Brightening a Cloudy Day

Yesterday was a fairly dreary day here in the Finger Lakes. Clouds and rain filled the sky.  However, plans had been made.  My daughter and her husband were going apple picking (rain or shine) and they promised to bring us a taste of their harvest.  In return, I offered to make Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese for dinner.  A fair trade in both our opinions.  We always like to fill our family’s bellies when we have them for dinner, and considering that most of our family doesn’t like to cook, it’s a fairly easy task for us to accomplish. 

When my daughter walked in the door her hands were full with a bright and colorful bouquet of flowers.  Apples were not the only thing she had been picking.  What a perfect way to brighten an otherwise cloudy day. 

I couldn’t resist taking pictures of these flowers to share here on my blog.  As for the Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese, the recipe will be forthcoming one of these days.  And the apples?  I’m going to make a batch of homemade applesauce.

Hope these help color your day bright!

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Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark

When I was a kid, my sister and I would disguise ourselves in our annual Halloween costumes (on Halloween) and we’d join the throng of other kids in our small town for a night of trick or treating.  Our goal was to fill our big orange plastic pumpkins with as much candy as we possibly could. We usually didn’t have much trouble doing that either.  After a final stop at the fire hall for a cup of cider and a doughnut, we’d head home to sort the candy we had scored that evening.  Once everything was sorted; the trading began.  She had her favorite candy and I had mine.  It only seemed logical to negotiate for more of what each of us really wanted. 

Once the negotiating was done, and we’d eaten enough sugar to keep us fueled for the next few days to come, I’d stash my candy away for safe keeping.  My sister say’s I would have saved my candy until Easter, but we’ll never know that because after she ate all of her candy, she’d find my stash and eat that too.  So much for all that negotiating… 

My daughter and I recently got together to make this Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark.  It is one of the easiest Halloween treats that you can make, and it looks impressive.  If you can chop, melt, and pour, you’ve got it made in the shade. 

Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark

1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

1/2 c. white chocolate candy wafers

1/2 c. (lime green, black and orange) Celebrations Sixlets, chopped

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Measure chocolate chips into separate glass bowls.  Microwave one at a time – for about 1 minute each.  Stir completely, and pour onto prepared cookie sheet into thirds.  Repeat until all chocolate has been melted and poured onto cookie sheet.  With a toothpick, swirl the chocolate together.  Sprinkle the chopped Celebrations Sixlets on top.  Place in refrigerator until chocolate has hardened.  Cut into desired sizes.  Store in refrigerator.

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Did you stash your candy as a kid?  Or did you raid your siblings stash?

Thanks to SweetWorks Candy for providing the Celebration Sixlets and the adorable Halloween pumpkin gumballs featured in this post.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

If you’ve ever grown a garden then you know all too well how quickly zucchini squash can take over your life.  This year we bought one little plant to put in our garden.  One little plant!  Five zucchini’s later, with more on their way, and I’m asking“what the he– are we going to do with all of this squash?”  We are still trying to get rid of bags of shredded zucchini in our freezer (from year’s past) by feeding it to our chickens.  And yet, we planted more?? 

Did I mention that I don’t really love zucchini either?  It is a veggie that (in my opinion) is pretty tasteless.  I’ve never known it to be the star of the show.  Spaghetti sauce makes it taste better, batter and butter make it taste better, and then of course there is chocolate which makes everything taste better. 

Optimal picking of zucchini is when they are small and don’t have gigantic seeds in them, similar to cucumbers, but you have to watch them closely because they can literally grow too big overnight.  I might add that I’m not always good at picking them in their prime either. 

The best way to use up those slightly bigger than you had planned on zucchini is to grate them up and make a nice bread or cake with them.  And that’s exactly why this Chocolate Zucchini Cake came about.

This cake is super easy to make.  It’s also super moist, on the sweet side, and the reason I skipped the frosting.  Other than seeing a fleck of green every now and then, you will even forget that there is squash in it.  If you have kids and want to sneak some veggies into their diet then this is one way of doing it.  Just maybe not the best way.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1 stick (1/2 c.) margarine, melted

1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 c. sour cream

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. grated zucchini

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously grease a 16×10 cake pan.

Put all ingredients (except flour) in a large mixing bowl.  Mix thoroughly with electric mixer.  Add flour and mix completely.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.  Cool completely before cutting.  Sprinkle confectionary sugar on top and serve.

Any suggestions on how to use up all this zucchini?  What is your favorite zucchini recipe? 

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TGIF – In Case You Missed Any of Them

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I thought I’d recap this week.  Just in case you didn’t have a chance to catch one of my posts, here is what you might have missed. 

A  recipe for Frozen Vanilla Peach Yogurt, and photo’s of pretty little flowers.

The start of a new baking project featuring a sourdough bread starter recipe.  And hopefully, I’ll be sharing my an update on the sourdough adventure with you this weekend.

And one of the best darned Kahlua Hot Fudge recipes that your ever going to get your hands on.

Happy Friday everyone! 

Frosted Carrot Muffins

Rather than save stacks of magazines from years gone by,  I make it a habit to rip out the pages from my magazines that I am super impressed with.  And that’s where this recipe came from.  The original recipe for these muffins was featured in one of my favorite magazines; Country Living (January 2009).

Carrot Muffins

I significantly modified the original recipe, and while there is a little more tweaking to yet to be done, I think I am onto something here.  Frosted Carrot Muffin anyone?

Frosted Carrot Muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 16 standard-size muffin pan cups with baking wrappers and set aside.

1/3 c. olive oil

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/3 c. brown sugar

2 large eggs

3 tbsp. milk

1 c. grated carrot

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, cream together oil, sugars, milk, and eggs.  Mix  in salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and flour.  Fold in grated carrot.  Divide batter equally between baking cups.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Immediately remove muffins from the pan and cool completely.  Frost with your favorite frosting recipe. 

As far as the tweaking goes, I’m going to work on making this muffin slightly moister.  I’ll be sure to update you once I accomplish that.

Do you rip pages from your favorite magazines to refer to later?  Or, do you have stacks of magazines to refer back to?

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The Chocolate Chip Cookie Debate

What is our fascination with chocolate chip cookies? 

I don’t know about you, but after many times of making the claim that I’ve found the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, I give in and try one more recipe.

I admit, the first thing draws my attention to a new chocolate chip recipe is a good photo.  We’ve all seen them; the perfect image of a chocolate chip cookie that convinces us it fits our criteria.

The latest recipe I decided to try came from the blog, Apple A Day.  And yes, it was the photo that snared me, just like a spider snares a fly in it’s freshly spun web. 

After quickly reading the recipe, I found something else that convinced me I needed to make a batch of these cookies; corn starch. 

I was intrigued with the idea of using corn starch in a cookie.  Would it really make a big difference in the texture?  And how about the taste?

I  modified this recipe slightly by eliminating the 1/4 c. of granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and by using margarine in place of butter. I mixed all of the ingredients by hand, and I refrigerated the dough briefly before putting dropping  it on the lightly greased cookie sheets. 

My cookies did not turn out looking like those made by Kelsey.  They were much thicker and denser.  But… I think I might have got different results if I had creamed the butter, sugar, and egg briefly with an electric mixer.  I would also recommend using parchment paper when baking these cookies because the bottoms browned fairly quickly at 350 degrees.

I really liked the flavor of these cookies.  I think the corn starch gave them a unique taste.  After cooling my cookies, I placed them in an airtight container and found that doing this softened them a bit more. 

Before making a batch of these cookies I would highly recommend reading the reviews left by an Apple A Day readers.  I didn’t read the reviews before making them.  If I had done so, I might have done a couple things differently.

My verdict?  I will definitely make these cookies again.  I’m really drawn to the tastiness of them,  but am I (really) done looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe?  Never!

What do you think?  Do you have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe out there? Or, are you snared into trying new recipes like I am?

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Just a taste

I’m a sucker for bite-sized treats because sometimes you just need a taste. 

With a cup of your favorite tea.

Chocolate Cream Puffs

1/4 c. margarine

1/2 c. water

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

2 eggs

Line one extra large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen mini-cream puffs.

In a small bowl, add sugar, cocoa, and flour.  In a medium sized saucepan, add margarine, water, and salt.  Bring water mixture to a full boil and remove from heat.  Pour in flour mixture and stir until dough forms a ball and batter pulls from side of pan.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating with electric mixer until batter is smooth.

Using a small teaspoon, or the star tip on a pastry bag,  drop onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until cream puffs are firm to the touch.  Turn off the oven and crack the door open.  Allow cream puffs to cool slowly in the oven.

Fill  your cream puffs  with a scrumptious  filling of  choice.  I filled my with a Boston Cream filling,  and I used a very fine pastry bag tip to do so.  This was time consuming but worth the effort.

What is your favorite bite-sized treat?