Fall Decor

Being that we’re 1 week away from Halloween and just a month away from Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share with you the few things I’ve done to decorate my house for the season. I’m not big into scary Halloween decor, I love celebrating the holiday itself, but you won’t see any fake grave stones or giant spiders in my front yard. I also don’t love the Halloween color scheme, lots of orange and black around my house doesn’t really mesh so I stick with more of a Fall feel when I’m decorating for the season. I try to do something that will last me from September through November. As Thanksgiving gets closer, I tend to add a few more touches to the existing Fall decor, usually something sparkly or red in anticipation of Christmas decor.

Last year I hopped on the white pumpkin bandwagon with everyone else and this year, I simply went farther with it and made the investment in some fake pumpkins from Michael’s.  In the past, I’ve always purchased real pumpkins and then around Christmas, I have no idea what to do with them, they start to rot and one year we ended up with a pumpkin vine growing in the garden where the previous year’s pumpkin was left to decompose. This year, I saw the sale flyer for 50% off those fake pumpkins and picked up two nice sized ones to use in my house for years to come. I did purchase real white pumpkin gourds. I buy these every year and find ways to use them throughout the house, as you’ll see. I also purchased a few mums (one of which has already been replaced since I swiftly killed the first in about 3 weeks).

In the dining room, I added some Fall flair above our china hutch. I discovered how great this little area was last Christmas and love to keep something interesting up there. I think it adds a lot to the room. I positioned one of my new faux pumpkins, a mum, and a glass vase filled with mixed nuts.

I added a bowl filled with the white pumpkin gourds to the dining room table. I love the simplicity of this and the fact that it doesn’t require watering or maintenance!

The top of the piano got a little pumpkin love as well along with more mixed nuts, the candles that live there and some mercury glass votives that add a little sparkle.

I created a small Fall mantle in the living room. I filled a tall vase with white pumpkin gourds and placed it alongside a vase with dried lavender from my garden and some more mercury glass votives. I like how the lavender balances the pumpkins, it also smells nice.

I spruced up the front porch as well, adding a Fall window box which includes a small mum, pumpkins and cabbages.

For the front door, I added a large mum and a new welcome mat, and by new I mean the first welcome mat I’ve ever purchased. You see we don’t use our front door on a daily basis, we come in and out of the back door, closest to our garage. And, I’ll be honest, our neighbors across the street are not my favorite. Their house could be on a episode of hoarders, and they hang out on their front porch (on the couch that lives there, no less) all the time. We stay away from the front of our house and pretend they don’t live across the street from us. As a result, my front porch has never been very welcoming. After this little addition, however, I feel like it finally looks like someone lives in our house and I’m sure the mailman appreciates the extra welcome-ness.

That’s the Fall decor tour! What about you guys? Are you crazy for Halloween decor? Do you have spider webs hanging all over and ghosts hanging from your trees? Or are you more into the Fall decor?

Butternut Squash Soup

After a dreary Fall day yesterday, today is cheery and bright with a cool breeze in the air and I can see red leaves reflecting the sun outside my window as I write this post. We are certainly in the throws of Fall and I’m loving it! I know lots of people enjoy Fall and I’m one of them who loves it more than most. I love the fresh food selection still found at the local market, warm days and cold nights, everything made of apples and the beautiful turning leaves. Now, back to the food part of Fall, I’m a soup girl, I could eat soup every day and often I do, its my food of choice for lunch, and Fall brings soup weather back. As soon as I sensed Fall was here, I ran out and bought the first butternut squash I could find so that I could make some thick and delicious soup with it. I love the savory goodness of butternut squash and how the thick soup is perfect for dipping in some bread and really sticks to your bones when you eat it. It always leaves me feeling happy and satisfied. This particular recipe is no exception.

I found this recipe while trolling Pinterest, who isn’t spending hours on Pinterest these days?! It has changed my life! Anyway, I pinned this photo:

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe comes from another food blog called The Italian Dish and I loved that it was topped with bacon bits. I knew that this small addition would win Eric’s heart when he sat down to dinner. Eric is always my biggest fan when it comes to my food but if I make something that includes a nice cut of meat or bacon, I know it will shoot to the top of his favorites list.

The soup itself was relatively simple and I put it together in about 45 minutes, and 30 of those minutes it was just simmering on the stove. To me, that’s perfect for a weeknight meal plus it made at least 3 extra bowls of leftovers that Eric and I could both eat for lunch the following day. I would also bet that a soup like this freezes very well and would suggest doubling it and freezing half for a quick and easy meal another time.

The hardest part of this recipe, in my opinion, is breaking down your butternut squash. Begin by peeling the skin off, then cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp (just like when you cut a jack o’lantern) then cut the rest of the squash into chunks. Also, chop the onion, garlic and fresh sage.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot. Saute the onions first, until they are translucent (about 5 minutes) and then toss in the garlic and sage and cook for a minute.

Add the squash cubes  and cook for 5 minutes and then add the sherry, chicken broth and cayenne pepper.

Simmer the soup over low heat, covered for about 25 minutes. Once everything is nice and soft, its time to puree! This can be done several ways, I recommend either a conventional blender or if you’re lucky like me, an immersion or stick blender. If using a regular blender, simply puree the soup in small batches and then add it to a new pot until all of it is nice and smooth. The convenience of the immersion blender is that you can puree it right in the same pot saving you time, hassle and a mess. I used to use the conventional blender and it worked fine but left me with lots of dishes to clean up. Eric bought me an immersion blender for Christmas last year and it changed my soup making life!

Here’s a shot of the blended soup:

Now add in the cream and stir to combine. I love the pretty golden color, don’t you?

While the soup was simmering, I also cooked up a few slices of bacon to top the soup with. I like making bacon in the oven, but for this small amount I just cooked it in a small fry pan on low heat until it was crispy.

Once the bacon is drained, crumble it up into small bits.

Yum. You’ll probably need to taste a bit or two, just to make sure its OK… Don’t let your family catch you tasting it, they will want to help. Then you will be left with a lot less bacon for the soup.

To serve the soup, ladle it into bowls and top with the bacon bits. I suggest serving with crusty bread or a simple sandwich.

The soup has a wonderful savory flavor and the bacon adds a bit of salty sweet that compliments the squash so nicely.

Here’s the recipe from The Italian Dish:

Butternut Squash Soup
Print
Author: The Italian Dish
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage (about 3 leaves)
  • 2 to 2-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1/8 cup sherry
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sage and saute one minute. Add squash cubes and saute 5 minutes. Add the sherry, broth and cayenne pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the pancetta in a little skillet until nicely crisped. Drain on a paper towel.
  3. Puree soup, either with an immersion blender right in the pot, or transfer to a food processor or blender. Return to pot and stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve in bowls with pancetta on top.

Update

Hello my favorite blog readers! I just sat down and checked out my last post and realized it was over a month ago, for that I apologize. What have I been doing this whole time? I’m not quite sure…I sure don’t have a job yet, and I haven’t been cooking a ton of new dishes but I guess I got a little lazy in my very boring life and watching TV or cleaning the house has taken over the time I should be spending blogging. I hope to give you some more fodder from now on.

One thing that did occupy my time last month was helping to plan a baby shower for a friend of mine and I have lots of pictures to share! I planned it with two other girlfriends of mine and volunteered to take care of all desserts. I enjoy a good dessert table more than most people and after buying the supplies to create one at my mom’s birthday party last year, I was excited to get a chance to use my containers again.

After some discussion, the theme for the party was decided to be bumblebees, in honor of the parents last name starting with the letter B. We got crafty and made a cute banner for the baby as well as some other signs and home made decorations and combined those with some cute store bought tissue pom poms and streamers. The whole house looked so cute!

The food table included veggies & dip, pumpkin dip (which was so yum!), cocktail wieners, meatballs for sandwiches and all were so delicious. I chose to make cupcakes, cookies, lemon bars and whoopie pies for the dessert table, along with some color coordinated candy. I was very happy with how everything turned out. Check out some great photos and that I didn’t take so don’t give me any credit for them!

This was my first adventure in making sugar cookies with royal icing and although they were time consuming, they might be my new favorite cookie; they were so delicious, buttery with a hint of almond and they lasted for at least a week afterward. I think I may need to do a detailed post on them come Christmas.

We chose to create small favors for the guests out of tea bags and honey sticks and I thought they turned out super cute, as well!

So, now that you know some of the things I’ve been up to, fill me in on you guys! Anyone planned or planning a fun baby shower any time soon? I can attest to Pinterest being a great source of inspiration! Have you ever made sugar cookies with royal icing? Tell me!