Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homemade Advent Wreath

People_s Home Journal 1921-12

Hello Ladies!  Two posts in one day- whoa!  I’ve been wanting to share the advent wreath that I put together this week and I also wanted to take part in Rednesday, as I’ve missed the last few.  I know Im a little late in the game here as its already 7pm on Wednesday, but better late than never, right?

advent wreath 

This is our first year really observing Advent and I wanted to have a nice wreath to light when we took time to celebrate the approaching birth of Christ.  Traditionally, there are four (sometimes five) candles in an advent wreath, and they are usually purple and pink, and they symbolize Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love (and if you have a fifth candle, Jesus).  I had recently read an alternate symbolism for the candles that I prefer more:

Week 1- The Prophets who told of Christ’s coming
Week 2- Mary and Elizabeth
Week 3- John the Baptist
Week 4- Jesus Christ

I like this symbolism better, and we will be reading scripture and focusing on being thankful for each person or group who was an important part of the story of Christ’s birth and ministry. 

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In the spirit of not buying more STUFF this year, I decided to make my own wreath, and I wanted to use things we already had in the house, or at most something I bought second hand.  Instead of the traditional evergreen wreath with taper candles, I decided to use pillar candles on a cake stand. This was super easy and I like the way it looks.  I already had some of the artificial winter berry garland and I shaped it to fit the outline of the cake stand.  Four candles I already had fit nicely into the wreath.  The candles do not match the traditional color palette of purple and pink, but to be honest I dont care much for those colours anyway, and I like the more natural palette of the browns, whites and reds together. 

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For a final touch, I had purchased a big of pinecones from the thrift store and I simple set them in amongst the candles to give it an even more natural feeling.  Im very pleased with how it turned out and we have enjoyed being able to light the first candle in the evenings this week.

Do you celebrate Advent?  What are your traditions?

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Curry Pumpkin Soup

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Hello Ladies! First of all, I want to say a big thank you to all of you who have joined me on Facebook.  I hope you’re letting me know if your blog has a Facebook page so I can head over and “like” it, too! 

dinner

 I was having a dinner party the other night for our Pastor and his wife and I wanted a tasty, seasonal soup I could share as a first course.  So often we make salads as first courses but forget how soups are a great alternative because they are often easy to make ahead and simply reward right before serving. 

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I had a number of roasted pumpkins needing to be used up so I decided to make a pumpkin-based soup.  I found this recipe and decided to play around with it to come up with my own version, which follows:

Curry Pumpkin Soup

  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 Tblspoons curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masalla
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbls sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups cooked, cubed pumpkin (or about 4 cups of canned)
  • 4 cups chx broth,
  • 1/2 cup apple cider (or more chx broth)
  • 1 can coconut milk

1. In a large soup pot, melt your butter and sauté your onions on medium until glassy.

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2. Add your spice mixture, distributing evenly over your onions, and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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3. Add your cubed pumpkin, and stir very well, seeing to it that the spices cover the pumpkin thoroughly.  Continue to saute, stirring frequently and taking care that the pumpkin does not burn, about five minutes.  (Note: if you are using canned, already-pureed pumpkin, you might want to add the chicken broth right away to prevent scorching).

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4. Add all of your chicken broth. Bring to a full boil for just a moment, and then reduce to simmer.  Simmer until pumpkin is very soft, about 30 minutes.

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5.  Using a hand-held blender if you have one (they are great!), blend the soup mixture until completely smooth.  If you do not have a submersion blender, you can mix the soup in a regular blender, but take care to do it in batches and not to burn yourself.

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6.  Add coconut milk, whisking it in until smooth.  Bring just to a boil then reduce to very low, allow to simmer for five minutes.

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7.  Garnish with a few roasted pumpkin seeds if you have them, and serve with naan bread or even just a nice crusty French bread.

I had compliments all around on this soup, even from my beloved who is not a big fan of curried anything. :)  Hope you have a chance to try it out and hope you are taking advantage of the lovely fall pumpkins and other squash available and enjoying the tastes of the season.  More pumpkin recipes soon and hopefully a peek at some Christmas decorations, too!

Blessings, Ladies!

Excited to be linking up with Veggie Mamma for Meatless Mondays! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Hello ladies!  It’s been a whole week since I last posted.  I’ve had lots of things that I wanted to share but just no time to do it- same old story, right?  And I am dying to visit your blogs and see whats up with you, but it’ll have to wait for another day.  Im just stealing a few minutes to do this post between Christmas decorating and pie making for a dinner party we’re having this evening.
   American 1928-11

I’ve been working a lot with pumpkin lately, learning to roast the whole pumpkins and use the tasty orange flesh for various yummy culinary concoctions.  I plan to share some of them with you very soon, but as a way of a tease I’ll just share a quick note on how to use some of the bits you might be tempted to throw away when you roast a pumpkin.  You know me, I like to try to use up “the Whole Buffalo”, so we dont want to throw out those yummy seeds you get when you are cutting a pumpkin.  Instead, here’s how to make a lovely and versatile pantry staple out of them.

pumpkin insides

Before roasting your pumpkin, you’ll be cutting in half down the middle.  Using your hands (come on, ladies, be willing to get a little messy here, it’s fun!) pull the seeds out of the fleshy insides.  Place them all in a colander and rinse them well with cold water.

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dried pumpkin seeds

Next, dry them on a flat surface lined with paper towels.  I forgot to take a photo, but I just used a small baking sheet.  Allow them to dry over night (even a day or two later they are still great).  This drying process makes them roast better, as when they are wet they are more prone to steam which can make them more chewy than nice and crispy.
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Place your dried pumpkin seeds in a medium sized bowl, and coat them with a small amount of melted butter and a generous shake of kosher salt.  Im pretty general with the salt, but do to your taste and preference.  Place them on a parchment-paper (if you have it, if not, no worries) lined baking sheet in a single layer.

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Bake in an 300* oven for a about an hour or until golden brown (dont let them go too long or they’re just too hard to enjoy).

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Once they have cooled, enjoy!  And if you have any left over, once they have cooled completely you can store them in an airtight container on your pantry shelf.  i can’t tell you exactly how long they are good for, but I know at least a couple of weeks as that how long ours seem to last around here. :)

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Roasted pumpkin seeds make a lovely snack in their own right, and also are tasty as salad topers, mixed in with trail mix, or as a topping for muffins or breads.  Enjoy!

More posts with pumpkin-related recipes to come soon.
Happy Christmas- Decorating, ladies!

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Apple: Three purposes

GoodHousekeeping1929-10
Hello ladies!  Autumn is such a great time for foods you can do a million things with, like pumpkins, pears, and of course APPLES!  Seeing as Im all about “Using the Whole Buffalo”, I thought I’d do a post about how I try to make the most out of your apples.  First of all, you wan to…
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Take a lovely bin of local (from a farm down the street!) apples, just waiting to be turned into something fabulous…
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peeled, cored, sliced apples placed in the crock pot with some cinnamon and a splash of apple cider and you get…
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Some delicious, healthy, easily made chunky applesauce to enjoy right away…
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or can and shelf for a later day or for a Christmas gift!
butwait
But wait!  That’s not all you can do with this lovely bin of apples!  No, ma’am!  Waste not, want not is what we say around here and you’ve got two lovely bi-products from your peeled, cored apples, namely your apple cores and…
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your apple peels!  Don’t let them go to waste, but instead….
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get out your trusty dehydrator and put those lovely apple peels to dryin’ while the applesauce is a’makin’…
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and you end up with some deliciously sweet and crunchy apple peels…
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They make a delicious snack for adults and older kids (they are a bit crunchy for toddlers and babies).
And what can you use cores for you might ask?  Well, on the days that you arent making applesauce or mulling some apple cider and you still want the house to have that delicious fall aroma…
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simply put your apple cores in a pretty retro coffee pot (or in any old pot for pete’s sake!) with a few cinnamon sticks and a little water and simmer away!  Make your garbage into potpourri!
I hope this post has encouraged you to get out there and buy some fresh, local apples and make good use out of them in a way that will bless your whole family. Blessings, ladies!

So happy to be linking up with The Carnival of Home Preserving over at Laura Williams' Musings!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How to Spend Eight Dollars (or less) on Four Christmas Presents

AmericanGirl1931-12

Hi Ladies!  Christmas times ‘a-coming, Christmas times ‘a-coming, Christmas times ‘a-coming, and I know I dont want to go broke….  Ok maybe that is a slight change to the original lyrics, but I am sure its a sentiment we can all agree on.

To that end, here is a great way to spend Eight dollars or less and get 4 lovely Christmas gifts (and if you’re a real genius at math, that comes out to 2 dollars a gift!).  I present to you:

The Old Fashioned Housewife’s Honey Spiced Pears

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Lovely local pears plus some honey, cinnamon and cloves

 

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plus a little time in the Kitchen and you get

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Four jars of Honey Spiced Pears

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  add a decorative bow and a personalized name tag

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or add the jar to a larger gift basket of home-made goodies

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And Voila!! you have 4 gifts for under 8 dollars.

The cost breakdown:

Pears: $3.50 (2nds from the local farmers market)

Honey and spices: 50 cents (or less)

Jars: $3.00 (or less)

Ribbons, tags, etc: $1.00 (or less)

givefood

Each year I despise more and more how Christmas can be such a stressful time because of the money we feel like we have to spend to give gifts to the people we love (and sometimes, those we don’t but feel obligated to anyway!).  On top of this, I am moving more and more away from a consumer mentality and am trying to do more home-made, hand-made, local, and using the good old 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle.

christmascookies

As such, the vast bulk of my Christmas gifts this year are going to he be homemade.  As I am not much of a crafter is is going to be mean, by and large, food items.  I understand that some scoff at the idea of the ubiquitous tin of Christmas cookies or Aunt Nellies old hard-as-a-brick fruit cake, but I think that if you make a quality handmade item that is useful and personalized, your gift should be a hit.  Most of our loved ones know that they are likely you get gifts exclusively in this category this year. I hope to be able to share some of these with you here on the blog.

The Recipe

For those of you who do can and are curious, remember to always use safe canning procedures and the amounts of pears and the packing syrup are as follows:

Fruit: About 12-14 cups of quartered, cored, peeled pears

Syrup: About 8 cups of water, 3/4 cup honey, 1 tblspoon ground cinnamon and 10 cloves

Hope this post inspired you that you can both save money AND give personalized gifts this Christmas.  Do any of you make homemade or handmade gifts for the holidays?  Id love to hear your stories! 

Blessings and Happy Gift-making!

I am happy to be linking up with The Seasonal Family’s Homemade Holiday Gift Carnival, check it out!

ps- Don’t forget to hook up with me on Facebook and if your blog has a facebook page, be sure to let me know in the comments!