Monday, September 29, 2014

Homemade Caramel

Fall is so beautiful! There's just something so wonderful about all the changes that come with it, including the yummy foods. 

Of course we could make carmel apples any time of the year, but we only ever do in fall. Seeing these in a shop window made me want to make up my own batch of caramel. 

A few years ago I found a recipe for caramel that is amazing. Making carmel really isn't difficult, but 
is time consuming. If you have the time, you can't compare the taste to store bought carmel, so it really is a treat. Make a double batch and you will have plenty to give friends and neighbors. 

The recipe and instructions are fairly lengthy, so I'm just going to direct you to Amber Lee's GiversLog blog, for all the details --here. Here's my own pictures, following her instruction. 

It always takes a little longer than I remember to get up to 240º, but 30 minutes, like she says is probably about right. It just feels long when you are standing there waiting for the temp to rise, mouth watering in anticipation of this delicious treat. 

I always double the recipe and do two pans. If you do this, you can do one pan of plain caramel

and one sprinkled with sea salt.

I do always scoop some out for caramel dip. This will still harden some as is cools, but you can just microwave for a few seconds to get it back to liquid stage when you are ready to use it.

One piece of advice: don't wait too long to cut it up. Watch the pan though, the caramel makes those suckers HOT. Let it cool just until it holds it's shape when cut. It should still be a little warm. If you wait until it's totally cool it will be hard and take a lot of pressure to cut through. We always place the parchment on a cutting board and use a pizza cutter.  

Once you have all the caramel pieces cut, grab some wax paper, and turn on a movie.

Cut the wax paper into about 2x3" pieces (or whatever fits the caramels you cut), and get wrapping. Don't stack the caramels because they will stick together, permanently. By the time the movie is over you'll have all your caramels wrapped and ready to go. Give some away (so your neighbors know they are loved) and save some for you.  Once you make them you might feel a tradition coming on. I hope you like them as much as we do. So thankful AmberLee shared her recipe. : ) 

I hope your week gets off to a great start. You are loved!

 - Haley

Monday, September 15, 2014

Five Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

Hello! How are you? Are you ready for Fall? I am. I'm loving the cool mornings, and I've been making lots of fallish foods. There's nothing more fallish than pumpkin, right?

I just made some super easy Pumpkin cookies, so I thought I'd share that recipe (in case you haven't seen it on Pinterest 1,000 times), and a few other of my favorite pumpkin recipes from the last few years.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

1 can pumpkin (14 oz)
1 box spice (or yellow) cake mix.
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Just mix all ingredients together and bake at 350º for 12-14 minutes or until they feel a little springy when touched. I used a silicone baking mat and bumped up the heat to 375º.  They are very soft and stay that way, yum! Be warned, they don't last at room temperature because the pumpkin holds so much moisture. So keep them in the freezer, if you can keep from eating them all right away. : )

Here are my other favorite Pumpkin recipes. (Click on the name to go to the recipe/post)

Pumpkin Scones

 Pumpkin Pie Dip

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

And, the ever-popular Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I hope you are enjoying the tastes and smells of Fall!

You are loved!


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Hi! Today I don't have a recipe, a craft or a garden post. I just have some random thoughts to share.  Can you stick with me 'til the end of it though?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."
- A Tale of Two Cities
 Charles Dickens, 1859

In a lot of ways I feel like this opening line from Dickens sums up our world so well. I feel like my generation has had it pretty easy, we've lived in a "season of light." We enjoy more freedoms, and opportunities than perhaps any another generation. We have traveled more and know more about what's going on around the world at any given moment than any other generation--thanks to amazing advances in technology. 
Thanks to that same technology, we also have an increasingly broader spectrum of news at a faster pace than ever. Anyone can report things, and because of that we know more. We can't pretend not to know.  If you happen to be a news junkie, like myself, you know that there are unspeakable things happening in our world. It seems even more so these last couple of months. There are pandemics spreading, terrorists ravaging, and countries threatening to overtake one another. There are 30 million people today living in slavery. So you might also say this is a "season of darkness."  

The other day I was going to bed after reading more news, and talking about some of my recent fears with a friend. I was anxious, and the world felt dark. I stopped in Thing 1's room to kiss him good night and found that he had hung this door hanger he made at Sunday School on his light-up globe, right next to Syria and Iraq. 

I took a deep breath and felt like God had just sent me a lunchbox note on a bad day at school.  I don't know what the next days or months will hold, but I do know that God will be there. He already knows. He won't be surprised, and in the end, He wins. So instead of worrying, I'm going to pray. That may sound cheesy to you, especially if you don't believe that God is in control, that He loves us and that He has a plan, but I believe all those things. A friend recently shared with me some truly amazing stories of very specific answers to prayer; miracles, some would say. And it made me realize that I have sold prayer short for too long. So I'm going forward today, with a new resolve to trust God, to talk to Him, and not to worry. 

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." 
                                                                      Psalm 62:8
I don't know what you're worried about today. Maybe Ebola and the Middle East are the farthest things from your mind. Maybe you are just struggling to get though the day. Sickness, feeling alone, hating your job, losing your way. I don't know. But I do know this: God always keeps His promises. That doesn't always look like I want it to, and it's not always on my timeline, but when I look back at different struggles in my life I always realize that it was true.

God always keeps His Promises.

Maybe you need to hear that today too. There is always hope and YOU are always loved!

Keep Calm and Carry On, dear friends.

- Haley

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Garden Before and After

Hi Guys! How was your long weekend? We didn't do anything big, but we did ride our bikes to the local farmer's market, and picked some apples for free. We're living the green dream, my friends, and I love it! Speaking of green, I thought it would be kind of fun to show you how our garden did. In the spring I often post pics of us planting stuff, but I usually forget to show that they actually grew. I have a policy that I don't pin things that don't show the result, so I thought I better start playing by my own rules. Plus, everyone loves a good before and after, right?

I'm always just amazed at how big tomato plants grow. One day last week I picked 15 full-size tomatoes from five different varieties, and a pint of the Sungold cherry tomatoes. 

One of our exciting successes this year was finally growing good onions. We have picked and are dry-storing our small crop of onions. I can't wait to use them for fall soups. 

This year we got more basil than probably all the years we've grown it combined. I've made a lot of pesto, dried enough to last all winter and tossed it into salads.

This was the first year I planted nasturtium with the veggies. It went crazy! It actually kind of took over the beds. I would probably plant only one per bed if I plant it next year. It did add a lot of nice color to our veggie gardens though!

In the fail column: this combo of green beans and squash didn't really work. The squash took over so much it covered and killed the beans. Then we got squash beetles (again!), and some of the squash died. We didn't get a single zucchini this year, thanks to our beetle enemies. We are going to have to get creative next year to figure out how to defeat those guys. Any ideas?

Because we started it so early though, we did get a few good size squash before the bugs got to the plants. It worked well to support the spaghetti squash on these trellises (I always wondered if large squash could really grow on a trellis--yes!).  I also was diligent about spraying Neem Oil on our plants at the beginning of the season, but not so much the last half. Maybe if I had kept up with this it would have kept the bugs away. Next year...

A couple other success: jalepeños from seeds, 

and determinate tomatoes in pots produced a good amount of fruit. We learned a few seasons ago that a sprinkle of bone meal right when the plant starts to produce is the key to healthy potted tomatoes with no bottom rot. Hooray!

Every year is such a learning process. I'm already planning out what we'll plant where next year, based on how things went this year. For now, we're enjoying bringing in fresh produce every day. Lots of our meals have something we grew in every dish, which makes all the work feel worth it. I hope you can find little successes like these to celebrate this week whether they be in the garden or the workplace. I'm convinced the fruits of our labor are worth celebrating, and gratitude is where true happiness is found.

You are loved!
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