Archives for October 2011

Easy and Fun Halloween Craft Roundup

Hi guys. Crystal here from Crystal & Co., and I want to share some of my favorite Halloween craft ideas with you!

It is not too late to make a few (or all) of these fun Halloween crafts.

Here are twelve ideas you will love.

  1. Blood Shot Eyeballs– my twins share a video with instructions for turning powdered donuts into eyeballs.
  2. Spider Handprints– you can read the Itsy Bitsy Spider and create this keepsake craft.
  3. Witchy Fingers– pretzels, green chocolate and almond slivers make this super cool treat that is perfect for a school party.
  4. Halloween Bark– this salty and sweet dessert will be a hit, I promise.
  5. Ghost Poo with Free Printable– print, stuff your cello bags, staple and you’re good to go. These are always a hit with kids.
  6. Homeschool Freebies by Subject– if you homeschool this is a list you will want to check out.
  7. Pumpkin Poo with Free Printable– these printables are treasures that make giving treats to friends so simple.
  8. Pumpkin Pie Play Dough– you can not eat it, but the smell is amazing and have fun watching your kids create!
  9. Mummy Cookies with Free Cookie Tag– dip a Milano cookie in white chocolate and you are on your way to creating these adorable mummy cookies. Add the cookie tag and they make excellent treats for teachers.
  10. Broomstick Pretzels– pretzel rods and fruit roll ups make this simple snack perfect for after school.
  11. Ghost Treats– marshmallows can be created into so many things, including ghosts. Who knew?
  12. Puff Paint Pumpkin– intimidated by carving a pumpkin? Use puff paint to decorate instead.

Healthy Halloween Treat Banana Moustache

 Happy Halloween crafting! And don’t forget to make some No Guilt Healthy Halloween treats!

Pumpkin Cheddar Soup

Pumpkin Cheddar Soup

Meatless Monday! It’s back!

I’ve been on a pumpkin kick this whole month. Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, now Pumpkin Cheddar soup.

The key to this soup is the onions. I found I didn’t make enough. I wanted more. So I adjusted the recipe, and am about to run to the store for more onions, so I can add them to the soup before serving it to my family for dinner.

This is what I added to the soup. It’s one onion cooked down until just caramelized:

Carmelized Onions

If you cook yours and find that you have about that amount – you need more! Twice that amount is what I put in the recipe. Trust me. Heavenly!


4 C cooked pumpkin
1 C vegetable broth
1 bottle beer – preferably a light ale
2 good sized onions, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T worcestershire sauce
freshly ground pepper
cayenne pepper
1 C grated cheddar cheese – sharp to extra sharp

1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, combine pumpkin, stock and beer. Bring just to a boil, then back it down to low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer while you cook the onions.

2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, garlic and salt. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook just until the onions carmelize.

3. Add the onions and all remaining ingredients to the stockpot with the pumpkin mixture. Stir well and continue to cook an additional 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

4. If you wish, top the soup with toasted walnuts before serving. Goes great with bread and apple slices.

Linked to MMMM
and My Meatless Monday and The Humbled Homemaker

Popular Real Food iPhone Apps

If my iPhone were ever taken away – I would crash and burn! Seriously. Ok, so maybe that is an exaggeration. But for someone who didn’t really want one in the first place I dare you to try to take it away! I use my phone for everything. I use it for making appointments, for keeping a calendar, for writing down any important thought that pops in my head, for entertainment while waiting in the carpool lane, for keeping track of my workouts…. you get the picture.

Along with keeping my life in order, there are also so fabulous apps out there that can assist you in helping you on your real food journey. What’s more? Many of these are FREE!

Dirty Dozen iPhone appStart with the Dirty Dozen – Environmental Working Group app. It’s a free app from the Environmental Working Group that informs you of all the foods on the Dirty Dozen list. It also has a list of foods from dirtiest to cleanest. That’s right! You can now take that wrinkled piece of paper with the dirty dozen out of your coupon binder and toss it. All the information will be right on your phone. This app is available for FREE!

CSPI Chemical Cuisine iPhone AppCSPI Chemical Cuisine is an app that deciphers food labels for you. My number one rule is: If I don’t recognize it, I don’t buy it. However, there are some natural additives that are unrecognizable but don’t compromise your “real food” goals. So this app comes in handy for that. Another feature I like is the “certain people should avoid” feature for those with chronic health issues. This app is available for .99.

Seasons iPhone AppSeasons is a clever app. While I try to keep you updated with what produce you can find in season, this app goes even further. You can find out what is just coming into season, what is at peak season, and when a produce item is about to go out of season. Furthermore, this app will even help you find a farmer’s market – provided one is close by. It came up with several close to my location!  I don’t like the import season feature. However, it can be important if you are trying to eat locally and seasonally. This app is $1.99.

Fooducate iPhone AppFooducate is a FREE app that is also labeled an “App Store Staff Favorite.” And I can see why. This app allows you to scan an item and get a health rating on it. In addition, you will get warnings like: “Not 100% Whole Grain.” The organic sprouted grain bread I just bought came up that way. It really takes a lot of the confusion out of some of the more deceiving advertising on packages. It provides a lot of information for FREE.

The Food Guide

The Food Guide is really a food dictionary. It has everything from when a food is in season, how to choose the freshest food, and the vitamin and mineral information of a food. And if you ever are wondering what a cooking term means, this guide has a glossary of cooking terms. For only .99 you get a ton of information.

What are your favorite apps?

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Baked Pumpkin Spice DonutsI am on a baked goods kick! The weather is turning cooler, so a delicious warm donut and a cup of coffee is my favorite Sunday morning thing right now.

I can’t decide if these are my favorite donuts or if I prefer my Baked Apple Cider Donuts. Either recipe I make, my family always raves over these baked donuts!

Have you ever cooked with white whole wheat flour? It is the nutritional equivalent to whole wheat flour, it is just white. If you find these donuts are still too heavy for your family, try lightening it up even more by using whole wheat pastry flour. I always have all three of these flours in my baking cupboard.

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts


  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 C pumpkin


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prep two baked donut pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and both sugars. Whisk together ingredients until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together butter, eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, buttermilk, and pumpkin. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  4. Spread donut batter evenly into baked donut pans. Bake 12- to 15 minutes or until donuts are slightly golden.
  5. Remove donuts and cool on a cooling rack.
  6. Glaze with a mixture of powdered sugar and maple syrup.

So, what flavor do you prefer in the Fall: Apple or Pumpkin?

DIY Solar Lit Carved Craft Pumpkins

Remember this summer when I found solar path lights on sale at Target for only $1? And I made solar candlesticks with them? Well, during the sale I bought brown colored path lights too. Since then I’ve had this Fall decorating idea percolating in this wee little brain of mine.

How about glowing pumpkins with no energy expended? Literally and figuratively. They glow with no energy used and you don’t have to light a candle or turn a switch. I love effortless. That’s why I also decorate with edibles.

Here’s how to create a solar lit pumpkin:

1. You need a craft pumpkin from the craft store and a solar path light (Notice how the solar path lights come apart. You want to pop the top part that has the light in it off so it is a separate piece. That is what will go into the top of the pumpkin.) I also used a pumpkin carving kit. It’s the same kit you’d use for a regular pumpkin. Save your good knives! A kit like this is cheap and I’ve actually had mine for years.

Craft Pumpkin Solar Light Pumpkin Carving Kit

2. Carve out the top of the pumpkin so the solar light fits on top.

Solar light as pumpkin stem

3. Decide on your design. I wanted to keep it “Fall Harvest” so I could leave them up through Thanksgiving. I taped a leaf onto the pumpkin and traced it with the grease crayon that came with the pumpkin carving kit. Again, being able to leave it up for 2 months is why I decorate with edibles!

Tape the design onto the pumpkin and trace

4. Carve your pumpkin! Here’s a warning: it’s messy. It’s not the pumpkin guts up your elbow kind of messy. It’s the small balls of styrofoam sticking with static cling to everything messy. Best to grab some newspaper to carve on and to keep the vacuum close by.

Me carving my craft pumpkin 5. Place the solar light into the top of the pumpkin. Now, the bottom of the solar path light pulls out. It is actually the stake part of the light. Cut a slit in the bottom of the pumpkin and insert the stake into the bottom. You are now ready to move your pumpkin outside!

Solar Lit Carved Craft Pumpkin

6. Enjoy the ease of a solar lit carved craft pumpkin! I squealed with joy when we drove up to the house the other night when I saw my pumpkins with their warm glow welcoming me home! It was a total squeal. I’m not proud of it, but see if you don’t squeal too!

Solar Lit Pumpkins


Pumpkins with a solar glow

SQUEEEE! I really do love these!

Welcome Fall with Edible Decorations

Pumpkin CenterpieceMy dining room table with an edible arrangement.

I asked on Facebook how you all decorated for the holidays. Halloween, Fall Harvest, Both… From the comments, it looks like most of us love to decorate with a Fall Harvest look in mind.

Being frugal and green I also like my Fall Decorations to be natural and practical, so I’ve decorated with edible decorations!

The local farmer’s market had plenty of beautiful pumpkins, mini-pumpkins, acorn squash and gourds. I bought some of each!

Did you know you can eat the mini-pumpkins? That’s right, they will cook and taste just like an acorn squash. Simply substitute the mini-pumpkin in any acorn squash recipe!

The gourds are not edible. Well, they technically are. However, I have never cooked with them and couldn’t find a single recipe to recommend to you. If you have a great gourd recipe, please share! Otherwise, you can add the gourds to your compost pile!

I’ll keep these decorations up through Thanksgiving. The acorn squash and the pumpkins need checking every once in a while to make sure they aren’t rotting. I plan on eating them and replenishing them throughout the season.

Halloween Decorations

If you like a more Halloween flavor to your decorations, acorn squash and mini-pumpkins can add to the seasonal spirit! I tried to pick squash with some great mottling of colors to add to the interest of the decor.

Be sure to check out my DIY Solar Lit Carved Craft Pumpkins for another effortless decorating idea!

Do you decorate with edibles?

Eat in Season: October

Brussels SproutsPhoto Credit: Esteban Cavrico

Wondering what produce is in season? Here are the fruits and vegetables that are freshest during the month of October. BONUS: these are also at their cheapest now!

Brussels Sprouts – I love these guys! However, I only make them about once a year – no one else in my family shares my passion. If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, it might be because you haven’t chosen the smallest ones you can find. The small ones are more tender and less cabbage-y tasting. Store in your fridge’s crisper drawer.

 Leeks – Again, look for leeks that are on the smaller side to avoid stalks that are overgrown or old. Store in the fridge tightly wrapped in plastic to keep their odor from spreading. These last about 5 days when refrigerated.

Mushrooms – Avoid any mushrooms that look shriveled. As soon as you get mushrooms home, remove them from any plastic and instead store them in a brown paper bag in the fridge and they should keep for a week.

Pears – Pears are a rare fruit in that they will ripen at home. So, it is perfectly ok to buy firm pears. If you place them in a paper bag, they will ripen more quickly. Otherwise, just leave them on the counter and they will ripen there.

Sweet Potatoes – When selecting sweet potatoes, avoid brown spots and wrinkles. Keep potatoes in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. Sweet potatoes don’t store as long as regular potatoes because of their high sugar content.

NONE of these are on the dirty dozen list! So if you are looking to save money, you can buy conventionally grown!

Be sure to also check what Food is in Season in September as many of those fruits and vegetables are still in season and plentiful on the grocer’s shelves and at the farmer’s market.