Spooky Pancakes

I’ve never been a huge Halloween person. Sure, dressing up is fun and all, but to me it’s more of a stepping stone to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Having kids, though, does make the holiday more fun. They love dressing up and trick or treating. We watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and this year I introduced my oldest to “Hocus Pocus”

When Halloween falls on a weekend, we also like to have a fun breakfast. That’s where these pancakes come in.

All you do is mix up your favorite pancake mix. Separate out a little bit into a small bowl (just a few tablespoons is fine) and add food coloring.
  

Using a toothpick or a skewer, dip into the colored batter and add where you want it. I just used cookie cutters for shape, but you can use pancake molds or just freehand if you want.
  

After the colored batter is in place, add the regular batter over the top in the shape you want.

  

Flip the pancake over when it’s ready.   

Remove the pancake from the mold and eat up. You’ll need as much energy as you can get to keep up with little trick or treaters! 

 

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Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken

OK, so this chicken should probably be called “Don’t Go to Costco Hungry or You Will Get Suckered in by the Sample Lady and Buy 3 Pounds of Ritz Crackers and 1.5 Pounds of Spinach Artichoke Dip That You Will Never Finish.”

Also, calling this a recipe is playing fast-and-loose with the word recipe. I really just needed a way to use the dip before it goes bad that didn’t include me just eating it non-stop with the crackers.

That being said, this turned out so delicious. It had a really good flavor. It was really the perfect week night dinner.

All you need are crackers, chicken breasts, and spinach artichoke dip. You can be fancy and make your own, but store-bought is just fine for this recipe. Plus, this one was actually really good.

  

Put your crackers in a ziplock bag and beat ’em up. After the day I had, this was a perfect release. I could see the kids getting in on this and thinking it’s a good time too.

  

Then, cut your chicken in half length-wise and pound those out too, so they are even thicknesses. Also, since we are folding the chicken in half, it makes it easier when the meat is thinner.

Spread a thick layer of the dip on the chicken. Fold the chicken in half.

  

Dip the chicken in beaten egg, then cover in the ritz cracker crumbs.

    

Place in a baking dish and drizzle a little bit of melted butter over the top of all the pieces.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

 

  
 

I’ll be honest, this chicken didn’t really make a dent in the dip, but we have people coming over on Sunday to watch football, so guess what they’ll be snacking on?? 

Pumpkin Penne with Pancetta 

So a few days ago, it felt like Fall. For about 5 minutes. Today, however, it was back to 88 degrees. It is supposed to be 90 on Halloween.

Ugh… If this is what people mean by “Southern California Weather” you can keep it. It was never like this growing up, so you know, global warming sucks.

Anyway, back to when it was nice and cool for a hot second. I took full advantage and made this yummy pumpkin pasta. I had the rest of the can of pumpkin that I used for the ravioli and turned it into this delicious sauce. Even though it has cinnamon and nutmeg, it wasn’t too sweet at all. It had the right amount of balance and the flavor was just warm and comforting.

Best of all, it hit the trifecta: Quick, easy, and my kids loved it! My husband even went back for a small third serving! I think it is safe to say, this was a winner.

4oz diced pancetta
1-2 cloves minced garlic1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 cups milk (you can use cream or half & half if you want)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup walnuts or pecans with cinnamon and honey (optional)

In a pot, add your pancetta and a light dusting of ground cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring around, until crispy. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate and keep any fat that rendered out in the pot.

  To the rendered pancetta fat, add the garlic and onions. Saute until soft.
  Add about 1 T of flour and stir to make a little paste with the fat. You can a little olive oil if you don’t think there is enough. Stir in the pumpkin puree, milk nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix well. Let the mixture come to a high simmer and then turn the heat down to low. This should allow it to thicken up nicely. Add the parmesan cheese. Taste it to see if you need to add any salt. I added a pinch but the parmesan is pretty salty, so it’s best to wait to see what you like.
  Add your cooked penne and mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.  In a small pan, add your walnuts or pecans. Sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon and drizzle with a little honey. Mix well and cook until heated through. This addition is optional. I really like the nuts mixed in, but my husband said he didn’t think the dish needed them. Your choice!
  Add the nuts and the pancetta into the pasta and stir to combine.
Eat up and send me pictures of Fall… at this rate we may not get one!

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies 

My son started kindergarten this year. It’s only been a couple months and it has already been quite a whirlwind for us! Our already-crazy life got even crazier.  I love his elementary school. It is a really great school and he has such a wonderful teacher. I can tell he is going to do very well there.

Today his school had their annual Fall Festival. The school I went to had a Harvest Festival every year that I have fond memories of, so I was very excited about this. It was every bit as fun as I thought it would be. And my son had so much fun playing all the games and winning little prizes.

Since I work during the day and don’t really have the opportunities to take the time off to volunteer in the classroom or at lunchtime (which some parents do often), I took the Fall Festival as my volunteer opportunity. I helped set up the class game booth and I made cookies for the bake sale.

I made these cookies and, oh my gosh, they were so good. I have no way of knowing how they sold at the festival (even though I really would kind of like to know what other people thought of them!), but I tried one and it made me wish I’d doubled the batch and kept some home!  They were soft and pillowy, full of wonderful fall flavors.

This is my first time making up a cookie recipe and we all know how finicky baking recipes can be, so if you make these (and you should), let me know if anything didn’t work. I wrote it down as I put stuff in the bowl, so it should be spot on. And so yummy!

Caramel Apple Cider Cookies

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 egg
1 apple, shredded (Fuji or Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider (not sparkling)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 ground cloves
1-1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 bag caramel bites

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Using the large side of a grater, grate the apple, skin on.

Mix in the grated apple and juice. Tip: I grated the apple on a paper towel and then squeezed that juice out into the bowl as well.

In a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.

Add 1/2 the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the other 1/2. Mix until well incorporated, but don’t overmix or tou will have tough cookies.

Add in your bag of caramel bits.
    Scoop by spoonful onto a lines baking sheet and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. The dough was a bit stickier than I am used to for cookie dough, but it still baked up really nicely, so I’m not worried about it.

These turned out so yummy and soft and full of fall, cidery goodness.


Quick tip: the caramel pieces will get all gooey while baking, which is good. But they will also ooze out and you’ll get these little crispy pieces. Take them off. I found them to be hard and burnt tasting. They come right off with no effort.

No-bake Lemon Cream & Raspberry pie

Growing up in my family meant eating a lot of pie. We had our share of other desserts, but when it came to special occasions, we did eat a lot of pie. Apple, strawberry, boysenberry, chocolate cream, lemon meringue, coconut cream. You name it, we had it.

 I love all of them, but my favorite pie is chocolate cream. This, however, has led to many a discussion between my sister and me about whether or not this is actually a pie. In her opinion, it is pudding in a crust. I said, by that definition, then strawberry pie is just strawberries in a crust. And what about chicken pot pie and quiche? Where do they fit in? This has turned into a very circular argument, with neither of us willing to cede our opinion.

For the love of sisterhood and pie, we’ve agreed to set our differences aside and agree to disagree.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I don’t make enough pie. I don’t know that there’s a rule for this, but I feel like, as a self-proclaimed food blogger, I should be making more pies. Well, good news for you, my tens of readers. I made a pie last night. It was super yummy, and best of all, really easy!

I may have exaggerated a little bit when I called this a No-Bake lemon pie, because I did bake the graham cracker crust, but you don’t have to. You can just put it in the fridge and use it that way or you can buy a premade one from the grocery store (and then it would be even easier!) Just do whatever your heart desires with your crust.

 For this pie, you will need:

 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1 jar of lemon curd (can be found at the grocery store near the jelly/jam)

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup of powdered sugar (more if you want it sweeter)

Frozen raspberries (or really any frozen berry you like)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until it resembles wet sand. Pour into a pie dish and spread out evenly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes then let cool completely. I put mine in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. Or you can buy a store-bought graham cracker crust and skip all this.   

  

While your crust is cooling, prep your filling. In a mixing bowl, whip your heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. In a medium bowl, dump out the contents of a 10.5 oz jar of lemon curd and add half of the whipped cream. Gently fold the two ingredients together until well combined. Don’t stir because you’ll deflate your whipped cream. Just gently fold. Set aside

  
  

In another bowl, defrost your berries in the microwave. I put them in for about 2 minutes. They were thawed, not warm, and contained a lot of yummy liquid.

Add the berries to a blender and blend well with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Set aside.

  
  

Time to assemble.

Pour the lemon cream filling into the cooled pie crust.  
  

Spoon a circle of the berry puree on top of the lemon.

  
Add the rest of the whipped cream to a ziploc bag (or piping bag, if you have one) and cut a small hole in the corner. Pipe the cream around the outer edge of the pie. Or, really, you can put the whipped cream on however you want. It’s your pie.

    
   

After we had our dessert, I actually put the leftover pie in the freezer. It was really good that way too. A little like ice cream pie.

Fair warning, that while this pie is really delicious, it is really tart! I’m sure you could add more sugar to counter-balance the tartness from the lemon curd, but that’s up to you and your tastebuds. I thought it was just right. The hubby and my 2 year old also loved it. (The 5 year old was too busy with Paw Patrol to care.)

I’m sure even my sister would like it, even though she might not classify it as a real pie :0)

Dutch Babies/Puff Pancakes 

German Pancake. Dutch Baby. Oven Puff Pancake. All names for basically the same delicious breakfast item.

Despite the name German pancake or Dutch Baby, the dish was introduced here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. The dish was invented in the early 1900’s at a family-run cafe called Manca’s Cafe in Seattle, Washington. The dish was named by one of the owner’s daughters, after the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Dutch Baby is sometimes called German Pancake or German Puff Pancake (which is what my mom called them), because they are based on the German pfannkuchen.

German pancakes are generally thicker than French-style crêpes and usually served with sweet or, occasionally, savory fillings. Usage of leavening agent or yeast is uncommon, which sets them apart from American-style pancakes which do include a leavening agent to make them thick and fluffy.

To me, a puff pancake is very similar to a popover, which is an American version of the UK Yorkshire Pudding. They are really light and airy and can be sweet or savory.

Best of all? They are really easy to make!

2 tablespoons butter

3 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp salt

Splash vanilla 

Pinch of sugar

Fruit, syrup, powdered sugar for serving

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Add the butter to an oven-proof skillet and put in the oven for about 5 minutes, or just until the butter is completely melted. Remove from the oven.  
While the butter is melting, add the eggs, flour, milk, salt, vanilla, and sugar to a blender and blend well. You can also just stir this if you want, but the blender really makes sure it is mixed well. Besides, that’s how my mom made it, and so of course, that’s how I do it too.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet with butter. Side note: If you don’t have a skillet to use, you can use a regular 9×13 glass baking dish too. I’d double the recipe though, otherwise your pancake will be too thin.

  

Put the skillet back in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and puffy.

  

You can serve it with powdered sugar, fruit, syrup, or a combination of whatever you want! I warmed up a little orange marmalade and drizzled it over the top with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

 

It makes for a great weekend breakfast!

Easy Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

October 19, 2008. Seven years ago, I was walking down the aisle, ready to say “I do” to my husband. It was truly a great day that I will never forget. Our decorations were all Fall themed and it was so beautiful.

Collages

We spent a year planning the wedding. My mom and I pretty much did the planning, and my husband was all too happy to defer to us. The only thing he really cared about being part of, the only thing that was really looking forward to, was the food tasting. Unfortunately, something came up and he couldn’t even go. My maid of honor Jessica came with me and the caterer put together a box of leftovers to take home, but that wasn’t the same. The food was really good though!

One of the items we chose was a ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce. It was really delicious. In honor of our 7 year anniversary, I made my own version of this ravioli. The dish at our wedding did not have pumpkin, but I couldn’t resist adding it.

Happy Anniversary to husband. We’ve built a great life together. Here’s to the next 60 years of this crazy, chaotic, beautiful life.

1/2 can pumpkin
4oz mascarpone cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tbls shredded Parmesan cheese
Wonton wrappers (make sure you get the wonton, not the egg roll)
Unsalted butter
1 tbls fresh sage

Spoon about 1/2 can of pumpkin in a medium bowl. Make sure this isn’t pumpkin pie filling; just regular canned pumpkin.

Next, add the mascarpone cheese. You can also use cream cheese if you want.

Next, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. I used my hand mixer to blend it together because it was much easier with the mascarpone. Plus, I really like the whipped texture it gives the filling. You can use a stand mixer or just stir it by hand if you want. Just mix it well

Stir in a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese. Just about a tablespoon will be fine since you don’t want it to overpower the other flavors. Give the filling a taste test to see if you want to add more nutmeg or cinnamon or salt. We aren’t going for pumpkin pie here, so we don’t want it too sweet.

Now, get out your wonton wrappers. Side Note: It isn’t hard to make your own pasta dough–I’ve done it a few times–but it is hard to get it as thin as you need with out a pasta maker or attachment for your mixer. I don’t have one so the easy substitution is wonton wrappers! They are the perfect stand in.

OK, back to the ravioli: Add about a tablespoon of filling to the middle. Don’t overfill it because then it will get all messed up when you boil it later. Dip your finger in water and rub along all sides.

Add a second wonton wrapper to the top and firmly seal the edges. I forgot to take a picture of the next step, but add the ravioli to boiling water to cook. Only add a few at a time. They don’t take long to cook at all, so don’t walk away. Add the ravioli and when they float to the top, they are done. Remove them right away so they don’t get mushy. It takes approximately 2 whole minutes. Alternately, you could line them in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 375 for 10-12 minutes. I’ve never done it this way, but you can do it.

For the sauce, finely chop fresh sage. The easiest way is stack the leaves and roll them up. Cut thin slices (chiffonade), then roughly chop into small pieces. It turned out to be about 1 tablespoon. You can used dried if you want, but use about half the amount.

Add butter to a pan and let melt. Add the sage to the butter. I made 6 ravioli and used half a stick of butter. It was more than enough sauce.

Let the butter cook, stirring gently, over medium heat until it starts to brown a bit. There is a fine line between browned butter and burnt butter, so watch it and take it off as soon as it starts to turn brown. Maybe there’s a better “chef-y” way to do this, but as I am not a trained chef, this is what works for me.

Put your ravioli on a plate and top with the browned butter sage sauce and a little more parmesan. Enjoy the autumn yumminess!

This recipe makes about 20 ravioli and unless you are serving a large crowd, that is a lot of ravioli. Good thing is, you can freeze what you don’t use! Make sure you store them in a flat layer with a paper towel or something separating the layers. This way when you go to make them next time, they won’t freeze/stick together and rip apart when you try to separate them.