Pumpkin spice has been in season for a while now but it is finally PUMPKIN season! I ordered two cans of pumpkin this week with my groceries. That way I’ll have some on hand when the pumpkin baking begins. They always seem to run out close to Thanksgiving when everyone is making pumpkin pie, so now I am prepared for once. I actually don’t have any plans to make pumpkin pie but I will be making pumpkin muffins and pumpkin cookies. I’ll be sure to post the results on Instagram with the recipes too.
This weekend we’ll head out to Secor Farms for their hayrides, animal farm, pumpkin patch, corn maze and probably some apple cider and apple cider donuts. Maybe we’ll even have some hot chocolate if we’re feeling very decadent. That gives us just a few days to decide how we are going to decorate those pumpkins before Halloween. If all goes as planned one will turn into a proper jack-o-lantern with an electric candle and the other will be decorated with paint or markets. The pumpkins will become a part of our decor through the fall and into the winter(until the Hanukkah decorations come out!).
Head over to our Pinterest Board The Great Pumpkin for more pumpkin inspiration. What is your favorite part of pumpkin season?
Christmas time has always been my favorite time of year. From all of the lights, to the snow frosted trees, to the dancing notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and baked apples, to the love and warmth of being surrounded and sharing in holiday joy with friends and family, the holiday season is unlike any other time of year. The spirit of the season is seemingly alive, finding shelter in nearly all of those whom you come into contact with, which can only be described as an all-encompassing blissful wonderment.
As young children, and even into our late teens and early twenties, my siblings and I would wake up at nearly 3am on Christmas morning and rush downstairs to see what Santa had left for us, carefully tiptoeing past our parents room as to not wake up our mom. As we sat surrounded by stacks of gifts and overflowing stockings, my siblings and I would rifle through the loot in our stockings before trying to guess what each of our wrapped packages contained. My dad, who is the only person that I know who starts his day at 4am, would soon find us downstairs eating candy and eagerly waiting to open our gifts. My dad would put on a movie or TV show for us and we would each find a spot on the couch, and if excitement allowed us, we’d fall back asleep until our mom was awake and ready to document each of us opening up our gifts. I treasure these memories dearly, and I hope to one day create the same magical experiences with my own children.
As per tradition, each Christmas morning before gifts were opened, my mom or I would make cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and scrambled eggs, which, due to anticipation for gift opening, hardly got eaten. Each of my siblings and I would take turns opening gifts, taking turns sitting on a chair positioned in front of the Christmas tree so that my mom could photograph each gift being opened, as my dad sat on the corner of the couch videotaping the madness. This is something we still do to this day, however, as each of my siblings and I get older, the less focused we are on receiving gifts, but we rather appreciate the time spent together so much more. This year, instead of asking for a plethora of material gifts we asked for an experience, so my parents are taking us to the Dominican Republic for a week of fun in the sun!
The older I get, the more and more I love just being present and sharing in love, joy, and laughter with my friends and family, and it’s now my favorite part about Christmas. I love cooking together, sharing in laughter together, eating together, celebrating together, more over, just being together, all encased in the warmth and love of the season. I cherish this time of year dearly.
I hope you all have the chance to experience the magic of the holiday season!
I’m sure that it’s no surprise to any, but I love baking. At times, I find myself dreaming about sugar and sweet creations. Seemingly infatuated by the all-encompassing world of pastry, I find the combination of sugar, flour, fat, salt, heat, and other flavor components to be something of a magical science. As a child, instead of watching Saturday morning cartoons, I found myself enchanted by the cooking shows on the Food Network, and nurtured by a family of wonderful cooks and bakers, I find much comfort and joy in creating in the kitchen. The realm of pastry is vast and endless, and I quite love exploring it.
During the holiday season in general, more over as soon as the weather begins to cool, my urge to bake begins to intensify. Cold weather plus the joy of the holiday season creates the perfect baking environment, as being surrounded by friends, family and warmth makes the experience all the better. Sugar cookies are by far one of my favorite things to bake for the holidays, with gingerbread cookies following in close second. My grandma makes the best cut-out sugar cookies, which are thin and crisp, yet they surprisingly still melt in your mouth, that she decorates with vibrant holiday colors — which I attribute to the reason why I love to bake them. I recently purchased a rolling pin embossed with a holiday scene that I’m so excited to try out on this years cookie creations.
Every Christmas morning, I find myself baking cinnamon rolls for my family and myself. On occasion, they come from the Pillsbury can, other times they are scratch made. I made cinnamon rolls the last time I was home in Minnesota which I plan to recreate this Christmas. This time, however, I plan to add more of a pecan pie element to the rolls — I’ll let you know at a later date how they turn out. I also recently made lemon scented Belgium Waffles which were quite fluffy and airy due to the addition of a high quality Italian lemon soda that I can’t wait to make for my family!
Since the holidays are soon approaching, and since both National Cookie Day and National Brownie day were celebrated this week, I wanted to share with you two amazing recipes that you can wow your friends and family with! The fi-rst recipe is my take on a traditional peanut butter blossom cookie — which my grandma always makes for Christmas as well — in which I subbed Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels for Hershey Kisses. These cookies are so moist and pack a serious peanut butter punch! The second recipe is for fudge brownies featuring Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate and a Gus and Grey Spellbound infused cheesecake swirl. The combination of rich chocolate and blueberry and lavender cheesecake is truly irresistible!
If you’re anything like me, you love baking with friends and family for the holidays. My wish for you is that you’re able to find some time in the kitchen surrounded by those you love and together create your favorite holiday treats. The recipes below are a great place to start! I wish you all a safe and happy holidays!
And most importantly, happy baking!
Classic Peanut Butter Blossoms with Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels
Yields 2 dozen cookies
1/2 c granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/2 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c creamy peanut butter, I prefer natural
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 box Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramels, unwrapped and cut in half
-preheat oven to 350 degrees
-cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, roughly 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well incorporated
-Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring just to combine. Be careful not to over mix
-Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, scoop the dough, roll into a ball, roll in granulated sugar, then place the dough onto a parchment lined sheet tray approximately 2 inches apart
-Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden and set. Immediately place a Jacobsen Salt Co. Salty Caramel in the center of each cookie and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Fudge Brownies with Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate and Gus and Grey Spellbound Infused Cream Cheese Swirl
Yields 1 8×8 pan of brownies
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 c Rococo Chocolates Organic Drinking Chocolate, plus additional for dusting
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Cream Cheese Swirl Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c Gus and Grey Spellbound Jam
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Butter an 8×8 inch cake pan, then lightly dust with drinking chocolate, making sure to tap out any excess
-Combine melted butter, which has been allowed to cool slightly, with sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, drinking chocolate, and salt, whisking to combine. Gently fold in flour and baking powder until just combine, be careful not to over mix, then pour into prepared baking pan
-Meanwhile, make cheesecake swirl by combining cream cheese, sugar, egg, and Gus and Grey Jam, whisking to combine. Dot the surface of the browning batter with the cheesecake mixture, then using a wooden skewer, swirl the cheesecake mixture and brownie batter together
The 2018-2019 school year is freshly underway, and although I’m not a parent, I know the chaos that a new school year brings. Growing up in rural Minnesota in a town, moreover village, with a population of 1,300 people, a lot falls on the eldest sibling — which is me — when it comes to helping out with the younger siblings. Having two working career parents who often traveled for work didn’t help lessen the workload, either. From the age of 12 or 13, I was responsible for not only getting myself up and ready for school in the morning, but I was also responsible for getting my younger brother and sister up and ready, too. It wasn’t always easy either, as I liked to be to school by 8am so that I had time to socialize with my friends before class, but my brother and sister prefered sleep much more, so I rarely hit my 8am target. I was an alarm clock, wardrobe stylist, hair stylist, personal chef, and chaperone on the walk to school — which granted was no more than a block away from our home — so believe me when I tell you that even though I’m not a parent, I know the chaos that a fresh school year brings.
On duty before school, as well as after school, I was responsible for finding my brother and sister after school and getting them to their numerous evening programs and sport practices, usually with the addition of my younger cousins, too; only to be amplified once I got my drivers license. This may sound like a lot of work, especially for a young kid who was also juggling school work, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss those days, as I really do miss them. Although I haven’t had these responsibilities in a number of years, this new school year is hitting me harder than most, as my youngest sibling just started her senior year, and being the sappy, sentimental, and overly emotional person that I am, I can’t help but feel sad when thinking back on the younger days. But alas, change is inevitable, and the excitement and awe of witnessing my sister blossom into a beautiful young woman far outweighs the sadness brought about by change.
While on duty as an older brother made live-in nanny, I learned the invaluable lesson of being organized and overly prepared. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and being the overachiever and natural nurturer that I’ve always been, I found much joy in batch cooking and meal prep, which alleviated a lot of unnecessary stress when trying to feed my siblings before and after school, or when trying to pack them a lunch on days when they didn’t like the lunch option. If you’re struggling with a lack of time when trying to get your kids up, ready, and fed before school in the morning, meal and snack prep could really help you keep your mornings and days on track and running smoothly. Start with basics like vegetable packets — maybe carrots, celery, and blanched broccoli — and your favorite veggie dip, fresh fruit packets — including berries, melon, and grapes — and trail mix packets. If possible, please try to use reusable bags or BPA free tupperware containers. For breakfast, which was rarely eaten at home but rather while running out the door — I would prepare large batches of baked breakfast sandwiches, which usually included eggs, cheese, and breakfast meats, sandwiched in between two english muffin halves — that is until I discovered how to create syrup infused pancake muffins — that I would wrap in parchment paper, label, then place in a sealable container and freeze. Because I’m a sugar junkie, I would also prepare large batches of pancakes, french toast, and waffles that I would freeze and then place in the toaster oven for quick reheating making for a simple yet delicious breakfast in a pinch. Having a few snack and breakfast options on hand really does make a world of difference.
My mom always kept our refrigerator and pantry stocked to the brim, so on days when my brother or sister requested a packed lunch, throwing together a simple and filling lunch was quite easy. If I were to pack them a lunch today, however, I think I would forgo the deli-meat sandwich with a side of chips and instead send them with a hummus and veggie wrap with the addition of roasted chicken and a side of fresh fruit, or something slightly more healthy and nutrient dense than a sandwich. You could also batch cook a few different types of burritos, wrap them in parchment and then again in foil, and freeze — that is if a microwave is provided at the school for reheating purposes. A simple veggie lasagna with whole wheat pasta noodles would be lovely as well, and requires very little time to prepare ahead of time and it also freezes nicely.
The favorite of my creations, hands down, had to be my homemade chocolate chip cookies. I would make triple batches of these cookies once per month — they were a favorite of everyone in my family and the most coveted snack, more like treat, to bring with you to school. The secret, which I’m sure I picked up while watching the Food Network, was a mixture of white chocolate chips, semi sweet chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips, as well as a heaping scoop of peanut butter, and last, but most definitely not least, a packet of white chocolate pudding mix — I know, quite odd, but let me tell you, these cookies are magical! The white chocolate pudding was the star of the show, not only adding another level of chocolate flavor, but it also created the best chewy texture. I will write and share the recipe for these cookies on the Recipe Box page of our website in the coming days.
Conclusion. The school-year does not have to be chaotic, and can actually be quite fun and enjoyable if well prepared. Try planning a weekly or monthly menu with your family, and after you have a menu set, give batch cooking and meal prepping a go to give yourself more time during the week. Simple, make ahead meal and snack options will save you so much time in the long run. Cheers to reducing chaos this school year!