September 30, 2013

Pumpkins, scarecrows and witches are popping up in our neighborhood. It's hard to believe tomorrow will be October. Our boys, Kellan, 5½, and Carsten, 2½, are especially excited about Halloween. We have already been to stores to look at Halloween decorations, and we have looked at costumes online. One night we even made a special trip to the bookstore specifically for Halloween books.

For Kellan the spookier, the better. He loves semi-spooky decorations and creepy books. He's in kindergarten this year and decided early on a "special ops camouflage ninja" complete with a plastic sword, was the perfect costume for him.

Carsten is still undecided. He's mentioned a few ideas such as a baby sheep, a witch and a monkey. He made an absolutely adorable Elmo last year. I'm trying to persuade him to wear the train engineer costume Kellan wore at this age, but when I showed it to him, he said didn't want to wear it because it was "just clothes."

Our Halloween season will be very busy this year with several different Halloween parties at places around town and a "trunk or treat" at Kellan's, school which is less than a block from our house. All of the festivities will be in preparation for the long-awaited Beggars' Night when their cravings for sweets galore will finally be fulfilled.

Warm Caramel Apple Cake

Each fall there's nothing I want more than a Pokey's caramel apple. I've tried many other caramel apples including ones from gourmet candy shops, and nothing is like Pokey's. Unfortunately I haven't had one yet, but I'm planning on it soon. In the meantime I guess I'll have to make do with a warm caramel apple cake by Kraft.

2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, thinly sliced

1 pkg (2-layer size) yellow cake mix, divided

2 pkgs (3.4 oz. each) Jell-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding

1½ cups cold milk

1 jar (12.25 oz.) caramel ice cream topping, divided

¼ cup water

1 cup thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping, divided

½ cup dry roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss apples with 1 tablespoon cake mix. Prepare cake batter with remaining cake mix as directed on package; pour into 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top with apples.

Beat dry pudding mixes, milk, 3/4 cup caramel topping and water with whisk 2 min.; drizzle over apples. Place baking dish on baking sheet.

Bake cake 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 20 minutes (sauce will thicken slightly as it cools).

Whisk remaining caramel topping and Cool Whip until well blended. Spoon over cake slices just before serving; top with nuts.

Healthier Version:

Save 40 calories per serving by preparing with 2 pkgs (1 oz each) Jell-O Vanilla Fat Free Sugar Free Instant Pudding and Cool Whip Lite Whipped Topping and/or substitute fresh pears for the apples.


The sliced apples are tossed with some of the dry cake mix before placing them on top of the cake batter in the pan to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan as the cake bakes.

Gooey Butter Pumpkin Cake

Decadent doesn't describe this recipe by Paula Deen. Her gooey butter cakes are a prime example of super sinful desserts. This version is ideal for fall and especially good with a dollop of whipped cream on top.


1 (18¼ oz) pkg yellow cake mix

1 egg

8 tablespoons butter, melted


1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 (16 oz) box powdered sugar

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Weight Watchers Spiced Honey Cake

To celebrate the tastes of autumn in a healthier way, try a spice cake with the flavors and goodness of dark honey.

1 spray cooking spray

1½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground allspice

2 large eggs

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons canola oil

½ cup honey, dark variety preferred

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon lemon zest

¼ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a metal or glass loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice; set aside.

In another large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer; add sugar, oil and honey. Beat until combined and mixture is pale yellow; stir in applesauce and lemon zest.

Slowly incorporate flour mixture into egg mixture using an electric mixer; mix thoroughly but do not over beat.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with almonds. Bake in middle of oven until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan for about 15 to 20 minutes and then cool cake completely on a wire rack. Slice into 12 pieces and serve.

Yields 1 slice per serving.

Note: If you prefer your cake with a denser texture, bake it at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip

I've had this cool and light snack at my school on treat day. Serve it alongside graham cracker sticks for a fun presentation.

1 (16 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (5 oz) pkg instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (15 oz) can solid pack pumpkin

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 boxes graham cracker sticks

In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator until serving. Serve with graham crackers or cinnamon graham sticks.