Pumpkin Dots

[donotprint]Here’s my tribute to Jim’s Pancakes, a blog authored by a dad who is insanely creative when it comes to pancakes. My kids loved these little pancakes and gobbled them up drizzled with pure maple syrup.

Pumpkin dots aren’t much more trouble to make than regular pancakes if you have a squeeze bottle. They cook very quickly.

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Pumpkin Dots Recipe

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus extra for cooking)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, stir together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg, butter, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined. A few stray clumps are fine.

Transfer the batter to a squeeze bottle by pouring it in slowly or using a wide-mouthed funnel.

Warm up a non-stick skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Place a teaspoon or two of butter in the skillet. When the butter is melted and starts to sizzle, squeeze 1/2-inch wide dots into the skillet at least 1/2-inch apart. Cover and cook for one minute. The top of the dots should be set with the occasional hole formed by a bubble. Check the bottom side of one of the dots to make sure they are golden brown. The dots do not need to be flipped. Serve warm with syrup or cold with milk. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Yield: 6 cups of dots
Prep-time: 10 minutes
Cook-time: 30 minutes

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Caramel Corn

[donotprint]You’re looking at my family’s recipe for caramel corn nirvana. It disappears all too quickly when snack time rolls around. I made a few test recipes with honey and/or peanut butter. I tried to come up with a “healthy” version. Really I did. But once you’ve tasted caramel corn perfection, it’s hard to compromise much more than this.

I did manage to health it up a bit by decreasing the sugar and butter and replacing the corn syrup that most recipes call for. But even so, it’s still full of refined sugars and fat, just a little less than most. If you love caramel corn like I do, it’s worth it!

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Caramel Corn Recipe

 

Do not allow children to do much more than observe from a distance as the caramel coating gets extremely hot. Also, try to remove any unpopped kernels from the mix. Eating them is jarring when they are coated with baked-on caramel.

This recipe calls for a candy thermometer for making the caramel mixture. One that can be mounted on the side of the saucepan with a clip is easiest and safest. The mixture doesn’t cover as much of the bottom of the thermometer as it should. But it does rise a bit once it boils and manages to get a decent reading.

1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1/2 cup shelled lightly salted peanuts (optional)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup OR Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pop the popcorn via your preferred method.

Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with spray oil. Pour in popped popcorn and peanuts, if desired. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and the syrup and bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan. Bring the mixture to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This should only take a few minutes with the mixture at a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. It will foam a bit.

Pour the hot caramel mixture over the popcorn and peanuts. Stir gently but vigorously with a rubber spatula until the popcorn is evenly coated. Spread the caramel corn evenly onto a parchment-lined jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with raised sides). Take a couple minutes to spot and remove any unpopped kernels.

Bake for 50 minutes, stirring once halfway through. The caramel will darken as it bakes. Allow the popcorn to cool for a couple minutes on the jelly roll pan. Once it is cool enough to touch, separate the pieces with your fingertips a few times. Once it is completely cool, the pieces should no longer be sticky. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: 8 cups (a little more with peanuts)
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Bake-time: 50 minutes

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Apple Sage Quesadilla

I’m feeling oh-so back-to-basics with this little bundle of dried sage hanging by my kitchen window. For a recent lunch, I used some of it in a quesadilla with apples and cheese. It was delightful.

2 8-inch flour tortillas
1 1/2 – 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 small apple, peeled and coarsely grated
7 – 10 dried sage leaves, crumbled into bits

Place one tortilla in a skillet over medium heat and cover evenly with cheeses, apple, and sage. Top with second tortilla and cook until the bottom tortilla is golden brown and cheese is starting to melt (around 5 minutes). Flip the quesadilla with a stiff spatula and cook for a few more minutes or until the tortilla is golden brown. Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board and allow to cool for a couple minutes. Cut into 8 wedges with a large knife and serve.

Yield: 8 wedges
Prep-time: 5 minutes
Cook-time: 8 minutes

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Apples Apples Everywhere

Here in Connecticut, Fall has arrived. Families are going to the orchard and joyfully picking apples. It’s all good family fun, until you get home and realize you actually have to eat them all.

The good news is that, most of the time, freshly picked apples will keep for weeks. Keep them in a cool, dark and somewhat ventilated place and they may last even longer. But even so, the apple supply can be a tad overwhelming.

Here are a few suggestions (gleaned from previous posts and from other food bloggers) for making apples easy to eat and exciting even when you’re near the bottom of the giant pick-your-own bag:

Sliced apples with honey
Sliced apples with carmel sauce or delce de leche
Sliced apples with cheddar cheese
Apple Flying Saucers
Sliced apples with Mud Dip
Sliced apples served alongside Honey-Roasted Pecans
Applesauce
 or Halloween Mush
Warm Apples Over Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
Microwaved Apples
Fried Apple Rings
Apple Crisp Cookies
Grilled Sausage and Apple Kebabs

Please share your favorite way to use up lots of apples in the Comments. Thanks!

DIY Sunflower Seeds

Blah blah blah…we were strolling through the farmer’s market like our usual wannabe locavore selves and there it was – a big ol’ sunflower head. The person I gave $2.00 to told me to soak the seeds overnight in salty water and roast them.

I completely thought I was going to get stuck with the job of removing the seeds, but my kids went nuts and removed almost all of them themselves. Those little fingers do come in handy.

Once they were all removed we soaked them overnight in a couple cups of water with around 2 tablespoons of dissolved salt.

Then I roasted them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes until they started to brown just a bit.

The resulting seeds are a bit tough to crack. I find it easiest to rest the base of a shell on one of my lower molars and gently press down on the tip with an upper molar. It is a bit of a pain. But the perfectly salty little seed is worth the trouble. My 6 year-old loves these. I have to break them open for the younger one. 

The yield was about 1 1/2 cups. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Blackberry Applesauce

My oldest headed off into the second grade today. I’m stuck at home with her younger sister and a boat load of fresh produce. Today for afternoon snack we used up the remainder of the blackberries and apples. But we’ll probably go and pick more soon. I’ve got a major addiction to pick-your-own this year.

My preschooler really enjoyed this snack saying things like “This is the best snack ever!!!” and “What did you put in this mama?!” She said these things very loudly as preschoolers are apt to do.

4 medium apples, washed and peeled
1 cup fresh blackberries, washed and picked over
3 tablespoons water or apple juice/cider
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Roughly chop the apples and discard the cores. Place the apples, blackberries and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the apples and blackberries to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for ten minutes or until the apples easily turn to mush when squished with a fork.

Allow the cooked applesauce to cool slightly. Transfer to a strainer placed over a medium mixing bowl. Press the applesauce through the strainer with a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon. Keep pressing the applesauce through until not much more than the blackberry seeds remain. Serve or store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Yield: approximately 2 cups
Prep-time: 15 minutes

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Date Butter

Date butter is not something a lot of folks have probably made before. Turns out that it is super easy and has a surprisingly pleasant taste. It’s plenty sweet, but much more mellow than white sugar because there’s still so much of the date left in there. I assume that means a lot of the dates’ nutritional goodness has stuck around as well, which is a bonus.

You will need:

6 ounces pitted dried dates (about 15-16 medium dates)
2/3 cup boiling water

Place the dates in a small saucepan. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and allow to sit for one hour.

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After an hour, they look about the same. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for 5 – 7 minutes or until it starts to turn to mush.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool. Put mixture through a strainer placed over a bowl using the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to push it through.

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Discard the dry bits that will not pass through the strainer. Store the date butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I think this date butter would work wonderfully in place of the apple butter in my granola bars. I’ve also enjoyed some Almond and Date Butter Sandwiches as of late.

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Yield: 3/4 cup
Active prep-time: 10 minutes
Inactive prep-time: 1 hour

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Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

These moist, sweet, and satisfying muffins take my whole family to our happy place. They are great stand-ins for cookies; in some ways they’re even more enjoyable!

This recipe was inspired by one from Nook & Pantry – a very yummy looking blog.

For the muffins:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup finely shredded carrot
1/4 cup raisins, chopped

For the filling:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl, make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and oil. Stir in the flour mixture until combined. Then add the carrot and raisins. Stir to incorporate.

 Spoon the muffin batter into a well-greased mini muffin pan, filling each cup only half way. Then place one teaspoon of the filling in each cup. Cover the filling with the remaining muffin batter.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the largest muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5-10 minutes before gently moving them to a cooling rack. Serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours or freeze in an airtight container in a single layer.

Yield: 24 mini muffins
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 13 minutes

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Sweet Potato Quesadilla

Sweet Potato Quesadilla Recipe

For directions on how to cook a sweet potato in the microwave, see my recipe for Halloween Mush.

1/3 cup cooked sweet potato, no skin
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup grated monterey jack cheese, packed
2 8-inch flour tortillas
1/4 cup cranberry sauce (optional)

In a small bowl, mash and mix the potato and applesauce together with a fork. Spread mixture evenly on one of the tortillas. Sprinkle cheese over potato mixture. Top with the second tortilla.

Cook in a saute pan over medium heat for a few minutes on each side or until the underside begins to brown. Remove from pan and slice into 8 triangles. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Serve with cranberry sauce as a dip (if desired).

Yield: 8 triangles
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

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