The Month of the Pumpkin Lives On!

I’m a little rusty when it comes to this blogging thing…you see, I told myself that I was going to revive The Month of the Pumpkin Challenge this fall (since I essentially missed the entire fall/winter season last year) and I have kept my word! I just forgot to blog about it. But here I am…always the procrastinator ;)

The first dessert I made was a pumpkin cake from Pinterest. My experience with Pinterest recipes thus far has been completely hit or miss, and I still haven’t made my mind up about this one. I was lured in by its simplicity and cheapness, so if I take those factors into consideration, I suppose it was good. It wasn’t a very pretty dish, and I wouldn’t present it at a dinner party, but it served well as an easy, work night dessert.

Here is the link to the recipe.  Sorry, no pics. I just plopped it into a large tupperware container so we could eat it throughout the week, so like I said, it wasn’t very pretty.

picture from noblepig.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————— Next, I wanted to make a pumpkin-y breakfast. I made Pumpkin Oat Muffins from the tried-and-true Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. The only reason they weren’t fantastic is because I accidentally cooked them too long and they got a little dry and a little too brown. As a result, I opted to not take a photo of the sad little burnt muffins, for the sake of their dignity as well as mine ;)

Pumpkin Oat Muffins – adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup rolled oats ( ground in a blender or food processor until they match the consistency of cornmeal)

1 egg

3/4 cup pumpkin (or winter squash or sweet potato puree)

3/4 cup evaporated skim milk

1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

apricot preserves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prep your muffin tins. (My batch made 15 muffins.) In a large bowl, sift together the first 5 ingredients. In another bowl, beat the egg and then add the pumpkin, milk, juice, oil and sugar. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined. Spoon mixture into tins and add a spoonful of apricot preserves on top of each muffin. (The preserves melt and spread out to add a sweet coating to the top of each muffin.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Then we made Creamy Pumpkin Risotto and it was DELICIOUS. This is the dish that spurned me to get off my lazy arse and blog because this one needs to be shared! The recipe came from the Food Network site (click here) and we made a few changes, but this one is a keeper!

We used diced butternut squash (diced very small) and we substituted cream cheese for marscapone (because we are cheap bastards). Also, 35-40 minutes in the oven is not enough, ours went a little over an hour before it was perfectly done. (When we checked it at 40 minutes and it was still a soupy mess, we were quite disheartened and wrote this one off as a total failure. Luckily, we left it in the oven, went back to watching The Shining, and were very pleasantly surprised to find it had morphed into a fluffy, beautiful risotto during those last 20 minutes!)

The next time we make it, we’re going to briefly saute the onions and squash prior to putting it in the oven, just to give it a little more flavor, but seriously, this is one of my new favorite pumpkin dishes.

YUM!

Next up: Eggplant, Green Bean, and Pumpkin Curry!

Outlander Soaps from On a Branch Soaps!

After waiting with bated breath, I finally received my wonderful Outlander soaps from Tara! (They had quite the journey from Ontario to Tennessee!) They both smell amazing, but the lovely lemongrass scent of Claire’s soap was calling my name the loudest, so I tore into it and jumped into the shower. Jamie’s soap smells just as delicious, but I’m saving him for later ;) I consider myself a bit of a home-made soap connoisseur, and I can tell you that these are quality soaps, and I love that she took the time to include a personal, handwritten note! A perfect gift for an Outlander fan! I’m so happy! Thanks again, Tara (and Theresa for hosting the giveaway)!!

Now, go check out On a Branch Soaps on Etsy and buy some!

Instead of being realistic and thinking about Jamie and Claire’s lack of hygiene, from here on out I will imagine them smelling like these beautiful soaps :)

I am banned from time travel!

Each year at work, we are required to do an ethics refresher in which we read over the things we cannot do and then sign a form. There is one particular item that always catches my eye…

Time traveling is questionable conduct?? Whoever wrote this clearly doesn't know Mr. Fraser ;)

And I invariably joke (to myself) about how tragic it is to have a job that seeks to prevent me from going through the stones to see Jamie. It always brings a smile to my face! As you can see, my job is terribly exciting.

Speaking of being sucked into a time-warp, I am on Pinterest now! Whether or not this is a good thing, I have yet to decide, but if you want to be Pinterest friends, click here, and then leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail with your user name so I can follow you! Outlander Kitchen’s latest post inspired me to create an Outlander board :) Happy pinning!

Outlander Birthday Double Whammy!

Hellooooooo, my long lost friends! I hope you have all been well and happy for the past 3 months! I rather unintentionally took a hiatus from my blog – my brain has been overburdened with heavy philosophical questions and ponderings that I won’t bother you with- but oddly enough, I didn’t even have the slightest desire to blog.

So, what has brought me back to the blogging world? Well, I turned 30 last week (Eeek! Nah, I’m totally over it at this point) and Richie made me an amazing dinner that deserves to be shared. He created an Outlander-themed menu based off of Outlander Kitchen’s incredibly creative blog. (I often read her posts aloud to him because they’re always either cracking me up or blowing me away with imaginativeness…and apparently, he was paying attention!)

First off was Mr. Willoughby’s Coral Knob (a.k.a. cheese balls)

And then came Roger and Bree’s Pizza (or in our case, Richie and Bri’s Pizza, he he)

And for dessert, we had Stephen Bonnet’s Salted Chocolate Pretzel Balls!

The food was seriously amazing, and of course he gets major points on multiple levels, but I was probably most giddy about the Outlander connection :) Richie is obsessed with the pretzel balls, he ate them for breakfast the next day and he actually made them again today. It’s a running joke in our household that he is in love with “Stephen Bonnet’s Balls” ;)

(Richie accidentally deleted the one pic where his eyes were open...)

It was too hot inside, so we relocated outdoors and Levi thought it smelled delicious!

And as if that wasn’t enough…

I had entered Outlander Kitchen’s Giveaway for Outlander themed soaps – a bar of “Jamie’s Soap” and a bar of “Claire’s Soap” from On a Branch Soap shop (on Etsy) – and lo and behold, I WON!!!!! I am still in disbelief because I never win anything! And home-made soaps are literally the one single indulgent item that I allow myself, so if I could’ve chosen a giveaway to win, it would have been this one. I am going to LUXURIATE in these soaps!! I am SO EXCITED I CAN’T EVEN TELL YOU. Thank you so much, Theresa and Tara!!!

jamie's-oatmeal-soap

Jamie's-oatmeal-soap

claire-soap

Claire's soap

Mamaw

I lost my Mamaw, Shirley, 2 weeks ago to cancer. She was vibrant, friendly, thoughtful, loyal and compassionate. She cared about people and animals. She would give you the shirt off her back and seamlessly made everyone around her feel included and welcome. She had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen and took pleasure in cooking huge, delicious, country meals. She always made me my favorite yellow cake with chocolate frosting (even if there were 15 other desserts already made).

 

She loved the color blue and I’ll always think of her when I see antique blue dishware or blue glass bottles in a windowsill. She always had her nails perfectly painted pink and yet she was tough. She and my Papaw spent a chapter of their lives working together building houses – by themselves. She enjoyed crafting and creating and had a wide range of skill.

The art that she was best known for was quilting and I would describe her as a prolific quilter. I have no idea how many quilts she produced in her lifetime, but I know that she gave one to all of her children and grandchildren every Christmas for many, many years, not to mention all that she gave to other family, friends, and church members. She made one for my husband (who, at the time, was only my boyfriend of 3 months) to welcome him into the family – I guess she just knew that he was a keeper ;)

Our heirloom wedding gift.

This was my gift when I went away to college. It was a bright spot in my dreary dorm room and it's still one of my favorites.

A recent gift to Richie. The amount of hand stitching boggles my mind.

I met many of her friends and fellow church members for the first time at her funeral and almost each person that spoke to me had a story about my Mamaw giving them a quilt, a baby quilt for a grandchild, a wall hanging, a pillow, etc. I was also particularly touched by the fact that most of these people called me by the nickname that my Mamaw had given me. All of these strangers also knew about my husband’s recent health difficulties and each one asked about him. We were always on her mind. It was a very moving experience.

It still hasn’t fully sunken in that I will never see her again and to say that she will be missed is an understatement. The last time I spoke to her, I told her that my interest in quilting was piqued by the baby quilt I recently made for a friend. She told me to take it up and carry on the tradition, and I plan to give it my best shot.

Craft-Mania and Best Wishes for the New Year!!

My last post of 2011! I can’t believe a whole year has passed, but I have to admit I’m not terribly sad to see it go. It did end on a good note, though, and I hope that my current productivity level proves indicative of what’s to come next year. During the month of December, I was a crafting MACHINE! I finally had the time to finish up some projects that were started in September and October, as well as make a host of home-made Christmas gifts. I started by finishing little W’s intended Halloween costume…a little late, but I say every day is a good day to dress like a gnome!

This is so cute I can hardly stand it!!

I think he likes it :)

I finished baby Mallory’s quilt. It was my first time using a rotary cutter and I rather enjoyed the whole experience. Perhaps I’ll become a quilter and continue the family tradition.

The finished product in it's new home!

Next came the Christmas gifts, and I started by making a throw pillow out of a discarded curtain panel. Richie and I liked it so much, I decided to make one for our house, too ;)

I used some vintage 1970’s trim that I had been toting around for, literally, 10 years. I think it fits perfectly with the fabric! One of my new year’s resolutions is to actually use up all the fabric and trim that has filled our entire guest bedroom closet.

I also decided to try my hand at making infinity scarves (9 total), and I’m very happy with the result. I liked them so much that I made a few for myself as well.

(How did I manage to not get any pics of the scarves I gave away??)

And then I made some craft brooches for the crafty ladies in my family. (And, of course, I made an extra one for me, too!)

Finally, I wanted to make some foodie gifts and I decided on Outlander Kitchen (via her Island Vittles blog)’s infused Pear Brandy (go check it out!).  It was fun to make and a huge hit with my friends. I can’t wait to try her Rhubarb Gin when the weather warms up! We also experimented with some blueberry and blackberry infused Jack Daniel’s.

I forgot to take pics of the finished product, but they looked beautiful in the simple jars with a little raffia bow.

The Jack-soaked berries were way too strong for our tastes, so we gave them all to Rachel. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from her since! I’ll drop her a line later to check in ;)

Here’s wishing you all a very safe and Happy New Year!! Best wishes for 2012!! See ya next year ;)