Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Fun

This is the first year that Nolan is really "into" Halloween. He put great thought into what he wanted to be (and it changed MANY times before we actually decided) which ended up to be either a werewolf (inspired by Jacob) or a pirate. Lucky for us, his auntie just happens to have 3 boys and one of the cutest pirate costumes around!  First stop - Salt Lake Police Department!
Got to sit in the fire engine...
sound the siren on the motorbike...
and shoot an airsoft gun (which he now insists Santa is bringing him for Christmas!).

Then once it was time for Trick or Treating we had to add the mustache - a la Captain Hook era.

The girls are "too old" for dressing up.  Or so they thought until they saw everyone else out & about.  Impromptu costumes came out and off they went to bring back some candy loot!  It was short lived, thanks to the rain, but we had so much fun eating treats and sitting by the fire.

This is truly a wonderful time of year.  Feeling the excitement of the season setting in!! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Quilt

I didn't get as far as I was hoping on my Halloween quilt, but there was some progress.

All of the strips are sewn and cut into 4.5" squares, in preparation for THIS zig zag pattern. It will have to be modified just a bit to adjust for the use of a jelly roll, not yardage. The only difference is the finished size will be just a bit smaller. But for a seasonal quilt that will only be used for one month each year, that's perfectly fine.

Next in the line up is this:
Going to try it in some fleece just to make sure I can make it work. I've never sewn any clothing before but hopefully this will be pretty easy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Cupcakes!

So today was just an "orangey-fall, stay home and cook & be cozy" kinda day.

First off, I made MORE pumpkin spice cupcakes. I know, I just made these and completely overindulged. But, c' can I stop thinking about these delicious little beauties WITH cream cheese frosting!?! Plus they make your house smell like HEAVEN! However, I did "healthify" them just a bit, if that's even a word. Here's the new version via Wingledings:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs (room temp)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, soda and spices.
In a larger bowl beat together eggs and remaining ingredients.
Add flour mixture until combined.
Fill cupcake liners and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and frost with icing of choice. I used this cream cheese frosting again, cuz it's the best!

Then I made another batch of tomato sauce and put a whole chicken into the crockpot to roast for 8 hours. Who knew you could make a "rotisserie" style chicken in the crock pot!?! It's super easy and pretty much cooks itself. Throw it in, season it and walk away for 8 hours. It will literally fall apart when done!

And as if THAT wasn't enough, I decided to roast a butternut squash.
These are FOR SURE one of my favorite fall foods. Simple, tasty and good for you. Except for possibly the butter and brown sugar I slather on the last 10 minutes of baking!

Initially, I was really wanting to make a risotto with the roasted squash, but I didn't have any Arborio rice on hand. However, I DID have barley. There's no set recipe but here's how it went:
Half the squash, remove seeds and place cut side down on lines baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Cool and scoop out the flesh ( I used an ice cream scoop). Set aside.

Saute some onion & garlic in butter. Add some diced, cooked bacon (as desired)and 1 cup barley and stir until the barley is aromatic, smelling kinda nutty. Then add approximately 2 cups of homemade chicken stock and let it absorb most of the way (15-20 minutes). Then add 2 cups of water and season. Again, allow it to cook up & absorb MOST of the liquid (another 15-20 minutes). The last 10-15 minutes add in approximately 1 cup (or as desired) of the roasted squash. If you don't want it chunky, you can puree it with some chicken stock prior to adding it to your barley or risotto mixture. Wah-la!
Serve it up with some chicken, fresh baked rolls.... so hearty and stick-to-your-ribs good!
Now I'll just have to add an extra 45 minutes to my workout in the morning to recover from my day in the kitchen. Who am I kidding, huh? :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

{Sunday progress}

Well, as the day started out with much promise, it quickly slipped away with laundry, a bit of re-organizing (my office, the pantry), some grocery shopping and treat making.

Needless to say I didn't make much progress on my Halloween quilt, other than calculating sizes and realizing I need 6 more rows of zig zags to make it a nice size. Back to the fabric shop, I guess. No sewing on it whatsoever :(

However, the day was still productive. I did manage to re-arrange my stash, make a list of works in progress and made this for my tiny guy:

A Halloween pillowcase. This is a new Halloween print by Riley Blake. Perfect for a 3.5 year old who loves "spooky" things but not "scary" things, cuz there IS a difference. It's a sweet mix of bats, black cats, spiders, mummies, ghosts, skulls and little vampires. While my guy isn't afraid of vampires, thanks to Edward Cullen, too much ghoul & gore makes him wanna snuggle with Momma. Which is FINE by me :)

The orange "boo!" print on the end is also from Material Girls Quilts, my favorite fabric shop, pretty much ever, but not sure who makes it. It didn't last long enough for me to make note.

This was seriously, like a 10 minute project - good for me and good for THIS guy:
He even said "Wow, mom! That sure was quick!" when I brought it to him. I think he loves it {wink} and is happy that I made something special for him.

Ring the alarm!

Holy corn chowder, Batman! I've been wanting to make this recipe from The Pioneer Woman for a minute and finally did it today. And it's DELISH! Great for a chilly Sunday afternoon 'cuz it'll keep you warmed up with these:

Chipotles in Adobo sauce - yum!

It's a quick soup and so easy to improvise too. BUT, one word of was too spicy for my kids. They ended up with turkey sliders (recipe to come another day). Give it a try!

You brown up the bacon until you've got a bit of fat rendered in the pan. Then add your onion (I also added carrots) and stir until translucent. Maybe toss in a pat or two of butter just for fun :) Add your corn, diced chipotles ( I used 2 as it suggests but use caution) and chicken stock.

Let them cook around for a bit. Then add the cream (didn't suggest it was low fat!) and green chiles.

Throw in a little cornmeal to thicken things up a bit

(I also added some leftover mashed potatoes from last night - YUM) and simmer for 15 minutes. Done!

Serve with your artisan bread of choice and enjoy! Can't say enough about how much I loved this soup! Simple and delicious. Love that Ree Drummond - she rocks!

Time for JELLY?

When visiting my favorite fabric shop last week, Material Girls Quilts, I was really only intending on going to search through the sale fabrics. The always have great bolts out front on display that are WAY marked down! Or they also have grab bags, which was the next thing on my list. But then I went in to see what was new...MISTAKE! Or not, actually :) I found this:

The new DARLING Halloween line "Haunted Mansion" by Moda! It has a great assortment of prints and colors. The details are what makes it, like this:

These little spiders were just too cute to resist. Then I saw THIS print:

A floral QUATREFOIL - my favorite pattern of all time - WITH the little spider too! Done deal. Had to have it. So I bought the jelly roll and a few fat quarters to {hopefully) make some cute coordinating pillows. Saturday was a bust as far as sewing is concerned but today's looking like there may just be a small window. I'll post progress later today :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I {HEART} Fall

There are so many wonderful things about Fall...crisp weather, colorful foliage, Halloween, apples and PUMPKINS! Love everything squash or pumpkin related - from roasted butternut risotto to THESE beauties - Pumpkin Cupcakes!

So easy to make from scratch and very tasty! Here's how:

Pumpkin Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup solid packed, canned pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray cups.

In a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

With your mixer cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape sides of bowl. With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and the pumpkin puree in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill the muffin cups roughly 2/3 full using 2 spoons or an ice cream scoop. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until firm and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool.

In your mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter until incorporated and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy (2-3 minutes). Pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes and garnish with toasted nuts
(as I did: Spread walnuts onto baking pan lined with foil and bake for 8-10 minutes until brown and fragrant) or with toffee bits.

These are quick and so delicious. I put walnuts on some but not all, as I have some finicky eaters but they're just as yummy with frosting alone.

Welcome Fall and thanks for bringing with you that beautiful pumpkin. {wink}

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Another one of Summer's gifts - plums! My mom brought over a basket of fresh plums, right off her tree. While I'm not a big stone fruit fan, there are some wonderful desserts that make the most of these little guys.

While they can be really messy of you are the tree owner, they cook up beautifully in a dish like this one: Plum Clafoutis

SUPER quick, simple and delicious. Best served still warm out of the oven! Try it out. Start to in the oven was about 10-15 minutes, including preparing the fruit!

Plum Clafoutis
6 tablespoons white sugar
14 plums, pitted and halved
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk (I used 1 cup milk & 1/3 cup cream)
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pinch of salt (precise, I know- I'm kinda like that)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10 inch pie plate and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar on the bottom.

Arrange the plum halves, cut side down, to cover the entire bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the plums.

In a blender, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, eggs, milk, flour, lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Pour over plums in the pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes in a preheated oven or until firm and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Try to serve fairly soon after cooking as it has a tendency to fall and become more dense (less "fluffy") upon cooling.

This is an impressive dish for guests that is WAY easier than it appears when finished! Which is TOTALLY right up my alley!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Apple Gallette

I have a confession. I Love Costco. I mean, really. LOVE it! It's so awesome to be able to get all the usual things I buy, but LOTS of it. A household of 5 plus a large dog = lots of laundry. And there's nothing worse than being 2 loads from complete (starting with oh, about 20 loads to do) and run out of Tide! Or even worse, running out of Downy! Or how about Charmin?? Lots of butts around here, can figure the rest. Have you tried their granola?!? It's THE absolute best I've ever tasted. Literally, I eat it for breakfast EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Never get burned out. I could go on, but it's just so nice to have plenty of the essential things we need (or love) and not having to worry about running out.

Anyway, I digress. So, needless to say I buy lots of stuff at Costco. While I try not to go there on an empty stomach, sometimes I can't help myself. This time it was apples. The kids LOVE apples. So why not buy LOTS?!? We can't eat them fast enough and I was feeling a bit bad about buying SO many. Being that it is the season for apples, inspiration wasn't tough to find, as far as something to do with them. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Google Reader?)

Thought about these apple dumplings by The Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummond (She ROCKS!) but didn't have any Mountain Dew on hand. So I went for a "rustic" aka lazy version of an apple pie - the Gallette! By definition the gallette is a general term used to describe various forms of flat, round or freeform crusty cakes.

I started with a pre-made pie crust. Yes, I could've made one but I had these on hand and it saved TONS of time.
The recipe:

4 large apples - your favorite variety ( I used Pink Lady) - peeled & cored
1 tbsp flour
juice of a lemon - approx 2 tbsp
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp ginger

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar

Put your peeled, cored & sliced apples in a bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a separate bowl combine flour, sugar & spices. Toss with apples.

Take your pie crust (store bought or otherwise) and lay it onto a greased pizza pan or rectangular cookie sheet. Lay the apple mixture either in a circular pattern or in rows into the middle of the cold pie crust.

Fold up edges of the pie crust around the apple filling
and dot with butter
Lastly, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar - I keep a shaker of cinnamon sugar handy since we LOVE it on buttered toast!
Bake at 425 degrees for about 50 minutes or until golden brown. For maximum impact, serve with vanilla ice cream OR cinnamon whipped cream!

Trust me. It won't disappoint.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lasagne Roll Ups

After making my homemade tomato sauce, I was inspired to make Lasagna Roll Ups! Italian food is a major favorite around here. The only drawback (for me, anyway) is that it's usually fairly time consuming to prepare....such as lasagna. This is my cheater and quick version that always goes over BIG!

First, brown your ground meat of choice, I used beef but turkey works great too. You can add onion but since I have one picky eater than can detect the smallest molecule of onion, I refrain.
Then add your tomato/marinara sauce to the meat and allow to simmer on low while you cook the lasagna noodles.
Only cook for about half the suggested time as you want them to be VERY al dente. Otherwise, if overcooked they will fall apart. Once they're cooking, prepare your filling.
For the filling I used one container of ricotta cheese, one egg, a handful (precise, I know) of cheese - anything works however I prefer a blend of Asiago, Romano and Parmesan, basil, parsley, salt & pepper. Mix well.

Drain your noodles and rinse in cold water. Drain again. Then you will take a small amount of the sauce/meat mixture and coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan prior to adding your roll ups.
Once cooled take you lasagna noodles and put a spoonful of the cheese mixture onto each on and spread it from end to end on the noodle. Roll it up and layer into the pan.
Repeat until all noodles are complete.
Take the remainder of the sauce on spoon it over the pan of roll ups.
Cover the top with cheese of your choosing, here I've used shredded mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella slices are an especially extravagant touch as well.
Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees or until heated through and nicely browned on top.
Yum! It's a crowd pleaser for sure. This is also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day!
If you're lucky enough to have that happen {wink}

Sunday, October 3, 2010

You say Tomato, I say Tomahto

Summer's bounty - such a beautiful thing. Last years garden gave tomatoes, broccoli, butternut squash - yummy! This year's Nada. Zero. Didn't have one :( Bummer! Luckily for me, my mom is on the ball. She's kept me stocked with one of my favorite summer treats - tomatoes! Caprese salad (sliced tomatoes with slices of FRESH mozzarella cheese, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with chopped basil) is one of my most favorite things to eat!

Now that they are almost past their prime, the last of the tomatoes are ripening on the vines. There's many more than my mom & dad can use so I decided to try my hand at homemade tomato sauce.

This is quite a conundrum because everyone does it different. You can freeze it or can it. Cook it or puree it. Seeds or no seeds. The right approach for me? The EASY way. Now, I've made authentic "Brooklyn Gravy" before, where it HAS to be a Roma tomato and you blanche, peel, strain, cook, condense, etc. SO delicious but SO much work. Not today. It doesn't get any simpler than tomato sauce so why should it be difficult? Here's what I did:

Take your fresh, delicious tomatoes (roughly 6-8 tomatoes produce 1 cup of sauce)
and remove the core. Cut into rough 1" pieces.
Put them into your food processor or blender (I chose the latter) and puree, skins seeds & all.

Pour everything into a stock pot and simmer on low. You want your puree to condense down to about half of the original amount OR until it's the desired thickness. Mine took about 2.5 to 3 hours. You can leave it as just tomato sauce, to maximize the number of uses, OR you can season while you are cooking as I did, with any number of the usual spices; garlic, basil, oregano, etc. Since I use the same sauce for pizza, pasta, meatball sandwiches or whatever, I went ahead and seasoned mine. Also, you can use a rubber spatula to stir and scrape down the sides as it cooks, about every half hour works great.

This simple recipe is so versatile. If you don't want the seeds you can strain before or after freezing. To freeze, fill your containers and leave on the counter for about an hour to cool then put in the freezer. It should keep fine for 6-9 months, but if you're like me, it won't last that long!

Today I froze half and used the other half. But that's another post - stay tuned!