Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homemade Ranch Dip

So there is not much that my kids won't dip into ranch dressing--carrots, cumbers, chicken nuggets-you name it! I have always been searching for a great "from scratch" ranch dip and dressing recipe, but had never found one that was the perfect mix of spices...until now.

This one is absolutely perfect! Fresh and delicious, it whips up quickly, and is perfectly tasty. Kids will love it-and grown ups will too. It is really versatile as well-it can be made into a dip, and a dressing as well.

Want to give it a try? Head on over to Little Lake County and take a look at my monthly Kids in the Kitchen with Girl and Her Kitchen feature. You can find this delicious ranch dip recipe there!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stuffed Baked Apples

So, recently I took some fruit... and made it bad.
Well...the good bad. You know what I mean.
I took some really big honeycrisp apples and I stuffed them.
I stuffed them with a buttery crumb topping, bathed them in apple cider and baked them.
You are probably thinking...well, that doesn't sound that bad...
Well, then I went and smothered them in vanilla ice cream.
Oh...did I mention how I drizzled caramel on top of that?
I probably went too far, but...

Stuffed Baked Apples

4 large Honeycrisp apples
2/3 cup oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups apple cider
Ice Cream (optional)
Caramel (optional)

Core apples part of the way, leaving the apple intact and the bottom in place. Mix oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl. Add softened butter and vanilla and mix well until mixture is clumped together. Divide the crumb mixture in fourths and stuff each apple. Pour apple cider over apples. Bake 40 minutes or until the apples are soft, but not mushy. Serve with ice  cream or caramel if desired.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Halloween Glam Pumpkins

Every couple of months a group of girlfriends and I get together at my house for a crafting afternoon (this  turns into every couple of weeks during the holiday season). I usually get all the supplies and prep work done beforehand and my girlfriends happily bring their money, goodies to share, and sometimes kiddos for a play date while the mommies play.

Last Halloween, this was the craft I chose, and rightfully named them Glam Pumpkins. Orange and black are great for Halloween, but sometimes a girl needs a little GOLD. These pumpkins are a cinch to do and come together quickly. This is a great project to do with friends because you can get a couple of sets of pumpkins with just one long 4x4 board. The heights and colors of the pumpkins are completely up to you. Some of the ladies wanted their pumpkins taller with orange and cream, some wanted brown and orange. They are great as center pieces, placed on mantles, or floors. They are also a great addition to the front porch.

Wood:  4x4 board for the blocks (the length of the board I used was 9 ft, allowing me to cut multiple sets) and 1x1 board for the stems.
Sand Paper: I used a light/medium grit. You're just lightly smoothing.
Paint: acrylic craft paint. I chose antique white and gold.
Paint Brushes and Sponges: I used a large paint brush and a circular sponge for the dots
Painters Tape: Choose the width of the tape to coordinate with the width you want for your stripes etcs.
Glue Gun and Glue
Polyacrylic/polyurethane: I used a spray poly. This is especially important if your pumpkins are going to be on the front porch and in the elements. I find that polyurethanes will yellow over time, so be careful in selecting your spray. Use a polyacrylic if you can find it!

Let's do this!

1. Cut blocks and stems. I cut the 4x4 into an 11in, 8in, and 5in lengths. Cut three stems from the 1x1 at 3in. This can be done at your hardware store or at home if you have a chop-saw.

2. Sand blocks to desired texture. I lightly sanded the blocks where the cuts were made and that was about it.

3. Paint all blocks the background color you want them. I used antique white. Let this dry before you try and tape off for your stripes or chevron. If you're in a hurry, use your hair dryer! While you're waiting for your blocks to dry, paint your stems.

4. Tape off your wood. You can employ a ruler and pencil if you want it just right. I used a round sponge to make the circles. I love how it left the edges a little uneven. Let this dry. If you are super careful you can remove the tape before it dries, if your worried you'll smudge, just leave it till its dry and then take it off. Feel free to bedazzle with glitter or gems with a little modpodge.

5. Plug in your lava maker(glue gun), yes when I was twelve my older sister Hannah shot hot glue across our dining room table and onto my hand. I have the scar to prove it. Glue your stems to the top of your blocks, I angled my stems so the sides and corners were opposite of the blocks corners and sides.

6. Now if you want a little more worn/antique look you can sand the edges prior to spraying with your polyacrylic or add a dark gel stain to the edges. I did this with a set I made for my mom's country house. The pumpkins were orange and cream with brown steams and were cut to longer lengths so the tallest was 18in instead of 11in. Perfect height if they are on the floor or a front porch. If you're satisfied with your work, take it outside (I set it on an old sheet or tarp) and spray two coats of polyacrylic/polyurethane allowing it dry between coats.

7. Add a little glam to your porch or mantle with your completed pumpkins.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

{Halloween} Crafting : Home of the "Wicked Witch"

Fall is in full swing and here’s a fun way to add a little something to the front porch.  I happen to have a couple of little monsters running around and find myself occasionally resembling the "Wicked Witch" after a long hard day of craziness, so it's fitting for me.  (I'm sure none of you moms know what I'm talking about, right?! HA!!)

Here are the directions, which you probably don’t even need. This is just a fun, rough, Halloween craft so I was going for more character, and less symmetry and perfection. But by all means do what makes you happy:)

Step 1- Trip to your favorite home improvement store for wood and paint
(I had some paint on hand from another project)
I grabbed a large piece of plywood 4ftX4ft.  It was some where around $10.  And I had them just cut it right in half.
*My amazingly wonderful friend Erin wanted to do this project as well so my wood was $5. I put another sign on the back we will be featuring at Christmas time so really it was like I spent $2.50 per sign.  Not bad!!!

Step 2- Paint the board black. (I used some black spray paint I had on hand)  I didn’t even bother sanding, but you can if you choose.   

Step 3- I measured and drew light lines with pencil across my board once I determined the spacing I wanted. There is no right way here.

Step 4- Pencil in words.  Just as a rough outline.  Once you begin painting you can make them bigger or smaller, but it's just nice to have an idea.

Step 5- Using white acrylic paint and a small paint brush or sponge paint your words. 

Step 6- Optional - Spray or paint a Poly acrylic seal coating if you are worried about it getting wet.  I omitted that step because my sign isn’t featured where that may be a problem. 

And...That’s it.  Easy right?

Happy crafting!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Spiced Apples

October is the month of the pumpkin and I am not afraid to admit that I  love every minute of it.

I know some feel just the opposite and want to scream every time one of their favorite foods is tainted by their dreaded pumpkin, but not me! Sorry pumpkin haters, but I am in love with this time of the year and I will be finding numerous ways to enjoy pumpkin in every food I can!

I will eat anything pumpkin for the entire month of October. November too. When December rolls around, it is time for some new flavors, but these pumpkin pancakes? I can eat these any time of the year.

This recipe creates the most moist, flavorful pancakes I have ever tasted. The cinnamon apples? That just brings them over the top that even the most die hard pumpkin hater might be turned.

I have seen crazier things happen.

Did I mention making these pancakes makes your house smell unbelievable? Feel free to leave the cinnamon apples off if you are in a pinch for time, but make them another time-you really don't want to miss out on these.

Pumpkin haters, beware. Pumpkin lovers, rejoice!

Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Spiced Apples

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups plain whole milk or low fat yogurt (do not use fat free)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbslp butter, melted
2 eggs
2/3 cup pumpkin puree

Cinnamon Apples:
2 Honeycrisp apples (or other firm apples), sliced into wedges
2 tblsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tblsp maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider

Combine dry ingredients together in a large bowl, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, vanilla, and butter. Add eggs one at a time, continually whisking. Fold in pumpkin puree and whisk to combine until mixture is smooth. Gently add to dry ingredients and mix until combined. Do not over mix.

Begin preparing cinnamon apples. Melt butter in skillet and add apples. Turn to coat apples with butter. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Cook for 2 minutes, tossing a few times. Add maple syrup and toss to coat. Cook for two more minutes. Pour in apple cider to deglaze the pan and simmer apples for 2 minutes or until fork tender. Keep warm.

Heat a non stick griddle to medium heat. Drop 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle and cook until small bubbles began to appear and pop on the top of the pancake. Carefully flip and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve warm with butter, syrup and cinnamon apples.