Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Caramel Apple Dip

Here's a quick and easy recipe that is an absolute MUST for your next Halloween party. I've seen it bouncing around social media for some time now, and I figured I should give it a try. Actually, I already knew it would be delicious because I have yet to meet anything caramel that I don't absolutely LOVE.
 OMG I can't even tell you how delicious it is! I'm not even gonna lie, I was eating it out of the bowl with a spoon. Definitely a huge hit with my gang of friends. It was a good thing I made a double batch because we quickly needed to refill the serving bowl! And then we discovered that this dip is AMAZINGLY good on pretzels! It's that whole salted caramel thing, which I can never resist. Your guests won't be able to resist it either. Enjoy!

16 individual Kraft caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sliced apples

 In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt caramels with milk, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in salt and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Fold in caramel mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
Serve with apple slices or pretzels.

Obviously, if you add the hot caramel to the cream cheese mixture, it will melt the cream cheese and you'll wind up with a sauce, rather than a dip. But just let it chill in the fridge for a while. It will set up.
If you don't feel like unwrapping caramels, you can purchase caramel morsels instead. That's what I did! It's SO much easier!
To keep your sliced apples from turning brown, place them in a big bowl of water into which you've added some freshly squeezed lemon juice. You can also toss the apple slices with a little splash of orange juice. The citric acid will keep the apples from turning brown.
I bet this recipe would work equally as well with peanut butter as it does with caramel. I'm definitely gonna have to give that a try!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Are you as pumpkin-obsessed as I am? Do you like pumpkin EVERYTHING? If so, then you seriously need to try this recipe! Honestly, I have yet to find a pumpkin ANYTHING that I don't love. From pies to breads to cupcakes, to cookies, you name it, I love it. So, of course, I needed to find exactly the right pumpkin variation for brownies. And this is it!
 It's actually a combination of recipes, to be quite honest. I used my go-to recipe for brownies and then added the pumpkin swirl recipe from another. DELICIOUS! I made them for Sean and Maggie and Joe, and everyone loved them! And aren't they gorgeous?? They're just the thing to make your Halloween party dessert table look more festive.
 So if you're a pumpkin lover, you should definitely add this recipe to your repertoire. They're quick and easy and I guarantee you'll love them as much as I do!

Pumpkin mixture:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
tiny pinch salt

 Brownie mixture:
1 1/3 cups flour  
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted 
1 cup cocoa 
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tbs pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease bottom only of 13x9 pan with shortening or baking spray. In small bowl, beat all pumpkin mixture ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Set aside. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. In another separate bowl, stir cocoa into melted butter. Blend in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with dollops of pumpkin mixture. Swirl with a knife. Bake for about 30 minutes or until set. Cool completely or chill before cutting into squares.

To save a little time and money, you can just use a box brownie mix along with the pumpkin swirl. Just prepare the brownie batter according to package directions, and then swirl with the pumpkin mixture. Easy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

 Here's a cookie recipe that I got from my sister, Cathy. She absolutely LOVES them and it's not out of the realm of possibility for her to make at least a batch of them a week during the fall/holiday season. She told me "Every time I make them, which is often this time of year, everyone raves!" But here's the mystery: Her recipe card says "From Joey" on it. Uh, really? Seriously? How do I not remember this? Apparently I gave her this recipe years and years ago, and tbh, I have absolutely no recollection of it. Crazy, huh? I'm thinking I may have gotten it from the label of a can of Libby's pumpkin. (You know how there are recipes on the underside of the label?) Well, anyway, regardless of where we got it, this recipe screams fall, and should definitely be added to your cookie repertoire. But be careful, though. They are extremely MOREISH! Once you have one, you'll definitely want more! You may even find yourself making at least a batch a week! Oh, and one other thing. The photo is from Cathy too! Thanx, Sister!

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c (1 stick) butter 
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c mini semi sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Beat until light and creamy. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Smooth out the tops of the cookies. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.

Not a fan of chocolate chips? Simply omit them! The cookies are still absolutely delicious! Actually, Cathy says she likes them better without them. Up to you! On the flip side, if you LOVE chocolate, try adding different kinds! White chocolate chips anyone? You could even add other flavors like butterscotch or cinnamon chips.... or any kind of chopped nuts. I think I might try pecans! Yum!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sharon's Award-Winning Sausage Pumpkin Chili

  I love when friends share recipes with me. I especially love when those recipes are ones that are new and different with combinations of flavors that maybe you haven't considered. This recipe falls squarely into that category!
 My friend Sharon entered a chili contest with this recipe, and guess what! She won! Among the judges was a professional chef who commended her on taking such a risk with something so different. It definitely paid off! As soon as she emailed me the recipe, I thought, I think I'll make this right now! I already had just about all the ingredients on hand and I had the afternoon off, so I figured, Why not?
 Now, I know you may be thinking PUMPKIN? IN CHILI???? Yes, just go with me on this one! No, it doesn't taste like a pumpkin pie. It's just a delicious bowl of chili with a different vibe, that's all. My sister Cathy (who is always a willing taste tester) said it reminded her of a Cincinnati Chili which also has warm spices in it, such as cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Absolutely delicious!
 So if you're one who usually likes to think outside the box, give this one a try. Actually, even if you're one to play it safe, TRUST me! You'll be amazed at how well pumpkin and sausage go together! It's the perfect thing to warm you up on a brisk autumn night.
Thanx Sharon!

2 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion (diced)
1 each green, orange, yellow, and red bell pepper (diced)
1lb of Sweet Italian Bulk Sausage
1lb of Mild Italian Bulk Sausage
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 bottle of lager beer
2 cans (14.5oz can size) of diced tomatoes
1/2 a jar of tomato sauce
1 can (15.5oz) of kidney beans (drained)
1 can (15.5oz) of black beans (drained)
1 can (15oz) of pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp curry
1 tsp cumin
Dash of salt/dash of pepper
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a large skillet sauté onion and peppers, in olive oil, until tender.
Add sausage, breaking it up as you brown it.
Add garlic, cook another minute.
Transfer into a large pot.
Add beer, tomatoes, sauce, beans, pumpkin puree, and spices.
Bring to a boil and then simmer (stirring often) for an hour.
Taste periodically and adjust spices as needed.
Garnish with Maple Syrup Sour Cream.
Serve with Pumpkin Corn Bread.

For the maple sour cream, simply stir 1 tbs of pure maple syrup into 1/2 cup of sour cream.  Not a fan of maple syrup? Just use plain sour cream!
Use whatever kind of sausage you like. Do you like it spicy? Use hot instead of mild!
I didn't start with a large skillet. I just sauteed the vegetables in a heavy Dutch oven and added everything to it. Easier cleanup!
I didn't have a jar of tomato sauce, so I added some tomato paste with a little water, since that's what I had on hand.
I also added a little extra pumpkin pie spice, just because I wanted to pump it up just a little more.
Instead of pumpkin corn bread, this would also be wonderful served as you would any other kind of chili, with cheddar cheese melted on top and a big hunk of regular cornbread. SO GOOD!

Pumpkin Cornbread

 Here's an easy and quick recipe I found on a website called Bakepedia.com. I was looking for a pumpkin cornbread recipe that was a little more than just adding a half cup of pumpkin to some Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. Not that there's anything wrong with that. You absolutely can! But I was looking for a scratch recipe. I wanted it to be sweet enough, but not too sweet as with a cake or pumpkin bread. When I read the description on this recipe, I knew I had the right one.
 Here's how it is described: "A nice, warm hunk of this orange-hued pumpkin cornbread goes as well with a bowl of chili as it does slathered with butter and honey for breakfast. You can also try it alongside a plate of huevos rancheros, or with some peanut butter or cranberry preserves."
 I think that about says it all, don't you??? And it's SERIOUSLY easy to make. You don't even need a mixer. You basically just stir everything together! Simple! And OMG wait'll you taste it. Its just EXACTLY as it was described. It's the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Also, there are no spices so the flavors of corn and pumpkin really come through.
This one is DEFINITELY a keeper.

1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup yellow cornmeal 
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin purée 
1⁄4 cup oil
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400°F. 
Coat an 8-inch square pan with nonstick spray; set aside. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; set aside. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, and eggs in a small bowl until combined, then pour into the well of the dry mixture. Whisk together until just combined and scrape into prepared pan. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick just tests clean. Cool on rack. Can be served warm or at room temperature. 

I was about to write something in this section as I always do, and then I realized that this recipe is perfect just as it is! I have no extra tips! 
The only thing I can say about it is that it says it serves 16. Seriously? That's about 2 bites per person! I'd say it's more like 9-12. 
Oh, by the way, I betcha this would go INSANELY well with a huge bowl of Sharon's Award-Winning Sausage Pumpkin Chili. Just sayin!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

 Have you ever heard of an impossible pie? It's basically a pie that doesn't need a pastry crust because it makes its own crust as it bakes. Cool, huh? They were really big in the 70s, with coconut being the favorite and most popular flavor (also known as Amazing Coconut Pie). This recipe is sort of like that. I know they're called cupcakes but I'd say they're more like little mini pumpkin tarts.  But hey, who am I to question the name? The bottom line is that they're simple and delicious, which is all that really matters! They're perfect for any fall party, definitely for Halloween or Thanksgiving. If you like pumpkin, then you simply must try 'em!

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a 12 muffin pan with foil liners, then spray the liners with cooking spray (or just spray the muffin pan with cooking spray).
 Mix the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and milk.  Add the flour, pumpkin spice, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the mixture. Fill each muffin cup with 1/3 cup of the mixture. Bake for twenty minutes and let cool for twenty minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pan and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle more pumpkin pie spice on top and serve. Makes 12 cupcakes.

 Be sure to use foil cups and spray them well with cooking spray. You can also use a nonstick silicone muffin pan. Paper liners don't work well because it's difficult to remove the paper from the cupcakes.
 Don't worry about measuring exactly 1/3 cup of batter into each cup. Just divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups and you'll be fine!