October

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“This was one of my favorite books when I was growing up,” my mom told me years ago when she gave me a copy of Anne of Green Gables. It quickly became a favorite of mine, too. I loved reading about the imaginative Anne Shirley and her life on the farm with Marilla and Matthew. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down and didn’t want to end. But of course it did have a wonderful ending with an inspiring quote (“God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world”). I read and reread the book several times, finding out much later that there were actually sequels to the book! But I always liked the first book best. I still have my copy somewhere and when I saw this quote from the book, it made me want to read it again! :)

I can just imagine what Anne would enjoy about the month of October–the beautiful colors, the cool autumn air, the gently falling leaves. Hope you find many things to enjoy about your October, too!

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. ECCLESIASTES 3:11 (NLT)

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Apple-Zucchini Bread

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Apple-Zucchini Bread just seems so perfect for this time of year–early fall is when I’m inspired to bake apple-flavored things! This recipe not only has apples, but zucchini, too, which is great–you can never have enough good zucchini recipes for all that zucchini from the garden, can you? Or in my case, from the farmer’s market! This quick bread has a subtle apple flavor and is also flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. You can add pecans or walnuts in it too (I didn’t add any nuts to the loaf pictured above). It’s a moist, dense loaf on the inside, and a little crispy and crumbly as you cut into it on the outside. Make sure you grease and flour your pan well–I found that I also needed to loosen the edges of the loaf with a knife so it would come out of the pan easily.

Enjoy a slice of this bread for breakfast or an afternoon snack with some coffee, tea, or apple cider. It’s great just as it is, but you could also spread some apple butter on your slices for more apple flavor!

APPLE-ZUCCHINI BREAD by NancyC, adapted from Taste of Home

Makes 1 (8 x 4″) loaf

  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil or non-GMO canola oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded unpeeled zucchini
  • 1/2 cup shredded peeled apple (I used a Granny Smith apple)
  • Optional: 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 8 x 4″ loaf pan well; set aside (If you use a 9 x 5″ loaf pan, your baking time will be a little less, and your loaf will not look quite as full, since it will be a little wider and longer).

In large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In medium bowl, beat eggs; add oil, sugars, and vanilla, blending well. Pour this mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in zucchini, apples, and pecans or walnuts, if using (batter will be thick). Spoon batter into your prepared 8 x 4″ loaf pan. Bake at 350˚degrees for 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean (if you use a 9 x 5″ pan, your baking time may be more like 50 to 55 minutes).

Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Note: even though I greased and floured my loaf pan, I still had to loosen the edges of the loaf with a knife so it would come out easily.

September has gone by much too fast for me–has it for you, too? The cooler, crisp mornings are really nice, but I do miss the longer days of summer. Are you enjoying autumn, and have you been trying out any new apple recipes?

Chocolate Chip Muffins

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I realized that it’s been awhile since I made anything with chocolate in it, so I thought it would be a great time to make some Chocolate Chip Muffins! These are nice and cake-y, with lots of chocolate chips in every bite! In fact, it’s so chocolatey, you don’t need a glaze on this muffin because it’s plenty sweet all on its own. The muffin tops do brown around the edges, as you can see in the photo–so be sure not to over-bake, or the whole muffin top will get brown as well and the muffins will be on the dry side. If you like chocolate for breakfast or brunch, these are perfect…and they make a great afternoon snack, too!

CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS by NancyC

Makes 21 muffins

  • 3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup non-GMO Canola oil or light olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk or light cream (Half & Half)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line 2 standard-size muffin pans with 21 paper liners; set aside.

In large bowl, blend flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In medium bowl, mix oil, eggs, milk or light cream (Half & Half), and vanilla, blending well. Blend in the Greek yogurt, mixing well.

Pour liquid mixture into flour/sugar mixture and mix until just combined–do not overmix! Fold in the chocolate chips, blending evenly into the batter.

Spoon batter into the lined muffin cups, filling slightly more than 3/4 full. Bake at 375˚F for 16 to 17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely (or go ahead and eat them warm!).

Now that the weather has cooled off  a little, I’ve been enjoying doing more baking. What have you been baking lately?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener and Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Health Benefits of Drinking Water

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Do you drink enough water every day? That’s something I definitely need to work on! I had recently received some complimentary bottles of Cascade Ice Sparkling Water to try, so I guess that’s ncCascadeWaternmwhat got me started on thinking more about my water intake. (FYI, I really liked this brand of bottled water–it’s very lightly flavored with natural fruit oils and extracts-all organic and calorie-free! I tried the three flavors shown in the photo at left–Grapefruit, Blueberry, and Lemon–and thought they were all really good!

I’ve always heard that drinking lots of water is good for you, but I wasn’t aware of all the benefits. So I decided to do a little research on the internet, and now that I’m a little more familiar with the benefits, it really makes me want to drink more water!

Just as a disclaimer, I’m no health or medical expert–all this information was found from various articles at the sites I’ve listed at the end of my post. If you have any health issues, this info should not take the place of seeing your doctor and being under a doctors’ care. This post is just meant to give you a summary of some of the benefits of drinking water.

Since about 60-70% of our body is made up of water (depending on body size), it makes sense that we need to drink enough water to keep our body at its healthiest. Water is important in the function of every organ in our body, including the skin. Six to eight (8-ounce) glasses a day is typically recommended. What happens with all that water? The water in our bodies…

  • Transports nutrients and oxygen into cells
  • Moisturizes the air in our lungs
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Protects our vital organs
  • Helps organs to absorb nutrients better
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Detoxifies our bodies
  • Protects and moisturizes our joints

In addition to all the ways water helps our bodies function properly, there are other health benefits to drinking enough water everyday. Here are some I read about:

  1. PH Balance–To function properly, the human body needs a 7+ Ph range; drinking enough water each day helps maintain this balance.
  2. Healthy, glowing skin–Drinking enough water each day gives your skin a natural, healthy glow by flushing out impurities, improving circulation and blood flow, and hydrating and plumping up skin cells. It helps replenish skin tissues, moisturizes skin, and increases skin elasticity. It can also slow the onset of wrinkles.
  3. Good Hydration and less Headaches–Drinking enough water each day keeps your body properly hydrated. Good hydration can also help prevent headaches and even migraines.
  4. Weight Loss–Water not only boosts your metabolism, it also helps you feel full–if you drink a glass or two of water before each meal, your stomach will feel fuller and you won’t eat so much. Water also helps increase the rate at which your body burns fat and promotes the breakdown and elimination of fat cells.
  5. Keeps Kidneys Healthy–Our kidneys need enough water every day to function properly. Water helps kidneys cleanse and rid  your body of toxins. If you don’t drink enough water, your liver is forced to help your kidneys detoxify your body. When you drink plenty of water, your kidneys don’t need the extra help, allowing your liver to metabolize stored fat more efficiently.
  6. Helps Prevent Heart Disease–When the body is not sufficiently hydrated, cells of vital organs take water from the blood in order to function, which causes the blood to thicken. This puts pressure on the heart, causing it to work harder to pump the blood, which can lead to heart disease. So, drinking enough water everyday helps your heart pump your blood more effectively.
  7. Helps Cure or Minimize Some Diseases–Drinking enough water helps reduce or eliminate problems with constipation, heartburn, and other gastric and digestive problems (water helps the body properly break down food for easier digestion). It also helps improve your immune system, helping your body fight against the flu and colds. Some studies show that drinking enough water can also help prevent bladder and colon cancer.
  8. Improved Brain Function–About 70-80% of your brain tissue is water, so drinking enough water helps you think better, makes you more alert, and helps you concentrate better. Drinking enough water also helps reduce stress, since your mind and body are stressed when you are dehydrated.
  9. Joint Pain and Cramps–Hydrated muscles are more elastic and experience less strain, so drinking enough water will keep your joints and muscles lubricated which can reduce joint pain, cramping, and sprains.
  10. Relieves Fatigue–Because water keeps you hydrated and helps flush out the toxins and waste products from your body, other organs, like your heart, don’t need to work as hard, giving you more energy as a result.

Sources: Health Cave, Web MD, Mangosteen, Huffington Post, FitDay, LiveStrong, Fight Your Way to Fitness, Top 10 Home Remedies.

I prefer my water with a little natural flavor in it–it makes it more appealing to me! If you want to try making your own flavored water, check out these posts: Feast Your Eyes on Flavored Water, Lemon Mint Cucumber Water, Apple Cinnamon Ginger Water, and Pear Lime Kiwifruit Water!

I am going to make a special effort to drink more water! So far, I’ve been doing pretty well at drinking 5 glasses a day–I’m trying for 6! How about you? Are you drinking enough water every day?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake

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I think the term “dump cake” is a little misleading–it just doesn’t sound very appetizing! It’s true that you do kind of “dump” most of the ingredients into a large bowl, stir them together, and pour in a pan…and then just sprinkle on the toppings–in this case, dry cake mix, pecans, and toffee bits. With melted butter drizzled over everything. And it turns out so yummy!

There are all kinds of dump cakes you can make, and this Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake is a great one to try out this time of year. The pumpkin, spices, and toffee bits all give this cake a great fall flavor. It’s really more like a pie without the crust than a cake, with a crunchy, nutty topping and pie-like pumpkin filling. If you’re a pumpkin-lover, you will enjoy this recipe. Even people who aren’t crazy about pumpkin pie seem to like this.

PUMPKIN PIE DUMP CAKE by NancyC, adapted from AllRecipes

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (15.25 oz.) package yellow cake mix (or use spice cake mix)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350˚F degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13″ pan.

In large bowl, mix pumpkin, light brown sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and salt, blending well. Stir in the evaporated milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pan.

Sprinkle all of the dry yellow cake mix evenly over the pumpkin mixture, then sprinkle the chopped pecans and then the toffee bits evenly over top of cake mix. Drizzle melted butter evenly over everything.

Bake at 350˚F for 60 minutes, until edges are lightly browned (it may be a little soft in the center, but will set as it cools; also, the cake may sink slightly as it cools). Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. You can serve just as it is or with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream. And maybe even a drizzle of salted caramel sauce on top if you really want to make it decadent! :) Refrigerate any leftovers.

As I mentioned, this is really more like a pie than a cake, and very easy to make, as all dump cakes are. Have you made a dump cake before? What kinds of ingredients do you like to use in yours?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Avocado Hummus and a Featured Soup!

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Avocados are so good and since I was making some more homemade hummus, I decided to experiment by making an Avocado Hummus. It came out pretty much like I thought it would–really smooth and creamy, with that great avocado flavor, but … Continue reading

7 Anti-Aging Foods

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I saw an article at Sharecare.com about seven foods they refer to as “anti-aging powerhouses.” These foods may also help cut your risk of heart disease and cancer when incorporated into a healthy diet. So if you’re interested, here’s a condensed list of the seven foods–you can … Continue reading

Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

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I bought some salted caramel sauce earlier this summer at the grocery store, and I could hardly tell that it was salted! So I made a note to try making a homemade salted caramel sauce sometime, and I finally had the chance. This … Continue reading

Spinach, Blueberry, and Blue Cheese Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

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I took a short break from the internet at the end of August, and I can’t believe we are into September already! But it’s still officially summer and the weather is still warm for many of us, so I thought I’d … Continue reading

Banana-Zucchini Bread

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If you imagined what Banana-Zucchini Bread would be like, you’d probably guess that it would be moist, because it has both zucchini and bananas in it, after all. And you would be right–about this recipe, anyway. It has the perfect moist texture–not overly … Continue reading

Deviled Egg Potato Salad

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Two of my favorite summer foods are deviled eggs and potato salad. So why not put them together? I decided to try that out, and found that this Deviled Egg Potato Salad is soooo good! The deviled egg mixture is … Continue reading

Berry Walnut Granola

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I am a big fan of granola, and I prefer homemade–I think it tastes so much better! I’ve posted several recipes for granola bars, like Crunchy Honey Almond Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate Granola Bars, and chewier Granola Bars. I’ve also made an unsweetened Cranberry Raisin … Continue reading

Cocoa Banana Smoothie

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I think this just may be the hottest week of summer. And that calls for a smoothie–even better, a chocolate smoothie! There’s a soy and non-soy version for this recipe, so you can take your pick. The smoothie I made … Continue reading