Category Archives: Cooking

Halloween party pumpkin dip

I love Halloween. I love it even more now that I have kids to share the fun with. It’s so fun waiting each year for the kids to decide on a new costume idea- although I admit some years they really stretch my limited crafting skills…I thought the astronaut suit was a hard one, until my oldest announced that she wanted to be a kangaroo this year…. A kangaroo.

While the East coast waited in nervous anticipation to see what hurricane Sandy would bring, we baked some extra muffins, filled some extra water jugs, and dug out the flashlights- then spent the evening carving pumpkins while we listened to the wind howl and trees groan. A Halloween memory for sure.
I was pretty relieved this morning when I went out to feed the chickens that our yard looked wet but unscathed. I also discovered that chickens go absolutely crazy-pants for leftover pumpkin guts.

But on to the pumpkin dip…

This past weekend I suddenly remembered that I needed a snack for my daughter to take to a party- and searched Pinterest madly as we drove home from church looking for something I could whip up in a BIG hurry. That’s where I came across recipes for Pumpkin Dip. There are quite a few variations on this, so I went with what looked like the easiest, and am so glad- it’s utterly delicious! Are you ready for this? Prepare to be in pumpkin heaven:

1 can Libby’s pure pumpkin
1 16 oz container of fat free Cool Whip
1 box sugar free vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Add all ingredients together and mix until fluffy.
I used ginger snap cookies with this, but it would be great with graham crackers, vanilla cookies, and even sliced apples.

Here is a link to the recipe I used and made my additions to: pumpkin fluff dip

This is going to make a repeat appearance at my office this week … and a few other places this holiday season.

Happy haunting and have a safe Halloween!



Baker, baker… bake me a pie

It’s apple month over at Farm Chick Chit Chat, and to get everyone excited about the new blog we are having an “apple pie recipe-off” to gather everyone’s favorite apple pie recipes.

Confession: I hate making pie. I mean, I LOVE to bake…, just not pie. I think it has something to do with the fact that both my mother and mother-in-law are amazing pie bakers….I have pie- envy. Generally, I won’t even make more than one apple pie a year because, honestly, everyone would rather eat one of theirs

So, with that I give you the best recipe I have… which is mostly just a copy of my mom’s. But to start a good pie, one must have a great crust- and here I have a dilemma. Do I use my mother-in-law’s or my own dear sweet momma’s??? See what I’m saying?? I honestly can’t say which is tastier. My hubby will of course vote for his mom’s (and in a dimwitted moment once actually said that to my mom!!!), so I naturally usually make my mom’s

How about this- I will give you both and you decide. Settle the matter for me, please!

Mom’s Recipe for pie crust
1 stick softened butter
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
Dash of nutmeg
3 tbsp cold water

In a large bowl use a pastry cutter to blend the flour, butter, salt and nutmeg. When crumbly, add cold water slowly and mix until a doughy ball forms. Divide the dough in 1/2 and roll out on a floured surface. Makes 2 crusts.

His mom’s pie crust recipe
3 cups flour
1-1/2 cup Crisco
1 tbsp cider vinegar
5 tbsp water
1 egg

Blend flour and Crisco together in a bowl with a pastry cutter until crumbly.
In a small bowl, mix together egg, vinegar, and water. Mix all together lightly to create a very sticky dough. Divide into 3. Roll dough out on floured surface. (makes 3 crusts)

Okay, so on to the filling:
6-8 peeled chopped apples (Macs or Galas are our preference)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl stir together apples, sugar, and cinnamon and transfer to pie dish onto bottom crust. Add top crust and pinch together in whatever manner suits you ( I usually use a fork). Sprinkle crust liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 350 and continue baking for 30-40 minutes until crust is golden.


What a crock (of apples)


They say you are never too old to learn something new, and my 8 year old just taught me something- so I guess it is true! We just made a batch of crockpot applesauce – a project her class did at school last year. Sooooooo ridiculously easy and YUM!!!!’

8-10 large apples, peeled and chopped (the smaller the pieces the better).
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar ( we did 1/2 brown, 1/2 white)
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in crockpot, cook on low for about 8 hrs – stirring and mashing occasionally.

Your house will smell amazing by the way ūüôā

This is so easy to do- I plan on making at least one batch a week for the foreseeable future!

Welcome, Farm Chick Chit Chat!

I am so excited to be included in the new Farm Chick Chit Chat blog! Please be sure to follow the link to check it out- you will find a wonderful community of fellow bloggers with an interest in farming.

As I have said before, fall is by far my most favorite season and I am thrilled that it is finally around the corner! We have been trying to pack in as much activity as possible into the last couple of weeks to close out the summer, and the kids head off to school this week. I cannot believe our baby is starting school this year…and am much sadder about it than I had expected to be. The backpacks are packed, pencils sharpened, and new jackets hung by the door! I don’t know about the rest of you, but the start of the school year always feels like a new beginning to me- more so than New Year’s. Time to start new routines, get busy with the knitting projects I’ve had on hold all summer, and a renewed interest in cooking and meal-planning.

My family welcomes fall as the return of “mom’s baking!” season…and to kick things off I thought a cake would be perfect to celebrate back-to-school. I found this “harvest celebration” cake in a Gooseberry Patch cookbook a number of years ago, and it has always gone over well.


For the 1st day of school, I tossed a beef stew in the crockpot and once both the kiddos were off on their awfully big adventures I baked them this cake ūüôā The flavors really seemed perfect to celebrate the new school year.

While the recipe calls for 1 hour of baking time, I had to bake it for an extra 15 minutes…. Not sure why but it could be due to my substitution of applesauce in place of the oil.

Harvest cake (originally from Gooseberry Patch)

1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup oil ( I substitute applesauce)
2 cups flour
15 oz can pumpkin
1 apple- cored, peeled, chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional- I skip them)

Combine sugar, brown sugar, baking soda , salt and spices. Add in the oil ( or applesauce if you prefer), vanilla and eggs. Add flour slowly- beating in a bit at a time. Stir in the pumpkin, apples and nuts. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Pour batter into pan, bake at 350 degrees for an hour (or until cooked through). Let cool and frost with icing if desired. Serves 10-12. We skip the icing and eat it more like a bread. It’s delicious!

Lazy Day Italian Sausage Soup

Impromptu day off= time to mess around in the kitchen for week 2 of the fall soup project.¬† Trying out something new for this week’s soup, based loosely on a few I’ve found online for Italian-style sausage soups (and what I’ve got here in the kitchen because I REALLY don’t want to drive into town this morning).

Ground pork sausage w/ sage- lightly browned

1 can Italian stewed tomatoes

5 potatoes peeled and chopped into small cubes

2 cloves garlic- finely chopped

1/2 large onion- finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

4 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper

Lightly brown sausage.  Run onion, celery and garlic on pulse through food processor (or chop finely if you have the patience for that), combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for 3 hours, then low for another 3 or longer.

Now that dinner is already set, go brew some coffee, grab some abandoned¬†project (laundry, ironing, and knitting¬†in today’s case), and a fantastically¬†corny b/w monster flick- and enjoy a well-deserved day off.

Welcoming Fall…and Soup Season

Fall has arrived, and it is Beautiful!¬†These are the days I wait all year long¬†for, and will savour each moment of while they last.¬† I’m an autumn junkie. Give me leaves, pumpkins, crisp mornings, sweaters and mittens, apple cider, soups and breads.¬† Bring on the fall! I’m thinking that I will try something new this year and try my hand at learning to make new soups- one each week is my plan.

First up: a perennial favorite- Butternut Squash Soup.¬† The girls and I LOVE this soup, so I usually make a couple of large batches for the freezer each fall.¬† This time around I wanted to make it suitable for my favorite visiting vegetarian, so had to change it up a bit and lose the chicken stock base.¬† Here’s a vegetarian spin on it:

2 medium butternut squash-¬†peeled and cubed, 2 cloves of garlic-¬†chopped, 1/2 onion-¬†chopped, 2 cups carrots -peeled and chopped, 2 cans vegetable stock, 2 cups water, salt, pepper, about 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, heavy whipping cream.¬†¬† Add all ingredients EXCEPT the heavy cream to a large stock pot and bring to a boil, then simmer on medium for about 40 minutes or until veggies are soft enough to split w/ a fork.¬† Remove from heat and cool a bit.¬† Transfer vegetables and some liquid to a food processor (or blender) and run through until smooth.¬† Add back to the stock pot and remaining stock.¬† Stir in 1/2 cup of room temp whipping cream (I’ve been told that bringing it to room temp. helps to prevent it from curdling in the hot soup) OR you can add the cream as desired to each individual bowl.

So delicious!  Perfect for an afternoon spent pumpkin-picking and enjoying the fall leaves!

Saturday Salsa

Well, after a 2nd attempt at harvesting tomatoes, followed by a 2nd major allergy attack this week- we’ve got enough in to do the first batch of salsa!¬† I’m using a basic “traditional salsa” recipe from the Ball Canning website, but altering it a bit to suit our garden harvest and tastes.¬†

This made 7 pints (I was going for 8, but 7 is precisely what I got…not sure why really, other than a sneaking suspicion this entire crop of tomatoes is really determined to mess with me at every step…)

14 cups peeled, seeded and cored tomatoes, 6 chopped green and sweet red peppers, 8 cloves garlic- minced, 1 medium onion- minced, 1 cup white vinegar,4 Tbsp. lime juice,4 Tsp. salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and boil- then simmer for 15 minutes.¬† In the meantime, get your large water canner ready w/ boiling water and your clean jars and lids ready and kept warm in simmering¬†water until you are ready to use them (this is supposed to keep jars from breaking when you put the very hot salsa in them).¬†¬† Next comes the part where you hustle a bit (the kids are bribed to stay out of the kitchen with a promise of Harry Potter and pudding when I am done)…

Ladle the VERY hot salsa into the jars and leave 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar. Make sure the rim of the jar and the lid are wiped clean and dry, then place the lid on, followed by tightening a ring on.¬† Then the jars go into the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.¬† I’m using the Ball Canning Discovery Kit and Utensil Set, which are really pretty cheap and easy to use- the only downside is that the basket only holds 3 jars at a time…so the canning process takes a little longer than if I had one of those big old metal sets that my mom and grandmothers used to use (really really¬†wish I hadn’t sold the 2 of them I had found in the shed out back when we bought the house… foresight has never been one of my gifts).

So, here we are-¬†2-1/2 hours and 1 dead bee later (nasty surprise flying around the kitchen) and we’ve got Salsa!

It’s looking good, maybe a wee bit heavy on the liquid… I’ll have to work on that for the next batch, but it’s easy enough to drain off before eating.¬† All in all- worth the hassle, I think.

Sunday Blues and Berries…

“The blue’s but a mist from the breath of the wind, a tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand…”- from “Blueberries” by Robert Frost

Today I am spending Sunday in one of my favorite ways: listening to the blues and dealing with the 20+ lbs. of blueberries we picked this weekend. Bessie Smith and Lightnin Hopkins keep me company in the kitchen while I package berries for the freezer, and wait for a batch of lavender Blueberry Muffins

to come out of the oven (the heady scent of lavender fills the room and is delicious). I flip through the recipe box and pull out cards tabbed “Blueberry Crumble,” “Blueberry Salsa” (haven’t been brave enough to try that one yet, but maybe this year), and “Grandmother’s Blueberry Pie,” which I discovered is the same as the one on the box of tapioca, but it certainly sounds tastier than if labeled “Blueberry Pie off box of tapioca.”

We pick at a local blueberry farm and I set aside a vacation day each summer just to spend filling bucket after bucket with the sweet blue marvels. We joke that they should weigh my daughter before she heads into the field to pick, as it’s one fruit that everyone in my family solidly agrees upon and I never ever have to ask them twice to eat them.

“Nine below zero” by Sonny Boy Williamson comes on, and I laugh and tell my kids about the pet fish I had named Sonny Boy Williamson. They think that’s pretty weird. “Yeah, so are you,” I tell them, “Have a muffin.”


Last summer I learned a secret.¬† Pssst, I will share it with you:¬† Strawberry Freezer Jam is soooooooooooo easy, and it’s like eating little spoonfuls of heaven.

With 4 quarts of strawberries from our local (Amish) grower (yes, you do see a theme growing here-¬†we are surrounded by and support a lot of Amish), I just finished this year’s batch of strawberry jam.¬† Soon to come will be blackberry jam, and perhaps this year we’ll try some blueberry jam (anyone ever make that??).¬† It’s so very easy.¬† If you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend that you give it a go this year.¬† Grab a couple quarts of fresh locally grown berries and make freezer jam.¬† You¬†will be so happy you did-¬†with every bite of toast, bagel, cracker, oatmeal…trust me, you’ll be inventing new ways to use your homemade jam!

I use “SURE-JELL” Premium Fruit Pectin:

2 cups strawberries- hulled and crushed up with a masher (I drain out some of liquid here, I think it makes better jam this way)

Add 4 cups of sugar.  Mix them thoroughly and let stand for 10 minutes (stir a few more times)

3/4 cups water and 1 package of pectin- stir it well and bring to a boil.  Stir it constantly and boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat

Stir the pectin mixture into the strawberry/sugar mixture.  Stir it constantly until all the sugar is dissolved (about 3 minutes)!

Pour into freezer safe containers, leave 1/2 inch of space at the top because jam may expand during freezing, cover tightly

Leave out at room temperature for 24 hours while it sets

You can store in refrigerator for 3 weeks, or in the freezer for 1 year


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