This year was, technically, Cole's first year carving out his own pumpkin. In the past he has had a bit of help in both the design and the carving process. This year, with Mom and Dad standing by, he did it himself- and he did a great job!
I'm not surprised that he chose a Bionicle mask as his subject matter for carving- it's his thing.
He was both grossed out and fascinated by what he found inside the pumpkin.
He was very careful and diligent in his cutting.
Although these pictures don't show all that he did, he actually spent a lot of time cutting the surface of the pumpkin to make some of the shaded parts you see in the mask.
Every year, after cleaning out the pumpkin guts, Daddy heads to the kitchen to make some yummy roasted pumpkin seeds while we tend to the details of our Jack-o-lantern creations. I'm sure many of you share in this same tradition. But, just in case you don't and you'd like to give it a try, I thought I'd share with you his recipe.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Ingredients 1-3 pumpkins worth of seeds, cleaned and dried EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) garlic powder, or granulated garlic onion powder salt Directions After you have cleaned your seeds and dried them thoroughly, drizzle them with EVOO and place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them evenly with salt (as much as you might salt your every-day foods) and a bit more generously with the garlic and onion powder. Place the cookie sheet in an oven pre-heated to 225 degrees F and bake for about 45-60 minutes, taking them from the oven about every 15 minutes to stir them. You want them to be golden and toasty! Let them cool and then start munching! Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.
Aria designed and carved her first pumpkin solo last night! She did a good job and we had a lot of fun in the process. Cole made one too, of course, but his is not quite finished yet. (We'll have to show you that one later.)
Daddy helped by cutting the tops off for the kids.
Aria was NOT a fan of the pumpkin innards.
But she toughed it out anyway and cleaned the inside so Daddy could roast the seeds.
After drawing out her design. . .
. . . she set to work carving out the face.
With a few candles placed inside to make it glow. . .
. . . my little pumpkin sat proud and pretty with her own pretty little pumpkin.
The Norman clan took advantage of this beautiful Fall, Arizona weather and headed out to South Mountain for a hike. It was so nice to be outside, breathing the fresh air and up in the quiet stillness of the mountains.
The kids had a moment that I was fortunate to have caught on camera.
Caramel apples are a seasonal treat I like to make every year. If I am not planning on making them for Fall Fest, then I might make them for a Girl Scout meeting or just because. We have jarred caramel in the house most of the year for sliced apples to go in school lunches, but nothing compares to a whole, crisp juicy apple on a stick dipped in the highest quality caramel (and maybe a little chocolate and peanuts too).
I've made them in years past by melting down pre-wrapped caramels in a saucepan with a little water. That certainly works and is quite easy and delicious. But have you ever made your own caramel before? Let me tell you. To - DIE - for.
I like to consider myself a sort of connoisseur of caramel and the recipe I use is simply amazing. Sweet, salty, sticky, chewy. . . everything caramel should be. I'll share with you my recipe, but I'm warning you- this is not for the health conscious. It is pure fat which my Daddy would say is why it is soooo good!
Homemade Cream Caramels
2 cups sugar
2 cups dark corn syrup
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Place all of your ingredients (minus 1 cup of heavy cream) in a large saucepan on low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Place a candy thermometer in the pan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Stop stirring and continue to boil until the mixture reaches 245 degrees F (about 25 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and very carefully stir in the other cup of heavy cream. Return to the heat and cook until it reaches 245 degrees F again.
At this point you can pour the caramel into an 8x8 inch pan lined with greased wax paper or foil and let it set up at room temperature from 3 hours to over night. Then you can cut it with a sharp, greased knife and individually wrap them if desired.
If you are making caramel apples, leave the hot caramel in the sauce pan and begin to dip your apples on a stick in the caramel to coat, one at a time. As you remove them from the caramel, swirl the apple to coat it further, then scrape the bottom of the apple on the side of the pan to remove the excess caramel before you place it on a greased cookie sheet to set. This will help to avoid a puddle of caramel on around the bottom of the apple.
If you like crushed peanuts on your caramel apples, dip the caramel covered apples in the peanuts before you place them on the cookie sheet to set. If you want to drizzle them or dip them in chocolate, do so after the caramel has set up, about a half-an-hour.
It was one of those mornings. . . 6:15AM and the kids were starting to wake up for the day. As I heard the showers turn on, it dawned on me that the kids would be headed to the kitchen next for some breakfast, and I forgot to get milk! This meant cereal was out of the question. So, I decided that if I was going to give them a decent breakfast, I had better start cooking!
Out came my waffle iron!
Of course, I can't get enough pumpkin! Any recipe I can find that features pumpkin, I'm all over it! The recipe I used this morning came from Allrecipes.com. This is a great place to go for most recipes because they are rated by the people who have tried them out. Any recipe with 4.5 out of 5 stars or greater with more than 200 voters, is considered a good recipe to me. I've never been disappointed. I did modify this recipe, however, to fit my pantry and our tastes. If you give them a try, be sure to set aside about 30 minutes of your morning. If you don't feel like making them in the rush of your morning routine, you can make a batch or 2, or 3 and freeze them for later. Then the kids can pop them into the toaster anytime they are in the mood for yummy pumpkin waffles!
I hope you like them! We sure did!
Pumpkin Waffles with Apple Cider Syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream, half and half (or milk)
4 eggs, separated
1 stick butter, melted
Apple Cider Syrup
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 cinnamon stick
(1) Turn on your waffle iron before you start.
Place all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.
(2) Separate your eggs. Place your egg whites in a clean, dry bowl fitted to a mixer and beat until soft peaks form.
(3)Combine all of your wet ingredients in another large bowl, except for the melted butter.
(4) Begin mixing in your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients a little at a time, alternating with your butter, until it all comes together. Be careful not to over mix. Your batter will be thick and not at all runny like pancake batter.
(5)Spray your heated waffle iron with cooking spray and scoop generous amounts of the waffle mixture onto the iron. For perfect waffles, it is better to overfill the iron. You can always trim off excess when they are through cooking.
(6)When the iron indicates that the waffles are done, they should be a golden color and slightly crispy. Remove them from the iron and serve immediately with your homemade Apple Cider Syrup.
Apple Cider Syrup
If you are a good multi-tasking cook, you can make this syrup while you are making your waffles.
Place all of your ingredients in a saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook on medium high heat, without stirring until the mixture reaches 230 degrees F. Remove from the heat, carefully pull out the cinnamon stick and let it cool until your waffles are ready. You can serve it hot or at room temperature. Store your leftovers in a container in the pantry for 1 week or for a month in the fridge. PS- This recipe for syrup is perfect for those days when you are planning on making pancakes or waffles and realize that you are out of maple syrup!
I never figured out exactly what that meant, but I'm pretty sure it was a really good thing!
Well, I made a batch of candied apples for Fall Fest and they turned out beautifully shiny and perfect. . . with one exception. The "candy" coating was hard like a lollipop! Luckily, a few friends of mine said that's exactly how they are supposed to be! I guess so (I've never actually had a candied apple- I'm too much of a sucker for the caramel ones.) So I thought you'd like my recipe for candied apples! Here you go! Candied Apples (on a stick)
thin tree branches/sticks (cleaned and dried)
24 Miniature apples
4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups light corn syrup
2 cups water
red gel food color
1 cinnamon stick
Gather your sticks. Use sticks that have dried out for weeks if you can (this takes some planning) and break them into uniform lengths. Don't worry about tiny protruding limbs from the sticks- this adds to the whimsy of the candied apple.
Wash and dry your apples. I purchased mine at Wal-Mart for under $1.00 per pound. Last year, I thought only AJ's would have these adorable tiny apples, but I was pleasantly surprised this year, and so was my wallet!
Here you can see one of the minis compared to a regular-sized apple. Much more appropriate bites for little party go-ers!
Before you make your candy mixture, insert the sticks into all of your cleaned apples. If some of your apples won't sit up straight, you can place the stick in slightly off center to the side opposite that it tends to lean, and this should help it stay upright. If that doesn't help, trim the offending nub off the bottom that sets it off balance. This will eventually all be covered with the candy coating.
Now, place all of your other ingredients in a pot set to medium high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring it to a boil. Cover the mixture and let it boil for about 3 minutes. Uncover, and set your candy thermometer inside the sugar mixture and leave it there so you can closely monitor the progress. It will take a little while (at least 20 minutes for me).
Now you must watch the temperature! But resist the temptation to stir! Wait for it to get to about 290 degrees F. Then turn off your heat.
Dip each of your apples in the red candy mixture, coating then thoroughly with a spoon if needed. Lift them from the mixture and rotate them until they no longer drip, then place them onto a greased cookie sheet to dry.