Category Archives: Fabulous Fall

Cold-Weather Vegetable Soup with Minestrone Variation

I don’t post many of my own recipes, and that’s because I don’t usually measure. You know what I mean–I add a little of this and a little of that, and it’s hard to figure out just what it I’ve done exactly.

The great thing about soups is that you don’t have to be exact! Add what you have and substitute what you don’t.

VegetableSoup

Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 head of cabbage

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 head of celery, including leaves, chopped

I bag of frozen green beans (feel free to use fresh if you have them)

2 cans fire roasted tomatoes

2 32 oz containers chicken or vegetable broth

1 can kidney beans

1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Add everything to a large pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for several hours. This recipe makes lots of soup, and it tastes even better the second day!

This recipe is also perfect for making in the slow cooker.

Minestrone Soup Variation (my grandmother’s recipe)

Swap the chicken broth for beef and add a cup of small noodles at the end of the cook time. My grandmother’s minestrone soup was the best ever, and I love to make it and remember her. If you’re a vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable broth instead of beef.

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Elsa Dress Costume

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Guess what Chelsea’s costume was?

I tried to talk her into something else–anything else–but she had to have the ‘it’ costume of the year. I didn’t care for how puffy all the Elsa costumes were in the stores (I’m sorry, but Elsa’s dress was not puffy). Instead I used a pattern I had for the bodice and then continues the cut out into an A-line. The fabric is a little too dark, but it was covered in sparkles, so Chelsea had to have it.

I started this dress at about 8:30 the night before she needed it and finished at 10:30. I would have made these changes if I’d had the time: I would have used a sheer fabric for the shoulders of the bodice and made a modest sweetheart neckline with the satin, and I would have added the long sheer sleeves. I would have also made some translucent snowflakes and appliqued them to the dress.

Oh well, you can’t have everything. I guess I should let it go

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

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Free Autumn Bird Label Download – 2″ Circle

Autumn is my favorite season. I just love it! Here’s a free 2″ circle label download for all your crafty fall projects. These fit on canning jar lids very nicely, and they are cute on top of apple butter, canned apple pie filling, dry potpourri, and loose tea blends. I hope you find them useful. Enjoy!

AutumnBirdLabel

Pumpkin Coffee and an Author Challenge

This is a beautiful, wonderful day. I found decaf pumpkin spice coffee!!! I don’t drink much caffeine anymore–it makes me jittery. It is very difficult to find fun varieties in decaf, though. Let me share what varieties of decaf I can buy locally:

House Blend

Mmmmhmmm. That’s about it. Oh, sure–different companies label it with different names, but it’s all the same. I don’t do flavored creamers, so it means my coffee life has been pretty boring. I decided to try Amazon for some decaf pumpkin spice coffee, and I found one by Archer Farms. Target brand! After a quick search on their website, I discovered they had it stocked at my local Target! So exciting. And delicious. It’s so good.

Click the picture to see if your local Target stocks this yummy coffee!

Also, I’m participating in an Author’s challenge. Every time someone clicks this link, I get a vote! If I get the most votes in a month, I’ll be promoted on the mailing list. That would be pretty cool!


Have a great evening, and pick up some pumpkin spice coffee!

A Few Autumn Photos

We are about to start school, so I don’t have much time to write today, but I thought I would share a few of our autumn pictures with you. We took a drive yesterday afternoon to Glade Park, and I played with my camera.

The kids had fun for about the first five minutes, and then they were tired of smiling. I’m pretty happy with the photos I got, and I will pick up some 4×6 samples today to see how they look printed.

Have a great day!

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Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

A few days ago we took a trip to the local pumpkin patch. I’ve never been there, and I have to say, I was impressed! It was so much more than just a pumpkin patch. There was a pumpkin jump–which is basically a massively huge piece of plastic material (the same that’s used for regular bump and jumps) buried into the ground and then filled with air using large air compressors. This thing is impressive. There was also a petting zoo, a huge hay slide, and a non-Halloween themed corn maze.

Pumpkin Patch!
Pumpkin Patch!

 

Pumpkin Jump
Pumpkin Jump

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This was a huge, friendly horse! He also had fine culinary taste, because he kept trying to swipe my pumpkin spice latte!
This was a huge, friendly horse! He also had fine culinary taste, because he kept trying to swipe my pumpkin spice latte!
Finding our way through the corn maze.
Finding our way through the corn maze.

It was a wonderful day, and a great, fun way to take a look at a working farm.

Elderberry Syrup in My Tea

I’ve been feeling a little run down for the last week, and I’ve also been consuming entirely too much dairy for a person with a casein intolerance (which is the most obnoxious thing ever). So yesterday, I basically felt horrible. My digestive system was going haywire and I was worn out. To top it all off, this morning I woke up with a sniffly nose and my chest felt heavy. So what’s going on? Well, I haven’t been taking care of myself. I’ve been eating a bunch of junk, despite my resolution to eat clean.

Yesterday was the final straw. I’d already decided to do a detox the beginning of this week, and I woke up this morning feeling determined. I’m not a huge fan of the word detox. It makes me think of crash diets and drinking nothing but grapefruit juice for days. That’s not at all what I’m doing. You can take a look at it here. If I feel run down, I do plan to add in some lean meat at dinner.

What’s my next step to feeling better? Elderberries. These things are amazing. Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not giving you medical advise, but take a look here and here to read some information on the immune-system-boosting power these little berries have.

What do I do with elderberries? Well, you don’t want to eat them fresh–they will make you horribly sick to your stomach. Luckily, I didn’t find that out first hand. I make syrup out of dried berries and, when I’m starting to feel sick, I drink two teaspoons in my tea four times a day. It’s yummy, and last time I had a cold, I was better in three days. Nice.

Here’s Monterey Bay Spice Co. Elderberry Syrup Recipe. They have it posted on a YouTube video, but I wrote it down so I don’t have to watch it every time I want to make it:

1/2 Cup Dried Elderberries

1 Cinnamon Stick

5 Cloves

1 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1/2 tsp dry ginger

2 cups water

1 cup raw, unfiltered honey

Combine the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and water in a small saucepan and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain the mixture, and then when cooled to warm, stir in the honey. The original recipe has you cook the honey in with the berries, but I prefer to add it at the end.

Quick side note – Monterey Bay Spice Co’s website is herbco.com and not spiceco dot com. Trust me, you don’t want to accidentally type in the wrong one. On the upside, I realized I needed to take a look into our family security settings, which apparently were not working. Ha ha ha….oh.   

Sugared Butterscotch Cookie with Sea Salt – Ultimate Sugar Cookie Quest

I have found the perfect cookie! Unfortunately, by the time I was done tweaking the recipe, it was no longer a sugar cookie. It was a sugared butterscotch cookie with a sea salt sprinkle. It’s just lovely though, even if it doesn’t fulfill my sugar cookie hunt.

Butterscotch CookiesRemember the Amish Sugar Cookie recipe I posted at the beginning of my Sugar Cookie Quest post? Well, this is the recipe I started with. The original cookies were good. They were very good–but they weren’t the ultimate sugar cookie. They had a pretty good texture, even if they were a little on the soft and crumbly side. They were pleasantly sweet, but maybe just a little bland. I’m going to give the original recipe 4 out of 5 stars. Were they worth my time? Yes. Will I make them again? No.

Will I make the Sugared Butterscotch cookies with sea salt again? Absolutely! The recipe is posted at the bottom of the page, using the Amish Sugar Cookie recipe as a starting point. Let’s get started!

Mix your dough, roll into 2 logs, and then refrigerate for about an hour. After that it's time to cut your cookies!
Mix your dough, roll into 2 logs, and then refrigerate for about an hour. After that it’s time to cut your cookies!
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You need these. Yum.
Pour them into a bowl. You don't want to stick your hands into the bag after they're covered in cookie dough.
Pour them into a bowl. You don’t want to stick your hands into the bag after they’re covered in cookie dough.
Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in sugar, and then decorate with the chips. This is tedious. Make your kids do it....kidding. No, I'm really not.
Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in sugar, and then decorate with the chips. This is tedious. Make your kids do it….kidding. No, I’m really not.
Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt...
Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt…
Done! Now you eat one, and then you eat ten more. It's fine--the recipe makes about five dozen!
Done! Now you eat one, and then you eat ten more. It’s fine–the recipe makes about five dozen!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (I might add a little more next time)
  • 1/2 bag butterscotch chips
  • sugar
  • sea salt (optional)

1. Cream your butter, oil, and sugars together. Add in your eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, blend the flour, soda, cream of tartar, and nutmeg. Gradually mix into your wet ingredients.

2. Divide the dough in half. Form two logs, and wrap in cling wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.

3. Set your oven to 375 degrees F. Cut an inch-thick slice off one of the logs. Cut into four equal pieces, and then gently roll into a ball. Roll the ball in sugar, and then place on a cookie sheet. Do not press the cookie flat. Decorate the cookies with butterscotch chips. You could also mix them into the dough if you prefer. If you like, you can sprinkle each cookie with a little sea salt.

4. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom. Be careful not to overcook–do not let them brown on the edges. Let the cookies sit for 1 minutes, and then transfer them to cooling racks.

How to Can Apple Butter and Free Fall Canning Label Download

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been canning like crazy. I bought a 36 lb box of apples along with my regular basket from Bountiful Baskets with the intention of canning applesauce. 36 lbs of apples ended up going a lot farther than I thought it would. I’ve canned applesauce, sliced baking apples, and apple butter. Today I’m going to show you how I can apple butter, and I have a free download for my Fall Canning Label at the end of the post.

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Apple Butter Recipe (from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving)

Yield: 6 half pints (I got 8)

Ingredients:

4 lbs apples – I used Gala

4 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 tsp cinnamon – I used two generous teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice instead

1/4 tsp cloves – leave this out if you’re going to use a spice blend.

Step 1: Prepare your jars and lids

If you’re new to canning, check out Ball’s Intro to Canning Guide

Step 2: Prepare your apples. I like to peel and core my apples before I make my butter so I don’t have to use a food mill later. It’s less messy, and I’m a little lazy…

Step 3: Add your sliced apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon (or spice blend) to a 4 or 6 quart sauce pot. Mix it all up, cover with a lid, and set on medium low heat for about thirty minutes. Stir a few times to make sure the apples are all cooking evenly.

AppleButter

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Step 4: Once the apples are very soft, you can either transfer them to a blender or food processor, or you can use an immersion blender to puree them. I used an immersion blender.

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Step 5: Turn your heat down to low. Cover your apple butter and let it slowly cook down. Stir it every once in a while, and make sure to keep the heat at low so it doesn’t scorch. This time, mine was about the right consistency after 45 minutes, but I’ve had it take several hours before – it just depends on your apples. The consistency is about right when it mounds up on a spoon.

Step 6: Fill your jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rims, secure your lids and rings, and then process for ten minutes, adjusting for your altitude. (If you don’t know how to adjust for altitude, take a look at the Intro to Canning like I posted above.)

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Step 7: Let your jars of apple butter cool for at least 12 hours, and then check the seals. If they sealed well, you are ready to label them!

TwoInchFallCanningLabel
Click the image above for the free download. For personal use only.

This is a 2″ label, and it fits nicely on the lid of a standard canning jar. Once you download the file, you can visit Avery’s Design and Print Online Website to print it out. Here’s the link to their 2″ round label template.

How to Stamp Soap with Gold Mica

PumpkinSoap

I’ve decided making soap is the perfect hobby. Here’s why:

1. It’s useful! We use handmade soap every single day! (This is why I wanted to learn in the first place)

2. It’s so much nicer than the stuff you buy in the stores. I’m sorry, but it’s true. We ran out about a month ago (I had planned to make some, but procrastinated a bit – go figure), and we ended up buying a few of the bars we used to buy from the store. We won’t be doing that again, even my husband hated it.

3. It creates patience. Cold process, my soap of choice, takes 4 – 6 weeks to cure. Okay, that’s not so awesome, but I deal with it.

4. It’s pretty! So, so pretty. You can layer it, swirl it, decorate the top with swirls, or….stamp it. Today I’m going to show you how to stamp your freshly sliced soap with mica.

 

What you will need:

Loaf of Cold Process Soap, ready for slicing – I used this pumpkin recipe from SoapQueen.com

Clear or Rubber Stamps

Sparkle Gold Mica (or any mica you want)

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1. Take about half a teaspoon of mica and spread it out to about the size of a quarter on your work surface. I used a cutting mat, and it worked very well.

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2. Using a sharp knife, slice off a piece of soap (1/2 inch – 3/4 inch is usually about right). Do not slice the entire loaf yet,.

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3. Dip your stamp in the mica, and make sure you really coat it. Tap off the excess. With the newly cut side of the soap toward you, firmly press the stamp into the soap. It should still be a little soft, and you want to push the design into it. Don’t be afraid to use a little pressure. Not too much though, you don’t want to ‘smoosh’ out the design. There’s a happy medium; with just a few tries you’ll have it down.

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4. Just keep slicing and stamping until you’ve reached the end of your loaf!

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Here’s a great little YouTube video from LatherBeSoaping that shows the stamping process at the end.

Have fun!