Saturday, October 31, 2009

Candy Bar Caramel Apples

Joshua was concerned because he had never had a caramel apple. I didn't want him to grow up without having the opportunity to try a caramel apple, so I decided I would make him some. I was nervous, because I haven't had much success with homemade caramel apples in the past (it's been probably 15 years since I last tried). I found this recipe from Land O'Lakes. It was easy to make, the apples looked quite elegant, and they tasted delicious. My favorite way to serve caramel apples is to slice them into thin wedges--it's much easier to eat that way. I used the Peter's brand block caramel that I bought at Gygi's. I bought 12 honeycrisp apples from Costco and had enough caramel to make 12 (I did have to chop a little more candy, though). I didn't take a picture of mine--this picture is from Land O'Lakes--but the apples actually do end up looking like the picture.

Yield: 8 caramel apples

8 wooden craft sticks
8 large apples, washed, dried (I used honeycrisp apples and they were fabulous)
1 cup chopped your favorite chocolate-covered candy bars (I used chopped Butterfingers)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 (11-ounce) bag caramel bits or 45 unwrapped caramels (I used 11 ounces of block caramel)
1 cup milk chocolate & caramel swirled baking chips (or use 1 cup milk chocolate chips)
2 (1-ounce) squares white baking chocolate, melted

Insert 1 wooden stick into stem end of each apple; set aside. Line baking sheet with waxed paper; spray with no-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Place chopped candy into medium bowl; set aside.

Combine butter, milk and caramel bits in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel is melted and smooth (5 to 7 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in baking chips until smooth.

Place pan over low heat; dip apples into melted caramel mixture until evenly coated, spooning mixture over apples as needed. Shake gently to allow all excess caramel mixture to drip off. Roll bottoms of apples into chopped candy. Place onto prepared baking sheet.

Drizzle each apple with melted white chocolate. If necessary, lift each apple from waxed paper and press caramel and chopped candy back onto bottom of apples. Place back onto waxed paper.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Wrap each apple in waxed paper; store refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Recipe Tips
* Make sure to allow all excess caramel mixture to drip off into pan.

* Wrap 2 colors of festive ribbon around wooden sticks for a special touch. Tie at ends to secure.

* Leftover caramel sauce can be re-heated and served over ice cream.

Super Easy, Super Fast, Super Yummy, Super-Duper Chili

When I first read through this recipe, I couldn't imagine that it would actually come together and taste good. Of course, I had to try it to find out. And it works! This is a very fast to put together chili--you basically just open up cans of ingredients and dump them together. The onions, garlic, and green peppers are all from the salsa so there is no chopping involved.

Recipe from Taste of Home.

1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 pound ground beef
2 cans (16 ounces each) hot chili beans, undrained
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
8 ounces process cheese (Velveeta), cubed
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large soup kettle or Dutch oven, cook the sausage and beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 14 servings (3-1/2 quarts).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Favorite Fudge Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

I'm sure you all know by now how much my family loves the "Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake" recipe from King Arthur Flour! Last night Bart wanted to bring a treat in for a coworker's birthday. I thought cupcakes would be easier to serve at work, so I used our favorite chocolate cake recipe for cupcakes. It worked great! I made a different recipe for the frosting than I usually use. It tasted just like an Italian-meringue buttercream, but it was MUCH simpler to make. We prefer our buttercream a little less buttery and a little more sweet, so I just added some extra powdered sugar at the end until we liked the taste. It didn't harm the texture at all--in fact, this buttercream has an extremely silky, light texture that makes it easy to work with. I highly recommend using a stand mixer for the frosting.

Favorite Fudge Cupcakes

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Instant ClearJel or cornstarch (I always use Instant ClearJel)
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) water

Preheat the oven to 350. Line muffin pans with paper baking liners.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Gradually add the water, beating until smooth. Put the batter into the prepared liners (I use my muffin scoop--about 1/4 cup per cupcake depending on the size of your pan).

Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean or cake feels done when lightly touched. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pan and place them on a rack to cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting

3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (ONLY if you use unsalted butter)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) boiling water
1/4 cup(1 ounce) meringue powder
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (if desired)
4-8 cups (1 to 2 pounds) powdered sugar
2 cups (4 sticks, 1 pound) soft butter

Dissolve the sugar (and salt if you're using it) in the boiling water, and cool to room temperature. Mix in the meringue powder. Beat on low speed of an electric mixer for several minutes, until the powder dissolves and the mixture is foamy. Increase the speed and beat until soft peaks form. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract, then the confectioners' sugar. Add the soft butter a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Taste and add additional powdered sugar if desired (I added a little over 1 pound extra). Swirl the icing onto the cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chicken and Rice with Coconut Milk and Pistachios

This is a great variation on chicken and rice. Bart made this for us for dinner tonight. We all absolutely loved it! We served it with an Asian lettuce salad.

Recipe from The Best Skillet Recipes.

4 (5- to 6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins removed and breasts trimmed
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk (we used regular coconut milk because that’s what we had on hand)
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup chopped pistachios, toasted
½ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

Pound each chicken breast between two sheet sof plastic wrap to a uniform ½-inch thickness. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working with 1 chicken breast at a time, dredge in the flour, sahking off the excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay the chicken breasts in the skillet and ocok until lightly browned on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garam masala, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the chicken broth and coconut milk, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle the chicken into the rice and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the thickest part of the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a clean plate, brushing off any rice back into the skillet. Tent the chicken loosely with foil to stay warm. Cover the skillet and continue to cook the rice over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 10 minutes.

Off the heat, sprinkle the peas over the rice, cover, and let warm through, about 2 minutes. Add the pistachios and cilantro and gently fold into the rice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the chicken. (Note: we served the pistachios on top instead of mixing them in—just to make sure they kept their crunch.)

Tamale Pie

I love it when Bart cooks! He always makes incredibly delicious meals—like this one. We enjoyed it with a lettuce salad. You can serve the pie with sour cream and/or salsa if desired.

Recipe from The Best Skillet Recipes.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
Ground black pepper

Corn Bread Topping:
¾ cup (3 ¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup (3 ¾ ounces) yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450°F. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, chili powder, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until gragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the ground beef, beans, and tomatoes and bring to a simmer, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the cheddar and cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while preparing the topping.

For the cornbread topping: Whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until uniform, then stir in the butter until just combined.

Smooth the filling into an even layer in the skillet. Dollop the corn bread topping evenly over the filling, then spread it into an even layer, covering the filling completely. Bake the pie until the topping is golden and has baked through completely in the center, 15 to 20 minutes (check early—ours was done at 12 minutes). Let the pie cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Night Tortilla Soup

I love to make soup for Halloween, preferably something thick or creamy. This recipe fits the bill perfectly! And, as an added bonus, it uses lots of food storage items! It can be prepared early in the day and kept in a crock pot on low or warm until serving time. Be aware that this recipe makes a lot – 1 gallon or 8-10 large servings – so the kids can have 1 serving before Trick or Treating, and then another serving to warm them up when they return!

(Sorry no picture. . . Bryant took the camera to Orem for his band competition!)

Leo’s Tortilla Soup (from the Lion House)

2 T. chicken base
4 cups diced canned tomatoes
1 cup canned diced green chilies (or, you can replace tomatoes and chilies with 5 cups Rotel diced tomatoes and chilies)
3 cups diced onions (may use dehydrated; just be sure to re-hydrate them before adding them)
10 cups water
5 cups dried refried beans (available at Bishop’s Storehouse)
2 cups crushed heavy corn tortilla chips (Fritos are best, but any corn tortilla chip will work)
1 T. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
2/3 cup diced green onion, optional
2/3 cup fresh cilantro, optional
Tortilla chips
Sour Cream

In a large soup pot add chicken base, tomatoes, green chilies, butter, and onions. Cook until onions are translucent. Add water, dried beans, chips, and seasonings. Heat until thickened and beans are soft. Add green onions and cilantro, if desired, about 5 minutes before serving (I just set these ingredients out in bowls for toppings). Garnish with crisp tortilla chips and sour cream. Also good with a sprinkling of shredded cheese on top!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Raspberry Cream Filled Chocolate Fudge Cake

I know I have already posted our "Favorite Fudge Birthday Cake." Here is my latest variation on that recipe. I made two recipes of it--using two 8-inch and two 6-inch round pans (I made a few cupcakes with the extra batter). I sliced each layer in half horizontally, filled each layer with raspberry cream, then coated the cakes with a thin layer of ganache. After that, I put a layer of homemade rolled chocolate fondant on it. The white decorations were done with a 50:50 mixture of gumpaste and white chocolate clay. Everything on it is edible.

I hope Alyssa likes it!

Update: Alyssa loved the cake--it tasted fabulous! The fondant is very delicious.
Following is the recipe:

Chocolate Rolled Fondant
From The Cake Bible
Makes 2 ¾ pounds
(enough to cover a 9-inch x 3-inch cake and a 6-inch x 3-inch cake)

1 tablespoon gelatin
1/3 cup (2 ¾ ounces) water
2/3 cup (7 ½ ounces) corn syrup
1 tablespoon glycerine
¼ cup (1 ¾ ounces) solid white vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 ¼ cups (1 pound 9 ounces) powdered sugar
2 cups + 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a 2-cup heatproof glass measure or bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Set in a small pan of simmering water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. (This can also be done in a few seconds in a microwave on high power, stirring once or twice.) Blend in the corn syrup and glycerine, then add the shortening and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

Mix the sugar and cocoa in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the gelatin mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Mix with your hands and knead vigorously in the bowl until it forms a ball. Turn out onto a smooth, lightly greased surface such as Formica or marble, clean your hands, and knead until smooth and satiny. If the fondant seems dry or brittle, add several drops of water and knead well. The water will make it very sticky and messy at first. When the mixture holds together, scrape the counter clean, lightly grease it, and knead the fondant until smooth.

Chocolate Rolled Fondant may be used at once but is easier to work with if made 1 day ahead to give the moisture a chance to distribute evenly. It is important to cover the fondant to prevent drying out. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in an airtight container.

When ready to roll out, spray the work surface and rolling pin with nonstick vegetable spray. Don’t be alarmed if tiny cracks appear in the surface of the fondant; the warmth from kneading or pressure from the rolling pin will make it smooth and satiny.

• If the cocoa is lumpy, process it in a food processor for a few seconds until powdery. If lumpy cocoa is used it may not incorporate evenly into the fondant. If this should happen, the chocolate fondant can also be placed in the food processor for a few seconds until completely smooth. Don’t try to process the whole batch at one time.
• Use nonstick vegetable spray to grease the counter, rolling pin, cutters, and hands.
• If stored fondant seems very stiff, a few seconds in the microwave before kneading it will make it pliable.
• Don’t be tempted to substitute butter for the solid white shortening. This is one rare instance where there is no perceivable difference in flavor and the shortening actually blends better (without streaking) than the butter.

Raspberry Cream Filling:

Sorry--I didn't measure when I made this. But it was incredibly delicious. I used some heavy whipping cream (probably about 1 cup), beat it until it started to thicken, then I added some raspberry pie filling (probably about 1-1/2 cups) and beat it until it formed stiff peaks. It held up well in the cake, was a pretty pink color, and really tasted like raspberries with cream.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bryn asked me to try this recipe that was on my calendar for the month of October. I was skeptical when I saw that it called for 7 eggs! But I did try it, using my whole egg powder, and it turned out just great. I even made great big cookies by putting the dough in pumpkin shaped aluminum pans I purchased at Walmart. I'm planning on giving these to the sisters I visit teach.

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (I used butternut squash because that's what I had in the freezer that needed used)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup oil
7 eggs, well beaten
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 cups flour
1 12-oz bag chocolate chips

Mix first 7 ingredients together. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together, stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until well blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto sprayed cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until firm and bottoms are brown. Cool on wire rack.

Soft Sugar Cookies

Okay, so I tried Teresa's sugar cookie recipe from Harriet. It was good, but not quite what I really enjoy. So here is a recipe to try for you all. (Try this one with Bryant and see if it replaces his favorite from Aunt Harriet.) This is a soft cookie and reminds me of the Lofthouse cookies. I don't recommend this recipe if you really want a definite shape to your cookie, but it works great for plain old circles.

1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour (I have better success with about 5 to 5 1/2 cups flour)

Cream sugar and butter, add eggs one at a time, add sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Cover and chill for one hour. (My friend says that when she doubles the recipe she needs to chill the dough overnight.) Roll out 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes. (I have better success baking at 375 and placing the cookies on parchment paper.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peanut Butter Muffins

I made these muffins for breakfast today—and we all loved them! Even Alyssa—who sometimes wonders how long this peanut butter kick of mine will continue.

This recipe is from The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book.

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (process about 3-4 whole graham crackers in a food processor to get this amount of crumbs)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup creamy standard peanut butter (7-1/8 ounces)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk, preferably low-fat or nonfat

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray indentations of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray; set aside. Whisk the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat the peanut butter, sugar, and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the egg, then the egg white, and finally the vanilla until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat in the milk until creamy and light, about 1 minute.

Remove the beaters and stir in the prepared flour mixture with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, just until moistened. The batter may still be grainy but no white pockets of flour should be visible. Fill the muffin-tin indentations three-quarters full. (If you have any empty indentations, fill them with water—I had one that was empty).

Bake until golden a toothpick inserted into one of the muffins comes out dry, about 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a rack.

Customize them! Stir 2/3 cup dried cranberries or other fruit, raisins, or semisweet chocolate chips in with the flour. Or add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with the vanilla. (I added dried mixed berries--yummy!)

Apple Dumplings

Since Teresa asked where the picture of the apple dumplings was, I thought I'd post my picture and the recipe. Valerie, are you including this recipe in the Yancey cookbook? Bryce thought it was interesting that Paige picked out the apple pieces in the apple pie I made, but she ate the entire apple dumpling. I told him this was no surprise--that's why the apples are shredded. I explained how Mom had to shred the apples so we would eat them as children -- same reason we shred the carrots and potatoes in our hamburger soup. What an eye-opening conversation this was for him!

1 9" two crust pie dough recipe
3 to 4 cups peeled, shredded apples
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp butter or margarine

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Make pie dough. (I usually use Kendra's recipe that she says is from the Lion House Cookbook). Combine the sugar and cinnamon. Roll out pie dough thin and cut into 6 approximately 6" squares. In the center of each square place heaping 1/2 cup apples. Sprinkle a spoonful of cinnamon sugar over the apples. Cut the 1 1/2 tbsp butter into six pieces and place one piece of butter on top of apples. Fold the opposite corners of pie dough square up and secure with a toothpick. Place dumplings in a 13"x9" pan. Make the syrup by combining all ingredients and boiling for 3 minutes. Pour syrup over the dumplings. Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Southwest Ghost Town Soup

Bart loves to make soups--and this soup is perfect for fall. The butternut squash adds a rich creaminess to the soup that offsets the spices. The garnish is delicious!

1 medium butternut squash (about 4 pounds)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 can (49-1/2 ounces) chicken broth
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons lime juice

Cut the squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds. Place the squash cut side down in a greased shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F. for 1-1/2 hours or until tender. Cool slightly; scoop out enough pulp to measure 3 cups. Process pulp in food processor. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Add seasonings to onion mixture and heat through. Stir in squash and broth. In a blender, process squash mixture in batches until smooth. Transfer to the large saucepan; heat through.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cream, and lime juice. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream mixture or drizzle cream mixture over soup to form a ghost shape. You can use a toothpick to swirl the dollop of cream into the shape of a ghost if desired.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bart made these cookies today. We all loved them! He got the recipe from the bag of Gold Medal flour.

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until well-blended, or mix with spoon. Add oats, flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie

I was experimenting with a new recipe -- trying to decide if I should use this recipe with my Activity Day girls. We loved the recipe. I even made homemade ice cream to go with it. But luckily, I took the picture of the whole pie. With three big slices left, the pie went flying across the kitchen and the pie dish shattered and it was all put in the garbage. Bryce was so sad that he had lost hold of the pie, especially since he liked the pie. He assured me he didn't intentionally drop it because he didn't like it. As a result I came home from Bryant's band competition to a Peanut Butter Silk Pie from Perkins and two new pie plates to make up for the lost pie and pie plate. Now for the recipe:

1 pastry crust for a deep-dish 9" pie
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
6 cups thinly sliced peeled apples
1 recipe crumb topping
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup caramel topping

Crumb Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup butter

Directions for Crumb Topping:
Stir together brown sugar, flour, rolled oats. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until topping is like course crumbs. Set aside.

Directions for pie:
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add apple slices and gently toss until coated. Transfer apple mixture to the pie shell. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple mixture. Place pie on a cookie sheet so the drippings don't drop into your oven. (I didn't have a problem with this). Cover edges of pie with aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Then remove foil and bake another 25 to 30 minutes without foil. Remove from oven. Sprinkle pie with chopped pecans then drizzle with caramel on top. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Black Cat Cookies

Alyssa and I had lots of fun making these cookies together. I cut out the circles from the cookie dough, and Alyssa decorated the cookies. The resulting cookies are the perfect combination of crunchy, chewy, and chocolatey.

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Candy corn
Red cinnamon candies

Combine sugar and butter in large bowl; beat at medium speed until well-mixed. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat until well-mixed.

Combine all remaining ingredients except candies in medium bowl. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture to butter mixture. Beat until well-mixed.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a ball; flatten to ½ inch. Wrap each half in plastic food wrap. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Heat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, one-half at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with 3-inch round cookie cutter. Place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Using fingers, pinch up 2 ears at top of each circle. Place 2 pieces of candy on corn on cookies for eyes and 1 red cinnamon candy for nose. Press tines of fork on each side of cookie below the eyes to form whiskers.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are set. Let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire cooling rack.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
¼ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil or melted butter

Whisk together flours, salt, spices, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together milks, egg, pumpkin and vegetable oil or melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Don’t worry if you have a few lumps. You don’t want to over beat the batter—it’ll produce tough pancakes.

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while you heat the griddle. Once griddle is pre-heated, cook pancakes.

Serve with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar…or maple syrup. Delicious!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quick Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Mom and Dad gave us a big box of apples. So, of course, I had to make apple dumplings! I was too lazy to go to the store to buy ice cream to go with it, and I needed a quicker recipe than our tried and true vanilla ice cream recipe. So I found this recipe. It makes a very smooth and creamy ice cream that is faster to put together than going to the store to buy ice cream (luckily I had all the ingredients I needed at home)!

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 quart heavy whipping cream
2 cups milk (whole milk recommended)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together the ice cream ingredients. Fill ice cream freezer cylinder two-thirds full; freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Refrigerate remaining mixture until ready to freeze. Whisk before adding to ice cream freezer (mixture will have some lumps). Put in tightly sealed container to freeze to allow ice cream to ripen.

Italian Alphabet Soup with Cheesy Soup Dippers

This is one of our family's favorite soup recipes! If you have trouble finding the alphabet pasta, look in the Mexican section of the grocery store. The recipe is from Rachael Ray's book: Cooking Rocks! It is in the chapter for kids ages 4-6 to make with a Grown-up Helper.

1 wedge Parmigiano Reggiano cheese with the rind on
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup marinara or tomato sauce
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup alphabet pasta
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (or 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 jumbo English muffins, cut open
2 tablespoons butter
Garlic powder
Dried Italian seasoning blend

Shred up lots of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for topping your bread dippers and for topping your soup. Trim off the rind of the cheese and save it—you will put it into the soup later, which will make the whole soup taste as good as the cheese.

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in medium soup hot. Add onions and garlic and stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes—until onions have softened. Add the tomato sauce and stir, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, add alphabet pasta and cheese rind. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the pasta letters are just tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

While the soup cooks, prepare your cheesy dippers. Spread melted butter on English muffins (or sliced Italian bread). Sprinkle with lots of cheese and some garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Place in oven and bake or broil until cheese has melted. Cut the muffins into 2-inch strips.

When the pasta is about done, add the vegetables and a little pepper (and salt if necessary). Take the cheese rind out of the soup and serve.

Serve bowls of your Italian alphabet soup with a few dippers to dunk and extra grated cheese to sprinkle on top.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce

I made this for dinner while listening to conference. It was so fun to make! I never really thought stuffing manicotti shells was too cumbersome--but using no boil lasagna noodles is even easier and more fun! This tastes just like lasagna, but it stays in nice little tubes to simplify serving.

Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce
serves 6 to 8

Meat Sauce

1 onion, chopped
6 ounces sliced deli pepperoni
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 garlic cloves , minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper


3 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
1 large egg , lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
16 no-boil lasagna noodles

1. GRIND MEAT Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse onion and pepperoni in food processor until coarsely ground. Add beef and pulse until thoroughly combined.

2. MAKE SAUCE Transfer beef mixture to large saucepan and cook over medium heat, breaking up mixture with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer 1 cup beef mixture to paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Add tomato paste, garlic, and pepper flakes to pot with remaining meat mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (At this point, sauce can be refrigerated in airtight container for 3 days.)

3. PREPARE FILLING Combine ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, 1 cup provolone, egg, salt, pepper, basil, and reserved meat mixture in large bowl. Pour 2 quarts boiling water into 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Soak noodles until pliable, about 5 minutes. Drain noodles on kitchen towel. Pour off water and dry baking dish.

4. ASSEMBLE DISH Spread half of meat sauce over bottom of baking dish. Following photos below, top each soaked noodle with ¼ cup cheese filling, roll, and arrange, seam-side down, over sauce in baking dish. Spread remaining sauce over manicotti. Cover with foil and bake until bubbling around edges, about 40 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and provolone. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Serve.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Originally called Pumpkin Bars, I changed the name because they didn't really turn out like "bars," but rather a delicious and moist cake. Maybe if you baked it in a 10x15 baking sheet you could call it "bars," but in a 9x13 pan it definitely was a cake. Regardless, it was wonderfully delightful even though I used a squash called Golden Perfection rather than pumpkin. I suggest you try this soon, and be sure to invite friends because it's terribly fattening and you wouldn't want to eat it all yourself, right?

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I substituted 1/2 cup pearsauce for 1/2 cup oil and it was wonderful!)
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes (I had to bake mine for an additional 10-15 minutes, possibly because I used a 9x13 pan rather than a 10x13). Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.
To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Best-Ever Pancakes or Waffles

I have never made waffle batter entirely in the food processor before—so I was excited to try this recipe. The waffle batter came together quickly, and the finished waffles were delicious! I loved the rich, full flavor the whole wheat flour and cinnamon provided.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk (or 1 ½ cups plain yogurt plus ½ cup water)
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil

Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a food processor. Process briefly to mix. Add the buttermilk (or yogurt and water), egg, and oil. Turn the machine on/off 3 or 4 times to make a smooth batter.

(Alternatively, you can make the batter by hand. Stir together dry ingredients in large bowl. Combine buttermilk, eggs, and oil in small mixing bowl. Beat with a fork or wire whisk to blend. Add to the flour mixture and stir to form a smooth batter.)

Cook as pancakes on griddle or skillet over moderately high heat (1/4 cup batter per pancake). Or heat waffle iron and cook as waffles.

Keep warm in a 200°F. oven—pancakes on a plate and loosely covered to keep moist, waffles directly on the oven rack, uncovered, to stay crisp.

Recipe from: Pancakes and Waffles by Elizabeth Alston