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Monday, October 20, 2014

This Week's Menu | Slow Simmered Bolognese, Goat Cheese & Caramelized Pizza, Lemon Chicken

I can not believe it is already the third week of October.  My heartaches a little thinking about it.  The weather is perfect.  Skies are blue, leaves are gold and red, air is crisp - perfect.  I can not get enough of it.  We've been a bit on the run for the last couple of weeks, so I'm going to really try to slow down and relax this week - long walks with Emma and D, easy dinners that leave us a time to play outside in the evenings (before it gets too dark!), and less working.  We have nothing on our calendar for the rest of the month besides a couple of halloween parties and I couldn't be more glad.  Time always skips a little faster for me because I'm already working on packaging up Thanksgiving products this week.  There is a lot of wheat involved (hint, hint).  I do have a couple of more Halloween projects to share, though... I've been dreaming about some Peanut Butter Cup inspired Cupcakes that will come in the next couple of days.

Hope you are enjoying a beautiful October day!

Slow Simmered Beef Ragu

This. Is. So. Good.  Tomatoes, cream, parmesan, thyme, rosemary, garlic, wine... all slow simmered with beef makes the most comforting, delicious beef ragu/bolognese.  If your family allows, add mushrooms, too... mine does not : )

Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables

This is such an easy dinner - using chicken breasts make it simple and quick.  The lemon butter thyme sauce that the chicken cooks in is perfect drizzled over the mashed potatoes.

Lemon Orzo Soup

In honor of my blogger friend, Tessa's home being featured in Midwest Living Magazine's holiday issue (that is now out!) I'm sharing her recipe for one of our family's favorites - Lemon Orzo Soup.  I'll use the chicken from our Roasted Lemon Chicken to make it an easy dinner from leftovers.

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Pizza

Homemade Pizza is much easier than you think... especially when you used pizza dough from Trader Joes :)  This will be mine, Emma and Mike will make a simple margarita with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Fun on the Farm | Our Trip to Fahrmeier Farms

My cousins have a farm just outside of Kansas City - a real farm.  Where they grow things.  They produce amazing heirloom tomatoes, vegetables and fruits.  This year my cousin and his wife, Lorin, (that have a little boy Emma's age) have developed a U-Pick area of the farm.  They saw a need in our area's market for a real farm experience for kids and familes.

So many of the area's U-Pick apples, pumpkins and berries farms are filled with other attractions that really have nothing to do with the actual art of farming - the experience of getting to come out to the beautiful wide open, see the fields, see how things grow and breathe fresh air.

They built their own "Little Red Barn" as they call it.  It houses their fresh produce, fresh apple muffins and local cider.  Lorin has done such a cute job with everything - charming and quaint.

Each weekend in the month of October they have good ol' fashioned activities planned - s'mores roasting over a bon fire, apple butter making, pumpkin carving contests and family photos.  

Here is their facebook page that has a schedule of events : Fahrmeier Farms Facebook

Emma just wanted to pick flowers...

We tried to take a good family picture... but I had my camera settings all messed up when I handed off my camera to my cousin : )  Oopsy!  Guess we'll have to think of something else for the Christmas card...

Hope your kiddos get to do some running around in the fresh air this weekend - the weather is soooo beautiful around here!

Entertaining Idea : Book Club Social

I've always loved the idea of hosting a book party - I feel like most people do.  At this point in my life (and most of my friends!) reading an entire book is a big ask.  For me, it could take weeks, 30 minutes at a time before bed - if I can hold my eyes open that long.  However, recently I've read a couple of classics that are short enough to enjoy in just a couple of nights, or over a long weekend - one being To Kill A Mockingbird.  If you haven't red it as an adult, I highly recommend it.  It is especially timely, since the story concludes on a Halloween night.  

Pinnacle Vodka asked me to come up with some ideas for hosting a book club party this fall, and I thought it would be a great jumping off point.  I picked some photos of a fall table setting I did last Autumn for inspiration.  Get the details on this setting, here

I hope you enjoy my tips for creating a fun and easy Book Club Social this fall!  Thanks to Pinnacle for sponsoring this post : )

Theme the Party After the Book

Hosting a book club social is all about the theme. Take cues from the book you’re reading to help decide the menu and decor. Ask yourself: Did the central character have a favorite food?  Was it set in a location you can mirror for the decor? Classic works like To Kill a Mockingbird are great sources for inspiration!

Keep Books the Center of the Room (Even if it’s not the center of conversation...) 

Let’s not forget the purpose of your book club social is not only to chat books, but also to catch up with your girlfriends. Use stacks of old books as simple centerpieces (and conversation starters!) at each table area.  Make stacks of random sizes, even turning some on their sides.  You can throw in a few decorative pumpkins or other seasonal items to add subtle ambiance.

Stick to Finger Foods

Prepare a menu of finger foods so everyone can neatly indulge at your party. My favorite go-to appetizer is a tasty squash dip with toasted bread.

Pinnacle® Mockingbird Punch 

1 part Pinnacle® Peach Vodka
1 part Dry White Wine
1 part Apple Cider
1/4 part Honey Syrup (Half honeyhalf hot water to liquify) 
Sliced Apples

Method: Pour all ingredients into glass and mix in ice and sliced apples.

Personalized Touches go a Long Way

For the takeaway gift, create a recipe card that looks like a library card with your cocktail recipe on it. That way guests can enjoy the cocktail at home the next time they curl up with their favorite book! There are plenty of library card templates you can download for free online, so just choose the one you like best.

Pinnacle® is a registered trademark of Jim Beam Brands Co. and is used with permission.  The information, comments and ideas expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Jim Beam Brands Co., its affiliated companies or any of their directors or employees.  Pinnacle® does not sponsor, authorize, or otherwise endorse this website.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pancakes with Halloween Cookie Cutters

Emma has recently decided that pancakes are her very favorite food... especially now that she has been introduced to Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  She'll hardly even look at a Blueberry Pancake anymore.  And plain?  Forget it.  Yesterday, we had a little more fun and made them into Halloween shapes using my Halloween Cookie Cutters... which are now on sale for $12.50.

I'd seen this idea before, but had never actually tried it.  In fact, I wasn't really sure it would work - I pictured the batter seeping out under the cutters.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was just as easy as it looked.  The pancakes turned out very thick and fluffy.  This morning Emma requested stockings and mittens... what have I started?!

In addition to some items being discounted (cookie cutters and sprinkles...) I'm now offering 15% off orders over $50 just in time for making Halloween goodies.  More details below.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups of milk
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Paste
Mini Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
Softened Butter
Real Maple Syrup
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Begin by mixing together dry ingredients.  Separately, whisk together milk, sour cream, eggs and vanilla bean paste.  Mix wet and dry ingredients, then fold in chocolate chips.

Spray cookie cutters with non-stick spray.  Put butter and oil in a skillet.  Place cookie cutters in the pan, then spoon in batter.  Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes - until bubbly in center.  Remove cutter, then flip.  Cook for another minute or two until cooked through.  Serve immediately or keep warm in oven.

I tried to add a Jack-O-Lantern face to this one... ended up being a little scary after it was flipped and cooked on the other side.

Hope you're enjoying your Fall & Halloween Baking... next we are going to try homemade glazed donuts with sprinkles!  While I love our chocolate glazed donuts and our cider donuts, I've really be craving good old fashioned, light and fluffy donuts with a classic glaze.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Again, don't miss the 15% off orders over $50 in my store.  Stock up on sprinkles (on sale), cookie cutters (on sale), cello bags, twine, ribbon and tags in time to make festive and spooky treats for your little (or big!) ghosts and goblins.... or princesses, if you are at our house.

Use the code : HALLOWEEN15 at checkout.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Autumn Chopped Kale Salad | Pumpkin Seeds, Cranberries & Pecorino with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

We rolled in at 2am last night from Mexico - we had Mike's sister's wedding over the weekend!  Obviously, I have no idea what we're having for dinner tonight, let alone this week, so instead of a weekly menu, I'm sharing this salad I promised a couple of weeks ago.  Hope you don't mind too much : )

This is my favorite Fall salad.  I order it from one of our favorite dinner spots - it has so many flavors and textures.  It goes great with my Apple Cider Roasted Pork Loin and Cheddar Grits, or is great to add some color and freshness to any comforting autumn dinner.  When I served this at home, everyone said - this is a perfect Thanksgiving Salad.  I also like to add sliced rotisserie chicken to make it an all-in-one meal, or served with a butternut squash soup.  Yum - maybe that is what we'll have for dinner!  

Pumpkin Seed & Cranberry
Kale Salad
with Apple Cider Vinaigrette 

4-6 cups of kale, chopped
1-2 apples, medium chunks
pumpkin seeds toasted, salted
dried cranberries
pecorino cheese
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of apple cider
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt

Wash kale, spin dry.  In a large bowl, combine kale and apples (not pictured, because I forgot!).  Stir together vinaigrette mixture, then pour over and toss.  Pile on platter and layer shavings of pecorino cheese, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Fall Guide & Recipe Index | Fall Baking, Dinner Recipes & Table Settings Galleries

You might notice it looks just a little bit different around here.  I've updated my blog template to include links to my Fall Guide.  It includes photo indexes and galleries to all of my favorite fall recipes, baking ideas and table settings.  I try to do this once a season and it is fun to look thru years and years of Fall baking and recipes to put it together - even some I forgot about : )

Click here for the Fall Guide >

Also, you'll notice a link on the right hand side of the page to "Printable Recipes" - this is a new offering that I've been working on.  Many of you requested that I add a printable feature, and I'm adding more and more recipes to it everyday.

Happy browsing!

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Week's Menu and House Project Update

I have to say, I am loving this October.  September felt more like August, but for some reason, just as the calendar flipped the page, so did the weather.  I'm so excited to be bundled up for our morning walks.  We spend our afternoon walks collecting leaves of every color, shape and size... any ideas of what to do with them?  I thought about having a cardboard wreath form that we glue them to every evening so by the end of the month we'll have a really full fall leaf wreath (three times fast...).

 This is not really a very pretty stage of construction - but it is progress, so it looks beautiful to me.  This will be the third week of the House Project.  The first week was demo, the second week was digging, now this week will be pouring the foundation.  This is the side of the house where the new garage will go - the trench on the right is just the path the bobcat used to get of of the foundation digging hole to the left of me in this photo.   Last week was filled with a couple of delays due to rain and extra equipment that had to be rented because "PeeWee": ) discovered these while excavating with the bobcat.

They were about 2 feet out from our foundation, and spaced about every 4 feet running along the entire back of the house.

They seem to be some sort of piers - but have all of our builders stumped.

Long story short, they had to be chopped off with some sort of saw, so that took a couple of extra days... hoping it wasn't too much of a ding to the budget/schedule.  We're also hoping that was our "hiccup" during construction... there's always going to be something, we hopefully that was ours.  Right...?!

Here's what I'm planning for this week's menu :

Our Favorite Spaghetti & Meatballs

We didn't have this on Sunday, or last week, so it is at the top of my list for this week!  The meatballs make great sandwiches for Mike's lunches.

Potato Leek Soup with Parmesan & Bacon

I'll probably add a big salad to this to make sure we eat something green this week : )

This may seem like a weekend meal, but dressing frozen fries up with truffle oil and parmesan cheese makes these any easy, easy weeknight meal... and, there is nothing easier than searing or grilling steaks.  I will probably put some veggies on the grill along with the steaks, too.
This may seem like a weekend meal, but dressing frozen fries up with truffle oil and parmesan cheese makes these any easy, easy weeknight meal... and, there is nothing easier than searing or grilling steaks.  I will probably put some veggies on the grill along with the steaks, too.

Braised Beef Chili

Because it is officially October, chili is definitely on the menu.  This is the Braised Beef Chili I mad at our Pumpkin Carving Party last year - I love the meatiness and the texture that the shredded braised beef gives the chili, instead of just ground beef.

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