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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Those Easter Dinner Recipes and More

I have a quiet reprieve today and I'm home for the morning with time to do what I love best: blog, read, reflect, and hike.  Maybe I'll even get a few photographs taken when I'm on my walk, if our beagle will let me.  Then it's back to the usual chauffeuring, helping with homework, laundry and cooking, and subbing.  As promised, I'm including the recipes I used for our Easter dinner.  These will be dishes I'll make again throughout the spring and summer---not just for Easter.

Brown Sugar Balsamic Roasted Carrots
modified from and found on Pinterest

Clean 1 1/2 pounds of carrots and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I slit the carrots down the middle and sliced the larger ones in half.  Mix up 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Pour over the carrots and "roll" them in the liquid to coat evenly.  Roast in 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes.  Sprinkle salt and parsley over the top.

Fruit Kabobs with Peeps
found on Pinterest & linked to

I included these in my last post, but I think they're so cute that I'm featuring them again.  You could certainly use any fruit on bamboo skewers, and use marshmallow chicks instead of rabbits of any color.  I put the peeps on the end so they could be removed first and given away to the peep lovers in our house.  I have a couple of children who would eat raw marshmallows by the handfuls if I allowed it (which I don't, but a certain 6 year old has been known to sneak.)  I used whole strawberries, sliced kiwi fruit, canned pineapple chunks, and grapes.  These were placed at the children's end of our big kitchen table.

The children's end of the table held the fruit kabobs, a Beatrix Potter planter with plastic eggs, and the carrot cupcakes.  I think, subconsciously, I arranged it this way to entice them to eat all their dinner so they could have the desserts.  Of course, this was at the end of a day filled with sugar and chocolate from their Easter baskets, so it may not have been as effective as it would be on normal days.

Balsamic Vinegar Grilled Lamb Chops
Pinterest-inspired from Food Network (heavily modified)

I used a lot of vinegar this weekend!  This was really supposed to be a sauce recipe, but I marinated our own pasture-raised lamb in this instead, and then Hubby poured the remainder over the chops while they grilled.  This was my first attempt at making lamb chops, and we were so pleased.  They were tender, juicy, and had no strong gamey taste to them.  We grilled about 24 small lamb chops since we were feeding 9 people, so the recipe below is doubled.

Mix 2 cloves of garlic, 4 tablespoons honey, & 2/3 cup Balsamic vinegar in a bowl.  Slowly add 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil and stir.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon of rosemary.  Pour over seasoned (salt & pepper) lamb chops in a baking dish so all are covered.  Cover and store in refrigerator overnight to marinade.  As you are grilling, brush remaining marinade over pork chops.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (I use this cookbook all the time)

Our 13-year old daughter is our resident cake maker, and she gets all the credit for these.  All I did was lick the beaters and suggest sprinkling nutmeg over the top.

for the Cupcakes:
Combine 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.  Then add 3 cups finely shredded carrot, 1 cup vegetable oil, and 4 eggs.  Beat with electric mixer till combined.  Then beat on medium speed for at least 2 minutes.  Pour into lined muffin tins and bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  Cool.

for the Frosting:
Beat together 3 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla until fluffy.  Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  Spread over cupcakes, and sprinkle with nutmeg if you like.  *Note: This is enough frosting if you are simply spreading it with a knife.  To make enough to put in a pastry bag and make something more fancy, like our daughter did, you need to double the recipe. In addition to our cupcakes, our son and his fiancee brought a chocolate fudge/whipped cream/ Oreo dessert that was to die for.  I gained back about 3 pounds over Easter, unfortunately.  The good news is that my new paisley tablecloth made it through Easter without being stained.  That is a miracle itself.

Along with the foods already mentioned, I also added to the table a big bowl of tossed salad with a simple homemade vinaigrette dressing, pickled beets and sweet gherkins (store-bought), and the children's colored eggs.  All of our eggs this year were laid by our one remaining geriatric hen who free-ranges all over and then lays an egg almost daily in an empty rabbit cage in our barn.

I'll include just a few pictures of the afternoon egg hunt.  Notice the Amish buggy going down the lane.  There was quite a bit of Amish traffic up here Easter Sunday.

It's too bad it was so cloudy and gray.  The rest of the Easter weekend was beautiful.

Our cat Arwin "helped" look for eggs.  She's especially interested in the multitude of green toad eggs that are clustered in our pool cover right now.

These wildflowers and a variety of shades of daffodils came into bloom over the Easter holiday and are now covering parts of our bank.

I'll close with one last picture of a carrot cupcake and this spring bouquet.  Both are on their last day here at our preppy mountain farmhouse.  The seven remaining cupcakes will be gone before the day is through, I'm sure.  And these flowers have lasted nearly two weeks, but they're being replaced today with fresh daffodils next to one of our pastures.  Everything around us is revealing that spring is definitely here...except for that annoying weather forecast that is predicting snow showers for our area this Sunday.  I'm definitely not happy about that.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quick Easter Wrap Up

I hope you all had an Easter weekend as lovely as we had.  Although it was a bit gray and chilly today, the rest of the weekend was warm, sunny, and brought blooming daffodils and plenty of time outdoors.  Our company just left half an hour ago, and the younger children have gone to bed and will hopefully not be awake from too much sugar for too long.  I just wanted to post a few photos before Hubby and I also go to sleep.  I am busier than usual this week with additional days of substitute teaching, so I need a good night's rest.  I'll just touch briefly on a few highlights of our Easter weekend, and I'll write a more detailed post with recipes later this week.  The above fruit kabobs with bunny peeps were inspired by Pinterest.  I used strawberries, kiwi, grapes, and pineapple.

I experimented with two new dishes adapted from recipes found on Pinterest: lamb chops and these roasted carrots.  Both turned out marvelously and required very little prep time.  Recipes to come later.  Notice the gentleman at the end of the table who picked out a jacket and bowtie to wear to Church today.  He thought he looked so dapper that he insisted on keeping that on until he went to bed.  He is always the first one at the table eager for a big meal. 

Our 13 year old daughter finally got over the flu and spent Saturday afternoon grating 3 cups of carrots to make homemade carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting from scratch.  We sprinkled a little nutmeg over the top.  These are so good that I just want to sit down and eat a plateful.  Recipe coming later.

It was cloudy and cool, but it wasn't snowing or raining, so the kiddos were excited to hunt for Easter eggs.  Even the teenagers still want to do this.  The older they get, the harder their Dad makes it for them to find the eggs though.  Our youngest still gets so excited about finding eggs and waking up to a full Easter basket at her spot at the kitchen table.  I just want to hold on to that as long as I can.

I didn't think our daffodils were going to bloom in time for Easter, so I forced buds into bloom earlier in the week by bringing them inside, and they did bloom overnight.  It turns out that by Good Friday, however, our bank was covered in blooming daffodils.  What a blessing.

I'll hold off and save the rest of the details of our Easter holiday for later this week.  It's time for me to get out of this dress and these pumps and put my feet up.  I'll be back here on Wednesday, folks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

We Welcome Spring With Paisley Prints, Corned Beef, and Easter Prep

Like most of you, we are happy to be celebrating the beginning of spring.  With the mild winter we had here in the Northeast, spring is here weeks before it arrived last year.  Although our daffodils aren't blooming quite yet, our forsythia is covered with blossoms, and the ground is greener than I can ever remember in March.  We are usually tromping through snow or mud at this time.  With all of the Christmas and winter decor put away for another year, I've been looking for some new spring items to brighten up our old farmhouse and myself.

There are buds beginning to appear on the trees, and just look at this green grass already.  It's so nice to peer out the windows and see a color other than brown or white.

I found this silky, textured, paisley top at Kohl's and couldn't resist purchasing it.  The 3/4 length sleeves are perfect for this time of year when it's still only in the forties in the morning, but the temps climb to the upper sixties by the afternoon.  I love the way this shirt feels and hangs on my body.  It doesn't cling to my middle aged midriff, but it doesn't pouf out to make me look twenty pounds heavier either.

I returned to Kohl's last weekend looking for more of those paisley tops, but I couldn't find any left in my size.  My husband spotted this short-sleeved black and white one on the clearance rack that is also Croft & Barrow.  It's not in spring colors, but at $2.80 how could I not buy it?

Along with some spring shirts for me, I've also been looking for a new kitchen tablecloth for these months leading up to summer.  Because there are so many of us, we have a nine foot table, and it is challenging to find tablecloths this long in our town.  I discovered that Home Goods had quite a selection, and I fell in love with this blue and green paisley cotton tablecloth.  Better yet, it was even on sale.  How many days do you think it will take for one of my children to spill something all over it?  I'm hoping we can make it through Easter dinner.

Not only did I find the paisley tablecloth, but I also came across these green paisley paper napkins in a clearance bin at Party City.  I thought they'd be great for St. Patrick's Day.

My youngest also talked me into buying fresh flowers at the supermarket since we had company last weekend.  I'm waiting for our daffodils to bloom.

Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, I made corned beef brisket for the first time ever.  I found a simple recipe on Pinterest where you just placed the brisket in the crockpot with some vegetables, beef broth, water, peppercorns and thyme.  It cooked all day and was so tender.  Some of my kiddos weren't fond of it, but others really liked it.

Since some of my children weren't crazy about the corned beef, we actually had leftovers, which means making my favorite sandwich ever: Reubens.  I made Reubens for lunch and dinner on Saturday, for dinner again on Sunday, and for my lunch one more time yesterday.  The last little bit went to our beagle last evening.  For those of you unfamiliar with Reubens, they're super easy to make and delicious.  
Spread Thousand Island salad dressing on 2 slices of rye bread.  Place sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut in the middle.  Toast like you're making grilled cheese sandwiches.

Aside from buying paisley prints and eating corned beef, we've also been getting ready for Easter.  Our older daughter has been sick with the flu, so our first grader was eager and willing to arrange our Easter decorations throughout the house.  I looked on Pinterest for some new ideas, and when I saw this one, I knew it was simple enough for me to try.  Easter grass, malted eggs, and a chocolate bunny placed in a Mason jar.  So simple.  But does anyone else think this chocolate rabbit looks a little deranged?  My kids think it's a bit creepy.

The St. Patrick's Day sign was wiped away, and I drew a new design on the chalkboard for the front porch.  I'll refrain from sharing any other Easter foods or decorations until Easter Sunday has actually arrived.

From our mountain farm to yours, I'm wishing you all a Happy Spring, and may the remainder of your Holy Week be blessed.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Adding a Preppy Touch to This Rustic Mountain Cabin

When we bought this cabin near our farmhouse a year ago, we knew there would be plenty of work to do to make it aesthetically pleasing for guests.  It served as a hunting cabin for a couple of older gentlemen for decades.  It was dirty, incredibly cluttered, and smelled like it had been closed up for a very long time.  Additionally, there were layers of various carpets throughout, bare concrete walls in spots with insulation and wires showing, a paneled ceiling with holes that had been patched with duck tape, and different sized windows in every room.  Oh, and did I mention the cracked pipes that had frozen over the winter?  Probably the ugliest thing in the cabin was the shower.  Mostly concrete and brick, it looked like it had a rusted tin base.  I thought it would be the perfect shower for A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Before any company could stay there, the shower would have to go.  Once my husband started hacking away at it, we learned that the floor of it was not tin after all but concrete painted a rust color.  Who would have thought?  Unfortunately, it cracked into pieces when we started working on it, so we had to purchase a new shower that took some work to install.

We were blessed to have the help of our eldest son who recently moved nearby.  It took a couple of weekends, but I am so happy to report that a new shower is in place, and it was tested by family from out of town this past weekend.  Everything works, and it doesn't leak.  I had my eye on a woodsy shower curtain in Kohl's since last fall, and I couldn't wait to run out and finally get it.  It works perfectly in our mountain cabin.

Kohl's has quite a collection of various decorative items for a cabin or lodge.  Since our nineteenth century farmhouse needs constant maintenance in addition to our cabin, we can only tackle about one project per year for each building.  This is frustrating for me since patience is not one of my strong virtues, but I do what I can by adding a little decorative touch of rustic preppy wherever I go.  Since Kohl's is having some great sales right now, I perused the cabin/lodge sections last evening and snapped pictures with my phone so I could think about the selections later.

For the bathroom, they have towels, rugs, shower hooks with bears on them, owl cup and toothbrush holders, bear soap dispensers, and that little boat soap holder.  I didn't buy any of those, but they are too cute.

There were so many moose, bear, and deer towels and shower curtains.  I haven't decided yet if I'll purchase any of these or not.  The cabin came fully equipped with linens, but none of them were of a mountain forest theme.

I love this moose waste basket for the bathroom, but it needs to come down in price some more before I can justify buying it.  The bathroom floor is currently concrete, and I think we should probably take care of that first before I go crazy on bathroom accessorizing.

One more towel.  If it said "cabin" instead of "lodge," I might have bought it.  I definitely can't give our cabin the name of lodge though.  It's far from that.

For the bedrooms, Kohl's has these woodsy comforter sets that I really love.

They have cabin/lodge sheets, coverlets, and pillow cases.

And they have lots and lots of throw pillows.

Then there are all these curtains.  It's so tempting to get some of these, but since every window in our cabin is a different size, and I'm not sure what we're going to do with the walls, it would probably be unwise to purchase any window treatments at this point.  Right now there are blinds and curtains up in every room (although none of them match) so I can't deem new curtains a necessity.  I'll have to wait on those.

Finally, there are so many kitchen items for the cabin: trivets, charcuterie boards, coasters, bottle openers, and more.  Our cabin came fully equipped with more kitchen gadgets than I have in my own house, but these would be nice to put on a wish list.

I love these dish towels.  I'm still contemplating picking up one of these because you can just never have enough dish towels, right?  Not sure which one I like best.  I think I'm leaning toward the tan with pinecones.

You know how much I love plaid, so when you combine plaid and cabin, I cannot resist getting something.

I ended up getting these bowls a few weeks ago, but they never made it up to the cabin because the children have been using them for their cereal in the morning.  It turns out they hold twice as much cereal as the bowls they had been using, which means that a typical box of cereal doesn't even make it through all five of my children in the morning.  Which also means the last person up is grouchy because the best cereal is gone as soon as it's been opened.

There is an entire aisle in Kohl's devoted to cabin placemats, napkins, and tablecloths.

Since the cabin didn't come with enough placemats, I did justify buying five of these last night.  I really liked the plaid moose variety, but there were only two of those left.

Several weeks ago there were quite a few signs and wall hangings for cabins in the woods.  Last night I could only find a handful.  I really liked this one, and I think I might go back and get it.  Do you think it would do well on the outside next to the door?  Or maybe it needs to be in away from the wind, snow, and rain.

I've also found a number of crafty cabin creations on Pinterest that I'd like to try.

Any ideas from you readers?  I am open to suggestions on incorporating some rustic preppy into this mountain cabin.

And just in case you're wondering if I'm receiving any kind of kickback from Kohl's for this post, they have no clue they're mentioned in Preppy Mountain Farmhouse.  I just happen to really love their cabin/lodge selections.  Although, it would be great to get a discount on the above items. ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Going Kelly Green for St. Patrick's Day

I couldn't stand it any longer; I had to return to blogging.  I just missed it too much to take a longer break, and I missed sharing our life with all of you.  Over the past couple of weeks I have discovered that there are more of you visiting from all around the world than I originally thought, and that is encouraging and exciting to know.  To all of you readers who sent me emails, messages, or comments since my last post, I thank you.  Your opinions and words mean so much to me, and I appreciate that you took a few minutes out of your day to drop me a line.

With St. Patrick's Day coming tomorrow, I thought I'd share with you some of the things we're doing at our farmhouse to celebrate this feast day.  I whipped up some Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies the other night as an experiment.  I saw on Pinterest that you can simply add green food coloring to your regular chocolate chip cookie recipe to get the above effect.  I added about 15 drops to the 2 sticks of melted butter before adding and mixing all the other ingredients.  Once I did that, it seemed only natural to add some peppermint extract because who doesn't like mint with their chocolate?  A little goes a long way, so I only put 3 drops of the extract into the wet ingredients.  They turned out great; although, I would have preferred a darker shade of green.  Once you add all that flour and sugar, it lightens up the butter quite a bit.  I also had to add an extra 1/4 cup of flour since the peppermint extract and food coloring added more liquid to the recipe.  Oh, and I found the napkins in the top photo on clearance at Party City.  That place has everything!

Last evening, I treated the children to Rainbow Sherbet Floats.  I couldn't find any lime sherbet in the grocery store, so I had to settle for a gallon bucket of rainbow sherbet instead.  I decided that I actually like the looks and taste of these even better.

Simply put a couple of scoops of rainbow sherbet in a mug (we like ours frosted) and add 7-Up to the brim.  That's it.  The kids loved them.

All St. Patrick's Day items were 50% off at Kohl's this past weekend, and with my Kohl's cash I was able to pick up this wall hanging for only $5.  It's on our front porch this year.  There's not much Irish blood in our family, but I was able to find one Irish ancestor in my lineage from the late seventeenth century.  Regardless, I've always loved Celtic jewelry, music, poetry, and home decor.  My husband and I even had our wedding bands custom made into Celtic love knots.

Not one of my best chalkboard designs for the porch, but I was in a hurry so I used shamrock cookie cutters as stencils to make this.  With Easter coming in just a little over a week, I'll be changing over to all new decorations this weekend.

The best green of all is the one found in nature.  Our grass and pastures are already turning a lush emerald green.  This is such a treat for us because the past two winters brought so much snow that we didn't see green grass until well into April.  Our goats and sheep are very happy.

Our banks are also full of clusters of daffodils getting ready to open.  I think it's possible they'll be blooming by Easter, which is remarkable for us since Easter is so early this year.  We didn't have daffodils or tulips in bloom until the latter part of April last spring.

Tomorrow evening I'll be making corned beef for the first time in my life.  I saw an easy recipe on Pinterest where you just put the corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in the crock pot with some water and beef broth for the day.  That sounds quick and easy enough.  I'm not sure if the little ones in my house will like it, but we're going to give it a try.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, Readers.  And thanks for coming back to read Preppy Mountain Farmhouse over and over again.