Pumpkin Risotto with Garlic Spinach

Several years ago, my book and supper club (ah, how I miss that!) always tried new recipes to fit the month’s theme.  One autumn month, we made pumpkin risotto with garlic spinach, and it’s a meal I’ve never forgotten.

Pumpkin-Risotto--ChaosServeI don’t have the exact recipe any longer, but this is the version I make at home.  It’s a basic risotto, just with pumpkin added, and the garlic spinach is a favorite vegetable around here.

I’m giving two preparation methods.  The traditional one I enjoy when I have the luxury of time to stand over the stove, stirring and adding, stirring and adding, while enjoying a glass of wine (hey, I have to make sure it will be good in the risotto, don’t I?).  The other, using a crock pot, is the one I usually end up making.  It tastes the same, but the texture is not quite as nice as the stovetop one.  Somedays, though, let’s face it, the convenience is worth the slightly softer texture.

Pumpkin Risotto

Serves 8

2 Tbsp butter

1 small onion, diced

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups Arborio rice

7 to 8 cup vegetable stock

1 cup pumpkin puree

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup grated Parmesan

1 cup roasted, salted pistachios

1. Place the stock in a saucepan and keep it very warm on the stove. In a large saucepan, saute the onion in the butter and olive oil until softened, 5 or 6 minutes. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until each grain begins to turn white, about 2 minutes.

2. Keeping the stock hot over low heat, add the stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the stock is almost absorbed, then adding more. Continue to add stock and stir until the rice is tender but not mushy, 18 to 20 minutes.

3. Stir in wine, pumpkin, and Parmesan and serve. Sprinkle each serving with pistachios.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Risotto

Serves 8

2 Tbsp butter

1 small onion, diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups Arborio rice

6 cups vegetable stock

1 cup pumpkin puree

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup grated Parmesan

1 cup roasted, salted pistachios

1. Combine butter, olive oil, onion, rice, and stock in crockpot. Cook on high for 2-4 hours, until rice is tender. Mine took a little over 2 hours.

2. Stir in pumpkin, wine, and cheese before serving. Sprinkle each serving with pistachios.

Garlic Spinach

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 lbs fresh spinach

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1. In very large skillet with a lid, heat oil. Saute garlic for 2 or 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add spinach, toss to coat with oil, and put lid on pan. It will take about 2 minutes to wilt. Turn off heat and add vinegar.

2. Salt and pepper as needed.


Click here for the printable version

The hooligans love risotto.  They call it rice-n-cheese because little do they know how sophisticated I’m forcing them to become!

Purse and Desk Memo Holders

I can never find a sticky note when I need one.  Probably because I “jot” everything into my phone or tablet now.  It’s hard being green and paperless somedays.  So today I’m showing you two ways to have a sticky note when you need it…a matchbook holder for your purse or totebag, and a frame for your desk or beside the phone.


This project, a matchbook post-it note holder to carry in your purse, is one of the first Make-and-takes I remember doing at a Stampin’ Up! workshop…when I was an attendee, not a demonstrator.  An “oldie but goodie,” I pulled out the directions when I found these super cute sticky notes at Target.

(This fits a 3”x3” notepad).  First, cut a piece of cardstock 3-1/8” x 9-1/2”.  Score it at 3-3/8”, 3-5/8”, and 7-1/2”. Use a border punch on the end where the score is at 7-1/2”.     .

Metchbook-foldingFold that end up and staple it.  You’re going to cover those staples with paper, so they don’t have to be lined up or anything.

Then all that’s left is to embellish it and tie some bakers’ twine around to more securely hold the tucked in part.  I printed the “Write On” in Word and punched it out.  Use Sticky Strip or glue to attach the sticky note pad inside, lining the top of it up with the second score line. Tuck the end in, and you’re finished!


These are another project that I’ve made for years, and they’re perfect as a little teacher gift.  To make them, you need a 3-1/2” x 5” acrylic frame, the kind with a foot to support them (about $1 at Walmart) and some scrapbooking paper.  Cut a piece of paper 3-1/2” x 5” and slide it into the frame.

Adhere your sticky notes with Sticky Strip or glue, tie on some bakers’ twine, and embellish as you wish.  The frame gives a little bit of an angle to write on, which is nice. These are an instant gratification project, taking only a few minutes to make, but easy to make in bulk with great results every time.

Write on, man!

Halloween Printer’s Tray

Having never made a printer’s tray before, I was a little intimidated when thinking about needing a coherent plan for each space.  I needn’t have worried…this project turned out to be one of the most fun things I’ve created lately.


The wooden tray originally held a mirror for Princess Thundercloud to decorate with glitter and jewels…a gift from her grandma…and I couldn’t just throw out the tray, now could I?  Especially when I had a can of chalkboard spray paint in my craft stash! Actually, my GI Joe painted this for me, because I didn’t want black under my fingernails when we went to Mass. He’s a boy, so it’s expected that he might be grimy.


I used some Halloween Designer Series Paper from Stampin’ Up that was from a few years ago.  You could easily print out a Halloween subway art, such as this one from Eighteen25 last year., and cut parts of it to fit instead  I spritzed it with Basic Gray Ink using the spritzer tool, which is always fun.


I actually designed this to be a card, but with the rolled back flaps, it wouldn’t be very easy to mail.  And I have that little problem of never wanting to let go of a card, anyway, so this allowed me to hang on to it for myself. I used the Googly Ghouls stamp set and Howlstooth and Scaringbone DSP from Stampin’ Up’s Holiday catalog…and I managed to use googlie eyes…yay! I forgot how much I love the Spiderweb embossing folder, too, until I wanted to spice up the background gray a bit.


To make the rosette, I cut a piece of the DSP 1-1/2” wide, then punched the edge with a Scallop Trim Border punch.  I scored it every 1/4” using my Simply Scored board, folded it accordion-style, then joined the ends.  I glued it to a cardstock circle, putting a heavy book on it to hold it until dry.  I did the same thing with a 1/2” wide strip, for the smaller center one. When they were both dry, I added a bit of tulle and a Basic Gray corduroy button.


The bat sticker is from a Jolee’s sheet I picked up on clearance last year for kid crafting, and the stacked pumpkins are from a retired Stampin’ Up! set, Twick or Tweet. It’s my favorite Halloween set ever, so I happily fit it into the tray.


This jar of spiders was an extra last week when I made other googlie-eyed projects. I decided to let the lid be off these spiders, so one could worry about them escaping.

This project was much quicker and easier to pull together than I had imagined…I’m already thinking up what the theme of the next one could be!

I’m linking this up over at Eighteen25’s Great Halloween Linkup…come over and check out all the inspiration!

Halloween Greetings

As the trees become more and more colorful, and the roadside stands full of apples and pumpkins pop up, I’ve been inspired to make Halloween cards…and because Stampin’ Up’s great “Spend $40, Get FREE Ribbon” promotion ends Sunday, 30September.  If you’re inspired to create, you can easily order the supplies, get free ribbon, and have plenty of crafting time before Halloween.  Aren’t I thoughtful?


This charming vintage-ish card uses the fabulous Howlstooth and Scaringbone DSP(Item 126906, $10.95 for set of 12 double-sided papers), along with the Greeting Card Kids stamp set(Item 120633, $15.95 for clear).  I used the sentiment from the Kidoodles stamp set (122867, $16.95)…have you checked out that set?  It has a great variety of occasions, and the illustrations are cute, but not too cute for any age.

I also added some Calypso Coral ruffled ribbon and used my Aqua Painter (a must have tool) and ink pads to color the little witch.  The sentiment was punched using the Word Window punch.

Howlstooth-and-Scaringbone DSP

This modern-style card uses the same DSP, adding the flower made of 5 punched scalloped circles, along with the ribbons.  It’ a cleaner, less fussy look.  I popped an Antique Brad in the center of the flower and stamped the sentiment using a retired hostess set, The More the Merrier.  It would be simple to print it on your computer, as well, adding the dots with a marker.

I’ve been having a lot of fun creating Halloween cards…I’m totally in the mood for candy corn and caramel apples now!  Tomorrow I’ll be showing you a Halloween printer’s tray that I made with some of the scraps from these cards…hope you check it out!

Refrigerator Bran Muffins

This recipe reminds me of my grandmother.  She didn’t make these, but she did always have pancake batter ready-made in her refrigerator.  I thought that was brilliant, since she could make me pancakes whenever I wanted.  She was an art teacher and very creative, so our pancakes were never round, but our initials, animals, or cowboys.

Oh, look at that…I’ve gone off on a tangent. Back to the recipe at hand. A friend’s mom gave me this recipe when I was in college, and it was a great one to keep in my frig back then for quick breakfasts (or face it, lunch or dinner, too!).  Since it keeps up to two months in the refrigerator, it makes a ton of muffins.

The hooligans especially like the mini size, with cheesy eggs and fresh fruit, for breakfast.  Having the batter already made means I can get them baked and on the table in nothing flat, which is always a plus on school days.


Refrigerator Bran Muffins

Yield: 5 dozen regular muffins, or enough minimuffins to feed an army

6 cups All-Bran cereal

2 cups boiling water

5 cups white whole wheat flour(I prefer King Arthur brand)

2 cups sugar

5 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup applesauce

1 cup egg substitute (or 4 whole eggs)

4 cups buttermilk

1 cup Craisins

1 cup chopped almonds (optional)

1 Tbsp dried orange zest

1. In a medium bowl, combine3 cups of the cereal and the boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes.

2. In a VERY large bowl, combine flour, sugar, soda, and salt. When well-mixed, make a well in the center and add oil, applesauce, egg substitute, and buttermilk.

3. Stir in soaked cereal, remaining dry cereal, craisins, almonds, and orange zest.

4. Place in airtight containers and store up to two months in the refrigerator.

5. To bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with papers, or spray well with cooking spray, Fill each cup ¾ full. For regular muffins, bake 20 minutes. For minimuffins, 15 minutes.

My kids love these, as did every kid at a recent Mom’s Group.  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t devour these, from Bible study groups to the GI Joe’s coworkers. Try it, you’ll like it…and it’s high in fiber and low in fat!

Click here for the printable version

Coffee (and Caring) in a Card

I admit it…I love the convenience of Starbucks’ Via coffee packs, especially since Pumpkin Spice is now available. I wanted to design a card that I could slip a packet into, just as a little pick-me-up for one of my friends. Because she has four kids, and of course she needs caffeine.

To make this, I just cut a piece of International Bazaar Designer Series Paper about 2-3/4″ x 4″, then used my paper snips to cut the border along the design.  After cutting a label with the Apothecary Accents Framelits and my Big Shot, I stamped the coffee cup and sentiment from the Morning Cup stamp set.  I sponged the edges with Early Espresso, then used a paintbrush to flick water droplets with a touch of ink.  The water also splashed on my sponged edges, which looks cool, I think.

Here’s the reason why I wanted to create and send this card to my friend. She’s an amazing woman who, two years ago today, learned her husband had been killed in combat in Afghanistan. She’s an example of strength and grace unlike any I have ever known.

I hope she’ll take the time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, since I can’t be there to force her to, but it’ll probably be in her travel mug, as she continues to provide her four young children with as near a normal childhood as she can.  Her husband was one of those larger-than-life guys, and I can’t begin to imagine the devastating effects his loss has had on his family.

All I can do is continue to pray for all of them and let her know she’s always in my thoughts. My family and I will remain eternally grateful for and remember their sacrifice, as well as that of far, far too many others like them.

Never a Autumn Week Without Pumpkins!

I couldn’t let a week go by without some sort of pumpkin post, now could I?  So I’m sharing the “recipe” for my favorite Pumpkin Chai Tea Latte.  If you’re not a tea drinker, this would work with espresso or very strong brewed coffee as well, but I really like the tea in it.

I’m normally not a disposable cup kinda girl, but I was headed to Bible study and wanted to take a drink with me. And I bought these cute to-go cups at Target back in the summer and wanted to use one. Plus, most importantly, my friend Steph gave me this fabulous cup cozy she crocheted and I like to use it as often as possible! I even used it on iced drinks this summer, to absorb the condensation. Steph’s the best!

Here’s how to make a delectable drink:

Pumpkin Chai Tea Latte

Celestial Seasonings India Spice Black Tea (1 teabag)

8 oz very, very hot water (I brew it through my Keurig)

6 oz almond milk (or whatever milk you wish)

1 Tbsp Torani Pumpkin Spice syrup

Steep the tea bag in the hot water for 5 minutes.  Heat milk in microwave for 1-1/2 minutes, until also very hot. Remove tea bag, pour in milk and syrup, and enjoy!

Jewelry from the Hardware Store

So these are probably the most frugal jewelry I have ever made. I spent $1.25 for 8 washers, then used the paper scraps and ribbons and such I already had at home. Oh, but if I give you one of these as a gift, know that the love and creativity in it are priceless!

How cool is that, I ask you?  I tell my GI Joe that I’m not going to stop showing him stuff I’ve made until he says something is “Super cute!” With enthusiasm. These warranted a “Very nice!” The enthusiasm was there, but not the wording. My super cute quest continues.

To make them, simply use circle punches to punch out paper from scrapbooking paper scraps.  These needed a 1/2″ punch for the center, and a 1-3/8″ punch for the outside. Adhere the paper to the washer using Stampin’ Up!’s Crystal Effects.  I sanded the edges, to make them look more finished.

***Update:  I’ve had some questions about a substitute for the Crystal Effects (of course, you should just order it from my Stampin’ Up website! Just kdding).  At most craft stores, you can find Glossy Accents, which is basically the same stuff. If you don’t want to support my stampin’ habit.

When the paper adhesive is dry, add a layer of Crystal Effects on top to make a solid layer of glaze.  DO NOT DISTURB THEM UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY DRY, which will take several hours.

Embellish them as you would like, with small beads, buttons, or other scrapbooking elements.  For the necklace part, I used decorative yarn (top photo), bamboo cording (second photo and photo below),  1/8″ ribbon (beaded Halloween one), and a faux leather necklace (this photo) that I have for other pendants.

You could even make a different one on the other side if you wished. Go crazy…you’ll probably never find another pendant you can make so inexpensively!

I’m linking this up over at Eighteeen 25’s Great Halloween Linkup…stop by and check out all the Halloween inspiration!



Sometimes I Like Apples, Too

I’m really not ALL about pumpkins, despite evidence to the contrary on this blog!  Apples say “Fall” to me, as well…they just don’t scream it like pumpkins do.

An apple-themed menu seemed perfect for my book club meeting last week.  Here’s what we enjoyed:


My favorite apple-shaped Sharp Cheddar and Ranch Cheeseball

This is not my photo of Toffee-Caramel Apple Dip, but it’s made the same way as this recipe from Glorious Treats. It literally takes five minutes, even including cutting up the apples!  All you do is layer softened cream cheese, then Heath bits (from the baking aisle), and drizzled caramel sauce (Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel sauce is divine).

Then, I made this:

It’s a delicious apple pie baked in a paper bag.  Really. Last fall, we ventured down to an orchard, The Elegant Farmer, in Mukwanago, WI.  They sell several different versions of the paper bag pies there, still in the bag they baked them in. We bought one, and I’m pretty sure the topping of theirs has crack in it.  It was irresistible, I tell you.  I found a recipe on line for that exact pie, but it sounded like way too much work to make two pie crusts using their special recipe, so I modified one from King Arthur Flour instead.  It may not be quite as good, but, then, I had no crack to put on top of mine.

I’m kidding, of course…I just thought the buttery streusel topping sounded wonderful, and it was.  When you get your pie assembled, slide it into a large paper bag, or make a bag from parchment paper. That’s what I did, because I am environmentally conscious and take my own bags to the grocery store. Plus, I had used the two paper bags I did have earlier in the week to recycle my newspapers and such.

Paper Bag Apple Pie

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Crust for 9” pie


  • 3 1/2 to 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced; enough to make 8 cups sliced apples…I used 7 medium-sized Granny Smiths
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons boiled cider or apple juice concentrate, optional but tasty
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Streusel topping

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into pats


1) To make the filling: Put the sliced apples in a big microwave-safe bowl, and stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, lemon juice, flour, and boiled cider.
2) Microwave the filling, uncovered, for 5 minutes. This softens the apples just a bit, and gets their juices flowing. Skip this step if you like; it’s not critical, though I think it helps.
3) Preheat the oven to 425°F.
4) Lightly grease a 9″ pie pan, preferably one that’s at least 1 1/2″ deep, and lay the crust in the pan, settling it into place gently. Don’t tug at it or stretch it; this could cause it to shrink as it bakes.
5) Spoon the filling into the crust.
6) To make the topping: Combine the sugar, flour, and butter, working them together until crumbly. Don’t over-mix; you don’t want the streusel to turn into a solid mass.I find the easiest way to make the streusel is to pulse this in the food processor.
7) Sprinkle the streusel atop the filling.
14) Place the pie in a brown paper grocery bag. If you’re nervous about baking in a paper bag, use parchment paper instead, making a bag from two sheets and stapling the sides. Secure the bag closed; staples or uncoated paper clips work well for a paper bag.
15) Bake the pie for 1 hour.
16) Remove the pie from the oven, and carefully open it, avoiding any steam. Remove the pie, and set it on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Yield: one 9″ pie, 8 to 10 servings.

 Click here for a printable version

As you can see, this is a messy, messy pie, so baking it inside the parchment bag saves your oven from a ginormous mess.  I usually put a cookie sheet on the rack below in the oven, just to be safe.  The parchment has never leaked, though, so it’s all good.

This pie may not be a prize-winner for looks, but it certainly is for taste…and once you cut it, no one will ever know what it looked like in the pan!


Argyle Halloween Wreath

I don’t usually decorate for Halloween until the beginning of October, but I was so excited to see how this idea would work out in “real life” that I had to make it last weekend. To be honest, I even went ahead and hung it on the front door.


To make it, I used some inexpensive orange and green yarn, purple felt, and some other thick colorful yarn I had in my stash from who knows when.  I marked on the foam wreath every 4” before I started wrapping, then put Sticky Strip  (or perhaps a cheaper version of it) in a single strip along the back of the wreath.  Then I just started wrapping, pressing it into the Sticky Strip as I went and making sure the wreath was fully covered.  It took me about a football game to make, which isn’t super fast, but also not too time-consuming.

When the orange and green were all wrapped, I cut diamonds out of the piece of purple felt. For a pattern, cut a piece of paper 4” x 3”, fold in half and half again, then cut diagonally to make the diamond.  You’ll see what I mean when you do it. I used some felt glue to glue them on, but the yarn will hold them, so if you don’t have felt glue, any kind will work.

Using the thick black yarn, I wrapped diagonally around the wreath, then again in the opposite way, making “x”’s.


For the sign, I used Stampin’ Up! supplies:  Labels Collection Framelits, Howlstooth and Scaringbone DSP; Basic Black cardstock; and some Halloween rubons from a couple of years ago. I’m sure you can find a creative substitute!

The hooligans think it’s super fun (yes, those were their exact words, because they always speak in unison), but the drawback?  They now think Halloween is happening immediately and spend an inordinate amount of time discussing costumes and the best place to trick-or-treat. Oh, well, at least they’re busy.