister sent me and¬†meet up with a friend later¬†for dinner. Perfect day to throw in a little something special for a friend.

I had someone in mind this morning. She¬†recently got a new job, and is putting in her notice tomorrow morning.¬†The office she is leaving has been a stressful environment and¬†while I knew that she would¬†feel relief to tell them she was leaving, there would be¬†a bit of anxiety¬†involved. A little pick me up before¬†was in order. I had a few¬†beauty¬†supplies on hand, one being a dry shampoo¬†ironically named Fresh Start. Hilarious.¬†Some tea, and chocolates.¬†What else starts a day out right? Mini¬†muffins. Mini muffins in my opinion could probably¬†prevent wars. I mean who doesn’t feel loved when they receive a basket of homemade mini muffins/? The answer is no one.

melody

¬†Here is where fate comes into play. I planned on trying to do a sneak drop on my way to dinner, her house was on the way. Not¬†two blocks from her house, I passed her in traffic. Perfect!¬†Now I won’t have to be so sneaky and she’ll return home¬†to goodies on her doorstep. After my drop, I stopped to get fuel. Traffic was busy on the main street so I took a side alley when leaving. Who do I see when I pull back out but my muffin destined friend! She was out on a sunny stroll with a friend. I¬†chuckled as I pulled away. What are the odds I’d run into her twice in a row?

I enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal with my friend while Hayden played outside with her kids until the sun went down. Practically anyway. Our days are pretty long this time of year. Hayden and I packed up and headed home.

Low and behold, who do we pass again on the drive home?! You guessed it. Miss Muffin herself. It was at this point I smiled and realized that my gesture turned out to be bigger than just me. A greater force was at work, and this act of kindness was truly meant to be for her today. I got a very sweet text from her on my return home, and we had a good laugh at our many encounters over the course of the afternoon.

Want my mini muffin recipe? I know you do. They’re even sort of healthy, so you won’t feel so guilty when you eat 37 of them in one¬†sitting. I squashed two recipes together to come up with this¬†one ultimate showdown.

Banana Zucchini Muffins- Mini Style

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 tbsp. ground flax seed

2 eggs

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 bread flour (you can use all purpose, bread flour makes for a softer result)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla

4 tbsp. buttermilk

2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup shredded zucchini

handful of baby carrots, shredded (will be about 1/8 cup)

To your softened butter, add the sugar, honey, flax seed, bananas, zucchini and carrot. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own. Simply measure out what you need for the recipe with whatever milk you have on hand. Fat free, 2 %, whole, it’s all good, though a higher fat content will make for a better result. Now simply add a squirt or two of lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes before adding to your recipe. I rarely buy buttermilk so I use this easy trick a lot. Mix your dry ingredients together and slowly mix in with your wet combination. Since my buttermilk had been sitting while I prepared the rest, now is when I threw it into my mixture.

Have your oven preheated to 325 degrees and scoop your batter into a greased mini muffin pan, unless using liners. You could probably have figured that out on your own though. Bake for approx. 13-14 minutes. They won’t be golden brown, and if you eat them right out of the pan, they will seem undercooked. This is what you want! They will continue to cook while resting and the banana in the batter will cool. Which will result in a delicious moist muffin bite.

Now here comes the hard part, keep them for yourself or treat your friends and family? I’ll let you figure that one out.