Easy Fall Stew & Simple Fall Decorating

Hello again, my lovelies!

Are you big on seasonal and holiday decorating at home?

True confession: I'm not and never really have been a big holiday decorator.

Now, before you hit the delete button presto or quickly label me "The Grinch Who Stole Our Beloved Commercial Christmas" and every other fun holiday that the "Gods of Decorating Commerce" invented, hear me out, and then we shall get to the fun part of this post, promise. (Yummy easy homemade stew!)

Why I'm not a big holiday/seasonal decorator and why this might help you decide if you are, are not, or you might want to change your own current m.o. on this lifestyle topic:

  • I like a few festive touches of the current holiday both outside and inside my home but I don't like all the time, energy, and money it takes to have a big fancy "showhouse" holiday/seasonal home. I do a little bit for us to enjoy and to share on my blog and for anyone who drives by our cottage to enjoy, and that's enough, because ...

  • I'd rather spend money on things for our home that keep it attractive, clutter-free, and clean all the time, rather than just for holidays.

  • I don't want to store large amounts of holiday decor in our small sheds outside as those are reserved for other things we use and need.

  • I don't want to spend countless hours of my precious life's time shopping for seasonal items that are short-lived, either in stores or online.

  • And then of course there's the unpacking time and packaging mess, and having to dispose of all the outer packaging from shopping too. Hopefully recycled packaging, but I'd rather not buy so much to recycle in the first place to do my part of keeping too much out of our landfills. And once the season is over? You have to pack it all back up and that's more of your life's time and labor. And storage bins.

  • Perhaps because we've personally moved so many times, sometimes halfway across the U.S. and/or to another state, which takes lots of time and energy and money, I know all too well that any box of oh-so-cute faux pumpkins, Easter eggs, or Christmas whatever would be just one more box to move and store, and pay a mover to move too, should one ever have to, or choose to, move again. This is also why, in my opinion, Goodwill etc. has tons of often nearly-new holiday goods for sale. All the time. My guess is that people ditched it, (I mean donated it), before a big relocation, or when cleaning out a relative's home after death and carrying box after box of holiday decor to Goodwill, or hauling it somewhere else.

  • When you store holiday decorations, they get smushed, dusty, and ratty looking over time no matter how careful you are with them and then you start the buying and maintenance process all over again. Cha Ching to the "Gods of Commerce" once again and emptier wallet to you.

  • I'd rather fund my IRA so I have my best future "Golden Years," spend money on fun outings with my husband, buy healthy organic food, and make a charitable donation when I feel moved to do so, (see, I'm not a stingy Grinch after all!), than spend money on excessive holiday decor.

  • By not over-buying seasonal decor, you can buy/have other things that are more important, at least to me anyway. Like our paid-for house, our emergency fund, our travel fund, and our future retirement years investments, for instance. (Just think about how much the Griswolds spent over the years to seasonal decorate like this. They might have been able to pay their house off early with all those lights. Or buy a smaller house and pay cash.) Just a thought.

  • I, (and you), can easily go for a short drive or walk around our neighborhoods and enjoy everyone else's outdoor seasonal home decor. There's plenty of fall outside decor up in our neighborhood right now!

You may choose to do holiday decorating differently than me and that's certainly fine, but I thought I'd give you a little alternative "food for holiday decor thought" too.

So that pretty much sums up my personal feelings and m.o. about seasonal and holiday decorating, so that being said, here's all I chose to buy for our fall decor this year: (pix above)

  • Two wreaths for both our doors and we added a "seasonal" bow. I like how natural these wreaths look, their big size, and how I will be able to easily change out the color of the bow by holiday, avoiding buying a whole new wreath again. (Unless they fade tons in our HOT AZ sun, which is possible.) These are exceptionally nice quality wreaths for the price.

  • This cute fall flag. I wash them up and keep them in a drawer in my foyer buffet so I can change them out by season. For the price, I get a lot of bang for my decorating dollar with these little flags and people comment on how cute they are too on our front porch as they walk by.

  • These little cottage-y looking faux-stone doormats. They match our house color well and make me smile. :) Such a great price for a two-pack, and they really weren't "seasonal" as our old ones needed to be replaced anyway and we can keep them year-round. They said "no fade" so we shall see if they can withstand the ol' ARIZONA sun! (It's been over +100 degrees here for over 145 days in a row or something this year. And still is. I rest my sunny decorating case.)

  • And here's a little flag trick Steve came up with:

He put a safety pin on there at the top so he would not be out chasing the flag down the street as he did one time when it was very windy. You can't see the pin from far away. Or, you could pin it on the other side and then no one would ever see it if they were going in your front door. And yes, I know some people are picky about these things. And no, some don't care, especially in a pandemic. I get that. I also get that we are in our 60s now so enter the safety pin on our flag as we don't want to be chasing a flag down the street. (Or anything else, for that matter.)

BTW, Steve helps me hang everything when we do any home decor, seasonal or otherwise. I don't do that part. He enjoys doing it as he likes handy-man-y things and it keeps him active after sitting at his home office work desk for much of the day. He has little interest in shopping online for holiday decor though, so he happily leaves that part to me and I'm glad to oblige to our greater family decorating aesthetics as I have the "sleuth" skills to do that.) :)

Okay, now for my super easy fall stew!

BTW, in a nutshell, in my little kitchen, I do everything as simply as possible, and that has evolved over time. I don't like cooking gadgets and I like easy clean up too. I cook to get the best nutrition as I know it now, and for the best grocery prices. I cook from scratch using real food organic ingredients. I'm not a trained chef nor nutritionist nor a fancy "foodie" if you will, (I save the pretty, artful, many ingredients "foo foo food" as Steve calls it, for when we dine out or we stay in inns), but I have an entire strategy for all my simple home food prep and recipes that have literally been a lifetime in the making.

I began cooking at home from scratch when I was eight years old, and I have had multiple health challenges/allergies long term related to food so I have studied a lot about eating the healthiest way possible for my body. I don't go into "diets" on my blog as that topic is vast, and personal, but I will share here what I personally do and how I cook at home.

How I eat and cook now is plant-based, yet hearty. As in kind of Midwestern comfort food style, but healthier, and I try to make it taste as good as possible. That's the tricky part but over the years I think I've mastered that by now, to be honest. My hubby eats everything I make and always raves, but he's not a picky eater, so that could be it. If you came to our home for a meal, I doubt you would have any idea that my food "hides" good things for you like veggies. And fruits. No animal flesh. (Except for salmon.) And I have re-made all my family and collected recipes over the years with all kinds of tweaks to a healthier end for us, and that's where I'm at today with food and cooking.

It's been a long journey, to be honest.

Also, we only eat organic because I am severely pesticide sensitive, and organic is much more costly, so I have tips to share later here too on how to do that on a dollarwise food budget. Plus, we added in grocery delivery fees now too during the pandemic, so I did more tweaks to my grocery budget, without feeling deprived or lowering our nutrition at all.

Like much in life, it's all strategy.

Okay, so here's my FAST crockpot yummy fall stew recipe:

Put the following below in a big crockpot; I use this 4 quart Crockpot now and love it! I don't need, or want programmable anything in the kitchen -- too many buttons to later malfunction and/or figure out. I like simple. Also I much prefer the Crockpot brand, ever since my newlywed days. I've tried others but always go back to my Crockpot brand.

  • 2 packages frozen mixed corn, beans, and carrots. (From my research, it's fine to use frozen as the nutrition is the same. It also saves chopping time on fresh veggies and chopping is laborious. I'm happy for you if you're one who waxes poetic over food chopping! Me, not so much, so I use frozen veggies.)

  • You can though, also add in more veggies that are wilting in your fridge if you want. Example: We had some wilting carrots and celery so Steve diced those up for me and I tossed them in. I do things like this often. It's okay; call it creative and you don't waste food, which I don't like doing, especially since we pay for organic. If I had not put those wilting veggies in my stew, for another example, they'd have gone in a smoothie. Not ready to make a smoothie? Cut those "wilties" up, contain them, and freeze 'til you are ready. Ooops, back to making stew ...

  • 2 cartons veggie-based broth. More "hidden" veggies!

  • 2 large diced potatoes.

  • Garlic and onion to taste. I use dried and use 1 T. onion and 1 t. garlic.

  • Note: For simpler cooking, I never chop onions and I don't peel garlic cloves. Ever. I have lots of kitchen and cooking "hacks" like this to keep meals simple and fast. It tastes the same, or good enough.

  • Whatever spices you want. I really really like this all-purpose spice for my soups and stews. About 1 T. will do. Good if you don't do salt, too.

  • Salt to taste. I use Himalayan salt for the minerals. I don't use pepper, but you could if you want.

  • Add water, if needed, to fill up your 4 quart Crockpot.

  • The "secret sauce" to good flavor in stews and soups is, in my opinion, (and my Grandma's, who taught me this when I was a kid in the 1960s!), bay leaves. Just put four leaves or so in though or it tends to get bitter/too strong with more. Remove them before serving.

  • Stir everything well and cook in the crockpot on low overnight.

  • In the morning do this:

  • Mix 3 T. arrowroot powder in 1/4 cup water in a container and stir into the hot stew and then stir it all well. It should thicken almost immediately into a nice clear-thick sauce. If you need to make it thicker, mix a little more arrowroot powder with some water again and add to your desired thickness, testing as you go. It won't get over-thick like flour. (Don't use flour. Also, GF flour will not thicken to a gravy-like stew sauce. Ask me how I know.)

  • Turn on warm once stew is thick enough and then eat and enjoy!

  • The leftovers, after cooled, freeze in containers well. You can do your own taste test for more salt or spices etc. too if needed. After all, the best recipe is the one that tastes good to you.

Serving tip:

We like a cup of stew in our Sistema mugs with a muffin or cornbread and a small green salad. BTW, I no longer make homemade muffins or cornbread as there are great gluten-free mixes like Bob's and Simple Truth that are easy, yummy, and not laced with chemicals, and they fit my "simpler cooking" m.o. too now as I don't want to stock, buy, and mess with several flours, baking powder etc. at my life stage, so these do the trick. Bob's are a bit pricey but so good they are worth it, I think. The other day I added in one chopped fresh apple and some raisins to a Bob's muffin mix and they were so GOOD! Walmart even has them.

Happy cozy cooking for a hearty healthy fall,

Kathryn :)

Questions or comments? Send them here, please.

P.S. I'm still working on my new eBook and excited to share it with you when it's done. The cover makes my heart smile and hopefully my stories and missives will make you smile, too!

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© Kathryn Bechen 2020