Monday, May 31, 2010

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
Made a blueberry pie with a homemade crust using a recipe that my grandma passed down (she used to be a baker). The recipe for the blueberry pie itself is an Amish one.

The recipe was made for and shared as part of the 52 Weeks of Baking swap on Swap-Bot. Here's the recipe for the pie crust and pie filling:

Pie Crust Ingredients

1 cup lard
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup very cold water

Pie Ingredients

1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen rhubarb, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces (I used dairy-free butter)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugars, nutmeg, salt, tapioca, rhubarb, and blueberries; mix well. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Make pie crust by combining all the ingredients except water. Mix well. Gradually add a little bit of water at a time until the ingredients form a ball of dough.

Roll out half the pastry on a floured surface and line a 9-inch pan, patting it in firmly. Pour in the filling and dot with the butter. Roll out a top crust, place on top of the filling, and seal the edges; slash to top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes more or until the crust is brown and the juices are bubbling up in the pie. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely before serving.

Note: If using fresh fruit, increase the baking time until juice appear on top of the pie, 10-15 minutes more. Tent with foil if the crust begins to get too brown.


Sophia and I loved the taste of the blueberries, the sweetness of the sauce, and the pie crust. Olivia doesn’t like blueberries, but she likes pie crust, so she ate that.

I was disappointed that the sauce turned out so runny and the tapioca was still hard and not soft. Not sure why it does that. Perhaps I need to try another tapioca (a much quicker cooking one than the one that I used). I looked up my mom’s blueberry pie recipe and she did use tapioca also for a thickener. The tapioca she had was in a red box and it cooked in only 20 minutes. I’m wondering if the type I bought (not in a red box) was a longer-cooking version so it didn’t have time to properly dissolve and thicken the sauce.

The other thing that I didn’t use in this recipe was rhubarb. I was actually excited to use rhubarb and thought I had a lot frozen in the freezer from last year’s crop. I guess I must have used it during the winter. So, the blueberry rhubarb pie ended up just being a blueberry pie.

I’m going to try this recipe again in about a two months (July) when the rhubarb and blueberries are ready and fresh from the garden.

The pie crust is a very old recipe – probably from the first few decades of the 1900s. My grandma was a baker in downtown Minneapolis. She made a variety of baked goods, and the pie crust is something that there is no comparison to these days.

I make a double batch of the pie crust and freeze it into balls that are big enough to make 2 crusts. Wrap them in double plastic wrap. They freeze very well. Thaw and roll out when you’re ready to use them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Playground Sculpture

Okay...this is cool! It's a new playground that has swings, sitting areas, platforms, observation areas, birdhouses, wooden's one of the more interesting child-attracting sculptures I've seen. It is so random and unpredictable - unlike traditional playground equipment. There's a lot to look at explore.

This was one of the favorite sculptures that the girls could interact with at Franconia Sculpture Park in Franconia, Minnesota. Whenever art is accessible and children can be a part of it - or interact with it - I believe art becomes even more interesting and memorable.

It's because of art like this that both my daughters enjoy going to the sculpture park and seeing the wide variety of large-scale art.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Colorful Mandala

Colorful Mandala
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
This is one of the mandalas I colored recently with Prismacolor color pencils. I enjoy coloring them; and find it very relaxing to pick the pencils and then add vibrancy to a page that is initially void of any color

The book I'm using has 48 different mandalas. I'm about half-way through now. My youngest daughter wanted to color the mandalas as well, and I found two mandala coloring books just for children. She has enjoyed coloring them in the morning just after she wakes up or while I'm reading in the afternoon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
This turtle had just crossed the road about a mile from home. Pulled the car over so the girls could get a better look at the turtle.

We stopped about ten feet from the turtle to look at it. A few seconds later it literally JUMPED off the ground towards us. Even though it moved probably only a few inches, it was more than enough to keep us far away from it.

My friend, Mark, and his wife and dog were visiting from Massachusetts. Mark got out of his car to look at the turtle as well. He was equally freaked out by it and wasn't going in for a closer look either.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Nature Table

May Nature Table
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
Each season or holiday the nature table changes.

For the beginning of May, the focus is on things we see outside - birds, nests, rocks, pinecones, bark, and flowers.

The lilacs, wild columbine, and hosta leaves are from the yard.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Olivia Riding a Llama

This year Olivia and Sophia got to ride a llama at the annual Sheep and Llama Festival. It is always held Mother's Day weekend, and the girls and I have attended each year since they were little.

I use to purchase quite a bit of wool at the event, but still have so much on hand. My goal this year is to use the craft supplies that I have before purchasing new supplies.

So, the girls and I enjoyed seeing the llamas, sheep, alpacas, and goats this year. Being able to ride a llama was definitely a highlight of the day for both of the girls.

Llamas apparently move like deer, so riding them is quite different than riding a horse or pony. This will be one of those memories that will stay with them both for years to come.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lime Coconut Bars

Lime Coconut Bars
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann
Made these bars for Mother's Day; and they are delicious! They are made with freshly-squeezed lime juice, and lime and lemon zest.

They remind me of tropical type bar with the lime and coconut. These are not ingredients that we have growing in Minnesota so they are a treat to have…especially the fresh lime juice. These were a twist on the traditional lemon bars, and such a delightful spring dessert.

Also shared this recipe as part of the 52 Weeks of Baking Swap on Swap-Bot.

Here's the recipe:



1 roll (16.5 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1/3 cup flour
1 cup toasted coconut


2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup flour
3 drops green liquid food color (optional)
Confectioner’s sugar


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13” x 9” baking pan with foil, letting foil extend above pan at both ends. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Knead cookie dough with 1/3 cup flour and coconut until combined. Press dough evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes until golden; leave oven on.

Meanwhile, make topping. Whisk sugar, eggs, lime juice, lime zest, lemon zest, and 1/3 cup flour in large bowl until smooth. Stir in green food coloring, if desired. Pour over the hot crust. Bake 20 minutes until set. Cook in pan on wire rack.

Lift foil by ends to cutting board. Cut lengthwise into 4 even strips, then cut each crosswise into eighths to make 32 pieces. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Bars can be refrigerated airtight with wax paper between layers for up to one week.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Horses Resting in the Pasture

Bailey and Hoss (a pony and miniature horse respectively) rest periodically during the day...sometimes with their heads down on the grass.

The first time I saw them with their heads on the grass I thought they were dead. This is a view that I like...they remind me of when I had sheep and the sheep would rest in the pasture during the day.

It's such a peaceful image to see when I look out the window to see them relaxing.

I think back to last summer (2009) when both arrived here. They both came from neglect situations, were in foster care briefly, and then delivered here. Bailey and Hoss had not known each other prior to arriving at the farm, but in a very short period of time they grew to be inseparable.

The horses have been good for one another...and for Sophia and Olivia who both love horses and have been doing therapeutic horseback riding now for many years.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
Took a short respite to South Padre Island (Texas) and Port Isabel for a few days at the end of April/beginning of May.

I wanted to see the world's largest barrier island (South Padre Island) at a time when it isn't crowded with college students and tourists. A simple internet search showed when college spring breaks are scheduled. Booked the trip for 2 weeks after the last one. It was perfect...the island was quiet and almost desolate in areas.

One day, I visited South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. Here's the link to the organization: . It's a very nice facility with a wooden boardwalk and resting areas/bird observation areas.

This was one of the many herons that were enjoying the center's natural areas. Saw quite a few birds - many that I have never seen in Minnesota.

Just down the road from the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is Sea Turtle, Inc. The organization rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles that have been injured in the wild. Some are able to be released, but others are severely injured and would not survive in the wild. They are kept at Sea Turtle, Inc. and cared for there.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Closer Look

One of the benefits of living in the country is that you can have a lawn full of "beautiful yellow flowers" (according to my 9 and 7 year old daughters) and no one cares. There's no need to spray chemicals on your lawn to achieve that perfect, dandelion-free, green grass.

Rather, each morning we awake to brilliant yellow "flowers" dotting the vibrantly-green grass. When one's perspective changes from seeing dandelions as weeds to seeing them from a child's perspective of flowers...then everything just seems to be just that much more joyful.

Even more inspiring, is taking a closer look...getting down on your hands and knees...and looking - REALLY looking - at the detail that is in each of these little flowers.

Up until this year, I've always looked at the "big picture" - the hundreds of dots of yellow in the sea of green. This year, I took some time to look at some of them closely. It was well worth the time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spring Blossom

Took a walk around the backyard and enjoyed looking at all the beautiful blossoms - those that had already opened and those that will be blooming soon.

This particular one caught my eye. It's almost like the buds were framing the flower.

Such a simple pleasure, but one that brightened my day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Corn Dog Muffins

Corn Dog Muffins
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann

Found this recipe in Sneaky Fitness: Fun, foolproof ways to slip fitness into your child's everyday life (by Missy Chase Lapine) that is for helping kids eat more healthy food. Instead of deep-fried corn dogs, this recipe is baked.

The crust/muffin is a combination of whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and white flour. It also has a "secret" ingredient - a puree of cooked cauliflower and raw zucchini. You don't even taste the puree - but it's a great way to sneak in some vegetables if kids don't eat them.

Made these corn dog muffins for the 52 Weeks of Baking swap on Swap-Bot. For the swap, you share one recipe that you baked during the week, a picture of it, the reaction to it, and any lessons learned.

(Note: This recipe is not advised for kids under 3, as hot dogs can pose a choking hazard.)

- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons sugar - 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup White Puree (See Make-Ahead Recipe below)
- 6 tablespoons low-fat milk
- 1/2 cup grated low-fat cheddar cheese
- 2 hot dogs, cut in half lengthwise, and chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup Flour Blend (See Make-Ahead Recipe below)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

> Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners. Spray liners lightly with cooking spray oil.

> In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined, then whisk in the melted butter, White Puree, milk, cheese, and hot dog pieces. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, Flour Blend, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until flour is just moistened (don't over-mix or the muffins will be dense).

> Scoop the batter into muffin tins, filling just to the top. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Make-Ahead Recipe: White Puree

Makes about 2 cups of puree. Double recipe if you want to store even more, which can be done in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze 1/4 cup portions in sealed plastic bags or the small plastic containers.

- 2 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 small to medium zucchini, peeled and rough chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons water, if necessary

> Steam cauliflower in a vegetable steamer over 2 inches of water, using a tightly-covered pot, for about 10 to 12 minutes until very tender. Alternatively, place cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl , cover with water, and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes until very tender.

> While waiting for the cauliflower to finish steaming, start to pulse the raw peeled zucchini with the lemon juice only (no water at this point). Drain the cooked cauliflower. Working in batches if necessary, add it to the pulsed zucchini in the bowl of the food processor with one tablespoon of water. Puree on high until smooth. Stop occasionally and push contents from the top to the bottom. If necessary, use the second tablespoon of water to make a smooth (but not wet) puree.


Sneaky Chef Make-Ahead Recipe: Flour Blend

Makes 3 cups of flour blend

- 1 cup all-purpose, unbleached white flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup wheat germ, unsweetened

> Combine the flours and wheat germ in a large bowl.

> This blend can be stored in a sealed, labeled plastic bag or container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Monday, May 3, 2010

April Journal Quilt

April Journal Quilt
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
This is the journal quilt I made to remember activities and special holidays in April. It's about 9" x 12".

The entire quilt top is hand-embroidered using the blanket stitch and back stitch. Around the clouds and above the top layer of grass, I machine-sewed a single line through all layers of the quilt to hold the filling in place.

I'm doing one journal quilt per month as a personal challenge as well as for a swap on Swap-Bot.

The journal quilt includes fabric from a quilt that I made for my mom this month that celebrates her 80th birthday.

The clouds were the first version of two words that describe her, but I ended up not using because the white embroidery floss against the light blue flannel didn't create enough of a visual contrast (she has macular degeneration).

The bunny represents Easter which was on April 4th.

The tree represents my favorite oak tree in the west pasture. I hand-sewed 80 beads on it to represent my mom turning 80 on April 24th. The beads are in colors that are representative of buds, blossoms, and new leaves on the trees.

The tree swing represents my daughters who love to swing on their tree swing in the apple tree in the backyard. It also reminds me of the night when the girls and I were swinging on the swings in the backyard and having a lot of fun.

The lime-green grass reminds me of a tiny lime-green frog the girls and I spotted in the pasture. It sat in our hands and on our fingers so we could get a closer look at it.

The swirls in the green fabric represent the long vines that the girls found in the pasture that they pullled up so the horses wouldn't trip when they gallop.

The 2 flowers represent the 40 wild irises that the girls and I transplanted from the pasture next to the house.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Olivia Riding Backwards

Olivia is doing a therapeutic horseback riding program now until the fall to help meet her sensory needs. (She has sensory integration dysfunction.)

This is one of the warm-up exercises that the children did. They also play games; learn to guide their horses through cones, over obstacles; gain skills in walking and trotting their horses; and (hopefully later this summer) jumping.

Therapeutic horseback riding has been so beneficial for both Olivia and Sophia - building their core muscle strength, improving their posture and balance, and communication skills. There are probably a host of other benefits that I don't see, but are there each week for the girls when they enter the ring with their therapy horse.