Friday, October 29, 2010

Trip to Trax

The Pumpkin Party is no mere gathering.  It's an event that spans the better part of the afternoon and carries on well into the evening.  And it all starts with a trip to Trax.

Trax Farms is, as one of my friends described it, like, "the Farmer's Market and Disney World combined!"

There is literally TONS to see and do at Trax Farms.  All in all, Trax covers about 325 acres of land and boasts a sales space of about 85,000 square feet!  Under it's roof, the barn hosts a wine shop, antique loft, fresh produce, a deli, a bakery (which is always bursting with yummy delights), a HUGE gift shop with tons of wonderful seasonal flare, a greenhouse, a nursery, and a grocery section to boot!

Beautiful, purple pears

Perdy potatoes

In the grocery section, we admired the gigantic broccoli.  
It didn't take long before they became bouquets.

The grocery houses a variety of specialty coffee flavors such as "Cinna-bun" and "Pumpkin Spice," which are fun to sniff whether you're just passing through or buying some to enjoy with breakfast.  There's also a glass inclosed beehive where you can see the busy little black and yellows working away.  Their lovely, golden nectar is available for sale right there too.

This time of year, there are caramel and candy covered apples around every corner and the smell of freshly popped kettle corn, made right before your eyes in a huge drum, hits your nostrils before you make it two feet outside.

Kettle Corn:  before 
(look at the size of those bags!)

Kettle Corn:  middle

Kettle Corn:  after (Just look at em'.  They grow up so fast)

Once you cross the threshold to the outdoors, not only your sense of smell but also your site is mesmorizingly assaulted by the vision of every colored mum you could ever imagine and giant mounds of bright, orange pumpkins piled sky high with tons of kids scurrying and stumbling over their surface.

Many a family sat amongst the pumpkins posing for what would undoubtedly become a very festive, Fall card.  My friends and I were no exception.  Such ripe, picture taking opps cannot go un siezed…

Trax Farms is a wonderful way to spend a day whether you intended to do it up BIG and ride the hayride to the pumpkin patch before photos in the pumpkin piles, or just wander through with a group of friends, smelling and seeing, taking in all that Fall has to offer.

My girlfriends and I did just that.  Each woman took great care in selecting the perfect pumpkin.

The beautiful Emily with her pick.

Lucia with her lovely.

Amanda with her pumpkin that's practically as big as her.

We made our purchases (some ladies grabbed a bottle of wine, a specialty cheese, or a bag of flavored coffee) and headed back to my home for the remainder of the nights events.

All in all, Trax was the perfect destination to kick-off the Pumpkin Party.  Come back soon as, there is still tons more to share about the food and festivities of this funderful event.

Here's a few additional pics from our trip to Trax… 
because I want you to feel like you were there!

Warty pumpkins… strange… very strange

These were pretty crazy looking

Ummm… Butternut Squash!  You know I'm a fan!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


That's right.  Unabashedly.  I will unabashedly proclaim that, "I LOVE toasted PUMPKIN SEEDS!"

It's one of the reasons I love having people over to carve up pumpkins.  These gorgeous little beauties are just waiting on the inside to fulfill their crispity, crunchity destiny.

A sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar makes for a delicious treat.
And the standard salted variety is a no brainer when it comes to pleasing a crowd.  I have been known to sprinkle a little paprika, and, even a little cayenne pepper on my little seeds when I'm feeling especially adventurous during pumpkin season.

Basically, this is one tradition that I unabashedly embrace and particularly enjoy.

I love the slippery, slimy way the seeds feel after you've rinsed as much of the gunk off as possible.  I like the way they look all spread out in my cookie sheet.  I love the way they smell as the oven roasts them up; the toasted scent that wafts from the kitchen into the rest of the house beckoning me to pinch a few right out of the pan to test and see if they are of the perfect crispiness.

Below you'll find the recipe I used to toast some of my trappings from the Pumpkin Party .

Pumpkin Seeds with Paprika, Cayenne, & Salt:
Clean crud from seeds.  Spray cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray.  Pour a layer of pumpkin seeds to evenly cover cookie sheet.  Spray seeds with olive oil cooking spray.  Sprinkle seeds with salt, then cayenne (so you can see how much you're putting on there since paprika looks very similar), then paprika.  Toast seeds for 30-35 minutes in oven at 325.  Seeds should be crunchy and just slightly browned when they're ready.



Monday, October 25, 2010

Brown Sugar Pulled Pork

It's hard to know where to start when talking about The Pumpkin Party… there were so many wonderful women, tons of delicious food, and, when it was all said and done, everyone walked away with a carved pumpkin under their arm and goody bags full of the nights delights such as toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin spiced caramel corn (recipes to come!).

But, we have to start somewhere.  So, I figured I'd start with the dish that had the most universal appeal.

That dish -  Brown Sugar Pulled Pork.

Now, if you've been following this blog at all you know I don't really eat meat.  But, when I considered my menu for the evening I knew I wanted to offer my guests a meat option.

I knew I wanted to offer a meat option at the Pumpkin Party and I also knew I wanted there to be something exciting, or, unexpected about the taste… I wanted something in the flavors to evoke and speak to the rest of the spices I was going to use in all the night's dishes.

Spices are such wonderful, transformative things and their power is not something I take lightly.  Since my cooking aptitude is the least developed in the area of animal flesh, I turned to the best source I knew to help me harness this great power for good.

Enter, the talented and endlessly fascinating, Chef Luke Cypher.
You may remember him from an earlier post, Reverse Bruschetta.  

This recipe came right from his beautiful brain and was an absolute hit!  Many ladies took home leftovers to share with their men and, while gobbling down a bit today, my husband said, "I could eat this every day."  Yep.  It's hungry man approved and hungry girl approved because there wasn't a soul present who wasn't pleased with their pulled pork portion.

So, for those of you who are meat lovers, get ready to have an affair with a guaranteed party pleaser.  An added bonus to this dish is the fact that you can put it in a crock pot and then walk away… you'll find this is something I really appreciate in my food.  The less I have to coddle it to mature it to great tasteness, the more I love it… cherish it… and enjoy it so.

So, without further adieu, I give you, courtesy of the marvelous Chef Luke Cypher, the recipe for Brown Sugar Pulled Pork:

3-5 lbs pork shoulder
salt and pepper, as needed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
water to cover

Rub pork shoulder with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cinnamon.  Sear in a hot skillet till all siders are brown.  Transfer pork shoulder to crock pot with brown sugar and enough water to cover roast by half.  Turn to high and cook for 6-8 hours until pork is fork tender.  Once pork is done, remove from liquid and shred the meat.

When I stored my leftovers, I poured a generous amount of the liquid over top the remaining meat so that it would still be nice and moist when I went to reheat it.  I would guess at least 3-4 cups worth of the liquid, but, this will depend on how much meat you're storing.

With so many family get togethers and holidays around the corner, I hope many of you will try this wonderful dish.  The sweetness of the brown sugar warms your home with it's delicate scent and it's just such a great way to feed many with one slab of meat.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Day of Rest...

The Pumpkin Party was absolutely AH-MAY-ZING!

Today, I recovered.  Tonight, I recoup.  Tomorrow, I will share.  I'll share lots of fun pics and throughout the week recipes that, along with my wonderful friends, made the evening oh, so sweet.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Party Preview

Here's a teeny, tiny 
preview of much more pumpkin fun to come!

To learn about my kitchen chalkboard wall, visit for more details and pictures! 

It is Here! It is Here! It is Here!

The Pumpkin Party is Today!

The pork is slowly cooking in the crock.  The pumpkin muffins are snuggled together awaiting their debut on the tower.  The icing is prepped.  The veggies chopped.  Many a spice has been sprinkled… cinnamon, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, onion powder, paprika… I could go on and on!

My house already smells AH-MAY-ZING!  And by dinner tonight, I've no doubt, the whole party will be an aromatic delight!

I promise this is NOT the biggest tease ever.  I will have plenty of pictures of our pumpkiny adventures.

But, for now, the preparations are officially in overdrive.  I always have these romantic ideas of having everything done the day before so that on the day of I can just chill, relax, and go get my nails done or something.  HA!  Well, that's soooo not the case.  But, with my wonderful husband helping me "double team" the stuff that's left to be done and under the influence of my bold Columbian brew, I'm confident that I'll be able to enjoy the pumpkin party AND take tons of pictures to share with you!


Friday, October 22, 2010

In Full Swing

Preparations for the Pumpkin Party, which is TOMORROW, are in full swing.

Cleaning the house
Getting the food
Printing off stencils
Prepping the food

It's all very exciting.  I can't wait.  Many posts and pictures to come covering the festivities.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Food for Thought: The Easiest Choices are the Hardest to Make

Sometimes it just seems the easiest choices are the hardest to make.

You sit down to lunch and the server asks, "What would you like to drink?"

You immediately know that water is the best choice to make but, the Coke on the page almost seems to be written in bold, black ink and, from the back of your brain, it seems to call out to you in a breathy whisper, "Pick me.  Pick me."

"I'll have a wha…" you begin before trailing off gently.  You already feel a pang of guilt in the pit of your stomach.  Not because having a Coke is some kind of sin but because, for you, the decision you're about to make is really not as healthy as you want to be and it could create a domino effect for the rest of your day.

"COKE!  I'll have a Coke," you blurt followed by a bit of an uncomfortable chuckle.

Now, I'm so not trying to vilify soft drinks or imply that something as simple as a soda is going to ruin an otherwise healthy day but, it does seem to me that, we so quickly sabotage our efforts, most of the time, one tiny little choice at a time.

"I'll have the side salad with dressing on the side," instead of the loaded baked potato, or, pack your lunch instead of eating out every day if you know it will increase your chances of eating a well balanced,  reasonably portioned meal.  

These are all easy choices but hard to make when we're in the habit of rewarding ourselves for making healthy choices for say… the majority of the day or something.  Basically, what I'm trying to say is, don't self sabotage on the easy stuff.  At first, maybe you do sit through your lunch, wishing you had ordered that soda.  But, by the time you're walking away, I bet you'll be glad, maybe even relieved that you made the healthiest, best choice for your body.  

Oh, and P.S., if you're dwelling on that Coke during you're meal, after your meal, and on into the afternoon… like, you're seriously missing it, that should pretty much confirm that you have an unhealthy attachment to that food.  (There's no judgement here.  I can only say this cuz I've sooooo been there…)

Ultimately, I want to encourage.  Know that you really can effect a huge health difference by making small, easy choices, every single day, at every single meal that, all together, have a big impact on your mind, body, and soul.  Yes, even your soul.  I contend that even our spiritual selves appreciate it when  we are good to our physical shells.  

So, start today!  Start with the easy choices even though, in the moment, they may truly be the hardest to make.  And watch with amazement as both your body and your psyche respond positively.

A few Easy Choices that can help save some calories:
- Ask for dressing on the side instead of directly on your salad, that way you can control the amount, or, the serving you actually end up eating. 
- Opt for a vinaigrette in lieu of your go-to creamy dressing variety. 
- Ask your server for another plate and, when your meal arrives, put the amount of food that you really want to eat on that dish and, once you're through, stop eating.
- Order meals with as many fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains as possible as these foods are jam packed with dietary fiber, which helps make your body fill full and is needed for healthy intestines.  These foods are also chock full of lots of wonderful nutrients which help the brain send out the signals that tell the body our appetite is satiated.
- Dont' be afraid to order "off menu."  If the menu doesn't quite have what you would like to eat but you can see from the ingredients of other dishes that you might be able to pull something together, don't be afraid to ask.  The worst thing that could happen is your server says, "We can't do that," and the best is, you could get a delicious meal that you feel really great about.
- Get in the habit of making either breakfast or lunch your largest meal of the day.  That way, you have the majority of your "up and moving around" day to burn calories.  Keeping dinner to a light meal will insure that your body has a chance to properly digest the food and you'll get better, more restorative sleep.
- For those of you constantly meeting up for business lunches and dinners, if possible, check into the menu before you get to the location.  Decide ahead of time what you want to eat and don't deviate once you get there.  This will help you show restraint and maybe give you a chance to plan just how much of a dent you want to put into your daily calorie intake.


Okay. Sooooo, I know I've officially been M.I.A. for a little more than a few days but, the fact of the matter is, sometimes, Life Happens.

The last 10 days have been a whirlwind of travel, family, and friends… and food of course; fellowship and food just seem to always come hand in hand.

I am a Texas transplant currently living on PA soil.  I do love it here in beautiful Pennsylvania but, I can't deny that being in the Lone Star State where it was sunny and 80 degrees every day was pretty freakin' fantastic.  I saw beaucoups of family and enjoyed good meals and good conversation with my wonderful friends.  Then, I was off on the second leg of my multi-destination journey.  I was off to L.A.

My sister, Kara, recently finished up a project out there.  Click here to see my sister in a webisode of If I Can Dream hosted by   

I had the privilege of spending a few days running around L.A. with my mom, sister, and brother trying to find my sister a car, get in an apartment, find a local doctor, grocery store, bank… you know, just life stuff.

We managed to see a few "sites" along the way.  We did make it to a tour of the Warner Bros. Studios which was a lot of fun.  We attempted to make it to the "star party" hosted by the Observatory in Griffith Park only to find ourselves engulfed in a dense fog, with veritably zero visibility once we got to the top of the hill where the event was to be held.

We did pass the 2010 Scream Awards on our way up to the Observatory.  Me, my mom, brother, and sister saw this huge, lit up structure at Griffith Park and just assumed it had something to do with the star party.  There were tons of limos and stretch hummer type, mega bus lookin' vehicles parked all around, which, we thought was odd but, we just thought, "Okay… maybe it's a play on words.  Maybe there are a lot of 'Stars' who come out to this Observatory 'star' party thing."

I paused by one of the many security looking personnel standing around and asked, "Is there somebody famous here?"  Without turning his head, he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and, in monotone, said, "Yeah.  Tons."


I just shrugged and continued on with my family toward what looked like the entrance.  Now, if you can imagine, three young people dressed very casually and one mom strolling up to an awards entrance… that was us.  As we approached the gate my mom said, "Is this the star party for the Observatory?"  As she utter the words, I saw this man with what looked like a bullet whole in his head and blood oozing from the wound, down over his clothes, all the way to his feet pass by on the other side of the gate.  Ahhhhhh… it's all starting to click for me…

While I was taking in the walking dead, the ticket taker explained that we had actually walked up on the 2010 Scream Awards where celebrities like Kristen Stewart, Halle Berry, and Meagan Fox were present.   These were awards for the best Sci-Fis, Fantasy, Comics, and Horror movies of the year; hence the eccentric, costumed crowd.

Pretty crazy.  But, I guess that can happen when you're in L.A.

As I mentioned, we did eventually make it the rest of the way up the hill to the Observatory which was quite a beautiful place.

All in all, it was an extremely productive but immensely exhausting adventure.  Days seemed to come and go in rapid succession with breakfasts at 6 and non stop action until dinners around the same time in the evening.

I had high hopes of being able to post things from time to time throughout my trip but, there really wasn't a moment to spare.

So, thanks for baring with me during my absence.

The pumpkin party is just days away and I excitedly anticipate a really fun time.  So, stay tuned for tips, tricks, and pics, of food and treats as we inch closer to the festivities.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Post 30 Day Challenge

Well, it's over.  The 30 day, peanut butter free challenge has passed and, if I'm being honest, my love for the nutty spread has only been strengthened by our time of separation.

I must say though, after getting just a few days in, I was really wishing that I had made it like, a 3 day challenge instead of a 30 day challenge...

For breakfast this morning, I did enjoy the tried and true pairing of a banana and a delightful, crunchy, heaping spoonful of peanut butter... and, it was sooooooo good.

"What did I learn," you might be wondering from this self imposed abstinence?  Well, I learned that we live in a world of abundance; an abundunce of healthy, yummy foods to enhance any snack or meal.  I really enjoyed getting creative in my shopping for spreadable alternatives.

I also realized that, I have my whole life with, three meals a day every day, to relish the various tastes and textures and aromas of food.  When it comes to a specific taste or a particular food item that I love, I really will have another chance to enjoy it.  It's not like a one time thing.  So there's really no need to enhale something as if I've never eaten before or as if I'll never eat again.

So there you have it.  I must say though, when it comes to me and peanut butter, I do think it's going to be a life long thing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

Okay, soooooo, I'm a HUGE fan of black beans.  They're yummy on salads, great in soups, and they're tiny little protein-packed powerhouses.  Aside from just loving the taste, black beans are also one of those super hero health foods.  Among their many health benefits, they are:  a great source of antioxidants, high in fiber, a rich source of vitamin B6, a good source of magnesium and iron…  I mean...  Jack's beans might have produced a giant stalk but, black beans might just be about as magically nutritious as you can get in the real world.  

Black beans are yummy and good for you, and who doesn't appreciate that combo, so, I'm always looking for ways to incorporate them into my diet.

So, in honor of the mighty black bean, and because I was getting a little tired of the same ol' hummus on my chips and veggies, I came up with a dip made from these little noir nuggets, that I call Kickin' Cayenne Black Bean Dip.

This dip isn't "spicy" per se.  Rather, it just sort of hits you with the slightest hint of heat when you take a taste of this black beauty.

With basically one ingredient and a few spices from your pantry, this is super easy to make and it's a sure crowd pleaser.

Shopping List:
2 c. black beans
6 Tbl. water

From the Pantry:
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

mini food processor

Preparation:  Drain and rinse black beans.  Pour one, heaping cup of black beans into food processor with 3 tablespoons water, 1/8 tsp. cayenne, garlic salt, and black pepper.  Puree mixture until smooth (you may choose to leave yours a little chunky.  I know I do sometimes) then repeat with remaining ingredients.*

Yeah... it's that simple.  Spoon out the dip, serve with chips, pretzels, or some crudites and enjoy.

* A serving of 2 Tbl. contains about 23 calories so, enjoy a guilt free dip that's good for your insides and ain't gonna derail your goals for the outside.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Pumpkin Party

The count down is officially set.  I'm officially excited.  The anticipation is officially mounting.  Every day we get one step closer to - The Pumpkin Party.

This  October will mark the second, now annual, Pumpkin Party.  Basically, this is a time for great friends to get together with pumpkin carving, seed toasting, and a little bit of over indulging in mind.

Here's how the day goes:
First we meet up and head out to the Pumpkin Patch together.  The farm we're going to has tons of other things to see and do, smell and taste ( I can smell the kettle corn now) so, it's an all around great way to spend a brisk, fall Saturday.

There will undoubtedly be pictures taken amongst the gigantic mounds of pumpkins, a few samplings at the on-site wine tasting shop that features a bunch of local libations, and, by the time we visit, I've no doubt that the farm store will be stocked with tons of whimsical Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations to satisfy a variety of tastes and traditions.

The most important task at the pumpkin patch is to choose your pumpkin of course.

Afterwards, we'll all head back to my house with our orange babies in tow, and get ready for the food and festivities…

Throughout the rest of the month I'll be sharing a few recipes that I've been testing before their debut at the Pumpkin Party.

Presently, the Tentative Menu Includes:
- Kickin' Cayenne Black Bean Dip (with chips & veggies to dip)
- Brown Sugar Spiced Pulled Pork*
- Vegetable Chili
- Black Eyed Pea Corn Bread
- Apple Cider (with a "spiked" option available for those so inclined)
and The Treats...
- Chocolate dipped pretzel sticks
- Pumpkin Muffins (duh!)
- Caramel Corn
and…  we'll I haven't made up my mind just yet on everything that's going to be served but, suffice it to say, there will be many a tasty delight.

Okay, back to the day's schedule… So, we're back at my house, we all grub to gather our strength for the festivities ahead, and then, the carving begins.

Each party goer is responsible for two things:  one - bringing their own pumpkin, two - bringing their own pumpkin carving kit.  With a few large knives, a drop cloth on the floor (Yes.  Things can get that messy) we'll all begin carving up our pumpkins and roasting the seeds throughout the night.

Everyone goes home with a pumpkin to delight their neighbors and friends for the next couple of days, a goodie bag full of leftovers (cuz I don't need like, 24 pumpkin muffins sittin' around for me to gobble up) and a bag full of freshly toasted pumpkin seeds.

I'm suh-sooooper pumped for this year's Pumpkin Party.  Worlds are going to collide (lots of different friends from different parts of my life), we have a warm place to gather, and it's just going to be a really relaxing, fun way to celebrate the bounty of the season (and get some delicious toasted pumpkin seeds out of the deal.  Oh yum.  I can't wait.)

So, check back soon to see pictures and get recipes for foods I'll be serving at the party and, check out my blog Becoming An Artist for decoration ideas I'll be sprinkling around my home leading up to the party.

*You may have noticed that the menu includes some non, whole foods, plant-based diet items.  With a gathering of nearly 20 people, I want to be sensitive to the fact that most people in fact do include meat and dairy in their everyday diet.  Many menu items, such as the Vegetable Chili and the Pumpkin Muffins, are still absolutely w.f.p.b. diet friendly.  My hope is simply to provide as much delicious and nutritious food as possible, that is palatable to all my guests and I'm so excited to hear what all they have to say.  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ahhhh… Autumn...

The crickle, crackling of leaves running along the pavement after they've been freed from their tree.
The cool, wet, morning air that greets you with the days first gusts.
The pumpkins that start to pop onto every stoop and ledge, 
welcoming fall festivities and hinting at holiday pies to come.

This season seems to bring with it such a sense of magic.  
Maybe it's the palpable anticipation of every child who hasn't yet lost their love, for make-believe, masks, and the chance at gobs of candy for free.  
Maybe it's the way we feel when we slip into that sweater… a little better for the wear after last year's use; 
it has the kind of softness that only comes from one too many washes and no-such-thing-as-too-many past nights snuggled up in the candle light.  

Autumn, the time of year for pictures in pumpkin patches.  
A time when e-mails fly and excitement builds as families try to coordinate gatherings with kin.
What a marvelous, magical time of year.  

The first whips of drizzling rain, inaudibly announcing the summer season's passing and autumn's new reign.  
Blades of grass dance and leaves giggle as winds usher out summer and help autumn move in.

Coats racks begin to brace knowing that their time is coming soon 
and maybe even the lint roller comes out to give your jacket a once over or two.

The back of your throat feels the chill as you inhale the evening air
and the way the smell of firewood starts to penetrate the breeze.  

This is such a wonderful time of year. 
And though I'm sad to see summer go, I am also happy that Autumn is here.