Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Happy Halloween! Hope you have a fun night with a few Tricks and lots of Treats too!

PS- It is our dog Maybee's least favorite day of the year. I wonder why....

As Snoopy (she is a beagle after all!) in 2009
As a farmer - probably her least favorite- in 2007

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

One of my most favorite things to do after carving a pumpkin is roasting the seeds. And boy, did we have a lot of seeds from four pumpkins! While this colander does not seem like it is that full, it is the biggest one I have, and it took me almost a hour to get all the seeds clean and free of goop. 

First, wash the seed thoroughly under warm water, and get rid of any orange pumpkin goop. Dry the seeds off  as best you can on paper towels, before placing on a non-stick baking sheet.

Once you transfer them onto a baking sheet, shake the baking sheet until all the seeds are evenly distributed. 

Next, let the seeds dry out even more. Sometimes I leave them overnight on top of the oven, but for sake of time, I put them out in the warm October sun for about 2 hours. 

First, preheat your oven for 350 degrees.

Next, decide what you want to top them with. In the past, I have used Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, which gives a nice salty flavor with a hit of heat. Yum! But this year, I decided to keep things simple, and sweet, especially since I have two pans full. The first pan I used Savory's Himalayan Pink Sea Salt, which gives a good salt, but not overpowering, flavor.

The second pan was the sweet stuff, using Savory's Pure Maple Sugar and Cassia Ground Cinnamon. 

I sprayed both sets of seeds with a little butter flavored PAM and then sprinkled the toppings on. 

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then, using a spatula, move the seeds around, so that the toppings can get on both sides, and you aren't browning just one side of the seed. Bake for another 10 minutes, and remove from oven. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before eating, if you like them warm, or place them in baggies like I did to give to guests or save for later. Or serve them on Halloween night for a tasty and good for you treat!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

This morning, I invited my goddaughter Kinsley and her mom Amy over, as well as our friends Katie and her daughter Bree, and Janet and her baby Max for some good old-fashioned pumpkin carving! In Florida, with the humidity, pumpkins tend to rot quickly, so I always wait until a few days before Halloween to cave them.

Since it was raining outside, I decided to use my kitchen floor as our workspace (which is where I usually carve a pumpkin by myself anyway). I first laid down some newspapers to protect the floor, and then some dollar store Halloween plastic tablecloths. I put out two bowls, one for the guts without seeds, and one for the guts with seeds that we can separate, as well as my tools.

This year, I found some tools at Michaels that worked amazingly well. The 4 in 1 knife (far left) and the pumpkin scooper (second from left). Then I had an apple corer and spoon and knife. Both tools were on sale, and were less flimsy than I has originally thought. This pumpkin scooper actually allowed me to get all the guts out of my pumpkin in 5 minutes flat - AMAZING! The spoon and knife are my usual go to tools, since I have used them for years to carve pumpkins. Use whatever works best for you.

For snacks, since I was catering to 3 year olds, I made peanut butter and blackberry jam sandwiches and cut them into pumpkin shapes with a cookie cutter. Raisins too, of course, since all 3 year olds love raisins.

And something my mom used to make for us every Halloween: Blood and Bones. Its really healthy microwave popcorn with Smart Balance butter, melted and colored with red food coloring poured over it.

I found the cutest things at Target... spider shaped silicone cupcake molds. You simply make the cake mix, pour in the mold, and bake as usual. Then top with icing and googly eye sugar candies and black glitter gel icing, and you have yourself some spider cupcakes. I also made ghosts from an old Halloween silicone baking pan I had with the leftover cake mix. They came out pretty darn cute, and yummy too!

Here is my dining room, where the girls had Halloween crafts to work on while the moms used the sharp knives, as previously seen here

Since we had to keep them occupied, I went to Michaels and found some really cute foam pumpkins and a whole box of peel and stick Halloween shapes and letters for them to decorate.

My mother, the old kindergarten teacher, also gave me a box of big crayons and some black and white photocopies of pumpkins that they could draw on as well.

The girls got right to work on their decorations, as Janet and baby Max supervised. How cute is he in his Curious George Halloween onesie?!

Here's Bree after checking in on mom Katie carving their pumpkin.   

Katie used one of the templates from the pumpkin carving book that comes with the set of mini tools. Their ghostly pumpkin came out amazing!!!

Kinsley and mom Amy had two large pumpkins to carve (I actually carved the one on the left, per Miss Kinsley's instructions), and they turned out great! One is a happy pumpkin and the other is a bit scary... a perfect combination!

And here are Amy and Kinsley with all their pumpkins. You can see Kinsley got to work and put lots of sticky foam shapes on the smaller two. I think we're all now ready for Halloween!

Hours after they left, I finally go around to carving my own pumpkin. I made her a witch (notice the mole on her nose, and spaced out gagly teeth?!). She will have a hat tonight too. 

Here she glows:

Notice the ears. I give all my pumpkins ears every year. I just like that something on the sides of the pumpkins glow too!

Now I'm ready for Halloween! Did you carve your pumpkin yet?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Obsession: Pinterest

Do you Pinterest? Even though I received an invitation months and months ago, I have not really spent a lot of time on there until recently, for fear that I would become obsessed. Well, its official. I'm obsessed.

If you would like to join in on the fun, here are ways you can:

Want an invite? E-mail me at and I will send you one!

Want to follow me? Click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Subcribe To FTH

Did you know you can receive the Forever The Hostess posts directly to your e-mail inbox? Become a subscriber to get the latest posts as soon as they are completed!

Just scroll down on the right hand side and find the SUBSCRIBE button just under my photo and information. Simply type in your e-mail address and hit submit, and the latest posts will begin to appear in your e-mail inbox. Its as easy as pie!

Subscribe today!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fresh Towels

As the nights get cooler, I love snuggling up in a blanket or in our bed and going to sleep. However, when I wake up in the morning and have to take a shower, the chill that hits me just doesn't go away.
photo from here

Recently, I was asked by Blogher to sample the Bounce Dryer Bar, and I have to tell you, as much as I hate to do laundry, this certainly makes it all the more worthwhile. And, my new found love is washing and drying towels at night and leaving them in there, and just turning the dryer on for a few minutes before I jump in the shower, so the towels are nice and warm. A warm towel after a shower on a cool morning is one great way to start the day! And the subtle but fresh scent of the dryer bar is just heavenly!

It certainly saves you from buying all those dryer sheets, or doing laundry and forgetting to throw one in to the dryer like I often do! So easy to install and replace too... it is just so easy! Thanks to Blogher and Bounce for the opportunity to try this out. I think I may like doing laundry a little bit more now!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Greek Lemon Chicken Soup

As you may remember, we visited Tarpon Springs back in September. When we ate lunch at Mykonos restaurant, we tried their Lemon Chicken Soup, which in Greek is called Avgolemono. I could not stop thinking about how good this soup would be for the early, crisp days of fall. Lemony goodness from the end of summer, mixed with a thick hearty broth that reminds you of the good fall soups. I just had to make it. And since my sister-in-law and I bought some orzo at the Greek market, it was just the thing to get me going.

After searching many recipes online and in my vintage Greek cookbook, I kind of blended recipes to make what I wanted. Here it is:

8 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Fresh Lemon juice, plus two lemons sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 can of chicken soup base (I actually used the broth from a can of chicken noodle soup I had in my pantry)
1/4 cup of butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance)
1/4 cup all purpose flour (or Wondra)
2 cups Orzo*, cooked (you can also use rice, but it is MUCH better with orzo)
8 egg yolks
1 tsp white pepper
4 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded**
Optional: 1/2 cup carrots and celery - I just don't like these in my soup!

*Bring a pot of water to a boil and add two cups of Orzo, and cook per the instructions on the package. Do not overcook the orzo, as it may cook a little once you add it back into the soup base. Drain, as instructed, and set aside until the soup base is complete.

**If you haven't made it yet, bring a pot of water to a boil and add your pieces of chicken breast. Boil on high for 10-15 minutes, or until fully cooked. On a cutting board, remove the chicken pieces and shred. Set aside until the soup base is complete.

First, combine the chicken broth, lemon juice, onions (and carrots & celery if you choose), chicken soup base, and pepper in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to low or simmer for about 20 minutes.

Next, blend the butter and flour together and gradually add the paste mixture to the soup, and stir in with a whisk. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

While that is cooking, beat the egg yolks in a bowl until they get lighter in color. With a ladle, remove some of the soup mixture, and whisk it into the egg yolks. Once you get it fully mixed, combine the egg yolks into the soup base, and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Be sure to whisk in the yolks so that they are fully combined and cooked.

Once you have done that, add in the orzo and chicken that you cooked earlier, and let simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is warm again. Ladle into bowls and top with fresh chopped Greek parsley, and serve.

This was so good that it may just become my staple for Chicken Soup when I am sick! A great way to combine the summer and fall flavors, all in one dish. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halloween Decor

Halloween is one of my most favorite holidays. Don't get me wrong, I cry after Christmas decorations are taken down, but Halloween decor is just a little more fun. I had to scale it back since our home is on the market, but I still put out some of my favorites. Take a look:

In the dining room, I used the orange material from our UF Football parties as the tablecloth. I then added the spider runners to both the table and buffet. They are from Pier 1 and I bought them last year on clearance for $5 each.The spider candle holder in the middle I found at Ross for $5 this year, and the orange glitter candles I found at Michael's, and bought with a 40% off coupon.

The back BOO wooden sign, black wrought iron candlesticks, and the spooky candle tree were all hand me downs from my mother's vast Halloween decor collection.

In my front living room, I have more of a harvest feel, since I leave most of these decorations up through Thanksgiving in November.

My favorite decorations are the light up pumpkin and gourd I bought years ago at Pier 1. You can sometimes find them around Halloween, but each store usually only gets one or two. My mother loved mine so much, she bought the same two for her house! They are just cheery and whimsical, and get me ready for Christmas lights!

This sign is a little country for me, but I found it at HomeGoods and it pretty sums up how I feel about Halloween. It should be fun and a little spooky at the same time.  I think I paid about $7 for the sign, and I bought the garland for the mantle there as well, for about $10 or less.

Halloween decor does not have to cost a fortune! Just check out the mummy project from last year. Simple elements cane keep things cheap and cute! What are some of your favorite decorations for Halloween?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Obsession: Pumpkin Quick Bread

This time of year, I make something every two weeks that literally only lasts us about 2 days: Williams Sonoma's Spiced Pecan Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread mix. I seriously stockpile these so I can make them throughout the entire fall, and the aroma that fills your house when you bake it is just heavenly!

I sometimes add cream cheese frosting to the top if I am going to serve it to guests, but my husband and I actually prefer it plain or with a little melted butter. So yummy!

I would have taken a photo of our bread, but like I said, it didn't last long! And this post is not sponsored, nor was I paid anything by WS to talk about their bread. I just seriously am obsessed!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Use What You've Got: Rustic Pasta

There are some weeks when I am scrappy in the kitchen. I look at what ingredients we have, and come up with something delicious to eat. Some days, the food is an epic failure, and usually I know it was not good when my husband has dessert or some cottage cheese after dinner. Last night, though, I really loved the flavor of what I made and will be altering this in the future, depending on what ingredients we have in the house.

Pasta (I used Whole wheat angel hair)
Garlic, miced
Fresh Tomatoes, diced
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Meat, diced (I used bacon, but any salami or sausage will do)
Italian spices
Optional: Splash of White Wine, Porcini mushrooms, grated Parmesan

I first heated about 1 Tbsp of olive oil and garlic in a deep skillet over medium heat. Next, I drained a little of the oil, and added diced bacon. I tried to keep the really fatty pieces out, so in total what you see is about four or five pieces of bacon. Turn the bacon pieces until they are browned.

While the bacon is cooking, dice two medium sized tomatoes. I also left out some of the seeds, as I wanted the tomatoes to stay chunky and not watery.

Once the bacon is browned, add the tomatoes and toss. 

Next, add whatever other ingredients you have lying around. I had dried Porcini mushrooms, so I added those, as well as some Italian seasoning. 

Next add about 4-5 Tbsp of lemon juice and a splash of white wine, and be sure to stir so that all the ingredients blend together. Simmer on medium-low so that the flavors can infuse into the lemon juice and wine.

While  it is simmering, boil a pot of water and add your pasta. I like whole wheat angel hair, but again, whatever you have in your house. Forgive the little floating green pieces in the water... I got excited with the parsley!

Here's a little trick... undercook the pasta by a minute or two. I love al dente pasta, but I even undercooked this by two minutes, so that I could add it to the sauce mixture to cook for additional time.

Once your sauce cooks down into a thicker sauce, turn the burner off or on low.

 Drain your undercooked pasta, and add it to the skillet.

Toss well and allow the pasta to sit in the sauce for another couple of minutes to soak up the juices and flavors.

Serve with a little grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy! I really loved this disk because the bacon (or any kind of meat) with the lemon juice, wine, and tomatoes really gave it that rustic Italian flavoring. The Porcini mushrooms also added a hint of richness to the dish. Definitely a great, easy dish for a cool fall night, and I can't wait to try other variations with different ingredients!