what I wore to teach writing camp

I was delighted to teach a special one-day winter break session of my youth writing camp this past weekend! It was so much fun. I always come away from teaching creative writing sessions thinking, “I hope my students had even half as much fun as I did!” šŸ™‚

When deciding upon what to wear to teach writing camp, I tried to come up with an outfit that was:
1) fun
2) professional, and
3) warm {it was cold by California standards this weekend!}

Inspired by Deme at Fresh Coat of Paint, I ended up layering a sweater underneath a pretty summer dress and pairing it with tights and flats. I also added some sparkly jewelry and a flower barrette for extra flair.

writing camp outfit

Here’s a back view:

writing camp outfit

I was pleased with the outcome! I think the pop of bright blue made for a cheerful and inviting look, which is great when working with young people and trying to establish and open, fun and safe classroom environment. {And I’m linked up at Fine Linen & Purple, woo hoo!}

I was really excited to find these babies at the grocery store yesterday:

pumpkin marshmallows

PUMPKIN MARSHMALLOWS!!

I used them to make a pumpkin-y batch of my rice krispies treats, which I brought to writing camp as a snack for the kids. They gobbled them up! The pumpkin marshmallows are a nice seasonal change from regular marshmallows. Highly recommended!

rice krispie treats pumpkin

Hope your day is going wonderfully!

-Dallas

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You might also enjoy these posts:

what I wore to thanksgiving dinner
what I wore to see “the nutcracker”
rice krispies treats with m&ms

marvelous monday: grocery store surprises

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope your Thanksgiving weekend wrapped up well and that you made it home safe if you were celebrating out of town. I am happy to report that Mike and I arrived back safely in Lafayette last night, with enough time to hit up the grocery store, do a bit of work, watch an episode of Arrested Development, put all of our clean laundry away {thanks, Mike’s mom, for letting us do laundry in your lovely machine instead of having to trek to the quarter-eating machines in our apartment complex!} and even put up a few Christmas decorations. The wreath is on our door and my mini tree is on display!

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that add a big smile to your day. I love surprises, and one of my favorite things is to discover a new treat when I’m browsing the grocery store. Look what I found last night:

PUMPKIN SPICE ENGLISH MUFFINS!

I know we are transitioning from autumn into winter, but I remain pumpkin-obsessed. And I’m okay with that!

I enjoyed every bite of a pumpkin spice English muffin for breakfast, half smeared with chocolate peanut butter and the other half with regular peanut butter. I can’t decide which topping I like better. I also want to try cream cheese. I might have to eat another one for a snack later to do further research! šŸ˜‰

What grocery store finds have you been delighted with lately? Anyone else still obsessed with pumpkin?

Have a marvelous day!
-Dallas

chocolate-chip pumpkin pancakes

I can’t believe how fast the weekend has flown by! As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” and I’ve been having a super-fun time with my incredible brother in town. {Time also flies when you’re taking a timed test with only 240 minutes to answer 230 obscure literature and poetry questions … but in a different way.} <–SO glad to be done with the GRE test! šŸ™‚

This weekend we’ve given Greg a tour of West Lafayette, including:

  • our favorite restaurants {Nine Irish Brothers! Lafayette Brewing Co!}
  • an epic evening of pinball at Main Street Amusements {Greg is a pinball wizard}
  • a really imaginative and gripping play called “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” presented by the National Theatre of Scotland through Purdue Convocations
  • many episodes of New Girl {I guess this isn’t limited to West Lafayette, but it’s been a fun part of the weekend!}
  • a tour of Purdue’s campus and a walk across the bridge from West Lafayette into Lafayette
  • laughing so hard tears have streamed down my face
  • fresh-baked cookies from Insomnia Cookies, an adorable late-night cookie shop close to Purdue’s campus
  • and a basketball game this afternoon, where Purdue soundly defeated Hofstra {boiler UP!}

Greg is coming with me tomorrow to school, where he’s giving a presentation on social entrepreneurship to my classes. {He’s the founder of a nonprofit organization called Give Running — learn more about it here!} I’m so excited to show him off to my students.

For the finale of pumpkin week, I have a delicious lazy Sunday morning recipe to share with you: pumpkin chocolate-chip pancakes!

pumpkin chocolate-chip pancakes

– 1 tsp butter
– 1 cup pancake mix
– 3/4 cup water
– 1/4 cup pumpkin
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– handful of chocolate chips

1. Stir together pancake mix, water, pumpkin, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract. Let batter rest for a couple minutes.

2. Heat skillet to medium-low and grease with a little butter.

3. Drop 1/4 cup batter into pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Cook until batter starts to bubble in the middle, then flip over and cook about 3-4 minutes on the other side.

Serve warm and melty, with syrup if desired!

Hope your weekend was wonderful! Thanks for joining in with me on this week of pumpkin recipes — I had so much fun!

Here’s a recap if you missed anything:

pumpkin spice oatmeal
pumpkin oatmeal cookies
savory pumpkin and kale stew
pumpkin pasta
perfect pumpkin pie

Goodnight!
-Dallas

perfect pumpkin pie

Happy weekend, everyone! Sorry that I didn’t get a pumpkin recipe up yesterday … with Greg coming into town and my GRE test this morning, it kind of slipped by the wayside. But I’m happy to report that Pumpkin Week is back today!

I shared in a post last month that I made a delicious pumpkin pie … and that I also made a disaster of a pumpkin pie! Seriously, it was pretty gross. It never seemed fully cooked, so I kept putting it back in the oven for longer and longer, and then the top started to kind of peel away from the rest of the {still-uncooked-seeming} pumpkin mixture. Imagine a creme brulee or pudding sort of thing happening, only on pumpkin pie.

Not. Good.

I was so disheartened I didn’t even take pictures of it. The bad embarrassed blogger in me just tossed it into the trash. I wish now I would have taken pictures so I could have shown it to you. {Thanks to Bonnie at Recipes Happen for encouraging all of us to embrace our mistakes, laugh about them, and learn from them!} Alas, I did not take pictures, so you’ll just have to imagine it and take my word that it was baaaaad.

Here’s what I think happened: I tried substituting truvia for the sugar, and something about that mixture didn’t work out. I don’t know if I added too much of it, or too little, or if just my pie happened to be unlucky, or what. Have any of you tried baking with a sugar substitute like truvia or splenda? Any tips or advice? As you know, I’m always trying to find ways to make recipes healthier! But maybe sometimes, like in the case of pumpkin pie, it’s best to stick with the basics. šŸ˜‰

I’ve also tried making pumpkin pie with both evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, and I must say that I like the sweetened condensed version better. It’s a little creamier texture-wise, and has a good balance of sweetness and pumpkiny goodness. My latest experiment has been trying reduced fat sweetened condensed milk, which I’m happy to report tasted just as delicious with fewer calories! Hooray for small victories.

In the past I’ve always used pre-made graham cracker crust from the grocery storeĀ  but in the future I’m hoping to try making my own graham cracker crust {or even my own graham crackers after being inspired by this post by Jill at Reini Days!} I’ll keep you posted! I also am very generous with spices, particularly cinnamon. If you’re not the biggest cinnamon fan, you might adjust the spices to fit your tastes.

perfect pumpkin pie

– 1 graham cracker crust {I like the reduced fat version just fine}
– 1 can pumpkin
– 1 can reduced fat sweetened condensed milk
– 2 eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp cloves
– 1/2 tsp ginger
– 1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Combine pumpkin with spices and vanilla.

3. Beat eggs and add to pumpkin mixture.

4. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat well.

5. Pour pie filling into graham cracker crust.

6. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Serve with whipped cream on top for the perfect pie experience!

YUM! I love pumpkin pie.

I’m in the mood for celebrating now that my GRE exam is over … hooray for the weekend! šŸ™‚ Hope you are having a wonderful day!

-Dallas

pumpkin pasta

Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m in a super happy mood because my brother Greg is arriving this evening for a long weekend visit! I’m leaving right after I finish teaching to go pick him up at the airport. I am sooooo excited to see him! šŸ™‚

I have another new recipe to share with you today for pumpkin week! I made this last night after seeing a recipe on AllRecipes.com that compared this sauce to “inside-out pumpkin ravioli” … I’ve never had pumpkin ravioli but it sounds really delicious. So I thought I would give this pumpkin pasta sauce a whirl. And I’m so glad I did! It was even better than I expected.

I was starving when I got home from school this evening {a little later than usual because I had a meeting after class for Sycamore Review, the literary magazine I work for} so I discovered an added bonus of this recipe: it comes together pretty quickly! I made the sauce while the pasta was cooking, and the entire thing was ready to eat in about 15-20 minutes.

pumpkin pasta

– 1 package noodles of your choice {I used whole-wheat spaghetti; I think penne would also be delicious}
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp flour
– 1 small onion, diced
– 1 tbsp minced garlic
– 1 zucchini, diced
– 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
– 1/2 cup skim milk
– 1 cup pumpkin puree
– 1 tsp onion powder
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp chili powder
– 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
– salt & pepper to taste
– grated Parmesan cheese to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

2. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large pot and saute onion, garlic and zucchini. Add flour and stir to make a rue.

3. Add the chicken broth, milk, and pumpkin. Stir together until well blended.

4. Add the onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt and pepper.

5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until sauce reaches desired thickness.

6. Drain the pasta. Add sauce to the drained pasta, and toss with the Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

I served mine with fresh baked French bread. It was the perfect complement to the pasta and I loved mopping up the sauce at the bottom of my bowl with the warm bread. {Something I wouldn’t do in a restaurant, but at home it seems okay!} šŸ™‚

Hope your week is going great! Tomorrow, I’ll have a classic pumpkin recipe for you to wrap up the work week: pumpkin pie!

-Dallas

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– Time: 20 mins
– Cost: about $8

pumpkin week: savory {and easy!} pumpkin & kale stew

Whew, what a night! After a whirlwind election day, I was in the mood for something simple for dinner.Ā  When I saw this recipe for savory pumpkin and kale stew on one of my favorite cooking blogs The Pajama Chef, I thought it would be the perfect dish to try as part of my pumpkin week series!

I must admit, I had never had pumpkin soup before and was a little skeptical, but after reading Sarah The Pajama Chef’s rave reviews, my curiosity won out and I decided to try out the dish myself!

This soup turned out absolutely delicious. It’s hearty thanks to the chicken and veggies, creamy thanks to the pumpkin and dash of cream, and very flavorful. It just tastes like autumn — warm and comforting. And it’s super healthy with the kale, carrots, and Vitamin-A-filled pumpkin!

{Here is my recipe, modified a little from the one I found on The Pajama Chef}

ingredients:

– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 small onion, diced
– 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– freshly ground black pepper
– 4 cups chicken broth
– 1 & 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
– 2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
– 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
– 3-4 leaves kale, chopped {about 2-3 loosely packed cups}
– 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
– 2 tablespoons half and half

1. In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic, and season with black pepper. Saute for about 5-6 minutes or until soft and translucent.

2. Next, add chicken broth, pumpkin, black beans, chicken, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir until combined, then cover and bring to a boil. {Sarah’s original recipe includes adding a can of stewed tomatoes as well, which I’m sure would be delicious. I took the tomatoes out of my recipe because Mike is allergic.}

3. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add kale and sage, and cook for another minute or two.

5. Stir in half and half and serve immediately.

This meal was a winner for me and I will definitely be making it again! And I’m already looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow. šŸ˜‰

What are some of your favorite stew and soup recipes? Have you ever made pumpkin or butternut squash soup?

Till tomorrow,
-Dallas

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– Time: about 30 mins
– Cost: less than $10

election day pumpkin oatmeal cookies

Happy election day! Have you voted yet? If you haven’t, before you read any more of this or do anything else, please go out and vote! I think this picture one of my friends posted on Facebook says it well:

After a cold rainy weekend, we have been having beautiful sunshine here in Indiana yesterday and today, and I am trying to soak up every golden ray! It’s still cold enough to layer up with comfy sweaters, boots and scarves–my favorite fall fashion staples. I remember when I lived in California, I always wished it would get cold enough to layer up in autumn clothing. Now my cozy knitted goods are getting plenty of use, that’s for sure!

I’m loving Pumpkin Week so far and have a delicious recipe to share with you today: pumpkin oatmeal cookies! I tweaked these cookies to use up some leftover Halloween candy after I was inspired by this post on the Bon Appetit website that recommends topping oatmeal cookies with candy corn before baking. However, I think these cookies would be perfectly delicious without the candy corn, too, or with chocolate chips, nuts, or even dried cranberries. This is a good base recipe to experiment with!

pumpkin oatmeal cookies

– 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 cup pumpkin
– 3/4 cup oats
– 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
– butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, candy corn, or desired toppings!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the pumpkin.

3. In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Batter will be thick!

5. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheet. If desired, add chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, or candy corn toppings.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.

These are perfect served warm from the oven with a big glass of milk! šŸ™‚ Do you know of any good recipes for using up leftover candy corn or other Halloween candy? I’d love if you would share them in the comments section.

Have a wonderful day! And please, get out to the polls and vote!!

-Dallas

marvelous monday: pumpkin week!

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? I had one of my favorite types of weekend: cozy at home, laid-back, while also productive. {Or, as my brother calls it, “tcb-time: taking care of business!”} I am taking the GRE Subject Exam in literature next weekend and spent a good chunk of time studying for the test using a study guide I got from the Princeton Review, which is amazingly helpful and has actually been cracking me up quite a bit with the authors’ witty jabs and digs at the test. {Mike probably thinks I am going crazy from too much studying when he looks over and sees me giggling over my test book.} If you or someone you know is studying for the GRE or a GRE Subject Exam, I’d highly recommend their study guides!

Another reason I am feeling so jazzed this morning: my brother is coming to visit on Thursday! He’s staying for a long weekend and I am SO excited to see him. He is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met and has been my best friend since he was born and I was two and a half years old. šŸ™‚ I feel really blessed that we are so close and that he still wants to spend time with his big sister. I am going to be on pins-and-needles driving to the airport after class on Thursday afternoon!

Greg and me at his college graduation this past May. I’m so proud of him!

As we transition from October into November, I had a realization: Halloween might be over, but I am *SO* not done with pumpkin yet! I feel like I haven’t even begun to take advantage of this marvelous squash in my autumn cooking. So, this week on the blog, I bring to you Pumpkin Week! Every day I’ll post a new pumpkin recipe, spanning all meals of the day. I’m hoping this week will motivate me to try all these pumpkin recipes I’ve stored up {like this amazing list from Two Peas & Their Pod} and might also inspire you to try some new recipes yourself!

Today we start with breakfast. I was inspired by Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers to work some pumpkin goodness into my morning batch of oats. It was easy and delicious — like having a healthy version of pumpkin pie to start the day off right! Plus, I love oatmeal on cold winter days. It warms my belly and just gets me into a happy mood.

pumpkin spice oatmeal

– 1/2 cup oats
– 1/3 cup milk {I like vanilla rice milk, but soy milk, almond milk, or just plain old dairy milk would all work}
– 1/4 cup pumpkin
– 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
– 1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and stir together. Microwave for 2-3 minutes {depending on your microwave’s power} until desired consistency. I like my oatmeal pretty thick; my mom loves hers watery. It’s a preference thing!

Enjoy warm. Add more cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice as desired. YUM!

What are some of your favorite pumpkin recipes? I’m looking forward to sharing more with you tomorrow. Hope you have a marvelous day!

-Dallas šŸ™‚

happy halloween! :)

Hi everyone! Hope you are having a spook-tacular Halloween today! Halloween is Mike’s favorite holiday so we have been celebrating all week month long with pumpkin decorations, listening to Halloween Pandora stations, watching ghost-hunting TV shows and scary movies {that I try not to pay too close of attention to … I am a total wuss when it comes to creepy/scary things!} and of course lots and lots of pumpkin-inspired food. {I will be sharing some of my favorite pumpkin recipes next week for a special Pumpkin Week on this blog — stay tuned!}

Do you like my ghost design?

My Halloween started off on a wonderful note last night when I came home to a package on my doorstep … and when I opened it up, I found the most beautiful bouquet of autumn flowers that my dad had sent to me for Halloween! It was such a sweet surprise! My dad always makes me feel so special and loved. I am a very lucky daughter. Now I get a huge smile on my face every time I look across the living room and see them on the table, brightening up the room!

Today I celebrated by making Halloween-themed cupcakes that I took in as treats for my freshmen students. {As I shared this summer, I tend to grow quite fond of my students and have a tendency of spoiling them with homemade baked goods.}

The best part about these cupcakes is the homemade chocolate frosting. I found the recipe on AllRecipes.com and tweaked it a little bit to use less butter but still taste rich and creamy. This frosting is a guaranteed way to make a box-mix cupcake taste gourmet and super special! These cupcakes could be decorated for any holiday or special occasion. I chose to decorate mine with candy corn for Halloween.

yellow cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting

– 1 box yellow cake mix {I just used the Kroger brand that was on sale for $1}
– 3 eggs
– 1 & 1/3 cup water
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil or applesauce
– 1/3 cup butter or margarine
– 1/4 cup cocoa powder
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
– 4 tbsp half-and-half
– 1 small package candy corn

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cupcake tin with liners and set aside.

2. Bake cupcakes according to package directions. I combined my yellow cake mix with the eggs, water, and oil and beat with a whisk until the ingredients were well combined and the batter was smooth.

3. Fill each cupcake tin 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. While cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Turn off the burner. Add cocoa powder and mix well; then stir in vanilla extract and cinnamon.

5. Pour sugar in to a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and the milk and stir until the frosting is smooth and creamy. It will be thick! You can add more milk or half-and-half if you would like it to be thinner.

6. Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost each one with a generous amount of chocolate frosting.

7. Stick 3-4 candy corn pieces into each cupcake so their tops stick out decoratively.

Here they are all packed up and ready to go for my students!

Inspired by Deme at Fresh Coat of Paint to make use of what you have, I used a striped shirt and vest I already owned to dress up as a pirate. Anyone else using what they already have to dress up? Anyone make a homemade costume? One of my favorite-ever costumes was when I was a little girl, maybe four or five years old, and my dad helped me hand-paint cardboard butterfly wings that we tied to my shoulders with pink shoelaces. It didn’t cost us a single penny and I had so much fun preparing my costume, and when I wore it trick-or-treating I felt like the prettiest little butterfly! I still remember it vividly to this day. One of my favorite parts of Halloween is seeing all the creative, innovative and funny costumes!

Ahoy, matey!

Hope you are having a wonderful Halloween full of creative costumes, fun activities, and yummy treats! What are you doing to celebrate today?

-Dallas

marvelous monday & happy october! baked cinnamon-sugar donut holes

There has been a briskness in the air lately that feels just. so. autumn! It’s lovely. It makes me want to curl up under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. {If you’re looking for a good book, I’ve been devouring Elizabeth Berg’s novels lately … I fell in love with her novels Durable Goods and Joy School back in high school, and she is an author I can always return to and feel like, YES, she gets it — this is why I want to be a writer, this is what I want my books to do for people! I nearly always have at least one good, full-hearted cry while reading her books, and I always feel sad to finish them because I don’t want to leave her characters. I’m reading Open House right now and it is wonderful!}

But, yes, back to autumn … I was thrilled when Maria at Two Peas & Their Pod put together this fantastic list of 50 pumpkin recipes! I found myself checking off every one: yes, I want to make that; ooh, that looks delicious; yes, that one, too! Like a kid in a toy store a week before Christmas: I want them all! šŸ™‚

One of the recipes that immediately caught my attention was baked donut-holes. I’m always looking for a way to health-i-fy things. Hmmm, homemade baked donut holes? Why not give it a whirl?

I am SO glad I did! They are pretty much mini-muffins, but roll them in cinnamon-sugar and they do taste like donut holes. These are pumpkiny, cinnamon-sugary, and perfect for autumn. Make them for breakfast and eat them warm from the oven with a big glass of milk!

baked cinnamon-sugar donut holes

ingredients:

For the Donuts:
1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned plain pumpkin {not pumpkin pie filling}
1/2 cup skim milk

For the Coating:
4 tsp unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with baking spray and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. In a separate, large bowl whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

3. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. While the muffins bake, melt butter in one bowl and combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in another bowl.

6. Remove muffins from oven and cool for 2 minutes. Dip each muffin in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar to coat. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature.

{This recipe is adapted from The Craving Chronicles.}

YUM. And easy! And {for a donut} relatively healthy, too! Hard to beat that. šŸ™‚

Happy autumn!
-Dallas

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Time spent: about 30 minutes
Cost: about $5