Black-Cherry Bats and Citrus Orange Pumpkins Fruity Cutouts

Fruit snacks, fruit “leather,” gummy bears – whatever your favorite, these smooth and soft fruit shape substitutions will satisfy your craving while keeping braces-hardware safe. Here are two ways to enjoy them with a Halloween flair.

For the Black-Cherry Bats:

2 (3-oz.) packages black-cherry gelatin (dry)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup grape juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Empty both packages of dry gelatin powder into a large bowl. In a medium saucepan, stir together the water and juice; bring to a full boil then remove pan from heat. Pour hot juice mixture slowly into bowl, stirring constantly with a large spoon. Keep stirring for two minutes or until all granules have dissolved. Add lemon juice and stir to mix.

Pour mixture into a 9″ round or square pan and place pan in refrigerator. Chill for at least 3 hours or until firm. Cut into squares with a knife, or into bat-shapes with cookie cutters (available at craft stores or discount department stores) dipped in hot water. If pieces are hard to get out, set the entire pan for a minute onto a cookie sheet filled with a quarter-inch of hot water. Makes two dozen squares. Keep chilled.

For the Citrus Orange Pumpkins, repeat the directions with:
2 (3-oz.) packages orange gelatin (dry)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice (no pulp) or lemonade
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Use pumpkin-shaped cookies cutters as desired.

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Softies

Mmmm – nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger – enjoy the fragrance of Thanksgiving cooking without all the fuss. These cookies combine the moisture of pumpkin purée and the fun of chocolate chips. They’re even softer the second day (if you can wait that long), after they’ve been placed in a tightly-sealed container.

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 (15-ounce) can plain pumpkin purée
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon milk
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In a large mixing bowl, with a mixer or whisk, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, oil, molasses and milk. Add the flour mixture slowly into the pumpkin mixture until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

The dough is very soft. Drop by heaping Tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets, 12 cookies to a pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Makes 36 – 40 cookies. Store in a covered container between sheets of waxed paper.

*** Chef Amee’s Gourmet Touch

Replace 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour with my favorite secret baking ingredient – whole-wheat pastry flour. Not only is it healthier, but it keeps baked goods moist longer. Top these little cookies with a sprinkle of fine sugar for a bit of added sparkle, and bake according to directions.

Meatloaf in a Pumpkin/Squash

For Halloween this makes an easy yet impressive main dish complete with its own side vegetable. Serve as wedges of pumpkin-plus-beef. If pumpkins aren’t handy, use several dark green acorn-squash sliced down the center – the deep orange insides form a dramatic contrast, and guests receive their own halves.

1 pumpkin, approximately 8 inches to 10 inches diameter,
or 3 to 4 small acorn-squash
2 pounds ground sirloin (best for its low fat content)
2 eggs
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup water
¼ cup dried minced onion
1 ½ cups bread crumbs (plain or seasoned)

For pumpkin, bake at 350 degrees for 1½ to 2 hours.

For acorn squash, bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1¼ hours.

For a pumpkin, cut out a “lid” about 5 inches diameter, then clean out the pumpkin, throwing away the lid, seeds and stringy parts. For the squash, poke the sides of the squash three or four times with a fork, then microwave them uncut for 10 minutes on high power. This trick makes them much easier to cut and scoop. Using a hot-mitt to handle them, cut them in half, and clean out the seeds and strings.

In a large bowl, stir together the ground sirloin, eggs, ketchup, water and onion. Add bread crumbs and mix thoroughly. With a large spoon, scoop the meatloaf mixture into the pumpkin or squash-halves, filling just about to the brim. Put any leftover meatloaf in a 5-inch x 9-inch bread pan to bake by itself. Place pumpkin/squash a 9-inch x 13-inch pan and pour in about half-an-inch of water in the bottom of the pan to keep the skins from burning. (Six squash-halves fit best into two 9-inch x 13-inch pans.)

Bake at 350 degrees: the pumpkin will take 1 ½ to 2 hours, and squash-halves about 1 to 1 ¼ hours. A pan of extra meatloaf will usually take less time; check it at one hour. Serves 6 to 8.

*** Chef Amee’s Gourmet Touch:

Replace ketchup with 1 cup diced tomatoes, drained, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley leaves.

Marvelous Molasses Cookies

This was the very first soft-cookie recipe I collected back in the mid-60s. They smell wonderful even before baking, they melt in your mouth, and they never harden up. Yum – the best of gingerbread and ginger snaps in one!

1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ tsp salt
½ cup molasses
½ cup warm water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
2 ½ cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Baking time 11 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine shortening, brown sugar, egg, salt and molasses, using an electric mixer and beating until fluffy. Add cinnamon and ginger. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir the baking soda into the warm water; add water mixture to the molasses mixture alternately with the flour until well blended.

Drop by tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 11 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about 4 dozen. Store in a covered container.

Simmered Soy Chicken Wraps

Whether you use a slow-cooker or a Dutch oven, you just might want to double this recipe for seasoned, shredded chicken wrapped up to perfection in soft tortillas. The more you simmer the filling, the more melt-in-your-mouth tender it becomes. We love to use whole wheat tortillas, too.

3 to 4 boneless chicken breast halves
2 large onions, chunked
Small flour tortillas (pkg of ten), wheat or white
(optional: cooked chopped broccoli)

Sauce: ¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
2 Tbl honey
1/8 tsp ginger
2 Tbl peach jam
1 Tbl cornstarch
In a slow cooker, or a large pot on the stove, layer the onions and then the chicken breasts. Allow at least three hours in the slow cooker on medium, or at least one hour on the stove – the longer the better, but you don’t have to do anything to it while it cooks.

Spoon out the chicken onto a cutting board, and with a knife and fork, shred the chicken as finely as you’d like. In a small saucepan, stir all sauce ingredients together over medium heat until it starts bubbling, then let it simmer for five minutes on low heat to thicken.

In a serving bowl, stir sauce and onions into chicken; if you’d like, add cooked chopped broccoli. Let your guests spoon the mixture into their own tortillas and wrap them up; eating by hand is encouraged!

Squash n’ Zucchini Stir Fry

For a zesty change from simple corn, broccoli and green beans, this try-something-different succulent combination produces a flavor that keeps them coming back for more. Call it ratatouille, call it gourmet; you’re sure to call it delicious.

1 medium zucchini
– peeled and ¼” sliced
1 medium yellow squash
– peeled, ¼” sliced, and each slice halved
1 small eggplant
– peeled, ¼” sliced, and then halved
3 small tomatoes (Romas work well)
– each cut in 8 pieces
1 onion, sliced or 1 Tbl dried onion
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
½ tsp parsley
about ½ cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)

Toss all of the ingredients together, including the oil, in a large no-stick frying pan or a Dutch oven.

Saute this combination about 20 minutes over medium-high stove heat until everything is quite tender.

Makes about 4 servings, as it cooks down considerably

Butterscotch Brownies

My mother started making these “non-chocolate” brownies when I was a little girl. Since she in turn has lived with our family since our oldest daughter was one, our girls have renamed them “Grandma’s Tannies.” By any name, they’re fabulous, and oh so soft.

1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
(optional: 1 cup butterscotch bits)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Baking time 40 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine oil and brown sugar, using an electric mixer and blending well. Add eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt, then add vanilla.

Spread batter into a greased 9″x9″ pan. If desired, sprinkle 1 cup butterscotch bits over top. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees. After cooling one minute, swirl the bits with a knife to give a marbleized effect.

Cover pan with foil keep to brownies soft, or cut them in squares and store them in a covered container.

Crabmeat Appetizers

When you’ve adjusted to your braces to the point of eating bread (!!), try these quick-to-assemble treats. A few minutes under the broiler, and they’re ready to serve. You can also put them together a few hours ahead of time; just cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to broil them.

2 cans (about 5oz each) flaked crabmeat
1 loaf dark rye party bread (I find it in front of the deli counter. Each
slice is about 2″ square, and 1/4-inch thick, and there are
probably 40 slices in a loaf; one loaf would make a double batch
1 large cucumber
1 package(8 oz.) sliced Swiss cheese
Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (to taste – about 2 Tablespoons)

On a large cookie sheet, lay out 20 slices of the party rye. Peel and slice the cucumbe into 1/4-inch slicesr; lay one slice on each slice of bread. Drain the crabmeat, and mix it with mayo or Miracle Whip to your liking (I go easy on the mayo myself). Put about a tablespoon of the crabmeat mixture on each cucumber. Fold and tear each slice of Swiss cheese into 8 pieces. Lay one slice on each appetizer. Broil until cheese is lightly golden.

Wonderful Waffles

Forget the recipe that came with your waffle iron – this is the one for fluffy, melt-in-your-mouthness. The secret is letting the batter “rest” for five minutes before using. Top with syrup, jam, fresh fruit or even ice cream. This recipe makes about five of the four-square style of waffles.

Preheat your waffle iron according to the directions. You may want to lightly spray it with vegetable oil before heating.

3 cups flour
2 Tbl + 2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 Tbl sugar
4 cups milk
4 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, whisk (or use electric mixer on low) together all ingredients. Let batter sit for about five minutes to activate the baking powder.

When waffle iron is ready to use, pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto each of the four squares (experiment with your iron – you don’t want the batter overflowing.) Gently close the cover and set your timer as the manufacturer suggests. Do not lift the cover while they bake. When done, carefully lift one edge with a flat spatula and pull the waffle away from the iron. Keep waffles warm on a plate under a clean dishtowel while the others bake.