Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spiced Rum Pumpkin Bundt for a Birthday Celebration #BundtBakers

Sunday we celebrated our eldest daughter, Amy's, birthday. When Amy was helping us move last weekend she asked for "something  pumpkin" for her birthday dessert.  She said she had been craving pumpkin and didn't want to wait until Thanksgiving for pie.

As luck would have it, our theme for this month's Bundt Bakers was "Happy Fall Y'All".  This fun theme was chosen by Teri of The Freshman Cook. Providence further smiled on my life when Melissa of   Smells Like Brownies, posted this Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake in this months Secret Recipe Club.

I knew, immediately, that this was going to be my inspiration for Amy's Birthday Cake and it fit in perfectly with our #Bundt Bakers theme.  So "Happy Fall, Y'All".  This cake is moist and perfectly spiced.  It was a huge hit with our family and Amy was very pleased with her dessert.  This would be perfect for any of the Holiday dinners or potlucks you may be attending.  Enjoy.

Spiced Rum Pumpkin Bundt
adapted from Smells Like Brownies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 c. pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1/3 c. spiced rum
3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice

3 T. unsalted butter, melted
3 T. spiced rum
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
lge. pinch of salt

Treat a bundt pan liberally with baking spray.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. When mixture is pale and stiff, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree and rum.  In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix in the flour mixture alternated with the pumpkin mixture on low speed until combined, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  

Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake in a preheated 350* oven for 60-75 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake removes cleanly.  Remove from oven and cool, in the pan, on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning the cake onto the wire rack to cool completely.

When cake is cooled, melt the butter in a 2 c. measuring cup by placing it in the microwave on high for 15-20 seconds.  Remove when melted and allow to cool.  Add the powdered sugar, salt and rum to the butter and stir until smooth.  Pour from measuring cup onto the cake.  Print Recipe

More Happy Fall Y'all Creations


#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on the BundtBakers home page.

Curry Kissed Carrot Soup #ImprovCooking Challenge #MealPrepMadness

Wooohoooo guys.....I am soooo happy to have a kitchen again and to have it filled with all of my appliances that it seems were packed away forever.  I hadn't realized how spoiled I had become with all of my kitchen gadgets.

I, of course, managed.  Women have been "managing" in the kitchen for years.  Then men started cooking and they weren't going to "manage" so they created stand mixers, blenders, food processors, spice grinders, etc, etc... for which I am very thankful.

To be honest, I don't know who created any of these things.  It may very well have been a woman but since they were created early on chances are that even if it were a woman, her man would have taken the credit LOL.  Heck, lately listening to the political statements being made, there are those who would like nothing better than for woman to be back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.

Now, I don't have anything against being in the kitchen. It is where I am happiest.  I love going barefoot and my children are my greatest blessing from God but woman have fought long and hard to be treated as equals and it breaks my heart when I hear and see prejudice of any kind to any segment of society.  Phew, did I get off track or what?!

Ok, I am stepping off of my soapbox now and am going to talk to you about a fun little group I am in called Improv Cooking Challenge.  Improv is, as the name suggests, a group of bloggers, who love to cook, being given two ingredients each month and improvising a great recipe using said ingredients.

Our ingredients this month were carrots and curry.  My husband, who professes to hate curry, enjoyed this soup.  I used a mild curry powder and he helped himself to two servings.

This week we are also celebrating #MealPrepMadness.  A week long celebration where we share our meal prep tricks with others.  As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have been living without my kitchen gadgets for 3 1/2 months.  I never realized how much I depended on them until they were gone.  They make life so much easier and are such wonderful time savers.  This entire soup took less than a half hour to make.  

I started out by chopping all my veggies in the food processor.  They were finely chopped so took only a minute to get tender when added to a med hot skillet with olive oil and curry powder.  When the veggies were softened and the curry was fragrant, I added the chicken stock.  Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook for about 5-10 minutes.  

I was then able to pour the entire amount into my vitamix and puree until smooth.  You may have to do this in batches if your blender is smaller or you can use a hand blender which is another handy dandy gadget.

Return the pureed mixture to the pan, place over medium heat and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

That's it!  Easy peasy and delicious.  Vegetarian, Vegan and Fast Metabolism Friendly.  It is the perfect first course or light lunch or dinner.  Don't forget to check out the other Carrot and Curry Creations following the recipe.

Curry Kissed Carrot Soup
adapted from Eating Well

3 T.  safflower oil
1 1/2 t. curry
8 carrots, peeled and chunked
2 lg. stalks celery, chunked
1 med. onion, chunked
1 (32 oz) box organic chicken stock
juice of 1/4 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Place the carrots, celery and onion in the large bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over med high heat.  Add the curry powder and veggies. Cook, stirring, until veggies are softened and curry is fragrant.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook for 5-10 minutes, until vegetables are very soft.  Transfer mixture to a blender (in batches if necessary) and puree until smooth.  Return the soup to the saucepan and gently rewarm over medium heat.  Stir in the lemon juice, taste and season with salt and pepper.  Print Recipe

Southwestern Spaghetti Squash Pie for Crazy Ingredient Challenge

The third Thursdays have become pretty crazy around here.  I have three monthly events that are all posted on this day, #BundtBakers, #ImprovCookingChallenge and, of course, #CIC, for which this post is written.

I love all three of these groups and am thankful for the scheduling options offered by blogger that allow me to prepare and serve the meals anytime that is convenient, write out the blog at my leisure and then share it with you on the designated day.

That is how it usually works but not this month.

This month was moving month.  We began moving on October 8th and went nonstop for an entire week.  I was finally back in the kitchen on October 12th and made our first meal in our new home. Now that the kitchen was up and running, I was able to plan a dinner party for our daughter's birthday this past Sunday.  That took care of Bundt Bakers but I still had Improv and CIC due.

Monday night our daughter, Nicole and her husband, Pierre came for dinner. Nicole hadn't had a chance to see the house yet. They had previous plans for Sunday so decided to come over after work the following day.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to get in my next two challenges.  Nic and Pierre are adventurous eaters and always up for trying new dishes.  They also like eating meatless so Meatless Monday is a perfect day for them to visit.

In Crazy Ingredient Challenge we vote between several items on two different lists each month. Whichever ingredients get the most votes is what we use to create a meal.  This month the winners were......Spaghetti Squash and Cornmeal.

I love Spaghetti Squash so I was very happy to participate.  I knew that I wanted to do a casserole of some sort using the cornmeal as a topping.  I stumbled upon this Santa Fe Spaghetti Squash Casserole at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.  Susan has a lot of great recipes on her blog.

Susan had you microwave the squash which would have made this dish ready much quicker than my method of oven roasting it.  You can cook yours however you like.  I used 1 1/2 spaghetti squashes because I had a half left from another meal that needed to be used but wasn't enough for this recipe.

Other than roasting the squash, the rest of the recipe is just combining the ingredients.  We are not completely fat free in this household so I used olive oil to cook my veggies.  I used red, orange and yellow peppers instead of green.  Substituted Ranchero Beans for the black beans and taco seasoning for the chili powder.

I also made the cornmeal mixture a little thicker than Susan had written in her recipe.  This meal was a huge hit.  Pierre ate two large servings and was happy to take the leftovers home with him.  "This is my kind of meal", he remarked.  I think when I next make this casserole, and there will be a next time, I will add some fresh jalapeno peppers in with the onion and sweet peppers.  I thought the dish needed a little extra kick.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your outlook) we got busy talking and visiting and when we sat down to eat, I forgot to take any photos of the finished pie.  I remembered when I was packing up the leftovers for them to take home, so I pulled out a plate and snapped a shot of a piece of the casserole.  It was dark outside and the photo suffered from no natural light but take my word for it, this is a casserole you can be proud to serve.  Thanks, Susan, for the great inspiration.

This is the perfect recipe to ease me back into the FMD eating plan on Monday.  The cornmeal crust would not be allowed but I think and almond meal crust would be delicous and make this dish Phase 3 Friendly.

Make sure you stop by to see all the other Spaghetti Squash and Cornmeal inspired dishes following the links after the recipe.  Have a great day!

Southwestern Spaghetti Squash Pie
adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

1 1/2 medium spaghetti squash, cooked and scraped into strands (learn how here)
2 t. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 each mini red, orange and yellow peppers, diced (or 1 lg red pepper)
1 (15 oz) can Ranchero Beans, rinsed and drained
1 (4 oz) can green chiles, drained
1 c. corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 c. packed baby spinach leaves
1 t. taco seasoning
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. corn meal
1/2 c. hot water
pinch of salt
1/2 t. agave nectar

Heat oil in large skillet over med high heat.  Add the onions, garlic and peppers.  Cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the spaghetti squash and allow to cook some of the moisture from the squash for another 5 minutes.  Add the beans, chiles, corn and taco seasoning.  Mix to combine.  Add the spinach and cook for a minute or two until wilted.  Stir in the lime juice, taste and season with salt and pepper.  Turn into a casserole or deep dish pie plate that has been treated with cooking spray.

Combine the corn meal, water, salt and agave in a small bowl. Pour over the squash casserole, spreading the batter to cover.  Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is cooked through and golden brown on the edges.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Repurposing Furniture and Two Audible Book Reviews

When I started packing for the move, I placed this chair and table in my garage sale.  I had no takers so it made the move with me.  This turned out to be very fortuitous since the sunroom was larger than I had recalled and I needed furniture to make a sitting area.

So I had a green recliner and this wingback chair, both bought shortly after we were married over 25 years ago.  The table came with me when I entered into the marriage.  It was part of my dowry LOL

The table had seen better days and had been scratched up and chewed on by numerous pups.  This was not a problem when it was tucked in my own little corner next to my own  little chair but it didn't look too nice in the middle of a room.

So I decided to paint it using chalk paints.  My sister had taught me how to do this a couple of years ago when we were getting the nursery ready for Little Miss.  You can read about it and learn the technique here.   

It is very simple.  I had Frank tighten all the loose screws to make the table more sturdy.  Then I started by applying my undercoat that I chose to make pink.  I put on two coats of the pink followed by one coat of a sage green.  Then I took a wet rag and distressed it...going down to the pink in some spots and all the way to the wood grain in other spots.  I let it dry overnight and then applied three coats of minwax to it.

I am happy with the outcome but wish I had used a darker green.  My sis said "so put on another coat of dark".  I may do that but not immediately I dressed it up for the Fall and I think it looks fine.

Moving doesn't allow much time for reading.  I normally read at night for an hour or so before going to sleep but I have been conking out the minute my head hits the pillow.  Thankfully, I can listen to audible books while unpacking or while painting tables.

The first book I listened to was recommended by Heather of Based on a True Story.  I knew I wanted to order up this book based on Heather's review and I am glad that I did. 

If At Birth You Don’t Succeed

This is the story of Zach Anner, written and narrated by Zach Anner.  I had never heard of Zach prior to this book because, as some of you may know, I live under a rock.  Zach has been a youtube sensation and has had a couple of reality television shows.  He is a comedian, a filmaker, and an author.  He also was born prematurely with cerebral palsy.  Zach writes about his life with transparency, honesty and humor.  I found myself laughing out loud and then wiping away tears.  It is, at once, uproariously funny and tenderly touching.  I felt like Zach was sitting at the counter as I unpacked and keeping me company.  I would recommend this book to everyone and think it would make the mandatory reading list for my class if I were a high school teacher.   There are so many lessons to be learned from Zach's story of tenacity, responsibility, empathy and perseverence.

Image result for friction by sandra brown

The next book that I listened to and finished while working on the table was Friction by Sandra Brown.  This is the first novel I have read by this author but it won't be the last.  It is the story of a Federal Marshall who lost his wife in an accident and not coping well, gave temporary custody of his daughter to his in laws.  He has now gotten himself together and is in court for his final day of a hearing to determine whether his daughter should be returned to him.  As he is testifying a gunman charges into the courtroom spraying bullets and killing the officer providing security.  The protagonist, Crawford, protects the judge and then flees after the gunman.  Hence starts the story of Friction....Who was the gunman?  Who was his intended target?  Why was there an assasination attempt?  Who deserves custody of the little girl, Georgia?  Can the judge be impartial having been saved by Crawford and finding that she and Crawford are very attracted to one another?....find the answer to these questions by reading or listening to this book that is hard to put away.

We aren't the only one's downsizing...

We recently moved from our 4000 square foot home to a 2000 square foot home.  We traded in our 12 acres for 5.  Frank retired earlier this year and we no longer wanted a home that required so much time and energy.  We also appreciated the fact that moving would save us money each month since our income level dropped after retirement.

We are settling into our new home very nicely.  We were iffy about whether this was going to be the right move until we got in here.  Now, each day, we remark on different aspects of our new home that we prefer over the previous.

We aren't the only one's who downsized.  Frank and my brother, Dick, put together the new home for our laying hens yesterday and we moved them last night.  They had spent the last week at their old house and we would stop by every other day to give them food and water.  Not to worry, they were not neglected.  The 4 children who now live in our previous house loved them each and every day. They have convinced their parents to order up some chicks in the Spring so that the coop isn't vacant for long.

When moving hens it is easiest at night because they go into a trancelike rest.  They are easily taken from their roosts and placed where you want them.  This is also how you introduce new hen's to your flock.  You move them during the night and when the other hens awaken they better accept that these newcomers belong.

I haven't been out yet to see how our ladies are adjusting to their new digs.  It is much smaller but it is placed inside of our out building to give them protection from the elements.  There is a dog door installed by prior owners in the outbuilding that will lead into an outside run for the hens.  Frank will be working on that today.  I am sure they will be happy but I bought them a sack of mealworms as a treat to help them adjust.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Kitchen

Today marks one week since we moved into our new home.  It is coming together slow but sure.  We have done a lot but there is a lot we still want to do.  We have ordered up new flooring throughout the house.  The installers need to start with the tile but when the tile arrived one of the cases was damaged so the new date for delivery is this Friday.  The wood flooring and carpeting are ready and waiting.  The wood flooring goes in after the tile and the carpeting will go in last.

The painter has no openings until the beginning of November but promises it will be completed by Thanksgiving.  The master closet is scheduled for a makeover on November 19th.  We also have a doorwall and window to remove and replace with solid walls.  An all season room was added to this house.  When they did so they left the doorwall that leads to the master suite and a window that looks into the great room.  That is next on our list of priorities and we hope to have it done before the painter is ready.  

The fireplace in the living room was flanked by windows on either side. One was blocked off by the previous owner but the window frame and a recessed area was left in the one that they removed to put a pantry into the all purpose room.  The other window, as stated, is still there.  We are ordering up bookcase/cupboards to flank either side of the fireplace.  Most of the window coverings have been ordered and we are awaiting delivery.  

The kitchen is pretty nice and I am mostly happy with it.  We will be replacing the wood floor with tile, adding a dishwasher and replacing the window treatments.  I am very happy to have a working kitchen again with all my small appliances back where they belong.

We had our first dinner party last night when we celebrated our daughter, Amy's, birthday.  I really like the flow of this kitchen much better than my other kitchen and am loving all the counter space I have.

Frank hung my kitchen sign that was made for me by my friend, Tamie.  She creates custom made signs and does a wonderful job.  This one features my Polish hen, Stella, and was handpainted.  You can find and order her signs at her Etsy Shop, Tamie Marie Design.  You are sure to find the perfect Christmas gift for that special someone.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pumpkin Spiced Pasta ala Norma and the Weekly Menu

Last Saturday I posted about #MerlotMe with our #WinePW group.  I was given 4 bottles of wine from 3 different wineries who are sponsoring #MerlotMe all month long.  You can read more about them and the other wineries that sponsored our group by reading my original post that includes links to the others.  Several of us received Merlots from different wineries.  These wineries are merely trying to bring awareness to this wonderful and often misunderstood varietal.  I received no monetary compensation nor was I expected to do anything other than enjoy the wine I was given.

I chose to make 3 different meals to pair with one wine from each winery.  I shared my recipe for Busy Day Pot Roast  paired very well with the Liberty School Merlot.  I paired the J Lohr Cuvee with a Deep Dish Italian Chicken Pizza. It was a match made in heaven.  

The third wine was a Merlot from Duckhorn Wineries that I chose to pair with a pasta dish.  We were in the middle of packing for a move and after a full day, a wonderful bottle of wine and a delicious dinner I didn't have any energy left to post the recipe.  

We are settling into the new home now, albeit slowly, so I have time to share this recipe that I created after receiving some goodies from our daughter, Nicole and her husband, Pierre.  Nic had found this adorable pasta in pumpkin shapes and a pumpkin spice olive oil that she had found on a trip up north. Pierre brought me a gorgeous eggplant and some lovely tomatoes from his garden.

I wasn't sure how the pumpkin spice was going to fair in this dish but it was to die for!!  Pasta ala Norma is the name for a pasta dish that originated in Sicily and contains eggplants and Ricotta cheese.  It  is reportedly named for the Opera, Norma.  I think the pumpkin spice olive oil really added depth and richness to this dish but if you can't find any just use regular olive oil and it will still be delicious.

Pumpkin Spiced Pasta ala Norma

Pumpkin Spice Olive Oil, as needed
1 small eggplant, cut into 2" dice
4 tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. Ricotta Cheese
1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 lb. Pasta, cooked per package directions

Toss the eggplant in some olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast in a preheated 400* oven for 20-30 minutes until tender and starting to brown in spots. Once the eggplant is in the oven, place the tomatoes in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven with the eggplant for 15-20 minutes.  Remove both the eggplant and tomatoes from the oven and set aside.  Reduce oven heat to 350*.

Heat 2 t. olive oil over med high heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is translucent.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes in the baking dish.  Add to the onions along with any collected juices. Stir in the eggplant and basil.  Add the pasta, toss to coat and turn into an 8x8" baking pan.  (I used the same pan used for the tomatoes.)  Place small dollops Ricotto in intervals over the pasta and lightly stir in, leaving some larger portions.  Sprinkle with the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Bake for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly with cheese melted and starting to brown.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Print Recipe

Getting Back on Track with the Weekly Menu

Now that things have calmed down I am getting back on track with our Weekly Menu.  Next week I hope to get back on track with the FMD eating plan.  One step at a time.  The only thing that saved me with all the carry out and restaurant food this past week was that I was killing it in the exercise department..

Today, we have a retirement luncheon to attend so I am having a crockpot meal.  Tomorrow,  we are flying to Mackinac Island on a charity flight that Frank had donated.  We will be eating out.  Sunday, we are having Amy's birthday dinner.

Monday night, I have a meeting at church.  Nic and Pierre are coming by after work so we will have a late dinner with them.  The rest of the week will be spent unpacking and unpacking and unpacking.  I can't believe how much junk stuff we have.

Braised Chicken
Stir Fry Veggies
Brown Rice

Soup Saturday
Carrot Soup

Sunday- Amy's Birthday Dinner
Minestrone Soup
Caesar Salad
Spiced Rum Pumpkin Cake

Meatless Monday
Southwestern Spaghetti Squash Pie

Asian Wild Rice and Chicken Casserole

Meat Loaf
Mashed Potatoes

Oven Baked BBQ Pork Chops
Steamed Rice
Brussels Sprouts

Fish Friday
Pasta with Smoked Salmon