Pantry m a k e o v e r!

We moved to our house back in March and we had most of the interior painted white (specifically the most dreamy “White Dove” by Benjamin Moore). For whatever reason, I was like oh, don’t worry about the pantry, I can paint that myself. Who cares, you say? It’s just the pantry, right? Well. The former owners had painted the shelves and the wall behind and on the sides of the shelves red. Like bright, blood red. Not a great color for a pantry closet. (The before photos are at the end for your viewing pleasure! 😉 ) It drove me crazy. So finally I got up the nerve to paint. I knew it would take a while and with three little kids, it’s hard to find the time. But I am so thrilled that I went ahead with the project, even though it took me practically all day. I primed, painted, went through everything, tossed some things, organized others. It was fun! Plus, I’m so in love with my new pantry I keep opening the door just to look at how nice and organized it is. Haha!

DSC_7408DSC_7404DSC_7395DSC_7391DSC_7375DSC_7365DSC_7377DSC_7359…and I had a little helper, so of course I had to document him! 😉DSC_7417DSC_7411DSC_7428

as promised, here are some photos of my process…Photo Aug 05, 12 38 40 PM

primed…Photo Aug 05, 6 15 50 AM

first coat…Photo Aug 05, 12 18 25 PM

Easter + Our Bunnies

Easter always catches me off guard. I’m not sure why, but it swoops in and I am always feeling unprepared. This year felt that way even more so, I barely had fresh eggs, let alone anything to dye them with. So, thankfully there is Google and thankfully I have a large assortment of food coloring. I used a recipe I found on McCormick’s website and it was perfect. It was easy and the colors turned out really fun! DSC_5207collage2DSC_5219DSC_5245collage3DSC_5254DSC_5262DSC_5277DSC_5278DSC_5280DSC_5284DSC_5290DSC_5293DSC_5300

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…and we had our very own baby bunny, too. 😉

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a thoughtful DIY gift

A couple of years ago, I came across Heather Bullard on Instagram. She is amaaaazing. She is a prop stylist and everything she does is gorgeous, so naturally I was an instant fan. She shared her recipe for Organic Madagascar Vanilla Extract and I was like oh yes, I must do this! I love to bake and I really like thoughtful gift ideas, so this was perfect. Finally, two summers ago, a friend and I decided to try it out. It’s so easy, but you must have time. Time is the key ingredient here, because you have to let the vanilla cure for 6+ months, the longer the better. Mine has been curing for a year and a half, so you can imagine how excited I was to finally bottle this stuff up!! I highly suggest you visit Heather’s page for all things beautiful and inspiring and for lots and lots of recipes. (Note: I am not afiliated with Heather at all, I just am sharing what inspires me and oh my gosh does she ever!)

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For the finishing touch, and to make it extra festive, I simply tied some baker’s twine around the top of the bottle and added a couple of cinnamon sticks. I think it’s beautiful and I can’t wait to give these as gifts this year. I had an extra bottle so I am stashing that in my pantry for holiday baking! 😉dsc_2797dsc_2807dsc_2809

festive gingerbread men

Christmastime is my all-time favorite. I’ve always loved the season – decorating, listening to Christmas Carols, drinking egg nog out of Christmas glasses, hot chocolate with peppermint sticks, looking at Christmas lights, extra family time…I mean, all of it, I love it! And this year, I wanted to make some gingerbread men ornaments. I found thee perfect recipe from McCormick’s. It’s easy and your home will smell fantastic! You need to try it, get your kiddos involved and have at it!

Ingredients:

3/4 c. applesauce

2 of the 2.37 oz bottles of ground cinnamon

Cookie Cutters (we used gingerbread, but I plan on doing some more with hearts and stars and trees #obsessed)

Drinking Straw (I used festive ones of course! 😉 )

Ribbon

Directions:

Mix your applesauce and cinnamon together until a dough ball forms (I used my hands, it’s easier). Once it’s mixed, separate the dough into four separate dough balls. Place one of the dough balls on a sheet of plastic wrap and then cover it with another sheet of plastic wrap (this trick is wonderful!). Use a rolling pin to roll out each dough ball to 1/4 – 1/3 inches (per the recipe…I just eyeballed it, though) and cut out shapes with your cookie cutters. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining dough. Once you have a full sheet of ornaments, use a straw to poke a hole at the top (or two in the center if you want to make garland like I did). Bake at 200 degrees for 2 1/2 hours (your home will smell SO good!). Once baked and cooled a bit, string ribbon through the holes and you’re all set! You could even decorate them if you wish. I wanted mine plain for the garland.

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We had one extra, so we strung some baker’s twine through it and made an ornament for our tree!dsc_2825

creamy tomato + basil soup

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I must admit, cooking has never really been my strong suit. I love to bake, but cooking has always been a bit harder for me. I am learning, though – and I’ve grown more interested in it, so that helps too! Anyway, I’ve made this soup a couple of times and I must say it makes me proud. It’s yummy and creamy and not terribly difficult to make (so long as you have an immersion blender – using a regular blender is a MESS, let me tell ya!). Since it’s that time of year when soup just sounds so tasty, I thought I’d share this from when I made it the other day. The other good thing about soup is that you can make it ahead of time, it tastes just as yummy reheated and you usually have leftovers that you can either freeze or have for lunch the next day.

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Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced (I use the pre-minced Market Pantry garlic from Target!)

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

1 bunch basil, torn or chopped into pieces (plus some extra for garnish if you like to pretty it up 😉 )

Parmesan cheese (to taste + for garnish – I like cheese, so I add some in the soup and also some on my bowl for garnish)

To make…

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat; once it is hot, add the chopped onions and cook until soft and starting to turn golden brown (stir occasionally). Add the garlic and cook for approximately 1 minute, stir to avoid burning.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes (or longer).

Puree the soup using an immersion blender.

Stir in the cream and basil and let simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Careful not to over-salt. Add parmesan cheese, stir.

Spoon into bowls and garnish with additional parmesan cheese and basil leaves.

I like to serve this with warm bread and caesar salad. Enjoy, friends!

 

 

pie, anyone?

I started baking pies a few years ago, not because I really liked them (I’ve always been more of a cake girl, myself), but because I wanted to make something festive for fall (I am a fall girl) and I wanted to learn the art of the lattice crust! I found an apple pie recipe via Pinterest and even though it can be somewhat time consuming, it’s actually really simple. There aren’t many ingredients or steps to follow, so that part is easy (and I always use pre-made pie crust! I made my own once, but I’ve got little kids and I just don’t have that much time! No shame!) After I successfully baked my first pie and actually liked it, I was sort of obsessed and now I bake at least one every fall, usually after a trip to the apple orchard. I’ve done the lattice crust and I wanted to step up my game this year, so I went searching on Pinterest again for some inspiration, ran to Michael’s to pick up some mini fall cookie cutters (which I couldn’t find last year) and set aside an afternoon last weekend to whip it up. While I was at Michael’s I also found a mini pie pan and thought it would be fun for Madelyn to decorate her own pie alongside me. This was a trial run for when we go to the apple orchard next month and I can’t wait to make another one with our freshly picked orchard apples! Mmmm!

I also want to send out a special thanks to our friends over at Polders Old World Market for thee most beautiful wooden spoon there ever was. They don’t call it “dreamware” for nothing! It is seriously beautiful. Collage1DSC_9500Collage2DSC_9532DSC_9538DSC_9548DSC_9566DSC_9579DSC_9583DSC_9597


DSC_9666DSC_9688and of course you have to lick the bowl…DSC_9706

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Apple Pie

2 boxes pre-made pie crusts (I used the extra for my leaf cut-outs)

6 apples (red or green, I’ve used both or a mix of both)

1/2 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter (room temperature, cut into cubes)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 egg white in a dish, set aside (this is a sort of adhesive for the cut-outs)

extra cinnamon & sugar, plus a bit of brown sugar for topping

Peel, core and thinly slice apples into large bowl. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, flour, and half of the butter. Once all is evenly distributed, pour filling into prepared pie crust (read box for instructions), dot with remaining butter and top with lattice crust and leaf cut-outs, flower cut-outs, etc. I think the more the merrier, so I was glad I had that extra package of pie crust. Brush the bottoms of your cut-outs with the egg-whites before you put them into place. I also braided some of my strips and love the way that looked. You can get really creative with how you decorate it and that is half the fun!

 

sage, dried with love

I felt inspired last year to come up with gifts from the heart; something that is homemade and thoughtful. Gift-giving tends to be hard for me and sometimes I am not good at all and other times I over-do it. So, I came across a recipe for homemade vanilla extract about two years ago and got inspired. Last summer a friend and I decided to give it a try and it’s curing as we speak, going on a year! It’s supposed to be better the longer it cures, so I’m hoping by Christmas it will be extra-special. With that, I came across a book on Amazon, Food Gift Love and was really excited to try out some of the recipes and give some special people in our lives thoughtful gifts throughout the year for fall or Christmas or just because. Madelyn really loves helping me in the kitchen and one of the ideas that caught my eye was Dried Sage. I thought it would be a fun experience for us, it would teach us the process and was easy enough for her (she’s five) to help me with. It would also teach her about thoughtful-gift giving. My mother-in-law loves to cook and since Madelyn was visiting her in July, I thought it’d be a great little gift “just because”. We didn’t grow the sage, but if you have a garden, it would be even more special if you started the process there. I bought some fresh sage and used that and it really is lovely. I’ve always loved drying flowers, so this was sort of reminiscent of that for me. I also made a photo book of the photos I took of Madelyn during the process and gave that to my mother-in-law as well to make it an extra special keepsake. Since the gift-giving season is right around the corner, I thought I’d share this here! The whole process took about a month as we had to be patient and let the sage dry completely, so keep that in mind if you decide you’d like to give it a try!

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