Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin swirl brownies

I hope you have a fun-filled Halloween! When it comes to trick-or-treat, I'll always go with treat. If you're looking for a sweet treat to make, try these pumpkin swirl brownies from My Baking Addiction. I made them the other night, and they are so decadent and fudgy and packed with pumpkin flavor. Oh, and they're really easy too.

Simply mix up the pumpkin filling and then the brownie batter.

Spread three-fourths of the brownie batter in an 8-inch square pan lined with foil and sprayed with baking spray (I made a foil sling for mine to facilitate lifting the brownies out of the pan later).

Dollop the pumpkin filling over the brownie batter.

Spoon the remaining brownie batter on top.

Use a butter knife to swirl the two components together. Make sure to swirl in different directions.

Then bake. (I set the timer for 28 minutes, which ended up being just right. The recipe calls for 30 to 35 minutes.) Transfer the brownies to a rack to cool. (I left them in the pan for about 10 minutes and then lifted them out using the foil sling and let them cool completely.)

Spread ganache (heavy cream plus chocolate chips) over the baked brownies once they are cool. Cut them with a sharp knife, and wipe the knife off between cuts (if you don't want smeared ganache everywhere).

Dig in!

Pumpkin swirl brownies

I followed this recipe exactly, except that I used King Arthur All-Purpose Flour, and I simply threw 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg into the pumpkin filling instead of making homemade pumpkin pie spice (mostly because I didn't have any allspice or cloves). The brownies were nicely spiced.

If you're looking for other fun Halloween-themed treats to make, be sure to check out my Halloween board on Pinterest.

Happy Halloween!


Honeymoon -- Day 2 -- Venice (Evening)

After lunch we did a little more wandering around and then headed back to the hotel to rest for a bit. We broke into our bottle of complimentary Prosecco and enjoyed some bubbles before setting out again. We had the good fortune of being in Italy at the same time as our friends Bret and Michelle, who had just gotten married the weekend before us. We hadn't consulted on our trips at all, but when we compared itineraries, we learned that we would all be in Venice on the same day. That was definitely reason enough to have dinner together.

I suggested we meet at Harry's Bar first to have overpriced Bellinis (and I do mean really overpriced -- at 16.50 each).

Supposedly Harry's Bar is where the Bellini was invented back in the 1930s, and I felt it only right that we try the original while we were in town.

It was a good Bellini, not too sweet or thick and nicely bubbly, but you need to splurge on only one, just as a rite of passage.

After we finished our Bellinis, we still had about an hour before our dinner reservation, so we strolled around Venice and found somewhere to have some wine (not hard to do). We sat at an outdoor table at a restaurant near Teatro al Fenice and got half bottles of red and white. We chatted more and caught up on what we'd done so far. It was only day 2 for me and Jeff, but Bret and Michelle had already been to a lot of places coming up on our itinerary, so it was great to hear what they thought of them.

When we finished our wine, we wound our way through the narrow streets of Venice to Osteria Enoteca San Marco (which had been recommend to us by one of Jeff's friends).

We started by sharing some bread, thinly sliced prosciutto with melon, an array of cheeses, and assorted preserves.

Three of us shared a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (I loved the bottle), and Jeff got a half bottle of white wine (Trebbiano, I think).

For our main courses, most of us went with pasta -- Bret had tagliatelle with mushrooms; Jeff had bigoi with white meat ragu; and I had ravioli with buffalo ricotta, smoked cheese, and cherry tomatoes. Michelle went with squid stuffed with pumpkin.

Jeff's pasta was really good. To me it almost had sausage-like flavors. The white meat in the ragu was chicken and turkey.

My ravioli was awesome. The sauce tasted so fresh and the smoked cheese really elevated the dish, giving it bacony flavor.

We went from possibly ordering one dessert for the table to share to each ordering a dessert so we could share all four. For some unknown reason, I was blamed for this! (Must be my track record.)

My pick was the ginger iced mousse (or semifreddo allo zenzero in Italian). Semifreddo made more sense to me than iced mousse, as the dessert ended up being slices of soft ice cream studded with crystallized ginger and chocolate chunks. I was very happy with this choice.

We also tried the chocolate cake with gelato...

...the chocolate gelato with a hazelnut brownie and raspberry sauce...

...and the Bavarian cream with wild berries. This last one we thought would be a white cream surrounded by berries, but the berries were actually incorporated in the cream, making it a lovely reddish-pink color.

The desserts were interesting and well-executed, and I was glad we tried them all.

After dinner we walked Michelle and Bret in the direction of the vaporetto (a water bus that runs along the Grand Canal) and then went back to our hotel to get a good night's sleep before our drive to Bologna the next morning.

Next up: Day 3 -- Bologna (Morning/Afternoon)


Honeymoon -- Day 2 -- Venice (Afternoon)

Next we went to St. Mark's Square and took the elevator to the top of the Campanile bell tower, where we could look out on everything -- the whole square, the Doge's Palace, the basilica...

We went into St. Mark's Basilica and admired all the detail within (but unfortunately couldn't take any pictures.) Then we went to the Doge's Palace. This was the seat of the Venetian government and home of the duke. The most interesting parts to us were the prisons and the Bridge of Sighs, named such because it's where prisoners got their last view of Venice, and supposedly they would let out a sigh. We couldn't take pictures inside here either, but we took a couple of the courtyard.

We left the square and set off in search of lunch. Timing is tough in Italy for lunch. A lot of places close early afternoon and don't open again until the evening, but we stumbled upon Trattoria Ai Fabbri. The door was propped open and we saw some other people having lunch inside.

We were in the mood for pasta. Jeff got the gnocchi Bolognese. It was a tiny bit gummy but good otherwise. I really enjoyed the sauce. It was especially tasty with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top.

I had tortellini with prosciutto in a cream sauce. It was very rich but incredibly delicious too. Our waitress was friendly and attentive, and overall it was a good find.


Honeymoon -- Day 2 -- Venice (Morning)

On October 10th, we awoke early, enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at our hotel (croissants and espresso for me and pancetta, cereal, cappuccino, and blood orange juice for Jeff), and headed out to start our day at the Accademia.

On the way we walked through a market. This was the first of many moments during our trip when I wished I had a kitchen so I could buy stuff at the market and bring it back to cook it.

I tore myself away from the fresh fish, meats, and produce, and we continued on toward the museum.

The Accademia features Venetian Renaissance art. Many of the paintings use gold leaf and have a Madonna and child subject matter. (It brought me back to my high school art history class, remembering my teacher clicking through slide after slide.) A few paintings show some of the sights in Venice, and it was interesting to see these after having seen them in real life the day before. (Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures inside the gallery.)

After the Accademia we switched gears a little and went to see some more modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Paintings by Picasso and Pollock, among others, are housed in Peggy's former palazzo, and sculptures can be found in and around the museum. Photography (without flash) is allowed, and the museum has a lighter, more fun feel to it.

After perusing the collection, we stopped at the museum cafe for a pick-me-up.

Jeff had a cappuccino, and I ordered a cafe latte because I liked the glass it came in.

Then we shared a chocolate croissant filled with Nutella. This croissant was more bread-like, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Next up: Day 2 -- Venice (Afternoon)