Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall decorating

Here are a few pictures of this year's fall decorating. I neglected to get photos of the front door area, but can maybe add them later. Our camera needs to spend some time recharging before I take any more pictures.

In the front hallway, here is my ribbon board with fall-themed paper treasures.

Also in the front hallway, a harvest welcome awaits. I bought the cute metal container on a clearance sale at Jo-Ann's some years ago. Think it was less than $1!

In the living room, I took the birdhouses off the evergreen garland and added fall leaves to the fall flower lights.

Here's the kitchen island. I've had this linen runner forever and never really noticed until this year how autumnal it looks, so had not used it for decorating at all. I think the little paisley-type curlicues are oak leaves. The ironstone soup tureen is a family treasure ... you've seen it before. One of my granddaughters gussied it up with a spray of fall leaves.

Hanging from some of the knobs of the kitchen cupboards, I have these cute fall apple ornaments I made years ago. So much fun. I did them in all sorts of fall motifs. I keep thinking it would be fun to make some with Christmas motifs, but haven't done it.

I continue to find seasonal uses for this little glass cake dome. This time I've filled it with miniature (faux) gourds. Don't they look real, though?

A closer look at the gourds. The fall placemat was pieced by my friend Marilyn. Isn't it gorgeous?

My fall hutch. I never tire of trimming my hutch for the seasons.

Top 2 shelves. The cross stitch sampler is usually on the top one. 2 favorite fall mugs are there too. Next shelf down holds more ironstone, a couple of whimsical favorites, my childhood "Pumpkin Moonshine" book, more faux gourds, and a maple leaf pitcher.

A closeup of some items on this shelf.

Pumpkin Moonshine closeup.

Next shelf : Love the colors here! 2 favorite Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, some autumn advertising art, a few more gourds, Fiesta salt & pepper shakers, and what a young grandson once termed "breakable grapes". My mother gave me that dish -- suppose it's intended for jelly, but am not sure.

A closeup view of part of this shelf.

Here's the bottom shelf: fall cards, one crafted by a dear friend, a fall teapot, a family heirloom mug, a Fiesta teacup, pumpkin candleholder, and mini fall leaves which my friend made and included in her handmade card. I gave my young granddaughter carte blanche to scatter them about on this display.

Here's a closeup of the handcrafted card:

Isn't it beautiful?

Hope you have enjoyed this look at the fall decor around our home! Happy Fall, everyone!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Flavors of fall ~ Squash and Apple Bake!

No time for a long post today, though I'm getting one ready with pictures of this year's fall decorating. But I did want to share another squash recipe with you all. This is in the archives here on my blog from back in 2007. You can find it here:
Squash and Apple Bake.

I made this side dish this past Sunday to go with a chicken dinner. Oh, is it ever delicious! Even though I've been making this for years, every fall we are delighted with the flavor all over again. Buttercup squash is my favorite, but use whatever winter squash you and your family prefer. Enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall flavors ~ Roasted Squash Medley

Recently I've been paging through some of my older Taste of Home magazines to get some recipe ideas to make use of our garden produce. We have more winter squash and zucchini than anything else.

One of the recipes I ran across using winter squash was this delicious one:
Roasted Squash Medley.

We had tasted this recipe a couple of years ago at the home of friends in Nevada. It had such fabulous flavor that I definitely wanted that recipe. At the time, I didn't know that I had the recipe already at home in a Taste of Home magazine!

I made this delicious veggie side dish again for guests this past winter, and was reminded of it again this past week as I bumped into it in an old magazine. So, I promptly made it again. Squash, potatoes, onions, sweet peppers, garlic, olive oil -- absolutely scrumptious!

The recipe states that it serves 6, but this is 2 large pans of veggies. I made half the recipe for 4 of us, and that was plenty. So don't feel you have to make the entire recipe; it can easily be halved and works out just fine. Enjoy this wonderful taste of autumn!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Zucchini Garden Chowder

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still trying to use up all of our zucchini. We didn't have a huge harvest, but we have plenty. I'm going to shred some of it up and freeze it for baking later. And, I plan to make some little loaves of zucchini bread for Christmas gifts.

A few weeks ago, I tried this recipe for zucchini chowder. We really, really liked it, so much so that I made it again yesterday and shared some of it with my dad. I usually make supper for him on Thursday nights, and he often will say, "Supper was good." This time, however, he said, "That soup was delicious!" I had simply called it "a creamy vegetable soup" when I dropped it off -- maybe the name made a difference, I don't know. But I have to agree ... it is delicious.

Here's the link to the recipe:
Zucchini Garden Chowder

The only thing I changed was to use less butter -- a couple of tablespoons less -- and less cheese -- probably 3/4 cup less. Oh, and I used canned (drained) whole kernel corn rather than frozen. I have also made this using cooked corn kernels cut from the cob. I think one could use any number of different vegetables in this and it would still be good. Definitely a "keeper" recipe!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pumpkin Biscuits

The other day I had the idea to make some pumpkin biscuits to accompany some leftover beef stew for supper. A quick glance through a few of my older fall magazines turned up a sweet potato biscuit recipe, which I promptly adapted.


3/4 cup canned pumpkin
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 3/4 to 2 cups flour
1 Tblsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In a bowl combine the pumpkin, milk, and butter. Sift in all of the dry ingredients. Stir just until all dry ingredients are moistened. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times until no longer sticky. Roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 425º for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 or 9 biscuits

Just a few notes: Original recipe called for about 1 3/4 cups of flour. This was not enough, in my opinion. The dough was more than sticky, it was overly soft and moist. I had to knead in quite a bit more flour to make it possible to roll out the dough. I was afraid the biscuits would be tough from all that handling, but they were great.

These biscuits are only faintly sweet. If you want them sweeter, add more sugar.

Also, the pumpkin pie spice (original recipe contained no spices) provides just a whisper of flavor. If you want them spicier, just add more pumpkin pie spice.

I think these would be even better spread with apple butter or apple jelly! I didn't have either on hand, so tried ginger marmalade -- very nice also.

Can you tell I love fall flavors?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homemade bagels ~ flavored for fall!

Ever made your own bagels? I never had until Monday!

For a while now, I've been wanting to try a recipe I'd seen for cranberry nut bagels. The dough is made in the bread machine, which makes it very easy indeed. I always thought bagels would be rather time-consuming to make since they involve both boiling and baking. Here's the link for the recipe:
Cranberry Nut Bagels.
I was pleasantly surprised with how quick and easy the whole process was using the bread machine to make the dough. Also, since one is only making 8 bagels, the process can only take so long!

And these bagels are absolutely delicious! I will be making this recipe again and again.

Later, sorting through some recipes I'd saved, I found one for pumpkin spice bagels. I tweaked it in a major way and these came out very tasty, also. Here's my retooled recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Bagels

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup raisins
3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Select dough setting and start machine.

When cycle is completed, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough into 10 parts. Form each part into a ball. Gently press thumb through center of ball to form a 1-inch hole and slowly stretch ball of dough into bagel shape. Place on a lightly floured surface and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 5 minutes.

While bagels rest, bring three quarts of water and one tablespoon of sugar to a rapid boil in a large saucepan. Using a slotted spoon, drop 2 bagels into rapidly boiling water. Boil for 1 minute; turn and cook for 1 minute more. Remove bagels from water with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels. Repeat boiling process with remaining bagels, two at a time. Place bagels on a lightly greased baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake at 375ºF for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: 10 bagels.

The raisins were my own addition; the original recipe didn't call for them. I think dried cranberries or maybe even chopped dates would be nice too, or some pumpkin seeds. These would be just delicious spread with cream cheese, but I have none on hand so haven't tried that yet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our August adventure

Life has been so busy that I haven't even had time to blog about our 24-hour getaway in early August! This was a most refreshing time. We felt as if we had been gone for a week.

It was a relatively short distance from our home to the motel we had chosen. One great feature of this motel is its individual cabins with their own screened porches.

The greatest thing, for us, was that the river runs right behind the motel. There are chairs and picnic tables along the riverbank, making for a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the babble of the river. After settling in at the motel, we spent some time down by the river, just letting this peaceful spot relax us.

Later that afternoon, we took a drive in the country to find the place we planned to eat breakfast the next day -- Polly's Pancake Parlor. We wanted to locate the place and also get an idea of how long it would take to get there from the motel.

While we were out, we also visited Sugar Hill Sampler -- a fascinating place that is part museum and part shop. The shop is in an old barn and is beautifully landscaped with brilliant flowers.

One fun feature of this place is a "tasting table" where one can sample different goodies that are offered for sale. We particularly enjoyed some refreshing citrus-spice iced tea. I wouldn't have thought this tea would be that great iced (it's like Friendship Tea) but it was absolutely delicious! We purchased some Rocky Road fudge to take back to the motel with us.

We had brought along a picnic supper, and decided to eat at one of the picnic tables at the Flume visitor center. We wanted to stop there anyway and get some info about the recreational path that winds through Franconia Notch. I had read that this wide, paved path was for both walking and bicycling and we were anxious to walk part or all of it; but we just didn't know where it started from. (As it turns out, the path starts right there at the Flume visitor center. The info we got was not particularly helpful. The young lady advised us that this recreational path was "really for bicycles only" and that walkers were really a hazard to the cyclists. This turned out to be false information. She did give us an idea for another walking trail in a different area, which we went and tried after supper.)

After supper and a walk, we went back to the motel and enjoyed what remained of the daylight down by the river and/or on our little screened porch. Then we watched a Red Sox game on TV before retiring.

Morning found us up early and headed off to Polly's Pancake Parlor. We wanted to get there by seven, since that's when they open, so as to avoid the crowds and having to wait for a table. It was a cool morning, almost fall-like, in the mountains. We actually wore fleece jackets as we headed out. Polly's is a lovely rustic place with a gorgeous mountain view, surrounded by bright flowers.

Walking into the dining room is a visual treat. At each place are beautiful wooden plates painted with bright, beautiful maple leaves. (They replace these with real plates when they bring your food.) You can also see, in this photo, the red maple leaf placemats beneath each plate, and the tray of maple products to accompany your pancakes or waffles.

The pancakes were just wonderful. We each chose Polly's Sampler Combo, which gave us 6 pancakes (3-inch ones), sausage, bacon or ham, and coffee. The pancake sampler means we could choose two pancakes each of any three styles -- we could choose 3 batters (from a selection of five) and 3 add-ins (from a selection of four, plus pecans which was a special of the day).

We each chose plain blueberry, whole wheat pecan, and cornmeal coconut. That last combination sounds odd, but it is absolutely delicious. They all were.

What a wonderful breakfast! We felt perfectly satisfied but not overstuffed at all. We knew, though, that we could wait awhile for lunch. And we did.

Back at the motel, we spent time down by the river with our Bibles and prayer notebooks and some of the free coffee available at the office.

After a refreshing quiet time, we packed up and checked out of the motel, then drove north to the trailhead for Artist Bluff.

This trail was quite a bit different than we expected it to be, and the turn for the bluff was not well marked at all, but we finally did get there. The view of Echo Lake is particularly nice.

After returning to our car, we drove to Echo Lake State Park, where we ate lunch at a picnic table on the lake shore.
This state park also rents boats, so we watched people boating as we ate our lunch.

After lunch, we took our belongings back to the car and went for a nice long walk on the recreational path. The photo below shows one of the tunnels where the path goes under the highway.

Contrary to what we had been told, this path is clearly for anyone, walker or biker. More people were walking than biking. We did see quite a few people -- mostly children -- on bikes, but there were walkers of all ages, including parents pushing babies in strollers and people walking their dogs. It's a lovely path and we truly enjoyed our walk before heading back home to our busy lives.

What a refreshing getaway this was! We are ready for another one, any time.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fall flower lights

Here is a fun little project my 9-year-old granddaughter and I did on Saturday afternoon. Some time ago I had seen directions for spring flower lights, made using the bottom part of recycled water bottles. The project intrigued me, even though it looked fairly time-consuming, and so I've been saving water and iced tea bottles all summer.

Well, time went on and it was long past spring by the time I had enough bottles. Summer was nearly over, too. So I thought it might be fun to make them fall flower lights, painting them in fall colors like those of mums or marigolds. We did a very, very simplified version of the idea I had seen.

We cut the bottom off of the plastic water and iced tea bottles. Actually, I had done this part as I went along, to save space in storing the bottles. You can see that they vaguely resemble flowers. I scalloped the edge of each one to make them look more flowerlike. We had Sarah's dad drill a hole in the center of each flower before we painted them.

We just used regular acrylic paints to paint them in fall colors.

Some of the painted flowers.

When the flowers were dry, we slid them onto a string of lights already in place on the garland above the picture window. I took this photo with a flash.

Mr. T took this better one without using a flash.

And those are our super-simple fall flower lights!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Avocado-Tomato Salad

Here's a recipe I tried last night with some bargain avocados and garden tomatoes. I started with a recipe I'd seen in a magazine, but changed it around a lot to suit our tastes. It's delicious, but I definitely advise making only as much as your family will eat at one meal. Leftovers are not good.

1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 Tblsp. olive oil
1 Tblsp. water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce
2 medium to large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 large ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
6 cups or more torn salad greens (I used garden leaf lettuce, but romaine would be even better, I think)

In a salad bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, water, salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce until well blended. Gently stir in the tomatoes and avocados. When ready to serve, add the salad greens and toss to coat with the avocado mixture. Serve at once.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, September 10, 2010

A few minutes in the kitchen

Sometimes life seems so busy! I'm finding, though, that even a few minutes in the kitchen can pay big dividends. I tend to think I need to have a whole morning or afternoon in order to accomplish much in the kitchen. But that's really not so. I took about 15 minutes or so in the kitchen this morning, and made a large batch of homemade instant oatmeal, plus loaded the bread machine with the ingredients for a loaf of chocolate bread.
(Note: the above is just a generic picture; it is not the chocolate bread I made.)
So now, we have oatmeal for several weeks to come, plus a wonderful-smelling kitchen from the baking bread, and a real treat for snacks. Just now I spent about 10 minutes picking lettuce in the garden

and then another 5 minutes in the kitchen getting the lettuce into cold water. We'll have a fresh crisp salad with supper tonight due to those few minutes!

If you would like to try making your own instant oatmeal to keep on hand for quick breakfasts, the recipe can be found here: Homemade Instant Oatmeal.

Someone may be interested in the chocolate bread recipe, so here it is:

1 cup plus 1 Tblsp. water
1 1/2 Tblsp. butter
1 egg
2 Tblsp. dry milk
1 1/2 Tblsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1 3/4 tsp. yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan. Use the Sweet setting -- and I prefer using the Light crust setting.

During one of our visits out West, I copied this recipe from my daughter's bread machine cookbook. She has an older (bought at a yard sale, I believe) machine, but it turns out some great bread, and the recipes are wonderful.

This time, I added perhaps a half cup of raisins to the mix, and I think toasted chopped walnuts would be wonderful, too. It seems to me that a small amount of vanilla -- say, a half teaspoon -- would give this an even nicer flavor.

What can you accomplish during a few minutes in the kitchen?