Friday, February 27, 2015

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Butter

The other Friday I took the day off of work and spent it getting things done: Target, library, grocery store, scrapbooking, deep-cleaning our bedroom, laundry, AND making pumpkin butter.

Yep, you heard me.

I made pumpkin butter in the middle of winter.

Really, this is more of a fall recipe, in my opinion. But you guys have been crazily repinning the Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter recipe in my Fall Recipes Pinterest board, and I happened to have an extra can of pumpkin in my pantry, so I thought, "Why the heck wouldn't I make pumpkin butter right now?"

This recipe is super easy, and aside from the 15-ounce can of pumpkin, you probably already have the other three ingredients in your fridge/pantry: apple juice, pumpkin pie spice, sugar.

That's it. Easy peasy.

Plus, it all goes in the slow cooker for about five hours and makes your kitchen smell YUMMY while it cooks.

The recipe doesn't say what size slow cooker (or Crock-Pot, if you own the trademarked brand of slow cooker) you need, but I used my two-quart slow cooker (mainly because my six-quart Crock-Pot was dirty in the sink...) and it was the perfect size! If you're planning on doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the recipe in order to make and gift the pumpkin butter, then you'll definitely want to use a larger slow cooker.

Cooking the recipe as is made enough to fill my 20-ounce Aladdin mason jar, which is made of Eastman Tritan material (not glass) so it won't crack, break, or stain. Plus, it's BPA-free!

Toast up some whole grain English muffins (cutting them in half with a fork, as is the proper way, if you didn't know) and slather this pumpkin butter on top for a delicious snack or breakfast that will have you wishing for those cool (but not frigid) and crisp days of fall.

Sigh. Winter is almost over with, right?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Selfies with Mom

For Christmas, my mom gave me a hexagon paper punch to use on my scrapbook layouts. I finally had some time to get more scrapbooking done, and I thought I would use the paper punch on a layout featuring pictures of my mom!

Here is the finished result: "Selfies with Mom!"

I used one of the kits I had put together last year and just took coordinating patterned paper from the kit and punched it into a bunch of hexagons with the paper punch. Then I laid them out on the cardstock in the pattern I wanted to create, adhered them down, and put the embellishments and pictures on top.

Do you guys use paper punches in your scrapbooking? This is the first shaped paper punch I've used. I have a couple border punches that I like to break out from time to time.

Using this paper punch was super easy. I saw a scrapbook page that my mom made using her own hexagon paper punch, and I kept that in mind when creating my page.

And if you're wondering about these pictures, they were taken back in October when my parents came in for a visit. The top picture is us picking pumpkins and the bottom one is us playing mini golf. (I won!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Knit Together - Book Review

I don't normally review children's books, but I just had to review Knit Together by Angela Dominguez because the press kit I received with my free advance reader's copy included a crayon and a knit pouch! Too cute!

This picture book is about a daughter who likes to draw and a mother who likes to knit. The daughter thinks knitting is better than drawing because you can actually wear the finished creation. So, the daughter asks her mother to teach her to knit. Well, knitting is not so easy, and the daughter becomes frustrated. Luckily, mom has a solution: one that combines both of their talents. Mom and daughter work together using their drawing and knitting talents to make a beautiful knitted blanket that they can wear together.

This is a lovely little story about a mother-daughter relationship that sort of gives a message that everyone has something to contribute and look at what you can accomplish when you work together! This book would make a great read on Mother's Day or any day, and it will especially resonate with moms who like to knit and/or crafty moms and kids.

Knit Together is published by Dial and is for ages 3-5. It's available on bookstore shelves today!

I received a free advance review copy for my honest review.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - February 23

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I meant to write some stuff and schedule it to go up, but I was sick and then I had to work for 10 days straight. So I didn't really get around to writing blog posts. I promise to be better this week!

Before we get off topic about last week, I should just say that last week's meal plan totally did not happen. What can I say? Plans change. I'm sure you guys have weeks that are planned out with the best of intentions but then it all gets off track. I still like to do a meal plan even if I suspect the week is going to be crazy because at least it helps me know what I need at the grocery store and gives us a fridge and pantry that is stocked with stuff we can eat.

So now we're on to this week's meal plan, which should prove to be pretty stable:

Sunday - ground turkey ragu with tagliatelle*

Monday - waffles, eggs, and hash browns

Tuesday - pasta carbonara

Wednesday - Mrs. Leeper's chicken alfredo

Thursday - tuna sandwich melts with fries

Friday - veggie burgers with fries

Saturday - TBD (depends on what's on sale when I go grocery shopping, which will be on Saturday)

*denotes a new recipe

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Beef Stew Pot Pies in Mini Ramekins

One of the most popular pins on my Pinterest boards has been this one: 21 Reasons to Bust Out a Ramekin.

Well, I'm here to give you a 22nd reason.

After looking through the 21 things you can make in mini ramekins, I got the idea that instead of doing chicken pot pies (which we love!), what if I combined our gluten-free chicken pot pie recipe with our gluten-free beef stew recipe?

The end result: Beef Stew Pot Pies!

I cooked the beef stew in the crockpot like normal, using gluten-free all-purpose flour to coat the beef. Then, after putting down a layer of the gluten-free pie dough in each ramekin, I spooned in some of the beef stew and covered it with another layer of pie dough. Then I baked these at 425 for 20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. These will be hot and bubbly!

Definitely make sure your potatoes and beef are sliced up much smaller than you would normally do it if you were just making a regular stew. That way, they don't take up so much space in the pot pie.

Just like the chicken pot pies, these were a hit! And we had leftover beef stew for a second dinner, which is always a good thing!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - February 16

Hope you all had a good Valentine's Day weekend! I had to work this weekend, so we didn't get to go out for a Valentine's Day date or anything. Not that we usually do. Last year we just got take-out. It's much easier to not deal with the crowds.

Here's what we've got going on for dinner this week:

Sunday: on our own

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: pasta carbonara

Wednesday: mother-in-law's birthday dinner

Thursday: waffles, eggs, and hashbrowns

Friday: Annie's gluten-free mac and cheese

Saturday: TBD

Friday, February 13, 2015

Another Valentine's Day Song Mix

Let's bring in the weekend with another fun song mix for Valentine's Day! Please to enjoy a few more songs that I picked for the day of love (or the day of hanging out with your single friends to just have fun)! Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Strawberry Lemonade Gooey Butter Cookies

Need a last-minute Valentine's Day treat? Try these Strawberry Lemonade Gooey Butter Cookies!

I should say right off the bat that these cookies are NOT gluten-free. I think I would like to figure out how to make them gluten-free, but you have to follow the rules before you can break them!

These cookies are adapted from this recipe for Pink Lemonade Gooey Butter Cookies. I couldn't find Pink Lemonade Cake Mix. I guess winter isn't really the season for pink lemonade! Instead, to get the same lovely pink look and something still flavored, I picked up a box of Strawberry Cake Mix!

With the exception of the cake mix, I kept everything else the same with the recipe. I didn't use lemon zest, though, because I didn't have a lemon. No biggie!

If you're from the St. Louis area, you'll be very familiar with gooey butter cake. It's kind of a big deal. I love the idea of turning it into cookies and adding some color to make them festive.

I kept my cookies in traditional cookie form. Not sure how these would work with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. I think they might be too soft. But that's what makes them delicious! They are so soft and sweet!

The only downside: I made these on a Saturday night and by Sunday morning, I was running a fever. My plan had been to ship some of these cookies to my parents for Valentine's Day, but I had to change that plan. I don't think giving someone germs counts as a good Valentine's Day gift.

If you want more Valentine's Day treats, then check out my Valentine's Day Pinterest board.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Get Lost in a Corn Maze

Moving right along through my 2014 scrapbook album (or rather the last of my 2014 scrapbook albums), here is a two-pager I made of a visit to a corn maze in October. We got a GroupOn for corn maze admission and pumpkin picking at Ort Farms in NJ.

The corn maze was in the shape of a cowboy on horseback, so when planning this one out, I started with the cowboy-themed October Afternoon stuff in my stash. The light-colored patterned papers are also October Afternoon, and I added the black-and-white polka dot pages from my random stack of scrapbook papers.

I took the map (if you can even call it that - it wasn't very good) from the corn maze and cut it in half to divide it among the layout's two pages. I love the way that looks when the pages are side by side like this, but I know they aren't going to be that close in the actual album. Oh well!

I loved the look of the "This Moment" wooden embellishment from my stash, and I thought it would be perfect to go with this picture of me at the last marker in the corn maze before the exit. We had wandered aimlessly for what seemed like a very long time and hadn't seen any markers, but somehow we got to the last marker and it was very exciting!

Even with our poor sense of direction in the corn maze, we still had a good time. Then we picked pumpkins and bought some apple cider donuts in the shop. I can't wait until fall comes back around  so we can do fun fall activities like this again! There's nothing fun to do in January and February when it's snowing!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nourished - Book Review

Nourished, by mother-daughter writing team Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph, would be a good book for a women's Bible study or book club to read together, or for two friends to discuss together, or for a mom and daughter to read and discuss together. I'm not saying you can't read this book and digest it on your own like I did, but, as the book suggests in its chapter on nourishing friendships, talking about this book and one's own life experiences and struggles can help you open up and get real instead of only pretending that you are nourished in body, mind, and spirit. Let's talk bout what we're all secretly thinking and feeling, ladies!

This is a book that through the personal stories of and lessons learned by the authors aims to give women the tools they need to tackle any or all of the top 10 stressors in a woman's life:

1. cluttered surroundings
2. crowded schedules
3. negative body image
4. exhaustion of parenting
5. time-starved marriages
6. feeling like a spiritual slacker
7. negative self-talk
8. food issues
9. fitness (not enough time, not fast enough results)
10. friendships (finding and maintaining)

Getting each of these things in order, or at least working toward getting things in order, goes a long way toward fulfilling your own personal happiness and taking care of yourself, which is essential before you can adequately take care of someone else or be the person you want to be in the eyes of someone else.

Often, women spend so much time nourishing others that we forget how to nourish ourselves.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - February 9

When will it ever stop snowing in the Northeast??? I am so ready for winter to be over with. Unless the country adopts national snow days. Then I would be on board for another round of snow and freezing rain.

In the meantime, we're still cooking up some warm and delicious meals at our house. Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: sausage alfredo

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: Mrs. Leeper's Beef Stroganoff

Thursday: chicken quesadillas

Friday: out

Saturday: on our own

Friday, February 6, 2015

Gluten-Free in Mystic, CT: Stonington Pizza Palace

Last week I introduced you to a gluten-free breakfast place in the Mystic, CT area, and this week it's all about dinner. More specifically, pizza!

If you're looking for a place to get good gluten-free pizza, then take a visit to the Stonington Pizza Palace.

This is a little pizza place in a little strip mall. You can eat there or pick up and bring it home to eat. You can even order online!

We ordered online and brought our pizza back to our hotel. It smelled soooo good on the drive back to the hotel. Luckily, we were staying pretty close to the Stonington Pizza Palace, so we didn't have to wait long to dig in.

Above is the picture of my husband's gluten-free pizza with hamburger and pepperoni. I also got a hamburger and pepperoni pizza only on a regular crust. The only issue we had is that the gluten-free pizza wasn't labeled, and we didn't realize it until after we were already back at our hotel. We've had so much experience with what gluten-free pizza looks like that we were 99% certain which was the gluten-free pizza. (If it's smaller and flatter than regular pizza, then it's gluten-free.)

That little glitch aside, both of our pizzas were delicious! A great little gem of a place and well worth the visit.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Easy Cards Made from Scraps

Just thought I would pop in today to show you a few cards I've made recently using up scraps from some of my scrapbook layouts.

What I like about these cards is that they were super easy to put together. Your handmade cards don't have to take you forever to make or involve a lot of detail. I love using a patterned paper as the base, a solid color or neutral or contrasting pattern on top, and a nice embellishment with either a stamped sentiment, one written with letter stickers, or a pre-made sentiment sticker. You'll mainly see pre-made sentiment stickers on the following three cards:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Top 10 Pasta Recipes

At my house, even though we try new recipes from time to time, we tend to rotate through a regular list of favorite recipes, especially when our weeknights get busy. Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to share with you some of our all-time favorite recipes.

This week: our top 10 pasta recipes!

And they can all be made gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta!

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs - This is a classic and one that is super easy to prepare on a weeknight using the Easy Meatballs recipe from Real Simple, as long as you don't mind spending a Sunday afternoon making the meatballs. Make a bunch of meatballs, freeze them, and then you'll have them on hand for an easy and quick dinner after you get home from work!

penne with ricotta cheese and greens
2. Penne with Ricotta Cheese and Greens - Wife made, husband approved! My husband LOVES this meal, and best of all, even he can get it started if I'm late coming home from work. Tip: I don't boil the spinach. Instead, when the pasta is done boiling, I place the spinach in the colander and pour the pasta and water on top of the spinach to wilt it. Saves time!

3. Mom's Lasagna - It is so easy to make this lasagna gluten-free thanks to DeBole's no-boil lasagna noodles. This is another recipe that you can spend some time making on a Sunday afternoon and then freeze it until you're ready to cook it during the week!

4. Pepper Jack Cheesy Mac - Maybe it's the tortilla chips on top. Maybe it's all that melted cheese. Maybe it's the little bit of spice. Whatever it is, Pepper Jack Cheesy Mac is such a delicious homemade mac and cheese recipe. Perfect for football season!

5. Italian Pasta & Bean Soup
- This soup is great freshly made and as leftovers for lunch. It doesn't seem like much (pasta, tomatoes, parmesan, beans), but it's very filling and easy to put together.

6. Lemony Fusilli with Chicken, Zucchini, and Pine Nuts - If you like your pasta on the healthy side, this one is a winner! We never make it with pine nuts only because it's tough to find pine nuts that aren't processed on wheat-contaminated equipment. But if that's not a concern for you, by all means add some crunch with the pine nuts.
sausage alfredo

7. Sausage Alfredo - This recipe is the greatest thing ever! Who would have thought to put smoked sausage with pasta and a creamy alfredo sauce? Hillshire Farm did! And I thank them every day for placing this recipe as an ad in a magazine I read.

8. Fettuccine Alfredo - My husband loves chicken fettuccine alfredo, and I love to make the alfredo sauce from scratch using this healthier recipe from chef Rocco DiSpirito.

9. Pasta Carbonara - Here is another fast and easy weeknight pasta dish. Bacon, cheese, and pasta. How can you go wrong?

10. Any type of pasta with pasta sauce - Yep, just classic pasta in red sauce. Sometimes we spice things up by throwing shredded cheddar cheese on top before serving or mixing in a little chili powder!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fall Scrapbook Pages

I've got some more scrapbook pages to share with you today. These pictures are from August, September, and October of last year.

"Our Own Backyard":
There is a scenic overlook in our neighborhood that my parents and I hiked to to see the fall foliage in October. These are the pictures I took from the view. I thought the neutrality of the black and cream papers and embellishments would highlight the colors of the leaves.

"And They're Off"; 
I originally wanted to use these pictures in a Project Life photo page, but I didn't have the right pictures to go on the backside of the photo page, so I just used the photo page configuration and used it on a regular piece of cardstock. Didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it, but it's good enough.

"Color Run": 
Here are the before and after pictures of my Color Run team. Was glad to find some colorful pages and embellishments in my stash for this one.

And here are two pictures from my stint as official blogger at the NJ Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo last year. Super excited to attend this event as part of a cool community of bloggers. Hope I get to go again this year! I used up some Studio Calico product on this layout.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - February 2

Did your team win the superbowl? (Eh, I don't really care.) Who watched Downton Abbey last night? Now THAT I care about!

I also care about eating good, and here is what we're eating this week:

Sunday: out

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: eggs, bacon, and waffles

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: pasta with crusty bread

Friday: chicken caesar salad

Saturday: beef stew pot pies (more on this later!)