Monday, November 26, 2012

Crazy for Cranberries

December is only five days away - can you believe it? I've been ready for Christmas since before Halloween, and though Thomas and I purchased and decorated our tree before Thanksgiving {sorry we're not sorry!}, I feel like now I can officially go all out for the holidays. 

I drew a little inspiration from a holiday dish towel I purchased at a Crate & Barrel after-Christmas sale last year, and I decided to decorate our place with cranberries. You always see red and green together in Christmas decor, but I love the way purple, white and cranberry-red look together. A little something different!

After my touches of fresh cranberries throughout the apartment, I had a few cups leftover. I'm a huge Craisin fan - I eat them like candy - and thought, "alright, making dried cranberries can't be THAT hard."

Using a helpful how-to article I found online, I got right to it. It sounded pretty simple, but proved to be a bit of a challenge. But hey! Part of being a blogger is being honest and transparent, even when recipes don't turn out as I'd hope. I'm thinking the Texas humidity hindered the drying process, and I don't own a dehydrator, which would have been more efficient.

Wash cranberries in a strainer and then place in a bowl with enough room for boiling water to be added. You can see my dish towel in this photo - I love it!

Bring several cups of water to a boil and pour over the cranberries. Allow the bowl to sit on the counter for several minutes, until the skins of the berries pop. 

Place cranberries on a cookie sheet and cover with sugar or corn syrup to sweeten, if desired. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 2 hours - apparently, this helps them to dry faster. After 2 hours, preheat oven to 350. Let your oven sit empty at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Place cranberries in oven after 10 minutes, immediately turn the oven off, and then allow the cranberries to sit in the oven overnight. 

Before I get to the finished product, here's how I incorporated cranberries throughout the apartment to add a little holiday cheer. 

{candle holder from PartyLite}
{This candle and hurricane were used in our wedding!}

So, final verdict on the dried cranberry challenge...

I woke up the next morning and was excited to open the oven and find beautiful raisin-like cranberries, but they were still super juicy. After some additional research, some bloggers suggested crushing the berries with a fork and then leaving in the oven to dry. They did dry out a little more, but they just didn't taste like I was hoping. 

I probably won't be eating these by the handful like I do with Craisins. I'll leave that deliciousness to the pros. But, they would work perfectly for a salad, trail mix, or in baking. I might even try and make some orange cranberry scones with these babies!



Does anyone have a dehydrator for making your own dried fruit?
If so, any brands to recommend? And do you use it often enough to make it a worthwhile purchase?

Hope your holiday decorating is off to a beautiful start!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin Dessert Squares

Our Thanksgiving celebrations kicked off this afternoon with our church's potluck lunch, and when thinking about what to bring, Thomas reminded me, "Babe... we've got like SEVEN cans of pumpkin in the pantry." So what if I went a liiiitle overboard in my excitement for fall?

I didn't want to bake just a regular ol' pumpkin pie, so I took to Pinterest in search of a pumpkin dessert  and found this gem. I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of traditional pie crust. This recipe calls for a pecan/Bisquick crumble for the crust, and it was just perfect. I made a few tiny modifications to Miss Betty Crocker's recipe, and everyone loved it. 

If you're still planning your Thanksgiving menu, consider adding this one to your list! 

INGREDIENTS:
Crust
  • 1 1/2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans/walnuts
Filling
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin
  • 1 12oz can evaporated milk
  • 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 eggs
Topping
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans/walnuts {we used our favorite granola - Thomas' suggestion!}


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat 9x13 pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the crust, and mix together with a pastry blender until crumbly. Press mixture into base of pre-greased pan and bake for 10 minutes. It won't be completely baked at that point, so don't worry if it doesn't look done. 


While the crust bakes, whisk together ingredients for the filling in a large bowl {sorry, no pics!}. In a separate bowl, blend the ingredients for the topping.

Pour the pumpkin filling over the partially-cooked base {while still hot} and sprinkle the topping to cover filling. Bake for 50-55 minutes, cool completely, and cut into squares. Serve with whipped cream, and voila! Get your taste buds ready.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

One Thousand Gifts

It seems like just yesterday I was wrapped up in wedding plans, and now we’re less than two weeks from Thanksgiving. Time flies! In the spirit of giving thanks, I thought I’d share a little book review + some nuggets of truth that I’m holding close this holiday season.

“As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.” (Chapter 2)

After the wedding, I started reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, and let me tell you… it’s ROCKING my world. It’s so good. Like “highlight every line” good. Good, but challenging. My journal is full of quotes I’ve jotted down, praying for the words to change me.



This book challenges you to name what you’re thankful for, to create a list of one thousand gifts. Sounded easy, until I started writing. I named everything that was on my mind, and only got to #40. Now I know that I have plenty more to be thankful for, but what I’m learning is that sometimes being thankful doesn’t come easy. Being thankful is sometimes an effort. Thankfulness is learned. Being a woman (or man) of thanks is a refining, lifelong practice. And thankfulness draws us closer to Him.

If you can get your hands on a copy of this book, hopefully you’ll experience the same excitement I do as I turn each page. Here are some of the many things I’m learning…

Ingratitude is the root of all sin.
“I believe the serpent's hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages: God isn’t good. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity – the sin of ingratitude. Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more.” (Chapter 1)

Thanksgiving is evidence of salvation.
“Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our YES! to His grace. Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience. Thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life.” (Chapter 2)

Being thankful is oh so needed for my walk with the Lord.
“Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks.” (Chapter 2)

Naming God’s gifts changes and strengthens my prayer life. I ASK of God less and praise Him more.
“This act of naming grace moments, this list of God’s gifts, moves beyond the shopping list variety of prayer and into the other side of prayer – the interior of his throne room, the inner walls of His powerful, love-beating heart. I see it now for what this really is, this dare to write down one thousand things I love. It really is a dare to name all the way that God loves me.” (Chapter 3)

In the busyness of life, being thankful gives me focus and makes me aware.
"Giving thanks for one thousand gifts is ultimately an invitation to slow down time with weight of full attention.” (Chapter 4)

If you’ve read “One Thousand Gifts” before, or if you pick up the book in the coming weeks and decide to start your own list of gifts, please let me know! Thomas loves hearing everything I’m learning, but book conversations are much more fun when the other person has read the book too. 

Happy reading!

“Thanks multiplies the joy.” (Chapter 3)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Recipe: Tamale Pie

It seems like the only recipes I try nowadays are ones that catch my eye on Pinterest, but last weekend Thomas and I pulled out a few of my REAL cookbooks {gasp!} and picked out some meals to put to the test.

I flipped through the pages of
The Dinner Doctor by Anne Byrn (@annebyrn) and thought this recipe sounded delicious - who doesn't love tamales? While there are actually no tamales in this dish, the hominy and corn chip mixture bakes to the same consistency as tamale masa. I love Anne's recipes - they're simple and quick! I even mastered my first-ever homemade chicken pot pie thanks to her cooking wisdom.

This recipe only takes a few minutes to assemble and will be ready in less than half-an-hour.

INGRE
DIENTS:
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) white hominy {the only can I could find was more than 15.5 oz, so I just guesstimated}
  • 3 cups of corn chips (Fritos), lightly crushed
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chili with beans
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Empty the hominy (with its liquid) into a glass or ceramic baking dish and mix with 3 cups of corn chips, spreading the mixture evenly. Empty 2 cans of chili on top, spreading to cover the corn/hominy. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with 1 cup of shredded cheddar and bake for 5 additional minutes. 







Serve immediately with your choice of toppings - I used avocado, white onion and sour cream. I meant to shred some iceburg lettuce for a little healthy kick, but this was smelling toooooo good and I completely forgot. Definitely won't be the last time I make this recipe!


{Tamale Pie recipe from Anne Byrn's The Dinner Doctor, Workman Publishing}

This afternoon, we're headed to Waco for Baylor Homecoming. I'm seriously like a kid on Christmas morning. Can't wait to reunite with friends and celebrate all things BAYLOR. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Here Goes Nothing.

 {via Amanda Cherie, HelloCherie Handmade}

Every great idea has its simple beginnings. Some ideas are born at the most inconvenient times, like when I'm trying to fall asleep, when I'm in the shower, or during my downtown commute. Can anyone else relate? I don't always have a pen and paper, or I can't be on my phone at the time to jot down a little note. Not wanting the idea to completely escape me, I develop the idea further, brainstorming to try and make the idea stick.

Some ideas never leave my head. I dwell on the "what ifs" and then the feeling I had of "oh I'm so brilliant" fizzles. "Hah! Like that would ever work," I think.


Some ideas get me so inspired that I have to drop everything I'm doing to dive right in. I feel like "if I don't make this happen right now, I never will." 

And some ideas, like this very blog, scare me. I'm no stranger to blogging, but something about introducing this new one makes me nervous. I can't tell you how many times I've rewritten content, gone back and forth on the design concept, and thought to myself "maybe I'll just wait another week before I launch this thing."

But there's one thing I know about being a creative person, and that's that the creative process is never really over. Even when a project is complete, you may feel like it's not really finished. There's always something more you feel like you could do, right? Just one more tweak. One more little detail. 

And that's the way it is with this blog. It will always be an evolving project. I shouldn't be afraid of it being just right. Because if I waited until then, this blog would never take flight.

I've been dreaming about this blog since before the wedding. Amidst the the cake tasting, the vendor meetings and the dress fittings, this project was also in the works. I enlisted the help of a super talented blog designer, Bobbi-Jo O'Gilvie of "Ready to Blog Designs," and I'm so excited about what she created. Girl, you're amazing!
 

So, there you have it. "Reed All About It" is officially official