When my kids were younger, we would to sit down as a family as soon as the kids got out of school and create a summer bucket list. My kids were quick to add things like eat s'mores, go out for ice cream and stay up late watching movies to the list. My husband would suggest family hiking trips and camping. As for me, I usually tried to include some sort of family cooking activity but to be honest, I was on board with anything that involved spending time together as a family. (Other than tent camping. 😂🏕)
Why did we ever stop making summer bucket lists? It's such a great way to make sure that time doesn't slip away while I occupy myself with the busyness of my daily routine. It's amazing how quickly I can end up cruising through life on autopilot without ever stopping to be truly present in the moment. I need that not-so-subtle, neon colored bucket list taped to my refrigerator door as a reminder that at the end of the day, the pile of dirty dishes next to my kitchen sink isn't what's important.
I may have missed the boat on making a summer bucket list this year but I'm not going to let that stop me from making an end of the year/holiday bucket list. These last few months of the year are by far the busiest for my business in addition to all of the other demands of Christmas. It's easy for me to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and I'm hoping that my holiday bucket list will help me keep things in perspective this year.
I know that I need to get out of the house more, especially on busy baking days, so I'm adding dog walks and al fresco lunches to my bucket list. I also want to build in time for myself this Christmas. I'm working toward moving past my feelings of selfishness and scheduling "me" time this year. 😳 My list also includes things like spending less time on my phone and being more present when I have time with Ben.
Wish me luck - this holiday bucket list isn't going to be easy to execute. It was easy to generate a list of things that I WANT to do in these last 66 days of the year but it's going to be way harder to stay focused on what's important and stick to my list and not add additional tasks to my already busy schedule. Simplifying my holiday baking is one way that I can stick to my bucket list. This German Apple Almond Cake is simple and amazing. Yea for easy holiday cakes and more time to check things off my end of the year bucket list.
German Apple Almond Cake
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
4 ounces almond paste, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 small apples, peeled and cored
2 teaspoons sugar
Cool in pan 30 minutes. Remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
I brought these apples home from our trip to the North Georgia mountains last weekend. You don't have to get your apples from an orchard while wearing cute boots and a flannel shirt but bonus points if you do. Most of the time, grocery store apples work just as wonderfully in this recipe as freshly picked ones.
Butternut squash is one my favorite of all of the edible gourds. (Doesn't everyone have a favorite gourd?) Any vegetable with BUTTER in the name is a winner in my book. I typically like to eat my squash roasted or grilled but for a nice change of pace in the Fall, I enjoy turning a big beautiful squash into soup. 🥣There's something about cool evenings, a blanket of crisp leaves covering the ground and a big bowl of butternut squash soup that I find so comforting. (I also like caramel apples and apple cider doughnuts in the Fall but I'm choosing to channel my energy into healthier seasonal cravings today.) 🍩🍏😂
The great thing about this Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup is that you can make it "light" and healthy or really go for it and create something super rich and creamy. You can make my recipe as written for a bowl of super flavorful deliciousness OR you can reinvent it and create your own bowl of squashy goodness. Stir in a tablespoon or two of cream, sprinkle toasted walnuts or roasted corn on top or toss on a few homemade croutons. Go crazy with your vegetable soup. So many herbs and nuts to experiment with.
Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2" pieces
6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon sherry
Sprinkle individual portions with pancetta.
Who knew that eating my vegetables could be so delicious?
"Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He's gotta pick this one. He's got to. I don't see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there's not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see."
I'm so inspired by Charlie Brown that I planted a pumpkin patch of my own this summer. 🎃 I faithfully watered, weeded and cared for my growing pumpkin plants for weeks while I eagerly anticipated the giant gourds that would grow. And then ... we had our roof replaced. 😬
Unfortunately, my precious pumpkin patch fell victim to the collateral damage from our new roof installation. It was pretty much demolished by the pile of shingles that landed in its path during the removal of our old roof. 😞 My hopes of having the most sincere pumpkin patch in the neighborhood were lost. But if I'm being honest, a roof without leaks was far more important than having my own pumpkin patch.
Lucky for me, I can't go into a grocery store, a gas station or a hardware store in my town this month without passing by an overflowing bin of giant orange pumpkins just outside their doors. Pumpkins are definitely not hard to come by here. I'm also lucky enough to live near a couple of pick your own pumpkin patches so I really shouldn't be too disappointed by the fact that my pumpkin patch had failed. I still have access to great pumpkins.
We set another record high temperature today so there won't be any pumpkin spice lattes for me for a while. I'm still enjoying the flavors of this beautiful season though. A simple unfrosted pumpkin spiced cake with a handful of chocolate chips is the perfect thing for this girl who craves the taste of pumpkin but can't handle a hot latte right now.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.
Hey Dad - this recipe is lactose free! No dairy, no butter. Just thought you would like to know. Love you.
I have a lot of respect for French Toast. Sure it's crazy good but it's also a really ingenious (and efficient) use of ingredients. What else am I going to do with my leftover bread? Make croutons? Make bread crumbs? I do both of those things but I don't feel like either of those is the best use of my stale bread. I prefer to dip my stale bread in an eggy custard, brown it in butter and drench it with sweet maple syrup. The only thing better than having stale bread is having an overripe banana that I can turn into banana bread to go with it.
My only issue that I have when I make french toast is that I can't seem to make enough of it at one time. My largest skillet only holds 2 pieces of bread at a time so when I'm make french toast for any more than two people, we have to eat in shifts. That was until I ran across this recipe for Sheet Pan French Toast. This is genius. 8 slices of hearty, delicious, eggy french toast baked at the same time to perfection in the oven.
Sheet Pan French Toast
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk
8 slices hearty sandwich bread
Breakfast is served.
Great things never come from our comfort zone. Do you agree?
I'm the kind of girl who likes to live with familiar and comfortable routines. Don't we all really? I prefer a predictable and reliable lifestyle. Why mess with a good thing? But great things usually happen when I'm OUTSIDE my comfort zone and not living my comfortable and predictable life.
Travel is one of the best ways that I've found for me to stretch my boundaries and get outside my comfort zone. I get accustomed to viewing the world from my own front door. My little circle of existence gets very small when I spend too much time without leaving it. It doesn't take a long or expensive vacation to broaden my perspective and get me out of my comfort zone though. A day trip to the mountains, a hike through the forest or an afternoon spent on the lake can really reset my navigational beacon. It's not in my normal routine to do any of those things but they really are great ways to expand comfort zone.
I also have a cooking comfort zone but today I'm going to challenge myself to get just a little bit out of my culinary comfort zone. Adding a new grain or a new kind of olive into my diet can be just the thing that I need to break myself out of my comfort zone cooking. Pulling out the slow cooker, picking up some farro and Castelvetrano olives and putting together this uber-tasty chicken dinner for tonight. Great things happen when I break out of comfort zone cooking.
Mediterranean Chicken and Farro
2 Tablespoons oil
4 split chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked farro
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 pitted Castelvetrano olives, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Garnish with additional parsley.
The beige pictures of this chicken dish don't really do it justice. The briney olives, the bright lemon zest, the crunchy almonds, the spicy red pepper and the fresh parsley all work together beautifully to create a dish that is absolutely bursting with flavor. I love the way that the farro perfectly compliments the chicken and visa versa. And the fact that you can toss it all in your slow cooker and walk away for 8 hours is just an added bonus.
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