Chilly Weather Chili

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The past few days, I’ve been thinking of those living in New York that have been hit with an unimaginable amount of snow. While many in the Midwest might feel the need to complain about the bitter cold (late fall) temperatures, in comparison, we’ve certainly got nothing to complain about.
As the cold winds begin to blow down the length of Lake Michigan, I often turn my attention to chilly weather recipes that seem to comfort us as we make our way through a season of bitter cold and snow.
This Chilly Weather Chili recipe fits the bill as the spicy notes bring their own kind of warmth to the tummy. The recipe makes a nice sized pot of goodness that can be easily scooped into serving sized containers and kept frozen for a quick future meal.

Chilly Weather Chili

3 lbs lean ground beef
1 (29 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (29 ounce) cans kidney beans ( with liquid)
1 (29 ounce) cans pinto beans ( with liquid)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green chili pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
3 or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water

In a large (thick bottomed) pot , cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Combine beef with the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue to cook while stirring every 15 minutes, for 2 to 3 hours.

Caramelized Butternut Squash Cubes

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I’m a fan of simplicity and this autumn recipe really couldn’t be any easier…
A few days ago, my boss arrived to the office with a box full of assorted squash that she had picked from her garden. She admitted neglecting the overgrown weeds in and around the produce and to her surprise, had found a plethora of ripe, fresh squash that she couldn’t possibly eat on her own. She placed the box on the reception desk with a note encouraging employees to take whatever we wanted. I was elated and quickly rummaged through the produce looking for the best of the bunch.
I guess the hardest part of this recipe is getting the thick skin off of the flesh. Carefully use a knife to trim away the light colored skin keeping the cut side of the squash flat against the cutting surface. Scoop out the seeds and cube the firm flesh. In a short while, get ready for a fantastic side dish!

Caramelized Butternut Squash Cubes

3 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss cubed squash and olive oil until well coated. Arrange squash on an 11X17″ baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and slightly caramelized.
Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar; return to the oven, continue baking for 5-7 minutes or until fork tender.

Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

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I’m not kidding…just two ingredients quickly mixed together makes for a batch of terrific tasting pumpkin muffins! Yes, that’s right, I said two ingredients…
I needed a quick morning lunch box treat this week and I turned to the quickest muffin recipe I could think of, the Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Muffin recipe. Quickly mix a can of pumpkin with a cake mix and pop it in the oven. In less than 20 minutes, you’ve got a great little snack. While I used the Butter Pecan Cake Mix in my recipe, the spice and vanilla flavored cake mix work well too. Pop in the lunchbox, bake for an autumn bake sale, or share with co-workers for an office carry-in.
If you’d like to spruce up the recipe a bit, sprinkle with powdered sugar or a light glaze with chopped nuts. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I love to top my cakes and muffins with a pre-package flax seed oatmeal mix and that is what I did here. …Quick, easy and oh, so yummy!

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Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

1 (18.25 ounce) package butter pecan cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins with a light coating of cooking spray or insert paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix and canned pumpkin until well blended. Evenly distribute into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15-17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and serve. (This tastes even better as the muffins sit for a couple of days.)
Optional: Top with oatmeal topping, powdered sugar, or powdered sugar glaze.

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Apricot Snacking Cake with Crunchy Flax Topping

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The view out my window teams with an array of fall colors. The season’s best; deep golden yellow, burgundy red, and burnt sienna cover the trees as the leaves slowly fall and the cooler temperatures usher in the Midwest climate change.

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I stepped outside a few minutes ago, to enjoy another beautiful autumn Sunday. As I made my way across the deck, I was greeted by the aroma of a wood fire. Neighbors in the area are taking advantage of their fire pits as they rake leaves and clean up garden beds for it is time we put the backyard to sleep for the coming winter months.

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A fitting autumn treat, Apricot Snacking Cake, bakes in the oven as we hope to enjoy a relaxed evening munching on this delicious, pudding-like, dessert with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream. (Even better, a steamy cup of tea will accompany this scrumptious autumn treat just perfectly.) I’m hoping the mild temperatures will hold on as the autumn sun begins to set. What a delight it might be if we can enjoy this delicious dessert outdoors as the soft breezes blow and the leaves delicately dance to the ground.
Afterwards, I’ll slice up the left over cake into serving-sized squares and pack it in an airtight container to make for a quick morning bite, as we hurry out the door to start another busy work week.

Apricot Snacking Cake with Crunchy Flax Topping

1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 12 oz. cans apricot pie filling (I use Solo brand)
1 serving sized packet – steel cut instant oatmeal with flax

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 9×13 baking pan.
In large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil, eggs and pie filling. Stir until well combined. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with one serving sized packet of instant oatmeal.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake tests done. Drizzle with icing, if desired.

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Holiday Cutouts

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As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I’m all about sending goodies to my college kids living on campus. Receiving a thoughtful care package from home is always a welcome surprise for students. Last week, while I was visiting campus, I dropped off decorative trays of Holiday Cutouts to each of my children. I’m told they were a big hit as M shared her tray with her Resident Assistant, roommate and a few of her friends from home. K and P shared their cookies as well. M confessed that she couldn’t imagine eating too many of the cookies without putting on a few pounds so, “out of site, out of mind”, was her motto when passing off the tasty treats to friends and floor mates.
This cookie is quick and easy to assemble as the recipe doesn’t call for the traditional wait time for refrigeration when making the stiff rolled dough. Use your favorite cookie cutters to represent holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions. After a quick cool down, top with icing and colorful sprinkles. Pack in airtight containers or transfer to a platter for a friendly holiday tray. (I found a few Halloween buckets at a local discount store so I packed a few cookies in with a bit of tissue paper.)
Kids, no matter what their age, always enjoy a flavorful treat for the holidays.

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Holiday Cutouts

1 cup butter, softened ( 2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract; mix until well blended. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Carefully, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine well. Form the dough in to a smooth ball. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4″ thick. Cut out with cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6-8 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Decorate as desired when cool.

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Pumpkin and Oat Spice Cake

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This weekend, we attended Grandma M’s Neighborhood Oktoberfest. The annual event is held in Chicago and whenever we drive in to the city, we are quickly reminded of the reasons why we decided to move out to the country many years ago. While there is much to do throughout the city, (visit the beautiful lake front campus, spend the day at numerous museums, fantastic shopping opportunities, and great restaurant choices) we certainly don’t miss the sparse street parking, the long wait at frequent railroad crossings and the horrendous traffic situation.
That being said, it really is fun to head over to Grandma’s for her October party. Everyone attending brings along a favorite dish to contribute. Festive tablecloths and autumn colored dishes (holding scrumptious desserts and flavorful appetizers) top the side tables. Pans of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potato salad sit on the main buffet. Plenty of hot coffee and cider brew in huge pots and the fridge is stocked with plenty of beer.
My contribution included this rich, dense, autumn cake. I had to slap a few hands as I cut the cake into squares and loaded up a serving platter for the party. All wanted a taste before we headed to grandma’s house. I scolded them all telling them that they would have to wait.
This truly is a great recipe and as the cake sits for a few days, the flavor intensifies. Although, very rarely does this cake have the opportunity to sit for a few days…Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Oat Spice Cake

3 cups flour
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup margarine, softened
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
4 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 package (serving size) old fashioned style oatmeal with flax, maple & brown sugar

Topping (optional)
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
Mix together margarine and sugar in large bowl on medium-high speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until blended. Turn mixer to low; add pumpkin. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in raisins by hand. Pour into prepared pan. Top with one serving-sized package of flavored oatmeal.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
Blend confectioners sugar and water; drizzle over cake. Sprinkle nuts evenly over top. Cut into 12 servings.

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Chunky Infinity Scarf

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Last week I posted a picture and link for a beginner infinity scarf that I found on the web. As I had mentioned in the post, I am at the very bottom of the ability scale when it comes to my yarn, needlework and craftsmanship abilities. I stick with basic techniques and have to rely heavily on video tutorials (played over and over again) to grasp basic construction concepts. I have been so pleased with my new found skill for crafting the beginner infinity scarf that I have taken to making several different scarves with yarns of various weight and color for my family and friends. Honestly, these scarves are so quick and easy to make, it literally takes about 1 1/2 hours to construct this trendy accessory.
This week, I wanted to post another of my creations crafted with a different type of yarn but crocheted with the very same stitch as the blue patterned scarf that I posted last week. I wanted you to see what a difference yarn choice can make in the look and feel of the garment or accessory. Again, you can find the video here. This is a great little scarf as we move into the cold weather months in the Midwest. Don’t forget that this would be a fantastic Christmas present for teens, moms, teachers, and co-workers. Look for yarn colors to match college, high school or professional sports teams. Or, look for chunky yarns to match the trendy look of current retail scarves found in all the stores.
Here is the yarn that I used for this project. I also used an 11 mm crochet hook.

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… Hand made, totally inexpensive and a thoughtful gift… Happy crocheting!