Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Fluffiest, Tastiest Pumpkin Pancakes Ever!

Yesterday morning I woke up craving some delicious Chunky Monkey Pancakes (they have mashed up bananas and chocolate chips in them and you serve them with peanut butter syrup!). I usually make them with whole wheat flour and they are still amazing. As I finished mixing the batter and was about to mash up a banana and chop up some chocolate chips, I realized 2 things: We didn't have any bananas (my husband had eaten the last one for breakfast), and I had used white flour instead of wheat.

I was SOOOOO devastated. Not only were my dreams of Chunky Monkey pancakes dashed, now I had some pancake batter whipped up that was made with white flour. Don't get me wrong, I love me some good white flour pancakes. But I try not to indulge myself too often. If I can make it with whole wheat and it tastes good, then that's how I do it.

After a little bit of reflection, I decided I was going to put in a cup of pureed pumpkin, hoping it would add some flavor and a little bit of healthiness. And by golly, the end result was pure magic. (Has anyone else started making pumpkin treats yet? At the first sign of cool weather, I broke out my canned pumpkin and made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. You better believe it.)

But I am telling you, if you are craving pumpkin pancakes, this is the recipe for you. Eat them with some homemade syrup or just slather butter on them. Either way, they are the lightest, fluffiest, most delicious pancakes you will ever eat.

The Best Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/2 cups white flour
3 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup milk (add 1 Tbl of white vinegar or lemon juice to the milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbl canola oil
1 large egg
1 cup pureed pumpkin

Combine dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients (except for the pumpkin) and whisk until combined. Add the pumpkin and stir until combined.

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet to medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Pour pancakes on hot griddle. When bubbles form and edges are set, flip pancakes and cook through.

Adapted from Chunky Monkey Pancakes recipe on ourbestbites.com.

Enjoy with this easy, breezy homemade syrup recipe:

Homemade syrup

Combine 1 cup brown sugar with 1/2 cup water in small saucepan. Heat until it boils. Remove from heat and serve with delicious pumpkin pancakes.

I know it sounds crazy, but that is all you have to do to make a good syrup. It is runnier than store-bought syrup or syrup made with corn syrup....but it is just as tasty in my opinion.

Happy Autumn!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quiet Book Page: Baseball Glove

So it should be obvious by now that our mother is a very gifted seamstress. I'm not sure I fully realized how gifted she is while I was growing up; I just figured all moms made their own drapes, recovered couches, altered formals, sewed dresses, and crafted amazing Halloween costumes. It was just part of the mom territory.

Imagine my chagrin to realize that though I've been a mother six whole months, those powers haven't distilled upon me. I don't completely understand that delay, but while I'm waiting, I thought that now is a good time to use my so-so sewing skills to make things for SourPatch. He doesn't seem fixated on perfection and will willingly wear or use whatever I make him.

I also have found that sewing is ridiculously expensive. Do you know those giant cutting mats at JoAnns cost fifty bucks?!? Are you serious? Fifty dollars for a sheet of green plastic? Yeah right. I'll see what Walmart's costs... and I shouldn't complain! Our family's good friend Carmen is a saint and gave me a sewing machine, so there's one giant expense down. Yet I'm trying to be frugal.

So, I wanted an inexpensive project specifically for SourPatch that will help improve my sewing and can be done in funny snippets of time in-between naps. Thus, the Great Quiet Book Challenge was born...

The Great Quiet Book Challenge

Okay, so basically it's my sisters and me combining forces to create awesome quiet books for our kids. Since Delys already made some pages for Elin a long time ago, we used those pages as the basis for our books:

The Guidelines:
  • All pages should be 11"x 12" on basic muslin
  • Make 3 copies of each page to be exchanged with each other at a future date
And... those are really the only guidelines we have. Have you seen all the cute ideas on the internet? There are so many really neat books, tutorials, etc. It's fun to also attempt to design your own, too, so when I saw all the "put your hand in the glove" pages, I decided to make it a baseball glove instead! A quick google search revealed a few similar pages out there, but it's kind of hard to make a baseball mitt look adorable, si? Still, I went for it, and here's how it turned out:

Pretty cute, right? And super economical: the muslin was 40% off $2 a yard (thank you, JoAnns!), the felt was, what,  $0.30ish a sheet at Walmart, and I just used odd thread/string I had on hand.

To make the baseball stiff, I dipped it in a half water, half Elmers School Glue solution. It worked really well, actually (though probably makes it toxic to chew... hmm.) I know you can buy stiff, stick-on felt sheets, but they're a lot more expensive and don't have as many color options. Here's a picture of some blue felt I stiffened, too.

I'm really excited about the baseball display case! I cut out a square of the plastic packaging from SourPatch's "Charlie Chomp Chomp" crocodile toy and sewed it right on, easy as pie (half thinking I was going to break the needle, mind... glad it worked!) It already had this nifty snap on it, too.

I did buy a package of iron-on transfer paper from amazon for $7. I figure I can use it for lots of quiet book pages (and other projects!) I know some moms are really legit and needle-point on the words in their quiet books. I'm confident that this method looks a lot neater and cuter than my hand sewing.

So there you have it! The first page of the Great Quiet Book Challenge. I'm excited to see the rest of the pages to come!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Paper Cutting (Scherenschnitte)

To be honest, I can't remember how I was introduced to the art of paper cutting. But when I stumbled across it, I recognized it as a great fit for me. It is something that doesn't require a huge amount of skill, and with a few basic tools--paper, a pair of scissors, and a bit of patience--it allows you to create something unique and beautiful. And it is so versatile--you can find patterns for every holiday, for different tastes and styles, and for a wide variety of skill levels.

Wikipedia defines scherenschnitte (which means "scissor cuts" in German) as "the art of paper cutting design. The art work often has symmetry within the design, and common forms include silhouettes, valentines, and love letters. The art tradition was founded in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century and was brought to Colonial America in the 18th century by immigrants who settled primarily in Pennsylvania."  

Other sources claim that paper cutting dates back much earlier, as early as the 6th century B.C. in China  and to the 13th century A.D. in the Middle East.

My goal is not to teach you how to paper cut; it is to pique your interest and encourage you to give it a try. (I will include links at the end of the post to take you to instructions and free patterns if you decide to go for it.) Here are a few samples to give you a just a glimpse. . . .

The family below was fairly easy and only took a few hours to complete. It is a traditional, Pennsylvania Dutch design:

This Noah's ark pattern was a baby gift for a dear nephew and is a little more complicated. (I apologize for the fuzzy photo, but it is the only one I have.)

You are probably familiar with silhouettes or shadow portraits as they are sometimes called. This three piece set combines silhouettes, a filigree/heart design, and counted cross stitch done on perforated paper:

And, finally, one more of my favorites;

So find a pattern that appeals to you, grab a pair of scissors, and create something beautiful!

Here are a few links to get you started:


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Creamy Chicken Artichoke Casserole

It was a happy day when I discovered artichokes. A very happy day. Whether you boil them in water and then take them apart layer by layer, dipping them in melted butter or whether you bake them into a casserole like the one I am about to share--they are magical things.

I came across this recipe in one of my cookbooks and am in love with it. It is super easy and tastes like a masterpiece.

Creamy Chicken Artichoke Casserole

2 cups diced chicken (I use the meat off of a grocery store Rotisserie chicken)
1 (7.5 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained (just get the kind canned in water, not the marinated ones.)
4 tbl butter
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup light cream (or you can use whole milk for a sauce that is a little lighter)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried rosemary

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread the diced chicken and artichoke hearts in a pie pan or 8x8 inch square pan. Set aside.

Melt 4 tbl butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour until it is blended. Turn stove to medium heat and add the cream (or milk) and chicken broth and whisk constantly until thick. Stir in salt, pepper, Parmesan, and rosemary. Remove from heat.

Pour sauce over chicken and artichokes and bake for 20-30 minutes--until it is bubbly and the top starts to turn a little golden around the edges.

***Recipe adapted from The Essential Mormon Cookbook by Julie Badger Jensen

This is great served with steamed vegetables and angel hair pasta tossed in garlic salt and olive oil.