Faith-Based Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating

By Rachel Sircy

I believe I mentioned in my last post (the one about gluten-free trick or treating) that my family and I don’t actually celebrate Halloween. I’ve never made a big deal about this before because I honestly didn’t know anyone outside of my own church who abstained from Halloween celebrations. Last week, however, I was talking to the mom of my daughter’s school friend who asked me if I had any good ideas for Halloween alternatives for small children. This was the first time since I’d moved to Columbia that anyone had asked me that question, and it made me realize that perhaps there are many of us out there who would like something to do with our kids on October 31st that doesn’t involve traditional Halloween celebrations.

pumpkin

If you look online, there are tons of ideas for Christian alternatives to Halloween celebrations for parents to do with their kids at home. I read several blogs, each with some great basic ideas that any family can make their own. You can throw a fall-themed costume party for your children on October 31st and include fun games with candy prizes. One blog suggested doing a treasure hunt (similar to an Easter Egg hunt, I guess) and fill objects with candy. These activities can be religiously themed and designed to teach a faith-filled lesson. One of my favorite ideas was using pumpkin carving to teach a lesson about receiving the Holy Spirit: cleaning out the pumpkin is analogous to what Jesus does to us when we repent and the light that we put inside the pumpkin can represent what happens when Christ puts His Spirit in us. Other sites suggested doing a kid-friendly movie marathon at home, involving popcorn, candy and letting your kids watch fun movies until they fall asleep. These parties can be family-only celebrations or involve neighbors and friends. If you have the luxury of getting out of town, one blogger mom suggested taking your kids on a small weekend trip. Getting out of the house may be a good idea if you’re opposed to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters (personally, I hate telling little kids “no,” so if I stay home, I always plan on handing out some candy. If you’re trying to build your Halloween alternative into a neighborhood party, it might not be a bad idea to hand out candy and spread the word for next year’s party!).

And don’t forget, many area churches put on Halloween alternatives in the form of Fall Festivals or “Hallelujah Nights.” A few I saw online that might be worth looking up near Columbia are Redbank Baptist Church’s Fall Festival night; Family Worship Center’s Hallelujah Night, and Harvest Collaborator’s Hallelujah Praise Night. If your church is having a fall festival or Halloween alternative night, you can feel free to share it in the comments.

Happy holiday alternatives, everyone! 

A Fall Treat

By: Azure Stilwell

pumpkin-muffins

This is my favorite month of the year! I love the cool weather, the festivals, the fair, and Halloween. It’s all about yummy foods and fun.

One of my favorite muffins to make during the Fall is so simple I didn’t think it would actually work when I found the recipe on Pinterest. All you need to make these pumpkin spice muffins is one can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, but real pumpkin) and one box of spice cake mix. You mix both ingredients together, bake, and enjoy. They look like rustic muffins because they come out all lumpy on top, but they taste fantastic. My boys love it when I make cinnamon cream cheese icing to go on top but they taste great with or without the icing. If you want to dress them up then pipe on the icing and top with a candy corn pumpkin. So cute!

To make the muffins:

  • 1 can of Libby Pumpkin
  • 1 box of spice cake mix

Combine ingredients with a large wooden spoon. (Your mixer will thank you for not using it.) Spoon the mixture into greased muffin cups.Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

To make the icing (optional):

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then cinnamon and vanilla; mix until smooth.

Pumpkin Muffins

By: Brady Evans

I used to be able to make it just fine eating breakfast at 6:00 or 6:30am and then eating lunch at 11:45am or so. Nowadays, though, the hunger strikes around 10:00am and I feel like I can’t. go. on. without a snack. For a while I made a habit out of buying some sort of junky breakfast bar variety pack from Costco but then I got around to accepting that approach wasn’t cost effective at all.

I know it is a little “late” in the season (or freakishly early) to be enjoying and blogging about pumpkin flavored treats but it’s what I’m enjoying now so I thought I’d share. There are SO MANY pumpkin bread recipes out there and I settled on this one because it seemed perfectly spiced and traditional enough to suit my needs.

I snacked on these guys all week and they kept perfectly. They deserve the usual praises: moist but not too moist, spicy but not overwhelming, and perfectly pumpkin-y.  I used whole wheat flour in them and had great results so if you are interested in whole grain baking, this is a great recipe to try!

Pumpkin muffins

Pumpkin Muffins (Pumpkin Bread) (adapted slightly from Simply Recipes)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together in a smaller bowl, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly.
  3. Pour into a well-buttered 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan or a muffin tin lined with paper liners. Bake 50-60 minutes for the loaf or 18-23 minutes for the muffins until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

Pumpkin S’more Cake

By: Brady Evans

I needed this cake, a Pumpkin S’more Cake, for a Wednesday night dinner. Looking at the recipe, it became clear that the cake had to be made in advance of Wednesday night.  I preferred to make it in steps over 2 days, since the recipe had many components, but upon reading the recipe and consulting some baking experts, I decided few of the components actually lent themselves to that approach.

Cake

Turns out the entire cake I had envisioned was destined to fail, as nearly every component I began to make flopped monstrously  I started baking the cake at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon and it was finally complete at 10pm. I went to bed leaving the kitchen a mess. I had made 5 layers of cake and one batch of failed meringue, and had used two cans of pumpkin and nearly 18 eggs. The fact that I was especially clumsy that night didn’t help the situation.

Cake

The cake that made it to the dinner was only reminiscent of the cake I originally set out to make. I don’t hesitate to say, however, that it is likely a much more delicious version. The star of the dessert is a perfect pumpkin cake recipe (declared perfect by the queen of recipe comparisons at The Way the Cookie Crumbles). Between those layers of cake was the perfect amount of graham cracker crumbs and soft mini marshmallows. A deep dark chocolate ganache served as the frosting and kept the cake from feeling too sweet when combined with the marshmallows (pure sugar) and fluffy cake.

This dessert is perfect for fall, Halloween, or the holiday season coming up. It was a huge crowd pleaser at dinner and in the teacher workroom the next day!

Pumpkin S’more Cake (adapted from Desserts for Breakfast & The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Pumpkin Cake (adapted from David Leite via Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1¼ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line two 8″ cake pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour parchment rounds.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add both eggs one at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition.
  5. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour.
  6. Finally, beat in the pumpkin until smooth.
  7. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.
  8. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles.
  9. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on racks completely.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 9 oz. dark chocolate (at least 60+%), chopped
  • 7.5 oz. heavy cream
  • 3 Tbspn butter

Instructions

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Cook the heavy cream and butter over medium high heat until a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over prepared chocolate. Stir until no streaks remain. Use immediately.

Graham Cracker Crumbs (homemade, if desired)

Mini Marshmallows

For the cake assembly:

Place one leveled cake layer on your cake stand or serving platter. Spoon 1/4 cup ganache over the round and smooth so that the layer is even. Add an even layer of graham cracker crumbs and dot with mini marshmallows, making sure that only one layer of marshmallows is made. Add the next cake layer. Pour/spread remaining ganache over cake. Sprinkle with additional graham cracker crumbs and marshmallows.

Pumpkin Painting

By: Shannon Shull

October begins my favorite time of the year. Not only are several very special birthdays celebrated within my family, but also the weather finally begins to cool and the leaves start Pumpkinchanging. Though our days get shorter as they inevitably get busier, this time of the year also means that the holiday season is sneaking up on us. And there’s just something indescribable in the air that brings a sense of joy, even though we tend to be loaded with fatter to-do lists and more events overwhelming our schedules.

As I type this blog entry, it’s now time for the fall/Halloween décor to come out and grace our homes. Though carving pumpkins is cool, I prefer to paint them rather than dealing with the mess that comes with carving. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the glow of a candle in a carved pumpkin. But I have seen some of the most awesome painting designs for pumpkins!

You can keep it simple and just add glitter to a pumpkin, or you can paint on different textures and patterns. If you’re sick of the traditional orange and black Halloween color palate, you can paint your pumpkin different colors.  You can even paint pictures or turn your pumpkin into your favorite animal!

 I just have to share some of my favorite ideas: 

Enjoy and please share any of your own pumpkin painting ideas and creations!

Halloween Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

By: Brady Evans

There are not many things I miss about living in suburbia.  Yes, farm life is definitely for me.  However, we were pretty disappointed last year on our first Halloween on the farm.  We didn’t get any trick-or-treaters! Not even one. That’s definitely one thing I miss about city living: celebrating the wackiest ‘holiday’ of the year.

Just because we don’t have strangers knocking at our door asking for food, doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate with the best of them. Halloween definitely has the most potential for making awesome treats that go along with a theme.

One example: this spider-web-themed pumpkin cheesecake pie. Not only is it festive, but its flavor combination is out of this world (and slightly reminiscent of those muffins at Starbucks)! Now, I’m not a pro baker, so if I can make it, so can you! Just do yourself a favor and top the pie with a plastic spider, to really go the extra mile!

Halloween Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie (adapted and inspired from these recipes)

Ingredients:

For the pumpkin filling:

  • 1 15-oz can packed pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

For the cheesecake:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 9-inch chocolate cookie crust

To make the pumpkin filling: Beat eggs with sugar.  Add spices, pureed pumpkin, and evaporated milk.  Whisk to combine.

To make the cheesecake filling: Beat cream cheese until softened.  Add sugar and incorporate beaten egg.  Add vanilla.  Whisk until smooth.

To assemble pie: Pour pumpkin filling into cookie crust.  Pour cheesecake filling into a zip top bag and snip off end.  To make spider web design, lightly pipe concentric circles of cheesecake into the pumpkin filling.  Using a clean knife, drag the blade of a knife from the outside of the pie towards the center, wiping the knife between drags. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 60 minutes.