Pumpkins and Halloween Treats

So this weekend has been a very busy one for me. Val and I went with some friends to the Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark on Saturday to pick pumpkins. If you have never had the opportunity to visit Underwood's, then know that it is a real working farm with events held there throughout the year. I know what you're thinking. There are farms in Southern California? Yeah, I know, it's a very rare occurrence.

Since I'm originally from Michigan, it was hard to find a place in California that reminded me of the cider mills and pumpkin patches my family and I would frequent during the autumn months. Most Californian's seem to think that a pumpkin patch is some empty parking lot that has been decorated with hay bales with pumpkins plopped down on the ground. Whatever! That is so NOT a pumpkin patch.

It took me a lot of searching before I stumbled upon Underwood's. Now Val and I make it a point to go every year. The farm has tons of stuff for kids to do with their petting zoo, pony rides, kiddie amusement park like rides, pig races, gem mining, corn maze, tomato slingshots, corn cannon, wagon rides, live bands, tons of food and acres of pumpkins. No, they do not have any apples, but it's the next best thing.

Unfortunately, this year there was far less for me to eat from the various food vendors then in previous years. I was stuck with one option, carne asada tacos on corn tortillas. I actually wanted the grilled chicken tacos, but for some reason I was told I could not have corn tortillas with my chicken. Huh?! I think I'm going to have to write the farm about my experience, and also ask them why they got rid of some of the healthier food that was also gluten free.

Besides my food experience, it was a beautiful day. It was actually very warm for October, even by California standards (it was 84 degrees). We got home completely spent from a day of fun in the sun, and from hours of walking. I was pretty much useless the rest of the day. But as you can tell by the photos, we had a blast!

Sunday I took on the task of making cake pops for the first time ever. Well, they were actually brownie pops, but same difference. Every year I make Halloween treats for the six kids that live in our neighborhood. This year was no exception. My original plan was to buy everything I needed weeks before, so I could make the brownie pops the day before Halloween. Well, long story short...I didn't buy the candy melts right away and the colors I wanted were sold out.

Photo courtesy of The Sweet Source

I had wanted to buy black and orange candy melts to recreate the look I found on Etsy by The Sweet Source. I thought their cake pops were festive, elegant and most importantly easy to make. Since I waited so long to buy the candy melts I was left with only one option...green. In an attempt to make them somewhat festive, I bought some black bat sprinkles and that was that. Note to self, do not procrastinate for Christmas.

Like I mentioned, this is my first time making cake pops, and I didn't want to screw it up. For some reason, I've been off my game a bit when it comes to baking. Last few attempts at gluten free baking (from scratch) have not turned out well. Although, all my taste testers liked the Cinnamon Apple Oat Muffins I made earlier this month, I was not pleased with the results. I felt that there was not enough apple flavor or sweetness. Guess you can say I'm a bit of a perfectionist.

Then there was the Pumpkin Cupcake debacle which completely shattered my confidence. No matter how long I cooked them, they were gooey in the center. I determined I used to much pumpkin, so the cupcake was more of a pie in the inside. Not particularly pleasant. To make sure I didn't make the same mistakes twice, I decided to go with Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Brownie Mix.

My brownie pops are a double batch of brownie mix with one container of Betty Crocker's Chocolate Frosting (yields 50 to 60, 1 1/2" to 2" cake balls). You do not need as much icing when using the brownie mix, because brownies normally are much more moist and less cake-like. If you want to make cake pops with one of the gluten-free cake mixes, the rule of thumb is to use 3/4 to one whole Betty Crocker frosting tub per box of cake mix (your choice of flavor). So here's how you make them:

Gluten-Free Brownie Pops

Ingredients & Supplies

  • 2 boxes of Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix (cook as directed)
  • 1 (16 oz.) container of Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting
  • wax paper
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • 3 (14 oz.) packages of Wilton candy melts (your choice of color - base coat only)
  • candy decorations
  • 50 or 100 count Wilton lollipop sticks (either 4" or 6")
  • 100 count Wilton lollipop covers
  • tape, ribbon or decorative twisty ties (to secure lollipop covers)
  • styrofoam blocks (optional - used to achieve perfect round lollipop look)

Directions

  1. Bake brownies according to the directions and let cool completely. 
  2. Using hands, or a fork, crumble cooled brownies into a large bowl.
  3. Add in one container of frosting,  a little bit at a time and mix thoroughly, using the back of the spoon or your hands.
  4. Mix until frosting is evenly distributed.
  5. Roll mixture into balls of your desired size and place on wax paper atop cookie sheets.
  6. Place brownie balls in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes to firm up.
  7. Melt some Wilton candy melts according to directions on package in a microwave or double boiler.
  8. First dip the end of your lollipop stick in some of the melted candy coating and insert about halfway into a chilled cake ball. Then insert cake pop into a bowl of melted candy so that the coating is about 3-4 inches deep. (You want the coating to be deep enough to dip and remove in one motion and without stirring. If the coating does not completely cover the ball, don’t stir. Just gently rock the stick left and right until the coating completely covers the ball. The more fluid your coating, the easier this will be. You can tap off any excess if necessary. If your coating is too thick to do this, simply add a little vegetable oil to help thin it out.)
  9. Before the coating sets, place candy decorations on the pops.
  10. Store pops right-side-up in styrofoam or place head down on wax paper for different result. For best results, please pops back in the refrigerator for a couple minutes to allow candy to set before adding additional decorations or wrapping. (Store brownie pops in refrigerator to keep fresh.)

Besides the brownie pops, I also made my version of Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was calling them Spicy Chocolate Chip Squares. I used Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip mix. Just follow the recipe as indicated on the box. My simple contribution to the recipe is to add a little spice. Here's what I added:

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

It is very important that you stick to this spice ratio (per box mix). To much cinnamon and the cookies are too sweet, and of course to much cayenne and no one will be able to eat the cookies. Together the spices create a faint sweet spice flavor, with a hint of heat that warms the mouth. I took a great majority of the cookies and brownie pops to work for my office Halloween luncheon. I had actually made more brownie pops then cookies. Would you believe more people wanted the cookies then the brownie pops? Oh well, at least everyone enjoyed them. Happy Halloween!

 

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