Friday, October 30, 2009

Freezer Friday: Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Cream Soup

freezerfridaysm butternut1 It has been great this week to be back in the kitchen!  With three of my four fall craft fairs a thing of the past, I had some time to play in the kitchen.  We were recently gifted with two lovely butternut squashes from a friend’s garden.  They had graced the window sill in the kitchen for almost two weeks so it was time to do something with them.  I used this recipe for inspiration, and ended up with a slow cooker soup that we’ve also used as a sauce over pasta – it’s that thick and rich! You may want to add more liquid depending on your preference for thick cream soups.  I’ve also filed this under baby food because our 9 month old LOVED this stuff – she ate 3 bowls worth of soup mixed with rice cereal!  It is definitely GBaby approved!  I made this in a 5 quart slow cooker, so if yours is smaller you may need to adjust this recipe.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Cream Soup/Sauce


16 cups chopped Butternut Squash (2 large squashes)

6-8 cups Water (to thin soup to your preference after blending)

6 Vegetable Bullion Cubes

¾ teaspoon Nutmeg

1 teaspoon Marjoram

1 ½ teaspoons Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Salt (may want to taste before adding as bullion can make soup salty)

2-8oz packages Cream Cheese


  1. Peel, gut and chop butternut squash.

  2. Combine all 6 cups of water and remaining ingredients except cream cheese into your slow cooker, turn it on low and leave it for 6-8 hours or until the squash is thoroughly cooked.  It can be cooked on high if you need to shorten the cooking time.butternut2

  3. When preparing to eat, dollop cream cheese on top of the ingredients in the crock pot and leave them to soften.butternut3

  4. Once cream cheese has warmed and is melting, blend soup with an immersion blender right in the slow cooker.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, blend cooled soup VERY CAREFULLY in a standard mixer.  Add more water to thin to suit your preference.butternut4

  5. Enjoy with warm bread, or over pasta.butternut5

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's Ultimate Thanksgiving Recipe Swap

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

oatfudge6We all have our favorite websites, and I have to admit, that AllRecipes is one of mine.  I especially make frequent use of their ingredients search option.  This week, I needed to take cookies or bars to a meeting on Monday evening.  I went to my usually adequately stocked pantry, to find that I was out of sugar.  Hmmm, cookies or brownies without sugar.

I clicked over to AllRecipes, told them that I wanted a cookie recipe with brown sugar but without sugar.  I got a ton of results, so then I clicked the little button that sorts all the results by ratings and came up with is recipe for Chocolate Revel bars.  I followed some of the recommendations of reviewers and ended up with some very yummy bars.  Below is the recipe and directions that I ended up with when I made these bars.  These are very rich and can easily be served in little tiny squares without feeling like your scrimping on the serving.  Because they were gooey and I was taking them to a finger food affair, I ‘plated’ them in mini-muffin papers and that worked great!

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Cookie Crust:

1 cup Butter or Margarine, softened

2 cups Brown Sugar

2 Eggs

2 teaspoons Vanilla

3 cups Minute Oats

2 cups Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Salt

Fudge Filling

1-14 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 ½ cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

2 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine

Crumb Topping

1/3 of the Cookie Crust dough

1 cup finely chopped Walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350*, and lightly grease a 10"x14" inch baking pan (or half the recipe for a 9x9 square pan)

  2. oatfudge1Prepare Cookie Crust dough: Beat together margarine and brown sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend thoroughly.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Resulting dough should be very soft cookie dough.  Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.  TIP: Since the dough is sticky, I found it difficult to press in to the pan with a spatula or fingers like I normally would.  But, if I dipped my spatula in flour and then pressed the dough down it didn’t stick to the spatula and the extra flour was negligible to the recipe.  Place dough in the refrigerator while you prepare Fudge Filling.

  3. Prepare Fudge Filling:
    oatfudge2oatfudge3In a medium saucepan heat sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips on as low of a heat setting as possible.  You really just want this mixture to be warm enough to melt the chocolate chips.  As soon as the chocolate chips are melted, turn the heat off and add the butter or margarine and stir until margarine is melted.  Spread on top of cookie crust.

  4. Crumble top: To the 1/3 remaining cookie crust dough, add ¼ cup flour and walnuts and mix until crumble.  Spread crumbles over the chocolate layer.  oatfudge4

  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the cookie crust looks “done” from the side if you’re using a glass pan.

  6. Let cool and cut and serve.  Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pretty Baby Crochet Sweater - Fashion Show

Well the Pretty Baby Crochet Sweater is finished and happily - it is a bit big for GBaby right now, which means by January, it should fit her just fine!  Here are a few pictures of the finished project!




Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Sunshine - Sunshine & Mold

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This afternoon GBaby and I both got naps and now we're enjoying a relaxed afternoon at home.  We have had a full week and I'm not quite sure where all the time went.  I had another craft fair yesterday for which I'm thankful it's over and I have a nice break before my last one of the season.

This week I became thankful again for the guy who looked at mold and came up with penicillin as GBaby has encountered her first ear infections.  She really has been a trooper and done very well.  After a day on the meds, my happy baby was back, for the most part.

I have a clean workroom, complete with sewing table set up so I am ready for projects.  This week I did very little cooking and took advantage of the many meals in our freezer and leftovers from last week's batch cooking: Brisket, pizza, Beef Stew, [Green] Baked Potato Soup, and Tropical Banana Muffins.

A full week and the next two promise to be filled to the brim.  How was your week?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week of Many Hats

Where has this week gone?  It's Thursday already!  How did that happen?  I've had on many hats this week and here's a bit of what I've been up to:

Charity's Candles - I've been getting ready for my craft fair this weekend at SUNY-Oneonta.

Web Design - I've been doing some updates on the web-pages I manage.  Have I mentioned that I also do web-work and  web design?  I've been working on my friend Perri's site for about two years now I guess.  She has some great photography and I still have a few more changes to do for her :).  I'm also the Online Chairperson for our local Relay for Life so I'm responsible for 'personalizing' their template website for our event.

Work & Life - I've also been busy with some other part time secretarial work that I do for our church.  On top of the GBaby's sick again and we're all working off of random sleep.


Yesterday I did sneak in some baking therapy.  I made the Challah recipe from my Bread cookbook and you can see the results- and it was so yummy!  I also had a Lemon Meringue Pie failure (yummy but ugly) and a success (yummy and pretty) but I didn't get pictures of those.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Christmas: Gifts in a Jar

This is the first of a few coming posts about homemade holiday gifts.  When times are tight, creativity can help to reduce your gift-giving budget without losing the sincerity or style of the gift.  Here are a few links for gifts that are compiled with or stored in a jar as well as some of my own ideas that came to mind when I found them :).

For some of these projects, any size jar will do.  Others will need a specific type or size of jar.  Scope out your projects and start saving those jars and see what you can make for this holiday season.

Reduce*Reuse*Recycle - Use emptied condiment jars (peanut butter, pickles, salsa, etc.) to gift your holiday goodies.  Wash them out well - especially the lids.  Decorate the lids with a bit of holiday fabric or wrapping paper and you're ready to go.  Check for lingering odors and then fill them with holiday cookies, fudge and candies.  Your goodies will stay fresh until they're ready to be eaten.

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar This is a fun idea to pass along food that doesn't have to be eaten right away.  The method is to neatly stack all of the dry ingredients for a cookie recipe into a jar.  Decorate the top and add the recipe and shazam - gift ready for giving.  The method can be used for most types of cookies although I would caution you to stick with basic recipes.  Throw in some holiday colored M&Ms for color and enjoy.  I once received one of these that was all pretty and decorated but the combination of ingredients (raisins, M&M's, and chocolate chips) didn't appeal to me so it sat in the cabinet for a long time.

Homemade Bath Salts Bath salts are relatively easy to make if you have access to the ingredients.  PioneerThinking has a lot of fun bath salt recipes.  If you'd like to gift some rest and relaxation this holiday season, check it out.

Jar Photo Frames I stumbled across this idea and I love it!  It's especially fun for grandparents and showing off pictures of the kids.  I have a couple of ideas for putting multiple photos in the jar that I'm going to try out and will post more on later.

sewingkitApplesauce Cake in a Jar This one is a little out there but I thought it was interesting so I gave it a link.  I'm wondering if you can make it work with other cakes.  Or use the little half-pint jars and homemade brownie batter... hmmmm.

Sewing Kit in a Jar I recently have jumped back into sewing and this gave me great ideas for organizing my sewing stuff!  Read through the comments on the linked page as there are also some great ideas there too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Sunshine

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

Today, I almost skipped this practice because I'm grumpy.  But I realized that now is the best time to redirect my focus and remember the graces of my week.  I love hearing Gbaby laughing downstairs playing with her dad while I'm getting some work done.  She is mostly well, and past the cold junk that we were hit with.  We had a great day away yesterday to attend the wedding of one of HandyMan's high school buddies.  Brownies and Parker House rolls made it to our dinner table on Friday and both were amazing and I enjoyed the chance to bake for friends.  (I'll try to get my brownie recipe up this week - it's pretty yummy!)  The snow didn't last, that fell on Thursday night for which I'm particularly grateful!

Life continues to roll past me way too fast on many days, but I'm thankful for the days I have.  And you?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Make Your Own Hersh--I mean Chocolate Syrup

I am a huge fan of hot chocolate, chocolate milk, and chocolate sauce on ice cream.  Over time though, I realized that a lot of the syrups and cocoa mixes tasted more sugary and less chocolaty.   I decided that I could change that!  So I started making my own chocolate syrup.  It's really easy and I can get my bakers cocoa powder at our bulk grocery store so for me it ends up being less expensive too.


1 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder*

1 cup Sugar*

1-2 cups Water (to your desired thickness - less for hot fudge, more for syrup)


Step 1: Combine 1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and 1 cup Sugar in a 1 quart sauce pan. *If you want it sweeter, use more sugar, less chocolate and visa versa for a richer, less sweet syrup.  The main thing is to make sure that you have 2 cups of dry ingredients.


Step 2: Add Water to dry ingredients and combine until all are moistened


Step 3: Cook over medium low heat until mixture begins to simmer.  Cook until the syrup is the desired consistency and remember that it will thicken even more as it cools.  Usually my cook time is about 15 minutes start to finish.



Friday, October 16, 2009

Freezer Friday: Beef Brisket

freezerfridaysmTonight I have about 8 pounds of beef brisket in my crock-pot.  Tomorrow morning, I will have a crock-pot full of falling apart ready to  use shredded beef.  First a bit about brisket.  *This is NOT corned beef brisket.  This is just a plain beef brisket.  I have purchased briskets that were a wonderful cut of meat and marbling that cook to perfection.  I have accidentally purchased others that were more marbling and fat than they were meat.  Look at your cuts of meat closely and make sure you're getting the meat you're paying for and not just fat.  It is usually a relatively inexpensive beef cut that you can use for a number of meals.  To be well prepared, brisket requires a long cooking time so the crock-pot works great!

brisketI found a great brisket today that was about 16 pounds.  I cut the meat in half and one half went to the freezer while the other went to the the crock-pot.  Mrs. Ringle's Brisket one recipe from Once-A-Month Cooking that I have used a number of times that has never failed me, and it's so easy you really can't mess it up.  Put your brisket in your crock-pot, fat side up.  Squirt 3-4 tablespoons of your favorite mustard (yellow or spicy) on top of it and spread it over the top.  Open a packet (or 2 if you have a large brisket) of onion soup mix and sprinkle over the top.  Turn your crock-pot on low and let it cook for 12 to 18 hours, until it is falling apart and shreds easily with a fork.

carryoverWe rarely have the meat as the center-piece of a  meal, although with the brisket we will have Hot Beef Sandwiches (brisket added to sautéed onions and peppers, served on sub rolls).  I plan on using some for Beef Stew tomorrow.  The rest I will portion out into quart size freezer bags and freeze it.  It will be thawed at a later time to be used in Burritos, Shepherd's Pie, Beef & Barley Soup, Hot Beef Sandwiches (again) and whatever inspiration hits me.  I plan to have 4-6 bags of meat off to the freezer, in addition to the remaining half of the brisket) after I pull some for sandwiches on Sunday and make the stew.

My house is already smelling good and it still has all night to cook!  I can't wait :D

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sewing Project: Infant Rain/Winter Cape

My sewing project of the week was a rain/snow cape for GBaby.  There are lots of stories online and recommendations from pediatricians to limit the bulk of winter clothing on children in car seats.  This was the most credible information that I could find after a number of google searches.  So, in an effort to try to keep GBaby safe and after getting myself soaked while leaning in the car to get her covered up before heading out into the rain or snow, I decided that GBaby needed a cape.  It also slips on and off easily as we run out to the car or between car and stores for shopping.  I found this cape while I was searching the internet and decided that I could make that.  So for about $10 and an hour and a half of work I ended up with the Little Red Riding Hood Cozy Cape.

I used rip-stop nylon ($5) for the outer shell, matching thread (1.29), 7-inch zipper (1.99) and fleece from my fabric stash for the lining of the cape and an old t-shirt for the lining of the hood because I ran out of fleece and she has a winter hat that's super cute anyway :).

"Daddy, do I really have to wear this?"


"Ok, it's not so bad.  And I can chew on it!"


And since GBaby wasn't quite in the mood to model, I enlisted the pumpkin for some help and here's a shot to give you the full idea of the finished product.  We used it for shopping in our fall-soon-to-be-winter weather this afternoon and it worked great.  When the car was cool, just buckle her in under the cape, if the car was warm, just pull it off.  So far, it's mom-approved and since it's chewy and has fun little cord stops that are cool to chew on (don't worry, the cord is thick enough that they won't come off unless she chews through the cord too), it's GBaby approved too!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pretty Baby Crochet Sweater - Progress #2

sweater2I'm making slow progress on the Pretty Baby crochet sweater for GBaby.  Progress has interrupted by two trips away from home, storing fall produce, cooking, two craft shows and a few sewing projects.  Here is the first progress post from about a month ago.  Now you can see that I have the body done.  Next stop: sleeves.  We'll see if I can get this wrapped up in the next month.  Although, it's likely to be interrupted by at least one more sewing project: The Little Red Riding Hood Winter Cape.  And maybe a pair of overalls since my friend Shelly sent me patterns today that look super cute!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Sunshine: So Much in a Week

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

It has been a very full week!  I was able to spend the better part of the week at my parents with GBaby where I had all kinds of extra help which was fabulous.  I needed a few days of mom taking care of me so I could better take care of sick GBaby.  She is now feeling much better and we're all hoping she's on the mend.

HandyMan met us at my parents and managed to be on the early flights, in spite of all the delays on the route he was travelling.  We all drove home on Thursday and hit the ground running.  I had a great craft fair in Walton on Saturday.  It is the annual American Cancer Society's Harvest Fest.  While traffic wasn't that great and it was freezing out, sales were actually on par with two years ago when I last did this fair.

So its the beginning of another week and I'm ready to be home for the week.  How was your week?


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Purse + Diaper Bag = Mommy Bag

Since GBaby arrived, leaving the house has become a challenge of juggling all the "stuff" that has to travel with an infant and making sure that I have what I'll need while we're out.  Um, yeah - more than once I've found myself standing in front of the cashier only to realize that I didn't have my wallet and diapers and wipes weren't going to pay the bill.  Oops.

I've  juggled through an assortment of diaper bags and purses trying to make something work and nothing has worked for me yet.  Then I was talking with my Sis-in-Law and she was talking about having made a friend a diaper bag/purse combo that was engineered in such a way that they were two separate bags that could come apart so mom could take off with the purse and leave the diaper bag with the baby.  I LOVED the idea, and my brain started working.

momebag2I am not a purse person.  I do not carry a purse as an accessory of any type: I'm all about function.  My favorite purse before, GBaby arrived was my Timbuk2 Metro bag.  Functional, great size and practically indestructible.  I like the messenger style bag and the easy access pockets both inside and out.  So, for my 'purse' portion of the Mommy-Bag, these were all things that I took into account.

momebag4I hadn't yet met my dream diaper bag.  I had a tote bag that I liked the size of,  but liked the interior pockets of a different bag and the adjustable strap on a third bag.  So the diaper bag portion of the Mommy-Bag needed to have all these things.  So I started with this McCalls Pattern and tweaked it a bit and ended up with a great tote bag/diaper bag with great pockets inside and out.

Now, for the genius of the Mommy-Bag (which if I knew how to type it, would be spelled "Mome" with the pronunciation symbols over the 'o' and the 'e').  The swivel clips on the purse attach to D-rings on the strap and to D-rings on the diaper bag and the purse tucks right into an over-sized exterior pocket.  So, if GBaby and I are headed in the same direction, purse attaches to diaper bag and we're ready to roll.  If not, both easily separate to go in different directions.   I do want to add a zipper to the top of the diaper bag tote, but since I didn't have one on hand, that will wait until later.


I am so thrilled to have this out of my head and into three dimensional space.  I'm even more excited that the finished product turned out even better than I had imagined and I can't wait to load them up and try them out!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cooking with Dad: Pad Thai

padthaiWhen I visit my folks, or they visit us,  Dad and I like to embark on culinary adventures.  In the past, these journeys have included Mediterranean feasts and homemade raviolis.  Tonight we went on a pseudo-Thai adventure.  Inspired by a Pad Thai Throwdown we used the directions and methods from the recipe given but cheated and used the Thai Kitchen sauce.  The finished result was super tasty and comparable to pad-Thai I've had in restaurants.

I've made pad-Thai before but I think what made all the difference with these directions was how the noodles were prepared.  For this recipe, you soak the noodles in cold water for 30 minutes and then steam them in the wok (or electric frying pan) with the other ingredients.  They were cooked perfectly and not a pile of mush like I've made before.

So if you're in the mood for Thai, and take-out is not available, give this a shot.  Most major grocery stores will have the ingredients you will need!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sewing Project: Infant Soft Shoes

shoes4This week, GBaby and I are staying with  my folks and I'm getting some time to work on projects.  My new sewing machine came a week and a half ago and I did nothing more than unpack it and load it into the car for this trip.  Today I took it for its maiden voyage and made little soft shoes for GBaby.  This was a project for a couple of sewing firsts for me.  This is the first clothing item made for GBaby, the first project on the new machine and the first project with buttonholes and all were a success!

I used the pattern from with a few modifications.  The fabric was selvaged from an old pair of jeans that had seen better days and a flannel blanket that was around.  So the cost of these was practically free, just the cost of thread and elastic.

shoes1For the decoration, I used the same striped flannel as the inside.  I stitched down a strip and then frayed the edges down to the stitching.  I did the same along the back to house the elastic instead of creating the 'casing' as the pattern calls for.  Since this was a trial pair and GBaby isn't walking yet, I just used the denim for the soles of the shoes but I do have some leather to use on later pairs once GBaby's up on her feet.  This pair of soft shoes are a little big on GBaby but I'm sure they'll be a perfect fit any day now.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Sunshine: Craft Fair Calm, Beef Barley Soup and Good Days

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

I have some grace-hangovers from last week to start off this week.  If you've been following you know that I had a craft fair last Saturday.  I'm generally a little "type A" if you know what I mean.  When I started setting up and realized a good portion of my display materials had not made it into the car, and I calmly went about creating a different display with what I had and my blood pressure didn't even bump.  Applefest was an outdoor fair and it was grey all day long, but the rain waited until the end of the day to start.  Since it poured at this event the entire day last year, this was indeed a grace.

On Sunday, I was craving beef-barley soup and trying to squeeze the ingredients out of my remaining grocery budget for the month.  Finally I decided that I'd wait and it could be an October meal.  Later Sunday evening I was making plans with a friend to get together on Tuesday and double-team our kids and get some kitchen projects done.  She says - I can bring beef barley soup, I'm making it for dinner monday and we'll have leftovers.  And the heavens opened and a light shone down and the angels sang.  Well not really but it was a pretty cool moment.

This week I also managed to stay on top of my chores and tasks and Gbaby and I had a great drive to NH where I am hanging out for the week.  It's always fun to spend time with my folks and to see friends. I am again so thankful that we were able to settle down within a reasonable driving distance of so much of our family.

So, what has brightened your week?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Freezer Friday: Tropical Banana Bread/Muffins

freezerfridaysm This week was banana week in my kitchen.  I ended up with a bunch of bananas that needed to be baked with.  So I made GBaby Teething Biscuits/Cookies, and I made a bunch of Banana Pancakes that have made it to the freezer and I also made the following Tropical Banana Bread.  I made a double batch and put two loaves and almost two dozen muffins into the freezer for later. On a completely different note, I also made TVP Meatballs this week and froze a bunch.  I will try to get that recipe up soon.

Tropical Banana Bread
2 Eggs

1 cup Brown Sugar

2 cups Pureed Bananas

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil

1/2 cup Pineapple Juice

3 cups Unbleached Flour (can substitute up to half whole wheat)

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 cup chopped Walnuts

1 cup crushed Pineapple

1 cup flaked Coconut


1. Preheat oven to 350*

2. Beat eggs and brown sugar together.  Add bananas, vanilla, vegetable oil and pineapple juice and blend until smooth.

3. Add flour and baking soda and mix thoroughly.

4. Mix in walnuts, pineapple and coconut.

5. Pour batter into two greased loaf pans or into prepared muffin tins (makes 2 dozen).

6. Bake loaf pans for 50-60 minutes and muffins for 17-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.