Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Simplify Your Christmas Baking with 3 Easy Recipes

So you probably already know I don't like to cook, however, baking is different. I think it is because the end result is sooo good! I love sweets! I still like to keep things simple, especially when baking in the RV as there is not as much room for ingredients nor counter space.

These are a  some of my favorite treats I make at Christmas - Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Balls and Lemon Bread! Yes they are all extremely easy!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I really LOVE these cookies! There are 4 great reasons to make these cookies - Green, Chocolate, Mint, and So Easy! They start out with a sugar cookie mix and just add a few ingredients to make them special.

1 (1 pound, 1.4 ounce) pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon mint extract (or to taste)
6 drops green food color
1 egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg in a bowl until soft dough forms. (Do not over mix as it will make the cookies hard.) Stir in chocolate chips.  Use a small spoon to drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. (I use parchment paper)  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes in a regular oven OR 350 degrees on Low Mix in a Convection Oven for 9 minutes. They will be soft but will firm us when cooled. Enjoy!

The original recipe also calls for 1 cup creme de menthe baking chips. I have never used these as I like to use what I have on hand, (and who doesn't always have chocolate chips on hand, just in case you need a chocolate hit!) but I'm sure they would add great mint flavor! I think this would also be great using Almond flavoring, red food coloring, and chocolate or cherry chips or another combination. Any other suggestions for upgrading this recipe?

Peanut Butter Balls

Another very easy recipe - only 5 ingredients - and one of my kid's favorites!

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup rice krispies
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter
chocolate bark - approximately 6 squares

 Combine all of the ingredients, except the chocolate bark, until smooth, creamy and it doesn't stick together. You may need to add more powdered sugar to get to the right consistency. It shouldn't stick to your fingers so that you can roll it into balls.  Roll into small balls. Melt the chocolate bark in the microwave. Dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate until well coated. Cool on wax paper until the bark is firm. 

As an update on this recipe, on a really lazy day I have simply pressed the peanut butter mixture into a 9 x 9 pan and topped with the melted chocolate. Instant gratification for your peanut butter and chocolate fix!

Lemon Bread

This one came from my mother-in-law and my kids always ask for it - I think it reminds them of Christmas at Grandma's House! It has a rich lemon flavor and also makes 2 loaves so you can have one and share one!

1 box Lemon Cake Mix
1 3 ounce box Instant Lemon Pudding
1 cup hot tap water
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a mixer. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Then turn oven to 325 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
I don't have any upgrades to this recipe! It is so easy to make!

You can check out my Pinterest page for other great Christmas ideas and recipes! 

God Bless you all and have a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Our First Workamping Job!

Estes Park Here We Come!

In May of 2012 our first Workamper job took us to beautiful Estes Park, Colorado! I remember driving into town and seeing the view in the picture above - I think I actually screamed out loud!  I was just giddy and couldn't believe this was actually happening! We had visited Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park before and had always thought how amazing it would be to live there. So this would be the perfect spot to start our new adventure!
That is our white pickup in the middle of the picture and the camper is behind there.

Our job in Estes Park was at Rockmount Cottages cleaning cabins, office work and maintenance. Rockmount Cottages is just one mile from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and just two miles from the village of Estes Park. There are 20 beautiful cabins in an amazing setting with lots of trees, the Big Thompson River running through it, and an abundance of wildlife roaming around. Very peaceful! Our camper was set on a cement pad with electricity, water and sewer near by. The laundry was also near by and was free. Woohoo! (Its the little things that matter!) Our camper was parked on the edge of the cottages with an open field beside us and a great view of many mountains including Long's Peak. The first thing you notice in this area is the wildlife. The elk, bears, hummingbirds, beavers, mountain lions, birds, all were amazing to watch and experience. We woke up to amazing views every day! 

Ken and Carol were the managers at that time and they welcomed us as if we were family! They lived on the property in a home that was attached to the office. They made sure we were well trained and often served us lunch and snacks during the work day. We started about 8 a.m. and usually were done with cleaning by about 2 or 3. Some days we worked longer in the office, doing maintenance projects, or relieved Ken and Carol when they got a well deserved day off. We met other staff and friends there - Sheri, Jim, Jon, Edgar, Ray, Shirley, Holly, Jason - and they were all equally welcoming and a lot of fun to hang out with! We made some great memories! It was easy to see why so many guests return there year after year! The grounds around the cabins were always very well kept and beautiful with hanging baskets of flowers and hummingbird feeders. As you can see sometimes the elk liked the flowers a little too much!

There is so much to see in the Rocky Mountain National Park! We obtained an Annual Park Pass so that we could go in as often as possible. Since it was only a mile away there were many days we jumped in the car after work and took a drive or a short hike. 

Be sure to drive up Trail Ridge Road - the Highway to the Sky! There are wildflowers, lakes, hiking trails, elk and other wildlife like you have never seen before! It has spectacular views that take you up to 12,183 feet - well above the tree line! It is hard to describe, or even see in the photos, exactly the look and the feel of the Park. You really need to experience it for yourself!

In the summer of 2013 the Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park experienced a devastating flood which took out some of the roads and hiking trails in RMNP and Estes Park. Check their websites for information on the roads and trails that are now open.

This is at the Alluvial Fan, which is no longer there because of the 2013 flood.

The town of Estes Park is also very charming and you will find everything you need to have a great stay whether it is for workamping or a short vacation. There are great restaurants of every kind, lodging for every budget, and lots of specialty shops. Also the beautiful downtown area features a Riverwalk which follows the river all along the back of many shops. There is always some type of concert, festival or cowboy sing along going on for great entertainment! One of the main "don't miss" events in Estes is the Rocky Mountain Opry! Great music and comedy for everyone!

The Elktones - we were able to hear Cowboy Brad sing on many occasions

It is such a blessing in our lives when our family is able to come visit a location we are working! It is always hard to be away from family for an extended period of time, but if you are lucky they will want to visit you in the great locations you are working. In Estes Park, we were very fortunate to be able to share our excitement of our workamping location with many family members.

My Mom - She has visited almost every location we have been so far!

We were in awe at God's Beautiful Creation!

There are so many great drives, hikes, and lakes to see in the area it is hard to mention them all here! At some point I will add more specific details of locations, etc. on the hikes and drives we took in this amazing setting. Feel free to COMMENT and ask questions if you like! This is a perfect place to have a workamping adventure! You need at least 6 months to experience it all and we will definitely go back there again to work someday.

And did I mention the Aspen trees in the fall?!? Ah-maz-ing!