Friday, November 28, 2014

America's Test Kitchen Key Lime Bars

 This is the other dessert I made for My in laws.  It was a bit hit too.

Key Lime Bars adapted from You're Gonna Bake it After All
10 oz animal crackers
6 Tbrown sugar
1 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly

4 oz cream cheese, at room temp
2 tablespoons grated lime zest- about 2 small limes
2 pinches salt
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
1 c bottled key lime juice
green food coloring

1 1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat to 325F. line 9x13 w foil, spray w pam.  pulse crackers in food processor about 10 pulses. should equal 1 1/4 c crumbs. Add br sugar; process 10-12 pulses. If large lumpsremain, break apart with fingers. Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse til crumbs evenly moistened with butter, about 10 pulses. Press crumbs  firmly into bottom of pan. Bake til deep golden brown, 18-20 min. Cool on a rack while making filling. Do not turn the oven off. While crust cools, in med bowl, stir cr cheese, zest and salt with  spatula til softened, creamy, and combined.  Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously til no lumps  remain; whisk in yolks with stand mixer. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated. The mixture will thicken slightly. add food coloring a few drops at a time to obtain desired hue of green. Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with a spatula. Bake til set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15-20 min.  Cool on rack to room temp, 1-1 1/2 hrs. Cover w foil and chill, at least 2 hrs. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake Bars

I made this for when my husband's family came to visit for my mother in law's birthday.  My sister in law told me her favorite desserts were strawberry shortcake and Key lime pie.  Since I thought strawberry shortcake for a crowd might be too fussy I thought this would be a good alternative.  It was a big hit!

Strawberry Shortcake Bars via Kraft
2 pkg. (3.4 oz. each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
2-1/2 cu cold milk
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries plus extra for decorating top
22-1/2 graham cracker sheets

Beat pudding mixes and milk in large bowl with whisk 2 min. Stir in Cool Whip. Gently stir in strawberries. Break whole graham sheets crosswise in half. Arrange 15 squares on bottom of 13x9 pan; cover with 1/3 pudding mix. Repeat layers twice. top with extra halved strawberries.  Chill at least 4 hrs before serving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Taco Lasagna

The family was a bit skeptical about this dish but it turned out great! 

Taco Lasagna adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
12 no bake lasagna noodles
1 lb gr beef or turkey
3 T taco seasoning
1 egg
1 (15-oz.) small curd cottage cheese cheese
4 c  shredded Mexican or Taco blend cheese
1 (24-oz.) salsa
Optional toppings: sour cream, green onions, diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350F. In lg skillet, brown meat.  Drain and add taco seasoning. set aside. In sm bowl, mix egg and cottage cheese. In 9x13 dish, layer4 noodles, 1/3 cottage cheese, 1/3 meat, 1/3 salsa, and 1/3 cheese. Repeat  layers 2 more times. Bake uncovered 30-40 min til casserole heat and bubbly. Let stand 10 min before cutting. Top with sour cream, sliced green onions, and diced tomatoes if desired.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

PB Cake Bars

a different twist on cake mix bars.  Mrblocko who claims he doesn't care for pb desserts loved this one.  Was a good summer dessert as it only required 12 min in oven.

Peanut Butter Cake Bars via Something Swanky
1 Devil's Food Cake mix
1/3 c butter, melted
1 egg
3/4 c peanut butter (I used smooth)
2 t vanilla
3 c powdered sugar
1/2 c whipping cream
optional: 2 tablespoons of milk for thinning if necessary
1 can of store-bought chocolate frosting

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment and spray with PAM.In lg bowl mix cake mix, butter and egg. Press evenly into prepared dish. Bake 12 min. Cool completely in pan.
Meanwhile: In lg bowl combine pb and vanilla. Beat w electric mixer on med 30 sec. Add powdered sugar and whipping cream and beat until smooth, scraping bowl occasionally. If mix too thick, add 1-2 T milk to thin. Spread over cooled crust. Chill bars 30 min. Nuke frosting for 30 sec.  Make sure you've got all the foil off the top of the container. Spread  over peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for 2-3 hrs before serving.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ranch Pesto Bake

I finally successfully grew basil in the garden this year.  Every year I seem to kill it, but I tried this weird purple basil and I was able to harvest enough for several batches of pesto.

I used home made pesto, but I'm sure store bought would work lovely as well.

The only change I made to this recipe was to add meat.

Ranch Pesto Rigatoni Bake adapted from Mostly Homemade Mom
1 box rigatoni (or other similar tube shaped pasta like cavatappi or penne, etc)
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup prepared pesto
28 oz can diced tomatoes drained and slightly rinsed (I happened to have fresh)
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 c cooked shredded chicken/turkey or 1 lb cooked gr turkey/chicken or bulk sausage

Cook and drain pasta, return to pot. Stir in ranch , pesto, tomatoes, meat and one c mozzarella. Transfer pasta to 9x13 baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella . Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 15 min. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 min til cheese completely melted.

Friday, November 21, 2014

OMG Chocolate Zucchini Cookies

These are our new favorite Zucchini Cookies.  They are great warm from the oven, but even better frozen.

Chocolate Oatmeal Zucchini Cookies Recipe by Crazy for Crust
½ c butter
¼ c veg oil
½ c br sugar
½ c sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 c flour
1 t baking soda
½ t cinnamon
¼ c cocoa powder
3 c quick oats
1 c shredded zucchini (about 1 sm)

Preheat oven to 350F°. Line 2 cookie sheets w parchment paper. In med bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinn, and cocoa. Set aside. In bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, oil, and sugars. Add egg and vanilla. mix on low speed til combined. Slowly mix in dry ingred. Add oats and mix on low. Continue mixing on low and add zucchini. Mix until well combined. Scoop uniform balls onto cookie sheets. Bake 11-14 min til center no longer looks wet. Cool 10 min on sheets before removing. Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crockpot Creamy Taco Chicken

This is a great way to make chicken for tacos!

3 Ingredient Crockpot Taco Chicken via The Pinning Mama
3 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Can Original Rotel Tomatoes with Green Chilis
4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (can sub light)

Place chicken in slow cooker and cover with Rotel . Cook on low 6-8 hrs. 30 min before end of cook time,  shred chicken. Place cream cheese on top of chicken (do not stir). When final timer goes off, stir cream cheese into meat. Serve as tacos, on a salad, in quesadillas, over rice, in a casserole, as enchilada filling, etc.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Frostbite Cookies

I made these cookies with spring mix chips inside the cookie instead of dipping them in the white chocolate. 
I did this because I had the chips and didn't know what to do with them. That and I was too lazy to dip all those cookies!

Crunchy Frostbite Cookies via Plain Chicken
2 c flour
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 c shortening
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c uncooked old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c cornflakes
8 oz almond bark
1 T shortening

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat 1 c shortening at med with mixer til creamy; gradually add sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Add flour mix, just until blended. Stir in oats and cornflakes. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls, 2" apart, onto lightly greased baking sheets; flatten slightly. Bake 325F° 12-14 min. Cool slightly on baking sheets. Cool completely on wire rack.

Microwave almond bark and shortening in a med-size micro-safe bowl at HIGH 1 min or til white choc melts, stirring once.  Dip bottom of each cookie into bark, letting excess drip back into bowl. Place dipped cookies, dipped side up, on wax paper; let stand 1 hr or til almond bark sets.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fudgy Choco-PB-Nana Smoothie

I've made a few frozen treats with the chocolate/pb/banana combo.  I think this one is by far my favorite.

Thick Fudgy Chocolate PB Soothie via Averie Cooks
2 large or 3 med ripe bananas, peeled and frozen into chunks (no ice necessary this way)
3/4 c vanilla unsweetened almond milk (Don't sub this with soy or cow milk)
heaping 1/3 c creamy peanut butter (don't use chunky)
1/4 c unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 t vanilla
sweetener, to taste

Add bananas,  milk, cocoa, peanut butter, vanilla, and sweetener to blender. Mix on high until smooth. Add additional milk only as necessary or until desired smoothie consistency is reached.
Serve immediately. Any leftovers taste great as popcicles!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spinach Dip Pasta Bake

I made this dish with cooked bulk sausage.  I would recommend sticking with the suggested chicken or even ground turkey/chicken.  The sausage made for a meal that was too salty for my tastes.  Mrblocko and Blockette loved it though!

Cheesy Spinach Pasta Bake adapted from Crunchy Creamy Sweet
1 box tube pasta like penne or cavatappi
2 chicken breasts or 1 lb ground chicken/turkey-cooked
salt and pepper
2 T flour
1/2 c sour cream
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c half and half or whole milk (I used skim)
1 pkg dry Ranch mix
5 oz. frozen spinach or half of a batch of fresh (I used a bag of fresh spinach)
1.25 c shredded mozzarella

spray 9x13 dish. Cook pasta per box. Drain. Dice chicken, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour over chicken and toss to coat. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Meanwhile, in lg bowl, mix sour cream, cream cheese, Ranch mix, milk and spinach. Add cooked pasta and chicken to the spinach mixt and stir all together. Transfer to prepared dish. Top w cheese, bake 375F 10 min.  Broil 2-3 min to brown cheese.  Let stand at room temp 10 min before serving.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Toenail Cake

I found this photo someone posted when they were forced to bring a dessert to some sort of social event.  I thought it was hilarious so I posted it on Facebook, joking that I was going to make it for my husband's family reunion.  My husband's uncle dared me to make it, to which I happily obliged.

I'm not sure everyone got the humor, but it made me laugh. 

Here's the recipe I used:
Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Sheet Cake via Pioneer Woman
2 c Flour
2 c Sugar
1/4 t Salt
4 T (heaping) Cocoa
2 sticks Butter
1 c Boiling Water
1/2 c Buttermilk (I used buttermilk powder and milk)
2 Beaten Eggs
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Vanilla
toenail (optional)

1/2 c Finely Chopped Pecans
1-3/4 stick Butter
4 T (heaping) Cocoa
6 T Milk
1 t Vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 C) Powdered Sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir.Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil 30 sec, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mix, and stir lightly to cool. In measuring cup, pour buttermilk and beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mix into butter/chocolate mix. Pour into 18x13" sheet cake pan and bake 350F 20 min. While cake's baking, make icing. Chop pecans. Melt butter in pan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir. Add the pecans and optional toenail, stir, and pour over warm cake.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cornbread Hotdog Buns

While this recipe was good in theory, it didn't hold together very well. The buns kept splitting completely into two pieces. It was very tasty though.  Messy, but tasty.

Cornbread hot dog buns via honestly yum
4 c bread flour (or all purpose)
1 c cornmeal
1 t salt
1- 1/4 oz. packet active dry yeast
1 c warm water
1/4 c veg oil
1/4 c honey
1/4 csugar
3 eggs
2 c grilled corn, finely chopped (I used frozen, thawed corn)
3-4 grilled jalapenos, deseeded and finely chopped (I roasted mine under the broiler)

In mixer with hook attachment, add yeast and warm water. Mix on low speed to combine. In separate bowl, combine bread flour, corn meal, and salt .Pour half  flour mixt into mixer and mix on low for a few seconds just to combine the flour and liquid. Add oil, honey, sugar and two eggs. mix. Add  corn and jalapenos. Add remaining flour on low til dough begins to come off sides of bowl. Turn speed to med and mix 5 min. Turn dough onto floured surface and roll into ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise for 1 hr.Remove dough from bowl and cut into even parts until you get 16 even balls. Shape into logs about 4" long. Grease  18″ x 13″ baking sheet and sprinkle a layer of cornmeal on bottom. Lay logs of dough in side by side. Cover with a towel and let rise 1 hr.
Preheat oven to 375F. Brush tops of buns with beaten egg and lightly sprinkle corn meal over top.
Bake 20 min til gold brown on top. Allow to cool and remove and separate buns.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blockette's Necklace

Blockette designed this necklace over the summer.
 I put the whole thing together for her because working with tiny jump rings can be tricky for an almost 9 year old (at the time).
She fell in love with this giant bag of key charms.  
I love how the whole thing looks antique-y, but the charms are made of plastic!

Looking at the necklace now, the keys are just the right size for fairy houses. 
 No wonder she likes them so much!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fake Butterfingers

 I made this over the summer for a quick no bake treat.  It does require some time in front of the stove, but it's only for a few min.  The bars are worth it!

DIY Butterfingers via Chocolate Covered Katie
1/4 c honey (bars will hold together better if you use corn syrup)
1 T molasses
3.5 T sugar
1 c smooth pb
1.5 c flake cereal
pinch of salt
2/3 c chocolate chips

line 8x8 pan with parchment.  combine 1st 3 ingred in sm sauce pan.  let come to a boil and boil 1 min, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Quickly stir in pb and salt until encorporated, then quickly add in flakes.  Stir so they are coated completely.  It's ok to crush the flakes in the process.  Press into prepared pan.  Melt chips in microwave at 30 sec intervals, stirring between, until melted.  Pour over bars.  Chill in freezer for 30 min, until chocolate just set.  You want the chocolate to be slightly hard, but not totally frozen.  If you wait until the chocolate is fully hardened it will shatter and split off the top of your bars when you slice.  Cut into 12 pieces.  Store in freezer.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Peach Crisp Smoothie or Popsicles

I made a double batch of this smoothie one night for dessert and we froze what we couldn't drink in popsicle molds.  This smoothie tastes just like it sounds - like a peach crisp! 

Peach Crisp Smoothie adapted from My Happy Place
1/2 banana- frozen
1 frozen peach - I used frozen peaches
small handful of raw walnuts
1 t vanilla
1 t pure maple syrup or pancake syrup
2 T  quick cooking oats
1/2t cinnamon
2 T unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Add ice or milk as needed. Pour into a glass and serve immediately. Makes one large smoothie.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Apple Poppy Seed Slaw

This dish was our veggie side of choice until the garden started producing stuff for us to eat.  I think it was the first slaw I've made that Mrblocko actually liked.  I got so excited that he liked it that I made it so often we got a bit sick of it.  I'm sure come spring we will be craving it again along side a big fat juice burger right off the grill.

Apple Poppy Seed Slaw adapted from Damn Delicious and Simply Scratch
about 1/2 head green cabbage and 1/2 head red cabbage- sliced to form shreds
2-3 carrots, shredded
1 medium sized Granny Smith apple, julienned
1 medium sized Fuji apple, julienned

2 T mayo
3 T olive oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T poppy seeds
1-2 T Honey to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

in large bowl combine first 3 ingredients.  In small bowl combine dressing ingredients.  toss slaw mixture with dressing.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Notes:  We like our slaw on the dry side.  If you like a more runny slaw, feel free to double the dressing ingredients.  Also, make sure to taste the dressing before putting it on the veggies.  For some reason, each batch I've made requires a different amount of honey.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Honey Bun Bread-Teacher Gift

I made these for year end teacher gifts.  My mini loaf pans must have been smaller than the ones suggested as they overflowed.  Make sure to bake these loaves on a baking sheet to prevent any oven disasters!

Honey Bun Bread via Positively Splendid
For the cake
1 plain yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream (preferably full fat)
3/4 vegetable oil
4 large eggs

For the filling
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
5 tablespoons honey, divided

For the glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk (plus 1 teaspoon, if needed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour (5) 5x3x2" mini loaf pans. Set pans aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, sour cream, oil and eggs. Mix on low until ingredients are combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat for about 2 minutes more, until batter is thick and smooth.
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans.
Fill each of the 5 prepared pans about 1/4 full with the batter, and sprinkle each with about 2 teaspoons of the filling. Cover the filling layer with another layer of batter, distributing the remaining batter evenly among the 5 pans. Sprinkle each pans with another layer of filling, dividing the filling evenly among each pan. Drizzle each loaf with 1 tablespoon honey, and then use a knife to gently swirl the filling and honey into the top layer of batter.
Bake the loaves for approximately 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes.
While loaves are cooling, prepare the glaze. Combine the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and vanilla in a small bowl, stirring well to combine. If needed, add an additional teaspoon milk so glaze is thick but of a drizzling consistency. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the cooled loaves.

This bread can also be prepared in 2 standard-sized loaf pans. Increase the baking time accordingly.
Prepared loaves can be wrapped in foil and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost to room temperature before serving.

Notes: Link to printable gift tag - "It's been a sweet year"  via  Skip to my Lou

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

America's Test Kitchen Vegetarian Chili

I am so severely backed up from things I made over the summer that I've decided I'm just going to post recipes instead of  writing up a fancy post.  Most of the recipes I made don't even have pictures.  I'm mainly putting them up on the blog for future reference.

Without further ado:
America's Test Kitchen Chili via  Cookbook Project
1 lb. (2 1/2 cups) dried beans, picked over and rinsed
2 dried ancho chiles
2 dried New Mexican chiles
1/2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarse
4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 - 2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed and coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 lb. onions, chopped fine
1 tbsp. ground cumin
7 c. water
2/3 c. medium-grind bulgur
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Bring 4 quarts water, 3 tablespoons salt, and beans to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain beans and rinse well. Wipe out pot.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 F. Arrange anchos and New Mexican chiles on rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and puffed, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool, about 5 minutes. Stem and seed anchos and New Mexican chiles. Working in batches, grind toasted chiles, mushrooms, and oregano in spice grinder or with mortar and pestle until finely ground.

3. Process walnuts in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl. Process drained tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapeño(s), garlic, and soy sauce in food processor until tomatoes are finely chopped, about 45 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

4. Heat oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add ground chile mixture and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rinsed beans and water and bring to boil. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook for 45 minutes.

5. Remove pot from oven. Stir in bulgur, ground walnuts, tomato mixture, and reserved tomato juice. Cover pot and return to oven. Cook until beans are fully tender, about 2 hours.

6. Remove pot from oven, stir chili well, and let stand, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve. (Chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Notes: Mrblocko thought this was pretty darn good for having no meat, but he still thought it'd be better with a pound of ground beef in it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Goal Accomplished

At the beginning of the year I talked about wanting to run a mile without stopping.  It sounds so incredibly silly, but it's something that I have NEVER been able to do. 

I began "training" once the weather wasn't so horrible.  Heh.  That wound up not being until around May.

It was horrible.  I jogged slower than I could walk.  I thought I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen.  I would alternate walking and running 6 times each for the distance of a mile and a half. 

Gradually, I made the walking distances shorter, and the running longer. 

I didn't feel like garbage after I ran.  I could actually catch my breath as I walked.  I was finally able to pick up my running pace too.



Intense pain in my heel, arch and shin.

A trip to the dr revealed that I had Plantar Fasciitis.


I'd been doing all the right things.  Gradually building up to increased activities, wearing the right type of shoes, doing the right types of stretches.  I'm just that lucky girl that this sort of thing happens to.

So I bought some special inserts for my shoes, and I stopped running for a month.

When I started back up again, I felt I lost all the progress I'd made.  Plus, my foot hurt something awful afterwards.

Of course I did what any normal person would do in a situation like this, signed myself and Blockette up for a mile race.  Yeah.  I'm nutty like that. 

I had speed walked 3 miles no problem for something for church a few weeks prior with minimal foot pain.  My husband thought I was a bit looney, for signing up, but I'm pretty sure he think's I'm looney all the time!  ;)  I figured if I was in a lot of pain, I'd just walk.

The race was on the 26th of October. 

I ran the WHOLE way!!!

Without stopping once.

Now it took me almost 15 min to run the darn thing, but I ran.


Non-athletic girl.

I ran.

Even more amazing was I felt I could have run even faster.  I slowed down to a super slow jog because Blockette needed to walk at the halfway point.  I told her that I had 30 years on her, and if I could do it, so could she.

When we knew we were coming up to the finish line I asked her if we should have a strong finish and she hesitated, but then wanted to know if she could try to beat me.  I said of course.  She was 2.2 seconds faster than me. 

It's funny how accomplishing a little goal can make you feel so awesome.  I hung my little ribbon on the fridge so I can see it everyday.

I've set myself a new goal.  I'm going to try to run a 5k a year from now.  Which seems totally crazy.  But then again, so did running a mile a year ago.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween 2014

This year Blockette wanted to be Athena.  I think this was the first year I said, "Yeah, I can do that!"
without hesitation.

 Everything just sort of fell together.  AND I spent less than $10 on supplies.  Over half that cost was because I bought 3 different shades of gold paint in order to get the color I wanted.

The owl was borrowed from my mom.  The tunic was from last year's Medusa costume.  I already had the purple fabric.

 Blockette's armor was a plastic black and silver colored breast plate armor I found at the dollar store.  Medusa's head is also a dollar store find.  I made the medallion out of paper mache.  Barbie and the medallion both got a base coat of matte black spray paint before being dry brushed with several different coats of gold acrylic paint.  Since the breast plate was already black, it saved me the spray paint step.  I gave everything a coat of clear matte spray paint too.
 If you look closely at Medusa, you can see that each of her hair braid snakes have green eyes.  Also, her eyes glow in the dark, courtesy of some blue glow in the dark nail polish.

Then, there is THE HELMET....

I'm so proud of this thing.  It's made of cardboard, paper mache, brown paper bags and paper towels.  oh yeah...and the bristles of a broom.  The pictures do NOT do it justice.  It looks WAY cooler in person.  I followed these tutorials from Constructables and Instructables, for the construction of the helmet.  Then, because I hadn't done papermache for nearly 30 years, I followed these instructions from DLTK.

The helmet took about 3 weeks, including researching and planning.  It was a lot of hurry up and wait because I'd cut something out and then have to wait because my model was in school, or because I was waiting for the layers of paper mache or coats of paint to dry.

A fun side note: the circular medallion like objects on the helmet are cut from paper towels!  They gave the perfect amount of texture when dry brushed with gold paint.

The bristles on top of the helmet are from a broom.  I thought about painting them red, but was afraid it might not turn out right, so I left them black.  I think the contrast looks very striking.

Finally, I used the handle from the broom for the spear.  The tip of the spear is cut from a sheet of glittery craft foam that had a sticker backing.

Blockette wanted to wear sandals trick or treating.  I told her that her toes would freeze and fall off.  Instead we decided that it would be ok for her to wear her tennis shoes.  After all, they were Nike. Nike was the goddess of victory, and Blockette thought the pun was really cool!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Back to Blogging

Now that the crazy pumpkin nonsense is gone, I'm going to get back to blogging on a semi regular basis. 

I'm so glad that I took a break from blogging over the summer.  It was our busiest summer yet.  Blockette went to two different summer camps, and I chaperoned at one of them. (I think I'm still recovering from the excessive singing of the Frozen soundtrack.)  We also had summer dollar movies, vacation bible school, a trip to visit my mom, and Blockette was in a musical.  It felt like we were go go go all the time.


Once school started back up, I didn't much feel like blogging either.  

Mid August, one of our cats, Basil, began to get very sick.  
Two days before school started we found out he had colon cancer, and we had to put him to sleep. 

I always thought Basil was more of Mrblocko's cat, than mine. 

 I didn't realize how much of a role he played in my day to day life at home until he was gone. 

 It's taken me a few months to just stop looking for him when I pass his usual hiding spots. 

 That silly little furball left a pretty big hole in my heart.  

In order to keep my mind off missing the little guy, I decided to take on some big projects.  The first one being re-doing our spare/computer room.

Here's a bit of a before picture:

The room was this horrible green that was somewhere between lime and pea soup.  Why I chose that color, I have no idea.  It gave everything in the room this yellow hue.  BLECK!

And lets not get started on the computer hutch.  It was about 12 years old.  You know, from the days when monitors were so huge two cats could sit on top of it with no problem.  The hutch took up nearly half that room. 

Blockette had also outgrown her small little brown table.  While she has a desk in her own room, there are times where she wants to work next to me while I'm on the computer.

Finally, the biggest reason for redoing this room was for my mom.  When she would come to visit she'd have to sleep on a air mattress on the floor.  We actually WANT her to come see us so I thought it was high time she had an actual bed.

And here are the afters:

I picked out a purple for the walls that has a bit of grey in it.  Then I painted all the trim and the closet doors white so the grey in the paint wouldn't overwhelm the room.  The closet doors were essentially the same color as the door to the room and the floor. 

The desks, shelves and chairs were from IKEA.  I put the desks together all by my onsies.  Mrblocko helped with the shelves though.

Then I went through my stack of unframed cross stitches, bought some inexpensive frames, and hung them up on the wall.  The framing isn't the best job ever, but it's much more satisfying having the cross stitches up on the wall than lamenting in a drawer. The walls still look a little bit bare.  I have every confidence that I'll find more things to hang up as time goes on.

I also had some fun with spray paint.  That crate, in the picture above, next to the used to be bright spring green.  I sprayed it with a gray paint that's supposed to give it a hammered look.  Eventually, I want to get a piece of plywood cut to fit the top so it functions more like a nightstand.

Also, if you look at the first picture, there's a mirror.  We had it hanging up at our previous house, and I hadn't been able to find a home for it since we moved into this one 8 years ago.  I spray painted it black and dry brushed white paint once the black paint had dried.  It has this mottled gray look that ALMOST looks like stone...if you squint.  It also makes me happy to see it hanging on the wall.

The room looks so much bigger, and brighter too!  While it's not magazine perfect, it works so much better for our family's needs.  I can't help but pat myself on the back for the results of my hard work!

Friday, October 31, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Thirty: Pumpkin Chip-o-riffic Cookies

Well, we're finally here!  Day thirty! Whoohoo! 

I almost didn't think I was going to make it.  This last recipe had me totally stumped.  Then, I stumbled upon these babies while meandering through Target.


I think I squeeled a little in the store when I saw them.

So I made an adaptation of a recipe I saw on Family Fresh Meals.  They were yummy warm from the oven, but even better chilled, and eaten straight from the freezer.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chippers adapted from Family Fresh Meals
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t  cinnamon
2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt
1 c butter
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 c pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 T vanilla
1 c semi sweet chocolate chips 1 c pumpkin spice chips
2 c rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside. Beat butter, sugar and br sugar til creamed. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Gradually add dry to wet.Add oats and chips.  Use large cookie scoop to portion out dough.  I chilled my dough in the freezer for 1 hour, because it seemed a bit sticky.  This will help prevent your cookies from spreading too much.  Bake 15-17 min.  Cookies should appear slightly underdone in the middle.  Store in the freezer for optimum goodness.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-nine: Pumpkin Focaccia

This Pumpkin Focaccia from Oven Love turned out just lovely.  I was looking for something to have with baked spaghetti and this fit the bill!  This is another pumpkin recipe that doesn't taste like pumpkin at all.  The pumpkin's just there to keep the dough moist and to lend it some wonderful golden orange color.

The Focaccia is even great dipped straight into marinara.

Pumpkin Parmesan Focaccia Bread via Oven Love
½ c lukewarm water
1 t honey
1 T active dry yeast
2 c bread flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c canned pumpkin (Not pumpkin pie filling)
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
½ t onion powder
½ t garlic powder
olive oil, sea or kosher salt, rosemary, thyme and grated parmesan cheese for topping

In standmixer combine water, honey and yeast. Let sit 5 min. With a dough hook, mix flours, pumpkin, olive oil, salt, onion  and garlic powder for several min. Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead with hands for a couple more min. Coat lg bowl with little olive oil, toss in dough turning coat once to coat, and cover in plastic wrap.  Let rise for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 450F.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Remove dough and spread out on sheet with fingers as  a pizza crust.  Poke surface of dough with fingertips.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, rosemary, thyme and parmesan cheese.  Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 min.  Let cool, slice with a pizza cutter .

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-eight: Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip

I decided to make this dip from A Spotted Pony because I had 4oz of cream cheese left over from a different recipe.  4oz of cream cheese made a half recipe. 

I thought that the half recipe was quite a lot of dip.  Perhaps this was because I didn't particularly care for the dip.  Perhaps the dip just wasn't  cheesecake-y enough for my tastes.  Anyway, Mrblocko loved the dip with graham crackers and apples.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip via A Spotted Pony
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c powdered sugar
scant 3/4c pumpkin
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon

Beat softened cream cheese with powdered sugar. Gradually add pumpkin, pie spice, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until smooth. Chill for at least 1 hr to blend flavors. Serve with graham crackers, apples, pears or gingersnaps.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-seven: Pumpkin Sausage Pasta Bake

I love pasta with a white sauce.  Mrblocko prefers red sauce so we don't have it very often.  This sauce is really a version of Bechemel sauce, so if you're familiar with that, or even making a roux/gravy, this dish will be a breeze for you.

As usual, I made a few changes to this recipe. The biggest one being I added a pound of spicy or Italian sausage. I also swapped out the ricotta for cottage cheese.

Now, I've had some pumpkin pasta disasters in the past.  Thankfully, this was not one that was added to that list!  The pumpkin in this dish acts as a vehicle for cheese.  I'd say the cheese overwhelms the pumpkin which is not a bad thing.  Just be aware, if you are looking for this meal to taste like pumpkin, you will be disappointed.  Get that thought out of your head and you'll sit down to a scrumptious meal!

Pumpkin Sausage Pasta Bake adapted from A family feast
3/4 pound dry pasta (I used a mix of leftover tube shaped noodles like cavatappi, rigatoni and penne)
1 lb bulk hot or italian sausage

Pumpkin filling
1 c pumpkin
1 c small curd cottage cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ c grated parmesan cheese (I used the stuff in the green container...gasp!)
½ t nutmeg
Pinch of white pepper
1 t parsley

White Sauce
1/3 c butter
1 T chopped fresh sage
3 heaping T flour
1 c milk (i used skim)
1 c chicken stock
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Pinch  nutmeg
¼ t mustard powder

2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain. While pasta cooking, brown sausage, drain.
To make the pumpkin filling: In med bowl, combine pumpkin, cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan , nutmeg, sausage, white pepper and parsley. Mix well and set aside. To make the white sauce: nuke stock and milk for a few min to remove the chill.  Set aside. In sm sauce pan melt butter over med heat and add sage. Saute 4 min. Add flour. Cook 3 more min. Slowly add hot stock and milk to butter and flour mix, 1/4c at a time, whisking each time. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and dry mustard. Stir to combine and remove from heat. Heat oven to 375 F.  To assemble: In 9x13 dish, layer ingredients as follows: 1/4th  White Sauce, 1/3rd pasta, 1/3rd Pumpkin filling and 1/4th  mozzarella. Repeat  layers 2 times. Then add one last layer of white sauce and mozzarella. Bake uncovered  30-40 min til top golden and bubbly.

Monday, October 27, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-six: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Bars

I haven't had the best of luck in the past making granola bars.  I think it's because I have this notion that granola bars should be crunchy.  These bars were not crunchy, but they held together much better than other soft granola bars I've made in the past. They were a big hit with Mrblocko and Blockette.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cinnamon Raisin Bars adapted from Katrina's Kitchen

2 c old fashioned oats
1/2 c coarse chopped almonds
1/2 c ground flax seed
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t salt
1/2 t t ginger
1/4 t t cloves
1/2 c pumpkin
1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c honey
1/4 c pancake syrup
1 t vanilla
1/4 c cinnamon chips
1/4 c golden raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350 F and spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with Pam. In lg bowl, mix oats through cloves.
In med bowl, whisk  pumpkin through vanilla. Slowly add wet to dry until combined. Add chips and raisins. Pour in pan, bake 30 min til browned slightly. Cool completely before cutting.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-five: Maple Pumpkin Bean Quesadilla

These Maple Pumpkin Bean Quesadillas were a real surprise.  I made them one day for lunch when I was home by myself.  So I didn't have to share! 

While beans and pumpkin aren't something I'd think of combining, they really work in this recipe.  The beans and pumpkin prevent each other from becoming too overwhelming.  Both flavors are present, but not overwhelming.  The sweet from the maple and salty from the cheese are also complimentary to each other. 

This is a fun lunchtime treat for when the pumpkin craving hits!

Maple-Pumpkin White Bean Quesadilla via
 2 tortillas
1 t coconut oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 c vegan cheese shreds, jack or mozzarella flavor (I used cheddar jack)
1/4 c canned white beans, drained and rinsed (I used leftover cooked from dried beans)
1 t maple syrup, grade B (I used pancake syrup)
2-3 Tcanned pumpkin puree, unsweetened
1/8 t salt
pinch of garlic powder, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne

Pumpkin Dipping Sauce: 2 T pumpkin puree
pinch of salt, black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne
1 T hummus (or a splash of melted coconut oil) (I used olive oil again)
2 t maple syrup (I used pancake syrup)

  Spread pumpkin on tortilla, then beans.  Mash beans with a fork.  Heat pan over high.  Add oil. Place beaned up tortilla in pan when pan is heated. Add cheese, spices and syrup.  Prep your tortilla by slathering the pumpkin over the inside. Then add the beans and smash them into the tortilla with a fork. Top with remaining tortilla.  Cook for 1-2 min on each side until they are golden brown and crispy.  cut into wedges.

For sauce: Combine all ingredients and nuke for 30 sec.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-four: Crusted Pumpkin French Toast

This recipe is a mash up!  I got the idea from The Dainty Chef  and  Tastes Better From Scratch.

The pumpkin made the French Toast a little bit on the soggy side.  I prefer a crunchy, more toast like texture to my French Toast.  A lot of people seem to like the soggier variety though.  I used homemade bread which probably aided in the soft structure of the final product.

Crusted Pumpkin French Toast 
10-14 slices whole wheat sandwich bread (the heartier the bread, the less soggy the final product)
3 eggs
1/2 c milk
3/4 c canned pumpkin
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
2-4 c crushed cornflakes (Amt will depend on size of bread slices

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pumpkin and pie spice until smooth. Place crushed flakes on plate. Quickly dip each side of the bread in pumpkin mixture, then in crushed flakes. Cook on a hot, greased griddle or skillet. Flip after 1 – 2 minutes, toast until desired crispness achieved.

Friday, October 24, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-three: Oatmeal Pumpkin Mug Cake

Mrblocko is not the biggest fan of mug cakes.  This Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Mug Cake from French Press has totally made a convert out of him.

I'm calling this a mug cake, but it's really somewhere between a mug cake, cookie and oatmeal.  What's not to love with that sort of hybrid!

Oatmeal Pumpkin Mug Cookie Cake via French Press
1 T butter melted
2 T brown sugar
1/4 t vanilla
2 T pumpkin puree
1/4 c oats
1 T flour
pinch of salt
pinch of pumpkin pie spice
handful of chocolate chips

Combine all the ingredients in a microwave safe mug. Nuke on high 45-60 sec depending on the strength/wattage of your microwave. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-two: Pumpkin and Cream Frappe

There aren't too many chilled pumpkin flavored drinks that I enjoy. Pumpkin and Cream Frappe from Peanut Butter and Peppers is on the short list.

Mrblocko did not even want to try it, but Blockette and I thought it was delish!

I love the frothy bit that floats to the top. I wish I could make the entire drink as frothy as the bit on the top of the drink.  Maybe I could do it if I had one of those fancy schmansy blenders.  Alas, I have an old one that struggles with ice.  I persevered and made do and it all worked out in the end.

This is the perfect drink for a warm autumn day!

Pumpkin and Cream Frappe from Peanut butter and peppers
1c Almond or coconut milk (I used almond milk)
2T pumpkin
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t pumpkin pie spice
1T Maple Syrup
5 ice cubes
Dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and process in a blender until smooth and frothy. Top with Whipped cream if desired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty-one: Crockpot Pumpkin Oatmeal

This was the first time I'd ever cooked using a Bain-marie method in the crockpot.  I had seen lots of recipes for steel cut oats in the crockpot using this method but never thought to use it.  Then I discovered that my souffle dish fits nicely inside my large oval crockpot.

I thought if I could make steel cut oats in the crockpot, surely I could make a pumpkin version.  A google search yielded 4 recipes that caught my eye ( Carrie This Home, Closet Cooking, Kitchen Treaty, and Crockpot Ladies.)  So I took the bits I liked from each one and came up with this recipe.

Mrblocko and Blockette really liked this oatmeal.  I didn't particularly care for it, but I think that it's because most food makes my stomach churn in the morning.  I'm sure if I had a bowl of this for lunch I would have thought it was the bee's knees.

Pumpkin Crockpot Oatmeal
1c steel cut oats
2c water
2c milk
1c pumpkin
1/4c molasses
1/2c brown sugar
1/2 t ginger
1t cinnamon
1t apple pie spice
pinch of salt
1t vanilla

combine all ingredients in a heat proof dish that will fit inside your crockpot.  place dish inside crockpot.  Fill slow cooker with water one inch below the top of the dish that contains the food.  Cover and cook for 9 hours (or overnight) on low.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twenty: Savory Pumpkin Dip Fail

We're two thirds of the way through pumpkin month!  Can you believe it?  And because not every recipe turns out the way you want it, I'm writing about this Savory Pumpkin Dip from My Whole Food Life.

No one in the house liked this recipe.  No matter how much seasoning I added to the mixture, it still tasted like canned pumpkin.  While we all really enjoy pumpkin in this house, we don't like it enough to just eat it straight from the can all by it's onsie.

Here is the recipe I used:

1  1/2 white beans ( 1/2 c more than the original recipe)
1 c canned pumpkin 
1/4 c water
1 1/2 t smoked paprika (orig 1t)
1/2 t onion powder
1 t chili powder(orig 1/2t)
1/2 t kosher salt

In food processor combine all ingred til smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.  makes about 1 1/2 cups dip.

 It even looks just like the stuff straight out of the can.

Sadly, as much as I hate tossing out food, I had to pitch this dip.  I'm thinking that if it contained 1/4-1/2 c pumpkin it might have been better? Maybe you just have to be a bigger fan of pumpkin than we are in the Blocko house?  

Do you have any ideas how I might have salvaged this dip?

Monday, October 20, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Nineteen: Small Pumpkin Cobbler

I've made two variations of this Pumpkin Cobbler before.  Both recipes called for condensed milk and cake mix.  The first recipe of this type of dish I used a yellow cake mix and eggs.  The second time I made this dish the recipe didn't call for eggs, and I used a caramel cake mix.

This time around I used the eggless version of the recipe.  The recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe also stated that you could use regular milk in place of the condensed milk so I thought I'd give that a try as well.

I had 1 1/2 c of a boxed white cake mix so I halved the recipe and made it in an 8x8 pan.  I also opted to swap out the white sugar for brown sugar.  I think the flavors of molasses in the brown sugar married nicely with the pumpkin and cinnamon in the recipe.

I think I prefer the slightly less sweet version with regular milk.  The sweet that you lose from the condensed milk you can replace with yummy yummy ice or whipped cream!

Small Pumpkin Cobbler adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
3/4 c pumpkin
1/2 c milk
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1 1/2 c boxed white cake mix
1/2 c chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 c melted salted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 8x8 pan. In med bowl, mix pumpkin thru cinnamon til well combined. Pour mix into prepared pan.  Sprinkle cake mix and pecans evenly over top. Drizzle spoonfuls of melted butter over top of cake mix, trying to cover the entire surface with melted butter.  Bake 1 hr, til top golden brown.  Let stand 15 min before serving. Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Eighteen: Pumpkin Indian Pudding

I'd never made Indian pudding before.  As far as I can tell, it's called Indian pudding because it was a colonial variation on the British version of Hasty Pudding.  Hasty Pudding was traditionally made with wheat, but as corn was more readily available in the new world, the settlers used that instead.

Sadly, something went terribly wrong with my hasty pudding.  It got a nice pudding skin on it, but it never ever set up.

Oh sure it looks like it set up in the above photo...alas it did not.  It was a great big ole soupy mess.  I even tried baking it for longer.  After an hour in the oven, the top started to get too dark for my liking.

The recipe says to let it sit for 15 min.  I let mine sit for 2 hours.

No dice.

It was still as soupy as ever.

Not ever having Indian or Hasty pudding before, I'm not sure if that was how it was supposed to look.  I'm going to guess from pictures on the blog "Kelly Bakes" that it was supposed to be much less soupy than my version.  In her pictures, the dish looks like a soft, slightly under baked version of cornbread.

Luckily Blockette did not see this disaster.  She would have likened it to something the cat leaves behind after it makes a hurky noise. 

The dish tasted OK.  Mrblocko wouldn't even try it.  The consistency of the dish just threw him.  It was a bit much for me as well, so the dessert met an untimely end with the garbage can.

I can't figure out where I went wrong.  The original dish looks and sounds great.  If you'd like to attempt the dish, head on over to Kelly Bakes for the recipe.  Let me know if you have better luck than I did!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Seventeen: Pumpkin Choc Chip Granola Bars

I don't know what it is with granola bars.  I seem to have the worst luck.  They never want to cook properly, or they just plain fall apart.

These Pumpkin Granola Bars from In Katrina's Kitchen were no exception to the rule.  It took 40 min for the bars to set up, when the original recipe calls for a bake time of a mere 25 min. 

The strange thing about this is that the one substitution I made should have aided in the setting up process of these bars.  Instead of honey I used homemade maple flavored pancake syrup.  This syrup was made with mostly corn syrup, something that sets up much better than honey. 

Go figure.

Once I baked the bars for 40 min I thought if I let them cool completely they would set up how I wanted them to.  When they reached room temp I cut them into 12 bars.  12 very floppy bars that barely held together.


So back into the oven these little guys went. I placed them, spread out on a cookie sheet. They stayed in the oven for another 30 min, flipping them once at the halfway point. 

This extra bake time made them crispy on the outside.  I was afraid they would be hard all the way through like a biscotti.  Nope!  They were quite soft in the center.  Yay!  No one was going to break a tooth on them.

Sadly, by this point I was so frustrated with the bars that I no longer wanted to eat them.  Luckily my family were happy to oblige.  They made a great treat for Mrblocko and Blockette's lunches.

I'm posting the recipe as is from the site and you can decide if you need/want to add any additional bake times.

Pumpkin Granola Bars from In Katrina's Kitchen
2 c old fashioned oats
1/2 c chopped walnuts (I used toasted pecans and almond pieces)
1/2 c ground flax seed
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t salt
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/2 c pumpkin
1/2 c applesauce
1/2 c honey or maple syrup
1 t vanilla
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

Pre-heat 350F and spray 8x8 pan. In large bowl, mix dry ingred: oats thru cloves. In med bowl, mix wet ingred: pumpkin thru vanilla. Slowly add wet to the ingredients til combined. Add chips and pour into prepared pan. Bake 25 min til lt brown. Let cool completely before slicing into 12 or 16 pieces

Friday, October 17, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Sixteen: Cheater Pumpkin Cider

I got the idea for this cider over at She Knows.  I think I did an excellent job of completely butchering the recipe!  The original recipe calls for real apple cider and a whole cinnamon stick, two things of which I had neither of.

Occasionally, I'll add a bit of butter and brown sugar to apple cider for a caramel-y twist.  I thought it'd be a great addition to this drink as well.

Finally, the last change I made to this recipe was omitting the rum.  The only kind of Rum we have is Malibu.  That's not exactly the type of flavor combination I was striving for!

If you're into a caramel-y pumpkin-y apple cider, but are short on time, this is the drink for you!

Cheater Pumpkin Spice Cider for One adapted loosely from She Knows
1 packet of Alpine Spiced Apple Cider
1/4 c pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c water
1 T butter
2 T brown sugar
3/4 t pumpkin pie spice

Place all ingredients in small pan and heat until all ingredients are combined and warmed.  Top with Whipped cream if you're feelin' fancy.  Makes two small coffee cups or one giant mega mug.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Fifteen: Pumpkin Polenta

I've made grits or polenta once before in my life.  They were just ok.  I thought they were much better chilled, diced and fried the next day.

This Pumpkin Sage Polenta from Kitchen Confidante has made a grits convert out of me. 

Ew.  I'm such a messy cook.  Look at that burner pan.  Yikes!

I made a half batch because I wasn't sure I'd like the flavor combinations along with the texture of the grits. These grits were nothing like the grits I made before.  The combination of the pumpkin, sage and Parmesan cheese takes a simple dish like grits to a whole new level.

The amazing thing was that the grits tasted better the first day than they did reheated/fried the second day!

I'm pretty sure this was because they never set up like normal polenta does. This was probably due to the extra moisture from the pumpkin.  Instead of sticks they were more like flat pancakes.  Ok, but not nearly as good as right from the pot that first day.

As I made a half batch, I ate the whole thing myself.  It was the perfect light lunch for me.  I was surprised at how filling the dish was.  I'll be making this dish again, but whether I'll share it with the rest of my family is up for debate!

Pumpkin Grits for Two from Kitchen Confidante
1.5 c water
1/2 c polenta (I used a medium coarse grind)
1.5 t kosher salt (I omitted because I thought the Parmesan would add enough salt)
1/4 c pumpkin puree
heaping 1/2 t sage-dried
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
1 T butter, cubed
In med pan, whisk water, polenta and salt, if using. Bring to boil over med heat, whisking periodically. Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Add pumpkin and sage, and continue stirring 15-20 min, til polenta begins to pull away from sides of pan. Stir in parmesan cheese and butter. Serve immediately while hot and creamy. (You can place in a small pan and chill instead so you can slice it and fry it up.  Mine never really solidified properly though.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Fourteen: Brownie Pumpkin Pie

I'm calling this Brownie Pumpkin Pie, from Brooke Bakes, a pie because I baked it in a pie pan.  It doesn't have a traditional pastry crust.  This pie consists of a brownie base and a pecan crumble topping with a thin layer of pumpkin pie filling sandwiched in the middle.  Seriously, it's three desserts in one.

Mrblocko said it was to be put on the make again list.  He rarely says this about any dessert I make.  Yeah, he's one of those freaky people who isn't into sugar.  At least he's not into sugar like I am. (For the record, I'm into sugar like I'm into breathing.)

I made zero changes to the recipe ingredient wise.  I did have to bake it longer than the 40 min suggested on the recipe.  It was difficult to tell when the brownie was cooked completely.  The toothpick test was inconclusive due to the soft middle pumpkin layer.  I decided it was done when the dessert pulled away from the pan and the top stopped looking shiny.  If I were to change one thing about this recipe it would be to add some coconut to the topping and some chocolate chunks to the brownie base.  Neither of these are necessary, but I think it would send this dessert over the top.  Then again, a big ole scoop of caramel or cinnamon ice cream would too!

Pumpkin Brownie Pie from Brooke Bakes
Brownie layer:
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c plus 3 T sugar
1/4 c coconut oil, softened - You can substitute veg or canola oil (I used veg oil)
1 1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c flour
1 T cornstarch
1/4 c dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

Pumpkin Layer:
1 c canned pumpkin
1 t. vanilla
2 T almond or soy milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1/3 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 t pumpkin pie spice (or 1 1/4 tsp. cinn, 1/2 t. ginger, 1/4 t. nutmeg)

Pecan Topping:
1/4 c margarine
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c flour
3/4 c roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9" pie pan or 8x8" square baking pan.

For pumpkin brownie layer, together pumpkin, sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined. Add flour, cocoa , cornstarch, baking soda, and salt and mix until smooth. Pour  brownie batter into the prepared pie pan and spread it around evenly with a spatula.

For pumpkin pie layer, mix pumpkin, vanilla, and milk in large bowl. In small bowl, mix  cornstarch, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix well until all clumps are gone. Pour pumpkin filling on top of brownie mixture in pan. Spread evenly with a  spatuala.

For pecan topping, mix margarine, br sugar, flour, and pecans in a small bowl until combined. Sprinkle evenly on top of pumpkin layer.

Bake 35-40 min (I needed 55min), then remove from oven and cool for 20-30 min on wire rack. Move to fridge to chill for at least 1 hr before slicing and serving. Can be served warm or cold. I thought it tasted best frozen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Thirteen: Pumpkin Dutch Baby

The recipe for today is a pumpkin dutch baby from Minimalist Baker.  I'm not sure what I did wrong but it didn't rise up the sides like my favorite dutch baby did.

This could have been because I baked it in too small of a pan?  The directions stated to use a small skillet, but I only have a jumbo oven safe skillet.  I improvised and used an 8" cake pan. 

Perhaps the batter needs to be really thin across the pan for it to rise up the sides?  Or maybe the metal in the cake pan didn't retain the heat like a skillet would.

For some reason, the original recipe of sprinkling chocolate chips on top of the pancake didn't appeal to me.  (I guess I just wasn't in a chocolate mood.)  I decided on powdered sugar and cinnamon instead.

If I make this again, not only will I cook it in a larger diameter pan, but I'll add 1T of sugar and a pinch of salt.  I thought the pancake was a little bit on the bland side, compared to other dutch babies I've had in the past.  In doing some research, I found that most recipes, for this type of pancake, contain a small amount of salt and sugar.

As a final note, this recipe states it is for two.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's a meal for one.  It contains two eggs and less flour than 2 thick slices of bread would have.  I think this is a standard amount of food for an average adult to eat at breakfast or dinner. I think you'd have to have a lot of sides or small appetites for this to satisfy two people.

Pumpkin Dutch Baby from Minimalist Baker
2 T butter
2 T pumpkin puree
1/4 c milk (i used almond milk)
1/4 c unbleached all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry)
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
cinnamon and powdered sugar, or semisweet chocolate chips for topping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and melt butter in a small skillet/pan over low heat.
Add eggs, pumpkin, milk, flour and pumpkin pie spice to blender and blend well. Once oven is preheated, swirl butter around sklilet to ensure all sides are coated. Add batter to skillet and place directly in oven. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden brown. Top with chocolate chips or powdered sugar and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and serve immediately. Serves one.

Monday, October 13, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Twelve: Pumpkin "You-know-what"

Many moons ago, when I was a newlywed who had no clue in the kitchen, I used to make this cookie/candy/bar thingie that Mrblocko referred to as Pantry Crack.

It was a toffee that consisted of butter, brown sugar, chocolate chips and saltines.  Mrblocko named it Pantry Crack because I ALWAYS had the ingredients on hand and because it was so damn addictive.

I'm not exactly sure why I stopped making it.  Maybe because I felt that my skills were so greatly improved that I felt it was beneath me to prepare something so simple.  That's possible, but a more likely explanation would be that I enjoyed having my pants fit.

Discovering a pumpkin-y twist on this tasty treat, from Cherished Bliss, put aside all my kitchen snobbery, and my skinny jeans.

They are so easy to make I was able to whip these up while simultaneously talking on the phone and helping Blockette with her homework.  (I'm normally a two things at a time kinda that's really saying something.)

So why is this post called Pumpkin You-know-what?  Heh, well, I was originally referring to them as "Pumpkin Crack" as a bit of nostalgia from when I made the original bars.  However, Blockette thought I was saying "Crap" instead of "Crack."  So, whenever she would mention them, she would hesitate and say "you know what," so she wouldn't get in trouble for saying a Bad word.

Pumpkin Crap Crack Toffee from Cherished Bliss
about 2 sleeves of Saltine crackers
1c butter
1 c br sugar
1/4c canned pumpkin
2 t pumpkin seasoning (use less if you don't want a strong pumpkin taste)
11.5 oz white chocolate chips
optional: 1-2 T semi sweet chocolate chips (original recipe called for a handful. This many made the top look muddy vs. marbled.)

Preheat oven to 400. Line jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet with foil and then parchment.  Eliminating this step will result in sadness.  If you skip both or just use parchment, your bars will not release nicely from the pan.  If you use only foil, your foil will not release nicely from your bars. (The parchment paper trick was new to me and I sang as I removed the bars from the pan.  Getting the foil off of the toffee part of the bars is not fun.  Not fun at all.)  On top of the parchment, place your saltines.  Break them as you see fit.  Just make sure you cover the entire pan.

In a medium pan, bring the butter, sugar, pumpkin and spice to a boil over med high heat.  Boil for 3 min.  Pour toffee mixture over the saltines.  Bake for 5 minutes.  The toffee will be bubbling,  Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the oven off.  Sprinkle the chips over the toffee saltines.  With the oven door open, place the bars back in the oven, with the oven OFF.  My chips were softened after 2 minutes.  Spread out the chips making pretty swirly designs.  Let the bars sit on the counter for about an hour until the chocolate just begins to set up.  Cut into squares using the crackers as a rough guide.  (my crackers tend to shift around in the pan as they are made so I just eyeball it.)  Before breaking into pieces, let the bars cool completely.  I placed mine in the freezer for 15 min.  Break bars apart and store in the freezer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Eleven: Pumpkin Carrot Ginger Muffins

I've never cooked with Candied Ginger before.  This is mostly because I'm cheap.  I see the containers of candied ginger in the store and think, "They want to charge HOW much for that small amount!!!"  Then I walk away.  Sad.  And Ginger-less.  Until the grocery store decided candied ginger was a seasonal item they no longer wanted to stock.  I scored a 4 oz container for 89 cents!!

Of course, when I got home I had no idea what to make with it.  So I googled around and found a recipe for coconut, carrot, pumpkin spice bread from The Gouda Life.  I changed things up and made muffins instead!

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of chopped candied ginger.  I thought this was going to use up the entire container, but to my surprise, it barely made a dent in it!

I didn't think these muffins had a carrot or a pumpkin taste to them at all.  The veggies are completely masked by the coconut, pecans and ginger.  I find that it's dishes like this that convince kids veggies aren't bad, they're just prepared that way.  Kind of like Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but not.

Pumpkin carrot ginger muffins adapted from The Gouda Life makes 22 muffins
3 eggs
1 c vegetable oil
1 c brown sugar
2 t vanilla
½ c pumpkin puree
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c all-purpose flour
2 T ground flax
¼ c rolled oats
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
3/4 t nutmeg
½ t cardamom
2 c coarsely grated carrots (this is about 2 carrots)
¼ c diced candied ginger
½ c shredded coconut, toasted
1/4 c pecans, toasted and rough chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  In small bowl, whisk eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla and pumpkin til smooth. Set aside.
In large bowl, mix flours, flax, oats, baking soda/power, salt and spices. Add wet to dry along with carrot, coconut and pecans. Fold together just until you can’t see flour anymore. Don’t over mix . With a large cookie scoop, place one scoop of batter in a muffin cup lined with a paper muffin cup. Bake 20-35 min until toothpick comes out clean.  Extra muffins can be stored in the freezer.  To defrost peel off paper, wrap muffin in paper towel, and microwave for 15 seconds.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Ten: Microwave Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Yesterday I posted about how I consumed an entire batch of pumpkin tortillas without sharing.  Here's proof that I'm not a complete meanie piggy piggy oink oink:

See!  I actually made something, and let my child eat it.  Am I redeemed? 



Just to show you what a great sport I am, I'm gonna share this recipe for a microwave pumpkin coffee cake regardless of your lack of forgiveness.

2 Minute Pumpkin Coffee Cake in a Mug
from Heather Likes Food
1 T butter
2 T sugar
2 T pumpkin puree
vanilla extract, few drops
1/4 C flour
1/8 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 t pumpkin or apple pie spice

 Crumble topping
1 T butter
2 T flour
1 T brown sugar
1/4 t cinnamon

In a mug soften 1 T butter in microwave, 5-10 seconds. You don’t want it melted, just soft. Stir in 2 T sugar and mix. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and spices; stirring until just combined. Use the back of your spoon to smooth it out in the bottom of the mug.

Topping: In a separate, small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of butter(if it's not softened, you can nuke it for 5-10 sec), 2T flour, 1 T brown sugar, and 1/4 t cinnamon. Use your fingers to to pinch the butter and mix it in with the other ingredients. When it starts to look like lumpy sand, and all ingred combined, pour on top of cake batter in mug.

Nuke 50-80 sec depending on your microwave.  It will look just barely set on top. You don’t want to overcook it or it will get hard and gross. Nuke for 50 sec, and then in 10 sec intervals checking after each interval until done. Eat white it’s still warm. Once it cools off, it's not nearly as amazing.

Friday, October 10, 2014

30 Days of Pumpkin-Day Nine: Pumpkin Tortillas

Pumpkin tortillas you say?  Don't they taste weird and vegetable-y?  Nope!  Not at all.  I could not taste any flavor from the pumpkin, just tortilla goodness.

What is different about these tortillas, aside from their yellow orangish color, is that they are a bit thicker and less pliable.  They'd be a bit tricky to roll into enchiladas, but are perfect for quesadillas.  Which is, of course, how I ate them.  All of them.  I ate the entire batch by my onsies.  Yup, guilty as charged, but not feeling a bit guilty about it at all. 

Hey, it's not like Mrblocko or Blockette could take a quesadilla with them to work or school.  I mean I guess they could.  Personally, I don't think cold melted cheese is all that wonderful.

But this isn't about me and how many pumpkin tortillas I ate in one sitting.  This is about you.  Make some for the people you love, even if that person is you!

Pumpkin Tortillas from Cook. Play. Explore.
1 c flour
1 c whole-wheat flour 
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
1 T olive or canola oil
1/4 c pumpkin purée
warm water

Combnie flour, baking powder, and salt . Drizzle oil over dry ingredients and blend well. Measure pumpkin into liquid measuring cup. Add warm water until total volume is 3/4 c. Whisk together with a fork until combined. Add pumpkin and water mix to dry ingred, a spoonful or two at a time, mix in, and repeat until  dough starts to come together in a shaggy ball. You might need a little more or a little less water. (It was really dry in my house when I made this and I needed an additional 1/4c water.)

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for few min til smooth and elastic. (Rubbing oil on your hands will help prevent dough from sticking.) Divide into 8 to 10 pieces and roll into balls—about the size of ping-pong balls. (I made 8.)  The dough will be much easier to roll if you let it rest for 10-20 min, covered with plastic wrap. Heat skillet over med heat. Roll  ball of dough out into a very thin circle, about 7-8".

Put rolled-out dough onto heated skillet and cook for about 15 seconds  you should see some puffy spots and browning. Shake the skillet a little to slide the tortilla around if it gets too puffy. Flip every 15 to 20 seconds—it shouldn't take more than a minute or so. (I had to do a minute on each side)

Wrap cooked tortillas in kitchen towel to keep warm and soft, or store in a tortilla warmer while you cook the remaining tortillas. If you have leftovers, store them for up to a week in fridge in a zip-top bag or airtight container, or in freezer.