Monday, September 30, 2013

Apple Praline Bread - Double Yum!

 Monday, know what the song says. (Bet you are singing it right now.)   I looked up the top 10 songs about Monday and not one of them has a positive title.  The closest one is Manic Monday.  The rest are pretty much downers.  On top of that, it is the last day of September.  Where did that month go?  Wow. Welcome October!

We are tired today.  We spent Sunday helping our best friends from our home town move into their new place right down the street from us.  (Yay!)  Thankfully, it did not pour down rain all day as predicted.  There were a couple of light showers off and on and that was it!  There was plenty of good help and things went fast and smooth.  Awesome.

In order to make their day easier, I fixed brunch for everyone.  We had Chinese Eggs, fruit salad, sausage gravy and biscuits, hash brown potatoes fried with onions, Amish cinnamon bread and this wonderful apple praline bread.  (You can find several of these recipes on my blog.)  I had never made this recipe before, but had pinned it to my Pinterest board for a future "must try." Apples are starting to come in now and I had some fresh from the Farmer's Market so I gave the recipe a try.  Yes, it is a keeper.

It is soooooooo good.  The only thing I would add to the recipe is some cinnamon - mainly because I like the taste of cinnamon and it goes quite nicely with apples, but it is not necessary.  Here is what you need to make this super yummy bread:

1 cup sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups peeled apples, finely chopped
1 cup nuts - walnuts or pecans, chopped
*Optional, 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

Praline Sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan.  Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to mix sour cream and brown sugar until well blended.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix.  Add flour and baking powder.  Add apples* and nuts.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour until brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  (My oven bakes right to temp and it took 1.5 hours for this bread to bake.  Just a little FYI so you don't panic if it's not done at 1 hour.)

After the bread cools, remove from pan and make the praline sauce by putting the butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until it bubbles for about 1 minute.  Remove from stove and add nuts.  Pour over cooled loaf of apple bread.  Try not to eat it all at once.

* Be sure and drain any liquid from the chopped apples before adding to the bread.
Yum, yum, yum, yum, YUM!  So good.  This recipe was from a site called  You really might want to give this recipe a try, especially while apples are so good and plentiful.  Dan loves apples but doesn't like cooked apples.  He did like this bread a lot.  (He called it cake.)   Whatever you want to call it, I call it delicious!  This is one more recipe that will go in the fall/winter rotation of breads that are delicious for breakfast, brunch, or anytime - especially with a good cup of coffee.  Come on October!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

I can't tell you enough about cinnamon.  Cinnamon is an awesome spice to use and it goes great with something like apples in the morning, or in a mixture of fruit, or in your oatmeal, or even in your cereal.  Emeril Lagasse  

- or in your apple praline bread!  It would kick it up a notch for sure.  donna

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Can Peroxide And Baking Soda Do? This!

Our best friends from our home town will be moving to Nashville this weekend.  Finally!  After many starts and set backs.  It's been an ordeal.  They had rented a condo 1.6 miles from us which we cleaned and scrubbed spic and span.  There was a major water leak before they moved in, things raveled apart and we had to find them another place to live stat!  That was the down side.  The up side is they now will live 1.6 blocks from us!  That's right!  We can walk back and forth to each other's abodes.  How awesome is that!  We are all super pumped!!

In the interim, there have been many things to deal with.  They are trying to get everything packed, Jeff is finishing up his job, which leaves Tonya to do many of the other things necessary for arranging a major move.  She has had to make several quick trips down here to take care of condo hell.  And then there was finding a new place.  Dan and I were the scouts.  When we found this place, that was another trip down to approve it.  Each one of those trips was one less day spent packing.  Makes you not want to get up in the morning sometimes.

However, the new place is a nice town house condominium which they are going to enjoy a lot!  Like most places, it needed some good old cleaning.  Dan and I volunteered to do said job for them because it was not going to get done before the move otherwise.

These condominiums were built in the 70's, but most of them have been updated maybe several times.  The biggest problem I encountered were orange rust stains in the bathtub and unknown stains on the cultured marble sinks.  Ugh.  I don't know about you, but rust stains gross me out.  Even if the fixture is clean, it doesn't look clean.  The previous occupants were evidently not bothered by said stains because they had done nothing to fix the issue.  Plain old bathtub cleaner was NOT doing the trick.  So, I went on Google and looked for solutions by typing in "stain removal bathtubs".  The tub is porcelain, so EHow said to use at least 3% peroxide and baking soda.  Okay, why not give it a try?  They are both super cheap so I was more than willing to see what happened.

Well, this is what happened!
It was a complete miracle as far as I am concerned.  Who knows how old those rust stains were?  There were stains on the other end of the tub also, like something metal had gotten wet and left rusty marks in the tub and all around the edges.   Quite a few of them which made the tub look terrible.  All I did was sprinkle them with some baking soda and pour a little hydrogen peroxide over the baking soda to make a paste.  I let it sit for about 15 minutes and started scrubbing with a micro fiber cleaning cloth.  I could NOT believe by eyes when that stain just absolutely disappeared.  Wow!  No more expensive chemicals for me!  I'll take $.97 cent hydrogen peroxide and $.99 cent baking soda any day of the week and there is nothing toxic in either of them, just don't drink the peroxide.

The sink in the downstairs half bath had some serious stains.  The sink is cultured marble and the EHow article said the peroxide/baking soda mixture was safe to use, but do not use bleach.  The sink looked like someone had washed paint brushes in it or something and just left it and it had stained the sink.  It looked really ugly.  One stain was an off white (upper left) and the other was black (middle front).
 I didn't want Tonya and Jeff to have to live with these ugly stains that made the sink look totally unclean.  The EHow article said to soak a soft cloth in at least 3% peroxide and let it lay on the stains as long as overnight.  I did it for about 20 minutes.  Then, I sprinkled on the baking soda and added enough peroxide to make a paste.  Using the micro fiber cleaning cloth, I started to scrub.  As the paste soaked into the cloth and sort of disappeared, I rinsed the cloth and put more baking soda and peroxide on the stains.  I did this 3 times.  And this is the final result.
Another miracle.  Bye bye stains!  It looks totally renewed!  The black and off white stains are gone.  The cultured marble does have natural color variations in it, but those ugly "whatever they were" stains are gone, gone, gone.  I was one happy camper and I know Tonya and Jeff will be too.

Now, I am super stoked to try this method on lots of hard to clean stains.  We could save ourselves so much money and toxic exposure to chemicals by using these inexpensive ingredients.  I love Google.  Thanks EHow for the handy dandy tips!  Give this a try the next time you need a cleaning miracle because it truly works.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

If you type in hydrogen peroxide in Google search, there are many web sites touting all the uses for hydrogen peroxide.  Check them out the next time you need a good stain remover!  donna

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

After The Autumnal Equinox It's Time To Decorate For Fall

 The Autumnal equinox occurred on Sunday, September 22 this year.  The Autumnal equinox occurs on either September 22, 23, or 24 of any given year.  The term equinox is derived from latin and means "equal night."  Therefore, the equinox is a 24 hour period of nearly equal day and night.  There is the Vernal equinox in the spring and the Autumnal equinox in the fall.  The Autumnal equinox is our gateway into the fall season.  Personally, fall is my favorite season and I am decorating a little at a time.  How about you?  Do you love all things fall?  Are you decorating your home for fall?

Above is the top of the cabinet in my kitchen/dining area.  Look how beautifully my new tobacco basket lends itself to the look of fall.  It is so warm and inviting it gives me the warm fuzzies.
I am going to miss our fireplace and decorating it for all the seasons and holidays, so this cabinet has  become my new decorating center.  The warmth of the oranges and browns with little hints of yellow makes me want to make a big cup of hot chocolate and sit and watch the candles glow.  To decorate the cabinet, I used a tea light candle holder that used to sit on the mantel at the little yellow cottage.  I filled it with pumpkin scented tea light and they smell delicious.   There is an antique box our daughter restored one summer while doing summer stock theater in Arrow Rock, Missouri filled with a small grapevine wreath, a star (of course) a small pumpkin and a few fall leaves.  I made the burlap candy corn banner for something fun - do you love candy corn as much as I do?  That's one of the best things about fall as far as I am concerned.  I just cut out some small burlap triangles and painted them with white, orange, and yellow acrylic paint and hot glued them to some twine.

The column candle is sitting in a glass vase surrounded by acorns our grandsons picked up while walking back and forth to the pool in the first part of September while it was still warm enough to swim.  We would take a gallon sized zip lock bag and they would pick up acorns, pine cones, and gum balls.  They came home with lots of treasures and it was lots of fun.  Grandma appreciates their treasure hunting!

 I had a piece of the grapevine ribbon I used to make the hanging lamp next to the cabinet, so I just sort of wound it around everything for some texture and interest.  Because it is wired, it is easy to "shape."
 There are some copper votive holders that I already had, and artificial fall leaves that I have had for eons and reused a bazillion times.  The little gourds and pumpkins came from the Farmer's market.
The decorations are simple and warm and are all things I had on hand including the candles.   The only things purchased were the pumpkins and gourds.  The Farmer's Market was selling the little gourds and pumpkins 3 for $1.00.  My kind of price.  How is that for some cheap decorating?

On the kitchen island, I used a metal pumpkin candle holder that I already had and placed it on a piece of burlap ribbon with a red stripe down the center.  The candle holders were a wedding gift 44 years ago and have been used over and over and over throughout our married life.  Using candles with fall colors and more pumpkins and gourds, I was done.  Easy peasy.

I have a new marble topped bistro table for the dining area that I am eager to show you and it will be decorated too, but first I need to find some chairs to go with it.  That table along with my two new bargain wicker chairs make the dining room comfortable and cozy.  Oh, and I am on the hunt for just the right rug.  I'll know it when I see it.  As soon as I get it all together, I will share it with you.

In the meantime, we are enjoying all things fall in the kitchen.  I think I will bake some apple bread.  That would be perfect for these early days of fall don't you think?  And then maybe some pumpkin bread, and then some..........who knows.  Cool weather makes me want to bake, to nest, to get ready for the coming cold weather.  Does fall makes you feel that way?

When decorating for fall, there are many natural elements you can find literally on the ground to use and they won't cost you anything.  There are many "weeds" that are perfect for table top arrangements.  Look around your home and see what you may already have on hand that is usable with these natural elements.  You may not have to spend much of anything to make your home warm and inviting.  Nothing like some candles burning on these earlier evenings, with the smell of something wonderful baking to make the house smell heavenly.  Perhaps some mulled cider or hot chocolate.  Yes, I am ready for this season.  Are you/

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

“I guess I'm just feeling Septemberish," sighed Chester. "It's getting towards autumn now. And it's so pretty up in Connecticut. All the trees change color. The days get very clear―with a little smoke on the horizon from burning leaves. Pumpkins begin to come out.” 
 George Selden, The Cricket in Times Square

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Olive Oil, White Vinegar, And Walnuts = Fabulous Wood Repair

 If you Pinterest, or follow all the things that are posted on Facebook like recipes and handy repair tips,  and  you wonder if they really work, I am here to testify that this concoction really, really, really works.  What concoction is that?  A combination of olive oil, white vinegar and the "meat" of walnuts.

I saw a before and after picture of a piece of furniture that this combo had been used on and it looked completely restored.  Well, the skeptic in me was all "yeah, right."  Our friends had rented a condominium that was in need of some good old TLC.  There were some scratches on the wood floors and the pantry door was just abominable.  You know, like no one had EVER wiped it off and it was totally black around the door handle with that gooey residue that happens when the finish starts to break down.  Ever have a piece of furniture that did that?  I have and the biggest dilemma is what will you do to fix it?

 First, Tonya scraped all the black, icky stuff off the door with a putty knife which took it almost down to the bare wood.  Uh oh.  The rest of the door was stained a dark brown color.  One of these things is not like the other.  Hmmmmm.  Now, what were we going to do?  Aha, here was my chance to try the magic concoction I had seen on Pinterest.  All I needed was some walnuts, olive oil, and white vinegar.  First, I rubbed the almost bare wood with the "meat" part of some English walnuts.  It is amazingly magical.  As the walnut began to disintegrate, it began to color the wood a darker color.  No way!  Yes, way!  It was so exciting.  I had made a jar of the magical concoction which is simply 3/4s of a  cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup white vinegar.  Put a lid on the jar and shake, shake, shake.  After I got the wood as dark as it would go, I used a soft cloth and rubbed it with the olive oil/vinegar mix.  Magic!  You could barely tell the difference between the original stain and the place that I had repaired.  Wow! This was more than exciting.

On to the wood floors.  I rubbed all the scratched places with walnuts and then rubbed them with the magic solution.  You could not see the scratches.  Amazing!  Then, I knew I had found the solution to a dilemma I had with a fabulous wood salad bowl that we had gotten for a wedding gift 44 years ago. Yes, it's an antique and more than well used.  It looked very sad.

Now this is not an ordinary salad bowl.  When we opened the gift,  Dan and I laughed hysterically because it was maybe the biggest salad bowl we had ever seen and we could not imagine ever using such a monstrosity.  It was really beautiful and had 4 small salad bowls and a fork and spoon that matched.  Needless to say, those are long gone, but I still use the giant salad bowl for many occasions. Shows you what we knew in those early days.  This bowl is 15.5 inches in diameter and 6 inches high.  I mean you can make enough salad in it to feed an army.  Well, guess what?  We have a small army since we have 4 children, in loves, and grandchildren, plus extended family and friends.  This is what this poor bowl looked like.  It has been well used.
All the beautiful finish was long gone from the center of the bowl.  The sides were more of the same.
After so many repeated washings, the poor beautiful bowl was quite the sad sack.  I did not want to use any chemicals to refinish it since we put food in it.  I knew I had finally found a solution that just might do the trick.  First, I put some walnuts in the bowl and rubbed away.
I only had chopped walnuts at the time.  It would probably be much easier with walnut halves.  I rubbed them into the damaged areas of the bowl until the color got much dark and more even with the original finish. Then, I broke out the magic solution.  Using a soft cloth, I applied it to the center of the bowl and the outside damaged areas.  This is how the sides look now.  Nice.
They are not perfect, but so much better.  At least they are no longer big white shining patches glaring at you like a big sore thumb.  You might even want to eat out of this bowl.   The interior of the bowl looks like this.  Just look at the improvement!
Again, not perfect, but if it had not been left unattended for so long, you might not even be able to see the damaged areas at all.  The best part?  No chemicals - only natural ingredients and it will be super easy to repair again when the finish begins to show wear again.  Now, I won't be embarrassed to break out the giant salad bowl when needed.

I don't have any dark furniture in my house, but if I did, I would be using this on everything.  It really is magic.  So next time you see this on Pinterest or Facebook and wonder if or how it could work, remember my little testimonial and know that it does!  Give it a try if you have dark wood furniture or floors that are in need of some TLC.  It really, really works.

Everyday Donna

Things To Remember:

If  you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Cool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck.  Jeff Foxworthy

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lebanese Potato Salad - Salatat Al Bataata

Hope your weekend was as fantastic as ours.  The weather was amazing!  It was raining Saturday morning, but the clouds dissipated and the sun came out in all it's glory.  The temperature was perfect.  I will take all of that weather we can get.

Sunday, our grandson had a make up fall little league game.  Everyone was invited here to dinner afterwards and it needed to be something kind of simple that could mostly be made ahead.  So, I went with a tailgating kind of theme.  You can tailgate for baseball right?  If it's not really de rigueur for baseball like it is for football, perhaps we will start a new trend.

All the grandsons think hot dogs are something magical as my daughter says.  They don't get them often and we don't either, so I thought we would grill some hot dogs, Irish bangers, and some good old Polska Kielbasa.  I mean, who doesn't love a good Polish sausage?  I made chili early in the day so everyone could have a big old chili dog, or a bowl of chili, whichever they preferred.  There were all the "fixins" for the hot dogs and sausages, and I made chocolate rice krispie treats for dessert.  Now, that is a meal fit for a kid if there ever was one.  The adults seem to enjoy it quite a bit too now that I think of it.

For the adults in the group (I do try to consider them too), if they didn't want chili, I made some lebanese potato salad with a recipe my daughter got from her mother in love who came to America from Lebanon when she was 18.  This is some good potato salad, let me tell you!  There is NO mayonnaise so it won't spoil.  Something  you might consider next time you need a pot luck dish!

This potato salad has a really bright lemony flavor that I love.  (Remember, I never met a potato I didn't like.)  The parsley adds a wonderful flavor.  Other countries use lots of parsley in their recipes, but we don't.  I think it's time to start another treat.  It's

This recipe is  easy to make (even better) and is super delicious!  Here is what you need:

 7/8 good sized potatoes, scrubbed (I'd say about 3 pounds)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 big lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
fresh parsley

Boil the potatoes until fork tender.  Remove from stove and pour off the hot water.  Cover with cold water and let sit until you can handle the potatoes without burning your hands.

Remove the skins by simply pulling them off.  (It's kind of fun)  Cut the potatoes into cubes and salt to taste.

Mix the dressing of olive oil, and lemon juice.  Pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss.

Remove the leaves from the parsley until you have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup.  Rough chop and sprinkle over the potato salad.  Toss.

That's it!  How easy is that?

I love potato salad of all varieties and this one has become one of my favorites!  If you feel it may need a little more dressing, just make sure you use the olive oil and lemon juice in the same quantity.

This is an excellent side dish when you want something different and it's GREAT for tailgaiting since you don't have to worry about spoilage.  The only thing I might add next time are some chopped scallions, green and white parts.  Some recipes also call for a little chopped mint.  I'm not a big mint fan, but you may love it.  Remember, mint is a strong flavor, so add about 1/4 cup of chopped mint if you want.

Give this recipe a try!  Dan loved it and he is VERY picky about potato salad. And, thanks Alma for sharing another of your fabulous native dishes!  

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Parsley - the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate.  Albert Stockli

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Life Gives You Burlap

 Everyone has some rough patches in their life - just like burlap.  Some days are satin, some days are burlap.  Know what I mean?  Burlap is a rough fabric, unpleasant to feel, it ravels apart, just like life.  When you work with it, little fibers fly everywhere, they get up your nose and in your eyes, irritating them both.  BUT, it is a very utilitarian fabric used for many purposes.  It is breathable, can get wet over and over and dry out to be used again.  Know what that feels like? Have you had days like that?   I sure have.

Burlap is used to make bags for carrying, for shipping goods like potatoes and coffee, to cover the roots of trees for planting, to cover cement so it doesn't dry out too fast, and to make sandbags to use when rivers threaten to overflow their banks and floods cities and towns.  Burlap is strong and resilient, just like we can be when needed.

Burlap is made mostly in India and Bangladesh from the covering of jute and hemp plants.  No one seems to know the origin of the word burlap.  Burlap is a term used in the United States and Canada for what is known as Hessian cloth to the rest of the world.  The term Hessian cloth comes from the fact that Hessian soldier's uniforms were made from what we call burlap.  Oh, those poor men.  I cannot imagine the misery of wearing this cloth.  I have used it in costuming and it is not pleasant for the costumer or the wearer of said costume.  My first memory of burlap is bulletin boards covered with it in school.

Burlap is inexpensive and that is why it is so useful for many, many things.  Today, burlap is the darling of the craft world.  You will see it made into so many things.  While working on this project yesterday my thought was ---- When life gives you burlap - CREATE!  We don't have to settle for the rough patches, for the irritations, for the unpleasantness.  If we put our hearts and minds to work, we can make truly beautiful things from the "burlap" in our lives.  Yes, we can and that is what I did yesterday.  I had some burlap to use and I made fall pumpkins.  As I worked on them, the more beautiful they became.  I did not fight the burlap, I let it show me where it wanted to go and what it wanted to become.  I cleared my mind and let the creation happen.  We can do that with out lives.  Accept things for what they are, don't fight it, go with the flow and the result can be something totally unexpected and beautiful.

So, here is how I made these pumpkins.  I had a yard of natural burlap and I wanted some fall pumpkins to use around the house.  Many years of sewing experience help and I was going to sew them when I realized that most people don't sew.  To make it easier, I hot glued them together so anyone could make a pumpkin if they so desired.  Here is how I did it.

First, I doubled the burlap and cut out a pumpkin shape the size I wanted.  Make it bigger than you want the finished pumpkin to be because the seams will make the finished product smaller than what you started with.
Next, I cut sections through both pieces that look like the sections of a pumpkin.  You can draw them if you like, I just cut.

Then, I separates the two pieces leaving them in the order they were cut.  Now you can make 2 pumpkins.  You will be working with an inside curve and an outside curve.  No, we are not talking baseball, but a sewing term.  Think of a smile and a frown.  The frown is the outside curve, the smile is the inside curve.  You are going to glue the sections together in this manner.  You may think they won't fit, but be patient and ease the two pieces together, gluing a little at a time and working the pieces together.

I started at what would be the top of the pumpkin and worked in about 4 inch sections.  Place a bead of hot glue about 1/2 inch down on the left piece, or inside curve.  Ease the outside curve to fit.  Let your glue sit just for a few seconds so it is not too hot.  Remember, burlap is porous and the glue will come through the fabric and burn your fingers.  Keep a bowl of cold water handy to dip your fingers in should you burn yourself.

When you finish, the pumpkin will look like this.
Then, you need to stretch it and pin it to a flat piece of burlap.  This will be the back of the pumpkin.  Cut it about 1/2 inch bigger than the seamed piece.
Now, hot glue the edges together about 1/2 inch in working your way around the pumpkin.  Leave an opening big enough for your fist to fit through at the top and bottom.

For the standing pumpkins (mine are 10x12 finished), you will need to weight them for them to stand so you will cut a gusset (another sewing term) about the size and shape of a big baked potato.  If you are making smaller pumpkins, cut the gusset a size that will fit.  Then, you are going to glue them to the opening on the bottom of the pumpkin.
It will look like a puppet's mouth.  Now, paint the pumpkin.  I used orange acrylic paint and a sponge brush.  I literally just scrubbed some paint roughly between each section of seams and on the back and bottom.  I didn't want it to look too perfect, but with more character.  The paint dries quickly.

While the paint dried, I made the stem by cutting a piece of burlap and rolling it, gluing the seam down and the top of the piece.  I made it about 4 inches long.  Then, I twisted some wire around a paint brush handle and glued it to the "stem."

Now, it's time to "stuff" the pumpkin.  First, I filled a quart sized ziplock bag about 1/3 full with dried beans for weight.  You could use rice also.
Be sure and let all the air out of the bag and then zip it shut.  Put the bag in the top opening of the pumpkin and let it drop to the bottom.  For stuffing, I used plastic bags.  Do you have mountains of them that you save from the store and never know what to do with them?  Well, they make great stuffing for projects like this.  Just wad them up one at a time and push them into the pumpkin until it is full to the top.

Now, you are going to glue the stem on and glue the opening shut.  Time to decorate the pumpkin.

I got the berries and the raffia at the Dollar Tree.  I cut some raffia and tied a knot in it and glued it to the top of the pumpkin.  Then, I pulled a leaf off the berry bush and hot glued it over the raffia.  Next, I pulled some of the berries off and glued them to the leaves.  Done.

Here are some of the sitting pumpkins.

I also made a hanging pumpkin for out back gate that is 14x16.  For this, you don't need to make the gusset on the bottom and use only plastic bags to stuff it.  No beans necessary.  Just glue all the way around leaving an opening at the top to stuff it.  I made a hanger for the back with some floral wire.
This is very light weight so it doesn't take much of a hanger.  Here is how it looks on the gate.

And that was my day of creating with burlap.  I didn't know where I was going (just like life), but I stopped and got quiet and the ideas began to flow.  The answer came.  I went from a piece of burlap to these gorgeous pumpkins that made me so very happy.  I love the texture of them, the color, the seams, the fact that they represent fall and all things beautiful.  They can be used again and again.  They are burlap, not satin, but they are beautiful just like every life on this earth.  They irritated my eyes and nose, covered me with fibers and made a mess, but the result was so worth it.  Everyone should work with some burlap.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

When life gives you burlap, you can make something beautiful from it.  donna

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pumpkin Whoopee Pies With Nutella - YUM!

 Happy Monday, September 16.  It is 7:16 pm and outside it's dark.  That means summer is definitely on the wane and the days are getting shorter, BUT it also means that fall is approaching rapidly.  Yippee!  Do you like fall as much as I do?  The changing leaves, the cooler temperatures, pumpkins, Indian corn, cider, bonfires, apples, sweaters, colorful mums, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  There are so many wonderful things about fall.

Starbucks has their pumpkin spice coffee drinks available and that is the first official "call to fall".  Everyone gets excited when pumpkin spice drinks return.  Therefore, it is okay to start making any and all things pumpkin.  Starbucks gave the go ahead.

I got my new Food Network magazine last week and it has a lot of fabulous recipes or fall.  I wanted to start making them all.  Inserted in the magazine is a little booklet with 50 things you can make from canned pumpkin!  Fifty, five oh, 50.  Wow!!  That is more than exciting and as I perused it I couldn't decide whether to start with #1 and work my way through or - ding, ding, ding, hold the phone.  How about #42 and #43 to start?   It's a pumpkin cookie recipe that can be made into whoopee pies filled with - OH MY - Nutella.  Guess where I started?  You guessed!!  You are a sharp cookie (no pun intended).

Sometimes a recipe just jumps out and says make me now.  Do you ever have that happen?  So, I did.

Here is what you need:

6 TBSP softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin *see note below
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Beat the softened butter and sugar with a mixer until fluffy.  Beat in the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla.  Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together.  Stir into the pumpkin mixture.

Drop by tablespoons full onto an oiled baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes; cool.

If you want to eat the cookies, you can make this glaze.

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 TBSP milk  - mix together, spread on cookies

OR, if you want to make them into whoopee pies, do not glaze the cookies.  Spread the bottom of one cookie with Nutella and place the bottom of another cookie on top.  You now have a delectable little sandwich made of delicious pumpkin cookies with Nutella spread in the middle to hold them together.  Now, I can't pass this up - whoopee!   This recipe made 36 cookies or 18 whoopee pies.

*I will tell you that I hated to leave that bit of pumpkin in the can since the recipe called for one cup of pumpkin, so I added the whole can to the recipe which probably made the cookies a little softer than they would be if you followed the recipe exactly.  The texture is somewhat like gingerbread, very soft and delicious and oh so good with that lovely dollop of Nutella in the middle.  They are especially good with a cup of coffee and they just scream fall y'all.

It's hard to decide what to make next.  Maybe the pumpkin bread pudding made with cinnamon raisin bread, or maybe the cheesecake pie, or maybe.........   Whatever it is, I will share the recipe with you when I make it.  In the meantime, give these a try.  They are pumpkinlicious.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter?  Pumpkin pi!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cheesy Macaroni With Chicken and Spinach

Do you have picky eaters in your family, especially children who are suspect of any food that has the color green to it?  Will they eat salad, or raw vegetables of any kind?  We were fortunate.  Our children were all adventurous eaters who loved crudite, salad, most every vegetable.  One of them didn't like green peas, and one of them didn't like lima beans.  Other than that, they would eat about anything.

Our grandsons on the other hand, do NOT fall into that category.  We have two who are pretty good eaters, two who are middle of the road, one who is only 18 months old and finding his way in the food world with a few texture issues and one who is suspect of any and everything that isn't "white".  Do you know what I mean?  He likes chicken, pasta, cheese, eggs, he will eat shrimp oddly enough, fish, turkey, rice - do you see the pattern here?  He just turned 10 and he has been like this since he was a little bitty fella.

I have seen him gag and retch at things his mother would make him taste and it was downright comical at times.  When he was about 4 his mother made him taste canteloupe during dinner.  I truly wish I had a video of his facial contortions, his gagging, shivering, and complaining.  Yes, he would literally shiver every time he got the canteloupe close to his mouth.  After probably 20 minutes, he finally licked it and I thought his dinner was going to end up on the table.  You know that "pre sound" that comes with regurgitation?  Yep, that's the one.  It still makes me laugh to think about it.  To our daughter's credit, she makes him try.  The pronouncement is usually, thanks, but I'll pass.

Their pediatrician said these are what they call "the white" kids who are suspect of colored foods and they think it is an evolutionary thing from the hunter/gatherer times when men did not always know which foods were edible.   Makes sense, but it does not make feeding such children easy.

All that was to say H will eat this dish AFTER he picks the spinach out.  He loved it otherwise and so did the other boys.  It is cheesy, and filled with chicken and pasta.   Perfect.  I added the spinach for some color and extra nutrition.  H is the only one who picked the spinach out, so you might luck out and get your family to eat it with the spinach.  You never know.

I made this dish using one of the herbed chickens I wrote about in my blog on August 19.  You can find the recipe there.  Or, you could use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery or cook the chicken breasts like in the recipe.  It is a great way to use leftover chicken.  The original recipe came from  Here is what you need:

3 TBSP butter
salt and pepper
1/2 pound pasta (penne, fusilli, or bow tie, cooked al dente)
2 - 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts or leftover chicken from a rotisserie or roasted chicken
1/4 cup + 1 TBSP flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (I used one ball of fresh mozzarella from Aldi's)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups fresh baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta in boiling water just until al dente, drain and put aside.

If you are cooking chicken breasts, season the chicken with some salt and pepper and put some olive oil in a medium skillet.  Cook the chicken until it is no longer pink.  Remove and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Slice thin.  Put aside.

In a medium pot, melt the butter and add the flour and garlic.  Cook about 1 minute to cook out the raw flour taste.  This makes your roux for the sauce.  Gradually add the milk, whisking continuously until thick.  Stir in the cheese and whisk until melted and sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat and add the pasta.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and add the chicken.  Add the fresh spinach and stir to incorporate the chicken and spinach.

Bake uncovered for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.  Remove from oven and serve.

This is soooooooooo good.  The sauce is amazing with the mozzarella and parmesan.  One of the best mac and cheese type recipes I have found.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.  The only thing I might add next time are some crushed red pepper flakes for just a little zing.   Feel free to leave the spinach out if you have eaters who are suspect of green things in their food.  Or, add some broccoli if they would prefer that, or green peas.   Spinach was just my addition and we loved it.  Next time, I might try another vegetable.

Serve this with a nice green salad and you have a complete meal.  Oh, maybe some crusty bread too.  Oh yeah.

This recipe is super easy to prepare, especially if you have some chicken on hand that is already cooked.  It reheats beautifully.  We had leftovers the next day and it was just as good as the first day.
Give this recipe a try.  I think it will be quite a hit.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Dude, macaroni and cheese if the food of the gods!  Haley James Scott

Monday, September 9, 2013

Quinoa Salad With Home Made Cilantro Dressing

Happy Monday one and all.  Hope your weekend was spectacular.  Ours was super busy with fall ball games and keeping grandsons overnight so our daughter and son in love could celebrate their anniversary with a stay at the Opryland Hotel.  With two little guys aged 3 and 18 months, they deserved a little respite and Grandma and Pawpaw were more than happy to help out.

Out other daughter and her family are in the throws of fall ball (no pun intended).  Practices, school, games, jobs - you know how busy life can be.  To show a little mercy, I invited them for dinner last night because Holly spends most of her Sunday on writing assignments to meet deadlines for her editors.  It helps if she doesn't have to worry about feeding her three boys and husband after a day of brain drain.

There is always that dilemma of what to fix that the boys will eat.  The 10 year old is super finicky, the 6 year old is not quite so finicky and the 3 year old is a roll of the dice.  Our son in love has celiac so there is that whole gluten issue to deal with.  Meals can present a challenge.  Last night I fixed enchilada casserole which is made with corn tortillas and contains no gluten.  I made the red sauce with corn starch instead of flour.  For sides, we grilled corn on the cob and I made this beautiful quinoa salad.

Do you know about quinoa (keen-wa) or have you tried it?  It is delicious and gluten free.  My research tells me it is not a true grain in the sense of wheat or oats, but has been cultivated in the Andes mountains for over 3,000 years.  Quinoa is full of protein and calcium, anti oxidants, and is easy to digest.  It is great for vegan diets.  The boys love it and will actually eat it.  It has a lovely mild, nutty flavor and can be served plain or added to other dishes.  There are many ways to "jazz" up quinoa.  The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2013 the year of Quinoa because they believe it could go a long way in eradicating food insecurity worldwide due to its nutritional value.

I had found a recipe for a southwest quinoa salad on Pinterest and it looked good.  It was made with quinoa, black beans, corn, and diced tomatoes.  We were having corn on the cob so I didn't want to use corn in the salad.  For this salad I used, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, green onions, red bell pepper, black olives, and a really tasty cilantro lime salad dressing.  Oh, and I threw in some crumbled bacon that I had left from BLT sandwiches.  Yum.  Crunchy vegetables work well with the soft, mild quinoa.

To make the salad, here is what you need:

Quinoa prepared according to package directions.

(You use 1 cup dry quinoa to 2 cups liquid.  I made 2 cups and that's a lot of quinoa.  If you are feeding 2-4 people, use 1 cup quinoa although I am loving the left over salad.)

1 medium red bell pepper diced
3 green onions, whites and greens cut on a diagonal
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, diced
sliced black olives, optional  (add as many as you like)
5 slices cooked crisp bacon, crumbled (optional)

Cook the quinoa according to package directions and let cool.  Put the cooled quinoa in a serving bowl and cover with the ingredients you choose to use.  The possibilities are endless really.  I like leaving all the "yummies" on the top so that when you serve the salad, they don't all fall to the bottom.  You can mix it up if you so desire.

Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

I didn't measure what I threw in the blender, but this is pretty close.

about 1/2 cup plain fat free greek yogurt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
juice of one lime or lemon
1/2 to 3/4 of a bunch of cilantro
small pinch of salt

Place ingredients in a blender and whir until blended and cilantro is all chopped.  This dressing is fantastic on any salad.

Serve dressing on the side.  You may like to eat the salad without the dressing like Dan does, but the bright, flavorful dressing adds a nice zip to the salad in my opinion.  If you don't like cilantro, use basil or avocado in it's place.

I had a nice big helping of this salad this evening and it is deeeeeeeeelicious.  Think of all the possibilities for things to add to quinoa to make a healthy salad or it could be eaten as an entree.  It would be especially good for a meatless meal (minus the bacon).

If you haven't tried quinoa, this salad a good way to introduce it into your diet, or you could serve it plain as a side dish in the place of rice or potatoes.  We will definitely be eating it more often since it has been called a super food.  We are always looking for things that taste good and are good for you.  Give it a try.  I think you will like it.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Quinoa is great for lazy day cooking because it's packed with complete proteins, but it cooks in only 20 minutes. And, you can flavor it any way you wish! I make mine with onions, lots of ground ginger, turmeric and coriander, and then whatever dried fruit and nuts I have around.
Aarti Sequeira, Food Network

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hanging Grapevine Lamp Tutorial

Hello everyone.  Truly hope you enjoyed the last big hurrah of summer better known as Labor Day.  We swam, we ate, we enjoyed the day with family.  Now, it's time for all things fall.  Bring it on!!

Last week we spent some time getting to know the new area we are living in a little better.  We checked out some of the stores and we found a really great little antique mall.  Of course, I had to go in and have a "look see."  And, of course, I found something that called my name and had to come home with me.  I wasn't really sure what it was and neither was the lady who helped us.  It was a huge basket with a beautiful design and very rustic.  When she took it off the wall, I noticed some stenciled letters that said Farmer's Burley on one side and Paducah, Kentucky, on the other.  Oh happy day!  It was a tobacco basket.  I had heard of them, but never seen an actual basket.  It is quite large, 39.5 x 39.5 inches and much heavier than it looks.  I did some research on them when we got home and found they were used to display rolls of tobacco leaves on auction floors.  They were made in the northeastern part of the country and Yadkin County was the "capital" of tobacco basket production.  Here is a link if you would like to read about how these beautiful baskets were made.  It is very fascinating how they were made.

 Here is my basket hanging on the wall.
When decorating, it seems that one thing always leads to another somehow.  There had been a small lamp sitting on the hutch previously.  The basket curves outward and now the lamp would not fit.  OH NO!  The lamp is vitally important to our dining area since there is no overhead light (don't ask me why).  There really, really needed to be a lamp on that side of the room.  Solution?  A hanging lamp.  If you haven't looked for hanging lamps, there aren't many available and not the look that I wanted.  Now, I had to make what I wanted so the hunt was on.

In the recesses of my brain, I knew that stores like Pier 1 and World Market had paper lanterns with separate sockets used to hold the light bulbs.  First stop, World Market.  Voila!  They had just what I wanted for only $12.00.
I love rustic, but a bare bulb was not in my plan.  I needed something for a "shade", but what?  I looked in several stores at baskets, but nothing was "it".  So, I headed to Michael's.  Surely there was something I could find in there.  I looked at baskets, even at a bird cage that was a possibility.  Then, I found a big grapevine ball that was "the look", but not big enough.  Rats.  Now what?  I was in the floral department, so I really started looking at all possibilities and then, ("cue magical music") I found exactly what I wanted.  Yes, there were stars and little birdies flying around.  No, not really, but there could have been I was that excited.  The "stuff" was called grapevine ribbon and was only $2.99 a roll.  It is 4 inches wide and wired on the top and bottom so it could be shaped.  Wahoo!  Two rolls were purchased and we headed home.  This is how it looks unrolled.
It is super tough to get a good picture, but it is open and rustic and just what I wanted.  And, wired.  Did I say wired?  It is shapable and that is the best part!  I already had some copper wire that comes on a spool like you find in the jewelry making section at Michael's and it was perfect for wiring the "rounds" of the shade together.  It's just a few dollars a roll, comes on a spool like thread, and comes in gold, copper, or silver.

First, I made the bottom round the diameter that I wanted so it would fit in the corner of the room.  The bottom round is 12 inches in diameter on my lamp.  You could make yours any diameter you want.  It will just take more "ribbon" if you make yours bigger.  I wired the ends of the first round together with the copper wire.
Remember, this is rustic so it doesn't have to be perfect.  Next, I made another round the same size as the bottom, wired the ends together and then wrapped the two rounds together using more copper wire, wrapping it around the bottom of one round and the top of the other.  If you look closely, you can see the wire.

Then, I made one more round and wrapped it to the second row in the same fashion using the copper wire.  My shade has 3 rounds total.

To hold the socket in place, I cut a piece of the grapevine ribbon long enough to go across the top of the shade and hang over just a bit on each side.  I wired it in place, then cut another piece and placed it perpendicular to the first piece and wired it in place.  The top looks like a plus sign.

I threaded the cord attached to the socket from the inside of the shade through the top and realized the socket would pull through.  To hold the socket in place, I wired the grapevine together to keep that from happening.

 It took me about an hour to put this together.  I added a frosted globe type bulb, hung the lamp and plugged it in.  The lamp weight practically nothing!
I was doing a happy dance.  It was exactly what I wanted.  Rustic, open, provides plenty of light to the corner of the room and it looks fantastic with the tobacco basket.  I don't know about you, but I really, really love when a plan comes together.   And the best part is the lamp cost less than $25.00 including the bulb.  
This grapevine ribbon is fantastic and could be used in a myriad of ways.  Now, it's time to start decorating for fall and I can see lots of uses for it.   Have you started decorating yet?

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Sometimes, it takes a little ingenuity to come up with a "look" that you want.   It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, just may take a little creativity.  Always look at what you already have and perhaps it can be used in a whole new way.  donna