Happy New Year!

Say goodbye to the old and in with the old…tradition, that is.

Among the many traditions of the holiday season, one beverage was king to ring in the New Year in our household.  It still is.

Patio Punch.

Mom, or one of my siblings, would make this fruity concoction on New Year’s Eve and serve it up from our crystal punch bowl.

We spent the whole evening playing board games and card games with a glass of this deliciousness in hand. You know the glass I’m talking about.  The little punch bowl glasses that hold about 3 ounces of liquid…yeah, those.

The punch would last all night…well almost.

We’d count down the last seconds of the current year and clink our punch glasses together in celebration of the New Year.

Then, the very next night, we’d repeat the whole evening all over again…punch, board games, card games and all.

Mom and Dad were good sports to spend New Year’s Eve with us kids.

Our oldest BSF learned of Patio Punch before she was 2 years old.  It was one of the first recipes she helped me prepare.  And it left an impression.  She hadn’t even really had much juice as a beverage before Patio Punch, so after that first sip, she was hooked.

Because we had used 7-UP as our fizzy ingredient that day, and my 1 year old was just beginning to really talk at that time, Patio Punch became known as “UP” instead of Patio Punch.

To this day, the kids call Patio Punch by its new name…”UP”.

So, this year, as we ring in 2013, we will break out the “UP”, or Patio Punch, as it is known throughout my family.  It is tradition.

And I’m all about keeping the traditions alive…if you hadn’t noticed.

Oh, by the way, for the adults, a fizzy substitution of champagne or a little splash of vodka goes very nicely with a glassful of this punch.

Patio Punch

Ingredients
1 envelope Cherry-Flavored Kool-Aid
1 envelope Strawberry-Flavored Kool-Aid
2 cups sugar
2 quarts cold water
6-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
6-oz can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 quart ice cubes
28-ounces ginger ale
OR
for an adult beverage, use a combination of ginger ale and champagne
or a combination of ginger ale and vodka

Combine Kool-Aid and sugar. Add water and stir to dissolve. Add frozen concentrates. Chill until serving time. Pour over ice cubes. Pour ginger ale slowly down the side of bowl.

A little side note…

We don’t own a punch bowl.  Never have and not sure I have room for one anytime soon. Therefore, we make our glasses of Patio Punch on demand.  I mix the Kool-Aid, sugar, water and frozen concentrates in a pitcher and keep it in the refrigerator to chill.  When someone wants some Patio Punch, I add ice to a glass and fill it up a little less than halfway with the Kool-Aid mixture.  Then, I add about the same amount of Ginger Ale or 7-UP to the glass and stir.  This way, we can have fizzy punch whenever we like.

Whooped Cream

I’m pretty sure my mother did the same thing I do.  With six children, you can’t please every palate, every time.  So, in order to keep everyone happy, my mom didn’t make spicy foods often.  As I grew up and experienced foods outside our home, I learned that I loved spicy foods.

So, when I made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving Day today, I debated in my head about which spices to add to the pumpkin puree mixture.  As I made the pie, the BSFs were standing next to me on their Learning Tower (a fancy answer to dragging a chair over to the counter), and I decided to go the safe route.  I added the exact amount of pumpkie pie spice recommended by Libby’s on the can.

I knew that I might disappoint one adult or another with that choice, but the BSFs would likely prefer a mild flavored pumpkin pie.  After pouring my first pumpkin pie mixture into an empty pie shell, I found that I happened to have some left-over pumpkin pie mixture, so I added it to another empty pie shell and made a mini-pie of sorts.

This was my opportunity to introduce pumpkin pie to the BSFs for the first time this year before Thanksgiving Day itself.  Everyone in the family had a little piece of pie this afternoon.  It was a big hit with the BSFs.  I enjoyed it.  My husband did, too, but he felt it was missing something in the spice department.

I explained what I had decided to do with the spices…that I opted to use pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices of cloves, cinnamon and ginger.

And, that is when I realized what I should do.  I needed to whoop things up a bit.

The next item on my Thanksgiving to-do list was making fresh whipped cream.  So, I decided to add the spices to the cream to make up for the spice discrepancy in the pie.

My husband mentioned that a little spice, like cayenne, might be nice.

So, here is what I made.  And, YUM!

 It made the pumpkin pie.

These are the ingredients I used, but you can experiment and include what you love the most.

Spicy Cayenne Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Ingredients
1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream
1 to 2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer your whipped cream)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Cloves (depending on how spicy you want it)
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ginger
1/8 tsp Cayenne (more or less depending on how spicy you want it)

Use an electric mixer for this job. For best results, chill your mixer bowl and whisk in the freezer prior to mixing the whipped cream.

When the bowl and whisk are sufficiently chilled, whisk the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in the mixing bowl on the medium-highest setting.

Beat the mixture until just before it begins to form peaks. It may look a bit frothy.
Add the remaining ingredients of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cayenne. Continue to whisk until peaks are firm, as you see here.

Take care not to over-whisk the mixture, as the whipped cream will take on the stiffer texture of butter. It will still taste wonderfully good, but the whipped cream will resemble whipped butter instead.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

This is my favorite time of year.

With Thanksgiving Day fast approaching, I know our Fall days are numbered.

We took advantage of this lovely afternoon to explore the inside of a pumpkin.

Granted, in October, we carved a pumpkin for Halloween, but today’s purpose was to really look inside the pumpkin and explore its offerings.

First, we cut the pumpkin open and scooped out the pulp.

The seeds were gathered, the pumpkin cut into pieces and the flesh scraped clean.

We rinsed the seeds in cool water until all the pulp was washed away…

and, then, we set the seeds out to dry in the sun.  They looked so perfect and pretty.

Then, we baked all of the pumpkin pieces that could fit inside my largest baking dish.

Once the perfect, pretty seeds were dried, we cooked up a sweet pumpkin seed snack.

These were perfect, pretty and sweet.

Since we had some left over pieces of pumpkin, and some extra pumpkins that were picked over by the birds, we shared our bounty with the horses.

Now, we must decide what to make with all this cooked pumpkin.  I see some muffins and pie in our future.

Spirited Pancakes

Halloween is around the corner and my older, “boo-tiful” BSF keeps asking for pancakes….

for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We’ve had pancakes three times this week already.

So, while putting together a batch of pancake batter, I got a little creative with my spoon.

We’ve been practicing the alphabet letters daily and the spelling of the word “B-O-O” all month long, so it seemed natural to spell the word out with pancake batter.

I added a ghost to the mix, too, just for good measure.

With the remaining batter, I made a regular, round pancake and topped it with orange & black sprinkles.  Upon contact with the griddle, the sprinkles melted into the pancake to create a light sugar-coated crust.

When pancakes were requested yet again this week, I added some orange soft gel paste to the batter and spooned pumpkins onto the hot griddle. The results were an orange-hued pancake on the inside and a giddy and pleased kiddo at the kitchen table.

These pancakes were a hit with the whole household.

I used to make pancakes with a box mix, just to save time, but a couple of years ago, I began searching for a recipe that was more flavorful than a box mix, and that cooked up fluffy, delicious pancakes every time. I found it.

As well, I bought myself a modest non-stick griddle. Now, making pancakes is a happy affair. I don’t burn them…every…single…time…like I did when I made pancakes in a skillet on the stove.

Ah, the simple joys of life.

Happy Halloween…and Happy Pancakes to you!

Fluffy Pancakes

Ingredients

3/4 cup milk
2 T white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 T white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 T butter, melted
cooking spray, if needed

Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Alternately, heat a non-stick griddle to 350F degrees. Pour 1/4 cups full of batter onto the heated skillet or griddle, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

*You can create your own free-form designs using a spoonful of batter and your imagination.

My Source:  www.allrecipes.com

Butterscotch, Pumpkin and Spice

As soon as I can sense the first long shadow of the Fall season, I break out in a happy dance.

Then, immediately afterward, I start to dream of ways to make the house smell delicious…to smell like Fall.

So, when we got together with family this week for a play date, I was so excited that I had special reason to bake.

Of course, I can bake anytime, but I enjoy sharing the baked goodness more.

I opened my pantry and started thinking of winning combinations that would also say, “Hey, Autumn.  Welcome to my mouth.”  It may disturb you to know that these words actually went through my head.

Well, I began to pull out items that I thought may go together.  In hand were a box of white cake mix, a box of butterscotch pudding, and a can of pumpkin.  And, as I often do, I searched the internet for a recipe that incorporated those items into a baked good.

Thank goodness for Google!

And, here is what I found and made.  Let me tell you, it is divine.  It speaks to me.

This recipe whips up a baked good of cake consistency, but, for all intents and purposes, I consider it a baked bread or muffin.  I know.  I know.  It is a cake.   Because I prefer to eat it for breakfast, I am going to just pretend that it is a breakfast bread.   Oh, and some cinnamon buttercream icing really compliments the Fall flavors of this “breakfast bread.”

Yeah, that just happened.

Come on.  Who eats cake for breakfast?  Ok. Don’t answer that.  I give you permission to call this a breakfast bread or brunch muffin or mid-day snack or birthday cake or whatever.  Just bake it in whatever pan you prefer and call it what you like.  It is just plain delicious.

Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding Cake

Ingredients

cooking spray
1 package white cake mix
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 package (3.4 ounce) instant butterscotch pudding pouch
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (this temperature is not a typo). Spray your bread pans with cooking spray or place paper muffin cups into muffin pans or do a combination of one bread pan and one dozen regular sized muffins.

Mix all of the ingredients – the cake mix, pumpkin, pudding pouch contents, eggs, water, oil and pumpkin pie spice – together in a bowl or mixer until all ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into your prepared pans. If filling muffin cups, fill each cup 2/3 full.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake…uhem, bread…comes out clean or with moist crumbs.  Let it cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans.

Frost with prepared cinnamon buttercream frosting.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

2 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp milk

Mix the melted butter, vanilla, powdered sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Add the milk, one Tbsp at a time until you reach the consistency desired. Mix by hand or by mixer until incorporated and smooth.

My Source:  www.allrecipes.com

Peppermint Patties

Every blue moon, or so, especially when it is a warm night, I get a cool mint craving.  It sneaks up on me.  I don’t expect it, and then BOOM.  My mouth starts watering and I can almost feel a coolness when I breathe in and out.

My mother had a few favorite indulgences.  She didn’t indulge in them often, but when she did, she seemed to savor them and make them last a very long time.  She had will-power that I could not exhibit as a child.  She might purchase a special treat one day and wait a day or two before she even opened the package.  It was pain-staking for me.

In a household of eight, you had to fend for yourself when it came to treats.  If you had something special, you literally had to hide it in a very subtly secret place in the pantry or eat it before someone else did.  If there were one or two of something left, however, you knew better than to eat it.  The last of anything tasty was Dad’s…unless it was Mom’s.

When it came to Mom’s treats, no one thought about touching them.

Mom was saintly and to steal from a saint is just plain sinful.

Every once in a while, mom would get herself a peppermint pattie from the grocery store. When we’d get home from grocery shopping, she’d unload the groceries, and that peppermint pattie went straight to the ice box.  By the time all the groceries were put away, her candy was hidden behind some box or under some bag of frozen food, but somehow, that silvery, shimmery packaging would peek out and catch your eye when you opened the freezer door.  My mom would pull her candy out from the ice box and take one little bite, only to put it right back in the freezer for later.  It was torture to open the freezer at any given time and see that open peppermint pattie staring you in the eye.  Torture.

Nowadays, I try to keep candy like this out of the house.  I have my vices, but I generally only entertain the peppermint pattie when I’ve had one of those summer night cravings.

Which leads me to now.  Earlier this week, when I sat down at the very end of a long, hot day, BOOM.  I felt that cool air sensation in my mouth.  I’d like to think it was Mom, saying, “Hi.”

Well, it made me wonder if I could make homemade peppermint patties that might rival the ones in the foil package.  So, I decided to learn how to make these little morsels myself.

They are so simple to create and really delicious.

I enlisted the help of my oldest BSF.  She has played with play dough, but this was a new substance to roll into balls.  Because the mint mixture melts easily, she had a hard time finding the right amount of pressure to employ without having a melty mess.  Much to her chagrin, she enjoyed licking off the mess, washing her hands and doing it all over again.

We rolled the mint mixture into little balls, about 1 inch in diameter.

After making little round perfections of minty-goodness, we pressed down firmly with the palm of our hands and flattened those babies out.

Once they were chilled for an hour (or more), they were ready to be dipped in the chocolate mixture.

Here is our end product.  The peppermint patties turned out petite and adorable.

This recipe takes about three-four hours from start to finish, if you do it all at once.  I like to take my time.  I started the night before and finished them up the next day.

Peppermint Patties

Ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp peppermint oil (labeled for internal use) (do not use peppermint extract)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp evaporated milk

Chocolate Coating

8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chips or chopped
1 Tbsp shortening

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Lightly dust the foil with powdered sugar.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar, butter, peppermint oil, vanilla extract and evaporated milk on low until combined.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until very creamy (about 2-3 minutes).

Cover the bowl of peppermint mixture with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill until firm enough to roll into balls (about an hour).

Roll the batter into 1 inch balls and place on the foil-lined pan.  Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until the patties are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick.  Cover and place in the refrigerator until the patties are firm (at least one hour or even overnight).

For the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.  Remove the patties from the refrigerator and dip, one patty at a time, into the melted chocolate, making sure both sides of each patty are completely coated with chocolate.  You can use two forks to help you dip each patty in the chocolate.  Let any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl and then place the patties back on the foil.  Once all the patties have been dipped in the chocolate, return them to the refrigerator to chill until firm (30-60 minutes).

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container (separate layers with parchment paper or wax paper) for up to one month.

Makes 15-20 patties.

My Source:  www.joyofbaking.com

Chewy, Gooey, Chocolatey, Peanut Buttery, Butterscotchy Cookies

I’ve been craving some very specific flavors this week…something chewy and chocolatey with the essences of peanut butter and butterscotch.  I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to make, but whatever it was, it needed those flavors and texture.  The ideas of what to create continued to swirl in my mind until I realized that it was a cookie I craved. So, I searched for recipes until I found something close.

Since my BSFs don’t particularly like cookies…how that happened, I do not understand… I thought I would make exactly what I wanted instead of compromising and making something “safe”.

Here is what I concocted.

I know the name I gave it is a bit long and overly descriptive, but really, that is just for me.
If I leave any of those words out, I might forget how scrumptious and flavorful these morsels are.

With most cookies, I like to make hot, fresh batches every time, so I only make a few (or half a dozen) cookies at a time and keep the rest of the cookie dough in the refrigerator until I’m ready to bake another batch.  I try to use up the cookie dough within 2-3 days.

Chewy, Gooey, Chocolatey, Peanut Buttery, Butterscotchy Cookies

Ingredients

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 stick + 2 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/3 cup smooth (or crunchy, if you prefer) peanut butter (I used Jif)
    • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs and vanilla, mix well.
  4. Beat in 1/2 cup of the flour mixture.Add the peanut butter.  Mix until incorporated.  Add remaining flour mixture slowly until fully incorporated.Then add the semi-sweet and butterscotch chips.
  5. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets (I used parchment paper but I don’t think it is necessary).
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes; let cookies rest on baking sheets for 2 minutes before removing with a spatula to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield:  approx. 2 dozen

My inspiration:  www.food.com

Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

At this time of the year, I often reminisce about the major family vacations of my childhood. Growing up, we spent the two weeks surrounding the 4th of July holiday with my grandparents and our huge family in a small, rural town in the middle of America.  Our summer vacation with the grandparents was always filled with exciting adventures, loads of fireworks, seemingly endless fields of corn, herds of cows, fireflies, long lines for the bathroom, swimming, plenty of food and lots of family.

Our 4th of July was as American as apple pie.  Which made me think about the pie that my grandma traditionally made each year.

The pie was not apple, which would have made me most happy, but rhubarb pie, which made my dad most jubilant.  One of my dad’s favorite things in this world is rhubarb pie.

My grandma was a wonderful cook and baker.  She knew how to make a lot with very little.  Although I wasn’t savvy enough to know it as a child, that pie, made by grandma with fresh rhubarb from her garden, was delicious and made with a lot of love.

Despite the fact that rhubarb wouldn’t grow fresh in our part of the world, my mother used to make it for my father.  It was always such a big deal when my mom found frozen rhubarb at the market.  That meant that my dad was going to have a little slice of home, away from home.

I have never made my grandma’s rhubarb pie.  Well, that is, until today.  This is a first for me. Granted, my grandma made everything from scratch.  Maybe that is why I have put it off all these years. Or maybe it is because very few people in my life talk about and pine for rhubarb pie, me included.

Well, I decided that today was the day I would make my first rhubarb pie.  Instead of making my own crusts, which surely would’ve stopped me in my tracks, I got a little help from the refrigerated section of my local grocery store with pre-made pie crusts.

The rhubarb was so red and pretty that I had to include a picture of it, as well as the rest of the ingredients that I gathered to make this pie.

Since my grandma didn’t really bake with a recipe – it was all in her memory banks – I made sure to fill in the recipe’s missing gaps, for people like me who need a little more detailed recipe.

For example…

I forgot to add the milk to my picture above because it wasn’t in grandma’s ingredient list. I’ve added it to the recipe below.

Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

2 cups fresh, cut up rhubarb (1/2 inch cubes)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
2 crusts pie pastry
A spot of milk, sugar and cinnamon for sweetening the top crust

Fit one unbaked pie shell into a pie plate.  Trim off the excess pie crust around the edges of the pie plate.  Then, place the cut up rhubarb into the unbaked pie shell.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs well; add sugar and nutmeg to the beaten eggs; mix well. Pour egg mixture on top of rhubarb. Adjust top crust to fit over the pie filling, tucking the top edges over and on the outside of the bottom crust edges.  Using your fingers, flute the edges of the pie crusts to seal.  Using a knife, make a few 1/2 inch slits into the top crust for venting during baking.

Brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, to taste.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 60 minutes or until golden brown.

The pie smelled delicious while baking in the oven.  The kids couldn’t wait for it to cool before begging for a taste.  I’m so excited they enjoyed the pie as much as I had hoped.

I really wish that I had been a little more willing to try grandma’s rhubarb pie as a child. Boy, did I miss out!

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Today, we met up with friends for an enchilada birthday luncheon.  The guest of honor has a thing for chicken enchiladas.  Me, too.  She likes to try new enchiladas recipes and make up her own.  Me, too. Although I am branching out and experimenting a lot more as a cook, generally, I stick to a written recipe that I know is tried and true.

Enchiladas are a different story.  There are so many ways to make enchiladas. And, I like just about all of the enchiladas I’ve ever tried. Ever.

I do have a couple of favorite enchilada standbys. However, for this luncheon, I decided to experiment, and I think this is my new favorite.  I set aside some of the enchiladas to serve for dinner at home, and my husband ate them all up.  He has declared these his new favorites, too.  Even the kids ate them.  It doesn’t get better than that.  I decided I better write this recipe down so I don’t forget how to make them again.

This recipe makes 16 enchiladas, more or less.  If you want to eat some now, and save some for later, they do freeze well.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas
Ingredients

1/4 cup sour cream
1  tablespoon mayonnaise
1  tablespoon milk
1/4  teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or taco seasoning
Juice of one lime wedge
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips for even cooking
3/4 cup of oil, vegetable or canola
1/2 – 1 cup canned refried black beans, depending on taste
1 cup shredded cheddar and monterey jack
16 six-inch white corn tortillas
1 14 oz. can Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (I prefer Hatch brand.)

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, milk, cumin, chili powder and lime juice. Set aside.

Cook the chicken breasts with a 1/4 cup of water in a covered skillet. When cooked through, drain and shred the chicken meat. Add the shredded chicken to the sour cream mixture and stir until chicken is coated.

Prepare your assembly line of ingredients. Pour your enchilada sauce into a flat bottomed dish. Set out the sour cream chicken mixture, refried black beans and shredded cheese. Have a baking dish or two ready to receive the enchiladas.

In a frying pan, warm the oil over medium-low heat. The oil should not be too hot. Slip a tortilla into the warm oil for 8-10 seconds. I like to use tongs for this part.  The tortilla may puff up a little.  That’s ok.  It will deflate when you remove it.  Immediately dip and coat the tortilla in enchilada sauce. Remove the tortilla from the enchilada sauce and place atop a clean workspace, such as a cutting board.

Begin filling the tortilla, right down the middle, with a teaspoon of refried beans, a tablespoon or two of sour cream chicken mixture and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Fold over one side of the tortilla and then fold over the other side. Place the enchilada, seam side down, into the baking dish.

Now, repeat the process with the rest of your tortillas.

If you prefer spicier enchiladas, pour the rest of the green chile enchilada sauce over the enchiladas.

Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas.

Place the baking dish into the 350° oven, and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

If you want to prepare them now and serve them later, just cover the dish and place in the refrigerator. For best results, remove from refrigerator 15-20 minutes prior to heating. Bake in 350° oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until heated through.