Fall Favorites – Amy’s Festive Warm Wassail Recipe

Today our special guest poster is Amy from Beloved Atmosphere and I met her not that long ago through an incredible Facebook group that I belong to. She is leading what I consider an exciting life! She recently moved to Europe and spends her free time traveling to incredible places (I’m a tad jealous).  

Amy is a devoted wife, a dedicated mommy to the Three Little Mermaids, a savvy traveller, an educator, and a darn good cook. When she’s not busy dining out at local hot spots or whisking her kiddos off to fun discoveries, Amy writes for Beloved Atmosphere, her blog that focuses on Travel with Kids, Parenting, Education, DIY and Crafting projects, Cooking and other Topics du Jour. Amy also manages Sunset Vacation Rental, her family’s vacation rental business for their house at the Beach. In whatever spare time she finds, Amy loves reading, sewing, cooking, and connecting on Social Media. 

You can find her all over the internet sharing pictures and videos of her family’s travel experiences, too. Check her out on Google+PinterestTwitter, FacebookInstagram and YouTube.

Now…. on to the good stuff. Amy’s Fall Favorite!

Doesn’t Autumn bring such comforting aromas and warm feelings?

Watching as the leaves change into brilliant scarlet, tangerine, mustard and plum always brings peace to my heart. As you cozy up in anticipation of Winter’s chill, simmer a pot of this delightful warm spiced cider and you’ll soon be feeling warm and spicy, too. A festive treat on a slow afternoon or a treat to enjoy as you prepare your Autumn and Winter holiday feasts, this Warm Wassail will be a tradition for years to come.

Grab your mug and your song book. Here we go a-wassailing!

If you’re a history buff, here is a link to the historical origins of wassail.

Side note: Where I’m from, a Hot Toddy is what we call any warm beverage spiked with alcohol. This Warm Wassail recipe is delicious both without alcohol and with a bit of Hot Toddy-ness. Our favorite add-ins include: Sandeman tawny port wine, cognac, brandy, bourbon, and red wine.

Amy festive wassail recipe

Amy’s Warm Wassail

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 6-8 hours Servings: 16 cups


2 quarts fresh apple cider

2 cups fresh no-pulp orange juice

2 cups cranberry juice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (optional)

20 whole cloves

20 cinnamon sticks, separated into 4 for recipe + 16 for garnish

1 pinch ground ginger (optional)

1 pinch ground nutmeg (optional)

1 pinch ground allspice (optional)

Garnishes: serve on the side of the pot next to the mugs…


Sugar cubes

Cinnamon sticks

Whole cloves

If you wish to “spice things up” and make this spiced cider a Hot Toddy (alcoholic)…

Amy festive wassail recipe

1 bottle bourbon, cognac or brandy

1 bottle red wine (Madeira, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot) or mulled wine

1 bottle tawny Port wine


  1. In a large pot over low heat, combine apple cider, fresh orange juice, cranberry juice, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.

    Amy festive wassail recipe

  2. Add whole cloves and 4 cinnamon sticks. Then sprinkle in to taste: ground ginger, ground nutmeg and ground allspice (each spice is optional).

    Amy festive wassail recipe

  3. Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

  4. After one hour, transfer to a slow cooker, and allow to simmer on the keep warm or low setting for 5-7 more hours before serving.

  5. Serve hot in mugs. Garnish each mug with a cinnamon stick.

  6. If you prefer a Hot Toddy, add your preferred alcohol to your warm wassail.

Amy festive wassail recipe

Enjoy the warm Autumnal spice aroma this wassail brings into your Kitchen and home.

Fair Warning: You’ll want to bundle up and sit around a fireplace the moment you sip this delectable beverage.

Fall Favorites – Beef Stew

Today I have my first guest poster for the Fall Favorites series! This is very exciting because I have a great line of of bloggers who will be sharing their Fall Favorites with you. 

Thank you Ashley for offering to be the first guest here and sharing a tasty looking recipe. I appreciate it greatly!

Please welcome Ashley from It’s Fitting where she blogs about the life of a stay at home mom of two wonderful kids, cooking, photography, and once in a while chickens.

You can find her at the usual places… Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and of course Pinterest.

Beef Stew

It was 43 degrees the other morning at my home. Forty-three. I going to assume that Fall has actually arrived (even though it will be around 75 today) and that Winter is going to be right on its heels.

With all that rain and cold and dark and brrrrr.

To compensate for the impending approach of winter, I’ve started making beef stew.

Now if you’ve never made beef stew before, it really is the easiest thing in the world. You have the option of making it a Dutch Oven, like I did, or prepping it on the stove and throwing the ingredients into a slow cooker. Whichever way you choose to do it, it does take some time to cook. Otherwise it wouldn’t taste so good.

I generally start making my stew in the morning on the stove and then have it simmering away until dinner time. The other way is to make it up the day before and throw it into the slow cooker, set it, forget it, and about 10 hours later you should be good to go. It’s going to depend on how much time you spend at home (as the mother of a 9 month old I’m in nap jail a LOT) and whether or not you will be around to stir and watch an open flame. Also, stew only gets better the longer that it sits and the flavors have a chance to marry.

It’s going to be even MORE amazing the next day, so make enough for LOTS of leftovers.

Also, with your beef stew, you’re going to need to have some killer red wine. A dear friend of mine, Leslie Sbrocco, the Thirsty Girl herself, has recommended some stellar yet inexpensive wine to go along with it.

After all, who doesn’t love to cozy up to the fireplace with a big bowl of beef stew, a crusty, warm slice of bread and a monstrous glass of red wine.

Now when choosing the meat for our stew, you have some flexibility. Stewing lends itself to thick, tough cuts of meat, because as they cook, the muscle fibers break down and start to melt into the stew. This, as weird as it sounds, is exactly what you want. I generally buy “stew meat” or a chuck eye/arm chuck from our local CSA. It’s going to be a cheaper cut of meat, which means we can stretch a dollar with this meal too. Just make a lot of it and you will be eating it for days.


2 pounds of meat – Make this either stew beef, chuck eye, or arm chuck and make sure to cut into bite size pieces if it isn’t already.

2 TB Olive Oil

2-3 cups of Red Wine, about half a bottle – Drink the other half while you cook.

2 Cups of Beef Stock – This is going to depend upon how much wine went in, how many veggies you’ve put in and how long you plan on cooking it for. I generally use enough to cover the contents of the oven/slow cooker by about an inch… cooking is not an exact science add more or less if you think it needs it.

1 TB Worcestershire Sauce

2 Cloves of Garlic – smashed

2 Bay Leaves

1 Medium Onion, large dice

3-4 Large Carrots – large dice – If you make the veggies too small, they will cook quickly, which means if you are simmering this for a few hours, or slow cooking it for 10-12 hours, your veggies are going to be mush. Gross.

4-5 Ribs of Celery – large dice

4-5 Small Potatoes – large dice

1 Container of mushrooms ( Optional )

1 Tsp Salt – This will change based upon your own taste. I try to salt every layer that goes into the pot, but not too liberally. At the end, add salt if it needs it, just don’t over do it.

1/2 Tsp of Pepper – see above

1 Tsp Smoked Paprika

1-2 sprigs of Rosemary

1-2 sprigs of Thyme

2 TB Cornstarch


Season the cubed meat with salt and pepper while your oil heats up in your Dutch Oven or deep skillet. Once your pan is hot (Medium to Medium High) throw in your meat, browning it on all sides. If your pan isn’t big enough to accommodate all of the beef, that’s OK. Brown it in small batches to get a nice crust on it, avoiding lowering the temperature of the pan and essentially steaming it. Yuck. Steamed meat.

Once all of the meat has been browned, remove it and add the onions. Saute for a few minutes until soft, then add the garlic. Be careful browning the garlic as you don’t want it to burn… burned garlic is not so tasty and has a pretty nasty smell. Once the onion and the garlic have cooked, throw in the rest of the vegetables and the meat. At this point, take your open bottle of red wine, pour yourself a glass and then add a few cups to the pan. I like to let that simmer for a few minutes, de-glazing the pan, soaking up all the yummy browned meat goodness and adding serious depth of flavor to the veggies. Keep stirring to make sure you get all of the bits off the bottom but make sure the heat isn’t too high.

Once you have the wine in the pan and the veggies have been simmering in it a few minutes, this is where we reach the crossroads. If you are using your slow cooker, VERY carefully pour these ingredients into the crock pot, add the beef broth, the spices and let ‘er rip. The time you want to cook this really will depend upon your slow cooker and how hot it gets. With mine, I set it on low for 10-12 hours, but keep an eye on it.

If you are using a Dutch Oven, carry on. Cover the veggies/meat/wine with 2 cups or so of beef broth and add the spices. Cover and let simmer for a few hours on Low, checking to make sure that it isn’t boiling and that the flavors are coming together as you like them. This is where I will start adding wine, or water, or more spices depending on what I think it needs. Remove the cover and let the liquid reduce slightly, for about 15 minutes.

Not this where is gets subjective. My husband likes our stew to be more like gravy, whereas when I’m eating it by myself, I like it to be thinner, with a more soup-like consistency. If the flavors are where you like it, but the consistency is not, combine a 1/4 of water with the cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Add some hot stew broth to the mixture, stir it up and throw it back into the pot. Let this cook for a few minutes longer and it should thicken up nicely.

Serve this over egg noodles, or by itself with a loaf of hot crusty bread.

For drinking, the Thirsty Girl recommends a bottle of Cotes-du-Rhone, a lovely French red wine. Specifically look for either Chapoutier – Belleruche, or Jaboulet Parallel 45. Both of these wines are less than $12 and an excellent accompaniment to your rich meaty stew. You should be able to find them at BevMo or other wine shops, and I’ve even seen the Jaboulet at Trader Joes!

Cozy up to your honey, grab a seat in front of the fireplace and enjoy your hearty, home cooked meal.


Liebster Award


How about something a little fun and different for a change? I was nominated for a Liebster Award from the Casual Readers book club recently and I graciously accept this because it’s not every day that one gets nominated for something.

Wondering what a Liebster Award is? Well, it’s something given from blogger to blogger … it’s kinda like a chain letter or a meme. Basically, I answer the questions, nominate some others, they accept, and then answer the questions and the circle continues.

What do you LOVE about blogging? Give us all the steamy details

I love all the connections that I have made through blogging. The friendships I have made are priceless.

What do you HATE about blogging? Be honest!

I hate competition… there always seems to be this numbers game going on and those with the highest numbers win. It kinda sucks.

Have you ever had a star-struck moment? Tell us about the time you met one of your favorite celebrities.

Absolutely! This year while I was at BlogHer I was able to meet Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman! She was going to be at the Land O’ Lakes booth chatting and taking pics with people. You can bet that I hovered around until she was going to be there and I was right at the front of the meet & greet line.

Ree Drummond

Blogger or WordPress? Tell us how and why you chose your blog’s platform.

When I first started out blogging I was on Blogger and then I won a Blogger to WP conversion (not sure how or any of that) and the amazing Ashley made it all happen. I love it too!

Have you ever been to a blogging conference? If so, tell us about it or name those on your to-go wish list.

Sure have! I’ve been to a couple of local conference right here in Michigan that were so much fun because I was able to finally connect with some amazing Michigan bloggers. I’ve also been to Bloggy Bootcamp in Chicago and BlogHer this past summer.

I’d love to check out a few more…. Type A and Mom 2.0 are on my list. Blissdom was on the list but it’s over with and who knows what will happen with BlogHer.

Traditional blogging or micro-blogging? Tell us which one you prefer and why.

Traditional… I’ve never really tried micro-blogging.

What is the best way to engage with your readers? From comments to contests, tell us what works for you.

Engagement depends on what you’re looking for really… For me it’s comments. Replying to the ones that are left on my blog and then asking leading questions on Facebook that encourage my fans to answer or ask something in return.

What are your favorite blogging tools? Tell us what they are and why you dig ’em.

I use several tools. Stats Counter & Google Analytics to track numbers, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule Tweets and Facebook updates, Google Docs to write and share posts that I have written for other blogs, and Evernote.

Did you keep a diary/journal as a child? Explain how that impacted your adult desire to blog.

Nope, I never kept a diary or a journal as I child. I wish that I would have though so I could go back and read what I was thinking, going through, and doing at various stages of my life. I’m sure that it’d be pretty entertaining!

Do you vlog? Tell us why video is special or why you’re beyond terrified just by the thought of it.

I don’t vlog… I have in the past and if there was a reason to do it again I would. Honestly, I hate the way I look & sound on camera.

So, now on to the nominations!!

Fleur De Aleta

Shana Norris


Oh, My Marta

Hearts & Laserbeams

Heck Awesome


  • Each nominee must link back to the person who nominated them.
  • Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
  • Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.


  1. What do you LOVE about blogging? Give us all the steamy details.
  2. What do you HATE about blogging? Be honest!
  3. Have you ever had a star-struck moment? Tell us about the time you met one of your favorite celebrities.
  4. Blogger or WordPress? Tell us how and why you chose your blog’s platform.
  5. Have you ever been to a blogging conference? If so, tell us about it or name those on your to-go wish list.
  6. Traditional blogging or micro-blogging? Tell us which one you prefer and why.
  7. What is the best way to engage with your readers? From comments to contests, tell us what works for you.
  8. What are your favorite blogging tools? Tell us what they are and why you dig ’em.
  9. Did you keep a diary/journal as a child? Explain how that impacted your adult desire to blog.
  10. Do you vlog? Tell us why video is special or why you’re beyond terrified just by the thought of it.

I know… I know…. I didn’t nominate 10. But that’s because I don’t know a lot of new bloggers. I should… I’m sorry.

Fall Favorites – Pumpkin Apple Cake

Fall is upon on us and that means baking season is here! Pumpkin, apple, pies, cakes, soups, casseroles, and all sorts of amazing dishes will be enjoyed at every day meals and special occasions.

And to celebrate the season I am going to be featuring a different recipe and a different blogger each Wednesday and Friday until we reach the holiday season. By that time you’ll have an arsenal of recipes for all of your holiday parties!

Because of my love of pumpkin and apple I have a cake that has both of them in it. It’s the best of both worlds! This pumpkin apple cake is sweet, dense, and delicious. It has rich pumpkin flavor with little bits of apple scattered throughout the cake. It’s the perfect end to a chilly fall day with a warm cup of chai… tea… coffee… or even warm spiced cider.

When I made the cake over the weekend I was going to leave it plain or just give it a dusting of powdered sugar and then my daughter stepped in. Cream cheese frosting was required to make it perfect. And just so you know, it was perfect. It added a little bit of extra… oohmp… to the cake.

pumpkin apple cake


Fall Favorites – Pumpkin Apple Cake


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled apples (finely chopped, about 2 medium)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray a 13x9 or bundt pan with vegetable pan spray.
  3. In large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until they turn a light yellow color. Gradually add sugars, oil, apple sauce, pumpkin, cider, and vanilla; beat thoroughly.
  4. Sift flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda together; add to egg mixture and mix well. Stir in apples.
  5. Pour into pan.
  6. Bake 55-60 minutes for a bundt pan and 35 - 40 for a 13x9 pan, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack if you're using a bundt pan.
  7. When cool frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting or glaze.

pumpkin apple cake 2

If you wanted you could even use a couple of 9in cake pans and make this into a layer cake. But in the essence of time and ease I used a 13×9…. meaning I wanted to be able to eat it sooner rather than later.

Are you interested in guest posting and sharing your favorite fall recipe here? If so, I’d love to have you here with me so just email me or leave me a comment.

Make sure to come back and check out all of the incredible guests that will be sharing their favorite fall recipes with you!

Share what’s good with Welch’s

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Welch’s. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

When I was growing up sitting down together for a meal was something that we did every evening. Same time, same place. Together as a family we ate dinner and talked about our days. Today, I still do that with my family because I feel that it’s important to stay connected and have that time set aside to be together in person, especially when there is so much going on in everyone’s lives and we tend to rely on technology to communicate with one another.

I’m not alone in this either. Welch’s feels the same way & have a new campaign called Share Your Moments!

Welch’s believes in the magic of “kitchen table” moments, and has been helping families enjoy them for generations. In the time it takes to drink a glass of juice or share a sandwich, a special moment can happen. That’s why Welch’s just launched a new movement called “Share what’s good™” It’s all about sharing those special moments that occur each day with family, friends and loved ones – whether it’s at home or on the go. At Sharewhatsgood.com you’ll find a variety of great content from fun family ideas to delicious recipes. You can share photos of your every-day moments and see how others are doing the same.

share whats good

As part of the Share what’s good campaign, Welch’s has launched the “Share Your Moments” photo contest! From 9/16 to 10/25 upload a photo of your favorite family moment for a chance to win $5,000! While there is only one grand prize, everyone who enters will get a $1.50 coupon for Welch’s 100% Grape Juice – or $2.00 if you share the news.

All you need to do is visit sharewhatsgood.com to enter! Actually, entering can be as easy as sharing a pic on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #sharewhatsgood.

How does your family connect around mealtime or at various times throughout the day?


Circling Around with Life360

Now that I have two kids in high school, one in middle school, and one of them that drives trying to keep track of where they are and what they’re doing can be a challenge. Especially with all their activities and without a calendar I can’t even keep up with it all. I’ll be honest…. I don’t always remember to update the calendar and forget what the girls are doing and end up calling them when they’re not home when I expect them.

So how do I keep track of where they are all the time?


Yes, I said circles. It’s the latest and greatest feature from Life360.


Let’s back up a bit and I’ll tell you what Life360 is….

Basically, it’s a free app that you install on your smartphone that helps you stay connected with your family and closer friends. With the circles you can create little groups for your family, friends, workout group, babysitters, or whatever groups you want to create. You can even add places that you and your family frequent like work, home, and school and are alerted when someone in your circle enters or leaves one of those places. This makes keeping track of where my kids are a lot easier than remembering to update the calendar all the time.

With circles I can send a quick message to everyone in my family, do a family call, and send a panic alert where it calls and messages everyone in your circle. Pretty cool, huh? Of course there are a ton of other great features that Life360 has to offer in addition to circles like locating sex offenders on the map, crime alerts, and the ability to help you find your phone when you lose it (this is important because I lose mine in the house all the time).

quick messages messages checking in map
Being able to know where my kids are and that they’re safe is important to me especially this day in age. There is so much going on in the world around us that stopping every second of the day to check in on what they’re doing and where they are is difficult but Life360 has made it incredibly simple for me. This way I know where they are and if they’re safe and when I’m not sure I have the ability to easily contact them.

I will say that it was difficult to get the girls to actually use it at first because they didn’t understand the point of it and why they should be using it. They likened it to Foursquare… yes, it’s similar but not the same. Not even close. Life360 is secure and only those in the circle know anything unlike Foursquare where the world knows where you are. I’d prefer that they world not know every move my kids are making.

How do you keep your kids safe?

How do you know where they are all the time without constantly calling them?

I am being compensated by Splash Creative Media on behalf of Life360 to write this post. The opinions contained within are mine and mine alone.

Where I live

My daily 15 minute drive to work takes me through farmland, wooded areas, open fields, and city streets.

Horses graze, deer leap across the road, and chickens around wander yards.

where i live

The “big” city is only about 30 minutes away where we can shop, eat at amazing restaurants, check out museums, and all sort of other fun things.

There are times that I wished that I lived in the city. I love the hustle and bustle, I love all the excitement, and I love all of the opportunities that are available to everyone that is there.

Of course the country and smaller towns have a lot to offer too.

Wide open spaces, safety, a sense of community, and where I live great schools.

As I drive around there are a few sights that have grabbed my attention and begged to be photographed.

red tractor

This red tractor had been sitting in this field for weeks. I don’t know if it was broken down or not… but with the surrounding fields, beautiful trees, and fog the morning I drove by it looked perfect sitting there, like it had been taken from another time and place and just dropped there.

tractor tipping

This green tractor never moves from this spot and each day that I see it I am reminded of the movie Cars. It looks just like one of the tractors that Mater & Lightening tip when they go tractor tipping in the field for fun.

lost truck

I don’t know much about this one other than it was hidden among the weeds and looks like an older truck (look at the horns on the top). I like older vehicles and it looks like this one might still work but has been forgotten for something newer. It’s a sad truck…

This one is my absolute favorite.

forgotten truck

There is a long story behind this one and my husbands grandmother told me about it but of course I can’t remember it. What I do remember is that this truck was parked in it’s current spot close to 50 years ago and hasn’t moved since. The land owners and I think family of the truck have never considered moving it and so there it remains with the windows missing, surrounded by weeds, and little trees growing out of the engine area.

I’ve been thinking more and more about where I live and the sights in my area and have had some great ideas on what to go in search of next. Barns! When you live in Michigan there is a ton of farms and with that comes some beautiful and old barns. I think a little research first might be in order so I’m not driving around aimlessly looking for cool barns.

Tell me about where you live….

Monday Menu ~ Baked pasta with béchamel & tomato sauce

When I was growing up we would go to my grandparents house for the weekend and my grandma would always make dinner. Coming from an Italian background dinner was always together as a family, at the table, and full of delicious food. One of my favorites was my grandmas homemade tomato sauce with Italian sausage and polenta.

I remember the smell of olive oil and garlic wafting through the house as she cooked. To this day it’s one of my favorite smells… warm, inviting, and full of memories. Now, my house has those same smells filling the house on days I make tomato sauce and even more so with this baked pasta with béchamel and tomato sauce.

Baked Pasta with Bechamel & Tomato Sauce

Nothing is better on a cold fall day than a baked pasta dish full of rich tomato sauce, cheese, and a creamy béchamel sauce.

Béchamel is also known as white sauce, is made with a roux of butter and flour cooked in milk. It is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. Béchamel is traditionally made by melting butter, and adding an equal part of flour in order to make a roux, which is cooked under low heat while stirring. Because it’s a white sauce you have to be careful to not brown the flour mixture. Then heated milk is gradually whisked in, and the sauce is cooked until thickened and smooth.

béchamel sauce

Béchamel is also the starter for a smooth and creamy sauce for mac & cheese!

Over the summer I grew my own tomatoes again and spent a lot of time making homemade sauce. So I made a big pot of it with homegrown green peppers, onions, garlic, hamburger, and of course Italian sausage.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

It was so tasty!  But the addition of Béchamel sauce made it better. It adds a layer of depth and creaminess that isn’t normally in a pasta dish.

Layering the pasta and sauces

Baked pasta with Béchamel & Tomato Sauce


  • Béchamel Sauce
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Tomato Sauce
  • (For this you can make your own or use a store bought.)
  • 1/2 lb hamburger
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely diced
  • 3 - 4 cups of fresh tomato sauce or 1 jar of sauce from the store.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 box of your favorite pasta - I used mostaccioli
  • Parmesan cheese


    Béchamel Sauce
  1. Warm the milk in the microwave.
  2. In a sauce pan melt the butter over low heat and then whisk in the flour. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes but do not let it brown.
  3. Slowly add in the warmed milk whisking the entire time. Don't stop whisking! You want the sauce to smooth. The mixture will thicken as you stir & cook.
  4. When it's thick remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. Tomato Sauce
  6. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan and let it warm slightly. Add in the hamburger and Italian sausage and brown. Toss in the onions, peppers, and garlic and continue to cook for 5 - 7 minutes until the veggies are softened.
  7. Pour in your tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes so all the flavors meld together. If you're using a homemade tomato sauce you'll want to add in some basil, oregano, salt, and pepper for lots of flavor.
  8. Pasta
  9. Cook according to the package direction
  10. Put it together
  11. You'll layer this a lot like lasagna. Tomato sauce on the bottom, then pasta, Béchamel, tomato sauce and then repeat the layers until you're left with just Béchamel and tomato sauce on top.
  12. Bake it
  13. In a preheated 350 degree oven bake the pasta for 20 minutes covered until warm and bubbly. Top with some parmesan cheese and enjoy.

As this baked the house filled with such a wonderful smell that I didn’t have to call the kids down for dinner! To say that they loved this baked pasta might be an understatement and for once I was happy that I made too much.

Have you made a béchamel sauce before? 

How did it turn out?

What did you use it for?

The New & Improved Hallmark Rewards!

I love Hallmark cards. Honestly, I love all cards and was really sad when the two local Hallmark stores closed. Even more sad was that I wasn’t able to quickly run in and grab a cute card or gift for someone or collect more reward points. I was stuck with the cards that were at the grocery stores…. yea, sometimes they had Hallmark cards but I didn’t get the Hallmark Rewards for them.

Hallmark Rewards

Well, now that has all changed! Now the Hallmark Card Rewards lets you earn a reward for every five Hallmark cards you buy, whether you buy them at Hallmark Gold Crown stores or more than 40,000 grocery and drug stores and supercenters across the U.S.  Rewards include gift cards, discounts, dollars off, and reward partners like Land’s End, Applebee’s, Omaha Steaks and Cherry Moon Farms.

5 cards = reward

Oh, and to make this even easier for you there is an app (for Android and iPhone)! You can use the Hallmark Card Rewards app to scan the barcode on the back of the card and you’re done. Or, you can report your purchases online by entering the UPC. As always, cards that you get at the actual Hallmark Gold Crown store or Hallmark.com will automatically recorded for you when you use your Gold Crown rewards card.

Now, how about something a little fun and exciting! Starting today, every 100th new member, up to eight, to sign-up will receive $250! That’s eight chances to be rewarded just for signing up! Who couldn’t use a little extra free money? I mean the holidays are coming up… so what are you waiting for? Go…. sign up now!

Well? Did you sign up yet?

Disclosure: I’m just spreading the word about the cool new program from Hallmark… I don’t get anything in return for it. 

Monday Menu ~ Cider Glazed Pumpkin Donuts

I’ve mentioned it about a half dozen or more times but I love fall & pumpkin treats! One of my favorite treats lately has been pumpkin donuts… crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, a little spicy, and a sweet from the cream cheese frosting that is spread over the top… the downside is that those delicious deep friend treats are pretty high in calories and it can get expensive to buy them every day.

cider glazed pumpkin donuts

So what did I do? I baked some up cider glazed pumpkin donuts this weekend to have for breakfast with some fresh cider that we picked up at the the local farmers market. Baked donuts can be just as delicious as their deep fried siblings but are a little healthier and a lot easier since you don’t have to deal with a vat of super hot grease.

cider glazed pumpkin donuts batter    cider glazed pumpkin donuts in pan
To try and keep the calories down a little more I substituted fresh applesauce for the oil and egg substitute for the regular eggs. The only downside is that the donuts tend to be a little more dense but the flavor is exactly the same and they are very moist, full of pumpkin & spice flavor.

cider glazed pumpkin donuts cooling   cider glazed pumpkin donuts cooling
As these baked the house filled with the smell of spices and pumpkin. It was such a warm, inviting smell that I couldn’t wait to eat one… or two.

cider glazed pumpkin donuts glazed

I think that the cider glaze gives them a little extra flavor… and it’s better than just a regular glaze made with water. The flavor is delicious but subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the pumpkin, which is the star of these tasty donuts. You also leave them plain for dipping in coffee, rolled in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or topped with a bit of cream cheese frosting.

These might just become a weekend staple around here this fall and winter.

Adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner’s recipe.