The temps are starting to drop, which means it’s time to fire up the oven! Apples and pumpkins are plentiful and make for delicious baked goods and treats. If you have a Halloween party coming up, read on to find some fun treats you and your kids can make together.
Silly Apple Monsters
These fun little snacks are super easy to make and are healthy enough to have any time. Littles can help assemble and use their own imaginations to make them as silly as they want.
Nut butter (any kind you like)
Googly eyes (see below for a homemade version)
- Cut the apples into quarters and cut a slice out for the mouth
- Slice the strawberries
- Stick the sunflower seeds into the mouth for teeth
- Use nut butter to “glue” the strawberry tongue and googly eyes on to your monster
I used a basic royal icing to make the homemade googly eyes. For the pupils, I tried a black gel icing, various sized chocolate chips, and a dab of black food coloring. The chocolate chips were the easiest, though the eyes had to be pretty good-sized to fit even mini-chips. The gel icing was the worst as it didn’t set and caused the eyes to stick to each other when I picked them up to store. The food coloring bled a bit, so stick with a small amount on the end of a toothpick.
3 egg whites
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
- Whip the egg whites and vanilla together until frothy
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar until combined, then whip until the icing forms stiff peaks. This takes at least 5 minutes.
Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Silicone baking sheets don’t work well as the icing doesn’t set up and dry out. Transfer the icing into a frosting bag. If you don’t have a frosting bag, you can use a ziplock bag and snip the corner off. If using a frosting bag, you can either snip the end off or use a round tip of the desired size. Squeeze out the icing to create the eye. Depending on your kids, they can either help squeeze the icing or place the pupil. Perfection is not the idea here, these are supposed to be silly eyes! Allow your eyes to dry for 12-24 hours.
Caramel Apple Bars
Growing up, my favorite fall treat was a caramel apple. There was just something about the tart apple covered in delicious caramel goodness! I also really like cookies. So, one night (probably while up nursing a baby), I decided to create caramel apple cookies. The recipe was super yummy, but I didn’t feel like going through all the work of scooping out cookies, so I changed it into a bar recipe. That is when the real magic happened! This recipe is one of my husband’s favorite and I have kept it a secret until now.
First things first, have the kids help gather all the ingredients you will need. This helps avoid the confusion that generally happens when there are little chefs manning the kitchen. As an ingredient is added, be sure to put it away. This keeps you from missing anything and from adding anything twice.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups oats
1 bag (1 oz) freeze-dried apples, coarsely chopped
8-10 caramels (unwrapped)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 8”x8” or 1 9”x13” pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
- Cream butter and sugars together. Add apple sauce, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well.
- Fold in oats and freeze-dried apples.
- Spread dough evenly in prepared pans.
- Bake 25-30 minutes (don’t over bake, gooey is good!)
- Melt the caramels in the microwave (20-30s then remove to stir, repeat as needed).
- Drizzle caramel over the bars.
- Allow it to cool completely before trying to cut into them.
Now here’s where you can learn from my mistakes:
Don’t skip the foil and cooking spray. I had to eat one batch out of a pan with a spoon because it wouldn’t come out. Good for me, bad for anyone else who wanted a bar.
Seriously, let the bars cool. If you try to jump the gun, you will end up with a gooey pile of delicious that can’t be eaten gracefully. But, the pile does go rather nicely over a bowl of ice cream if you can’t be patient.
You can totally play around with this recipe! I’ve done it with peanut butter chips, I’ve sprinkled the caramel drizzle with sea salt, I’ve made it using brown butter. All variations were great. That being said, the first time I made these, I tried using caramel bits in the recipe. This was yummy but also had the potential of either chipping a tooth or pulling out a filling. The baked bits either turned very hard or very sticky depending on where in the bar they were located. Save a dentist visit and drizzle the caramel!
Finally, I’d like to share a couple of notes about baking with kids. My husband and I have made it a point to involve our girls in the kitchen from a very young age. It’s something we do as a family and the girls have become interested simply because they like what we like. We end up talking our way through the recipe like we are stars of some food show. I think this has made us better in the kitchen because we get to explain the why behind each step.
No matter the age, there is something kids can do. As babies and toddlers, baking time was sensory play. Flour and oats make for a great texture to sink little hands into. There are lots of opportunities to learn math, from simple counting to fractions. Don’t feel like you need to measure out 3 cups using 3 1 cup measurements! Baking has all sorts of chemistry lessons just waiting to be learned. Both cooking and baking allow for a great deal of creativity and exploration of flavors. Baking is also a great exercise in following directions. You don’t have to create too many not tasty cookies before you are reading each and every word and step carefully!