Things I Love Thursdays

A few happy Things I Love on this first Thursday of August…

Pengoloo

Penguins

 

A game I never mind playing!  Pengoloo is a memory game made of hysterical little penguins and their colored eggs.  The game is easy to understand, fun, and fast!  It is loved by all three of my kids.  And we’ve given it as a birthday present in the past and it has been well-received. Only negative? The eggs are a choking hazard so stick to playing with kids who are 3+.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I do admit that I am usually anti pumpkin food stuffs.  And it isn’t fall.  But these are easy (one bowl!) and tasty.  My kids adore them (because, really, like most muffins, they are basically cake).  Smitten Kitchen is brilliant – I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried (except the gingerbread, but I think that was more about me and less about the recipe, but I digress…)

Make these muffins.  I cut the sugar down to 1 cup, and eyeball the pumpkin amount.  I also eyeball the spices.  And the muffins are always great.  The recipe is really forgiving. I’m going to try making them with a 50/50 white/whole wheat flour mix in the next few days.  I bet they’ll still be great. Added bonus? These keep beautifully for a few days, unlike some muffins with fruit in them that get soggy on day 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I usually just use cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
  • cinnamon sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and put muffin tins in a 12-muffin pan.
  2. Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the cinnamon sugar and whisk ingredients together.
  4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine are always done at 25).

Enjoy these August days – eat as much ice cream as possible and run in those sprinklers – it’ll be back to school soon enough!

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The Sweet Spot

It is 9:30pm. My family is sleeping.

I’m sitting in low Sunday night light, looking forward to climbing into my clean sheets.  The dryer is running downstairs, and I can smell the moist clean laundry smell. My children are clean, brushed, cozy, and sleeping that deep sleep of childhood.

 

My sweetest little one has learned to love sleep.  He sighs as he rolls to his side, pulls his silky blanket up to his face, and closes his eyes.  And I have sighed, too. I have felt my shoulders relax, my mind calm, as I slowly, slowly start to catch up on nights of sleep interrupted.

 

I made applesauce today from bright fall apples. My son told me he liked it better than chocolate pudding. High praise from a 4-year-old.

 

I pulled out a tiny ceramic tea set for Plum this morning. It was a leftover Christmas present; she was too little for it last year.  She dropped and broke one of the teacups this morning – she’s probably still too little. But she loves it, and loved making tiny cup after tiny cup of tea, coffee, and some other creation that included peppermint and salt. We played all morning, sipping delicious drinks from those thimble cups, as she poured the teapot, holding the top as she poured, always adding lots of sugar.

 

The sun was out today.  Leaves turning, falling.  The chill I love was back in the air after a stretch of rare October humidity.  And we had nowhere we needed to be.  We have many years of busy weekends to come.  Friends, sports, activities, adventures, all of these will fill our calendars too soon.  It has already started. But this weekend, today, I got to spend the day enjoying my cozy house and my favorite small people.

 

They are big, big enough to sleep, to play, to imagine, to inquire.

 

But they are little, too.  Little enough to snuggle, to need reassurance that monsters are never allowed in our house, and to love pudding more than just about anything.

Squash Squish!

My husband loves rice, in all its starchy white goodness, hot with butter, salt and pepper.  Me?  Not so much.  So I’m always looking for good side dishes and salads that are just a tad bit more interesting.  Sorry, Honey.

This one is a new favorite. I ADORE this concoction.  Smitten Kitchen has done it again. The combination is just perfect.  I ate it while the squash was still just a bit warm and it was grand.  It has a tendency to dry out a bit, so when I ate it fresh from the fridge the next day I drizzled a little olive oil on top.  I have written up the recipe as I prepared it.  Deb at Smitten Kitchen actually used Ricotta Salata and I think she made a better choice.  The feta was a little bit too tangy, or briny, or something.  I would have preferred something salty and creamy.  (Aside: I can’t type “Ricotta Salata”  without thinking of Zenyatta Mondatta. De-do-do-do, de da da da is all I want to say to you.)  The lightly pickled onions absolutely take the salad to that magical place, so don’t skip them.

Make this.  It is a fantastic side dish that is rice free.  It is fall loveliness in a bowl, and is comforting, but relatively nutritious at the same time. WIN!

Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Other Yummy Things (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • 5-6 T. olive oil
  • 1 C. uncooked farro, prepared according to the directions on the package (they vary)
  • 1/3 C. toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds, the salted ones)
  • 3 ounces of feta (or even better, Ricotta Salata, crumbled)
  • 1 T. sherry vinegar
  • 1 T. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1/2 small red onion, small dice
  • Salt and black pepper
Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the squash with 2 T. of the olive oil and then place in one layer on baking sheets.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast about 35 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. It’s a good idea to turn the squash over after about 20 minutes of cooking time.
 
While the squash is roasting, cook the farro according to the directions on the package. Drain.
 
In a small glass or bowl, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar and stir to dissolve the solids.  Dice the onion and add to the liquid.  Cover and put this in the fridge for 30 minutes.
 
Once the squash and farro are cooked, let them cool slightly then place in a large bowl with the pepitas and cheese.  Pour the vinegar/onion mixture in (all of it!), add 3 T. of olive oil (if you want to – I didn’t add any olive oil until the next day) and mix.  Enjoy!
 

Falling for Fall…

I think I remember my 7th grade English teacher insisting that the names of the seasons needed to be capitalized.  But now I am second-guessing my memory and Mrs. Dussault.  Anywho.  That’s neither here nor there.

I love Fall.  I happen to live in a place where Fall is incredibly beautiful. It is my favorite season.  It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears – summer is too hot, winter is too long and too darn slushy, and Spring has too many black flies and too much mud.  Fall?  Perfection.  In no particular order here are 5 reasons I love Fall…

  1. Wood smoke.  People around here hunker down, and light up the fireplace or wood stove to take the chill off during chilly autumn nights.  An evening walk on crunchy leaves, while sniffing the wood smoke and wearing a sweater?  Perfection.
  2. Back to School!  I’m too old for back to school, and Mr. Pickle Pumpkin is too young.  But I always feel like Fall is the time of new beginnings.  Sure there are buds on trees, lambs, chicks, and flowers pushing through the earth in the Spring, but Fall always feels like the beginning to me.  New notebooks, a new outfit, and a new adventure.  (I suspect I feel this way because I loved school.  Dork? Me? Yes.)  
  3. Leaves.  I live in the land of maple trees!  The lovely reds, yellows, oranges never ever get old.  When the sun is shining golden it is hard to imagine a prettier place on earth. I love the way they smell, I love the way they rustle and crunch when you walk through them.  I do not love raking.  That’s what leafblowers and husbands were invented for.  
  4. Sweaters.  They are very forgiving for the less than svelte.  Especially compared to the shorts and tank tops (no, I’ll never wear one) of summer.  And they’re cozy.  And you can wash them less than sweaty summer tank tops.  Everyone wins. Especially the people who don’t want to see me in a tank top. Added bonus: it is no longer swimsuit season.
  5. Fall food.  (My rant against pumpkin-flavored-everything will come later.) Apples, apple pie, apple crisp, apple cider.  Soups.  That one deserves some more attention: SOUPS.  Warm food, food that simmers, food that isn’t salad.  Food that bakes, braises, bubbles all day long making the house warm and delicious-smelling.

Happy Fall!