Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
My daughter, who is now twelve years old, has been cooking with me since she could stand. When she was tiny, she would drag the kitchen chair over to the counter and happily join in with measuring, pouring, and mixing. She could crack an egg by age two and was inventing her own recipes just a few years later. Currently there are few dishes that are her specialties. These are recipes that she has perfected and are often requested by her three little brothers and other family members. Some of her specialties include quesadillas, black bottom cupcakes, pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

She started making roasted pumpkin seeds when she was in 2nd grade and saw them made on The Martha Stewart Show. I would tape record (yes, these were pre-tivo days and we used. . . gasp. . . VCR tapes that she actually had to rewind) the shows which came on during the day and she would enjoy them when she got home from school. She watched so many episodes that she even began to speak like Martha. Once her grandmother said, "Why does she talk out loud when she's doing things?" and I said, "Oh, she's just pretending that she's on Martha."

After being inspired by Martha, my daughter printed out the recipe and proceeded to make roasted pumpkin seeds from start to finish. This burst of cooking independence at age seven came about because roasted pumpkin seeds are frequently made in that chaotic space between pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating. During that interim I was usually nursing a baby, or scraping pumpkin goop off my kitchen table, or sewing up ripped super hero costumes, while my daughter was calmly preparing roasted pumpkin seeds. The first time she prepared them we were all pleasantly surprised. They were crisp, flavorful, and even her picky little brother scrambled for more.

This year we put off buying our pumpkins until a few days ago because as soon as we have at least one pumpkin in our possession my sons' start bothering their big sister to cut open the pumpkin and cook the seeds. Yes, these roasted pumpkin seeds are that good! Although the recipe is inspired by Martha, my daughter has definitely tweaked and perfected it over the years. We hope you all have a great time carving your pumpkins, and trick-or-treating, and, in between, perhaps, roasting some pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 Tablespoons butter (or other fat such as olive oil or coconut oil)
2 cups washed, cleaned, and dried pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (or Old Bay or other favorite seasoning)

  1. Preheat over to 300 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
  3. Add seeds and spices; toss to coat.
  4. Spread seeds on a large cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan lightly coated with cooking spray or covered with a silpat liner.
  5. Bate 40 minutes, stirring often, until they're brown and crisp.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bakugan Cake and Chocolate Frosting Recipe

Bakugan Cake
For the past year my son has been a huge Bakugan fan. Although I've observed him 'brawling' with his pals, I've searched through the entire toy section of Target in order to find a 'red trap', and I've often stepped on his Bakugan balls, I have yet to truly grasp the finer points of the game. My lack of knowledge, however, was not enough to stop me from planning a Bakugan party completed with theme related games, decorations, and, of course, a cake.

My inspiration for the Bakugan cake came from pictures that I found on flickr (thanks to WoofBC and Hanna). I searched through the relatively small number of Bakugan cake pics and marked as favorites the ones that were cute and seemed doable. Without flickr this cake would not have been possible.

I used a yellow box cake mix and baked it in two nine inch round cake pans. After it was thoroughly cooled I made a batch of Hersheys "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting which I found on the back of the Hershey's cocoa container. I covered a cardboard circle that I had saved from last week's frozen pizza and covered it with foil. I attached the foil covered cake round to my cake stand with a glob of chocolate icing. In order to keep the cake round as clean as possible during the icing process, I put strips of wax paper down around the edges of the cake round and then placed the bottom layer of the cake on top of them. I used my mini offset spatula to ice the cake and then used the long offset spatula to smooth the sides and top of the cake. Next I carefully pulled out the wax paper strips. Around the bottom of the cake I placed red and yellow M&M's.

Now that the cake was fully baked and iced I was ready for the decorating brawl to begin. I used pre-packaged tubes of colored icing to decorate Lindt chocolate balls to look like Bakugan balls. My inspiration was my son's Bakugan collections and the cakes I saw on flickr. To create the Bakugan card I broke a Hershey's chocolate candy bar in half (snacked on the other half), turned it over to the smooth side, attached a small Bakugan logo to the center, and then drew on the red and yellow burst around the edges. I used wooden skewers to slightly blend the red and yellow icing. I wrote "Happy Birthday" on the cake and then placed two balls on top of the cake and the rest around the edges of the cake stand. When my kids came home from school they said, "Mom! Did you really make that?" What a compliment!

Hershey's 'Perfectly Chocolate' Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Melt butter. Remove from heat.
  2. Whisk in cocoa.
  3. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed.
  4. Stir in vanilla.
Makes about 2 cups.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe

Pumpkin Pie Playdough
My already quite full plate has become even more full. After a few years of staying at home with my four children, I am now easing back into the work force. I am very grateful for my position at a local preschool four days a week. I love my job! I love the sweet faces that greet me in the morning, I love that I can wear pumpkin shirts and pigtails to work, I love having lots of little people to sing and read with, and I love playing with play dough! In fact I believe that the world would be a much better place if everyone sat down with a big hunk of this soft, squishable stuff on a regular basis. It is the ultimate stress reliever, relaxer, and smile maker.

In my class we are finishing up our unit on "The Five Senses" and beginning to embark on our "Fall" theme. The director of my school printed this recipe in our October newsletter and I couldn't wait to try it. It is amazing! Pumpkin pie playdough has a soft smooth texture that isn't too crumbly and as it is kneaded and shaped it emits the aroma of pumpkin pie. . . nice! In fact, the mom who made us a double batch for our classroom told me that while she was mixing it her husband ran into the kitchen thrilled that a pumpkin pie was cooking. He was a little disappointed when instead he was greeted by a glob of flour, salt, and spices. She promised him a pumpkin pie soon.

The first day that I introduced pumpkin pie playdough in my classroom I gave the students each a big hunk and let them explore. They had a wonderful time using four out of their five senses and I enjoyed seeing what they created. We had a pumpkin pie volcano, mini pumpkin pies, a pumpkin monster, and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Throughout the week I added tongue depressors, rolling pins, wooden knives, and mallets to the play dough area. Next week I'll put out some tart pans, a cookie sheet, and a few seasonal cookie cutters. I like to stretch the preschoolers creativity by giving them just a few materials at a time and letting the dough and their imaginations lead the way.

I hope your imagination will also lead the way as you enjoy this recipe for pumpkin pie playdough with your favorite child!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough

5 1/2 cups flour
8 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 ounces pumpkin pie spice
2 cups salt
3/4 cups oil
4 cups water
orange food coloring (2 parts yellow to 1 part red or orange gel coloring)

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until dough forms. The mixture becomes very thick so a big wooden spoon works well for stirring.
  3. When a ball begins to form, transfer dough to a floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth.
  4. When dough is cool store in an air tight container.