Timely and Trendy — Pumpkin Crunch Cake

Another yummy, timely and trendy treat made with farm-to-kitchen pumpkin puree
(using Moosecreek Pumpkin Patch's  fairytale pumpkins).

Pumpkin Crunch Cake   Makes one 9x13" cake
2 cups pumpkin puree or 1 (15.5 oz.) can pumpkin without added sugar or spices
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon salt
½ to 1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix (for a more cake-like consistency use up to the full box; for  a pie like texture, use around ½  the box)  Click here for homemade cake mix.  
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9x13” baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, and spices until well combined. 

  3. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle the top with as much yellow cake mix as desired.
  5. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour the melted butter evenly over the top of the cake.
  7. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the custard is set.
  8. Serve warm or cold. Store in the refrigerator.
Recipe without photos . . .
Pumpkin Crunch Cake   Makes one 9x13" cake
2 cups pumpkin puree or 1 (15.5 oz.) can pumpkin without added sugar or spices 
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon salt
½ to 1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix (for a more cake-like consistency use up to the full box; for  a pie like texture, use around ½  the box)   Click here for homemade cake mix  
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9x13” baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, and spices until well combined. 
  3. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle the top with as much yellow cake mix as desired.
  5. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour the melted butter evenly over the top of the cake.
  7. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the custard is set.
  8. Serve warm or cold. Store in the refrigerator.

How to make Homemade Yellow Cake Mix

How to make Homemade Yellow Cake Mix:
(This is the standard size mix for recipes calling for an 18.25 ounce mix.)
2 cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ cup non-fat dry milk

1.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and non-fat dry milk. 
2.  Store in an airtight container or baggie. Keeps well in the pantry for months!

To replace in recipes calling for a standard-size 18.25 ounce store-bought yellow cake mix:
Use in any recipe calling for a yellow cake mix as a base (add 1 teaspoon vanilla to the recipe along with the cake mix as the recipe will assume vanilla was included in the store-bought mix).
Or to make a basic yellow cake, use the following instructions.

Cake Mix Directions:.
1 recipe Homemade Yellow Cake Mix

¾ cup water

1 teaspoons vanilla
½  cup butter, softened

3 eggs
1.  Place Homemade Yellow Cake Mix in a bowl. Add water, vanilla, butter, and eggs.
2.  Combine with an electric mixer then beat two more minutes. 
3.  Pour into a greased and floured cake pan. 
4.  Bake in a preheated 350° oven, using these baking times (watch carefully as your oven may vary–test for doneness using a toothpick):
·      8″ or 9″ cake rounds — 20 to 25 minutes

·      13” x 9” pan — 35 to 40 minutes

·      Cupcakes — 12 to 15 minutes

·      Tube/bundt pan — 45 to 50 minutes
  Don’t overbake! You’ll dry out your cake.
  Note:  If you don’t like using dry milk in your cakes, you can always leave the dry 
  milk out of the mix. When making the cake, replace water in the recipe with milk.

Delightful or frightful? Spider Eggs for Halloween!

We dressed up deviled eggs for Halloween by adding olive spiders!
Delightful or frightful? Perhaps a little of both.

Deviled Eggs / aka known as SPIDER EGGS if you add olive spiders   Makes 16 deviled eggs

hard-cooked eggs
3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon+ pickle relish
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling, optional
Whole black olives (without pits) for spiders
  1. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks. Arrange whites on an egg plate.
  2. Add yolks, 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of mustard and 1 tablespoon of pickle relish to work bowl of food processor. Process until mixture is smooth. 
  3. Add additional mayonnaise if mixture is dry; add more mustard and pickle relish + salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spoon mixture into a small resealable storage bag. Cut off a small triangle piece from one edge of bag.
  5. Pipe yolk mixture into the egg white halves.
  6. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.
  7. For spiders: cut whole olive in half. Position one half on egg for spider body. Cut other half into 6 thin slices and arrange for spider legs. 
Recipe without photos . . .
Deviled Eggs / aka known as SPIDER EGGS if you add olive spiders    Makes 16 deviled eggs
8 hard-cooked eggs
3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon+ pickle relish
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling, optional
Whole black olives (without pits) for spiders
  1. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks. Arrange whites on an egg plate.
  2. Add yolks, 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of mustard and 1 tablespoon of pickle relish to work bowl of food processor. Process until mixture is smooth. 
  3. Add additional mayonnaise if mixture is dry; add more mustard and pickle relish + salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spoon mixture into a small resealable storage bag. Cut off a small triangle piece from one edge of bag.
  5. Pipe yolk mixture into the egg white halves.
  6. Sprinkle with paprika if desired.
  7. For spiders: cut whole olive in half. Position one half on egg for spider body. Cut other half into 6 thin slices and arrange for spider legs.

Linguine with Shrimp and Cannolini Beans


Inspired by a recipe in Food Network Magazine, Barry prepared this recipe when our niece was here recently. Normally he makes Shrimp Scampi since Erin loves shrimp but this was a nice variation.

Linguine with Shrimp and Cannolini Beans   4 servings
Kosher salt
8 ounces linguine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can cannellini white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Additional olive oil for drizzling
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook as the label directs. Reserve about 2/3 cup cooking water, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.
  3. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
    Onions are almost translucent and red pepper and garlic have been added.
  4. Add the beans, garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts browning, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 3 minutes.
    Above -- Shrimp just added.
    Below -- Shrimp after being cooked 3 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the pasta and lemon zest and juice to the skillet and toss to coat.
  8. If needed, gradually add the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen.
  9. Add the parsley, season with salt and pepper and toss.
  10. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
    We served the pasta with Olive Garden's salad & copycat dressing
Recipe without photos . . .
Linguine with Shrimp and Cannolini Beans   4 servings
Kosher salt
8 ounces linguine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can cannellini white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup dry white wine
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Additional olive oil for drizzling
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook as the label directs. Reserve about 2/3 cup cooking water, then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.
  3. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the beans, garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts browning, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the pasta and lemon zest and juice to the skillet and toss to coat.
  8. If needed, gradually add the reserved cooking water as needed to loosen.
  9. Add the parsley, season with salt and pepper and toss.
  10. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Copycat Olive Garden Salad Dressing

After finding several copycat recipes, I settled on this one. Once made, I thought the taste was good but I wasn't sure how close it was the the original Olive Garden dressing. Consequently, I did not mention the name of the dressing to Barry . . . but he took a bite of salad and said, "This is like the Olive Garden's salad." 
I added olives, pepperoncini pepper, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, black olives, Parmesan cheese Romaine lettuce -- just like at the Olive Garden . . . but I used pumpkin seeds instead of croutons.

Olive Garden Salad Dressing 
Refrigerate for up to 10 days.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes (I used about 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley as I had it on hand)
1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender until well mixer.


Brunch Entree: Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole

 K-State tailgating sausage casserole is ready!
This sausage and rice casserole, topped with nuts, makes an unusual but delicious brunch dish.  It can be made a day ahead and baked right before brunch or simply combine and bake the day of the get-together.  Recipe adapted from “Christmas with Southern Living, 2002”
11 AM K-State football means an early morning brunch at this tailgating party!

Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole   Yield:  13 x 9” casserole; serves 8 to 10 or more
1  6-ounce package Uncle Ben’s® long-grain and wild rice mix
1 1/2  to 2 pounds ground pork sausage
1  large onion, chopped
8  -ounce package fresh mushrooms, sliced
1  8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/3 cup fresh parsley
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
1/2 cup sliced almonds for sprinkling on top, optional
  1. Cook rice mix according to package directions.
  2. Cook sausage in a large skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. 
  3. Add onion and mushrooms to same skillet and cook over medium heat about 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. Combine rice, water chestnuts, parsley, and soy sauce with the sausage, onions, and mushrooms; stir well. 

  5. Spoon mixture into an ungreased 13 x 9” baking dish. 
    I made this mixture the night before and baked it Saturday morning.
  6. To bake immediately: Sprinkle with almonds. Bake, uncovered at 350° for 20 minutes or until heated through. To make ahead: Cover prepared casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Recipe without photos . . .
Sausage & Wild Rice Casserole   Yield:  13 x 9” casserole; serves 8 to 10 or more
1  6-ounce package Uncle Ben’s® long-grain and wild rice mix
1 1/2  to 2 pounds ground pork sausage
1  large onion, chopped
8  -ounce package fresh mushrooms, sliced
1  8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/3 cup fresh parsley
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
1/2 cup sliced almonds for sprinkling on top, optional
  1. Cook rice mix according to package directions.
  2. Cook sausage in a large skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. 
  3. Add onion and mushrooms to same skillet and cook over medium heat about 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. Combine rice, water chestnuts, parsley, and soy sauce with the sausage, onions, and mushrooms; stir well. 
  5. Spoon mixture into an ungreased 13 x 9” baking dish. 
  6. To bake immediately: Sprinkle with almonds. Bake, uncovered at 350° for 20 minutes or until heated through. To make ahead: Cover prepared casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Quick Pickled Jalapeño Rings

While the squirrels scurry around collecting nuts, I'm busy storing up summer produce for winter use. These pickled jalapeño rings will be perfect with chili, tacos and for pico de gallo.

Quick Pickled Jalapeño Rings    Yields 1 quart jar           
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
10 large jalapeno peppers, sliced into rings                                    
  1. Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, garlic, and oregano in a saucepan over high heat.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, stir in jalapeno peppers and remove from heat.
  3. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Pack peppers into jars using tongs, cover with vinegar mixture, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
Recipe without photos . . .
Quick Pickled Jalapeño Rings    Yields 1 quart jar            
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
10 large jalapeno peppers, sliced into rings                                      
  1. Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, garlic, and oregano in a saucepan over high heat.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, stir in jalapeno peppers and remove from heat.
  3. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Pack peppers into jars using tongs, cover with vinegar mixture, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Easy Spiced Pumpkin Butter

Barry likes apple butter so thought I'd use some of my pumpkin puree (made from Moose Creek Pumpkin Patch's fairy tale pumpkins) to make pumpkin butter.  Definitely a keeper and great on Angel Biscuits, regular biscuits, yeast breads or breakfast toast . . .

Spiced Pumpkin Butter
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
  1. In a Dutch oven or saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.

  2. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 25 minutes, or until thick.
  3. Cool and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.

    Recipe without photos . . .
    Spiced Pumpkin Butter
    2 cups pumpkin puree
    1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
    1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    Pinch of salt

    1. In a Dutch oven or saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.
    2. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 25 minutes, or until thick.
    3. Cool and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.

Pumpkin Spice Caramels in the microwave with a dose of "science"

   Candy is made when crystals separate from a solution and science is definitely a part of the process. It begins with a supersaturated solution (a high percentage of sugar). During the heating process crystallization occurs -- the goal is small crystals that grow rapidly. The addition of corn syrup to a recipe and stirring assist in this process, as do the correct concentration of ingredients and controlled temperature. Ideal temperatures vary based on the type of candy: fudge - 234-240°F; caramels - 242 - 248°F, and so on.  Before the use of candy thermometers, cooks checked the donnas of candy by dropping the mixture into cold water. If a soft ball formed, the fudge had cooked the optimum time; a firm ball meant caramels should be removed from the heat.
Barry's caramel recipe provides precise ingredients and instruction for cooking on top the stove and monitoring the temp with a candy thermometer.
Despite the fact that I understand the science involved in candy making and the need for precise measurement and controlled temperature, I was intrigued with the idea of making caramels in the microwave and even more intrigued with the addition of pumpkin and pumpkin spices to the mix.
The recipe I used was from Butter with a Slice of Bread blog and yielded a very nice product but not without problems! The recipe instructs to use a large glass bowl so I began with an 8-cup capacity Pyrex® measuring pitcher. Halfway through the second 6-minute heating interval, the candy solution was overflowing the container. After cleaning up the mess and rescuing as much as I could, I transferred the solution to a 12 to 14 cup capacity pottery bowl—that took care of one problem.
Candy instructions on the blog are written for a 1000 watt microwave and it clearly states  adjustments may need to be made depending on the wattage of your own microwave (I found the wattage in the microwave's manual). Mine was also 1000 watts so I proceeded with the 4-part heating instructions as listed: 6 minutes, 6 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes. All went well expect for the last 5 minute segment -- when I removed the bowl, the caramels were very brown on the edges and I knew that they had gone from the firm ball stage (ideal for caramels) to the perimeter of the hard ball stage. I went ahead and continued with the recipe and they were edible and really quite tasty but definitely very chewy. 
My solution: Monitor the temperature of the candy as it is heating in the microwave and stop cooking before the temperature goes above 248°F. The result: A caramel that is both easy and successful (soft & flavorful) when scientific principles are applied.
Note: This recipe could also be made the traditional way by  cooking on top of the stove.

Pumpkin Spice Caramels
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk or make a homemade version
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (if using pumpkin pie filling make sure it does not contain added sugar and spices)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or make your own: scant 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, scant 1/4 tsp. ginger and allspice + 1/8 tsp. nutmeg)
  1. Prepare a  7 x 11" baking dish or pan by lining with foil or parchment and spraying with non-stick spray. (9×13" can be used at well, or for thicker caramels, use an 8×8").  
        
  2. Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl --- at least 12 to 14 cup capacity.           
  3. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine.

  4. Microwave mixture in 4 intervals, quickly stirring after each interval and returning to the microwave. Begin to monitor temperature of solution with a candy thermometer during the 3rd and 4th heating -- do not let temp go past 248°F!  1st heating: 6 minutes; 2nd heating: 6 minutes; 3rd heating: 5 minutes; 4th heating: just until temperature register 248° (5 minutes or less).     
    After 2nd 6 minutes of heating.
    After 3rd 5 minutes of cooking.
                                               After last heating.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  5. Stir caramel once more then pour into prepared pan.  
  6. Cool until set; if you’re in a hurry, you can place the pan in the fridge for about 2 hours. Otherwise it will set up nicely just resting in room temperature for several hours.   
  7. Remove from pan and slice into strips with a large knife or kitchen scissors.  
  8. Cut into small squares and wrap in wax paper, twisting the ends to seal.  
Recipe without photos . . .
Pumpkin Spice Caramels
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk or make a homemade version
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (if using pumpkin pie filling make sure it does not contain added sugar and spices)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or make your own: scant 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, scant 1/4 tsp. ginger and allspice + 1/8 tsp. nutmeg)
  1. Prepare a  7 x 11" baking dish or pan by lining with foil or parchment and spraying with non-stick spray. (9×13" can be used at well, or for thicker caramels, use an 8×8").       
  2. Melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl --- at least 12 to 14 cup capacity.           
  3. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Microwave mixture in 4 intervals, quickly stirring after each interval and returning to the microwave. Begin to monitor temperature of solution with a candy thermometer during the 3rd and 4th heating -- do not let temp go past 248°F!  1st heating: 6 minutes; 2nd heating: 6 minutes; 3rd heating: 5 minutes; 4th heating: just until temperature register 248° (5 minutes or less)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  5. Stir caramel once more then pour into prepared pan.  
  6. Cool until set; if you’re in a hurry, you can place the pan in the fridge for about 2 hours. Otherwise it will set up nicely just resting in room temperature for several hours.   
  7. Remove from pan and slice into strips with a large knife or kitchen scissors.  
  8. Cut into small squares and wrap in wax paper, twisting the ends to seal.