Today was a wonderful fall day, with temps in the 70s and an occasional gentle breeze. Neal took advantage of the nice weather by blowing and loading all the fallen leaves from our front yard and transporting them to our backyard. His original intent was to rake up the leaves and bag them in large pumpkin leaf bags that we could use as a yard decoration, but he was unable to find any of those bags after checking three different stores. Captain and George were very happy to help Neal with his chores, in between their own duties of squirrel hunting and barking at neighbor dogs. They especially enjoyed it when Neal took a break and played hide-n-seek in a huge leaf pile with them.
I spent my day washing clothes and hanging them on the clothesline, tidying the house and whipping up a few things in the kitchen. During this time of year, I really like to make soups and stews, so today I threw together a pot of vegetarian taco soup from a recipe my friend Damona gave me years ago. It is so, so easy and tasty.
Here's the recipe, if you're interested:
1 lb. vegetarian meat crumbles (or ground beef)
1 chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1 28-oz can tomatoes (with juice)
1-2 packages taco seasoning, to taste
1 package powdered ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup Picante' or your salsa choice
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 can corn (with juice)
1 can pinto beans (with juice)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
cheese and tortilla chips for garnish
If you use real meat, brown the meat with onions and bell pepper first; otherwise, throw everything in a big pot and simmer for about an hour. You can also toss in a can of Rotel tomatoes for an extra kick. You can play with this recipe, depending upon what you like, but the secret ingredient is the ranch dressing mix!
I also tried my hand at making oat bran and banana muffins from a recipe I found online. They actually turned out really well. I've had a hard time baking in this high altitude, but these muffins were really easy and definitely edible!
Before it got dark and we settled in for the night, Neal finished up one more project he had been working on. We've been interested in finding a free-standing coat rack, but the purchase prices in stores were more than we wanted to fork out. Several months ago we found some neat coat hooks for sale at a flea market in Westcliffe. We weren't exactly sure how we would use them, but we both liked them so we bought four. Last week, Neal was browsing at our Habitat for Humanity Restore and he found a wood post for $1.50...perfect as the base for a coat rack. Later in the week, he found a used circular saw on Craigslist for $10, to replace the one he had that recently died. So, with the right materials and the right tools, he was able to throw this together in no time.
Oh, and if you hadn't noticed, I changed the header picture on my blog today...