September 23, 2013

Crisp, cool air means a yearning for the flavors of fall. I admit I've had my first (and second and third) pumpkin spice latte of the season. Tailgating, cool nights by the fire, and fall parties are the perfect time to indulge in fall treats.

The signs of fall are everywhere. The sign I listen for each year is the sound of the high school marching band practicing early in the morning. Our yard at home already has leaves to be raked, and I'm seeing foods with the essence of pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon and apple everywhere I go.

Fall into autumn by embracing the tastes of the season.

Monster Bars

Carroll native, Tracy (Wiederien) Sartain of Lee's Summit, Mo., and I attended the University of Iowa. We both remember the delicious monster cookies at Cookies and More in Old Capitol Mall in Iowa City. I had never had a monster cookie until I went to college, and once I tried one, I was hooked for life.

Tracy and I saw this recipe for monster bars on Facebook and commented how delicious they looked. Recently Tracy made them for her daughter Hannah's slumber party. Tracy said they were "kid-approved, easy and yummy."

½ cup butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1½ cups peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons baking soda

4½ cups oatmeal

1½ cups chocolate chips

1½ cups mini M&M's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugars together. Add eggs and peanut butter and mix. Stir in vanilla, baking soda and oatmeal. Stir in chocolate chips and M&M's. Put in lightly greased 10x15 inch pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not over bake.

Triple Pumpkin Spice Pie

Ann Renze of Arcadia loves to cook and bake for her family. She shared this recipe with me for a fancy looking pumpkin pie that is special enough for your Thanksgiving table.

2 pkgs (3.4 oz each) pumpkin spice flavor instant pudding

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups cold milk

1 graham cracker pie crust (6 oz)

1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed, divided

½ cup pecan halves

1 tablespoon honey

Beat dry pudding mixes, cinnamon and milk in medium bowl with whisk for 2 minutes; spread 1½ cups onto bottom of crust. Stir 1½ cups Cool Whip into remaining pudding; spread over pudding layer in crust. Top with remaining Cool Whip.

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook nuts and honey in skillet on medium-low heat for 2 to 4 minutes or until nuts are caramelized, stirring frequently. Spread onto waxed paper, separating larger clusters. Cool. Sprinkle nuts over pie just before serving.

Snicker Salad

I remember the first time I tried this salad I was in high school. At first I couldn't figure out what was in it, but once I was told, it was no wonder I liked it.

Depending on your taste buds, tart Granny Smith apples, sweet red apples, or a combination of both can be used.

1½ cups cold 2% milk

1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 carton (8 z) frozen whipped topping, thawed

4 large apples, chopped (about 6 cups)

4 Snickers candy bars (2.07 oz each), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Fold in whipped topping. Fold in apples and candy bars. Refrigerate until serving (at least one hour).

Yield: 12 servings (3/4 cup each)

Three variations:

Drizzle caramel on top.

Use butterscotch pudding instead of vanilla.

Omit milk and add 8 oz softened cream cheese and 1 cup powdered sugar (increase salad to up to 6 apples and 6 candy bars).

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

I have a few favorite cookies, but Snickerdoodle is definitely one of them. This weekend at the World Food and Music Festival in the East Village in Des Moines, I sampled a scrumptious concoction - a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two homemade Snickerdoodle cookies.

I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles and thought it was the perfect treat for fall.

For the cookies:

3¾ cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the coating:

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

dash of allspice

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together to blend. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars on medium speed until well combined. Next, still on medium speed, beat in pumpkin. Then, add the egg and vanilla extract. Lastly, add in the dry ingredients. Beat until combined, but do not over mix. Cover the dough, and refrigerate for one hour, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and spices for the sugar coating. Scoop dough (approximately 2½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball. Roll the dough ball in the sugar mixture, and place on the lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Take a drinking glass with a flat bottom and moisten with water. Dip the glass in the sugar mixture, and use it to flatten the dough balls. Re-sugar the glass as needed.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Remove when the centers of the cookies have set. Let cool on the baking pan for approximately 5 minutes, and then transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

Homemade Soda Pop

For something to wash down the cookies and bars, have children help make their very own soda pop. This recipe was submitted by my colleague, Michele Battani, for a math cookbook for students at our school to encourage cooking at home.

1 (6 oz) can frozen apple, grape or pineapple juice concentrate

24 oz carbonated water

Stir together concentrate and four juice cans filled with carbonated water. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into a bottle or jar and seal. Chill up to 6 hours.