Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pumpkin Squares

     Normally, I do not post any recipes that include a ready made cake mix as part of the ingredients. I honestly am a "from scratch" kind of girl. However, that does not mean that my kids do not love Betty Crocker brownies, muffins or cupcakes. We are just like every other family in America, and you can always find some of these mixes in my pantry. There are always those days when we need a quick mix handy, and I can certainly appreciate that.  My reason for telling you this, is because last week,my son( who tends to be fussy when it comes to food) ,and I were in Williams-Sonoma. The smell in the store was incredible,and we were asked to try a sample of a pumpkin-type crumb cake.Of course, I did not have to be asked twice. My son, however, had to have his arm twisted,and when he finally gave in, he was happy that he did so. As a matter of fact, when I went to purchase the pumpkin butter needed for this recipe, he asked me to get two.....he liked it that much.
     Here is the recipe from that day. It is both easy and delicious, but does require a yellow cake mix, as well as pumpkin butter. It is a perfect additional to your fall breakfast or dessert table.

1 box of yellow cake mix(reserve 1 cup and set aside)
1/2c. melted butter
3 eggs
 1/8 c. milk
1 c. flour
1/2c. butter,softened
1tsp. cinnamon
1 jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter(13.5 oz)

    Mix the remainder of the yellow cake mix with1/2 cup of melted butter. Add one egg and mix well. Press this mixture lightly into the bottom of a 9 x 13 square pan. Set aside.

   Mix the pecan pumpkin butter with 2 eggs and the milk. Pour over the crust in the baking pan.
   Mix the 1 cup of reserved cake mix with the flour, sugar, softened butter and cinnamon. Mix until crumbly,and sprinkle on top of the pumpkin mixture.
   Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly ,then cut into squares.

***The recipe calls for a 9 x 13 pan...I really had to stretch the dough to make it fit...you may want to try a smaller pan for a thicker bar.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Apple Crumb Pie

   So, after apple picking with the boys this weekend ,it is fair to say that I am up to my ears in apples. With the weather being as beautiful as it is today, I figured it was the perfect day to bake a pie, an apple pie, of course. I make my own crust, but feel free to use a store-bought crust in a pinch.

Crumb Topping:
1/4 stick of unsalted butter,slightly softened
1/4 c. Flour
1/4 c. Oats
1/4 c. Brown sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
    Blend all of the ingredients together with your fingers, until crumbly. You can make your crumbs as large or small as you want, but I just tend to toss it on top of the pie in little bits until the top is covered.

Pie Ingredients:
1-1/2 a 2 lbs. of apples,peeled and chopped(I used gala,granny smith, and empire)
Zest of  1 lemon

Pie Dough:
2-1/2 c. flour
pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter,chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2 c. ice cold water
    In a food processor, blend the flour,salt and butter until the butter looks like small peas. Slowly add the water,a little at a time, until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
    When ready to use, roll out on a well floured surface,then place the dough into a pie plate. Cut the dough that is hanging over the edge until it is about 2 inches longer than the edge of your pie plate. Fold the excess under ,and crimp along the edges with your fingers. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork,and refrigerate until ready to use.

   Mix the apples with the lemon zest.  Pour the mixture into a prepared pie crust. Top with crumb mixture.Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, then lower to 350 degrees until the apples are cooked and the crust and crumbs are golden brown,about another 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly,and serve warm with vanilla ice-cream if desired.

   If your crust and crumbs are getting dark too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Remove the foil during the last 15 minutes of baking.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Apple Picking

  So, today we ventured out to the eastern end of Long Island to pick some apples with two of our four  boys. The weather was perfect,we were able to ride some horses,which was a nice treat, and we had an afternoon filled with pumpkins,apples,lots of produce,animals(the farm kind,not my kids),and of course,a hay ride. I came home with a ridiculous amount of vegetables.....now,I need to figure out what to do with it all! Here are some pics from the adventure.

   Our first stop was a field filled with peppers,tomatoes and eggplant. We picked plenty of our own,but then spotted a bag of freshly picked goodies that someone had abandoned....so we gladly took the goods with us.
   The fields were vast,and the bushes so high,that we were joking that someone could get lost for days in there.....then we came upon to ladies who had unfortunately lost there keys out here....can you imagine?
  We then paid the farmer and headed down the road in pursuit of some apples.This place was filled with fall fun...candy apples,cider donuts, activities for the kids,and of course, apple trees.Off they go....
   We headed into the orchard,which unfortunately was not so full of apples, but we did manage to put a bag together..some gala,jonagold,granny smith,and fujis.
   So, after picking apples, we checked out some of  the animals ,then headed over to take a quick ride on some horses...this horse was named Brownie,and my kids were in love!

   We also loved seeing all of the corn stalks and pumpkins.It was truly a perfect day.

   Once back at home, we unloaded all of our goddies,and boy, was there a lot! Looks like there will be a lot of tomato,eggplant and pepper meals in our near future.That and some apple pie!!!
  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fun Fall Crafts

If you are addicted to Pinterest,as I am, chances are you may have seen these before. Today, I decided to take some of the fun ideas posted on that site, and make them with my boys. They really are very simple,and do not require anything more than paint, brushes,leaves, canvas or paper,and your child's hands and feet. Not only did it make for a fun afternoon, I now have a keepsake of my children's prints! I bought the canvas and tempera paints(non-toxic) at Michael's ,and pulled the leaves off of my own tree.

   For the leaves, simply lay them flat  and paint with desired color.Pinterest showed ghosts, so I thought ,why not pumpkins too?Just turn the leaves upside down,so you will have a ready made pumpkin stem! Once the first coat dries,add the facial features and whatever else you may want to add. Gluing googly eyes from the craft store might be fun too.

  For the prints, simply coat each canvas with desired paint color.If you do not have canvas, paper will work as well,just place in a frame when dry. Once the top coat was dry, I dipped a pencil eraser in different colors to add polka dots around the edge of the canvas. Add a spider web if making the spider print.Paint either your child's foot or hand , white on a foot for the ghost, or black on a hand for the spider. Lay their hand/foot gently onto the canvas, giving a slight push to make sure it leaves a print. For the spider, I painted all of the fingers except the thumb(spiders have eight legs,not ten), and did the print twice,making legs on each side.

   Finish by adding words, free hand or using a stencil if desired. The canvas will stand on its own, but feel free to add a little easel stand under it for added decorative appeal. Have fun!!!
   Happy Fall!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan

   It has been a very busy week with my boys all starting school again.This year,I am homeschooling one of them,so I do not have as much "me" time throughout the day.Please forgive me if my posts appear sporadically..
    Here is a great recipe for eggplant parmesan.I used the fresh eggplant from my son Timmy's garden,and it turned out wonderful.In this recipe,the eggplant is brushed with a delicious balsamic mixture,and is not fried. It adds amazing flavor,and cuts a few calories too!

Sauce Ingredients:
1 large onion,chopped
2 cloves of garlic.minced
4 Tbsp. dry white wine
1- 14 oz can of either stewed tomatoes,or crushed tomatoes
1-2 fresh plum tomatoes,seeded and chopped
fresh basil,chopped ( I used about 10 leaves)
olive oil
   Saute the onion in about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil,and 2 Tbsp of the wine for about 4-5 minutes.Add the garlic.Saute for one minute more. Add the tomatoes,and the remaining 2 Tbsp. of wine. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat,and add some fresh,chopped basil.

Eggplant Ingredients:
1-1/2 - 2 lbs of eggplant,cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 oz. mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. fresh parmesan

   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out the slices of eggplant on a parchment covered cookie sheet(you may need two).In a small bowl, mix together the balsamic vinegar,olive oil,sugar,pepper and oregano.Mix well,and brush onto the eggplant slices. Bake for about 5-6 minutes ,until the slices can easily be pierced with a fork.

   Once the eggplant is tender,layer the ingredients into a baking dish in the following order, a thin layer of the sauce, a layer of eggplant,another thin layer of sauce,half the mozzarella.Then ,repeat with the remaining ingredients. Top with the parmesan,and more mozzarella if desired,along with some additional freshly chopped basil. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes,until the top is golden and bubbly.Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!!

*** Feel free to add more cheese if desired.