Ugly little things, aren’t they? Yep. Sometimes the best intentions can lead total failures. Like these cookies. I saw these Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Kiss Cookies on Barbara Bakes and immediately set out to make them. They looked totally delicious- soft chocolate cookies filled with a sweet pumpkin spice kiss in the center! YUM! Only thing is…I decided to get ‘creative’ and ended up with some really ugly, rather embarrassing cookies. Remember that time I said there are some recipes food bloggers shouldn’t mess with? Yeah, I totally should have taken my own advice here. I was in the Halloween spirit and thought I’d roll the cookies in some black decorating sugar before baking to give a ‘spooky’ effect. What I ended up with was charred hamburger patty cookies. FAIL.
Seriously! Don’t they look like charred hamburger patties??! Not pretty. So, hubby and I had a good laugh over it and decided to go ahead and give them a try anyway…besides the fact that the black sugar turned our mouths and teeth black (eww!), these were actually really, really good! The chocolate cookie mixed with the spiciness of the pumpkin spice kiss was a great combination! Despite how delicious they were, I ended up throwing them out since I was too embarrassed to take them to work with me (I’d forever be ‘the weird lady who brought burnt meat cookies’- not something I’d enjoy!), BUT, I’ll most definitely make these again in the future…just without the black sugar.
2 1/2 cups flour all purpose flour flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
48 Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses, unwrapped
In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa and baking soda.
In large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. Add flour mixture; blend well. If necessary, cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes for easier handling.
Heat oven to 375°F. For each cookie, with floured hands, shape about 1 tablespoon dough around 1 Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kiss, covering completely.
Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. (I always bake cookies on parchment paper.)
Bake at 375° for 7 to 10 minutes or until set and slightly cracked. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes or until completely cooled.
I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe and FUN Halloween!!!
I’m always so thankful for people in my life who encourage me to try new things and broaden my horizons! My co-worker and friend, Jana brought some homemade carrot soup to work with her a couple of weeks ago, and as she started telling me the ingredients, my interest was immediately peaked- carrots, potato, tomato, cilantro and….peanut butter?!! Peanut butter?? With carrots and potatoes?? But as she heated it in the microwave I realized this was something I HAD to try! It smelled amazing! As luck would have it, since Jana is such a sweet lady, she brought me a bowl the next day!! It was delicious! The peanut butter and cilantro added an almost Thai flavor to the warm spices and sweet carrots. I had to make this soup!
I didn’t even wait a week before trying it myself- only this time, I used butternut squash, carrots and sweet potato. Honestly, it tasted almost exactly the same as Jana’s- YUM! Do me a favor and try this soup SOON! It’s completely delicious and makes a great, easy weeknight meal!
Peanut Buttery Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
-adapted from my friend Jana’s recipe
1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (save the other half for another dish)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds carrots (about 8 medium-sized carrots), peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken broth (if you want to make this soup vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable stock instead!)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish, if desired
In a large stock pot, sauté the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Add in the carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and bring to a low boil and cook for 20-30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Add in the tomato paste, salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, and cilantro. Using a hand blender (or regular blender, a little at a time), puree the vegetables until smooth (you may want to add a little more chicken broth or water if the soup is too thick). Stir in the peanut butter and check for seasoning. Serve with additional cilantro if desired.
The one and only Dorie Greenspan (my idol!) came to Dallas this past weekend to do a cooking demo and you KNOW I wasn’t about to miss out! After three years of worshiping her, I FINALLY got to meet her in real life and she was every bit as sweet and as wonderful as I thought she would be! I confess, I may have “geeked out” on her a couple of times….the first time she walked past us while we were in line, I waved at her so frantically you would have thought she was Santa Claus at the Christmas parade and I was a dorky 8 year old kid. But in a way, it was pretty much like getting to meet Santa as a kid- the most exciting day of your year. And it truly, truly was. She immediately walked over to Jessica and me and when we told her who we were, she got a big smile on her face and gave us both giant bear-hugs. Pure and utter joy.
The food was amazing! She made for us (all from her new book Around My French Table):
Salmon Rillettes- a delicious spread made with fresh and smoked salmon, spring onions and lemon juice. SO delicious!
Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella and Basil Pizza – so simple and light! And the puff pastry added just the right amount of richness!
Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin- OMG, so goooood!! Creamy, rich and flavorful! This dish is definitely making it to my Thanksgiving table this year!
Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine- I think this one was my favorite. The lamb was so tender you didn’t need a knife and the spices were perfect! I loved it!
And lastly, a Sablé Breton Galette with Berries – lemon curd, strawberries and Dorie’s perfect tart crust. What’s not to love?!
Cheers, Dorie! And happy birthday to you!!!
See?? Geeking out. It happened numerous times.
OMG…Dorie hugged me!!
Me, Dorie and Jessica- SO fun!
So obviously, my afternoon spent with Dorie absolutely DID NOT disappoint. I got to meet my idol, taste some fantastic food and lastly, I got an extra copy of Around My French Table to give away….to YOU!! Wheeeeeee!!!
Looky here!! That’s for YOU!!
So all you have to do to enter for a chance to win the fabulous Ms. Greenspan’s newest (and totally awesome!) book is:
Leave me a comment in the comments section below answering this question: “If you could meet Dorie today, what would you ask her?”
And for extra entry opportunities, feel free to do the following:
You can do just one or all four if you want to- it’s up to you! Just leave a comment for each one (and if you already ‘like’ or follow me, leave a comment telling me so!). You have until Halloween (that’s Sunday) at midnight (Central Time) to enter. I’ll pick ONE very lucky winner randomly on Monday, November 1st!
I’ve never been a big fan of those ‘peanut butter blossoms’- you know, the peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss stuck in the middle? For whatever reason, I just never liked them. Oddly enough, however, those same cookies were the inspiration for these little guys. Nothing fancy, just a plain sugar cookie sprinkled with cinnamon/sugar and topped with a Hershey pumpkin spice kiss. But OH how yummy! I took these to work and (of course) they were gobbled up! Such a cute little Fall/Halloween treat that takes no time to make!
Pumpkin Spice Blossoms
-inspired by this recipe from Betty Crocker
1 batch of your favorite sugar cookie dough, or mix (this recipe would be great!)
24 Hershey Pumpkin Spice Kisses, unwrapped
1 teaspoon cinnamon/sugar mixture, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make dough as directed and scoop into 2 mini muffin pans (that gave me 24 cookies). Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture and bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Let cool for about 3 minutes, then gently press a pumpkin spice kiss into each cookie. **I chose to sprinkle mine with a little orange decorating sugar- totally optional!
Tomorrow is my great-grandmother, Leila Hazlett’s 100th birthday. Wow. There aren’t enough words for me to express how much this woman means to me (and to my entire family) and how very blessed and lucky I am to still have her in my life. In fact, it’s a good thing that I’m typing this, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to finish my sentences at all….I can hardly talk about Baba without tearing up. I know there’s no way you can know how special Baba is or what she means to us. But believe me when I tell you, this is one amazing woman.
Most people look up to their grandmothers and try to be like them, etc. I don’t just look up to Baba, I channel her. I strive, on a daily basis to be the kind of woman she was and is. She raised 4 kids and took care of a husband during wars, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl; she didn’t have ready made pie crusts, boxed brownie mixes or bags of frozen vegetables, yet there were always warm, delicious meals on the table every single day. She fed, clothed and nursed an entire household and did it with a smile on her face. She and Pop had the kind of marriage every couple dreams of- trusting, passionate, caring. As kids, she’d let us play with her old paper dolls, rummage through her jewelry boxes and play with her old bottle collection. She put together little cricket boxes for my sister and me filled with small little trinkets and tidbits that would probably be worthless to most people, but to us they’re treasures. She had the entire family over for Sunday dinner week after week. When I spent the night, she’d let me take a bath in her big claw-foot tub with her good bath beads and let me use her cold cream (to this day, I still love the smell of Ponds cold cream); then I’d go to sleep wearing one of her long nightgowns. She told us stories. SO many stories! The same stories that I’ll tell my children and grandchildren someday.This is no ordinary woman. She is a proud, strong, graceful Southern lady and she’s everything I want to be.
And she was one heck of a cook. Every time I step in my kitchen, I try to channel Baba. I now take pride in cooking meals and taking care of my home and husband. I have family over every chance I get. This is what Baba taught us- take pride in your family and cherish them. And serve them hot, steaming plates of fried chicken, homemade buttermilk biscuits and a gorgeous, flaky, golden peach cobbler. Food is important. Food brings a family together around a table. Baba’s peach cobbler is sublime. It’s what I’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day in Heaven. I’ve never made one on my own before. I’ve always been afraid of falling short. Maybe this is the year to honor Baba and my heritage with the dish that holds my family together like glue. We’ll see. This blog and all my cooking successes and disasters is dedicated to Baba. This is why I’m so proud to cook – because every time I create a new recipe for my family, it brings me one step closer to being more like Baba. I thank God for her. I’m so lucky that she’s gotten to be a part of so many important events in my life and my sister’s life. She got to see us both get married and begin our own families. She’s gotten to hear all about my operas and my travels overseas. She’s seen my marriage blossom and grow and she’s gotten to see what a wonderful, godly man I married. Baba has impacted every life she’s encountered and our family is SO blessed to be celebrating the 100th birthday of the most special woman in the world.
Lunchtime at my work is always enjoyable. The other voice teachers, our accompanist, and the choir directors (including Albert, my boss) all get together to eat and chat. Always a fun time. Except for one thing: Albert ALWAYS out-lunches me! He always brings these beautiful, perfectly wrapped sandwiches with artisan bread, turkey, caramelized onions, apples, cheese, arugula and Lord only knows what else! They’re glorious! Week after week I have the worst sandwich-envy; even when I bring delicious leftover soup, casseroles, and a plethora of baked goods! I just CAN’T win!!
However, recently my luck changed when I was fortunate enough to score a gorgeous loaf of cranberry-walnut artisan bread at the store. Ideas starting filling my head and eventually I realized…..this was my chance to out-sandwich Albert! BWAHAHAHAHA!!! So today I managed to put together an absolutely delicious sandwich. One that I think will finally win me the title of “lunchtime champ” (ok so I just made that up, but it might happen!!). Since I was at home for lunch today, I went ahead and did an open face sandwich in the broiler, but when I take this to work, I’ll just eat it cold- don’t worry, it’ll still be awesome!
2 slices cranberry-walnut bread (sourdough or ciabatta would also work nicely)
smoked turkey breast
sliced gouda cheese
thinly sliced honeycrisp apples (pears would also be delicious!)
Spread each slice of bread with a small amount of mayo and dijon mustard. Top with a slice or two of the turkey breast and gouda. Place on a baking sheet and heat under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Top with thinly sliced apples and enjoy!
I think as food bloggers, sometimes we tend to try to improve everything. Put our own spin on it. “How can I make this recipe even better?” or “what can I substitute to make this even more delicious?” And that’s just fine! That’s why we have readers, of course- because we take things and make them our own. But sometimes, we tend to forget that some recipes are simply perfect as is. Like this recipe for pumpkin bread. It’s one of the most popular recipes on allrecipes.com; everyone makes it. And for good reason! It’s perfectly moist, has just the right amount of spice, the pumpkin flavor really comes out and….it’s always, always perfect! It’s the only recipe I use for pumpkin bread. So naturally, I had to stop myself when the normal urge hit to start substituting and adding (think butterscotch, caramel, crushed gingersnaps…). In the end, the only things I added were a few chopped walnuts and some fresh cranberries. No substitutions. And it was perfectly, wonderfully delicious. This bread always reminds what I love most about Autumn – baking. There’s just something magical about baking up a golden brown loaf of warm, spicy pumpkin bread. Your entire house smells warm and welcoming!
Pumpkin Cranberry Walnut Bread
-recipe slightly adapted from allrecipes.com (originally named “Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread”)
1/2 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup fresh cranberries (frozen is fine too- no need to thaw)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Gently stir in the chopped walnuts and cranberries. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaf is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
As most of you now know, I’ve come to the end of my journey in Project Food Blog- but HEY, no worries! I’ve got plenty of cool Halloween recipes to keep me busy now! I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your continued support over the past few weeks. It’s been a wild and very, very stressful ride, but SO worth it! I’ve made some great friends, and I was lucky enough to make it through 4 rounds with some of the best food bloggers I know! It’s been….amazing. So, here’s a quick little video Izzy and I made- I hope you enjoy!
Ok, enough silliness- I really do have some amazing people (and non-people) to thank. Number one: my husband, Joel. Not only did he have to live with me during these weeks of stress, drama and panic attacks, he did it with a smile on his face and an encouraging word everytime I needed it. And he ate every single thing I made- and loved it. Amazing.
Number two: Miss Izzy-Bear. My sweet little doggy. My ace in the hole. Who could EVER resist that face??
Number three:my mom and dad. My mom endured thousands of phone calls, texts and emails with ideas, rants and tantrums. She let me bounce ideas off of her for hours at a time. She gave me ideas, advice and talked me off a ledge a couple of times. My mom seriously, seriously rocks. My dad was my proof reader and biggest fan. He drove all the way out to our house, just to proof-read one of my PFB posts. He texted me every single time I advanced to say congratulations. I really have the best parents. Thank you guys, SO much.
And lastly, number four:YOU. You all left me comment after comment of encouraging messages every single round. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again, I really have the BEST readers! Thanks again, for everything- I love you all!!
Ahh, Vermont Spice Cake…how I love thee! This cake is so reminiscent of Autumn to me- one bite and I get all warm and cozy and immediately, it feels like Fall. I’ve had this recipe forever (well, since getting married) and I remember making it the first month of my marriage- it was pretty much the first ‘real’ dessert I baked for Joel. I was so proud of myself. I had never made a cream cheese frosting from scratch before, and I was hooked right away! There’s just something about the combination of pumpkin, warm Fall spices and thick, maple cream cheese frosting that just sings to me. I absolutely love this dessert. Very simple and quick to make, and always a winner with guests (or husbands!).
This was the cake I served at my dinner party a couple of weeks ago and it was the absolute perfect end to our meal. We each enjoyed a (big) slice with a cup of cinnamon-orange coffee. It was a huge success- not too sweet, the perfect amount of spice, and a touch of luxuriousness from the cream cheese frosting. The ultimate Autumn dessert!
Vermont Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
-from my Nestle Classic Recipes cookbook
For the Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used a mixture of 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cloves and 3/4 tsp. nutmeg)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. Combine flour, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment until creamy. Add eggs one at a time; beat for 2 minutes. Beat in pumpkin, evaporated milk, water and vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons maple extract
squeeze of lemon juice
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in the maple extract and lemon juice. Mix well. Refrigerate until needed.
Cut each layer in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife. Frost between layers and on top of cake, leaving sides unfrosted. Garnish as desired.
There are certain things that just seem make the Halloween season a little happier for me. Like Halloween Oreos, candy corn (even though I don’t eat it- it just looks nice in my candy dish), the cute little Pillsbury cookies with the jack-o-lantern and ghost designs, and last but not least, Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry cereals. Around here, you can only get them around Halloween (which is unfortunate, because I’d certainly like to enjoy them year round!). I was lucky enough to find a couple of boxes of Count Chocula and Franken Berry at Target the other day and I was so excited I decided to use them for something extra special- Halloween krispie treats!
These were so chewy-gooey-yummy and a cinch to make- all you need is marshmallows, butter and cereal (exactly the same as Rice Krispie Treats, but better!), and maybe some cute Halloweeny sprinkles, for good measure. These would be a perfect treat to make with the kiddos and they’re a delicious, simple dessert for a last minute get-together or Halloween party!
In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
Add cereal. Stir until well coated.
Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.