Grandma’s Fruit Cake


April 12th, 2012

I went to my grandparents home this weekend for Easter. We’re somewhat casual about it, none of us being particularly religious. My grandpa insisted on saying a traditional Australian grace, “2, 4, 6, 8. Bog in. Don’t wait.”

I use the holidays as an excellent excuse to get together and share a nice meal with family. Also, it gave me the chance to finally get my grandma’s fruit cake recipe. The last time I asked her about it she told me to make an applesauce cake and throw some dried fruit in it.

I tried that.

But no one ever said you had to chop the fruit up first…doh…With every bite you might get an entire prune or a whole fig. It just wasn’t right.

This time I was determined to make it with her and see how to do it. Thank goodness I did, because it is truly delicious. Not one of those cakes with the artificially sweetened candy fruit, but the real deal; a moist loaf filled with dried fruit and nuts. Super tasty.

Update:

Grandma's Fruit Cake

INGREDIENTS

1 cup Crisco

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon juice

1-2 cups applesauce

4 cups flour

3 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

At least 4 cups chopped Dried Fruit and Nuts (mix and match the following)

  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Cranberries
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350. If your dried fruit has been open a while, put it in a bowl with a little water to slightly soften it up while you prep the other ingredients.

1. Mix together sugar and Crisco really, really well until it’s almost foamy.

2. Add eggs and mix. Then add applesauce and mix. Then add vanilla and lemon juice.

3. Coat the fruit in flour. Mix into batter. Add nuts and mix.

4. Add salt, baking soda, and spices to flour.

5. Mix flour into batter.

6. Line loaf pans with wax paper, pour batter in loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour, less in smaller pans.

7. (optional) soak some cheesecloth in brandy and wrap it around the cake.

 

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The Traveling Red Dress: Where Magic Happens


March 6th, 2012

Months ago I read Jenny Lawson’s (The Bloggess) first post about The Traveling Red Dress. She talks about, “how often we deny ourselves that red dress and all the other capricious, ridiculous, overindulgent and silly things that we desperately want but never let ourselves have because they are simply ‘not sensible’.” I remember totally agreeing with her, and committing in my head to do more crazy, spontaneous things…and then kind of forgetting about that commitment while I watched the latest episodes of Modern Family and became addicted to Pinterest.

Traveling Red Dress, Big SmileBut then in January, Jenny revisited the Traveling Red Dress, and she suggested that people might ask for, or purchase, their own red dress. And I was like, wait, what? I can just do it myself? Oh. Yeah. I don’t have to just read about it. I can do it too. And the more I thought about it, the more awesome it seemed. Until my hands were trembling with excitement as I started organizing a party for me and my girlfriends, buying a red dress, and arranging for a photographer.

You know when something is supposed to happen because everything comes together like magic. That’s what happened with the traveling red dress. We were all free on the same day, including a photographer. My sister flew down from Seattle to be there. For the group shots, the dresses were perfectly coordinated- two red, two navy, two black (we did NOT arrange that in advance). The traveling red dress has a corseted back and fit everyone from a size 4 – 14, and looked GORGEOUS on each woman!

The whole experience was awesomely feminine. I know I can be a little sentimental about things, but it was so special to have women helping other women feel beautiful instead of competing with each other. We had a couple blankets that two friends would hold up to make a “dressing room.” Once you had the dress on, one friend would lend you her lip gloss, one would make sure your hair was good, and another would straighten the bows on your dress. Even while the photographer was taking pictures, we were surrounded by the most beautiful, feminine energy. It’s amazing how good female friends can lift you up. I am blessed to have such wonderful women in my life.

One of the highlights of the day came when we were just wrapping up.  A lady walked up to me while I had the dress on. She said, “My daughter wants to know if you’re a princess.” I was so surprised. For a second I didn’t know what to say. But then it was like angels whispered in my ear because I answered, “I feel like a princess.” I wish now I had also told the girl, “You are beautiful. You can feel like a princess whenever you want. Your princess is inside you, and you can create the experiences that share her with the world.” 

A giant “Thank You!” to Jenny for initiating the Traveling Red Dress movement, and reminding me to be unreasonable and unsensible (Note: if you’re going to be unreasonable, you get to make up new words). The rewards, so far, have been amazing.


Update: My friends and I met at our local meadery to look at the photos from the photographer. We attracted some attention with our laptop and all of our giggling and smiling. A straight dude came over and we tried to explain the awesomeness of the dress to him, and he was like, “And then you just give it away? Why?” Then his gay buddy came over. We started trying to explain the dress to him and immediately he said, “Oh! The Bloggess’ Traveling Red Dress! Of course! That’s so awesome! Have you seen her latest post?”

Magic.

Photo credits and thanks to my sister, Emrie Vegas, and Eric C. Carter.

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Invisible Children


June 1st, 2011

How is it I just found out about this?!!!

I don’t even remember what led me to it, but I somehow ended up on the Invisible Children website. I watched a couple videos and said to myself, “I need to know more about this.”

It turns out that in 2003, three young guys from San Diego decided they wanted to film something meaningful. So they looked around for a place with conflict in the world, begged some money for camera equipment and plane tickets, and took off for Uganda.

In Uganda they found thousands of children commuting (walking) from their villages to the cities each night to sleep. The children were afraid of sleeping at home because the rebel armies might kidnap them and force them to join the army. It was safer for them to sleep in the bus depot then in their home.

It turns out this guy, Joseph Kony, wanted to rebel against the Ugandan government some time back. They call themselves the LRA. That didn’t work out, but in the process he created this horrifying child army.

Why would the children be in the army, you might ask? Well, he kidnaps them from their homes- he focuses on kids between 8 and 12. Then he brings them back to his camp and if one kid tries to escape, or doesn’t behave well, he kills that kid in front of all the other ones. After that, they do everything he says because they don’t want to die.

Their childhoods are completely stolen. Some of the children who have escaped tell stories of dropping babies in rivers and burning whole families in their huts when they were 11 and 12 years old. It’s heartbreaking and horrifying. And there is absolutely no purpose to it.

The part that is almost the worst for me is that I’d never even heard about it until two weeks ago. I don’t live under a rock. How is it possible that I didn’t know this was going on? How is it possible that I’ve heard how many stories about Sarah Palin’s jacket, but I’d never heard about these poor children?

Well, now I know. Thanks to the three guys from San Diego who came back from Uganda and said, “This isn’t right. We’re going to do something.” It’s amazing and inspiring what they’ve been able to accomplish in 7 years. I highly recommend browsing the website invisiblechildren.com.

The children in Uganda no longer have to commute to the cities at night,and Invisible Children is funding a school and mentorship program to help the children of Uganda get educated.

They are also building radio towers in parts of the Congo, because that’s where the LRA has migrated. The radio towers warn the people in local villages if the LRA is near. It’s an early warning system that saves lives.

Anyway, something about this really struck me and I’m on fire about it now. The more I learn, the more horrified I am by Joseph Kony, and in contrast, inspired by the Invisible Children founders and organization.

I can hardly believe that this kind of thing is going on in the world today, but I’m going to do what I can to stop it- even with only the smallest action of buying a bracelet or donating some money. Please feel free to do the same if the spirit moves you.

 

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Enjoying Life at Full Speed


April 26th, 2011

Oh man, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Life has been going at full speed, and I’ve been enjoying the ride. Here are some of the best bits that have happened since the beginning of the year.

Visiting my sister and her family in Seattle (especially my adorable nephew, Jack).

He is, of course, the cutest baby ever. At least until I have my own kids. :) I had never spent any significant amount of time in Seattle, and it was cool to explore the area where Emrie and Matt have landed. I foresee spending a lot of time there if all their kids are going to be so cute.

Me and Jack

Vacationing in Thailand

I told you that I won a week-long stay at the Fairtex gym in Thailand. In February I took advantage of that and spent an amazing two weeks vacationing in Thailand. It didn’t cover the cost of my flight, but they did pick me up from the airport after 26 hours of traveling. It was seriously the best vacation ever.

The whole first week I was getting up at 6:30 to train with real Muay Thai fighters by 7 am.  You might not think that exercising sounds very vacation-like, but I LOVE Muay Thai. It was truly a blessing to wake up, walk outside my room, and start kicking bags.

Plus, there is delicious food EVERYWHERE in Thailand. The street vendors are amazing. My favorite was the guy that rolled his cart up and served the most simple, delicious bowl of noodle soup for 25 Baht (about 80 cents). He’d leave the bowl with you and pick it up the next time he rolled by.

Thai Noodle Soup

Thai Noodle Soup

Here’s a video of me practicing Muay Thai with the awesome trainer, Daew.

I’m already thinking of ways to get the time and resources to go back to Thailand. Next time I’m squeeze in some time to rent a beach bungalow. :)

My Entire Family Came To Visit In the Same Week (with almost no notice)

I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that it was a crazy, awesome week. My mom came to visit from a couple hours away. Emrie, Matt, and Jack stopped by twice from Seattle. And my dad and stepmom came by from Idaho. All in the same week!

Starting My Own Business

I haven’t started it yet, so I’ll save that information for another post. But I’m spending a lot of my free time with planning and preparation.

Well, that’s my life in a nutshell the last couple months. What have you all been up to?

hugs

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Sister Website – PlayIntoFood.com


January 25th, 2011

You may have noticed that a LOT of my posts lately have been about food. Mostly baked goods, because I love bread and muffins and pastries. Baked goods are my comfort food. They make me feel warm in my heart and in my belly. Plus, it’s fun to share them with people, so all my friends and coworkers can feel warm in their bellies too!

Yesterday I was looking up recipes for lentil soup, and I said to myself, “If it turns out well, you should take a picture and put the recipe on your site.” My next thought was, “Mmmm…lentil soup. You should make some fresh bread to go with it…” But a couple thoughts later I realized I should make a food and recipe website.

So I did. And PlayIntoFood.com was born.

It’s barely up right now. I’ll be reposting some of my recipes from this blog on that one. But check it out for awesome recipes in the next couple weeks. I’ll only share my most awesome recipes. :) You’ll love it.

Your tummy will love it too.

hugs

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Uber Banana Bread


January 7th, 2011

Banana BreadDoes anyone ever get to plan making banana bread? Buy the bananas, wait for them to ripen, and a week later make the bread. For me it’s one of those things that sneaks up on me. I’ll look at the bananas I bought earlier in the week and realize that they are a little too ripe to put on my cereal. Either that, or someone at work will bring in a bunch and set it on my desk and say, “Erin, go ahead and make something with these.”

I used to peel them and put them in the freezer, but all that leads to is a freezer full of frozen bananas. So now I make the banana bread as soon as I get the bananas.

Here’s the thing, banana bread hasn’t always been my favorite, so a couple months ago I tried a bunch of recipes to find the best banana bread recipe. And I found it. It’s moist, delicious, and has great banana flavor.

(Note: If you bring this bread into your office, don’t be surprised if people start leaving overripe bananas in your office more often.)


Uber Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 3 medium bananas, mashed
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the Greek yogurt, walnuts and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
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Really Gingery, Ginger Cookies


December 5th, 2010

Ginger cookies are one of my favorites. Probably because when it gets cool outside, I like things that make me feel warm. And nothing makes me feel warm inside like a good ginger cookie (and maybe some hot apple cider).

In my opinion, most ginger cookie recipes just don’t have enough ginger. They taste good and they are sweet, but they just don’t pack enough heat. That’s why I modified your standard ginger cookie recipe, and made it hotter. These cookies are scrumptionsly warm, mostly because they have three different forms of ginger in them; powdered, fresh, and candied.

Ginger Cookies

These cookies are not ginger snaps. These are soft and chewy ginger cookies. They are calling out to you- “Make me! Eat me! We are warm and delicious!”


Really Gingery, Ginger Cookie Recipe

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 molasses
  • 1/4 cup diced fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 2 tbsp. white sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water, molasses, and fresh ginger. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Then add the candied ginger. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Note: Be sure your fresh ginger is finely diced so you don’t get strings of ginger in your cookies.

Tip: Having a hard time finding candied ginger? Try your local Asian market. I remember one time I went to several Safeway’s, and all I could find was candied ginger in the spice rack – a tiny amount for a lot of money. It was ridiculous. Finally I found some at the Asian market, and got a large bag for just a couple dollars.

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The Best Pumpkin Bread Recipe Ever


November 17th, 2010

The Best Pumpkin Bread EverIt’s November, and this is the month where it finally gets cool enough that I want to start baking all the time. Plus, it’s almost Thanksgiving. Many people have tiny pumpkins decorating their tables. Maybe some gourds and dried corn. ‘Tis the season of pumpkin. One of my favorite things to bake is pumpkin bread.

I used to always think that making breads was difficult. I thought all breads were like white bread where you had to knead for 20 minutes, wait for the yeast to rise, etc. But it turns out that pumpkin bread is super easy.

Not only that, it is soooooo delicious. One of my good friends recently told me she doesn’t like pumpkin pie. I was so confused. My mind just didn’t comprehend anyone not liking pumpkin.

I get my base pumpkin bread recipe from allrecipes.com. When 3,941 people rate a recipe and it has 5 stars, you know it’s going to be good. And it is. I’ve made it dozens of times with some slight changes. It is moist, pumpkiny, and scrumptious.

Notes:

  1. Feel free to add yummies to the bread. My favorite are chocolate chips. Also delicious are nuts or cranberries.
  2. I recently tried substituting 1/2 cup applesauce for half the oil. The bread was not nearly as good, and I won’t be doing that again. Yes, it’s healthier and in some recipes it’s not a big deal. But in this recipe you can really taste the difference.
  3. Be sure to sift the baking soda and flour. I don’t know why, but with this recipe in particular I end up with baking soda clumps that taste nasty.

Here’s my Best Pumpkin Bread Ever recipe.


Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9×5 inch (or three 7×3 inch) loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
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Baby Stuff on Etsy, Handmade by my Sis


November 10th, 2010

My sister sent me the link to her Etsy shop yesterday and her stuff is amazing!

Here’s the deal. My sister, Emrie, is expecting her first baby in the next week or so. Everyone is freaking out about it. It’ll be my grandparents FIRST great-grandchild. My mom has been wanting a grandchild for years (“No pressure!). And of course, I’m super excited to have an adorable little nephew. This baby is going to be loved.

Emrie wants to stay home and take care of the baby, but she still wants to bring in a little money. That’s where her Etsy shop comes in. She’s making these adorable bibs, burping pads, washable wristlets, and diaper bags.

If you know of anyone who is pregnant or has a newborn, you should definitely send them the link to her Etsy shop – etsy.com/shop/ebdb. Or buy them something as a gift! She has all sorts of cute, reusable baby gear. Plus, you’ll be supporting a mom who has chosen to work from home! :)

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Custom Knives Made by My Dad


September 12th, 2010

The Erin E

The Carlos

I know most of my readers probably aren’t big on hunting deer and whatnot, but I have to show you the awesome stuff my dad is up to.

When I was younger he was a construction worker, then he moved up to site supervisor of construction sites- building churches, schools, and hospitals. But then the recession hit, he had open heart surgery, and people aren’t building much right now.

So now, instead of construction, he’s making and selling these amazing knives! Check these babies out!

He made the Erin E for me, and now I get to show it off to the world. :)

I’m so dang proud of him. He absolutely loves making these knives, and I just want to help him so he can make a living doing something he loves. It’s like making someone’s dream come true. What greater blessing could there be?

He has a bunch more at his website, ccc-customknives.com. Also, you may be interested to know that I designed the website for him. :)

If you are interested in purchasing a knife, feel free to contact me. I’m sure I could get you a good deal.

Erin

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