Saturday, October 29, 2011

Black Bean Chili.........

Oh Yeah - it is Chili time again!  In our family we usually try to wait until around Halloween to start making our Chili - it is such a super comfort food especially on a chili  day....heheh.  Today I have a pot of Black Bean Chili simmering on the stove and I just love the aroma!  While I have made lots of veggie chili - this is my first attempt using Black Beans.  My Step-Father was Cuban, so I have eaten lots of black beans and I absolutely LOVE them all kinds of ways!  And.....they are good for you - bonus!

For me there are few things I enjoy as much as a simmering pot on the stove, a clean kitchen and the hum of the washer and dish washer while I cook.  I know this sounds a little crazy but I love it - maybe because I haven't always been able to do this kind of thing.  Even better is the aroma wafting through the house.  Doesn't get any better.  Okay so I am getting carried away.  Below is the recipe - go make yourself some happy - as the hubby would say it's Heartwarming!

Black Bean Chili
1 bag of dried black beans
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots
1 medium can tomato paste
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
6-8 cups of water
Beef bullion or broth
Olive oil
Bay Leaves

Add your beans to a stew pot and cover with water and a lid and let sit on stove over night.  This helps to soften then.  Saute carrots, onions and garlic in butter and olive oil until soft - about 5 minutes.  Add rinsed beans and water along with seasonings to taste and beef bullion.  Simmer this mixture until beans are soft - mine normally take a couple of hours.  Then add tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot and stir well - a wisk will help break up and disolve the tomato paste.  I also added a can of big red kidney beans to mine to bulk it up a bit.  If you would like you can add corn or other veggies at this point and cook for another hour or so.  All chili is usually better the next day so I make mine ahead of time.  Top with grated cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, chives and serve along with corn bread and crackers.  YUM!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

20 Little Things.....

As we have talked about in the challenge - Loving Fall is in the little things!  So many little things that make it one great big enjoyable time of year!  My hubby took a vacation this week, which he normally never does in the Fall, and it is surely making this time much more enjoyable!  Yesterday we found a beautiful pumpkin and mums for our front porch and I am just loving it!  We haven't done that in years and it feels so festive.

Today's post from The Inspired Room was a reminder of a post that she did a few years ago and it was such a wonderful reminder of what we can find in the everyday joys we live each day.  I have listed them below, but do visit her blog for more inspiration.  But - most of all, get out there and enjoy the Fall - it is only here for a very short time! 

20 Little Things To Treasure in Autumn
from the Inspired Room
  1. Quiet dinners by the fire
  2. Reading mystery novels in darkened rooms
  3. Flannel sheets at the end of a long day
  4. Candles Flickering
  5. Smelling cinnamon, oranges & cloves
  6. Pumpkins
  7. Roasts, Potatoes & Carrots
  8. Fluffy feather beds on a cold night
  9. Watching movies snuggled in soft blankets
  10. Cozy socks
  11. Pie in the oven
  12. Warm crackling wood stoves
  13. Squash with buttered brown sugar
  14. Chili and corn bread smothered in honey
  15. Wind blowing through leaves
  16. Glow of lamps through windows
  17. Laughter filling a room
  18. Scrabble and popcorn
  19. Caramel apples
  20. Family

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baking Fever.....

Well it is Day 6 in the Fall Blogging Challenge it is a beautiful Fall day here in South Carolina!  I always want to bake and bake and cook this time of year.  I guess because it is cooler and the oven doesn't heat up the kitchen as much.  I found a wonderful simple recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits and they are baking as I write.  The house smells so good and I have some cream cheese icing hanging out in the fridge that I will add to them when they are done.  SWEET!!!  The recipe is below - so much cheaper than going out for donuts (which I must admit we do on occasion) and they are so yummy!

Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits
2 1/2 Cups baking Mix (I used Bisquick)
2 teaspoons softened margarine
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Vanilla Glaze
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
(I used some leftover cream cheese icing - thinned it with a tablespoon of milk and heated in the microwave for 30 seconds)

Set oven to 450 degrees.  Measure the baking mix into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, cinnamon and stir together.  Add the softened margarine and cut in with knives or a cutter.  When mixed together add the vanilla to the milk and then pour into the baking mix and stir together until it forms a stiff dough.  Turn this out onto a floured board and knead about 10 times until it has a good texture.  Cut into biscuits and place on a greased baking sheet.  I spray mine with a butter spray but you could also baste with melted butter or margarine.  Then sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Bake these about 12 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Remove them from the pan and place on a plate and add your preferred topping.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sweet Simple Things........

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.–Laura Ingalls Wilder

I really can't explain it - maybe it is because I am an October Baby, maybe it is because I am older and dealing with hot flashes - I just don't know, but I am so in Love with Fall!  The air smells better, the sun shines brighter and I just can't soak it up enough.  I know all too well that it will soon give way to darker shorter days and less sunshine and the aches and pains of cold weather so enjoy this I must!

Now - on to my project for the day!  I spend a good bit of my time trying to knit and crochet - and I say trying because I am not that good but I do enjoy it so much.  As part of the Binky Patrol SC, we send items to several different groups who serve children.  At this time of year we are busy getting things together to celebrate Fall and Halloween.  My contribution this year will be pumpkin hats.  This is not a complicated pattern and anyone could do it if I can.  They are fun, warm and great for taking pictures of little ones to remember their first Fall.  Give one a try - they whip up very quickly and are such fun!

Pumpkin Knit Hats  
Size 8 Knitting Needles
Orange or Pumpkin Colored Yarn
Brown or Green Yarn for Stems

I used Red Heart for mine, but if you use that yarn you will want to give them a gentle wash after they are done to soften them up.  A vinegar rinse really helps with this process.

First cast on 50 stitches.  One trick I use because my hands are old and arthritic, is to cast on with a size 9 needle and do one row of all knit and them use the size 8 needles from her on out.  For the first 3 inches do the knit one row, pearl one row pattern.  This will give you a nice curl at the bottom.  Then I start decreasing to give the hat some shape.  Start on a knit row and decrease by knitting two stitches together every 10 stitches,  Knit pearl another two rows and then decrease every 8 stitches, then 6, then 4.  If you need a longer hat you can put more regular rows between the decreasing rows.  Newborn hats should be about 4-5 inches long with the curl.  When your hat is the size you like, cut the thread about 10 inches long and thread into a sewing needle.  Cast the stitches off onto this thread and pull time to draw up the top and close.  Continue sewing closed all the way down and close.  Aren't they cute?  They turn out very stretchy and fun!

 To make the stem, cast on 3 stitches onto any size double pointed needles and knit an I cord for as long as you would like.  Cast off and pull the ending thread all the way through the stem carefully so that you can't see it - this will allow you to bend the stem as much as you like.  Pull the two threads through the top of the hat and secure on the inside and your hat is all done.  So fun!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In a Pinch.....This Will Do Just Fine....

I am getting back into cooking slowly but so enjoying it.  I haven't spent much time in front of the stove for the last few years for lots of reasons, not the least of which is lack of time and energy.  It has just become to easy to heat stuff up and get the occasional take out.  It is also so very tempting to just eat out but that has become so very expensive that we are rethinking ideas to reduce our food budget.

My Grannie was full Irish as my Mother would say and I grew up eating lots of potatoes.  I absolutely love them and they have been good to me during lean times when I needed to prepare meals for my family that were very inexpensive.  This time of year, I am always reminded of how versatile and delicious they really are.

Today after reading the daily email from, I thought about how important it is that we learn to enjoy what we have and use what we have on hand.  Particularly during this time of year - Fall - the season we are trying to celebrate and appreciate, it is so easy to stay in and enjoy our surroundings and cook a good meal!

So, to that end, I am sharing a staple that has been in my family for years and it can be the base for many meals.  I know everyone has a potato soup recipe and may enjoy it.  I thought I would share the idea of how versatile this wonderful soup/stew can be!

Since I don't have a car or drive right now (long story for another blog), I have to make the best of what I have on hand many times.  My hubby works very long hours at a supermarket and does the best he can to keep us well stocked but many times I don't have all of the ingredients on hand that I need.  Hence the variables of this soup.   Forgive my lack of exact cooking terms and measurements - this is a build as you go soup - make it your own.  Give it a try and let me know what you is sure to become a favorite of your family if they like potatoes!

In a Pinch Potato Stew
6 or 7 large potatoes
1/2 good sized onion
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 stick Butter or Margarine
4 Chicken Bullion Cubes or Broth
2 stalks of celery
Garlic Powder (I use the parsley kind)
1 cup mashed potato flakes
1 cup Milk (I use skim but you can use any kind depending on taste)

I start by peeling and chopping my onion and add it to my soup pot with the butter and oil.  Melt the butter and cook the onions on medium heat while you peel your potatoes.  I do a rough chop on my potatoes but you can cut them any size or way you like.  I wash and add the potatoes to the pot as I chop and rinse each one. I also go ahead and throw in the bullion in if that is what I am using.  Then I chop the celery and add to the pot - if you don't have celery on hand, celery salt and or celery seed will give you a nice flavor as well. If I have some baby carrots in the fridge I will add some of those chopped as well.  I add the seasonings to taste at this point.  Keep stiring this as it sautees for about 10 -15 minutes.  The potatoes should be golden brown but not done all the way through.

Add 4 cups water to the pot and put a lid on and let it gently boil for about 30 minutes.  The potatoes should be softened up at this point.  Add 2 more cups water and milk now and let the mixture come to a soft boil.  If you like you can smash some of the potatoes now - I just leave mine alone.

As soon as the mixture is hot and slowly boiling, add the potato flakes and stir with a wisk until they are dissolved into the mixture.  You can make it thinner or thicker using potato flakes.  At this point the soup should be thickened and ready to eat......but you don't have to stop here.....

Sometimes I mix up a simple batch of potato dumplings and add in.  They are very simple using 2 cups Bisquick and 2 tablespoons softened butter and 2/3 cups of milk.  Mix together just like biscut dough and add 1/4 cup mashed potato flakes (Add more if you like a stiff batter).  You can spoon these into the boiling soup or roll them and cut into pieces and add.  Cook them for about 20 minutes longer - 10 with the lid on the pot and 10 without spooning the soup over the dumplings to be sure the get done all the way through.  This makes a wonderful hearty soup.  Chopped cooked chicken or other vegetables can be added if you like.  Enjoy!

We top ours with bacon bits (or you can fry up some bacon), sour cream and grated cheeses.  Chives are a great addition too!! Delicious on a cool Fall evening! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Perfectly Pumpkin........

Okay - so I am not a master baker but I sure do love to make things sweet and delicious and if they are easy, all the better.  My hubby brought home a box of this magical potion this week and I have been brainstorming on how I could make something (other than cookies) with this mix.  Well if you look at the bottom of the back of the box there is a great recipe and I tweaked it just a bit.  Turns out it works great and this same idea could be done lots of different ways to please your family's taste.  Oh and even better - they will make your house smell deliciously FALL!!!  Gotta love that!  So here goes.

Pumpkin Praline Toffee Bars
1 (17.5 oz) Pillsbury Perfectly Pumpkin Cookie Mix
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter melted
1 large Egg
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 3/4 cup of toffee chips
Heat oven to 350 and spray an 8 X 8 inch baking pan with cooking/baking spray.  (The instructions on the box stated that the pan should be lined with foil - I chose not to do that)
Stir Cookie mix and 1/2 cup melted butter in a medium bowl until well mixed.  Press into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk egg, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of melted butter together with vanilla.  Stir in toffee chips - you could substitute pecans or other nuts here - until well blended.  Spread mixture over baked layer.
Bake 23 to 25 minutes until topping is set and golden brown.  Depending on your oven this may take a little longer - mine did.  Cool for 15 minutes and serve with whipped cream.  YUM!

Here is how mine turned out.......if you want to go crazy, you can add a can of cream cheese icing to the top and serve with whipped cream.  So delicious!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Food and Fall......Go Hand in Hand....

Don't you just love it when you go to the store this time of year and they have already started putting those big center isle sections loaded with baking goods, party mixes and everything you need for the holidays!  I know they do that to draw us in and it sure works for me.  As my hubby would say - it is just heartwarming...heheh.  For those of us who dream of making bread, cookies, soups and stews and more this is a true delight.  I could just hang out there and dream of all of the concoctions I would love to put together.

Well for many years, I have purchased those supplies and for some reason or another, they sit in my cabinet until they expire and I am determined to get some of those things done this year.  I want to make bread - that is one of the first things on my Fall Bucket List!  It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated - it just has to smell good and taste good.  I am in search of a great recipe and I will let you know when I find one.  I know they are out there for those of us who are baking impaired but truly want to do this.  Really!

Another thing on my list is to make cookies - I used to bake quite a few and my guys love them so I will do my best to get this done so that when they are here there are cookies in the jar and not the bargain ones from the grocery store.

Making chili is one of our Fall staples and I don't want to miss that either.  I just love cooler weather because we can have lots of soups and stews - one of my favorite things to cook.  I have found the most wonderful inspiring cooking club - you must check it out.  It is free and so much fun - sort of like a FaceBook for cooking.....Just a Pinch.....  You can set up your own page and collect your recipes and sort and share them.  What a wonderful idea.  If you really like it you can upgrade and get a free apron and more for about $10 but that is optional.  Check it out - just another way to get Fall and the Holidays underway!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet October - Finally You are Here.....

The first day of October - just about the sweetest day of the year for me besides my children's birthdays.  ;o)  I just love October and every year I look so forward to it and it goes by so very fast.  This is day 3 of my blogging Fall and I am so hoping it will make the season last just a little longer - that we can savor the days of Fall, rather than looking back and feeling like it passed us by.  The logo above is from one of my favorite blogs - The Inspired Room - and this challenge was her creation.  Such a wonderful idea!!  Follow her along - she has wonderful ideas for everyday, but even better for Fall!

Even better there are lots of other participants - you can find them by going to and click on their links.  So much fun - so much inspiration!!!!   I am in heaven and lovin this!!!

So - join us in this celebration of Fall and the holidays to come and make life just a little sweeter one day at a time....just by participating!!