Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Party and Pumpkin Carving

Dear friends of ours have an annual all-family costume party every Halloween. It's so much fun to see what new investments they've made in their decorations. This year they had a life-sized Grim Reaper whose eyes flashed! The costumes are always fun, too. Our host and hostess were Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Some of the guests were Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head; a hippie and a mime (peace and quiet); Dolly Parton; and the Big Bad Wolf (whose 3 YO was Little Red Riding Hood).

Pictures of our family before the party:
And at the party, in front of said Grim Reaper (poor M. was soooo scared of it):

G. and I weren't just pirates--we were pirates spreading the gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Since the kids and I had been gone for several days before the party, and Trick-or-Treating was the next day, we realized on Sunday morning that we had better get the pumpkins carved! We got wonderful, bright orange pumpkins from my friend, who had put dead pumpkins into her compost pile, and then neglected to stir the compost. She got FOURTEEN pumpkins from that! And she gave us three beautiful ones.

The kids designed their own pumpkin faces and the older two carved their own pumpkins entirely (G. and I only had to cut off the top and scrape out the guts. M. designed hers and G. carved it.

Strangest thing--C's pumpkin had NO seeds inside! (bummer since we planned to roast them).

M's pumpkin looked fine, but the seeds were moldy! So that meant we only had T's seeds to roast. I used my friend Cee's pumpkin seed recipe, plus added some chili powder to the butter before roasting. They were wonderful!

Cee's Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the seeds and get all those stringy things off. ;) Boil the seeds for 10 minutes in 1 quart of water and 2 T. of salt for each 2 C. of seeds. Drain. Toss the seeds with 1 T. of butter. Spread evenly on a baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.

Oh, did you want to see the carved pumpkins?

Knitting updates

It's been awhile since posting a knitting update. Currently I'm working on:

Scribble scarf from Mason-Dixon Knitting book

Two pairs of socks (slowly but surely)

Another booga bag (denim tones)

And I just finished a baby kimono for a new friend's baby boy, born last week:

Pork loin roast; roasted veggies; butternut risotto

For the pork loin, I adapted a recipe from Giada deLaurentis. First I made a spice rub of garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil. I then wrapped the seasoned pork in bacon and put it in a pan along with 1/2 cup of white wine and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Then I cooked it at 400 for about 45 minutes.

Oven-Roasted Veggies:
From the Chinaberry cookbook

sweet potatoes

cut into bite-sized pieces

Seasoned with:
Garlic Powder

and tossed with olive oil and then baked on a cookie sheet

Butternut Squash risotto
from the Whole Foods magazine

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, combine olive oil, butter, squash and onion. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, for 6-7 minutes or until squash softens slightly. Add rice and wine and bring to a boil. Cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add 1/2 c. broth, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates. Keep adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates after each addition. After adding the last 1/2 c. broth, cook until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in cheese, salt and pepper.

(I *loved* this recipe and ate it all myself because no one else in the family would even touch it! Guess it'll have to be relegated to the "bring to a potluck" category...)
Breadsmith cheddar sourdough bread

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Trip to the Pumpkin Farm

A few weeks back we met the cousins at the pumpkin farm. This particular pumpkin farm is Retzlaff's and we had visited it last year (with the same cousins) and were sad to read that the farm was closing due to a subdivision going in where it was located. As it turns out, the owners bought even more land at a farther-from-the-city location and re-opened this fall.

Some pictures from that day (click on any to make the picture bigger):

And our favorite part (last year as well as this year) is this crazy entertainment...thing...called "Kids Are People, Too!" which is a bizarre music and game extravaganza that includes a lot of kids (and a few parents) in the show. C. and T. got to participate in the twinkie relay. Their cousins (K. and K.) each did a music thing. The older K. led a dance and the younger K. played the tambourine.


If I have a chance, I plan to try to catch up on posts today. However, my SIL just emailed me and asked if M. and I would like to go to the zoo today, so it's possible I'll have to extend my hiatus a bit longer... :)

But here's a picture of all the basil I harvested before the hard frost:

And after that, it only made this much pesto:

I froze it in an ice cube tray w/o any cheese and when I want some, I just toss a cube into what I'm cooking, or defrost it and stir in some fresh parmesan or asiago. YUM!

I take my pesto recipe from Mollie Katzen:

3 c. packed fresh basil leaves
3-4 large cloves garlic
1/3 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/3 c. olive oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup parmesan

Place the basil and garlic in a food processor and mince well. Add the pine nuts and process until they are ground. Drizzle in the olive oil as the machine is running. When you have a smooth paste, transfer to a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parmesan (if I'm freezing it, I leave out the parmesan).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An explanation for my "vacation"

Just a quick post to let you all (ha ha... "all" three of you who read my blog) know why I haven't been posting much. My mom has been visiting since Friday (we're shopping up a storm and "saving" money all over the place!) and we'll be driving her home this Thursday, and staying through Saturday. My online time has been lessened (didn't even realized I'd been bouncing on my yahoo groups for who-knows-how-long), but I'm trying to keep up with reading, if not replying. I've been taking pictures of our meals and will catch up with those recipes--SOME day!

Until then, here's a picture of G & I:

And one of my baby brother :) and his...uh...friend:

Friday, October 20, 2006

Other ham recipes

I didn't take pictures, but other things that we do with leftover ham:

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Take any regular recipe for scalloped potatoes, or au gratin potatoes, and add chopped ham to it. A little ham goes a long way!

And finally, when most of the ham has been used in other meals, the last bits go to make:

Ham Salad

chunks of baked ham
salt pepper

Pulse the ham in the food processor until it is crumbly. Dump out and mix with salt, pepper, and enough mayo to hold it together. At this point, I leave half of it for T., the pickier eater. Then I put onions, pickles and celery in the processor and pulse them. I stir the veggies into the other half of the ham salad and everyone is happy! :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An update on T.

I'll start it off with his school picture:
His hair just keeps growing, and growing...

He's having a good year overall in 3rd grade. Academically, I couldn't ask for any better. He can spell amazingly well, is learning cursive, *loves* Science, is having fun in Social Studies, and is doing Math with the fourth graders (and doing great there, too). He's got the best class (awesome teacher and wonderful kids--some who he hasn't been in class with since Kindergarten), and is having a bit TOO much fun (as a letter home from his teacher showed). He is also enjoying being able to walk to and from school with HIS friends (instead of his sister's friends like the last few years).

He is still obsessed with Pokemon, from the cards to the Gameboy games, to the action figures and stuffed animals. He's being yet another Pokemon character for Halloween (Deoxys), necessitating another homemade costume.

He's got a wonderful, fun, active group of friends and he's finally on a soccer team that appreciates him for what he can offer (a strong defensive kick) without harassing him for what he cannot offer.

He's sharing a bedroom with M. and is (mostly) being a good sport about that. He alternates between being a protective big brother and a bossy big bully :)

And now I'll finish with a silly picture of what he'd look like with a moustache:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Split Pea with Ham Soup

Split Pea with Ham soup

1 meaty ham bone
1 Knorr chicken boullion cube
1 bay leaf
1 lb. split peas (I like half green, half yellow)
assorted chopped veggies like carrots, onions, celery, potatoes
salt and pepper
Frank's Red Hot sauce

Boil ham bone for two hours in enough water to cover, plus one Knorr chicken boullion cube and one bay leaf. Add split peas and cook an additional half hour. Remove ham bone, cool, and take the ham off the bone and cube it. Add the cubed ham, along with the remaining vegetables and cook until the vegetables are soft and the peas have virtually disintegrated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add hot sauce, if desired.

Serve with crusty bread.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ham and asparagus crepes

(the picture shows one not rolled to illustrate the fillings)


3/4 c. flour
1 egg
1 c. milk
2 T. melted butter

Mix egg, milk and butter. Whisk into flour. Lightly butter and heat a 6 inch (nonstick) fry pan over medium heat. Pour about 3 T. of batter into the pan, and tilt the pan to get a light layer of batter on the bottom of the pan. Cook until slightly brown, then flip and lightly brown the second side. Set aside until all crepes are cooked


Chopped leftover ham
steamed asparagus
shredded cheese

Cheese sauce:
make a white sauce and stir in shredded cheese of your choice.

A note on "make your own" crepes:
I used to fill the crepes and roll them, then top with cheese sauce and bake them all. This time I decided to do "fill your own" crepes. It was a much bigger success! Each person chose how many fillings to put in each crepe and whether to top with cheese sauce or not. We did have to microwave them for about 15 seconds to get everything to the same temperature, but that was fine. This meal was a HUGE hit (who'd have guessed?) and I should make a double batch of crepes next time because I thought I'd have leftovers for breakfast the next day, but they were all eaten!

My daughter the vegetarian

I didn't post about this right away, but it's been almost a week, so I guess I can say that C. has become a vegetarian.

I kind of saw it coming, as her best friend (since they were three) is a life-long vegetarian and C. has the love-of-animals thing. But for a long time she was quite the carnivore! Then she experimented with being "a vegetarian unless you cook some meat that I really, really like" :) But she has turned down meat at several meals now, and even ate a Boca bratwurst last night when the rest of us had meat brats.

So far it hasn't been too tough. We had mexican food and she had beans instead of chicken. We ordered pizza and got some w/o meat toppings. We had steak and she ate all the side dishes. Tonight will be spaghetti and she'll skip the meatballs... But I'd love to hear any helpful tips from parents of vegetarians (especially when the rest of the family is NOT).

Here are some pictures from an impromptu get-together of C. and some friends from Saturday. They had chocolate fondue:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Baked Ham; Cheesy Potatoes; Squash

Baked Hillshire Farm Ham
baked according to the directions on the package!

Horseradish Sauce

Combine equal parts of sour cream and mayonnaise. Stir in prepared horseradish to taste. Allow to sit for half an hour for flavors to develop. Serve with ham, or use on sandwiches.
My Mother-in-law's Cheesy Potatoes

1 bag frozen hashbrowns (32 oz.)
1 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. minced onion
1 can cream of chicken (or celery, to make it vegetarian) soup
1/2 stick butter, melted
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a giant bowl, then transfer to a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 75-90 minutes, half of that time covered with foil; half without.
Baked Squash
(we usually buy butternut, but this was one I hadn't seen before--called Sweet Dumpling)

Cut squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Place in a baking dish, cut sides up. Add about half an inch of water to the bottom of the dish. Season squash with salt and pepper. Place a chunk of butter in the hollowed-out part, then sprinkle parmesan (grated--not the canned stuff) cheese over the whole thing. Bake, covered, until soft (ranges from 30-60 minutes at 350 degrees)
Market Day frozen peas, cooked
Pillsbury Crescent rolls
prepared according to directions on package

Stay tuned for a bunch of meals/recipes made with the leftover ham. I'll link them below as I add them!
ham and asparagus crepes
split pea soup
other ham recipes

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

An update on M.

I feel as though this blog has been taken over by food, with none of the cute kid stories I originally promised. :) So here's a slice of what's happening with my youngest.

M. caught a cold about a month ago. She handled the sneezing and runny nose pretty well, and fought that off after about a week, but she got this cough that just wouldn't quit! Finally after a few nights where her coughing kept all of us up, I took her in to the doctor last friday (by the way, she's 31 lbs. still). Her lungs sounded bad, so the doctor put her on a five day course of prednisolone. I don't even want to say the "a" word (asthma), but I have to remember that her brother had an "asthmatic incident" when he was two, so it doesn't mean she's got asthma. It seems to have worked almost instantly, but my formerly-potty-trained girl suddenly started having accidents again. From further reading and questioning (and then calling the doctor back), it appears that one of the side effects of this medicine is higher urinary output. I think she's getting it back under control, but we had a rough couple days because when she was potty training and having accidents due to being too caught up in play to stop, we would remove a priviledge (whatever she was doing at the time of the accident) for a week. After five accidents in a row, we realized something more was going on, but she said "I know... no reading for a week". Poor sweetie! I think/hope she's on the mend now. I didn't hear a single cough last night (knock wood) and she is done with the medicine.

M has really enjoyed riding her two-wheeler bike. Toward the end of the summer we got out the tag-a-long and she enjoys that even more! It's a lot easier to run (local) errands with her on the bike. She had been doing so well that we decided to try taking the training wheels off of her bike and did so last night. It didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped! She actually took off right away, but as soon as she realized how tippy the bike was, she had a really tough time. The afternoon finished with her requesting her tricycle again.

And M. is officially a reader! She had been doing some "reading" (sight words mainly) for the last month, but in the past two weeks, she has just taken off and there's very little that she cannot sound out! We had to go to the library again yesterday and had to up our 5 book rule to a 10 book rule because she's reading everything in sight! It's so cute and so fun to see her reading early (like her brother) and loving it (like her sister).

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hot dogs; fries; apple sauce

Nothing too exciting...

Hebrew National kosher hot dogs (here topped with Sweet Baby Ray's Hot N Spicy BBQ sauce)
Ore Ida Extra Crispy fries
Homemade apple sauce

Saturday, October 07, 2006

More MDK knits

First, a felted box.

I was not real impressed with these the first hundred times I read the book Mason-Dixon Knitting. :) But then I thought it might make a nice gift to put some warshcloths in a felted box. I love the way that Paton's Classic Wool felts, so I decided to use it. I cast on for a small box, but it was knitting up so tiny that I frogged and cast on for the biggest one, using three strands of yarn held together. Here's the "before felting" picture:

It measured 8" x 9" x 6 inches tall.

And after felting:
It measures 7" x 7" x 4". It felted a lot less than the purses I've made! Don't the colors look cool all blended? I am unhappy with one corner, though. I don't think I tied off the corner tightly enough when I sewed the seam... Experienced felters, could I use (unfelted) yarn and re-tie it and re-felt it?

And, finally, I tried a M-D warshcloth. I fought it for awhile, because it starts with "cast on 150 stitches" and the second row has funky bobbles and then two rows later there are YO's... But I stuck with it and after the YO row, it goes very quickly and it's an easy-to-follow pattern. My brain has been so drained lately that I haven't wanted to have to follow a pattern, preferring mindless knitting. After those first rows, I was back to the mindless knitting! :)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Apple Picking and Apple Recipes

We went apple picking last Sunday, but it's taken me awhile to get this post written! We go to a wonderful orchard called Barthel's--it's the same place that we pick strawberries and sugar snap peas in June. Here's some pictures from the picking trip (C. and T. each brought a friend):

In addition to the pears (yum!) and butternut squash we bought, we picked a LOT of Cortland apples. I've spent most of the week making things with apples. The recipes follow:

Apple Bread
from Penzey's
We love this! It's not too sweet, and is very, very moist. It makes a great breakfast bread and is wonderful with a cup of coffee!

4 c. apples, peeled, cored and chopped (4-5 large apples)
4 lg. eggs, beaten
1 c. vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
2 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated white sugar
(I added a touch of freshly-ground nutmeg, too)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease two 9x5 bread loaf pans and set aside. Peel, core and slice the apples. Cut into good-sized chunks, about 1 inch in size (I make them slightly smaller). In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the oil and beat until combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Next, add the flour and sugar and mix on low just to blend. Turn the mixer to high and beat until mixture is smooth. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the chopped apples, mixing by hand so the apples do not get too broken up. Divide the mixture between the two pans. (they then recommend a topping of 3/4 c. flour, 1/4 c. white sugar, 2 t. cinnamon and 6 T. butter, but I find it just fine without the topping) Bake for about one hour on the center rack of the oven. The loaf should feel fairly firm when touched in the middle, or cook an extra 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pans. It is easier to slice if you can wait until it is cool.

Upside-Down Caramel Apple Pie
a Pampered Chef recipe
(note that you will need a deep dish pie pan for this pie or you'll have a big mess!)
This was the first time I'd made this pie and it was DIVINE! :)

Glaze and pastry
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 T. butter, melted
1 T. corn syrup
1/3 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
1 pkg. (15 oz.) refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)

1/2 c. packed brown sugar
3 T. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg
4 lg. apples
1 T. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425. For glaze, combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in deep dish pie pan; spread evenly on bottom. Chop pecans; sprinkle over sugar mixture. Top with one pastry crust; set aside. For filling, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in bowl; mix well. Peel, core and slice apples. Place apple slices in large bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice. Layer half of the apples in pastry-lined pie ;an; sprinkle with half of the brown sugar mixture. Repeat layers. Place remaining crust over filling. Fold edge of top crust under edge of bottom crust; flute edge. Cut several slits in top crust. Bake 50-60 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Loosen edge of pie from pie pan; carefully invert pie onto heat-resistant serving plate. Scrape any remaining caramel topping from pie place onto pie. Cool at least 1 hour before serving. Top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple Cinnamon French Toast
another Pampered Chef recipe
This smelled wonderful while baking, but I wasn't thrilled with the mushy/eggy texture on the bottom. I think I'd cut down the number of eggs (and milk) next time or cram more bread in, or use drier/older bread.

1 loaf (8 oz) french bread
6 eggs
1 c. milk
8 T. sugar, divided
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
(I added a dash of fresh-ground nutmeg, too)
4 apples
2 T. butter
maple syrup to serve

Grease 9x13 pan. Cut bread into 1 inch thick slices; arrange closely in single layer in greased pan. Beat the eggs with a whisk; whisk in the milk, 3 T. of sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over the bread. Combine the remaining 5 T. of sugar and the cinnamon (and nutmeg). Peel, core and slice or chop the apples. Place half of the apples over the bread. Sprinkle with half of the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Repeat the layers. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 400. Cut butter into small pieces and arrange over the apples. Bake, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve topped with syrup.

Chunky Apple Sauce
I've put this "recipe" together from years of attempts and I really don't have set amounts because it depends on so many factors, including how moist/dry the apples are and how sweet/sour they are...

The basic method is to peel, core, and quarter as many fresh apples as you have. Put them into a heavy-bottomed pan as you're cleaning them. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan up about 1/2 an inch. (you can always add more, but it's too hard to remove water!) Heat over medium heat, stirring and flipping often, until you get a nice, thick, chunky consistency. A potato-masher would probably work really well at this point. When the apples are at the consistency you like, add sugar (to taste), cinnamon, freshly-ground nutmeg, and (at the very end) vanilla extract.

Serve warm or cold, and freeze the leftovers (it freezes really well!)

Vegetarian Stew For Two

Stew for Two

8 tiny new potatoes
3 lg. carrots
2-3 T. butter
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 broccoli stalks w/o florets, peeled and chopped
2 sm. zucchini, sliced
1 c. frozen baby lima beans (optional)
1/2 c. frozen peas (optional)
1/2 c. cauliflower florets (optional)
1/4 t. celery seed
1/4 t. dried sage
1/4 t. dried marjoram
1/2 t. sea salt, seasoned salt, or salt-free seasoning
1 cube vegetable boullion
1-2 cups water

Place potatoes and carrots, whole, in vegetable steamer, covered, over
boiling water for 15 mintues. cool. Cut carrots into 1/2 inch slices.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. Set aside. Melt butter in
large, heavy saucepan. Add potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, broccoli
stalks, salt, bouillion, spices and water. Bring to a boil. Then
simmer, covered for 5 minutes. Add zucchini, peas, beans and cauliflower.
Return to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

champagne grapes
Breadsmith baguette

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cee's Cajun BBQ pork

Another wonderful recipe from my great friend, Cee.


1 1/2 T. butter
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 lg. yellow onion, sliced
4 center-cut boneless pork chops (about 1 1/4 lb. total)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper (I probably use more salt and pepper than this)
1 T. Louisiana Hot Sauce
4 T. bottled BBQ sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray's)
1/2 T. dried oregano
(I add in 1 t. Cajun seasoning, too)

Heat butter and oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender. Meanwhile, season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper.

Push onions to side of skillet. Increase heat to medium-high. Add pork chops; cook 1 minute on each side. Turn heat to lowest setting.

Mix hot sauce, BBQ sauce, oregano, salt and pepper (and Cajun seasoning) together and dribble onto pork chops. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Turn chops over and cook, covered, for 5 more minutes or until cooked through.

Arrange chops on serving platter. Increase heat to high under skillet. Cook and stir until onion mixture is reduced and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over the pork chops.

My note: I make a double batch of sauce because I usually serve it with fried potatoes or baked potatoes or mashed/garlic mashed potatoes and the barbecue-y onions are SOOOO yummy!

potatoes fried in olive oil/butter with onions, seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika
steamed broccoli