After three months of no rain, magic water fell from the sky this weekend, finally allowing temperatures to drop below 80 degrees. We procured Halloween costumes for the Heathens, put in more work on planning the school Halloween carnival, and celebrated the return of the braised pork and roasted butternut squash pizza from our favorite restaurant. This week is shaping up to be busy beyond belief with carnival preparations, but I decided to hit the pause button yesterday and whip up that pumpkin bread I’ve been longing for. This recipe is super easy, an since it makes two loaves, you can surprise someone special who also needs a little autumn pick-me-up.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two standard size loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
This bread tastes better the next day. Serve warm with a little softened butter and bask in the flavors of fall!
Last week was not a good week around here. My little corner of Louisiana broke the record high temperature for October at 97 degrees. You read that right. Ninety-freaking-seven. Fall is still elusive, and rather than boots and scarves, I’m still rocking the cutoffs, tank tops, and sandals. The heat that never ends has made everyone snarly, and it’s definitely worn our it’s welcome. It’s not helping things that my Fitbit confirmed that my sleep habits lately leave a lot to be desired. I need a nap and a major attitude adjustment.
With the school Halloween carnival just around the corner, I’ve been deep in planning and organization mode, while also trying to balance work and the Heathens. While my sewing machine has taken up residence on my dining room table, it’s been cranking out carnival booth backdrops rather than anything fun. However, the boys brightened up this less-than-fun week with perfect report cards, which earned them dinner at their favorite restaurant and this mom a margarita.
After our week of record heat, my husband was out of town over the weekend, so I hosted my sister, her boyfriend, and his kids for a delicious Sunday lunch and fun. In typical sister fashion, she played on all the scooters, the seesaw, the pink powerwheels, but boyfriend and I drew the line on riding the skateboard. She has a tendency to forget that she is no longer 13, and very accident prone. I’m sure my neighbors wonder if she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket, but’s it is highly entertaining to watch a nearly 40 year old woman ride a go-cart.
Meanwhile, I cast on for the Starshower cowl, but progress is slow with so much to do.
Now, I’m off to buy pumpkins for next week, as I learned my lesson last year. Come Monday, you will be hard pressed to find them as retailers are clearing the way for Christmas inventory. And maybe I’ll make some pumpkin bread. If it doesn’t feel like fall, at least it can taste like it, right?
So, my husband and I have been talking a lot lately about food waste. I’m embarrassed to admit that we waste way more food in my house than is responsible or ethical, and we are trying to make some changes.
Our grocery budget is soaring and I see way too much going to waste. Part of this waste comes from poor menu planning on my part. I need to be more conscientious in planning meals with intersecting ingredients rather than selecting dinners willy-nilly. This will ensure that items get completely used up, rather than seeing those half-wilted bunches of green onions or a stray, sprouted sweet potato go into the trash (before you say it, we can’t have a compost bin in our neighborhood). I think better planning will alleviate a good bit of the issue.
However the other main culprit in our food waste comes from leftovers. Ohhhh…the fights we have about leftovers. My husband fusses at me that I throw out too many extras, and tells me to save everything. But, do you know what happens? It sits in the fridge for a week, and then I throw it out anyway and have more dishes to wash. He has good intentions but if I pack dinner’s leftovers for his lunch, he forgets to take it with him… without fail. If I have a ton of dinner leftover, it means the family probably wasn’t a fan of the meal and they are unlikely to go back willingly for a second round. If they actually loved the dinner, there’s probably not enough left over for round 2, so I’m stuck with how to get rid of it without fighting.
Honestly, however, my kids just aren’t leftover fans anyway. They have the attention spans of goldfish, and they want to come home to something different each night. I swear my pet peeve is that they ask me what’s for dinner the second they hit the car seat, and it annoys me to no end to see those crestfallen, disappointed faces when I announce leftovers. You’d think I kicked a puppy. Spoiled much, Heathens?
I started thinking about Thanksgiving, and how I have a roster of creative leftover recipes, and am always trying to reimagine cool ways to get the most out of that food. After all, after spending so much time and money on one meal, I better get a return on my investment, right? Well, that philosophy needs to bleed over into everyday meal planning if we really want to cut down the waste.
So, here’s the plan. My goal over the next few weeks is to create a weekly meal plan such that at least one meal is comprised of leftovers reinvented. While I had to wing it this week (since I had already bought groceries), we still stretched that fried chicken meal quite a bit. Our favorite re-do was to transform it into chicken salad by de-boning and chopping the chicken yet keeping that tasty/crispy skin. We then combined it with finely chopped celery and some mayo. It didn’t need any additional salt and pepper since the chicken was so well seasoned. Finally, we halved the leftover biscuits, ran them through the toaster, and built the most delicious chicken salad biscuit sandwiches. Cool, huh?
And then I got on the treadmill…but that’s a story for another day.
It’s October…and it’s 90 degrees outside. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Fall is still a long way off for us it seems, so to inject a little spirit back into my week, I knit up a cute pumpkin dishcloth for fun. I don’t usually waste time on dishcloths since I have a long list of other things I want to knit, but a seasonal, instant gratification knit seemed like a good way to get over my heat-induced grumpiness. Overall, I accomplished my goal of knitting something fast and fun, while holding out hope that cooler weather is just around the corner.
Pattern: Pumpking (available free on Ravelry)
Yarn: I Love This Cotton (which I like much better than Sugar & Cream)
Needles: Size 5
Notes: Requires blocking to lay flat, but that’s fine. I also pinned the vine into a spiral to shape it similar to pattern picture, and that worked great. Only downside I see is that the edges are different on each side, which bugs me a little bit.
We had a little family get-together this weekend, which included epic card games, cocktails, and lots of fun. I made a huge meal of fried chicken, rice, gravy, biscuits, and veggies. If that wasn’t enough, I cranked out a couple of pies, one of which was this coconut pie at my husband’s request. (On a side note, my butt will be on the treadmill every day this week after that marathon of indulgence). I officially need a weekend from my weekend, and maybe a salad…or ten.
Anyway, this is Granny’s super-easy recipe, which comes out rich, creamy, and oh, so decadent. Whip one up and I guarantee you will impress somebody…if you don’t hoard it for yourself, that is. I won’t judge.
1 deep dish frozen pie shell or 1/2 pkg. refrigerated pie crust (or go homemade if you're ambitious)
2 cups whole milk (Granny insisted that you cannot use reduced fat in this recipe or the custard won't set right)
1 tbs. butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. coconut extract
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, plus additional for garnish ( This can be found in the baking aisle, usually by the nuts and chocolate chips)
Fresh, sweetened whipped cream
Bake pie crust according to package directions, and set aside to cool.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, butter, flour, sugar, and egg yokes with a whisk. Cook this mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly (seriously, dude). Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken, about 7 to 10 minutes give or take. Once the mixture starts to bubble/boil, continue cooking for one more minute.
Remove saucepan from heat and stir in coconut extract and flaked coconut, whisking well to combine. Pour mixture into pie crust and refrigerate until cold. Top pie with plenty of fresh, sweetened whipped cream and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Sprinkle with additional coconut to garnish if desired.
We spent Sunday dragging out both the interior and exterior Halloween decorations, including a full graveyard with fence and our revamped witch silhouette. We have our outdoor decorations up and perhaps excessively electrified, so much so that we found several neighbors standing and staring in front of our house later that night. The rest of the house is decked out, and just when I was wondering if all these decorations were worth a full day’s effort, the neighborhood kids went absolutely bananas. Nothing like squeals of “How cools is that?!?” to remind us why we are those crazy holiday people. We still have a few finishing touches to accomplish, but I am thrilled that we made my October 1st goal.
Meanwhile, I whipped up a quick gift for G-man that will be tucked into his stocking. It’s a basic ribbed hat with colors inspired by The Legend of Zelda, G-man’s favorite video game. I tend to stick with quick, basic knits for the boys, because as middle schoolers, their tendency to misplace things is legendary. No need to add any more angst to already overly angsty kids. Don’t let the pic fool you, as Bear is the model since this is a gift. He’s much smaller than G-man, which means this hat will fit him like a proper beanie.
Pattern: Hot Head from the Stitch & Bitch book, size medium
Yarn: The green and brown are Bernat Softee Chunky while the yellow is Loops & Threads Charisma
Needles: 10 1/2, both circular and DPN for crown decreases
Notes: Modified pattern to knit in the round instead of flat/seamed. Only used three colors instead of four, so stripe placement was random to my preferences, using the stripe key as a guideline. Only light steam blocking as the pattern’s negative ease doesn’t really require much.