Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Warm Pumpkin Spice Drink

I love Halloween. I always have. I love the old-fashioned black and orange decorations of flying witches, scary pumpkins, and jointed limbed skeletons. I love the costumes, as Lucy says in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, “in direct contrast to her own personality” to dress up in and hide behind. I love the crispy sound of dry, colored leaves blowing and tumbling along the street. I love the eventual stark and empty tree branches silhouetted against a cloudy and misty sky. I love the fields full of haphazard pumpkins and gourds on their drying, twisting vines. I love the smell of a burning pile of leaves raked up and out of the yard by the family on the golden afternoons in October. I love the kids as they ring the doorbell, so proud to show off their costumes and shout the customary “trick-or-treat!”, running through the neighborhood and ruling the world.

You can see the beginnings of my love for Halloween in this photo from 1963. I started young. I wasn’t quite 2 years old, but totally ready for Halloween and trick or treating at my Grandma and Gramp’s house! By the reach of that hand trying to get the door open, you’d almost think I knew that there was candy inside there! Ha!

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I wish I still had the 101 Dalmatians costume!! That trick-or-treat bag is almost as big as me!

My love of Halloween is equal to my love of pumpkin. The recipe for today is one of those pumpkin recipes that I found when I was sick and on the couch and spending way too much time on Pinterest. There are so many interesting things to make with pumpkin out there now, and as you can tell by my latest posts, I am determined to try as many as possible this fall. I am always on the lookout for a warm beverage to cozy up with and enjoy in the evening, so I don’t like it to be caffeinated and I don’t like it to have too much sugar in it. This one does the trick. I found this delicious Warm Pumpkin Spice Drink on the blog Apple of My Eye, and this was one I had to try.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Warm Pumpkin Spice Drink

2 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk or milk of your choice

2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree (I used my frozen pumpkin stash)

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

whipped cream for topping

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This drink really doesn’t have very many ingredients, but man is this good!

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I warmed it (I wouldn’t bring it to a boil) on the stove instead of the microwave.

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You can leave it plain, but I’m always one to gild the lily when I can, so I topped mine with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I suppose if you really wanted to, you could add a splash of your favorite adult beverage to this.

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Kids would love this drink, especially this weekend before Halloween. Maybe this would be nice after a tough evening of trick-or-treating. I think adults would like this delicious drink curled up in front a roaring fire, in your jammies, wrapped in your favorite quilt. Just enjoy the warm deliciousness and drift off to sleepy land. Nothing more cozy than that! How are you going to enjoy this warm cup of coziness?

 

 

 

 

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Cranberry Mousse

This time of year reminds me so much of Grandma. She and Grandpa were such entertainers. They would have friends and family over all the time for dinner or dessert, especially during the holidays. I loved to go to their house for Christmas because, of course, she was a great cook, but there were also some of my favorite decorations. This photo of me and Grandma is from Christmas time when I was about 2. When you entered the house at the farm, you had to go through the kitchen to get into the main part of the house. To get to the living room, you had to go through the dining room where the big attraction for me was the light up plastic church. This little church looked suspiciously like the church that Grandma and Grandpa belonged to and it had (most of the time) a red bulb in it that would glow like a beacon, drawing me in to sit in front of it for hours, totally fascinated. From the dining room, you moved on to the living room and the main event – the Christmas tree with its glowing colored bulbs and antique glass ornaments. This might have been the first time they had a tree on the floor – I must have outgrown the need to have the tree up on a table! We would have a wonderful dinner in the dining room, move on to the opening of presents, and then later, inevitably, it would be my job to pass around candy or a can of mixed nuts. I still have the fascination with light up churches and buildings. My mom started my Dickens Village collection with a church for my 25th birthday and it’s grown to cover the entire top of my kitchen cupboards. I also still have an obsession for antique glass ornaments and they cover our Christmas tree.

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This is the Grandma I remember, with that smile of hers and her “wash and set” hair!

Today’s salad recipe is a great one to use for your holiday entertaining, dinners, or even just a weeknight dinner. This Cranberry Mousse is a very easy and tasty salad. This is such a typical “Grandma” recipe – you can pull it together so quickly, it would be a great addition to any meal – good with your holiday turkey or ham.

Cranberry Mousse

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This is delicious!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Cranberry Mousse

1 6 ounce package of Strawberry Jello

1 cup boiling water

20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained (save the juice)

16 ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

16 ounce (2 cups) sour cream

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Dissolve jello, add pineapple juice.

Stir in cranberry sauce, lemon juice, lemon peel, and nutmeg.

Chill until mixture thickens.

Fold in sour cream, pineapple, and nuts.

Chill until firm.

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If you can make jello, you can make this salad!

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Mix it all up the night before and you’ll have it ready for tomorrow night’s dinner.

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I put this batch in my fanciest bowl!

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There’s just not much to say –  it’s delicious and great for a weeknight dinner . . .

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or a holiday dinner or buffet. So when you’re entertaining and your friends and family are coming for dinner, try this salad. It’s easy, elegant, tasty, and full of fruit – they’ll love it!

 

 

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Mulling Spices

I love cider. You can have cider all through the fall and into the winter. This recipe for Mulling Spices is great for cider, wine, or even tea. It makes a great hostess gift, or even a potpourri. I could see having this sitting out in the living room throughout the holiday season. The scent of it is amazing, and incredibly fragrant. You can really use any combination of spices and citrus rind to spice up your warm beverages.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Mulling Spices

Dry in the oven at 250 degrees for 20-30 minutes:

Orange peel (white pith scraped off, if possible)

Lemon peel

Thinly sliced ginger

Mix together and pound a bit (I put all of the whole spices into a zip top bag and pounded it with my rolling pin):

Cinnamon sticks

Star anise

Whole nutmeg

Cardamom pods

Whole allspice

Whole cloves

Vanilla Bean

Mix these all together in a bowl, put into cheesecloth or  drawstring bag, and give as a gift or use in your beverage.

To mull cider: Heat 1 quart cider with one packet of spices and sliced oranges or apples.

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I love all of these spicy ingredients.

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They’re pretty enough to have sitting out in a pretty glass bowl. They smell great, too!

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I cut a square of cheesecloth and put about 2 tablespoons of spices into it. I cut pieces of a vanilla bean and put a piece into each cheesecloth bundle.

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You can find drawstring tea bags online, but I just used cheesecloth and tied it up with kitchen string. The batch I made was enough for about 4 bags.

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Put them in a jar, put a pretty ribbon around it, and you have a very nice hostess gift for all of your holiday gatherings.

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I warmed a quart of cider with a sliced orange and one of the bags of spice mix for about 20 minutes.

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This mulled cider makes the whole house smell like a holiday!

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You can garnish your cider with a cinnamon stick, a slice of orange, and/or a slice of apple. Make sure to slice the apple across the middle so you can see the star! I hope you make this wonderful mulling spice mix. It makes a nice gift  – and make some for yourself, too!

 

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!! Today I’m sharing a flower arrangement for your holiday enjoyment!

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I made this arrangement with a $5 grocery store mum bunch and some assorted leftover stuff from my front garden that was still useable. There were things left in the garden that weren’t frozen yet: Sedum, purple dragon flower seed pods, and Echinacea seed pods.

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It fits perfectly on the front entry table.

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The mums are the perfect color for this time of year!

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I’m so thankful for each and every one of you, dear readers! I do so much appreciate all of your continued support. Thanks for stopping by to check out Plenty Sweet Life! Enjoy this wonderful day of gratitude and thanksgiving with your family and friends!

 

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Cranberry Salad

After reading this recipe, I was thinking that this is such a simple holiday recipe, but it really doesn’t have to be a holiday recipe. It would be a great salad to have any time. It’s just so easy. There’s really not much to it. This Cranberry Salad is easy, delicious, and great for dinner. I could see Grandma making this for those family Sunday night suppers that her family was so famous for. My mom still misses having Sunday suppers with her family, and cousins, and the aunts and uncles! I am old enough to have been in on some of those suppers, too, and man, I can still remember the smells that would come from those kitchens back then. There was a lot of love and warmth in those kitchens, too. What a great way for a family to stay in touch and stay together. We try to do a family dinner with our kids at least once every week or two, and it’s not easy, but it’s important and it’s something we try to make happen. We’re going to enjoy it while we can, because as we all know, life has a way of taking us all in different directions.

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There could hardly be an easier recipe for a salad.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Cranberry Salad

Make 3 small boxes of Jell-O according to directions, using only 4 cups of water (I used 2 cups boiling water and 2 cups cold water).

Mix in:

1 can whole cranberries (not jellied cranberries)

1 can crushed pineapple (not drained)

1/2 cup nuts (I didn’t use nuts in this one but I would use walnuts)

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We had Jell-O molds like these when I was a little girl, so I decided to try to use them with this salad and see what happens. After mixing up the salad, I poured some of the liquid into the molds and into the frig with them all.

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I dipped the mold into hot water and maybe had it in there a bit long. They melted just a bit and I had to wipe up the plate, otherwise they came out ok. They’re pretty for an individual serving, and as I told my son, Grandma would have topped this with a dollop of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. All he could say was, “why?” I don’t know why she like those kind of things, but there were a lot more of those kind of salads back then. Remember, this salad was supposed to also have nuts in it. Must be one of those retro things.

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This salad is perfect for this time of year.

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Gather your family for a big family dinner and serve this salad. It doesn’t have to be a holiday, but this one would be great for a holiday dinner, too. Cranberries can be great for Thanksgiving OR Christmas. This salad would be great with dinner for either of those holidays. You could even still pull this together for tomorrow. It’s just so easy. And so delicious!

 

 

 

 

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Pecan Tassies

This recipe comes from a friend of the family and they go way back, however, my mom said that Grandma used to make these, too. The family friend used to make these for my dad – they were one of his favorites. I was sure that they were called Tea Time Tassies, so I could be wrong and maybe these are a recipe of Grandma’s. I remember having these Pecan Tassies when I was really little. I made these once when we were first married. My husband ate the whole batch in about 10 minutes and I never made them again. They take a bit of work so that was the end of that. Seriously – these are such a pretty little tea cookie and he just took them by the handful and kept popping them into his mouth. He has a reputation for the way he eats cookies. Grandma used to say to him, “Paul Knutson, you can NOT do that!” (She used to call him Paul Knutson because I also have an Uncle Paul.) I think Grandma was a bit offended when he would take a handful of cookies and throw them down, when she knew how much work it takes to bake things. She was used to having a baking day where they would make all the bread and treats for the week on one day. With brothers of her own, I’m sure the sisters had their work cut out for them keeping everyone from eating all of their delicious baking as fast as they could. The sisters were all amazing bakers. I have lost the card with the original recipe on it, so I ‘ll just type it here.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Pecan Tassies

Pastry:

Soften to room temperature:

3 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup butter

Blend together.

Stir in:

1 cup flour

Chill 1 hour.

Shape in 2 dozen 1 inch balls and place in ungreased mini muffin pan.

Press dough evenly against bottom and sides of each.

Filling:

Beat together just until smooth:

1 egg

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

Divide half of 3/4 cup chopped pecans among pastry filled pans.

Add egg mixture.

Top with remaining pecan pieces.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until filling is set.

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The dough goes into the frig to chill.

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You need 24 balls of dough to make 24 little cookies. I cut the dough into 4 pieces and cut those 4 sections into 6 even pieces. Roll them into balls and push them into the mini muffin cups and up the sides.

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Once you have all the dough in the muffin pans, chopped pecans go into each cup.

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Next comes the filling and on top – more chopped pecans.

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This is what they look like coming out of the oven. They’re so cute!

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You can see why these are so dangerous to make. They’re just too pop-able! Pop – right into your mouth! I let my husband have ONE and then they went right into the freezer to be saved for Thanksgiving day.

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So this is the second time in 30 years that I’ve made these. They’re so unbelievably good. And unfortunately, they’re way too easy to just pop into your mouth. But so worth it. I will be making these a little more often. I think. Maybe. I hope they’re still in the freezer when I go to get them out. Hopefully “you know who” hasn’t found them in there!

 

 

 

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No-Bake Pumpkin Cream Pie

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. Pumpkin is synonymous with this time of year. There are just so many great things to do with it. I’ve posted a few recipes over the years. I’ve done Pumpkin Pie – the Chiffon Kind, Pumpkin Pie Dessert, Pumpkin Cake, Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie , and Autumn Gold Pumpkin Cake. I’ve done Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, Freezing Pumpkin, and Knit Pumpkins. I haven’t even done just your basic Pumpkin Pie yet. Here is another great fast and easy recipe for one more kind of pumpkin pie. This No-Bake Pumpkin Cream Pie is a great pie to do last-minute.

No Bake Pumpkin Cream Pie

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I love how easy this one is!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

No-Bake Pumpkin Cream Pie

Beat together for 1-2 minutes:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Blend in:

1 can pumpkin

Pour into 9″ graham cracker crust (I’m not going judge you if you use a store-bought one and not make your own. Not much anyway.)

Chill 6 hours or overnight.

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Here is the recipe for a graham cracker crust that I used.

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The filling is so smooth and luscious.

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I wanted to use my pretty milk glass pie plate, so, as usual, I had some graham crumbs and filling leftover. I put crumbs in the bottom of the glasses and made 3 desserts for dinner that night.

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Topped with some whipped cream and more crumbs – delicious dessert!

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It’s a soft pie and the cream cheese gives it a bit of a tangy taste.

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Any of the pumpkin recipes mentioned at the top of this post would be great additions to your Thanksgiving table, but this is also a great recipe. I love that you can make it VERY easily the night before (you could even stretch it to two days before your gathering). Done. Ready to go. You’re going to love this one and so will your guests!

 

 

 

 

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Fruitcake

The recipe for today is one that has gotten such a bad rap. I don’t know if it’s the candied fruit that always turns people off on fruitcake, but this recipe uses something much tastier. Orange candy slices. Yes, you read that right. Grandma’s Fruitcake recipe is just a little bit different. This one doesn’t have the candied fruit, spices, and rum that normal fruitcake has. The fruitcake filled with all of that good stuff are delicious, too, and you’re supposed to make it in October and let them sit and let the flavors blend until Christmas. I made this one in November, even though it doesn’t have to sit, and I put it in the freezer. I’m sharing it now because of that unusual ingredient, the orange slices. They’re ORANGE! Not red and green like the normal fruitcake. So I’m thinking, if you wanted to, you could make it now and serve this for one of your Thanksgiving desserts.

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Throw a curve ball and see if anyone even realizes that it’s fruitcake! It’s that good!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Fruitcake

1 cup margarine (I used butter)

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk, plus 1 teaspoon baking soda

3 1/2 cups cake flour (I used regular – I don’t usually have cake flour on hand)

1 package dates, chopped

1 cup flaked coconut

2 cups walnuts, chopped

1 pound orange slice candy, cut in small pieces (they don’t have them in 1 lb. bags so I had to get 2 bags and measure out 1 lb. on my scale – you could also probably buy them in bulk at your grocery store)

Bake in tube pan at 250 degrees for 2 hours.

Grandma said she had never used a tube pan, but used 2 loaf pans plus a dozen cupcakes and baked them for 1 hour and 40 minutes. She also said she tried the icing once and it didn’t work so great so she didn’t use it again. The recipe is there if you want to try it, but I did not. I baked this in two larger loaf pans and 3 smaller loaf pans for about 2 hours.

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The cut up orange slices sure do look like the other kind of candied fruit!

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The batter is very thick. It didn’t look like all of the “goodies” would go in there, but they did!

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It is chock full of goodness!

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Before and after baking – beautiful!

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She says to grease the pans very well and she wasn’t kidding! I did grease them what I thought was very well, and the big pans really stuck on the bottom – so make sure you REALLY grease the pans well. I didn’t get a photo of them, but I tried to put them back together and the candy and the batter was so sticky, it kind of stuck. We’ll see how it goes when I take them out of the freezer.

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This is a big batch – enough for sharing!

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Here is one of the little beauties all sliced up! See how pretty! The colors of fall – give it a try – right now!

 

 

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Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Cake

This isn’t a cake made with pumpkin, it’s a cake SHAPED like a pumpkin! I made this cake for years to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. Her birthday is actually the first week of November, but her parties seemed to end up being birthday/Halloween parties during the elementary and middle school years.  She’s all grown up now, but since we can’t get together to celebrate during the first week of November, we celebrated on Halloween and she requested a nostalgic traditional Halloween dinner birthday celebration with our traditional Halloween Lasagna and Spider Bread. This Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Cake was her birthday cake. I don’t have an actual recipe for making this pumpkin (because I saw it somewhere years ago and just tried to make one from a photo), so I’ll just type it out here.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Cake

Use 2 boxes of cake mix to bake 2 cakes, baked in a bundt pan according to the box directions. Use enough of the cake mix batter to make 1 cupcake to use as the stem. I use chocolate (this daughter is a chocolate girl) but you could use any flavor of cake mix.

Use 2 containers of Vanilla Frosting (I know, I know – I usually don’t use store-bought, but when I started making this cake years ago, I had 3 children under the age of 10) to make the green or chocolate frosting for the ribs, tendrils and/or leaves, and stem, and the orange pumpkin frosting. For the chocolate or green stem frosting, I add a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder or a bit of green food coloring. For the pumpkin frosting, I used orange food coloring.

Use 2-3 Hershey Chocolate Bars, cut into triangles, for the jack-o-lantern face. I usually get at least 2 because sometimes it won’t cut exactly the way you want it to. If you have 2-3 bars, then you have back-up (and I’m sure you can think of something to do with the extra).

This is also a great cake for Thanksgiving instead of, or in addition to your pies. It serves a lot of people since it’s two cakes in one – just leave off the face!

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I greased and floured the bundt pan – we want no sticking! In this case, it doesn’t matter if the flour shows since the whole cake will be frosted. Don’t forget to make one cupcake for the stem.

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Before frosting the cake, I use strips of waxed paper around underneath so you can pull them out later and keep your cake plate clean. You can see how to make this cake plate here. Put the first cake upside down on your cake plate and put some frosting on top of that to stick the top cake on.

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Put the top cake on and line up the lines of the cake. Then get started with the frosting. You can see the lines of the cake here. I follow them with the green frosting to make the ribs. I also had to put some frosting around the top hole so the cupcake stem wouldn’t fall into the middle. You could also use a couple of toothpicks to hold the stem on as long as you remember to take them out before serving. Then I used a piping bag and put the frosting on the stem, ribs, and vines.

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You could also use candy corn for the face and to make some decoration around the bottom. I used the last of the green frosting to make some vines around the bottom edge of the cake. Use a very sharp knife when cutting the face pieces. For some reason, I had a hard time with the candy bar I used. It kept cracking.

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This is also a great cake for Thanksgiving instead of, or in addition to your pies. It serves a lot of people since it’s two cakes in one. Just leave off the face! Decorate it with candy corn or pumpkins.

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This particular cake used two bundt cakes, but I think you could do the same with just one bundt cake.

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We’ve had fun with this Halloween/birthday cake over the years. Try this pumpkin cake for your next fall or thanksgiving gathering. It’s fun and festive!

 

 

 

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Graham Crackers – Frosted

Halloween is such a fun time of year. It’s always been one of my favorites. I love the smell and sound of the leaves  skipping down the street when they’re blown along with the wind – I loved to rake them into a pile as a child and then jump in them and then do it over and over and over and over again. I love the costumes – I was always a gypsy as a child because it was a ready-made costume – one of my grandma’s old dresses, a scarf around my head, and after raiding my mom’s jewelry drawer, I was all set! I love the trick or treat aspect – I loved doing it when I was little, except for the year my little sister was sick and couldn’t go and I had to give her half of mine. Now I love to give the treats in some kind of a treat bag that because that always made me feel special when I was trick-or-treating. I love the colors of Halloween and the decorations – I usually try to use natural and vintage decorations instead of going for the blood and gore. Today’s recipe is another treat that is perfect for fall – all full of caramel and festive sprinkles. I recently found this recipe for Graham Crackers – Frosted written in Grandma’s handwriting, but in an earlier post, I had done another recipe that came from one of Grandma’s sisters called Graham Cracker Cookies. They are similar, but not exactly the same. So I decided to make this one, using a bit of the Halloween Bark treatment. Just like the Halloween Bark, you can dress this up as much or as little as you’d like, in seasonal or special occasion sprinkles or candies. The possibilities are endless. It’s still hard to determine, as with the other recipe, whether this is a cookie or a candy. It really could be either one, but my vote is for a candy.

Graham Crackers - frosted

Both recipes are highly addictive. Just sayin’.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Graham Cookies – Frosted

Layer a baking sheet with graham crackers (I used about 1 1/2 packages).

Melt:

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

Add:

1 cup walnuts, chopped (I’d say about 1 cup)

Pour over the top of the graham crackers, smoothing and spreading if you need to.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or so, watching closely.

After removing from oven, I immediately put on the sprinkles and candy corn.

Break up after it’s cool.

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I don’t know why this keeps happening, but I ran out of walnuts again, so I had to use some sunflower seeds to supplement. It wasn’t bad.

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When it first comes out of the oven, it’s bubbling away like molten lava. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and then started the sprinkling.

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After it’s cooled, you can break it up into pieces or do like I did and cut it on the cracker lines. This candy/cookie is almost like a caramel. It’s coated with the caramel goodness on both sides and is literally surrounded with caramel!

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This is so easy and so pretty! Here’s another incredibly delicious candy to try – but be warned – you’ll have to hide it if you want any left by Halloween! These caramel treats are another one that’s highly addictive!!!

 

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