Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

In a week that has ended with large, dark, metaphorical clouds in our world.   I am glad that I took a few minutes to reflect on the finer things on Friday, because I think that I would have completely overlooked them today.  I'm thankful for friends who help out, for family and health.

For the quick emails of encouragement, for the brief moments of generous recognition, for the community we live in.  All these things get me through the week.  That and a coming vacation.

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nuances of A Developing Personality

The last few days, I have been relishing a lot of the little things around me.  I picked up a box of Celestial Seasonings India Spice Chai tea on an impulse.  Brewed up with a bit of milk and a dash of sugar - absolutely lovely!

finerthingssmI've also cherished the nuances that are making up my daughter's personality.  The closed- mouth "o" she makes with her lips when she's really proud of what she's done (especially if she wasn't supposed to do it!).  The almost reflexive action with which she leans over to smell the paper as soon as I draw a flower - I think Daddy was teaching her how to smell flowers.  The way she brings her step stool over and starts "doing dishes" with me or pats the same step stool when it's by her table and she wants me to come color with her.  In the wee hours this morning when I was up with her and I smoothed her hair away from her face and she reached up and smoothed my hair, and then snuggled up to rock.

I've been reminded by all these little things what a wonderful gift my daughter is and challenged as well, wondering how many other things I've missed because I've been too busy with things I had to get done.  I'm going to work on cutting back the busy.  In the next few months, you'll probably see a few less posts as I will be working hard to keep the computer shut during GBaby's awake times-because the computer sucks me in is a black hole of distraction.  Given most of my recipes and many of my friends are in that little black box, it will be tough, but I think that the rewards in all the finer little things, will be worth it!

This post is linked up at Finer Things Friday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Potato Piles

Way back in July, we had these little piles with some vines sticking out:

[caption id="attachment_1615" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Potatoes - getting ready to get buried again."]Potatoes - getting ready to get buried again.[/caption]

August brought blossoms:


The potato piles continued to grow.  We stacked them a total of three tires high and let them go.  This week HandyMan dug them up and filled a table with spuds!

2010PotatosI wish I could tell you what kind of potatoes we planted - but it was HandyMan's gig and I don't remember - and that gardening notebook bit- lasted about three weeks.  Oops.

Anyway, I think I smell some Garlic Cheddar Smashed Potatoes and some [Green] Potato Soup in my future.  I also want to experiment with these Potato Crescent Rolls.  What are your favorite fresh potato dishes?  Leave me a link - I can always use more ideas!!

This post is linked up at An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This started off with the much awaited (by mom and dad anyway) removal of GBaby's cast.  She's now sporting a little boot-brace for two more weeks but the bone is healing beautifully.  After that the week was pretty much a blur.  All I know is that we're healthy, we've been well fed and have slept uninterrupted for a few nights now - thank you GBaby!

After that the rest has just been details-laundry (the washer & dryer are getting run into the ground), dishes (so glad we have a dishwasher!), cleaning (ok, well maybe not as much of that as I should be doing) and just being mom.  I'm squeezing in work and candles wherever I can.  I feel like I'm trying to stretch time, like a balloon, to accommodate way too many things.

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Saturday. Really?

Do you ever have one of those weeks when you look at the calendar and it's Saturday and you have no idea where the days went.  The living room looks like the destructive path of the Toddler Tornado has been through it, with various touchdowns in other areas of the house.  Baskets of laundry in various stages of processing are stashed in corners around the house.  Dirty dishes have taken over the kitchen and the dust bunnies are invading from every corner of the house.  I just look around and shake my head and ask What Happened?!

This was that week.  Today I'm going to try to take on the dirty dishes, dust bunnies, aging produce and Mount Laundry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Salt & Balsamic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

pumpseedIt's October and here is the United States, that means it's pumpkin season! Whether you're stocking up on pumpkins to bake with or to carve up and decorate with, you will inevitably be faced with one messy decision: to roast the pumpkin seeds or to toss them. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with nutrients like zinc, iron and low in calories. What's not to like?

It seems that almost every time I've cleaned out a pumpkin, I've tediously separated out the seeds from the muck with intentions for a healthy, yummy snack. Inevitably, I roast the seeds and they're alright. I nibble on them them fresh from the oven, throw them in a container and they're never “good enough” to be a draw when I want a snack later. Eventually the container will end up emptied in the trash.

This year, I did some research, changed my method and had to hold myself back from eating the whole tray of seeds from the oven!  The best part, a week later stored in a sealed jar and they're still super crunchy!  Here are some of the tips I found and implemented for this year's pumpkin seeds:

  1. Rinse the Seeds: Once I had separated the pumpkin seeds from the orange muck, I rinsed them thoroughly to remove any remaining bits of pumpkin flesh. I couldn't rinse them enough to remove the sliminess but did get all the orange off.

  2. Boil the Seeds: After rinsing my seeds, I boiled them in heavily salted water (1 Tablespoon salt to 1 cup water) for 20 minutes. This removed a little bit more of the sliminess and infused the seeds with a little bit of salty flavor.

  3. Dry the Seeds: I drained the seeds and spread them out on a baking sheet. I let them dry overnight. They didn't dry completely but did dry down.

When ready to roast the seeds, I mixed my marinade and tossed the seeds in the marinade. Spread the seeds back out on the baking sheet and baked them at 325. I stirred them after fifteen minutes intervals at a time and roasted them until they were golden brown and completely dry.

For about 3 cups of pumpkin seeds I used this marinade:  2 Tablespoon Olive Oil, 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Shake it all up and pour it over the seeds and toss them thoroughly.  The vinegar didn't come through quite as much as I would have liked, but they're still pretty yummy!

Check out my guest post at Quick Easy Cheap Healthy for my Pumpkin Pie Spice Roasted Seed recipe!

This post is linked up to An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freezer Baking Wrap Up

After about three bags of flour, a bunch of butter and margarine and a good bit of sugar.  My freezer baking is caught up for this month.  Here's the low-down:

Pie Crusts: Handyman has made a bunch of pie crust to get ready for a dinner at church. He's the the go-to guy for pastry in my house so from best I can tell, he mixes it up, rolls it out, layers it in wax paper and wraps the stack in foil.  I've had pie crust in residence in my freezer for up to three months and couldn't tell the difference when the final pies were done.  This is a great time saver if you're one of those families that has multiple pies on the  menu for the upcoming holidays!

freezebake1Pumpkin Bread: This week I cleaned out five of my little pie pumpkins from the garden and cooked them up.  The yield was ten cups of pumpkin  puree.  Four cups of that have already ended up in Pumpkin Bread.  I made four loaves and one 9x9 pan. The loaves went to the freezer, the pan went to our tummies!

HV Zucchini Bread: A friendfreezebake2 needed zucchini bread made for the same dinner HandyMan is making pies for.  She said she'd bring me zucchini if I'd make bread.  So after some baking: four loaves for her, two loaves for me-all residing in my freezer right now.

freezebake4Cookie Dough: This is the time of year when ready to go cookie dough is a "must-have" in my freezer.  My supply was completely depleted so it was time to restock.  I put some great Double Chocolate Pecan drop cookies and Sugar Cookie dough into the freezer.  I rolled and cut out the pumpkin sugar cookies to use for the few trick-or-treater's we'll get on Halloween.

Butterhorns: Ack!  These didn't get done.  I really need to move them to the top of the list.  Any list! But I think if I have time to play in the kitchen this afternoon they're at the top of the list

Sloppy Lasagna: This turned out pretty good.  Using the basic idea from this recipe - my own marinara, no hamburger, and making up my own white sauce - I ended up with a pretty decent pasta dish.  I put it in my square non-stick pans, flash freeze and then pop out the whole block-o-pasta from the pan and put it in a Food Saver bag to freeze.  I love this method because it's so easy to see what's in the freezer and they stack great!  When it's time to eat, take the pasta out, remove from bag while still frozen and put it back in the square pan to thaw and cook.


Hope everyone's freezer cooking nets them an easier week this week!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Friends & Frosting

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This week was one of those weeks where everything just seems to go smoothly.  I got ahead in my baking, I got a good bit of real paid work done and I got the house cleaned up.  I realized as I finished folding a huge pile of laundry, that I had only had to fold it once since GBaby was napping.  (Note to self...)

New friends and old friends have made appearances brightening this week as well.

I have had particular fun with GBbaby this week as she has taken to independent play againgspat and I often find her sitting in the living room happily looking at books while I work.  She's also, more than once this week, swiped my spatula while I was baking.  She is becoming so much more animated and has just seemed happier this week.  It's good.

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Freezer Friday: Sugar Cookies Made Easy

Sugar cookies are such a festive cookie adaptable for as many occasions as you can invest in cookie cutters or decorations.  Rolling out the dough and frosting them can be such a fun family activity too!  Most times, I get them rolled out, baked and decorated with the butter cream frosting and stand back and think "now what?"  I can't stack them up on a tray or storage bag or all the frosting will get mashed up.  I could throw them all in the freezer and then stack them and freeze them - but they just wouldn't be as good frozen and thawed later.

A couple years ago I came upon a great frosting recipe that sets beautifully and dry on the surface but moist underneath.  Bingo!  That takes care of part of the dilemma.  But what about the mess of mixing, rolling, and cutting?  This year I decided that I could mix, roll and cut all in one big party, and then freeze the cut out cookies before I bake them.  Pull what I need for a given occasion and bake them.  Mix up frosting and voila! Ready to go with half the mess.

So, here's how it breaks down:

1.  Make a batch (or 2) of your favorite sugar cookie recipe.  I use The Best Rolled Sugar Cookie recipe and it has always turned out great.  When I mix two, I'll mix the first, empty the bowl, and then mix the second - in my world of dish loathing there's no point in washing in between if you're making the exact same recipe.


2.  Roll, cut, layer, freeze.  Repeat. Repeat.  Repeat.  Until the dough is gone.  A round cookie cutter (glass) will give you an all occasion shaped cookie.  I am working with pumpkins and fall leaves as I have three parties coming up for which fall theme will be appropriate.  Once the cookies were frozen between layers of wax paper, I stacked them in a plastic container before they found their somewhat temporary home in the freezer.

sugcookie2 sugcookie5

3.  Pull and bake what you need and mix up an adequate amount of icing.  I love this recipe because you can dip your cookies in and it dries glossy.  Take a bit of the remaining icing and add a little more powdered sugar to thicken it up and it pipes on nicely for accents.  If you don't have a pastry bag or decorating tips, no problem.  Put the frosting in a freezer zip top bag and cut a tiny opening in one of the corners.  Decorate away.

4.  Once the frosting has set, your cookies can be stacked and displayed on a tray - party perfect!


Then, the next time you need a cookie tray, repeat steps 3 and 4 until your freezer stash of cookies is gone.

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's Frugal Friday: Gearing Up for the Holidays.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Freezer Baking

This month I planned most of my menu around meals that were already hanging out in the freezer from my September Freezer Cooking, so the bulk of my freezer cooking for October is baking.  I love fresh baked goods, I hate cleaning up the mess.  I've found that by batch baking, I can get the best of both worlds.  Some things go into the freezer already baked, others head for the freezer flash frozen so they can be pulled out, baked and eaten fresh and warm.

This is more than I would normally be baking, but we have quite a few engagements this month that we're signed up to bring baked goods for.  The prep work now, will save me a lot of time and dishes later!  Here's the list of what I'm working on:

Pumpkin Applesauce Bread -recipe to follow, baked and frozencookies6

HV Zucchini Bread -baked and frozen

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies -Scooped & Frozen

Sugar Cookies -cut & frozen-directions to follow

Pie Crusts -I take no credit - it's HandyMan's Department!

And I've been dying to try the Chocolate Butterhorns so I'm hoping to get them in the freezer this time around too!

Sloppy Lasagna -Pasta is on the menu. I'm trying a variation of this recipe and will make three pans instead of large quantities of leftovers.

Happy cooking!

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's October Freezer Cooking post.  Check it out for lots of great ideas.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies

December 2 Update: If you've landed here from Life as Mom's Ultimate Cookie Swap, welcome!  You may also want to check out my Easy Sugar Cookies method and my Coconut Fudge cookies:  both go to the freezer to make your life easier!

We had just finished dinner.  I offered a [perfectly yummy] pumpkin bread for dessert.  Handy Man says he's in the mood for something more chocolate-y.  Who am I to argue with that?!  I knew I wanted to mix up cookie dough to get in the freezer for upcoming events and asked if he liked nuts in his cookies (we've only been married just short of nine years).  He does.  I told him I would consult my little black box [computer] and find a recipe.

I started with this recipe and tweaked it a bit and here's what I ended up with.  It's not quite as healthified as my HV Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread that's featured over at The Cheapskate Cook's site today.  But I've taken some baby steps.

chocpecancookieDouble Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Note: This recipe is for a double batch and will yield about 8 dozen cookies.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups white whole wheat

  • 1 cup baking cocoa powder

  • 2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 cup butter or margarine, softened

  • 1-1/3 cup sugar

  • 1-1/3 cup packed brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 4 eggs

  • 3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans

1.  Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend thoroughly.

2.  Sift together flours, baking soda and baking cocoa and add to the liquid batter.  Blend completely.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips and pecans.  Scoop rounded tablespoons and bake for 8-12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until set.

Note: If you do not use the whole wheat flour you may need to add 2-4 tablespoons of additional flour to your batch to get a good stiff consistency.  Whole wheat flours absorb more of the moisture from recipes than all purpose flour.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jack Frost Ended My Garden Season

This week, Jack Frost has brought an official end to my growing season.  My thriving green beans and slow growing peppers probably would have had a chance to continue into the fall had I paid attention to the weather and given them a sheet of protection.  But alas, life has been too hectic and good ol' Jack had his bite and they've wilted into a sad state of green limpness.  I still have a couple pumpkins that I'm hoping will ripen up.   I'll add them to the pumpkin I pureed yesterday for pies and breads.  Yummy!

I've had a busy summer and fall and I'm thankful for the produce that I was able to coax from our land and it really does taste better!  We're working on breaking down our garden for winter.  Yesterday HandyMan disassembled our tomato trough.  We decided that remnants of last year's blight must have been in the wood since those tomatoes did so horribly.  We'll explore options for reconstruction in the spring.

GBaby's cast comes off next week which will make outside time a little more fun for all of us.  I'm hoping to get a good dose of garden clean up done then.  For this week, it's candle pouring and baking!

[gallery columns="2" orderby="title"]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Many Miles

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This week brought safe travels for our whole family as we traveled in different directions across the Northeast.  GBaby and I traveled to New Hampshire for a few days with my parents while HandyMan was off working in PA.  It's always fun to see GBaby with her grandparents, and just as fun to leave her with them for a few hours of much needed girl time with my dear college friend who still lives in NH.  The yummy Danish Puff that said friend sent home with me was pretty good too!

We had beautiful weather and great fall colors for our drive and GBaby earned a couple more gold stars for her car seat.  She is such a great traveler!

I was blessed that our local school district had given the students Friday off.  I had a craft fair to pack up for so I was able to make use of my Extra Hands since she was out of school (Thanks again!)

Saturday was a craft show with moderate sales, beautiful sunshine and a blustery breeze (yeah, could have done without the breeze, but better than rain!)  Today brought a much needed nap and a family date out for dinner.

We've logged a lot of miles this week - rolled one of our cars over 100,000 miles at I-495 and the Mass Pike on Thursday - and are happily home and settled in for a quiet evening to start the coming week.  I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beans & Rice

batchbeans-cookedcropStephani over at Cheapskate Cook is hosting a series on Beans & Rice.  More importantly how to work beans and rice into your menu as an inexpensive starch and protein, without sacrificing taste and flavor!  Today, I've guest posted over there on the basics of cooking up large batches of beans and storing them to use in your favorite recipes... check it out!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ending the Garden Season

9-28 Garden1As much as I hate to admit it, I fear that this growing season is just about over, however there is still a lot of work to do in my garden before winter.  Here are some of the projects that are coming in the next few weeks in my garden:

1.  Clear out all beds that are done for the year of all weeds & debris

2.  Empty tomato trough & buckets

3.  Remove tires & harvest potatoes

4.  Weed, fertilize & straw to the strawberry bed

5. Pick remaining pumpkins and butternut squash and clear squash beds

6.  Cut back and fertilize asparagus bed

7.  Cut back perennials

8.  Protect peppers as long as possible so that they can hopefully grow bigger before it gets too cold

9.  Harvest remaining basil to store as Frugal Pesto.

I'm sure there's more, but this will be enough to get me started next week if the sun decides to come out!

This post is linked up at An Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflowerPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This week has included the last of my fresh tomatoes from the summer garden and the first hot chocolate with marshmallows of the fall.  Seasons are changing, temperatures are falling and the first frost is right around the corner.

I have had a good bit of time pouring candles and preparing for my next craft fair.

The heavy rains that came towards the end of the week fully saturated the soil again and gave me the perfect excuse for a great nap.  I also had some wonderful time spent with old friends as well as an evening out with new friends.

I've managed to carve out some  alone time as well and get in a few work outs. I've paired exercise with a couple of my favorite TV shows and it's been a great combination!

Today brought a beautiful day a peaceful drive [thanks GBaby!] and the safe arrival at my parents house.

I hope you can look back, and forward, to find the joy dotting your story!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!