Monday, September 30, 2019

I Love Autumn

Embrace the season with some fun kid-friendly treats even grown-ups will like. 
Acorn Donut Holes
Cook's notes: Easy no bake autumn treat.

  • Glazed doughnut holes
  • Chocolate Sprinkles and/or Crumbled Toffee Bits
  • Pretzel Sticks
  • Nutella Spread (you can use peanut butter or chocolate frosting too)
  • Spoon out Nutella, sprinkles, toffee crumbles, and pretzel sticks into four separate bowls.
  • Dip the top 1/3 of the donut hole into the Nutella, then choose either the toffee crumbles or the sprinkles and dip the Nutella covered area of the donut hole into those
  • Insert a pretzel stick in the top, center of the donut hole . . . this will be your acorn stem!

Autumn Party Mix
You will need
  • 1 bag of Autumn Mix
  • 1 bag of Indian Corn
  • 1 bag of Reese's Pieces
  • 1 can of Party Peanuts
  • 1 cup of Sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup of Raisins
  • 1 cup of Cran-Raisins
  • 1 cup of Mini Pretzels
  • Mix and enjoy.

Owl S'mores
You will need

  • graham crackers
  • marshmallows
  • chocolate chips
  • yellow candy melts
  • candy corn
  • Cut one marshmallow in half and place both pieces on a large graham cracker (2 stuck together).
  • Put a candy melt on top of the marshmallows.
  • Heat in the microwave for about 2-5 seconds, just enough to make the marshmallows puff up, but not get too hot. (Time depends on your microwave – make sure to do a few test runs.)
  • Take out of microwave and add a chocolate chip on the yellow candy melt and the candy corn beak while the marshmallows and candy are still warm. Everything should stick together nicely.

Monster Eyeball Cookie 

You will need
  • 1 box yellow cake or white cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese softened
  • 1 egg
  • food coloring
  • candy eyeballs available at WalMart, JoAnn's, Party City
Beat butter, vanilla, egg and cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in cake mix and beat well. 
Separate dough into three or four batches (depending on how many colors of cookies you are making) and add in 1 dollop of food coloring to each batch, beat cake mix until well mixed.
  • Chill your cookie dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
  • Roll dough into 18 (1-inch) balls. 
  • Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. 
  • Remove cookies and gently press eye balls into cookies. Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. 
    • I recommend using gel food coloring vs liquid food coloring. Gel food coloring will not change the consistency of your cookie dough the way liquid food coloring will. Food coloring paste is also an awesome alternative.
    • If you have a kitchen scoop, put it to good use on these cookies. Scoopers are a great way to ensure your cookies will all be the same size.
    • Chilling your cookie dough for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator helps your cookies not spread out so much when baking.

    Sunday, September 29, 2019

    Chainsaw Carving Event

    11 carvers turned logs into works of art at the 15th Annual Chainsaw Carving Event September 27-29, Hackensack, MN. Three days were jam packed with artist sculpting, quick carves, lumberjack shows, chainsaw carvings auction, plus food, games and raffle prizes.

    What an amazing array of art works that were made from logs-so creative. Thank heavens I wisely left my checkbook behind to ward off temptation to buy but it was really really hard. I could see many of the carved items sitting right in my front yard to welcome visitors like
    The quick carves shows were mind boggling creating a masterpiece in just 45 minutes. 
    This work of art was certainly quirky and fun, a full size outhouse. Open the door and there sits Bigfoot. His dog waits outside. The detailing on this piece of art was just incredible. 
    The stamina and non-stop patter by the auctioneer raising the bidding up and up was much to be admired. We were amazed how the price soared quickly with most pieces going between $500.00 to well over $2,000. Well, you'll be happy to know I was able to stick with the plan passing on purchases. But I really enjoyed all the creative carved works of art.
    There was quite the crowd for the lumberjack show as two lumberjacks competed in several events: cross cut saw,
    tree topping, axe throwing, and 
     my favorite, boom racing, time racing across the logs.

    Adding to the carnival like atmosphere were food trucks
    and a variety of craft vendors. 

    A fun way to spend a weekend afternoon viewing an amazing array of talent.

    Saturday, September 28, 2019

    Snicker Brownies

    No need to wait till Halloween for your Snicker Bar candy fix 
    when you can have a Snicker Brownie.
    What's not to like pairing your favorite brownie recipe and adding in a snicker candy bar filling. These brownies are the ultimate decadent treat making it hard to stop at just one!
    An Ever Ready Favorite- Snicker Brownie Special
    Cook's notes: The brownie recipe comes from Taste of Home Magazine and so easy to put together. 
    Cooking Tips: Chill Snicker bars for easier cutting. Make sure the foil liner is well greased so easier to remove cooled brownies. Cooled brownies keep their shape better if refrigerated.
    Brownie Ingredients:
    • 12 mini fun Snicker bars (chilled) 
    • 1 cup of sugar
    • 2 large eggs at room temperature
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup flour
    • 1/3 cup baking cocoa
    • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. espresso powder
    • 1/2 cup mini or regular semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup melted butter
    Brownie Directions:
    • Line a 8 x 8 glass pan with foil that has been greased very well. Make sure edges of foil extend over the sides. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Cut 12 mini fun Snicker bars into fourths.  
    • Combine the flour, salt, cocoa, espresso powder and baking powder. Set aside.
    • In a large bowl beat sugar, eggs and vanilla for 3-5 minutes to increase the volume.  In a small microwave safe bowl melt chips and butter for 20 seconds. Whisk to mix and add to sugar/egg mixture. Beat well and add to flour mixture and mix well. Do not over beat.   
    • Pour half of the batter into prepared pan. Evenly spread cut candy bars.
    • Pour the rest of the batter over the bars. Bake for 28 minutes. 
    • Cool brownies in foil lined pan for 10 minutes
    • Use foil edges to lift out brownies out and place on a wire rack to cool. Place foil brownies on a plate and cut. They will be soft and gooey. Refrigerating brownies helps keep their shape.   

    Thursday, September 26, 2019

    One Pot Italian Sausage and Tomato Basil Pasta with Spinach

    How beautiful leaves grow old.
    How full of color are their last days.
    An easy comfort food perfect for fall evenings. Your family will surely enjoy it as it's loaded with their favorite Italian flavors.  The cook will like the recipe as its all made in ONE POT even the pasta.  
    One Pot Italian Sausage and Tomato Basil Pasta with Spinach
    Recipe serves 4-6 and pair pasta dish with cornbread muffins or artisan bread.
    Cooking tip: Since pasta absorbs liquid to reheat the next day add in some chicken broth. 
    • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage 
    • 1-1/2 TB. olive oil
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
    • 3/4 cup diced sweet onions
    • 3/4 cup diced mini sweet red and yellow peppers
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth (low sodium) 
    • 2 cups penne pasta (dried) 
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning 
    • 1 can (14.5) petite diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and onion
    • 3/4-1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 3 cups baby spinach torn leaves, stems removed
    • 1/4 cup cream
    • Optional 1/4 cup dry red wine e.g. Cabernet, pinot noir  
    • 1 TB. fresh basil, minced  
    • In a large skillet at least 4 inches deep or a large pot heat olive oil. Add sausage,  peppers, garlic and onions. Cook until meat is no longer pink and peppers and onions are soft. 
    • Crumble sausage in pan. Remove meat mixture and place on a paper towel lined plate. 
    • Wipe pan free of grease. Add to the pan water, broth, dried penne, spices and canned  tomatoes.  
    • Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir once midway through cooking. 
    • Uncover and turn off heat.  Add in cream,wine if using, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, meat mixture, basil and torn spinach leaves. Cook on a low heat 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
    • Sprinkle on rest of Parmesan cheese right before serving. 


    Wednesday, September 25, 2019

    Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake

    There's nothing like a brisk fall walk to put you in the mood for some baking. This simple apple cake is loaded with fresh apples and topped with an irresistible crunchy cinnamon sugar layer. Invite a neighbor over and share a slice. 
    The cake is quite easy to put together and requires no beating just stirring. YUM! YUM!  
     Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake
    Cook's Notes: Recipe adapted from pinchofyum  Note this is more of a dense cake. 
    Apple Cake:
    • 1 large egg
    • 1- 1/2 cups brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup oil
    • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. apple pie spice
    • 2- 1/2 cups flour
    • 2 1/2 cups chopped apples (I used 2 granny smiths and 1 Macintosh apple) 
    Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
    • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 9 glass pan. Whisk one egg and then mix it in with rest of ingredients in order given, stirring until just combined.
    • Pour batter into a prepared pan. 
    • Combine last 4 ingredients to make a topping. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the batter.
    • Bake for 35 minutes. Best served warm served with your favorite cup of tea or coffee.  

    Monday, September 23, 2019

    On a Pumpkin Roll:Part Two

    Before I could even get this blog posted, Hormel Foods sold out of its limited-edition Pumpkin Spice Spam. Yes, that’s right; Hormel infused its famous canned meat brand with the flavor that has become an autumn cliché.
    Hormel announced early Monday morning that it was selling a limited quantity of pumpkin-spice Spam on and its trademarked The $8.98 two-packs sold out in less than seven hours, the Austin, Minn. based food company said.

    Pumpkin spice is perhaps best known as a flavor-and-scent profile applied to lattes, but over the last decade or so has been added to seemingly endless array of consumer products, including Cheerios. The launch of pumpkin spice product now signals the start of fall as much as turning leaves, light jackets and back-to-school sales. 

    Sorry to say there are no plans to produce more.

    This is an edited version of the article found in the Star Tribune paper 9-23-19

    Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries, Butternut Squash and Toasted Pecans with Maple Cider Vinaigrette 
    Cook's notes: This splendid autumn salad includes some of Minnesota’s very best natural ingredients. It's definitely company worthy. Butternut squash as well as pumpkin  works well for this dish because the squash holds its shape beautifully after being roasted. The combination of nutty wild rice, a simple maple dressing, are not only delicious together, but their vibrant colors combine to make one stunning dish. Consider a time saver by making the wild rice ahead and toasting the pecans. The dressing can be easily doubled.
    Salad recipe from the "Smitten with Squash Cookbook" and serves 4.

    Cooking Tip:1 cup uncooked wild rice = 3–4 cups cooked wild rice
    Vinaigrette recipe adapted from Byerly and Lund's Cookbook

    Maple Cider Vinaigrette Ingredients:
    • 3 TB. cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    • 1 tsp. apple pie spice
    • 1/8 tsp. dry mustard
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    Ingredients Salad:
    • 2- 1/2 cups peeled and finely chopped butternut squash or pumpkin
    • 1- 1/2 TB. olive oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil
    • 1 TB. maple syrup
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • Sea salt and black pepper
    • 4-5 cups torn baby spinach leaves or chopped romaine
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
    • 1 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
    • 1 large diced, crisp apple (I used HoneyCrisp) 
    • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
    • 3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans or cashews
    • 4 cups cooked wild rice, warmed
    • Place all dressing ingredients in a blender and mix well. Refrigerate until needed
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, maple syrup with a sprinkle of cinnamon. 
    • Spread squash evenly on baking sheet and roast squash for about 15 minutes or until fork tender, stirring once during the roasting time. Set aside.
    • In a measuring cup place dried cranberries or cherries. Pour boiling water over it and let set for 15 minutes. Drain.
    • In a large bowl, combine onions, cherries or cranberries, basil, diced apple and cooked wild rice. Stir dressing into salad; taste and adjust salt level if needed. Place mixture on spinach leaves or chopped Romaine. Top with pecans.
    • Serve dish at room temperature.

    Sunday, September 22, 2019

    Pumpkin Round-Up Part One

    Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins with Maple Cream Glaze is a sure winner for anytime of the year. It's a great snack to usher in the official start of fall tomorrow. 
    These muffins are easy, moist, no mixer needed and absolutely delicious. They are hearty and healthy enough for breakfast, snack or really anytime of the day. Consider the option of making healthier choices like leaving off the glaze or replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Though I need to go on record this maple cream glaze is intensely delicious and pairs perfectly with the spiced pumpkin flavored muffins. The glaze would be great topping for a spice apple walnut cake too.
    The following recipe makes 18 regular sized muffins and was adapted from
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 cups canned pumpkin puree not pie filling
    • 1/2 cup neutral flavored oil (like canola, vegetable, avocado)
    • 1/2 cup no-sugar added applesauce
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1-3/4 cups white flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
    • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    • 2 tsp.Saigon cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • Optional add ins chopped walnuts and /or raisins
    Glaze :
    • 1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
    • 2-4 TB. heavy cream
    • 1/2 tsp. maple extract or 1 TB. maple syrup
    • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
    • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, oil, applesauce and sugar.
    • In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
    • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined (don’t over mix or the muffins may be dense and kind of heavy).
    • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups about 3/4 of the way full.
    • Bake for 15-16 minutes until the top of the muffins spring back to the touch and/or a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
    • Remove from the muffin tin to a cooling rack to cool completely.
    • For the glaze, whisk together the glaze ingredients, starting with the lesser amount of cream and adding more as needed to make a pourable, but still thick, glaze.
    • Drizzle the glaze over the cooled muffins with a spoon or fork and ENJOY!

    Friday, September 20, 2019

    Creamy Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage and Spinach

    We've had several foggy mornings. This photo was sent to me by a neighbor that captures the essence of the early hours. Love the contrasting colors!  
    A good day for soup.

    Creamy Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage and Spinach 
    Cook's notes: One of the best things about this soup recipe is its versatility with lots of options: Italian sausage or turkey sausage, green beans or peppers or cubed yellow squash, chicken broth or beef broth, cheese tortellini or tri color tortellini, spinach or cabbage, spices. Here's my version of this hearty rustic soup that works well for a main meal. It is also one of those soups that tastes better the second day. Pair the meal with artisan or French bread.
    Recipe serves 4.

    • 1 TB. olive oil
    • 1/2 cup onion, diced
    • 1 TB. garlic cloves, minced
    • 3/4 lb. Italian sausage
    • 1/3 cup each diced carrots, celery, sweet red pepper
    • 1 cup zucchini diced
    • 1-32 oz. container of chicken broth (low sodium and fat free)
    • 2 fresh tomatoes diced and drained on a paper towel
    • 1 can (14 oz. ) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
    • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
    • 1- 2 cups torn spinach leaves (remove stems)
    • 1- 9 oz. package fresh or frozen tortellini
    • 1/4 -1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
    • In a soup pot brown sausage and drain off fat. Set meat aside on a paper towel.
    • Heat 1 TB. olive oil and saute onions 3 minutes, add in garlic and saute 1 minute more.
    • Add in zucchini, peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, spices, cooked meat, canned diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    • Add in tortellini and spinach leaves, cook uncovered about 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente.
    • Stir in yogurt (I used Fage brand which is thicker than other Greek yogurt products)
    Note: Leftover soup on the second day will need more broth as the tortellini will have absorbed some liquid.

    Thought for the Day

    Thursday, September 19, 2019

    Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage Pasta

    There's no better way to start the autumn season with some books sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust and poetic thoughts.  
    Caroline Kennedy wrote in the introduction of her book, A Family of Poems My Favorite Poetry for Children, " Poetry played a special part in our family. We were encouraged to write or choose a favorite poem for each holiday or birthday as a gift for my mother and grandparents instead of buying a card or a present." 
    I love this book and highly recommend adding it to your family library. Such a sweet cover with poems nestled inside covering a variety of topics. The book is even more special to me as it came from a co-worker who knows how much I love reading poetry.
    Inside Kennedy's book you will find the following poem written by Caroline's mother, Jacqueline. She was in school looking out the window daydreaming about autumn days when she penned her thoughts.

    by Jacqueline Bouvier

    I love the Autumn,
    And yet I cannot say
    All the thoughts and things
    That make me feel this way.

    I love walking on the angry shore,
    To watch the angry sea;
    Where summer people were before,
    But now there's only me.

    I love wood fires at night
    That have a ruddy glow.
    I stare at the flames
    And think of long ago.

    I love the feeling down inside me
    That says to run away
    To come and be a gypsy
    And laugh the gypsy way.

    The tangy taste of apples,
    The snowy mist at morn,
    The wanderlust inside you
    When you hear the huntsman's horn.

    Nostalgia-that's Autumn,
    Dreaming through September
    Just a million lovely things
    I always will remember.

    Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage Pasta
    Easy meal for your weekday supper. It's hearty and filling and can be a gluten free meal using gluten free pasta. Great northern beans are soft so when they’re tossed into the mix they lend a creamy consistency to the sauce. The beans are filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, too.
    Recipe adapted from and serves 4.
    • 3 cups dried gluten-free or regular gemelli or other short cut pasta
    • 3 TB. extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 12 oz. Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage, sliced
    • 1 crisp firm apple, peeled then chopped (I used Honey Crisp)
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • Pinch red chili pepper flakes
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1-15 oz. can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
    • 4 large firm tomatoes, sliced drained on a paper towel, diced
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • Optional 4 cups torn spinach leaves, stems removed and 1 cup diced red and yellow mini sweet peppers 

    • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and add back into pot.
    • Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sausage. Saute until sausage is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add diced apple, garlic, and red chili pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until apple is tender, about 5 minutes with peppers if using. Add chicken broth, beans, tomatoes and spinach then toss with tongs until spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.
    • Pour sausage and apple mixture into pot with pasta then add in grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until combined, adding reserved pasta cooking water to reach desired consistency.

    Cinnamon Apple Muffins

    GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...