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Monday, September 29, 2014

Apple Carrot Pecan Bread


You'll want to save this recipe!  It might be my new favorite fall recipe… the pecans are the best part, honestly!  Don't forget them!

Ingredient List:
1 1/4 cups Domata Flour*
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamon
3/4 cup chopped roasted pecans**
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
vanilla 
orange zest to taste***
3 green apples, shredded
5-6 (large) baby carrots, shredded

In your largest mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together including the pecans.  Then set aside.  In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, then add in the rest of the wet ingredients. 

When preparing the apples, seed and core them - but I chose to leave the peel on (this is optional) - then run the slices over a large-holed cheese grater to shred the apple.  Take the pile of shredded apple and squeeze out most of the juice… and there will be juice every where!  Add the shredded apple to the wet ingredients.  Then shred and add the carrots, it was possibly half a cup of carrots. 

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.  If the batter is too dry, just add a little more vegetable oil, a teaspoon at a time.  But it really should be just right because of the apples. 

Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick spray.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  350 if your loaf pan is dark metal, and 325 degrees if you're using a glass loaf pan. 

Add the batter (it will be very very thick!) to the pan, smooth out the top lightly.

Bake for 60 minutes, then check for doneness.  A knife in the middle should come out clean, but you also don't want to over bake it!

Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes then remove and cool completely on a cooling rack. 

This bread is wonderful plain but you could certainly serve it with an orange glaze or just some powdered sugar sprinkled on top.



Notes::
You could leave the carrots out, but I wouldn't - I love the carrot and apple flavor together especially when you use sweet baby carrots with tart granny smith apples.  It's just a lovely combination.

*Domata Flour… this is the only gluten free flour I use, cup for cup in all my favorite recipes.
**I bought the roasted chopped pecans at Trader Joe's and I used them straight from the package, no additional chopping required!
***This really depends on the size of your orange and how much you actually like orange flavor, I truly love orange so I used almost the zest of an entire orange but some people might find that a little over powering, so maybe just half… it also depends on your zester.  Go with your gut.

Apples were sourced locally at Arbor Farms in Nebraska City, Nebraska 


Enjoy!!

-Justine

Monday, September 22, 2014

Applejack Festival 2014


Well we made it to the Applejack Festival this weekend… which usually sees crowds of 80,000+ people so we always leave extra early to ensure our favorite parking spot.  However, this year, it poured rain most of Friday night and into Saturday morning and we drove right into a pretty good rainstorm in Nebraska City, complete with flooding streets!  This definitely slowed down the crowd this year… good for us through… a little rain didn't stop us! 



We were more than prepared for a little mud… lots of mud.  Our boots and umbrellas kept us fairly dry until the rain moved through mid-morning.


We always head to the store first to pick up all our apple products so we can drop them back off at the car without carrying them around all day… and we usually seem to buy a bunch!!  I picked up a bottle of apple wine for my Aunt Donna, my favorite black walnut syrup, some apple cider (which I used to make caramels - recipe will be posted this week!!), and some apple cider vinegar which I debated buying…but then one of the Arbor Farms employees explained that they aren't able to make that product every year and they were very excited to have it back after such a long hiatus… so I figured I really needed some if that was the case!

Once we were loaded down with all our wine and apple products… we headed out to pick apples!







It's always surprising, and I do this every year… I always think we should get a bigger bag than we did when we're walking out to the orchards.  In my mind, I never think we'll get very many apples or we just don't have enough.  I'm wrong every time.  We always always have plenty… and they're heavy to carry back!! 

I cooked apples all weekend… I had plenty!

We had such a great time - I'm already excited for next year!!


Here's some links for this post:




I'll have a couple apple recipes coming in the next few days/weeks with all the apples I picked at Arbor Day Farms.

and one last photo:

Wally, my little fruit!!


Happy Monday everyone :)

-Justine








Friday, September 19, 2014

High Five for Friday!

This week really has flown by, just like every other week lately.  I think because my job knows no set hours and my work week isn't exactly monday-friday, my days just seem to blend together!  

Linking up with Lauren @ the Lauren Elizabeth Blog

Now that I'm happily back to blogging after quite a long hiatus… which was needed because I'm truly loving my blog again.  I hope you noticed my new design and some changes I've made!!  Please feel free to let me know if something isn't working or if you have suggestions on user-ability! 

one:: I'm still proud to say at this point, that my blog design is my own and I've done all the coding on my blog.  I've worked hard to teach myself this skill and even though I'll freely admit I'm not very proficient at it and I don't even want to admit how long it too me to complete this redesign but I'm happy with it for now! 

two:: This past week was a lot about mud.  Mud everywhere.  We've seen more rain in the last 2 weeks in Nebraska than most of the summer combined.  And I've been out and about in it…every pair of jeans I own are currently muddy, quite a few pairs of shoes are muddy, there's mud all over the inside and outside of my vehicle…next week's project - laundry and carwash!

three:: Mud and meetings… I have evening meetings almost every night of the week.  After almost a year in my job I'm finally feeling at home with all my members.  They've become such wonderful resources and friends.  Topics of conversation always range from politics, insurance, weather, family matters to who's bringing treats for the next meeting!

four:: No one else can play your part - World Suicide Prevention Day was September 10th.  Campaign by TWLOHA.  Do you follow them on instagram?  You should.  Check out my story here.

five:: I have the cutest cats.  I just can't give over them sometimes.  I forgot to make my bed the other day and before I could get back to it… Wally had crawled right up on the pillows, made himself all comfortable, and didn't move the rest of the day.  So much for making my bed.

I hope you had a wonderful week!

-Justine




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lauritzen Gardens


Lauritzen Garden's is a hidden gem in Omaha, a hidden botanical oasis actually.  I feel people who have lived here their entire lives don't even know it exists.  

I truly feel, sometimes you just have to step out and be a tourist in your own community - take time to explore and truly live - see everything there is to offer!

My dear friend Vera and I try to get to the Gardens on a monthly basis… usually after Saturday morning coffee or a visit to the farmers market.  She has a membership which works out perfectly because I have one to Joslyn Art Museum so we share our cultural experiences with each other.

We missed our trip in June which is usually the height of Rose season, but there were still a few late bloomers out when we went a few weeks ago.  Even on their last leg they were as beautiful as ever.

In the spring, visiting the gardens always gets me geared up for planing my own flowers and container garden.  It's inspiring to see all the foliage, flowers, and sculpture working together on the grounds.  Then as we visit through out the summer and into fall, I love seeing the changes - the natural variations and the work that the grounds keepers do to ensure colorful blooms as long as possible.  

As we walk the 100+ acre grounds, we chat and reflect, talk about gardening, how things look different compared to our last visit or even a year ago - but regardless we always talk about how much weeding they must do to keep everything looking so lovely and manicured!! 

Vera and I are both excited for October 2014 when the new expansive greenhouse will open…actually I'm not sure that's officially what it's called but it resembles the National Botanical Garden's glass sanctuary in DC if you've even been there.  It's been under construction for over a year and is highly anticipated…It will make the Garden's more accessible year round. 





Here's some of my favorite posts with Vera:


Well, Vera and I are off to the AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska this weekend… We look forward to this every year and I'm ready for some apple baking!!  Have you ever attended this festival? It's one of the best! 

-Justine



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Apple Crisp

Since the weather here has turned beautifully fall and it is apple season here in Nebraska… I decided to make apple crisp yesterday afternoon to take to a pot luck!


To prepare the apples:

Toss in a large bowl:
7 or 8 diced up apples (seeds & core removed), I used Honeycrisp
the zest of 1 lemon 
zest of 1 orange
the juice from the lemon
2-3 tablespoons of orange juice
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamon (you know I love cardamon!)
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Toss until the apple pieces are completely coated.  The pour into a large baking dish.  I used a deep 9x13 ceramic baking dish.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the crumble topping:

In another bowl:

2 sticks of cold butter, diced
1 1/2 cups Domata flour

cut the butter into the flour until is resembles fine crumbs, you can use a pastry cutter if you have one otherwise just use a fork.

Add in:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup gluten free oatmeal

stir all together with a fork - should be crumbly!

Lightly pour over the apples.  Try not to pack down the topping otherwise it will bake into a cookie!!

Put the ceramic dish on a baking sheet to prevent overflow incase the apples bubble up.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1.5 hours.  This just depends on your oven…and how juicy your apples are… Check on it after an hour.

This is a great dish because well… it's sure great hot with some ice cream, but it's just as good once it's cooled down!  Plus it travels pretty well if you're heading to a pot luck!

If you have leftovers, keep them covered in the fridge.


Enjoy!!

-Justine



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No One Else Can Play Your Part

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10th). 



(tshirt by @twloha - To Write Love on Her Arms) #NoOneElse14 #WSPD14

I wanted to share a little bit about my story, my experience - I'm speaking for myself - I cannot attest to anyone else experience.  Even sitting her now, a good 18 months later, it's still hard to write about this - even though I've always proclaimed how cathartic writing feels.

Depression is a big bad scary word.  It's not something you can anticipate or prepare for, it's something that washes over you and takes hold before you realize what it is or before you (want) to realize what it is… maybe that's more accurate. 

For me it was total and complete darkness that I couldn't get out from under.  I couldn't understand how it had taken hold so quickly and so deeply.  I couldn't verbalize the pain I felt constantly, the anxiety, the racing thoughts, the reverberating sadness that seemed to never end.  But yet, I was still functioning on the outside - I still had to go to work, fulfill commitments, attend events, socialize… do all the things expected of me… I felt like I was hiding - running a parallel life. 

I had total fear that because I didn't understand what was happening inside my thoughts and because I knew I couldn't verbalize how much pain I was feeling, that no one would understand and no one could help me.  That fear escalated my anxiety and feelings of being trapped inside my darkness.  I felt like my brain was running at full speed 24 hours a day displaying a constant reel of everything that was negative in my life or what I thought was negative - impossible to shut down, but my body was moving in slow motion.  I was physically exhausted from extreme lack of sleep due to fear and anxiety and then there were days where I could sleep for 18+ hours and still be completely exhausted.  I not only felt trapped mentally but felt betrayed by my body physically.

I hate admitting this now even, but I had a plan, I had everything lined up.  I just couldn't handle the excruciating pain anymore and I was prepared to do anything, anything to end it.  I was utterly and completely terrified of myself.  

My rational and irrational thoughts screamed at each other in conflict…constantly…I was so afraid of what I was capable of - I threw away kitchen knives, and I flushed every form of aspirin and sleeping pill I could find. 

I knew regardless of my fear of being able to verbalize what was going on, I had to reach out for help.  

I wasn't able to fully explain what was happening but it was enough and I was able to get the help I needed.  Reaching out saved my life and my story didn't end.  

I fight the darkness every day and do the work needed to maintain the light in my life.  Sometimes days and weeks fly by without a drop of darkness… I work very hard to keep positive healthy relationships in my life and have had to make some changes to ensure I can stay healthy.  But I know it takes vigilance and determination to stay in the light… and that's where I want to be.

This is my story.

And no one else can play my part.

-Justine

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summer Highlights

Honestly, I'm not exactly sure where this summer went, but I'm sure most people feel that way.  It seems like it was just Memorial Day and now we've already blazed past Labor Day and are well on our way through September.  

I completed my blog re-design and refresh… there might be a few bugs left and a few pages that I'm still updating but I at least finished most of it, which is a huge accomplishment after procrastinating all summer.  You know how you love something until you stare at it forever and you pick it apart and just can't stand it anymore… that's how I was feeling… then I let it completely derail my writing in general among many other excuses.  

Anyways, I'm back -- refreshed, revamped, reenergized, and ready to write, explore, and share. 

A couple highlights from my summer… (I wish I had more to show, but it went so fast and most of it was work…which I love by the way - more on that later).

Summer 2014 [in 8 photos]

one:: I took up crew rowing this summer for something different and outside my comfort zone.


two:: I love my job and we have a great team working together advocating for the future of agriculture.


three:: I ran the Seattle Rock and Roll half marathon in June for TEAM in Training with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Seattle may be my new favorite city (sorry DC!!).


four:: Any free time this summer was spent with friends out at the lake as much as possible.  Beat that summer heat!!


five:: Most of my summer was spent driving around Nebraska supporting my 19 county Farm Bureaus, county fairs, parades, expos, and meetings!  I drove over 20,000 miles this summer - hello windshield time :)


six:: One of my dearest friends was married in a beautiful ceremony in Memorial Park this summer.  It was all about love, friends, and happiness.


seven:: For the first time ever, I had the opportunity to attend Omaha Fashion Week to see one friend model in a show and another debut her new line!! 


eight:: Summer is for theatre in the park on the hottest day of the year.  



I had a great summer, but no one is happier than I am for fall… bring on the cool weather, fall clothes, pumpkin candles, cinnamon lattes, and husker football!! 


-Justine