Monday, October 31, 2011

Grateful Praise

Tomorrow is November 1st and Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. This time we try to slow down as the holidays make everything speed up and soon we find ourselves caught in the hustle and bustle and as we leave a shopping mall, arms full of shopping bags and a gaping hole in our already meager bank account, sometimes we need a reminder as to what is really important.

A sweet campaign has started a few years ago, where you challenge yourself to read psalm 100 and HUNDRED times before Thanksgiving. It's a wonderful way to memorize a memory verse with your family and give you a reminder of what is really important.

We are chosen people, loved people, and we should be thankful for all of our blessings and make a joyful noise because we know it!

Here is a free pdf of the picture below for you to download so you can have a visible print out to hang up in your home.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Party

Fall is here and it's the perfect time to get your friends together; have great food and enjoy each others company.

I have what I have so lovingly call "The Party Curse." See I love to entertain and host, but the people I invite either end up going out of town, family matters, or my party coincides with flu season (even my own wedding was sparse!)

Alas, the same thing happened this time. My best friend, her sister, and her daughters came, which was great, but not what I had planned for.

So, here is my party set up to help give ideas if anyone else is thinking of throwing a Pumpkin Party next year. Who knows? Maybe I'll put myself through this again and it will be different.

Pumpkin Party Intimate Get Together 2011


I borrowed a long table from my local church and set up two working tables, one for adults/older kids and one for younger kids.

I had a left over tablecloth roll from my sons birthday so I covered all the tables in that. My mom is a teacher so I went to her school and took about 6 feet of orange paper. I cut that to make a runner to go down the middle of the table. Then I had two pumpkin luminaries which I placed pumpkin carving tools inside.

I also had two bowls available for pulp and seeds.

The kids table was my sons work table, covered with table cloth. I set out tempera (washable) paints, brushes, disposable plates and some push in decorations for the non-carving table. 

The backyard so far...

Besides the tables I also made a pumpkin pennant which I posted about here, and these adorable corn husk pom-poms

I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs CentsationalGirl, she gives a good tutorial on her page here.


The party was in the afternoon, so I only served munchie foods.

Dish 1: Apple slices and Pumpkin Dip. 
The apples were served with the cores cut out using a mini cookie cutter. Served alongside with a pumpkin dip. This went the fastest, between my family coming by and munching, I was out of apples and dip :) 
I got about 5-6 slices from each medium fuji apple, then they took a bath in some pineapple juice. I wrapped them up and put them in the fridge a few hours before the party.

Pumpkin dip
8oz cream cheese
1/4 c brown sugar
15 oz pure pumpkin
spices to taste (ginger, cinnamon, cloves)

Cream together ingredients until smooth, place in serving container and chill at least an hour before serving. Also great with gingersnaps, carrot sticks and honey pretzels.

Dish 2: Veggie Tray. Easy. Simple.

I took a wide, clear platter and spread out a 16oz bag of baby carrots. Sliced up some cucumber eyes, a celery stalk for a stem and snap peas arranged in the shape of a mouth.

Dish 3: Pumpkin Empanadas

I made these about 2 weeks ago and just popped them into the freezer. I took them out the night before and they were just as good. I'll post a recipe for these soon.

or literally, “crunch in the mouth”. This piece is the traditional wedding cake in France, and is often served at baptisms and communions as well. The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons.

I had been waiting to do something big and fun and DIFFERENT, so I attempted the CROQUEMBOUCHE (I love saying it). I filled mine with a custard, which is traditional for most creme filled desserts, and of course mine had to be pumpkin for my pumpkin party. I found a pretty good recipe here.

I doubled my recipe and made two batches, one of just pumpkin and one of pumpkin-chai (this one is a winner). I'll post a recipe of my adventures in this piece later too.

Snack Table

Because the bulk of the party I figured was going to be for carving pumpkins, I didn't want to go overboard by planning a lot of games. But I did make one easy one, kids of all ages enjoy (even if they say they are too old for those kid games).

Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin

I bought a poster board from the dollar store and cut out a pumpkin from the orange paper I brought home from school. Then out of black card stock I cut out a mouth and eyes then made about 12 noses or so (more or less depending on how many kids are playing). Keep a blindfold or a sleeping mask handy and you're ready to play.

What does the winner get to take home?

This Pumpkin trophy!

Ding! Ding! We have a Winner!

I bought a small fake pumpkin at Micheal's Crafts and carved "Winner" into it, then filled it with candy. I love it. It's a memorable prize and it's a pumpkin!

Because I only had two kids at the party (my son and my friends daughter, both 2 yrs old) I gave my game and prize to my mom who is a teacher so she can use it in her classroom on Halloween.

Goodie Pumpkins

Finally, before everyone leaves, they were to take home a goodie pumpkin basket. I found these babies at a yard sale, I grabbed all 20 for $5!

Each one was to be filled with some candy, a pumpkin scented candle (dollar store) and....

Once everyone gutted their pumpkins and they gave me all their seeds, I was going to wash, dry, spice, and bake them while they carved their pumpkin faces. Then I had some small candy wrappers on hand to wrap them up so everyone could take home a pumpkin treat from their own pumpkin!

I thought it was a nice personal treat. Alas, my friend who did come didn't want her seeds so I still have them. I'll post that recipe later.

At the end of the day, I was tired; but I had this to show for it.

In some small way, it's goofy, smiling face makes me feel better about my "party curse." There is always another holiday or birthday to plan for and get together.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Honey Mustard Whole Chicken

New whole chicken recipe. I was trying to incorporate the sweet and spicy flavor again since I loved my honey jalapeno ribs so much.

This one is sweet from the honey and spicy from the curry, Yum! This is definately a good recipe to keep. I cooked my chicken whole, but I would reccommend you cut up the pieces to absorb the flavors better, turning once for even browning.

Honey Mustard Whole Chicken             Serves 4

4 lb whole chicken, (cut up Optional)
1/2 c honey
1 tbl vegetable oil
2 tbl dry mustard
1 tbl garlic paste (or 3 cloves minced)
11/2 tsp curry
2 tsp salt

salt and pepper to taste

1. The night before take a large pot and place your chicken inside; cover with water. Place a tight fitting lid on top and refrigerate overnight.

2. Four hours before mealtime take out your chicken, drain and pat dry. Line a roasting pan with foil and place chicken inside, salt and pepper chicken generously. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl then pour over the chicken. Wrap foil over roasting pan and put back in the fridge for two hours.

3. Two hours before dinner, take out your roasting pan with chicken and let sit on the counter for about 30 mins to bring it to room temperature (this ensures even browning). Preheat oven to 350F and cook covered with foil 45 mins. Remove foil, bast chicken if you want with juices. Cook another 45 mins or until juices run clear.

4. Take chicken out and cover with foil again, let sit 10 mins. Carve and serve.

Copycat: Starbuck's Frappuccino

I cannot tell you how excited I am about this post!

To begin, I am in love with Starbuck's frappuccinos and I spend a lot of my pretty pennies to have one when I go shopping or after a bad day. I needed a more wallet friendly version to satisfy my caffeine fix.

Oh, but today! Playing around in my kitchen this morning, I found (to me) the perfect copycat to my favorite drink. I am sipping my delicious coffee as I write this post and still can't be happier with the results.

Frappuccino                                       Makes 3 cups

1/2 cup fresh extra bold coffee
2 cups lowfat milk (2%, 1% or skim) 1/4 cup granulated sugar or sugar substitute
1 tablespoon dry pectin

For Vanilla
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbl chocolate syrup and only 2 tbl granulated sugar

1. Combine all ingredients in a covered container. Shake until
sugar and pectin are dissolved.

2. Pour over ice if desired, top with whipped cream.

Sorry it's not the best picture, I need better glassware

Calories calculated using Sparkrecipes Calculator:

Vanilla Frap: 219 calories per 1.5 cup serving. 

Mocha Frap: 221 calories per 1.5 cup serving

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lentil Stuffed Bell Peppers

So let's talk healthy.... Everyone knows they need to add more fiber, good proteins, and vitamins into their diet and simple changes can help achieve those goals. 

Take a classic yummy dish like stuffed bell peppers. Swap rice and meat for nutritious and hearty lentils, pack it full of veggies and you got a winning meal.

These bell peppers are yummy, filling and best of all *healthy*!

Lentil Stuffed Bell Peppers

1 c dry green lentils
6 c water
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 pinch chili powder
1 pinch turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl coriander, powder
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger root, minced
1 lb bunch spinach, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
mozzarella cheese (Optional)
Lime wedges (Optional)

1. Mix water, lentils, chili powder, jalapeno and turmeric in a medium pot. Boil lentils for 30 mins on low simmer until lentils are tender. Drain and pour into a deep mixing bowl.

2. Rinse out pot and fill with water. Boil water and submerge peppers for 3-5 mins. Remove peppers, stem and remove seeds inside. Slice sideways if too large to stand up on their own and place in a foil lined, shallow roasting pan. In the meantime, begin stuffing.

3. Preheat oven to 350F. Take out a heavy saucepan and cook cumin on medium heat until it pops. Cook onion, garlic and ginger until tender (not brown). Sautee tomato for 3 mins or until soft. Add coriander and mix well, cook an additional 5 mins. Add spinach and stir occasionally until wilted. Mix with lentils.

4. Fill each pepper with lentil stuffing and return back to pan. Bake for 12 mins. Open oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and bake another 3 mins or until cheese is melted.

5. Serve hot, garnish with lime wedges.

Calories calculated with SparkRecipes Calculator: 99.9 calories per serving. Check out the loads of vitamins you will get! Yum!

* If you have leftover lentils, I mix in a little taco seasonings and have tacos for lunch tomorrow!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Simply "Batty" Halloween

So this year I'm not really feeling the Halloween "vibe." I usually don't decorate for Halloween anyways, just a seasonal Fall kind of decorating that I can leave up September through November.

This year I was inspired to do a bit more. Keeping it simple and still nature inspired. I also needed a spash of something to welcome my guests for my upcoming Pumpkin Party.

I have to say, I love this a lot. It was also a lot of fun to see cars slowing down as they drove by to look at it.

Inspiration came from MADE and Country Living (they used stiff felt, if I could afford it, so would I)
please ignore my awful landscaping

Total cost of project: $4.80

Halloween Bat Decoration


Black 8 1/2 x 11" Cardstock
Bat Template
Sharp Scissors
Glue Dots or scotch tape
Preserve-It (Krylon) -Optional

1. Take tracing paper and enlarged the bat, 100%, 75% and 50% tracing it each time (paper against the computer screen) to get three different sizes.

2. Cut out templates and fold a black piece of paper in half. Hold one of your templates over the folded side of the paper and just cut around the pattern, don't bother tracing at all. No one will know if they are not perfect.

I am against wasting paper. I just can't do it, so I used as much space as I could on each sheet. I got 8 bats out of the small, 6 from the medium and 3 from the large.

Half my bats were traced on the UNFOLDED side, making them two pieces. I was OK with that. I played around and liked how the pieces also looked like bats flying and not just the part of a wing.

Some of the pieces I doubled up when hanging, so in the end had 5 different looking bats!

3. Cut and cut until you have a nice variety of bats. My house took 100 bats or about 15 pieces of paper.

4. Once done cutting (or tired of cutting), pull out your glue dots, push and stick to any surface. These wonderful time savers are removable, but use common sense when hanging them.

5. For the pieces of bat wings, hold them to the side and see how they look like flying bats, or double them up and use one glue dot for both so you can see two wings. These are great filler space bats!

I bought some Preserve-It (Krylon) which is used to preserve photos and paper. I don't want to be cutting out bats each year! So I gave my bats a spray before hanging to give them a little defense against the evening dew and daytime humidity. I'll update on how they survived after Halloween (8 days away).

I hung my bats wanting them to look natural, flying in a smooth stream across my house. We have bats around here in California, but not the kind thay fly like these. Oh how I'd love to witness something like that!

Enjoy this project and have fun with it. You've got to love those easy, thrifty and big impact ones!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Honey Jalapeno Spare Ribs

Oh. My. Gosh.

I have never made ribs before and I wasn't sure how this recipe would turn out. But I swear, I just cleaned those bones. This was soo good!

Fingerlickin' type of good.

This recipe is delicious! It's sweet and sour and savory all in one. It doesn't need much, just serve with a simple side salad.

Keep it. Cook it. Thank me later!

Honey Jalapeno Spare Ribs                       Serves 2-3

1 tbl paprika, ground
1 tbl chile powder, ground
1 tbl cumin, ground
1 tbl salt
2-3 spare rib racks

6 cloves garlic, chopped
1  large jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded
1 tsp cumin, ground
2 limes, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey

1. Place ribs in a single layer in a baking pan. Combine paprika, chile powder, cumin, and salt in a small bowl. Pat spice mixture all over ribs. Cover with plastic wrap/foil and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Pour in water to a depth of about 1/4-inch around spareribs. Bake, uncovered, for 45 mins in the oven or until the bones wiggle a little. The steaming helps the ribs stay tender and moist, soaking up all the dry rub spices.

3. Meanwhile, make the Honey Glaze. Combine garlic, jalapeños, cumin, lime juice, and salt in a food processor (I used my MagicBullet) and puree. Pour into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan and stir in the honey. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly until glaze is thick. If you enjoy Mexican food, it should resemble a thick green sauce.

Set aside until needed.

20 mins later

4. Cooking time! Turn the oven heat up to 450F. Take out the meat and drain most of the water out, leave just a little to coat the bottom of the pan. Brush ribs generously on one side with half the glaze and bake, uncovered 10 minutes, flip meat and baste with remaining glaze; cook for another 10 mins. Cut the ribs apart and serve hot.

If you finish ribs early, turn oven down to 200F and leave until ready to serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Casserole

This recipe was made up as I went. Starting with a craving for cauliflower and something to warm my tummy.

Sorry about the pictures. This casserole may not be pretty (the tomatoes give it a wierd beige-rust color), but it sure is good.

Creamy Cauliflower Casserole          Serves 8-10

1c heavy whipping cream
1 c chicken broth
1/4 c white wine
1/4 c Asiago cheese, shredded
1 c sun dried tomatoes, not packed in oil, julienne cut
2 tbl cornstarch with equal parts water mixed

1 Medium Cauliflower, cut into florets
2 c Farfalle Tricolore (any GOOD tri colored pasta with semolina)
2 tbl butter
1/2 red onion, diced
1 c mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp crushed red pepper, dried
4 garlic cloves, large, minced
1 inch ginger, fresh, minced
1 lb chicken, cooked and shredded (Optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook cream until just bubbling, don't boil over. Stir in broth, wine and Asiago cheese. Stir until dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture, and simmer until sauce is thickened, stirring constantly. Mix in the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 5 minutes; add chopped cauliflower to the pot to cook together. Cook another 10 minutes; drain.

3. In another large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Saute red onion and mushrooms until soft. Stir in garlic, ginger and spices; cook for 2 minutes. (I wish I thought of it before, but spinach would be wonderful in this, mix in now if you want.) Stir in chicken, toss with spices and cook another 5 mins. Add Asiago cream sauce, and heat through.

4. Pour cauliflower and pasta in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Toss with Asiago sauce until evenly coated. Sprinkle with more shredded Asiago cheese and chopped parsley. OR top with bread crumbs tossed with some melted butter, more Asiago cheese and heat in oven for another 10 mins until crunchy and golden brown.

Calories calculated using SparkRecipes: 393 calories per serving

Pumpkin Butter

Dear Pumpkin, I'm so glad its Fall so that we get to hang out for the next few months. We're going to have so much fun together! But please, try not to make me fat, okay? xoxo, Sarah

Oh, hello. My pal, Pumpkin, and I were just having a little chat. You see, I love pumpkin, and it's actually really good for you but its often paired with things like butter, cream, sugar and other items that stick to your booty like a magnet. Making it...not so good for you. But have no fear, I am about to show you that you can still satisfy your pumpkin pie craving without having to break out your fat pants! (And don't act like you don't have fat pants.)

I recently discovered Pumpkin Butter.

Read this post carefully.

If you enjoy pumpkin flavored goodies but not all the taxing calories (or dollars) usually associated with that yummy pumpkin fix, Pumpkin Butter is your new (healthy) friend.

The limits to this goody are seemingly endless, I am VERY excited to show you all the yummy things you can use this pumpkin butter in besides simply just eating it!

For example...does someone reading this blog enjoy pumpkin spiced lattes? I thought so.

Read on, my friend. Read on.

Pumpkin Butter                 Makes 12+ servings

3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, or 1 -29 ounce can (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup apple cider or juice
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp Saigon Cinnamon
1 tsp ginger, ground
1 tsp freshly grated (or ground) nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves, ground

1. Combine pumpkin, vanilla, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; mix well.

2. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently! Sorry, this is one of those, "slave over a hot stove" kind of investment recipes. But, I promise, it's totally worth it! The mixture is going to burp and spit a little as the heat rises up and tries to find it's way out. If you walk away even just for 5 mins, I would recommend you put a splatter guard over your pot.

3. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, serve warm on toast. Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

It is NOT recommended that you can pumpkin butter or pureed pumpkin at any time. There is no proven method to preserve the acidity of the pumpkin.

Using SparkRecipes calculator: 83.6 calories per serving