Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Where I’m at… and a Vanilla Pumpkin Muffin recipe

1st February 2011

Man, if only you could hear all the blog posts I have written in my head!  This blog would be full of honest thoughts, real struggles, and gracious inspiration.  But alas… I’ve not moved any of these thoughts from my head to the keyboard.  I do want to start somewhere, though, and this rainy February evening is a perfect place.

I can’t believe it’s 2011.  And February already!  Crazy!  And I can’t believe I have a 6 1/2 year old and a 4 1/2 year old.  Honestly, every time I see Analise after being away from her for a bit, my breath is taken away by how amazing it is that she’s so tall, bouncy and beautiful.  Singing, dancing, full of lots of smart thoughts, amazing at math, learning really great penmanship, SOOOOooo creative (which means endless paper clippings, lots of tape, and all kinds of craftiness). It amazes me how much she can understand of things, far more than I give her credit for.  She learns so quickly.  And Josiah… my little guy who is not little at all.  He’s sprouting up and his ankles and wrists are showing so I’ve got to put some of his too-small clothes away.  He plays so well with his cars, airplanes and trains.  He’s got such a great imagination.  He’s an AMAZING cyclist, legs spinning so fast on his tiny bike, barreling down the hills, through the woods.  And he’s so full of love.  Ah… just yesterday I leaned across him to buckle the seatbelt (in his new booster seat), and he wrapped me in a big hug.  And as siblings… they are just amazing.  I love it.  My mom-heart is about bursting lately.  Thank you, Lord, for so much love and friendship between these two.

So I’m busy, as we all are.  But I’m really prioritizing.  God first, which means I’m really pouring myself into two awesome discipleship Bible studies with some AMAZING women.  So thankful for them! Digging into God’s Word, and so thankful for how full it is of life and truth and grace.  Memorizing scripture, right now in James, and it’s feels so good to have the Word hidden in  my heart.  Trying hard to quiet my heart more often and draw into prayer.  It’s such a balm to the soul.  And though I feel like I’m so busy, THIS amazing post has brought me to my knees and helped me realize nothing I am doing on this earth is more important than prayer. I’m reading One Thousand Gifts (by the author of that post), and it’s drawing me to a heart of gratitude.  So much to be thankful for!  All joy flows from our gratitude… (more great thoughts in this short post).  Joy could be a good word to describe my heart lately. *peaceful sigh*

So God first, my amazing husband second, our kids third.  They are such a joy right now.  I have loved being a mother, but the early years were exhausting, crumb-covered, and blurred by baths, sleepless nights, tantrums, diapers and messes.  We’re past all that, and I am just really, really loving it, loving every minute of it, making a point of enjoying the crazy moments when they’re leaping off the couch like they’re not supposed to, making some messy, heavily-taped creative project (after which I will surely find myself out of tape at an inopportune time!), or even breaking up disagreements and trying to find peaceful, loving resolutions.  God is so in every single moment, and I’m so thankful.

And so because I’m choosing all these other things first, very honestly, my house is cluttered, and lived in/loved in, with endless to-do projects.  I wish it wasn’t, but such is life.  And no apologies, because I’m so happy with where God has me.  Some women can find balance in prioritizing God, their marriages, their family, and keeping life and house in order.  They have my full respect, and most of the time, I wish that were me.  But it’s not, and so instead of being frustrated with myself, I’ll tackle the most important things, and fit the rest in without wearying myself.  And if you happen to come over tomorrow, you might still find a sparkling Christmas tree lighting your way through our window.  Yes, it is February, and yes, it’s on my to-do list (um, hopefully before the Super Bowl party on Sunday! Go Packers! Or maybe I’ll just throw on couple strands of green and gold lights…).  But while it’s here, we’re still enjoying it, especially Brian, who has sat by it and read something like 8 books (Harry Potter series and the 1st Lord of the Rings book) since it’s been up! He’s really trying to convince me it needs to stay up until he finishes the whole LOTR series, but I’m not on board with that. Yet.

If you’re still with me, I’ll reward you with my absolute favorite, easiest new muffin recipe.  Made it twice last week, and if I had another cake mix, I’d have another batch ready in 10 minutes for a pre-bedtime snack.

Vanilla Pumpkin Muffins (from Bake at 350)

1 15-oz can of pumpkin

1 french vanilla cake mix

2 egg whites (made it with one egg instead, tastes the same)

sparkling sugar (not a necessity, but it really makes them lovely!)

Click on over and scroll down to the 2nd recipe, and then you’ll get to see her lovely picture.  These taste like cupcakes.  My picky-eater gobbled these up, and asked for them in her lunch.  Enjoy!

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13th August 2010

I got a huge basket of peaches for just $14 while we were driving through South Carolina last weekend.  They had been fresh-picked Sunday morning! Love, love, love fresh peaches, but of course, these have all ripened within a day or two, so I’ve had to get busy using them! Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Freezing them, with great directions here.  I hope to freeze some in 1 cup bags for muffins,
  • A peach pie, from Betty Crocker (be warned, sound on this page)
  • The most delicious, moist peach muffins from this recipe (And the comments say that any muffin recipe can be made into waffles!  How awesome is that?  Believe me… I’ve got a lot of great muffin recipes that would be fun to try as waffles, especially these peach ones!)
  • Homemade Peach Ice Cream (to be made today, I hope)
  • Peach Frozen Yogurt (awesome recipe I fell in love with last year)
  • Maybe this Breakfast Peach Couscous recipe…

A few other ideas from my Google Bookmarks file…

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What’s Cookin’ – Doughnut Muffins

8th June 2010

Man oh man… so much going on here.  Summer is totally wearing me out.  Overnight Girl Scout camp with Analise on Friday, birthday parties for both kiddos last week, Girl Scout Day Camp everyday this week (including 1.5+ hours in the car each day!), getting ready to leave for St. Louis/Wisconsin/Minnesota on Friday…We won’t mention the state of my house in the crazy life!!

BUT!  These muffins were the PERFECT choice for one of my favorite ways to spend a morning… with a favorite friend, drinking coffee, chatting over the crazy chaos that is 4 boys playing.  These are DELICIOUS, and they absolutely need a nice cup of coffee or tea with them.  And a good friend 🙂

Doughnut Muffins by King Arthur Flour (the source of all my favorite baking products, flour and recipes!!) Click over for a picture!

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup milk


1) Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely.

2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth.

3) Add the eggs, beating to combine.

4) Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

5) Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

6) Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.

7) Bake the muffins for 17 to 20 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown.

8) Remove them from the oven, and let them cool for a couple of minutes, or until you can handle them. While they’re cooling, melt the butter for the topping (this is easily done in the microwave).

9) Use a pastry brush to paint the top of each muffin with the butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Or simply dip the tops of muffins into the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar.

10) Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Store for a day or so at room temperature.

Yield: 12 muffins.

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What’s Cookin’ – Darn Good Chocolate Cake (for the Glad to Give Virtual Bake Sale)

14th May 2010

It’s unbelievable that I haven’t ever posted this recipe. It’s a highly requested and anticipated dessert at Clearwater Community Church events.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I make it probably 3x a month, sometimes once or twice a week, depending on what events our schedule holds. It is fail-proof. Seriously moist, and super-chocolatey, without being too rice. Be sure to have a gallon of milk on hand to wash it down. And some friends who’ve taken leftovers might have mentioned having it for breakfast, and I might or might not have tried that myself 🙂

I’m linking to one of my favorite blogs, The Motherload, who is hosting the Glad to Give Virtual Bake Sale. She’s got a great recipe posted for Honey Nut Granola, and there are plenty of other great bake sale treats linked on her page. Click on over!  (**And if you were going to make this Darn Good Chocolate Cake for a bake sale, wrap it in Saran Wrap and sell it whole, or cut it into big chunks, and bag it up on small paper plates.)

Back to the best (and easiest!) chocolate cake you’ll ever make or…

Darn Good Chocolate Cake from The Cake Mix Doctor

  • Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
  • Flour for dusting the pan
  • 1 pkg (18.25 oz plain devil’s food or chocolate fudge cake mix (preferably NOT the pudding-in-the-mix kind)
  • 1 pkg (3.9 oz) chocolate instant pudding
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.

Place cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water, and oil in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with a mixer on low for 1 min. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, and increase mixer speed to medium for 2-3 more minutes.  Batter should be thick and well combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Pour into prepared pan, smoothing out top.

Bake 45-50 min, until cake springs back when lightly touched, and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from oven, cool on wire rack for 20 min.  Invert onto rack or plate to cool completely.  Serve on a gorgeous cake plate, and dust with powdered sugar for a perfectly fancy (and crazy easy) dessert.  Or better yet, serve while warm.  It doesn’t even need vanilla ice cream.

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What’s Cookin’ – Asian Slaw

12th May 2010

Not a great name for this tasty salad, so leave me any suggestions you have!

Asian Slaw

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1 pkg ramen noodles, broken into small pieces (toss the flavor packet)
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds

Melt butter in a skillet.  Saute all until toasted and golden. (Be warned… turns the corner to burned very quickly!)

  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 T vinegar
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Shake or stir together.  Just before serving, toss noodle mixture and dressing with 1 bag of coleslaw mix.

*Would be fabulous with shredded or leftover chicken!

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What’s Cookin’ – Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

11th May 2010

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for this delicious recipe! (Click over for her photo!) It’s a big batch, but great for freezing.  And don’t let the pumpkin turn you off… It’s just a sweet cake-y chocolate chip muffin with a hint of cinnamon.  Yum!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 (16 oz.) can pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups oil
3 cups flour (half white whole wheat flour works great!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 package chocolate chips (mini chips would be perfect!)

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil until smooth. Add in dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 1/2 full. Bake 16-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes 24-30 muffins.

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What’s Cookin’ – Farmhouse Chicken

11th May 2010

I tried this yummy chicken recipe last night, and it was a huge hit with all of us!

Farmhouse Chicken by Kraft Foods

1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 small bone-in chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.), skin removed
1/4 cup KRAFT Light Zesty Italian Dressing
2 cups baby carrots
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 cups instant brown rice, uncooked
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

MIX flour and pepper in shallow dish. Add chicken; turn to coat both sides of each piece. Gently shake off excess flour. Heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken, meat-sides down; cook 5 to 6 min. or until golden brown. Turn chicken. Add carrots, onions and 1 cup broth; cover. Simmer on medium-low 20 min. or until chicken is done (165°F).

MEANWHILE, cook rice as directed on package; spoon onto platter. Use slotted spoon to remove chicken and vegetables from skillet; place over rice. Cover to keep warm.

ADD Neufchatel and remaining broth to skillet; cook on high heat until Neufchatel is melted and sauce is well blended, stirring constantly. Simmer on medium-low heat 3 to 5 min. or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Spoon over chicken and vegetables; top with parsley.

*My notes: I used 1.75lbs of boneless skinless breasts, split lengthwise.  There were lots of extra carrots, so maybe less next time. It was DELICIOUS!

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What’s Cookin’ – Garlic Herb Braid

10th May 2010

I came across this recipe, and immediately made it for Life Group.  It was AMAZING!  Perfect with any meal, and it looks so fancy!  But it’s so easy, too!  It’s definitely going to be made again and again! Thanks, Dine & Dish!

Garlic Herb Braid from Taste of Home’s Simple & Delicious

(click over for a great pic!)

16 ServingsPrep: 20 min. + rising Bake: 20 min. + cooling
  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) quick-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons dill weed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and
seasonings. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and cubed
butter to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until
moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining
flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about
4-6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into thirds. Shape each into a 15-in. rope. Place ropes
on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck
under. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with
melted butter. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 1 loaf
(16 slices).

To make life easier, put all the ingredients except the final melted butter, in your bread machine and let your dough cycle do all the initial work.

*My notes: I’ve made this in the KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook (works fine!), and also in the bread machine.  It’s a bit too much dough for my machine, but it rises better, and it’s easier.  If you don’t want the whole braid loaf, it would work fine to split the dough into 2 loaf pans.  Great if you’re taking dinner to someone!

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What’s Cookin’… Pizza Bites!

14th October 2009

Ok, who doesn’t like Totino’s Pizza Rolls?  They’re so yummy.  And the perfect quick kid dinner.  But dang, they’re expensive!  And there are never coupons for them, so that means that I don’t have them in my freezer very often. And the kids are always requesting them.  So I decided to do a quick online search to see if anyone had a recipe for an equivalent.  I stumbled across this amazing blog, Chaos in the Kitchen and her Pizza Bites recipe.  I made them last night, and they were AWESOME and super easy!  Analise even ate 4, and said, “Mommy, these are so, so so yummy!”  Those words make a momma’s night!

I like homemade pizza dough, but couldn’t swing it last night.  So I used fresh pizza dough from the deli of  supermarket, and it was easy to work with.  I made one square pan of about 28 bites, and baked them all up.  I tossed the extras into the freezer for quick microwaving.   Seriously… you’ve got to try these!!

She’s also got a yummy looking recipe for homemade Bagel Bites.  I’ll have to try them next!

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What’s Cookin’… Apple Bread

7th October 2009

This recipe is AMAZING.  Last year, I probably made it 10 times in the fall.  I even made mini loaves to give to kids teachers at church for Christmas, wrapped them (the mini loaves… not my kids :)) in a dish towel, and tied it up with a single serving Tastefully Simple Oh My Chai drink mix (feel free to order or email me directly!).


Anita’s Amazing Apple Bread

  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3/4 c oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 2 c shredded apples
  • 3 c AP flour
  • 1 t baking soda


  • 2T butter, melted
  • 1/2 c sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 1/4t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (or 3 mini pans per loaf). In a large bowl, mix sour cream, sugar, oil, eggs, spices and apples. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and the baking soda. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir only until moist. Divide evenly between the two pans.

Pour butter over batter in pans, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with sugar mixture.

Bake 50-60min or until a tester inserted in middle comes out clean.

**My notes… I’ve never shredded the apples, just very diced them finely.  I’ve also “healthified” this… light sour cream, 1 c. brown sugar/1 c white, 3/4c applesauce in place of oil, egg substitute, half white whole wheat flour (King Arthur White Whole Wheat is the BEST!).  I also added 1/4c toasted oat bran to the topping.  Works great!

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