Smoothie Popsicles

Ruby has been my smoothie buddy since she was around two. We don’t make them as often now that she’s in school, but these smoothie popsicles are even more fun for the kids. This is a really basic recipe using what I had on hand today, but you could make these a million different ways by switching up the fruits and juice that you use.

Whenever bananas start looking too ripe I peel them, break ’em in half, and then add them to my frozen banana collection so I always have them on hand for smoothies. We also have the best popsicle molds ever. I’m not getting paid to promote them or anything, I just love how easily they unmold and the zombies are the cutest. I will say that the swords are a tad on the phallic side (especially if you’re super immature like me) so in hindsight, we should have gone with the monster or tiki molds for our second set.

No matter what kind of mold you use I can promise that these smoothie pops will be an easy and healthy-ish treat for the whole family.

Smoothie Popsicles

Serves 4 to 6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 10 minutes
Meal type Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold

Ingredients

  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen fruit chunks
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cups fruit juice
  • 1 handful fresh spinach (optional)

Directions

Step 1
Add all of the ingredients into your blender, and pulse until everybody's incorporated.
Step 2
Puree the hell out of it until it's completely smooth. Pour into your favorite popsicle molds and freeze for a couple hours.
Step 3
Gently remove from the molds once they're set and enjoy!
Step 4
For the sword pops I used frozen mango and pineapple chunks with orange juice.
Step 5
And for these cute little zombies I swapped out apple juice for the OJ and added a handful of fresh spinach which made them the perfect zombie color.
Step 6
And for these cute little zombies I swapped out apple juice for the OJ and added a handful of fresh spinach which made them the perfect zombie color.

Christmas Snickerdoodles

Happy Holidays!

As anyone who knows me could tell you, I love this time of year! I go a little nuts, especially now that I have my little Christmas cohort Wyatt to help. We decorate, read christmas books, watch christmas movies, make crafts, and of course We Bake!

It’s become a tradition that every year for a few weeks I bake like crazy, while across town my mom REALLY bakes like crazy. Then we get together, and in one day we bag up enough cookies and candies to choke an elf! Okay well I guess it probably wouldn’t take too much to actually choke an elf, but we make and bag enough to give as gifts to: mom’s friends, our families, my coworkers, and all of Brian’s clients. If it doesn’t sound like a lot then I’ve said something wrong… it’s insane! But it’s insane in a fun way, especially since my sister Mandy, Brian, and even Wyatt have been recruited to help with the baking and bagging.

Last year I adapted my favorite snickerdoodle recipe ever so slightly to turn them into Christmas Snickerdoodles! This is Trisha Yearwood’s Snickerdoodle Recipe, and it’s absolutely wonderful! I’ve adjusted the amount of salt because I always have unsalted butter on hand so I use that in place of her salted butter, and I’ve really upped the amount of sugar used to roll them in because… well that’s what makes them so darn Christmasy!

Please make these… I promise everyone on your Christmas list will love them!

Christmas Snickerdoodles Recipe

Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Occasion Christmas

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tarter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 5 heaped tablespoons Christmas sugar
  • 2 heaped teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

Step 1
Let's start with the ingredient that transforms these from insanely delicious snickerdoodles into insanely delicious "Christmas" snickerdoodles!

You'll need cinnamon, red sugar, and green sugar.
Step 2
I listed 5 tablespoons of Christmas sugar to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon as the ratio for the dipping/rolling sugar mix.

This is just to give you a guideline of where to start, but please feel free to modify that. I know I always do.
Step 3
The thing is that as you start rolling the dough balls, you'll end up using up the sugar and being left with balls that are mainly rolled in cinnamon. These will taste great... however, if you want the pretty red and green cookies as your finished product, you'll need to add more sugar as you go.

By the time I've made a few batches of these back to back (as I end up doing a lot this time of year) I never know exactly how much sugar or cinnamon are in my mixes... I just keep adding both as I see fit.

I make tons of these during the Christmas season, and I've found that the sugar mix keeps great if it's stored in tupperware when you're done rolling.
Step 4
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and get ready to sift the dry ingredients.

Add in the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt to your strainer or sifter.
Step 5
Sift it all into well mixed fluffy pile, then set aside while you ready the creamy stuff!
Step 6
I always crack my eggs into a small bowl first before adding them into the mixer bowl on top of my other ingredients.
Step 7
I've gotten some weird eggs in the past, and let me say that one bad egg can waste a stick of butter faster than Paula Dean!

Stir the eggs up with a fork so that they incorporate into the dough faster.
Step 8
Add the butter, shortening, sugar, and eggs into your mixer bowl.
Step 9
Mix on medium speed for about 1 to 2 minutes.

It should look well blended and creamy.
Step 10
Scoop in about half of your dry mix.
Step 11
Mix until just incorporated, then add the other half.
Step 12
Scrape down the sides and especially the bottom of the bowl, then mix one last time for only about 5 or 10 seconds.

This dough has a perfect soft Play Doh texture, and if I weren't pregnant I'd just want to start eating it right now!
Step 13
To minimize on messy hands and fingers (which wastes more of your colorful sugar mix as it sticks to you instead of the dough) I like to roll all the dough into balls first.

I go ahead and line them up on two large parchment lined cookie sheets.
Step 14
This should make about 50 Christmas Snickerdoodles once they're all rolled out.

Now it's just a matter of getting these guys thoroughly rolled in the red and green sugar mixes... you may need to recruit help for this step.
Step 15
Aren't they adorable already?
Step 16
Pop into the 400 degree oven and bake for about 10 minutes.

When you pull them out, they should be puffed up like this.
Step 17
Let them cool for a few minutes right on the pan, and then carefully transfer them onto cooling racks to finish cooling off.
Step 18
These have become my favorite holiday cookies because they're so stinking cute,
Step 19
and insanely delicious!
Step 20
Merry Christmas!

Nutella Chocolate Cream Pie

I’m not really sure what to say here.

This is a chocolate cream pie made with Nutella! So yeah, it’s pretty much awesome.

I did yet another spin on one of my favorite pies, the Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. A couple weeks ago I made a Biscoff Cream Pie by switching out the Oreos for Biscoff cookies, and the peanut butter for Biscoff spread. It was awesome! So I thought, why not push further? This round I decided to replace the Oreos in the crust with Golden Oreos, and swap out the peanut butter with Nutella. I hate to say I’m a genius, but while eating this pie it was hard not to at least feel kinda smart. Ok, so technically I guess if anyone is the genius here it would have to be Ree Drummond… but I like to think of myself as at least a half bright sidekick.

Alright, I’m gonna stop rambling!

Please try this pie, and let me know what you think!

Nutella Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe

Meal type Dessert
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 cup Nutella (or another chocolate hazelnut spread)
  • 8oz softened cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8oz thawed Cool Whip

Crust

  • 25 Golden Oreos
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

Step 1
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grab a food processor!

Dump in 25 oreos. The Pioneer Woman has already done the Oreo math for us... so who's to argue?
Step 2
Pulse until you're left with some insanely delicious smelling sand.
Step 3
Remove the blade from the processor, and pour in the melted and cooled butter.
Step 4
Give everything a good stir to ensure that every crumb gets a touch of the butter.
Step 5
Pile all of your buttery crumbs into the center of a pie pan,
Step 6
and press into place using clean hands (you can tell I'm constantly talking to a four year old).

Follow up with a final pressing using a measuring cup.
Step 7
I wouldn't say that pressing pie crusts into pans is one of my talents.
Step 8
Let's just call this one "rustic" and throw it into the preheated oven for about 7 minutes.

This smells soooo good!
Step 9
Now onto the REALLY sinful stuff!

Add the cream cheese and the cup of Nutella into your mixer.
Step 10
Beat on medium high until it's one big creamy mess.
Step 11
Dump in the powdered sugar.
Step 12
Beat for about a minute; scrape down the sides; beat a few more seconds to fully absorb the sugar.
Step 13
Scoop the entire 8oz container of Cool Whip into the mixer, and beat on medium high for about a minute.
Step 14
Thoroughly scrape down the sides of the bowl. Take special care to really scrape underneath the pile of fluff to the bottom to get any dark brown Nutella goodness off the bowl and into the mix!
Step 15
Give it another good beating until it's beautifully creamy and fluffy.
Step 16
Fill your cooled pie crust with your creamy chocolatey goodness, and refrigerate for several hours.
Step 17
Whenever you're ready to serve your pie (or eat it yourself... no one is judging here), I think it's best topped with some whipped cream.

The cream cuts the sweet richness of the pie a touch. Plus it's just not chocolate cream pie to me without some whipped cream.

Pour the cream into your mixer, along with the vanilla.
Step 18
Whisk on high around a minute or so. It should look thickened, and leave a soft peak on the beater when you lift it out.
Step 19
Here's a look inside the bowl at this phase to give you an idea of what to look for.
Step 20
Add the powdered sugar, and whisk on high for a few more seconds to thicken the cream a bit more.
Step 21
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and whisk one last quick time.
Step 22
I wanted my whipped cream nice and thick, but whisk it a little less if you prefer a looser whipped cream.
Step 23
Feel free to plop it right on top of your pie, or you can put it into a fancy piping bag like mine... aka a gallon sized ziploc bag.
Step 24
Snip off one corner,
Step 25
and voila!
Step 26
Look at how rich and creamy!
Step 27
This one is definitely not for the faint of heart!

I think it's actually sweeter than a regular chocolate pudding pie.
Step 28
But if you've got a glass of milk and a can-do attitude... why not?!!
Step 29
Yum, yum, and double yum!

Kale Pesto

My four year old ate a bowlful of noodles coated in kale pesto!

If that doesn’t convince you that this is a tasty way to get some raw kale into your diet, then I’m not sure what will. This is my traditional pesto recipe just replaced with kale instead of basil.

I actually love kale. It’s something that I had to talk myself into trying, but now I can’t believe how much I love it! It’s basically a nutritional powerhouse, being one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. However, as much as I may love raw kale in a nice fall salad with dried cranberries and pears, trying to talk Wyatt into eating a kale salad is laughable. Believe me… I’ve tried. He’s been blackmailed into trying small bites of raw kale before in exchange for the promise of dessert. It’s never been worth it. He takes the smallest bite humanly imaginable, shudders while he dramatically chokes it down, and then gets to eat a cookie for his trouble.

The night I made this pesto, I made sure to use a fun-shaped noodle that he hadn’t seen in awhile. I also never used the “k-word”. It was strictly referred to as “green noodles”. Dinnertime with Wyatt has become hit or miss as of late. Some nights he’ll just eat happily, and others (I’m afraid the majority) he needs to be coaxed or hounded into taking every single bite. I have to say that this was one of the easiest dinners (not to mention tastiest) in recent memory!

Please try this and let me know what you think!

Kale Pesto Recipe

Allergy Milk, Tree Nuts
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Appetizer, Condiment, Lunch, Main Dish, Side Dish, Snack, Starter
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Gourmet, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot

Ingredients

  • 6 cups washed baby kale (most of a 9 oz package)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup chopped marcona almonds (or salted nut of your choice)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Step 1
Even though pesto is a raw sauce, I decided to turn the olive oil into garlic oil. It's a really easy process.

Add the 1/2c olive oil into a small saucepan, and add a tablespoon of minced garlic.
Step 2
If I'd had a fresh head of garlic I would have simply added in about 2 or 3 cloves. We always have a jar of minced in the fridge, so even though it's more to scoop out later, it'll taste just as garlic-y!

Heat over low/medium heat. Usually I say medium/low heat, but you really want to be careful not to scorch the garlic here so make sure it's set to the lower end of things for this. Give it about 10 minutes to really infuse the oil.
Step 3
Expect some bubbles the last couple of minutes, but pull it off the heat early if you think it's about to really boil! After about 10 minutes pull the pan off the heat; allow to completely cool before you add it into your pesto.

Add two overflowing cups of kale into your food processor.
Step 4
I have a mini-prep food processor, which I love, and use for almost everything. Now, however, is definitely the time for your large food processor if you've got two size options.

Look how full my larger processor is with just two cups... I can't imagine how long it would have taken if I'd had to use my mini-prep!
Step 5
Pulse kale about 4 times. Add 2 more cups kale; pulse again. Add the last 2 cups of kale; pulse again.

Here's what 6 cups of pulsed kale looks like, if you'd ever wondered.
Step 6
Add in the chopped nuts, parmesan, and lemon zest.
Step 7
Pulse about 8 times.
Step 8
Add the tablespoon of lemon juice, and pulse about 3 more times.

This smells fantastic by the way!

Now, using a slotted spoon, scoop the garlic out of your cooled oil, and add it into the pesto.
Step 9
Replace the lid of the food processor. Turn it onto the lower setting (mine has 1 or 2... I picked 1) and slowly pour in the garlic infused olive oil.

Unfortunately I'm not skillful enough to pour a steady stream of oil into a running food processor and photograph it... so here's what it looks like after adding the oil and letting the machine run for about 20 seconds.
Step 10
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add salt and pepper to taste. I added 1/2tsp salt and 1/4tsp black pepper.
Step 11
Run the processor one last time for about 10 seconds, and you're left with this beautiful pesto!
Step 12
Of course the obvious use for this is simply tossed with your favorite pasta shape of the moment...
Step 13
but you can really use as you would any other condiment. Brian's already tried it as a sandwich spread and inside burritos!
Step 14
I was thrilled that Wyatt ate up the "green" noodles without a fight, and I hope that everyone in your house is delighted with these healthy dish as well!

Caramel Applesauce Cupcakes

“That cupcake was better than any cupcake I’ve ever paid money for!”

That’s a quote from my sister Mandy, after trying one of my Caramel Applesauce Cupcakes. A glowing endorsement of course, but let me tell you a few things about Mandy. She doesn’t like: spice cake, apple cider, applesauce, or any kind of cooked apple. So I’m thinking if she loved these cupcakes that much (which have a spice cake base that’s made extra moist by using applesauce and apple cider, plus they’re topped with a homemade Apple Cider Buttercream) then anyone will!

I made these up the other week to donate for a neighborhood Fall Festival cake walk. I was really trying to think of a seasonal cupcake. Well once the idea for these occurred to me, that was it! I thought they’d be awesome, and as much as I try not to toot my own horn… I’m afraid I’m about to start some tootin’! They really are insanely good. There’s no other way to put it. I’ve made a few notes in the recipe, but the shortened version is: these are insanely moist cupcakes, so don’t bake them too many days before you’re serving them… they just get more and more juicy as time passes!

Please top them with my recipe for Apple Cider Buttercream! It’s the perfect topper for any fall flavored cake, but since these are apple-y already it’s just a match made in heaven.

Caramel Applesauce Cupcakes Recipe

Allergy Egg
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable

Ingredients

  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • caramel cubes
  • Apple Cider Buttercream (see link to recipe above)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (or according to your cake mix's specific directions), and line a couple cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners.

Here's the line-up for these awesome little cakes.
Step 2
Every recipe I've ever looked at for replacing oil with applesauce in baking calls for all natural unsweetened applesauce. Well, all I had was strawberry flavored single serving Mott's... and boy was it perfect! I say use whatever kind of applesauce you like or have on hand.

It was very convenient that my little single serving cup just happen to be 1/3 cup!
Step 3
Go by your box mix's instructions, and replace whatever amount of oil it calls for with applesauce.

Next I measure out the apple cider and water in the same measuring cup.
Step 4
Now dump the cake mix, apple cider, water, applesauce, and eggs into your mixer.
Step 5
Blend together the length of time it calls for on the cake mix box, and watch a fragrant, creamy batter develop.
Step 6
Now set up your assembly line with the cupcake pans, your batter, a spoon, and the caramels.
Step 7
Divvy out the batter evenly amongst the cupcake liners. According to my box's instructions this should make 24 cupcakes.
Step 8
As you can see, I ended up with 22. Once they came out of the oven though I thought they looked perfect so I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Gently press one caramel into the center of each cup of batter. I'm not sure if it will be for you... but this was extremely satisfying for me! I need to find a job somewhere smooshing caramels into cake batter.
Step 9
Bake in your preheated oven, and here's what they looked like 17 minutes later. It's like magic... where did the caramel go?
Step 10
Well a couple of notes on that:

1) Obviously they sank to the bottom. On the first and second day, we had about a 20% chance of the caramel sticking to the liner when the cupcake got unwrapped. None of us really minded, but I just wanted you to be aware to be careful unwrapping. Once we discovered that it could happen, we started peeling more carefully and had very few "sticks" after that.

Step 11
2) These are insanely moist cupcakes. Because of that, the caramel on the inside will be getting softer as the days go by. So, the cupcake I had the day I made them contained a still very chewy and firm candy on the inside. Whereas the cupcake I ate three days later had an almost liquified caramel sauce at the bottom. It was a bit more messy, but I kinda liked it even better! Anyway, keep that in mind and plan accordingly as to when you'd want to bake these for your event or party.

I topped these with my Apple Cider Buttercream.
Step 12
It's the perfect match for the moist apple spice cake! I also topped each one with a quarter of a caramel to give people a sneak peek as to what they'd find inside.
Step 13
I also found these candy apple flavored candy corns, which I think would be a cute topping as well.
Step 14
However you end up topping them, just make sure you keep an eye on your husband and four year old... because they will begin to mysteriously disappear!

Apple Cider Buttercream

This is the only frosting recipe I need for the fall months.

I love trying to cook and bake with seasonal ingredients. Right now (at least in Georgia) you can’t get more seasonal than apples. Our family has easily developed a “5 apples a day” household habit. You’re also guaranteed to find some local apple cider in our fridge during autumn. At first, Wyatt wasn’t so sure about cider. I had to really talk him into trying that first jug this year. He finally relented to taking one sip, and followed it up by saying “It’s dusty, but you were right… I like it!”

It’s the perfect accompaniment to any fall flavored cake. Think of any cake you might make for Thanksgiving: applesauce, sweet potato, pumpkin, caramel apple, golden butter… Apple Cider Buttercream would be the ideal topping.

It comes together in a snap… butter, sugar and cider get creamed into the perfect storm of sweetness. If you’ve got a mixer, then you’ve got no excuse for not making this deliciousness!

Apple Cider Buttercream Recipe

Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider

Directions

Step 1
It all begins with one creamy and dreamy stick of softened butter.
Step 2
Beat the heck out of it for as long as it takes to get it fluffy.
Step 3
My estimate would be a couple of minutes.

Next, dump in about half of the powdered sugar, and beat on medium low.
Step 4
Scrape down the sides and add in the rest of the sugar.

Beat on medium low... again.

Scrape down the bowl... again.
Step 5
You should end up with buttery little sugar pearls like these.

Believe it or not... all you need now, to turn these buttery balls into a luscious buttercream, is just 4Tbs. of apple cider!
Step 6
Add in the apple cider, and beat on medium until you end up with a velvety frosting.
Step 7
The apple cider scent is absolutely intoxicating!
Step 8
I could seriously eat this on any kind of cake, and be happy!

Candy Corn Cookies

Wyatt’s favorite Halloween candy (and possibly favorite candy of all time) is candy corn. Because of this, we always end up with way more than we need floating around the house this time of year.

This year, I decided to make some Candy Corn Cookies to try something new. I put a spin on the ever so popular cake mix cookies. They turned out great, and we all loved them! I made a batch for a neighborhood Fall Festival (it was really a Halloween Festival but no one calls them that anymore) and they really went over well. I donated them for the cake walk, and was super pleased to see them get picked by the kids that won!

Whether you’ve got a Halloween event coming up, or if you find yourself with too much leftover candy corn after the holiday… these are the perfect quick cookies!

Candy Corn Cookies Recipe

Allergy Egg
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
Occasion Halloween

Ingredients

  • 1 box golden butter or yellow cake mix
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup candy corn (chopped)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the two sticks of softened butter into your mixer bowl, and beat on high for at least a minute or so.

You always want to get butter or shortening super fluffy at the beginning of almost any cookie dough.
Step 2
Dump in the whole bagful of cake mix, and mix in on medium speed.

You'll be left with big buttery crumbs like these.
Step 3
Crack in the egg.
Step 4
Mix on medium speed again until blended into a smooth cookie dough paste.
Step 5
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and toss in the cup of flour.
Step 6
Mix in until barely incorporated.
Step 7
For the candy corn I measured out a cup first...
Step 8
not that measuring is super important here.

And then I chopped it all up slightly. I wanted to keep some nice sized pieces, but didn't want to deal with whole pieces while balling up the dough.
Step 9
Just so you know, chopping candy corn is easier said than done. But I still think it was worth it!

Now make sure every single candy corn bit makes it into the mixer.
Step 10
Blend on a medium low setting for maybe 10 seconds or so.

I'm basically trying to spare my hands the work of stirring the candy into the thick dough.
Step 11
Look at that... I mean that's some seriously thick cookie dough.

Plunk the huge blob of dough back into the mixer bowl.
Step 12
Use a cookie scoop or spoon to make balls of dough that are about the same size.

Set them a hefty 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Step 13
Once my cookie dough is balled and lined up like little buttery solders, I like to break off a few more candy corn pieces for something special I do with cookies.

I like to look for blank spots on the tops and strategically press in some extra bits here and there. See the difference?
Step 14
I do this with chocolate chips, or whatever item has ended up in our cookie dough that day. It usually makes for the loaded up cookies you just want to grab!

Pop the pan into your preheated oven, and bake for 12 minutes.

This dough makes enough for two full big pans of cookies. You can either make both now, or make one pan and save the rest of the dough.

I get another fresh sheet of parchment, and scrape the other half of the dough right into the center.
Step 15
Shape the dough into a candy studded log.
Step 16
Then just roll it, rubber band it, and label it... and you'll have a whole new pan of cookies for another day!
Step 17
After 12 minutes, this is what I pulled from the oven.
Step 18
As you can see, these are really light colored cookies. Don't be tempted to keep baking them for more color, because you'll just burn the bottoms and melt the candy even further!
Step 19
These are so buttery and delicious!
Step 20
I hope you love them!

Beef and Black Bean Chili

With the weather beginning to cool down, I couldn’t wait to make a pot of chili! This beefy chili with black beans makes the perfect dinner or lunch on a cool October day!

I used some local grass-fed beef from my family’s favorite farm White Oak Pastures. They are really a farm that’s doing it right. They care about the welfare of their animals, and giving them a humane existence. Being a butcher, the quality of the meat that ends up on our family table is very important to me. These animals are antibiotic and hormone free, and spend their days grazing on White Oak’s lush pastures. It’s a truly inspirational place.

Wherever you get your beef from, make sure to use a cut that will braise well. I used shoulder clod, but any number of other tough cuts would work: chuck blade, chuck, bottom round, eye round, boneless short rib. I’m a fan of anything shoulder or “chuck” related for chilies like this. Just don’t get anything too tender. If you begin with a cut that’s tender to start with, it’ll overcook in the chili and actually become tough. So save the money and buy something cheap and tough!

I fell in love with the pumpkin beer that I used here. I’d never tried one before, but I’m a sucker for all things seasonal so I gave it a go. It’s smooth and light, and it worked great in the chili! Use anything you’d like to drink on the side. I also think a stout beer would work well here, because I love to use stouts in braises. If you’re not a beer drinker just use an extra cup of beef broth.

Happy fall, and I hope you love this chili!

Beef and Black Bean Chili Recipe

Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Side Dish, Soup
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot

Ingredients

  • 2lb lean beef shoulder (in small cubes)
  • 3 cups diced onion (about one large onion)
  • 2 cups bell pepper seeded and small diced (about 2 on the larger side)
  • 1 cup poblano pepper seeded and almost minced (about 2 large poblanos)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 can pumpkin beer (or your favorite seasonal beer)
  • 2 cans black beans (15.5 oz cans)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz can)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus another 2 tsp. later)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (plus another 1 Tbs. later)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus another 1 tsp. later)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (plus another 2 Tbs. later)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • sour cream
  • sliced green onion

Directions

Step 1
I like to get everything seasoned and chopped before I start, so that I'm not scrambling around to cook and take pictures. Since you'll just be cooking without the photo shoot, you could probably get away with chopping your veggies while your meat browns.

Anyway, I'm a non-multitasking scaredy cat so I chopped my veggies first. Here's my line-up.
Step 2
I had one gigantic onion, a large and a medium bell pepper, and two large poblanos. I wouldn't get too hung up on the measurements or sizes being exact. I measured just to give you a guideline, but feel free to add more, less, or different veggies to make the chili your own!

I completely seeded my peppers.
Step 3
I'll be attempting to feed this to an almost four year old. So wish me luck, and feel free to add some seeds for extra heat in your chili.

Another thing I did to help get Wyatt to eat this was to practically mince the poblanos.
Step 4
As you chop the veggies, add them into a bowl, and top with the minced garlic.

Now is a good time to heat up 2 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat.
Step 5
Here's the beautiful grass fed beef. This is exactly 2 pounds of shoulder clod that has been: seamed out, trimmed of excess fat, and chopped into very small cubes.
Step 6
Just so you know, my "chili-sized" small cubes are small enough that you could easily scoop up three or four pieces per spoonful.

Toss the first round of spices in with the meat: 1tsp. salt, 2tsp. garlic powder, 1tsp. cumin, 1/2tsp. cinnamon, 1/2tsp. black pepper, 1Tbs. chili powder.
Step 7
Add half of the seasoned beef cubes to your heated oil, and brown for around 2 minutes.
Step 8
After the first batch is brown, pull it to a bowl. Use a slotted spoon so that you leave all of your flavorful grease in the pan for the second round of beef.
Step 9
Now brown round two for another 2 minutes. This smells fantastic by the way! After it's brown add it to the bowl of beef.
Step 10
Add one more Tbs. of oil into the hot pan, and dump in your big bowl of veggies. Give them a good stir to get everyone tossed in the beef flavored oil.
Step 11
Cook around 8-10 minutes over the medium high heat, tossing occasionally.

Once they look softened and tasty, it's chipotle time!
Step 12
I scooped 2 heaping Tbs. right out of the can. I avoided any bigger pieces, and also made a point of getting plenty of adobo sauce in both of my scoops.

Stir those in with your softened veggies, and let that cook for a minute or so while you crack open some cans.
Step 13
Open and add:

a large can of crushed tomatoes,
Step 14
two cans of black beans,
Step 15
one can of beer,
Step 16
and two cups of beef broth.
Step 17
Stir everything together.

Add in the rest of your spices: 2tsp salt, 1Tbs garlic powder, 2Tbs chili powder, 1tsp cinnamon.
Step 18
Add back the browned beef and all of it's tasty beef juices.
Step 19
Stir everything together again.
Step 20
Realize you haven't used a big enough pot.

Dump the whole thing into the dutch oven you should have used in the first place.
Step 21
*Or you could skip that step by just using a big enough pot in the first place!

Anyway, bring the whole shebang to a boil.
Step 22
At this point the beef shoulder still needs to braise a bit. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for an hour stirring occasionally.

After it's cooked an hour covered, the beef should be tender enough, but now it needs to thicken up some (unless you'd like Beef and Black Bean Soup). I let mine simmer another half an hour uncovered still on medium low. Then I increased the heat to medium, and let it bubble and thicken for about 20-30 minutes.
Step 23
I strongly recommend serving this with sour cream and sliced green onion.
Step 24
Of course whatever beer you cooked with will be perfect on the side.
Step 25
If I'd had any cornbread it would have been great with this.
Step 26
But since I didn't, I just dove into the bowl!

Candy Corn Pudding Parfaits

Here’s another quick and easy Halloween treat for you!

Layers of colorful puddings get topped with sweetened whipped cream and festive garnishes. Use any type of pudding that your family enjoys… as long as they’re flavors that will lend themselves to food coloring. For the toppings you could use all kinds of things: sprinkles, cookie crumbs, candy corn, or any kind of small Halloween treat come to mind. I used some of my Halloween Spider Cookies  and Wyatt loved it!

Candy Corn Pudding Parfaits Recipe

Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Occasion Halloween

Ingredients

  • 1 box cheesecake flavored pudding mix
  • 1 box white chocolate flavored pudding mix
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream (about a one pint container)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • yellow gel food coloring
  • orange gel food coloring

Directions

Step 1
Any light colored pudding flavors would do the trick here. The main thing is making sure that they'll take the food coloring easily.

I liked the sound of cheesecake and white chocolate.
Step 2
So it gets really complicated here.

Mix the puddings according to their package directions.
Step 3
Add a nice sized blob of food coloring.
Step 4
Make one flavor yellow,
Step 5
and the other flavor orange.
Step 6
Place a gallon sized ziploc in a large measuring cup, and fold down the top.
Step 7
Pour in the yellow pudding.
Step 8
Reseal the top, and you have an instant piping bag!

Pour the orange pudding into another bag,

Place both bags into your fridge to thicken up a bit, and move on to the whipped cream.
Step 9
Pour the cream into mixer, and whip on high for about 3 minutes.

Add the sugar.
Step 10
and whip another 30 seconds or until you're pleased with the stiffness of the cream.
Step 11
Repeat the ziploc trick with the sweetened whipped cream, and you'll officially be the proud owner of three bags of sweet goop!
Step 12
Press the pudding back away from one corner of each bag, and snip off a small tip.
Step 13
Now it's just a matter of layering the ingredients into a cute dish!

The yellow goes first.
Step 14
Follow it up with a little orange.
Step 15
Then top it all off with some sweetened whipped cream.
Step 16
They're nice and candy corny as is, but of course I felt obligated to go further.
Step 17
The spider cookies on top might have been a bit much, but hey... it's Halloween.

Halloween Spider Cookies

Here’s another creepy Halloween treat for you! These are a great sweet treat project to make with kids, because it’s only a few ingredients, and they are quick and easy!

I’d seen these on top of cupcakes in a Halloween magazine last year, and I thought they looked like something I might actually be able to make. Well, after whipping these up, I can say that anyone can make these look just as cute as a magazine photo shoot… with the right supplies.

Wyatt and I tried to make these last week, but I learned that all frostings (or glue as Wyatt called it) are not created equal. I could have made homemade frosting, but he seemed just as happy to listen to Halloween music and eat the supplies! At any rate, one more trip to the store later, we made these!

Halloween Spider Cookies Recipe

Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable
Occasion Halloween

Ingredients

  • Halloween Oreos
  • Reeses Pieces
  • thin licorice (like)
  • chocolate frosting

Directions

Step 1
Here's the original lineup of ingredients I used.
Step 2
The "cookie icing" was definitely the wrong choice for these.

As you can see, it's extremely loose.
Step 3
Wyatt didn't care in the least.

All he wanted to do was eat Twizzlers and Reeses Pieces anyway.
Step 4
On the other hand, I still wanted to make spiders. The next day I bought this cookie creme frosting and it worked great!
Step 5
I also found the chocolate flavor much more pleasing than the other icing.

Anyway, now that I had the right "glue", it was time to start making some spiders!

I started by pulling apart some of the green licorice, and breaking it off into equal sized pieces. After making one with longer legs and another with shorter legs, I found that the shorter legs worked much better.
Step 6
Grab an Oreo, and dollop two globs of frosting where you'd like his eyes to go.
Step 7
Squish on a couple of conveniently colored Reeses Pieces, and BAM!

Step 8
He's got eyes!

Now squirt a generous line of frosting along the side so that you'll have enough room for four legs.
Step 9
I'll give you three guesses what comes next.
Step 10
That's right... spider legs.

Add four more on the other side, and all he needs now is a name.
Step 11
Ok so maybe don't name them, just eat them!
Step 12
And have a Happy Halloween!