Slow-Cooker Pumpkin Butter - 1st grade's been cookin' again!

October 27, 2011

Well, 1st grade has been cooking again!  This time, as you've probably already figured out, we made pumpkin butter.  And, oh, was it ever good.

Our vocabulary unit this week was centered around the job of a chef, and included the words 'utensils' and 'ingredients' ... among other words, of course.  I just couldn't resist incorporating a hands-on cooking activity!  And it just so happened that we were also learning about the pumpkin growth life cycle ... ya know, pumpkins start as a seed, then grow into a sprout, which grows into a plant ... remember learning that kind of stuff?

Hmmmm, combine cooking vocabulary with pumpkins?  Could it get any easier??  I mean, really, no challenge at all.  I decided this slow-cooker pumpkin butter would be perfect!

So, my crockpot once again made the journey into school, along with a few other utensils and the ingredients to make this rich, flavorful pumpkin butter.  Then my little helpers and I set about whipping this up.

It's sooooooo easy.  Easy-sneezy, as we'd say in our class.

Put two cans of pumpkin into a slow-cooker and stir in a bunch (quite a big bunch!) of brown sugar ...

In goes the brown sugar

... and some cinnamon and ground cloves.  (Two of my boys did a fantastic job stirring this up.  They really got into it!  Notice the two-handed grips on that spoon??)

In go the spices

Cook it for a while until it's a gorgeous and rich dark brown color ...

... and then slather a big ol' dollop on a biscuit (or other mouth-delivery vehicle of your choice).  We tried it on biscuits and graham crackers, and decided as a class that we liked the biscuit best.  Oh, but rest assured, there was certainly a fair share of us eating it straight up with a spoon!  Fabulously delicious.

Pumpkin Butter
Source:  My nieces (They both made this, along with other recipes, when they were in 1st grade.  Their teacher then compiled a cook book for them that they still have ... so sweet.)
2 (15 oz.) cans 100% pure pumpkin (about 4 c.)
1 (16 oz.) box light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Dash of salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker.  Cook on low heat for 3 to 4 hours.  Or, combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and cook over medium until the color is dark brown. 

2.  Serve warm or cold with graham crackers, chocolate graham crackers, or biscuits.    


(I bet it would also be great on toast, English muffins, bagels, or mild-flavored crackers.  Yum.)


Easy Mediterranean Chicken with Cous-Cous

October 22, 2011

This is one of those creations born out of necessity.  The necessity to make something to eat ... with just what you have around the kitchen.  You know those days.  You thought you had something figured out to make for dinner, and then find you're missing a key ingredient.  I swear there must be gremlins in my pantry.  Pesky little gremlins who take ingredients when I'm not looking.  Sneaky little devils.

And so this easy Mediterranean Chicken with Cous-Cous came to be.  I had thawed out chicken from the freezer, so had to use it up.  I looked around my kitchen to see what I had, and went to work assembling.  Chicken ... onions ... garlic ... olives ... capers ...

canned tomatoes ... fresh basil ...


And, WOW, did this ever turn out delicious! I knew it would be edible ... I mean, you can't go too wrong with the ingredients I found laying around. But I didn't know it would turn out as tasty as it did! Easy and quick too.  As we say at our house, it's a keeper!

Easy Mediterranean Chicken with Cous-Cous
Source:  A Tracey creation
Olive oil
4 boneless & skinless chicken breast halves (whole or cut into bite-sized chunks)
1 onion, sliced in round slices
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & black pepper, to taste
A shake of crushed red pepper, to taste
4 T. capers
1 c. olives (a mix of kalamata and green olives)
1 (15 oz.) can whole tomatoes
Fresh basil
Prepared cous-cous

1.  Season chicken breast halves with salt and black pepper.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet; brown chicken in heated oil and then remove chicken from pan.

2.  Heat another small amount of olive oil in the same skillet.  Add onion slices and garlic; saute until onions soften a bit, about 2-3 minutes.  Add black pepper, crushed red pepper, capers, and olives.  Break up tomatoes with a fork (or your hands); add tomatoes, with juice, to the pan.  Heat until simmering.

3.  Add browned chicken to the pan.  Simmer browned chicken in the olive-tomato mixture until cooked through and tender, about 15-20 minutes.

4.  Serve over prepared cous-cous and top with fresh basil.  



Caramel Apple Cheesecake Squares {Improv Cooking Challenge}

October 20, 2011

Think apple crisp.  Drizzled with caramel.  Served over cheesecake with a brown sugar crust.  With a little bit more caramel for good measure.  And there you have Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars.  Are you drooling?  Well, you probably should be.

I made these bars for the first-ever Improv Cooking Challenge, orchestrated and hosted by the fabulous Sheryl at Lady Behind the Curtain.  Our challenge?  Bake up a dish using the two ingredients specified by our challenge hostess - this time around, apples and caramel.

Truth be told, I'm not a fan of apples and caramel together.  Apple desserts?  Love them!  Caramel?  Love it!  Together?  Not so much.  Those  ooey-gooey, oh-so-sticky, almost-pull-my-teeth-out caramel apples on  a stick?  Detest them.  So, probably needless to say, I wasn't just absolutely over-the-moon thrilled about this ingredient pairing (sorry, Sheryl!).

But, I really wanted to participate in the Improv Cooking Challenge, with this group of bloggers.  So off I went in search of a caramel-and-apple recipe that would pique my interest.  Oh, how I do love a challenge!
I came across several possibilities in my searching travels, but none grabbed me quite like these cheesecake bars from The Girl Who Ate Everything.  My mind and my eyes just kept on coming back to them.  So, these little gems are what I went with!  And I'm so glad I did.

I mean, basically apple crisp on top of cheesecake??  With caramel???  Come on!  What's not to love?

You build these little beauties in layers - starting with a brown sugar-based crust.  Then you pour on cheesecake batter, layer on cinnamon-coated apples, and top that with a buttery streusel layer.

Pop it in the oven until it's set and golden brown, and then drizzle on some caramel topping.

The only change I made to this recipe was to reduce the amount of butter in the crust and the streusel topping.  I think it could be reduced even more, if you would like.  It is, originally, a Paula Deen recipe, after all! ... and we all know how she loves her butter. 

When the bars are cooled, cut into 'em and drizzle on a little more caramel topping ... ya know, just because you can.  Then dig on in!  I shared these with my team at school, and almost everyone asked for the recipe.  Yes, this is one of those recipes.
And I have to say, this is one caramel and apple combination even a non-caramel apple lover can get behind!  And biting into it won't pull your teeth out.  I promise.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Squares
Source: Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything (who adapted from Paula Deen)
(Printable recipe)
Crust Layer:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

Cheesecake Layer:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Apple Layer:
3 tart apples (such as Rome or Granny Smith), peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Streusel Layer:
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. quick cooking oats
1/3 c. butter, softened

Caramel Layer:
1/2 c. caramel topping

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust Layer:
2.  In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 forks) until mixture is crumbly.

3.  Press evenly into a 9x13 baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cheesecake Layer:
4.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with the 3/4 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and then add vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

Apple Layer:
5.  In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.

Streusel Layer:
6.  In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Using your hands or a fork, mix until the ingredients come together and form small crumbs.  Sprinkle apples evenly with Streusel topping.

7.  Bake 40-45 minutes, or until filling is set.

Caramel Layer:
8.  Drizzle baked bars with caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold.



Corn Pudding from Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House

October 15, 2011
Creamy & comforting Corn Pudding, straight from Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House, Tangier Island, Virginia.

Corn Pudding Casserole

Last summer my husband and I took a trip to Tangier Island, Virginia ~ a small historic island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, 12 miles off shore and accessible only by boat or small airplane.  So why am I writing about a summer trip now, in the Fall?  Because I think this corn pudding dish we discovered while there is a perfect Thanksgiving side!  With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I figured now was a great time to share this find.

But before we get to the scrumptious corn pudding, let me tell you a little about this unique and interesting island. 

Corn Pudding Casserole

Approximately 500 people make 0.2 square-mile Tangier Island their home.  There are no cars (well, we saw two), no city sounds, no traffic lights, no rushing around, no chain restaurants.  There are narrow quaint streets, lots of marshes and seagrass, the beautiful sounds of boat engines and waves, a laid-back atmosphere, bicycles and golf carts for transportation, and crabs.  Lots of tasty crabs.  This quiet island is certainly not for everyone.  My husband and I? - we loved it.

To be honest, Mark was immediately comfortable on Tangier, but I was a bit apprehensive at first.  It took me a couple of days to settle into the island way.  But Tangier certainly grew on me.  It's not easy to describe the island, it's people, the Tangier way of life, or exactly why we loved it.  And I'm sure I won't even come close to doing it justice.  But here are a few snippets of Tangier life to give a tiny glimpse into this unique place.

Water & Quiet:
I think these pictures speak for themselves!

Tangier Island, VA

Tangier Island, VA
The beach ... in JULY!!  If you want a private beach, here you go.
How beautiful is that?  And a beach in July with nobody on it?  Not many other places you can find that!

There's an airport on the island, accessible for small aircraft - it's quiet, too.  Have you ever walked to the beach on an airstrip?  Well, Mark and I have!  That's how quiet the airport is.  You simply need just look up in the sky before embarking on your walk to the beach.  All clear?  Then go ahead!

Tangier Island, VA
Our feet on the airstrip, walking back from the beach

Super-Fresh Crab:
Crabbing is the way of life on Tangier.  In fact, Tangier is referred to as the soft shell crab capital of the world.  I had crab in some form or another for every meal while we were on Tangier.  I love crab, and could eat it every day.  I swear I could.

Thanks to Ooker, a local waterman and mayor of Tangier, we had the pleasure of visiting a crab shack and learning about the soft shell crabbing industry.  From what I could tell, being a waterman is tough work, but also a tradition and labor of love for the residents of Tangier.

Tangier Island, VA

Tangier Island, VA
Crab shacks

During the summer, a couple of ferry boats come to the island each day, allowing passengers to explore the island.  The tiny streets would bustle with activity for a few hours each mid-day while these short-time guests visited the island offerings. 

Tangier Island, VA
Ferry coming in

Golf carts (one of the island's modes of transportation) would buzz visitors around ...

Tangier Island, VA
Island transportation

... and then the visitors would board back on their ferry boats and the streets would return to their  'normal' quiet.

Tangier Island, VA
Quiet street

Unique Dialect:
One of the most intriguing experiences on Tangier Island was hearing the unusual accent of the residents. Because of centuries of relative isolation, the islanders still speak in a unique island way that is similar to the speech spoken when Tangier was settled in 1686. The accent is still strong enough that some people are not able to understand everything that is said.  I was one of these people.  After several days on Tangier I was getting much better at conversing with the residents, but I admit that I had to concentrate.  Many videos and documentaries have been made about the island, highlighting the unique island dialect, if you'd like to learn more.  I've included one brief video here - an ESPN commercial filmed on the island (this, and a couple of others, were actually filmed the week after we left the island) - so you can hear a bit of the dialect.

Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House:
And, finally, let's talk about Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House, one of the three inns on the island, and the only inn also serving lunch and dinner.  Family-style.  With lots of food.  Yummy home-cooking kinda food. 

Corn Pudding from Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House

John Crockett settled Tangier island in 1686.  Many of the inhabitants still have the surname Crockett - and I can only assume Hilda Crockett was descended from the island founder.  Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House was started in 1939 by Hilda herself, and is now run by Denny and Glenna Crockett.

Thankfully, Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House is willing to share it's recipes.  And, as you know if you're a frequent reader of this blog, I am a totally-obsessed recipe collector!  So, naturally, I gathered all the recipes I could while visiting Tangier.  I've made many of the dishes I learned about during our visit, and Hilda Crockett's Corn Pudding is one of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy it's smooth-and-creamy, sweet-and-tasty deliciousness as much as I do!  Thank you to Hilda and her family for graciously sharing her wonderfully scrumptious recipe.

(Visit Wikipedia to read more about Tangier Island.)

Corn Pudding from Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House
We invite you to follow The Kitchen is My Playground with Google+, PinterestFacebookTwitterInstagram, bloglovin', or subscribe by Email.  We'd love to have you back soon!

Corn Pudding
Source:  Adapted from Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House, Tangier Island, Virginia
(Printable recipe)
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (14.75 oz.) can cream style corn
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. butter, cut in small pieces
  1. In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, sugar, and salt with a whisk. Add eggs and beat well. Add corn and evaporated milk; mix well.
  2. Pour into a greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Dot with butter pieces.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour, until set and golden brown.

Please enjoy these other scrumptious side dishes from The Kitchen is My Playground ...

Butternut Squash Gratin

Classic Pineapple Casserole

Cauliflower {Just Like} Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

Baked Acorn Squash with Maple Glaze

5-Cheese Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese


Slow Cooker Applesauce ~ so easy 1st graders can make it!

October 10, 2011
Slow Cooker Applesauce ~ Making fresh applesauce in the slow-cooker is so easy, even a 1st grader can do it!  And it's oh so yummy, too.

Slow Cooker Applesauce image

Yes, this slow-cooker apple sauce is so easy, 1st graders could make it.

In fact, 1st graders did make it!

Well, except for the cutting-up-the-apples part - that part should be (and was) handled by an adult.  But don't let the ease of this slow cooker applesauce recipe fool you into thinking it isn't delicious.  It's absolutely delicious!  Just ask my first graders ... and me.


Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies {Crazy Cooking Challenge}

October 7, 2011
Give chocolate chip cookies a little shake-up with Nutella hazelnut spread in these delicious Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.

It's Crazy Cooking Challenge time! Crazy Cooking Challenge is a group of food bloggers who get together once a month to bring you one featured food item. We all make this one item, but, of course, we each make it in our own special way. Because that's what we do best!

This month's feature is ... drum roll pleasssssssse ... CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking (our Crazy Cooking Challenge hostess-with-the-mostest) challenged us all to get creative with this feature food. As long as our cookie had chocolate chips in it, then anything else, as far as ingredients go, was fair game!

Now, the rules of The Challenge are that we can't just make our own personal recipe favorite, or a recipe that we have posted on our blog before. We are to make a new-to-us recipe, or to use a new-to-us method, found somewhere out in blog-land. With Tina's creativity challenge in tow, a blog-land-searchin' I went. And, wow, was it ever hard to decide which of the many, many, many fantastic cookie creations to try!

I finally decided on these Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Culinary Chronicles. I love, love, love me some Nutella (as evidenced my recent Nutella French Toast). And these Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies did not disappoint. They are yummy, just like I knew they would be! When I brought these to school to share with my fellow teachers (they are the recipients of quite a few of my baking products!), one of my friends said, "Oh, I love Nutella! I could bathe in it!"

While I don't recommend bathing in Nutella, I do highly recommend making these Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies! You'll be glad you did.

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source:  Slightly adapted from The Culinary Chronicles
(Printable recipe)
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. light brown sugar
2/3 c. Nutella
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2.  Cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in Nutella and vanilla extract. Mix in egg. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add chocolate chips.

3.  Refrigerate dough for approximately one hour.

4.  Drop approximately one tablespoon of dough 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes until the edges look set. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove to cooling racks.



German Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 2, 2011
German Chocolate Chip Cookies ~ all the flavors of traditional German chocolate cake in delicious chocolate chip cookie form.

I found this recipe for German Chocolate Chip Cookies out in blog-land, and couldn't resist giving it a try.  I love German Chocolate Cake, and a cookie that combines it's classic chocolate, pecan, and coconut flavors??  I couldn't pass it by. 

I've had German Chocolate Cake on my to-be-made list for quite some time, but haven't seemed to get to it yet.  My mother-in-law makes a fabulous, from-scratch German Chocolate Cake.  Somehow, cakes always seem so daunting to me.  But cookies?  Cookies are easy!  So much easier than cake.  So these German Chocolate Chip Cookies leap-frogged the cake in my recipe queue.

The creator of this delicious German Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe is Lesley of Lesley's Eats.  Thank you, Lesley!  Hop on over to Lesley's blog to hear the sweet story of how she and her mother brought this recipe to be.  The only tweak I made was to increase the amount of coconut - I love coconut.  Coconut and chocolate together? - love it even more.

So, don't feel like making a big ol' German Chocolate Cake?  Give these little German Chocolate Chip cookies a try!

German Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source:  Lesley's Eats
(Printable recipe)
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 c. chocolate chips (the original recipe called for milk chocolate, I used semi-sweet)
1 c. chopped pecans
1 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut

1.  Cream together the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

2.  Stir dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture, making sure that everything is fully incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut.

3.  Drop batter by spoonfuls onto baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.


Blog Design: Powered by Blogger.
Get widget