Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Caramelized Nuts

Fall is here- mums, leaves, pumpkins, gourds, squash, corn, maple and apples!

Let the fall baking begin!  I made these and brought them to a gathering last week, they were a huge hit.  Recipes where asked and the few left overs where spoken for...as a passionate cook, that to me equals success!  I know a few are waiting upon this recipe post from that night, I told them it would be posted this week so here it is!

There is a little prep work for this recipe with the Caramelized Nuts.  It only takes a few minutes to make and are fully worth it, if you are in rush then just skip, through in toasted or raw nuts instead.  As always, I made my nutritional modifications.  Use what you have in your pantry and if you ever spot the ingredients I use, give them a try because you will not be disappointed.  I chose first on taste, second on nutrition.  It would not seem that way but as it turns out...things taste better when you have them the way they were originally grown/ made. 

Caramelized Nuts

2 TB organic brown sugar
1/2 tsp raw cane sugar
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 C nuts of your choice
Optional: 1/8 tsp cinnamon (very good for Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie recipe)

1.  Place brown sugar, cane sugar, butter and cinnamon (if adding) in a skillet on the stove top.
2.  Heat on medium, stir the mixture while it becomes melted together.
3.  Keep stirring until it bubbles.
4.  Add nuts and stir until coated.
5.  Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly until nuts turn golden brown in color and smell toasted.
6.  Transfer to waxed paper or plate to cool.
7.  Break them apart and add to your favorite recipe, unless they disappear first!

Here is my Kitchen Technique #4-  My top secret baking ingredient, the cinnamon.  If you have never heard of, or tried Vietnamese Cinnamon you are missing out.  You don't even realize what cinnamon taste like until you have used this!  I buy mine at Penzey's Spices.  I am lucky enough to have one in my city and they are expanding all of the time, they also have an online store.  They are excellent spices at a decent price.  If you cannot find Vietnamese Cinnamon, then I would say Chinese Cinnamon is a runner up.  Good 'ole cinnamon is wonderful too. 

One cookie- two faces.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
Print recipe here

1 C white flour, unbromated and unbleached
1 C whole wheat flour, unbromated and stone ground
1 1/2 C old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp aluminum-free baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground Vietnamese Cinnamon (seriously find this!)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1/2 tsp celtic sea salt
1 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C packed light brown sugar (Rapunzel whole cane sugar)
1 C granulated sugar (Heavenly Organics for baking is the best!)
1 C pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 C white chocolate chips
1 C dried cranberries
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt in medium bowl.  
3.  Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy.
4.  Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract; mix well. Add flour mixture; combine until all ingredients are incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and Caramelized Nuts.
5.  Drop by rounded tablespoons or your cookie scooper onto baking sheets.

6.  Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

See the difference?  When I brought these for a gathering, I wanted to bring the presentation up a notch.  I did a few trays of regular, few trays of fancy.  When plating, stack the pretty ones on top.  They taste the same, but this is why bakery cookies always look better.  Place a few of the add-ins on the top of dough before baking with any cookie recipe.  Both beautiful, both yummy.  One simple, one fancy.

Thanks for visiting me @

Today's recipes where brought to you by, inspired or adapted from: OurBestBites and MyBakingAddiction.

Loaded Macaroni and Cheese

"Hey, good lookin',
Whatcha got cookin'?
How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?
Hey, sweet baby,
Don't you think maybe
We could find us a brand new recipe?"

Thanks Hank...this song has been stuck in my head all day today.  I will now pass it along to you to sing along for the rest of the day!  And. Sadly. This is now my ring tone......I have no excuse.  I just had to.  But my kids and I laugh every time someone calls now.

I 'found us a brand new recipe'.  Created this week, a winner that will have you wiping your drool and running to the store for all the ingredients!  Or, you may cringe in disgust- but secretly you will be running to the store for ingredients too!  Don't lie!  If you love Macaroni and Cheese, if you love Loaded Baked Potatoes- behold (sky opening and sun shining down) the Loaded Mac and Cheese!  Of coarse I made it healthy with whole wheat noodles.  Don't fret- the bacon fat, milk and cheese are a healthy and vital fat for our bodies.  They feed our brains, organs and skin.  Throw away the chemicals and fake fats! Our bodies don't know how to process fake stuff, natural is better for you.

Loaded Macaroni and Cheese
Print recipe here
1 pound grass fed ground beef
1/2 package of nitrate free bacon (Uber bacon lovers, go ahead with whole package!)
1/2 onion, chopped
10 oz. macaroni or other pasta (or about 2 cups)
3 TB butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp paprika plus more for sprinkling on top
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped (Green Onions work too)

1.  Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. When drained place in your 3 quart casserole dish and set aside.
2.  While pasta is cooking, start your bacon by cutting into strips. Add to large frying pan and cook stirring over medium high heat. When starting to brown add chopped onion, stir and cook until onions become browned and caramelized.

3.  Add ground beef to the same frying pan and cook until crumbled and browned. Remove from heat, stir into noodles and set aside.

4.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5.  Over medium heat, melt the butter in medium sauce pan.
6.  Add the flour, sea salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon paprika. Stir constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.

7.  Slowly add in the milk while whisking.

8.  Keeping on medium heat, whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens and will coat the back of a spoon.

9.  Remove from heat, and stir in 2 1/2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted.

10.  Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and stir until combined.
11.  Sprinkle on rest of cheese and chives. Dust with more paprika.

12.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until it gets golden brown, bubbly and ooey-gooey!

13.  Serve quick before it disappears, there was no leftovers to put away when I made this!

14.  Now this brings us to Cooking Confession #2- Don't cry over spilled milk, unless it spilled and burned on your cook top! Then it is totally allowed, boohoo!

Thanks for visiting me @

Today's recipes where brought to you by, inspired or adapted from:  Me!  Saved by the Egg Timer

Homemade Peppermint Extract

Herbs!  I have so much Peppermint growing on my deck and only so much tea to drink.  I love the smell of Peppermint growing so much that I bought 3 different kinds.   They all did so well but what else can you do with all of the leaves?  Dry it, make tea, what else?   A quick Google search had me so excited I was at it in a hurry, make your own Peppermint Extract!  It is super easy and I had everything all ready.  We love Minty Brownies, Peppermint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and Chocolate Mint Cookies.  Now I can have fresh, homemade, organic peppermint extract all the time!  This saves so much money, those extracts can be very expensive for a tiny bottle.  Now my mind is turning on what other kind of extracts I can make with a bottle of vodka.  Lemon, vanilla, coconut....just in time to be ready for fall and holiday baking.

Homemade Peppermint Extract
Print recipe here
1/4 - 1/2 Cup fresh Peppermint leaves
1- 2 Cups decent Vodka (I used Absolut Vodka, 80 proof)
1 glass jar with tight lid

1.  Pick your Peppermint leaves off and bruise by rolling them between your hands.  Stop and smell :)

2.  Place Peppermint leaves in a glass jar, cover leaves completely with vodka or it will mold.

3.  Put the lid on, place a sticker with the day's date on it so you know when it will be ready.
4.  Store the filled glass jar in a dark, cool and dry cupboard or pantry.

5.  Shake, swirl and wait 30 days.   
6.  After 30 days remove leaves and use in your coffee, lattes, hot cocoa, brownies, ice cream, cakes...etc.

I have opened and smelled this so many times, it smells so good and strong I cannot wait to put it to wonderful use.  I am lucky that my kids love mint, especially with chocolate!  There is 7 more days left until I strain out the leaves.  I will be sure to find a great recipe to post utilizing this Peppermint Extract.  If you have any favorites be sure to send them to me. 

Thanks for visiting me @

Today's recipes where brought to you by, inspired or adapted from:  The Loving Path


Giardiniera. What?  Giardiniera. What? I give you Giardiniera

Pronounced "Jar-deen-yara".  It means Gardener in Italian which is perfect for this time of year.  Italian style uses onion, celery, zucchini, carrots and cauliflower.  Chicago style is hot peppers, bell peppers, celery, cauliflower and red pepper flakes for more spice.  To me this is like a Italian salsa or ketchup.  It is not found very commonly around here but we saw it a lot in Chicago. It can be very expensive for a small jar.  It is so easy to make and much cheaper than the deli counters.  Especially with all the farmer's market produce and full garden's right now, very appropriate!  Don't let your zucchini sit on the counter, don't make another loaf of bread or brownies to send to your neighbor.  Make this!  You can fridge it or can it. 

Use Giardiniera to top pasta, sandwiches, pork chops...everyone who has tried this has raved how good it is.  So I think it is important to share during this time of year.  Just like a fried rice or stew, use what you have around in your fridge and garden, feel free to tweak to your taste and switch out the veggies for more or less depending on what is in season or abundance. 

I am posting the basic recipe I follow, but as I mentioned above...use what you have available to you or what your taste buds tell you to use.  The day I made this batch I used green pepper, banana peppers, Serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, onion and celery.   I have to say when you use other bell peppers and carrots, it is a very beautiful mix of color. 


Day 1
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
8 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
3 celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup fresh cauliflower florets
1/2 cup sea salt
water to cover

First head to your back yard garden...or farmer's market and have hubby buy you these! Just gorgeous!

Then pick up some great produce.  Now you can start slicing and dicing.

1. Chop up all your veggies. Place into a bowl- green and red peppers, jalapenos, celery, carrots, onion, and cauliflower. Note:  My husband likes his very spicy, so I do not seed any of the hot peppers. 

2. Stir in salt, and fill with enough cold water to cover. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5 ounce) jar pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup olive oil

3. The next day, drain salty water, and rinse vegetables.

4. In a bowl, mix together garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and olives. Pour in vinegar and olive oil, and mix well. Combine with vegetable mixture, cover, and refrigerate for 2 days before using.

Some other great additions to this would be any type of pepper, zucchini, eggplant, corn kernels or baby corn, asparagus, radishes and even green beans.   I usually add in Thai Peppers too for even more heat.
If you are a veggie lover but don't like heat?  Make this with no hot peppers and do not add the red pepper flakes.  Just replace the amount with something else to equal the same amount of vegetables. 

    Thanks for visiting me @

Today's recipes where brought to you by, inspired or adapted from: AllRecipes

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

Good Morning!

The MN State Fair has ended, pools are closed, football has started...all of this means school is back in session!  All I can say this morning is that I miss the 90 degree days and humid mornings. 

What are you making for your family this morning?  My ears will burst if you say nothing.  Breakfast is so important for our health. A good breakfast is even more important. It breaks-the-fast from overnight and gives our brains and body the energy to get moving again. We hear it all the time, healthy people eat breakfast. Research shows higher test results in children who ate breakfast among many other great reasons.  Then why do so many skip it then?  Maybe no time?  Make it for 'Night Breakfast'  then stick them in the fridge for when you are on-the-go. 

I have been making this homemade sausage all summer and every time, no fail...it is gone within minutes. I don't like to eat sausage knowing the nitrates, fillers, MSG, chemicals and meat choices in them. So make your own in minutes! I choose to use ground chicken out of personal preference but ground turkey, pork, sirloin or combination would work. I also never have cared for the fennel seeds in sausage and this has zero, zilch, nada. This recipe gives good use to the beautiful sage I picked out just for the color. I love the look and smell of this plant. It is the only reason I bought it, thankfully I have been putting it to good use.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage
1 pound free-range ground chicken
1 TB coconut oil
1 TB fresh sage- sliced thin *
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp dried marjoram
1 TB turbinado sugar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pinch ground cloves
* for dried measurement's

1. Place the chicken and all spices in a large bowl.

2. Mix well and form into patties.

3. Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the patties for 5 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. You can also cook it crumble style for omelette's or a skillet hash. 
Serve warm and enjoy!

Note: Do not wash the pan. Just remove your sausage and continue making breakfast in this pan for great flavor, example: eggs, hash browns or pancakes. I made scrambled eggs directly after.

I got responses of "Best Breakfast Ever!" The eggs had so much flavor and brought me to Kitchen Technique #3- If you loose a piece of the shell... Use a large half of the egg shell to pick out the broken piece. It acts as a magnet to the little piece that broke off...otherwise it can be a hard little sucker to fish out.

Today's recipes where brought to you by, inspired or adapted from: AllRecipes

Sun-Ripened Peachy Vanilla Syrup

Happy 09-02-10 Day!  Beverly Hills, 90210 that is....don't act like you didn't watch it every Wednesday night throughout the entire 90's.  An hour every week throughout a whole decade of our life was spent watching this show. 
Do you remember the Peach Pit?  They would hang out there at the end of the episode and figure out their life's problems before the next commercial, but leave just enough to keep us watching of coarse.  I thought I would dedicate 09-02-10 day to the Peach Pit because when I was younger I thought that was just how life would be when I was in high school.
Even while in labor with my second child- I knew the very last episode ever was going to be on the next night...so before leaving for the hospital I was sitting there programming my VCR!  I don't think I ever even watched it when I came home, something to do with a wonderful bouncing baby boy I suppose!

For today we will make Sun-Ripened Peachy Vanilla Syrup for all the times I wished I could be sitting in the booth with Dylan at the Peach Pit!    I love this recipe because there is no peeling or dicing.  Just slice, pit and simmer.  Skins and all, how simple.  Peach skin is packed with anti-wrinkle antioxidants, potassium and Vitamin A.  All which are a very important part to wonderful skin tone, clarity and texture.  If you want skin as soft as a peach, eat peaches!

Sun-Ripened Peachy Vanilla Syrup
4 pounds organic peaches- About 6 cups
1 cup water
2 cups turbinado sugar
2 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Sun ripen your peaches until tender in a window or deck/ patio if you are able to. I did mine from early morning to late evening. Be careful not to over ripen!

2. Slice up your peaches (skin remaining) and place in a large size pot.

3. Add water, turbinado sugar (or any), and lemon juice.
4. Simmer over medium heat until mushy and skins begin to peel off, which takes about 20 minutes.

5. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
6. Let cool down a little then mix immersion style or in a blender until your desired consistency. If you are “canner”, then follow your own canning instructions.

We however cannot keep it around long enough to can!
7. Serve over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or with a bowl and spoon.

Have a Happy 90210 Day!

Today's recipes where brought to you by, inspired or adapted from:  The Sisters Dish