Maple Pecan Pancakes

Pancakes are comfort food for me, and ever since going gluten free, I've had a difficult time finding a pancake to be excited about. Pecans are something to be excited about though and it was the pecans that inspired me to come up with this recipe. I've been stewing over it in my mind for a while now and finally decided it was time to try it out.
Maple Pecan Pancakes:
1/2 C chopped pecans
1/2 C oat flour
1/2 C brown rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1.2 tsp salt
3/4 C plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg
2 TB maple syrup
1 TB water
1/2 tsp maple flavor

Pulse the chopped pecans in a food processor until they take on a very course meal-like consistency, but before they become a paste. In a large bowl, mix the pecan meal with the oat and rice flours, baking powder, soda, and salt.

In a smaller bowl whip together the yogurt, egg, and syrup. add to the dry ingredients and blend well. Finally, stir the water and maple flavor into the batter. Cook using a frying pan, or griddle the way you normally cook pancakes. I found that cooking on a lower temperature than I was used to, really helped. Does anyone else have problems making pancakes? The first few pancakes I make always turn out badly and it's been this way my whole life! It doesn't matter what kind of pancakes either. If anyone knows a good tip, I'd love to hear it!

Serve these pancakes hot with more maple syrup on top. I also ate some with Wild Orange Honey Butter. It was amazingly scrumptious!
These pancakes are really good! They hold together well and have a nice fluffy texture. The flavor of the pecans is pronounced, and the maple compliments it perfectly! I ate a few warm, right out of the griddle and they were great that way too. I think these might hold up well to freezing and I plan to make some more to try that way. I like having quick snack that I can pop into the toaster and I think the texture of these pancakes will work for that. They aren't too crumbly like some gluten free pancakes are. Hooray for great pancakes!

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Acorn Branches

Recently at a craft store, I came across an ugly item. It was a hideously fake-looking branch with poorly made plastic acorns stuck to it. You'd have to see it to believe me, but it was just not right. It was also an outrageous price! I picked it up, gasped at the price, and thought to myself, "I could make something much cuter for much (MUCH!) less money!" So, I went home and did. Now I'm passing the idea on to you! You don't have to settle for expensive, poorly manufactured acorn branches anymore. You're welcome!
Remember those acorns I collected and de-bugged and used for two different fall projects so far? Well, I still have lots left over! Hooray! I'm so glad I gathered so many because I am having lots of fun using them to decorate this season! Please refer to my Twig & Acorn Wreath post to see how to de-bug your acorns for using with craft projects. I also used a few Brown Paper Bag Leaves, like the ones I posted about last week.
I started with some branches from my yard. You might also find suitable branches at a florist shop or craft store if necessary. Using a hot glue gun, attach a few acorns onto your branches in random, natural looking places until you reach the desired amount. It looks pretty cute like this and you could definitely use them this way. They would be great mixed into a fall bouquet or just in a vase by themselves. The ugly branches at the store were just bare with acorns, but these natural looking ones look 200% better than those ones!
Personally, I think the leaves add a nice touch though and I'm really happy I went with them. If you want to add leaves on yours too, then take a few minutes to create some paper bag leaves (read about how to make them HERE). Glue a few leaves to your branches. Once the glue is dry, you're done and ready to decorate with them!
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Sweet Potato Pie Brownies

Combining different tasty food items is not always a success. Strawberries, eggs, dill pickles, and milk for example. Or maybe vanilla, green beans, pumpkin, almonds and onions. If those sound good to you, I apologize. To me they sound disgusting!
Here's another odd sounding combination: garbanzo beans, cream cheese, quinoa, dark chocolate, and sweet potatoes... This combination is different! They may not seem like they should go together, but they definitely do! Don't believe me? Try this recipe! You won't regret it!
Brownie Layer:
1 1/2 C dark chocolate chips (melted)
1 C garbanzo beans, cooked, drained, and cooled
1 C cooked quinoa (I used red quinoa)
2 large eggs
1/2 C sugar
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp baking powder

Sweet Potato Layer:
1/4 C sugar
1 C sweet potato puree
3 oz cream cheese (softened)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp nutmeg

In a food processor, blend together: melted chocolate, garbanzo beans, quinoa, sugar, oil, and baking powder. Once they are blended well, add the eggs and blend some more until everything is smooth.

I do it in this order because I don't want egg to come into direct contact with freshly melted chocolate if it's still hot at all. Once the chocolate is blended in, the other ingredients will cool it down enough to avoid partially cooking the eggs. It might be just fine to blend everything at once, but I'm paranoid because I once had a roommate accidentally cook parts of the egg in her cookie dough when she poured hot melted butter in it. Those cookies were not very good. Anyway, on to the next step...
Also check out my tutorials on making grapevine wreaths and creating brown paper bag leaves.
Pour the brownie batter into a greased 9x9 or similar sized baking dish and smooth it out evenly. Next, mix together all of the ingredients for the sweet potato layer. Spoon the sweet potato layer evenly over the top of the brownie layer. Give it a few stirs if you want to create a marbled effect. Smooth out the top. Bake in the oven at 350 F for approximately 45-50 minutes. Eat warm or chilled. Store, covered in your fridge. I think I enjoy them chilled best and with a dollop of whipped cream, the same way I like my sweet potato pie!

These brownies are gluten free, packed with fiber, protein, and other great nutrients, but they don't taste healthy to me! They are rich and fudgy. So far the non-gluten free people I've fed these too have enjoyed them too. I always make them guess what's in them and they can never tell! I hope you enjoy them!

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Brown Paper Bag Leaves

Right inside my entryway, I have a vintage vanity dresser. It makes a great place to decorate for the different seasons. This fall, I decided I wanted a garland draped across the top of the mirror. I started with a few corn cobs. These are strawberry popcorn cobs and later I will probably eat them. Yum! I love popcorn! Then I wanted to fill in with something leafy. I could see in my mind, a garland of beautiful fall leaves and I loved what I saw! There was however, a slight problem: I'm an impatient person. I like to gather a lot of my own fall decorations from nature, but nature wasn't working fast enough for me. Although the leaves are beginning to turn colors in the nearby mountains, I've been so busy at home that I haven't found time to go on a leaf gathering trek. And then there was the issue of how to keep the natural leaves looking the way I wanted. Leaves dry out and curl up pretty quickly and that wasn't quite the look I had envisioned. There are a few methods of preserving falls leaves, but nothing really grabbed my attention... One morning, I decided I needed to just make my own leaves. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out! The best part: they were easy to make and cost me nothing because I had everything I needed already.

Before I settled on this leaf making method, I tried a few other things that didn't turn out the way I wanted. My sweet husband is such a supporter of my creativity. He came home from work that evening to find the house had exploded with art supplies. Rubber stamps, scissors, paints, tissue paper, glue, random bits of paper... *sigh* I really enjoy an organized house, but sometimes when I get really excited about creating, things get out of hand. Luckily instead of reacting to any of the mess, he just raved about my paper leaves. What a great guy! I had to spend a good amount of time putting things back in their proper places, but I think the finished project was worth the art-supply tornado aftermath. Here's the method I came up with so you can make your own brown paper bag leaves.

Supplies you'll need:
A brown paper bag or two (large heavy-duty grocery store type) or thick brown craft paper
Acrylic paints in your desired color scheme.

1. Cut out your leaves. I folded a section of paper in half and then just free-hand cut into an oak leaf shape, but you could choose any type of leaf shape you wanted. I cut out a variety of sizes and since I was free handing it, each leaf was a little different. I think it turned out really nice that way.
2. Paint your leaves. I used yellow red, brown, and black acrylics paint to mix up a variety of fall leaf colors. Some leaves I did a wash style painting using lots of water and a just a little paint. Other leaves I painted more thickly, but even then I diluted it some so it wasn't too thick. I wanted the colors to look rather muted. Some of them, I just painted evenly one color, others I did with more detail, others still I was more random with the coloring. Try a few things out to see what you like best. It's fun! Turn on some music or put on your favorite movie and paint away! Set them to the side to dry.
3. Shape your leaves. This really is the finishing touch. Once the leaves are basically dry and starting to curl up, gently crease down the center of the leaf and then down the sides to mimic the veins of a leaf. You don't want hard creases, and they also don't need to be perfectly in line. you just want to add some subtly shape to your leaves.
4. Decorate with your leaves. This is the best part! I used my leaves to fill in my fall garland. I started with some natural colored yarn, tied the corn cobs on, and then used a hot glue gun to attach my paper leaves to the yarn in between the corn cobs. As a finishing touch, I used some extra acorns from my twig and acorn wreath project and glued a few of them on with the leaves. These look beautiful as a garland! I also glued some to mono filament and hung them in my front window. I'm not done decorating in my window. It needs something else, but so far, I'm loving the falling leaf look! I have a few other ideas of how I'm using my paper leaves as well, so you might see more of these in the future. I'm thinking I might decorate some of my grapevine wreaths with these. What do you think?
If you make some paper leaves, I'd love to hear how you decorated with them. There are so many possibilities! Have fun!
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October Arrives

It's October already! We recently got our first snowfall in the mountains; just a little dusting. You can still see the beginning of the fall colors on the mountain. Several days later and the snow has mostly gone ...except on the very tallest of the mountains.
Autumn is a busy time of year for me. I'm still harvesting tomatoes and a few fall crops and preserving what I can. I've got lots of clean up in my yard too as some of my summer flowers have begun to die back. Some of my summer annuals are still in full force though and that makes me happy. We are also regularly gathering eggs from our ducks and of course getting things ready outside for the winter weather that will, no doubt, sneak up on us before we know it. Yesterday I spent some time planting fall bulbs and perennials. It might seem crazy to some, but this is a great time of year to prepare for next year's gardening season. Here are a few photos from my yard and garden for you to enjoy.
This is Zinnia. She is the friendliest of our ducks and actually seems to enjoy being held and petted.
Yummy! A pretty selection of heirloom tomatoes and peppers from the garden. Check out these recipes for ideas on using tomatoes and peppers right out of your garden: Roasted JalapeƱo Hummus and Roasted Tomato Marinara
I love finding praying mantis in my garden! They are wonderful beneficial insects.
Another beneficial insect pollinating a Calendula blossom.
Well, now I'm off to do some more gardening. I've got more plants to put in the ground today. I'm excited to see how everything looks next year! "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow" I think Audrey Hepburn said that, but whoever said it, it's such an accurate description. I definitely believe!
Happy autumn everyone!

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