Saturday, October 30, 2010

Falling into Simplicity

Pumpkin Crazy- Take your Creativity Out on a Pumpkin!

This week has been crazy and the internet at my house has not been cooperating until today. Last minute fun to have with pumpkins in unusual ways. 

Things you can do with a Gourd, Pumpkin, or Squash.

  1. Make a Map!
  2. Make a Birdhouse
  3. Carve them with Free patterns

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Crazy- Persimmon-Pumpkin Cookies

Headed out to our local fruit stand yesterday and everything just looked so good! See for yourself...

I love this place. They had farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Almonds, walnuts, chestnuts! Gourds and pumpkins galore! We had a lot of fun, we came home with bags of goodies and only spent $10!

As soon as we came home, I knew I wanted to make cookies. Persimmon cookies. But, not just persimmon cookies, PERSIMMON-PUMPKIN :) Persimmons already have a mild cinnamon flavor to them so pairing with pumpkin seemed ideal.

These cookies are absolutely delicious! I was really concerned the pumpkin would be overwhelming to the persimmon, but the proportions are just right to make a really mature flavor.

Persimmon-Pumpkin Cookies

4 persimmons
1 small baking pumpkin or 1/2 c of canned pumpkin
3 tsp baking soda
4 c flour
1 tsp (each) cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and salt
2 eggs
2 c sugar
1 c butter
2 c raisins
2 c finely chopped walnuts (optional of course)
  1. Pour your raisins into a small pot and just cover with water, give it a quick stir with a spoon to break the raisins apart. Turn to med heat, cover and simmer raisins for 25 min. Turn off the heat and add 1 tsp of baking soda to the water-raisins (adding the soda will make the mixture foam, this is a good sign. The baking soda/cooking helps to re-plump up the raisins for a softer cookie). Stir and let sit until somewhat cooled (approx 1 hour). 
  2. Meanwhile, quarter persimmons and puree until smooth and thick. If using canned pumpkin skip to step 3. If using fresh pumpkin, cut in half, remove seeds (keep seeds to roast!) and lay the pumpkin on a cookie sheet (cut side up). Bake at 350F for 40 min or until tender when touched with a fork. Remove roasted pumpkin from the oven and carefully scoop the pulp away from the skin. Place into a bowl and mash with a potato masher. 
  3. Mix persimmon puree with pumpkin puree (it's OK if fresh pumpkin is still warm), add remaining baking soda and let sit.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in purees. 
  5. Most recipes have you sift, but instead I alternate when adding dry ingredients: 1 c flour, 1 tsp cloves, 1 c flour, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 c flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 c flour, 1 tsp salt. Works for me, do whatever you are comfortable doing in you're own kitchen.
  6. Drain raisins really well and stir into dough. Stir in nuts.
  7. Drop by rounded teaspoons (the rounder the top, smoother looking the cookie) onto un-greased cookie sheets for 15-17mins or until edges are slightly brown. Let sit 5 min and cool completely on wire racks.
Makes 36 cookies. 
Remember to get creative with your pumpkins this week!

Trunk or Treat

Halloween is fast approaching. The blog-world is lighting up with decorations, party, and costume ideas. Store isles are stocked with candy, pumpkins, and scary skeletons that stare are you as you walk by. All of America is saying "IT'S CANDY TIME!"

But, how do you get your candy?
  • Trick or Treating with your kids?
  • "Boo!" Presents from anonymous friends?
  • School or Church Carnivals?
  • Maybe there is just a big bowl at work that you share with your co-workers?
However you get or giv your sweets, my new favorite tradition is 
Trunk or Treat.

Trunk or Treat is a growing trend in schools and churches as it offers minimal work with a big impact. You invite friends and family to park their cars (trucks, motorcycles, RV, stagecoach, whatever!), open their trunks and decorate the vehicles. The decorations and themes are on the participants; and they bring their own candy to hand out!The kids just walk up to the cars like they would houses and ask "Trick or Treat?" Best part is clean up, everyone packs up their car and drives home! Easy right?

Scary pig car (not ours)
Consider making your next Halloween Carnival a Trunk or Treat event. All you need are imaginative friends, an empty parking lot, and a little organization to get the word out.

Something else you can do to make the event even more interesting is to have a contest for best car, best costumes etc...The church I attend has a best car award. The award is a simple Dollar Store trophy with a toy car glued on top with it's trunk open.

I really want that trophy.

Last year, Mr. Beautiful and I went with a Grecian theme and I really thought we were going to win, but we didn't. We had a small canopy over our car, with drapes and chairs, full costumes, the whole works!
Halloween 2009
This year we're going as nerds. The car is going to be covered in science posters, books etc... and we're going to bring "science" stuff to play with and for kids to play with when they come up to the car. It's a very wallet friendly theme. We're also giving away mini tubs of play dough and coloring pages instead of candy.

That's what I'm going to be doing. What are you doing on Halloween?

Pumpkin Crazy- Pumpkin Cornbread

It's Fall here in California, least my yard and the weather is telling me so. Halloween is just a week away and I'm excited to start making goodies for teachers, friends, and family.

I grew my own pumpkins this year and I have to say it was so much fun. My nieces and my son loved to watch them grow in the yard. To turn from seed, to flower, to gourd, to our big happy friend on the porch (well almost, I haven't carved him yet) was a wonderful experience I am going to be doing every year. I plan on becoming a seed saver (more on this later).

I love pumpkins over all. I love the variety of colors, variety of shapes and sizes, the feel and taste of them :) You could say I am a bit pumpkin crazy!

Pumpkins are my decoration of choice for fall. They serve as candle sticks, vases, or luminaries. They provide food and nutrients that make your skin healthy and hair shine. Huddled together or standing alone, pumpkins are one of the hardest working Cucerbita Pepo I have ever seen.

In honor of our rubbery skinned friend I am posting a week of pumpkin filled recipes, crafts and projects until Halloween.

I encourage you to try new and interesting ways of using pumpkin in your life.

Day 1- Pumpkin Cornbread

1 c flour
3/4 c yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 c vegetable oil or unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c honey
1 c pureed pumpkin
1 c buttermilk
  1. Mix cornmeal, baking soda and powder together. Make a well in the center and add the remaining ingredients. Let mixture sit 10 minutes, while you pre-heat the oven (this step softens the cornmeal).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 425F. Pour into a 9 in square pan and bake 20-25 min, or until bread starts to pull away from the pan. 
  3. Serve warm with Pumpkin-Turkey chili or share with good company. 
My pumpkin baby 2009

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Intro to Computer Graphics

Hi Blogging world.

I decided for this post to share with you something that I am taking a class in right now: Computer Graphics.

Now, honestly I really wanted to take this class to raise my GPA (you know, easy A). I also wanted it to be more like making cute graphics for stickers and banners and such; but, I found myself really challenged to delve deeper and create some really beautiful pieces of art.

Easy abstracts
The software we are using is called Bryce. It is completely free. So anyone can create wonderful things. There are lots of tips and tricks to use when creating your "world," but anyone can pick it up.

For now, I'm going to start by suggesting you download the link, either version 5.5 or 7 are great programs. Any post I make will be made with the 5.5 version since 7 still has a lot of kinks being worked out on it.

More complex architecture
I will try my best to share with you the education I am paying for :) And if I confuse you, then you can always check out the Bryce tutorials anytime. Here's hoping!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spice Shortbread Sticks (try saying that 5x fast!)

I found the recipe for these cookies in an old Pillsbury Cookies and Bars book I found at my moms. I thought I would try them out, I haven't made these before and look yummy. I was in an Autumn type of mood and wanted something warm and "dunkable" for my morning coffee or apple cider.

I don't post everything I make, especially if I didn't make it up, but these were so darn good and easy I had to share. They are really like a comfort food to me, I eat one bite and I feel all warm and cozy.
These are great mailed Christmas cookies

Sugar and Spice Shortbread Sticks
This recipe has been modified to suit my baking process

3/4c brown sugar
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp apple pie spice (OR 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/8 tsp each of ground cloves and nutmeg)
Haha, looks professional and wasn't even staged!

  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter, cream. Add vanilla and the egg, mix until light and fluffy. Add flour and spices, mix until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate about an hour.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Take a piece of wax paper and lay on a flat surface, lightly flour. Cut dough in half and roll out on half to a 12x6- inch rectangle. Use a 1-inch ruler, and rock slightly to the right to make impressions in the dough all the way across. Cut the dough down the impression lines with the back of a knife. (Cut the cookies in half lengthwise to get 3-inch cookies instead of 6-inches if you'd like) 
  3. For a well shaped stick, use the flat side of the ruler to straighten the sides of the dough. Use it as a guide to cut the rectangle neatly, in half, or to make sharp edges. Dip a spatula in flour and carefully place sticks 1/2 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 12-15 mins or until edges or slightly light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire racks completely. 
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/16 both cloves and nutmeg, 1/2 tsp chai vanilla spice (optional)
3 tbl apple juice or water

  1. When cookies are completely cooled. Blend all glaze ingredients together until smooth and you reach a desired glaze consistency (runny, think like molasses). Spread glaze on tops of cookies. Let glaze stand and set before storing.
This is cleaned out candle jar

Under the Sea Salad

I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe with everyone yet! It is the most popular dish I have ever taken to a potluck and friends are e-mailing me all the time asking "what did you call that delicious Jell-o dish again?"

Don't be fooled by it's strange appearance, this Jell-o salad is sweet and refreshing on hot days. Its strange look and layers have people asking you, "What is this?" But, after one bite I can guarantee they'll be asking for the recipe or headed for seconds!

Under the Sea Salad  
The salad is supposed to look like the ocean. Green waters underneath, shells with "pearls" and foam waves on top.

2 6oz boxes of Lime Green Jell-o (Sugar Free is OK)
2 boxes of cream cheese
1 Lg can of Pear Halves
1 jar of maraschino cherries
Refrigerator room, 4 c measuring bowl, sheet cake pan, electric mixer

I ate the cherry out of this one before the picture :)
  1. Take cream cheese out to let set to room temperature. Make one box of Jell-o according to the package, making sure the Jell-o is completely dissolved. Pour into a 10"x14"x1.5" cake pan (if the pan is metal it will keep the Jell-o colder longer).
  2. Open can of pears and reserve juice (approx 1-1.5c), gently place one cherry in the pit of each pear and place face down in the warm Jell-o. 
  3. Place in the fridge and allow to firm up 3 hours, you want the Jell-o to stand up, but still be a bit tacky on the top.
  4. In a large bowl or stand up mixer, place in both cream cheese blocks. Mix a few seconds with beaters or the whisk attachment (I do not recommend that you do any of the mixing by hand, as you will end up with chunks of cream cheese and not the nice look you'd want). Add the pear juice, whisk. Mix your remaining Jell-o box with 2 cups of hot water and dissolve well, then slowly pour into the cream cheese mixture. Whisk or beat the liquid until the cream cheese breaks up into little circles and starts to look "foamy," about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture over the pre-made Jell-o and place back in the fridge. Let salad set for about 4 hours. 
  6. Cut into 3 inch squares and serve!
See the "sea and foam"?

*Note: If you decide that you don't want to use Lime flavor, I highly suggest you try this with other strong flavors that would pair well with cream cheese and fruit. I have tried this recipe with Strawberry Jell-o and it was really good too. But, I usually stay pure and true to the Lime. 

I like my "sea" green.