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Quick and Easy Halloween Treats

October 27, 2014

The other day I posted on Facebook a photo of some brownie bites adorned with candy pumpkins, which I made for Sophie’s school’s fall carnival bake sale. A few people asked for the recipe and commented on my “baking” skills. I put baking in quotation marks because here’s the secret: it’s more like assembling.

I have a few Halloween treats that I’ve made over the years that are super easy to make, require very little baking (if any), and are always a hit. If you’re looking for last-minute treats for work, school, or just to impress your Facebook friends, here are three of my favorites.

halloween treats collage

Pumpkin Brownie Bites
Here’s what you need for the Halloween brownie bites: pre-made bite-sized brownies (I find mine at the local grocery store), chocolate buttercream frosting, a large Ziploc bag (or pastry bag if you’re daring), candy pumpkins, and sprinkles.

brownie bites1

For the chocolate buttercream frosting, you can either make your own, buy a pre-made jar, or go to a local cake supply store and purchase it. I buy mine from Do It With Icing, a San Diego shop from which you can also place mail orders. I love this frosting! And it tastes so much better than the canned stuff. Once you have the frosting, scoop it into a large Ziploc bag and cut a tip off the corner to pipe onto the brownie bites. Then top with a candy pumpkin and Halloween-colored sprinkles.

When I made these last year, I placed the bites in these orange and white polka dot cups. This year I used mini cupcake liners.

brownie bites2

Candy Corn Cupcakes
So these candy corn cupcakes do require baking; but they’re not difficult to make. Here’s what you need: one box of yellow cake mix (and the ingredients to prepare it), orange food coloring, white buttercream frosting, candy corns, and a mini muffin tin.

Spray your mini muffin tin with non-stick spray. I don’t use liners for these because I like being able to see the two color layers. But you can always get white liners if you prefer to go that route.

Prepare the cupcake mix according to the package. Then divide the mixture in half, and add a few drops of orange food coloring to one batch. Place about 1 – 2 Tbsp. of the yellow cake mix in each cup, then add 1 – 2 Tbsp. of orange mix. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look even or pretty; as you can see, they turn out fine.

candy corn cupcake1

Bake them according to the package direction; but since they’re mini, they’ll need less time than cupcakes. My rule of thumb is to use a cake tester and pull them out of the oven when it comes out clean.

Once they’ve cooled, grab your white buttercream frosting and pipe the icing on top the same way as the brownies (and see brownie bite recipe above for how to obtain buttercream frosting). That’s how you make a yellow-orange-white candy corn cupcake. Top with a candy corn and you’re done.

candy corn cupcakes

Chocolate Cookie Candy Corn Bark
This super-sweet treat is comprised of Halloween Oreos (or in our case, Trader Joe’s Joe Joe cookies), orange or white chocolate melting candies, candy corns, and sprinkles. For the actual step-by-step instructions on how to make this very simple treat, click over to this post I wrote a few years ago. (Wasn’t Sophie little?!)

halloween bark2

Here’s how I packaged the bark for the school carnival bake sale. I got the cellophane bags at the cake supply store. That’s Halloween duck tape I used to seal them.

halloween bark3

Make one of these treats this week and everyone will be so impressed by your hard work!

Happy Halloween! 

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Snapshots: Thinking, Reading, Doing, Snapping and Eating (October)

October 21, 2014

The last two months have been filled with getting back into the school routine and doing fall-type of activities … although the SoCal weather has been less than autumnal lately. I know I shouldn’t complain since San Diego has near-perfect weather most of the time. But during the months of September and October, I really wish I lived in a place where the leaves change color, the temperate falls, and I can get out the coat, boots and jeans. Just two weeks ago, the temperatures were in the 90s! It’s a bit cooler now, but not what it should be for October. Maybe one day I’ll move to a place that actually has seasons. Or the California drought will end and it will actually be cool in October.

Thinking and Doing …
As you may recall from my post about de-cluttering life, we gave up cable earlier this year to cut expenses. I haven’t really missed it much, but I do occasionally miss being able to flip through the channels and find a random movie that watch or tune in to a Law and Order marathon. And now that Homeland is back on and The Newsroom is airing in November, I find myself longing to subscribe again (I WILL be strong!).

The good thing is that with Netflix and HuluPlus, I can binge-watch great shows that I didn’t tune into before. Last month I was completely obsessed with The Killing (Netflix, formerly of AMC fame). Wow, did this show suck me in! The entire four seasons were pretty much watched within a one-week period. It was fabulous. And although I’m sad it’s not returning for a fifth season, I though the series’ ending was perfect.

The other show that we’re watching now is The Good Wife. I watched a few episodes of it when it first aired in 2009, but didn’t stick with it. Now it’s become a nightly fixture on the television. I love the acting and writing on this show. SO compelling! And it’s great that it’s a network show with 23 episodes, which hopefully should keep us busy for a while.

Reading …

unseemly wifeI just finished An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore, which I found fascinating. Here’s the description from the publisher:

In 1867, Ruth Holtz has more blessings than she can count—a loving husband, an abundant farm, beautiful children, and the warm embrace of the Amish community. Then, the English arrive, spreading incredible stories of free land in the West and inspiring her husband to dream of a new life in Idaho.

Breaking the rules of their Order, Ruth’s husband packs up his pregnant wife and their four children and joins a wagon train heading west. Though Ruth is determined to keep separate from the English, as stricture demands, the harrowing journey soon compels her to accept help from two unlikely allies: Hortence, the preacher’s wife, and the tomboyish, teasing Sadie.

But as these new friendships lead to betrayal, what started as a quest for a brighter future ends with Ruth making unthinkable sacrifices, risking faith and family, and transforming into a woman she never imagined she’d become.

This book reminder me so much of my friend and brilliant writer Jolina Petersheim’s The Outcast and The Midwife. Without giving too much away, I loved the story of Ruth and the journey she goes on to not only discover America, but her own life.

In related news, is it odd that my two current loves are a book entitled An Unseemly Wife, and a show called The Good Wife? Hmm ….

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Eating …
My favorite go-to meal these days are these Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw from Smitten Kitchen. Holy cow, are they delicious! And super easy too. I highly recommend if you’re looking for a simple, but filling and flavorful meal. Make them this week … you won’t regret it!

Snapping …
The highlights of the last few months include visiting the pumpkin patch, apple picking, and celebrating Halloween at Disneyland. Here’s a look at our fall.

pirate

My Halloween Hound

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Enjoying apple picking in Julian, CA (apple country) in 90-degree weather. We also found cider donuts and gemstone mining. apple picking collage

Sophie’s first visit to Julian apple country (only a few weeks old) and seven years later.julian apple collage

Finding the perfect pumpkin, playing with farm animals, and navigating the straw maze at Bates Nut Farm pumpkin patch.pumpkin patch visit

So how has your fall been? What are you reading, eating, cooking and doing? What do you watch on television? Good shows to recommend? 

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Bookapalooza: My Mother’s Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story

September 24, 2014
my mothers secret

Holocaust stories are difficult for me to read. The suffering is just so unthinkable and horrific that I find myself weeping uncontrollably. I recently finished reading My Mother’s Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story by J.L. Witterick. This book also sparked tears as I turned the pages. But this time, I cried because of different feelings – those of hope and kindness.

my mothers secretInspired by a true story, My Mother’s Secret is the tale of a Polish woman named Franciszka who, along with her daughter, helped hide two Jewish families and a fleeing German soldier from the Nazis. What set this story apart from other Holocaust tales is that it’s ultimately a story about goodness in people and hope for the future.

I was so moved by the heroism of Franciszka and her daughter, Helena, and the fact that they sacrificed themselves simply because, as Franciszka said, it was the right thing to do. To quote the publisher, “My Mother’s Secret is a testament to the kindness, courage, and generosity of ordinary people who chose to be extraordinary.”

Sophie noticed me crying as I read and asked if it was a sad book. Not prepared to explain the Holocaust to a 6-year-old, I told her I was crying because the woman in the story was very kind to people who needed help. I told Sophie that there was a real time in our history when certain groups were very cruel to other groups of people, simply because those people were different from everyone else. The woman in the story helped the people in trouble by giving them a place to live when they had nowhere to go. And food when they had nothing to eat. That selflessness and kindness, I explained to Sophie, is what made me cry.

I highly recommend My Mother’s Secret, even if you do not typically read Holocaust or history books. It was a fantastic novel – based on the true story of a heroic woman – whom we can all be a bit more like.

L’Shana Tova ~ Happy New Year!

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of My Mother’s Secret to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, simply leave a comment about about a book that gave you pause to think. The giveaway closes Tuesday, September 30 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

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Celebrate Fall with Apple Desserts

September 19, 2014
apple desserts collage

Next week marks the official start of fall, my favorite season filled with apples, pumpkin, falling leaves, sweaters, boots, and warm scented candles. Okay, maybe San Diego isn’t always known for those seasonal hallmarks, but every year I hope!

Speaking of autumnal traditions, Thursday is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s a Rosh Hashanah tradition to dip apple slices in honey to symbolize a sweet new year. So in the spirit of fall, Rosh Hashanah and apples, I’ve rounded up my favorite apple dessert recipes for you to enjoy.

Apple Butter Jam apple butter jam1

My Grandmother’s Apple Cake apple cake1

Honey Apple Cake apple cake with writing

Do you have a favorite apple dessert recipe? 

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Fall Bookapalooza: Spotlight on “To See the Moon Again” (and Giveaway)

September 16, 2014
see the moon again

It’s week two in the Fall Bookapalooza! This week I’m excited to spotlight To See the World Again by Jamie Langston Turner. Another great story about family, secrets, redemption and forgiveness.

see the moon againFrom the publisher:

Every day of her life Julia Rich lives with the memory of a horrible accident she caused long ago. In the years since, she has tried to hide her guilt in the quiet routine of teaching at a small South Carolina college, avoiding close relationships with family and would-be friends. But one day a phone call from Carmen, a niece she has never met, disrupts her carefully controlled world.

Carmen is a study in contrasts—comical yet wise, sunny yet contemplative, soft yet assertive. As she sets about gently drawing Julia from her self-imposed solitude into a place of hope, she also seeks her own peace for past mistakes.

Together, the two women embark on a journey that takes Julia far from the familiar comfort of home and gives Carmen the courage to open her heart. Together, their sightseeing trip turns into a discovery of truth, grace, redemption, and, finally, love.

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of To See the World Again to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, simply leave a comment about any topic you’d like. The giveaway closes Sunday, September 21 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

And don’t forget to check back next week for the next novel and giveaway in the Fall Bookapalooza event!

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of To See the Moon Again to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

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