Thanksgiving Granola and 6 Great Gift Wrap Ideas

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Granola is easy to make and fun to personalize.  Although I have a favorite recipe I played around  to create a Thanksgiving version, minus the turkey, of course!  This blend is chock full of cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, good-for-you chia seeds and is flavored with pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup. YUM!  The house smelled so divine while it baked!  Enjoy it over yogurt, with milk, as a topping for ice cream or straight up for snacking. One thing is for sure, it is hard to resist!  Granola is one of my favorite hostess gifts and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to give a gift that can be enjoyed for breakfast in the following days.    I will share several packaging ideas so your granola will look as good as it tastes when gifted.

imageTHANKSGIVING GRANOLA  Makes 8 cups

3 c old-fashioned oats

1 c non fat milk powder

3/4 c whole pumpkin seeds(pepitas)

1/3 c chia seeds

1/3 c shredded coconut

1/2 c maple syrup

1/4 c oil (coconut or canola)

1 t vanilla

1 T pumpkin pie spice

1 and 1/2 c pecan halves

1 and 1/2 c dried  cranberries

1-  Combine the maple syrup, oil and vanilla.  Preheat oven to 300 F.

2-  Combine all the dry ingredients except the cranberries.  Add the maple syrup- oil  to the dry ingredients and using your hands, distribute evenly until all the oats are moistened.

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3-  Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper and spread the granola evenly on each pan.

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4-  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring at the half way point so the granola on the edges does not burn.  At the half time mark, switch the cookie sheets so the granola browns evenly in both trays.

 

5-  Add the cranberries, breaking up any clusters.  Let cool.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature if eating within a week or in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

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PRESENTATION IDEAS:

Granola is one of my most popular gifts from the kitchen.  I love coming up with creative ways to package it. Here are several examples to inspire you:

In a cellophane  bag (Michaels) tied with natural twine, with a tag made from recycled corrugated cardboard with a silk leaf glued on.  I nestled the bag in a cardboard tea box with tissue paper.

In a cellophane bag (Michaels) tied with natural twine, with a tag made from recycled corrugated cardboard with a silk leaf glued on. I nestled the bag in a cardboard tea box with tissue paper.

In a claasic Bell or Mason jar, with a suede fabric round to conceal the lid, tied on with natural twine.  Gift tag cut from a logo from a box of Raincoast crackers, which I recycled.

In a classic Bell or Mason jar, with a suede fabric round to conceal the lid, tied on with natural twine. Gift tag cut from a logo from a box of Raincoast crackers, which I recycled.

A darling basket with a cellophane packet of granola tied in a seasonal ribbon with a tag with a blade of wheat woven through 2 slits on a piece or recycled cardboard

A darling basket with a cellophane packet of granola tied in a seasonal ribbon with a tag featuring a blade of wheat woven through 2 slits on a piece of recycled cardboard

Another Mason jar with a nature-inspired gold leaf ornament attached, a second gift for the holiday season ahead!

Another Mason jar with a nature-inspired gold leaf ornament attached, a second gift for the holiday season ahead!

Using the box that the oats came in, I cut out a length of birch bark patterned gift wrap($2.99 at TJ Maxx) and covered the container.

Using the box that the oats came in, I cut out a length of birch bark patterned gift wrap($2.99 at TJ Maxx) and covered the container.  Glued it on with glue stick glue.

This might be my favorite presentation idea!

This might be my favorite presentation idea!  The cellophane bag of granola is nestled in the container and a wide gros grain ribbon ties it all together.

Using an old clay pot, I painted one coat of chalkboard paint and let it dry an hour.

Using an old clay pot, I painted one coat of chalkboard paint (JoAnn’s) and let it dry an hour.

The most chic presentation of all.  A crisp black and white French ribbon ties a cellophane bag of granola and a glittery gold oak leaf (Michaels) is used as a tag in the planter.

The most chic presentation of all. A crisp black and white French ribbon ties a cellophane bag of granola and a glittery gold oak leaf (Michaels) is used as a tag in the planter.  A Thanksgiving message is written in chalk on the planter.

Any of these gift wrap ideas can be modified to suit your occasion.  To see more gift ideas from the kitchen and to read my classic granola recipe, please visit:

http://frenchgardenerdishes.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/edible-gifting/

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I’m taking this to Angie at the Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday #40 , co hosted by Margy @ lapetitecasserole and Jhuls @ thenotsocreativecook.  Check out their great recipes!

Botanical Pumpkins: DIY Tutorial

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Botanical pumpkins are hands down my favorite craft of the season!  When I walked by a class on this craft recently at my local Terrain store, the hip Anthropologie’s gardening sister, it was love at first sight.  I knew right then I would try my hand at making these botanical pumpkins.  They were super easy to create and the hands-on time pretty quick.  The idea is to adhere natural plant material on a pumpkin.  Although the white pumpkins show off the botanicals best, you could use orange ones too.  It is best if you select  thinner plant materials such as ferns and flat leaves, which will be easier to glue down. The variations of botanical pumpkins are as endless as your imagination.  Have fun!

MATERIALS:

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pumpkins; cloth to clean with;  delicate plant material such as ferns, thin and flat leaves;  plant scissors or pruners; spray adhesive;  Mod Podge; sponge brush; wet paper towels to clean your hands;  small dish of water

1-  Choose a well ventilated space to work in.  Wipe your pumpkins clean and let dry.

2-  Cut your plant material and remove stems.  Working from the stem center of your pumpkin, lay out the design before beginning to glue it down. When you are happy with your design, and working quickly, spray a light coating of adhesive on the underside of your plant material and place on your pumpkin.  Wet your fingers slightly to rub the plant material to help it lay as flat as possible.  This is not perfect science as the plant material is from nature and full of curvature and angles.

Laying out my design visually

Laying out my design visually

Securing my Japanese ferns with spray adhesive on the pumpkin

Securing my Japanese painted ferns with spray adhesive on the pumpkin

3-  Once you are satisfied with the design, apply a coat of Mod Podge with a sponge brush.  Let dry and recoat.  You may need 2-4 coats depending on the thickness of your plant material.  I used 2 coats for mine.  Let dry overnight and enjoy creating fall  vignettes with your beautiful botanical pumpkins!

First Mod Podge coating

First Mod Podge coating

My three masterpieces!

My three masterpieces!

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Three little pumpkins sitting on a wall….

Japanese maple leaves creation

Japanese maple leaves greeting

The sugar maple leaf minimalist pettern

Oh Canada!  The sugar maple leaves, nore minimalist pattern.

A pretty fall vignette on a garden bench

A pretty fall vignette on a garden bench

Variations:  you could add glitter to your plant materials before gluing them down.  You could also paint part or all of your pumpkin before starting your project.  You could gild your plant material in metallics before starting your project.  The finished creations will last as long as the pumpkin does..

” Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  Albert Camus

What botanical pumpkins will you create?

Autumn Floral Arrangement: a late season gift from the garden

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No matter what the season, I like to walk through the garden looking for something to cut and arrange indoors. At first glance in late fall, it may seem like there is little available to arrange.    With a little imagination and an open mind, I spot some interesting foliage of potted silver Rex begonias that I really should be bringing indoors before the first frost. It would be interesting in an arrangement. I am planning on using a birch bark vase and the silver patterning  in the leaves will complement the silver of the bark while the burgundy veining and undercolor will bring a fall element to the arrangement.   image Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ still growing in wild abandon with its purple orbs would look great with the begonia foliage, so I cut a big bunch.imagej

Thinking of how tight and compact these flowers will look in a bouquet, I search for a trailing vine to soften the look.  I decide to cut some varigated purple persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ which just happens to be blooming with a delicate spray of  white flowers, another great complement to the birch.

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I arranged the trio in a beautiful birch bark-covered galvenized tin vase from Save-on -Crafts online.( http://www.save-on-crafts.com/birchvases1.html) A glass vase hides inside the bark vase and a collar of moss held on by duct tape gives a finished look to the top of the vase.  Voilà:  a naturally beautiful arrangement, a late gift from the fall garden.

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The same vase with a dahlia arrangement by Madeline at Farm and Garden Flowers at The Artisan Exchange Farmer's market in West Chester, PA

The same vase with a dahlia arrangement by Madeline at Farm and Garden Flowers at The Artisan Exchange Farmer’s market in West Chester, PA

“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

L. M.  Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Mediterranean Breakfast Bread Pudding

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Get ready for some beauty sleep!  Everyone needs the perfect overnight egg dish that lets you sleep in on a morning when you are entertaining and makes it look as if you have been up for hours slaving away in the kitchen. This one-dirty-dish, overnight bread pudding, is that dream recipe. The filling can be cooked ahead as much as 3 days and the bread pudding assembled the night before.  The ingredients can be tweaked to what you have on hand if the proportions are maintained. Come morning, the whole thing goes into the oven and  45 minutes later, while you enjoy a cup of coffee with your morning paper, you have a cheesy aromatic meal that will wake up every last sleepy head.

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MEDITERRANEAN BREAKFAST BREAD PUDDING   Serves 10

1 large onion, diced

16 oz Italian sausage, casings removed

1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, not packed in oil, slivered

2 c baby kale or spinach

6 cups of white bread, torn into inch size pieces

2 1/2 c milk

8 large eggs

2 T Dijon mustard

1/2 t each sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1 1/2 c shredded cheese(gruyère or Italian blend)

1 c feta, crumbled

1 T rosemary leaves, finely chopped

3 T basil leaves, torn

Prehat oven to 350F.  Butter an 9 X 13 inch baking dish.

In a pan, brown the sausage meat, add the onion and peppers and sauté until the onion is soft.  Add the spinach or kale and sauté until wilted.  Remove from the heat.  Add the herbs and sun dried tomatoes.  Reserve.  This can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, Dijon, salt and pepper.  Place bread into prepared baking dish.  Add the vegetable and meat mixture and combine thoroughly with  the bread.  Add the grated cheese and mix through.  Top with feta.  Pour milk and egg mixture over the whole dish, making sure all the  bread is moistened.  Cover and chill for at least an hour or overnight.  Bring to room temperature for about a half hour before baking on the center rack for 45 minutes.

The browned sausage, vegetabkes, herbs and bread combined inthe baking dish.

The browned sausage, vegetables, herbs and bread combined in the baking dish.

Cheeses added.

Cheeses added.

Milk and eggs added.  Note hiow the bread is uniformely moistened.

Milk and eggs added. Note how the bread is uniformely moistened.

Aromatic, cheesy and loaded with sausage and veggies, what's not to love?

Aromatic, cheesy and loaded with sausage and veggies, what’s not to love?

Bring on the rave reviews.  You are the only one who will know how effortless this dish really was.plus with that extra sleep, you’ll be looking good too!

I’m taking this recipe this week to Fiesta Friday #39 where our host Angie at The Novice Gardener is putting her spatula away in honor of her birthday and Suzanne @A Pug in the Kitchen and Sue @ Birgerbird are hosting the party!  Happy Birthday Angie!

Roasted Kuri Squash Salad with Maple Lime Yogurt Drizzle

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image Red kuri squash, known by many names such as potimarron in French, red hubbard squash, onion squash or Japanese squash, is simply delicious.  It is a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, riboflavin and beta carotene.  It has a delicate flavor and is dense so it holds up well during roasting and its texture is less fibrous than other squashes and pumpkin.  It was love at first sight when I discovered it recently at the market and it has become my new favorite! I’m all about local produce and this beauty was grown in nearby Lancaster County where my husband’s family is from.  Having used half in another recipe, I had to come up with a way to use up the second half.

image For this recipe, I cut it into rings unpeeled,  coated it in a spicy garlic rub, roasted it at high temperature to caramelize it then created a salad with it.  For the salad I added crumbled feta, fresh garden herbs, pomegranate seeds, drizzled a Greek yogurt dressing and finished it with chopped walnuts.  The cool sweet dressing contrasts beautifully in both texture and temperature with the spicy garlicky squash. WOW!  Delicious!  This recipe could be made with roasted slices of acorn or butternut squash but go ahead, give red kuri a try.  Who knows, you might be falling in love too.

ROASTED KURI SQUASH SALAD with MAPLE LIME YOGURT DRIZZLE

1 lb of red Kuri squash, cut in 1/2″ thick slices

For the rub:  2 T olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 t sea salt, 1 T fresh thyme leaves, 1/2 t hot pepper flakes;   plus 2 T maple sugar(or brown sugar) to add at the end of roasting

For the topping:  2 T feta, crumbled, 3 T chopped fresh herbs, 2 T pomegranate seeds, 1 T of toasted walnuts, chopped

For the dressing:  1/4 c Greek yogurt, juice of half a lime, 1 T maple syrup

1)  Mix the rub ingredients together and rub all over the squash slices.  Roast the squash at 400F on a line baking sheet for 40 minutes, turning over once at half time.  Sprinkle with the maple sugar while the squash is still hot.

2)  On a platter, arrange your squah in a row.  Sprinkle the squash with cumbled feta, fresh herbs then the pomegranate seeds.  Whisk together the yogurt, lime juice and maple syrup and drizzle on top of the salad.  Finish with a sprinkling of the toasted walnuts.  The squash will be fork tender and even the peel can be eaten.  So. Very. Good.

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Great Bowls of Fire! Smoky White Bean Pumpkin Chili with Molasses Cornbread

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imageCrisp but sunny fall days continue to extend outdoor fall enjoyment and chili weather has set in!    On a recent Sunday with our maple tree ablaze in its autumn coat I made a big pot of chili and served it, buffet style, right from the pot, outside.  There is just something about crowd pleasing, one dish meals that say fall.  This soulful white chili offers an interesting combination of both cubed pumpkin (or squash) and puréed pumpkin.  It is chock full of tasty bits of smokey ground chicken sausage and nice chunks of pumpkin.  When shopping for a pumpkin to make this dish, I got distracted and seduced by a gorgeous red Kuri Squash, also known as Japanese squash or potimarron and had to take it home.  So instead of a pumpkin white bean chili, this chili got a new name!   I made it stove top but it could easily be made in a crock pot.  Adding a selection of toppings for each person to customize their chili and serving it with warm cornbread elevates this tasty chili into company worthy fare.  It can be made a day or two in advance and reheated.   A warming one-dish meal for festive, casual gatherings this fall.

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SMOKEY WHITE BEAN-RED KURI SQUASH CHILI  serves 8

2 onions, chopped

2 yellow, red or orange peppers, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

4 c of cubed pumpkin or squash such as red kri or butternut

16 oz chicken sausage, casings removed

15 oz can diced tomatoes

15 oz can crushed tomatoes

15 oz can puréed pumpkin

15 oz can chickpeas, drained

15 oz can cannellini beans, drained

1 T liquid smoke

2 T chili spices

1 t ground cumin

salt to taste

1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 T molasses

Toppings:  lime wedges, shredded cheese, sour cream or yogurt, sliced scallions, toasted pumpkin seeds, tortilla chips, sliced black olives, guacamole or sliced avocado, hot pepper flakes and  chopped cilantro are only a few of the possible toppings to offer.

In a tall pot, brown the sausage and onions together, breaking up the sausage as it cooks, about 5 minutes.  Add the peppers and garlic and cook another 3 minutes.  Toss in the squash or pumpkin and cook another 3 minutes to brown.  Add all the spices and stir through.

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Add the tomatoes, canned pumpkin purée, molasses and beans and heat, with the lid on, for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve in deep bowls with a selection of toppings and warm molasses corn bread.

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MOLASSES CORN BREAD

1 c yellow corn meal

1 c flour

2 t baking powder

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t salt

2 large eggs, beaten

4 T butter, melted

1 c buttermilk

2 T molasses

Preheat oven to 425F.  Butter an 9 inch square pan.

Combine the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, molasses and buttermilk.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix only until combined.  Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into 9 pieces and serve alongside the chili. This cornbread will have a brownish-gold color but its  sweetness  nicely complements the smokey chili.

Wishing you cozy fall gatherings with friends and family as autumn offers up nature’s grand finale of color.

Memories of Home, 2012, painted for my brother

Memories of Home, 2013, painted for my brother

5 MINUTE FALL ARRANGEMENT in a GARDEN URN

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Bringing garden accents indoor is one of my signature decorating themes.  In fall I love using natural elements and the abundant squashes and pumpkins readily available for decorating inspiration.  I am all about not having to store a lot of “stuff”.    Taking a few pumpkins from the market(you can even cook them later!) and repurposing a garden urn into an indoor arrangement  is a quick, elegant way to decorate for fall.  This fall arrangement on my kitchen island was created in no time at all with a black metal garden urn, a sugar pumpkin, some ribbon and a fall wreath.  Choose a wreath of the same diameter as the top of your urn and which will have branches and tendrils that can cascade softly beyond the urn, similar to the wreath I chose with small leaves, rose hips and berries.  Fill the urn with newspaper or any other filler so the pumpkin can sit above the urn. Place the wreath in top of the urn, add the pumpkin then tie a seasonal ribbon at the base of the urn.  For added layering and seasonal accents,  you can place a branch of bittersweet around the urn’s pedestal and lean a smaller boo pumpkin against the urn.  A gorgeous, no maintenance fall arrangement ready in five minutes!

Here are the step by step instructions:

Materials:  a garden urn, a sugar pumpkin, filler, a wreath, ribbon, bittersweet vine

Materials: a garden urn, a sugar pumpkin, filler, a wreath, ribbon, bittersweet vine

Add filler to the urn so the pumpkin can sit at the very top.

Add filler to the urn so the pumpkin can sit at the very top.

Seat the wreath on top of the urn.

Seat the wreath on top of the urn.

Seat the pumpkin on the filler.

Seat the pumpkin on the filler.

Tie a pretty bow around the base of the urn and add a spray of bittersweet and a mini Boo pumpkin and your arrangemnt is done!

Tie a pretty bow around the base of the urn and add a spray of bittersweet and a mini Boo pumpkin and your arrangemnt is done!

Happy fall decorating!