October 30, 2012

Halloween Treats

If you're anything like me, you procrastinate and you are STILL trying to decide what to make last minute for Halloween treats. Below are a couple of quick sweets that any boy or ghoul would enjoy!

Ghost Pops
Jumbo Marshmallows
White Melting Chocolate
Popsicle Sticks
Black Decorating Gel
Lollipop bags and twist ties
Wax Paper

Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl in 15 second increments, stirring after each 15 seconds until smooth. Insert Lollipop sticks in marshmallows. Holding stick, dip marshmallows in chocolate. If needed, use a spoon to scoop chocolate on top for better coverage. Place on wax paper to dry. Add eyes and a mouth with decorating gel.

Spider Cupcakes
Chocolate Cakemix (Baked as directed in cupcake liners)
Chocolate Frosting
Black Licorice
Red Hots
Brown Sprinkles (or as my husband calls them, "Jimmies")

Bake cupcakes as directed on cakemix package. Let cool and frost each cupcake. Sprinkle jimmies on top. Cut each licorice piece in half lengthwise and cut in half horizontally. (Adjust size as you prefer for length and width of legs) If you can find licorice rope, it would be much better in my opinion. Add 2 red hots for eyes.

What are some of your favorite treats to make for Halloween? Leave a comment and let me know.

October 29, 2012

Pumpkins Pumpkins

My husband and I both love the fall season.   It's that time of year for football, jackets, scarves, soups, apple cider and pumpkins.   I especially love carving pumpkins together for Halloween. We spend a lot of time debating on our own pumpkin carving design. It's funny how we each plan and carve differently. He draws his on freehand because he's so talented. And he carves it out so quickly. I take AT LEAST a half hour longer.  I print out a design, tape it on the pumpkin and poke the outline.

In the end, it's a great feeling to put the candles in and see what they look like from the sidewalk. We're officially ready for trick-or-treaters! (Well... aside from needing to get the candy. I'm trying to put that off as long as I can so I don't get tempted to eat it all before Halloween.) I get giddy as if I were a child. I think I get so excited because I don't remember carving pumpkins with my parents. I don't know why they neglected to make this awesome tradition a part of our family but I'm so glad that my husband and I do this fun seasonal activity together.

While we were visiting my husband's family in Seattle recently, we had the extreme pleasure of going to the pumpkin patch with our adorable niece. We all went to lunch then stopped to get coffees and she got to try hot cocoa for the first time and loved it. She just had to bring her hot cocoa into the pumpkin patch. At 2 1/2 she was easily entertained by everything from the rubber ducky racing pond and bowling to the live turkeys, roosters and rabbits that had funny names.

We were all too worn out afterwards to actually carve the pumpkins but we picked out a great variety. They had all different colors, shapes and sizes. Plus it was her naptime anyway and we didn't want her to miss out. Maybe we'll carve pumpkins with her next year. Happy Fall!

October 15, 2012

Welcome Fall with an Apple Braid

I try to take shortcuts as much as I can while in the kitchen to save time.  It's worth it to have more time to spend on another dish or to visit with friends and family.  I've learned over the years that the last thing I want to do while I have visitors is to slave away in the kitchen, sweating and stressing out while everyone else is relaxing and enjoying the meal.  I'll still slave away as needed but where I can cut it out, I go for it. 

For a shortcut, one of my favorite ingredients to use in a recipe is crescent roll dough. You can make a lot of things with this little tube of pre-made dough. Adding fruit to it to make a Danish-type dessert is so easy and the results are delicious. I used apples since fall is here and I love the homey smell of baking apples with cinnamon. The scent filling the house reminds me how much I’ve missed the cooler weather. It also makes me daydream about all the delectable treats I want to make for dinner, dessert and holidays. I love it!

Crescent Rolls are usually on sale or you can find coupons online to save money but they aren't ever that expensive.  You can find it in the refrigerated section with the pie crusts and pre-made cookie dough.  

1 tube of crescent roll dough
1 medium apple, sliced thin or diced (I used Granny Smith)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp for topping before baking
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add in apples and stir until coated with dry ingredients. 

Press out the rectangle of the crescent roll dough onto a cookie sheet.  Make sure to press all seams together.  Pour apple mix down the center of dough, leaving a half finger length on each side.   

With a small knife, make slits down each side of dough.  Braid or fold dough over the filling so it makes a braid.  For the ends, I try to fold up and pinch the sides together so the filling doesn't run out onto the pan.  You can use the photo as a reference to how mine looked.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar over top of dough.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  This is perfect served warm with a maple glaze.  Or you could serve with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

October 11, 2012

Best Chili for Cool Weather

Hello 10-11-12!  Congrats to those getting married on this day or that have babies.  You're special day will be easy to remember.  Just a small shout out for all of you.

We welcomed the cooler weather with open arms last weekend!  Oh how I've missed the crisp, cool air of fall.  I love wearing my zip up hoodie because t's so big and comfy.  I wore it all weekend, even in the house with windows open.  We didn't bother to light the fire yet but if it gets any cooler we may have to.

I love to cook soups and stews and try to use the crockpot when I can to save time during this time of year.  If you've never made a soup, chili or stew you are definitely missing out on some homemade tastiness.  It's so easy and worth it to make a soul warming meal at home.  You'll find tons of easy and delicious recipes online for various soups or stews.   Also try out my awesome Beef Stew.

Football weekends are a perfect time for this chili.  My husband requests it often to eat while he watches football all day.  It's one of his favorite dishes for linner, as he calls it.  (Lunch and Dinner)  I don't know if that's a real thing or if it's something he just made up.  It's a word in our house.

2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground chuck beef
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with juices
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp cocoa powder
2 bay leaves
1 12 oz bottle amber beer (I used Shiner Oktoberfest)
1 c beef broth salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, cook bacon to render fat.  When bacon is almost done, add onions and saute until onions are soft, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute.   Add in ground beef and cook until no longer pink, stirring occasionally.   Stir in kidney beans and diced tomatoes.  Then add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cocoa powder and bay leaves.  Stir in beer and beef broth.  Bring to a boil.  Then lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.   Add salt and pepper to taste  and serve.  We like to add shredded cheese, sour cream and chili cheese Fritos on top to make a supreme Frito chili pie.   It's delicious! Enjoy!!

October 6, 2012

Fall Snack Mix

My husband and I love to snack.  I can't keep chips or candy in the pantry or we'd polish them off on day one.  I only purchase snacks when I know we have company coming over or there's a good football game that I know my husband will be watching.  I like to stock him up on goodies for game days because I'm such a great wife. 

While wasting time creeping on Pinterest one day, I saw all kinds of fall snack mixes.  I decided to make a big batch and keep in a gallon ziplock baggie to keep fresh.  I put together a bunch of things we both like.  It's very easy and so festive this time of year!

Fall Snack Mix

1 bag of pretzels (I used the snaps - the square waffle looking ones)
1 lb of M & M's (I used peanut but the plain or peanut butter would be good too)
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1 bag of caramel bits or nibs (I found them at Wal-Mart with the chocolate chips in the baking aisle)
1 bag of candy corn (I used a mix that had the pumpkin shapes, regular candy corn and caramel candy corn)

Mix all together in a big bowl and you have a tasty fall mix for snacking.   I felt it needed a little more saltiness so bugels or chex mix would be good to add.  I whipped up a batch of homemade chex mix using Pioneer Woman's Chex Party Mix Recipe.  Then I added most of it to the mix and kept some by itself separately to enjoy with the sweets mixed in.   Enjoy!