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Friday, October 21, 2016

Overloaded Candy Bar Brownies

I know it's the day after Halloween and the candy is piled up, your kids have hit every friend, neighbor and family member and they have a mother lode of sugary treats.  And on top of all that, you bought plenty of candy for the neighborhood kids and you still have candy left over.   You have visions of nothing but candy wrappers until Thanksgiving.  
What are we going to do to stop the candy overload?  

When I was a kid growing up in the early 60's, we would bring home grocery bags of candy at Halloween.  We went to every house as fast as we could and even dropped off a full bag and picked up another empty bag midway into the night and continued until it was too late to stay out.   And this was even after mother wouldn't let us start until it was good and dark.  Yeah, that was totally against the rules, it was totally taboo to start trick or treating when the sun was still shining, it had to be good and dark before we left the house.  But I don't think we ever waited, I think mother just got worn down from us asking if we could go out so many times, she would relent.  
What a different time, a simpler time where kids would leave the house after dark, most of us unescorted by adults and go to any and all stranger's houses in a 5 mile radius to ring the doorbell and beg for candy.   I can't always remember what I dressed up as or what superhero or character I was but I still remember all that loot.  
Of course we didn't need all that candy and I'm sure Mother would dispose of loads of it.  Not sure if anyone worried about sugar overloads in that era but I'm sure mother worried about finding lost pieces of candy "stuck" around the house for the next 6 months.  
  And to her horror we always had loads and loads of bubble gum.   Did anyone besides us fall asleep chewing bubble gum and wake up with it stuck in your hair?  I always got into trouble for that one, and all the little gaps cut into my hair, I'm sure were very attractive. 
 I remember we would sit down and go through our riches and trade for our favorites. And one thing that was exactly the same back then as now was the bars of chocolate were always valued, they were the treasures of the night.  The house that gave out chocolate bars was always revered and we gave it the upmost respect for all the coming year. 

The chocolate candy bars are still the treasures of the night, they are not only delicious but can be made into some of the best baked goods.  Yep, turn those candy bars into a snack even grandma would approve and appreciate.  That's right it's time to take it to a whole new level and turn those candy bars into Overloaded Brownies.   
We start by grabbing several different kinds of chocolate candy and chopping it into bite size pieces.   We used 3 fun size bars or packages each of 4 different kinds of chocolate (Hershey's bars, Snickers, Butterfingers and M&M's) and added about 5-6 little baby Reese's cups.   But use whatever candy is your favorite or your kid's favorite or your hubby's favorite. I have a granddaughter that doesn't like nuts or peanut butter or anything that tastes similar so I make two batches, one with everything nutty and one without.     

Throw all that chocolate into a basic brownie mix and you have not only Loaded brownies but Overloaded Candy Bar Brownies.    A brownie that your children will beg you to make, I bet they will totally donate their prized chocolate bars to the endeavor.    

These Overloaded Candy Bar Brownies are filled with leftover Halloween candy bars.   A bite into these brownies delivers that special blend where the crust is done on the the outside but they are still nice and chewy on the inside and the chocolate taste explodes in your mouth and will make you taste buds swoon. 

Loaded Candy Bar Brownies
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup M & M's, chopped in half or left whole
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter cups, chopped  (Reese's)
  • 1/2 cup Butterfinger candy, chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate candy bars, chopped (Hershey's)
  • 1/2 cup Snickers bar, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray
3. Beat brown sugar, butter, egg and, vanilla extract together in a large bowl until creamy
4. Add flour, baking powder and salt, blend
5. Carefully fold in chopped candy pieces
6. Press batter into baking pan.
7. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack.
8. Slice into 9 equal bars, let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan
9. Cool on wire racks
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Banana Nut Bread enhanced with Spiced Rum

Have you ever baked banana nut bread and it tasted fine but it just lacked something?  The flavors were all there but they just didn't pop or maybe the flavors were just not true enough?   Your expectations were just not met?

 I mean we truly love a great Banana Nut bread in this house and we usually have a loaf or two in the freezer awaiting one of those snowy mornings to heat it up and smear it with butter.   Pair that with an awesome cup of latte, and we are two very contented souls.    Yeppers, you can come on over, we will save you some! 

Over the years, we have experimented with different liquors in baked goods and this is what we have learned.   When an dash of alcohol, such as rum is added to a batter, it doesn't just add flavor, it enhances it.   This bears repeating, it enhances the flavors already in your dish by bringing out and releasing the flavors. Trust us, it's a science thing.   Not enough alcohol is added for the bread to taste like alcohol, but just enough alcohol is added for that science thing to happen.   And since this loaf of banana nut bread is cooked for almost an hour, most of the alcohol content will be cooked away anyway, leaving just the enhanced concentrated flavor.   Most bourbons will add a smoky vanilla flavor while rum adds a smoky intense flavor unless it's spice rum then you have a smoky spice flavor.  Any one of these liquors would work well in this Boozy Banana Nut Bread and you could experiment with several different of them to come up with a loaf that pleases you.   We started with spiced rum and it really bought out the flavor of banana and added just a underlying smoky spice flavor that we fell in love with.   The spiced rum was just the right touch for us and now we can't wait for it to snow! (as if we are waiting, yeah right).     
We baked this This Boozy Banana Nut Bread in a regular size bread loaf pan but it can also be baked in mini loaf pans.   The mini loaf pans would be perfect for gift giving or they would make the sweetest little slices for a lovely finger food dessert tray.   Just reduce your cooking time to about 30-35 minutes for mini loaf pans.   Also clear wrap and a bow can be added for adorable and thoughtful gifts.  

If you are like us, you seem to always have a few over-ripe bananas around and with just a few pantry ingredients, a loaf can be on your counter in about hour, just in time for that butter to come to room temperature.    We usually make double and wrap one of them and freeze for later.  Of course the other has to sampled immediately in our house.    

Boozy Banana Nut Bread

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of spiced rum (optional)
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour (Not self rising)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease bottom of a bread loaf pan
2. Mix sugar and butter until well blended in a large mixing bowl, stir in eggs and blend well
3. Add bananas, rum and water and mix until well blended
4. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder until just moistened, fold in pecans
5. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
6. Let cool for 5 minutes, remove from pans and cool on wire racks prior to slicing.
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Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween Drinks and Beverages

You have the perfect costumes, your menu of Halloween snacks has been decided (if not click here for some suggestions) but what are you going to serve as Halloween Beverages?   Even if you are not throwing a party and inviting guests over, it's always fun to have a special beverage or drink on that haunting night.  
   I know you probably want something that is ghoulish but maybe a little sexy, but don't forget the kiddos, you need something that will just delight those little goblins or princess' or.......    

I have thrown so many Halloween parties over the years, mainly birthday parties that have a definite Halloween theme, since my son was born right before Halloween.   We have experimented with bowls of punch, kid friendly cups of eerie delight and now that he is older, a variety of adult mixed beverages and drinks.   His favorite drinks always had ghoulish, gross or scary names and he loved to pretend he was eating or drinking something that was on the wild side.  He's still that way, he loves Halloween and all that comes with it.  He told me last week, he was planning on carving 10 pumpkins this year!  Yea, that's wild.   

I have thrown out the call for help from so many of my bloggy friends for their favorite Halloween beverages.    And boy, they came through for me!  
As you can see, this is a great collection of some of the most ghoulish, creepiest or sexiest beverages around.  It is a mixture of kid friendly and adult beverages and these beverages will tempt the imagination and delight the taste buds. They all have bewitching names to incite the fun and put an alluring spell on your festivities.  I'm sure you will find a favorite beverage or several favorite beverages that are perfect for whatever you have planned this year.     
  This is a collection my son will love as he is carving all those pumpkins!       

Bat's Brew

I Scream Halloween Floats

Don't Forget to Pin all these ghoulish Drinks! 

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Red Wine Margarita with Black Salt

Are you looking for something out of the ordinary to serve your guests or just a bewitching little beverage for a quiet evening on the patio?
   Either way,  this Red Wine Margarita with Black Salt will be your answer.   It's quick and easy to make and with the addition of the black salt, it's kinda eerie. 
 I have been searching high and low for a adult beverage that would be great to serve for a Halloween party.   I didn't want anything green or to have to deal with dry ice for that extra spooky effect but I wanted something that is a little classier but also adventurous.    I found some great recipes for wine margaritas which would be great especially if I used red wine with a deep blood color.  But who wants plain old white salt around the rim of a Halloween drink?   Not I!    So I decided to check into dyeing kosher salt black to make a rim of black salt.     
Oh man, did I discover some fun things about "black salt", and that there are several different kinds of black salt.  One is a pungent smelling salt from South Asia that is used in numerous Indian dishes.  Not really what I was looking for.

 And there is another kind of black salt that's used in hexing, especially into driving away evil or in casting spells.   It's usually made by scraping a cast iron skillet or/and adding ashes from a fire to sea salt.    AH, No thank you, not on my margarita glass!   But the effect would be fun especially with the whole bewitching story line. 

I can tell you right now, just go buy some black food dye, don't do what I did, because more salt went down the drain than was saved.  But you can dye kosher or sea salt black, by using food dye  and it tastes just like salt that you would expect on a margarita glass.   I didn't feel like driving to town to purchase a black food dye so I pulled out my little basic food dye colors and started working.   It was a total cauldron of trouble but I finally achieved my goal.   YAY!    I actually made this cool black sea salt by mixing 15 drops of blue, 4 drops of green and 25 drops of red food coloring in a little bowl and then added 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.  I stirred and stirred it and then poured it on paper towels to dry.    See, just go buy some black food dye, so much easier!   The next time I make these margaritas I will be ordering this Black Food Dye.  

But even with all the mixing, it was so worth it.  I am loving this mysterious black salt on the rim of a margarita glass.    


Now with the Red Wine Margarita poured in, it's gorgeously spooky!   I hope you will enjoy serving this Red Wine Margarita with Black Salt to your guests for a bewitching evening.   But don't wait till Halloween, try one this weekend!    

Red Wine Margarita with Black Salt
Ingredients (Serves 2)
  • 4 oz of Tequila
  • 8 oz of Margarita mix
  • Lime juice
  • Red wine
  • Limes
  • Black salt, (kosher or sea salt dyed with black food dye)
1. Pour red wine into a ice cube tray and let freeze overnight
2. Remove ice cube tray from freezer and add all the wine ice cubes into a blender
3. Pour the tequila, margarita mix, lime juice over the frozen wine cubes
4. Blend just for a second or two
5. Slice limes and rub around the rim of a margarita glass, dip the top of the glass into the black salt
6. Fill with the wine margarita mixture
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Caldo de Pollo

Caldo de Pollo is the Mexican version of a hearty chicken soup.  Literally translated ,Caldo de Pollo, means  chicken broth.
 I have grown up along the border to Mexico from Texas to California and I have eaten so many different versions of Caldo de Pollo.   Most versions have huge chunks of vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, squash or corn in them.  Each one is a little different, kinda like Minestrone  Soup, ingredients depend on the cook and what they have handy at the time.   But here on the Ranch we make it a little different, we see it as a simple spicy chicken soup with a very favorable but spicy broth.     And spicy, I mean spicy, you might want to add the crushed red pepper very very sparsely.    

  As in the American version of chicken soup, Caldo de Pollo is rumored to heal the common cold so if anyone is feeling under the weather, a big ol' pot of Caldo simmering on the stove should get one back on their feet in a jiffy.  Not sure if its the chicken broth or all the hot spicy chile peppers in this broth but it does work for us.

We do add an entire teaspoon of crushed red pepper to our pot of soup but we do like it spicy.  I have always heard that hot peppers will burn the germs right out of you.  Not sure if this is true or not but the health qualities of chile are very true.  In fact chiles are known to clear congestion, reduce cholesterol, fight inflammation, and to boost immunity.   So go ahead and add all that crushed red pepper to an already Mom approved bowl of healthy chicken soup!  

Time saving Tip:  Rotisserie Chicken (store bought) works great in this dish!

Caldo de Pollo

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4-5 oz of roasted green chile, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of tomato juice
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 medium chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed or the meat from a store bought rotisserie  chicken
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or a lot less if you wish it not as spicy hot)
  • 3 cups broken tortilla chips
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 3 green onions, minced (optional) 
1. Melt the butter in a large pot and saute the onion, garlic and green chile over medium heat until the onions are clear and soft, about 4 minutes
2. Add the tomato juice, chicken, broth and crushed red pepper flakes
3. Cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes
4. To Serve: Place 1/2 cup of the tortilla chips in each serving bowl, Ladle the Caldo over the chips and garnish with the cheese, some of the extra broken chips and minced green onions (optional)
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