Happy Pumpkin Week!

Layers of sponge cake, pumpkin butterscotch, and whipped cream nestled together.

This is a special week because 1.)We can eat as much Halloween candy as possible in one sitting without feeling guilty (which for me involves copious amounts of candy corn) and 2.) We celebrate pumpkins.

There is something nostalgic and happy about pumpkins. They remind me of everything great about fall- hay rides, adorable kids in costumes, cooler air and the smell of sun-burnt leaves. They also remind me of the time as a kid when I tried to scoop out the inside of a pumpkin and eat it.

I was also known to eat dirt from our garden believing in my small brain it was Oreo crumbs. But, I digress.

I learned my lesson the hard way and that pumpkin seeds are meant to be roasted before swallowed. And since then, it has also stirred a fascination in me to cook with pumpkin- it’s slightly sweet, spicy-creamy taste is so reminiscent to me of fall and bonfires and starry nights.

This was the most epic shot of a pumpkin trifle ever.  

So, in celebration of fall, candy, and fun here is a great pumpkin trifle recipe I made this week for my small group of wonderful ladies who deserve brilliant fall desserts. If there was ever a time to be happy about pumpkins, raw or otherwise, it would be now.

Pumpkin Butterscotch Trifle  (This recipe was adapted from A Taste Of Home’s version)

What You Will Need

  • 2 to 3 cups cut-into-cubes spice cake (I made Duncan Hines spice cake from the mix)
  • 2-1/2 cups cold milk (I used low-fat, because in my mind it makes this healthy)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 4 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant butterscotch pudding mix (I used Jello Cook and Serve)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon here and added a bit of freshly grated nutmeg to mine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • A splash of vanilla extract
  • A trifle dish (or huge salad bowl; or one of those plastic pumpkin things you put candy in. Be creative as you celebrate your dessert!)

What You Will Do

  • Cut your cooled spice cake into four sections. From each section, cut the cake into one or two inch squares. You should have four piles of cake squares.
  • Put the bowl you are going to make whipped cream in, along with the beater, in the freezer.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the milk, pumpkin, pudding mixes and spices; beat until smooth. Once the ingredients are combined, pour your pudding liquid into a medium-sized saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil (this should take a about two minutes on medium high; watch it though because it bubbles quickly).
  • Once the mixture starts bubbling, stir it frequently, making sure that the bottom of the pudding doesn’t burn, until it becomes pudding consistency. I stopped cooking mine once it felt about like the texture I would serve it if it was cold. And it’s even better if you get a little bit of darker edges around the sides and bottom of your pan. This will give your mixture a nice roasty flavor.
  • Take the pan off of the heat to let your pudding cool. If you like, you can put it in the fridge to quicken the cooling process.
  • In the meantime, take your mixing bowl and beaters out of the freezer. Whip the cream and a splash of vanilla until stiff peaks form.
  • Commence eating candy.

Once your pumpkin pudding is cooled:

  • Make one layer of your spice cake cubes in the bottom of your serving bowl.
  • Spoon half of your pudding over your cake layer. Then sprinkle that with a second layer of cake cubes (ok, cake cubes is just fun to say).
  • Top your second layer of cake cubes with half of your whipped cream.
  • Sprinkle with a third portion of cubes. Top with the remaining pumpkin mixture, then the rest of the whipped cream.
  • My whipped cream got a bit out of control and was overflowing my dish, but in the original recipe I found I think you are supposed to sprinkle another layer of cake cubes on top. I thought it was prettier with cinnamon, so you can either top it with cinnamon or the rest of the cake cubes. But then that would be a lot of cake cubes.
  • Double-cover your trifle with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Yield: 12-15 servings

Southern, Foodie Birthdays

Chocolate cake with chocolate, chocolate-chip frosting. Yes, it was everything you think it would be.

Combine birthdays and food together, and voila! You have the perfect recipe for a great day. Extend this equation over the course of two weeks and your (my) birthday dreams have now come true.

Of all the birthdays of my life, this past one has been the most dear, and the most special. Turning 16 was great, but let’s be honest- having the chance to eat all you want at 20 of your favorite restaurants, cheer on your favorite football team with your sister at your side, and eat two birthday cakes (chocolate and red velvet) is pretty darn amazing.

Below are some highlights from my food-themed birthday week(s). I hope it inspires you to also don your own birthday tiara, cut a large slice of cake, and count your blessings. Because my friends, birthdays and fabulous food or not- we have so, so many.

This amazing establishment had fritters for the bread bowl, and fried moon pies for dessert.

Front and center are Tennessee cherry chili peppers.

Next best birthday gift: cherry chili pepper hot sauce

A great way to start a new year: “Bennie and the Eggs”

Black and White Triple-Chip Cookies

I won’t judge you if you make this your computer background.

Nothing says luv like a platter of warm chocolate chip cookies, right out of the oven.

And to make these even more luv-able, this recipe uses three different types of chocolate. That’s right- dark, milk, and white chocolate, all in one cookie. Indecisive chocoholics unite! It is time for you to finally make a decision (well, sort-of).

Now, this recipe may seem groundbreaking and fancy, but I promise you it is easy. And I made it from the chocolate chips I had leftover in my pantry from my failed attempt to make homemade peanut butter cups. (Note: I do not know why I tried this. There truly is nothing better than a Reese’s or my friend Emme’s peanut butter eggs she gets in NYC. I just couldn’t make it as deliciously. I mean, the Mars corporation makes Milky Way Midnights. Enough said.)

There is even a trick to these cookies (hint: it involves dissolving baking soda in water), which gives them their crispy on the edges, chewy-on-the-inside texture.

And with dropping temperatures (It’s low 60’s today in the South! Cold front coming through!) now is the perfect time to whip out that Kitchen Aid, find all the chocolate you have, and make a cookie that requires next-to-no decision making. Because let’s be honest- when it comes to chocolate, why shouldn’t we invite everyone to the party?

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (taken from AllRecipes.com. I just love this site.)

What You Will Need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (Here is where the fun comes in. I used semi-sweet (about 60% cacao), white, and milk chocolate chips.)

What  You Will Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water (I just brought a kettle to boil while I was beating the butter/sugar, let it simmer a bit, then added the water). Add to batter along with salt.
  3. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans. I use my Silpat mat here. This will take the nice crispy edges and chewy center to a whole-nother-level.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned. It took 12 in my tiny oven. And then try and not all of these.

This makes lots of cookies. About 48 to be exact.