Homemade Whipped Cream

This may be in fact the most simple recipe I have on hand, and it’s probably one of the most used! When it comes to desserts, it’s so easy to just grab a can of instant whipped cream. We all use it. It’s just one less step that you have to do. But let me tell you, having your own homemade whipped cream recipe can really come in handy to avoid an extra trip to the store. It also beats the taste of a can any day!

With this recipe I usually end up doubling it. I feel that it’s good to have it in this size though in case you really don’t need that much. But because this recipe is so tasty, the entire family will always end up sneaking a finger swipe in the bowl and before you know it, most of it is gone!

The Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Instructions:

  • Before starting, place mixing bowl and beaters in freezer for about 10-15 minutes to chill
  • In the bowl, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract
  • Start mixing on low speed, then increase the speed to a medium-high until stiff peaks form.

And that’s it! If you’re feeling fancy, this whipped cream recipe is so great for piping. It also could look really great just being used as a dollop on top of an already made dessert. Let your creativity shine!

Happy Baking!

Classic Tomato Soup For A Slow Cooker

Adding another recipe that can be used with a slow cooker is always so exciting for me. with this tomato soup recipe, you just throw everything together and leave it! I actually have never been a huge fan of tomato soup. That is, until I tried this recipe and boy have my tastes changed! This recipe is also great for those who are Gluten Free! (Just skip any sides of bread)

Usually this recipe is great for leftovers, but recently we haven’t had to much left due to everyone scarfing it down right away. I swear it’s that good. All you need is to whip up a side of grilled cheese and you have a perfect meal for the kids or light lunch with friends.

The Ingredients:

  • 2- 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes, (56 oz total)
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 whole bay leaf

The Instructions:

  • Dice the yellow onion and carrots just a bit so you can evenly distribute it in the slow cooker
  • Add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker
  • Turn on the slow cooker and have it set on High for about 4 hours. if you are using the Low setting, cook for about 6-8 hours
  • When finished cooking, pour the ingredients into a blender to pulse into a smooth consistency, making sure there aren’t any chunks. You’ll most likely not fit it all in the blender, so do the first half and then the remaining that needs to be blended
  • Once all ingredients have been pulsed, place back into the slow cooker and serve right away, or keep warm for later.

Happy Cooking!

Calories: 137kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 738mg | Potassium: 473mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3310IU | Vitamin C: 20.2mg | Calcium: 108mg | Iron: 2.2mg

15 Ways To Celebrate The Summer

It’s no secret that that this year has been looking a little different then most. With stay at home orders, social distancing and restricted travel, it’s now so important that we find ways to satisfy our mental health and keep active during these most celebrated months. I wanted to list at least 15 different activities that anyone can do to have some fun this summer and make lasting memories along the way.

1. Picnic In The Park

This may be one of my all time favorite activities to do during the season. Pack your favorite foods, your coziest blanket and plant yourself in one of the best spots in town. Growing up, I remember our mom always taking us to the local park and picking up food for us to sit outdoors with while we watch the ducks treading down the stream and listened to the crickets sing beyond the trees. This summer past time can be done with your children, significant other, or the entire family to bring a little spontaneity to meal time.

2. Drive-In Movie

No, we can’t time travel. But we CAN hop in the car and head out to the local Drive-In movie theater which could be the next best thing. The nostalgia runs deep with this summer activity which I am always here for and ready to dive into. Check your area to find the nearest theater and see what shows they’re playing for the weekend. I personally love to visit during classic movie nights, but they also show today’s newest films that could be great for the family! Don’t forget to watch the dancing hot dogs and popcorn during intermission time.

3. Fishing

Whether you have a boat, a local dock, or just a pond near the backyard, this relaxing summer venture is great for finding that peace and quiet we all need every now and again. Whats great with this is you could have a fishing buddy or go completely solo and still have a great time. I recommend going either really early in the morning or enjoying a nice evening break near the water.

4. Bonfire In The Backyard

Grab those graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars cause a bonfire is in the works! Find an awesome playlist that corresponds with the groups current vibe and enjoy the warmth, sounds and smells that an awesome backyard fire pit can give. No greater way to start some awesome conversation.

5. Gardening

With my current downtown apartment living, this is a hobby that I cannot wait to establish once we make the transition to a house. I dream of the day that I can add all the color and smells to my backyard to get that beautiful private oasis. That being said, don’t let apartment living stop you! Grab some affordable pots and research plants that can thrive either indoors or on balconies with certain sunlight requirements.

6. Outdoor Yoga

Grab the mat and find a space of tranquility as you open your mind to the peace around you. Practicing yoga daily is on my to-do list because it has helped me tremendously with my flexibility and the silent nature of it really did help me relax. This can obviously be done indoors or outdoors, but why not add some sunshine and nature sounds to your experience?

7. Hosting a BBQ

Everyone knows the image of the backyard grilling station and the mouth watering smells that come with it. Discover your inner Grill Master and cook up those summer classics like burgers, hot dogs and chicken (among other favorites). Not into meat? No problem! Portobello mushrooms can be a great meat substitution that tastes great on the grill along with a side of grilled corn on the cob and a heaping side of pasta salad and watermelon

8. Star Gazing

Get out of the bustling city and head out to the country to find a night sky that’s not affected by light pollution. If driving a few hours for the complete darkness isn’t possible, look towards the south in an area with the least light and no major cities in that direction. With this tip, you’ll be able to possibly see a better view of the Milky Way.

9. Volunteering

Now more than ever, volunteers are being used to help communities around the country to help regrow and strengthen our small towns and big cities. Check out your local food bank. See if your local Habitat For Humanity needs a few more hands. Getting down and dirty isn’t really your scene? No worries! Help plan events within your town and give your creative skills or organization skills to those who could use the help. Your town doesn’t really do many events? Create them! Start a summer concert series or farmers market to get people together.

10. DIY Crafts

Impress everyone with how creative you can be with trying out a new hobby! Sometimes I can bite off more than I can chew with the crafts I attempt, but as long as you’re having fun and expanding your skill set, no hurt in trying! Some crafts that I have tried is painting furniture, knitting, embroidery, candle making and tie dying. All challenging in their own way, but totally worth it.

11. Baking New Recipes

Something about writing down a successful attempt at a new recipe and adding it to the recipe book is so satisfying. I’ve learned from experience that this activity is not only great for you, but totally yummy for the rest of the family as well! Nothing more classic then baking an awesome apple pie topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream to quench our cravings.

12. Themed Movie Marathons

Either cozy up on the couch, sprawl out with pillows on the floor, or even take this next option outside to create an awesome movie marathon night. Take your new baking skills and utilize it to create a yummy snack to make your marathon even better. Can’t forget the popcorn though. It’s essential!

13. Walk or Bike Ride Downtown

Take in your local towns history by going for a nice, relaxing stroll throughout the streets. Try and make note of the repeating architecture that is being displayed within your community or discover the beautiful trees that line the streets. Take a break at the local coffee shop and take a refreshing drink along with you for the rest of the way!

13. Water Fun In The Sun

The water balloons are getting filled and the teams are made. One team gets the front yard, the other gets the back. And so it begins! Running around in the sun getting soaked is always a fun way to make the day go by. Growing up we always had water gun fights and ran around trying to tag the other person. We also always hooked up the hose to a classic sip n’ slide which took hours of the day!

14. Camping

Usually this took place in the backyard for us kids growing up, which was always such a blast with friends! A few times we also took our camping to a more exciting level and stayed at a campground. Either way, it’s always an adventure sleeping under the stars and loading up the tent full of your favorite blankets and pillows.

15. Game Night

It’s a no-brainer that grabbing the board games such as monopoly, clue, scrabble, or anything else you find in the closet can fill in some of the boredom. Add a pizza into the works and you’re looking at an awesome night. You could also even leave the board games out of it and grab a bunch of the neighbors to play a good old fashioned event of NIGHT GAMES. Flashlight Tag, Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyard are just to name a few.

With this year being a bit different, these are just a few ideas of many that can be done to occupy your time during these summer months of social distancing. We may not be able to hit up that summer concert like normal, or head out to the weekly farmers market and shop. But hopefully we can all find something that we enjoy doing with our ourselves or families to make the joyful memories of a lifetime.

A Woman’s Legacy

It’s the Summer of ’97.

The morning sun overflowed into the living room while we sat together next to the corner window. With my orange flavored Push-Up, the pull out couch still unmade, and Bob Barker explaining the rules of Plinko on the television, it was a classic start to a beautiful day with Grandma. Before long we would venture outside to check on the tomatoes whilst the Black Capped Chickadees sing songs to one another, as if it were a private summer concert that only the two of us got the privilege of hearing. All while the scent of lilac bushes divulge into our space, generating a perfume so beautiful only a summers day at grandmas could produce.

Days like this were common as a child. Days that were deemed as “simple” or “non-eventful”. These are the days that we tend to hold on to the tightest as we get older. We think to ourselves; “if only I could go back”. But what if that’s the beauty of it all? These golden souvenirs from the past are to rest securely in our reflections, only to be uncovered when we need a carefree giggle or grin.

With my first entry, I wanted to dedicate it to the women who left a legacy so immense, our future generations will always have the paved pathways she designed, if only to learn greatly from it.

Prairie Ave. house- Barrington, IL

Born on April 9, 1927, Helen Mae was a women with many hats. She was a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, avid women of Christ, Polka enthusiast, friend, and the hardest worker you’d ever met. She’s the women who knew everything and nothing at the same time. She cared for the excluded and prayed for their judgers. She possessed a humor so unique that only one with the thickest of skin could appreciate. She sported a perm so tight that only someone from The Silent Generation could fully appreciate, but with brown hair so pure up into her 90’s that you’d bet money on her dying it, only to find out she just got lucky with genes. She was the embodiment of all that was beautiful in a grandchild’s eyes.

Senior Portrait, 1945

Growing up on the farm, she quickly learned the value of a dollar which she so eloquently passed down to us. Whether it was picking up sticks outside, pushing the hand mower throughout the backyard, or helping her garden the flowers, she would always reward us with Dog Tracks where the Vienna beef hot dogs called home along with a giant bag of fries.

As I got older, the visits didn’t seem to slow down. At 14 she gave me the keys to her car as she rode shot gun, just so I could “see what it’s like to drive”, even if it was only in the local soccer field parking lot. The card games at the kitchen table went from Bingo to Old Maid to Crazy 8’s. She was “grandma” to my friends and the local grocery store bagger at Jewel that everyone in the community knew and loved.

The truth is I could never stop writing about why my grandmother has been one of the greatest people in my life. Sometimes you just get lucky with who you get as family. For us grand kids, we won the lottery (despite always losing when she’d gift us the scratch off tickets). Helen wasn’t a perfect person. But in my eyes, she always tried to make up for that. To this day, she may be the only person to have made bacon cooked in the microwave look appetizing in the morning.

Sometimes while you’re living in the good days, you take things for granted. Why didn’t I call her that day? Why couldn’t I have done more… I ask myself these questions all the time. But the truth of the matter is, we can’t go back to these days. As hard as we are on ourselves, she knew the love we shared was so immense. We have to know how blessed we are with what we were given and learn to appreciate who and what we have, just like Helen did.

I’m living with the realization that my future children won’t get to personally meet the women who helped shape who I am today. They won’t get that sweet, magic touch of how to make the perfect Rice Krispie on the stove, or witness that peculiar humor only from someone who’s as tough as nails can give. It is the responsibility, we as family, have to continue this marvelous women’s legacy to ensure we all can still have a little Helen in all of us.

It’s the summer of ’97. The day has passed as we finish our final serving of ice cream. We’re sitting barefoot on her front stoop, watching the cars go by as dusk begins to break, only to wake up the next morning to check on those tomatoes and be greeted by our song bird concerts once again.

Cheers to a women’s life.

Thanks, grandma.

Love, your Gracie