Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Potato Soup and Dragon Bread



There is a fun little holiday that happens at the end of September called Michaelmas. Michaelmas was celebrated way back in the middle ages as a feast day to Michael the Archangel, and is still observed today.

Since my kids were tiny, I have always had a few, fun, out of the ordinary, celebrations that we like to observe. Fun ways of marking the various seasons with non commercial traditions throughout the year. Michaelmas is one of these celebrations. You can see my previous post about Michaelmas here - Michaelmas Fun. There is is also interesting info to read about Michaelmas at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michaelmas.

Michaelmas is on September 29th. The traditional meal is Goose, one of these years I think it would be fun to make a goose. Instead, I usually make a nice fall meal, and decided this year to make a delicious Potato Soup, to go along with Dragon Bread, another Michaelmas tradition I will tell you about.

Here's my recipe for Potato Soup- A delicious and hearty soup, perfect for fall.

Potato Soup

Peel and Cube between 10 & 15 red potatoes (depends on the size of potatoes, and how much soup you are making)
1 bunch of celery cleaned and chopped
2 medium onions chopped
1 box of chicken stock (you could also use water with added seasonings or vegetarian stock)
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T dried parsley
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
4 tablespoons of butter

Add the potatoes, celery, onion, broth & seasonings, to your crock pot, along with more water to bring liquid almost to the top of veggies. Set crock pot on high and cook for 6-8 hours until potatoes are cooked through. When the potatoes are cooked, I like to take a potato masher and mash the soup just a bit, I still like lots of nice potato pieces, but some of the potatoes need to be broken up into the broth.

About half an hour before you serve the soup, scoop out about a cup of the hot soup broth and put it in a sauce pan, along with 1 1/2 cups of milk and 4 Tablespoons of butter, heat on medium high, stirring often until butter is mostly melted and milk is fairly warm. Then add the milky mixture to the soup and stir until incorporated. It is important at this point to turn down your crock pot, because you don't want the soup to boil any more, after the milk has been added.

If your soup is too brothy you can add about 1/4 cup of instant mashed potatoes. This helps avoid adding a thickener like flour.

Optional toppings: Crumbled Cooked Bacon or Cheddar Cheese (We used bacon, it was delicious!)

Look how the Dragon Bread turned out! Dragon Bread is very fun to make.




Why Dragon Bread?

Traditionally stories are read of when Michael the Archangel hurled Satan (represented by a dragon) from heaven. Here is the verse from the Bible.

Revelation 12:7-9 (NIV) 7. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and his angels fought back. 8. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9. The great dragon was hurled down- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Often the Story of St. George and The Dragon is also told- the courageous knight who slew a dragon and saved a princess.

In the middle ages Michaelmas was celebrated during the harvest, with Michael the Archangel representing light at a time when the days become shorter and darker.

This is also a verse I plan to share during our Michalemas dinner- our ancestors in ancient times may have feared the darker fall and winter months- this verse gives us hope through Jesus!

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, " I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

I do like discussing the point of our little celebration with the kids, especially now that they are older, it is also however, meant to be a fun celebration of fall. That's where dragon themed fun comes in.

This year I found a fun new book that fits in with our dragon theme. I was reading blogs a couple of weeks ago, and came across this interesting new book suggestion. I purchased it for our library. The Book is called Dragons Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs- the book is a nice hardcover book, filled with lift a flaps, and envelopes to open, and interesting dragon pictures.

I would say this book would be better for older children, and discusses the correlation between the dragon tales of the past from around the world with actual dinosaurs living during the time of humans, as well as biblical references to dinosaurs. I am excited to look into this book more, and thought it would be perfect for our Dragon theme. Check it out at my Amazon affiliate link below.


I would encourage everyone to do a quick Google search to check out the many fun crafts associated with this holiday that would be perfect for younger children. Lots of cute and fun dragon craft ideas!

In keeping with the Dragon theme, when the kids were younger we used to read Dragon themed storybooks- One of my favorite Dragon children's books is written by one of my top 10 favorite children's writers, Tomie dePaola, called The Knight and the Dragon. This is a cute story about A knight who has to Fight a Dragon, as well as the story from the Dragon's view of fighting a Knight. Very cute, wonderful illustrations, you can look at more info about this book through my affiliate link below.



Do you enjoy celebrating Michaelmas?

Linking to:


sunnydaytodaymama


Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes and Glitter

My Husband is a Real-Estate Agent, and this week he was holding a broker tour of one of his listings. So I thought it would be nice to serve a yummy fall treat. One of my favorite fall cookies is from the Martha Stewart Cookie cookbook that came out a couple of years ago (see link below) - the Pumpkin Cookie with Brown Butter Frosting. So delicious. I love browned butter- what a perfect way to flavor a butter cream frosting.

Here's a link to the most wonderful moist pumpkin cookies recipe.

I was not in the mood to bake cookies though, I was in a cupcake baking mood, plus I wanted to save the cookies for later this fall. So I went looking for a cupcake recipe to match the brown butter frosting, and decided to try out Martha's pumpkin cupcake recipe.

Here's the Cupcake recipe I tried.



Here they are frosted with delicious brown butter frosting. I topped them with the pumpkins so the saran and wax paper wouldn't stick to the frosting, and the pumpkins add some color.


These turned out wonderfully, so moist and the flavor is wonderful! Perfect dessert to serve for fall gatherings, I will definitely be making these again! The brown butter frosting went along with them really well. I have to say, over the years I have tried many Martha Stewart recipes, mostly baked goods, and they always turn out really well.

I have made many of the Martha Stewart Cookies from this book, mostly for Christmas. My daughter makes the Snickerdoodle recipe from this cookbook as well, and they turn out delicious every time.


And now about the Glitter... I have a thing for glitter, maybe because I have been doing children's crafts for so many years, even as a child I always loved glitter projects. The last couple of years I have collected the Martha Stewart Glitters that they sell at Michael's Craft store- they have the most amazing colors and sizes of glitter. I have had a lot of fun using them for cards, and in scrapbooking. I have an entire storage tote just devoted to glitter in my craft closet.

When I was at the craft store a month ago, I spotted a new (well new to me) brand of glitter. Art-C brand glitter and mixed media sets. They came in color coordinated sets of three, and have coordinating sets of glitter, beads, and spools of wire and fiber. The best part- they come in little glass bottles, with cork stoppers & the wire and fibers come on little wooden spools. I could just envision these in my craft area, inspiring all sorts of creative projects during the upcoming holiday season. I searched the web until I found them on sale at a reasonable price, and splurged on the set.


Here are the purple bead and glitter sets- I love the little cardboard boxes. This glitter was just calling my name!!


I knew I didn't want these beautiful bottles and spools hidden away in my glitter tote- so off I went in search of a nice way of displaying them. As I was stocking up on household supplies at Walmart last weekend, I came across these pretty wooden serving pieces that I thought would work well. I love the way they look. I'm very excited to get crafting with my new supplies, and I just had to share about them.











Aren't they pretty!! Sure to inspire some fun crafting!


Spaghetti Sauce and a Birthday

Last week I had a large harvest of Roma tomatoes, as well as a few very small Early Girl Tomatoes. I usually only grow enough tomatoes that my husband has fresh tomato for his sandwiches, and enough for a few BBQs. This year my Roma's ended up doing pretty well, so I ended up with a large mixing bowl full of tomatoes that I needed to find a way to use or preserve. I decided to try my hand at making a spaghetti sauce straight from the tomato.

Now, I love spaghetti sauce, and any other cooked tomato product, what I can't eat are raw tomatoes, I have a slight allergic reaction to a lot of raw fruits and tomato is high on that list. I am also a bit allergic to the tomato plant, I have to wear gloves when dealing with the tomato plant itself, but I had never had trouble cutting up a few tomatoes. So I set up my boiling pot of water to blanch the tomatoes, and a bowl of ice water to dunk them in after their trip through the boiling water, so I could remove all the skins as well as all the seeds- this went along fine for about the first five tomatoes, then my hands started having an allergic reaction the all that raw tomato!

Here is a picture of my beautiful but pesky tomatoes in the blanching water.



I didn't want to let a bit of itchy hand feeling stop me from working with all my beautiful tomatoes, but unfortunately I was all out of kitchen gloves, so I used sandwich bags for gloves, they weren't very effective. Determined to keep peeling I covered my hands in small kitchen garbage bags, I must have looked a sight, and I was getting tomato juice everywhere, the bags were a bit too big for any precise control, so I ditched the bags, and tried fashioning gloves out of saran wrap- complete fail.

Exasperated, I decided to take a break, half hour later, I returned to my tomato mess, and decided to get a few more of the best tomatoes peeled and seeded as quickly as possible, and then proceed to make sauce with however many tomatoes I had. I probably ended up with about 3 cups of usable tomato, which isn't quite enough to make spaghetti sauce, so off to my trusty pantry to pull out some canned organic crushed tomato to get the sauce started.

Here's the recipe I ended up using-

About 3 cups of my own peeled and seeded tomatoes
2 cans crushed tomato
1 small can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1 bunch of chopped celery
1 large onion chopped
1 package of white mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
about a third of a bag of frozen crinkle cut carrots
salt & pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
and lots of Italian Blend herbs to taste
2 tablespoons of brown sugar added toward the end of cooking stir in to dissolve.
Optional- Add 2-3 pounds browned, fully cooked and drained hamburger

I put all of this in the crock pot on high and let it cook all day- now because of the tomato debacle, I got a bit of a late start in the crock pot, and ended up transferring it to a pot on the stove so it would be ready for dinner. I think it would need about 6-8 hours on high to really cook up well.




When the sauce was partially cooked, I used a potato masher to break up the tomatoes and turn it to a smoother sauce, I used the masher again right toward the end, to really incorporate all the ingredients into a nice sauce.
I wanted the sauce to be hearty, so I added 2 1/2 pounds of cooked and drained ground beef. Stir meat into sauce about half an hour before it is done so it has some time to incorporate with the sauce.

The sauce turned out wonderfully- I served it over spaghetti and everyone loved it.



This was such a nice big recipe of sauce that we had enough left over to add to a box of cooked and drained penne noodles, mixed with a cup of shredded cheddar and a cup of mozzarella, put it all in a casserole dish and baked at 375 F. for about 40 minutes and had a delicious pasta casserole for dinner on Sunday night.



I think this recipe would also be good mixed with rice and used to stuff green peppers or zucchini, I might try that next time- after I invest in some good kitchen gloves :)

This weekend we also celebrated my son's 15th birthday. He invited a few of his friends over for a fun day of gaming, lots of snacking, and a BBQ. They all had a great time hanging out. My son and his friends have known each other since they were very young, and have been having fun hanging out for nearly their entire lives- it is so wonderful to see them all growing up into amazing young men.

Joseph's cake was modeled after a cake from one of his favorite games - Minecraft, his cupcakes were topped with pop rocks, which is a pretty fun candy to use in place of standard sprinkles, just don't put them on too far in advance as they will start to dissolve after a few hours.




For our party favor- One of my son's favorite candy - Swedish Fish, a mini Whoopie Cushion, and a few multi-sided dice (all the boys like gaming, and making up games with these dice).




I buy the dice by the pound at Amazon- this is a fun set to have for kids, they can use them for various games, as well as math games, very good deal for all sorts of fun colorful multi-sided dice.


All the boys had a fun time, and Joseph had a great birthday. Happy Birthday Joseph!!



Looking forward to a nice fall week, getting ready for the homecoming game and dance coming up this next weekend, as well as lots more fall cooking and gardening!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Mrs. Mumsy The Flower Fairy


Earlier this week, I had the wonderful privilege of a spending the day with my young niece and nephew. Before I left for my visit I packed a bag with storybooks I wanted to share, a fall leaf rubbing craft along with my favorite block beeswax crayons, some fun Auntie snacks and goodies, and at the last minute I decided to grab one of the Autumn flower fairies I had made. I decided that I would give the flower fairy a name and that she could help keep little hands busy during story time- since she is made of an Autumn Mum, I went with Mrs. Mumsy, that's her in the picture above.

The kids really ended up enjoying Mrs. Mumsy, she went on a walk with us, she "flew" down the stairs, many times :) On our walk we took some wonderful pictures of all of us with Mrs. Mumsy, as well as Mrs. Mumsy sitting in bushes. This was a really fun way to take a nature walk, by showing Mrs. Mumsy different things they were spending more time observing nature themselves.

A bit about these flower fairies, I learned to make them from the book Felt Wee Folk by Salley Mavor. This is a wonderful book that shows how to make all sorts of wire wrapped dolls- from fairy tale characters, to flower fairies, to dolls for the dollhouse. The dolls are fairly easy to make, and it is really fun to sew their little clothing, the book is filled with wonderful little patterns. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has young children that they would want to craft for, as well as for any older child or adult who like to craft dolls- there are also other crafts in this book like felt embroidered wall hangings, little purses, and other projects.


Why Mrs. Mumsy has no face? The first thing the kids noticed was that Mrs. Mumsy has no face, I make many of my dolls with no face, for a couple of reasons. I learned long ago in an art class that whenever an artist draws a face of any kind for any project a little of their own face goes into that drawing, now I have no idea if that is true or not, and apparently it is a subconscious thing, but that has always been interesting to me. When a face is painted on a doll the artist is choosing a bit of the dolls personality, which then takes away the need for the child to imagine it. The idea is that if you leave a doll with no face, it leaves the play a bit more open ended, the child then uses their own imagination to create the dolls face in their mind as well as the feeling of the doll during play- if a doll has a smile painted on, how can is get angry, or sad, or extra happy. I did get many questions at first, especially from my five year old niece, as to why Mrs. Mumsy didn't have a face, I just told her that she had to imagine it, she then wanted to get her markers and put a face on the doll, which was so cute, but I told her to just imagine the face instead. It didn't take long until she was happily playing with Mrs. Mumsy, doing her hair, and bringing her around the house and yard, and having some very good imaginative play.


Here is another of the Fall Flower Fairies I made, I will have to bring her along next time.



I got so many wonderful pictures of the kids out in the garden playing with Mrs. Mumsy that I am making a little story book with all of their pictures. I think they will have fun seeing a story book starring themselves and Mrs. Mumsy.


We had such a fun day, I look forward to our next visit.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sausage with Apples and Onions


Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and the weather was perfect for a little work outside in the garden.


I was excited to pick my acorn squash, I have been having trouble growing it the last couple of years, but think I have finally got down the right spacing for this plant. We got three, and there are a couple more on the vine that I am holding out hope for. We love eating these every fall, baked with a little brown sugar and butter. I also picked two of my pumpkins.


My fall planting of swiss chard and Kale are doing great, and I thinned them a little today. I also got a bed of Mesclun planted for the fall.





I also love how pretty zinnias are in the fall.

We had the opportunity to visit a farm stand on the way home from Oktoberfest Saturday, we bought this wonderful corn. It hasn't been the best year for corn around here, because of our colder summer, but this corn was wonderful!!



We also bought some delicious Honey Crisp Apples - I wait every year for this variety of apple to be in season. They were so pretty I used them as the background in the new button I am working on.


Tonight for dinner we had one of my favorite fall meals- Locally Made Bratwurst (that I brought home from Oktoberfest, check out my Oktoberfest 2011 post) , sauteed in butter along with peeled and sliced apples (honey crisp and gala), and onions sweetened with a bit of maple syrup. Served along side baked yams. This simple and delicious meal is perfect for fall.

Peel and core enough apples for your family.


Cut the apple slices in half and the onion slices in half, saute in 4 tablespoons of butter, and add a drizzle of maple syrup.


When the apples and onions are starting to soften add the bratwurst or any other sausage you prefer- the sausage I used was fully cooked so I just had to heat and brown it, if your sausage is NOT fully cooked you will want to pre-cook it and add it towards the end. Cook until apples and onions are softened, and sausage is fully cooked and warmed.

Serve alongside baked yams or sweet potatoes. Yum!


Looking forward to the first day of fall tomorrow, as well as my son's 15th birthday this weekend. Having fun getting the house ready for fall decor. Happy Fall everyone!



Monday, September 19, 2011

Oktoberfest 2011


This last weekend, a wonderful little town out in the country, about 15 minutes from where we live, Mt Angel, hosts Oregon's oldest and very popular Oktoberfest celebration. Here's a link to Mt. Angel Oktoberfest website. What better way to kick off the fall than visiting an Oktoberfest - so Saturday we drove on out for a fun family day.

This is only our second time attending the Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel, but it is becoming one of my favorite fall traditions. The first time we went, we loved the "wiener"dog races, so that was our first stop of the day. So many cute little dachshunds running in this race, we just love watching them. Here is a fun little video of one of the races.

video


It is so cute watching these little dogs so excited to run to their owner, we could watch these races for quite some time.



They have a wonderful area set up at the Oktoberfest just for children- the Kindergarten - filled with lots of fun activities for the kids- petting zoo, magic shows, even a rock wall.

Across from the Kindergarten is a beautiful church- St. Mary's parish Church - they host music performances throughout the day.




The first music performance we saw were the Salzburger Echo Alpine Horns which you can see in the picture below.




The inside of the church was amazing, stunning architecture, beautiful stained glass, my camera does it no justice, but just so you get the idea here is a short clip of the alpine horns and the inside of the church.


video

We attend a smaller, baptist church, so my kids had not seen the inside of a church like this, it was interesting to share with them some information about Catholic Church. Gary, my hubby grew up as a Catholic and went to Catholic school up to the 8th grade. This church is Neo Gothic, and nearly 100 years old. Here are a few more pictures of the stained glass-




Here is another look at the front of St. Mary's.



We had to get a couple family shots while we were here too.




And check out the construction on the new steeple, can't wait to see what this will look like!!
After watching the dog races, and listening to the beautiful alpine Horns, we were getting hungry- time for some yummy Oktoberfest treats. We all had delicious Bratwurst from a local sausage maker, they were wonderful!! I bought a pack to fix later in the week as well.

And we all shared an Onion Blossom- Gary loves Onion Rings, we all loved the onion blossom!!






There were lots of great food choices, for dessert, we bought these Apfelkuchlen right before we left, to eat on the way home- they were divine!!

Below are some of the wonderful buildings in town- we are teetotalers so no visiting the Biergarten or Weingarten for us- but the buildings were very neat looking.





After food, we explored around a bit more, and listened to some wonderful German music in the bandstand.


I was hoping to see some of the street dancers, and was in luck when this wonderful older couple performed some traditional dances. They were great!!

We also had the opportunity to browse through some vendor stands, Sarah and I loved the traditional dresses!!


After our lunch and listening to some more wonderful music including another concert at St. Mary's we headed home. We had a wonderful time at Oktoberfest, and can't wait to visit again next year.


Here is the link to my post about Oktoberfest 2009