Cereal Bars

Last weekend I went home to spend some time with my family. There was a gathering including both my immediate and several extended members of my family. We have a lot of young cousins in that part of the family and so it seemed a bar was in order. I ended up making Cereal Bars. I don’t really know where the recipe came from, but I think we have been making it for years. And years. It seems to be a standard in our household. They are full of nuts, so if you are allergic, these are not the bars for you.

Cereal Bars
1 c sugar
1 c corn syrup
¼ c margarine
Put in a saucepan and cook to a full boil. Remove from heat and add 1 c peanut butter. Stir until it’s mixed up and then pour over:
3 c cheerios
3 c corn flakes
1 c peanuts
Stir together and put in a 9×13 pan.



Apple Pie

Last weekend I had some friends over for dinner.  We were looking to eat some delicious food, so after starting with the black bean and corn salad and the squash enchiladas, which were greatly enjoyed, I made an apple pie.  My sister and her husband gave me an apple corer, slicer, peeler a few years ago for Christmas and while it is super easy to use, clean up, and makes cooking wonderful, I often forget about it.  This day, however, I remembered.
I had initially intended to make Pear Pie.  I have an absolutely delicious Cardamom Pear Pie recipe I’ve modified over the years.  The only problem is, it requires fresh pears, and pears take a few days to ripen on the counter top, so when I decided to do this Friday night for Saturday’s meal, I had to make a change of plans. Debating what to do, I went with apple pie.  Why? Lots of reasons.
Apples are in season right now.  I love apples so much, and so making apple pie was at the top of the list of delicious snacks to make.  I know I should make my own crust and have done so successfully in the past, last Saturday was chaotic enough I chose not to take the time to do so.  Instead, I purchased a couple Pillsbury pie crusts at the grocery store and brought them home.
After rolling out the crust, I used a really simple method of making apple pie.  I sliced, peeled, and cored my apples.  Then, I layered the apples followed by a round of a sugar mixture.  I topped it with another pie crust and found some caramel ice cream to make along side it.
Apple Pie Recipe
  • 2 pie crusts — your favorite recipe or store-bought
  • 6-8 Granny Smith Apples
  • ¾ c sugar, heaping
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp lemon rind
  • 2 Tbsp margarine
Peel, slice, and core your apples.  Separately, mix together sugar, cinnamon and lemon rind in a bowl.
Lay one pie crust in the bottom of your pie pan.  Layer one layer of apples.  Sprinkle with sugar mixture.  Repeat until you are out of apples.  Apples should minimally be equally layered with the top of the pie pan.  They will cook down, so I recommend heaping pretty high.  Layer the other crust on top, crimp the two crusts together and cut holes in the top to vent it.
Bake at 350 for 1- 1 1/2 hours.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Sometimes it’s good to throw an impromptu dinner party.  I have great plans for an upcoming dinner party at the end of the month with my fundraiser, but in the meantime, I had a hankering for the squash enchiladas I make.  Knowing I can’t eat them up quite fast enough to make it worth my while, I decided it was time to have a few folks over.
So, I spent a little bit of time cooking the squash and getting the food made, but I also wanted something to go along with this.  Thinking about my faux-Mexican recipes, Black Bean and Corn Salad seemed at the top of the list.  It’s tasty, refreshing, continues the Vegetarianess the rest of the meal offers.  Basically, it’s all-around good.
I’ve used this recipe for years and am embarrassed to admit I don’t know where I found it.  At this point, it has been tinkered with and adjusted enough that it might not even match the original recipe all that much.  I have taken it to birthday parties, potlucks, theme parties, holiday parties, and all over the place.  We just keep eating it over and over.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
1 can black beans
4 oz reduced-fat Monterrey Jack cheese
1 can corn
¼ tsp green onions
¾ c thinly sliced celery
1 red pepper, diced
¾ c picante sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix well.  Cover and chill several hours or overnight.

Fall Snack Mix

A few years ago, my mom came home from a meeting with some lady friends having had a delicious treat.  After going about their usual business for the day and covering all the must-cover topics, they had snacks.  One of the women had brought a nice little snack mix.
I, as of late, have been on a trail mix extravaganza.  Basically, if it looks like a trail mix in some form, I think it sounds delicious.  This mix is no different.  It’s super easy to make, and while it’s a little expensive because of the multitude of items purchased that are pre-packaged, it is kind of right up there with tasty goodness.  Actually, it’s super addicting.  In fact, when we make it at the family home, we tend to hide some in secret places just so it doesn’t get eaten up within a 24 hour period.  It’s just that tasty!
Check it out and let me know what you would add to make it even more delicious…

Fall Snack Mix

  • cheese goldfish crackers
  • plain goldfish crackers
  • pretzel goldfish crackers
  • bowtie pretzels
  • peanuts
  • reese’s pieces or m&ms
  • candy corn
  • nutter butter bites

Pour into a large bowl and mix together.

Adam and Jenna Get Married!

Continuing on the wedding theme, last month my cousin Adam married his bride Jenna.  We were at a country club in Brooklyn Park and it was a great chance to get together with some of my family members.  Of course, I went with every intention of taking a few more photos, and then it didn’t happen.  But, we did get a few.

Adam’s niece and nephews were there.  I remember when they were born and now two of them are in college.  It’s kind of crazy.

As was my Cousin David, who has become our new family photographer.  He does a great job and occasionally moonlights as the assistant to a photographer in the Twin Cities.

My Aunt Cathy made a beautiful mother of the groom.

Bridal Shower for Kate

Last weekend my mom and I were lucky to organize the bridal shower for my cousin Jeff’s bride Kate.  A few years ago my extended family on that side really slowed down on our large group gatherings, and so this was a chance to get together with a bunch of women who we hadn’t seen in awhile and have folks over to our house.

My dad is the youngest of six kids, which means my sisters and I are also some of the youngest cousins.  Whereas a lot of my cousins have been able to help their moms host showers as of late, the most recent couple have been for my sister Carmen, with her wedding and then baby.  Despite the fact that it is a bit of work to put a shower together, it was so much fun.

I have been doing the games at showers since I was in high school.  There have been a couple of exceptions over the past 15 years, but I think I’ve ended up doing a lot of them.  I think it started as a way to get me involved when I was at that awkward not quite a grown up but significantly older than a lot of the young kids age.  And, it just stuck.  And, the reality is that it kind of was great training for my future job.  As a student activities and student affairs professional, a lot of the team builders and programs/events mimic different parts of the bridal or baby shower.  It’s part of what I do!  I guess I have the Schimek side to thank for my future success as a professional on college campuses.

I think showers tend to be just as much about us getting to know each other and spend time together, share gifts, and be a little bit formal.  We aren’t so formal that everything matches, but it’s a good time to join together.  I think we had a few things that were good touches.


My mom found these great little jars that she filled with m&ms and tied ribbons around to set on the table.  We also used a lot of fall colors with it being that time of year in Southern Minnesota.  She had beautiful mums outside of her house and we found this great centerpiece for the main table at Gartzke’s Greenhouse.  I absolutely love the fact that it was built around a pumpkin!


We decided to go with a salad buffet for the meal.  Luckily, lots of people helped bring the food portion together.  We had a meat and cheese tray, my cousins Jenn & Katie brought crackers and bread to snack on and add to the meal.  My aunt Mary Helen brought a tomato, basil and pasta salad.  My aunt Kathy brought a shrimp and pasta salad.  I made an autumn harvest salad I got off of the Espresso and Cream blog.  It was absolutely delicious.  I’ll put the recipe at the bottom with some thoughts on how we would adjust it.  We had fruit from my aunt Pat.

For desserts, I found a great groupon deal for Tidbits Bakery in Cedar Rapids.  I ordered both spice and pumpkin cupcakes and brought them home, but then because it’s a shower, we needed to have a few other desserts as well.  We went with Chocolate Revel Bars, Raspberry White Chocolate Bars, Kringle, and my cousin Kristine brought Banana Bars.  Needless to say, there was lots of good food.


We went relatively simple with the games.  We had the three little girls spend their time coloring pictures.  Once the pictures were colored, we put them together in a binder to give to Kate after it was done.  Then, for the adults in attendance, we played the fantastic game found over on Craftaholics Anonymous!  Linda put together this great game that let us get to know Jeff and Kate as a couple and individually!  I loved it.  We printed off the giant cards and used them to have people choose him or her.

We also did a basket of gifts/cleaning supplies.  With a few modifications, we had each girl take turns bringing one of the items in and placing it in the basket.  It ended up being super cute!  And, it helped the young ladies feel like they had a role in the shower!

Dear Kate,

We gather together with you to celebrate the DAWN of a new ERA. Marriage is a journey. Some days it will be pure JOY but let’s take a moment and talk about the others.

There may come a time when you realize your big BRAWNY guy isn’t necessarily MR. CLEAN. When this and other little glitches occur, don’t SHOUT or send up an SOS. Remember to DIAL things down when it’s necessary!   Go EASY ON him. Hopefully the TIDE will change quickly, tensions will VANISH, and things will BOUNCE back to normal.

We think you and Jeff are a FANTASTIC couple with a ZEST for life and a sincere appreciation for each other. We think you have a GOLD BOND!  We fully support you as you and Jeff PLEDGE to spend your lives as one.

We wish you all the best… Including love, happiness and lots of time to SNUGGLE.


The Schimek Family


Have you ever noticed how things happen in bunches?  For instance, people get new jobs in clusters?  Or one person takes up running and soon everyone else is joining them?  Lately, my life has been filled with the arrival of new babies.  I love Facebook if for the only reason being that I get to see new pictures of babies!

Now that my nephew Simon is 2 months old (can you believe it?!), I feel blessed to have been surrounded by the presence of lots more little babies!  It started with Simon (or 6 weeks earlier when his Cousin Ellie (Elizabeth) was born.  Since that time, the number of babies who are part of my life has exploded!  They include:

  • Xavier Braeven
  • Gilbert Thomas
  • Cooper Islow
  • George Stanley
  • Katelyn Olivia
  • Elijah Joseph
  • Colin Benjamin

And, baby announcements from 2 cousins, a co-worker, and at least two friends.  It’s such exciting times here with babies.  But, before I get too far, are those names great or what?  I absolutely love the variety of kid’s names these days.  Granted, my name has never been one that’s topped the name charts, but I love the uniqueness of each of the recent names having come forward and the intentionality with which they seem to be chosen.  Based on what I know about each of their parents, they’ve got some great stuff.

Minor confession time: when we were younger, we used to play our own cheap-o version of paperdolls, which means we would cut people out of the JC Penney and other catalogues and then have our own paper dolls with multiple outfits and facial expressions.  It was wonderful!  But, in doing so, I would name them based on names that I loved.  I have always loved names and their significance.  Some names absolutely fit the person who has them and some make you wonder how it was picked.

I’ll never forget at a family gathering 10 years ago when one of my cousins shared she was expecting and they had names picked out, but had yet to decide because they wanted to meet the baby before they did so.  It seems appropriate that one would make sure the name matches the new arrival.