Pineapple Jack-O-Lanterns

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday – no stress with cooking or entertaining. Just decorate your house, inside and out, maybe dress in costume and of course hand out candy or other goodies to all the neighborhood children. For the past few years I give the kids small bags of goldfish and they seem to love them. I mean how much candy can they eat!

I enjoy seeing the costumes each year – some are really very creative and the little ones are always adorable. I’ve lived here 12 years so many of the kids are older now. Then there is the ritual of pumpkin carving or how about a Pineapple Jack-O-Lantern?


I first saw this very cute idea in an issue of Food Network Magazine and then later saw this huge display of pineapples at one of my Meijer stores. So, I decided a Pineapple Jack-O-Lantern would be this years’ Halloween contribution to my blog. It would make a great centerpiece for your Halloween table or party. Plus, you get to enjoy all that wonderful fruit in a salad, alongside a nice piece of ham or even in a cake.



Pineapple Jack-O-Lanterns

  • pineapples
  • pineapple corer (makes removing the center flesh a lot easier)
  • assorted knives – I like using my bird’s beak paring knife for the face
  • tea lites, can be battery operated
  • assorted LED lights, I even used a flashing Halloween necklace
  • Fall leaves, assorted pumpkins and gourds

Slice the top off of your pineapple and set aside. If you have a pineapple corer that’s great as it makes the job of removing the inside much easier. Do this near your sink as it does get a little messy – the pineapple I used was very ripe and had a lot of juice.

Once you have removed the inside you can begin to carve the face. I used a bird’s peak knife that worked great – nothing fancy you know, at least for me. It has a curved blade and allowed me to make all of the cutouts look as good as possible. I cut downward within the eyes and mouth so the candle would be more exposed.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

I am linking this Halloween Pineapple Jack-O-Lantern to Fiesta Friday #142 where Angie, Elaine and Michelle are hosting this week’s party.

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If you would like to see past Halloween goodies I have made, go to Halloween Treats. Below are a few examples:


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Bacon and Apple Waffles with a Cider Syrup

My family loves breakfast especially pancakes and waffles. I frequently throw in a little fruit; I have a peanut butter or sourdough version and sometimes I like to make a special syrup. How about caramelized bananas on top of your pancakes. I have 6 pancake recipes; just search pancakes for a great selection of this favorite breakfast treat.

This is my second waffle recipe besides my hubby’s favorite Sour Cream Waffles. I was looking for something new, a way to celebrate Fall. Then with the addition of bacon this recipe had to be scrumptious.dsc_0011The cinnamon cider syrup sounded really good but the apple cider flavor was too intense (after 8 cups were reduced to 1-1/2 cups) and I did not care for it. I would also rather have butter spread on my waffles and not in the syrup. Instead I used my cider syrup I make with my apple pancakes. Of course I always have Michigan maple syrup on hand.



The bacon and apple garnish really made these waffles special.


Bacon and Apple Waffles with a Cider Syrup

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-3/4 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup bacon (8 slices) cooked crisply and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup apple, chopped
  • apple, chopped for garnish
  • bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled for garnish

Combine the first four ingredients and make a well in the center of a large bowl. In a smaller bowl combine eggs, milk, butter and vanilla. Add all at once to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Stir in the bacon and apple. The consistency of the batter is perfect so be careful not to add any more bacon or apples. See comment below.

Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature and place a rack on one of the shelves. As you cook each waffle place in the oven to keep warm. Cook each waffle according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve warm and top with additional apple and bacon. Serve with maple syrup or give the syrup below a try.

I made seven 6-1/2-inch waffles with this recipe.

Apple Cider Syrup:

  • 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick (2-3 inches long)
  • dash of ground nutmeg

In a small saucepan, combine the first 3 ingredients; add the cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for a couple of minutes or until thickened. Discard cinnamon stick. Add a dash of nutmeg and serve warm over the waffles.

Comment: You really can’t taste the bacon or apples within the pancakes but they gave the batter a perfect consistency. It’s the garnish on top that is important; chop some apples,  add the crumbled bacon and top with your favorite syrup. Bacon added to any recipe always makes it delicious!

Recipe by Cooking with Aunt Juju

I’m starting Fiesta Friday #141 with a breakfast treat for Angie, Julianna and Zeba. Come join the fun!


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Hunan Beef with Broccoli and Chilies

While reorganizing all my cookbooks  I found this one “Martin Yan’s Feast: The Best of Yan Can Cook“. Does anyone remember “If Yan Can Cook, You Can Too”? In 1978 he first started teaching Chinese cooking in Calgary on a Canadian talk show. Beginning in 1982 he hosted over 1,500 episodes of the PBS cooking shows Yan Can Cook.

He was interested in dispelling the mysteries of  Chinese and Asian cooking and furthering an understanding of the cultures that created these cuisines. He was very entertaining and made cooking fun! His personality drew you in just like Julia Child and other great chefs. By the way Jacques Pepin wrote the forward in this cookbook – they are good buddies!

He is still going strong with a chain of restaurants, an international cooking school and has written over 2 dozen cookbooks. He has been designated a Master Chef and has appeared on several episodes of Iron Chef America. He organizes specialized tours to areas which were showcased in his shows. In the Fall of 2014 Martin Yan’s Taste of Vietnam, a new 26 episodes series on public television began. His latest adventure will be a cruise in 2017 centered around Asian cuisines.

Yan says “Chefs from Hunan province are experts in cooking with chilies. Stir-frying them over high heat releases just enough of their spiciness”. I like to cut off the ends so some of the seeds spill out giving some added heat.

This recipe is very flavorful and spicy which is the way I like it. I think you will too! I did change some ingredients and directions.

Hunan Beef with Broccoli and Chilies, Adapted

  • 2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing or dry sherry (see Comment below)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch or 1 tsp. potato flour
  • 3/4 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain (top sirloin, strip loin, tri-tip and tenderloin also work well)

Marinate the meat in the above ingredients about 30 minutes before you cook.

  • 3 tbsp. Chinkiang Vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing or dry sherry
  • 1-2 tsp.  sugar (optional – add to taste – the chili sauce I used has a lot of sugar in it so I did not add this additional sugar)
  • 2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil

Combine the above sauce ingredients and set aside.

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • few green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (I added)
  • 2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 4-6 small dried red chilies (Tien Tsin), ends cut off so some of the seeds spill out
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch or 1/2 tsp. potato starch dissolved in 2 tsp. water

You can blanch the broccoli briefly first to set the green color and immediately place in cold water; then drain. I do not like overcooked broccoli!

Heat the oil in your wok over high heat (I just love my Breville electric wok). Add the garlic and chilies (I cut off one end so some seeds will spill out) and cook for about 10 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry for just a couple of minutes.

Add the broccoli, green onions and sauce; bring to a boil. Add potato starch mixture and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens.

Comment: According to Yan: “The rice wine of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province is renowned throughout the world, not only as an accompaniment to Chinese food, but also as a flavoring ingredient in cooking. It’s made by a process that has remained unchanged for more than 2,000 years. In outdoor urns covered with seaweed mats, rice is fermented with local lake water and an ancient strain of yeast that has been cultivated for centuries. The process can’t be rushed, the wine ages at least 18 months, and sometimes up to 100 years.”

Recipe by cookingwithauntjuju

Yes, I have one more Chinese recipe and then I promise to make more seasonal dishes. I’m linking this spicy Hunan recipe to Angie @ Fiesta Friday #140 and the two co-hosts; Julie @ Hostess at Heart and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters.

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Roasted Cauliflower Stir-Fry

Cauliflower is a favorite vegetable and when I read “roasted” and “stir-fry” I knew this would be a great recipe.

Roasted Cauliflower Stir-Fry, Adapted

  • 1 cup thinly sliced pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
  • 4 tsp. Shaoxing wine (this is the best or any rice wine would be fine) or dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil (roasted would add some additional flavor – you can buy this)
  • 2-1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. potato starch or 2 tsp. cornstarch

Combine the above ingredients and marinate for a couple of hours.

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (see Comment below)
  • olive oil for drizzling on the cauliflower and peanut oil for stir-frying
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 dried red chilies (Tien Tsin or chile de arbol)
  • 6 slices of fresh ginger (or chopped)
  • 4 scallions, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. Shaoxing wine (or any rice wine) or dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. dark soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the cauliflower in a single layer; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

Heat 2 tbsp. of peanut oil over medium heat. Once again I am not using the traditional wok but I DO LOVE my electric Breville!  Add the chilies and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes. If you choose to chop the fresh garlic add it as well now. I minced the garlic and added it along with the pork. Turn the heat to high and add the pork strips, cook for a few minutes.

Stir in the cauliflower and cook for a minute.  I like to remove the ginger slices (you could always chop the ginger instead) as they are hard to see once they are coated in sauce and I don’t like biting into a big piece of ginger! Add the scallions, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine and the soy sauce; stir-fry to coat the mixture. Place the lid on the wok and bring everything to a simmer. Give another stir and serve over rice.  I leave the hot peppers as they are pretty obvious and they add some nice color.

This is so good I had to force myself to quit eating it. Just delicious…

Comment: America’s Test Kitchen recently commented on the different flavors of cauliflower.  If you only cook it for 15 minutes the cabbagelike taste and sulfurous odor of a compound known as carbon disulfide are dominant. If you cook it for 30 minutes the carbon disulfide dissipates, allowing the sweeter, nuttier flavors of other substances known as thioureas to come through. After an hour, nearly all of the flavor has dissipated, leaving the cauliflower bland and flavorless.

Something to keep in mind when you are cooking cauliflower… In the recipe above the cauliflower was not cooked any longer than 30 minutes, probably close to 25,  and was very tasty!

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

I have adapted this from:

I am sharing this recipe with Angie, Antonia and Sandhya over at Fiesta Friday #139.

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Can you see the steam flowing out of the cauliflower dish in two of the pictures below. I did not waste any time serving it or eating it for that matter. Quick photos as I was starving!!!

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Pumpkin Muffins with a Cream Cheese Filling and Crumb Topping

This is the September Bakealong recipe from King Arthur Flour which I have adapted. I decided not to join this bakealong but make the recipe anyways as it sounded so good and it is perfect for the Fall and holidays.  Go to their site for the original recipe as I am having trouble linking the specific recipe! The only thing I changed was the topping…

Pumpkin Muffins with a Cream Cheese Filling and Crumb Topping

Crumb topping (cut this recipe in half for 12 muffins):

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 7 tbsp. butter, melted (next time I will add cold butter cut into small pieces and blend the mixture together with my fingers like I usually do)

Combine the first five ingredients and then add cold butter cut into small pieces. I kind of wanted to see the difference, melted versus cold butter – see my Banana Blueberry Muffins as an example.

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (can use low-fat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla or a few drops of Fiori di Sicilia flavoring (see Comment below)

Combine the above ingredients and set aside. I had a little leftover but I am sure you will find something to do with it.


  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup boiled cider (can use dark corn syrup or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice; or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves and 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (could use white whole wheat flour)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a regular 12-cup muffin pan with greased muffin papers.

Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, oil, boiled cider, salt, spices, baking powder, baking soda and milk. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

Drop a scant 2 tbsp. of the batter (a heaping tbsp. cookie scoop works perfectly) into each muffin paper, spreading it to cover the bottom. I scooped a scant 2  tbsp. of the batter and placed it in the cookies scoop as it was a lot easier to place in the muffin wrappers. Add a heaping tbsp. of filling in the middle of each muffin (I did this with a small cookie scoop) then cover with another 2 tbsp. of batter. First I only placed a tbsp. on top of the filling and then went back and distributed the rest of the batter spreading it to cover.

Sprinkle each muffin top with some of the crumb topping and press down lightly so it will stick to the muffins.

Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, with a cake tester inserted towards the edge (not into the filling) comes out crumb-free. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then remove from the pan and cool on the rack.

A couple of other possibilities: use a maple glaze and/or a cider-cinnamon filling. Both of these recipes are delicious.

You can eat these muffins within 2-3 hours of baking; refrigerate up to 3 days and you can freeze them, well-wrapped, up to 3 weeks. Rewarm in an oven or heat briefly on low in a microwave.

Comment: Fiorio di Sicilia is a combination of citrus and vanilla with a pleasingly floral aroma. King Arthur Flour describes it as combining vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet in the same bowl!

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

I’ m sharing these seasonal muffins with Angie @ Fiesta Friday #139 and her two co-hosts this week, Antonia @ zoale and Sandhya @ indfused

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Fresh Berries with Lavender Cream

This is a special dessert which I made “way back when” I first became interested in using flowers in cooking. I also was not concerned about calories as you can tell by the ingredients. This is a delicious custard cream topped with some fresh berries – simple but oh so good. This was the beginning of my love affair with lavender…

Okay – another cookbook I really like and where this recipe comes from is “Flowers in the Kitchen: A Bouquet of Tasty Recipes” by Susan Belsinger published in 1991. She was kind of a pioneer in using flowers in  recipes and for almost 25 years I still refer to this cookbook.

Fresh Berries with Lavender Cream

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. honey – I used orange blossom
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 lavender spikes 2-1/2  to 3-inches long right before the buds are about to open, or 1/2 to 1 tbsp. dried flower buds (do not be tempted to add more)
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped stiffly
  • 2 pints or more of fresh berries, your choice

Combine the cream, milk, honey, sugar, salt and lavender flower spikes. Be careful not to add more flowers as a little goes a long way. Cook over simmering water for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Beat the yolks in a small bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the lavender cream mixture into the yolks and whisk until combined. Return the cream and yolk mixture to the double boiler and mix. Cook over simmering water until the mixture thickens, for about 10 minutes or so. Remove from the heat, strain and discard the lavender spikes.

Cover the custard cream with a piece of waxed paper covering the bowl until it is room temperature; then chill. The cream will thicken more as it cools.

Fifteen minutes before you are planning to serve, remove the lavender cream from the refrigerator; fold in the whipped cream. Spoon the cream on each plate and arrange the berries on top. Serve immediately.

Recipe by cooking with Aunt Juju

In a recent post on lavender I mentioned I cut my Hidcote plants back after the first bloom and was hoping for a re-bloom in September.


Well, it is just starting to happen; not as vigorous as in the spring, but you can see the new growth and the new flowers which I used in this recipe – a lot more will be coming. September has been unseasonably warm here in Michigan🙂

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I took this picture of my lavender October 11, 2016.


I am sharing this simple dessert using fresh lavender with Angie @ Fiesta Friday #138 and her two co-hosts Mollie @ frugalhausfrau and Johanne @ frenchgardenerdishes.



Capellini with Burrata, Prosciutto, Tomatoes and Basil

While looking through my reader I came across this pasta recipe from Johanne The Burrata cheese caught my attention and I had to explore further.

This cheese resembles a fresh  Mozzarella ball, but when you cut into you will discover a very rich filling of soft Mozzarella pieces soaked in heavy cream. You heard right – heavy cream! The cheese has a shell with the same consistency of regular Mozarella but the filling is almost like cottage cheese, but much creamier and way more delicious🙂

If you want to see how “trendy” restaurants are serving it check out this link for 24 different ways to use burrata.

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I changed a few things in this recipe; as Johanne mentioned you can make this to taste using fresh veggies and herbs from your garden or the market. I have two other similar pasta dishes using the bounty of the summer: Ina’s Capellini with Tomatoes and Basil and a Weight Watcher’s version, Capellini with Fresh Tomato Sauce.

This recipe is off the chart and is so good with the saltiness of the prosciutto, the creaminess of the Burrata and the freshness of the tomatoes and basil. Bon Appetit!

Capellini with Burrata, Prosciutto, Tomatoes and Basil

  • 8 oz. capellini
  • tbsp. or two of extra virgin olive oil
  • ground or whole hot pepper flakes (to taste)
  • prosciutto (could use bacon, any kind of salami or pancetta)
  • one or two large tomatoes; peeled, seeded and chopped or use cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • clove or two of garlic, minced and added to the chopped, fresh tomatoes
  • diced red onion (to taste)
  • if I had a zucchini I would have added that
  • one whole ball of burrata cheese, torn or chopped into pieces (open in the sink as it is packaged in water and it kind of spills out when you open it); the second time I made it a sauce versus chunks of cheese and I liked it that way better – just cut up the cheese and filling into very small pieces
  • basil, minced (to taste) or any herbs of your choice
  • sprinkle or two of Parmesan cheese

Prepare the onions, tomatoes and garlic, burrata cheese and brown the prosciutto; set aside. Cook the pasta – capellini only takes 2-4 minutes to cook. Drain and and place in a bowl.

Toss the pasta with the oil and add some hot pepper to taste. Immediately add the cheese to the hot pasta, then the onions, tomatoes and prosciutto. Top with minced fresh basil and Parmesan cheese if desired and serve.

Comment: I made this recipe twice and the second time I chopped up the outer shell, along with the filling, into small pieces. I placed it all back in the container, covered it and let it sit at room temperature for awhile. It coated the hot pasta really nicely with a few chunks of cheese here and there – I like this way better.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

I am linking this to Fiesta Friday #137 where Angie and her two co-hosts, Loretta @ safariofthemind and Natalie @ kitchenuncorked have started the party.


I actually made this recipe twice I liked it so much. This time I made the cheese more of a sauce versus just chunks of cheese and added fresh Parmesan.  The garlic was a nice addition too…