Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Review

So, no before pictures, but some after ones.

The table.

The sides table, with some hors d'oeurves.

Goofy kids.

Group shot - after which my camera battery died and we couldn't do other groupings. Craig's dad (in the back, on the left) joined us for a few hours and my parents (back row on the right) were here for the week.

It was a lovely day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coming Up Empty

After a flurry of posts here, I have to say that I am at a loss for words or time to do anymore right now. I've got a few drafts that just keep limping along despite all my rehab efforts. I have a few projects in the works but real life is pressing its reality on me from many directions and I struggle anyway with doing something because I want it to be done and doing something just to have a post about it. This next week will be consumed with preparing a huge feast to be consumed in a fraction of the time it took to prepare. I'll try to snap a shot for you.

Not only will I try to snap a shot, I'll try to post it.

May your week be blessed with family and food. I am thankful you take the time to read here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{Top Ten Tuesday} Thanksgiving

I have never cooked the Thanksgiving dinner; we either go to my mom's or my mother-in-law's. When we were first married and didn't have kids we went to Craig's aunt and uncle's. I did roast a turkey one year in like March and a bunch of Craig's cousins came over and that was fun, but it wasn't official Thanksgiving. This year, my parents are coming here and I am beyond excited to be planning and making my first Thanksgiving meal. Here are ten things on the menu:

1. Turkey, of course. I have a lovely large pan and rack I got all those years ago for the other turkey.

2. Mashed Potatoes: my fave.

3. Green Bean Casserole: the classic. Craig loves it.

4. Pennsylvania Dutch Potato and Bread Filling: maybe I'll share. It's from my Grandma Reidenouer.

5. Crescent Rolls: you know, the ones from the pop can. This comes from Craig's side of the family; my family never really had bread with the meals but now I love 'em.

6. Pumpkin Pie: It is not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.

7. Pecan Praline Pie: the Leland family classic

8. Pumpkin-Almond Cheesecake: because it looks good and why not? I use the springform pan once a year; this could make it two times.

9. Hot Curried Fruit Compote: another Reidenouer tradition

10. Another veggie, probably those carrots with caramelized onions

Probably some stove-top stuffing (Craig likes it from a box so that's easy) and of course a lovely and simple gravy from pan juices. Maybe a spinach-artichoke dip for an appetizer/pre-dinner snack.

What are you planning?

Linking to Top Ten Tuesday at ohamanda.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies

'Member when I tried the pumpkin snickerdoodles and didn't think they were pumpkin-y enough? I mentioned I had a pumpkin cookie recipe that was the pumpkin cookie standard for me.

Old Bedford Village Pumpkin Drop Cookies. I can remember being there, walking around, and having these for the first time. I don't know if the recipe was there to pick up or buy or if my mom had to ask for it. I don't make them often because Craig doesn't really like pumpkin things (appalling!) and also because he thinks it's not a cookie if it doesn't have chocolate in it.

These are perfect, cakey and pumpkiny and soft . . . if you like pumpkin. Sam and I have been enjoying them very much.

Old Bedford Village Pumpkin Drop Cookies, as handwritten on a recipe card by my mom:

1 cup margerine (I used unsalted butter)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin (1 lb)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg (I used 1/2)
pinch salt
1 tsp. lemon juice*
1 cup coconut*
1 cup broken nuts*
4 cups flour

(* I didn't have any of these so didn't add them)

Mix everything in order given. (I used my mixer, creaming the butter and sugar first, and then adding the other ingredients as I measured them.)

Be sure to mix flour last.

Use two teaspoons or a cookie scoop to place dough on cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Mine took 14 - 15 minutes, until they looked done and were slightly brown around the edges.

I scooped some out and chilled them in the fridge for about half an hour and then rolled them in the leftover sugar/spice mix from the pumpkin snickerdoodles. This didn't make any noticeable difference in the taste, but it did make me feel good for using the rest of that mixture.

My mom added at the bottom "Recipe can be doubled - double each ingredient." I think that's hilarious because it would take hours to bake that many cookies. But if you do need masses of pumpkin cookies, it's good to know.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apple Squares

This recipe comes from the Mousam Lake Cookbook, a cook book of contributions from people on the lake where my in-laws have a camp. I don't have one, I think they were printed before I met Craig. Despite their official name, in my mind I refer to this as "Sandra's Apple Cake" since my first experience with them were when Craig's aunt (Sandra) made these and added the chocolate chips.

I scribbled down the recipe on this lovely piece of Sal's stationery. I keep recipes I print from the internet or write down or pull from magazines in page protectors in binders. If I had more energy or initiative I might make the whole thing matchy-matchy and incorporate some system for adding new recipes other than waiting until the pile of new ones is so big I have to sit down and add 56 new pages. But this system works well enough; I found this in the "breakfast/bread" binder in the "bread" section so it's not that disorganized.

For some reason we did not go apple picking this year. It was never really convenient or we didn't have energy when it was, so I bought the apples at the grocery store. I got a Granny Smith to add in but in the final product you can't tell that I mixed it up like that.

Mix ingredients, spread in pan. Spread brown sugar and mini chocolate chips on top.

Craig thought my pumpkin pancake pictures needed some powdered sugar so I sprinkled some on for these.

Lovely, huh?

Here's the recipe:

Apple Squares (a.k.a Sandra's Apple Bread)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup salad oil (this ingredient makes me laff; salad oil? dates the recipe for sure. I used 1/2 cup canola because it's better than veg. and half a cup of applesauce [unsweeteened] because that's how I roll when a recipe says 1 cup of oil)

3 cups flour (I used 2 all-purpose and 1 whole wheat 'cause that's my new thing, dividing the flour measurement up between all-purp and WW)

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg (I did 1/2 because I have nutmeg issues)

3 cups chopped apple

3/4 brown sugar

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the sugar, eggs, and oil (or oil & applesauce) in a large bowl and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and the chopped apple. (I mixed the dry in a separate bowl and added to the wet with the apples.) Spread in greased/sprayed 9x13 baking dish.

Top with 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (add more if coverage is spotty), and the walnuts, if you have them (I did not).

Bake 35 - 40 minutes at 350 degrees until baked (not gooey).

I didn't really write down the directions word-for-word but these should get the job done for ya.


Sunday, November 6, 2011


I know. Try not to faint. The shelf is up. I'm going to have to figure out if I want another candy jar for the shells or if they'll both be canning jars.

Decisions, decisions.

As much as I like it I keep thinking, another thing to collect dust.

And obviously the shiny towel ring to the right, closer to the sink, is gonna have to be switched.

Alright - so what else is on that list? oh stink! This shelf isn't even on the list. But there's two books there I forgot about that I can read. The crib sheet quilt is pieced and layered; the pieces of the Christmas quilt are cut out; the bedroom furniture was painted and constructed; and I think I'm going to let go of the ruffly tree skirt but maybe not.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween Party

Last Saturday we hosted a Halloween Party here at our house. My neighbor and I planned it together. Most of the pictures are crummy and have lots of other people's kids in them so I'm not going to post them (I don't know how they'd feel about that).

The big story of the party was how nothing is as easy to make as it looks like it will be. For example:

Cheese Finger Food: Those lines aren't just sliced into the cheese, they're carved. And the space under the green pepper is carved. And cream cheese doesn't like to be applied or stick in small amounts.

Edible Eyeballs: Again with the cram cheese not wanting to stick. Apparently a real pain to assemble. (My neighbor made these first two.)

Apple Bites (attempted by another friend): The almonds wouldn't stick in or broke all over the place. I believe the word "shattered" may have been used.

I struggled with the 48 cupcakes I baked (one white mix, one chocolate). I wanted to make spider webs on them with icing, which worked OK, but would have been much better if I had gotten a teeny-tiny icing tip and more icing. I just used one (one! what was I thinking?) of those little tubes of icing gel to make the circles on top and a chopstick (those of you with toothpicks could use that) to swipe out lines from the center. That part worked on the 5 cupcakes I had black icing for.

I also had some cupcake stencils I got at Crate and Barrel a lot of years ago (so I have slightly different patterns from those on the link) and they didn't work at all except to be the straw the broke my camel's back and I let Kate loose with orange sprinkles and candy corn to decorate the rest.

On a successful note, I purchased and chopped my first jicama. Sam, Kate, and I all tried a piece. It tastes almost exactly like nothing. I used it for this Hallow-bean Salad which ultimately I didn't try at all due to eww, black beans and pepper?

We also did Jar-o-Lanterns. This was moderately successful (I'd say less stressful should you choose to invite and thus expect fewer than 20 children and not have to solicit and goo-gone* a dozen jars from various friends and then at the last minute empty a few in your own fridge just to be sure you have enough) but when we pulled the tape off, some of the paint came off around the edges. Maybe because I picked up "glossy" acrylic craft paint (I think that's what I got) because who knew they made that and that I should look further than the end cap display? The bottle said it was for wood, glass, and a host of other materials one might want to paint orange. Glossy orange.

We also divided kids into pairs and had the wrap each other up like mummieswith toilet paper. This was pretty funny, although the cheap-o single ply I bought kept ripping and they got frustrated with that, but the hilarity outweighed the irriation. Another activity we had was for the kids to make fingerprint animal scenes (ink the finger, put on paper, and draw on antennae or legs or eyes or whatever). They also decorated their goody bags (brown paper bags, $1 stickers) which were filled with glow bracelets, pencils, earasers, dorito/cheeto-type snacks, and some** candy. We finished up with a candy bar where they could help themselves to candy corn and M&Ms (note to self, have more plain M&Ms for next time).

My sister-in-law made some witch's brew which was oh so very good and sadly didn't last long in the non-cool fridge once the power went out . . . I should have drunk it all right after the party.

All in all it was really fun. I was extraordinarily stressed in the days leading up to the party, especially as the number of children coming grew and grew. We ended up with 17 children and some parents. It was super fun and we are already talking about what we'll do next year . . . . first off is to not invite children (I'm kidding . . . sort of . . .).

*I can tell you from first-hand experience that imitation goo-off products do not compare to goo-gone. It's the best by far.

**We were slightly neurotic/stingy with the sugar so the candy distribution was kept minimal. This did not stop the kids from being loud and wild; apparently all they need is each other for that.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Apothecary Jars

So this is what I ended up doing with my homemade apothecary jars:

I put some of those fake tealights behind them to flicker which looked cool (the two times I turned them on). I got the candles for $2.50 at the Christmas Tree Shop. I wanted black ones but couldn't find them in the 3 or 4 stores I remembered to look. I forgot to light them the night of our Halloween party but they did come in handy during the ensuing power outage.

That's my formerly-white-now-black thrift store plate and candlestick stand holding the pumpkin. Kate decorated that gourd at school. Its name is Little Curly Top.

Some of the jars have water with food coloring in them. For the "deadly nightshade" one, I modge podged in the inside and added black glitter.

I took these one morning when we had no power, which is why we have a fire.

On November 1, I took all this down, emptied the ones with liquid, and packed it away for next year. Now I have a whole year to collect more jars.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cupcake Conspiracy

Because of the widespread power outages in Southern New Hampshire, school was cancelled 3 days this week. After catching up on Wii and TV time, the sibling picking on each other began and we were ready to rip our hair out.

Fortunately, my neighbor had a better idea for yesterday afternoon. She suggested the library and a stop at new (to us) place in Merrimack, Cupcake Conspiracy.

The cupcakes were normal-sized, not huge. The icing was good but not outstanding. I'd say I was most impressed by my neighbor's choice, orange cranberry, because of its layers of flavor. My choice, pecan pie, was nice and the candied pecan on top was really yummy.

(front to back: pecan pie, chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, and orange cranberry, Sam)

I defnitely will go back to try other flavors and because I like icing and it's close.

We capped off our afternoon with a trip to Target to look for half-price costumes. Success came in the form of Bumblebee for Sam, Cleopatra for my neighbor's girl, and another set of cat ears for Kate.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

I have lived in New England for 14 years. Or 13. I can't really remember at this point. Two weeks ago, for the first time, I had a pumpkin pancake. With my love for all things fall and pumpkin, I can't believe I hadn't encountered them before.

Since we're recovering from the black-out (school in cancelled so my children are catching up on TV watching and I'm online) I thought I would make some pumpkin pancakes for lunch. I strongly recommend not being really, really hungry when this thought strikes. It makes it all so much harder.

I used this recipe here with one change: I did one cup of whole wheat flour and one of all-purpose.

Dry ingredients (notice the random nature of how I added them; I vacillated between trying to add them in an orderly way for a picture and forgetting about that and dumping them in.).

There's no picture of the wet ingredients or of them all mixed together. But there is a cooking shot:

And then I styled this for you:

OK, actually I ate a bunch first. Then I thought about styling these. I got out a piece of wedding china and trimmed the butter and all that.

This is what was really going on:

Food styling is not easy. But since I was the only one eating them, I had lots of extra.

They were good pancakes and has a nice texture, but weren't pumpkiny enough for me.

And now the question is, what to do with the rest of this can of pumpkin?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thankful {Top Ten Tuesday}

The things I am thankful for today are mundane and yet newly remarkable; we had no power for almost 2 full days (45 hours, if you must know) so all the modern conveniences that I take for granted are bringing joy to my heart today.

1. I'm thankful for our furnace and not having to worry about keeping the house warm with actual physical intervention (a.k.a. keeping a fire going in the fireplace).

2. I'm thankful for the washer and dryer and loads of laundry.

3. I'm thankful to give Kate a tubby and now worry that she'll be too fridgid when she gets out.

4. I'm thankful for a refrigerator and freezer keeping cold things cold.

5. On the same note, I'm thankful for the snowbank outside where we kept the milk for the last two days.

6. I'm thankful to be able to vacuum.

7. I'm thankful to be able to flip a switch and have a room flood with light.

8. I'm thankful that even while we had no power, we had running water and hot water, that we could light our gas cooktop to cook, and could charge ipods and the DS in the car with car chargers.

9. I'm thankful to be able to be on my laptop (only works when plugged in, the battery doesn't hold a charge at all).

10. Did I mention the heat? and the lights? oh, and the dishwasher? How they all work now?

Linking (for the first time in ages) to oh amanda's top ten Tuesday post.