Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving ideas

I downloaded some Thanksgiving ideas and I must say, I like everything. All are from Pinterest which is easy than browsing the entire Internet for ideas. I love cute turkeys, especially those made with candy corn--my favorite candy.

I always pick up some take out boxes for my guest since I want to share and not have so many leftovers. I usually get mine at the dollar store. I would really love some of those pie containers.

Evergreens, leaves, eucalyptus and a pretty candle make a great centerpiece.

This looks like a nice wreath made from sparkly paper and tied with a bow. Simple and perfect.

I like the ideas for a kids table above. The ships are a perfect idea because the kids can help with them.

A welcoming basket of fall flowers and little pumpkins. Very sweet.

Candles make a festive tabletop. The twine and newsprint is perfect. It doesn't have to be fancy to be nice.

Above is kind of sweet and a little old-fashioned. I can deal with old-fashioned. New is so old.

The photo above made me excited to try a new recipe for green bean casserole. A gluten-free version, of course. I will just have to make my own onion rings, too. I hope mine will be really good.

A silly turkey tie. I'm game.

How many times have I posted a food sculpture. This cheese ball won't make you cry fowl! 

Vintage . . . Ah-h-h-h-h-h. I think it is so cute.

This is a great idea. This is what the day is all about.

I have seen gift jars filled with candies for other holidays. Why not Thanksgiving?

Burlap is still in this year and why not. It is organic and looks great with sunflowers and daisies.

I have one of these tall, thin vases. It would also be perfect filled with pumpkins and/or squashes.

I love candles and cinnamon together because hot candles will make the cinnamon fragrance drift throughout the house.

Little pumpkins with candles and fresh greenery. These little suckers are hard to cut but they do look good.

Pine cones and place cards pair up rather nicely. I am planning to do this one this year.

Kids really love google eyes. I think this would make a cute craft for the kids' table.

I know I won't make these this year but I love toasted marshmallows and pumpkin anything.

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls. That is just too luscious.

This is a sweet potato cake with toasted marshmallow filling, candied nuts and cream cheese frosting. I saved the best for last. I really want to make this at some point. My sister was wondering if we could make a sweet potato cake and this looks unbelievably good. I really did save the best for last.

I hope your Thanksgiving planning is great. I have my turkey, now I need to decorate.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Scufffle or action hoe

It is widely known that I like to go to yard sales. Sometimes, to my husband's dismay, I come home with things he thinks are (in his opinion) real duds. Other times, like this past weekend, I come home with something I have been searching for--and I mean retail in stores.

This past weekend, I found my scuffle hoe, stirrup hoe or action hoe.

It is a tool my friend Charlotte Nelson recommended as a great garden weeder and her favorite tool. I have looked at all the local hardware and big box hardware stores around and they just don't carry this tool in our area. I also looked online and found them, but with shipping they were just way too expensive.

My barely-used scuffle hoe was $5 and I just can't wait to use it in my garden. One of my best buys. I have recently been searching for useful garden tools at yard sales and I hadn't had too much luck, but Friday I walked up on a bunch of yard tools. Lying in the middle of them on a piece of plastic, was my scuffle hoe. The weather was terrible with a drizzling cold rain. I was not so sure I had picked the right day to shop but I was so happy I did venture out since I found this long-sought-after tool.

I am in hopes that I will like my new, old-fashioned tool as well as my friend Charlotte does. Now I can't wait till it stops raining so I can try it out!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What would I do without Hershey's?

I know that people the world over have a love affair with chocolate, but especially every year in October, I don't see how I could make it through the month without Hershey's--especially Hershey's cocoa.

October is when I have to make at least two and sometimes three birthday cakes for people in my family.

Below is the cake I made for last Saturday's birthday party. It was a large two layer sheet cake with pink butter cream/whipping cream frosting. (Really it was one cake recipe per layer.) Everyone really seemed to love this one and I received more than one hug for making such a great tasting cake. I think they should really have been thanking Hershey's because their cocoa is a staple in my home all year round. Also, the recipe I used for the layers is the one that is always listed on the can. (The only difference is that I substitute buttermilk for the milk.)

Saturday's cake was just perfect. Moist and tasty but I will tell you, frosting a dark chocolate cake with a lighter color, in this case pink frosting is challenging. It takes a heavy crumb coat and then a heavier coating of frosting--but people really love it. (It's kind of like painting a lighter color on your walls after red or purple!)

I have often made this recipe with decorators chocolate frosting and it is rich and yummy. The "Perfectly chocolate" cake is so good. It is kind of surprising when you have to add a cup of hot water to the batter but it makes a really, really great cake.

I don't even remember what kind of cake we had below but the frosting was made with Hershey's cocoa. (Too bad I was in too big of a hurry to dot the i or cross the t.)

The gluten-free birthday cake above is a yellow cake with a cocoa frosting and the GF pumpkin below is made with cocoa for Halloween.

I also use Hershey's cocoa in my baked chocolate pie. It's a family favorite.

I was on a diet once where a recommended snack was mixing cocoa with ricotta cheese and sweetener for a pudding-like snack. It could have been better but it helped stop the craving.

My cousin mixes cocoa with honey and she says it is one of the best snacks in the world and my daughter makes chocolate oatmeal for her family. I have never been able to try that one. I like oatmeal but there is something wrong about adding cocoa.

Another thing I like about Hershey's cocoa--the box is basically the same, even though it is plastic now, rather than metal as it was in my childhood days. I love it because it is the same wonderfully chocolaty, always the same product you can always count on. May it never change and I will continue to cook the perfectly chocolate recipes for my family and friends.

Even with the crazy world we live in, we can always count on Hershey's.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Polyphemus the Pumpkin

My grandson loves Halloween and he LOVES carving pumpkins. Last year, he had a great idea--a pumpkin eating pumpkin. It looked like this one below.

Apparently, it was so funny that they did the same (or similar) thing this year (at top), but it was inspired by Greek mythology and the Percy Jackson series of books based on Greek and Roman fables.

Polyphemus was the one-eyed son of Poseidon and Thoosa. He was a man-eating giant in Homer's Odyssey. I am guessing this makes him the perfect subject to carve in our continuing saga of pumpkin eating Halloween sculptures. I know it is very funny for 8 to 10 year olds and I think it is quite a creative idea. I like it better than any regular old Jack-o-lantern.

I would NEVER have come up with this idea since I must be the world's least knowledgeable about all things relating to mythology. I did know what a cyclops was though, so all it not lost.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Easy bundt cake pumpkins

I have seen these little pumpkins made from mini bundt cakes photographed on magazine covers for years. I always thought they were so cute and I didn't really know if they would be easy or hard.

Well, they are easy and didn't take very much time at all.

I found the mini bundt cake pan at a yard sale this summer and picked it up and asked how much. After a little dickering, I walked away with the pan, minus a dollar. It wasn't a great pan. I had to wash it many times and then oil and bake it in the oven more than once but finally. I was satisfied with it.

One good thing is that my work paid off. I used one of my regular recipes, but a mix would have worked fine. I did have to cut some of the excess off because I stated out filling the pans too full but after I began to fill the pans half-full, they were perfect and two bundt cakes makes one pumpkin. I "glued" the halves together, then heavily drizzled the "pumpkin" with a recipe for a drizzled icing colored with a bit of red and yellow food coloring. The "stems" are made with cinnamon.

I don't think this was my best recipe ever but they sure were cute and very festive, served during the half-time at a football game. Each one serves two. These were my easiest pumpkins ever.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ashe County Cheese

According to CNN, macaroni and cheese is Number 31 on their list of Americans' favorite foods. I would think it is somewhere closer to the top of the list for American children--and for many adults I know. Americans do love their cheese. (I know I do!)

We had this in mind when we decided to visit a cheese factory during our recent family reunion. This old cheese factory, established in 1930 by the Kraft Corporation and it was a great place for adults and children to visit. We arrived around 10:30 am to watch the cheese-making process.

As we pulled up to the factory in downtown West Jefferson, North Carolina, we were greeted by three large cows that doubled as raw milk holders and greeters. (No, these are not Chick-fil-A cows!) I thought it was a very creative way to welcome visitors to the processing plant.

As we entered the plant, we saw the cheese being made through a large window and watched a video explaining the process.

One of the employees was stirring the curds and getting ready to pack them into round wheels--called daisy wheels. Most of what they make here is cheddar, but they also sell a few other varieties--mostly flavored cheddar. They also sell curds which are kind of like string cheese but more chewy with less flavor.

Sitting behind the employee stirring the vat of curds and whey with a big white shovel are the round daisy wheel molds, cleaned and ready to be packed with cheese.

After the cheese is pressed into the molds, they are dipped in wax and ready for aging and for the market.

Across the road is the gift shop. Apparently, over the years the cheese processing plant has changed owners a number of times and the shop and the plant are now owned by different people (no longer Kraft), working closely together to sell the cheese made there.

We really enjoyed watching the cheese-making process and tasting the cheese across the street, especially the cheddar. It was yummy. The fresh curds were not quite as good but it was nice to taste them. They wouldn't be something I would like on a regular basis.

In the shop, there were walls of jellies, jams, pickles, relishes and all kinds of things that team up with cheese to make it a great snack or meal.

Somewhere behind the processing plant, the wheels of cheese are aging. We didn't see that but we did see the video. I thought it was a great tour and would recommend it to anyone passing through that part of North Carolina. Also, this cheddar would make some Mac and Cheese that would make any American proud.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New crop: Tomatillos

This year we planted tomatillos in our garden for the first time. We planted them a bit late and I really didn't expect to have a very good harvest. That was true at first but then the tomatillos began to grow and grow and mature.

They remind me of tomatoes but the seeds bother me and there is a slightly bitter aftertaste. I was delighted to have them.

The only real problem I have is this--I don't know how to use tomatillos. Not a clue. They are an unusual and unfamiliar plant. At least they are very easy to peel. I discarded the husks I easily peeled from the fruit into my compost pile and then looked for a recipe. I found one from the Ball Blue Book canning book that I loosely used for my recipe.

I roasted the tomatillos in the oven along with a few chili peppers, chopped them all up and then used this recipe.

Tomatillo Salsa
2 pounds of roasted tomatillos, chopped
3 chili peppers, roasted, then chopped
2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
Juice of one lime (approximately 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together and put into jar or air tight container. Allow flavors to blend in the refrigerator at least overnight. This may be put into hot jars and processed for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes one quart of salsa.

I am planning on using this for my fish tacos. I think it will be a complimentary flavor for the fish.

The jury is still out about my tomatillos but I must say they were a big success in my garden. I can't wait to try the salsa on my family.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Country Lights

This past weekend I attended a family reunion in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It was just a hop, skip and jump over to Boone where the Dan'l Boone Inn and Restaurant is located. One night we went there for a nice country dinner.

We had a very nice family-style meal and the service was great. It should be since the motto is, "It's fun to be nice to people." They were very nice and it was fun.

I did see something I had not seen before. Look at the light fixtures. They were made from galvanized steel buckets. That, to me, was so creative.

It could also be a money saver. I don't think it would be perfect for any decor, but for a farm house kitchen, this is a great idea.

Also, if you are ever in Boone, these people will treat you right. They also do fried chicken right, too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Happy Halloween from Pinterest

It's time to look for interesting and different Halloween crafts to make for decorations or for giving. Pinterest ALWAYS has some of the best ideas. Here are a few.

Above from the best cake ever for Halloween. It has spiders, mummies and glowing owl eyes made from brightly colored fondant.

Speaking of spiders. These pipe cleaner/lollipop spiders are the best! This idea is from Becky Grantland.

Amanda Trahan posted these cute goblin pudding treats. Perfect use of a budding young artist's talents. There is even directions on the photo.

From made from pretzels and string cheese. Very creative.

Another great tutorial from plastic cups with little lights inside (not candles but lights with batteries please! I don't think these would withstand a real lighted flame!) They are very cute and easy. This one is from Julie Shawanesse.

I think this one from is my favorite! Best use of bathroom tissue--second only to wrapping mummies.

Best costume to Lisa Vecchio! I probably am more drawn to this one because of our beekeeping but it is so cute.

Now this one would does deserve a hand. A surgical glove used for a treat bag with a spider ring. Perfect. Thanks to Great idea!

Best cupcake idea are these adorable owls made from oreos. So cute! Great idea from Robin McDonald!

And I saved the creepiest one for last. These cake pops from are so cute. How can something be creepy and cute at the same time? Cake pop eyeballs that have forks sticking in them. It's Halloween folks!