Sweet Flavors of Fall

I can hardly pass through the grocery store without picking up a bag of Kraft caramels (the one with the sticks in the bag). Then, I choose some Granny Smith apples and I really believe I will make candy apples. Before you know it, we’ve gobbled up the caramels, the apples go into school lunches, and the sticks gather dust in the drawer.

But not this year…caramel and apple unite! Here is my rendition of a thumbprint cookie using caramels and apples. No sticks needed.

Candied Apple Cookies

My recipe was originally published in Celebrate Home Magazine, Fall 2012.  

  • 1-1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 eggs whites plus 1 whole egg, combined and slightly beaten
  • 2 cups finely-chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 sugar plus 2 tablespoons cinnamon combined (for the walnuts)
  • 35 soft caramel candies, unwrapped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cinnamon (for apples)

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add flour, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract. Combine thoroughly. Cover and chill dough for about an hour.

Mix walnuts with cinnamon-sugar mix and set aside.

Chop apples and mix with cinnamon-sugar mix and set aside.

Shape chilled dough into two-inch balls with a cookie ball scoop. Roll in beaten egg whites/egg mixture and then roll in chopped walnuts. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Press your thumb in the center of cookie. Bake in 350⁰ oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and place a caramel square in the middle of each cookie. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar chunks on top of cookie.

Bake another 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on cookie sheet.

Yield: 35 cookies

Photo by Cindy Dyer


This One’s for You Mary D.

Mary mentioned last week that she hasn’t seen a blog posting this month. “I keep all your blogs in a folder and I haven’t received any lately,” she said.

I’ve blogged regularly one to two times a month, sometimes more, since 2011. There has been a temporary lapse only because our son started high school, the Washington Nationals entered the Major League Baseball National League Division Series, celebrations of life’s events took place, and, like all of us, life got busy.

But hospitality goes on whether it’s chronicled in the pages of this blog or not. When people rely on you for whatever reason, you have to deliver. In this case, it’s just a blog with lessons of hospitality, recipes, and tales of good people. But, I’ve given my word that I would keep the hospitality tales coming. It’s simple — if your word isn’t any good, then what is left?

Here is a photo of the last lopes of the season. Add some yogurt and fresh fruit and you have a light breakfast. Thank you, Mary, for missing the blogs.

I Plumb Forgot

I plumb forgot about that gizmo in the kitchen drawer when I went to make a plum cake. I was wrestling with some plums and they were winning until Bill reminded me about the fruit corer in the drawer. Doubtful, I tried it and, yes, it perfectly pulled the pit out of the plum!  I settled the score with the plums. Now, on to the real reason for this blog posting.

Plum Küchen

Plums are a plenty, so make a good ‘ole Bavarian-style plum cake. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan for this.


  • 8 plums, cored and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar (for the plums)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (for the crust)
  • 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder


Halve and pit the plums. Mix the plums with 3/4 cup of sugar and the tapioca. Let stand for about 15 minutes. (This helps absorb the juices.)

For the crust, cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together until fluffy.

In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. It will be crumbly. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of a springform pan and one inch up the sides.

Arrange the plums, cut side down, in the shell. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of the crumbly mixture.

Bake in 400⁰ oven for 45 minutes. Cool in pan then remove the sides. Serve with whipped cream.

Note: You can substitute Italian plums which are smaller so you will need about 16 plums.

What is the origin of the phrase “I plumb forgot?” It’s always fun to find out about where these sayings come from. 


You’re Still Hot!

Here’s a fun centerpiece idea for any birthday age 40 and beyond. Make several if you have multiple tables. The centerpiece(s) are also take-home gifts. They make clever outdoor table decorations especially if you’re having a BBQ.

You Will Need

  • Ornamental chili pepper plant (note, peppers are not edible)
  • Spanish moss (craft store)
  • Floral foam
  • Various hot sauces, BBQ sauces, spicy meat rubs
  • Wooden crate (Michaels), basket, or something to hold everything
  • Signage (I used a mini chalkboard pick from Michaels, but you can make a sign from paper)

Click here to watch my e-How video on how to pull this off. (With a few additional ideas.)

Need a gift for a 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th and Beyond Birthday?
Men really like this one!

Gather hot and BBQ sauces, meat and fish rubs, grill implements, instant-read thermometer, apron. Put everything in a brown paper gift bag with handles (Michaels) stuffed with red and black tissue paper. Write all over the bag in red and black markers with words such as:

  • Happy Birthday Joe…You’re Still Hot at 60! Love, the Kelley Family
  • Sizzle!
  • Burn baby burn!
  • Ouch!
  • Get the fire extinguisher!
  • Third-degree burning going on!
  • Call 9-1-1!
  • Put on the A/C!

It’s all about fun and we’re having tons with this birthday centerpiece and gift idea.

The Big Round Birthday Simple Centerpiece

The Big Round Birthdays are the ones that end in zero. Or, as the German’s call it, “Runde Geburstage.”

Watch my e-How video and see how you can make a simple edible centerpiece with cupcakes for those Big Round Birthdays.

Start with your favorite cupcake recipe, some colorful items like frosting, table cloths, candles, ribbons, balloons, and before you know it, you have created something to remember, and, good enough to eat!

The Wedding Breakfast


It was 7 a.m. on September 13, 1945, at the end of World War II, exactly 11 days after the surrender of Japan. The pre-dawn marriage took place at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania, between Johnny Garneau, a sergeant and chaplain’s assistant in the Army Air Corps. and Lois Space, a local girl who was a shoe buyer for Wein’s department store on Main Street. Johnny came from Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he learned to fly at Sikorsky Field. He met Lois while he was stationed in the small western Pennsylvania college town where he trained cadets.

Why a Wedding at 7 a.m.?

We can only guess why. Maybe there was a long line of soldiers wanting to marry their war-time sweethearts and you had to do it when the priest was available. Or maybe it was because back then you had to fast from midnight until you broke your fast with Holy Communion. A later wedding time would have meant a long time to wait to eat.

Dad and Mom started their marriage early that day in 1945 and it lasted for 55 years until Mom died. What they talked about most from that morning was the wedding breakfast prepared by my dad’s new mother-in-law. Gran prepared his favorite dish – Pepper Sandwiches. It’s always memories of food that mark the times of our lives.

We grew up eating Pepper Sandwiches and dad always reminded us that this was their wedding breakfast. The ratatouille-like concoction is a summer dish served on Italian bread open-face style. My version has deviated only a little from the original recipe. But, whenever I make Pepper Sandwiches, they taste the same and the 1945 wedding breakfast topic comes up.

Pepper Sandwiches Recipe

The fresh ingredients above are used for Pepper Sandwiches which are served on crusty, soft Italian bread. Eat as a summer, meatless entrée or serve with something from the grill.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil or other preferred oil
  • 8-10 peppers, any sweet variety, bell, Cubanelle, red, cleaned, cored and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin rings
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces) Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (or any kind, even fresh)
  • 1 12-ounce jar Heinz Chili Sauce (the secret ingredient)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

An electric skillet works well but a large sauté pan will also do. Put the oil in the pan, then add the cleaned peppers, onions, tomatoes, including juice. Cook until tender. Stir in the jar of Chili Sauce. Simmer until ready to eat.

The secret ingredient from a Pittsburgh company.

The secret ingredient from a Pittsburgh company.


Local Color

The girls from Penn Farm in Westmoreland County, Virginia, always deliver. Not only do they have the freshest produce, they have smiles and recipes to share with some tidbits of information about what they are selling. They are my go-to stand at two of my favorite farmer’s markets, one in Great Falls and one in Reston, Virginia. Be sure to Like them on Facebook.

Buying local means fresh and friendly. What do my hospitable friends at Penn Farm have to offer?

Scroll down to enjoy the colors from today’s market!

Purple peppers are to be eaten fresh in salads.

Purple peppers are to be eaten fresh in salads.

Jessie and Sam from Penn Farm

Jessie and Sam from Penn Farm

Kelley Hospitality herself checks out the plums for plum tarts.

Kelley Hospitality herself checks out the plums for plum tarts.

Sisters, Sam and Tessa, from Penn Farms, know it all!

Sisters, Sam and Tessa, from Penn Farm, know it all!

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)