Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Decorations and Dead Man's Bones (it'll all make sense by the end of the post)

Just wanted to share a peek of my Halloween and fall decorations in anticipation of Halloween this weekend...

IKEA enamel pitchers filled with dried wheat flank a milk glass vase containing faux autumn foliage. Various kinds of acorns, deer antlers (my husband's contribution to the vignette), candles in leaf-shaped holders and a pair of pre-WWII ceramic turkeys sit atop a homemade burlap runner.
I love these little turkeys! I picked them at a second-hand store and the colors are so vibrant. Even though they're Thanksgiving decorations, I couldn't wait to put them out. :)
Just one more photo...can't help myself!
An adorable vintage repro garland of Halloween postcards.
The pumpkin heads just tickled me.
Dollar Store and Michael's finds on top of the living room armoire.
This is my table of el cheapo finds that I just love: an old enamel pitcher from the Liberty Antiques Festival wrapped in a bit of upholstery webbing, a yard sale lantern, a 100-year-old Farmers Almanac (I'm going to have to color copy pages out of this book; it's way too cool to tear apart, but the ads and pictures in here are priceless!), and another clearance item from Michael's.
Even the trusty pot-belly stove gets a little Halloween love. We'll have to crank her up soon, so the decorations won't stay much longer.
My mother-in-law made the grapevine wreath, oh, about 30 years ago. She gave it to me this year, then I prettied her up with Dollar Store ribbon and faux leaves.
A very quaint, country centerpiece on the dining room table: I cut a burlap runner, then placed the probably-from-Target napkin perpendicular over top of it. Had a matching napkin, so I tucked it in a basket with some ginormous pine cones my husband brought back from a hunting trip near the Outer Banks. He stuck the turkey feather in for good measure. (He secretly likes to decorate in his own masculine way!)
BOO!  Thanks for humoring me by coming along on my little tour!
And how's this for a random, Halloween-related Youtube video to end this post? This is the video for the song, "Name in Stone," by Dead Man's Bones. Dead Man's Bones is a musical duo, of which Canadian actor (and Oscar nomimee) Ryan Gosling is one half.  (By the way, if you've never seen his Lars and the Real Girl, go rent it! Like now. It's a totally bizarre premise that could have easily gone awry, but the film has such heart and sweetness to it. You won't be disappointed.)

I love the eerie feel of the video with its grainy footage. The song is infectiously catchy once it gets going; then throw in the kids dressed up in in their homemade Halloween costumes and the stroll through the cemetery with the choir...I know, it sounds too weird, but it makes me smile to watch it. Hope it does you, too. Plus, let's be honest, Ryan's not bad to look at! :)


This post is linked to The Shabby Chic Cottage's Transformation Thursdays and Perfectly Imperfect's Style Feature Saturday.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Muffin in Honor of Fall

The leaves are now finally peaking here, but sadly, also falling somewhat simultaneously.

My son and I stood outside on our back stoop this week to take in the sight of leaves dancing and swirling through the air. A rainstorm was coming and some of the leaves were even whipping around. Plus you could smell the impending precipitation.

My framed chalkboard says it all.
Ahh, it truly was bliss to watch and feel.

Because I’m a dork, once fall officially arrived a month ago, I decided to celebrate my favorite season by eating a delicious, healthy, autumn-inspired breakfast every day in its honor. This is the time for eating prodigious amounts of pumpkin and I won't squander the opportunity! However, three mornings a week, I take my son to preschool, and the other two are usually filled with chores and projects around the house, shopping, or getting together with friends. In other words, mornings are busy and I needed a breakfast that could be prepared quickly and even eaten quickly sometimes.

Now, I like muffins very much and I thought that would be a good fast-and-dirty breakfast option. All the work is done up-front and you reap the fruits of your labor for days. (That’s how I roll when it comes to fixing dinner here, too. I don’t get why one would want to plan seven different dinners for a week when you can make three or four meals TOPS that stretch over the course of seven days. I’m in the kitchen enough as it is that I have no desire to cook dinner *every* night. But I digress…back to muffins.) However, the thing about muffins is I don’t like the muffin top that traditional wheat flour and sugary versions have a tendency to give me.

Enter coconut flour. In the last year or so, I’ve played around with coconut flour as an alternative to wheat flour in some of my baking. Fortunately, I have no issues with gluten intolerance, I just wanted to try this lower-carb flour (8g carbs per 2 tbs., 5g of which are fiber) that introduces a goodly amount of fiber and protein to otherwise fiber-and-protein-deficient baked goods.

In my experiments, I’ve learned that coconut flour is not an ideal flour for making cookies, nor is it very good for making a yellow cake, unless you really like the taste of egg.  However, chocolate coconut flour cakes are a totally different story, and brownies are another excellent use for coconut flour. Really, as long as you have a flavor that masks the coconut and egg (because you use far more eggs when baking with coconut flour than you do with traditional flour), you’re good to go with this stuff.

After playing around with several recipes, I developed this consistently reliable recipe for a dozen well-sized breakfast muffins. Because I often think of cake and cupcakes as simply a vehicle for the icing, and because I wanted a little extra satiation when eating these dense breakfast morsels, I decided that life is too short not to frost them. 

Cream cheese atop pumpkin - what more could a girl ask for?
No fear, though!

These muffins—even with the icing—are mildly sweet (no refined sugars here!), contain only healthy fats and are most certainly appropriate for breakfast. Or as a snack. Or as a dessert you can feel quite unguilty about eating.

In fact, let me WOW you with the stats for just *one* of these lovelies:
-less than 250 calories (yes, that’s with the icing!)
-75% (1.2 grams) of the daily value of Omega-3 fatty acids needed by adults (based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
-contains ½ an egg (at least 3g of protein right there, not to mention the choline, folate, lutein, etc. that eggs also provide) and more than 5 grams of fiber (that's just from the coconut flour and chia seeds, the pumpkin adds a touch more that I didn’t include in the count)

Plus, the overall sugar content is low and these puppies stay with you a long time. Trust.  Even my husband, who has a bottomless pit for a stomach, gave these muffins his seal of approval. He was actually shocked a mere muffin could satisfy his hummingbird-like metabolism.

Enough said.  Enjoy!


P.S.--I'm sharing this recipe over at Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Parade. Check it out for more great recipes and cooking tips!

Makes 12

Dry Ingredients:
1 c. coconut flour (I order through my local co-op)
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
To your liking: ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, etc. I’m heavy-handed with my spices and it’s almost better to use too much than too little with these muffins.

Sift the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Wet Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 to 1-1/2 c. canned pumpkin
¾ c. plain almond milk or dairy milk
6 tbs. chia seeds
3 tbs. honey (or 4 tbs. if omitting molasses)
1 tbs. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ c. melted butter or coconut oil

Beat the eggs with a whisk, then incorporate the pumpkin, milk of your choice, chia seeds, honey, molasses and vanilla extract.  If using melted coconut oil for your fat, pour it in last so that way if the other wet ingredients are still cold-ish at this point, the oil won’t have a chance to harden (because coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees.) Otherwise, melted butter can go in at any time.

Once the wet ingredients are combined, you’re done with the whisk. Get a wooden spoon or spatula to finish the rest of your stirring. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and combine until well blended.

Put paper liners in a 12-muffin tray. Divide the batter evenly amongst the 12 cups with a spoon as this batter is thick! Bake at 350 degree for 25 minutes. It’s honestly okay if you over-bake these a little. Coconut flour yields a very moist, dense baked good with a heavier crumb that wheat-based products, so a little extra time in the oven only makes this muffin resemble its traditional counterpart that much more.

Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them to a baking rack to finish cooling.  Now it’s time to ice them!

8 oz. package of Neufchatel cheese, softened
¼ c. grade B maple syrup
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Put the ingredients in a small bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Resist (or not) the urge to sample this just-sweet-enough icing before icing your muffins generously.

Store uneaten muffins in an airtight container in the fridge.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Easier-Than-Pie Apple Crisp

This past weekend we went to a cookout at our friends' house. Despite the fact it's late October, we're still experiencing unseasonably warm weather here in North Carolina, making cookouts quite possible!

Ross, Caroline and I have known each other since 6th grade, which means we've been friends for almost 20 years, or about two-thirds of our lives. (I'm not going to dwell too long on that measure of my age!) Their relationship reads like a movie script: friends forever, even went to senior prom together, started dating three years ago (at which point us friends all breathed a sigh of relief that the inevitable had finally happened), then got married in spring 2009.  Last fall, they moved out to the country, not far from where I live (jumpy claps!) and after settling in, hosted this weekend get-together.

We were asked to bring dessert and so I made an appropriately autumnal apple crisp, cribbed from Laura at Heavenly Homemakers. Laura calls her crisp healthy, but since I found from past experience that doubling the amount of crumbly topping only improves this dessert, I'd hesitate to call my version healthy. 

However, this recipe is the epitome of easy and can be adapted to use pretty much any kind of fruit that bakes well. And it takes hardly any time to prepare, which was good because we'd had a busy day and I kind of forgot that I was supposed to make it until 30 minutes before the cookout began!

Since we didn't eat all our apples this week, I simply grabbed five--three were Red Delicious and two were Honeycrisp--then proceed to core, slice and peel them.

If you don't have one of these cheapy apple corer/slicer tools, please, go buy one. They make life so much easier when dealing with apples!
To keep things simple, I laid the sliced apples right into the pie pan, then tossed them with sucanat and a liberal amount of cinnamon.

Aerial view of the cinnamon-sucanat-covered apples.  The chickens enjoyed the apple peels on the left later.
Next, I (hurriedly) made the topping. I love it when I don't have to cream butter and can just stir ingredients together!

Then, I spooned/mashed the crumb mixture on top of the apples.

In an effort to actually get somewhere on time, I opted to bake the crisp at our friends' house and here it is fresh out of the oven.  I know, it doesn't look radically different from the pre-baked photo, but take my word for it, it's baked. :) 

And it was a delicious way to end a lovely meal with good friends.


Easier-Than-Pie Apple Crisp 
adapted ever so slightly from Heavenly Homemakers

5 c. sliced and peeled apples (1 medium-to-large apple yields about 1 c. sliced fruit)
2 tbs. sucanat or brown sugar
cinnamon - I don't measure, but use enough to coat the apples lightly

Crumb Topping:
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 c. sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. (or more) cinnamon

Tossed sliced apples with sugar of your choice and cinnamon in 8-9" pie pan or baking dish.

In a small bowl, melt butter, then stir in remaining ingredients. Spoon crumb topping over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Friday, October 22, 2010


After much blog reading in the last few years, I've gone and done it: I clicked the 'Create A Blog' button in my usually-ignored-Blogger account.

I'm Erin, I live in a rural area of  central North Carolina and I'm an early 30s, stay-at-home mom to my little boy.  My husband and I built our log farmhouse three years ago and together we are do-it-yourselfers (most of the time!) who seek to live a relatively simple, frugal and self-sufficient life.  My interests are decidedly varied, but I'm a Cancer through-and-through, so many do relate to making a home. I also routinely revel in my good fortune of being able to live in a place where the spaces are open and the air is clean, and that's why I chose the blog moniker of Carolina Country Living. 

However, I also like: antiquing and going to auctions and yard sales, reading (from Willa Cather to Charlaine Harris to gossip blogs), movie-going, painting furniture, vintage home wares and linens, baking and cooking using nourishing ingredients and real food, collecting model horses and following real horse racing, the idea of being British or Canadian so I could spell certain words like color with a 'u,' keeping chickens, staying fit, crafting, being a political progressive in the South, proper spelling, grammar and punctuation, the thrill of couponing, and traveling when at all possible. 

Sometimes I wish I could narrow down my interests a bit for the sake of having a more focused blog, but what's the fun in that? Viva randomness variety, I say!

Join me and my boys as I chronicle my life in the country!
Photo by Fields of View Photography