There are two things I love about fall. The beautiful, radiant leaves. And Football. That's right. I said it. The "F" word. It might be a surprise to some of you. For those of you who did not know me BP (Before Perry), I will tell you that I grew up in a household void of all things football. My dad never watched a football game on TV. We never set out a tail-gate spread before attending a college match-up. And Super Bowl Sunday meant one thing. Shopping. (The malls are way less crowded!)
The very first Thanksgiving that said Husband ever spent with my family, my mom went all out. She had her finest linens and china on the table, multiple side dishes in the oven and a plated first course salad. Perry leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Where's the football game?" I had no idea what he was talking about. This was in stark contrast to HIS family's Thanksgiving where the turkey dinner was meticulously scheduled around half-time and enjoyed by the men on TV trays in the basement. That was his normal. This was mine.
Over time, our lives have blended and I now look forward to Friday Night High School games, Saturday College games and Sunday NFL games where we gather with (mostly his) family, sharing conversation and great food.
Recently, my sister-in-law brought this delightful (and healthful) take on hummus. (Just be sure you use cannellini beans and not chick peas!) The sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes and the savory garlic will keep you eating until the pita chips are gone!
Aunt Pam's White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of cayenne
1 3-4 ounce jar of sun-dried tomatoes, drained and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Place all ingredients except the chives in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Before serving, garnish with chives and serve with pita chips.
As I learned in my time spent in The South, the best way to meet new neighbors is to bring them food. Food gives you a reason to drop by unannounced. Food prevents that awkward moment of silence when the new neighbors are not sure whether or not to invite you in. I mean, you can't blame them. They don't know you and haven't had time to assess if you hold the potential to be their new best friend or if you will become to them the mysterious Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, dominating their imagination of the unknown.
These Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars were the brainchild of my oldest daughter, Anna. She made them for the new neighbors as a gesture of friendship and a reason to find out if they have any kids her age.
Here's a pictures those beauties.
A double stuffed Oreo encased in chocolate chip cookie dough.
Have you ever seen anything so divine?
On Friday the girls brought them over. Nobody was home.
On Sunday they tried again. Still no luck.
On Monday we decided to try one to see if they were still fresh. They tasted delicious with milk.
Tonight, Anna brought the beautifully packaged box to church.
She definitely made points with her friends.
The new neighbors never have to know!
Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
by Anna @ Simple Girl
2/3 cups Earth Balance, room temperature
(Butter tastes good, but creates a different texture)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whip Earth Balance and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Continue to beat until smooth and creamy.
Gradually add flour, soda and salt. Beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Line an 8 x 8 cake pan with parchment. Spray parchment and sides. Press 1/2 of the dough in the bottom of the pan. Top with 16 Oreos lined up in a 4 x 4 pattern. Top with remaining dough, pressing it until it is flat and covers the Oreos. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until dough becomes lightly golden. When cool, remove the entire square from the pan. Place on a cutting board and slice into 16 squares.
Now, don't get me wrong. I've had sleepovers for 15 girls and chaotic, thunderous celebrations at Chuck E. Cheese's. I have. Which is why I can tell you that a small, intimate soiree is a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of a whimsical girl.
Four girls. Three hours. It's a beautiful thing.
Because October in Minnesota can be a bit unpredictable, we brought our garden party indoors.
A look around the house was all we needed for a beautifully set table.
Candy-coated sunflower seeds are perfectly miniature in scale.
Caprese "Mushrooms" grow from a moss-covered pot.
Berries look beautiful in flower cups.
Ella made the "Acorns" with kisses, mini vanilla wafers and chocolate chips.
Beautiful little bites.
Petit Fours with fanciful mushrooms and ferns (Grandma's Bakery).
Exquisite flower cookies (Grandma's Bakery).
A well-crafted Miniature Fairy Garden.
And handmade tutus (Assembled by slip-knotting tulle over elastic.)
I'm so glad these girls - still want the be girls!!
When your 10-year old daughter tells you she wants to make her own birthday cake, here's what you do. You let her. Your little mini-me might just prove to you that the apple does not fall far from the tree! And, really, if you can't have death-by-chcolate on your birthday, when can you?
Start with your favorite chocolate cake recipe and pour the batter in two 8-inch rounds.
Lined with parchment, of course.
Use more parchment to line your cake pedestal in an attempt to keep it clean.
Spread frosting on the first layer.
Top with the second layer and finish the outside of the cake with more chocolate frosting.
Next comes to the fun part. Break apart 10 KitKat bars and line them up like a little fence around the cake. Make sure all the lettering goes in the same direction. If you suffer from OCD, that is.
OK, one more fun part. Pour in an entire large bag of M&M's.
This fills in the top and looks very cheery and colorful.
School has started and fall has arrived (did I mention that we might actually drop into the 30's tonight?) This combination means one thing. I'm officially pulling out the Slow Cooker. The after school activity shuttle leaves no time for doing any actual cooking during the dinner hour. This is why I love my slow cooker. My husband bought me an All-Clad stainless steel beauty a few years back. Ahhh… flutter my heart. He loves me. Yes, while some girls call diamonds their best friends, it appears that I can be won over by small kitchen appliances. He knows me.
I make this family favorite spaghetti recipe at least once a month during the school year. It's about time I shared it! It's perfect for hectic days and its ease of preparation will keep you from the Taco Bell Drive-Thru!
Simply start with 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You can use chicken breast if you want, but the thighs stay moist through the slow cooking process. Once you try them, you won't go back. Top the chicken with 2 - 24 ounce jars of your favorite pasta sauce.
Next, dump in a 15-ounce can of pumpkin. I know, it sounds strange, but it helps thicken the sauce when the chicken lets go of its juices and, as a bonus, your kids are now eating a whole lot of Vitamin A!
Add some brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and oregano. That's it. Put the top on and walk away.
When you return from Yoga, Target, the bus stop, piano lessons, football and tennis, shred the chicken in the sauce.
Boil some noodles and you are good to go.
This sauce is deliciously thick, well rounded and loaded with lean protein.
I've had moderate success with my two tomato plants this year and by moderate I mean that I have actually been able to gather enough tomatoes at one time to make something.
Look at these beauties. The wave of feelings is swelling within me. Pride. Resourcefulness. Thriftiness. Domestic Bliss. My grandma would have been proud.
While these sweet, cherry tomatoes are delicious straight off the vine, I decided to marry them with my other love: Butter Beans. Unlike their smaller cousin, the Northern Bean, Butter Beans are big and meaty and beg to be eaten with a fork. Your mouth won't even know that you just slipped it a vegetarian meal!
To begin the salad, heat 1/3 cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon minced garlic for one minute in the microwave. Let sit. Sure, you could heat it on the stove and let that sweet, garlicky aroma fill the room, but this method is quick and easy.
Next, cut 4 cups of cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a bowl.
Realizing that your initial bowl was too small, switch to a bigger bowl and add two cans of Butter Beans, drained and rinsed.
Drizzle the garlicky olive oil on top of the beans and tomatoes.
Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of Montreal Steak Seasoning (or coarsely ground black pepper, if that's all you've got.)
Add a generous 1/2 cup of of green onions, whites and greens, chopped.
Add a dash of rice wine vinegar and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.
This salad has sweet, savory, salty, meaty, chewy and crunch.
It's the total package. Enjoy!
Butter Bean & Tomato Salad
by Rachel @ Simple Girl
4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2-15 ounce cans Butter Beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup green onions, whites and greens, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon Red or Rice Wine vinegar.
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Heat olive oil and garlic in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute. Let stand. Combine tomatoes and butter beans in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil mixture. Season with salt and Montreal Steak Seasoning. Add green onions and vinegar. Toss. Just before serving, top with toasted pine nuts.