October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

I developed this recipe from a bunch of different molasses cookie recipes. It's not nearly as pumpkin-y as I'd like, but it's yummy nonetheless.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies


2 1/3 C. flour

2 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg, ground

½ tsp cloves, ground

½ tsp ginger, ground

½ tsp rum extract

¼ tsp black pepper

1 tsp orange peel

½ C. butter, room temperature

1 C. brown sugar, packed

¼ C. molasses

2/3 C. pumpkin puree

1 large egg

½ C. sugar, for rolling


1. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and pepper. Set aside.

2. Cream butter until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and pumpkin puree. Mix thoroughly. Add egg. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. You will have a very soft dough.

3. Cover dough with plastic wrap (or Tupperware-type lid.) Freeze for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The dough is sticky, so the longer time it can chill the easier it is to work with.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into walnut-sized balles. Roll the balls in the sugar and use a the bottom of a glass to press down on the cookies until they are between ¼ to ½ inch thick. Transfer to cookie sheets. Do not over crowd.

6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes, or until the top feels set to the touch. Remove baking sheets from the oven. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Moose Tracks:
-It seems like I only take pics when I'm using aluminium foil. It's my backup for when my silpats are otherwise occupied. Weird.
-For a festive touch, I mixed in orange-colored sugar with the rolling sugar. It's the same kind I'd use to sprinkle on cupcakes or whatever.
-Next time I'm going to add some orange zest to the sugar mixture, I think.

Spiderweb Wreath

Every year I make at least three of these - One for my front door, and two to give away. They take all of 90 minutes (max) and are pretty easy on the concentration (I typically make them while watching TV).


Embroidery Hoop (I usually purchase wood, but used a blue on for contrast in the pics)
Black Yarn (The pic above has "fuzzy" yarn for the swirl)
Fabric in fun Halloween colors - tulle, quilting fabrics, etc
Small decorative spider (totally optional)

Step 1: Take the outer ring off the embroidery hoop. You'll use it later.

Step 2: Tie black yarn across the inside hoop to create "pie slices." This is the web.

Step 3: Take a long length of yarn and cut it off the skein. You'll need a smaller yarn ball to do the swirl.

Step 4: Starting at the middle, tie the yarn around the web intersection.

Step 5: In a swirl pattern, start looping the yarn around the existing web.
My looping technique.
Step 6: Continue looping yarn around until you reach the embroidery hoop.

Step 7: Tie the yarn off on the hoop.
Step 8: Reattach the outer hoop. Tighten the thumb screw.

Step 9: Cut off the ends of the yarn. The embroidery hoop will help hold the knot and a bit of extra yarn in place.
Step 10: Rip, snip, pink or shred the fabric into ~1" strips (1" by at least 6")
Step 11: Using any pattern of color you wish, start tying the fabric strips around the hoop, making sure to keep the fabric ties close together.

Step 12: Continue until the whole wreath has fabric around the outside.

Step 13: Fluff fabric so it uniformly sticks out from the wreath. Trim fabric in any manner that appeals to you.

Step 14 (optional): Trim fabric ends into any shape that appeals to you (I never do this). Glue on cute spider decoration. Add hanging ribbon (the htumbscrew area of the outer hoop is a great place to hang the ribbon)

Moose Tracks:
- If I'm shipping the wreath I've been known to glue the outer ring to the inner one - just for warm fuzzies.
- I've used every manner of fabric available. I've cut it super short, I've left it super long. I've even used ribbon instead of fabric strips. I've used printed fabric )think pumpkins and witches hats), I've used plain. I've used tulle and even brocade (not my recommendation on that last one.) They've all turned out cute. Go with what works for you!
- The more homespun and crafty the fabric strips are (read - not even and definitely hairing), the more charm these wreaths seem to have. So don't fuss too much.
- I usually end up buying fat quarters for this if I'm doing the quilting fabrics.
- I never put the spider on my own wreaths. I always add the spider when I'm giving it as a gift.

October 12, 2011

Apple Cider Caramels

Sometimes things just don't work out the first time. Or the second. Or the third. But, after you try a 4th time (after many modifications and scientific study) they work out just like you expected. This might be my experience with apple cider caramels. Maybe.

The recipe I started with is here. It's likely a good base recipe at sea level. But, as is always the case, things are different when you live a mile or so above the sea. Humidity matters more, sugar content matters more, and temperatures are critical. So, through much trial and error, I modified the recipe to make it work. What I have listed below is how I made it. Down in the Moose Tracks section I have info on the proper temperatures if you're not sitting pretty at 7k ft in elevation.

Apple Cider Caramels

2 cup high-quality apple cider
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup real butter, cubed, divided

- Boil cider in a medium saucepan for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c.

- Line an 8" square pan with aluminum foil (or parchment paper), making sure to leave about 1" hanging over the edges for easy removal. Coat with a spritz of oil spray (I like olive oil or canola oil)
- In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.

- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 219 degrees.
- Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the three-quarters of the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 227 degrees.

- Remove from heat and whisk in remaining butter until the butter melts and in incorporated.

- Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Let set at least two hours or until cool.

- Remove caramels from pan and cut into 1" squares (or smaller). Wrap each caramel in wax paper.

Moose Tracks:
- Sea Level temperatures: 1st boil - 234 degrees, 2nd boil - 248
- In the fall some grocery stores or specialty stores often carry reduced apple cider. It's easier to use that, if you can find it and you're lazy. Otherwise just reduce some good apple cider. It's easy, but time consuming. I made a point of reducing a whole bottle by simmering it for about 15 minutes.
- Do not boil this stuff too long. For me, up in the mountains, it's a matter of a half a degree before I have something too hard to eat.
- Again, I over-spice these bad boys. Some recipes can't handle extra cinnamon or allspice or cloves or nutmeg or whatever. This isn't one of them So don't feel like you need to be precise on those measurements.
- The original recipe required the butter to all be added in before the 2nd boil. I had better luck by saving a bit of butter until the end. By doing so, I essentially quenched the molten sugar mixture so it didn't continue to cook longer than I wished it to. It resulted in caramels that had a slightly oily feel to them, but they get that just from the aluminum foil or parchment paper sprayed with oil anyhow. And it was the only way to save my caramels from getting too hard.

Pirate Party!

You're invited to a pirate-themed 4th Birthday party.

Captain Moosie hopes you enjoy the party as much as he did!

The Food:
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip (recipe here), served with graham crackers and animal crackers.
Cupcakes (boxed mix, canned frosting, decorations from etsy)

Octopus Crack Dip served with tortilla chips.
Just after this pic was taken I added a few goldfish to the dish. Made it seem much more sea-like.

Treasure chest full of juice boxes and water bottles. Water bottles were pirated-up by wrapping Skull-themed Duct Tape around the label. Duct tape is water proof. It works well in the ice chest.

The Swag:
Favor boxes, pirate gear and pinata contents courtesy of Oriental Trading. Each child received a pirate hat, an eye patch, and a treasure chest box full of booty.
Pirate Code of Conduct printed on burlap. (Burlap instructions here)
Table centerpiece: $5 wood model kit of ship from Micheals Crafts (took a few days for Mr Moose to put together. Might want to start the week before)
Pinata: Purchased from local party store. Stuffed with goodies from Oriental Trading Company.
Balloons: Helium doesn't do so well at high altitudes. Stringing balloons on fishing wire was the perfect solution. Originally learned of the idea here. I used five different colors of balloons. A 15 pack of single-color balloons can be purchased at some place like Walmart for less than a buck.

Outside decorations: A Jolly Roger (Pirate Flag) from Oriental Trading.
Not shown/easily seen:
I love to cover my eating/serving areas with some sort of table covering. The dining table was covered with two different paper tablecloths. The brighter color tablecloth I placed on the table as is. The darker of the two I tore the edges off and hand tore holes throughout the table cloth. Then I place it at an angle over the first. It gave the appearance of old cloth without actually being so.
On the kitchen island, where I served all the food, I placed a yard of burlap draped across the countertop. I didn't worry too much about wrinkles and folds. To fill in the rest of the space I purchased cheap Halloween decorations. I used black "scary" fabric (open-weave fabric with pre-made holes and tears - typically used to cover doors) on either side of the burlap. The effect was pirate-like cloth across the whole serving area.
In each cardboard treasure chest (party favor boxes), I rolled up a do it yourself pirate ship project sheet and a watercolor pirate-themed page for the child to paint (the kind where the paint's already on the page and the child just dips a paintbrush or q-tip in water to paint.
The party went off without a hitch, and the kids had a blast. I was even able to skimp out on the cleaning and claim the dust was part of the decorations. Score!

October 6, 2011

Moose Dropping

Tomorrow is Toddler Moose's 4th birthday. And the day after is his pirate party. In preparation of that, I haven't done a darn thing craft or baking-wise. But rest assured - I'll be back to it soon. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

Things you can look forward to (and hold me to):

A Halloween Spider Web Wreath

Pirate Party Pictures

A Monster

A Lego Minifigures Display Shelf (for my work office!)

More food (candies, cookies, the whole nine yards)

Super Hero costume accessories (or, as I like to call it "The Lazy-girl's superhero costume")

and possibly even another dinosaur costume. Perhaps one that does require sewing.

Random update on my snail mail: The recipient has named him Escargot and given him an appropriately French mustache. He resides at her work desk and brightens her day whenever possible.

Grown Up Grilled Cheese

I love a good Caprese Salad. The flavors are perfect to me. So, when I'm looking for new sorts of lunch-ish foods to make, I often consider what I can do with those same three ingredients. Well, this one turned out perfectly.

Caprese Grilled Cheese
2 slices sandwich bread
2 slices mozzarella cheese
1 tomato, sliced thin
basil (or pesto, if you have it)

Place 1 piece of mozz on each slice of bread. Layer tomato slices in an even layer on one piece of mozz. Then sprinkle with basil strips (basil cut into thin strips.) Place sandwich halves together, sandwiching the cheese. Spread butter on the top of the bread.
Place bread butter-side down in a pre-heated skillet over medium heat. Let cook. Don't cheat and flip early. While the bottom is cooking, spread butter on the other slice of bread. Once browned, flip the sandwich over and brown the remaining side.

Moose Tracks:
Grilled cheese sandwiches aren't fast food. Grilled cheese should take 15-20 minuets to cook. You want the bread to toast (fry in butter - whatever), and the cheese in between to melt evenly. High heat won't get you there.
Dips. I've always dipped my grilled cheese sandwiches. Good ol' Velveeta and bread always got the ketchup treatment. But my grown-up grilled cheese is a little too fancy for that. So, I used some balsamic vinaigrette reduction to dip into. Or, you could use some balsamic dressing. Heck - get a little crazy and paint some balsamic dressing on the bread before adding the cheese.
If you prefer pesto to basil, just use it like a sandwich spread. Basil, cheese, tomato, cheese, basil. Easy-peasy.

Pizza Rolls

I was so busy eating the following to remember to take a picture. Luckily I snuck one in just before they were all consumed.

This recipe is inspired by something I saw on Pinterest (here). But instead of getting a computer or phone or iPad or whatever and finding the recipe, I just made something up. So, enjoy.

Pizza Rolls:
1 tube pizza dough (a la Pillsbury)
favorite pizza meat (pepperoni, ham, whatever)
4 sticks string cheese
cooking spray
parmesean cheese
Italian seasoning
pizza sauce

Heat oven to 400degrees.

Spread out pizza dough. Slice into approx 20 squares (about 1.5" per side)
Cut each piece of string cheese into 5 smaller pieces.

Place a slice of meat and a piece of cheese on every square. Fold dough around meat and cheese, pressing edges together to seal. Place pizza ball seam side down in greased 9" pan (round or square - doesn't matter to me). Continue making pizza rolls. They'll touch in the pan, but that's okay.

Spray tops of rolls with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and parmesean cheese.
Cook 20-25 minutes.

When cooled slightly, serve on one big plate, allowing everyone to peel off their own pizza ball. or just eat straight out of the pan without regard to ettiquite, as Mr Moose and I did.
Dip pizza balls in warmed pizza sauce.

Moose Tracks:
Olive Oil spray works best, in my opinion. Any pure oil spray - meaning those that aren't mean't for baking and don't contain flour - will work.
Get crazy with the spice. If you like red peppers on your pizza, why not sprinkle some on top?
Get creative with meat choices. I used pepperoni because it's what I had. I'd actually have preferred thin ham.
Also, feel free to add "toppings" on top of each ball. If I'd had them, I would have placed a mushroom slice on top of the dough before spraying with oil. Go crazy - it's hard to mess this one up.

A most uneventful muffin

So, I pinned a muffin that promised to be "the best muffin ever" and "a culinary foodgasm." So, Toddler Moose and I spent a lovely weekend morning preparing breakfast muffins (their rightful name, from what I gather.) And, I have to say I was underwhelmed. They're fine. They taste like muffins with nutmeg and cinnamon and sugar. Mostly because they're muffins with nutmeg and cinnamon and sugar. But that's where the excitement ends.

I didn't see fireworks, I had no involuntary moaning or bosom-heaving while consuming said muffin, and I definitely had no desire to go back for seconds.
So, I challenge you to make these bad boys and tell me what I'm missing. Are my tastebuds whack? Did I potentially do something wrong? I'm I too unsophisticated to handle such awesomeness? You tell me. Here's the recipe.

I promise you to share the absolutely best muffin recipe ever - next time I make them. You'll never look at a blueberry muffin the same way again.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread

Another yummy recipe. Another yeast dough (oh, how I loathe rolling out yeast doughs)

This recipe came straight from Pinterest (see here).

Moose Tracks:
The only modification I made was to add a bit of rum extract to the bread. But, faithful readers of my blog know I do that with any pumpkin recipe.
I didn't add the glaze to the bread, as it wasn't necessary.
I also don't have a picture of the bread out of the pan. For two reasons: 1) It fell apart as soon as it came out of the pan. This actually made it easier to claim a chunk of bread for myself. Mr Moose grabbed the rest, and B) The bread so so ooey-gooey because of the caramelized goop that collects at the bottom of the pan.
The ooey-gooeyness made me realize that the dough and sugary filling would be perfect for my version of cinnamon rolls. I grew up calling them cinnamon rolls, but they're more akin to sticky buns. And yet they're none of the above. But they are the greatest things known to man. Someday I'll make some and take a picture for you. Simply to make you jealous. Okay, maybe I'll share my recipe, too.

Celebrate good times, Come on!

I have a way of deciding to make cards for coworkers at about 5:30am, just as I running out the door to go to work. So, I grab some basic cardstock and go. Then, I make the card using whatever I have on hand in my office. luckily for me, I stock quite a bit more "stuff" than what I actually use as an engineer. So, you get creative cards. And, in case anyone from work reads this blog, I promise I didn't take anything from the first-aid cabinet this time.

To celebrate a friend's new job/commitment/version of hell, I made a celebration card. Simple black cardstock folded into a card shape. White cardstock, cut slightly smaller than the front. Then I clipped off some curled ribbon from a gift bag I had just hanging around (seriously - I have the most random stuff in my desk.) Some glue and a silver sharpie later, Viola - a celebration card.
It's a 3D card. It's not the sort of thing you shove in an envelope and mail. ribbon curls are amazingly pathetic when smooshed. But there you have - a lazy-girl's congrats card.