The Great Pumpkin Cookies

It's the Great Pumpkin Cookie, Charlie Brown! I have always loved this Peanuts classic. What? You don't remember the show being about the Great Pumpkin Cookie?

Oh yeah, right. It's about all the Peanuts gang going trick-or-treating, except Linus, who stays up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise up out of the pumpkin patch and deliver candy to all the girls and boys. And, Charlie Brown only gets rocks in his treat bag. My favorite part is when Violet uses Charlie Brown's head as a model for their pumpkin design. Classic. I laugh every time we watch this. Well, just as this program has been a staple in many homes during this time of year, this Great Pumpkin Cookie recipe has become a necessity in my home, especially during the fall season.
Here's what you need: canned pumpkin, sugar, oil, egg, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt (not pictured), baking soda, milk, vanilla, chocolate chips

Here's how you make it:
Start by combining the pumpkin, oil, sugar and egg in a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt.

Dissolve the baking soda into the milk and add this to the flour mixture, stirring to combine.
Pour the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, stir to incorporate completely.

Add in the vanilla and chocolate chips.
Drop by tablespoonful onto cookie sheet sprayed with baking spray or lined with a baking mat.

Bake for 13 to 14 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack to completely cool.
These are best served right away or refrigerated and served cold.

The Great Pumpkin Cookies
(makes about 3 dozen)

1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup sugar
1/2 vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, oil and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Dissolve the baking soda into the milk and stir into the flour mixture. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonful onto cookie sheet sprayed with Pam or lined with a baking mat. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-14 minutes. These cake-like cookies do not spread out.
Whether you are taking your little ones trick-or-treating or staying in for a quiet evening at home, I hope you'll have a sweet and safe Halloween.  My heart goes out to all of you affected by Sandy's aftermath. Know that you are being lifted up in prayer and our thoughts and well wishes are with you.

I'm linking up at some of these great parties and







Super Simple Fall Centerpiece

I used to be a Pioneer Woman blog stalker, before I became a blogger. Now, there's hardly any time for  leisure reading, as I am dividing my time between blogging tasks and taking care of my family ~ making sure they are fed, have clean clothes...you get the picture. However, last week I made sure to check in on her blog and I saw that she posted about making a simple Thanksgiving decorations. Simple? I'm in! Here is my version of her Super Simple Fall Centerpiece.
Here's what you need:
small pumpkins, a cake plate, various green trimmings
Simply arrange your pumpkins on the cake plate and tuck in your green trimmings. I took mine from the bushes in my backyard.
You could add in colorful leaves, or just leave it green and simple.  Pioneer Woman added in some little battery-operated lights to bring a little shimmer to the arrangement. If you have a large table and lots of little pumpkins, you could make up a few of these on cake plates of varying heights.
What can I say? I kept mine super simple...as the name implies. ;-) Unfortunately, as I completed this little project, it became a bit like the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.... After I made the centerpiece, I needed to make some napkin rings. After I made the napkin rings, I needed to do a tablescape. After I did a tablescape, I needed to bake something to add to the tablescape... and so on...and so on. I'll be sharing this little creative spurt with you over the next few days, so I hope you'll be back to see what this little "mouse" has up her sleeve.

I'm linking up at some of these great parties and

Vegetable Beef Soup

Fall has finally arrived! We had a wonderfully cool weekend that called for making soup.  Looking to what I had on hand along with some cold weather pantry staples like broth and canned tomatoes, I came up with this Vegetable Beef Soup. It definitely hit the spot for this burst of Autumn weather.
Here's what you need: ground beef, carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, canned tomatoes, garlic, beef broth, frozen corn, small shell noodles and Worcestershire sauce (not pictured)
Start by browning your beef with the chopped onion. Add can of tomatoes and box of beef broth. You can also add in some Worcestershire sauce at this point.
Add in chopped vegetables and garlic as well as the corn.
 Cook until vegetables are almost tender, approximately 15 minutes. Then add in the noodles and cook until done, about 7-9 minutes. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste. Serve with a piece of crusty bread.
Vegetable Beef Soup
(easily serves 6-8)

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (I used Italian Style)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 32 oz. box beef broth
1/2 to 1 cup frozen corn ( I used Trader Joe's Roasted Corn)
1 7 oz. package of pasta shells ( This ends up being a lot of noodles. If you want it more soupy, I'd suggest using only 1/2 of this amount.)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and Pepper
(Any other vegetables you have on hand)

In large pot, brown ground beef and chopped onions together. Drain the beef and return to pot. Add in canned tomatoes, broth, celery, carrots, potatoes, minced garlic, corn and Worcestershire Sauce. Cook until vegetables are almost tender, approximately 15 minutes. Bring to a boil and add in the pasta and cook for 7-9 minutes until desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a slice of crusty bread. (This soup is best eaten on the day it is made, as the pasta tends to soak up the broth. However, to reheat any leftovers, simply add more broth and/or another can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.)

This recipe can be modified to include any other vegetables and/or spices you like. I offer it only as a good place from which to start. Enjoy!

I'm linking up at some of these great parties and

Food for the Soul ~ Deuteronomy 32:4

What a great reminder that there are no accidents with God. All His works are perfect. This picture was taken in Arizona last week near a desolate area with a whole lot of nothing. Even in the middle of the mundane springs a beautiful canyon complete with flowing water and life. Sweet friends, I hope we can all see the beauty and blessings in the desolate, mundane areas of our lives. Wishing you a joy-filled week!
Blessings,
Nici

Soccer Ball Cupcakes

As we near the end of soccer season, I thought I'd share with you a cute little treat to bring to your end of the season party....Soccer Ball Cupcakes.
When you see your little soccer players working so hard each week, it's fun to reward them at the end with something special.

These cupcakes were a breeze to make. Simply bake up your favorite cupcakes and frost with white frosting. I used Aldi's Fit & Active 100 Calorie Snack Packs which are like Oreo Thin Crisps to make the black spots on the balls. You could pipe some black frosting between the cookies, but I found that they were just as cute without all the extra effort ;-)
Place some green tissue paper on the platter to mimic grass, or you could even color some coconut with green food coloring.
Serve it up to your sweaty, smiling soccer players. They'll love you for it! These would also be great to have at a soccer-themed birthday party.
I'm linking up at some of these great parties and



Asian Beef & Rice


Okay, I know I normally give you a step by step recipe, but this time I totally spaced it.  We had just gotten back into town, had been cleaning like crazy people and were expecting family and friends for dinner. I knew I would be making this Asian Beef & Rice, so I did a lot of the prep work before heading off to my Women of Grace girls group. Then, I just didn't even think about taking pics along the way. This is one of our favorite meals.  I couldn't wait to share the recipe with you, so you will only get the after shots of this delicious meal for now.  I promise to update it with pictures one day soon, as I'm sure this recipe will go back into our rotation. I hope you enjoy it!

Asian Beef with Rice
(about 6 servings)

1 1/2 lbs. boneless beef top loin or sirloin steak
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive oil works here too
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic, or 1 garlic clove crushed
1-2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (olive oil is fine)
1/2 onion cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
1 head of broccoli, steamed
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Cooked Rice

Cut beef into thin strips against the grain of the meat. (It's easiest to do this when the meat is partially frozen.) Mix the soy sauce, vegetable oil, white wine (or broth), sugar, ginger, and garlic together. Stir in the beef to coat each piece. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, saute the onion and red bell pepper in oil until soft in a large skillet. Remove to plate. Drain beef, reserving marinade. Cook and stir beef in the same skillet over medium heat until beef is light brown, approximately 5 minutes. Return the vegetables to the pan with the meat. Add enough cold water to the reserved marinade to measure 1/2 cup. Add in the cornstarch, cover and shake the mixture until the cornstarch is incorporated. Stir gradually into the beef. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes uncovered. Add in the cooked broccoli at the very end. To serve, spoon 1/2 cup beef mixture onto 1/2 cup rice. This recipe is really easy to customize with different vegetables. We happen to love broccoli, so it always makes its way into the dish. Enjoy!
I'm linking up at some of these great parties and


Second Hand Shopping in AZ

On Monday, I shared with you about our recent road trip to Arizona to celebrate my father-in-law's 80th birthday. While were there, I had the great pleasure of shopping with my SIL, Donna. She knows of many great places to scout the deals.  We started our Second Hand Shopping in AZ at Second Look in Phoenix. This is where I got the adorable pewter pitcher and white oval platter up above.

This store is a treasure trove of great finds.  A large section of western inspired decor sits in the middle of the store.
I spied many beautiful sets of dishes, adorable cake plates and holiday decorations galore. This is only one part of the store. They also carry a large selection of adult clothing, shoes and accessories.
Later in the week, we went driving around Pinetop, AZ and found a fun antique shop with a yarn store attached.
The centerpiece of this great store was this awesome, long farm table that probably sat 24 people comfortably without any leaves. I've never seen a table so long!

There were beautiful items tucked in all over the place. I loved these antique wooden spools in a big wooden bowl...so colorful with the cotton string still wrapped on the bobbins.
In the upstairs room of this space, I found this gorgeous wooden cabinet with rustic accessories placed on it.
A pretty collection of vintage Ball jars sat atop a cubby hole shelf with delicate teacups. What is it about the old Ball jars that make them so appealing?  I was so tempted to get these, but knew that our cargo space in our vehicle was extremely limited...we went for economy rather than comfort on this road trip. Maybe it was my husband's plan all along to limit the extra space so I wouldn't fill it up with things I "couldn't possibly live without.";-)
These giant antique hinges were the most interesting items I saw in this store. They were easily 18 to 24 inches in length. I was intrigued, but clueless as to what to do with them...until I got home. Why must my practical side almost always win?!?! I really wish I would have purchased at least one of them for a touch of rustic whimsy in the house. Oh, well...next time.
Our official shopping time had ended and I was empty-handed (except for the 1/4 lb. of mint fudge that my daughter convinced me to buy). Do you recall me telling you that Donna and I had been on some morning walks? Well, we ran across a garage sale near their cabin and I found this pretty pheasant picture for $2. I'm still tweaking my sideboard in my dining room, but I'm pretty sure he is going to play a starring role in the vignette.
Remember the vintage Ball jars at the antique store? Well, I didn't purchase those, but while helping my  FIL clean out his pantry, I found these beauties sitting unused. I asked him if he still needed them and he said I could have them if I wanted them. Woo-hoo! They're not exactly vintage, but they will add a pop of color in the kitchen and can be used to store something. I love double duty accessories!
Last but not least, Donna (SIL)has been going through her mother's things over the last year since her passing. She found this dainty little covered bowl that her mother used to keep cotton balls in on her vanity, and thought that I might like to have it. I love the colors and the details of this pretty piece. Most of all, I love that it belonged to sweet Mildred. We already have her piano, so every time it sings, I think of the wonderful lady who once played on it. So, while I may not have actually "shopped" in a store to acquire some of these items on the trip, it was still a fun time spent with those close to my heart.
I'm linking up at some of these great parties and



Shoes Are Like Rabbits


Does anyone else feel like this? Our shoes are like rabbits. They multiply and spill out from their container like nobody's business.
Well, to be fair, it had been awhile since I had purged the shoe basket at the foot of the stairs. It was time.
We have some family and friends coming to stay at our house tomorrow and I didn't want them having to dodge the mountain of shoes to get up the stairs, and it's time to take inventory of what new shoes I need to purchase for those two growing kids of ours.
So, I started by taking each shoe out of the basket and putting it into a keep pile and a toss pile. As you can see, our dog, Scamp, was quite interested in this process. Then I took the basket outside and dumped out all the grass/dirt that was in the bottom. I swept up the area around the shoe box and the bench and replaced the big basket. 
Next, I matched up the keeper shoes and put them on their ends into the basket. These are the shoes that my kids use most often right now.  
All the others, like boots and cooler weather shoes were placed inside the red bench. Ahhh, it's looking so much better. Next, I attacked the pile of tossers and separated them into trash and give away. 
There...it's all done...for now. I'll try to keep a better handle on those "wascally wabbits" in the future. How do you keep control of shoes in your house?
I'm linking up at some of these great parties and

Homestyle Salsa


We eat a lot of Mexican food in our house. From quesadillas to chicken enchiladas, we are always needing salsa around our house. In a pinch, we'll use the kind in a jar, but we all prefer homemade. This recipe is one that we've been making in my family for years.  It never disappoints and can always be adjusted to taste.

Here's what you need: canned tomatoes, minced garlic, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, lime juice, onion, white vinegar, salt and pepper.
Here's how you make it:
Cut your jalapeno peppers in half length-wise, remove top and seeds and discard. If you like your salsa really spicy leave the seeds intact. I will usually discard most of them, but leave a few for some heat.
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and puree to desired consistency.

Homestyle Salsa

2 cans of tomatoes
2-3 jalapeno peppers
1 small onion chopped
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp. cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt or more
1/3 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. white vinegar

Seed your jalapeno peppers. Put all ingredients in blender and puree to desired consistency. You may need to add more salt or more jalapeno peppers to taste.

Enjoy alongside your Mexican dishes or just serve it with a big bowl of chips. Either way, you're sure to make some people very happy. And, you won't hear them say, "This stuff's made in New York City!" Unless, of course, that's where you live.

I'm linking up at some of these great parties and