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Archive for October, 2010

If you are looking for a simple, comfort-food type of dessert to finish off a meal, Baked Custard is a great option.

It is one of the few desserts that Hubby actually likes and has been known to beg for. I usually don’t mind, because it is so easy to make.

So without further ado…

Baked Custard Ingredients

Beat eggs until combined but not foamy, mix in sugar, flour, vanilla and milk.

Pour custard into cups.

Optional - top with cinnamon before baking.

You know the custard is done baking when a knife inserted comes out clean.

 

Baked Custard

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Beat eggs until well combined but not foamy. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Using an 8×8 glass baking pan, place in four custard cups (or ramekins or small oven-safe bowls). Pour boiling water into pan until it is standing about 1 inch.

Pour batter into custard cups and then carefully place pan in an oven preheated to 325 degrees. Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of a custard cup comes out clean.

We like to sprinkle cinnamon on top of the custard just before baking. So good and so simple!

Enjoy!

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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The wind is blowing, it is way chillier than I’d like it to be and tomorrow I will be wearing a ridiculous costume to work. That is a combination that has put me in a frame of mind to pilfer good ideas from someone else. I’m all tapped out today.

So I would like to direct your attention to the Better Homes and Gardens website.

You will find a bounty of great ideas here for everything from decorating ideas to recipes.

Some of the things that were speaking to me today include:

This cool, but very  simple fall arrangement. Beautiful!

This fabulous corn husk centerpiece. Love the rustic charm.

And this pumpkin with a glowing candle. What a fun way to utilize a pumpkin.

If you are looking for some great ideas, Better Homes and Gardens is sure to have something that will get your creative juices flowing.

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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I am going to beg forgiveness for today’s shameless plug of self-promotion, but I had to share this news with you! It is too good to keep to myself! Honest it is!

Willow House has made it possible to offer online shopping through our websites. That in itself is pretty cool. But the thing that has got me quite excited is our ability to offer you online outlet shopping.

I don’t know about you, but I love finding great items on clearance sales. It is an awesome feeling – and one you can experience time and again through our outlet center. You’ll find products from both Entertaining at Home and Southern Living at Home offered at deep discounts. You can place an order of any size and have it shipped direct to your home. Super convenient and easy to use, this is a fantastic resource for those of you wanting to get an affordable jump start to your holiday shopping!

To make this sweet deal even sweeter, weekly specials will be offered at crazy-good prices. You can check it out here: shanna.willowhouse.com

Like this week, you can get a set of these melamine measuring prep bowls for only $3.96. Can you say “perfect stocking stuffer,” anyone? Each bowl has two measures and these are perfect for about a hundred different uses in your kitchen from serving taco toppings to helping your baking go faster by being able to have everything premeasured and ready to roll.

This deep dish lasagna pan is cast iron finished with enamel and will last forever. My BFF has been known to refer to it as the “magic pan” because of its amazing abilities. Everyone I know who has it and uses it loves it.

One of my most favorite things on the planet is my set of 5-ply All Clad cookware I got about a year and a half ago.  This stuff is amazing! I kid you not! Even I can’t burn or scorch  anything in these pans.

Here is what the company description has to say about them: “With its unique 5-ply construction, our cookware combines the superior heat-conducting properties of pure aluminum and aluminum alloy at the core with 18/10 stainless steel interiors and exteriors for beauty and ease of cleanup. The result? Even and consistent heat through the bottoms and sides of pans-perfect for browning, braising, boiling, sauteeing, steaming-even flambeing! Stainless steel will retain its beauty and luster. Stay-cool stainless steel handles are permanently riveted to the pans. Stainless steel lid fits snugly. Ideal for gas, electric, or ceramic cooking surfaces. Saute pans have “helper” loops for easy lifting. Oven and dishwasher safe.”

That’s right, you can even put these in the oven. I love this particular stockpot for making soups and stews.

Just so today’s post isn’t completely about the online outlet, here is one of my favorite soup recipes.

Chicken Dumpling Soup

chicken broth (approx. 2 cans)

1 cup cooked potatoes, cut into chunks

1 cup celery, sliced

1 bag of frozen mixed veggies

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

6 cups water

1 tsp. parsley

1/2 tsp onion flakes

1 can of refrigerator biscuits (do not use the flaky variety!)

2 cans of cream of chicken soup

salt and pepper to taste

In a stockpot, mix the chicken broth with the water, add in celery, potatoes, frozen veggies, chicken, parsley, onion flakes and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Add in the refrigerator biscuits by pinching off a bite-sized piece at a time and dropping into the pot. Cover and let boil without peeking into the pot for about 15 minutes or until the biscuit dough is nearly cooked. Add in the cream of chicken soup and stir well to completely mix. Let simmer for about 5 minutes and serve!

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If you aren’t into spooks and ghouls or bats and vampires, you can still host a fun, seasonal Harvest Themed Party. 

Incorporate the elements of the season, think outside the box and be prepared to have a really great celebration.

Start with your invitations. You could do something fun like a making a simple scarecrow face. Cut a heavy piece of tan or yellow construction paper into a square. Turn the square so a corner is pointing toward you and one away from you.  Glue two wooden buttons or two pieces of candy corn near the middle for eyes and a gumdrop for a nose. Glue a piece of orange string in a smile for a mouth and then “stitch” over it with a black marker. Stitch around the edges of the square with the marker and add a little raffia bow at the top. On the back, glue your invitation. If you are creative with clip art, you could also create invitations that featured corn stalks, pumpkins, baskets of apples, or a harvest moon.
Decorations could include piles of pumpkins. Think about what you have on hand you could dress up. Right now I’ve got miniature pumpkins surrounding the little cement bunny that stands guard at my front door. An old wheelbarrow, a child’s wagon, even an empty birdbath can be fun containers for pumpkins. If you are going to put candles in pumpkins, I highly recommend the battery-operated variety. You don’t have to worry about fire issues that way. For something a bit off the beaten bath, take leaf shaped cookie cutters, pound them into the pumpkin with a rubber mallet, pull out with needle nose pliers and get ready for the compliments to roll in once you drop in a candle and illuminate your handiwork. 

If you are doing a more formal plated dinner, you have to try this great idea for placecards. Write names of guests on mini pumpkins then using a small knife, follow the outline of the name and peel away the rind without cutting all the way through the pumpkin. Place a votive inside each one. What a fun way to let guests know the seating arrangement. You could also do this with words like “Welcome,” “Harvest,” “Bountiful,” and “Autumn” and place throughout your buffet.

You could also use baskets of apples. There is absolutely nothing on the planet that says fall to me like a wooden basket filled with shiny red apples. Use little baskets to display apples throughout your entertaining area. 

Gather stalks of corn and have them stand sentinel by your front door. If you are going to be entertaining outdoors with a bonfire or some other fun activity, be sure to include decorations outside. Straw bales, especially when draped with a thick blanket, make perfect seating for outdoor events. Stack them up and cover with a colorful cloth if you need extra serving space.

Sprinkle fall leaves along your buffet table. You can even tuck a pretty leaf or two into the frame of a mirror or picture.


Bonus decorating tip – nuts and pinecones are your friends! Remember nuts and pinecones can be trailed along tables, nestled in bowls, poured into jars and stacked in boxes or baskets to create great fall accents. If you’ve got nothing else, at least have a basket of nuts and pinecones! 

Let the kids make a scarecrow and set him by the front door or somewhere sure to be noticed.

Do include a few candles in safe and strategic places throughout your home that carry through the scent of fall like pumpkin, apple, maple or spice.

For a simple menu, think about making a big casserole. They are warm, filling, easy to serve and easy to eat. It doesn’t have to be fancy, anything hearty and warm will do like a Cheeseburger Pie, Rigatoni Bake, or even Enchiladas. Serve with warm cornbread, a green salad with chopped apples and toasted nuts, warm apple cider and  bar cookies for dessert. You can also prepare take- with-you treats like caramel apples or this super-simple snack.

Fabulous Fall Munch
1 pound spiced gum drops
1 pound candy corn
1 pound pretzel sticks
3 cups goldfish crackers
1 16-ounce can salted peanuts
Mix together and serve in waffle cones. Kids will love being able to play and munch at the same time!

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Haints and Halloween

Word of the Week: Haint

haint (hānt)

A ghost or other supernatural being.

She was convinced the house was inhibited by a haint.

I can remember my grandma talking about haints. She grew up deep in the Ozarks and had all kinds of wonderful folklore and superstitions that really fascinated an impressionable little girl (and, at times, terrorized her).

Although my mother was not a believer in the superstitions, she has been known to talk about Grandma and her haints from time to time.

Having spent four months living in a haunted apartment when I was fresh out of college, I can now sympathize with Grandma and her stories.

But for you, I wish you a haint-free Happy Halloween full of treats and no tricks!

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Today’s recipe is hard, lengthy and whole bunch of work to make. Aw, just kidding.

This is so simple, you could have your 5-year-old make it for you. It’s the next best thing to sliced bread. Really!

Easy Herb Bread

Sliced Bread (your choice – I used white and, yes, I do realize the nutritional value, thank you very much)

Herb Seasoning or Powdered Dip Mix (I used a Parmesan peppercorn mix)

Butter (melted)

Butter slices of bread, sprinkle liberally with seasoning. Use a fun cookie cutter shape and cut out pieces of bread then place on a baking sheet (I used varying sizes of leaf cookie cutters).

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until edges are crispy and tops are starting to brown.

Serve and enjoy! Now wasn’t that easy?

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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Almost five years ago, my cousin Brad called and discussed doing something special and fun for his Mom. I was all ears.

Brad is one of those super nice, incredibly sweet all-around great guys that you are thrilled just to know. Add in the fact that his Mom, my wonderful Aunt Robbie, has been like a second Mom to me for my entire life, and I couldn’t refuse whatever it was he was going to ask.

My most wonderful auntie has always been extra special to me. I was born the day after Aunt Robbie’s birthday, we share the same middle name, we both love the color pink and have yet to find a mall we didn’t like.

Aunt Robbie was blessed with two boys, but no girls. So Brad proposed a few of us girl cousins do something fun with Aunt Robbie. We plotted and planned and ended up with four of us girls taking Aunt Robbie for an overnight stay in a cute little town with fun shops, great food and a nice hotel. It was bliss!

My three cousins are daughters of my Dad’s two other sisters, both of whom have passed away. Aunt Robbie became Mom to us all on that trip. With each of us she loves, laughs, cries, teases and counsels – and that just makes us love her all the more.

We had such a great time on that first trip, we decided to make it an annual event. We all look forward to the time we can spend with each other, reconnecting, sharing memories, shopping, eating and enjoying the company. Our little group includes my cousins Julie, Nancy and Twylia – all fun, fantastic women in their own unique way.

So this year when we started planning our “shopping conference” we decided we needed to have a name for our group. Considering that we drive all over the countryside to meet and considering our love to shop, talk, eat and repeat the process until we are all exhausted, we came up with the name of the “Gallivanting Goddesses.”

We met just last week and it was fantastic as always. Aunt Robbie is still running circles around us, still able to hand-out great advice and fashion tips and still the sweet Aunt that we adore.

And these girls just know how to have a great time.

I encourage all you girls to have a group that you go gallivanting with at least once a year. Maybe it is family, maybe it is friends, maybe a combination of both – but you need that girl time.  It does your heart and spirit so much good!

So here’s to future gallivanting!

Just One of the Goddesses,

Shanna

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