Thursday, October 30, 2014

No Brainer Halloween

I meant to do a pre-Halloween post full of fun crafts and recipes.  I just didn't get around to it.  I also dropped the ball on my usual Halloween tradition of making sweets and cards and mailing them to friends and family.  We had company, then we were out of town, and then I was busy...I did carve out some time to make cards.

There were scary vampire owls.

Dancing skeletons.

Specimen jars.

But in the end, they didn't come together to my satisfaction.  I put them aside and pulled out my trusty Halloween binder...

...and decided to make witch fingers, among other things, for the gift boxes.  You know, sugar cookie dough, shaped like fingers, with slivered almond fingernails.

Here are mine, pre-baking.

My first two batches spread.  Each cookie was about 3" thick.  I realized that I wouldn't have time to bake a replacement batch, so I just threw in the towel for Halloween this year.  So, friends and family, I will make it up to you at Thanksgiving!  Gobble gobble!

Todd needed some scary treats for his office party, though, so I tried another batch a few days later.  Instead of using sugar cookie dough, I used shortbread, which spreads less.  I still got *some* spreading, but I'm moderately pleased with how they turned out.

I decided to make brain cupcakes, too.  These are so easy to make, and I think they have a lot of impact.  Just use your favorite cupcake and vanilla buttercream recipe.

Pipe on a swirl...

Flatten/spread it with a spatula.

Pipe a thin line down the middle, and then two layers of squiggles. 

Then do the other side.

Voila!  You can make them really creepy by spooning a little cherry pie filling into the center of the batter.  

A quick, easy, tasty, and disgusting Halloween treat?  Kind of a no-brainer!  ;) 

Happy Halloween! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Whole Kit(ten) and Caboodle of Fall

It's going to be 82 degrees today.  This makes me rather cranky, because in my mind, late October should mean cozy fires, flannel sheets, hot cocoa, and sweaters.  Well, I'm keeping the faith, because the forecast for Saturday shows a high of 59 and a low of 33!  So I'm going to enjoy this warmer weather while I can.

At least the garden is responding to our increasingly colder nights.  We're ju-u-u-ust starting our flower blooming season.  Our gardenia bushes are blooming again. 

Our camellias...not the big, droopy, peony-like ones, but the smaller, delicate ones...are blooming, too.

Hostas are shooting up flower stalks.

Our front japonica bushes are just starting to unfurl the round orbs that will eventually turn into big black berries.

And oh, the fall leaves!  I love living in the woods!

To borrow a phrase from Karen Carpenter:  "[They've] only just begu-u-u-u-u-un..."

The berries are all turning...

And the turkeys are back!

Our town just had their annual hot air balloon festival, too.  It's small, but we love watching the colorful patterns drifting over us.

The cats are loving the prolonged warm weather, too.  Whether hanging out on the back deck...

...chillaxing in the warmth of the sun room...

...or generally making themselves comfortable wherever...

...they know how to enjoy life!

I hope you have time to slow down a little this week, too.  Enjoy the extended fall!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Takes the {Cookie} Cake

Todd and I drove to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina this weekend to visit family and enjoy a little hiking.  In South Carolina the leaves are just beginning to turn, but that transformation is well underway just a bit north.

We hiked on beautiful paths...

...and through lovely valleys in the shadow of the mountains.

We saw lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls.

Huge trees - virgin hardwoods!

Smaller ones, too.

We enjoyed the sights...

...while staying clear of some less-than-friendly locals!

Todd's dog Borga came with us.  She can be a real pain to take on trips, because she's high-strung to the extreme.  She always cries en route to our destinations and then once there, too,  if kept in the crate.  However, she usually calms down after a nice walk, and she always like to pose in our pictures.

We had clear days and beautiful nights. 

It was a great trip!

We've been really, really busy lately, and I've only had time for one Halloween baked item:  a cookie cake baked in a 9" cake pan.  Now, if you grew up in the midwest, or at least in central Indiana, you knew the Original Cookie Co. in the Greenwood Park Mall. The OCC always had these amazing gigantic cookie cakes that I'd salivate over.  I never bought one, but had slices at the occasional birthday party.  With ice cream or without, the giant cookie cake never failed to satisfy.  The center was soft.  The outside edge was crisp.  The frosting was tooth-achingly sweet.  What's not to love?  Learning that I could make my own at home was proof that knowledge in the wrong hands can be very dangerous indeed! 

Not very spooky?  Perhaps you didn't notice the terrifying Halloween funfetti sprinkles I used!

It was so easy to make.  I used this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction, just changing up the sprinkles. 

I piped buttercream frosting around the edge and in the center. 

It was really, really good - soft in the middle, crispy on the outside edge, just like the OCC, but fresher and, dare I say, tastier?  I recently made a batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and learned that they, too, have a giant cookie cake version.  I think I know what my next post-holiday baking project is going to be! 

Have a great week!