Party Season: Fall Fashions

I’m not sure how we’re already in October, but we are! And that means the party season is soon upon us – Halloween parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year parties (and somewhere in the middle a birthday party, for me)!

This season I’m loving earthy, muted colours but also pops of colour with patterns that fade into block colour. I think the latter is one of my favourite current fashion trends. 🙂

I haven’t bought any “party” clothes for a while, but Modcloth has added some great dresses to their Fall/Winter section, so here are a few of my favourites. (I foresee a lot of green in my wardrobe!)

modclothfeteonit

You Can Fete On It Dress: I love the colours in this dress! It would be great to wear in the day with flats, or in the evening you could pair it with heels and jewelry. I think this will work well during the Spring too.

modclothexquisiteelegancebig

Exquisite Elegance Dress: The gorgeous muted, mossy green of this dress is so delicate it works perfectly with the lace! I love the off-the-shoulder style too – it’s a really great dress. I’d wear it with pearls to keep the vintage look.

modclothnostalgicallynuancedbig

Nostalgically Nuanced Dress: I love the button detail at the neckline, and the sleeves, and eveything about it really! This is something I know I’d wear a lot…but it’s out of stock. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll get it back in stock soon.

So those are my top three picks from the Modcloth Fall/Winter collection. What styles are you looking forward to this season? Have you found any great fall fashion bargains?

I’m taking part in Style Sessions and What I Wore – be sure to check out some other posts for great fashion finds. 🙂

Winery Harvest Festival

Vinyard

Brian and I recently took a drive to a Harvest Festival at a winery. We’d never been before but it sounded fun: craft stalls, wine tasting, BBQ food, and a live band/singer. It’s hard to get into the Autumn spirit when everything is green all year round, but this helped a lot.

HarvestFestival

Wines

And after tasting all of the wines available, we bought four of our favourites. The Blackberry wine is probably my favourite of the lot – it has a lovely bite to it while staying a sweet wine.

We also bought a packet of delicious homemade Blue Cheese And Walnut crackers from one of the stalls. So good!

WineAndCrackers

It was a great day out and I’m sure we’ll make the drive again to get some of the other wines we enjoyed. Have you been doing anything fun to get into the Autumn spirit too?

I’m taking part in The Hearth & Soul Hop this week – check out some other posts for family friendly fun.

I purchased these items with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.

Fashion Friday #1

This is my first Fashion Friday post – how exciting! What is Fashion Friday? Well…I’m not totally sure yet, so the name might change as the content does. I’m hoping to talk about things I’ve bought, bargains I’ve found, or fashions I’ve seen online that make me go “oooo!”

I love Autumn: the turning leaves (which we don’t get in Florida), the crackling fires (which we don’t need in Florida), and the cuddly-warm fashions (which we also don’t need in Florida, but I’m having at least one of these things dammit!) So I got really excited when I found a few great Autumn-fashion bargains.

Payless recently had a sale, and I also had a 30% off coupon. So I couldn’t resist buying these beauties:

PaylessFallShoes

The boots were originally $49.99 and I got them for $21 – they’re so comfortable and I love them! The flats (how wonderful is that green?!) were originally $24.99 and I got them for $7! Happy Autumn, feet.

This gorgeous dress from Earthbound (originally $34.95) was in the sale for $14:

EarthboundRedDress

The photo doesn’t do it justice – it’s a luscious, deep red heavy fabric so it hangs really nicely. Also, I’m really tall and got way too excited that this was the perfect length for my height. And the perfect price.

Not a bad haul for $42. I think teaming the dress and boots together will be one of the outfits I wear over Christmas, maybe even New Year with some sparkly jewelry.

Have you found any great fashion bargains? I’d love to hear about them!

I’m taking part in Favorite Fashion Friday – check out some other posts for more fashion inspiration.

I purchased these items with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

They say admitting that you have a problem is the first step, right?  So here goes…. I have a problem. A problem that I think a lot of people suffer from. I am… a Pinterest hoarder!

Yes, I see all these wonderful looking recipes, and crafts, and design ideas and I pin them thinking “I’d love to make that!”  But do I ever make any of them? Nope! They go into the pin-hoarding vault and get forever forgotten about, until someone else re-pins it and I think “I should really make that…”

So I’ve decided to break the cycle!  I made a list of 4 recipes and their ingredients – four seemed like a manageable number in one month – and bought everything I needed before I got sidetracked by more pins.

This is the first recipe of the fab-four: Broccoli Quinoa Casserole 🙂  The original recipe is from Eating Well, Living Thin.

Quinoa is something I’ve eaten for a few years – my Mom is vegetarian so it’s been included in most recipes for a while.  My husband is pretty new to the quinoa scene though – and still refuses to believe the pronunciation (keen-WAH) – but he’s adventurous, tried it and really liked it! We both did, and we’ll definitely be making it again 🙂

Ingredients:
10 oz can Cream of Broccoli Soup (or cream of mushroom, or cream of whatever you like soup!)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp milk
1 1/4 cups grated cheese (we used 4-cheese Mexican, because we like the mix of flavours)
1/2 tsp sugar (splenda if you prefer)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (or a dash of freshly grated)
2 cups cooked broccoli
3/4 cup quinoa (1 1/2 cups when cooked – see below)
grated cheese for the top (we used the same 4-cheese Mexican blend)

To cook the quinoa:
3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
pinch salt

Rince the quinoa in a sieve under a running tap, until the water runs clear.  Add the rinsed quinoa to a saucepan with the water and salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, then cook for about 18-20 minutes, stirring as little as possible.  The white “tail” will be visible when it’s cooked.

For the casserole:

1. Preheat oven to 180 C, 350 F, gas 4.  Grease a shallow 8×8″ casserole dish (I used a pie dish).

2. Mix together the soup, mayonnaise, milk, grated cheese, sugar and nutmeg in a large bowl. You can add black pepper to season if you like – I’m not a fan of it so we always leave it out of recipes.

3. Add the cooked quinoa and cooked broccoli and mix well.

4. Pour into the casserole dish and sprinkle over with grated cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are golden and bubbly.

5. We were too impatient and hungry, so our edges never got to the golden bubbly stage 😉

6. Enjoy!

We served ours as a side and it was really delicious! I’ll definitely be making it again, it was so simple and if you’re feeling healthy you can substitute the lower fat versions of things like mayonnaise or reduced fat cheese, and use low sodium soup.

This will be my post for this week’s Hearth & Soul Blog Hop 🙂  Be sure to check out the other recipes on there this week and follow my blog for more tasty treats!

Also, this will be my first time taking part in Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm!

Pumpkin Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

I love baking. It’s something I have a real passion for and love trying out new recipes as much as developing old ones.

Last year Mom bought me The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook which is full of delicious baking delights! One recipe in particular grabbed my attention right away, pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, but unfortunately pumpkin season had ended so I had to wait until this year to try it out.

The Hummingbird Bakery itself is in London and they do a variety of cupcakes – when I visit London for my visa interview (for moving to where my husband is stationed) I’ll be sure to pop in and gain a few lbs!

They say in the cookbook that they altered quantities of ingredients to make the recipes work for small, home baker, batches. I’m not entirely convinced the quantities are right for these cupcakes – I’ve made them twice now, once at Halloween and again last Sunday, and both times they’ve seemed very dense.

Another odd thing is that if you try to take the cupcakes out of the paper cases on the day you bake them (even after they’ve completely cooled) they won’t come out, they stick in there and you get mess everywhere. But if you leave them until the day after, they come out fine. I’ve never come across that before with cupcakes and am not sure how to combat that – any suggestions? Otherwise, just remember to make the cupcakes the day before you need them instead of on the day.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Makes: 12
Preheat oven: 170 ° C (325 ° F) Gas 3.

Ingredients:
120 g plain flour
140 g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
a pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature <—[50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature]
120 ml whole milk <—[120 ml skimmed milk, used both times]
2 eggs
200 g tinned pumpkin puree <—[200 g fresh pumpkin, used both times]

I made a few alterations to the cupcake recipe, I’ve shown those in the ingredients list in italics (and also in the instructions).

1) Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

[I did stage 1 by hand, first combining the sugar and butter, then adding the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon because our handheld electric whisk didn’t feel up to the job!]

2) Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until well mixed. [I added all of the milk here because it never tells you where to add the other half! So I took a wild stab in the dark and put it all in now.]

3) Add the eggs to the mix and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Stir in the pumpkin puree [fresh pumpkin] by hand until evenly mixed.

4) Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full…

…and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched [I poked mine with a skewer like normal – if it comes out clean then they’re done, if it comes out with cake goo on it then they need longer in the oven].

5) Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

While they’re cooling, mix up your frosting 🙂

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
300 g icing sugar, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 g cream cheese, cold

The recipe asks for you to beat the icing sugar and butter together in a mixer or with a handheld whisk, but I find that there is so little butter that you just end up with icing sugar clouds everywhere instead. So what I did is use the back of a spoon to mash the butter and sugar together for a while – the butter is so little in quantity that you won’t have enough to mash all the sugar into. Then add the cream cheese and mash that with a spoon for a while too, to reduce the risk of sugar clouds when you turn on the mixer.

Now use a freestanding mixer or handheld whisk to beat everything together until smooth, light and fluffy. This can take a few minutes but don’t overbeat it because it can become runny instead of the light and fluffy frosting we’re after 🙂

I decided to have a more traditional, rustic, finish with my frosting and used a knife to spread it on instead of a piping bag. If you’re not serving the cupcakes straight away, add the frosting and keep them in tins overnight, but don’t add the sprinkling of cinnamon until you’re ready to serve them. Or you can leave the sprinkle off completely, I did a mix of some with and some without.

Apart from the cupcakes being difficult to remove from the paper cases on the same day as cooking, I enjoyed this recipe. One downside is that you can’t taste the pumpkin (or at least, I couldn’t), they taste just like cinnamon cupcakes really but I love cinnamon anyway!

This will be my blog post for the Hearth And Soul Blog Hop, a recipe hop that happens every Tuesday 🙂

Soup Season: Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

We are now definitely into “soup season” where everyone loves comfort, warm fires and hearty food. Soups are so easy to make and you really don’t need a recipe to follow – just throw a bunch of vegetables into a pot with some stock, cook, blend, et voila! Soup 🙂

But there are a lot of lovely soup recipes around and I love trying them out! My Mom is the homemade soup master..well, mistress, so today we made one together from a new cookery book that was a surprise find!

The book is called Comfort Cooking: Recipes To Warm Your Heart by Bay Books. It’s packed full of recipes I know I’ll love to cook just as much as I want to eat them – when I first found the book and flicked through I was ravenous by the end! I’ve searched online and not managed to find anywhere that sells it, I got my copy from a book man at work so it may be that they’re out of print. I’ll do a review of the book itself in a different blog post another time and try to find more details to help source it.

So yes, it is that time of year where a nice bowlful of warm soup is a real comfort 🙂 so I have decided to do a series of posts throughout the next couple of months called Soup Season! Today’s recipe is Pumpkin and Carrot Soup.

We changed a couple of things in the recipe, so I’ll indicate in the ingredients list which things we altered or removed.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
40 g (1.5 oz) butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) carrots, sliced
125 ml (4 fl oz / 0.5 cup) orange juice
750 g (1 lb 10 oz) butternut pumpkin (squash), peeled and roughly chopped. <—[we used actual fresh pumpkin, like you carve at Halloween, about 2 lbs]
1.5 litres (52 fl oz / 6 cups) chicken stock. <—[we used vegetable stock as Mom is vegetarian]
1 tbsp snipped chives. <—[we didn’t have any chives so we left this out]
herb scones or herb bread to serve. <—[we used seeded bread as we have that in the house]

1) Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Pour in the orange juice and bring to the boil over high heat. Add the pumpkin, stock and return to the boil (the original recipe also asks for an additional 500 ml, which is 2 cups, of water to be added but we thought that would make it too watery so we left the extra water out completely…and are glad that we did!). Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the carrot and pumpkin are soft.

2) Blend the soup in batches in a blender (or with a hand held blender if you have one), until smooth – the recipe says to add a little more stock if you prefer the soup to be thinner, but we didn’t do this, it was just the right consistency in our opinion 🙂

3) Return to the cleaned pan and reheat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Divide the soup among the serving bowls and garnish with the chives (or without chives, as we did). Serve with herb scones or bread – we used Warburton’s Seeded Batch instead, because it’s the bread we have daily and love it!

This was a great recipe and so tasty. We’ll definitely be doing it again.

We only used 2 bowlfuls of soup today so the rest will be going into Pour And Store bags, when it’s cooled down, and stored in the freezer for a later date 🙂 These bags are great for freezing soups, sauces, marinades, etc and they stand open on their own making it easy to put the soup in them. I’m all for ease when it comes to cooking!