Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the time of year with the fall foliage and I love to decorate for Halloween. I also have a ton of fun throwing parties and dressing up. We do a lot of family-oriented things around the holiday as well. We’ll go to pumpkin patches and we’ll all dress up. One year we did a Wizard of Oz theme, which turned out really cute. It’s just a fun time of year for all of us.
Halloween is a pretty big deal in my small town, too. They close off Main Street and have a huge parade in the afternoon, ending it with some trick-or-treating with the participating stores around the Plaza. There are so many cool homemade costumes and you can really see the creativity that goes into them.
This is the first year Matt’s in school for the holiday, so we thought it would be fun to make cupcakes for his class. Today, in between some indoor soccer games (it’s rainy out), Matt and I made these cute owl cupcakes. He’s such a help in the kitchen…when he wants to be…and I also think it’s good to get him involved in cooking and baking. It’s an excellent learning opportunity for both of us…….OK, I won’t deny the fact that I’m trying to shape him into being a good boyfriend or husband for someone. ;o)
These cupcakes are pretty easy to do because it’s just a box mix, canned frosting and some other pre-made ingredients for decoration.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 box of your favorite cake mix (yellow, white, or chocolate)
1 bag of M&Ms
1 package of Oreos
1 can of chocolate frosting
Follow the instructions on the box to make cupcakes. Seems easy enough, right? It’s nice to have a helper in the kitchen. Here’s mine:
While those are baking, have your little helper sort out the M&Ms for the cupcakes. I put out some bowls and had Matt sort out the colors. It just makes it easier when it’s time to assemble them. This is a great learning experience for colors, dexterity, matching and patience. Really, I don’t have any teaching credentials, so teachers, feel free to add any other things kids might learn through doing this task.
The next part is for grown-ups. Taking a sharp knife, split the Oreos in half so that one side has the cream and other other is just the chocolate cookie. You can try to split it without the knife, but sometimes you end up with cream on both sides.
Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost them with the chocolate frosting. Place 2 Oreos side by side in the center of the cupcake just as the picture shows. Put an orange M&M vertically in the cupcake for the beak…again, just like the picture. Place a small amount of frosting on the “M” side of an M&M for the eyes. Position the M&M (frosting side down) on the cream part of the Oreo…big surprise, like the picture shows. Repeat with the same color for the other eye. Next, take your knife and make points at the top of the eyes for the owl’s ears. Voila! You’ve got an owl cupcake. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
I really should’ve started this blog years ago. Here are some of the pictures of other baking projects I’ve done over the years. Hopefully I can find the recipes I used for them and link them to the title.
My take on the classic Hostess cupcake. Waaay better than the store-bought kind.
Chocolate Guinness cupcakes with chocolate ganache and Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting.
Matt’s 2nd Birthday Cake (Kipper the dog)
Red velvet face with chocolate ears. He loved this cake!
Chocolate construction site cake with candy rocks and Oreo dirt.
You’ve gotta love Wikipedia. There’s literally a page for everything you can imagine including this week’s baking project: Snickerdoodles. Wikipedia claims that Snickerdoodles probably originated in Germany and that the name’s a “corruption” of the German word Schneckennudeln, which translates to “snail noodles.” Really? Snail noodles? Honestly, I don’t really see that as a corruption if that’s really the case, but anyway….today I’m working on Pumpkin Snail Noodles Snickerdoodles.
I chose this recipe for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s fall and pumpkin is back in style and most importantly 2) this past week has been particularly hard on my husband. He loves Snickerdoodles and pumpkin, so this one’s for him.
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
Dash of allspice
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy–2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree and blend in until incorporated. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix by hand using a wooden spoon as to not over-mix. Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend. Scoop the dough (about 2½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball. I used a cookie scoop so all the cookies are the same size and it’s easier. Coat the dough ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough to fill the sheets, spacing the dough balls 2-3 inches apart. Using a drinking glass, gently flatten each ball. If you want puffier cookies, don’t flatten as much.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until just set and baked through. Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!
When I was younger, a sure-fire way to ruin brownies was to add walnuts. I really didn’t like them. Lately, I really like them paired with different cheeses and in salads. I guess I’m growing up. Haha.
With autumn in the air, I thought it appropriate to make some spiced walnuts for snacking in an attempt to eat healthier. These ones are lightly sweetened with some autumnal spices.
Cinnamon Spiced Walnuts
2 c. walnut halves
1 egg white, lightly beaten (I used 1/4 c. egg white substitute)
3 T. sugar
3 T. dark brown sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium size bowl, add walnuts and egg white making sure the walnuts are well-coated. Add remaining ingredients, again making sure the walnuts are well-coated. Dump the walnuts and spread them evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Place in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully slide the parchment paper (with the walnuts still on it) onto the counter to cool. [Keeping them on the baking sheet may cause them to burn.] Cool completely and then break them apart. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!
What did the bartender say when oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur, sodium, and phosphorous walked into his bar?
You don’t want your baked goods to fall as flat as that chemistry joke, do you? [OK, I'll admit I laughed and if you're like me, maybe you did, too.] In any case, the chemicals (yes, I said chemicals) in your baked goods need to be fresh in order to get the full benefit out of them. In this instance, we’re talking about some common leavening agents used to make all kinds of goodies: baking soda and baking powder.
I used to just check the expiration date on my baking soda and baking powder, but maybe that’s not all that accurate. So I decided to check out the best ways to test for freshness and came upon some good tips that I wanted to share.
To test baking soda:
Place 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a bowl with 1 tablespoon white vinegar. If it bubbles and fizzes, it’s still fresh.
To test baking powder:
Place 1 tablespoon water in a bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon baking powder. If it bubbles and fizzes, it’s still fresh.
–Testing tips courtesy of Mr. Food