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Hosting a Fall Party

Fall Party Ideas (2)

As Christians we often struggle with this time of the year.  Some celebrate the U.S. version of Halloween while others feel convicted to not partake in any form. However, no matter how you feel about Halloween there are still plenty of options available for getting together in October and even in November. Here are a few ideas that not only won’t break the bank, but are easy to organize.

Chili or Soup Night-have each person bring a variety of chili or a soup for sampling. If you have a few that don’t cook ask them to bring cheese, sour cream, corn chips, etc. This makes it easier on you and them. Make sure that you have plenty of counter space, bowls, and spoons for this. If doing samples small cups may be a better option. You can even come up with a fun prize for the best chili or provide the chili yourself and have others bring sides and desserts.

Pumpkin Carving/Decorating-invite people over that are wanting to carve or decorate a pumpkin or even make some sort of centerpiece. There are endless options for this, ask each person to bring a pumpkin and something to decorate with such as paint, decals, glitter, etc. While the decorating is going on roast pumpkin seeds for a snack after the clean up is over.

Show a Classic Movie-this could range from Charlie Brown to Vincent Price depending on who is invited. Have each person bring a snack or make up some of your own.  My favorite treat when I was a kid was a mixture of popcorn, candy corn, raisins, nuts, and M&M’s. Or purchase a variety of candy bars and have people chose what they want. No matter what, popcorn is a must!

Treat Exchange-who says that you can only do a cookie exchange in December? Grab a group of friends and invite them to bring some of their favorite fall treats and exchange them. You can even make a large batch of snack mix together. Make sure that everyone brings a container and you may want to have some extra on hand just in case. Set a theme for the treats for an extra unique experience such as pumpkin spice, spooky, apple, or fall fest.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on your way to celebrating during the fall season. Any of these would also be great for an invite opportunity.  Inviting someone to church is good, inviting someone into your life is great!

 

 

Baking with Apples

I’ll admit that I’m new at baking with apples. I haven’t had a lot of experience so right now the possibilities are endless on what I want to do with the 18 pounds of apples I bought the other day. I’m a fan of going to an orchard and buying apples and as luck would have it Gays Mills, WI is under three hours away from where I live. After a day filled with orchard hopping and eating way too many delicious apple sweets I thought about what I want to make with these.

I’m definitely going to want to make either apple pie filling or apple hand pies for the freezer.  There’s nothing like warm apple pie on a crisp fall day. I’m also thinking on making a couple of loaves of bread and testing out some dips. Luckily I have plenty of taste testers for my experiments!

If you’re looking for something new for Thanksgiving or even a new side dish give this one a try. It’s one of my favorite recipes that uses apples.

Slow Cooker Acorn Squash

1 whole Acorn Squash

2 T butter

1 tsp cinnamon

2 T brown sugar

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 small apple, diced

One small package dried cranberries

2 T chopped walnuts

splash of apple juice or cider

Instructions:

Prepare Acorn squash by removing outer green skin. Cut in half and remove seeds so that the squash has a hollow in the middle.  Add apple juice or cider to the bottom of the slow cooker so that it just covers the bottom.  This will help keep the squash from drying out. Place squash in juice and place 1 T butter in each half of squash in the hollow. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and place in hollow. Top with apples, cranberries, and nuts.

Cook on low 6-8 hours until squash is tender.  Stir together just before serving.  I’ve served it straight out of the slow cooker and in a dish.

For a healthier version leave out the sugar and reduce butter and add in more juice or cider.

For a crowd: squash is filling and most people take a smaller amount. One squash in this recipe feeds 3-4 people.  The recipe works best if all of the squash is on the bottom of the slow cooker and has the ingredients baked in the hollow, but I’ve also cubed the squash and placed on the bottom and layered the ingredients over the top. If you cube the squash you’ll want to keep an eye on it and may need to add more juice or cider. I’ve placed 3 squash in a slow cooker with the squash cubed.

 

My Freezer Meal Planning Part 1

It’s planning time again!  Even though I have a freezer stuffed with soup right now I’m looking ahead to my next round that I’ll be prepping in December.  Why do I plan this far in advance?  The biggest reason is that I have a hard time deciding what to make.  I have tons of great recipes, but to decide on only 13-15 (that’s how much my freezer can hold) is challenging for me.  Especially because I have a tendency to pick recipes with chicken and have that be the only meat option.  So right now I’m going through all of my recipes and picking some favorites and throwing in a few new ones as I always do.  Seriously, it can take me 3-4 weeks to make up my mind on what to make.  I don’t sit down and do it all at once 🙂

I also plan this far in advance because I know that food always goes on mega sales in November.  Having my shopping list ready to hit sale items helps me save on cost.  I haven’t spent over $150 yet on a round of prep so I feel that this method works for me to save money.  Not saving a ton of time at this stage, but I find this part of the process relaxing so I use it to chill out from the day.  I’m kind of a nerd like that.

I have a lot of people that ask me about my process and why I plan so early, so there it is!

Update: With any planning session there is usually something that comes up that causes a slight delay.  This time I had all of the recipes pulled and was making out my list when I realized that I didn’t have healthy recipes. I usually try to make most of mine healthy.  Back to planning I go (this time with eating before planning)!

Getting Started with Organizing

I have a natural talent for organizing, it’s okay if you glare at the screen as you’re reading this.  What I’ve realized from helping those that don’t have natural talent is that the most frequent barrier to organizing is where to begin.  So here are some basic steps to get you started on your organizing journey.

  1. Start small.  This is extremely important to remember when you are just beginning.  Pick a small area such as a medicine cabinet, a shoe rack, a drawer, etc.
  2. Set aside a sorting area.  Since you are starting small this shouldn’t be an issue. Counter space, a clear area on the floor, the bed, any space that has a larger cleared area will work.
  3. Brace yourself for a mess.  It will get worse before it gets better.  Take a deep breath and gather yourself.
  4. Have a trash can handy. I guarantee you will end up throwing something away, it’s easiest just to have one within reach.
  5. Take every single item out of the area that you are trying to organize and place the items in the sorting area.
  6. Throw away anything broken, that has missing pieces, that is expired, or that you will never use but you can’t donate.  Place items to be donated in clearly marked bags so that they are designated from trash and easy to toss in the car when you are ready to take them somewhere.
  7. Sort items according to likeness, pairs, or items you want handy at all times.
  8. Will the items fit in the organizing tools that you have purchased?  If not rethink if you need everything or if there is another location that the items might possibly fit.
  9. Place items neatly in bins or drawer organizers according to how you need to access them.
  10. Place the rest of the items neatly in the cabinet, rack, cupboard, etc.

Have a hard time determining how to neatly place items in an area?  Here is an example:

under kitchen sink

Items I use the most are placed at the front of the bin along with smaller items so that I can see everything at a glance. Dish items are grouped together and cleaning products are grouped together.  Shorter items are also in the back so that the bin fits underneath the disposal.

Prepping Your Kitchen

The one mistake that I see others posting about is not prepping their work space and running into issues, especially when trying to assemble 10+ meals in a few hours or if they have multiple people prepping in the same area.  There are some simple things you can do ahead of time that will make your prepping session go easier.

  1. Sanitize your counters.  I use disinfectant wipes an wipe down all of my surfaces that I’ll be preparing food on.  Preparing this much food at once has me a more than a little concerned about sanitation and I make that priority one.  I also wipe down the surfaces when I’m done and sometimes even halfway through depending on how much raw meat I am cutting up.  I’m messy with food prep as it is, so a handy container of wipes is a necessity of mine.
  2. Have plenty of dish soap on hand.  It takes so much time to run a load through the dishwasher when all you may need is a measuring cup or a prep bowl washed.  If you use a dish wand with the soap in the handle I recommend beginning with a fresh sponge on top and disposing afterwards depending on what you end up washing and how frequently.
  3. Begin with an empty trash can.  There’s nothing that’s more annoying to me than when I’m in the cooking zone and I have to take out the trash in the middle.  It’s also good to begin with empty recycling bins.
  4. Empty the freezer.  This may take a few days prior, but you don’t want anything in the freezer that isn’t necessary so that you have the maximum amount of space available.  If you’re planning on using freezer bags you’ll want space to lay them flat.  One of the many benefits of living in the midwest is having the frigid air of the outdoors during the winter.  Sometimes my food freezes faster outside on my deck.
  5. Double check your supplies.  Do you have enough pans, prep bowls, measuring cups and spoons, freezer containers and bags, a Sharpie, masking tape?  Did you purchase everything on your shopping list?  Do you have extra spices for items you make that you want to add something to?