Caramel Apple Snack

I don't know about you, but I LOVE caramel apples! What's not to love - deliciously sweet caramel sauce and tasty, fresh apples? Yum! This time of year they seem to be everywhere. My only complaint? They get kind of messy to eat. Completely worth it, but a little messy. My husband won't ever eat one because he gets caramel all in his beard. Well, if you've ever passed over a caramel apple because of it being messy, then you won't want to miss today's treat! 

One of my co-workers brought in a version of the amazing treat I'm sharing today. It was so simple, yet such a brilliant idea. The idea, found on Pinterest, is to cut up apples into thin slices and then drizzle with delicious caramel. She then topped it off with mini marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, and mini peanut butter chips. The dish was up at the front of the office, I may have made a few trips back and forth to keep snacking! It's great because the apple acts as a scoop and the mini toppings stick to the caramel. There was little to no mess with this snack!

There are a couple great things about this treat. First of all it is SO easy and great for sharing. With Halloween parties and fall themed get-togethers, this snack would be easy to make for a large crowd. You just need to cut more apples and have a larger platter.

Secondly, the treat is so great because you can easily customize it to your favorite flavors. Top it with whatever items you like best on your caramel apples - sprinkles, crushed up candy bars, chocolate chips, nuts, and more! I found a container of tiny marshmallows (like the size of ones in hot chocolate packets). They were a perfect touch to the treat. Add whatever suits your taste buds! You can also use a thick caramel, or a thin caramel ice cream sauce. We made it the other night when all we had was thinner sauce, but it still tasted great!

Lastly, this snack is great because it feels like you are eating more than you are. I used a small "lunchbox" sized apple, and split it with my husband. Whenever I eat a caramel apple, I always finish it by myself. Somehow having so many slices made it seem like I was eating a lot more - so I didn't indulge as much.

Caramel Apple Snack ingredients:
  • Apples
  • Caramel (or caramel sauce)
  • Toppings - tiny marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, crushed up candy bars, sprinkles, nuts, etc

Caramel Apple Snack directions:
  • Wash apple
  • Slice up apple into very thin slices
  • Arrange on plate or platter

  •  Top with a thick caramel, or a thinner caramel sauce

  • Get creative and top the apples off with your favorite miniature sized treats 

  • Share and enjoy!!

Prepare Pumpkin for Baking

Last weekend my husband and I went to the pumpkin patch, and picked up a couple pumpkins. We bought one large one for the front porch, hopefully we will carve it before Thursday! While there, we also bought a smaller pumpkin meant for baking. I had made pumpkin treats before (check out my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies), but I have always used canned pumpkin. I decided to try out some pumpkin recipes using pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin.

Most the recipes I found online all followed this same procedure, so I decided to test it out. Now, this took a bit of work. We didn't really have a great knife for the task, so my husband's hands were pretty sore after cutting up the pumpkin. But, the puree tasted great in the muffins I made! I think adding the fresh pumpkin puree takes baked goods to the next level. The other great part was that even from my small pumpkin, I had enough for the muffins and some leftover to freeze. I'm planning on making a pie with the rest of the puree nearer Thanksgiving.

So while you are enjoying last minute trips to pumpkin patches and Halloween festivities, don't forget to buy an extra pumpkin to bake with!
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Clean pumpkin and cut off under the stem
  • Cut the pumpkin in half
  • Remove the seeds and membrane with a spoon
  • Cut into thinner strips, at least 4 strips in each 1/2
  • Place the pumpkin strips onto baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Bake for 40-45 mins
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes
  • The skin should peel back fairly easily, you can use a knife if needed
  • Cut the pumpkin up into chunks and place in a food processor
  • Pulse the pumpkin until a smooth consistency - add water if it is too dry (we had to add almost 1/4 cup water)
  • Use the puree, or freeze it for later use. Measure it out into ziploc bags, with 1 cup in each bag - this way you can pull them out of the freezer and know exactly how much is in it.
  • Roll the puree in the ziploc to get all the air out

Make sure and check back this week for the recipe for the pumpkin muffins I made with this puree.

Where's the Love

Depending on how frequently you visit my site, you may or may not have noticed I've been on a short hiatus from the blog. Unfortunately work, and life in general, has been a little crazy, and I started having a hard time balancing everything. I missed blogging, though, so I am planning on making more time for the blog in the future. I haven't even made a cake in a while, but thankfully I have quite a few cake projects coming up within the next month.

While catching up with blogging, I began looking through posts of other bloggers I follow. I started noticing again and again posts along the theme of "Dear Martha Stewart." Curious, I began reading them and eventually found an article detailing what was said. If this is old news to you, bear with me -this is about a lot more than just Martha Stewart. For those of you who didn't read about her now infamous interview (infamous at least in the crafting/food blogger world), she went on a little rant criticizing food and crafting bloggers. I'll just leave it at that, but it wasn't very sweet.

Unfortunately, criticism seems to be rampant online lately. Bullying, criticizing, belittling others - none of it is new. But, unfortunately, social media seems to make it more widespread. In some ways it is more hurtful, as well. I see a lot of Facebook posts, tweets, and other posts from people that would never actually say those things in person! People get so much braver, especially if they have an alias and aren't recognized. Whether it is with politics, religion, or even baking, it seems the lines are somehow more divided online. I'm not a mom, but I have been shocked by some of the posts I've seen written by mothers judging other mothers. It makes me sad to see such divides among people that could be supporting and building each other up.

Some bloggers do it just to get more page views. I don't know how many articles I read about blogging that encouraged others to write controversial posts in order to get page views. The more people that go and tell them off, the more views they are getting... Now that is fine if you want to write something edgy or speak your mind. I happen to enjoy our right to free speech. But unfortunately a lot of people can't seem to draw a line between speaking their mind and opinions, and belittling anyone who doesn't agree with them.

Ok, so now that I have you depressed (sorry), you are probably wondering what anyone can do. Well, I don't think bullying or discouraging others is going to disappear anytime soon. But you can make a pledge to keep your little part of the blogosphere and social media free from discouragement. It's too easy sometimes to write a negative comment or gripe about someone on Facebook or your blog. I have a new badge I'm sharing that shows I'm taking a stand to keep my blog and social media encouraging and positive. Keeping it positive is more than just not belittling others. It's so easy for us bloggers to get competitive or jealous of other bloggers. But, isn't it nice when you have a blogger go out of their way to write a kind comment, or share your post? I think we could all use a lot less discouragement, and a lot more encouragement! So I challenge you to share a similar post (or this one if you wish) and shout out to a couple bloggers who make you smile, and brighten your day.

Before I get to the bloggers I'd like to encourage, I wanted to share my new badge. Feel free to take and share on your blog as well, showing your stand for encouraging others online!

Sarah Lynn's Sweets
<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Sarah Lynn's Sweets" width="125" height="125" /></a>

I'm going to start by talking about two bloggers. One is Stefani Pollack, blogger at the popular Cupcake Project. I don't know Stefanie, but I know she has very successful blog. When I was first starting out with blogging and cupcake baking, though, I wrote her an email. I figured it was a long shot, but her blog had inspired me to become a blogger. Imagine my surprise when she actually answered my email! And this happened not once, but twice. So thanks to Stefani for being accessible even through her popularity and success. If you don't check out her weekly article in Parade, you should!!

Another blogger is Heather Carter, writer and creator of My Sweet Mission. If you haven't checked out her site, you should! Heather's posts combine her two passions - baking and helping others (hence the name). Among others, Heather is always great about commenting on my posts and always linked up to my blog link party (when I had it going). I have so many great readers, but I just wanted to give a shout out to Heather for encouraging me on so many of my projects!

I have a looooooong list of other bloggers who encourage and inspire me, so I don't want to leave anyone out. I plan on making this a recurring post, I think it is that important.

(Don't worry, I will get back to the food later this week!)

Bananas Foster Milkshake

Do you remember that time I tried out The Pioneer Woman's bananas foster sauce? It was ridiculously decadent and amazing. My husband and I joked it was so good we could practically drink it. No, we didn't actually drink it, BUT I did recently make an equally delicious bananas foster milkshake! 

Last summer, I got an ice cream maker for my birthday. I loved making ice cream and shared a few of my favorite flavors in a special summer series, I Dream of Ice Cream. One thing I really wanted to do, though, was make a milkshake. We had a blender, but milkshakes work so much better with an immersion blender. Well my husband just got an immersion blender for his birthday, so we finally got a chance to make one! Don't we sound like foodie nerds getting all these kitchen utensils for our birthdays? Ha ha!

This recipe is delicious and includes all the essential components of bananas foster - caramel, bananas, and even a dash of cinnamon. You can even make a more adult version by adding in dark rum, which is commonly used in bananas foster. 

Bananas Foster Milkshake ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 bananas
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 10 oz vanilla bean ice cream
  • 1 tbs rum (optional)
  • Whipped cream, bananas slices, cinnamon for garnish
Bananas Foster Milkshake directions:
  • Cut up banana into slices
  • Put 3/4 banana slices, milk, caramel, and cinnamon in cup 
  • Mix with immersion blender
  • Scoop out ice cream into container and pour caramel/banana mixture over ice cream
  • Mix until blended
  • Pour into cup and garnish with whipped cream, banana slices and cinnamon

Quick and Easy Salsa

Did you know that salsa is one of the top 2 condiments in the US? Depending on which report you read, salsa is either #1 or falls to #2 behind ketchup or mayonnaise. At first it surprised me that it was so high, but then I thought about how much salsa we go through. My husband and I definitely use way more salsa than we do ketchup or mayonnaise in our house. It's not so much as a condiment, though, we just really like chips and salsa! I do like it with tacos, of course. We have a few different canned salsas that we like, but they just don't seem to compare to what you get at the restaurants. We were talking about this the other day and I decided maybe we should try our hand at making our own salsa.

I don't know about you, but when I Google a new recipe there are certain people's recipes I search for. If I see they have a version of what I'm trying to find, I tend to go with their recipe. Most of the time it ends up being Food Network cooks and chefs, I've just had great luck with their recipes. One of my favorites, of course, is the Pioneer Woman. I would assume the wife of a cowboy in Oklahoma knows a thing or two about salsa, so I decided to try her recipe out. I made a few adjustments, but didn't stray to far from the recipe.

Now the funny thing is I'm not a huge fan of cilantro and her recipe called for quite a bit. In fact, having cilantro in the salsa is one of the reason she lists that this is better than canned salsa. I ended up really liking it, though. The cilantro didn't overpower and added a great flavor. The salsa definitely tastes more fresh than what you get in a store. I cut the recipe in half, her full recipe makes around 48 ounces! Here is my reduced, and slightly modified version of the salsa.

Quick and Easy Salsa ingredients (yields 24 oz):
  • 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes (with juice)
  • 10 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes with green chiles)
  • 1/8 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno (sliced thin)
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 whole lime juice
Quick and Easy Salsa instructions:
  • Pour the whole tomatoes and Rotel in a food processor or blender
  • Dice onion
  • Add onion to the food processor
  • Cut jalapeno in half (lengthwise), saving one half for another use. Cut the half lengthwise again and then cut into thin slices. Leave the membrane and seeds.
(Probably didn't need gloves, but wasn't sure how sensitive I would be to it)
  • Add the jalapenos to the mixture
  • Mince garlic and add to the processor
  • Add in the cilantro
  • Finish with adding in the salt, sugar, and lime juice
  • Pulse the food processor until you get the desired consistency. If you want it chunkier, check it after about 6-8 quick pulses. We did somewhere between 10-15 pulses (as per recipe). 
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour
Enjoy this fresh salsa, perfect for snacking! Check back Wednesday for a delicious milkshake recipe.

Fall Flavor Fridays

I have a confession to make - I used to really dislike Fall. I know that probably seems a bit crazy, but I was not a fan. I think it may have had something to do with my irrational fear and disdain for Halloween when I was little... A few years ago, though, something started to change. It was hard to hate Fall when I was in college at the University of Kentucky. I loved my walks to class sipping on a warm Caramel Apple Cider and taking in the beauty of the leaves around me. I was slowly falling in love with Fall!

Now that I've fully embraced Fall, I love all the flavors of the season. From pumpkin to apples and cinnamon, there's a variety of scrumptious spiced flavors to tickle your taste buds. I was definitely in Fall mode last year, I made quite a few tasty dishes. Earlier this year I hosted an "All About Apples" week-long party, full of cinnamon apple treats!

I've got 8 dishes I want to share in a round-up, so I decided to make it last the whole month of October! Each Friday I will re-share 2 dishes that are perfect for Fall. Most of these are already on my blog, but haven't been shared in quite a while!

Today I have two warm, amazing drinks for you to enjoy!

Cinnamon Roll Hot Chocolate (White Chocolate)

This delicious recipe may be my favorite warm drink ever. Why do I love this so much?

  1. You make it in a crock pot.
  2. It has white chocolate, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  3. It feels your house with an amazing aroma!
This warm, amazing drink tastes like a cinnamon roll in a mug. It is just that good. 

Starbucks Caramel Apple Cider Copycat

A second flavorful Fall drink is a copycat of the Starbucks Caramel Apple Cider. If you haven't tried this drink at Starbucks you are missing out. My favorite way to describe it is it tastes like Fall in a cup!  Like the cinnamon roll drink, you make this in the crock pot as well.

Check back next Friday for two more delicious Fall recipes!

Cookies for Fall

Is anyone else in disbelief that it is already October? I can't believe Fall is already here. I used to prefer Summer, but I'm becoming more of a Fall person. I love the crisp air, cozy sweaters, cute boots, delicious cinnamon apple dishes, and of course anything pumpkin! There's something about the cool weather that makes me want to bake, even more than usual. What's better on a crisp Autumn night then some cookies and a warm drink?

This Fall, there's a new cookie you have to try. It's everyone's favorite traditional chocolate chip cookie, but with a tasty twist of Fall flavors. Not only is pumpkin added to the cookie, but also other Fall essentials including cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. If you aren't a big fan of pumpkin, don't worry the flavor isn't super strong. The puree just adds a bit of spice and deliciousness to these cookies.

I found this recipe on Food Network's website. I cut the recipe in half, as the full recipe makes a ton of cookies. I reduced the chocolate chips even more, but probably should have kept it per recipe. It seemed like a ton, but didn't end up being as much when I scooped out the cookies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie ingredients (yields 60 cookies):
  • 1 cup softened butter (if using unsalted, add 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips (not semisweet)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookie directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Beat the butter until smooth
  • Beat in both sugars, a small amount at a time
  • Beat in one egg at a time
  • Mix in the vanilla extract and pumpkin puree
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
  • Slowly beat the flour mixture in, 1/3 at a time
  • Fold in chocolate chips
  • Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Place tbs size balls of batter on the sheet
  • Bake cookies 15-20 mins
Hope you and your family can enjoy celebrating the cool weather with these tasty cookies!


A Cake About Nothing

Any Seinfeld fans out there? Today's cake is all about the popular sitcom. My husband has always been a huge fan of the show, and Jerry Seinfeld in general. I hadn't watched a full episode before we met, but I think I've seen them all now. He really got me hooked in the show, it is just so funny! For my husband's birthday this year, I surprised him with tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld perform. It was hilarious, it exceeded our expectations! Not only was it relevant and fresh material, but it was hysterical without being overly vulgar.

Over the weekend, we celebrated my husband's birthday and I made him a Seinfeld cake. It was fun to make and a big hit with my husband. Here are the pieces I made for the cake:

One piece I knew I had to include on the cake was Kramer's iconic shirt from the show. If you've watched very many episodes at all, you've probably seen him wear the button up shirt. To make this piece, all I did was cut out a shirt shape out of white fondant. I then decorated it with a red edible marker. I basically just drew two small curved lines for the claws, a longer oval for the body, and a small blob for the tail.

Another piece that was needed for a Seinfeld cake was a reference to the popular Soup Man episodes. "No soup for you" is a popular phrase from the show, so I figured it needed to be included.

The next piece from the cake is a box of Junior Mints candy. Fans of the show might recall the episode named after the candy, where Kramer drops a Junior Mint into a patient while observing a surgery.

On the show, Jerry Seinfeld loves eating black and white cookies. They are his favorite and he eats them in several episodes. To make these, I just made fondant circles that I colored with a marker.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty!" It started out as a line Kramer was given in a Woody Allen movie, but it turned into a catch phrase on the show. It's sort of a replacement for saying you are angry. I made these pretzels by rolling in thin ropes of brown fondant and shaping them into a pretzel shape.

No Seinfeld cake would be complete without a logo! I made this by creating a yellow oval and topping it with red letters spelling "Seinfeld." We rolled the fondant out thin and formed the letters.

I finished the cake out by making fondant Cheerios, Seinfeld was constantly eating the cereal. I just rolled out tan colored fondant into balls, and then pushed the end of a paintbrush through it to make the Cheerio shape.