Author Archives: nancyc

Yummy Vegetable Pasta (Slow-Cooker Recipe)

Cooking in a crock pot is so easy and convenient, and there are lots of great recipes you can make. I found some really good ones to try in my review copy of the new cookbook Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good. There are lots of great full-color photos in this book that has 100 slow-cooker recipes which include:

  • Vegetable Pot Pie with Biscuits
  • Lasagna in a Soup Bowl
  • 4-Cheese Artichoke Dip
  • Honey Baked Chicken
  • Holiday Ham with Apricot Glaze
  • Garlicky Mashed Red Potatoes
  • Cider-Baked Apples
  • Pumpkin Spice Créme Brûlée

Such a great variety of recipes to choose from! I decided to try the Yummy Vegetable Pasta because I was in the mood for something comfort food-like, and this sounded like just the thing to make! The recipe was easy to follow and the only thing I did differently was add a cup of chopped zucchini, since I happened to have that already. Fresh sliced green beans would be a nice addition, too, if you want to add in an extra veggie or two.

This pasta dish smells great while it’s cooking. And you do have to stir it well before serving, since the spaghetti may clump together a little. But it’s very good and cheesy and yummy, just like the recipe name says! 🙂

YUMMY VEGETABLE PASTA from Stock the Crock (with a few little changes)

Makes 6 to 7 servings

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes, with juice or 1 quart canned stewed tomatoes, with liquid (I cut the stewed tomatoes into large chunks)
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • Optional: 1 cup chopped zucchini and/or 1 cup sliced green beans
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 pound spaghetti or fettuccine, divided
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided (if you want this dish to be extra-cheesy, use 3 cups!)
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons sliced fresh chives, for garnish

Grease the interior of the slow cooker crock with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

In medium bowl, stir together the chopped onion, chopped green bell pepper, stewed tomatoes with their liquid, sliced mushrooms, and oregano (also stir in the chopped zucchini and/or green beans, if using).

Place 1/4 of the vegetables in the bottom of the crock. Top vegetables with half of the pasta, breaking pasta, as needed, to fit. Sprinkle the pasta with half of the Cheddar cheese.

Spoon in half of the remaining vegetables. Top with the remaining pasta, breaking the pasta as needed; the remaining Cheddar cheese, and the remaining vegetables.

In the bowl used to mix the vegetables, whisk together the soup and milk. Pour over the ingredients in the crock.

Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until the vegetables and pasta are tender.

Before serving, stir the sauce through the pasta and vegetables. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Scatter fresh chives on top just before serving.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t take super-long to make–3 1/2 to 4 hours isn’t bad for a slow-cooker recipe. Have you been making any great-tasting meals in your slow-cooker?

Sharing at Inspire Me Monday.

Advertisements

Granola-Carrot Bread

I’ve never heard a quick bread being described as “rustic,” but I think that’s the perfect description for this Granola-Carrot Bread. It’s a real down-to earth quick bread, made with whole wheat flour, grated carrots, granola, light olive oil, and chopped nuts. And it looks kind of rustic, with the texture of the nuts, carrots and granola showing inside and out. It’s a very lightly sweet quick bread, getting  it’s sweetness from the brown sugar and bits of granola (I used 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar in my loaf; for a sweeter loaf, increase the brown sugar to 3/4 cup). Adding raisins is optional, but they would add a little to the sweetness, too.

I first saw this recipe in an old cookbook and, since I’m a big granola fan, thought it was definitely worth trying. I made a few small changes and liked the way it turned out. When I first tasted it, I thought it might not be sweet enough, but by the second slice, I decided I liked the lightly sweet taste of it. I used some of my homemade granola in this recipe, my Apricot-Honey Granola, but you can use any kind of granola, homemade or store-bought. This quick bread is great for breakfast or for a healthy afternoon snack!

GRANOLA-CARROT BREAD by NancyC, adapted from Breads, Quick Breads, and Coffee Cakes

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1/2 cup will give you a lightly sweet loaf)
  • 1 1/2 cups of your favorite granola (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil or non-GMO canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds
  • Optional: 2/3 cup dark or golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9×5″ loaf pan; set aside.

In large bowl, add the brown sugar, granola, flour, and grated carrots, stirring with a large spoon to combine. Add the oil and blend ingredients together. Then add the baking powder, vanilla extract, salt, eggs, and buttermilk, stirring everything until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in the chopped pecans.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake at 350˚F for 42 to 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

I love that this quick bread has carrots in it, because I never eat as many carrots as I should. So this is a tasty way to add some beta-carotene into my diet! 🙂 It’s always nice when you can bake a treat that is good for you too. Have you been baking any healthy goodies lately?

 

Fall Decorating the Natural Way

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m wanting to move toward a simpler, less-cluttered life. And for the fall season, I’m thinking about how I can decorate and still keep things simple. Decorating with natural things is appealing to me because after you’re done decorating, you can recycle your natural decorations in a compost pile. Or you may be able to work it into your decorating for the next season (pinecones, for example, work great for both fall and Christmas decorating).

I made the centerpiece shown above with some small pumpkins and dried hydrangeas–they make such a pretty fall combination! I just placed the pumpkins in a shallow wire basket and filled in the empty spaces with the dried hydrangea flowers. This arrangement can work as a centerpiece. Or display it on a coffee table or sideboard.

As you’re doing your fall decorating, you may be doing a little cleaning, too, like cleaning your windows before the cold weather sets in or cleaning your floors. So here are some tips if you’re needing some nature-themed decorating inspiration and simple DIY natural cleaning ideas:

  • Create a welcoming home entrance by decorating your front door with a wreath made with colorful leaves and/or other fall foliage. Pinecones or gumballs from a sweet gum tree make a nice-looking wreath too.
  • You can also use items from nature (pinecones, branches of colorful leaves, gourds, pumpkins, or pots of autumn flowers) to add a natural touch to your decor throughout your home.
  • Display fresh fruit in a bowl or basket. Apples look great in wooden bowls and this makes a great fall table decoration or centerpiece.
  • Candles make everything cozy and beeswax candles are a good choice because they are long-lasting and burn clean. Soy candles are clean-burning, too.
  • Lanterns also add a cozy feel to your decor, whether you use real candles or the battery-powered ones.
  • Using seasonal pillows and throws on chairs and sofas is an easy way to add an autumn feel to the  furniture you already own. You can carry the “natural look” through by using pillows and other accessories made with natural fabrics like burlap, linen, and cotton.
  • Use a burlap or linen table runner in your dining room and decorate with displays of small pumpkins or gourds, or a “bouquet” of colorful branches of leaves.
  • Wicker baskets add a natural, rustic touch and are great for storing odds and ends or for displaying potted plants in.
  • Use fresh seasonal flowers in a vase or potted flowers throughout your home and on your porch for a punch of color.

  • Use dried herbs and fruits from your summer garden in an herbal potpourri mix to add natural fragrance to your home. In the potpourri shown above, I mixed dried orange slices with cinnamon sticks, fresh rosemary, and fresh oregano. I let the herbs dry right in the bowl, and they still have a great fragrance after they’re dried. You can also create a mix of dried citrus peel from oranges and grapefruit (cut in smaller pieces or strips), cinnamon sticks, and/or dried apple and orange slices. Or mix herbs like dried lavender and rosemary (and some eucalyptus if you have it) and display in a small bowl.
  • Another use for dried herbs–if you have a wood-burning fireplace, you can toss dried rosemary and lavender twigs into the fire to create a nice aroma.
  • Before you add any seasonal window decorations, clean the glass with a DIY vinegar and water mixture. Use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water, or for dirtier windows, use equal parts vinegar and water. Put mixture in a spray bottle and shake to mix.
  • For a natural, light, general cleaner around the house (on things like countertops and tile floors), mix 2 Tablespoons of baking soda in 2 cups of warm water. Add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a soft fragrance.
  • Use a linen spray on your bed sheets to add a soft, relaxing fragrance to the bedroom. Just put 1 cup of water (you can use distilled water, too) in a spray bottle and add 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil; shake to mix and then lightly spray on linens. Shake this mixture each time you use it (as you’re getting your home ready for fall, you may also want to turn your mattresses and vacuum both sides, just to keep things fresh).

Hope you are having fun decorating for fall! Do you have any natural decorating tips of your own?

Sharing at Happiness is HomemadeThursday Favorite Things,  Inspire Me Monday.

Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Cornbread and cornbread muffins remind me of fall. Maybe because chili reminds me of fall too–and chili and cornbread go together so well. It’s officially fall now, but I wanted to give a last nod to summer by adding a summery element to these cornbread muffins–fresh blueberries! The blueberries give this slightly-sweet cornbread a great flavor. And the corn kernels help make the muffins good and moist. These muffins are actually great any time of the year. Serve them for breakfast or for a snack later in the day!

BLUEBERRY CORNBREAD MUFFINS by NancyC

Makes 17 muffins

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (and thawed) corn kernels
  • Optional: granulated or coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top of muffins

Preheat oven to 350″F. Line muffin tins with 17 paper muffin liners.

In large bowl, blend the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In medium size bowl, blend melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir this buttermilk/egg mixture into the flour mixture, mixing everything well. Fold in the blueberries and corn. Lightly sprinkle tops of muffins with sugar, if desired.

Fill each muffin liner 2/3 to 3/4 full and bake at 350˚F for 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for about 5 minutes, then remove muffins and cool completely on wire rack.

Fall really came up fast for me this year, how about you? What types of goodies do you like to bake to welcome in the fall season?

Sharing at Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Happiness is Homemade.

Creating Quiet

Simplify, simplify. A simpler, less busy life is what many of us long for. A life that’s uncluttered and downsized, with more time to relax and just enjoy being. I’m all about wanting to clear out the unimportant so I can focus on what’s really important. Are you wanting that too?

Clearing away the unimportant things, whether it’s a too-busy schedule or a cluttered room, helps create “quiet” in your life. The other day I read something that helps explain this mindset of simplifying things–this journey of creating a less crazy, more simplified life:

The journey of these years have been toward quiet–toward creating quiet around me, but more than that, toward creating quiet within me, which is much more difficult, and much more profound.

I’m amazed at how many things are ultimately connected: I like living in our home more when it’s less full of stuff. I find it easier to get dressed in the morning when I have fewer choices.

I’ve begun wandering through our house, gathering things up–less, less, less. And in my closet–less, less, less. I’m creating quiet in our home, on our walls, in my own closet, and that quiet gives me energy. The simplicity feels spacious, and inspiring, like I can draw a clean breath.

–Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

I’ve read that having a lot of “stuff” is actually stressful. The more “stuff” you own, the more time you spend taking care of it, worrying about it, repairing it. It’s easier to focus on what’s important when you’re not surrounded with unnecessary clutter and distractions. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” We can miss out on quite a bit, especially hearing God speak to us, when we’re too busy to take the time to “be still.” Or too busy to take the time to rest. Mark 6:31 tells how Jesus invited His disciples to “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” We all need time to rest and recharge!

So I’m encouraged to keep on moving toward a simpler life–less clutter, less busy, more quiet, more rest. Are you on that journey too?

Sharing at Inspire Me Monday

Strawberry-Zucchini Bread

Have any of you grown zucchini in your garden this summer? Several friends of mine have shared their bounty of zucchini with me, and this Strawberry-Zucchini Bread is one of the yummy things I made with it! It’s a really good, moist bread with chopped fresh strawberries that give it a nice fruity flavor.

It’s a great bread for this time of year, as summer turns into fall. The summery strawberries mixed with shredded zucchini and favorite fall spices–cinnamon and nutmeg–make a tasty end-of-summer combination!

STRAWBERRY-ZUCCHINI BREAD by NancyC

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup coarsely-chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9×5″ loaf pan; set aside.

In large bowl, blend together the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In medium-size bowl, beat eggs and add in the light olive oil, mixing well. Stir in the shredded zucchini, chopped strawberries, and chopped nuts.

Add the egg/oil mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl, stirring until everything is combined (batter will be thick!). Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake at 350˚F for 43 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

The weather here has been so nice these past few weeks. Warm but not-too-warm days and cooler evenings. Perfect for enjoying a slice of this quick bread with tea or coffee! What kinds of things do you like to bake this time of year?

Sharing at Happiness is HomemadeWeekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Fiesta FridayInspire Me Monday

Blueberry Almond Pound Cake

I found some blueberries at a really good price at my local market, so it was the perfect time to make this Blueberry Almond Pound Cake! If you like blueberries, you will need to try this–it’s so moist, dense, and rich! You can also use frozen blueberries in this cake, but the baking time will be slightly longer. I prefer using fresh blueberries because the frozen berries tend to give the batter a blue-ish color. The almonds and almond extract give this pound cake a really nice flavor and the glaze adds a little extra sweetness. Serve it for dessert at dinner or at a brunch with coffee or tea.

BLUEBERRY ALMOND POUND CAKE by NancyC

Makes one 10″ bundt cake

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup sliced or coarsely chopped almonds
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

ALMOND GLAZE

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons Half & Half (light cream), depending on desired consistency
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced or coarsely chopped almonds for garnish (you can lightly toast them if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10″ bundt pan; set aside.

In large bowl, blend butter, cream cheese, almond extract, and sugar until mixture is creamy and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend well after each addition.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamy mixture and mix well.

Stir in sliced almonds, mixing to evenly distribute in batter and then gently fold in the blueberries and blend evenly into the batter. Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake 50 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not overtake, or cake will be dry).

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan onto a serving plate (you may need to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan a little with a knife). Let cake cool completely.

While cake is cooling, mix the glaze ingredients and after cake cools, drizzle glaze over the cake. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Makes about 8-10 servings.

Have you been enjoying fresh blueberries this summer too? What kind of blueberry baked goods have you been making lately?

Sharing at Meal Plan Monday, Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday. What’s for Dinner Sunday, Happiness is Homemade.

Avocado Mash with Tomato and Cucumber

It’s nice to have something simple and healthy to eat in the summer. Something a little lighter that doesn’t take too much effort so you can spend more of your time enjoying other fun summer things, especially since there’s not much of summer left!

This is a super-easy sandwich I love and if you have a garden and are growing your own tomatoes and cucumbers, it’s the perfect thing to use them in! All you need are half of an avocado, a little lemon juice, a slice of tomato and some cucumber slices…and a little dash of sea salt. It makes a great summer lunch if you like to eat light during the hot weather!

AVOCADO MASH WITH TOMATO AND CUCUMBER by NancyC

Makes 1 open-faced sandwich

  • 1 slice of your favorite bread (I used a whole grain bread slice)
  • 1/2 of a large avocado
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 6 cucumber slices (from a medium-size cucumber)
  • 1 tomato slice (from a large tomato)
  • dash of sea salt, if desired

In a small bowl, mash the avocado half with the lemon juice until creamy and spread evenly on the slice of bread. Over this, arrange 3 cucumber slices in a row on the upper top third of the bread slice. Cut the tomato slice in half and arrange the two halves next to each other in the middle third of the bread slice, slightly overlapping the cucumber slices. Arrange the last 3 cucumber slices in the bottom third area of the bread, slightly overlapping the tomato slices. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, if desired over the cucumber and tomato slices. Serve immediately.

When the weather gets hot and humid, I hate to turn my oven on. So I make lots of sandwiches and salads! What do you like making when it’s too hot to bake?

Sharing at Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Inspire Me Monday.

Veggie Tortilla Pinwheels

Tortilla pinwheels are great for a summer snack or appetizer–they’re easy to make and, best of all, you don’t have to use your oven to make them! I try to make no-bake things on hot days to help keep things cool inside.

Let me just say that it does take a little practice to get nicely shaped pinwheels. The two most important things to remember are to roll up the tortillas tightly and refrigerate at least several hours. They’re much easier to slice and they keep their shape better when you do these two things.

VEGGIE TORTILLA PINWHEELS by NancyC

Makes about 4 dozen pinwheels

  • 1 (8-ounce) block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1 (4.25-ounce) can chopped black olives
  • 1/2 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 (8-inch) or 5 (10-inch) flour tortillas (flavored or plain)

In medium-size bowl, mix softened cream cheese, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese until well blended. Add in chopped green onions, red bell pepper, green chilies, and black olives, blending everything together. Stir in parsley flakes, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread mixture in a thin layer over one side of each flour tortillas. Roll tortillas up tightly, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

(You’ll probably have some extra cream cheese mixture left over–you may be able to make another tortilla roll with it, or save it to use as a spread on some bread).

Remove from refrigerator, remove plastic wrap, and place each tortilla roll seam side down. Cut into slices about 1/2″ thick (a small serrated knife works best for slicing). Arrange on a large tray or platter and serve.

Just about everyone loves these pinwheels, so you can’t go wrong making these for a potluck or party. Have you make tortilla pinwheels before?

Sharing at Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Inspire Me Monday

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Apricot-Honey Granola

This golden granola reminds me of summertime! The combination of chopped and chunky dried apricots and golden raisins taste great together. Apricot-Honey Granola has a lot of other good things that I often add to my homemade granolas: sunflower kernels, coconut flakes, wheat germ or flaxseed, and chopped nuts. It’s sweetened mostly with honey and a bit of brown sugar. You can serve it as a cereal with milk, in yogurt parfaits, or just as it is, for a snack.

APRICOT-HONEY GRANOLA by NancyC

Makes about 12 cups

  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 cups hulled, raw sunflower kernels (if using roasted, add them in after baking)
  • 1 1/4 cups sweetened or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ or ground flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup light olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line two 10×15″ rimmed cookie sheets or one 13×18″ rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In large bowl, toss the oats, sunflower kernels, coconut flakes, wheat germ or flaxseed, and chopped pecans; set aside.

In small microwaveable bowl, heat honey for 20 to 30 seconds to make the consistency thinner. Then, in medium size bowl, blend honey, brown sugar, olive oil, and salt, blending everything well.

Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and toss until the oat mixture is well-coated.

Spread this mixture onto the prepared baking sheet(s) and bake at 325˚F for 20 minutes; remove pan from oven to stir and  toss the mixture (for even baking). Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes, until granola is golden.

Remove from oven and add the golden raisins and chopped dried apricots to the mixture on the pan; toss to combine everything well. Let mixture cool completely on pan (the mixture will get crunchier as it cools), then store in a tightly-sealed container for 2 to 3 weeks.

When I make granola in the summer, I usually do it early in the morning, when it’s still cool. I try to avoid using the oven later in the day because my place gets so hot! But it’s worth making this yummy granola, even if you do have to get up extra early to do it! 🙂 Have you made any granola lately? What do you like to add to yours?

Sharing at Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Create with Joy.