Caramel Apple Bars & a Crazy Weekend

Apple DessertIt was a really busy weekend.

Our Sunday activities included a church potluck at lunch and a 4H Soup Supper Fundraiser in the evening – with exactly one hour between the two.

That meant that we needed to be totally ready for both on Saturday – which made for a pretty crazy kitchen on Saturday afternoon!

I had Angel Girl, her friend Bethany and Dagmar all assisting. When we ran out of dishes we’ll call Buddy and Pedro to wash a few so we could keep moving.

In one afternoon we made barbecue venison, Grandma’s Cherry Dessert (but with blackberries) a chocolate oatmeal cake, lasagna, bread sticks, homemade caramel sauce, potato soup for 100, and a new creation – some yummy Caramel Apple Bars.

At one point – when I was mentally multiplying potato soup recipes in my head and praying that it would all turn out okay (it did!) – I handed Dagmar 2 different apple bar recipes and told her to make something work.

She did! The end result was an oatmeal crust with a gooey caramel apple filling.

We used homemade caramel sauce – since I forgot to buy caramels when I was shopping that morning – and it worked great!

Caramel Apple Bars

Crust:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional – we didn’t use)

Filling:

4-1/2 cups peeled and chopped baking apples (we used a fat quart of our frozen apples)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 – 14 ounce package caramels
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add flour, oats, salt and baking soda. Mix well. Stir in pecans.

Set aside 2 cups.

Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 13 x 9 inch pan.

For filling, toss apples with flour and spoon over the crust.

In a saucepan melt the caramels and butter over low heat and drizzle over the apples.

Top with the remaining oatmeal mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool before cutting into bars.

Enjoy!

I’ve linked this post up with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace and Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

County Fair 2011

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when my kitchen looks like a war zone but smells heavenly.
Rolls

When oven space is a hot commodity and that recipe that we’ve made a million times together without failing – fails.

Cookies

When my table is covered with entry tags and project write ups and we’re scrambling to find the 4H t-shirts.
PhotosWhen a year’s worth of work is condensed into a few paragraphs and pictures.

When this mama is weary – but proud.

It’s time for the county fair and today is 4H judging.

Fasten your seat belts – here we go!

Blue Ribbons, Free Food and a Flaming Monkey

The one reason my kids go through the blood, sweat and tears to produce 4H projects can be summed up in four words – The Iowa State Fair.

Their goal is to get at least one project to advance to the State Fair so that Daddy has to take them. It worked again this year!

The first stop is always the 4H building – always. “Go directly to the 4H building, do not pass go, do not collect $200.” These are men on a mission – just follow the red shirt.

Once there –  we begin our treasure hunt to find our 6 projects in the midst of the thousands there.

We only found five of the six – but those five did well – 3 blues and 2 reds.

The missing project was Matt’s editing work on the grandkid’s video for my parent’s Golden Anniversary. One 4H staffer said they were playing the videos this year on TV screens for fair goers to see. Oh my – they will get an eyeful watching that video!  Some of his cousins might be just a little embarrassed…

Once we leave the 4H building – we’re on the livestock barns to see the biggest boar, the biggest bull and the avenue of breeds.  We pass a one-man band in route to the butter cow.

My favorite part of the fair – the free food samples! We ate quite a variety this year – brats, meatballs, cookies, popcorn, salsas, a wide assortment of dips, and even a whole hard-boiled egg at the egg producers booth.  If there’s free food – my kids will find it!

Speaking of food…we hiked up the hill to eat our sack lunch while watching the amazing Sinbad diving show. It was a seriously funny show featuring pirates and a cool monkey searching for the golden pineapple. Aarrgghh….my kids loved it!

Really loved it.

They loved it so much that as soon as Sinbad announced that at the 6:00 show they would light “Cool Monkey” up in flames – they started lobbying to stay.

Even though they were exhausted from hiking from one end of the fair grounds to the other, wiped out from heat and humidity, nursing blisters and out of water, they still wanted to stay.

And who could blame them?! A flaming monkey is a pretty incredible way to end a great day at the State Fair!

4H Judging at the County Fair

The County Fair.

The very words put fear and trembling into the hearts of 4H moms.

It’s marked in red on my calendar.

D -Day.

This year we have all five children in 4H. That means a grand total of 19 projects and all of those projects are due at the same time on the same day.

In a perfect world my diligent children would have been working on projects all year – on their own – with little assistance.

My world isn’t perfect.

We worked on projects the week before the fair like our lives depended on it.  (For some of my children – it did!)

Despite the stress and the rush, each child was completed on time even if we did had to use duct tape. 🙂

Judging went very well. Very, very well.

Six projects were chosen for the State Fair.

One was an Outstanding Junior exhibit.

And all the rest were blue ribbons – except Buddy’s – he still a Clover Kid and only gets a rainbow participation ribbon.

And now it’s over for another year.

We’ll take a couple of days to rest up and savor the moment.

Maybe by then I will have all my brain cells back…

Chocolate Mint Brownie Cookies

chocolate mint cookiesIt’s time to start thinking about 4 H projects.

I know, I know – we should be working on them all year – but that just doesn’t happen.  Our best time for projects is that magic time in mid-May as school is winding down and before summer winds up.

This year Buddy joins the fun for the first time – which means that I get to teach the basics again.

I started where I did with all the other children – with Baking 101 – Cookies.

He choose these yummy chocolate mint brownie cookies to try first.  He learned how to cream, how to mix the dry ingredients, how to scoop the cookies so they are the same size and how to tell when they are done.

His hardest lesson was to figure out how to keep his sisters and his mama away from the cookie dough because it is just as good as the finished cookies!

Chocolate Mint Brownie Cookies

2/3 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups mint chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the water and vanilla, mixing well.

Beat in the 2 eggs.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Gradually add to the creamed mixture until just blended.

Stir in the mint chocolate chips and nuts (if desired).

Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes. Do not over bake! Cool 2 minutes before removing from the cookie sheets. Cool on wire racks – if you can wait that long! 🙂

These are also wonderful with semi-sweet chocolate chips, or even dark chocolate. I haven’t tried them yet with the chocolate raspberry chips – but I’m sure they would be heavenly!

Enjoy!

I’ve linked this post up with Tasty Tuesday and Tempt my Tummy Tuesday.

And Then It’s Over for Another Year…

It’s all over.

It was a l-o-n-g day of 4H judging at the County Fair, but it’s all over now.

And I’m a proud momma.

The kids did well.

4 projects are going to the State Fair.

2 projects are Outstanding Junior exhibits.

7 projects got a blue ribbon and one project got a red ribbon.

But most importantly, the kids did a great job exhibiting, had good attitudes and showed maturity (at least for one afternoon!)

I am beyond tired.

My brain feels numb.

But it’s all over for another year.

(She sighs a happy sigh)

Twas the Night Before the County Fair

4H County Fair

I am a 4H mom and the county fair is tomorrow.

Some of you can appreciate the stress that is implied in that sentence.

I have spent the last 14 hours of my life answering questions, finding lost pieces to projects, giving advise, tasting cookie dough, reading project reports, finding lost recipes, printing project reports, filling out exhibit tags, reminding, encouraging, prodding, and multi- tasking.

Notice I didn’t say yelling. Or crying.

Not yet anyway.

Things have gone amazingly smooth this year and most of the projects are done. We have a few little details to finish up in the morning and 4 children have baked goods to make so they are fresh for the judging tomorrow afternoon.

It’s a big day.

We have five kids with 14 4H projects and 11 open class exhibits.

I still have my sanity – for now.

Stay tuned…

A Blue Ribbon Day at the Fair!

State Fair violet jelly it was a great day at the County Fair yesterday! The kids all did well and all the projects made it on time. (Round of applause!)

Here’s a run down on the results:

Matt: one blue and 2 selected for the State Fair

Dagmar: one blue, 1 considered for the State Fair and 1 selected for the State Fair

Pedro: 2 blue and 1 Outstanding Junior Exhibit

Angel Girl: 2 blue and 1 outstanding junior Exhibit

Pedro’s footstool receiving a blue ribbon (yeah!)

Now to take a deep breath, rest a few minutes before heading straight into Vacation Bible School.

I’ve decided that the term “Summer Vacation” is definitely a misnomer!

I am a 4H Mom…

Upholstering the top of the foot stoolIt’s mid-July folks, the time all 4H moms anticipate with fear and trembling. It’s time for the County fair.

For those of you who are uninitiated into the workings of 4H, let me describe it like this: imagine that all of your children have all of their school projects due on the same day and at the same time.

I have four children in 4H this year, and our family rule is at least 3 projects. My brain has been functioning a little like this…

“Need to fix the printer to print off the last… has Dagmar started her bread?…where is Angel Girls entry tags…I still need the printer…Pedro has to start… is the varnish dry?…write-ups…I forgot the laundry…are we out of flour?… Matt needs to mount his picture…where is the label maker?…mint flavoring…Class 521 A or is it B…the printer…oh no! I forgot about supper!”

Finished foot stoolOne project in particular has given me grief. Pedro refinished an old oak footstool and looked to me for help to upholster the top. I’ve done things like this in the past, years ago before children, when I had complete thoughts and working brain cells.

Somehow we muddled through and everything worked out. But I learned an important lesson, “Just because it looks easy on HGTV, doesn’t mean you can do at late at night, just before the project is due.”

It’s time to heat up some lunch, pack up the projects and head to the 4H building. That’s where I’ll spend the rest of this warm summer afternoon with other 4H moms just like me, dazed, brain dead, and much too tired to have an intelligent conversation.

Now if I can just remember who I am and which children are mine…

4H Achievement Show

4H Emblem Today was 4H Achievement Show for the 4 oldest children. It was a crazy busy day, but just a small taste of what life will be like in my home a month from now when the county fair begins.

At the local Achievement Show each club member brings in their projects from the year and a former 4H leader looks them over, asks questions and gives helpful comments.

Then each member gets a picture taken with one of their projects. This picture will be featured in the local paper the week before the fair. Pretty cool!

When we woke up this morning there was just one finished project on the dining room table. There were many other projects scattered all around the house in varying degrees of completion.

It was crazy for a while, but all four children had at least one finished project to bring this afternoon.

Whew! Time for this 4H mom to take a break…I think I need some chocolate!?