October 30, 2014

Spooky chocolate chip spider cookies

Alright, folks! It's almost Halloween and you still have time to make a creepy and fun treat like these chocolate chip cookies infested with chocolate spiders inspired by the idea at Real Simple magazine. My husband and I both worked on painting the chocolate legs on these spiders. Granted, some look more like brown suns, but, hey - they are still cute! As you can see, we got a little carried away and started painting legs on chocolate chips to make it look like the spiders were also emerging from the cookies, not only crawling on top! It was getting late, and we were having fun. 

This idea can be used with any chocolate chip cookie recipe. The below recipe will make about 30 cookies. I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips because they are darker, large, and I like the bittersweet contrast in a sweet cookie. However, you can use a sweeter and/or smaller chocolate ship if you prefer.

 Happy Halloween! 

October 27, 2014

Applesauce oatmeal bread

Apples, apples, apples This time of year I'm always looking for new apple recipes. I recently made and canned some applesauce from the apples we picked and I had some leftover applesauce that didn't fit in a jar. Since we've been eating so many apples, I knew we probably wouldn't want to eat the applesauce right away, so I decided to use it in a quick bread before it went to waste. I loosely based it from a recipe at King Arthur Flour though I modified it quite a bit. 

The applesauce I made this year is so good - no need to add any sugar or other sweeteners. We picked all sorts of heritage apples this year like golden russets, pound sweet, Tollman sweet, snow (sign below), wolf river, and more. The flavors and textures of these heritage apples are so complex and they smell so good. I've been reading a lot about apples including the history and uses of different varieties in this great book lately - Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics, & Little-known Varieties. I had no idea that there are so many varieties of apple and so many flavors! 

But back to the bread - this bread is very moist and fluffy and full of autumn spices. The touch of oatmeal gives it some extra texture and fiber. This recipe will make one 9-inch loaf of quick bread.

October 22, 2014

Green tea jelly

Disclosure: Teavivre provided me with the tea; however, all opinions expressed are my own.

This was my first time canning jelly! I know that seems weird since I can a lot of food each year, but it's true. I was a little nervous about making this jelly because not only did I decide to try making jelly for the first time, but I also wanted to use the homemade green apple pectin recipe from Liana Krissoff's wonderful book Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. I'm loving this book and one of the recipes I wanted to try right away was the tea jelly. Lucky for me, I was recently provided with a sampler of different types of loose leaf green teas from Teavivre, a Chinese tea company. You can see two of the teas in the photo above/below and these are the two that I used to make the jelly. We have also used them to make tea for drinking and have enjoyed all the flavors. I especially love the whole leaf tea because it is so pretty and green. As you all know, I love tea so I was super excited to be able to try these teas and also use them in a fun recipe!

The tea jelly recipe is also from Krissoff's book (slightly modified). The recipe says you can use any tea you like, so I used two different loose leaf green teas. The aroma of the jelly is quite wonderful and the taste is very unique. It would be perfect for a tea party! While it is of course terrific on biscuits, scones, and toast, you can also use this jelly as a glaze for salmon or chicken - mix in some ginger, garlic, and chiles when you spread it on and it would be perfect for a savory dish! 

My batch made eight 4-oz jelly jars. I'll be giving these little jars out for holiday gifts this year.

October 16, 2014

Honey-sesame cashews

I've been wanting to try to re-create the honey-sesame cashews from Trader Joe's for a while now. Have you ever had these? They are roasted nuts covered in a sweet honey glaze with sesame seeds. We just got a Trader Joe's here about a year or so ago. I've only been to it twice, but what I end up buying there is nuts. They are delicious and I always want to go back and get more. I wanted to make the cashews at home for less money and with better ingredients. Mission accomplished! Mine are a little less sweet as I didn't use extra sugar. You could add a bit of granulated white or brown sugar to increase the sweetness if you want. These cashews make a great snack or even an appetizer to an Asian meal. We ate them while playing some card games and enjoyed them a lot. They are addictive though - as I find all glazed nuts to be!

October 13, 2014

Apple ring pancakes

I warned you that apple recipes would be coming since we recently picked a bushel. I canned a few batches of applesauce and we've been eating them with our lunch every day, but it still leaves plenty for cooking with as well. One thing I've been waiting for apple season to make is these apple ring pancakes. I got the idea from my Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook (which I love - there's been a free e-cookbook on Amazon for a while now. I have two different print versions and this one may be different as well). However, this recipe was for deep-fried apple fritter rings and while that sounds delicious, it wasn't quite what I wanted for breakfast. So, I decided to dip them in a spiced pancake batter instead. Served with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, some real maple syrup, and a couple breakfast sausages made these a perfect weekend breakfast. I must say that these three turned out the nicest, that's why they are in the photo. Most of them were a little messier, but they were still delicious! 

October 9, 2014

Sweet potato and chocolate swirl bread

When the colder weather arrives, I tend to bake a lot more frequently. I found a can of sweet potato puree from last year lingering in the back of the cupboard recently and decided that I needed to use it immediately in some baked treat. Does this ever happen to you? You just all of the sudden get an uncontrollable urge to bake something? Maybe it's a food nerd thing... I was also in the mood for something chocolaty, which is how this sweet potato and chocolate swirl bread came to be. I used my chocolate chip pumpkin bread recipe as a starting point for this bread and was not disappointed in the results.

So if you are looking for a fall treat that's a change up from pumpkin and apple, give this sweet potato bread a try (and then go back to making pumpkin and apple things, because they are awesome). This recipe will make one 9-inch loaf of quick bread. 

October 6, 2014

Pumpkin spice snickerdoodles

These cookies were made as a snack for our annual family apple picking outing this past weekend. Every October for a few years now we go apple picking with a bunch of our family members, and I always bring some sort of autumn-themed baked treat. I have been seeing a lot of pumpkin snickerdoodle recipes popping up lately and I knew I wanted to try them out, but I also wanted to incorporate pumpkin pie spices in them instead of mainly cinnamon. Perhaps this makes them not quite a snickerdoodle anymore, but that's okay... I used a couple different recipes as a guide, but mainly this one from Sally's Baking Addiction. I changed up a few things, including the spices for the below recipe which made about 3-1/2 dozen cookies. 

 Golden russet apples - our favorite eating apple since discovering them last autumn at LynOaken Farms.

The cookies ended up being very well-received. My ten year old cousin pocketed a few before our tractor/wagon ride around the orchard. I'm glad that I made them the day before because the flavors were more prominent the next day.  

October 2, 2014

Pan-fried finger dumplings

October is here! This kicks off the start of my favorite two months of the year (October and November) - Halloween, Thanksgiving, apples, pumpkins, winter squash, grapes, cool weather, colored leaves, wedding anniversary - yay! October also means that we have at least one German "Oktoberfest" dinner, including some delicious fall beers. Last fall my husband and I went to a German restaurant for our anniversary dinner and I chose finger dumplings as one of my side dishes. They looked pretty much like what I made here and reminded me of a large Spaetzle. I looked in my German cookbook to see if there was a finger dumpling (or similar) recipe. I didn't find one, so I adapted the Spaetzle recipe. If you have any interest in German cooking, I highly recommend The German Cookbook. It's not fancy, but it's full of traditional German fare and is a great book.

This recipe will make two hearty servings. Serve these finger dumplings with German sausages such as a bratwurst, applesauce, and some German Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage or sauerkraut for a perfect Oktoberfest dinner (don't forget the beer). You may also like these hot and cold versions of German Potato Salad.