Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat


What are you going to prepare for your Halloween treats?

One of the things that I love about fall is seeing nature's bounty. Pecans and pumpkins are some of my favorites that are plentiful this time of year. For example, my parents and I were walking near our house the other day and saw lots of pecans that had fallen from the trees and were just ready to be gathered. As I cracked some open with my hands, I discovered that it was like dipping my hand into a Halloween candy bag: sometimes pulling out a treat and sometimes a trick. For me, the treat would be a piece of chocolate and the trick- licorice which I do not like. But in this instance the treat was a meaty, delicious pecan and the trick was a dry, crumbly pecan.
*Tip: meaty pecans usually weigh more in the shell than dried ones

Pumpkins are not only for carving but also great in savory and sweet treats. For a simple yummy pumpkin dessert, I swirl spiced pumpkin puree in my No Name Bar batter. What are No Name Bars you might ask? Well they are a mix between a chess square and cheesecake. I call them no name bars because they are too good for words. Ha ha! Clever huh! One of the desserts found in my cookbook- Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm.

Pumpkin No Name Bars

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin puree (can pumpkin can be used)
pinch of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 inch baking dish.
To make crust: Mix the melted butter and sugar together in a medium bowl.  In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.  Stir in the vanilla. Spread the mixture into bottom of the baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes.
To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Stir in the confectioner’s sugar and mix well. Spread the mixture on top of the crust.

For the swirl: Mix pumpkin puree and spices. Spoon two lines lengthwise of the pan, a few inches from each other. Using a knife, swirl the pumpkin into the cream cheese batter.
Bake until set, about 38 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

For more Halloween treats, check out my other blog posts. My Grown-Up S'mores will melt-in-your- mouth and bring you back to your childhood. You will also love my cream cheese pumpkins with cranberry chipotle sauce.

Enjoy! Happy Trick or Treating!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall For Acorn Squash Donuts

Fall For Acorn Squash Donuts

Acorn squash, similar in flavor to pumpkin, is a versatile vegetable which is great in multiple preparations. You might ask, "Why would my mom and I think to use acorn squash in a donut?" Well, we have had donuts on-the-brain. My mom came with me to Missouri last week for Springfield Grocer's Taste of the Ozarks. One night we were craving something sweet and excited to discover a sampler of cinnamon-sugar donuts on the dessert menu at the hotel restaurant.  They were so good that it was hard to only eat one bite.

So what do you do when you are at home and craving a donut? For us, this is when our creative juices start flowing. I had baked a whole acorn squash a couple days ago on a baking sheet with some sweet potatoes. I ended up not using the acorn squash that night so I put it in the refrigerator for another day. Remembering that I had the baked acorn squash in the refrigerator, I pulled it out to add to the donut batter.

My mom whipped up the batter and pulled out our nonstick donut pan which she found at ROSS, one of our favorite stores, a great place to find clothes, shoes, decorating items, kitchen supplies, and much more at a discounted price.

The smell of cinnamon and spice....and everything nice ( ha ha!) captured my senses as the donuts baked in the oven. Once out of the oven, my mom first dipped them in butter and then into a cinnamon-sugar mixture.

This dessert recipe was too good to keep to ourselves so we want to share it with you. It would make a creative and different fall dessert for Thanksgiving. Let the "kids" get creative and roll the donuts in anything from toasted coconut and pecans to dipped in melted Nutella.

Baked Acorn Squash Donuts
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. all spice
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ cup mashed acorn squash
¼ cup low fat milk
¼ cup vanilla yogurt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nonstick donut pan with cooking spray.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in a medium mixing bowl. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, acorn squash, milk, and yogurt until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined.
Using a tablespoon, spoon the batter into each section of the donut pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
While the donuts bake, melt the butter in small bowl.  Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in another bowl. Remove donuts from the oven and cool for a few minutes. Dip each donut in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Serve donuts warm.
Makes 24 donuts

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Warm up with my Grown-Up S'mores

Cold weather isn't something that South Mississippi encounters too often but we are just now getting a taste of it. It doesn't take much for me to start breaking out the hot chocolate and marshmallows to warm up. Check out my homemade hot chocolate and agave marshmallow recipe in my cookbook-Modern Hospitality.

Snap, crackle and pop are the sounds of bon fires on cold fall nights. My family and I love to host bon fires for family and friends. My mom and I scavange in our closets for wire coat hangers to skewer marshmallows. I love sandwiching my toasted marshmallow between chocolate and graham crackers.

To satisfy my s'mores craving, I created a s'more that can be enjoyed both inside and out. This isn't just any kind of s'mores though. Try not to drool as I describe the layers of flavor in my Grown-Up S'more. A warm, chocolatey, gooey, mini molten lava cake sits atop a graham cracker then topped with a torched marshmallow.
To create this masterpiece, I spoon my Molten Lava Cakes for A Crowd (recipe found in my cookbook- Modern Hospitality) batter into a mini muffin pan. Bake for about 3 minutes on 400 degrees. Center of the cakes will be slightly gooey.

Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, using a mini square cookie cutter, cut mini squares into graham crackers.
Run a butter knife around the sides of the cakes. To unmold, place a baking sheet on the top of the muffin tin and flip over. Place a molten lava cake atop a mini graham cracker.
Cut large marshmallows in half. Place a marshmallow half or a mound of mini marshmallows on top of the molten lava cake.

Toast the marshmallow with a torch. *If you don't have a torch, place marshmallow halves on a baking sheet (cut side up). Bake on 450 degrees until lightly golden brown.

If you think this s'more is already over-the-top, wait until you hear what I created for Mississippi's Stennis Space Center's 50th Anniversary Gala. I was asked to create a special dessert for the occasion. When I think of NASA, I think of rockets and fire. I automatically thought of s'mores and fire. I created a Rocket S'more.
Toasted Tang flavored homemade marshmallow atop a molten lava cake and graham cracker crumble.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trick or Treat!

I think my dad enjoyed taking my sisters and I trick or treating just as much as we enjoyed going. We would sit in the back of his "little brown truck" as we liked to call it and go through the neighborhoods around our small town knocking on each door. Our Halloween costumes were chosen from a tub full of assorted costumes. We would pick an outfit and add our own special touches to complete the finished look. My older sister dressed like Pippy Longstocking one year and I remember her long pig tails and carefully placed freckles on her face.
My favorite costume was when I dressed up like Pocahontas. I was the cutest little thing or at least that is what my mom told me. Ha ha!
So back to the trick or treating! When it comes to candy I was the kid that looked for the good stuff and I haven't changed. I am in love with the all natural candy Hammond's candies home makes.
I have hand selected several of their candies to offer you at a special price. Click on the link

Pumpkin Lollipop made with all natural pumpkin flavors.

Piggy Back filled with nuts and caramel and Mitchell's marshmallow covered caramel

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Treats

What I love about this season is the colors of fall... the ambers, browns, and burnt orange. From decorating to preparing fall themed foods, I enjoy it all. My mom and I make a good team when it comes to entertaining. She loves to decorate and I prepare the food.
This past Sunday I had a cookbook signing at the B.I.O Bridal Expo in Hattiesburg, MS.

I wanted to share with the soon-to-be brides some easy entertaining tips. I prepared a couple samples from my cookbook. In the theme of weddings, I displayed my Cream Cheese Ring into a wedding cake.
This was so easy to prepare! Just like instructed in my cookbook, press softened cream cheese into a plastic wrap lined spring form pan. With the back of a spoon, smooth the cream cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and let set up in the refrigerator. After a couple of hours, unmold the cream cheese and remove the plastic wrap. Place the cream cheese cake onto a serving plate. For the decoration, I whipped softened cream cheese and placed it into a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe cream cheese stars onto the top of the cake. Then press toasted pecan or walnut pieces into the side. *Tip: use pistachios for Christmas.
Served in mason jars is the cranberry chipotle sauce.
For the table decoration, my mom took large and small glass square boxes and filled them with stick bundles. She covered the table with burlap squares and caramel colored tulle fabric.

A fun way to present this recipe is to smooth softened cream cheese into a pumpkin silicon mold. Allow your kids/grandkids to help you in the kitchen by doing this. To easily unmold the cream cheese, *Tip: Freeze the cream cheese in the mold for a couple hours. I learned this from experience. The cream cheese will stick to the mold if you just refrigerate it.

Place them on a baking sheet and store in the refrigerator. Make these pumpkin cream cheeses ahead of time. To serve, place pumpkins on a serving platter or individual plates. Serve with cranberry chipotle sauce. (Recipe can be found in my cookbook- Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm)

Have fun entertaining this fall and stay tuned for more great simple and fun recipes/ideas!