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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Flapjack Stack

Happy Halloween Eve Eve!

Whether for breakfast or for dinner here's something fun to try in celebration of the best night of the year ever!  Halloween Flapjack Stacks have alternating layers of pumpkin and chocolate-cinnamon pancakes, dolloped with some "fresh" whip cream and sprinkled with nutmeg for good effect.  Smother with some of your favorite syrup and you will enjoy a sugar coma to rival that of any candy-gathering excursion.


Halloween Flapjack Stacks

pumpkin pancake mix

1 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tbsp veggie oil

Mix dry ingredients together.

Whisk together pumpkin puree with the milk to make it easier to mix.

Whisk wet ingredients into the dry until mixture is fairly smooth and slightly bubbly.

chocolate-cinnamon pancake mix

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients together.

Whisk wet ingredients into dry until mixture is fairly smooth and slightly bubbly (getting that sense of deja vu?).

Heat griddle or large, flat skillet to medium hot.  Spray with baking spray or melt a teaspoon of butter in pan to coat. 

Pour mixture to form 4" pancakes.  When the bubbles start to pop, carefully flip the jack to cook on other sides.

To keep the early batches of jacks warm, heat oven to warm (200 degrees) and put jacks an oven safe dish until ready to serve.

When they're done, stack them alternating the pumpkin and chocolate-cinnamon pancakes.  Syrup, dollop, spinkle, eat, happy smile.


Either pancake on their own would make a great base for a dessert.  Serve with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle with your favorite sauce -- for example, pumpkin pancake with butter pecan ice cream and some caramel sauce or chocolate-cinnamon pancake with peppermint ice cream and some hot fudge -- use your imagination and go crazy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Roast Onion Pumpkin Soup

I am very excited to bring you a K2 original recipe.  Perfect for the fall, not too heavy, but not too light, something to warm your belly when the temperature starts to drop outside, all that AND pumpkin!  Because I do love some pumpkin flavor this time of year.

So this was one of those train-of-thought creations -- I had a can of pumpkin puree, wanted to try something new, read this great post on Sunday (wink wink) about the savory things that work well with winter squashes, thought hey sage with pumpkin sounds good, been meaning to roast up those Farmer's Market onions with something too, also been intrigued by those Knorr Chicken Homestyle Stock starters I keep seeing on TV, add a touch of cream to that and...badda-bing badda-boom, magico presto...Roast Onion Pumpkin Soup.

Roast Onion Pumpkin Soup

1 medium onion (about 3-4" big)
1 tsp olive oil
fresh cracked black pepper
3 cups water
1 Knorr Chicken Homestyle Stock starter
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup Half-n-Half, warmed to room temp
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut your onion into large sections.  Put them on a piece of foil (large enough to make into a packet) and drizzle with olive oil and a twist or two of black pepper from the pepper mill.

Fold the foil over to make a baking packet.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.

In a sauce pan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil, then add in the stock starter and whisk until blended.

Drop the heat on your burner to simmer then add in the pumpkin puree and Half-n-Half to the stock and whisk together.

Mix in the salt and allow to simmer while the onions are cooking.

When the onions are done, put them in a food processor and process until it creates a smooth paste.

Add the roast onion paste to the soup and whisk to blend. 

Add in the sage and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Garnish with sunflower seeds or, if you have them, toasted pumpkin seeds and serve with a nice hearty bread.


Alternately, if you had the time, you could make your puree from fresh pumpkin (roasting pumpkin, see bottom of post), then save and toast the seeds to garnish your dish.

If you read the directions on box for the Knorr Chicken Homestyle Stock starter, you'll see it calls for 3 1/2 cups of water, but I opted to replace the 1/2 cup with Half-n-Half to make it creamier.

Make sure your Half-n-Half is at room temperature or warmer.  You don't want to add cold cream to the soup because it will curdle.  I put my glass measuring cup with the cream in the microwave for 35 second and then swirled it around to disperse the heat.  It was just the right temp for adding to the hot liquid.

The Parental Guinea Pigs garnished their servings with grated Parmesan cheese and said it added a nice additional flavor to the dish.

Most important thing to know, the longer you let the soup simmer, the better the flavors will blend.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good and Good for You: Winter Squash

Due to a minor back injury this week, I haven't had a chance to hang out in the kitchen at all so thought I would do another info post for you.  Because there is so much to be found this time of year, I want to talk about squash, winter squash in particular.  Winter squash inlcudes acorn, butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti and, of course, pumpkin.

Winter Squash

Winter squash differs from summer squash (zucchini, yellow, and crookneck) in that it's skin (rind) is tougher, harder, thicker and more irregular. The skin needs to be peeled away from the edible flesh inside.

Winter squash has a sweet, nutty flavor.  In fact, the deeper the color of the flesh, the sweeter it's going to be.  Either baking or roasting the squash will bring out its best flavor, but you can also broil, grill, stuff, mash and puree squash to use it.  Roast squash makes an excellent soup ingredient.

To prepare, you must first cut in and remove the seeds (which can be prepared separately) and fiber found with the seeds.  A fast and easy way to get to the flesh is to cut the squash into smaller chunks and cut the rind off the smaller pieces and scrape out the seeds/fiber with a spoon.

And what makes winter squash so good for you?

* It's low in fat and calories.
* Winter squash is high in good complex carbohydrates.
* It's a great source of fiber and potassium.
* Squash is one of the best sources of Vitamin A.
* Butternut squash is a great srouce of Vitamin E in particular.

Winter squashes go really well with a number of flavors.  On the savory side, they pair well with olive oil, garlic, sage, cilantro, and hard cheeses like parmesan.  On the sweet side, they pair well with orange, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and brown sugar.

Winter squash can be stored up to 6 months in a cool, dry place.  Once the flesh has been exposed to air, the deterioration process is much faster.  Best to store exposed squash in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap (minus the seeds and fiber inside) and use as soon as possible.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Brief Treatise on Candy Apples

Fresh from my yearly visit to the NC State Fair and still basking in the glory that is my (soon-to-be short-lived) collection of candy apples, I thought I'd pass along some of my candy apple wisdom and newly acquired historical information about this delectable treat.

A Bit of History

Candied fruit has a long history.  In ancient times honey and sugar were used as preserving agents and the practice of coating fruit in a simple sugar syrup was a means of extending the edible life of the fruit, and made a pretty sweet treat to boot.

In the British Isles candy apples are known as toffee apples and usually a treat enjoyed in honor of Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 5).  Here in the U.S. they are most often enjoyed as a Halloween treat.  Prime apple season is September to October and the tradition of enjoying apples and fresh-pressed cider dates back to pagan times when the end of harvest was celebrated by feasting on late harvest products.

The first red-tinted candy apple we know and love so well (okay, that I love so well) is attributed to candymaker William W. Kolb who in 1908 was experimenting with a red cinnamon Christmas candy and dipped some apples into it to display in his store.

A Bit of Wisdom

Whether making candy apples or purchasing them ready-made, here are a few K2 tips to keep in mind for the perfect candy apple eating experience.

* Because the candy is a crunchy hard product, you really want a softer apple on the inside to create the perfect eating balance.  Best to go with a more mealy apple like Golden Delicious or Red Delicious.  I have tried candy apples with a Granny Smith on the inside, but that's just leaving yourself open to double jeopardy on the hard-to-bite-into factor.  On the other hand, Granny Smiths are GREAT for caramel apples because you get the blend of warm creamy caramel with cool crunchy apple, something you can really sink your teeth into.

* You want to look for candy apples with a thin, light candy coating, and if you can find one with some bubbles in it even better.  The reason being that if the candy coating is too thick it will (1) possibly break your teeth trying to bite through it and (2) actually be more like toffee which will serve as a red adhesive and then you'll have to spend all your time pulling your teeth free.  If you have one with bubbles, you can break them and it will give you little grooves to dig your teeth into.

* For easy eating access, if you bang your apple on the counter once or twice it will create fissures or cracks into which you can sink your teeth.  Just don't hit it too hard or on anything that might break instead of the candy coating.

* When buying 3 or 5 or say, 7 apples at the Fair that you don't intend to share with anyone, it's best to buy them from different vendors.  That way, when you get home and start eating them, if you come across an apple that's less than the absolute perfect candy apple consumption experience, you know there may be a better one to look forward to in the collection.  Oh, and make sure to mark them so how so you know which came from the same vendor.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Road Kill Cookies

I love this time of year when tasty and disturbing can walk hand-in-hand through the kitchen and no one thinks to bat an eye. Here's another killer treat idea for you.

This post is dedicated to Guinea Pig Dad who had been hankering for these little critters since I started talking about doing them a couple of years ago.  He even bought me the car to run them over with so figured it was time to make the road kill. (Yes, sick humor is hereditary.) 

Road Kill Cookies

1 batch of basic chocolate short dough
(found at
1 toy truck or car with treaded wheels
1 twisted sense of humor

Make the cookie dough according to the recipes.  Let chill for 30 minutes before pulling out to begin the "sculpting" process.

Roll out one large ball for the body, two medium balls for the head and tail, and four small balls for the legs.

On a lightly greased cookie sheet, press the parts together to form a flattened critter.  Doesn't have to be pretty or even, just make sure to moosh the dough together enough that individual parts won't fall off during the baking process.

Using a paring knife, cut two little criss-crosses to indicate the eyes.  Now I had a batch of the basic regular short dough (found on same post as the chocolate short dough) on hand as well since I'm getting ready to make my annual batch of Zombie Fingers and used some of that to make the eyes.  Alternately, you could make up a small batch of white royal icing (found at and pipe the dead eyes on after the cookies have cooled.

Put the critters in an oven preheated to 325 degrees.  About 8-10 minutes in, pull the oven rack out and run over the critters with your car or truck.  Don't press down too hard or you will cut them in half.  Because the cookie is half-baked (not unlike this idea), the top will crack when you gentle roll the wheel across it.   

Once you've road-killed them, pop them back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes until they are barely soft to the touch.  Allow to cool on pan for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 12-14 (5-6") cookies.  Enjoy the carnage!


Making them on the smaller size end will lessen the chance of post-baked breakage.

It's okay to giggle as you make vrooming sounds while you run them over in the oven.

Car or truck treads are very important in making this work, so try to find something that has really notable ones.  (Good job Dad!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Killer Cupcakes

In the spirit of the season upon us, I took to the kitchen in a Frankensteinien manner this week and decided to do some eee-vil experimenting with some innocent cupcakes.  Things didn't turn out exactly like I hoped, but that's not always a bad thing.

The idea was to make some cordial candy-filled cupcakes that would ooze yummy goo when bitten into.  Sounds fun, right?  Unfortunately, the liquid baked out and left a chocolate-encased cherry in the middle of the treat instead.  If nothing else, they are deliciously disturbing in their own charming blood-splattered, blood red cherry-filled way.

Killer Cupcakes

chocolate cake batter
cherry cordials
chocolate icing
red food gel
Wilton candy knives

Whip up a batch of your favorite chocolate cake mix.

Fill cupcake holders 1/2 full then pop a cherry cordial in the middle.

Cover the cordial with more cake batter until the cupcake holder is full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cupcake springs back to the touch.

Remove from pan and let cool.

Slather some chocolate icing on the cupcake.  Make a "gash" in the icing and fill with red gel.

Jam a candy knife in the top and serve to your (possibly now nervous) friends.


I found the little candy knives at AC Moore, though you can probably find them at any craft store that sells Wilton products.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Show-N-Tell: Fun with Skulls

Going to have to beg your forgiveness for tonight's job collided with wedding favor for a friend this week and I didn't get a chance to do what I wanted for this evening, but I didn't want to leave you hanging so figured I'd indulge in a little show-n-tell. 

Wednesday's post actually tied into the wedding favor I was doing.  My dear friends Nicole and Page got married yesterday and my contribution to their festivities was a Dia de los Muertos-inspired wedding cake.  Traditionally my friends tend to be untraditional, so this was a perfect match.

I'd never made decorated skulls before.  We decided on white chocolate, instead of sugar, and used Royal Icing to decorate them with.  A friend of Nicole's lent us her skull molds to make them.  Very fun and very edible (well, the shiny snowflakes aren't, but otherwise everything else was.

cake toppers (crafty Nicole made their hats)
open tier with silk flowers and decorated skulls
mini skulls with silk flowers

Here's a really simple recipe for Royal Icing.  Not only is it great for decorating molded chocolate It's great for decorating hard cookies, like shortdough or gingerbread, anything that will be handled a lot while eating.

Royal Icing

1 lb (16 oz) powder sugar
1/4 cup meringue powder
1/3 cup water

Beat with an electric mixer (hand or stand) until the icing peaks (like when you make meringue).

To color, use color paste (like found in a craft store), not liquid food coloring (like you get in the grocery store).

To use, put icing in a pastry bag with tips and decorate your chocolate or cookie.  Allow to air dry for about 30-45 minutes to harden and then you can handle with no problems.

To store icing, keep in a tightly covered container and DO NOT refrigerate.


The best place to get your supplies is a craft store like Michael's or AC Moore's.  You can easily buy meringue powder, color pastes, bags, tips, melting chocolate and molds at either of those places.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Falloween Traditions: Dia de los Muertos

It's that time of year again, the time we (okay, me) loves so well!  Ghosts, goblins, turkeys, candy, pumpkins, state fair, more candy, basketball season, zombie fingers...all great things.  So this weekend I am getting a wedding cake ready for a dear friend of mine.  In the fine tradition of non-traditional cakes, this one has a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) theme.

Now I'm finding not many people are familiar with this or with the tradition of candy skulls so thought I'd do a little investigative journaling and here, in brief, is a little 411 for you.

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration that has become something of a national holiday (in Mexico).  It's celebrated on November 1-2, dates based on the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2).  These days are celebrated in many countries around the world as a time of prayers and remembrance of family and friends who have passed.  Food and beverage and gifts are left or shared in burial grounds and graveyards to celebrate the lives of those no longer with us.  They aren't sad occasions but rather a time of joy and festivity and sweet edible skulls.  The more traditional skulls are made of sugar and decorated with icing in bright festive colors, but you can find many people (like me) who make them out of white chocolate too.  Mmmm.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tailgate Treats & Eats: Grill Corn and "Scalloped" Potatoes

Bringing you some of the side products that came out of the K2-Parental Guinea Pig brainstorm session about what to grill up with our Zowie Burgers.  The results were dee-lish.  Easy to make so you can focus your energy elsewhere, like screaming in the stands or smack-talking the opposition.  These are actually some old family favorites, so thanks to the PGPs for suggesting them!

Dad's Grill Corn

5-6 ears of corn
5 gallons water
1/4 cup salt

You want to remove the outer husk layer(s), but leave enough to still provide a light sheath around the corn.

Mix the water and salt together in a large pot or bucket.  Then add in the corn and let soak for about 4 hours.

Remove the corn and allow to drain briefly, then set on grill over hot coals.
Cook approximately 10 minutes per quarter rotation (total of about 40 minutes).  Since the husk sheath is thin, if the corn gets grill marks, not to worry.  I think they actually taste better with a little marking on them.

When done, remove from grill and slather with butter, liberally sprinkle with salt and enjoy!

Mom's "Scalloped" Potatoes

2-3 dozen small yellow potatoes (about 2-3" in diameter)
4-6 tbsp stick butter
salt and pepper
aluminum foil
1/2-3/4 cup grated Asiago cheese

Wash and pat the potatoes dry.  Remove any uggies from the skin, but leave the skin on.

Slice the potatoes into 1/4" slices and divide into three piles.

Lay each third on a sheet of aluminum foil.  You want a big enough piece of foil that you can fold over and cover the potatoes making a nice flat packet.

Divide the butter up and dollop or "pat" on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold the foil over the potatoes to create a flat packet. 

Cook about 20 minutes per side on grill over hot coals.

Remove the packets from grill, then open.  Sprinkle the cheese (divided between the three packets) over the potatoes and then close the packets again.

Let those sit for about 5 minutes, then serve.  Mmmmmmm.


I've had people tell me that they add lime juice to the corn soaking water to give the ears a bit more zest.

Because grills can vary, heat can vary, cooking time can vary too.  You can use the time mentioned above as a guideline, but I recommend playing it by "ear" when you're actually cooking. (Yeah, I went there.)

If you don't have Asiago cheese, I would HIGHLY recommend using another hard pungent cheese.  You don't need to use a lot if its strong because even a little will go a long way.  You're not trying to overwhelm the potatoes, just give them a bump up on the flavor scale.