Meatless Monday: One Pot Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pasta

IMG_3549_1I love pumpkin. And so does pretty much every other American for the months of October and November. But I do really love it, and fall is one of my favorite times to cook mostly because I get to use pumpkin in anything I want to.

A few weeks ago, I made a cheesy bacon pumpkin dip, and I still dream about it. It was fabulous, and it got me thinking about other savory pumpkin dishes. Which brings me to my Meatless Monday recipe today, One Pot Creamy Pumpkin Pasta.

I am all about the one pot meals. By the time I work all day and come home and cook dinner, the last thing I want is 100 dishes to clean up. Unfortunately, my husband seems to hate anything that resembles a “casserole”, so I struggle to find things he would eat all made in one pot. But pasta, who doesn’t love pasta?

And this pasta was amazing. It has garlic and onions and a little bit of hot pepper flakes which adds just the right amount of heat to the sweetness of the pumpkin and nutmeg and perfectly creamy with the cream cheese. I loved it, and will definitely be making this again.


  • I cup chopped onions
  • 4 cloves smashed garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound pasta of your choice
  • 1/2 package (4 oz) cream cheese

All you need to do is put all the ingredients except the cream cheese into a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, set a timer for 10 minutes and stir throughout. The longer it cooks, the thicker it will be, so you may need tongs or a pasta ladle to really mix it together.

After you remove the pasta from heat, take the 4 oz of cream cheese, cut into small cubes, and stir into the hot pasta until it melts and blends. Let it cool for a few minutes to thicken up, and enjoy!

I topped mine with parsley flakes, and added more salt to taste. It was yummmmmmy.

PicMonkey Collage


30 Before 30

Sorry I’ve been MIA the past few weeks. Honestly, I’ve been dealing with some personal things and just couldn’t bring myself to do much of anything over the past two weeks. But I’m back now, and ready to tackle whatever comes my way, so you’ll be hearing more from me, I promise.

My birthday is next week. And I’m turning 29. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. I’m such a cliche, but ever since I turned 23, I have mini-breakdowns the month of October. It’s silly, I know. And it’s not the fact that I’m getting older that bothers me, it’s the fact that I feel like life is passing me by. That I want to do so much and have so many experiences, but I end up doing none of them, or so little that it feels like nothing.

I own a house. I have a job that I love. I’ve turned my hobby into something that pays for itself (and maybe some extra cash on a good month). I truly married my best friend (we were best friends for 4 years before we even started dating). Not bad for 29, but I still feel like I let life just happen to me, and I always realize on my birthday that another year has gone by. So this year, instead of sulking around and feeling sorry for myself, or getting so bombed on my birthday that I forget I’m not 22, I’m taking charge.

I have one year left before 30, and I am going to accomplish some things. 30 before 30. Again, what a cliche, and I know I probably won’t check off everything on the list, but here it is. 30before30

I started mentally making the list a few months ago, and I’ve already been able to check off a few. I’ll be able to check off a few more when I head to Europe next month (!!!). Some are silly, like riding a boat on a lake, and some of things I want to do to really better myself, like quit smoking and run a mile. Run a mile may seem pretty pathetic to most people, I feel like every time I look on Facebook another one of my friends just ran a marathon, but I have never been athletic and never in my life have I ever ran a mile. This is the year I’m going to do it.

What about everyone else? Does anyone else have a 30 before 30 list, or a 40 before 40 list, or just a bucket list in general? Tell me about them!

DIY Nightstand Makeover with Java Gel Stain

IMG_2877_1This week I tried a new product that I had been hearing so much about, Java Gel Stain from General Finishes. I was so excited to pick this up at Sweet Clover over the weekend and see what all the buzz was about, and I thought this ugly pair of nightstands that were sitting in my garage would be the perfect beginning project. IMG_2823_1Tommy picked these up. I wasn’t thrilled about them. I didn’t really see the potential, and I had to change out the hardware, which would require filling the existing and drilling new holes, so I kind of avoided tackling them. But I always like to try new products on small items, so I decided to try them out.

I started out by giving the top wood a light sanding. This gel stain can adhere to most surfaces without having to sand it down to the natural wood, which is always a plus to me. I hate sanding off the thick top coat on old pieces. The trade off with the light sanding is you don’t see the natural wood grain very well, if at all. Next time I use this stain I will most likely sand down to the natural wood to see how it works there. I put the first coat on, just brushing a light coating on with a sponge brush. I was pretty pleased with the results. IMG_2833_1I may have been able to pull off just one coat, but there were some pretty rough spots on the top that you could still see a difference in coverage. I decided to go with two.

While the top was drying, I started on filling the existing hardware holes. Or rather, Tommy started filling them in. I generally let him take those projects while I focus on the painting, because, well, I just don’t like doing it. We used a plastic wood, which dries quickly and paints over well. IMG_2836_1I also use a butter knife to spread it because I always loose the actually tool we should use. I have a stash of butter knives I use for everything from opening paint cans to screwdriver stand ins. They’re plentiful at thrift stores for pretty much nothing, so, I improvise with them often.

After Tommy filled the holes, he laid down on the couch and exclaimed, “Well, my work is done!”. Then he told me to take his picture for the blog. He can be a real ham sometimes. Also, don’t you love the bear pants? (We often spend the weekend in Deep Creek, MD with a group of friends in a cabin named “Bearadise”, so we kind of have a thing for bear related items. My best friend once gave me a bear toilet paper dispenser and I used it for nearly a year).IMG_2847_1After the plastic wood was dried, I sanded it down until it was flush and smooth with the rest of the drawer. Then I measured the center of the drawers and drilled new holes for my smaller, single bolt hardware. I don’t have any pictures of this because I did this alone and I couldn’t hold the drill and the camera at the same time. Sorry all, but yay! I used the drill all by myself and didn’t ruin the piece.

Then I finished the piece off with three coats of General Finishes Milk Paint Lamp Black. I didn’t distress it because not only did I want it to look more modern, I also had that ugly yellow finish underneath it, and didn’t want that to peep through. I sealed the piece with General Finishes Top Coat in Matte. Lamp Black is so touchy when I wax it, too much lint and streaking, I like to use a top coat on pieces done in Lamp Black now.

I think they turned out really cute! I was really happy with the ease of use and the final product with the General Finishes Java Gel Stain.IMG_2854_1IMG_2865_1And how cute is this hardware?! I think it adds just a little fun to the piece. IMG_2863_1I have a matching nightstand to complete the pair, which I will definitely get done soon as well and take them both to Sweet Clover for the special October 4th sale!

Cheesy Bacon Pumpkin Dip

IMG_2785_1I am going to a new book club tonight, and I’m pretty nervous and excited. First of all, I don’t know a soul there. I found the book club through, so you know, there’s always the possibility this may all be a front to lure me in and kill me. But it’s an established group with good member participation, so I highly doubt that. Second, I haven’t discussed any literature in this kind of setting since college, so I hope I don’t bumble around and look like a fool. But as I’m quickly approaching 30, I worry less about looking like a fool and more about finding like minded people to share ideas with. So I have high hopes for the evening.

The book we’re discussing tonight is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and if you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you go pick it up. I devoured the entire book in less than 24 hours. It’s actually a Young Adult novel, so it’s an easy read but it certainly doesn’t end its appeal at young adults. (Although, at 28 I like to think I actually AM a young adult, but you know what I mean).

I know it’s Meatless Monday, but when I found out the theme of the potluck hors d’oeuvres was autumn harvest, I knew I had to make this Cheesy Bacon Pumpkin Dip. I read over several recipes and decided to make a few minor adjustments from them on mine. Firstly, they were almost all cold. No, I need my cheese to be melted. It’s a texture thing, but I can NOT eat cold cheese. I’m weird. I also had to get rid of any almonds or pecans, because I hate nuts in my food. Give me a nut to eat alone and I love it, but inside a dip or baked good, and I can’t stand it. Again, I’m weird.

So I started by frying up some bacon. I used thick cut bacon and fried seven pieces. If I didn’t use thick cut I probably would have used about ten slices. When they were cooked and crispy, I just tore them into little shreds with my hands, I started chopping, but it was pain. This was much more easy. (Also, all my pictures of the bacon look gross. Sorry).

IMG_2775_1Then I chopped six scallions. And honestly, I had to youtube how to do cut them, I never use them in anything! So, for those of you who, like me, have no idea how to go about cutting these things, it’s pretty simple. You cut off the little root at the end. Then you slice the onion down the middle, then you just chop the white part up until the the stalk starts to turn dark green. And there you have it.

IMG_2776_1Then I threw the onions and bacon in with the rest of my ingredients in my stand mixer. I’m not sure I would have been able to mix it all together enough my hand. My stand mixer sits right on my counter all the time and I use for it almost everything, so I had no issue throwing it all in there. I blended it for a while on high, really getting the cream cheese incorporated.IMG_2782_1

I decided this needed to be heated. So I put it in the oven at 350degrees for 10 minutes, stirred it, and let it cook for 10 more. It was amazing. The hint of pumpkin with the saltiness of the bacon was perfect. A little cinnamon really made all the flavors pop. I honestly thought about skipping book club to eat this all by myself. I’m serving it with a whole wheat baguette. Mmmm!IMG_2806_1 IMG_2784_1



  • 2 8oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 7 slices thick cut bacon
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 sliced scallions
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Accent Seasoning

DIY Custom Mixed Color Drum Table Makeover

closeup of mint drum table with glass knobA few weeks ago I found a beautiful French Provincial chest of drawers on an online “yard sale” Facebook page, and jumped at the chance to snatch it up. It had been a while since I’ve gotten my hands on any real Frenchy pieces, so I was thrilled. We drove the 25 minute cross town drive on a Saturday morning, and got a little queazy when we saw it was on the third floor with a very tiny stairwell. We climbed to the top, and the woman yelled that it was in the back bedroom.

Except it wasn’t.

I yelled back that I didn’t see it. She, quite flustered, ran in the room, noted the missing dresser, and began apologizing for her no good brother, who apparently raided the house sometime recently. It was their mother’s house and things have been confusing.

A little irritated, but understanding of the situation, Tommy and I made our way out, and this drum table caught our eye in the corner. The woman offered it to us got free for our 50 minutes of driving for nothing, but we did pay her for it. I just hope she didn’t give any to her brother.

Here’s the before picture. As you can see it had potential, but was pretty boring. Drum table makeover beforeNow I really wanted a subtle color, but something with a little punch. I decided to go with a custom color I’ve used a handful of times. Equal parts Annie Sloan Louis Blue and Annie Sloan English Yellow makes a stunning pale mint color, and I love it. I rarely mix my own paint, but this color is worth it. I have an old, tall plastic food container that I put lines on with a sharpie, marking the one cup level and the two cup level. This makes mixing equal parts so easy.

paintThe custom color goes on the same way as any other Annie Sloan. I painted two coats, watering down my second coat with a few tablespoons of water to make the finish a little more smooth. Once the paint dried, I lightly sanded and distressed the piece with a medium grit sandpaper and sealed the paint with Johnson Paste Wax. I buffed the piece with a fine grit sanding block to blend the paint and wax together and give a strong finish.

And here is how she looks! I love this color, and it’s worth the extra work to custom mix it. Of course, she’s headed to Sweet Clover for the sale starting this Friday!FinishedFinished

DIY Le Dirt Half Moon Table Makeover

I’m a day late. Second week into my commitment to blogging and I’m already struggling to keep up with my self appointed deadlines. I blame Tommy, he needed the computer to take to his class Thursday evening and threw off my schedule. But, better late than never!

halfmoontablebeforeI had this little half moon table sitting in my basement for months. It was one of those things that I kept in the back of my mind, but never got around to doing. I knew it was perfect for Le Dirt Antiquing Dust from Maison Blanche Paint Company, and I finally dragged it out of the basement and got to it so I could post a tutorial of it here! ledirtI’ve used a handful of Maison Blanche’s products, but Le Dirt is by far my favorite. It’s perfect for furniture with carved detail. It brings out all the nooks and crannies with a pop you can’t get with just paint and sanding. And I knew this half moon table had the perfect detail for it. upclosebeforeIn my opinion, Le Dirt looks best with a light neutral color, and I went to my old standard, Annie Sloan Old Ochre. I painted the first coat and watered down my second coat, just like I did on my bow front dressers. The table looked nice, but it was still missing something. painterThen came the antiquing dust. It’s a simple process. First you wax the areas where you want to apply the Le Dirt. I like to put the wax on extra heavy to make sure I get it in all the cracks.

waxThen, before the wax has any time to dry, I apply the Le Dirt with a clean, dry paint brush. My paint brush may not look so clean, but it has only ever been used for Le Dirt. I apply it all over, making sure I get deep down into all the detail. ledirtappThe final step is wiping all the extra wax and Le Dirt off the piece. If there is any Le Dirt that sticks to an area I don’t want it to, I dip my rag into the wax and rub it clean. The extra wax will remove any stray antiquing dust.

RagIt’s amazing how big a difference this stuff makes on a piece! I think this little half table is adorable, and of course it’s heading to Sweet Clover for the September tag sale.



Meatless Monday: Stuffed Shells & Homemade Pasta Sauce

IMG_1930_1My husband and I eat like crap. I wish I could say something different, but it would be a lie. Between our full time jobs, Tommy going to school in the evening for his MBA and my little Bmore Nestled, we barely have time to do enough laundry to have clean underwear. Most evenings we throw together something easy and quick, which generally means processed. And you don’t even want to know what we eat on the weekends which are too often spent on the road (we were out of town nine out of 11 weekends this summer). So, we could stand to have something a little better in our bodies.

Which is why I have decided to take on the Meatless Monday challenge. And with this meatless meal, I am personally taking it one step further and trying to eliminate processed food on Mondays as well. My first attempt isn’t perfect, there’s a few processed ingredients here, but baby steps here, right? Enter stuffed shells and homemade pasta sauce. IMG_1852_1When I decided to make this sauce, I called my mother’s best friend since seventh grade, Patti Panasiti Carper. Not only does she have a good Italian family recipe, she also was a cook for a large university for decades and knows her way around a kitchen. She gave me all her secrets, and I tried my hardest not to mess it up.

I could have used fresh tomatoes, I should have used fresh tomatoes. But alas, I was running late and didn’t even head to the store until 6:30, so peeled canned tomatoes it is. And it only has about 1/4 the amount of sodium as regular store shelf sauce. From everything I’ve read online and from Patti herself, San Marzano are the best tomatoes to use. They’re significantly more expensive than the store brand, but I’ve been told they’re worth it, so I bought them. 

I started by chopping a large white onion.

IMG_1854_1I sauteed these onions in a few table spoons of extra virgin olive oil. While they were cooking I smashed 4 cloves of garlic. My favorite way to prepare garlic is to peel the cloves and cut them into large chunks, then I take my large knife, hold it over the chunks, and pound it down with my other hand. It minces the garlic nicely, and it is so much easier than chopping or a garlic press. I learned that from The Chew. Thanks Mario Batali!

IMG_1857_1I tossed the garlic in with the onions and sauteed it all together until I could smell the garlic and the onions turned translucent.

IMG_1862_1I added tomato paste, bay leaf, oregano, basil, fennel seed, and some crushed red pepper flakes. You don’t need the pepper flakes, but Tommy and I like a little heat in our sauce.

IMG_1870_1One tip that Patti gave me was to put the oregano on the palm of my hand and rub it slightly before you add it to the pot. It releases the oils in the oregano and makes it more flavorful. IMG_1868_1I simmered that together for a few minutes, then I added the canned tomatoes.

IMG_1874_1I let that simmer together for over an hour, letting it cook down to the thickness we like. I tried to put a lid on it so it wouldn’t splatter, but the steam kept watering down the sauce too much, so I took it off and just kept the heat low.

After it had enough time to cook down and blend the flavors together, I took the bay leaf out and used my immersion blender to smooth it all together. I added salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_1906_1So, there it is. It tastes pretty darn good. Although when I tried to give Tommy a taste of the final product, after tasting it a million times through out the process, Tommy told me he’d try it later. He was all “sauced out”.IMG_1914_1

Of course, I needed something to put this sauce on. And I could have just made spaghetti, but I figured I’d make something good to go with this sauce, I decided to make stuffed shells.

Fotor0907234159I made the sauce and the stuffed shells Sunday night, and kept them in the fridge overnight separately. When I got home from work Monday, I poured a few cups of sauce over the shells and threw them in the oven. It took some prep on Sunday, but it made Monday really easy. And I even had it ready before Tommy had to run out the door to his class. I’m excited to keep this going, and any suggestions for next week is appreciated! IMG_1929_1

Homemade Pasta Sauce Ingredient List:

  • One large onion
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil to saute
  • 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 to 2 bay leaf
  • 2 28oz cans of San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Crushed Red Peppers to taste