Sunday, October 30, 2016

Deviled Spider Eggs

People will often ask me where I get the inspiration for blog posts. After nearly six years of blogging and close to 2,000 posts, that's a very good question. The answer is easy: everywhere!
Today's brief bit was inspired by, of all things, the cover of this mystery novel by Blair Merrin. Once I saw these darling little "spider eggs" on the cover I just knew I had to give them a try. They are super easy to make, and as versatile as your repertoire of deviled egg recipes. 
All it takes is a handful of large, pitted black olives, a sharp knife, and a dexterous hand. Use whatever recipe you and your family like, and get to decorating. One black olive makes one spider. Simply cut it in half and use one half for the body, and then slice the remaining half longways, and then make four slices across to make the eight legs. It's a fun project for the kids, make ahead, and sure to elicit smiles and comments at your next spooky gathering.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bats & Webs Potato Snacks

Did you ever notice how the people with money seem to be the people who never spend it? I'm guessing that's probably why they have money. My dad has a few pennies in his pocket, but even so, makes it his habit to shop at Aldi. Now, he isn't really a cook, but manages to eat quite well by shopping there. A couple of months ago after we had lunch out together, because he needed a few things, I suggested that we go to Aldi. After our walk-thru we met at the checkout, him with a few items in his hands, me with my cart full to bursting. What a place! I could not believe all of the goodies that they had. Wonderful, quality items, beautiful produce, and what prices! Now I'm a diehard fan.
While it may seem like it, let me assure you that this is not a sponsored post, I just love Aldi.  Today I'm popping in to tell you about the cutest, crunchiest potato snacks that are perfect for Halloween. Look at these! Fluffy and light and shaped like bats and spider webs, and check out the detail! I served these to my son the other day with barbecued beef sandwiches and ended up sending him home with the rest of the bag.
If you're looking for some last minute snacks to fill some Halloween goodie bags, or to serve for your party, swing by Aldi and grab a bag of these. They're in the Halloween candy section. Hurry!
Have a great weekend everybody.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Sharing the Teapot Love

I received so many wonderful comments about the teapot in this post that I decided to do a post featuring it alone. 
This teapot is called "Darby and Joan," and it's by Tony Wood. If you haven't seen Tony Wood teapots in the past, give them a Google, you will fall in love with them. 
They're relatively inexpensive, always nicely done, whimsical, and fun. 
The teapot that I featured is available on eBay, and for a very reasonable price. The last time I looked you could get this particular teapot for prices ranging anywhere from $25-$65. 
I never fail to get compliments every time I use it. No one is ever expecting to see an image on both sides, and that's what makes it fun.
I think this is probably one of my favorite teapots because the size is just perfect for two nice cups of tea, it's easy to handle, pours well, and always elicits a comment or two. I am completely enamored with his Sherlock Holmes Hound of the Baskervilles teapot, that continues to elude me, but if I find it available online, I'm going to pounce on it.
Thank you for all of your lovely comments about "Darby and Joan." Those of you who are interested in having one of your very own, head to eBay and good luck! If you get one, tell me about it, and post your wonderful display. Gotta run, time for tea.
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Witchy Tea Time

I'm not sure what it is, but in the past month I have completely embraced cross-stitch.
Perhaps it's because I spent the last three years caring for Mr. O-P and wasn't able to nurture my creative side, but these days I feel supercharged with creative energy. I've already finished two counted cross stitch projects, am fully immersed in the third, and continue on with numerous other creative endeavors.
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you've seen some of these projects come together. Interestingly enough every project I've done so far has inspired a table setting.
Today's cross-stitch project (and table setting) is the first piece of cross-stitch I've ever done on a piece of linen fabric. In the past, all of my cross-stitch projects were done on a grid type of cloth like aida cloth. I'm quite proud of myself for doing this project, not only was it a lot of fun, but it was a first for me, and I think it turned out beautifully. I considered framing it, but instead decided to turn it into a pillow, and I'm very happy with the results.

I used the colors from the pillow to inspire this “witchy” table setting. If you struggle to come up with a theme for a table, look around your house, observe your favorite things, and see if you can't put those together as a centerpiece or as inspiration for a lovely table.

I don’t really have anything green, so grabbed a couple of those wicker plate holders and spray painted them lime green. Don’t you just love the way they look?

Everything else on the table has been used before (And I’m quite proud of that because I am really, REALLY -- I mean it -- trying to control my passion for tableware. Really.), with the exception of a couple of pieces of Mr. O-P’s mother’s tea set, part of which you first saw here. The fact that the silver is well worn on this antique set just makes it more appropriate.

Placemats, napkins, brown and amber plates – Pier One
Skull Plates and Placemats – Three French Hens (last year)
Tablecloth – Antique Farmhouse
Books and Skull Cookie Jar – World Market (last year)
Skull Mugs – Williams-Sonoma (last year)
Glasses – La Rochere
Witch Candy Dish - Fitz & Floyd (last year)
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gingered Apricot Granola

Someone asked me the other day why it is that every fall we seem to happily embrace pumpkin spice. Honestly I don't know. It's become quite a thing in recent years, and I see huge displays of pumpkin spice items in the grocery stores. Not that I'm complaining. I've fallen on the pumpkin spice bandwagon myself, but it is puzzling that we just tend to go for it in the fall months; pumpkin pie spice and canned pumpkin are available year-round.
I feel the same way about soups, stews, and homemade granola. It's not all that often that I make these things during the summer, but once fall hits, I'm making them like crazy. Homemade granola is something I absolutely love, not just as a cereal for breakfast, but also as a topping for quick breads and coffee cakes, a mix-in for salads, as a crunchy ice cream or yogurt topping, and, if it's chunky enough, to eat as a snack on its own.

Making granola is very easy once you have a basic recipe. Essentially oats, a sweetener, and a binder are pretty much all that you need. I like to experiment by building on these things, throwing in different fruits, nuts, and spices that I like, to see what I end up with.  You can seriously go crazy with all of the combinations that are available. Consider, for example, pumpkin pie spice and Pepitas in place of nuts for a pumpkin spice granola. If you prefer apple pie, make an apple pie granola using chopped dried apples, walnuts, and apple pie spice. You're limited only by your imagination, so take this recipe and run with it.

This week I came up with a maple syrup-sweetened apricot and crystallized ginger variety that is quite an eye-opener for breakfast in the morning thanks to its peppery ginger addition.

Nothing is easier than throwing this together. You can do it in a couple of minutes, bake it up, give it a stir halfway through baking, let it cool, and serve. I keep glass jars on the counter in the kitchen filled with different cereals, one of which contains homemade granola. You’re going to want to give this recipe a try.
Gingered Apricot Granola

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 8-ounce can mixed nuts
½  teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, diced fine
1 3-ounce package Melissa’s dried apricots, diced fine
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir first 7 ingredients together in a large bowl.

Spread mixture evenly in a large shallow 1” deep baking pan and bake, stirring and halfway through baking, until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Cool granola in pans on racks for 15 minutes, and then stir in ginger and apricots.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Food with Friends, the Art of Simple Gatherings, Reviewed

In order for me to like a cookbook it has to have three things: an attractive layout with beautiful and plentiful pictures, be written from the heart with personal experiences interlaced with tasty and unique recipes, and it has to be inspiring. So, Food with Friends, the Art of Simple Gatherings by Leela Cyd, meeting the above criteria should be a five-star book...but it isn't. Don't get me wrong, I like it, I like it a lot, but I am a member of the food blogging community and a "foodie," so the biggest appeal for me were the lovely layouts, and wonderful text. The recipes were secondary.
Now, normally, this wouldn't bother me because while they did not inspire me, the layouts, the Anything-Goes Breakfast Board, and section called "Tiny Takeaways" on treats to make, beautifully package, and give to friends did. But the inspiration came more from the photos than the food.
Now, it's just a guess, but I think most people buy cookbooks for the recipes more than anything else. In this book you will be offered things like Sweet Tahini Buns, Raw Vegan Cacao and Coconut Hearts, Socca Cakes with Labneh & Fennel, Rose Flan, Matcha Egg Cream, and Orange Blossom Hagelslag on Toast.
The title is also a bit of a let down in that there is nothing simple about the recipes in this book. Okay, the Maple Kettle Corn was simple, and it was good, but ay-yi-yi, most of the recipes require a lot of time, a decent bit of skill, and some oddball ingredients. And, if I can be honest, there was really no recipe in this book that I wanted to make. I'd like to think that the reason for this is because the recipes in this book lean more to the sweet than the savory, and I prefer the latter, but, really, while they all presented beautifully, none of them really sounded good.

This book speaks to a specific audience, and while I thought I'd be a member of that group, I simply wasn't. But don't let me discourage you. Give it a look at your local library to see if it is the book for you and, if it is, dive right in and buy a copy. If you enjoy reading cookbooks as much as I do, you will be well entertained. If you prefer to cook from them, you might just feel this one falls short.
Three and a half out of five stars.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Cream of Tomato Soup with Pumpkin

It's “Sip Some Soup Sunday,” and today I'm going to share with you an autumn version of a perennial favorite, Cream of Tomato Soup. The difference between this soup and the one you grew up loving, is the addition of pumpkin. It's an easy soup to put together, with an autumn touch that gives it added nutrition, and a rich and delicious seasonal taste that you and your family are sure to love. It also gives you something to do with that little bit of pumpkin left over in the can from when you made this recipe.
Cream of Tomato Soup with Pumpkin

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
½ cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling, egad!)
1 cup half ‘n half
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice

Stir ingredients together in a medium saucepan and heat through. Garnish in whatever way you see fit. Options might include: crumbled bacon, grated cheese, croutons, popcorn, pepitas, pine nuts, scallions.
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Center[piece] of Attention

I am all about the unusual centerpiece as you can tell from this post and this post. I'm also about the centerpiece that does double duty, as I'm about to show you today. If you want to make a centerpiece intriguing and the talk of your guests, make it more than a centerpiece; consider making it the attendance prize or party gift for one lucky guest.

When I was growing up my mother used to play a lot of bridge, and host a lot of bridge parties. Sometimes the winner took home only a little change in an envelope, other times the winner took home some pretty nice gifts. Whether you play bridge or canasta or bunco or, as my grandmother did way back in her day, pinochle, make your party gift the center of attention as a part of your lovely dinner table.

My centerpiece here actually has a theme, but yours doesn't necessarily have to. The theme of mine, as you can tell, is Colonial Williamsburg. I grabbed one of my favorite little baskets that I use to hold kindling by the fireplace, and put it together with a Williamsburg cookbook, a jar of soup made from a recipe in the cookbook, two more recipes printed on lovely little tea towels, as well as a favorite teapot. The teapot is extra special because it has two different sides reflecting two different people, a man and a woman. It's one of my favorite teapots in my collection, not just because it makes the perfect amount of tea for me in the afternoon, but also because it always gives me a smile whenever I use it.

I'm not saying that I am giving this particular centerpiece away, no, I can't get rid of any of these treasured things, but it does serve to give you an idea as to how to make a centerpiece for your table not just for pleasant viewing, but to use as a gift. If you want to have your guests talking about your lovely table, entice them with an exciting giveaway.
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