I’m not entirely sure why I have decided to blog again other than to have a place where I can document those things which bring me love, joy, and comfort. Perhaps those things which find me love, joy, and comfort are the same for you.
I do not profess to be an expert in any way as to the things I will write about here. In many ways I am, in fact, a dabbler. I am okay with that. My goal is to be as authentic to myself as possible. As to how frequently I will post? I think that’s going to be determined on how much free time I have to write and whether I have anything that I find interesting to say.
With all this said, I am excited for this adventure again. My goal in the near future is to share some small and large projects that we have done to our home since COVID-19 commenced. We were very DUMD when we thought doing some of this while stuck at home was a good idea. But, the payoff has been worth it.
Until then, cheers to the beginning of summer, continued flower blossoms in your neighborhoods, the smell of sweat and suntan lotion, and beachy grooves.
So…I got so excited about making this soup that I actually totally forgot to take any really good pictures of it. That being said, lack of good pictures does not mean that it ain’t good…amiright or amiright??
This soup knocked the socks off my relatives over Thanksgiving. It has a lot of depth. It is a little sweet and has a little kick to it as well. If you are looking for a good starter soup for a family meal or just something comforting for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I’d say this soup is for you.
◊Roasted Butternut Squash, Bacon & Apple Soup◊
20 minutes prep time ◊ 1 hour 5 minutes make time ◊ 1 hour 25 minutes total time
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed*
6 pieces of bacon, chopped
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 Honey Crisp apples, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
1-1/2 teaspoons of ginger
1 cup of pumpkin puree
4-6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the cubed butternut squash and chopped bacon onto a lightly oiled baking pan and let them roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Rotate the butternut squash halfway through the cooking time (trust me). If the squash does not seem fully cooked, let it roast a little longer until the squash is tender.
Heat a pot (preferably a dutch oven) to medium. While heating, take the pieces of bacon from the roasting pan (careful they will be hot), and place them into the pot. Crisp the bacon. The point of doing this is to have some leftover bacon grease to sauté the onions and apples. Once crisp, take a slotted spoon or spatula and take out the bacon. Set aside.
If there is not enough bacon grease, add up to 1 Tablespoon of olive oil into the pot. On medium heat, sauté the onions and apples until the onions are translucent and the apples are soft (approximately 5 minutes).
Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add the garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, thyme, and red pepper flakes and sauté for another 1 minute.
Add the pumpkin puree and 4 cups of chicken stock and stir until combined.
Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add more chicken stock until consistency is right.**
Once blended, bring the soup to a boil while stirring frequently.
Turn down to simmer and let soup simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of heaving cream and stir until blended.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish the soup with the crisp bacon and serve immediately.***
* Note: The best way that I have found to peel and cube a squash is as follows: First peel it with a sharp peeler. Then cut the squash in half horizontally and then vertically with a sharp knife. The top portion of the squash can now be cut into cubes. Scoop out the seeds from the bottom half of the squash. I sometimes use a small paring knife to get out the stubborn bits. Then cube the bottom half.
** Note: You don’t want the soup to be too thick or too soupy. If you are unsure if the soup is too think, proceed with bringing the soup to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes and check the consistency again. Add more stock if necessary and continue to let it simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
*** Note: If you are serving this soup to a bigger group, I would recommend stirring the crisp bacon into the soup. It still tastes as good and you don’t have to worry about potentially running out of bacon for garnish.
I have always enjoyed the savory more than the sweet, however, give me a chocolate covered pretzel any day and anything peppermint flavored during the holiday season. With that in mind, here’s a super easy peezy breezy recipe for Peppermint Oreo Pretzel Bark. I made them on Tuesday and my husband and I have devoured most of them in two days (#sorrynotsorry).
◊ Peppermint Oreo Pretzel Bark ◊
15-20 minutes prep time ◊ 1 hour 15 minutes make time ◊ 1 hour 30-35 minutes total time
1 12-ounce bag of dark chocolate chips
1 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips
6 cups of mini pretzels
10 mini candy canes, crushed
4 Oreos, crushed
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the mini pretzels on it (preferably touching).
Fill two pots approximately halfway full with water and heat the water until it is boiling. Then turn both burners down to a low boil.
Place a heat safe bowl on top of each pot and place the dark chocolate chips in one bowl and the white chocolate chips in another. Stir occasionally and let the chocolate melt until smooth.
While the chocolate is melting, crush up the candy canes and Oreos.
Once the chocolate is melted, spoon the chocolate on top of the pretzels and spread with a spatula. It does not matter which you pour onto the pretzels first, however, try not to mix them together too much when spreading them over the pretzels.
Take a knife and drag it through the chocolate to make it swirl. It should create a marble effect. This also helps to mix the two types of chocolate together over the pretzels.
Spread the crushed candy canes and Oreos over the chocolate.
Put the cookie sheet into the refrigerator and let the chocolate set for approximately 1 hour.
Once the chocolate is set, take the cookie sheet out of the refrigerator and chop up the pretzel bark into pieces. I used a knife to help break the pretzel bark.
And then enjoy!!! (Oh and don’t forget to lick the spatula(s), spoon(s)…pretty much everything when you are clean up….again #sorrynotsorry)
Back in the day, my family was given a great homemade advent calendar. We are a big family (I am one of five). Every morning we would all race downstairs to be the first to place a star on the advent “christmas tree” one by one until the 25th when the prized heart was placed at the top of the tree. It was something we thoroughly enjoyed and since moving out of the family home, I have from time to time bought the chocolate-filled advent calendars to try and recreate the memories. This was very optimistic on my part and nothing has (or will) ever replace those memories (obvi).
This year I decided to make my own. Although it will never replace the one from my childhood days, however, my goal is to bring some additional good cheer and spirit to the season.
One of the best parts of making the advent calendar was figuring out what to put in each of the days to countdown to Christmas Day. After doing some research, I found an idea which will perhaps chip away at some of my northern adulthood pessimism. This year, I will fill each day with a gesture of kindness. Examples, say “hello” to all you interact with today; let every car in front of you today (which will be something surprisingly hard to do with my PA/NJ attitude towards drivers….they all suck). I am excited to get the countdown underway on December 1st and you can too!
Below are easy instructions to making this DIY Advent Calendar.
Leftover wrapping paper and ribbons (and other decorating supplies of your heart’s desire)
5 Eucalyptus branches
25 Small envelopes (I used blank seed packets)
Connect the 5 Eucalyptus branches* together with fishing line on each side (approximately 6 inches of fishing line between each branch). The branches should create 5 vertical rows to hang the envelopes from.
Number the envelopes from 1-25. I used a gold Sharpie to number the envelopes.
Use markers, ribbon, and leftover wrapping paper to make different Christmas designs for each of the 25 envelopes.**
Punch a hole in the middle of the top of each envelope.
Cut the jute string into 25, approximately 6 inch, sections.
Loop the jute string through the holes in each envelope and secure 5 decorated envelopes per eucalyptus branch.
Cut a 2 foot section of jute string and secure to both sides of the top eucalyptus branch and hang where desired.
Click here for inspiration for things to add into your advent calendar.
* Note: It is best to alternate the thick ends of the branches between each row
** Note: I cut stars and trees out of the wrapping paper and taped them to different envelopes, and drew holy and snowmen on other envelopes.
I’m a pretty lucky gal. I have had the great fortune of meeting and becoming friends with some female powerhouses in my life. They surely stretch to many aspects of my life, but most recently two have touched my life in a very special way.
On October 3, 2015, I got married. And lest he forget, marrying my husband, was the best part of that day. However, a wedding is essentially hosting a large scale party, right? And parties mean minding the details. And I definitely got involved in the details because, well, I enjoy the details. Admittedly I DIY-ed the crap out of our wedding with great pleasure, however, there were two things that were very important to me that I wanted to rely on some those female powerhouses I was talking about: for bridal party bouquets and photography.
If you live in the Philadelphia area, I would seriously recommend using these two gems for your future event planning.
Peicha Chang is the owner of Falls Flowers, and I have had the fortune of knowing her since college. Just looking at her creations on her website or on Instagram, makes me stop and literally forget all of my complaints with whatever is going on in my daily life (which are generally never worthy of complaining about). I showed Peicha a few pictures I had for inspiration, and she transformed my concept into a wonderful reality. When I saw the bouquets she created for our wedding day, I figuratively died with pleasure. And you should see her flower shop. Seriously stop in if you are ever in the city.
Janine Fenney, is an up-and-coming wedding photographer based in the Philadelphia area who focuses on a photo-journalistic approach to her wedding photography. This is something that we particularly loved about her portfolio as it meant that would have a lot of candid pictures to look back on. Both my husband and I felt like we were reliving every minute of our special day when we looked through our pictures and that was because she captured all of those unique candid moments. She also got us in and out of formal pictures quickly and with ease which we LOVED.
All-in-all, when you are doing most of the planning by yourself, and you need that extra support to get you to through to the end game, these two surely made this gal one happy bride!!
I think I am comfortable with admitting I have been searching for winter “comfort” favorites to spice up the beginnings of the dreary winter months for at least the past week now (#sorrynotsorry).
Here, the leaves have significantly fallen and I am attempting to ignore the fact that winter will truly have hit once the grass has turned brown, which, thankfully, has not happened yet.
Although I am dreading the winter chill, I love the excuse to commence operation “let’s make the best comfort food.” Although this means sacrificing a bit of the so called “summer body,” it has been enjoyable to find healthier versions of winter time classics.
Today it was Turkey Stroganoff sans sour cream. I would agree with my husband, my thankfully willing taste tester, that sour cream does assist in making a Stroganoff have a thicker consistency, however, this version does a great job in creating a lighter version without sacrificing too much of the desired thickness.
◊ Turkey Stroganoff ◊
15 minutes prep time ◊ 20 minutes cook time ◊ 35 total time
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
8 ounces (1 small package) baby portabella mushrooms
1 Tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 Tablespoon of thyme
1 cup of beef broth (separated)
4 Tablespoons of flour
1 can (10.5 ounces) of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 pound of pasta (preferably egg noodles)
Brown ground turkey in a large skillet over medium heat
Add mushrooms, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and thyme and cook until mushrooms have turned slightly brown.
While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk the flour and 1/2 cup of beef broth together in a small bowl until smooth; and prepare pasta according to instructions on packaging.
Mix flour and broth mixture, cream of mushroom soup, and the other 1/2 cup of beef broth into turkey and mushroom mixture.
Lower heat to medium-low, and cook mixture for approximately 10-15 minutes until Stroganoff has thickened. Add additional beef broth if consistency is too thick.
[I modified a Beef Stroganoff recipe found here to obtain the above result]