Wednesday, October 30, 2013

news from the book nook: spooky reads

Don't let the spooky trees scare you away - these books are kid-friendly storytime favorites! Gather the little ones after an evening of trick-or-treating and ease them off the sugar high with these slightly spooky, mostly silly reads! Or build an indoor fort one rainy Saturday and snuggle in with a few of these spooky favorites. Oh and if you're the bonfire-making sort, these are some great family-friendly alternatives to scary stories told around the fire.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

whole grain spiced apple butter bars

You can currently find me under a blanket, wearing three layers, nestled in the couch, with a steaming cup of tea by my side. I promise I'm not complaining. I love the coziness these chilly fall days bring...even if I can't currently feel my toes. On this blustery fall day, I'm craving anything warm and spiced to fight the chill. Warm apple cider. Orange hot tea. Anything soupy and slurpable. And these whole grain spiced apple butter bars!

The bars are adapted from the Weelicious Lunches cookbook by Catherine McCord who operates the fabulous blog, Weelicious. It's a lovely cookbook for anyone looking to jazz up their wee one's lunch or bring some variety to your own brown bag. The original recipe can be found here. I made it the week it was posted and it was good! The perfect 3:00 snack - buttery, fruity, and filling. I made it again a few weeks later, but this time I added some spice to give it a little something extra. The result was still buttery, fruity, filling, but spicey and fall-like.

Then I decided to take these bars a step further and exchange the jam for apple butter. Why? Because a love for apple butter is a genetic condition in our family. And although I'm perfectly satisfied to continue slathering it on toast, I'm always looking for new places to use it. It was even the feature ingredient in the first recipe I posted a year ago!

Anyway friends, these bars are little squares of fall bursting with flavor, spice, butter, and goodness. You could even say they are kind of healthy with all those whole grains minus the butter...and sugar...and the sugar in the apple butter... But really when you compare that to all those preservatives and additives in store-bought bars then clearly these bars win! In my world, homemade always wins. every. single. time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

fall happenings

Hello and happy Monday! No new recipe today, but I promise I've got a few new delicious eats coming your way this week. For now I'm sharing a glimpse of the gorgeous fall beauty we witnessed this weekend.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

arugula, caramelized onion, and pumpkin pesto pizza

I told myself I wouldn't get caught up in the pumpkin craze this fall...hmmmm...well...yeah. In my defense, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to use up leftovers and take advantage of a well-stocked freezer. This week I made these chicken, black bean, and sweet potato tacos to use up some leftover tortillas, fresh corn, and sweet potatoes. Tonight's dinner is this carrot soup with feta and quinoa; my feeble attempt to put a dent in the millions of carrots still in my parent's garden. 

But yes, back to this incredible pizza. I had some leftover pumpkin puree from last week's pumpkin apple streusel muffins. And the dough was sitting rather forlorn in the back of the fridge - clearly it was just asking to be topped with pumpkin pesto. Clearly. I blame thank How Sweet It Is's Harvest Pizza and Two Pea's Pumpkin Pizza for inspiring this pizza.

The pizza ingredients:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

dark chocolate harvest bark

When the Hubster and I first started dating, he didn't have much of a sweet tooth. I was always a bit disappointed that after I spent an hour or two baking, he'd still prefer my homemade cheese sauce. I don't blame him for loving cheesy deliciousness, but I'd take the chocolate fondue over the cheese any day.

I'm happy to say, I've slowly converted him to the dark side! I made a version of this harvest bark last week and you'd think I'd spent hours on a triple layer cake for how much he raved about it. I sheepishly admitted that it's probably one of the easiest desserts every to make...he only got more excited! Guess that means I'll be adding this bark to my list of easy, quick yummy desserts for days when we just need a little chocolate pick-me-up. Let's ignore the fact that I'd take a chocolate pick-me-up everyday...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

pumpkin apple streusel muffins

Last fall the hubster and I had this great idea to bake some sort of pumpkiny treat together. We found a recipe for pumpkin apple muffins in an Allrecipes cookbook I was given. The mixture of pumpkin, apples, and streusel sounded perfect for a chilly October Saturday afternoon. In a strange twist when we tasted what we thought was a brand new recipe, we discovered it tasted just like my mom's pumpkin apple muffins we've been devouring for years! Mom was pretty sure she'd found the recipe on the back of the Libby's can many years ago. I did some research, and sure enough here's the recipe on Libby's site.
The recipe as it stands is quite good, but mom's changed the recipe slightly over the years and in doing so creating something even more delicious. She doubles the streusel topping and it takes these muffins from really good to a party of fall flavors in your mouth! I'm not exaggerating. Anytime these muffins show up at a get together they are gonnnee. I could go on and on about the moist crumb, the nuggets of apple, the pumpkiny flavor, the spices, and the wonderfully buttery streusel topping...but you're probably drooling and since that's generally frowned upon in our society - let's get baking!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

news from the book nook: squirrel friends

Random observation of the day: did you know squirrels take dust baths? I thought dust baths were mostly reserved for elephants and chinchillas, but I just witnessed our little bushy-tailed neighbor enjoying a bath in the flowerbed. Naturally, I wondered if he remembered to dust behind his ears. Then I thought wouldn't that make a lovely story for a picture book...which brings me to this inspired blog post. You have the squirrel to thank for it.
Fall storytimes were always some of my favorites: farms, leaves, pumpkins, apples, and squirrels. Everybody loves a good squirrel story. Maybe it's because so many of us can relate to their squeaky, loud antics. Or perhaps it's because they often seem to purposely place themselves in the middle of traffic and then dart out of the way at the last second (remember that commercial where the car swerves and the squirrels fist bump afterwards). Maybe it's the twitchy, bushy tail or the way they sniff out last year's buried nuts. Whatever it is - there's some lovely squirrel picture books out there!

Personally, my favorite story is from my own childhood - we had a "pet" squirrel who lived in the grove of trees down the road. He'd take nuts from our hands, sit on our shoulders, and follow us to our houses every evening. Amazingly, he didn't have rabies, but he might have had some mites... He was our friendly squirrel friend named Paul. One day I'll write his story, but until then here's some of my favorite squirrel friend books:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

fall wreath inspiration

It's officially October (despite what the weather may be saying these days) and it's time to get festive! Earlier this month Shanty 2 Chic posted this beautiful fall wreath. I'd been debating on what kind of fall wreath to make for a while, but their gorgeous and simple wreath settled it for me. It was high time to create my own version of a fall-inspired wreath.

I started with a basic grapevine wreath from Michaels. Frugalish note: Please never ever ever buy anything at a craft store full price! There is almost always a 40% off coupon that can be paired up with non-sale items. I was originally planning on buying some naturally dried berries for the wreath, but the natural items are much more expensive and not in this frugalish girl's budget.

While browsing the aisles of fall wreaths, garlands, and picks I had a light bulb moment - memories of coming home from school with my mom sitting in the middle of giant pile of garland, random flower material, moss, and hot glue working on a flower arrangement filled my mind. She's made some beautiful wreaths and arrangements over the years and as a result has her own mini flower arranging department. I left with my wreath and decided it was time to raid her supply.