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baby shower favors: “mommy’s little pumpkin butter”

February 4, 2012

My good friend Rachel had a baby!  An adorable little girl who arrived quickly and almost right on schedule, bless her little heart.  We did things a little differently this time around and celebrated after her arrival, but it was no less exciting (we got to see the baby right away – instant gratification!) and mom got to enjoy a little relaxation time with the girls while daddy baby-sat 🙂  It was held at the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco and I was in charge of favors and wanted to make something instead of buying them – can’t remember how I decided on pumpkin butter (it was Winter and I have a thing for pumpkin butter) but I did, and after finding some mason jars on sale on Amazon, it was decided.  The shower turned out beautifully, the favors looked great on the table and the food was fabulous!  Here are a few pics of the event and the Pumpkin Butter recipe and instructions are below!

“Mommy’s Little Pumpkin Butter” Slow Cooker Recipe & Instructions:

Original Recipe Yield 10 – 1/2 pint jars

 Ingredients
  • 2 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large slow cooker; stir well.  Set the crock pot on low or medium heat. Cover it loosely or use a large pot splatter-guard. It will spatter as it boils slowly, so I also cover nearby surfaces with towels.  You don’t want to seal it tightly because you want the steam to escape so it can reduce in volume and thicken.  Leave it to cook for 6 – 8 hours.   How long depends on the size and power of your crockpot, and how thick you like it.  If you want to stir it occasionally, that’s fine but not necessary.
  2. Once it’s done, transfer to your mason jars (I used these) seal them up and put in the refrigerator – as they cool, the warm air inside condenses and seals them up so the little button the top of the mason jar lays flat.  Also, I’m not a professional canner or anything, but apparently you need to store these in the refrigerator – they won’t keep in the pantry like other preserves.
  3. Decorate any way you’d like!  I used twine and kraft paper tags with instructions and put a little custom label I had made on the top for the shower, but the possiblities are endless.  These would also make wonderful holiday gifts for friends and neighbors, or a hostess gift for Thanksgiving.
PS: This is a low-sugar recipe – the original I had called for 3 cups, which just seemed ridiculous to me, so I halved it and never missed it – it was great.  If you like things on the sweeter side, feel free to add a bit more in the sugar and spice department!
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recipe: slow cooker tikka masala

February 4, 2012

The slow cooker is a working mom’s best friend – actually, it’s any mom’s best friend.  But to me, the whole point of a slow cooker is to “dump it in and push start” .  Any other prep besides washing, chopping and can opening makes the value significantly diminish – if I have to sauté, brown, oven cook or otherwise pre-make any of the dish, what efficiency is it really offering me?  For this reason, I’m pretty selective of my slow cooker recipes.  I like them to be healthy and use a minimal amount of processed ingredients (like “cream of” soups or soup packets for example).  I also like it to be as close to the entire dish as possible so I’m not left still making a bunch of sides to go with it.  In any case, you can see I’m picky when it comes to my slow cooker!  This recipe does it all – it’s practically 100% dump and go with a minimal amount of side prep and the additional piece that goes with it (the cucumber relish) is so easy (and worth it!) it really doesn’t matter.  All the ingredients are natural, healthy and the end result is superb – in all honesty, not the exact replica of the tikka masala from the local indian place, but a good substitute and delicious in its own right.  Please give it a try!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala (adapted from Real Simple):

Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (Indian spice blend)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8)
  • 1/2 cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup basmati or some other long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (1-2 tsp)

Directions

  1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste, garam masala, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
  2. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with the lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. (don’t skip this!  it really makes the dish)
  3. Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.
  4. Just before serving, stir the cream into the chicken tikka masala and add cayenne pepper to taste. Serve over the rice with the cucumber relish.

free printable friday! valentine’s day subway art

February 3, 2012

Lately I’ve been loving all the subway art for the holidays – it’s such an easy way to decorate your house, and with a color printer, takes about 5 minutes tops!  Free and easy??  Love it!  Just download the pdf file (link is below), print as an 8×10 image on a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, and stick it in an 8×10 frame.  Making this kind of thing has become a recent hobby of mine, so check back every Friday for more – subway art, children’s wall art, lollipop and cake-pop tags and more!  Enjoy 🙂

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Download the pdf here:  VALENTINE’S SUBWAY ART

ally’s baptism

March 18, 2011

My goodness it’s been a while since I posted! I took these photos ages ago but am just getting around to putting them here. We finally had my daughter baptized at the end of January (yes, she’s two… what??). It was a great day with close friends and family and she behaved beautifully.

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baby miles… and my new camera lens

January 1, 2011

Two new things arrived in time for Christmas this year – the first was my friend’s new baby, who wasn’t due until January 5th but decided to appear on December 6th (and still 7lb no less, that boy was ready to come out!). And the second was my new favorite toy: my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. Joy! We took an overnight trip to Sonoma to enjoy our holiday time off, and also to meet baby Miles, and of course I took my camera along since nothing screams for some delicious photos like a new baby. Here are a few faves from the weekend:

A latte from Sunflower Cafe in Sonoma – a great way to start the day.
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Envying my daughters lashes – she is so dang lucky – I hope they stay this long and dark!
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Baby Miles. As you can imagine, it was pretty much a snooze-fest since he’s still less than a month old – so cute.
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And lastly, couldn’t forget to pay a little attention to one of their two cats, which my daughter joyfully chased around the house for two hours – he was a good sport and only bopped her on the head once 🙂

Happy New Year!

salt dough ornaments (recipe and tips at the bottom!)

December 17, 2010
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I decided my daughter was old enough to partake in some fun arts and crafts this year, so I found a recipe online for salt dough and made some ornaments using holiday cookie cutters, which we then painted, covered in an acrylic varnish so they’ll stay nice and pretty, and finally added some little jewels to make ’em sparkle – cuz all girls love a little sparkle 🙂 Anyway, it was a blast and they turned out so cute! We’re keeping one or two, but giving the rest away to family and some of her little friends in the neighborhood. I’m already excited to make this a new holiday tradition each year to see how her skills progress. The recipe for the salt dough is after the photos below if you’re interested! It’s SUPER easy. Happy Holidays!

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Salt Dough Recipe:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup salt

Mix all ingredients together until it forms a dough, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for a few minutes until you feel like it becomes uniform and fairly elastic. Then roll it until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters (or free-hand it if you’re feeling crafty!). Place cutouts on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and use a straw to poke out holes in the top for the ribbon to go through once they’re done. I baked mine in a 170 degree oven for about 6 hours because at higher temps they were puffing up, which is not pretty. You can try at a higher temp if you kneaded your dough better than I did, but keep an eye on them because you DON’T want them to puff up. Once you feel they are completely dried out from baking, take them out and let cool. Then paint with acrylic paints, and use an acrylic varnish to coat them again once the paint is dry – this will make them last so they don’t absorb moisture in storage and turn into dough balls again by next Christmas. Then decorate with more adornments if you’d like – for older kids glitter would be fun! Then just loop through some ribbon and tie for cute ornaments, or you could even skip the hole and turn them into magnets or pins – really cute homemade project and REALLY easy.

christmas photo shoot!

December 5, 2010
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I was determined to get a cute photo for Christmas cards this year, so I set up a quickie photo shoot with my daughter, which consisted of one white sheet draped over our dining room chairs in the dining room because it gets the best light, and one small fake christmas tree. Add cute outfit and toddler and voila – let the games begin. Unfortunately, getting a 2 year old non-professional to sit and smile on cue is near impossible. I think I took about 50 pictures, and the three below are the only ones worth presenting. The rest are all half closed eyes and her trying to run away. Anyway, I’d say getting a couple memories at least was worth it!

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