Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Recipes


I love pumpkins! I love spicy pumpkin pies, cookies, cakes, muffins, anything pumpkin! Pumpkin Spice coffee is especially delicious this time of year. I have pumpkin spice candles everywhere and I burn them for a little while every day. I have found some new recipes this fall and I am going to share them with you.

It’s easy to cook fresh pumpkin. Cut a large circle out at the top and remove all the seeds and stringy stuff. You can sort out the seeds, wash them, spread over a baking sheet, season with salt or other spices, bake at 325 degrees for about 7 minutes, and then flip over and bake for another 7 minutes or until lightly browned for a tasty snack. Cut the whole pumpkin into several large pieces and place in a roasting pan, skin side up. Fill pan with 1 inch of water, cover and bake for 30 minutes or until pumpkin feels soft when pierced with a fork. Place pumpkin pieces on plate to cool. Remove cooled skin with a knife. Cut remaining pumpkin into small pieces and mash with a fork or potato masher or puree in a blender.


Weight Watchers Pumpkin Pudding

1 can (15 oz) Libby pumpkin (not the pie mix)
2 boxes sugar-free, fat-free Jell-o instant vanilla pudding
3 cups skim milk
nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice to taste


Whip, mix, or user a blender to combine all ingredients. Either put entire batch in one bowl and chill or set up individual bowls and chill before serving.


Pumpkin Lush
Ingredients:

2 graham cracker pie crusts
1 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
9 ounces Cool Whip whipped topping
2 packages instant vanilla pudding
15 ounces pumpkin
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Makes two pies or 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix together pudding with milk until thick. Stir in pumpkin. Spread over graham crust. Beat powdered sugar and cream cheese together until fluffy. Fold in 1 cup Cool Whip. Spread overpumpkin mixture Top with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with choppednuts. Refrigerate.

Three Ingredient Pumpkin Cake
Ingredients:

1 (18.25 ounce) package spice cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs


DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or bundt pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the spice cake mix and canned pumpkin until well blended. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and serve, or store in the refrigerator. This tastes even better the next day.
Cream cheese frosting optional.
Note: This recipe originally was the spice cake mix and pumpkin only but I found it to be a little dry and the batter hard to spread. Adding two to three eggs or even the rest of the ingredients in the cake mix makes a better cake. You can also use a yellow cake mix and a tsp of pumpkin pie spice if you prefer.


Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients:

2 cups buttermilk pancake mix
1 1/3 cups cold water
2/3 cups canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie mix
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger

Whisk all ingredients together but don’t over mix – batter should be lumpy. Cook on griddle. Serve with holiday syrup. Makes 8 pancakes.


Holiday Syrup
(Rachael Ray)

Ingredients:

2 cups maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 large piece orange rind
3 whole cloves

Pour syrup into small sauce pan. Add cinnamon stick. Stud the orange rind with clove. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice and serve warm. Makes 2 cups.


I even found a recipe for Pumpkin Margaritas although I haven’t tried it yet! Sounds delicious!

Pumpkin Margarita by Bols

2 oz. Tequila
1 ½ oz. Bols Pumpkin Smash
½ oz. Bols Triple Sec
2 cups ice

Blend all together until smooth, pour into a 16 ounce (pint) glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich Review



I just finished reading number 15 of the Stephanie Plum series, Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich. I have read all 15 books and have enjoyed them all. Janet Evanovich makes me laugh out loud when I am reading her books. I love her sense of humor.


This time around, Stephanie’s friend Lula witnesses the murder of celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle who is decapitated with a meat cleaver. She escapes but is pursued by the murderers through the rest of the story. Chipotle’s sponsor is offering a huge reward for the capture of his killers and Lula recruits Stephanie to help her catch the murderers. Meanwhile, Stephanie has her hands full. She has to bring in some very weird bond skippers during the day while helping her sexy friend Ranger solve a mystery at his security company in the evenings. She has just broken up with her hunky boyfriend Joe Morelli and has sworn off men forever. Ranger is very tempting. Lula enters the BBQ Cook-Off with the help of Grandma Mazur and a cross dresser named Larry who has an awesome recipe for BBQ. Cars are blown up, shots are fired, bombs explode as the finale approaches.

I like Stephanie. She lives in the present and doesn’t think too much about tomorrow. She has good intentions but always gets involved in perilous situations. She is very easy going and friendly. She likes to eat horrifyingly unwholesome food like donuts and pizza. Her dysfunctional family is familiar and adorable!


Finger Licking Fifteen has a great story line and fascinating characters. There’s a little romance and a lot of action. If you have read her previous books, you might get a little bored with the same old car blow ups and her on/off again romances. Or, it could be like visiting some old friends that you haven’t seen for awhile and missed terribly. I can’t wait for # sixteen!!! Plus, Tri Star is working on a script for the movie of book number one - One For the Money!
Check out this cool website: http://www.fingerlickinfifteen.com/ for an interactive view of the "Burg". You can get an inside look at Stephanie's life and excerpts from the books.

Friday, October 23, 2009

World Series Thoughts


The World Series begins October 28th. Isn’t that late in the year? There might be some really cold games as we head into November. Especially if the Angels lose.


I hate to see baseball end for the year. Our Chicago Cubs didn’t even make it into the playoffs so I’ll be putting our gear away for the year. “Next year will be our year!” I hope! Miracles happen! We have a new hitting coach and we will be under new ownership! Maybe our luck will change.


It’s hard for me to get interested in baseball right now. It’s too cold!!! If I have to pick a team to root for it, will be the Phillies. They won last year! Can you believe they’re up two years in a row? They have won the World Series twice already: last year against Tampa Bay and in 1980 against Kansas City. I am rooting for them because Jason Werth is from our hometown. Two of our children went to school with his sisters so we know his family a little. This will be very exciting for them!


The Phillies are interesting. They have a mascot called the Phillie Phanatic. He is known as baseball’s best mascot. He is a fat, green furry fellow who resembles a bird with a big round beak and a tongue that sticks out – he looks like a Sesame Street muppet. There is a character in The Simpsons show called the Capitol City Goofball who looks a lot like him. He was in the closing credits of Rocky Balboa. He is a well loved character.


I will miss the first few games because I will be nice and warm on vacation in Jamaica. I’ll be rooting for the Phillies when I get back!


I have a wide variety of baseball and football bracelets in my eBay store: http://stores.shop.ebay.com/The-Crafty-Cupboard_Bracelets_W0QQ_fsubZ511447015QQ_sidZ228930235QQ_trksidZp4634Q2ec0Q2em322.

Go Phillies!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sugar Cravings

I don’t know why I crave sugar. It is an addiction that I constantly fight. Whenever I am upset or depressed I grab some chocolate. The more I eat the more I want.

I seriously try to eat well but this summer I got into trouble with chocolate. My husband hated his job and my youngest son was getting ready to go off to college. Every time my husband said he hated his job or there was a problem with my son, I would grab some chocolate. First it was chocolate chip cookies and brownies that I always have on hand for desserts and snacks for the two of them. I stopped buying and making them when I realized I was losing control. Then I became hooked on semisweet chocolate chips which are really not that good to eat alone. I would grab a handful or put some on a graham cracker with a marshmallow and melt them in the microwave. Well, it turns out that I can’t have any chocolate in the house because I will lose control and eat it all if I am under any stress.

I weaned myself off by drinking fat free chocolate milk and hot chocolate and eating low fat granola bars with mini chocolate chips. Now when I get sugar cravings I eat a couple of large marshmallows and I have dessert once in awhile. But the damage is done. I had my yearly blood tests at the end of August and my triglycerides were sky high! My doctor said I had to lose weight and exercise more and take 2 fish oil capsules a day and lay off the sugar. Yuck!

My doctor suggested the South Beach Diet but I couldn’t do it. I don’t like fish very much and I can’t limit fruits and milk. I tried the Mediterranean Diet because I liked all the foods on it but I didn’t lose a pound. Finally, at the beginning of the month I got desperate to lose weight because I really wasn’t feeling very good either. I developed a diet where I drink Chocolate Royale Slim Fast twice a day with two snacks and a regular dinner every other day. The other two days of the week, I have a small bagel or cereal for breakfast, tuna and crackers, small garden salad and an apple, milk and a chocolate granola bar for a snack, and a regular dinner. The weekends I eat whatever I want. The Slim Fast really satisfies me and causes me to eat less all week. I think that I get used to eating less. If I am really, really hungry, I munch on carrots or air popped pop corn. I have lost 5 pounds this month. I wish it was more. I hope I can go back on it when I get back from vacation.

Anyway, I have to fast tonight for my triglyceride recheck in the morning. I hate doing that. I need my coffee with cram and sweetener in the morning to wake up!

If you like frozen fish, Gorton’s has a free $1.00 coupon if you buy 3 products and then you can mail in proof of purchase and get a free calendar with more coupons( http://www.gortons.com/coupons_promotions.htm ). They also have a free electronic Sudoku Game if you buy 3 products. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pet Costumes


I made my cat a witch costume for Halloween. I bought a black bandana, a piece of black felt, and a spool of black ribbon. I folded the bandana into a triangle and tied it around her neck. I cut a circle using a margarine tub for a template from the felt. I made a cone from the rest of the felt and sewed it closed. Then I sewed the cone to the middle of the circle and added 2 ten inch pieces of ribbon so I can tie it under her chin. She likes it except she wants to eat the ribbon. It was very easy and cheap.

Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels all have a variety of bandanas. They have lots of colors and patterns and I even saw some Halloween ones. It would cute and festive just to tie a holiday bandana around the neck of your pet. You could make some pretty cool and creative costumes using bandanas as the base. I also made my cat a Snoopy Fall Scrunchie for her neck. She likes it because it is warm and it buffers her neck from her collar when she lies down. I will probably make some and sell them in my store in a few weeks.

I got the idea for the witch costume from a library book titled: Pet Crafts by Heidi Boyd. There are 28 projects you can make for your pets including a cowboy costume. If you want something more complicated, there is a book called Doggy Fashion by Alison Jenkins you can buy or check out from your local library. It has instructions for making 12 costumes. I have one copy left in my store: http://cgi.ebay.com/Doggy-Fashion-by-Alison-Jenkins-2003_W0QQitemZ350267253270QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Nonfiction_Book?hash=item518d8e2216.

If you can crochet, Crochet Central has cheerleader, devil, diva, bumble bee, and witch costume for dogs and candy corn and Santa sweaters for cats. They are so cute!

There are many cute pet costumes in the stores too.

Pets shouldn’t eat candy especially chocolate but here a few treats you can make for your pet:

Peanut Butter Dog Treats:
(They can be cut out into Halloween shapes like ghosts and pumpkin shapes.)
Ingredients
· 1/2 cups water (add more water later if required)
· 1/2 Cup oil
· 2 eggs
· 3 tablespoons peanut butter
· 2 teaspoons vanilla
· 2 cups flour
· 1/2 Cup cornmeal
· 1/2 Cup oats
Steps
· Blend wet ingredients together. Whisk dry ingredients together and mix into wet mixture to form a ball of dough. Roll out and shape.
· Put onto a non-stick cookie tray or lightly greased one. Cook 20 minutes at 400 F. Turn off oven and allow the biscuits to cool in oven until crisp and hard. Store in airtight container.
(Recipe is from Bullwrinkle.com)
And for cats:

Savory Cheese Treats

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup cornmeal
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine cheeses and yogurt. Add flour and cornmeal. If needed, add a small amount of water to create a nice dough. Knead dough into a ball and roll to 1/4 inch. Cut into one inch sized pieces and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes 2 dozen. These can also be cut out into Halloween shapes.
(Recipe is from PetPlace.com)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween is Coming!


Halloween is coming quicker than you think! Just 10 more days! The stores are full of costumes, decorations and candy!

I am spending my Halloween in Jamaica this year. I have heard that they do not celebrate the Halloween holiday but I am hoping our resort does something. I would hate to miss celebrating Halloween. I’ve been trying to think of some quick and easy costumes that I could make up at the last minute and what materials to pack. We don’t have a lot of room left in our suitcases. I will probably buy some ghoul makeup. We could paint our faces white and ring our eyes in black and go as any kind of ghost. Michael Jackson would be easy – black pants, white socks, white t shirt, a glove, and hat. I’m taking most of those things. A toga is always easy and you could use the hotel’s bed sheet. My husband could be a mummy. I could wrap him up in a roll of toilet paper. I could be a hula dancer and wear my swimsuit with a belt and draped in toilet paper strips. I’ve got a few ideas if I need them. I’ll have to let you know what happens in Jamaica on Halloween!

About.com has some great ideas for costumes you can make out of the things you already have. They are very creative costumes. The link for this site is: http://familycrafts.about.com/od/costumeideas/tp/fastcostume.htm. There are pictures too.

I put out my Halloween decorations on October 1st this year. I like to use things that will be appropriate for Thanksgiving also like pumpkins and scarecrows. It makes it easier to decorate for Thanksgiving. Things start to get really busy then. I have a wreath and some autumn decorations on my door and a large scarecrow in my flower box. I have a large pumpkin on my front step which has not been decorated yet.

There is still plenty of time to carve a pumpkin. I saw a really cute one in my neighborhood. It was a witch. The pumpkin was lying on its side and the stem was the witch’s nose. It had a nice long curvy stem. It had carved eyes and a scary mouth and it was wearing a black witch hat with some old shoe laces hanging down for hair. You would need to find a pumpkin with a flat side and a long curvy stem and then hollow it out from the bottom and cover that with some kind of hair. Be careful, the hat and hair might be flammable. It makes an awesome jack-o-lantern. If you don’t want to carve your pumpkin, you can decorate it in any old leftover costume parts you have – just treat it like a head! You can also stack up a few pumpkins and decorate them as a whole person or as totem poles. They could be scarecrows, witches, snowmen, ghosts --- anything you think can think up. Some people in my neighborhood have used a row of pumpkins to carve out a spooky sentence: Eat, Drink, and be Scary!

I found an awesome animated Halloween cake at instructibles.com. I had to research instructibles.com for a class I am taking and I found it to be an amazing web site. It was created by the MIT media lab and is a place where anyone can share their coolest projects. You have to see this cake – it is unbelievable. The link to it is http://www.instructables.com/id/Animated-Halloween-Cake/. You can watch a video of the final project and read how to do it yourself. It must have taken a long time to construct it but it is truly amazing. There is also a section of Halloween foods like eyeballs on a fork, kat litter cake, mummy dogs, and ghastly grins. You can find DIY decorations and costumes and fun too!

Martha Stewart has some great recipes for Halloween treats at http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/creepy-treats. She also has costumes and decorations.

Here is very impressive cocktail for Halloween:

Jack O' Tini
2 oz. Vodka - chilled
1/4 oz. Bols Pumpkin Smash Liqueur
1 candy corn

Place a single candy corn at the bottom of chilled cocktail glass. Combine vodka and liqueur a shaker with ice, shake well and strain into the glass.
I know we will have some good pumpkin dishes in Jamaica – they grow a lot of pumpkins there. Maybe I will be able to get a Pumpkin Margarita!!!

Happy Halloween!!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oktoberfest Party


We went to an Oktoberfest Party last night. It was a small outdoor party. It was given by our friend Doug. Doug’s grandfather came over to America from Germany in the early 1900’s. It was a great idea for a party!


Doug bought decorations, party supplies, and costumes from http://www.partycheap.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=octoberfest. You can buy $50.00 worth of stuff and get free shipping. PartyCheap has good quality party supplies at good prices and there is a huge selection. It is very convenient to get all your party supplies at the same place and time. They have party supplies for any occasion. I am planning a 50th birthday party for my husband next month and they have a lot of things I can use.


We had 3 small kegs of German beers to try but I could not tell you what they were. I had a fruity tasting beer that was really tasty. We also had hot apple cider and coffee with Kahlua. We had German brats, grilled chicken breasts marinated in a dark beer, olive oil, and herbs mixture, German potatoes and bacon, a noodles and cabbage dish, sauerkraut, and raw veggie platter. I brought German Chocolate cupcakes. Everything was delicious!


It was an abnormally cold night for October. We dressed warmly and there was a nice bonfire in the backyard. I love sitting around a fire with friends – it is so intimate and cozy. Doug played polka music all evening although no one felt like dancing. We were having too much fun talking and laughing.


Those Germans know how to throw a party! We had a blast!

Here is the recipe I used to make the cupcakes:


Creamy German Chocolate Cupcakes


Ingredients:
1pkg Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 tub Duncan Hines® Creamy Home-Style Cream Cheese Frosting


Baking instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.
Prepare cupcakes according to package directions. Spoon batter into lined muffin cups.
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and egg; mix until smooth. Stir in chips and coconut. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture onto batter of each cupcake.
Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes following package directions.
Spread cupcakes with frosting. Garnish with toasted coconut and mini-chocolate chips if desired.


This is a recipe from Duncan Hinds. I used vanilla frosting and I mixed coconut, mini chocolate chips, and pecans together in a small bowl and dipped each cupcake in the mixture after I frosted it. They are very moist and delicious!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twenties Girl By Sophie Kinsella Review


I just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. I wasn’t expecting it to be very good but I was pleasantly surprised. It was very engaging. I liked it and I read it in just a few days. Kinsella is the author of the Shopaholic series that I love!

The main character is a ditsy, funny, hysterical girl named Lara Lington whose life is in the toilet. Her headhunter business is struggling and she has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Her worried parents drag her off to the funeral of her great aunt Sadie. Lara has never even met Aunt Sadie who was 105 when she died and had been in a nursing home since the 1980s. As Lara zones out during the funeral ceremony, the young ghost of Aunt Sadie appears and demands that Lara find her missing dragonfly necklace. Lara seems to be the only one that can see and hear her. Aunt Sadie appears as a girl of the “roaring twenties” and demands that Lara stop the funeral so they can find the missing necklace. Lara insists that her aunt has been murdered so the funeral is stopped for the murder investigation.

Sadie is free spirited and adventurous and she pushes Lara around by yelling incessantly in her ear. Lara fumbles into one situation after another, trying to find the necklace, save her job, and get her boyfriend back. The relationship between Lara and Sadie is very stormy at first but they eventually become fast friends as their escapades cause each to find the meaning of life.

This book is very funny and touching and it includes a mystery to solve as well!

My favorite Halloween costume has always been a “flapper girl”. Straight hair with a narrow headband wrapped horizontally around the head. Short, straight waited dress preferably with fringe. Lots of bead necklaces. Lots of makeup emphasizing kohl rimmed eyes and bee stung lips.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Friendship Bread

These cool October days and evenings are putting me in the mood to bake. My husband and I are dieting so we don’t need to eat a lot of baked goods so I like to share with my friends and family and coworkers. Amish Friendship Bread is a perfect recipe for sharing. You make up a starter and for ten days you stir or add flour, sugar, or milk to it. After 10 days, you separate it into 4 portions and give 3 portions away with a delicious bread recipe. Here is the recipe:

Amish Friendship Bread

Starter:

Ingredients
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups white sugar, divided
3 cups milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.

Days 1-4: Stir.
Day5: Add 1 cup each: flour, sugar, milk.
Day 6: Stir.
Day 7-8 Do nothing.
Day 9: Stir.
Day 10: Add 1 cup each: flour, sugar, milk. Stir and separate into 4 cups and give 3 away.

Refrigerate or add remaining cup to:

Ingredients:
2/3 cup oil
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder

Grease and sugar (as if flouring) two bread pans. Pour batter evening into pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Add fruit or nuts if desired.

Or you can start the 10 day cycle over again.

This would be a good way to make some new friends. Give some to your neighbors too.