November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Posted by Laura

There's something about baked goods involving pumpkin and cream cheese that just makes me drool. Here is a King Arthur recipe (originally found here) that I stumbled across and just had to try. Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust. Need. I. Say. More.


For the crust*
1 1/4 cups gingersnap cookies (about 15 cookies)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

For the filling
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature (very important that it is at room temperature)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin works fine)
5 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

*A note about the ingredients: The original recipe says to bake this in a 10" round springfoam pan. I do not have one of those so I used a regular pie plate. Due to the shallowness of the pie plate, I fit about 1/2 of the filling in the pie plate. Therefore, I made another crust and got 2 cheesecakes out of this. If you find yourself in the same boat as me, double up the crust ingredients from the get-go and make this recipe into two cheesecakes (one for the freezer!).

1. For the crust: Blend all ingredients together in a food processor (or Magic Bullet like I did). Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove crust from oven and turn oven down to 300 degrees.

2. For the filling: Blend cream cheese on low speed until smooth (about 5 minutes)

3. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and mix for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. 

4. Add vanilla, pumpkin and eggs (one at time). Mix well.

5) Stir in the sour cream by hand. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan/crust and bake (at 300 degrees) for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is ready when the center 2" of the cake is still a bit wobbly. Turn off the oven, prop open the door, and allow the cake to slowly cool in the oven for one hour.

6) Remove the cake from the oven and chill, lightly covered for 4 to 8 hours before serving. Enjoy!

November 28, 2011

Natural Cold Care

Posted by Kristin

Its that time of year again....eeek! Sniffles, achy muscles, and the scratchy, sore throat. If you haven't been plagued by the dreaded but steadfast winter cold yet, or if you have and you're trying to muddle your way through it, check out this fantastic post from Bonnie at Going Home To Roost.  For those that haven't been attacked by a bug yet, an ounce of prevention goes a long way. And for those that sympathy! Read this and you'll be feeling better in no time.

Check out Going Home To Roost's Winter Wellness Essentials.

I think my favorite recommendation is the Neti Pot. For those who haven't experienced it yet, its magical and yet really weird to use the first few times. Let's just say it was during a PEC planning session last winter that Laura first introduced me to a Neti Pot. And let's also say that its a good friend that stands by your side and watches all the goopy water run out of your nose, telling you "breathe out of your mouth, not your nose!" the whole time. Neti Pot + breathing through your nose = lots of salty water down your throat. Yuck!

It works, I swear!

Do you have any natural remedes to share?

November 26, 2011

How To: Eat a Pomegranate

Posted by Laura

I am so excited that Pomegranates are currently in season (and they will be until February). These little seeded fruits are said to be one of the most promising of health foods. They are loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, fiber and other powerful vitamins. Ever wonder how to get the seeds out?

First, slice the pomegranate in half, horizontally.

Next, put 5 slits around the perimeter, one in between each row of seeds.

Open it up like a bloomin' onion from Outback Steakhouse

Flip it upside down over a bowl of water and run your fingers over the seeds, detaching them from the skin and membrane of the fruit. By doing this over a bowl of water, it causes the mealy skin pieces to float to the top for easy discard.

Once all of the seeds are out (average pomegranate has 613 seeds!), skim the skin off the top of the water and pick out the bad seeds. I usually wash them one more time in a colander.

Final product!

My favorite way to eat pomegranate seeds is to freeze them and put them in plain (or pomegranate) seltzer water. They float to the top so you get a few with every sip.

Other ways to use pomegranate seeds are to eat them straight up (or frozen), in a smoothie (like a kale smoothie for a super dooper power smoothie), or in a pomegranate martini. Enjoy!

November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Wishes from PEC

Posted by PEC

For those of you dedicated PEC followers that happen to read this on turkey day, we wish you many blessings, stomachs full of turkey goodness, rosy cheeks from a glass of wine (or beer, or cider..), laughs with friends and family, and quiet moments of a heart swelling with thanks.

And for those of you who need a little last minute Thanksgiving inspritation, feast your eyes on this:

 Sherry over at Young House Love (one of our favorite blogs) gives you lots of ideas for fun and fresh table settings. Check out her ideas for Last Minute Thanksgiving Table Settings.

Katie Bower over at Bower Power (another blog we frequent) also dishes up some pretty stellar table settings using hardware-store materials.

Check out her more traditional table setting here.

And her non-traditional table setting here.

And for those faithful PEC fans, don't forget our outdoors-inspired table settings shared earlier in the fall. Read about how to recreate them here.

First our non-traditional setting.

And then our traditional standby.

Now git ta settin' that thar table, ya hear?

November 22, 2011

(Re)Creating a Moment

Posted by Laura

for a little sunshine as these days grow colder and darker

I mentioned over the summer that my family spent a week together celebrating my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. These get-togethers are rare since my family is separated by many thousands of miles, so we try to make 'em count (never a dull moment). We had a particularly fun and spontaneous moment after my Aunt Pam presented my mother with the original floral headpiece she had preserved from their wedding, seen in this photo here:

June 5, 1971
Mosquitoville, VT

One thing led to another and my mother ended up in her wedding dress (that she made by hand - 40 years ago!) with the headpiece and tissue paper as a veil. My brother is an amazing photographer (shameless plug, his name is Ian Christmann) and therefore we decided that it would be excellent to remake their wedding photo from above....on their front lawn...and then we got carried away...with new ideas for each picture. The pictures will tell the story...

The headpiece that started it all

Did I mention she made her wedding
dress, from scratch?

laughing tears


more laughing tears...


Ma and Pa sure is proud of them offspring

oh my...

My parents often wonder where we get our creativity from. I say, it's from them and the environment they have created for us growing up and as adults. Like I said, never a dull moment. Thank you mom and dad for the examples you've been to us. Happy 40th year.

in the words of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros,
"Home is Whenever I'm With You"

November 20, 2011

brown paper packages tied up with strings...

Posted by Lauren

Note from Laura: PEC is happy to welcome Lauren from lcgray with her first (of many, hopefully) guest post. She is the mother of two, Julia and Charlie, and is bursting at the seams with creativity (by the way, is Charlie in a laundry basket the third picture down? HA!).

My parents used to wonder what was wrong with me on Christmas morning. I would sit around with packaging strewn all over the living room and a semi-scowl on my face. My family chalked it up to the fact that I probably didn't get what I asked for (yes, I was a high maintenance child). The reality was that I missed the pretty packages under the tree. I would just sit for hours before my family woke up and stare in wonder at the gifts lined up under the tree. Each of them lovingly wrapped (hurried, yes, but loving none-the-less) and intricately placed as if they were featured in a Macy's Christmas window display. There is such beauty in the anticipation of the holidays!

Though I am guilty of wrapping gifts 2 minutes before they are opened, I believe that there is a lost art of the intentionally wrapped gift...I also believe that there is a lost art of the handwritten note, but that's a whole other post. There is something special to a gift wrapped with love. It's like two gifts in one.

For those of you who believe that a beautifully wrapped gift entails lots of ribbon, pricey wrapping paper, and lots of time, these two simple examples might change your mind. Since I am a mother of 2 little ones, I typically have a "grown up" and "child" version to all aspects of my life. From clothing to food to crafting to cleaning, this is how I live. So here you go - one kid-friendly and one "I'd like to feel like an adult now" ways to present a gift.

Creative gift wrapping 101

child's version...inspired by my toddler who loves to create just as much as I do:

Start with a roll of paper and some paints - I found these at a child's consignment store way before my daughter could even hold a paint brush, but they were way to great of a deal to pass them up. They have definitely been well used!

Add an eager toddler to the mix.

Let her go to town painting as much or as little as she desires. And while you're at it, multitask to get some other things done (note my little one in the background hanging out with the laundry). Poor guy!

Let it dry and wrap it up!

How cute is that?

I told you that was easy. The hardest part is explaining to your 2 year old why her artwork is being ripped apart when it is time for the unwrapping. I think she got it after a few tears and a promise for more painting...

Grown-up version...inspired by our big storm:

With the wealth of logs we had after our oak went down, I had my personal lumberjack husband slice up a few slivers for some projects that I had brewing. I thought I would leave the chainsawing to him.  

I have about 20 different projects-to-be in my head. When I laid out these little discs for a photo shoot with my little one, I was inspired to drill some holes and make a button. (I wonder why?) :)

The wrapping is a paper bag. A button is a simple accessory to pull it all together.

The possibilities are endless. It is so much fun to come up with creative ways to present a gift. Often times, the cutest wrapping involves things that can be reused and recycled. 

Just don't regift. Apparently that's not good etiquette :)


November 18, 2011

How To: Make a Fall Planter

Posted by Kristin

Recently, I had to create a fall planter as part of a raffle gift I was donating to a local charity event.  My goal was pretty straightforward: I wanted it to feel 'fallish' yet be able to transition into the holidays, it needed to be large enough to work on someone's front stoop or their table, and it needed to be free!

First, I scoped out what I had for gardening pots. I came across this grey-green planter that was low enough to be used as a centerpiece if the raffle winner so desired. I also found a white hanging basket that I could used as a liner pot.  I trimmed it down so it would fit inside the pot and filled it with some old soil I had lying around.

A liner pot keeps things neat and tidy.

Once the liner pot is in and covered with foliage, you won't even see it.

Next, I took a stroll around my yard to see what greenery was out there. Now I may be  tough critic because of my profession, but I think most people would agree that my yard is not 'landscaped' per say. And yet I still managed to find a ton of great plant material to use.

Juniper works well to form the base of a centerpiece.

I'm not actually sure what these blue berries are but they looked interesting.

Oriental bittersweet. Word of advice- this plant is VERY
 invasive so please don't plant it! This one happened to be
 growing along the road, so I clipped some but was
 careful not to drop see pods on the ground.

Native grasses found along the roadside.

There were massive amounts of Oak leaves.

And lots of Red Maple leaves.

These technically were from my attic but I did find them outside at an earlier date.

Lots of Pine boughs were available from the recent October snowstorm.

After gathering all my supplies, I started playing around with filling the pot. First I built up the base with Pine and Juniper branches.

Then I filled in some gaps with leaves.

And here's how it turned out, after adding berries, grasses, and some curly branches I had on hand. The branches add height but will still allow people to see each other across the table.

I tied on one of my new business cards
(with my new website- details coming soon!) and called it good to go.

Then I saw that I still had alot of plant material left and it was starting to rain pretty hard at this point so I needed to get it cleaned up stat! So I grabbed a big, terra cotta pot from my front stoop and filled 'er up. Considering I threw it all together in about 5 minutes, I was pretty happy with how it came out.

So let this prove that a quick inventory of what you've got on hand, a short walk through your yard or the woods, and a little bit of creativity can all combine into something great! Happy Fall!