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Friday, October 9, 2015

October 9: Bog (of Eternal Stench) Boulders

 Ice cream & a cookie enrobed in chocolate and sprinkles

Was that you howling for a save at the end of a long workweek? I thought as much.

Howl no longer, friend, as I've got what you need to cross over into the beauty that is weekend.

What is it, you ask? Why, it's none other than an ice cream dessert I'm (ill-advisedly) calling Bog of Eternal Stench Ice Cream Boulders! (If you're all, "What is she talking about?!" then obviously you are A. Not a child of the 80s/90s, and B. Going to have to watch this Labyrinth clip which shall elucidate all. All hail Henson.)

Yay to Friday! Yay to choosing a gross name for my delish dessert! Yay to knowing it's weird but doing it anyway! Yay to this other clip which features the word "boulder."

Okay, enough silliness. Let's get to business.

When I was flipping through all of my idea files and magazines toward the end of September, one of the things that drew me to this recipe was how it makes just four servings. I need some options that don't produce leftovers to taunt our sweet teeth (is that the accepted plural of sweet tooth? IS there an accepted plural of sweet tooth? Hmm...seems like there should be, so let's go with it.) One of the pitfalls of this month of treats is the array of desserts sitting on the counter tempting passersby. I've already got toe cookies, pumpkin cookies (which I'd made just for fun and not to feature as part of the month but they're so good I'm going to cycle them in--look for them in an upcoming post!), and meringue ghosts.

*Oh, speaking of those damned ghosts...I need to pass along a tip. Remember how I told you the first batch didn't turn out properly because they were still kind of gooey in the middle even though the outsides were crisp? And then I made the second batch which turned out perfectly crisp? The bad ghosts ended up ruining my good ghosts! ARRRGHHH! Here's what happened: I stored the two batches in separate air-tight containers for the first three days. No problems yet. The good ones were still good, the bad ones still chewy. But then I made the aforementioned pumpkin cookies and needed a container for them. I decided to consolidate all the meringues. I hesitated before I did so, wondering if moisture from the bad batch would somehow ruin the good batch. This is another case in which I should've trusted my instincts. The bad batch made the good batch chewy! After sending the bad ones to their stinky garbage-y grave, I tried salvaging the good ones by sticking them in the oven to dry out. It helped a bit, but they're permanently damaged. Lesson learned the hard way.

Just say "no" to sticky ghost meringues.
No Ghosts logo designed by Michael Gross; image from Pratt Institute website

Moving on... Let's talk more about this make-what-you-need ice cream dessert. It's a cookie with a scoop of ice cream covered in chocolate and sprinkles. Done! And yum!

* * * * *

Bog Boulders  Chocolatey-coated ice cream atop a cookie. Customize to your family's tastes! Recipe adapted from the 2010 Taste of Home Holiday Halloween magazine.'

Servings: 4
Active Prep Time: 15 minutes


4 cookies (the original recipe calls for gingersnap cookies, but I used a plain chocolate wafer cookie. You could really use any cookie you like-- homemade or store bought! Have fun with it!) 
4 scoops ice cream, about 1/4 cup each (the original recipe calls for vanilla, which I used, but use whatever you like. I recommend letting the ice cream sit out while you set up your baking sheet and cookies. It's easier to work with slightly softened.)
1 cup (6oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
 (Note: you could substitute candy melts for the chocolate chips. If you do, omit shortening.) 
Halloween sprinkles (I found mine at HomeGoods and Target)


1. Place cookies in single layer on waxed paper- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Top each cookie with a scoop of ice cream. Freeze until firm. 
2. In small, microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and shortening (or candy melts); stir until smooth.
3. Remove one dessert at a time from freezer. Dip in melted chocolate, then decorate with sprinkles. (This line in the directions glazes over--ha! get it? because it's a glaze? hahaha. I should switch to stand-up comedy, I know... -- the gloppy mess that is part of this step. I did try dipping the first ice cream dome. However, because the chocolate is hot and the ice cream is cold, it wasn't adhering very well and was melting my ice cream. Thus, I switched to a method whereby I dipped the bottom cookie section into the chocolate and then used a rubber spoonula--a spatula in a spoon shape--to paint on the rest of the chocolate. It made a huge mess but got the job done.) Replace in freezer to set. (Do it fast. As you can see in one of the photos, the ice cream oozes out the bottom; though, in a bog, that's no big woo.) Freeze until serving. 

* * * * *

Thursday, October 8, 2015

October 8: Halloween Flag Decoration Craft

You know how sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't? (Ah, I miss my childhood.) Well, sometimes you have lots of time for crafting and treat-making, and sometimes you don't.

Today is such a day.

Luckily, I prepared in advance for these occasions. This is not, after all, my first rodeo. (I like the sound of that phrase. Meanwhile, I attended a rodeo once. My aunt, Kim, took my brother and me to the LuLu Shriners rodeo when I was of tween-ish age. I remember bucking broncos, but mostly I remember the cowboy hat she bought me. It was red. I loved it. Man, do I miss my childhood...)

On a recent Target run, I bought these inexpensive flag decorations and stickers to have on stand-by.
Target: Stickers, $1 per sheet; Kraft paper flags, $1; Orange burlap flags, $3

I set out the stickers, crayons, and a glue stick (those bats could have been stickier on the back...), then let them decorate. Even though it's ridiculously simple, it's important to remember these activities are designed to excite my kids as they enjoy the autumnal season and count down to Halloween. For them, any time spent coloring and using stickers is time pleasantly spent...

...and that's good enough for me!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October 7: Salt Dough Craft

Today I'm featuring a salt dough craft I did with the girls. This one took two sittings--on the weekend we made, cut, and baked off the salt dough, and today we colored our creations.

I found inspiration for the activity (and an easy salt dough recipe) through Pinterest. As I suspected, my younger daughter was very interested in helping to make the dough, and my older daughter was more excited by the process of decorating them once they were done.

This was my first time working with salt dough. The recipe I used called for 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour, and up to a cup of water. The directions said to add the water until a dough had formed but wasn't sticky. I added a touch too much water and ended up having to add extra dry stuff to get the consistency right.

In the end, I used 1 1/4 + 1 TBSP each of salt and flour, and about 1/2 cup of water.

Once our dough was ready, my helper rolled it out. (I had to help her because she exerted too much pressure and over-flattened the portion I'd given her. Good news: the dough is easy to scoop up and start again.)

 Rolling our salt dough with the cutest miniature rolling pin ever.

The original activity was supposed to be colored salt dough leaf impressions. I had sent the girls outside to collect leaves and we tried pressing them into our dough to make the impression.

Note: I left the leaves on the dough here solely for the sake of the photo. We did NOT bake the leaves.

However, we either didn't press hard enough or didn't choose veiny enough leaves because our impressions weren't as pronounced as the ones on the website I'd consulted. No matter. I made an executive decision mid-way through the activity to abort mission on the impressions and grab my assorted seasonal cookie cutters to use up the rest of the dough.

Here's a sampling before they were baked. Clockwise from top left: leaf impression, ghost cutout, moon imprint, apple, 
mini ghost imprint, mini moon cutout, lead impression attached to a mini bat cutout, leaf impression

Those baked in a 200 degree oven for two hours, then got flipped over and baked for another hour until they were dry. I let them cool on the pan overnight.

After baking and cooling

 In this photo, you can see how the impressions weren't deep enough.

Decoration time!!! I set the girls up with crayons and let them create.

As usual, they were not in the mood to be hedged-in by an autumnal color palette. Rainbow leaf, anyone?

I tried tracing the leaf outline on one and my daughter colored the leaf part; I also 
decided to try a hand imprint with the last remaining dough. She insisted on coloring that, too.

 Here's the leaf impression I colored. I also did the red apple and the orange pumpkin. 

So there you have it. Our fall-themed salt dough craft. This will be fun to revisit around Christmas when we can poke holes in the top of our cutouts (prior to baking) and them hang them on our tree.

Oh, and PSA from our dog: even though they look like cookies, they are NOT edible. Don't try to eat them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October 6: Gruesome Green Toes

The gruesomest green toes you ever did see

Have you ever wondered what Shrek's toes look like? 

 (What do you mean 'no'? What's wrong with you?) 
DreamWorks picture courtesy of Mashable

Well, wonder (or don't) no more, for today I bring you gruesome green toes worthy of a troll or even Frankenstein or any other green monster type whose toes might be green. (And speaking of Shrek, here's one of my fave scenes from the first installment. That gingerbread man and his "not the gumdrop buttons!" cracks me up every time.) 

Annnnnyway, this is another treat I've made before that was such a favorite (of my husband, in particular) that I had to share it here. 

It is frighteningly easy, more assembly than anything else, and ready to serve in around 30 minutes.

Assuming your kid's classroom is not a "peanut-free" zone, these would be a crowd-pleaser for a classroom Halloween party. If peanut butter is not allowed or not preferred, go ahead and substitute a long vanilla sandwich cookie like a Vienna Finger. The shape isn't exactly the same but, let's face it, this is a Halloween novelty dessert; no need to overthink things when the effect is similar, amiright?

I found the inspiration for this treat in my trusty old 2010 Taste of Home Holiday Halloween magazine, but I've simplified it even further from the original which called for chopping up and tinting your own white candy coating. Hello! They make those candy melts in green (multiple shades, in fact) so there's really no need to bother about doing anything more than microwaving and stirring.


Here's what you need: Nutter Butter (or Vienna Finger) sandwich cookies; a bag of green candy wafer melts (I used Dark Green); some candy to serve as the "toenail"- this year I used Giant brand Watermelon Wedges, halved width-wise so they lay flat

 The ingredients 
(Halloween kitchen towel, Kohls)

1. Line a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set aside. 
2. Melt the candy wafers in a microwaveable bowl according to package directions. 
3. Meanwhile, cut "toenail" candies in half and set aside.
4. Once candy coating is melted, work with one cookie at a time and dip into the melted coating, shaking off excess. (If you find your coating firming up in the bowl throughout the process, nuke it for another thirty-seconds at 50% power to thin it back down.)
5. Place dipped cookie on baking sheet then immediately place the "toenail" candy cut side down on the dipped cookie. (Use your finger or the back of a spoon to smooth any globs on the toe surface or to fill in any spots not covered by green melt-- for instance, where your fingers were holding the cookie as you dipped.)
6. Allow coating to set, about 15 minutes. 

Ingredient note: You have plenty of options for the toenail candy. The original recipe called for something called a Crow candy, halved lengthwise, as the toenail. A: My market didn't have any of those. B. They're black licorice flavored which is not a flavor my family prefers. So when I made these in the past, I used red licorice drops which I cut to the proper size. This year I saw these watermelon things and thought they looked interesting. Other ideas: regular gum drops or Dots candies. Have fun with it. That part is mostly aesthetic anyway since--not gonna lie here--the cookie tastes better sans nail.

Like my new graveyard serving plate? Me too! Found it at HomeGoods for only $4.99!

As you can see from the photo, your dipping doesn't have to be super precise. Those toes can be spotty, warty, thick, or crosshatched. Those monsters are gross, after all. Accordingly, this is a good activity to do with your kids, if you don't mind them getting green stuff all over themselves and the counter. Me? I worked alone on this job.

Gruesome Green Toes. 
Because there aren't nearly enough treats in the shape of extremities, in my opinion.

Monday, October 5, 2015

October 5: Slow-Cooker Apple Cider

Why yes, I did go outside and have a photo-shoot with my food. 
Doesn't everyone do this? What? Just me? Oh. 
Meanwhile? Who loves my new prop the leaf charger? It's Cynthia Rowley and I bought a set of 4 at HomeGoods.

As I mentioned in my post kicking off this month, I love autumn. There's nothing quite like that nip in the air, the brightly colored leaves, the orchard visits, and mugs of steaming deliciousness. Today's treat combines those last two.

Remember all these?

A sampling from our apple orchard haul

Well, what the heck is a person supposed to DO with all these apples? Yes, the girls have been snacking on them, but it's no small feat consuming 73 apples. And so, when my favorite food blogger, Sally of Sally's Baking Addiction, posted a recipe for Homemade Apple Cider, I was all over that. (Side note: She just published her second cook book--this time she's focusing on CANDY--and the girls and I drove out to one of her book signings to check in with her for the second time. She's just as sweet in person as the treats she cooks up!)

When you visit her blog for the recipe (I was going to retype it, but then I thought, why retype it when you can get it from the source? If you've never been to her blog, you'll thank me later when you see all the other delightful goodies she's got cooking over there), I'll ask you not to compare my photos with her photos. While mine are certainly better than they were back when I shot half of them on my iPhone camera, they're still, um, emerging from a talent perspective. I'm okay with that.

Anyhoodles, the recipe is a cinch to throw together. 

Gather your apples, core and quarter them (no need to peel! Hurrah!), plunk them in the slow-cooker with an orange, some water, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and cloves. Then walk away! Later, the apples need to be mashed and strained. Voila! You've got yourself homemade cider!

 The apples after they cooked for hours, but before I mashed them up
 The mash that had to simmer for another hour before straining
Omigosh! Look how squeaky-clean my sink is! 

 Let the straining goodness begin...

Ta da! A mug of steaming deliciousness!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October 4: "Bones" Jewelry

 Noodle jewelry with Halloween-y flair

Most days we celebrate October through food-based treats. However, sometimes we cycle in some crafts.

Today's craft is a play on everyone's favorite childhood classic, the noodle necklace. I suggested to my girls that we paint the noodles white to look like bones. However, all-white jewelry did not appeal to their sensibilities. In the end, I painted mine white, my older daughter did some white and some colored, and my younger went with a full array of assorted fall colors--many of them on each noodle. I actually like hers the best. (This frequently happens when I do paint-based crafts with them.)

 Organized materials: plates of ziti (no ridges like rigatoni) and wheels; paint; brushes

We started by organizing our materials. After lining the table with a Dollar Store plastic table cloth (I use those things for everything. When the girls want to do Play-Doh I put one on the floor so when they invariably make a mess, I can shake it off outside. When they want a picnic, I put the plastic on the ground and cover that with the blanket. That way, no moisture from the grass/dirt gets on them or the blanket.) 

 We used tempera paint in assorted colors. 

I globbed it onto a plastic liner I had leftover from those gross refrigerated chicken nuggets the girls like. I don't like them to eat those too often because, well, this -- you can't unsee it. I once made these real chicken nuggets for them instead. They weren't bad, but they were decidedly less popular all around. Anyway, I digress. I was supposed to be discussing noodle crafts.

An artfully arranged noodle...haha

My white noodles. Don't they look like authentic bones? 
What? You think they just look like noodles streakily painted white? Well I never!

After everything dried, we used a large plastic needle and some yarn and set to work stringing the noodles on there. It turns out the eye of our needle was too large to fit through the holes in the wheels, so the girls didn't use their wheel shapes on their jewelry. I put them on mine but had to do it by hand.

Boney necklace and bracelet

No bones about it -- noodles & paint make for an easy weekend craft. 
(No extra charge for all the puns!)

**Update: Especially no extra charge since I just realized I totally made that bone joke before.
Yikes. I need some new material. LOL.**

Saturday, October 3, 2015

October 3: Pumpkin Patch & Apple Picking

Pumpkin patch: going on the first day means a full selection of pumpkins! 
Full disclosure: we actually enjoyed our annual day of picking last Saturday in, gulp, September. But I saved the pictures for this post because we typically would have done this activity today, the first weekend in October. It's just that last Saturday was so beautiful we couldn't resist taking advantage of the fall weather. Since it has been raining for days now, I'm extra glad we carpe diem-ed (oh language, how I love to play with thee) because this weekend would've been a soggy washout. And last weekend we had the surprise bonus of it being the farm's first day of the picking season, so the selection of both pumpkins and apples was bountiful. It was fabulous!

Here's some highlights of our adventure.

 The farm had set up a small pen with a few chickens and sheep; the girls were thrilled to watch the animals.
This rooster was cock-a-doodle-dooing up a storm!

The girls searching out the perfect apples: no bruising, no worm holes, 
& preferably large so when Mommy makes apple pies, she doesn't have as many to peel...

Last year we visited later in the season and we needed to climb the trees to reach what was left of the fruit (fun in its own right, to be sure; in fact, my older daughter was disappointed there was no climbing on this trip). This year, as you can see, the branches were overflowing with apples.

Only $12 to fill a large basket full of fruit!
There were also a few veggies, so I grabbed 7 delicious red peppers. Mmm.

 Our apple haul getting a soak in our sink when we got home. 
Fun fact: it also extends the life of berries. 
Just be sure they are thoroughly dry before refrigerating them, and (to decrease any moisture) store 
them with a paper towel to absorb any condensation that may form.

We selected an assortment of red delicious, macintosh, jonagold, and mysterious golden varieties (haha) of apples. 73 in all. Wowsa! Stay tuned for various apple-inspired recipes, friends!

 Running ahead en route to choose pumpkins. 
Wouldn't it be nice if they always held hands like this? Awww!

As you can see, the girls had a lovely day as we enjoyed one of our favorite fall family activities.