Coffee Cake

I've never held back about how I feel about back to school time.

Just in case you are unaware about my true feelings, here is my favorite commercial of all time...

Is it so wrong to feel this way??? I truly love my children and enjoy my time with them, but there is something so indescribable about the first day of school!

I made them this delicious coffee cake. Does that make up for the fact that I practically shoved them out of the van in front of the school?

Coffee Cake
(makes one 9" cake or double recipe yeilds one 9x13 cake)
Crumb Topping:
1/4 C + 2 Tb flour
1/4 C + 2 Tb brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 C chopped pecans
3 Tb cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 C + 2 Tb sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
8 ounces sour cream
3/4 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease your baking pan.
2. Combine all the ingredients for your crumb topping in the food processor. Pulse until butter pieces are chopped small and the mixture resembles chunky sand. Set aside. You can also do this by hand with a pastry blender, but don't add the pecans until the end of cutting in the butter.
3. In the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter then slowly add the sugar. Beat until they are light and fluffy, around 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl at least once while it is beating. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix.
4. Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to the mixer in three additions, mixing until just incorporated. Do not overmix!
5. Spread half of the cake batter across the bottom of your pan. Sprinkle half of the crumb topping across the batter then spread remaining batter over that. Finish off the top of the cake with the remaining crumb topping.
6. Bake for 45 minutes until a cake tester inserted in a middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached (if you made a double recipe in a 9x13 pan, it takes an hour). Cool at least 30 minutes or completely before serving.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

My older children are completely embarrassed that I am posting this recipe. Apparently, the fact that I only pay $0.006 per load of laundry is completely "not cool." I beg to differ completely! As you can understand, a family of 8 makes A LOT of dirty laundry. (Especially when one of those people is a 15 year old girl who tries on at least 10 different outfits a day and throws what doesn't make the cut into the dirty clothes hamper....)
I am the first to admit, I love me some original scented Tide. I love the way it smells. What I don't love is the price I pay, especially for the high efficiency safe stuff. So awhile ago, I began making my own laundry soap from the above pictured ingredients. I found everything at my local Hy-Vee grocery store and it costs me $2.80 to make 10 gallons.

Please, don't let this weird, coagulated gloop keep you from giving this stuff a try. It may look weird and have a consistency you have never before witnessed, but it works like a charm and will save you a boatload of money. I really like the scent it has naturally but feel free to add your favorite essential oils to customize it!

Yes, it is safe for HE machines because it is low-sudsing, which is the only "secret" to HE detergent. I have a HE machine myself and love my results.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
(makes 10 gallons: 640 loads for a front load HE washer, 220 loads for a top load washer)
4 C hot water
1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1 C Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 C Borax
essential oil (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt together the grated soap and water until the soap is completely dissolved.
2. Fill a 5 gallon bucket 1/2 full of hot water. Add the washing soda, Borax and melted soap mixture. Stir well until dissolved (I used a yard stick).
3. Fill the bucket to the top with more hot water and stir well. Cover and let sit overnight. The finished mixture will resemble a loose, liquid form of Jello. At this point, you can add 50 drops of the essential oil of your liking to the soap. (I don't add any to mine)
4. Fill your soap dispenser (I use my old Tide container) 1/2 with water and half with soap. Shake well before each use. For front load washers, use 1/4 C - 1/3 C per load. For top load washers, use 1/2-5/8 C per load.

Chocolate Syrup

My Dad is the best Grandpa in the world. Hands down, the best. When he is with my children, it is hard to pick out who is the biggest kid in the group. He's even had to be sent to time-out a time or two for being the source of too much ruckus and mayhem.
Due to distance, we are only able to be together a few times a year but my Dad makes every moment count. He spends hours pushing my kids on the swing set, taking them for endless bike rides and hikes around town, shooting his guns, playing board games he never wins and don't forget bouncing with them on the trampoline. Even I'm too old for that!
My kids love their PaPa so much and they never believe me when I share stories from when I was a child. They can't imagine their beloved PaPa getting mad, punishing us and slamming his fist into the table while yelling "BLAST IT!!!" I wouldn't believe me either if I were them. The strict, short-tempered Dad I had growing up has evolved into a PaPa all children dream of having.
So as I prepare to make the long drive home to Ohio this week, it is easy for my mind to focus on all the negatives of making the horrible trip. When that begins to happen though, I just think about my kids spending time with their PaPa and instantly, it all becomes worth it. Every mile driven, every childish fit thrown along the way, every gallon of gas guzzled, every highway toll paid and every ounce of patience expended. All worth it for my kids to have more time with the best PaPa in the world.
My Dad is also awesome because he truly loves and appreciates whatever I whip up in the kitchen. When you spend so much time baking and cooking, it is so refreshing to have someone truly appreciate how good your food really is. This chocolate syrup got his stamp of approval when he was visiting in May. When I told him how much cheaper it was to make than buy, he loved it even more! Besides his grandchildren, there is nothing my Dad loves more than a good bargain :)

So Dad, be sure you come back next week when I post my recipe for making 10 gallons of laundry soap for less than $3.00......

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
(makes 2 cups)
2 C sugar
1/2 C cocoa powder
1 C warm water
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, water and salt. The cocoa will not fully combine until the sauce comes to a boil. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and boil for 2 minutes. Be very careful because the syrup will boil over VERY easily so be sure your pan is big enough and you keep a close eye on it!
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla. Allow to come to room temperature then refrigerate for 12 hours before using to allow it to thicken. I store mine in an old Hershey's syrup container :)