October 31, 2012

Lighting the Jack O Lanterns

Oh, the memories we have of our childhood Halloween! What an innocent and safe time it was. When our own children were of Trick- or- Treating age, we decorated the house inside and out, helped the children prepare their costumes, but we ate dinner as a family, before we set out on the night's adventures.

The Maine House prepared for Halloween night with a blanket of snow on the ground last year. Now that was a first for October? That was not to stop Maine kids from running hither and yon, from home to home, to fill their jack- o- lanterns!

It was all so  fun and magical. There was a quarter moon shining over The Maine House, casting deep shadows from tall hedges and rustling leaves flying against the black starlit sky. Pumpkins glowed from the houses and there was cheer on every porch. Muffled voices called to one another and Mother's and Daddy's kept a close watch on their little ones....tiny witches, adorable princesses, storybook heroes and knights in shining armor......a night to remember!

This is a great, hearty casserole that is easy to prepare and serve, before going out trick-or-treating, to keep your little goblin's tummy warm!

Sloppy Joe Casserole
1 pound ground beef
1 envelope sloppy joe seasoning mix
1 can (1 lb size) tomatoes
1 cup uncooked macaroni pasta
2 cups water
1 can (1 lb size) pork and beans
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook ground beef until brown. Pour off fat. Add seasoning mix, tomatoes, macaroni, beans and water. Cover and simmer at least 20 minutes. Before serving, top with the shredded cheese! My children always loved this!

Sweet dreams little goblins. 
Enjoy your candy and stories, and we'll see you next year my pretties.

October 30, 2012

Why I Love October

Autumn Molasses Cookies
3/4 cup softened butter
 1 cup packed brown sugar
 1 large eggs
 1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
 2 teaspoons baking soda
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
 1 teaspoon allspice
 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in egg and molasses and mix well. Fold in dry ingredients and stir. Cover and chill for about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll dough into small balls, then roll in white sugar. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 9-10 minutes. Sugar, spice and everything nice. Perfect with a cup of tea!

October 29, 2012

Caramel Apples for Halloween!

Tis' almost the witching hour

There was fun happening at the Atlanta house yesterday! The Divine Miss M was up to her elbows in creamy caramel and sprinkles! It brought back memories of mother making caramel apples and homemade popcorn balls for us each Halloween. It is just a mother's duty, I think, to always rattle those pots and pans for little ghosts, witches and goblins....

The Best of Autumn Caramel Apples
1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 wooden sticks
8 granny smith apples or 8 pink lady apples 

Insert 1 wooden stick into each apple. In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and milk; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees (firm ball stage) about 30-40 minutes and for a softer caramel cook just to a few less degrees.Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Dip each apple into hot caramel mixture; turn to coat. Holding by the stick, sprinkle with nuts or whatever you desire while the caramel is still warm (work quickly the caramel sets up fast).
Set on generously buttered wax paper to cool (make certain to generously butter the paper).

October 28, 2012

A Seasonal Morning

“Imagine a morning in late November.
A coming-of-winter morning more than twenty years ago. "

"Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town."

 "A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar."~ A Christmas Memory

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 t. baking powder
1 t.  salt
1/2 t. baking soda
8 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup buttermilk

3 T. unsalted butter
12 ounces breakfast sausage
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt, plus more as needed
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups whole milk

Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.Whisk the measured flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl to aerate and combine. Add the butter pieces and toss to just coat them in the flour mixture. Place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, and working quickly so as not to soften the butter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s in pea-size pieces. Drizzle in the buttermilk and stir just until a moist, shaggy dough comes together.
Generously dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the surface and dust the top with more flour. Using floured hands, gently pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick circle.

Using a 2-1/2-inch round cutter dipped in flour, cut out as many biscuits as possible (press straight down through the dough—do not twist the cutter, or the biscuits will not rise properly). Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps into a ball, pat it into a 1-inch-thick circle, and cut out more biscuits. Repeat as needed until you have 8 total. Discard any remaining dough.

Bake until the biscuits have risen and are golden brown on top, about 15 to 16 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the gravy.

The Gravy
Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink and is starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium. Sprinkle with the flour, measured salt, measured pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, until the raw taste of the flour has cooked off, about 1 minute.

Gradually stir in the milk, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Continue simmering, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 1 minute more (the gravy will continue to thicken as it sits). Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm. To serve, split the biscuits in half horizontally and top with the sausage gravy.

October 26, 2012

Colossal Chocolate Chippers!

The Autumn season and baking cookies go hand in hand, don't they? I know we all have our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but this one is going to replace all of your current favorites!!

 I could tell once I read the ingredients they were going to be scrumptious!
It was time to pull out my big yellow bowl... A.K.A. my cookie bowl!

Not only are these cookies, rich and buttery, but
they don't spread like the normal Toll House recipe cookies.

Colossal Chocolate Chippers
1 ½ cup of softened butter (3 sticks)
1 ¼ cup of granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup of packed dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
12 oz. of chocolate chips

Cream butter and granulated  sugar. Then add brown sugar and eggs , one at a time, then add vanilla. Combine all dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugars,  then fold in chips. Refrigerate the dough for about 20-30 minutes, covered. Use a tablespoon and shape into golf ball sized mounds. Bake 350 for 12-15 minutes.


There are pumpkins on porches and the air is filled with swirling leaves...
it's always nice to say, "I made it myself" the Halloween Party!

October 25, 2012

Winter Squash Risotto

Hmmm..what shall we make when it's dinner for one? Darling was at a golf tournament, so I decided to make something special...something I would love and that I knew he would not eat. He is not a lover of squash, but I am. So with the needed ingredients on hand, I poured a glass of chardonnay, put on Andrea Bocelli and began to make the risotto....bliss I tell you!

Butternut Squash Risotto
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 (10-ounce) box cooked frozen butternut squash
Nutmeg, grated, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
7 or 8 leaves fresh sage, slivered
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring 1 quart stock plus 1 cup water to a simmer in a sauce pot then reduce heat to low. Heat a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat with olive oil. When oil ripples, add the onions and garlic and soften 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and toast 2 to 3 minutes more. Add wine and cook it out completely, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes.

Ladle in stock in intervals, a couple of ladles at a time. Allow liquids to evaporate each time. Risotto will cook 18 minutes, total, from the first addition of liquid. Defrost the squash in your microwave in a dish to collect any liquids and stir in squash the last 3 minutes of cook time, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. In the last minute of cooking time, stir in butter in small pieces, sage leaves and cheese. Serve immediately.

This is Rachael Ray's recipe and I highly recommend this. It makes a large portion, so if you are cooking for two, halving the recipe will yield about four servings. The only ingredient I did not use was fresh sage.

October 24, 2012

Autumn Baby Faces!

"That's the real trouble with the world....
too many people grow-up...
They forget.
They don't remember what it's like to be twelve years old..."
~Mr.Walt Disney

October 23, 2012

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes

It's almost Halloween....a perfect time for those spooky cupcakes!

This is a delightful chocolate cake recipe. I often make this into cupcakes and it originally came from an old "soul-food" little cookbook I bought when living in Dothan, Alabama. I found it to be one of the best chocolate cake recipes ever!

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot brewed coffee
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" x 13"  baking pan or into a muffin tin which has been prepared with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add hot coffee, oil, eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan or muffin tin. Bake for 30- 45 minutes or into the muffin tins, 3/4 full. Frost with Buttercream Frosting.

Butter Cream Frosting
4-6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 sticks of butter
2 t. vanilla
Allow butter to come to room temperature. Blend in the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and beat until creamy. Always with buttercream frostings, it tends to hold it's consistency better when kept cool.

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,'tis near Halloween.
~ Unknown

October 22, 2012

Apple Spice Crunch Bars

Old Wood To Burn, Old Wine to Drink
Old Friends to Love, Old Times Remembered

Apple Spice Bars
4 Apples (Granny Smith and Gala)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t. salt
1 cup butter
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup cornflakes, crushed
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon

1 cup confectioners sugar
3 T. milk
1/2 t. vanilla
(Estelle's recommends only using a portion of this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Cut in butter with pastry cutter until you have a crumbly mixture. In a separate bowl, beat two egg yolks until creamy yellow. Add milk to the yolks to equal 2/3 cup. Add this to your flour mixture and toss lightly. Divide this mixture in half and pat 1/2 of the flour mixture into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish. Sprinkle with the crushed cereal.
Spread the apple pieces over this mixture and then sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Spoon the remaining flour mixture over the apples and pat down firmly. Brush with the two beaten egg whites. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Drizzle the icing over the bars and then cool slightly. Ready to serve....perhaps a little vanilla ice cream.....oh yes, please! 

October 20, 2012

Ricotta Cheese Appetizer....Comfort at Home

Chilly Autumn nights are ideal for lighting the fire, curling up with a good book, your favorite chenille blanket and having a date night with your hubby! It seems to be a perfect setting for talking about good times and how much we miss our parents and grandparents. It's warming to your soul to say, "remember when......."

Date nights such as this, often require a hearty appetizer, rather than a complete dinner. This Ricotta Cheese dip, served with good Italian meats and a hot Italian Bread, make an absolutely delicious appetizer!

Baked Ricotta Dip
2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
2 t. finely chopped fresh oregano
Coarse ground black pepper
1 T. olive oil, plus more for coating the baking dish
Crostini or toasted bread, for serving

Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Lightly coat a 2-cup baking dish with olive oil; set aside. Place ricotta, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the Pecorino Romano, and the oregano in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until heated through and the Pecorino Romano on top is melted, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with toasted bread or crostini!

October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies.....The Most Requested!

It was one of those perfect Autumn days in Maine...the air was fresh, the mist hovered over the fields and there was cold wind blowing the leaves all about. Wild turkeys love this sort of weather and you could see the flocks in a distance on all of the farms. We loved these sort of days. It was Autumn in New England!

I would often bake cookies and share them with the neighbors or send them to work with Darling. I'll bet they miss my sweet treats right about now. Don't let the month of October pass by without baking these for the ones you love. I will just bet that they will add a little spice to your memories of family and home!

My Most Requested Pumpkin Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butterscotch chips OR MINI CHOCOLATE CHIPS
Powdered sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, coat the paper with butter, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and set aside.

Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a hand mixer. Mix on on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla, and mix until evenly blended. Add the flour mixture, and mix until just incorporated. Add in the butterscotch chips and mix until evenly distributed.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2 inches apart. Using a thin metal spatula, smooth the tops of the mounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust the cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar.

The Reviews
I keep coming back to this recipe over and over again. This is a huge crowd pleaser and the recipe is very adaptable.
You can also change this up by adding walnuts, dried cranberries and/or chocolate chips. Of all my cookies these are the most asked for at pot lucks.

I made these, and I can't praise them enough. They are simple, delicious, cakey delights. I followed the recipe exactly, using the ice cream scoop, and they turned out perfectly. I used chocolate chips instead of butterscotch, and added pecans. They were all gone in 2 days!