Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sweet Cream Cheese Dip (And my favorite Pumpkin Chips)

 Before I get to the recipe I've got to tell you about the awesome chips my Mom introduced me to last year. They are pumpkin chips from the Food Should Taste Good brand. Last year she brought them from Washington but I was excited to find them in our Smith's this year! And if they sell them in my little town then you're sure to find them in yours. I found them in the Natural Food section at Smith's. They are a seasonal item so don't forget to stock up too ;) Here's a picture so you can find them for yourself:

While they are delicious by themselves, a sweet dip takes them to the next level of Fall treat perfection! Luckily my mom gave me a recipe for that too.  It's super quick and easy and my kids can eat a whole bag of chips and dip in one sitting if I don't keep my eye on them.

This is a great recipe to make for parties or just because.  It can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge too. I usually serve it with pumpkin chips but it's also great with apples, pears, or cinnamon sugar pita chips. Give it a try!

Sweet Cream Cheese Dip
4 oz. cream cheese (softened)
16 oz. Cool whip*
2 tsp. Cinnamon
Nutmeg (to taste)

Place softened cream cheese in a stand mixer.  Using the wire whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the cool whip and cinnamon.  Keep mixing until smooth and creamy.  Place in serving bowl and garnish with nutmeg.  Serve with pumpkin chips, apples, pears, and/or cinnamon sugar pita chips.

*I really recommend making this with Cool whip or with homemade topping so that it stays thick! I made it with a generic brand the other day and it was way too thin even after adding extra cream cheese.  I don't always buy the name brand but this is one of those recipes where it really does make a difference!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Thirty Minute Throw Pillow

Guests coming over in a half an hour and you need some new pillows to throw out fast? I've got you covered! ;) Okay, so probably no one is having throw pillow emergencies but I decided to call these 30 minute throw pillows because they are incredibly fast to make! I'm not the greatest seamstress so I have to do most of my sewing after my kids go to bed so they don't hear my colorful language. I'm kidding of course (kind of) but I do like to know if I can finish a project in one night and with these pillows the answer is yes!  It's a great way to spend an evening, especially if you're a baseball playoffs widow like I am.

A few weeks ago we got new couches and I needed some new pillows to go with them.  After looking for awhile and not finding what I wanted I decided to try making some!  I bought this fabric and several others from Hobby Lobby and got to work.  I was so excited with the results I decided to up my game for this blog post.  First I took step by step photos and second I added a cool font to my picture.  Both Neighbor Julia firsts! I'm finally catching up with the rest of you bloggers out watch out! My readership is ready to shoot right up to 15 or 16!

But seriously, give these pillows a try! The possibilities are endless.  Different Fabrics, differenct sizes, different holidays, etc.  It's all straight lines and you flip right side out at the end so none of the seams are even visible. If I can do it, so can you! Have fun!

Thirty-Minute Throw Pillows
What you need (makes two 18" pillows):
1 yrd. thick durable fabric (I used patterned duck fabric from the home decor section)
1 large bag of pillow stuffing (I used ultra plush polyester fiber...pictured below)
thread to match your fabric (you'll use it in your machine but also to hand stitch the end closed)
fabric cutting mat and roller

How to do it:

Fold your fabric in half length wise with the printed side facing in.  Using a rotary cutter, cut a square that is 18 1/2 in. by 18 1/2 in. (So now you'll have two squares facing each other...a front and back of a pillow that are already perfectly lined up)

Pin fabric in place so that your corners all stay lined up.  

Begin sewing fabric together making sure to back stitch about one inch at the beginning to make sure the corners will hold together.  I actually back stitch two or three times at each corner just because I know my kids are going to be making forts out of these things and throwing them at each other. I made my seam about 1/4 in. from the edge of the fabric (so you'll end up with an 18 in. square pillow at the end). I tried to capture this in the photo...but when you come to a corner I usually stop while the needle is still through the fabric.  Then just lift the guider foot up and rotate your fabric to the next side while the needle holds it in place. Now you're ready to sew the next side.

Continue sewing until you get to the last side.  Finish sewing the last side leaving a 2 inch gap at the end of the pillow.  Make sure to back stitch to prevent the thread from pulling out in the next step.

Using the 2 inch hole that you left in the pillow turn the fabric right side out.  Gently push the fabric through the hole until it's totally right side out. Right now you may be cursing yourself for leaving such a small opening.  But trust me...when it comes time to hand stitch it closed you'll be thanking me. 

Lay the fabric out flat, making sure to fully extend the corners. Look it almost looks like a pillow now! You're so close!

Find your two inch gap again. and open it as wide as it will go.

Now it's time for stuffing the pillow! It's really easy but takes the most time of this whole process. This step can be best done while watching Call the Midwife or Gilmore Girls...just FYI. Above is a pic of what I used to fill my pillows. I highly recommend it!

Fill the pillow with the polyester fiber.  You'll want to fill it more than you think it needs because over time it will lose some of its plushness. I used half of the bag for each pillow.

Now just hand stitch the corner up really well and you've got yourself a pillow! Congratulations! You did it! Now use the rest of your fabric and repeat the steps to make a matching set.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Bread Pudding w/ Caramel Pecan Sauce

After trying and trying to get a good picture of this recipe, I've decided bread pudding is one of those things that tastes better than it looks!  We had this recipe while we watched conference this year and it was delicious.  We usually have monkey bread and my kids were pretty nervous about the change but they all loved it (because both recipes are basically bread soaked in sugar).  It would be great for a party or brunch.  It served a lot of people because you can eat about two bites before you're full. It would also make a nice tradition for Christmas morning or another holiday because once you see how much butter goes in it you probably won't want to eat it more than once a year! 

I found the recipe at Flavor Mosaic. Her pictures look amazing too. So if you're not already sold on making this, go give it a look and you'll be craving it. I basically left the recipe as is except to add more cinnamon and to decrease the sauce ingredients a let the pumpkin flavor shine through! I love pumpkin season!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding w/ Caramel Pecan Sauce
1 loaf french bread (day old works well)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T. butter (melted)
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

3/4 cup butter (unsalted)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans