And I'm wondering where fall went? It skipped right by us this year.
The kids are so excited. It's so fun listening to them do the countdown to Halloween. We don't even go Trick-or-Treating and they still get so excited for the holiday. (Even though we don't go out, they still dress up and get way too much candy.)
Last year was the first year we didn't go. With peanut allergy, even cross contamination (from candy wrappers) can be a scary business. I always leave it open though--that maybe once they're bigger, they can go and Carter will just have to trade in his bag for 'safe' treats when he gets home. But, for now, we're taking it one year at a time.
This year, we decided to have a little Halloween party with my sister Sara's kids. Nothing special, just a little get together with their cousins to make it a little more fun for them.
Any locals are welcome to stop out on Halloween! We'll be here again this year passing out treats. I'm planning on putting together little treat bags for the kids. I did that last year and it was fun. (In our area, many people don't go Trick-or-Treating but rather they head to a big 'party' at the school where there are games and treats for all the kids.)
I love molasses (or Ginger) cookies! They're one of my favorites, now that we no longer have peanut butter in the house. (I used to love anything with peanut butter.) I combined a couple of recipes for this one, recently. These are SO good. I got the idea to use the cardamom from Ree (aka The Pioneer Woman). I'm a cardamom addict and thought it had the perfect touch. This is another fairly large recipe. Go ahead and half it if you wish. These are already on my baking list for Christmas!
(I use nearly all organic ingredients in my recipes.)
Molasses Cookies with Cardamom
1-1/2 c. butter, softened 2 c. sugar (I use organic cane sugar) 2 eggs 1/2 c. molasses 4-1/2 c. flour 1/2 tsp. salt (I use sea salt) 2 tsp. baking soda 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon 2 tsp. ginger 1/2 tsp. cardamom 1 tsp. cloves Turbinado sugar, for rolling dough (Alternately, you can use regular sugar. Turbinado is a larger sugar crystal so it gives the cookies a nice crackly crispy crunch.)) White Chocolate, for drizzling
In mixer, cream butter and sugar (about 2-3 minutes). Add eggs and molasses; beat well (about 2 minutes). Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl using a whisk. Add to wet ingredients; mix until incorporated.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar (Turbinado sugar). Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. (Take them out about a minute after they begin to crack--make sure they have cracks on the top but do not over bake them!)
Allow cookies to cool a minute or so on pan and transfer to rack. (With my Pampered Chef stones, I actually let them cool for the entire time it takes to bake the next batch, so they're firm and not falling apart when I try to transfer them to the racks. They don't over bake, at least for me anyway.) Allow to cool completely before drizzling with white chocolate*.
These are so soft and chewy and delicious!
*One box of Baker's White Chocolate was the right amount for the entire batch but I think I'll go with two boxes next time so I can criss-cross the chocolate.
These are one of our favorite cookies in our house. I adapted this recipe from The 'H' Family cookbook p. 328. It's Sara H.'s recipe and the only thing I've done, really, is doubled it, added a bag of Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits and added more chocolate chips.
This is a very large recipe--if you wish to make a smaller batch, just cut it in half.
I love doubling cookie recipes so I can stick a bunch in the freezer for later and it doesn't really take all that much more time to do so. And, if you have a large family, then doubling is the way to go, so this recipe would be perfect for that.
You can either shape them into balls and freeze the dough on cookie sheets; once they're frozen, just toss them in a freezer container and all you have to do is bake them. Otherwise, I will also bake the whole batch and then freeze a bunch of the cookies. They come out just as fresh and soft as the day they were baked. I kind of like the latter only because it's faster, the cookies are all ready to go.
(I use nearly all organic ingredients in my recipes.)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut & Toffee Bits
2 c. butter 2 c. sugar (I use organic cane sugar) 2 c. brown sugar 4 eggs 2 tsp. vanilla 4 c. flour 2 tsp. baking soda 1-1/2 tsp. salt (I use sea salt) 2 c. coconut (I use natural/unsweetened) 4 c. rolled oats* 2 (11.5 oz) pkgs. milk chocolate chips (I use Guittard--these are our favorite now that we have to use peanut safe chocolate--they're REALLY good.) 1 (8 oz) pkg. Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee Bits (I use the ones without chocolate--but either/or!)
In a large mixer, cream butter and sugars; mix well--about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well--about 1-2 minutes. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients; mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips and Toffee Bits. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Remove from pan**, cool on racks.
*I have also used a combination of 2 c. quick oats and 2. c. old fashioned oats as well as 3 c. all-purpose flour and 1 c. white whole wheat flour--still fabulous. I like changing things up once in a while.
**I use the Pampered Chef baking stones and I started cheating. I cover them in parchment paper to make clean-up easier. I know this completely takes away from the stone's effect but I like the less-mess factor more. And I allow the cookies to nearly cool completely before transferring them to the cookie racks--which is for about the entire 12 minutes that I bake each batch.
These are good. Nice and soft and chewy and oh so good. Our favorite cookie.
Have I mentioned I'm not a huge 'cookie fan', in general? I prefer a chewy, gooey bar recipe over a cookie any day but lately I've come across two cookie recipes that fit the 'chewy' factor and are high on flavor. I'll post the other one soon!
It may have a little something to do with the snow we've already had. We barely had a fall this year. As much as I love fall, I'm okay with it--loving winter and all, too. But it is a little strange not being able to enjoy the brilliant colors of fall a little longer. Everything is brown.
There is still green on a few trees but their leaves are turning brown instead of into vibrant autumn colors. I love trees and I appreciate them even when all their leaves are gone as they are in the winter. They're pretty year round.
Thinking of Christmas has got me thinking about baking. I'm already envisioning stocking our freezer with homemade cookies and treats. And, I have two really good cookie recipes that I'll be sharing with you soon. (Once I get them typed up.)
I'm also thinking of starting to add Christmas items to Etsy. I haven't added to Etsy in some time and when you add items, they're listed for four months so I can see why everyone is beginning to add Christmas items already. (And, I'm the first one to say how ridiculous it is that stores have Christmas items out already! Now, if that ain't the pot calling the kettle black.)
I need to take inventory of our kid's presents. I have a couple of items that are brand new that I picked up before I began the thrifty Challenge of the Utmost Kind, and I've really been enjoying hunting for the perfect (gently used/second hand) gifts at the thrift store and on Ebay. And, trying to sneak them in the cart without the kids noticing--that part gets to be a little fun when they're all with me.
I've seen quite a few deals starting to pop up on toys here and there, as well as coupons, and it's amazing how easy it is to just pass them by when you're in this frame of mind. I've been wanting to do a thrifted/handmade Christmas for the past couple of years but I just haven't planned ahead enough and so far this year, I feel a little more on top of it. I'm loving this!
I'm trying to come up with some handmade ideas for my kids so I can start on those soon as well, in order to have plenty of time to get them finished. I'd love any ideas or suggestions to get the ol' wheels turning! (That is, if anyone is still reading out there--me being such a delinquent blogger and all...)
It's been snowing off and on for the past week. Not very much, but enough to cover the ground. I love it.
When I'm nice and cozy in my wood-heated home.
The kids and I ran errands yesterday and boy am I glad we did. It was only raining yesterday. Look at it out there now...!
I didn't always love winter. I used to really dislike it. But since we moved into our home here in the woods, with a wood stove, I've loved it. I think it also has something to do with being in our own home (our first one--we rented for the first 6 1/2 years of our marriage. On a side-note, now that I'm all into Dave Ramsey, I wish we'd waited longer and that we'd had money down, or even saved to put 100% down or gotten completely out of debt...or...or... If you're a 'young person' reading this, I highly recommend reading Dave's books. And, if you're 'not so young' or just 'young at heart', I recommend reading them, too, if you haven't).
I think the wood stove has the most to do with loving winter, though. There is nothing better and more cozy than wood heat. I've always been cold in the winter, no matter where we've lived, but here, it's always warm. And, two years later, I still appreciate that.
Fall may be my favorite season, but it is Minnesota after all, so a little snow in October isn't so unusual.
I don't know if you've noticed, but the oak tree is gone. (Above photo was taken this summer before it got cut down--below photo.) It would be in the right of the other photos and in still others I've posted this summer, but it died. We'd hoped to keep it alive in the middle of our driveway. (We'll have a big loop around that area someday.) But we ended up driving too close, over the roots, where we have to drive right now and it died. So, we're watching the oak tree grow no more. A little ironic as I'd intended to take all of our first-day-of-school photos there. Now that we're homeschooling (and I didn't take a 'first day of school' photo this year), the irony sort of hits me.
Speaking of pictures, I love photography and taking photos but I'm not super-big on taking milestone photos. It's just not natural for me. I've never passed out 'wallets' for Nikayda during the school year--although, we did order them for kindergarten. I didn't bother last year. And, my kids haven't ever gotten a 'yearly' formal photo taken on their birthdays or anything. I think I did Nikayda's 6 month and 1 year but that was about it. It's just not me. But I take countless every day pictures.
How did it get to be Thursday already? Since school started, my weeks have been *flying* by. Even the kids have been saying how fast the days have been going. I can still hardly believe summer is over and that fall has arrived. And, as much as I love winter, I'd like to see just a bit more of the beautiful fall before we're covered in snow for a good six months.
I've been MIA! I know. I think I've momentarily forgotten about my blog.
I finally got to see my maternal grandpa & grandma. We hadn't seen them in about a year and a half, since my brother and his wife's wedding--and even then it was only for about two minutes because it was such a busy day. It was such a treat to have them venture out to our neck of the woods, just over a week ago, where we were able to sit and visit for a bit. Twice, even.
They stopped at our house one afternoon and then another night the kids and I ran to a friend's house to get a picture while they were there. (We'd planned to take pictures of the kids with their great grandparents when we all went to my sister, Sara's, but she ended up with sick kids. Speaking of which, they've had a flu virus running through their house for over a week now--I think they're finally starting to feel better over there. Fingers crossed!)
I thought we were getting that same virus, this weekend, but whatever we had seemed to pass by a little quicker! (Knock on wood--I'm hoping it's gone.) We had our annual Fall Services at church and so did my hometown area, so I was able to 'listen' in by phone all weekend anyway. (My hometown area has a number you can call to listen to services each Sunday and on Services weekends which is really nice for those who live far away and for those who are unable to attend for whatever reason.)
Carter caught a really bad cold a day or so before my grandpa and grandma came and he got put back on his nebs for the first time this 'cold season'. He's been on them a week and is doing great now, though! (Thank goodness for them. It's amazing what a difference they make. I only wish there was something more 'natural' that he could be taking but as of yet I haven't learned of or heard of anything...)
I made my grandma's Country Style Hot Dog Relish (I just call it Green Tomato Relish) with a bunch of our green tomatoes. I don't like relish. Never really have. But. I *love* my grandma's relish. It's the best I've ever had.
I've never canned anything in my life and I've never made it before so I'm hoping it turned out just like hers! I can't wait to try it. I have 9 jars of it--Mark said it's about a life-time supply of relish for us! It's in the 'T' family cookbook, p. 338, for those who have it. (There is a misprint--it only calls for 1 T celery seed. It's written twice.) For those who don't...
Country Style Hot Dog Relish
4 c. onions (about 3 med./lg. onions) 12 green peppers (equals 13 c.) 4 c. cabbage (about 1/4 of a head of cabbage) 10 green tomatoes (equals 10 c.) 1/2 c. salt (I used sea salt--it's all I ever use except for Kosher, occasionally) 2 T mustard seed 1 T celery seed 1-1/2 T turmeric 6 c. sugar (I used organic cane sugar) 2 c. cold water 4 c. vinegar
Grind onions, green peppers, cabbage and green tomatoes together using coarse blade of chopper (on a food processor.--I just used my food chopper but it was a lot of work!! I also used the blender to chop the green peppers but had to be really careful not to turn them to soup). Drain. (I used my large strainer for this.) Sprinkle with salt, mix well and let stand overnight. Rinse, drain and transfer to a large dutch oven. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over vegetable mixture. Heat to a full boil. Boil 5-10 minutes. Pour into sanitized jars and seal.
Makes about 9 quarts or 13 pints.
Aunt Sarah's notes: This is the best 'secret' ingredient to use in potato salads, pasta salads, egg salads, etc.