Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes with Black Cinnamon Syrup and Jack-O-Lantern Bites

Here are two more fun Halloween meal ideas using pumpkin. How fun would it be to make the pancakes Halloween morning or for a fun dinner? We eat pumpkin pancakes year-round at our house but I think the syrup makes it more festive for the holiday.

What You Need: {Pumpkin Pancakes with Black Cinnamon Syrup}

2 eggs
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
5 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
few drops of orange gel food coloring

Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with no stick spray. Combine eggs, buttermilk, butter, pumpkin, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to blend ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend with mixer until smooth. Add just a few drops of gel food coloring until you get a nice orange. Pour or scoop the batter onto hot skillet, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.When the batter stops bubbling and edges begin to harden, flip the pancakes. They should be golden brown. This will take from 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook other side for the same amount of time, until golden brown. Serve warm with syrup. Makes approximately 16 pancakes.

If you make the pumpkin pancakes and serve with this syrup, you could cut down or even leave out the cinnamon in the pancakes.

Black Cinnamon Syrup

{recipe from Not Martha}
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
black food coloring gel

In a saucepan combine all ingredients except for the food coloring gel. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously.
As it starts to heat, add in a little of the black food coloring and mix in, add more until dark. Allow it to boil for a few moments until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to put into a squeeze bottle.You can make the syrup the night before and warm it by dipping the squeeze bottle in a bowl of warm water.

Jack-O-Lantern Bites

I made these Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin bites last year for Halloween, recipe from Bakerella. The catch is you do need a mini-muffin pan and a pumpkin cookie cutter. I went out and got inexpensive versions of both of those things and they have both come in handy for other uses so I think it is worth it.

What You Need:
2 refrigerated ready-to roll pie crusts
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter {Mine is 3 3/4 in wide. If you don't have one, use a circle and make the stems from the dough scraps}

1/2 cup chocolate morsels
vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use cookie cutter to cut 12 pumpkin shapes from each pie crust. You will need to roll the dough thinner than it comes out of the box.

Press dough shapes into a 24 cup mini muffin tray. (Make 12 at a time, alternating cups to make sure pie crusts don’t overlap each other.)

Apply egg whites from one egg to the top edges of each pie.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, canned pumpkin, remaining 2 eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice together until thoroughly combined.

Spoon mixture into each pumpkin-shaped pie crust.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove pies to cool and repeat with second pie crust. Place the muffin tray in the freezer to cool it quickly for re-use.

Makes 24 pies. Keep refrigerated.

To decorate, melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave on medium. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. Add a little vegetable oil to make the chocolate more fluid. Transfer to squeeze bottle, plastic bag with the corner cut off, or piping bag. Drizzle or draw faces on pies. Have fun and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strawberry Ghosts and Ghost Cookies

Here are two fun ideas to add to your Halloween party or meal. Both are incredibly easy, fun for kids and yummy to eat! I got both of these recipes from Taste of Home.

What You Need: {Strawberry Ghosts}
30 fresh strawberries
8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon shortening
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate and shortening at 50% power; stir until smooth. Stir in extract.

Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture; place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form the ghosts' tails. Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes. Freeze for 5 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Dip a toothpick into melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

What You Need: {Ghost Cookies}
1 pound white candy coating, coarsely chopped
1 package (1 pound) Nutter Butter peanut butter cookies
Miniature semisweet chocolate chips


In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating, stirring occasionally. Dip cookies into coating, covering completely. Place on waxed paper.

Brush ends with a pastry brush dipped in coating where fingers touched cookies. While coating is still warm, place two chips on each cookie for eyes. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container. Yield: about 3 dozen. Have fun & enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Jell-O Worms

This week I am going to be posting some fun Halloween recipes that would be great for parties or just fun for the family. The first one I am posting I made last year as part of our Halloween night dinner and will do again this year. The pictures I am sharing are from last year's dinner and are not very good pictures but give you an idea of what fun things I like to do for the holiday.

For these fun worms, it's important to use a tall, slim container to hold the straws, such as a 1 liter orange juice or milk carton (be sure to use something with a 4 cup capacity). The straws should fit tightly together. If you use too large a container, the gelatin will run right back out before it sets. Also, be sure to buy the straws with the flexible neck, as they give the worms the most realistic "earthworm" appearance. Recipe makes about 100 long worms.

What You Need:
1 pkg. (6 oz) purple gelatin {raspberry or grape work}
3/4 oz. unflavored gelatin {usually found by the canning supplies}
3 C. boiling water
3/4 C. whipping cream
green food coloring, as needed
100 plastic straws

In a medium, heat safe mixing bowl, stir together plain and flavored gelatin powders.  Pour boiling water over, stirring until gelatin is fully dissolved.  Allow gelatin to cool til only slightly warm. Stir whipping cream into the gelatin mixture. Stir in green food coloring (you'll probably need 10 drops or more) until your gelatin gets that purpley-brown-grey color of earthworms. With your 100 straws fully extended and snug in your chosen container, pour the gelatin mixture over the straws, filling the container. Cover container and chill at least 8 hours. You can make them and store them this way up to two days in advance of serving. Remove straws from their container. Cutting or ripping a disposable container away is easiest. With hot tap water running, place batches of 4-5 straws under hot running water for a couple quick seconds. Remove "worms" from their straw casings, pressing with fingers and running down the length of the straw, sort of "squishing" the worm out. Set on waxed paper to set up.  Repeat until all worms are removed. Chill, covered, on waxed paper. Serve in a chilled bowl, as pictured. I put crushed chocolate cookies in the bottom first to look like dirt. Have fun and enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

After School Peanut Butter & Honey {Chocolate} Popcorn

For the next week I have a lot of fun recipe ideas for you for Halloween. I have made it a tradition at our house to make a Halloween dinner and I have some breakfast and snack ideas too. For today though...
I found this recipe at Real Mom Kitchen and because it has "after school" in the title, suggests its target is children. While I think this would be a fabulous after school snack that kids would love to eat and also help with in the kitchen, I think its an awesomely addicting snack for anytime, any age. I have company coming this weekend and wanted this out for people to snack on but I'm not sure there is going to be much left by the time they arrive. I had this together in less than five minutes and had all of the ingredients in my pantry. I adore this and will be making it over and over again. Think the soft chewiness of caramel corn without the mess. I ended up drizzling melted chocolate chips over the top of mine also but this is optional!

What You Need:
8 cups popped popcorn {1 bag of microwave if that is what you are using}

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla {optional, I did not use}
1/2 cup melted chocolate {I just used chocolate chips}

Use a large bowl to hold popped popcorn. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and honey. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Add vanilla, if using. Pour peanut butter syrup over popcorn and stir to coat. Spread out on to a cookie sheet. Drizzle with chocolate, if using. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies

Ah, people...if you choose to make just one thing that I ever post, choose this. This has been my number one favorite fall recipe for two years running. I am proud to say that this is my very own adaptation and I also know for sure you will love them. The one snag is that this recipe calls for cinnamon chips and I worry some of you may have a hard time finding those. If your grocery store sells them, they will be right in with the chocolate chips. The brand I have is Hershey's. If your grocery store does not carry them, ask them to order them. Seriously! I could suggest substitutions like white chocolate chips but really I think the cinnamon chips kind of make the whole thing. So...look hard! Love, love these. That's all.

*Printable Version*

What You Need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree {If you are having a hard time finding pumpkin right now, Costco has it!}
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. With a mixer, cream together both sugars and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended. Add the pumpkin puree. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture gradually until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in chocolate and cinnamon chips. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. The sides will pull away from the pan. Test the center for doneness. Cool completely in pan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mexican Skillet Chicken and Rice

Nothing beats a one-pan meal, right? I enjoy the cooking, not so much the washing all the dishes afterward. I thought this recipe was sort of a good twist on a  Mexican dish, something we had not done before. It turned out tasty, quick and easy. I chopped all of the peppers and onion in the food processor to make it go more quickly also. By the way, I made homemade salsa this same night and learned a hard lesson about wearing gloves to handle jalapenos. I got some serious jalapeno skin burn (didn't even know that was possible!) and found out MILK will take the burn away, just in case you ever need to know! Anyway, this recipe is a good weeknight meal. I served ours with some crispy tortillas on the side!

Photo courtesy My Kitchen Cafe

What You Need:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (10 oz.) cans green enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro {optional}

Gently pat the chicken dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Brown the chicken on each side for 1-2 minutes until it is golden but not cooked all the way through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

In the hot skillet, add the onion and poblano peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 30 seconds. Add the enchilada sauce, rice and water, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and set the chicken breasts in the simmering rice mixture, nestling them in a bit. Cover the skillet, set the heat to low and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, stirring every five minutes or so to ensure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom.

Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I consider myself good at the soup thing. So, I get happy when I add one more kind of soup to my file. I've kind of been saving soup recipes for the cold weather, although I have shared a couple. This is a new one that was so delicious. As in, I was sad that I was too full to eat anymore of it. I will be loving this all week long though since no one else in my house eats broccoli! Yay for me getting all the leftovers! This is one of the easiest soups I've made from scratch and the best part is- no cream soups or other really processed things to add. We had our soup tonight in a bread bowl. I saw a recipe for making your own bread bowls but given my history with bread making decided just to buy those at the bakery. Good call for me. If you want to make your own, have at it. This soup is plenty thick enough to go in a bread bowl and I don't know what could be better than that combo? Yum, yum!

What You Need:
2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups milk
2 cups  extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded swiss cheese
steamed  broccoli florets {the amount of broccoli really your preference – I used a full bag of Bird's Eye Steamfresh and that was heavy on the broccoli}

Simmer chicken broth and chopped onion for 15-20 minutes in a covered small saucepan, until onions are soft. Heat milk in microwave for 1 minute. In a separate medium-sized stockpot, melt butter then add flour and pepper. Cook together for a couple of minutes, then whisk in warmed milk. Stir and heat together on medium-high heat until soup starts to thicken. Next add chicken broth and continue to stir until well blended. Add cheeses and steamed broccoli. Serve immediately. Enjoy!