October 14, 2013

This past weekend was a perfect mix of fall weather and warm sunshine. On Sunday we took a drive to a pumpkin patch and admired the golden corn fields and red barns along the way. On Facebook I've noticed lots of photos of my friends' children at local pumpkin patches and suggestions about which pumpkin patch is the best.

Our family spent almost four hours at the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. We watched a pig race, fed the animals, played in a corn pool, and raced through a hay maze. Kellan, 5½, especially liked the apple sling shot. At the end of our time, the boys each selected a pumpkin to take home to set on our front steps. We arrived home tired and dirty after our day together.

Crock Pot Chex Mix

There's nothing I love more than snuggling under a blanket watching a movie with our boys. This weekend we watched "Monster House" and munched on homemade Chex mix.

The crock pot was a super simple way to make Chex mix. I didn't have to watch the oven and worry about it burning. The mix turned out to have a nice nutty flavor. I'm going to make another batch to take to school later in the week. I think I'll also throw in M&Ms and candy corn to add some fall fun.

3 cups Corn Chex cereal

3 cups Rice Chex cereal

3 cups Wheat Chex cereal (I didn't add any)

3 cups Cheerios cereal (I used Cheez Its instead)

3 cups pretzel sticks (I used Goldfish Pretzels)

1 can mixed nuts (or any nuts of choice)

1 cup vegetable oil or melted butter (I used butter)

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt (I used Emeril's Original Essence)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

(I also added ½ teaspoon onion powder)

Mix Chex cereals, Cheerios cereal, pretzel sticks, and mixed nuts in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Whisk together vegetable oil or butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and garlic powder and pour over cereal mixture. Mix well, but be careful not to break Chex cereal.

Cook uncovered on high for approximately 90 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the slow cooker down to low and cook for an additional 20 minutes, again stirring frequently. Spread on a cookie sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container or a resealable bag.

Pumpkin Delight Cake

Amy Mellencamp, of Ankeny, recently found this recipe on Facebook and gave it a whirl. She and her boyfriend, Andy, gave it two thumbs-up and said it was "yummy." It's also lower in fat than traditional cake as it uses no oil or eggs.

1 box yellow cake mix

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (8 oz) tub cool whip

½ bag Heath Bits

caramel sundae sauce

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and pumpkin puree until a smooth batter forms. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees according to the directions on the cake mix box (approximately 23-28 minutes). Remove cake from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes after baking. Use the end of a wooden spoon to poke holes all over the top of the cake. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake. This should fill in the holes and soak into the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove cake from refrigerator and spread cool whip over top of cake. Sprinkle on the Heath Bits, and drizzle caramel over top. (I didn't think the cake needed a lot of caramel at this point so I only used about ¼ of the jar. I thinned it out first by heating it in the microwave). Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

This recipe is a doctored up brownie mix with a peanut butter swirl from Leslie Green's blog, The Hungry Housewife. It's a perfect way to satisfy an intense chocolate and peanut butter craving.

1 box brownie mix (not family size)

eggs (the amount the box calls for)

vegetable oil (the amount the box calls for)

water (the amount the box calls for)

1/3 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat the oven per package directions. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Mix the brownies per the package directions.

Heat the peanut butter in the microwave for 15-20 seconds or until slightly runny. Stir powdered sugar into the peanut butter.

Plop (yes technical cooking term) the peanut butter over the top in small blobs on top of the brownie mixture and swirl with a knife. Bake per the package directions. Allow to completely cool before cutting.

Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies

If you prefer frosted brownies, an easy recipe like this will get the brownies to the table in a hurry.


1 box (1 lb 2.4 oz) Betty Crocker Original Supreme Premium brownie mix

water, vegetable oil and egg called for on brownie mix box

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 egg

Peanut Butter Frosting:

2/3 cup Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting (from 16 oz container)

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 to 2 teaspoons milk

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray. Make brownie batter as directed on box. Spread 3/4 of brownie batter in pan. Set remaining batter aside.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar, 1/3 cup peanut butter and 1 egg. Spoon peanut butter mixture by tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter. Top with random tablespoonfuls of remaining brownie batter. Cut through batter several times with knife for marbled design.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out clean or almost clean. Cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

In medium bowl, mix all frosting ingredients, using spoon, until smooth and spreadable. Spread frosting over brownies. Cut into 5 rows by 4 rows. Store tightly covered.


Don't like crunchy peanut butter? Use creamy peanut butter instead.

For extra peanut buttery taste, stir 1/3 cup peanut butter chips into the brownie batter.

Apple Crisp Pizza

Everywhere I look I see apples. I am taking advantage of the fall harvest and buying lots of apples. My son, Carsten, 2½, hops up onto the counter to help himself to apples on a regular basis. Instead of traditional apple crisp, try a fun apple pizza topped with crunchy oats and brown sugar.


pastry for a single-crust pie

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 medium baking apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 to 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping or caramel apple dip

vanilla ice cream, optional

Roll pastry to fit a 12-in. pizza pan; fold under or flute the edges. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Add apples and toss. Arrange the apples in a single layer in a circular pattern to completely cover pastry. Combine the first five topping ingredients; sprinkle over apples.

Bake pizza at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle with caramel topping or dip. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

Yield: 12 servings