Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Boozy Cranberry Sauce

Hi everyone!  I’m sitting here in our kitchen….not the one in my house, but our commercial kitchen.  Did I not tell you that I have one?;)  Yep, we (Gourmet Rooster) are teaming up with the company that packs for us (cooks and bottles for us).  We are now co-owners of Mrs. Auld’s Gourmet Foods.  Do you make a sauce, salsa, jam, dressing, muffin mix, etc. that is fantastic and must be introduced to the world?  Call me.  We can make it happen. 

Enough about my new business…..are you ready for Thanksgiving?  Do you have a cranberry sauce recipe yet, or are you planning on plopping one out of a can?  Don’t.  Unless you really like that stuff, which I kind of do.  But, I have a recipe for a quick and easy cranberry sauce that is also a bit different.

Do you know what a Madras is?  Cocktail wise?  It is vodka, cranberry juice and orange juice.  I call this cranberry sauce my Madras Cranberry Sauce.  It used to be called my Sea Breeze Cranberry Sauce until I found out that is vodka, cran and grapefruit juice.  Whoops.


For my recipe, I use a bag of cranberries, which is 12 ounces.  I also use sugar, citrus flavored vodka (orange is fine), mandarin oranges and the zest of an orange.

I use fresh cranberries in this recipe.  Don’t let them intimidate you.  And for crying out loud, don’t eat them raw.


I start by reducing my vodka.  This is to concentrate the flavor and burn off the alcohol.  I try to stay away from giving my kids alcohol. 

I boil about 1 ½ cups of vodka until it reduces down to 1 cup.  This happens surprisingly fast, like in about 3 minutes.

Once the vodka is reduced, I add the sugar and bring that to a boil.


Then, in goes the cranberries.  This will come back to a boil, and then it simmers for about 10-15 minutes.  The cranberries will start to pop and the mixture will thicken.


While the mixture is simmering, I zest my orange into the pot.  No, this isn’t a one handed job, but someone had to take the picture.

Don’t zest the white part.  That is bitter.  And gross.


When the cranberries have about 5 minutes left, I add the drained mandarin oranges.  I add them towards the end so they don’t break up too much.  I like the oranges to stay whole.


I serve mine with some walnuts on the top for crunch, but that part is up to you.


This recipe is simple, easy and delicious.  The cranberries and orange go so well together.  This sauce is sweet and tangy, with a bit of bite from the vodka.

You can even give this away as gifts.  It makes about 3 cups, so you will have enough for 3 8 ounce jars, give or take a little bit.  I gave mine away.  It is just the four of us for Turkey Day, so we won’t be eating 3 cups of sauce.

Have a great Thanksgiving and I will talk to you all next week!

Madras Cranberry Sauce

1 ½ cups citrus vodka

1 cup sugar

12 ounces fresh cranberries

15 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

Zest  of one orange

Bring vodka to a boil, over medium high heat.  Once the vodka has reduced by half, about 3 minutes at a full boil, add sugar.  Bring mixture to a boil and add cranberries.  Bring to a boil again and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened.

While mixture is simmering, add zest to pot.  When mixture is halfway done, add drained oranges.  Mix well.

Makes about 3 cups



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Turkey Day Apps-2012

Now that I’ve covered the star of Thanksgiving (last week), the turkey, I say it’s time to move on to what people actually fill up on….the appetizers.  You know nobody really fills up on the turkey.  Sure, you enjoy it, just as you should on a day that is sometimes called “turkey day”.  But it’s time to be honest.  You know you really come for the other stuff.  When else can you eat 3 pounds of stuffing or mashed potatoes on your own?  When else can you eat enough green bean casserole and pie to necessitate loosening your belt and not have to feel badly about it?  Thanksgiving is the day, folks.  Let the feeding frenzy begin.

When I was little, my mom didn’t provide appetizers on Thanksgiving.  She said that nobody would eat dinner if they filled up on appetizers before.  I have a completely different view on this.  I think that if you get to someone’s house three hours before the main event….you deserve appetizers for your wait.  I have three really yummy appetizers to show you that are delicious and easy.  I think “easy” is key for apps on turkey day.  You (or whoever is cooking) already has 15 different things going on in the kitchen.  Appetizers that are super easy, or even can be made in advance are the best.

My first recipe is a delicious blue cheese spread that is fabulous on crackers, crudité, or on toasted baguette slices.  Everything is thrown in the food processor, and it can be made the day before (yay!).  I use cream cheese, blue cheese, canned pears, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, salt and pepper.  This spread is creamy, sweet and savory all at the same time.  Plus, dried cranberries and pears just scream “fall”.


I spread my cheesy deliciousness on toasted baguette slices and topped it with thin sliced roast beef.  I made it look pretty by sprinkling chives over the tops.

One or two of these will please your guests, and keep them from getting in the way in the kitchen when they start to get too hungry.

My second appetizer is Cranberry Stuffed Mushrooms.  I love stuffed mushrooms.  I always have.  My friend, Michelle, makes amazing stuffed mushrooms, and I was afraid that my recipe wouldn’t compare.  Well Michelle…..I think I might have gotten it!

My recipes uses two packages of whole, button mushrooms.  It is close to twenty four mushrooms.  I also use Gourmet Rooster Caramelized Onion and Chardonnay Spread, Whole berry cranberry sauce, pork sausage and brie. 

I prepared the mushrooms for stuffing my cleaning them off, individually, with a damp towel.  If you rinse them under water, they will get tough.  Use a towel.  I also pulled their stems out and tossed them.  Then, I used a grapefruit spoon to make the holes a bit bigger.  I realize not everyone has a grapefruit spoon, which is a spoon with a serrated edge.  You can use a paring knife or even a regular spoon.  Or you could go to my mom’s house and steal her grapefruit spoon like I did. 

Now that the mushrooms are ready….I started the stuffing by browning the sausage in a big skillet.  Make sure you break up the sausage while it cooks.  You want little teeny-tiny pieces for this.

Once the sausage was browned, I stirred in ½ a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and ½ a jar of the onion spread.  I cooked this mixture just until it was all heated through.

The onion spread is perfect in this.  It is full of caramelized onions, wine, and rosemary.  It has all the seasonings and spices that you would want, but if you can’t find it….caramelize your own onions and add some rosemary and white wine.

I filled each mushroom with about 1 teaspoon of filling.  One heaping teaspoon.  Then, I topped each mushroom with a little chunk of brie.  These little guys got baked in a 400 degree oven for almost 20 minutes. 


Holy moly, these were amazing.  I served these at a little pre-trick or treating party and they went quick!

My last recipe is a yummy Butternut Squash Mousse.  Don’t get scared, this isn’t a sweet mousse.  It is a savory, airy, delicious mousse.  And there is bacon involved.

This recipe uses mini phyllo shells, butternut squash, heavy cream, bacon, pecans, dried cranberries, garlic and a shallot..

The first step is to cook your bacon.  I cook mine in the oven….less mess.  I lay it out on a cooling rack which is layered over a baking sheet.  I bake it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Easy, easy.

I start the filling by sautéing the garlic and shallot which have both been roughly chopped.  This will get pureed later so don’t get too hung up on the size of your chop.  I sautéed in olive oil, and I also seasoned with salt and pepper. 

My butternut squash came in a bag, already diced up for me.  This is available in most grocery stores, by the bagged salads.  You can cut your own, or you could even use canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes.  My bag had directions on the side for steaming in the microwave.  I cooked mine, in the bag, for about 3 minutes.  Then, I added the steamed squash to the garlic and shallots.  I cooked it, over medium high heat, for a few minutes to get a color on it.

The squash mixture got a quick trip in the food processor to get pureed.  I went smooth on this, like baby food smooth.  You can go chunkier if you want.

You can also use a blender if you don’t have a food processor.  If you have neither, mince your garlic and shallot, and when the mixture is cooked, smash it with the back of a spoon.

Then, I let the mixture cool off and come to room temperature.  While the squash is cooling off, I whipped up some cream.  I never sweeten this.  It will literally just be whipped cream.  Once the cream is whipped, I folded in the squash mixture.  This just means that I gently mixed the two together, trying not to deflate the cream.  Use a rubber spatula for this.

Once the cream and squash were folded together, I spooned the mixture into the mini phyllo cups.  I would have liked to have piped this in with a pastry bag, but I couldn’t find my star tip.  A spoon worked fine.

I topped each little cup with crumbled bacon, chopped pecans and a dried cranberry.  I also seasoned these with a bit more salt and pepper over the tops.


Oh man, these were good.  They are a little bit sweet, a little bit salty, and a lot bit good.  I promise…your crowd will go wild if you make any of these recipes for your Thanksgiving.  I hope you try them!

Blue Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

5 ounces blue cheese crumbles

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ cup diced pears, canned

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup dried cranberries

Blend together cream cheese and blue cheese in a food processor, or with a hand mixer.  Once blended add remaining ingredients.  Pulse food processor until ingredients are mixed.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 8-10

Cranberry Stuffed Mushrooms

24 whole white button mushrooms

½ pound pork sausage

½ of a 14 ounce can of whole berry cranberry sauce

½ of a 9 ounce jar of Gourmet Rooster Caramelized Onion and Chardonnay Spread

5 ounces brie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prep mushrooms by wiping them with a damp cloth.  Pull out stems and discard.  With a paring knife or spoon, make each hole a little bit bigger.

In a large skillet, brown sausage over medium high heat.  Once sausage is browned, about 5 minutes, add cranberry sauce and onion spread.  Mix well and heat through over medium heat.

Fill each mushroom cap with sausage mixture, about 1 teaspoon each.  Top each cap with a small chunk of brie.

Bake at 400 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes or until tops are slightly brown and bubbly.

Makes 24.

Butternut Squash Mousse

Athens brand mini phyllo cups, 2 packages

1 tablespoon olive oil

12 ounce bag butternut squash, peeled, cubed and steamed according to package directions

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 small shallot, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

½ cup heavy cream

4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

½ cup pecans

½ cup dried cranberries

In a large skillet, sauté garlic and shallot in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté until garlic and shallot just start to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add steamed butternut squash and sauté an additional 3 minutes over medium high heat.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat heavy cream, with a hand mixer, until soft peaks are formed.  Fold squash mixture into whipped cream.  Pipe or spoon squash mousse into each phyllo cup.  Top with bacon, pecans and dried cranberries.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pantry Pasta

Hi everyone!  We seem to be flying right into the holidays.  Per usual, all the stores are decorated way too early.  While I do love me some Christmas, I would really like to enjoy Thanksgiving first.  Although there won’t be much enjoying going on here.  We have a ton of holiday shows/craft fairs coming up so we really don’t get to do much relaxing/enjoying.  Oh well, as long as I still get to eat my body weight in mashed potatoes.

As we progress through the holiday season, we all need those quick recipes that you can bust out, spur of the moment, right?  You know, a recipe that you can throw together straight from your pantry.  I have the perfect pasta recipe for you that I call my “Pantry Pasta”.  It is fast, it is delicious, and it is straight from my pantry.  And, it is vegetarian….if you are into that kinda thing.


For my “Pantry Pasta”, I used olive oil, shallots, garlic, diced tomatoes, capers, balsamic vinegar, angel hair pasta and goat cheese.  Ok, I realize goat cheese isn’t from your pantry, but I love, LOVE, goat cheese with this pasta.  If you want to keep it straight-pantry, use parmesan cheese that lives in the pantry.

I also used salt and pepper.  They never make the pictures.


I started by chopping my shallot and mincing my garlic.  Tiny mince on the garlic and bigger dice on the shallots.


I sautéed the garlic and shallots in olive oil with a smidge of salt and pepper.  I really just cooked this until the shallots were translucent, not really brown.  This goes pretty quick.


Once the garlic and shallots were translucent and sweaty, I added my balsamic vinegar.  I love balsamic…it’s my favorite vinegar.  You could use whatever you want….sherry vinegar, red wine, champagne…take your pick, fancy pants.

If you totally hate vinegar, use wine.

I let this cook for just a minute.  The vinegar will reduce really fast and almost disappear.  That’s ok.  It is just improving the flavor;)


Next comes the diced tomatoes and capers that have both been drained.  I love capers.  Do you?  They are little balls of sour pickle goodness.  They give this pasta a good tangy bite.

I let this cook for just a couple of minutes to “marry” the flavors.  I hate that term.  Why can my flavors marry?  Was there a proposition for that?


The last step for this sauce, to kind of bring everything together and make it more “saucy” is to add pasta water.  I let the pasta boil while I am putting the sauce together.  Angel hair cooks for just a few minutes, so I reserve about a cup of the water.  The water is all starchy and salty and it will thicken the sauce and help it cling to the pasta.

I added the pasta water and let the sauce boil away for just a couple of minutes.


Finally, I added the pasta to the sauce.  I mixed that all around, and then I mixed in the goat cheese.  Once it is all mixed and coated….it looks like this:


Yum!  This pasta is salty, tangy, slightly sweet from the tomatoes and creamy from the cheese.  It is perfection.


And it’s all from my pantry!  This is stuff that most of us have on hand.  Open your fridge…I bet you have a jar of capers on the door.  You should.  They are delicious.

Pantry Pasta

1/2 pound angel hair pasta, cooked and drained with 1 cup pasta water reserved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

½ cup capers, drained

4 ounces goat cheese

Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until they are softened, about 5 minutes.  Season garlic and shallots with salt and pepper.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional minute.

Add tomatoes, capers and pasta water to pan.  Cook for an additional five minutes, or until sauce is thickened.

Add cooked pasta and goat cheese.  Mix well.
Serves 4

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Turkey...Not For a Crowd

It’s that time…..time to figure out what you are doing for Thanksgiving.  Are you travelling?  Eating with friends?  Staying home?  This year, we are staying home, just the four of us.  We have so many “Holiday Shopping Events” for Gourmet Rooster this season that it doesn’t make sense for us to try to go anywhere.  While Mr. Rooster was happy about that (it means he can sit at home all day in sweats and watch football), it makes me sad that we won’t be celebrating with family.  It also made me wonder….do I cook a whole turkey for four of us?  While I like left-overs, I really don’t want to be eating turkey everything for months.  So, I decided to just cook a turkey breast….and I came up with a great recipe and…..it is cooked in the slow cooker.  Double score.

Cooking a turkey in the slow cooker is the way to go if you are only feeding a few people.  It frees up the oven for stuffing, rolls, pies, etc. and it is super easy.  Plus, the turkey stays moist and delicious.  Throw that bad boy in the morning, and by late afternoon, you have a perfect turkey breast.  Let me show you how I do it because there is one little trick…..


I will get to the foil balls in a second….First off, notice the aromatics (a fancy word for onions, carrots, celery, etc.) in the bottom.  This helps make a really good gravy later.  I used carrots, celery, a couple of shallots and a couple of garlic cloves.  An onion would work, I just happened to have shallots on hand. 

Don’t get too fancy with how you cut your veggies….you will toss them later.  For instance, I just peeled and quartered my shallot, and I threw in whole peeled garlic cloves.  Whole baby carrots are fine.  Don’t stress about this part.  Have a glass of wine and remember that Turkey Day is supposed to be fun.  Actually wait, this part is done in the morning so scratch the wine.  Maybe a mimosa?

So about the foil…No, I haven’t lost my mind….yet.  I place my turkey breast on balls of foil so that it doesn’t rest on the bottom of the crock pot.  The foil balls will act as a rack, which will keep the turkey from getting soggy and falling apart.  I also won’t be drowning the breast in liquid.  I will use some, but I am using the slow cooker as an oven, essentially.  I promise, it will work.  You will end up with a turkey breast that is amazingly moist, but it won’t fall apart like meat cooked in a slow cooker typically does.


As for the breast itself, before I place it in the slow cooker on its foil ball bed, I rubbed the whole thing, including under the skin, with a mixture of butter, Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread, mustard, and poultry seasoning. This also helps keep the turkey moist and it gives great flavor to the bird, and the gravy.  I know the apple spread might sound weird, but it lend a delicious sweetness to the turkey and the gravy comes out amazing.

Once the turkey is all rubbed down, I placed it in the slow cooker and cooked it on high for 6 hours.  When it is done, it will look just like it was cooked in the oven, brown skin and everything.

My slow cooker runs super hot.  If yours doesn’t, feel free to go longer.


Once the turkey is cooked, and it is taking a wee little resty, it’s gravy makin’ time.  Don’t let gravy intimidate you.  It is actually really easy.

First, dump everything remaining in your slow cooker through a strainer.  Throw out all of your foil and veggies.  Skim off all the fat except about 3 tablespoons and dump the remaining fat.  Add your three tablespoons of fat to a large pan and add an equal amount of flour.  That gets whisked and cooked for about a minute.  Then, you whisk in your juices that were left and some chicken stock.  Measure your juices first, and then add enough chicken stock to get you to about 3 ½ cups. 

This will thicken as it cooks….you just have to whisk the whole time.  If you end up with lumps, no biggie.  Just pour your gravy through a sieve and no one will ever know. 


Hello gorgeous.  This turkey is moist and delicious.   The gravy tastes of butter, apple spread, white wine, turkey, etc.  It really is perfect.

And you will have just the right amount of leftovers.

See me next week, same time, same place for more easy Turkey Day recipes.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

2 shallots, peeled and quartered

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup carrots, peeled and quartered (baby carrots work too)

3 stalks celery, large dice

4 to 5 large balls of foil

4-5 pound turkey breast, defrosted and patted dry with paper towels

1 cup white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened

1 cup Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread (any apple butter will work)

¼ cup mustard

3 tablespoons poultry seasoning

2 teaspoons salt

For Gravy:

3 tablespoons flour

Chicken stock (about 2 cups)

Salt and pepper to taste

Place carrots, celery, shallots and garlic in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Add foil balls to form a “rack”. (see picture)

Blend softened butter, apple spread, mustard and seasonings in a small bowl.  Rub butter mixture all over turkey breast, including under the skin and in the cavities.

Place turkey breast on foil balls.  Add wine and chicken stock.  Cook on high for 6 hours.

Let turkey rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing.


After turkey (and foil balls) are removed from slow cooker, pour remaining veggies and liquid through a sieve.  Discard veggies.  Skim fat off of liquid, saving 3 tablespoons (of fat).  Discard remaining fat and keep juices.

Add 3 tablespoons of fat to a large pan.  Whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour.  Cook for one minute over medium heat.  Slowly whisk in remaining juices and enough chicken stock to equal 3 ½ cups.  Stir gravy as it cooks over medium heat.  Gravy will thicken as it cooks.  Season to taste.

Serves 8-10

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chips and Salsa!

Hi everyone!  Happy Election Day!  Per usual, I voted for myself.  I’m running on a platform of music every Friday in the quad at lunch time, more Spirit days, and I promise to make this year’s prom the BEST EVER.  I’m kidding of course.  I really did vote.  I even voted early….last week.  My foremothers didn’t bust their ass to get me a vote so that I could sit at home on my lazy butt and not use it.  Vote, people.

Last week, Chris, Paisley and I had some time to kill while Addy had cheer practice.  We ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant, and like always, I inhaled 3 baskets of chips and salsa and couldn’t eat what I had really ordered for dinner.  I realized that I shouldn’t even order anything.  I should make my peace with just eating chips and salsa.  But I guess that cheats the restaurant.  Anyway, I decided to dig out my recipe for homemade chips and salsa last night so that I could relive the other night.

Have you ever made homemade salsa or chips?  It is actually ridiculously easy.  Plus, I use canned tomatoes, so you really can make this all year ‘round.  And who doesn’t love chips and salsa….anytime, anyplace?  Wait till you see what I add to it to make it extra delicious;)


For my salsa, I used a can of diced tomatoes, a jalapeno, garlic, onion, cilantro, lime juice and…….pineapple!  Surprise!  Pineapple gives this a yummy sweet and tangy flavor that I love in salsa.  It balances the spice.

I also use salt.  It just didn’t make the photo.


I started by draining my two cans, the crushed pineapple and diced tomatoes.  I throw away the juice.  You don’t need it.


Into the food processor goes the onion, jalapeno and garlic….all roughly chopped.  I also threw my salt and lime juice in there.  This gets pulsed until it is chopped up and mixed.  Don’t just turn it on and let ‘er rip.  We aren’t making baby food.  I like my salsa to have some substance.

Oh yeah, I took the seeds and ribs out of my jalapeno in hopes that my kids would eat this salsa.  You can do whatever you want with your jalapeno, but remember….the heat lives in the seeds and ribs. 


This is what is should look like, just not so blurry.  Unless you are drinking margaritas with your salsa.  Then, it might look blurry in real life.


Finally, I tossed in the tomatoes, pineapple and cilantro.  I pules this again until I had the consistency I wanted.  Boom.  It’s done.


This rivals any restaurant salsa.  The sweetness of the pineapple is what makes it so special.  That, and the fact that it is super easy.

As for the chips, I use flour tortilla chips because that is what I like.  I prefer flour over corn.


You can make as many, or as few, as you want.  There really is no recipe for this…..they just get fried in hot oil.

I cut mine into wedges.  I guess you could really do whatever shape you want. 


Before you say to yourself….she really should have used a bigger pot….Yes, I know.  This pot was what was clean, so this pot was what I used.  I fried a few at a time.  You don’t want to overcrowd your pot because this will bring the temperature of the oil down, leaving you with soggy chips.

Technically, you want to fry your chips in 350 degree oil (vegetable or peanut).  But you don’t have to use a thermometer.  Just pour your bottle of oil into a heavy bottomed pot.  Make sure the oil is about 3 inches deep.  Let it heat up, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes.  Put the end of a toothpick, or a wooden spoon into the oil.  If it sizzles all around it, it is ready.  If nothing happens, let it keep heating. 

The chips fry for about 30 seconds each side, or until brown.


When the chips are done, lay them out on paper towels to soak up the extra grease.  And don’t forget to salt these bad boys….they need quite a bit.

This takes some time, depending on how many chips you want to make, but it is easy…and well worth it.  People will freak that you made your own chips;)

That is a bowl full of fried goodness.  Of course, you could buy a bag of chips to serve with my pineapple salsa, but you should try this…at least once.


Yes, I ate it all.  And no, I didn’t eat dinner after this.

Pineapple “Restaurant” Style Salsa

½ a large onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped

1 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

¼ cup cilantro

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall Bake Sales!

It’s bake sale/fundraising time at my daughters’ school.  You know, the time of year when your kid need to take an extra buck to school to eat/smear a cupcake all over their face?  Well, it probably is that time at your kid’s school too.  Are you getting notes sent home asking for donations of various baked goods?  We are.  I have a few ideas to show you that are easy and fast.  In fact, I am going to show you three recipes that are easy, easier and easiest.  You don’t have to buy something that the good bakers at the grocery store made a few days ago!  You can be the mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc. that makes all the others jealous!  Because you can bring one of these little gems that I’m about to show you.

I’ll start with “easy”.  “Easy” is my caramel apple cupcakes.  I use a store bought mix that I’ve jazzed up with apple fruit spread.  My frosting is homemade, but I promise it is easy too.  I am a fan of cake mixes….not so hot on store bought frosting.  The best part of these cupcakes is that they actually look like caramel apples, sticks and all.


The cupcakes are made from a spice cake mix, blended with buttermilk and apple butter.  I use Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple spread, (because it’s mine), but I won’t be too offended if you use any apple butter you can find.  The cupcakes turn out sweet with a slight cinnamon spice.  The buttermilk gives a mild tang that cuts through the sweetness.  These cupcakes taste like the Holiday season in a cupcake wrapper.

The frosting is a yummy cream cheese frosting blended with caramel sauce.  I drizzled caramel over the tops too…..kids can’t get enough sugar, right?

For a bake sale, I would pop this in a clear plastic disposable cup, and then put that cup in a clear cellophane bag.  Tie on some ribbon and these babies are easily worth a couple bucks. 

For my “easier”, I have a crazy good recipe for Pumpkin Spice Crispy Rice Treats. 


I used pumpkin spice marshmallows.  Yes, that’s a real thing!  You can find them at most grocery stores around this time of year.  I also used cinnamon chips, which are also only available around the holidays……fall through Christmas.  These treats are across between pumpkin pie and regular crispy rice treats.  So, so good.  And let’s be honest….crispy rice treats take about five minutes to make.  You can’t even get to the store that quick!  Easy, peasy.

Lastly….my “easiest”, if you are super short on time, but still really want to bring something homemade to the table, I have a fast recipe for what I call “Harvest Snack Mix”.  This usually goes over pretty well at bake sales….there is always a couple of kids who don’t like baked goods.



I used caramel corn, cinnamon roasted pecans, chocolate covered pretzel candies and candy corn.  You don’t even have to make your own caramel corn if you don’t want too, although I do have an awesome caramel corn recipe on my blog…..You can use a box of caramel corn!

This is just dumping and mixing, but you end up with a snack mix that is sweet, salty and crunchy.  This was right up my kid’s alley, and not just because it has candy in it.  Slap a label on a bag of this stuff and you are set!  My recipe makes twelve one cup servings, or six two cup servings (if math isn’t your strong suit).

I think that after you read these recipes, you definitely won’t be hauling yourself to the grocery store at nine at night to buy a box of cupcakes.  I think I see Caramel Apple Cupcakes in your future.  I also see you sharing them with me……

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

1 boxed spice cake mix

3 eggs

½ cup oil

1 jar Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread (about 1 cup)

1/3 cup buttermilk


1 stick butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup caramel sundae topping

About 4 cups powdered sugar

Caramel for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place 24 cupcake liners in 2 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, blend together cake mix, oil, eggs, apple spread and buttermilk with a hand mixer.  Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Fill each cupcake liner with batter.  Bake cupcakes for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until done.  Set aside to cool.


In a large bowl, blend together, with a hand mixer, softened cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Slowly blend in caramel.  Finally, slowly blend in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. 

Frost cooled cupcakes.  Drizzle cupcakes with caramel and insert a popsicle stick.

Makes 24

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Rice Treats

4 Tablespoons butter

8 ounces Pumpkin Spice marshmallows

8 ounces mini marshmallows

1 cup cinnamon chips

5 cups crispy rice cereal

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add Pumpkin Spice marshmallows.  Cook over medium heat, stirring, until marshmallows are melted.

In a large bowl, mix together crispy rice cereal, mini marshmallows and cinnamon chips.  Stir in melted butter and marshmallow mixture.  Stir until coated.

Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan, using damp hands to press into pan.  Let sit for 3 hours before cutting.

Makes 18 treats

Harvest Snack Mix

8 cups caramel corn

1 cup caramel corn flavored candy corn

1 cup cinnamon roasted pecans

1 cup chocolate covered pretzel candies (M&M’s)

Gently mix all ingredients.  Using a 1 cup measuring cup, scoop into individual bags.

Makes 12 one cup servings