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October 15, 2019

Autumn Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash

  • Autumn Minestrone Soup with Butternut Squash

  • A couple of weekends ago when it was cold and rainy, we had Mike's parents over on a Sunday evening and I made the Barefoot Contessa's Winter Minestrone Soup (recipe here) for the first time.  It was perfect and so hearty, nutritious and so filling.   However, I don't think the name does it justice - while squash around during the winter, I think this actually the perfect soup for Autumn - butternut squash, pancetta...  

Recipe Notes : 

I made a couple of changes by leaving out some of the celery (calls for 2 cups, I did 1 cup) and using chopped Kale for added nutrition. 

  • The recipe calls for pesto at the end - which is completely delightful and brightens everything in the right way.   She suggests store-bought pesto is ok, but I'm not a fan of store-bought pesto (tastes like dried basil to me).  We are still harvesting fresh basil from our garden, so I have plenty of fresh pesto around and some I put in the freezer.  Again, my campaign for this being an "Autumn Minestrone Soup" instead of Winter.  You could definitely just add some chopped basil at the end instead.  

    Don't skip the garlic bruschetta - such a good garlicy bite with the very rich soup.

    The Fall Sale is currently happening in the store, 15-30% entire purchases.  Shop now >

    October 10, 2019

    Pumpkin, Berries & Kale Centerpiece + New Acorn Block Prints

    Every couple of years I get the itch to do a Pumpkin Floral Centerpiece.  I was a little lost on what to do with this table setting featuring the new Acorn Block Print Linens.  Piles of pumpkins the table like I did last year?  A cluster of candles?  A lush garland down the middle?  When I went to the flower market, I surprised myself with this combination.  I assumed I would do oranges and golds, but navy and green, too?  It wasn't until I got home with my goods that realized they perfectly coordinated with this buckskin pumpkin.  It always feels good to go down that creative path.

    I included a step-by-step tutorial of how I made the arrangement below.

    I always have my Table Runners, $36, made more generously than most because I like them to bring down the scale of the table itself.  Most runners seem dinky in the middle.  These 108"x20" runners really help to transform the table and have a bigger impact without being a tablecloth that can seem too dressy sometimes. 

    Privet Berries tied around the Acorn Napkins with Satin Ribbon

    I make an effort to set my tables in a not-too-stuffy manner.  I don't want our family/guests to feel like they are at a fancy dinner.  I want everyone to feel comfortable most of all, but also that is a special occasion - considered.

    I set this table with Thanksgiving in mind, but since there aren't any turkeys anywhere, it is perfect for any fall harvest-y occasion.  

    I couldn't leave the hearth room out.  

    For the centerpiece I used :

    Privet Berry (also referred to as Viburnum Berries, even though they are different)
    Broom Corn (the wheat looking grasses)
    Copperbeech Gold (copper colored leaves)
    White Kale
    Buckskin Pumpkin

    I started with a small container that would fit down into the pumpkin after it was hollowed out.  I used tape to make a grid on top - this helps the stems stand upright instead of flopping over.

    Fill the container with water.
    Begin with the feature flower, which in this case is kale.  I always use odd numbers - 3 is perfect for a small arrangement.

    Bunch in the berries around and inside the kale.

    Add the Broom Corn around the edges, then add the leaves around the outside to create a collar.

    This would be very pretty as a pale peach garden rose, too.  

    Hollow out the pumpkin, and place the vase down inside.  You will likely need to go back and fill in and fluff to merge the two.  You want it to look like they are growing out of the pumpkin, verses placed on top.  

    After they flew out the door when they initially launched, we just added some more sets.

    Tea Towels, $12, make wonderful Hostess or Teacher Gifts.  

     I usually like to include a homemade loaf of pumpkin bread, too.  I tied this set with Cotton Twill Ribbon and put it in a Cello Bag.  Shop Packaging & Ribbons >

    2019 Acorn Block Print Pillows : 22" Large, 19" Medium & Rectangle

    I also added another candle to the store yesterday, "Cozy."  My candlemaker actually calls this "Vermont Autumn Leaves" so you know I love it.  It really isn't a "fall" scented candle, but more of what a truly crisp autumn day spent walking through the woods smells like.

    October 04, 2019

    Classic Chocolate Sheet Cake

    This is the cake my mom makes every single time the entire family is in town.  And everyone always says, "Yes.... sheet cake!"  It is one of those things.  It has been a staple in our family since I was very young.  I can remember my Dad hosting young farmers' get togethers in his barn each fall - chili, cornbread, and sheet cake.  We used to run our fingers around the edges while the icing was cooling.  So good.  I dressed this one up for Halloween with some googly eyes.  It will definitely be on our Halloween menu - chili, cornbread, and sheet cake.  Some (good) things (should) never change.

    Chocolate Cake : 

    2 cup flour 
    2 cup sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 sticks butter
    4 tablespoons cocoa 
    1 cup boiling water
    1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
    2 whole beaten eggs
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Chocolate Icing : 

    2 stick butter
     tablespoons cocoa
    2-3 tablespoons milk (desired consistency)
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    4-5 cups powdered sugar (desired consistency)

    For the cake, begin by combining flour sugar and salt in the bowl of mixer.  Then, in a saucepan, melt 2 sticks of butter.  Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa, stir, add boiling  and cook for 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients.  Add buttermilk, eggs, soda and vanilla and gently stir together until combined.  Do not over beat.

    Line a Small Baking Sheet or Large Baking Sheet with Parchment - this recipe will work for either size, just depending on how thick you would like the cake.  Pour chocolate batter into the pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until cake tester comes out almost clean.  I like to under bake this cake to make sure it is nice and moist. 

    While the cake is baking, prepare the icing.  In a saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter.  Remove from heat and add cocoa.  Stir in milk vanilla and powdered sugar.  Start with 3 cups of powdered sugar, then add more if you'd like it to be thicker.  Pour icing over warm cake and spread out.  Let it cool slightly before serving... if you can wait that long.

    In classic great recipe style, it is versatile too.  I used some leftover batter to make some individual mini spider cakes in my Small Tart Pans.

    I used a simple white icing (just water mixed with powdered sugar - make it thick) to make the webs, then drug it out to the edges using a skewer.  Super simple, but Emma was wowed!  Favorite sort of homemade Halloween treats : )

    October 03, 2019

    Halloween | Homemade Treats, Menu Ideas & Easy Decorations

    Halloween is one of those nostalgic holidays for me.  We lived in the country so we didn't have Trick-or-Treaters.  On Halloween night we would go "in town" to my Granny's house to hand out candy - we thought that was more fun that going from house to house ourselves.  But I think there was part of me that was a little envious to see gaggles of neighborhood friends running up and down the dimly lit streets.  

    While there are certainly many times in my adult life that I wished we lived in the country, on Halloween night I am always glad that we live in a neighborhood.  Excited goblins, princesses and wagon pulling parents fill our streets, tramping from house to house, while fire pits fill the air with woodsmoke.   All of the feel good warm and fuzzies.  It is one of my favorite nights of the year.

    I love old fashioned, simple holidays.  While our house dons fall pumpkins and leaves during the entire season, we only get the spooky Halloween decorations out a week or two before the 31st.  We go crazy with spider webs outside, cut out black paper bats that 'fly' around our mantle, door ways and walls inside, carve jack-o-lanterns and make silly treats.  Unlike Christmas, it is a holiday that really is just about the decorations.  And it is fun!  We don't buy many actual "Halloween" decorations (besides the spider webs... and that smoke machine), but usually craft everything ourselves out of basics - my favorite way.  

    I go overboard on pumpkins, but that is just something I've come to embrace.  It is going to happen every year.  I collect them everywhere I go - looking for really unusual and pretty ones.  They all just amaze me.  As heirloom varieties have become more common, I really go out of my way to find unique ones that have a lot of character.

    These photos of our home are from last year after hosted the School House Open House.  I had an excuse to over buy, so I took advantage, and used them to fill our window boxes after it was over.

    Halloween treats can be so much fun to make.  When I was looking around for inspiration I was overwhelmed with a lot of really ugly looking treats.  Everything looked too sweet, too colorful or just too much.  I like my treats to be a little more simple than most out there, delicious classics but just sort of dressed up for the holiday.  These are all recipes that I make other times of the year, but I've decorated them to be perfect for Halloween.  I'll share the recipes over the next couple of days.

    Classic Chocolate Sheet Cake
    Chocolate Spider Tarts
    Chocolate Cupcakes + Vanilla Buttercream
    Chocolate Chip Cookies
    (a chocolate theme here...)

    Halloween Tags

    Pumpkin Moonshine Tags : Each fall Emma and I read "Pumpkin Moonshine" by Tasha Tudor.  This old fashioned jack-o-lantern reminds me of those in Tudor's classic watercolors.

    Trick or Treat Tags : I have carried this same design for many years, and each year I want to have it reprinted.  I just love it.

     I made all of these treats utilizing the essentials that I always keep in my kitchen :

    I created these Heirloom Pumpkin Cupcakes using a boxed cake mix, homemade frosting and a couple of simple essentials.  I've included all of them in this cupcake kit, complete with photo decorating instructions.  Everything will be packaged up in a Kraft box, perfect for a gift or project with your littles.

    The kit will include 4 piping bags, gel food colors, 48 cupcake wrappers and an instruction card.

    These cupcakes just fit in my Kraft Boxes since they aren't too piled high with frosting.  

    Class Party & Bring to the Office Ideas

    Now that Emma is in 2nd Grade, thinking of creative class treats has become routine for each holiday.  Her school requires store-bought packaged treats (boo), so packaging them is a fun way to give that special touch.  I still like to wrap up gifts for friends and the teachers - and they can be homemade : )

    Here is a collection of both of my favorites.

    Kraft & Cello BagsKraft & Glassine Treat Bags can make the ugliest candy wrappers disappear and Cello Bags have a way of making very simple things look great.

    We like to invite family over to our house for trick-or-treating.  I usually make a soup or chili to keep going on the stove and a festive dessert.  This is my favorite menu : 

    Trick-or-Treat Menu

    Braised Beef Chili
    Jalapeno Cheddar Scones
    Spinach Dip & Veggies
    Chocolate Sheet Cake (with Google Eyes, see below)

    Pumpkin Beer
    Hot Apple Cider (simmering on the stove)

    Happy Halloween (planning!)

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