To Burlap or NOT to Burlap!

Monday, November 28, 2011
Burlap -- it is EVERYWHERE. I really thought I was going to jump on the bandwagon. After all, you all are making such wonderful things with it -- all you have to do is enter the word burlap in the search on Pinterest and you'll get a bazillion ideas for gorgeous things to make with it. I bought yards of it on sale at Joann's Fabric a few weeks ago thinking I would do a table runner or two to use with my Christmas decorating.

This PIN was my inspiration!

Only problem was when I actually went to work with it -- I HATED IT!! Really, I found it stinky and scratchy and I didn't like it one bit -- I feel better for saying that but hope I haven't alienated you burlap loving folks! I won't let what I bought go to waste - I'll find some way to use it in the garden next spring. But now I was left with no inspiration for my tabletops.

I really didn't want to spend any more money so I opened my craft cupboard and started rooting around. What I had there was a stack of these......

I buy these dish towels in bulk from Colonial Patterns for my embroidery work. I love these simple, red-striped cotton towels. Could they be turned into a runner? Well, I lived with that idea for a couple days and then I started cutting and sewing. I am very happy with the final product -- well, that should read products -- my sideboard, kitchen island, dining table and upright grand piano top are all sporting runners. I think they capture the old farmhouse feel I adore!

Joining the lovelies Susan and Marty for Met Monday and Tabletop Tuesday!

Old-Fashioned Bake Sale ~ Pumpkin Cheesecake

Friday, November 25, 2011

Trusting that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! Ours was so very nice. I do have to say that going into this week was a little daunting for someone who is trying to lose weight. I was careful when planning the menu to make sure there was plenty that I could enjoy -- and I did. My goal was to maintain this week. When I did my weekly weigh-in this morning, the scale reported a loss of 1.2 pounds - I AM THRILLED!

Instead of making pies this year, there was a request for Pumpkin Cheesecake *like they have a Olive Garden*. I love making cheesecake but never had attempted a pumpkin version. I poured over lots of different recipes - then my issue of MaryJanesFarm came in (LOVE that magazine - it TOTALLY *gets me*) featured a beautiful photo and recipe for pumpkin cheesecake - my search was over. Not only was it simple looking but I could easily see how I could tweek it low carb for me. I made both version. The cheesecake got rave reviews and my low carb version was positively wonderful. I am sharing both today :)

(so it would be just like Olive Garden, I served the cheesecake with a mound of whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce)

Pumpkin Cheesecake
MaryJanesFarm Magazine
(Printable Version)

1-1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs (I used Anna's Swedish Ginger Cookies instead)
4 Tbsp butter, melted

2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup half n'half
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (my addition)

Preheat oven to 325°F. To prepare crust, combine crumbs with butter and press into bottom and 2" up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until soft; slowly add half n'half until mixture us smooth and fluffy. Add pumpkin puree, sugar, egg yolks, and next six ingredients; beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into pumpkin mixture. Pour into prepared crust and bake until knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Spread over cheesecake and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cook for 1/2 hour. Loosen sides of cheesecake from pan with a spatula. Cool 1/2 hour more. Remove sides of the pan and cool 2 hours longer. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Can be made 2 days in advance.

Gail's Low-Carb Version

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup Truvia sweetener (you could use Splenda)
2 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Follow directions above for mixing - divide mixture evenly between 5 1-cup ramekins. Bake according to above. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream sweetened with Truvia. Each ramekin is approximately 6 net grams of carbs and so VERY wonderful!

Posting to Michael's Foodie Friday and Kim's Sweet Indulgences Sunday!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Warning: This blog post is going to be all over the place, lol.

First I want to say that I have had to *turn off* Anonymous comments. I really didn't want to do that but lately the SPAM has been ridiculous.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday BUT the last few years it has been difficult to figure out just how to celebrate it -- you see it was in November 2007 that my now ex-husband and I separated. That year we spent Thanksgiving with my folks. Then for the next 2 years we were guests at friends. Last year my youngest daughter had a boyfriend commit suicide the week before the holiday and we pretty much decided to just skip it. Originally I had planned to return to my folks home for Thanksgiving this year but that didn't work out with my daughter's pregnancy SO we are celebrating at home. At first I was a little disappointed about that but have really warmed up to the idea that we (my children and I) will be having the holiday at home. My menu is planned, the shopping done and the house is cleaned. I am ready. Tomorrow evening I will be baking the pumpkin cheesecake (look for that recipe on Friday) and on Thursday everyone will lend a hand in making the feast.

So what is on the menu? Roasted Turkey, Cornbread Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Green Beans, Mrs. Schmidt's Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Pickles & Olives and Rolls -- Dessert will be Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pumpkin Spice Coffee.

I have so much to be thankful for this year -- when counting my blessings, I always count the friendship and encouragement my friends and fellow bloggers provide me with. Happy Thanksgiving.

FYI, I have 2 Gooseberry Patch books coming to me for review in the next couple weeks -- you know what that means -- great recipes and GIVEAWAYS!! Stay tuned!!

Cutting Board Resurfacing

Sunday, November 20, 2011
Have you seen my old wooden cutting board? I have several, but this one is my favorite. Can you tell it gets used A LOT? After seeing it in photos recently, I was EMBARRASSED and knew I needed to take some action and do something about the pitiful condition it was in. With all the chopping that will be going on in my kitchen over the next few days, I am glad to get this workhorse into better shape.

1. Clean your wooden cutting board using dish detergent and hot water to remove any particles.

2. Sanitize your cutting board using a solution consisting of one teaspoon of beach mixed with one quart of water.

3. Air-dry your cutting board until thoroughly dry.

4. Sand the cutting board using 100-180 grit sandpaper until the surface is free of scratches, notches, etc.

5. Finish sanding the cutting board surface with 400-600 grit sandpaper until the surface is smooth to the touch.

6. Clean the cutting board to remove any dust or remaining particles. Oil with board or mineral oil.

Use often and enjoy!!

Posting to Susan's Met Monday at BNOTP

Old-Fashioned Bake Sale ~ Amazingly Awesome Dinner Rolls

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It simply isn't Thanksgiving dinner without the homemade rolls at my house. There was a day when all my children were all at home, I made homemade rolls many times a week. Now they are only usually made when we have company or it is the holidays. Makes me kind of sad -- I love baking breads but cannot eat that way any longer so only for special occasions now. I guess I need to make sure we have plenty of special occasions :)

Amazingly Awesome Dinner Rolls
(Printable Version)

Makes 12 sandwich rolls or 18-24 dinner rolls


1 (2-1/4 tsp bulk) envelope active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups warm whole milk
1/2 stick of room temperature unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more to rub on top of the loaf.
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
2 tsp. salt


Warm the milk and butter in microwave just until the butter begins to melt (butter doesn’t need to melt completely).

Combine the yeast, sugar, butter and milk in a small bowl and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the milk, butter, yeast and sugar mixture, add the eggs and egg yolk, mix to combine.

Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour and salt. Continue mixing until the dough is silky and springy, about 10 minutes.

Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and lightly knead for 30 seconds. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clean tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Lightly punch down, cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes longer.

For sandwich rolls, roll dough out to approximately a ½ inch thick and cut into 12 equal pieces. For dinner rolls, divide dough into 18-24 equal pieces (depending on the size you want), roll, dip into melted butter and lay the cut or rolled dough balls into a metal 9×13-inch rimmed sheet pan. Brush the tops of sandwich rolls with melted butter. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or slightly dampened tea towel and let the dough rise about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls in the center of the oven until golden brown.

Posting to Michael's Foodie Friday and Honey's Potpourri Party!

Bundts Across America!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My close friends and those who have known me for a long time know I have a *thing* for *BUNDT*! I have a pretty good collection of these wonderful pans and love using them. Since today is National Bundt Day (celebrating 65 Years of Nordicware Bundts), I thought I'd share my entry into the Bundts Across America Contest as well as some of the winners -- the grand prize winner will be featured today on Martha Stewart's Show.

First, I'd like to direct you to a post I did a couple years ago on National Bundt Day - To Bundt or Not to Bundt.

Remember this recipe? It was the one I entered into the contest -- I didn't win but I still think this recipe is a winner! You can see all the semi-finalists recipes here. I will be eager to see the winning recipe!

Banana Bundt Cake w/Caramel Glaze & Candied Walnuts
(Printable Version)

1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, softened
4 mashed super ripe bananas (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Caramel Glaze
Candied Walnuts (commercially prepared ones can be used)

Prepare candied walnuts. Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 10-1/2-cup Bundt pan by using a pastry brush to brush the inside surface with solid shortening then dust with flour. Set aside. With a mixer, cream together sugar and softened butter. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated. In a medium mixing bowl, mash bananas. Add vanilla and sour cream. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternating with banana mixture (beginning and ending with dry ingredients) until well combined. Do not over mix. Pour into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 5-10 minutes, then turn cake out onto serving plate. Cool completely. When cooled, prepare glaze and pour over cake. Sprinkle glaze with chopped candied walnuts. Serves 12.

Caramel Glaze:
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Bring brown sugar, butter, and milk to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Whisk for 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Pour immediately over cooled cake.

Candied Walnuts:
½ lb walnuts halves
½ c granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp evaporated milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread nuts in a single layer over parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts start to turn brown and the smell of roasting nuts fills the kitchen. Stir together sugar, cinnamon, salt, and milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage of 236°F. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla immediately. Add walnuts to syrup mixture, and stir to coat well. Spoon nuts back onto parchment-lined baking sheet, and immediately separate nuts with a fork. Cool, and store in airtight container.

Old-Fashioned Bake Sale ~ Double Fudge Cream Cheese Bars

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy 11/11/11!

Last week was daughter's birthday. Good thing it wasn't this week -- it has be a CRAZY one!! Friday and Saturday I will be a busy bee selling my aprons and goodies at our local craft fair. Whew...I have been chained to my sewing machine and missing ALL that goes on in blogland. I'm looking forward to spending some of Sunday afternoon getting caught up with my blog reading :)

Jess' birthday treats was a old favorite at our house -- Double Fudge Cream Cheese Bars (also known as PMS Brownies at our house, lol)! She has always loved anything chocolate and LOVES cheesecake almost as much as her Momma! I cannot even tell you the first time we made these wonderful bars -- years and years ago. The recipe comes from my favorite blue Land O'Lakes Cookbook -- I am on my THIRD copy of this cookbook and my current copy is held together with a giant rubber band. Not a bad recipe in the lot :)

Double Fudge Cream Cheese Brownies
(Printable Version)

1 cup butter
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of 13x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, extending paper over pan edges. Set aside. Melt 1 cup butter and unsweetened chocolate in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth (4 to 6 minutes). Stir in all remaining brownie ingredients except chocolate chips; mix well. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Spread half of batter into parchment paper-lined pan. Combine all filling ingredients in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Spread over brownie batter in pan. Spoon remaining batter over cream cheese mixture. (Some cream cheese mixture will show through batter.) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely. Use edges of parchment paper lining to lift bars from pan. Place onto cutting board. Pull back edges of parchment for easy cutting; cut into bars. Store refrigerated.

Posting to Michael's Foodie Friday and Honey's Potpourri Party!

Old-Fashioned Bake Sale ~ Foolproof Pie Dough

Friday, November 4, 2011

Well, PIE season is about upon us. If you know me, you know that I ♥ pie. I've used a few different crust recipes over the years. My sweet grandmother-in-law always added a Tbsp of vinegar to hers (and I did for many years too) to suppress gluten formation and thus get a very flaky crust -- vodka does a better job. This is now the only recipe I use.

Anyone who knows me also knows that my FAVORITE is Cherry Pie!

Happy Pie Making!

Foolproof Pie Dough
(Printable Version)
Cook’s Illustrated 2007
- makes one 9-inch double-crust pie -

The trick to this pie crust is the inclusion of vodka. Eighty-proof vodka, which is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol, adds moistness to the dough without aiding in gluten formation since gluten doesn't form in ethanol. Although the recipe includes 8 tablespoons of liquid, the alcohol vaporizes during baking, resulting in a tender crust that only contains 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Because of the extra liquid, the dough will be moister than most standard pie doughs and will require up to 1/4 cup more flour.

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1-1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Posting to Michael's Foodie Friday and Honey's Potpourri Party!

Happy November 1st!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Twenty-six years ago today this sweet baby girl was born -- now she is going to be a Momma herself -- to my first little grandbaby (boy)! I love you Jess and am so very proud of the woman you have grown up to be. You have blessed me since the day I knew you were to be mine! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!