Halloween Bars

Halloween Bars*

Makes about 30 bars

Similar to Hello Dolly Bars, I make these fun treats to use up leftover Halloween candy.

1 1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

1 c. graham cracker crumbs

1/2 c. unsalted butter melted

1 1/4 c. chopped walnuts

1 c. finely chopped candy bars such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Nestle’s Crunch Bars, Snickers, or Milky Ways

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 13 x 9” baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together coconut, graham cracker crumbs and butter. Spread evenly over bottom of the baking pan and then press crumb mixture down firmly.
  3. In the same bowl mix together the remaining ingredients.  Spoon the mixture evenly over the crumb crust.
  4. Bake for approximately 25 to 28 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges and no longer wet looking. Place baking pan on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover pan with plastic wrap and allow to firm up overnight before cutting to serve. If desired, chill the bars for an hour or two before serving in order to make them less sticky.

Variation: Combine all of the ingredients, except the sweetened condensed milk, in a large bowl. Press evenly into buttered baking pan. Spoon sweetened condensed milk over the top and bake.

*Recipe from my cookbook Confectionately Yours.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Having spent quite a bit of time raking leaves over the past few days, I found myself pontificating on the subject of leaf etiquette and how to be a good neighbor. A friend interrupted me and replied, “Being a farm-girl, the concept of raking leaves is totally foreign to me.” So in all good fun, I dedicate this series of foreign-themed photos to my friend, Carolyn.

Improvised Tomato Pumpkin Soup

After making Bumpkins  yesterday, I found myself with leftover pumpkin that I wanted to use for dinner in some way. Being a great believer in the art of culinary improvisation, I decided to make something using only ingredients that I already had in the house; and besides, it was 7 pm before I started cooking dinner, I was still waiting for one room to check in, and there was no way that I was going to the grocery store. So here is what I came up with along with some suggested variations. The point of this post isn’t “Oh, this is the best soup ever … you’ve got to try it.”  (It is really good, though; otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted the recipe!) Rather, the point of this post is an exhortation to be creative. Go ahead, have fun and improvise … you might come up with something you like!

Improvised Tomato Pumpkin Soup

4 oz. dry quinoa pasta shells

1/4 c. diced red bell pepper, sautéed in olive oil

3 c. chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi brand from Italy)

1 1/4 c. packed pumpkin

2 c. vegetable stock

1 c. frozen corn

1 T. Italian Seasonings

1/2 t. hot red pepper flakes

dry white wine

fresh grated Romano cheese.

1. Put the pasta on to cook.  Meanwhile, saute peppers.

2. While the pasta is cooking and the peppers are sauteing, add the following to a 4-qt. stockpan: tomatoes, pumpkin, vegetable stock, corn, Italian Seasonings and red pepper flakes.  Cook over medium heat. Add peppers when they are crisp-tender.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and then stir into soup. Add white wine to taste, about 2 T. Cook for 5 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve topped with grated cheese. (Some crusty French bread would go really well with this soup.)

Suggested Variations

– substitute beans for corn (or use in addition to corn)

– substitute yellow onions for red peppers

– use another pasta, or use rice

– top with cheddar cheese

– use red wine instead of white

– add fresh herbs

– add croutons when serving

Have fun! Enjoy! I’d love to hear your ideas …

Bumpkins with Pure White Cookie Icing

These pumpkin oatmeal cookies are absolutely one of my favorite cookies to serve during autumn months. I made them yesterday afternoon for my guests. The recipes are from my cookbook, Confectionately Yours.


Makes about 34 cookies

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. rolled oats

1/2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground ginger

1/4 t. ground mace

1/4 t. ground nutmeg

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1/3 c. granulated white sugar

1/2 c. packed pumpkin puree

1 lg. egg

1 t. vanilla extract

2/3 c. walnuts, finely chopped

2/3 c. baking raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, pitted and chopped fresh dates, and/or chopped prunes, combined

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, mace, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. On lowest speed of mixer, beat in dry ingredients until well combined and then stir in nuts and fruit.
  4. Scoop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets spacing cookies 3” apart.
  5. Bake for about 14 to 16 minutes or until cookies are just set and are lightly browned on the bottoms. Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool. Serving suggestions: once cooled drizzle with Pure White Cookie Icing.

Pure White Cookie Icing

This icing will add  just a little sweetness to your baked goods, and will make them see a little moister, but is primarily used for decoration.


1 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 T. milk

2 t. light corn syrup

  1. Place confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Stir in milk and light corn syrup until perfectly smooth. The mixture will be a little on the thick side, but should pour from a spoon in a slow, smooth stream.
  2. Drizzle or pipe onto cooled baked goods right away. (This is thick enough to pipe thin lines but not thick enough to pipe firm shapes.)

Winding Down

It was with some sentimentality that I photographed the garden yesterday. I knew that a freeze was predicted for last night, a sure sign that garden will be winding down for the year. As I sit here and write before sunrise, it is 30 degrees F. outside; and though it is toasty warm in the B&B, I know that once the sun comes up and I take a look around, I’ll see that some of my flowers and herbs have been nipped by the cold. It will take cooler temperatures to make the hardy perennials and shrubs go dormant for the winter. In fact, if the day time temperatures are warm enough, the ground cover roses will keep producing blooms for up to 4 more weeks, but the other roses are almost done for the year. The chrysanthemum plants will be fine, but probably not the flowers. The asters, which put out one big flush of flowers every year in late October have had their show, though they will have color for a little longer.

Yesterday’s Garden

Aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’

Rose ‘Memorial Day’

Chrysanthemum ‘Diana’ with Ground Cover Roses

White Rose (unknown variety)

White Mum (unknown variety)

Crape Myrtle Foliage


It was a beautiful sunrise. After serving breakfast, I did a brief inspection of the garden. I lost the what was left of my hibiscuses, the potted impatiens, a few hostas, all of my Autumn Joy sedums, and some of the chrysanthemums. Overall, not too bad.

Sunrise This Morning

An American Tea Party

Americans rarely have teas these days. When one hears the expression “tea party”, the topic of conversation is far more likely to be politics than a social affair. As far as I can tell, the tradition of having tea parties largely disappeared during the social unrest of the 1960’s and 70’s. Probably the main change to have emerged from that period that would have contributed to the demise of the these gatherings was the emergence of working women amongst the middle and upper classes.  My grandmothers, as with most  women of their socioeconomic class, were stay-at-home mothers; I don’t think that either of them ever had a paying job. Starting with my mother’s generation, women entered the work force en masse; and all of the women in my social circle who are my age or younger work.  So, of course, who has time for polishing silver, making finger sandwiches and dainty cookies, and getting all dressed up for a party in the afternoon?

Literally speaking, the 60’s and 70’s are now history, and it is easy to feel nostalgia for some of the social niceties that got thrown away with so many of the inequalities and injustices from that era (and earlier).  I never, even for a moment, wish that I lived in an earlier time; and yet, occasionally it is fun to recapture a bit of refinement from the past. So, yesterday I hosted an afternoon tea party  – using my grandmothers’ china, crystal and silver – for no special reason except for that it seemed high time for a tea.

The Menu

Darjeeling Tea

Milk Oolong Tea

Cap Cette Picpoul de Pinet

Autumn Fruits Punch

Egg Salad Finger Sandwiches with Whole Grain Mustard

White Bean Sundried Tomato “Humus” & Spinach Finger Sandwiches

Smoked Salmon & Lemon Canapes

Cucumber Canapes

Pecan Crackers & Gouda Cheese

Pumpkin Butter & Whipped Cream Tartlets

Pumpkin Cream Puffs

Lemon Curd & Blueberry Tartlets

Gingerbread Teapot Cookies

Blackberry Jammies


Chocolate Rum Balls

Fresh Fruits, Nuts, Dark Chocolate-covered Raisins

(I was so busy yesterday that I didn’t get a chance to take photos. So I staged the one above this afternoon. I wish that I had had a chance to have gotten a shot of the whole spread.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

The Mr. Lincoln rose is cherished as  long-stem cutting variety for its fragrant large single blooms born atop very long canes. The photo above is of a bloom on the Mr. Lincoln Rose in our front yard. The canes on this rose bush are standing at over just over 7-feet tall right now. I believe that is about the maximum height for  a Mr. Lincoln. I had to extend my tripod to its fullest height to get this photo; and with a breeze blowing the canes around, I had my doubts about whether I would get a good shot at all. This particular bloom is about 4.5 inches across and 4 inches tall. It is highly fragrant and full of color.  I’d call it a big rose. There are currently two such blooms on this bush with three more buds yet to open. I can never bring myself to cut my roses, though. I like having them in the garden for everyone to enjoy. After the remaining three buds open, I suspect that this Mr. Lincoln will be done blooming for the season. It takes a lot of energy to put on such a stunning show. On a side note, Mr. Lincoln roses are described in horticultural literature as being a uniformly dark red, but mine always have a little tinge of magenta.

Blood and Sand

In addition to this blog, I write a monthly e-newsletter for the bed & breakfast called The Morning Star Update. For the November issue, on which I am currently working, I am planning on featuring a cocktail that people could serve before Thanksgiving dinner – that is, if they eat their holiday supper late in the day. At this time, I am leaning toward using Blood and Sand, a cocktail named after the Rudolph Valentino silent film from 1922. ( In the film, Valentino played a Spanish matador undone by fame, a woman – Rita Hayworth – and booze.) A classic cocktail from the 1930’s and 40’s, Blood and Sand is nevertheless one of the rare cocktails made with Scotch. It is heavy and fruity, but not overly sweet, and is typically a medium caramel brown color, though it can lean toward orange or red. If you have a favorite cocktail that you would like to recommend for celebrating the holidays, I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, if you try a Blood and Sand, enjoy, let me know what you think of it  … and of course, unlike Valentino’s matador, drink responsibly.

Blood and Sand

3/4 oz. Scotch

3/4 oz. Heering Cherry Liqueur or Grand Marnier Cherry Liqueur

3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth, preferably Vya

3/4 oz. Fresh-squeezed  orange juice

Fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Add ingredients. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Notes: Cheap cherry brandies and vermouth can make this drink taste like cough syrup. Use good quality alcohol. Fresh-squeezed orange juice tends to have more of a tart taste than does bottled orange juice and so helps cut the sweetness of the vermouth and cherry liqueur. Fresh-squeezed blood orange juice can be substituted.