Pumpkin Season Continues With Easy Cookies And Delicious Oatmeal

27 Sep
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Me and my (three!) pumpkins love fall!

I already kicked off my fall baking season with this amazingly easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter – and I loved it so much that I figured why not keep the pumpkin-y good times rolling? Plus – I am officially 9 months pregnant now – and I figured this might be one of my last chances to bake or try some new fall recipes before our little guy arrives, so I wanted to take full advantage!

Starting with the most important meal of the day, I decided to whip up some Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal so I could get my breakfast on before I moved on to the heavy labor of making cookies

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal (Recipe Courtesy of Food Network)

Ingredients
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
2 cups milk, plus more for serving
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed), plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Kosher salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds), for serving

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Directions
-Whisk the pumpkin puree, milk, 2 cups of water, the dried cranberries, brown sugar, pumpkin spice, vanilla and a large pinch of salt together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then add the oats and reduce the heat to medium-low
-Gently simmer, stirring frequently, until the oats are tender and the oatmeal is the consistency you like, 10 to 15 minutes (15 minutes for very thick oatmeal)
-Ladle the oatmeal into bowls and serve drizzled with milk and sprinkled with a little extra sugar and pumpkin seeds

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The only modification I made to this was I didn’t include the toasted pumpkin seeds – not for any particular reason except that I forgot to get them at the store – whoops…but I am thinking that if you don’t have them on hand, you can substitute sliced almonds or other nuts

My husband and I both really enjoyed the way that this turned out – the oats were well cooked and it wasn’t too thick – my husband’s only complaint was “too many raisins” but that is a matter of personal opinion I think! The spices and pumpkin taste weren’t too overpowering, and since I am an oatmeal LOVER – this really hit the spot!

 

Delicious breakfast – check! Now on to the COOKIES….

Last year I tried out these Salted Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies – and they had a nice cake-y texture and were overall a success. But personally, I prefer a more dense, thick cookie – which is what led me to this recipe for Pumpkin Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Someone is ready to help make cookies (and eat them!)

Pumpkin-Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe courtesy of Cooking Classy)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Yield: About 4 dozen

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups packed light-brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger for 30 seconds, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy (occasionally stop and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout entire mixing process). Blend in egg then blend in vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.

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Various stages of cookie dough – is there any sight more beautiful than when butter and sugar meet?

With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and pecans (if you want some chocolate to show through set some aside to press into tops before baking). Let batter rest 5 – 10 minutes (this just gives the oats some time to absorb the liquids so batter isn’t so sticky and cookies don’t spread so much)

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Before and after their time in the oven

Scoop dough out 2 Tbsp at a time (I used a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, which I recommend using for evenly shaped cookies and fill it heaping), and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 12 – 14 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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The deliciously moist finished product – oats, chocolate, pumpkin – what more could you want?

 Aside from the slightly selfish reason of wanting a dense cookie (which these definitely were by the way!), I wanted to make something my husband would enjoy but with a slightly fall twist – as his favorite cookie is oatmeal chocolate chip. He liked these too – and kept sneaking them off the rack when he thought I wasn’t looking! The pumpkin gave them a nice flavor but also helped to keep them moist and dense – and between the texture of the oats and the chocolate chips, I would say it’s definitely something I would make (and eat!) again!

The great thing about both of these recipes is that I had most of the items on hand, and the few items I needed (canned pumpkin and raisins) were easily and cheaply obtained. Overall these are both easy and would please just about any crowd – and are perfect for celebrating the best season of all – FALL!

Making The Most Out Of Fall With “Apple Brownies” and a DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

14 Sep

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Apple season is in full swing here in Upstate NY – so every weekend I am out there picking, which is a great time – but what’s even MORE fun is then getting to figure out what new and delicious things I can make with the apples!

There’s always going to be apple pie, apple crisp (served warm with vanilla ice cream – yum!), applesauce, and apple butter – those are all basically a given, as I love to eat and share all of them with those I love – but I figure, why not try something different with this newest batch?

When I saw this recipe for Apple Brownies, my mind first assumed that it was a chocolate treat – but once I read the description that stated this was a recipe for a “Cinnamon-spiced blonde brownie” I was actually even more excited than when I was when I thought chocolate would be involved! A bar with nuts and apples sounds like the perfect fall treat, doesn’t it?

 

Apple Brownies (Recipe courtesy of All Recipes)

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
3 medium apples – peeled, cored and
thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×9 inch baking dish
2. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter, sugar, and egg until fluffy. Fold in the apples and walnuts
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon
4. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture until just blended. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking dish
5. Bake 35 minutes in the preheated oven (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean)

 20140914_090156  20140914_090605 My favorite little kitchen helper wants to make sure I don’t drop any apple peels…

I think what I like about this and other apple cakes/bars/cookies is that they really can be passed off as dessert, a snack, or even breakfast and they go well with milk, coffee, tea, or cider – so you can bake these for a ton of different occasions!

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They turned out so good – much more like a cake than a bar or brownie though- but that’s fine by me! the brown sugar gives it a nice caramelized taste, and the nuts are the perfect addition. Very moist, and if you pair paired with this delicious DIY pumpkin Spice Latte mix then you’ve basically got the perfect fall breakfast!

Pumpkin Spice Latte {homemade recipe for 1 week of yummy drinks!} – Recipe courtesy of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles.com

Ingredients
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 T. pure vanilla extract
1 T. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground dried ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
strong coffee
slightly sweetened whipped cream
cinnamon
dark chocolate shavings
Preparation
In a blender, combine all the pumpkin spice mixture ingredients. Puree for about 30 seconds. If you
want a smoother mixture, puree for a couple minutes, or until the mixture is to your desired
consistency.

Pour 1/2 cup (more or less, depending on your preference) of the pumpkin spice mixture into a large
mug. Microwave for about 20 seconds, then add 1 cup of hot strong brewed coffee and stir. Top with
a nice lofty pile of sweetened whipped cream. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. And if you’re looking for
extra deliciousness, top with chocolate shavings. So pretty!

Pour the remaining pumpkin spice mixture into a quart jar or similar sized container and top with a lid.
Store in the refrigerator. When ready to make another drink, shake the jar well and repeat the
assembly of the pumpkin spice latte. The pumpkin spice mixture will keep well for up to 1 week in the
refrigerator.

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Personally, I skipped the whipped cream and chocolate shavings - I wanted to just try the pumpkin latte mix without the frills (plus I always skip the whip on my Starbucks lattes – just doesn’t do it for me) and I really liked it, it wasn’t exactly like any of the coffeehouse versions – but I loved the pumpkin and cinnamon combo with my coffee – and I love that it will be good for the next week so I can start my mornings off the right way!

 

Fall is here – and I couldn’t be happier!

Ringing In Pumpkin Season With This Super Easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter

6 Sep

September = Fall. You may disagree with this statement, as I know fall doesn’t technically start until the later part of the month, but I don’t care. In my world, September is when it all begins – apple picking, pie making, pumpkin scented candles, pumpkin spice lattes (Starbucks helped me out with that one by releasing them early this year!), leaves changing, a cool crisp breeze in the air – it all adds up to the best season of all – and I am so glad it’s here once again!

Last year, I made tons of apple stuff – from Apple Crisp to Classic Apple Pie, to Applesauce and Apple Butter that I gave as Christmas gifts – let’s just say that we picked a LOT of apples, and not one of them went to waste!

This year, I want to try and focus a little more on Fall’s other signature flavor – the pumpkin! There’s always pumpkin pie or pumpkin cookies or pumpkin bread – all of which are amazing and delicious – but I thought maybe another item I could potentially jar and give as Christmas gifts might be just the ticket – so when I stumbled across this recipe for Pumpkin Butter I knew I had to try it out!

Crock Pot Pumpkin Butter (Recipe courtesy of Moms with Crockpots)

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 5 hours

Ingredients
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
½ cup apple juice
¾ cup granulated sugar
1½ tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

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The ingredient list for this one is pretty simple!

Instructions
1. Set your crock pot on low heat.
2. In the bottom of the crock pot, thoroughly combine all of your ingredients.
3. Cover and let cook for about 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin butter is thick enough to stick to
a spoon turned upside down.
4. Spoon pumpkin butter into a jar and let cool completely in the refrigerator before using.
5. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to one week or the freezer for up to 6 months.

I decided to double the recipe, since the ingredients are so few and cheap, and I figured if it turned out awesome then I would have twice as much to enjoy! So for whatever reason – I don’t have pumpkin pie spice at home – never have, I don’t know why – but luckily you can substitute the following to make the 3 teaspoons you need of pumpkin pie spice for the doubled recipe:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

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The finished product. Doesn’t look like much really, but I really love the texture of it – it turned out really smooth and the flavors combined to make it a really delicious spread (which definitely took some time to thicken up – so don’t panic if you finish making it and its still hot and seems thin – it will get thicker as it cools!). The only change I would make is that I personally would add more of the pumpkin pie spice to it – as is its great, but a little more spice would kick it up into the next flavor dimension for sure! Next time I make it I will definitely be giving that a try

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This stuff would be great on bagels, bread/toast, english muffins, or even pancakes or french toast! Hmm…maybe I can convince my husband to bake us some delicious white bread to enjoy the pumpkin butter on…HAPPY FALL!

“Better Than Sex Cake” – Weird Name, Delicious Dessert

28 Aug

A while back I made some insane Better Than Sex Chex Mix that was modeled after the infamous Better Than Sex Cake – and I realized that while I have gotten the chance to eat the cake before, I have never actually made it. Well – I decided that it was definitely time to change that!

In case you aren’t familiar with the “Better Than Sex Cake” – there are several recipes and variations out there, but the main idea is a base of chocolate cake that’s extra moist and sweet thanks to a drizzle of caramel, and then it’s topped with Heath bar bits, cool whip, and more caramel. Sounds good, right? Ok then – time to get started:

 

Better Than Sex Cake II (Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com)

Prep time: 30 min
Cook Time: 1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 30 min

 

Ingredients
-1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix (plus required ingredients per cake preparation – eggs/water/oil)
-1/2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
-6 ounces caramel ice cream topping
-3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate covered toffee, chopped
-1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

 

Directions
1. Bake cake according to package directions for a 9×13 inch pan; cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Make slits across the top of the cake, making sure not to go through to the bottom
2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Slowly pour the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cake, letting it sink into the slits; then sprinkle the crushed chocolate toffee bars liberally across the entire cake while still warm
3. Let cake cool completely, then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with some more chocolate toffee bar chunks and swirls of caramel topping. Refrigerate and serve right from the pan

 Cake Collage 1

This was easy to make, I mean, its basically a boxed cake mix with some snazzy extras – so pretty much anyone can do it!

Cake Collage 2

So much toffee – yum!

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Doesn’t this make your mouth water?

Cake Piece

I’m going to be honest with you – I do NOT love the name “Better Than Sex Cake” – because let’s be real – can a cake really be better than really good sex? Doubtful – but a cake CAN be easy to make, and taste delicious – which I would say this definitely succeeds at. You get the chocolate cake taste with a slight caramel kick to it, and its super moist, and the heath add just the right amount of crunch while the whipped topping gives it a creamy aspect too. I HIGHLY encourage you to bring it to your next picnic, girl’s night, work party, or just make it at home for you – a simply delicious indulgence awaits you!

Bananas, Blueberries, And Oats – A Delicious Breakfast Combo

11 Aug

I can’t help but shout my love for oats from the rooftops – whether its breakfast made in the Crock Pot or in the oven, or in cookie form with craisins and white chocolate chips or pumpkin, or in an always delicious apple crisp – I can’t get enough of this pantry staple. I eat it daily for breakfast, and am always trying to find new recipes to try starring oats too! So when I came across this Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal, I was instantly intrigued – as I love bananas and blueberries but had never thought of putting them together with my beloved oats, until now…

Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal

Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 45 mins
Total time 1 hour

Ingredients

• 1½ cups (3 med) mashed bananas
• 2 large eggs
• ¼ cup white sugar
• ¾ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp salt
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• 2 cups milk
• 2½ cups old fashioned oats
• 8 ounces frozen blueberries

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mash the bananas in a measuring cup, starting with two or three and adding more until you have 1.5 cups of banana mash.
2. Combine the banana mash in the large bowl with the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Add the milk and whisk again until smooth.
3. Stir in the dry old-fashioned oats. Lastly, stir in the frozen blueberries (keeping them frozen and stirring them in last helps prevent the entire mix from turning purple). Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray and then pour in the oat mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated 375 degree oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the center is no longer wet to the touch.

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This was really a cinch to put together, and all the ingredients were items I had on hand (except the blueberries)

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I have to admit – I was rather skeptical of the unbaked version – it seemed really soupy and I had little faith that it would solidify in the oven. Luckily, I was wrong – and it set up really well in the oven

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I really enjoyed this – the texture of the baked oats mixed perfectly with the banana and blueberry flavors – and if I could change just one thing I think it would be to add some cinnamon and nutmeg to the recipe next time – but it was delicious as is too! What an easy thing to whip up on Sunday and then divide up to bring to work each day – easy, good for you, and delicious!

Crazy/Slutty/Delicious Describes These (Slightly Insane) Brownies

10 Aug

I don’t know anyone who can say no to a warm, chocolaty brownie fresh from the oven – I know I can’t say no to one (or five…). As much as I love a classic brownie, I also love to mix it up and try new versions – like the Brownie Rubble, frosted brownies from scratch, and of course the Slutty Brownie – which might be one of the more ridiculous things I have ever made – that is, until I saw THESE

Crazy Brownies

I pretty much religiously watch The Pioneer Woman on Saturday mornings on Food Network – I just love her and her family and her recipes make me drool – and last week she made these Crazy Brownies – and I am thinking that Crazy really is the right word for them! It’s a densely fudgy scratch made brownie with a layer of amazingness in the middle – in the form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Rolos, pecans, and M&M’s. Oh, and then they are topped with powdered sugar and some more decorative M&M’s for extra added insanity. When I saw her make these, I knew they would be in my immediate future as well – or, well, some variation of them anyway.

I decided to combine the slutty brownie with the crazy brownie – making it a crazy slut? Kind of a controversial name – so I think we will just stick to “insane brownie/cookie treat” for now…

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I kept the basic formula for the slutty brownie the same – cookies on the bottom and brownies on top – but the middle is where I incorporated some of the Pioneer Woman’s “Crazy-ness” – I have packed oreos, mini peanut butter cups, and M&M’s in there – yum!

20140809_065519I used pre-made cookie dough, and then just a boxed 8×8 pan size brownie mix, and then basically whatever candy I had on hand (the best kinds, of course) to create this super slutty slightly crazy brownie

20140809_065559Slid this creation in to the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (until the brownie portion was set and no longer jiggly) and voila!

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A cross section of the finished product – you can see the distinct cookie and brownie layers, and then that beautiful oreo in the middle! The candy is hard to see but trust me its there within that brownie layer!

20140809_125046My husband was my guinea pig (as usual!) and we both really enjoyed these – the layers weren’t too crispy and had a nice softness to them, and the candy and oreo gave each bite a different delicious surprise! These are a hit, and super easy to make, all you need to have is cookie and brownie mixes, and some kind of Oreo/candy to put in the middle (items that most of us probably have on hand anyway), so it’s a great one to get creative with and customize to your exact likings.

Oh – and don’t forget the milk to wash these down!

 

 

This Rainbow Cake Will WOW Your Party Guests (PS – It’s EASY To Make Too!)

5 Aug

 

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The evolution of the rainbow swirl cake

You can’t have a birthday without some kind of cake – am I right? I mean, “cake” is loosely defined sometimes, as I have had birthday cookies, birthday cookie cake, birthday pie, birthday ice cream…ok so what I am saying is that the best way to celebrate turning another year older is with sugar. Lots and lots of it. And cake is the traditional choice – and with so many ways to make it, there’s no reason why you have to stick to the same old thing year after year

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My best friend turned 28 this year – and it’s hard to believe we have been friends for over 13 years! I always like to make her a cake for her birthday, and this year she requested a “rainbow cake”. Now, there are several ways to go about this, including making a huge layer cake with 6 different colored layers. While that would have been impressive, I knew I probably didn’t have it in me – precision is so NOT my thing. So I opted for the “rainbow swirl” cake – seemed simple enough

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I started with your basic boxed white cake mix, and divided it up evenly into 6 bowls, adding food coloring to each to make purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. It took some time to get the colors right – and some arm power to mix them all up too!

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Then it was time prepare the two cake layers – which I did by taking a ¼ cup measuring cup and scooping one of each color into each cake pan. Once I had all the colors in there, I carefully swirled them together with a butter knife – being careful not to overswirl. The ready to bake and baked versions looked pretty good to me, but I couldn’t wait until birthday time to cut into them and see how the rainbow turned out!

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Here’s the birthday girl with her decorated cake – I used my favorite Crisco frosting recipe and had a little decorating help from my husband – didn’t he do a great job?

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It turned out pretty awesome – and it really wasn’t much more work than just baking a regular cake from a cake mix. You could use colored cakes in a lot of ways – check out these other “surprise” cake ideas, and bake up something colorful and fun for your next birthday celebration!

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