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October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Mushroom Quinoa Casserole

I made an excellent dinner last night.  I've been trying to accent seasonal flavors lately, but I have to admit I'm almost pumpkin-ed out.  Adding mushrooms to this mash adopted from Leanne Vogel at created just the right subtlety.  Using only what I had in my cupboard, this dish was warm and filling.  The cinnamon is strong but not overpowering, reminiscent of a greek dish made by a friend of mine.  Thinned with just a little more liquid, this would make a stellar vegetarian stew as well.  I loved getting the chance to cook in my vintage Pyrex too!  It climbed up the side when it was boiling and bubbling as I took it out of the oven, which was not so pretty for the picture, but it sure looked appetizing while hot!

What are some of your favorite vegetarian soups and stews?  Please leave a comment below this post.  

 Pumpkin ~ Mushroom Quinoa Casserole
  • ⅔ cup soy milk
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup raw quinoa
  • ¼ cup sliced mushroom
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground ginger
  • couple cloves fresh garlic (if desired)
Mix all together, pouring into a casserole dish, and bake at 350 for 30-40 min.

October 22, 2012

Secret Santa by International Mail

I found a great Facebook group for the holidays this year, where members are participating in a "Christmas Secret Stitchy Santa" trade of a small cross stitch or needlepoint gift item.  I love the enthusiasm of the members, and the casual attitude of the coordinator.  There aren't a lot of rules that make it complicated to participate.  It's simply about making new online friends with someone who shares your hobby. Though I won't actually meet my exchange partner, this trade is making these online friends feel more "real."  I love that my online life is crossing a fuzzy border into reality.

Actually, the reason I was able to participate was that I already had a small gift prepared.  So there's no time crunch, procrastinating-then-stressing in my future.  And the anticipation of something fun coming in the mail just for me is so exciting!  My gift is traveling all the way to England.  I'll be sure to post a picture when it arrives (*wink*).

If you'd like to join in, it may be a little late for this year, as we've already been matched up with partners.  But you can always start your own exchange for this or any other craft.  And you can join our group to see the results as we post photos of our mail!

(non-spoiler alert:  illustration is Not the actual item I'm sending off)

October 20, 2012

Pumpkin ~ Cream Cheese Dip with Gingersnaps

The potluck themes at the monthly Food Bloggers Los Angeles' meetings draw me into the season.  This month featured pumpkin in our cooking, which to me meant one thing:  dessert.  I made a Pumpkin ~ Cream Cheese Dip dusted with graham cracker crumbs and served alongside some commercial gingersnaps for dipping.  It would also serve well as an easy and flavorful appetizer for a buffet-style party.

It goes without saying that the desserts at our meeting were exquisite and scrumptious.  I was more impressed by the creativity in the non-dessert items, such as Pumpkin Hummus, Pumpkin-Potato Pancakes, and even a Creamy Pumpkin Dressing on a traditional salad.  Stay posted for the complete linky widget of pumpkin creations.

Easy Pumpkin ~ Cream Cheese Dip

2 8-oz pkgs cream cheese (room temp)
1 can pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup powdered sugar

Cream all together.  Pour into serving dish.  Dust with graham cracker crumbs.  Refrigerate to set.  Serve with gingersnaps, graham crackers, pretzels, fresh veggies or fruit, or other good stuff for dipping.  For added fun, serve inside a fresh pumpkin that you've scooped to hollow out.

(the spread at the FBLA October meeting)

October 8, 2012

Pupcakes at the LA County Fair!

This year's LA County Fair offered a fun class on how to decorate cupcakes to look like dogs, or "Pup"cakes!  I watched the demos and made some notes so I can try this at home. My pictures are of the ones the instructor created, since I didn't get a space in the class to make my own.

 Chocolate Lab

For the cute Chocolate Lab, place 1/2 of a marshmallow on top of the cupcake before frosting to form the snout.  Use brown M&M candies for the eyes and nose.  The tongue is formed from 1/2 of a pink Starburst, flattened and shaped with a score in the tongue.  Fold it slightly in half before bending.  The ears are formed from a Tootsie Roll.  Just smoosh it to shape.


The little Sheepdog has no eyes or nose, just lots of icing fur!  For the ears, use tiny triangles of Oreo.  Mix grey and white icing in the piping bag for fur (the instructor's pictured here did not have the two toned icing).  Use 1/2 of a Starburst for the tongue and shape it appropriately, with a small score for the bend in the tongue.


The Yorkie uses a mix of chocolate and vanilla icing in the piping bag.  Insert a large triangle of Oreo cookie as the forehead at an angle, with the plain side to the front.  You may need to cut a slit in the cupcake to insert the oreo.  Place a marshmallow in front of the Oreo to form the snout.  Use small pieces of Oreo to insert ears slightly in front of the large triangle of forehead.  Pipe a mustache over the marshmallow, then pipe the surrounding areas.  Use M&M candies for the eyes and nose.  Use 1/2 of a starburst for the tongue as you did with the other cupcakes.  Use the other piece of starburst to form a bow for the hair on the forehead.

For more cute Pupcake ideas, check out this article from Parents Magazine.

What kind of creative cupcake decorating ideas have you actually experimented with?  Where did you get the ideas?  What kind of icing works best for this type of decorating?  Have you ever tried to do puppies, and if so what breeds?  If you have any other breeds, please leave me a comment below.  I may put together a class to fund my dog's vet bills, so I could really use the suggestions!

October 7, 2012

Hesby House Garden Rebirth

After spending some time at my folks' in July and August, it was time to refresh my own backyard in earnest!  The old grass was a Kentucky Ryegrass that grew in tufty patches and never seemed to even out.  I hired a wonderful gardener who pulled all the old, dried weed and put in its place a seed called Marathon.  These pics were taken about a month ago, but I'm finally getting around to sharing.

The canna on the side was sternly trimmed.  Letting the light back into the bed opens it up nicely.

The English tea garden with my herbs list all its buds in the 108 degree temps we had this summer, but it's coming back with regular watering.  I re-planted sage, basil, and dill.

The hibiscus are slowly growing into the hedge I envisioned.  The buds here are returning with more watering, too.

I got a vine from a friend last fall, and it has rooted well!  I think this is called Passionfruit?  It's on the chain link fence separating my property from the apartment building next door.  The morning glories I've had there before get too aggressive and overgrown.  And I love these delicate flowers.

I overhauled my pots in the front with dollar store mums and finds from the half-dead pile at the hardware store.  The mums in my favorite golden hues will bring fall to Southern California, if they can survive the summer temperatures we had throughout September!

(The front walkway)

The last bit of whimsy is a new birdbath!  It sits in the ivy rounding the corner to my front door.

What are your favorite garden decorations?  Please share a comment or photo with me below!

October 5, 2012

Cast Resin Halloween Swag

My folks' new house called for some new holiday decorations.   A friend taught me how to use a pourable resin with fixative to mold some really cute holiday figures.  I used them to create a Holiday swag over the fireplace, bringing fall right into the heart of the great room.

Molded from shortbread cookie pans, the ornaments could have been made into magnets, windchimes, mobiles, or wreaths.  It was a fun way to experiment with a new craft.  

We played with glitter to give the resin different colors, even layering to create a look like the candy corn.  I used nail polish to add details like eyes on several pieces, and sprayed a clear gloss sealant for extra shine. Adding ribbon bows made with floral wire gives body that makes the decoration stand out from further across the room.

This little Mummy man had the added distinction of glowing in the dark.  It's the glitter that has the effect, not the resin, but he certainly stands out.

October 4, 2012

Teatime with Ms. Cheap

My mom and I went to a church ladies' guild meeting to hear a featured speaker, Ms. Cheap from the local Tennessean newspaper.  The theme for the refreshments at the meeting was teatime:  half the folks brought finger sandwiches, and half brought cookies.  

I wanted to bring something we could prep ahead, so I made a big bowl of egg salad the night before, and picked out a loaf of marbled wheat bread.  To spruce up my basic egg salad, I added a bit of ground mustard, ground nutmeg, and garlic powder to the cheddar cheese, egg whites, and mayo.  They were pretty and delish!

Ms. Cheap proved to be an entertaining speaker with a wealth of local tips on bargains, shopping, and  entertaining in my folks' new town.  Check out her blog for helpful info regardless of your location.

October 2, 2012

Halloween Eyeball Ice Cubes

A friend of mine is in a rental situation that includes several lovely fruit trees.  Her landlord recently wanted to make some repairs to her roof, which necessitated trimming the trees out of season for pruning.  Before the tree was stripped, my friend offered me a boatload of limes. 

Since I don't eat meat, I don't use them for sauces like you might use for fish or such.  So, my best thought was to juice the limes and freeze the juice for baking.  Luckily, I'd just gotten the juicer attachment for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer and was so excited to get to use it!  I did this over several days, and ended up with about 24 cups of juice.  I used ice cube trays for portion control, so I could thaw as much or as little as I might want to use.  As I was juicing, I had a thought--what if I put maraschino cherries in each hole, with frozen juice around it?  I thought it would make "fancy" ice cubes for drinking in something like ginger ale or in some sort of mixed drink. 

The timing couldn't have been better, because I think these cubes make great "eyeballs" for a Halloween party!  What kind of signature drink would you invent for the occasion?  Please leave a comment below to share your ideas.

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