Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Costume Search

I had to go to the shopping center for something else so I took the time to shop the local Party City store.  Man oh Man!  These people know how to put on a Halloween display.  There was everything there from skeletons to big cooking pots for candy.  The netting for doing spiderwebs was in abundance.

decorations at Party City Stores
The thing that bowled me over the most was all of the costumes and costume pieces that were displayed on two walls.  You don't just go in there and mull over what you want to be.  There are employees walking up and down the aisle giving advice and pointing you in the right direction.

online store costume ad
The costume I had planned to buy that I had seen at the online store was affordable with my senior citizen status and I hobbled up and down looking.  Not seeing it, I finally asked a young man if he knew where to find the queen costume from Snow White.  He informed me that he didn't recall seeing that one but that he mostly worked in mens' costumes and grabbed a nice young lady to help.  She also didn't think they had that costume but she grabbed another young lady to confirm that.  In the end they asked a customer service manager in that department.  This nice young lady told me they didn't have that one but I could get it online.

I already knew that but I was hoping to avoid the shipping costs.  Yes shipping is free if you spend $50 or more on your costume.  The shipping code is PC34NU just in case any of you want to get your costumes from Party City.

On my long trek out of the store (I don't lie when I say you can find Halloween from front to back of the store), I found a toga that would be the start of a nice costume and some wigs that are listed as Egyptian Queen wigs.  I found outside lights, inside lights, beware signs, monster figures and other scary items to be used on your porch.  What I didn't see but I'm sure they have was candy.

So to make a long story short, I didn't get my costume last night.  I just finished ordering it online and I will wait the 5-6 business days for it to arrive.  I'm still not sure if it will fit me, but I was assured by that nice customer service lady that I could return it to their store if it didn't fit.  Guess what!  If it doesn't fit they will then have just 1 in stock.  Ha!  Ha!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Where is the best Fall Foliage?

In my lifetime I have seen some of the most gorgeous displays of Fall foliage that I think is available to man.  But, I'm prejudiced.  I live in Pennsylvania and I love the Pennsylvania hillsides as they turn their beautiful shades of yellows, oranges, reds and browns.  It takes the whole spectrum to make the best display of Fall foliage.



When I was a child we had a scarlet maple tree in front of our house.  Around the end of September it would turn the most beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red leaves.  It was a particularly full and well-shaped tree and people would come from miles around to take pictures of it each Fall.



Traveling the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Fall Conventions, I have seen some really pretty displays in the middle of October along Interstate 80 as I traveled East. 


I'm sure the residents of the North Eastern Seaboard would tend to argue with me that their trees are prettier and I've seen some beautiful displays that have been filmed in movies and TV series.  I will admit that the opening scenes in the Bob Newhart Show were absolutely brilliant.


But, I'm a Pennsylvania girl and I would put our hills and dales up against any other state's treasure trove of colors for the best any time.

So if you agree or don't you can let us know in your comments.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Halloween at Paddy Cake Bakery, Bloomfield, Pittsburgh, PA

When you are out and about looking for those Halloween Treats, there's a local bakery in the Bloomfield neighborhood that fills the bill and is sure to have just what you want.

This bakery has never changed their icing recipe that was brought over from the old country and is simply the best butter cream icing that I've ever tasted.  Light and Fluffy without that gritty sugar taste.

Halloween is a fun time at the bakery and their decorators go crazy with the theme.  The ghost cakes have petit four icing on them.



and the wonderful petit fours are decorated with Fall Mums.






On the spookier side they offer the ever popular coffin cake. 



OR, you can get a half cake mounted into a backdrop with a design to be a haunted house. 



If you want to get macabre, you can buy a brain cake.




 Halloween is a time to tickle the youngster's taste buds and Paddy cake does that with their candy apples during the Halloween season.



Halloween wouldn't be complete without cookies and Paddy Cake has sugar cookies that are pumpkin cut outs.



or pumpkin gob  cookies.




Whatever your Halloween pleasure, you wont be disappointed if you visit Paddy Cake Bakery in the heart of the Bloomfield business section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.





A couple of more designs by Paddy Cake Bakery.

Happy Halloween Shopping

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Halloween Candy Deals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

It's time to start deciding on what to give the little monsters, cowboys, robots, etc.  All those costumes are available at the Malls, in the super stores such as Walmart, K Mart, Target, TJMax.  That fuel for another posting but today we are going to talk about what to give the children that show up at your door on Halloween expecting a Treat and promising to not trick you.



At Walmart I found a super deal with 350 pieces of Hershey candy for $24.01.  This breaks down to about a nickle per piece of candy.

If you are looking for a smaller amount of candy bars, they also have 95 pieces of Hershey Candy in a smaller variety for $9.94.  This breaks down to around a dime per candy bar.

At KMart they have similar packages which range in price from $9.99 for 100 pieces of Hershey candy.

to 240 pieces of candy for $14.99.  This breaks down to be an average of a dime per candy for either deal.

Now Target is running the same candy bars in a variety of Wrigley's candies to the bag for 130 pieces at $7.99.

I don't think you can get your candy for much less than that.



I sometimes give out potato chips that I buy in a case of 42 bags.  This year the price varies from $5.62 at a local restaurant supplier to $6.36 at Sam's Club.  In years past I have purchased this case for $5.00 from our neighborhood Cogo's  but this year they don't have the cases and are selling Halloween prepared packages with less bag in them.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pumpkin Cookies from Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company, Pittsburgh, PA

I have to admit that I have known about this local cookie baking company for quite a few years, but have never taken the time to try their cookies.  Although they are local they do not adhere to the local bake shop image.  Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company is located in a converted steel mill in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania.  They mostly cater to the trade show venue making specialties for corporations and businesses.

Pumpkin Cookie from Apple Cookie & Chocolate Co.

The picture above is my presentation of one of their specialty cookies for the Halloween season.  I love these with a cup of coffee in the morning.  The container is not one of the containers from Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company but one that my son used to fill with cookies that he bought.  My son formerly worked at the restored mill and ordered $20 worth of these fabulous cookies.  He has brought home some of their other cookies in the past but I can't eat semisweet chocolate anymore so I have tried a piece of their cookies but not really paid too much attention to their products until now.


A couple of years ago I ordered these cookies for my special Halloween treats for my trick or treating guests.  Since I'm known in the neighborhood as the cookie lady, these were the perfect treat for them.  Apple Cookie normally packages their cookies differently but they wrapped these for my son individually.

This year when I went to purchase for the upcoming holiday, I was disappointed because they only package the pumpkin cookies in the larger size and they cost $1.50 each.  That is too expensive for my purpose since over 150 children come to my door each year, but I will order enough for my personal craving for these cookies and my special bags for my grandchildren.

They also carry buckets of their chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, White Chocolate and Peanut Cutter in cans for special occasions.


Besides baking cookies this company does specialty marketing gift selections.  They are online and can be viewed at http://www.applecookies.com.   If you are looking for that special treat for a party or shower, I recommend you give this website a look see.




Friday, October 14, 2016

Apples Best For Eating Or Cooking

In the Northeast, the Fall is the best time to harvest apples.  The crop is at it's peak and falling off the trees.


Local farmers then gather them into bushels and take them to farmer's markets to sell.  But in today's world you don't have to wait for Fall to get the best variety of apples.  They are all at the supermarket.


There are many varieties to choose from and each has it's own texture and taste.  When I am putting up apples for the winter, I normally bring home a bushel of three different kinds to get a special taste for my winter baking and my applesauce.



My mother loved McIntosh Apples and ate them plain or cut them up into her Waldorf Salad.


The skin on this apple is red and green and it has a tart flavor.  The flesh is white and it ripens in late September.  Because it tends to mush up while baking, this one is not a good one for an apple pie.

My favorite to munching is a Gala which I only recently found in the supermarkets.


This one has a mild and sweet flavor.  I normally cut them up into slices after I core them for snacking.  The peel on this one is a bit tough so I usually peel the slices before I eat them.  This is one of my selections for my three apple mixture in my canning.

The next apple I look for is the granny smith.



This one is an all around apple for eating, baking or just about any recipe.  The flesh on this apple is normally a bit more crisp and it holds up well in recipes.  It is definitely one of my thee for canning.

I have always used a Northern Spy Apple to finish out the canning mix.



This variety has been a long time favorite of mine and is becoming more and more hard to find.  The supermarkets tend to carry different brands rather than waiting for this one.  I like it because it has the flavor that you find in the Gala and the crunch that you find in the Granny Smith.  It is a good one for baking pies and other recipes that call for baking or cooking.

I have tried Cortland Apples



I picked this one up because it looked like a Northern Spy with it's flecked skin.  That was my indicator that it would have good flavor and the crispness I was looking for.  It's texture is better for snaking and that ever popular Waldorf Salad.

This is all I have on apples for this fall.  I have spent many a fall hour coring and peeling apples for my winter canning.  We normally had between 12 and 18 jars of apple slices and an equal amount of my family's favorite apple sauce which I lovingly called mountain sauce because of all the cinnamon I put into it.




Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Baking Treats

As I think about some of my favorite Fall treats from my childhood. the one that springs into my mind first is Gingerbread.  My Mom would make this quite often in her square 9" cake pan.  A lot of people make this in a loaf pan but in our house you were served a square piece of cake sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Whipped cream was and extravagance when I was growing up and something that we normally only had for Thanksgiving with our pumpkin pies.  On rare occasions, the gingerbread was served with a small dob when there was leftover whipped cream from Thanksgiving.

Gingerbread with a dab of whipped cream

My mouth waters every time I think about this cake.  Also, when my brother and I went trick or treating there was a family a couple of block down who invited everyone in for a drink of apple cider and a piece of gingerbread.  You can't beat the old favorites.
A&P Spanish Bar
My Dad's favorite was a spice cake and he would buy a loaf at the A&P store that was a spiced cake with raisens in it.  It was baked in a loaf and was called a Spanish Loaf.  I found this recipe on the internet for making a Spanish Bar Cake.

A lot of people I know buy their treats and cakes from the local supermarkets instead of baking their own.  My personal favorite from Giant Eagle is their  Carrot Cake that is iced with cream cheese icing and decorated with icing carrots on top.

Carrot Cake from Supermarkets
This year they are making it in a loaf pan with the same carrot decorating on top.  Since I prefer the spice cakes such as carrot cake and gingerbread, I tend to look for these more in the Fall of the year when the days are warm but air is turning a bit cooler at night.

Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Icing
While the recipe for carrot cake from scratch is simply delicious, you can cheat and bake a box carrot cake.  Icing the cake with cream cheese icing can be a simple as spreading it on or taking the time to pipe decorations with coloring added to the icing.

Baked Apple with Cinnamon and sugar
Another favorite was nothing fancy.  It was a baked apple that my Mom would just peel and core and pop into the oven with cinnamon and sugar poured into the middle.  I'm sure you have seen these with pie dough wrapped around them, but in our house it was the simple things that I remember the most.

I've had a hankering for some of these favorites and in the next couple of weeks I'll probably be making some of these on a small scale since I'm a widow living with my son. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

October Pumpkin Recipe Month


"All our pies are pumpkin here."
When I was a child, my paternal grandfather would stop at Donohue's Bakery on the way home to purchase a dessert.  He would telephone and ask what we wanted.  I would say, "pumpky pie."  He would retort, "All our pies are pumpkin here."  I have always been particularly fond of pumpkin pie and my maternal grandfather baked the best pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving.  He was a genius when it came to crust.  From the time I was a child, I always graded a pie by the crust rather than the filling even though I love pie in general.

Mashed Pumpkin Flower Patties
The flowers that you see above can be eaten too.  My neighbors cuts them as they flower.  She takes them in and mixes them with bread crumbs and eggs.  Then she pan fries them in a thin layer of oil.  The end result is a bit too sweet for my taste in appetizers but they are good.  Giant Eagle was selling these flowers at an exorbitant price and its so easy to get your own by planting one pumpkin seed.  I prefer swiss chard patties to these.

Pumpkin Cookies with Orange Frosting
I love pumpkin baked goods and my best friend's mother had the best recipe for pumpkin cookies.  These cookies are soft bake and the icing is just sweet enough to not give the cookie a distinct flavor of it's own.  The recipe is an easy one and I recommend it for those little rug rats out there.

Pumpkin Bread
But my favorite pumpkin recipe of all is pumpkin bread.  I love it plain but I sometimes add walnuts.  My friends also add raisins but I'm not fond of raisins in baked goods so I'll just leave those out.  I love this just plain with some cream cheese spread on it.  I don't even want nuts in this one.

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake
Now this is a cake to die for.  It is so moist that you it got it's name from that feature.  Pumpkin Chiffon Cake is one of the best cakes that I have ever tasted and I make it in a bundt pan so that I can either ice it with  whipped cream icing or just dust it with powdered sugar and a dab of whipped cream on the cake when I serve it.  The end result is pretty as well as scrumptious.

Jack-o-lantern
I have made this recipe many times into a jack-o-lantern for Halloween by icing two bundt cakes to look like a pumpkin.  To be honest I used to make this using a spice cake because my Dad's birthday was on Halloween and his favorite was Spice Cake.  The same recipe can be made in mini bundt pans for individual jack-o-lanterns.
jack-o-lantern directions
The instructions for doing this are easy and pictured above.

Now that I have listed my favorites with the links to the recipes, I invite you to comment and give us your favorite recipe.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October And My Most Important Decision For Halloween

It's a day of mixed emotions today.  I have some decisions to make.  What do I want to give this year to the Trick or Treaters is my main thought right now.  In years past, I have baked and made peanut butter cookies and brownies for the rug rats.  The older children were given candy bars.

When my children were old enough to trick or treat on their own with me following behind at a safe distance, one of them received a tampered candy bar.  Luckily it was me who opened and started to eat it while I was talking to a neighbor.  As soon as I placed it in my mouth, I got a burning sensation and the worst taste I have ever had.  I spit it back out and then examined the bar.  It was covered with white granules.  I picked the wrapper out of the trash and found it full of more granules.  I took it to the police and when it had been examined I was told it was saccharin.  I don't believe that because not only did it burn my tongue it left me with no taste buds on that portion of my tongue for quite some time.

I can fully understand why people reject home-made treats now but it is a shame.  In my time to trick or treat it was considered special to be invited in for gingerbread or to be given home-made candy apples.  As we became old enough to trick or treat on our own, we would go to those homes first so that we would not lose out on the special treats these people took the time to make.

Even though I don't bake any more for Halloween, have become known as the cookie lady because for quite a few years I would buy the Little Debbie Filled Oatmeal Cookies as treats.  At the time, I could buy 100 cookies for about $10.  I like being able to give out treats that are good for even the smallest children.   People now bring infants with bags which I think is pushing it if they don't have older children, but I give them treats the same as the toddlers whom I particularly like to watch going up and down the street. 

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year.  Maybe that is because from the time I was able to remember my Dad made it fun for my brother and I.  It was my Dad's birthday and we would have a special dinner and cake before we were dressed up in homemade costumes out of my Mother's stage trunk and taken out to trick or treat.
Ball gown similar to one my Mom altered for me.

The evening always ended at the Town Hall for a parade to the High School where we were treated to a cartoon movie and a big bag of treats from our volunteer fire department.  On the walk back home from the high school, we would bend the rules and trick or treat at the homes on the four blocks all the way home.

I guess I will make the rounds today to do some comparison shopping and to see what is available at Sams Club and the local supermarkets to help my decision for the end of the month.  In the coming weeks I'll share my findings with my friends on here.