An Autumn Trip to the Arboretum

I finally got to the arboretum in Autumn!

The last time I was there in Autumn, I discovered that my camera was broken when I got home, so all of the great pics I thought I had taken were over-exposed from a broken shutter.

Yesterday I only had a chance to literally run through the place because I arrived less than an hour before closing, but hopefully, I’ll get back there for more pics before all the leaves are gone!

Cookie Experiments

Have you put the heat on in your home yet? We have been trying to resist turning on the heat as long as possible.

I have been doing more cooking and baking in the evening and that seems to be all we need for now. My cookie dough experiments have been keeping us warm.

The end results of this experiment are some sort of cookie bars that happened when I tried to figure out the proportions of wet to dry ingredients.

I tried one recipe that called for 1 stick of butter and 1 egg. The dough was impossibly dry and the cookies never flattened out. They stayed in nearly the original dough ball shape.

Another recipe called for 2 sticks of butter and 2 eggs. I gave this a try next

The results were a dough that was way too wet and the cookies flattened and spread too much. It was a disaster.

Here is a picture only halfway through the baking

They were practically crepes…

So I made a makeshift baking pan out of some nonstick aluminum foil and I ended up with cookie bars.

These are not what I planned to make, but they are pretty good. A cake-like cookie.

My experiments will continue, and when I figure it all out, I’ll share the recipe. Until then I am like a mad scientist, creating cookie monsters in my lab.

Crispy Halloween Sweet Potato Fries

What could be more fun and festive than a Halloween pumpkin patch of your own, right on your dinner plate? These little cuties are made from sweet potatoes, baked to crispy perfection! Fun, delicious, and the perfect comfort food on a chilly Autumn day!

These little cuties are made from sweet potatoes, baked to crispy perfection!

I don’t like to share a recipe that I have not yet tweaked to near perfection, but I’m sharing this one early because it’s a Halloween recipe. At the end of the article, I will talk about how I will be changing and hopefully improving this process for next time.

So here are the basics of how to make them!

Ingredients:

  • Sweet Potatoes, the bigger the better!
  • Cooking oil. Whatever oil you prefer. I used Avocado oil.
  • Seasoning. Whatever combination of seasonings you prefer. I used 2 teaspoons of Old Bay in this recipe, but in the future, I will be using my custom “Gadzooks” seasonings instead. These would probably also be great with pumpkin-pie seasonings as well….and maybe even marshmallows for a sweet treat!
  • Cornstarch: 2 Teaspoons, (though I am not yet convinced this was necessary (more on that below.))

Instructions:

  1. Buy some nice plump sweet potatoes, the bigger the better.

2. Slice the sweet potatoes about a quarter or a third of an inch thick. A mandolin slicer is the safest and quickest way to go.

Soak the slices in water to remove the starch so that they get nice and crispy when baked.

3. Use pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters on each sweet potato slice.

4. Cut faces into the pumpkin cut-outs.

5. Toss the slices in oil, making sure to cover all slices completely. (make sure the slices are nice and dry before adding the oil. This will help them crisp better.)

6. Add Seasoning to the oil-covered slices. I suggest doing this in a plastic bag, shake and bake style.

7. Bake 425 degrees. On parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil. 15 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Don’t overcrowd your baking sheet! They need some space to get properly crispy.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Notes, Fixes, and Updates:

Slicing: This is the first spot where my plan needs some improvement. I used a mandolin slicer to do this which should be quick easy work, but it was not. The sweet potatoes were so firm that it was difficult to slice through them. Maybe pre-cooking them slightly would make this work better.

Soaking: I soaked the slices in water to remove the starch so that they would bake to crispy perfection. After scouring the internet, for tricks and tips to get sweet potatoes crispy, some sources seemed to say that the key to a crispy sweet potato is removing the starch by soaking, while other recipes claimed that the key was in adding corn starch to the seasonings. Why remove the starch and then add it back in again? I am not sure, and need to do more experimenting!

Cookie Cutter: When I used my cookie cutter on each sweet potato slice, again, the slices were so firm that this was quite difficult. I had to use my meat tenderizing rubber mallet to get the cookie cutter to cut through the slices.

Faces: When I cut faces into the pumpkin cut-outs, once again this was difficult because the raw sweet potatoes were so firm.

Oiling and Seasoning: I used Old Bay seasoning, but I am not a big fan of the celery salt in Old Bay seasoning, so I think I would change the seasonings to my custom “Gadzooks” blend of:

  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesean cheese.

Baking: I ran out of parchment paper, so I had to use aluminum foil. I think they would be better on parchment. I pulled mine from the oven 5 minutes early, but I think they would have been better and more crispy if I went the full time. Also maybe a little blast from the air fryer setting would probably help as well.

Easter 2017

We finally got a brand new Dining table. We had the last one for just shy of 30 years, so it was definitely time!

It always drove me crazy because it did not match any of the other wood in the house — not the kitchen cabinets, or any other furniture, which is why almost all my table settings involve table cloths!

We don’t have the chairs yet, but already my decorating style is evolving, because I am not trying to “cover-up” the table!

Easter 2017h Easter 2017f Easter 2017d Easter 2017c Easter 2017b Easter 2017a  Easter 2017g

Table

Fireplace Fantasies

Come on baby, light my fire.

I’ve always wanted a fireplace. I’ll admit it, I use have a Christmas DVD of a fireplace, just so I can see and hear the warm glow of the yule log. A DVD pales in comparison to the real thing, but for a while it was as close as I could get!

Then I found a faux fireplace that allows you to have a real flame fire! I bought it, and the fire fuel, several years ago, and have still not used it once! What is wrong with me?

I’ve got a flickering flame light bulb in there for now, but hopefully someday, I’ll have the real thing.

Instagram Fireplace