10/15/14

Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Seriously.


I happened to have some sauce left over from Bread Pudding….so anyone could see that I had no choice, really, but to make pumpkin waffles.  It only made sense.  

**These would be good with an Apple Cider Syrup, as well, so below is a recipe for both & you can decide!  Heck - throw in some maple syrup with any of these, as well. You just can't go wrong here!**


PUMPKIN SPICE WAFFLES

WAFFLES:
2 c. buttermilk
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg
3 T. brown sugar
¼ c. oil
2 T. vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. salt

In a bowl, mix together the wet ingredients:  milk, pumpkin, eggs, oil, and vinegar.
In another bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
Stir to combine all ingredients, thinning the batter with milk if it's too thick.  Try not to over-stir - just get it to the right consistency you like.

PRALINE SAUCE:  (makes about 4 cups)
1 c. butter, cut into pieces
¾ c. chopped nuts
3 ¼ c. brown sugar
¾ c. heavy cream
½ t. cinnamon
1 ¼ c. sour cream (and don't get the light stuff…you're going all-out here)
1 t. vanilla

In a large saucepan, heat ½ c. of the butter until melted.  Add pecans and mix well.  Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, until pecans begin to brown slightly and become fragrant.  Remove from heat and add remaining ½ c. butter and mix well.  Add brown sugar, heavy cream, and cinnamon to the pan; mix well.  Cook over medium-high heat until blended, stirring constantly.  When mixture starts to boil vigorously, turn the heat down a little and boil rapidly for 2 minutes - keep stirring.  Remove from heat and add sour cream and vanilla.  **{Seriously…the sour cream MAKES this sauce!!}**

APPLE CIDER SYRUP:
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. ground ginger
⅛ tsp. ground cloves
1 pinch salt
2 c. fresh apple cider (after a good shaking)
1 ½ T. apple cider vinegar
¼ c. butter, diced

In a medium saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves and salt until cornstarch is evenly mixed.  Stir in apple cider and apple cider vinegar and turn the heat up to medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Allow to boil for about 1 ½ minutes while continuously stirring.  Remove from heat, stir in butter and allow to cool a little.



10/14/14

Christmas Craft-Along?!

I miss doing things together…..remember the Apron Swap?  The Fitness Challenge?  Good times. 
 Let's do something together again!  Anybody with me?!  

Sometimes I need a little nudge….sometimes a push...and mostly a SHOVE.  

Let's make something adorable to add to our homemade collection for our future generations to enjoy.  That's one of my favorite things about the things we make - our future generations will treasure it…usually.  

I wish I had something beautiful made by my grandmother, but I don't because she had, like, a bazillion grandkids.  I do have a beautiful crochet dress made by a great-grandmother and it's a TREASURE!

So…with that in mind…let's make some Christmas decor!  I will jump ahead and walk you through it step-by-step and it will be something that ANYBODY can do.  We can all post our pictures on a Flickr page that I'll set up later.  

Here's what has inspired me lately…thinking about doing a craft-along with one or two of these:

Embroidery Hoop Christmas Applique from Coutrykitty.  These are adorable and would be cute up on the wall all together.  I'll make up some templates and post it for everybody to use.  This one looks fun!! 


 
Felt trees from Pottery Barn Kids.  To buy a set of these, you're looking at $136 before tax & shipping. We can make these for MUCH less!! (and probably a little more detailed, too)  Sometimes it's just easier to just spend the money on something really beautiful, but this time, I am thinking that this is a project I want to undertake.  


(Photo came from Pinterest, via Flickr.)
I LOVE this idea of creating a little felt tree for little ones to decorate.  I've got a LOT of little people in my life that would love this!  Trying to decide if it's something I want to undertake or not, but if I did, I'd probably do a bunch - which could get a little crazy!  Not sure if I want to get TOTALLY crazy or not….but being that it comes naturally for me, I'm seriously contemplating it.  …..???  


And…finally….best for last….DEFINITELY a Photo Challenge!  
You don't have to own a fancy camera - you just have to join the fun and get creative!  I'll come up with a Holiday Photo Challenge list and we can all share together.  


So get ready, get out your glue guns, embroidery needles, your cameras, and get ready to MAKE SOME MAGIC with me!! {scream!}  Sorry…screaming is sometimes unnecessary.

Have a Happy Day!!
-Abby






10/13/14

Football, Outings & Photoshop

What's happening?!  
Busy life is happening for us, and it's a beautiful thing.  

There are SO many things to love with the oncoming of each new season!  I guess I just love it all!!!  Just when I think spring is my favorite, I then decide summer is my favorite.  But then back-to-school is my TOTAL favorite, and then October comes and I can't believe how much October is my FAVORITE.  Then the weather starts to cool and I remember that Thanksgiving and Christmas are my ultimate favorite.  I think I have a problem…

October marks the beginning of my favorites, though - General Conference, Halloween (only because my baby girl LOVES to dress up and my little guy is on the cusp of getting "too old" for Halloween…whatever that means…), Christmas crafting {squeal!}, and getting ready for the Thanksgiving & Christmas season.  

Way to go, October - you rock.  The fun just SNOWBALLS from here!!  (might I add that snow is one thing I seriously don't miss…like, AT ALL.)

My {adorable} mom & daughter at the General Women's Meeting.
What an amazing time to feel united, uplifted, and strengthened!!!  And with two of my favorite girls!!!
If you ever need a lift, regardless of your religious beliefs, go check out the articles/videos of this meeting!  


Football Carpool!  This little girl can rarely stay awake when we have to haul kids all over town after school.  She plays SO HARD all day long!!!  She can't even finish her snack.

Took the kids to their first ever Arizona Wildcats football game!  Talk about FUN!!!
Sad, sad loss, though - the Cat's undefeated streak was broken….we might have cried a little.

This sold-out stadium is starting to fill up - we are about 45 minutes before start-time.  There was SO much excitement, energy, and noise!  It was a good time!!  

We still love our Cats!

My baby girl continues to be the driving force in our family - she NEVER slows down!  She's either making art, making me laugh, making me crazy, making messes, and always wearing something crazy. I love it.  We just want to hold on to her and make the most of every second since she's the last one.  


 And…what would we do without cell phone cameras?  We wouldn't be able to snap that random picture of a cactus blossom.    Isn't it gorgeous?!

…or that brief sunset…monsoon majesty right here.  And that's our Gila Valley temple - isn't she grand?!


Coming along…slowly…piecing this beauty together.  This was going to be for my daughter's birthday a long time ago, and now that it has taken me so long, I'm wondering if I just want to keep it on the couch!!  Not sure…but I'm sad to discover that I don't love all of the colors anymore.  At first I did, and then it's worn off…so much work for something I'm not madly in love with.  Oh well.  Must finish it!!  


 Another outing…can you believe that this is all in our backyard?!  We just take a little drive and we're in different terrain.  It's wonderful!

These beauties were NOT excited to have visitors.  They wouldn't let me get too close.  Simmer down, ladies.  I just want a picture.



Sun setting below the hilltops.  I LOVE this time of day when everything is drenched in that warm, golden light!  



And…it's senior picture time! For family, I'll do picture freebies and I had SO much fun with these two.  I've got one more girl to do.  Photoshop has been my BFF lately.  This takes up HOURS of my time, but it's SO worth it.  I love creating beautiful pictures and showing these girls how gorgeous they are.  It's a very fulfilling hobby - one that I love to share.  :)






Have a Happy Day!!!!  
--Abby



9/19/14

Cooking 101 - White Corn Tortilla Soup


BETTER than eating out.  WHAT??!!

Soup season is upon us, however this soup has no season - it's a year-round gourmet delicacy.
I LOVE ordering soup at my favorite restaurants, sampling various flavors and combinations, but THIS soup is better than most restaurant options - and you can make it at home!!  {air punch}

 And I'm not joking - this soup can rival *almost* anything.  Plus, it's super hearty so you don't need anything else besides a cheesey quesadilla.  It's a one-pot wonder.  And it's EASY!  


It kind of looks tomatoey, but it's not - don't be fooled.  That would be foolish.  
It's got this deep, rich flavor that comes from the corn tortillas, roasted chilies, and all of those veggies.



Like I said, the best way to eat it is paired with a good 'ol cheese quesadilla.  Buttered on one side, good cheddar cheese on the inside, cooked to a slight crisp on a seasoned cast iron griddle.  Perfection.



These little guys are the secret ingredient to most of my soups. (and pasta sauce)  Hatch green chilies.  

I get them on the side of the road here in my hometown, where they're roasted in this huge roaster.  They sit and sweat in a plastic bag and after FOUR excruciating HOURS of peeling the skin off chilies….

I have over 2 dozen baggies of chilies to put in the freezer.  We put these in everything and NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING can come close to the deep, rich flavor that these roasted Hatch chilies have.  (I get 'medium' because I'm not a fan of my mouth going numb, but they still have a lot of kick to them.)

This was my lunch….and I felt like I was eating at a gourmet restaurant.  It's easy, delicious, and if you make a double-batch (might as well, right?), you will have dinner in the freezer for those busy days.


WHITE CORN TORTILLA SOUP

Super easy - just a few steps and the work is done.

3 T. olive oil
1 ½ 7-inch white corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares
1 ½ T. minced garlic
½ of a medium onion, minced
2-3 roasted Hatch green chilies, diced (or two 4-oz. cans)
1 ½ T. minced jalapeno pepper (optional - I don't use these)
1 lb. white corn kernels, thawed or frozen - they both work
1 ½ lbs. chopped, ripe red tomatoes or 28 oz. diced tomatoes
⅓ c. tomato paste
2 ½ t. ground cumin
 1 T. salt
⅛ tsp. ground pepper
½ t. chili powder
1 ½ c. water
1 qt. chicken stock (or 4 c. water and 4 tsp. chicken base)
⅓ c. heavy cream

Garnish:  crushed tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped cilantro

Cheese Quesadillas:
Good flour tortillas, cheese, butter, and a griddle

Over medium high heat, fry tortilla squares in olive oil until they become crisp and turn a golden yellow.  Add garlic, onion, jalapeno, and green chilies; cook 1-2 minutes until onion becomes translucent.  Add half the corn along with all other ingredients (except garnishes), reserving the other half of the corn to be added at the end.  Bring the soup to a low, even boil; cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until all veggies are cooked and tender.  Remove soup from heat.  Using an imersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.  (You can also use a blender and work in batches).  Return the soup to the burner and add the reserved corn, bring to a boil, careful to avoid scorching.  Add heavy cream and use chicken base and/or salt to season.

Garnish and serve.

**Note:  If you're super busy and don't have time to babysit this soup, let it simmer on your lowest heat setting or put it all in the crockpot after you sautee your tortilla and veggies.  When you're ready to eat, just puree it and add the remaining corn and heavy cream.


Enjoy!!  Have a happy day!!




9/18/14

Organic Cloth Diapers

So I have this amazingly talented cousin, Tracy, and she can literally do anything.  She showed me her latest, greatest project and I absolutely LOVE these!!!!  They're built SO well and they'll last pretty much forever.  I looked into cloth diapers when I was expecting #4, but I was too cowardly to try them, and they weren't this cute.  Cost wise, it would have been cheaper for me to buy a few cloth diapers like these and reuse them over and over.  I have friends who swear by cloth diapers and won't EVER go back to buying disposable diapers again.  These are 100% reusable, organic, and easy to use.  

SO….if you're looking for an awesome baby shower gift or something fun to try with your own baby, come visit Tracy at her Etsy shop, Toot Sweets.  





8/12/14

Getting cozy with nature

Once a year my Love Nugget and I get this inexplicable itch to camp.  In a tent.  With no bathrooms.  ???!!! ….  I know…I'm just as confused as you are.  

But...we have this killer-awesome tent and we like to pretend we're homeless for a couple of nights.  {I can be super rugged when I have to be.}
We don't like to camp with other campers unless they're friends, which means we have to find a secluded spot, usually a good distance from a restroom, but who doesn't like to do their business in nature?!  Nature has some pretty stunning restrooms with amazing views!!!  {It only gets awkward when a hiker wearing a red sweatshirt walks by with his dog.  You just say 'hello' at that point and pretend you're just sitting for a minute, so happy the sniffing dog is on a leash...}


I actually love camping, just not the setting-up and taking-down.  I have a love/hate relationship with camping.  I hate getting things ready and can never find any good reason why we're putting ourselves through this torture when we have perfectly good food and beds here at home. But then, when everything is all set up, and I get to wander around taking pictures of nature, I can't stop raving at how much I love camping and love nature and love our beautiful mountain!  And then our homeless adventure is over and we have to pack up and head home to the reality that everything  has to be cleaned off, aired out, and packed away again…. ugh!!!  

Coming home to my beautiful photos reminds me again how much I love being in the great outdoors!
There was this golden evening light in our camp because the sun was setting and reflecting off some huge rain clouds coming.  I LOVE evening light.

Evening light - the calm before the storm.  Literally.  We love rain, though, so it was fun.  

Oh, how I love this place!  It smells AMAZING, too - fresh mountain air, rain on the cusp, and that woodsy, earthy scent.  I love it.

This cute little guy let me get up close and personal.  I love all of his colors!! 


I know that mushroooms are the body part of a fungus, basically woodland warts, and some are lethal, but they're ADORABLE!!!  They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes!  I love little woodland things.

 Our mountain is covered with thse beautiful red flowers called Hummingbird Plant.  


I don't know what this plant is, but it's gorgeous!!  It was growing along the rocks on a cliff-side.  

Water is so scarce here, so it's always good to see a creek or stream.  They're often dry, so I get excited when I see running water up on the mountain!


Probably a weed, but I love these sweet little white daisies!




And that's enough camping for one year.  
Next year, when the aftermath of this campout has faded into pleasant memories, we will do this all over again.  I wish I could say that I'm excited, but I'm not.  If I'm going to be comfortable in the wilderness, I need a trailer with a shower, kitchen, Tempurpedic Cloud Luxe mattress, and flushing potty.  :)

Have a Happy Day!!!

8/7/14

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

WOO{hoo!!}  
Who doesn't get excited about good homemade bread?!  
If you don't, something is sad and unbalanced in your life.

Bread is one of the oldest, earthiest staples of the human diet and thank GOODNESS for the addition of butter to that diet because the combination is….literally….a little slice of heaven.


Thankfully, I'm not on the anti-grain, anti-gluten track right now….maybe I will be someday, but happily NOT today!!!  (although I should be…my love of homemade bread isn't healthy)  I got into the Paleo Diet thing and I definitely love aspects of it, but I really feel like God gave us all of the resources we need here on earth to be healthy, including grains, and I definitely believe in moderation in ALL things.  

I try to eat healthy, I really, really do.  My family eats SO much healthier than I ever did as a kid.  I'm not a total health-nut, but I'm a huge fan of being mindful and making good choices.  My new goal is to quit being lazy (yeah, right) and have healthy bread on hand to make school lunches with.    

In trying to be careful of what wheat I use for my bread, and came upon this brand on Amazon, which is a Non-GMO, organic wheat berry.  YES! 


Wheat has become controversial lately, but here are some of the researched health benefits to wheat:

*helps lower hazards of heart disease
*helps diabetes patients regulate blood glucose levels
*the nutrient value of wheat is maintained even after grinding it into flour
*energy booster
*controls obesity 
*improves body metabolism
*helps reduce chronic inflammation
*anti-carcinogenic 
well…the list goes on, but here is a great site if you're interested.



Obviously, making bread with butter, sugar, and other ingredients doesn't ensure a 'healthy' product, but overall, if you're going to eat bread, you might as well reap the benefits of whole wheat and grind some yourself.  


I don't have a heavy-duty wheat grinder like most people, but I do have this handy little Kitchenaid attachment that was WAY cheaper!  However, since I have experimented with this wheat and it's amazing flavor, I might have to get a better grinder.


Golly!  I feel like the Little Red Hen…which means that I get to eat all of the bread myself.


Okay, so I'm NOT a bread whiz.  I'm not that "Bread Queen" that everybody knows.  I just like making my own bread and here is something I learned while doing it:
It needs to be MOIST.  This is what my bread dough looks like AFTER I am done adding flour.  It's a little mushy, but after kneading it for 15 minutes (below)….

It starts to become more elastic and cling to the bowl a little more.  This is the texture I'm after because it produces such a light, fluffy, moist bread.  If you have too much flour to start with, your bread can get heavy. 


At the end of kneading, roughly 15-20 minutes depending on your dough, It should be a little stretchy and sticky.  Mine is particularly sticky because I used honey.  

and now the waiting begins…..

recipe is below, but this is my bread rising…isn't it beautiful?!  Even the dough tastes yummy - there is no bitter flavor from these wheat berries.



 In the meantime…while I'm waiting…
check out my newest, most adorable little plant!!!!
{gasp!!}  She's so tiny, beautiful, and I call her Flora.
It was love at first sight - I was at Safeway purchasing fruit and she was sitting all by herself on a plant stand.  I really think she needed me.  I had to do the right thing and bring her home.

Flora likes her new home on my window sill.  My teenage son tries to tell her mean things like how I'm horrible with plants, how nothing ever survives in my care, but I told her not to listen to that nonsense.  We're going to be good friends, Flora and I.  


 Oh, and while the Kitchenaid was just sitting there….on the counter doing nothing…the only natural thing to do while waiting for bread to rise was to make Kadie's coconut chocolate chip cookies.  Hey - it made sense.
Like I said, I'm not a health nut.



Okay….imagine the most amazing homemade bread smell…
Everything seems right in the world when the house smells like fresh homemade bread that was JUST pulled out of the oven.  


…and here come the little people.  This poor bread sat and cooled for all of 5 minutes before my littles were hovering all over it.
This, friends, is evidence of a wonderful, happy childhood.

This bread is so light, fluffy, moist, and OH SO GOOD!!!!  



Honey Whole Wheat Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

1 c. warm water
4 ½ tsp. active dry yeast (2 packets)
1 c. scalded milk
½ c. good, local honey (we have mesquite honey and it's AMAZING)
⅓ c. melted butter
⅓ c. melted organic extra virgin coconut oil
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
4 c. fine ground whole wheat flour
2 c. unbleached white flour (or fine white wheat flour)

*note: you could use 6 c. fine whole wheat flour, but I added a little bit of white flour in order to keep the bread from being too heavy.  

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; set aside.  In a large Kitchenaid mixing bowl with wire whisk attachment, mix milk, honey, butter, coconut oil, salt, and eggs.  Add 2 c. flour and mix until smooth.  Add the rest of the flour and mix until combined.  Switch attachments to the bread kneading tool and knead dough for 15-20 minutes, or until it starts pulling away from the bowl and develops an elasticity.

Place in well-greased bowl; cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 ½ hours.  

When doubled in size, punch down dough.  Roll into 2 loaves and place each loaf in a well greased bread pan.  Set aside and let rise again for another hour or until it's doubled in size again.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.  Bread is done when it is brown on top and hollow-sounding in the center when you tap on it, or reaches 200 degrees on a meat thermometer.  The more you bake bread, the better you'll know when your bread is done.  Have FUN and enjoy your amazing bread!!!