Love Themed Kindergarten School Lunch

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I get¬†headaches. Quite often. And migraines. And they can be debilitating. I get nauseous. I can’t eat. I can’t do much of anything. Any noise is too loud; I can literally feel each noise throbbing in my head, neck, and shoulders. Being in pitch black is still too bright. I am working with a Neurologist to get them under control, but it’s a long process, of trial and error. For people who don’t get them, it’s really hard to understand their magnitude, much like anxiety and depression, of which I also suffer.

[I’m a bag of fun ūüėÄ ]

So, when I have a good day, I am SO very thankful. For the little things, things that I shy away from,¬†on a bad day – the beautiful warming sunshine, the gentle breeze, the [loud] sounds of my boys. I relish in my energy, baking cookies, painting my boys’ bathroom, cleaning the house, running errands. I am grateful. Today, I am grateful. I know that ALL of this is in God’s plan, even if I don’t understand why. I don’t believe that God gives us only what we can handle; God gives us what He gives us, and then we lean on Him.

Day by day. Sometimes, minute by minute.

For tomorrow’s lunch, I packed a cream cheese and raspberry jam heart-shaped sandwich, pita chips, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, blueberries, and a homemade gluten free chocolate brownie cookie. Love themed. Because I am thankful.

Blessings,

Kristin

Cooking with my Kids: “Pilgrim” Meatballs With Cranberries

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My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, hands down. Any chance I get, I’ll find a way to ¬†Thanksgiving-ize something. I came up with this recipe a few years ago and it’s been a favorite. I’ve since made it gluten free and simplified it for my little (big) sous chef.

These turkey meatballs are the very essence of Thanksgiving Рtender sagey turkey, studded with tart cranberries. I served them (obvi) over mashed sweet potatoes and with  sweet corn.

Pilgrim Meatballs with Cranberries

1 lb ground turkey

1 egg, beaten

2/3 C corn flake crumbs

1/3 C chicken stock

Handful of dried cranberries (I used Trader Joe’s orange flavored ones and I soaked them in cooking white wine/sherry)

1/2 t sage

S&P to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil and Pam. Mix all the ingredients, except for ground turkey. Once fully combined, add the ground turkey. Form into balls and place on the baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Gobble Gobble!

Kristin

Gluten Free Apple, Honey, and Olive Oil Cake

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You guys. Have you ever made¬†a recipe that is so good that you are at a loss for words? I just did that. Earlier in the week, I found a recipe for an Apple, Honey, and Olive Oil Cake that looked out of this world. It wasn’t gluten free, so I thought I’d be nice and make it such, so my husband could eat it, too. I definitely deserve some kind of pat on the back or a new pair of shoes or something for that act of kindness. Anyways.

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This cake was not only easy (you probably have ALL of the ingredients!!), but it wasn’t overly sweet OR unhealthy.

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It’s basically a health cake. You’re welcome.

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I’m going to be perfectly honest with you right now. I cut a huge slice of this and put it on my dinner plate. I ate the first slice right along with my baked ham with cloves, green beans with almonds, and corn.

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I DO have one regret – not buying (and eating) vanilla ice cream with this. It would be killer. So, that is my sage and wise advice to you today. Buy vanilla ice cream to go with this.

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This cake was one of the best things that happened to me all day.

Gluten Free Apple, Honey, and Olive Oil Cake

Recipe adapted from: Pickledplum.com

5 small red apples (or 4 larger ones), peeled, cored, and sliced thinly

5 T gluten free flour mix (with xanthan gum in it) or another GF flour with 1/8 t xanthan gum added)

5 T brown sugar

5 T extra virgin olive oil

1 t baking powder

4 large eggs

‚ÖĒ¬†C honey

Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease an 8-inch cake pan, then place the apple slices inside. Put flour, sugar, baking powder, olive oil, eggs, and honey in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter over the apples and sprinkle cinnamon over top. Bake for 20 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and drizzle more honey on top. Bake for an additional 25 minutes.

Eat hot or cold. It was ridonk hot. It would be even more ridonk hot with that vanilla ice cream. I’m planning on eating it cold later tonight and/or for breaky. I’m sure it’ll be ridonk, once again.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Quinoa Granola Bars with Dried Fruit & Chocolate

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Well, oopsie. It’s almost been a month since I blogged. What can I say? Summer really took over. Now, it’s coming to a close. My boys go back to school next week ( ūüė¶ ). I’ve so enjoyed my extra time with them, where the days started and ended later, we ate our weight in ice cream, and we did what we wanted. Times are a-changin’! It’s back to the grind. It’s going to be a rude awakening next week, when I’ll be forced to wake them up. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. That “my baby is now going to Kindergarten” bridge will also have to be dealt with. I’m not emotionally prepared to deal with that at this time.

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Moving on to what makes me comfortable – food. ūüėÄ

I found a recipe for Quinoa Granola Bars and tweaked them a little.

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These were so good! The oats made them chewy and the quinoa made them crunchy. The dried fruit made them subtly sweet and the chocolate coating just made them. Chocolate coating makes almost everything. Ask anybody.

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You can leave the chocolate coating off, if needed. I can barely come up with a situation where a chocolate coating would not be needed. But, know that option exists.

Quinoa Granola Bars with Dried Fruit & Chocolate

Recipe adapted from: Superhealthykids.com

1 C uncooked quinoa

1 C oats

1/2 C coconut

1 1/2 C combination of nuts and dried fruit (I used a 1/2 each of cranberries, golden raisins, and sliced almonds)

1/4 t salt

1/2 C peanut butter

3/4 C honey

1 T  oil (I used coconut)

3 T brown sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 C chocolate chips

1 t oil (I used coconut)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9X13 inch baking dish.  Spread the oats and quinoa on a cookie sheet and toast in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Pour the quinoa and oats mixture into a large bowl and add coconut, nuts, and dried fruit. Mix together. In a medium saucepan, combine salt, peanut butter, honey, oil, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and immediately remove from heat. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Pour over oats mixture and combine until dry ingredients are evenly coated. Pour into baking dish. Press mixture down into pan. Bake for about 15 Р18 minutes.

To make the chocolate, mix the chocolate chips and oil together in a bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring until melted. Spread over the top of the bars and let them cool/dry.

Cut and serve.

These are a teeny bit crumbly, but are delicious for snacks (after school, maybe? mid-morning? you decide). You could also individually wrap the slices and freeze and pop into a lunchbox.

Enjoy!

Kristin

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Gluten Free Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

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It might seem that I am on a chocolate cookie kick. And that might actually be true. But, I really think the universe is lending itself to chocolate cookie situations. It’s a circumstance beyond my control. Who I am to mess with that?

This time around, I made Gluten Free Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. Mexican Hot Chocolate is simply spicy hot chocolate. The spices lend a lovely warmth to the creamy, rich chocolate. And they do the same in the cookie form.

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These cookies are crunchy and chewy, rich with chocolatey flavor. They have a little kick from cayenne and a lot of warmth from cinnamon.

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And, let me just tell you how delicious they are with ice cream sandwiched between two of them. I can barely think straight and think of that at same time!

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I just know you’re going to love these! They were perfect accompaniment to Taco Night.

Gluten Free Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

2 1/2 C powdered sugar

1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder

2 t Saigon cinnamon (it’s a bit stronger in flavor than “regular” Ceylon cinnamon)

dash cayenne pepper

1/4 t Kosher salt

1 T cornstarch

3 egg whites (or 9 T All Whites)

1 t vanilla extract

1 C bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Add parchment paper or a Silpat (I used both and the parchment paper worked better with this recipe) to a baking sheet.

Sift together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy, about one minute. Add vanilla and mix together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop onto your prepared pan, about one inch apart. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes (mine took 16). Let them cool completely before removing from the pan.

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Enjoy with ice cream! Or systematically eat them one by one, while standing over the sink, and hoping that no one sees you. Either way.

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Enjoy! Disfrute, mis amigos!

Kristin

Tropical Pavlova

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You know how these days are called the “lazy days of summer”? You know that term? Welp. That’s me. Lazy in the bloggy sense. I’ve been cooking and baking and taking pictures and eating, but that’s it. But, I’m here now. When it counts. With a delicious recipe for you. It’s super fresh and summery and I didn’t even wait until the season has passed to share it with you. That should count for something. Brownie points, maybe? Yes, perhaps I deserve a brownie. Get on that.

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I made (for you, for me, for everyone) a Tropical Pavlova. A Pavlova is a dessert that simply consists of meringue, whipped cream, and fruit. How could all that goodness be bad? It was created (possibly by the Australians, possibly by the New Zealanders) for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. I mean. This woman, who was already super, ridiculously talented in the world of ballet, had a freaking dessert named after her. #goals

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Anywho, this dessert just works. The meringue shells are crunchy and light in flavor, chewy on the inside (in a perfectly stick to your teeth kind of way), the whipped cream is fluffy, and the fruit is so refreshing. It works in the same kind of textural way that Banoffee Pie works. This is also a gluten free dessert. Bonus.

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This is a picture-perfect dessert for this ridonk hot summer. I will say that it is¬†not¬†delicious as a leftover (source: I’m eating it now). The delicate meringue shell has broken down into a sloppy mess. The whipped cream and fruit, however, has remained amazeballs (is that said anymore, I need to know).

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Make it. Chances are, you’ve got almost all the ingredients in your kitchen now, and if needed, you can switch out the fruit.

Tropical Pavlova

Recipe adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen

4 large egg whites, room temperature

3/4 t vanilla extract

1/4 t cream of tartar

1 scant C sugar

2 mangoes (peeled, pitted, cubed)

2 kiwi (peeled, sliced, quartered)

1 papaya (peeled, seeded, cubed)

Simply Squeeze Coco Real Cream of Coconut (or make your own)

3/4 C shredded coconut

2 C heavy whipping cream

2 T sugar

1 t vanilla extract

Adjust your oven rack to the middle and preheat your oven to 200F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Determine what size you want your shells to be and trace two circles in that shape. I did one a little bit bigger than the other. Using a stand mixer and whisk attachment (handheld is also fine), whip egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar for one minute on medium speed. Switch to medium high speed and whip for another minute. Gradually add the sugar and whip until the peaks are stiff and glossy (one or two more minutes). Separate the meringue between the two circles on the baking sheet. Spread evenly. Bake for about one and a half hours, and then turn off the oven and let the meringues sit for about two hours.

Meanwhile, chop up the fruit and set aside.

When meringues are out of the oven, prepare the whipping cream. Pour cream, sugar, and vanilla into a stand mixer (with whisk attachment), and mix for about one minute on medium speed. Increase to high and whip for about three minutes. You can store the whipped cream for up to a week in the refrigerator. Re-whip, if necessary.

To assemble, place one meringue shell (the larger, if that’s the route you took) on a serving plate. Spread almost half of the whipped cream on top, followed by almost half of the chopped fruit. Drizzle the coconut cream and sprinkle some of the shredded coconut. Put the second meringue shell on top of that, and repeat. This was easy to cut into slices.

Enjoy! I will be dreaming of this all summer!

Kristin

Dinner Tonight: Gluten Free Taco Pie

I’ve got another dinner idea for you to try this week – Taco Pie!

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My family loves tacos. We eat them…um, too much (for my taste). Mexican food easily offers great gluten free options. I think that’s why it’s so often. I like to mix it up, however, because my taste buds will not allow the same meals all the time. I need options.

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This taco pie was both filling and delicious, and very easy to make. I served it with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and lettuce, and plain Greek yogurt, and charred corn (and iced hibiscus tea!) on the side.

Gluten Free Taco Pie

Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 packet gluten free Taco seasoning

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 eggs

1 C milk (I used unsweetened coconut milk)

1/2 C Bisquick Gluten Free mix

Sliced tomato

3/4 C cheese (I used dairy free cheese)

Toppings (I used tomatoes, lettuce, cukes, red onion, and plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream)

Heat oven to 400F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat, until beef is browned. Drain. Stir in seasoning mix. Spoon into pie plate. Top with drained and rinsed black beans.

In small bowl, stir eggs, milk and Bisquick Gluten Free mix until blended. Pour over beans.

Bake for about 25 minutes. Top with cheese and tomato. Bake 2 to 3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Serve with additional toppings.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Shortcut Shortstacks for Shrove Tuesday

Today is Shrove Tuesday. And it coincides with Pancake Day. I read, today, that people who would be giving up sugar, eggs, and/or milk for Lent would feast on pancakes the day before Ash Wednesday in an effort to rid their pantries of those ingredients so that they would not go bad. Is that as fascinating to you as it is to me? What are you giving up for Lent? I have decided to give up desserts (save for a few pieces of birthday cake for a few important birthdays). #amicrazy #yes

To keep with this newly found (to me) tradition, I made gluten and dairy free pancakes for dinner tonight, with a fresh strawberry sauce and creamed honey (from Trader Joe’s – one of the best purchases of my life).

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I used a shortcut King Arthur Flour GF pancake mix and made it even better.

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These were SO good. I am embarrassed to say that I allowed my Bigs to eat, um, eight of these. Smalls ate a few less and without strawberry sauce (he is on a no strawberry kick).

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Gluten & Dairy Free Shrove Shortcut Shortstacks

1 pkg King Arthur Flour GF pancake mix (15 oz.)

2 large eggs

4 T coconut oil (you can use other oils or 6 T melted butter)

2 C milk (I used 1 C cashew milk, 1 C coconut milk)

1 T vanilla bean paste

2 t almond extract

Whisk together the eggs, oil (or butter), and milk. Whisk in the mix. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes.

Preheat your griddle pan to 350F. Scoop out the batter and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side (look for bubbles to pop).

Serve with fresh strawberry sauce.

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

2 C fresh or frozen strawberries (I used frozen)

Place in a saucepan on medium heat, until softened. Put into a food processor and whiz until fully processed. Strain to get the larger unprocessed chunks out. Place back in saucepan to thicken.

EAT.

Happy Lent!

Kristin

(late) Valentine’s Desserts

Last week was full of Valentine’s activities and special treats. I was so busy, that I wasn’t able to get the dessert recipes up, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me, right? You can make these any time. So get on it. Or tuck these away for Valentine’s Day next year….it never hurts to be prepared!

First up, Dark Red Velvet Cookies. Oh yes, boy.

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These were chewy and cocoa-y, and filled with milky, melty chocolate.

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Such a fun treat for the lunchboxes!

Dark Red Velvet Cookies

Recipe adapted from: Sally’s Baking Addiction, Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

1.5 C + 1 T AP flour

1/4¬†C dark cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened

3/4 C brown sugar

1/4 C granulated sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 T milk

2 t vanilla extract

1.5 T red food coloring

1 c milk chocolate chips

Toss together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

With a handheld or stand mixer, beat the butter, in another bowl, on high speed until creamy. On medium speed, add the sugars and beat until combined. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Once mixed, add the food coloring and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Slowly beat until a very soft dough is formed. Beat in more food coloring if you’d like the dough to be redder. On low speed, beat in the chocolate chips. The dough will be sticky.

Cover the dough and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour (up to several days). Thaw, as needed, before baking.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the dough and roll into balls. Bake each batch for 10-11 minutes.

Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Switching directions to gluten and dairy free –

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I’ve made these GF DF peanut butter cookies many times. They always come out perfectly.

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They have all the ingredients needed to make for an old-fashioned peanut butter cookie feel.

I also added raspberry jam to a few:

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I love how these came out. The jam added a chewy goodness to them. I can’t even. Actually I could. And I did.

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/gluten-free-peanut-butter-cookies

And lastly, but still gluten and dairy free – Chocolate Torte!

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This thing is a showstopper. It’s super glossy in the picture, because I had just poured my cashew milk ganache on top.

Yes. Cashew milk ganache. And it’s ridonkulously easy.

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Look at that freshy.

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Torte

Recipe adapted from: King Arthur Flour, Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 C (8 T) unsalted butter

3/4 C granulated sugar

1/4 t salt

1 t vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 375¬įF. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan. Fit a piece of parchment paper in the bottom. Grease that as well.¬†

Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. Stir until the chips melt, reheating briefly if necessary (you can use a double-boiler if preferred). Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.

Stir in the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust.

Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife and turn it out onto a serving plate. The top will now be on the bottom; that’s fine. Also, the edges will crumble a bit, which is also fine. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze: Combine one cup of semi sweet chocolate with one half cup of non-dairy milk (or cream, if you want dairy) in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the milk is very hot, but not simmering. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.

*I have used both cashew and coconut milks for this and they both turn out beautifully.*

Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. Allow the glaze to set for several hours before serving the cake.

EAT.

Enjoy these sweet treats!

Kristin

Mummies and Pumpkins and Cakes, oh my!

What a fun weekend we had! I participated in my first bake-off. I am SO not competitive, by nature. It gives me anxiety, like, for real. But I LIVE for baking (and you know, my kids, husband, Jesus too). And it was a friendly competition, hosted by my wonderful friend, judged by two chefs that she knew. And I knew we’d ALL be winners, you know, eating all of the desserts. I wanted to do something seasonal, so I decided on a pumpkin cake. To me, that would be perfectly acceptable on its own, because…#pumpkinallthethings, but this was a competition.

The cake itself was so pretty. The recipe called for an entire can of pumpkin, which I hadn’t seen before. I knew it would be rich with fall flavor and moist.

It was heavenly. While that was baking, I went to work on¬† next project – the cake’s decoration.

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Melting chocolate – isn’t it magical?

Halloween Candy Bark!

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I meannnnnn, forrealz! This is a thing! I ran across the recipe in my research and fell in love with it. It’s so festive! I could have used any candy, I suppose, but the blog used these and I loved how it looked like the inside of a trick or treat bag, but with eyes.

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It was so pretty. I can’t even handle how cute it came out.

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It’s my new favorite. Of everything.

http://www.justataste.com/2014/10/halloween-candy-bark/

Since my pumpkin cake recipe called for 3 8-inch rounds and I only had two, I made three smaller cakes to go with the 2-layered big one.

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I decorated the big one with the Halloween bark, cut into shards, and I used candy corn, more shards, and eyeballs to decorate the smaller ones. Not the cleanest work I’ve ever done, but it worked out because my creation won “Most Innovative”! I was so happy. It really was a delicious cake (and the bark was SO good).

This cake would be an incredible addition to a Thanksgiving table. It’s maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting takes it to a new level.

http://www.thenovicechefblog.com/2012/10/pumpkin-dream-cake/

Since my long-suffering husband is both and dairy and gluten free, I couldn’t let him go to the bake-off with nothing to eat. I made him a Chocolate Pumpkin Sheet Cake.

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I could tell by the batter that it was going to come out delicious.

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And I was right. It was HUGE too, enough to feed a gluten and dairy free army. It puffed right up like a “real” cake! This was my first successful attempt and GF DF from-scratch baking (cakes). I left off the frosting (since it was filled with dairy).

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I’ll be using this recipe again and again. It called for over 1 can of pumpkin, but I just used one and it turned out beautifully.

http://www.thebakingbeauties.com/2010/10/gluten-free-chocolate-pumpkin-sheet-cake.html

All of the desserts at the bake-off were delicious. That was a fun night. I’ll have to up my game for next year’s competition.

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And lastly, I made mummies. Not real ones. Because that’s gross. And unheard of. In these modern times.

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I’ve made these before (here). They are too easy for words and make a big impact (to kids, mostly, I think).

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They’d be great dipped in ketchup. But that would look bloody. And grody. We don’t do bloody. Unless it’s a lip or knee. And not on purpose.

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I was going to make them all like the one on the left, but then nobody had time for that.

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I packed that little guy in my Bigs’ lunchbox, along with seasoned corn, banana chips, raisins, pineapple, red grapes, a Halloween cookie, and some orange and black chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

Boo!

Blessing to you!

Kristin