The Time I gave out “Condoms” on Halloween

You know those things in life that at the time feel mortifying, but as time passes, you begin to see the humor in them? For me, this was one of those times…

I will be honest. I don’t put all that much thought into what candy we give out on Halloween. I just insist that if its chocolate, it has to be ethically traded chocolate. Not hard to find. My husband thinks my insistence on this for Halloween is a bit over the top, while I think not doing it is hypocritical, since its all we buy otherwise.

A couple nights before the holiday, I bought a couple of bags of Halloween chocolate squares from a Fair Trade brand. Sure, its a little more expensive, but we really don’t get many trick-or-treaters and spending a few dollars more on Halloween candy isn’t going to break the bank. I think it actually tastes better than some of the cloyingly sweet cheaper options.

Halloween night, we were heading to a party at my parent’s house and wouldn’t be home to pass out candy. So I planned to dump the bags of chocolate in a bowl, turn on the porch light, and leave the bowl of candy on the stoop. We were in the process of rushing out the door (late as usual), but when Tim saw me holding the bowl of candy he said, “Are those condoms?!”

What is he talking about? I began scanning the ground for something that might look like a condom, but he provided the clarification himself. “Is that the candy? It looks like we are giving out condoms to elementary school kids.” He looks at me as if trying to ascertain whether or not I have gone off the deep end and decided to make some inappropriate safe sex advocacy statement to young, costumed children.

I never would have thought of that when looking at the plastic wrapped chocolate squares, but as soon as he mentioned it, I couldn’t get past their resemblance to condom wrappers. Embarrassed, I encouraged him to try one in an attempt prove that they are in-fact chocolate.

He picked one up to verify that it is indeed not a condom and shook his head. He concluded, “Every parent is going to look at that bowl and think ‘What the heck?!’”

I lamely tried to defend myself with some stupid statement about Fair Trade candy having fewer options and that “kids don’t care – candy is candy.”

Tim whole-heartedly disagreed.

At this point, we were extra late, so I plopped the bowl full of condoms – I mean candy – on the front porch and left.

When we got home, my supposedly indiscriminate, candy-loving trick-or-treaters had failed me. Even kids didn’t want my “condom candy.” The bowl was still completely full. Oops.

Next year, I am buying boxes of Nerds. Forget about chocolate. Lesson learned.

Tim: 1 point

Maria: 0 points

Fall Time’s Perfect Pumpkin Caramel Bars

Fall weather, fall leaves, fall activities, apple cider, and fall time treats go hand-in-hand this time of the year.  Trader Joe’s seems to have stocked its shelves with anything and everything that can be pumpkin spice-ified.  Pumpkin flavored cheerios,  really now? But, alas, case in point.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin and squashes of all shapes, sizes, tastes, and textures.  In sweets & in savories, I am game!  By the time New Year’s rolls around, my husband doesn’t even want to hear the word “pumpkin.”  He is more of a sugar cookies with thick butter cream gooey-ness on top.  So I earned my “good-wife” badge by appeasing his request.

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In reviewing my week-night meal plan for this week, I probably should have moderated the squash intake a bit, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Thats right, I’m talking to you my lovely family.

Who else is loving my $6 HomeDepot-impulse-buy scarecrow?! :)
Who else is loving my $6 impulse-buy scarecrow from Home Depot?! 🙂

So amidst the pumpkin patch-ing, dog walking amongst color changing leaves, and cuddling up with a good book a time or two; I have been soaking in the flavors of Fall with some baking.  Thus far, my experiments have resulted in a couple of “share worthy” recipes.  Maybe you have even tried these Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Bars…If not, you should!  ….Unless you don’t like apples, caramel, or delicious things.

Harvest party, anyone?
Harvest party, anyone?

So I believe I may have mentioned my pumpkin fandom, right?  But in case you fell asleep back there, I LOVE pumpkin.  Pumpkin Caramel Bars seem like a no-brainer because pumpkin + caramel + brown sugary-shortbread crust are, to quote The Sound of Music: “These a few of my favorite things…”  And, combining them = AMAZING!

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Before I launch into the recipe, I have a confession to make.  Pie crust and I are not buddies.  I love pie.  And when I say this, please note that I reallllly LOVE pie.  But I am of the “pie crust is an art form” line of thinking, and this is one form of art that I have yet to master.  So the charm-factor that accompanies homemade pumpkin pie is negated with the thought of battling it out with pie-crust.  So these bars have all of the pumpkin pie goodness on top with a way more awesome and way more simple base – same base as I used on the Salted Caramel Apple Bars!! So pumpkin lovers, consider yourselves warned, these addicting.

Perfect Pumpkin Caramel Bars

For the Base

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • shy 1/2 tsp. salt
  • shy 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

For the layer of Caramel 

  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 can of pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbl. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl combine rest of crust ingredients, then add 1/3 at a time to the butter mixture.  Mixture should be crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of  a parchment lined 13 x 9 inch pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes and then remove from oven.

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Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Now to the caramel.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add the brown sugar. After the sugar crystals have dissolved but before the mixture starts to bubble heavily, slowly stir the cream into the mixture.  Continue to stir over heat until a thickened sauce forms and it can coat the back of a chilled spoon.  This should only take a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately pour an even layer over the partially baked crust.

For the pumpkin filling, combine pumpkin, condensed milk, and brown sugar in a stand mixer until completely combined.  Add beaten eggs a little at a time, mixing between each addition.  In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and spices.  Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture 1/3 at a time.  Mix until combined but don’t over-mix.  Pour the pumpkin mixture over the caramel layer and return the pan to the oven.  Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the pumpkin mixture has set.

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Allow the bars to cool in the pan, removing them while the pumpkin mixture is hot can cause them to lose their shape.  Cool completely before eating.  For best results, store in the refrigerator.

Yummm….

Salted Caramel Apple Bars

The summer of 2015 will go down in Washington state as being one of the driest and hottest yet.  Wild-fires ravaged the eastern half of the state.  The low snowfall from the previous winter caused alpine streams to cease flowing.  Even our Olympic National Park that is home to two rain forests was shaken by forest fires.  Now that we are rounding the corner into fall with they blustery wet days Seattle is famous for, many who call the Evergreen State home – myself included – are breathing a sigh of relief.  Aaaaaaaaah…. **kicking feet up on the ottoman with a cup of tea**

Seattleites in particular are not made for heat.  We melt. We whine. We order rotating fans in bulk with our Amazon Prime accounts….

This year, more than any other I can recall, Fall weather is a  welcome and refreshing change.  Sweaters, boots, and warm drinks: Bring ’em on!

Fall in these parts is also synonymous with Washington apple season.  Hello, Honeycrisp and Pink Lady!  Whether they are a crisp refreshing snack or the star in a warm-your-soul dessert, apples are the best!

Ever since I was young, apples dipped in gooey caramel are a weakness favorite of mine.  My latest caramel + apple addiction has been dipping apple slices in this salted caramel dip.

If you are also a caramel + apples fan (a.k.a. the best kind of people), then these gooey salted caramel apple bars have your name written alllll over them.

The warm nuttiness of whole wheat flour mixed with butter and brown sugar topped with thinly sliced apples, homemade salted caramel, and a little streusel will make these caramel apple bars your new best friend.

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So Fall weather, its time to officially introduce myself, and I think these bars will send the right message for my welcome-wagon to Fall.  Fall: Come on over to the beautiful city of Seattle!  We promise we won’t rain on you …. too much.  😉

Salted Caramel Apple Bars

For the Crust and Streusel Topping

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

For the Filling

  • 2 large crisp granny smith, pink lady, or similar apple variety; very very thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • raw turbinado for sprinkling on top of fully assembled bars

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl combine rest of crust ingredients, then add 1/3 at a time to the butter mixture.  Mixture should be crumbly.  Set aside approximately 1 1/4 cups of mixture.  Press the rest of the mixture into the bottom of  a parchment lined 13 x 9 inch pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes and then remove from oven.

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Now to the caramel.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add the brown sugar. After the sugar crystals have dissolved but before the mixture starts to bubble heavily, slowly stir the cream into the mixture.  Continue to stir over heat until a thickened sauce forms and it can coat the back of a chilled spoon.  This should only take a couple of minutes.

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Assembly: Arrange apple slices over the crust once it has been removed from the oven.  Then pour the caramel sauce over the apple slices.  Crumble the streusel topping over the top and adorn with turbinado for crunch and sparkle if desired.

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See all of the the sparkly little turbinado crystals?

Bake the assembled bars for 30 minutes.

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After the bars are done baking, use the parchment to remove bars from baking dish immediately (to prevent over-baking).  Then allow the bars to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

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Now the only thing I have left to master with these is moderation.  I could eat the whole pan!  If I were to eat all of it, but didn’t cut it into slices, can that mean that I only ate one piece?  

We haven’t finished the last of this batch and I am already wracking my brain for excuses to make these again and again.  Hurry up and host a holiday party, someone!!  I’ll be bringing these!