October 28, 2010

Halloween! It's so close I can taste it....

Holidays are fun to make treats for, especially Halloween! There are parties to attend and parties to throw and parties to organize for your children (or yourselves if you live in sf where everyone seems to be crazed by Halloween well over the age most people dress in costume). If you are going to a party or just want to make something really cute, I have some ideas for you. Some are links, some are my own recipes, but all are good and fun. 

1. Vampire Bites
My sister was feeling extra crafty the other day and decided to make these Apple andPeanut Butter Sandwiches for my nephews's Halloween party at their day care. A little less sugary than all the cupcakes, cookies, and candy kids consume and easy to make. They were so cute I was inspired to share some of my favorite Halloween treat ideas with you. Most of them are links to other blogs so I hope you enjoy and feel inspired too! 

What you need:
Red Apples (the darker the skin the better) or you could go super stylish and have different shades of vampire lipstick...
Peanut Butter
Marshmallows (small and large)
Slice apples into thin wedges cutting out the core, spread some peanut butter on the insides of two slices. line the curved side with some small marshmallows for teeth. Cut the large mallow (you can use scissors) into pointy teeth and add two of these for fangs. Voila. Simple and fantastic. Just look how much my cute little nephew likes them!

2. Boo-tiful Ghost Cake
How can you resist these cute little marshmallow ghosts? Annie of Annie's Eat's has been on a rampage of all things cute and halloween the past few posts. Please check out her blog - you might be blown away by all of these cute treats. 

3. Witches Fingers Cookies
I first had these cookie in college when a friend's mom made them for a halloween party for some church folks. Other great memories from this night were M dressed as a pink flamingo lawn ornament... and a fantastic bird bath and garden gnome were also present. 

4. Caramel Apples
These are one of my favorite things... if you look closely you will see me staring longingly into the display case at these beauties. We didn't buy one though (sad face) we bought a giant sugary disc some may know as an elephant ear? Anyways, I love caramel apples. We used to get them at a local apple orchard when we were younger. At some point we got lazy (or my parents decided they were too expensive) and just bought caramel dip from the grocery store - dangerous - but I'm returning to one of my all time favorites for number 4. 

Food Network Recipe - caramel from scratch
All Recipes - caramel pieces recipe
Be creative with your toppings!

5. No-Bake Spiderweb Cheesecake
Martha's army is at it again. Spiderweb treats are very cute and creepy. Even better if you can find gummy spiders to decorate with. This cheesecake seems easy enough since you don't have to bake it. No-Bake cheesecake is definitely a time saver when you are planning a party! 

6. Devil's Food Cake with Flame Tuiles
Maybe for a more sophisticated crowd. This cake just looks sexy. Fit for a vampire (but not the Twilight kind - they are too nice for this cake). 
Another Martha. She is just too good at holiday baking. 

7. Spooky Drinks
This cocktail reminds me of a Moscow Mule (slowly making a come back  in SF) but with Rum instead. You could pretty much top any cocktail with black decorating sugar and spiders but I'll share the recipe anyways. 

8. Pumpkin Cookies
Yep, I just posted about these the other day! (self promotion) They were one of three recipes for the Easy Bake cOven's October recipe list. 

9. Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches

To make Ice Cream Sandwiches, thaw your favorite pumpkin ice cream at room temperature until easy to scoop. Using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, add some ice cream to the flat side of one cookie and flatten it slightly. Place another cookie on top and smooth sides. Keep in freezer until ready to eat. It might be good to under-bake your cookies slightly so they don’t get hard in the freezer. 

10. Mini Mummy Dogs (Halloweenies)

I made these with my sister for Halloween last year. She is just so crafty right? I think she has a picture somewhere on her camera but I don't have it (ahem....) Ours were cuter, because we used little smokies. Use hot dogs if you like, and wrap with crescent roll dough cut into thin strips. The thinner the better. 
Here is the link in case you forget (little smokies + crescent roll dough) hehe

What is your favorite Halloween Treat? 

October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Puffs

In honor of October and all things pumpkin, I made some pumpkin cookies. I like to call them puffs because they are cake-like and airy. It's been while since I've made these, and any cookie for that matter. Life is getting busier and I don't know how.  

It rained all weekend which made me sleepy and forced me to stay inside. I dislike wet jeans (they just don't dry fast enough). I spent most of the day Sunday in the kitchen making cakes for my office birthday celebrations this week and had almost a whole can of left over pumpkin. Since this recipe was one of three this month for The Easy Bake cOven I decided to go ahead and make cookies.  

I like when it's cold outside and I can heat the apartment fairly well with just the oven (oven on for 2 1/2 to 3 hours). It makes me feel less bad about cooking for long periods of time, and less necessary to turn on the inefficient baseboard heaters. Thankfully I get to say So Long to this apartment soon because M and I are moving! We will still be in the city, but were moving to a 2 bedroom with a LOT more living space. I can't wait. I am really excited about the dishwasher as well (and free laundry!) Once we are settled I'll take you on a tour. 

I made these cookies not just for our enjoyment, but as a bribe. I'm asking the guys in the mail room at M's office to save boxes for us. Here is how this conversation went with M the other day.... Me: Can you ask the guys in the mail room to save us boxes to move with?
M: It would be better if you asked.
Me: Why?
M: Because you are cuter
Me: Thanks, but I'll just make them cookies (big grin)

So, gigantic office with tons of shipments each day, I'm taking your boxes... and all you get are cookies. Not a bad swap I'd say. Unless you hate pumpkin which I'm hoping they won't. 
I plan on making more pumpkin treats this month/November but I have no idea when I will be able to post them. If you have some recipes you think I should try please send them! 

Pumpkin Cookies aka Pumpkin Puffs
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C butter softened
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting Optional (I don't think they need frosting)
2 C confectioners sugar
3 T milk
1 T melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Mix together the dry ingredients including spices. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in egg and mix until incorporated. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Cool and drizzle frosting over the top if using. 

Cookies are cake-like in texture and get better with age. I think they are best the next day. Store up to one week in an airtight container. The cookies will be puffy - hence the name "puffs" and should not spread out on the pan. If you want them to be less puffy, press the dropped dough down with wet fingers before baking. 

October 10, 2010

Friendship Bread Part 2

Last post, I told you about making friendship bread starter and revealed some silly things about my tween years. Now, I've made the bread and frozen the starter for victims who have yet to appear. I'm not surprised. Only M's Aunt was excited about the Chain Bread (Yeah Aunt J!) but some of you just don't know what surprise awaits you. I've decided to pursue the sneak attack method... I surprise you with starter and you feel obligated to make it. ha! 

I made the bread on a warm sunny day after a short hike near Emerald Bay in Tahoe. It's our yearly pilgrimage to nature and escape from the city. It's never been anything but relaxing and fantastic. I spent more time in the kitchen than normal (bread + dinner) but what else is there to do but sit around and read, or play cards, or ping pong in the yard? star gazing. Thankfully it was not so cold at night as it has been in the past. M took some amazing night photos off the pier.  

I didn't plan the starter very well since I had to bring all of my ingredients on the trip, but I was making myself impatient waiting. Like I mentioned before, I made this once in college, and remember my mom making it when I was young. I imagine PTA moms were the culprits. (My mom was PTA president so she is considered "culprit" too.) Since I don't remember actually making it, I chose a recipe at random from the sea of recipes on the internet. The recipe listed below I found while going through some things in the attic at my mom's house. This was the recipe we used as kids and it is printed on pink cardstock. I think it is better than most of the recipes on the internet - though very similar. In order to save some trees, I'm not going to send printed instructions with the starter (if you are a sneak attack victim). 

I only made one loaf. I had a lot of starter and ended up dividing it into 5 segments. I didn't realize it was ok to have more than the one cup you give everyone else. I also didn't have pudding mix. I think I'm going to try it again with one of the starter bags in my freezer. I thought the bread was pretty tasty. It was a bit dry since I cooked it too long. Purposefully though - it didn't look done on top so I sacrificed the bottom. It's easy to cut the bottom off a loaf of bread. I think the sweetness of the bread surprised M. Sourdough starter makes you think you will eat a loaf of sandwich bread. I'd like to try making yeasted waffles or pancakes with the starter. It may not work at all or be totally disgusting but fun to try. If you follow the instructions, it shouldn't be difficult at all to make two slightly tangy and sweet loaves. Let me know if you'd like to try. If you want to begin the starter on your own, follow the steps below. 

It is very important to follow these rules with the starter:
Never use metal utensils or bowls. Always use wood, plastic or glass. Keep the starter on your countertop - never refrigerate. If you receive the starter in a plastic bag, transfer it to a glass bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap so that the bag doesn't pop. 

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
In a 2 quart glass bowl, dissolve 1/4 C warm water (110-115˚) with one package yeast
Add 1 cup flour, 1 C sugar, and 1 C milk. Stir vigorously to break up the lumps. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and follow the instructions for days 1-10 below. 

Amish Friendship Bread
Day 1 receive the starter
Day 2 Stir 
Day 3 Stir
Day 4 Stir
Day 5 Add one cup each Flour, Sugar, Milk
Day 6 Stir
Day 7 Stir
Day 8 Stir
Day 9 Stir
Day 10 Add one cup each Flour, Sugar, Milk. Stir well. Divide the starter into three separate containers with one cup each and reserve the rest for yourself. 

To make the bread on Day 10:
To the reserved started add:
1 C vegetable oil
1/2 C milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, combine:
2 C flour
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C chopped nuts (optional)
1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease two loaf pans. 
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir well. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 1 hour. If bread doesn't spring back when lightly touched, reduce heat to 325˚F and continue baking 10-15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling. 
You can also use different kinds of pudding, raisins or dried fruit, or peeled and chopped apples. 

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