No Tricks

Happy Halloween!

I’m hoping to get a bunch of trick-or-treaters this year. In years past, this hasn’t been the case.

For the five little munchkins I know and love, I made them some special Halloween treats stuffed into a loot bag, as the package called them.

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Usually, I get lazy and make the Halloween funfetti cupcakes from a mix, topped with orange from a can frosting. Sometimes, I’m even lazier than that and I buy those Halloween print place and bake sugar cookies. Wouldn’t you know, the kids love those!

But this year, I wanted to do something a little different. Yep, I still used the Halloween funfetti cake mix, but I went rogue and decided to make cookies from it. Did you know you can do that? I’ll admit, my husband had them somewhere once and since then, has been begging me to make some.

It isn’t too difficult, and the prep is pretty much the same, give or take a couple ingredients. It tells you how to make cookies right on the box.

I had been pretty sure I was going to make cookies, until I found the perfect cookie pan, and then I was sold. While at a local thrift store last week, picking up some items for Dan’s costume (he was Prince William by the way, and no, I didn’t dress up as Kate), I found these adorable baking pans.

Only $0.90/pan! I love the thrift store.

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I had always intended on frosting the cookies with the orange frosting, but I was a little concerned that the frosting would stick to the goodie bags and make a big old mess. The can type of frosting doesn’t harden.

Then, I had the idea to make the cookies into cookie sandwiches. One cookie on each side, frosting in the middle, and sprinkles along the frosting sides to avoid the frosting coming into direct contact with the bag.

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I had a minor technical issue in that the cookies didn’t take on the jack o’ lantern face that’s on the pan, but it worked out. They just looked like cookie balls instead of pumpkins.

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What do you think? I think they’re pretty festive, and not your average Halloween funfetti cake.

Further Crock Pot Usage

I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love my crock pot and all it can do. I’ve already used it to make chili and apple butter, but this time I tried out some chicken fajitas. Couldn’t have been easier.

I started out with this recipe, then tweaked it.

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Here’s my take on it:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into slices
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of chicken broth
1 packet of pre-made fajita seasoning (we actually used a mixture of spices, but looking back, we should have just used a packet)

Ready for the directions? Put everything into your crock pot and let it cook.

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We cooked ours on high for about 4 hours, but this can definitely be done in the morning, be put on low, and let it sit for 8 hours.

When done, put the mixture on tortilla shells and top with your favorite ingredients.

I’m absolutely loving the little time and effort that goes in to making such a great meal.

More Donuts

The donut pans I bought for the apple donuts have not gone to waste. They barely made it back to the cabinet before I pulled them out again to bake up a new batch of donuts.

I had some leftover canned pumpkin, so I decided to use it to make pumpkin donuts.

I used this recipe, following it exactly. Here’s the result:

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I measured all the ingredients, mixed them together,

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and spooned the batter into the sprayed pan.

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Fourteen minutes later, they were fully baked.I allowed them to cool for a while, and got the topping ready.

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Then, I took each one out, slathered it in melted butter,

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and dipped them in a cinnamon sugar mixture.

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The donuts came out spongy and very cake like, though a little more dense that I thought. Still, they were delicious.

If you don’t eat them fresh out of the oven, I strongly suggest heating the donut for about 15 seconds in the microwave before eating it. Just yum.

Sweet Potato and Bourbon Cupcakes

Have you ever heard of Bakerella? She’s the fabulous baker that is responsible for treats like these milkshake cupcakes.

And these Mrs. Potts cake pops.

And these Milk Men.

Even though I know I can never come close to emulating some of the baked goods she makes, I always like to browse. Sometimes, I even find something that I think I can handle.

Last weekend, one of my friends was throwing a little party with a fall theme. I volunteered to bring the dessert, so I searched for a cupcake that screamed fall to me.

I landed on Bakerella’s Sweet Potato Bourbon cupcakes.

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I followed her directions, but halved the recipe so I only got 12 cupcakes instead of 24.Also, I didn’t make the under frosting dipping element of the cupcake. They turned out just as yummy.

A couple suggestions to make these easier to make:

The cake got stuck to the wrapper. A little cooking spray would have gone a long way.

The frosting glaze firms up very quickly. Keep the mixture on the stove, on low heat, while you’re spreading it over all the cupcakes. Once the frosting dries (which only takes a few minutes), it’s not spreadable and won’t leave a smooth glazed cupcake top.

It was a hit. I was surprised by just how bourbon-y it was and how little it actually tasted like sweet potato. Still, it was a perfect fall treat.

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Jalapeno Popper Sandwich

My favorite thing in the world on a cold and dreary day is a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. It warms you up, it’s filling, and you can never go wrong with cheese.

Then, I came across this recipe for a grilled jalapeno popper sandwich. It sounded like a more grown up version of my tried and true grilled cheese, so I decided to give it a try one rainy fall day.

The result.

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Definitely a five star recipe.

Start by washing and seeding a jalapeno. You’ll need two jalapenos per sandwich.

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Broil the pepper for about eight minutes.

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Put the jalapeno in a sandwich bag (zipped closed) for about twenty minutes and then peel the skin off.

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Meanwhile, start work on the sandwich. On the bread, smear some cream cheese, put on some cheese, and crush up some tortilla chips and toss those on as well.

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When the peppers are ready, add those on the bread and make your sandwich.

Finally, cook it like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. We used out pannini press pan. To make this just a teeny bit healthier for you, I used cooking spray instead of butter when I made it.

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Tasty on its own, but I paired mine with some sour cream and some butternut squash soup.

A perfect, and quick, fall meal.

Halloweenie

I love Halloween. Always have since I was a kid. There’s just something to dressing up, going door to door, and ending up with pounds and pounds of candy. Of course, I stopped trick or treating a while ago, but I still try to make the rounds with the little ones in our family. It’s such a fun time!

I’m always home and ready to run to the door when the doorbell rings on Halloween night. Unfortunately, I seem to live in areas with very little children because if I get three or more trick or treaters, I consider it a good night.

In any case, I try to deck out our place to the nines with Halloween goodness. Given Halloween is less than two weeks away, our house in full on Halloween mode. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

I love this Halloween tree.

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It was a staple at my parents’ house when I was growing up. My mom gave it to me last year. I think I got all of my holiday decoration impulses from my mom. To put things in perspective, our house always had a huge light up ghost and a huge light up pumpkin outside of it throughout the Halloween season. Not gonna lie, it used to embarrass me. Now, I get mad when I visit and see they haven’t been staked into the front lawn.

Anyways, the haunted house in the base of the tree lights up, and it came with all those little Halloween ornaments. Love.

For more festive-ness, I put some Halloween votives around the tree. The orange sphere ones were a gift from my mom and the ceramic ghost, pumpkin, and hat were from the Dollar Store.

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I enjoy these little jack o’ lanterns too. They were a wedding shower gift way back in the day. They were a bit too big for the tree, so I put them in a short glass vase, which they fill up perfectly.

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How about this cute little lantern display?

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The lantern was a $1 Ikea find, and the pine cones were bought from Michael’s (the little pumpkins included) for $2.99. Normally, I wouldn’t buy pine cones, but they were cinnamon scented. I couldn’t pass them up! They smell delightful.

I swapped out my glass hurricane to make it more Halloween-y by putting candy corn in the bottom part, and adding a candy corn colored candle to the top.

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I’m loving my tablescape too. I took an old Meijer plasticy tablecloth and cut it into a runner. I’m a big fan of Halloween, but a whole tablecloth of jack o’ lanterns was a bit too much for me. The centerpiece is a simple hurricaine filled with fall colored beads and a cheap brown candle I got at Kohl’s. Those little pumpkins are from Michael’s and there are some leftover pinecones in there too.

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Finally, here’s a DIY bat project I made for the bookcase.

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Pretty easy to do, actually. The longest part of the whole project is cutting out the little bats, which you can avoid if you purchase a bat punch, like this one.

I’m cheap, so no bat punch for me.

I had three of these 5×5 frames laying around. Originally, I bought them for less than $1 a piece at Michael’s for a specific wall art project I never got around to completing. Oh well.

I cut out three 5×5 squares out of black construction paper and placed them in the frames. I didn’t put the glass back in, so the bats could have a 3D effect.

Next, I found a bat shape online. Any one will do, it just depends on the size of bat you want. I used pretty small frames, so my bats were super teeny. Here’s a more regular-sized bat template.

Cut out a bat and then trace it onto brightly colored paper. I used orange paper with bats on it.

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Cut out the bats and arrange them on your black construction paper. I went with two columns of six bats each.

Next, I folded each bats wings up, just a little bit. That left me a flat (unfolded) part of the bat’s body, which I glued down.

And there you have it, bat specimen art. Kind of a spooky take on those butterfly specimen shadowboxes you see.

After I finished this project, I saw this picture and was like, I’m definitely doing that in my twisty entryway!

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But, that’s a lot of bats to cut out.

Maybe next year.

Spooky Wreath

While I really like our fall “Welcome” wreath, I wanted to change it up for Halloween to something more Halloween looking, and not just fall looking in general.

As I was visiting Wisconsin, I thought building a wreath using fallen branches would be a great way to keep this project green (and cheap).

I started by gathering a ton of branches – some skinny, some wider. I knew I’d need the skinny ones to fill the wreath out as I worked.

I didn’t have much to work with, so I wondered what I should use as the wreath form. Well, we had pizza the night before, so I can just cut that into a circle and it should work fine, right? Right.

I just used a bowl at the house to trace a circle on the pizza box, and another, smaller bowl to trace the inner circle.

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Then, I cut it out.

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I started on the top and positioned and glued. All the way around.

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At the beginning.

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Toward the middle.

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And the end.

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All that white stuff is the glue.I had to wait forever for it to dry so I could pick the thing up.

I like the natural wooden look, but this was supposed to be a Halloween wreath. Enter the glossy black spray paint.

After a quick spray and dry, check out the shiny black goodness. Very creepy.

To finish it off, I bought some Halloween ribbon at JoAnn’s (with a coupon!) to hang it. What do you think?

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Hope it attracts some trick-or-treaters!

Oh, and total spent was about $6 for the spray paint and ribbon. If you didn’t have glue, add another $1.

Halloween is only two weeks away!

Baked Apple Donuts

Last night, I attended a sort of Halloween party/housewarming get together at my friend’s new apartment. She went all out with decorations, festive plates, and napkins, and way more food than we could eat.

I was in charge of dessert, and was told to try to make something fitting with the Fall/Halloween theme. I brought apple donuts (yes, made from our Apple Picking excursion).

Making them is actually much more simple than I thought. First things first, I needed the proper equipment. I ran out to Bed Bath and Beyond to grab two of their donut pans.

They were $9.99 each, but with a $5 off coupon, I was able to get them both for $15.

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Next, I searched for a good recipe. I came up with this one. I was glad to see they were baked, not fried. I mean, not that these babies aren’t filled with butter and sugar, but still, baked was a plus to me.

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I followed the directions exactly, but I ended up with ten donuts instead of nine, as the recipe stated. Consequently, the cinnamon-sugar mix only had enough for exactly nine donuts. That last donut came out extra cinnamon-sugary because I just threw random amounts in a bowl and coated the donut in it until there was none left.

The donuts got rave reviews from my friends and the husband. Looks like this recipe is a keeper! And, now that I have some new bakeware, more donut making is certainly in my future.

At the party, the donuts were nicely paired with some mulled wine, which was just an absolutely perfect combination. And very appropriate given the fall theme.

As for my apple count, I still have about four apples left. We’re almost out…finally!

Butternut Squash Soup Goodness

As I’m sure you’ve picked up, I love all things fall. Butternut squash is one of those great fall foods that I can’t get enough of right now. I’m obsessed with it. So, I made some soup.

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Yes, that is a stock photo from the Food Network. I didn’t take any photos of the soup, probably because I was too busy eating it.

In any case, I got this recipe from my dear friend Lauren as a response to my Apple Picking post. Yep, there are apples in there.

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion, chopped
A few shakes of celery salt
1 carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1 2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped
(squash and apple should be at a 3 to 1 ratio)
3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if vegetarian)

This soup couldn’t be easier to make. The hardest part was chopping everything up.

Combine butter, onion, celery salt, and carrot in large saucepan. Cook for 5 minutes. Add squash, apple, and broth. Bring to boil. Simmer until the squash is soft. We left our squash simmering for quite a while (we may have forgotten about it), but it was fine.

Once we remembered, the squash was a bit mushy, and we pureed it in our blender. Do this step in a couple batches. If you put too much in the blender, the lid may fly off and you might get liquid everywhere. Not that it ever happened to me, I’m just saying it could happen.

I actually made this soup for us to eat throughout the week instead of right then, so once the soup cooled, we put it in a container and into the fridge. It re-heats deliciously.

For spices, you can go wild with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, or any other spice. We kept it simple by adding just salt and pepper. A great topper is also smashed up pita chips.

So far, we’ve gotten four bowls out of the recipe, and there is easily three bowls left. These were side servings, not the whole meal, but still, I was pretty impressed by how far the recipe stretched.

I’ve had other butternut squash soups, but this recipe is by far my favorite. I think it may be because, unlike other recipes, this one uses an apple. It’s a touch of unexpected sweetness and just gives the dish an extra something. Try it.

Butter Me Up

I’m finally getting around to writing about what I did with some of those apples I picked with my family late last month.

I made some apple butter!

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This recipe combined some of my favorite things:
1. Using up those hand-picked apples before they went to waste.
2. Cooking the apples in my slow cooker (can’t get enough of that handy gadget!).
3. Making the house smell like apples and cinnamon. Mmmmmm.
4. Putting to use the “fall” spices – nutmeg and cloves.

Here’s the easy recipe:
6 apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon (heaping)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (heaping)
1/4 teaspoon ground gloves (heaping)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 whole lemon peel (though mine was in a couple pieces since I’m not that good with a knife)

Throw all of the ingredients in your crock pot. I put my apples in first and covered them with the rest of the ingredients.

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Turn the temperature up to high and let it cook all day. Mine cooked for about six hours.

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I left the lid off for the last hour, which helped reduce the amount of liquid.

Remove the lemon peel, spoon into a jar, and that’s it. You can puree the mixture if you prefer a smooth consistency, but I left mine chunky.

Enjoy on toast, bagels, English muffins, scones (like us), or whatever else your heart desires.

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