Thursday, December 24, 2009


Happy National Eggnog Day, everyone! Oh yeah, and Happy Christmas Eve too. :-)

Eggnog is one of my favorite beverages ever. So rich and creamy, and perfect for holiday sipping. I wanted to buy some the other day when I went shopping, but was appalled to see that a gallon of eggnog cost over $7! However, whole milk was on sale for $1.66/gallon. So I picked up some milk and eggs and determined to make my own eggnog. I found this recipe on It was simple to make, and turned out so delicious! I won't go so far as to say I'll never buy eggnog again, but I definitely will make this recipe again.

6 eggs
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 quart milk
1/3 pint heavy whipping cream (I cheated and used whipped topping)
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt

Beat eggs; mix in condensed milk, vanilla, quart of milk and salt.

Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold in to egg and milk mixture and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

We had my brother and his girlfriend, and my husband's sister and her family over for dinner on Sunday, a nice big turkey dinner with stuffing and rolls and sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. For a big dinner like that, you need a super yummy dessert to finish off the meal. This brownie bottom cheesecake is what I made, and it was so good! The brownie layer was chewy and moist, and the cheesecake layer was deliciously creamy. It was a big hit.

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake
4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I used 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 1/4 cups sugar, divided (reduced to 1 3/4 cups because of the chocolate chips)
5 eggs, divided
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add 1-1/2 cups of the sugar (here I used only 1 cup); mix well.

Add 2 of the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Add milk and 1 tsp. of the vanilla; mix well. Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture, mixing after each addition just until blended. Spread evenly into greased and floured 9-inch springform pan. Bake 25 min.

Beat cream cheese, remaining 3/4 cup sugar and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour over brownie layer in pan (Filling will come almost to top of pan.)

Bake 55 min. to 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature 30 min. before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chewy Coconut Cinnamon Bars

I've had this recipe printed out and sitting on the kitchen counter for almost two weeks now, and I finally got around to making these bars today. They turned out so yummy - chewy and sweet and cinnamon-y! The original recipe called for pecans, but I substituted coconut instead (it's cheaper and we already had it in the pantry). I also added some cinnamon baking chips, which bumped these bars from delicious to fantastically delicious!

Chewy Coconut Cinnamon Bars
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup cinnamon baking chips
Powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg; beat until light and fluffy. Combine flour, cinnamon and salt; add to creamed mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in coconut and cinnamon chips. Spread into a greased 8-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cut into small bars while warm (I cut 16 bars); roll in powdered sugar.

Zaylee waited very patiently for a chance to taste these super yummy bars while I was taking pictures.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Molasses Sugar Cookies

These took a long time to make. With Audrey needing frequent attention and the other kids "helping" in various ways, this little holiday project spanned two days. But I really wanted the experience of making cookies with the kids and getting into the holiday spirit, and they turned out delicious, so I didn't mind all the little delays and mishaps (like when Thomas dumped all the dipping sugar into the cookie dough). :-)

Molasses Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups shortening (I substituted part margarine, since I ran out of shortening)
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Melt the shortening in a large pan on the stove, and cool. Add sugar, eggs, and molasses, beat well.

In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together and add to the pan. Mix well and chill 3 hours or overnight (at this point life with three kids attacked full force, and the dough had to wait overnight and much of the next day before moving on to the next step).

Form into walnut-size balls. Roll in granulated sugar (or, in Thomas' case, eat the balls of dough before they get a chance to be rolled in sugar). Place on greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Store in an airtight container to keep from getting overly crisp. If they do lose their softness, an easy way to restore it is to place one slice of fresh bread in the container with the cookies for a couple of hours or overnight and they will be soft again!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Bun's Out of the Oven :-)

Audrey joined our family on Saturday, Nov. 28. She and I are both home and doing well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Just wanted to let everyone know that I am on a brief hiatus while we finish moving into our new house. The next little while is going to be quite busy - moving, Thanksgiving, having a baby - so I'll post when (if) I can, and once things settle down I'll get back to posting more regularly.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spicy Italian Soup

I based this off of a recipe for Zuppa Toscana from The Olive Garden. But, being me, I changed and substituted so much stuff that I can't really call it that anymore. So Spicy Italian Soup it is. I made this for a church dinner we had last Saturday, and everyone who tried it raved about it. I was getting recipe requests and compliments all over the place. That always makes me feel warm and fuzzy. :-)

So here's the soup as I made it. Don't be put off by the number of ingredients - they're all cheap.

Spicy Italian Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 large diced red onion (you could use any color onion here)
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. bacon grease (or oil)
10 cups water
5 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tsp. ground sage
1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (reduce or eliminate if you don't like spicy)
1-2 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. sliced potatoes
1 cup milk
3/4 cup powdered milk
1 tbsp. margarine
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Brown ground beef in large pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.

In the same pan, saute onions and garlic in bacon grease for approximately 15 minutes, or until the onions are soft.

Mix together the water and chicken bouillon, then add it to the onions and garlic. Add sage, red pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook until boiling.

Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.

Combine the milk and powdered milk. Add to soup along with margarine. Cook until thoroughly heated.

Stir in the ground beef and spinach. Heat through.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Caramelized Apples on French Toast

We got a loaf of French bread on clearance yesterday, and Jeff wanted to use it to make French toast this morning. I'm not going to give a recipe for the French toast, we just do it very basic and everyone has a recipe for basic French toast - milk, egg, some cinnamon, dip the bread, cook the bread, yada yada.

But I am going to post the recipe for the delicious Caramelized Apples we used to top the toast. I found this recipe on Real Mom Kitchen, and it was wonderful! The perfect topping for French toast, pancakes, waffles, or ice cream and other desserts.

Caramelized Apples
3 Tbs unsalted butter (I used margarine)
5 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I just use vanilla flavoring)

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add apples, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir apples into sugary, buttery mixture until coated. Let apples cook and caramelize, about 15 minutes, stirring every so often (reduce heat as needed). Remove skillet from heat and stir in vanilla. Can be served warm, room temperature, or cold as desired.

Easy and delicious!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fantastic Fall Casseroles

I've made a couple delicious casseroles in the past few days. I thought I'd make up for not posting in a while (has it really been a week and a half?) by putting them together into one post.

First up is Harvest Hamburger Casserole. I've made this one several times - we love the combination of flavors. It's a tiny bit similar to Shepherd's Pie, with a beef and tomato layer and a potato layer, but different enough that it's a completely different and unique dish. It's hearty and flavorful, and one of my favorites.

Casseroles are funny things - by that I mean funny looking! No matter what angle I try to shoot at, it just ends up looking like a big blob on a plate. But it's definitely a very tasty blob!

Harvest Hamburger Casserole
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sliced potatoes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 package (10 oz) frozen corn, thawed
1 package (10 oz) frozen lima beans, thawed (I usually skip this)
1 green pepper, cut into strips (this time I used a combination of green and red)
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine beef, onion, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and salt. Spoon into a greased 3-qt casserole. Layer the potatoes, flour, corn, lima beans, and green pepper on top. Bake, covered, at 375 for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and continue baking, uncovered, for 30 minutes longer.

Next up is Apple/Sausage/Sweet Potato Casserole. I just made this for the first time today, and it was incredible! I knew as soon as I read the recipe in one of my many little recipe books that I wanted to make it as soon as I could. A layer of sausage, topped with sweet potato and brown sugar, and finished off with apple slices - the delicious definition of a fall casserole!

Apple/Sausage/Sweet Potato Casserole
1 lb. seasoned lean bulk pork sausage
1/4 cup water
1 can (23 oz) sweet potatoes, drained and thickly sliced (I used the equivalent in boiled fresh sweet potato)
1/4 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 medium apples (red cooking variety), cored (I used one huge apple)

Form sausage into patties; brown in a skillet and drain. Place patties in bottom of an ungreased 2-qt casserole. Add water. Layer thick slices of sweet potatoes over sausage. Sprinkle with sugar; dot with half the butter. Cut unpeeled apples into 1/2-inch slices; layer over all. Dot with remaining butter. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer.

Oooohhhh, this one turned out so delicious! This flavor combination is so awesome. Between Jeff and the kids and I, we didn't have any leftovers. Thomas particularly enjoyed the apple slices; Zaylee adored the sweet potato. Jeff and I, we just loved the whole thing!

***By the way, today is National Chocolate Day. Go eat some chocolate and celebrate this inspired holiday!!!!***

Monday, October 19, 2009

Salmon Chowder and Irish Soda Bread

In addition to all the delicious apple and pumpkin goodies that are floating around this time of year, fall is also a wonderful time to make comforting soups and hearty breads. Together these make a delicious and filling meal that warms you right up.

The salmon chowder is adapted from a tuna chowder recipe in an old cookbook I have. The soda bread is from my sister's blog, Fabulous Food! Both turned out delicious, perfect comfort food for a crisp autumn evening. As an added bonus, both were also fairly quick and easy.

Salmon Chowder
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
3 cups diced raw potatoes
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
1 (14.75 oz) can salmon, drained, bones and skin removed, broken into chunks

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in butter until tender, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, water, salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes.

Combine flour and milk. Stir into potato mixture. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add salmon. Heat through and serve.

Irish Soda Bread
3 cups wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice

Sift the white flour and baking soda together. Add the wheat flour, salt, and brown sugar and mix well. Make a well in the center and add about 2/3 of the buttermilk. Quickly and gently mix the flour in with the milk, use your hands rather than a wooden spoon. If too dry, add some more of the milk. Shouldn't be too firm, keep it a little sticky. Kneading is not necessary, just dust your hands with enough flour so you can shape it without it sticking to your fingers.

Shape into a round loaf and place on a baking tray. Cut two deep slashes across the top, either side by side like a loaf of french bread, or criss cross. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce to 400 and bake another 15. Take out, turn over and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is done. If it doesn't, pop it back in for another 5 - 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin Butter

Another deliciously spiced autumn fruit spread. I've made pumpkin butter once before, but this time I used an actual recipe. It turned out so delicious, just as wonderful as the apple butter I made recently. I made pumpkin pancakes this morning specifically to serve with the pumpkin butter. I won't post the pancake recipe - they were dense and heavy, and not as good as I had hoped. Edible, just not post-worthy. Anyway, the pumpkin butter was the star of the meal, and it shone brightly.

Pumpkin Butter
1 (29 oz) can pumpkin puree (3 1/2 cups if you're using fresh puree)
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.

Pack into small, freezer-safe containers leaving 3/4 inch space at the top. Store in the freezer. Makes 2 1/2 pints.

This would be good over regular pancakes, biscuits, bagels, toast, whatever! And it's also good over the pancakes when you add some maple syrup, yum...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chocolate Butterfinger Bars, and fun ways to use a cake mix

Part of Jeff's anniversary gift was a bunch of small Butterfinger bars. They're his favorite candy bar of all time, and I usually throw in one of those $1 fun size packs when I give him a gift for whatever reason. We decided it would be neat to use them in a fun way, and since we recently bought a bunch of cake mixes that were super-duper on sale (69 cents a box!), we used an idea from 101 Things To Do With A Cake Mix (checked it out at the library) to create some delicious cookie bars.

Chocolate Butterfinger Bars
1 package German chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
4 fun-size Butterfinger bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan.

Mix together cake mix, eggs, and oil until powder is completely dissolved into dough (dough will be stiff).

Chop Butterfingers into tiny pieces, then mix into dough. Press the mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake 14-16 minutes.

The bars were nice and puffed up when I pulled them out of the oven, but deflated pretty flat after a few minutes. That's okay - they were still wonderfully fudgy and delicious!

They were also delicious served warm with ice cream.

This basic formula can be used with any cake mix and any additions, to make either bars or cookies: 1 cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, plus 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups optional additions. For bars, press into greased 9x13 and bake at 350 for 14-16 minutes. For cookies, drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

You can make any number of delicious bars of cookies using this recipe, by changing the cake mix and the additions. Try yellow cake mix with chocolate chips, lemon cake mix to make lemon bars, white cake mix with 3/4 cup peanut butter added to make peanut butter bars or cookies, use your favorite cake mix and add your favorite candy bar chopped up, make cherry chip cookies by using cherry chip cake mix. The possibilities are endless, and the results delicious!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our Anniversary Dinner, Yummy!

Yesterday Jeff and I celebrated five years of marriage. Then today we celebrated more by closing on our house - we get the keys on Tuesday and are so excited!!!!

Anyway, we like to do special homemade meals for special occasions. Yesterday was no different. We had an absolutely delicious dinner of Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing, salad with Basic Vinaigrette, and Anniversary Pie for dessert. It was the same pie I made for our anniversary last year, but I changed it up to include chocolate, teehee. The whole meal was absolutely wonderful.

Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

This recipe was based on a recipe I got from my sister a long time ago. The flavors of the pork, the stuffing, and the apple pie filling are absolutely wonderful together. It's delicious just the way it is on her blog, Fabulous Food, but I wanted to give it more of a homemade touch, so I made the apple pie filling from scratch. This is what we came up with.

4 pork chops, about 3/4 inch or thicker
6 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. lemon juice (only if the apples lack tartness)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 to 1 tsp. cinnamon
Dash nutmeg
1 box stuffing mix

Combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spread in the bottom of a crock pot.

Quickly sear the pork chops over high heat on the stove, just until they're lightly browned on the outside. They shouldn't be cooked through. Place on top of the apples in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low until the pork is thoroughly cooked. In our crock pot it took about 8 hours.

Just before serving, prepare stuffing according to directions on the box. Serve with the pork chops and apples.

Next time I might add a bit more flour to the apples - it made a whole lot of syrup because it was in the crock pot instead of the oven. But as is, it was still absolutely delicious.

Salad with Basic Vinaigrette

For the salad, I just mixed together some green leaf lettuce with a bunch of veggies - mushrooms, shredded carrot, tomatoes, fresh chives (from the garden of a wonderful elderly gentleman in our church). Then I topped it with this simple vinaigrette.

1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. each sugar, salt, and pepper

Combine ingredients and mix well. Store unused dressing in the fridge.

This recipe is really easy to customize and make it however you want. Use flavored oil or vinegar, specialty mustard, or add herbs and/or spices along with the salt and pepper. I made it very basic last night, but it's fun to change things around and make it your own.

Anniversary Pie

Last year I made this with butter pecan ice cream and a plain graham cracker crust. This year we changed it up a bit. I used vanilla ice cream and brown sugar instead of white. I also made a chocolate graham cracker crust, and we topped the pie with an easy chocolate sauce. It was divine!

18-20 graham cracker squares (9-10 full sheets)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Crush graham crackers in food processor. Add sugar and cocoa powder, process until mixed. Add melted butter and process again until thoroughly mixed. Empty into a 9-inch pie plate and press onto bottom and sides. Set aside.

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup eggnog
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggnog and ice cream. Pour into crust and freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 10 to 15 minutes before slicing to soften the pie.

Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk (approximately)

Melt chocolate and milk slowly, either in the microwave, in the top of a double boiler, or on the stove over very low heat. Add additional milk if it's too thick (I don't really know exactly how much milk I used, I just eyeballed it and stopped adding when it was a good texture). Drizzle sauce over individual slices of pie (I admit that I might have drizzled a bit more on after taking the pictures).

Well, by the time we were done eating, my stomach was very full, but I sure was happy! This was definitely a very good meal for our anniversary. May Jeff and I continue to have many more years of cooking beautiful and delicious meals together.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Apple Butter

I'm loving all this fall baking and cooking. This is totally my favorite time of year! We got lots of apples and pears for really cheap ($.33/lb) this week, so I was excited to use them to make delicious treats. I'm planning on using the pears to make pear honey, but first I wanted to use up some apples by making delicious apple butter! This was my first time making apple butter, but it won't be the last - this stuff is fantastic. It tastes like autumn itself.

Apple Butter
8 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups sugar (my apples were already pretty sweet, so I used three cups, one of which was brown sugar)
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

Fill a slow cooker with diced apples, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt (I also added a bit of allspice - that stuff goes great with apple dishes). Cover, and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 hours, or until thick and dark golden in color.

Pack into small, freezer-safe containers leaving 3/4 inch space at the top. Store in the freezer. Makes 2 1/2 - 3 pints.

So that's what the recipe says to do. But my slow cooker is apparently incredibly slow. After cooking several hours longer than the recipe says, my apples still hadn't thickened into an apple butter texture - they were just pieces of very soft chopped apple floating in a fragrantly spiced syrup. So I whirled the mixture in the blender in batches, leaving a few larger chunks, and was able to get the right texture that way.

This really is so delicious. We served it over homemade biscuits for breakfast this morning - doesn't that look so good?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Betty

Today is National Apple Betty Day, and what a perfect day for this absolutely delicious dessert! Here in Utah, the temperatures have been dropping, the skies turning cloudy, and fall is definitely in the air. What better way to get warm and cozy than with a delicious spiced apple and crumb dessert?

Apple betty (also called apple brown betty) is a simple dessert featuring apples and a crumb topping. It is thought to date back to Colonial times. So you know it's pretty good if it's stuck around for that long. I found this wonderfully simple and easy recipe on, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it as our after-lunch treat. I wish we had some ice cream, it would have been super fabulous. But even by itself it was fantastic. I did make a couple changes, using brown sugar for half of the white, and adding some cloves and allspice.

Apple Betty
4 cups thinly sliced apples (peeled if you want, I didn't bother)
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash each cloves and allspice
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate.

Mound sliced apples in the pie plate. Sprinkle with orange juice.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugars, spices, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Scatter over the apples.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

This was so delicious. The topping was crisp, and the apple filling was gooey and caramel-y. The spices went wonderfully together; the whole dessert was just so deliciously warm and comforting, the perfect fall dessert.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pumpkin Bread (Well, Not Really...)

Here's another delicious autumn-inspired sweet bread. This was originally a recipe for pumpkin bread, but I had some other squash that needed to be used. So I made a crookneck squash/acorn squash bread. I also added raisins and chocolate chips just for fun, and doubled the recipe to make two delicious loaves. I'm really not sure what to call this, so I'll go ahead and keep calling it pumpkin bread, but just know that you can use any pureed squash or combination of squashes and get delicious results.

Pumpkin Bread
3 cups flour
1 tsp. of salt
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups pumpkin puree or other squash puree, canned or made from fresh
1 cup oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the raisins and chocolate chips.

Pour into 2 well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pans and let cool on a rack.

I have two big cans of pumpkin puree and lots of big, shiny apples that are just itching to be used in more delicious autumn goodies. I'll probably wait until this bread is all eaten before making more; gotta ration my overeating, you know. But I'm so excited about fall and getting to make lots of wonderfully and warmly spiced baked goods!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrating Fall with Gooey Apple Bread

Yay for Fall!!!! Yesterday was the first official day of Fall, my absolute favorite season of the year. We bought some apples yesterday and I made this delicious bread to celebrate. I just used a recipe for apple bread, cooked it in a bundt pan (so I wouldn't have to wash the bread pans after making bread a couple days ago...), and added the gooey butterscotch sauce from Southern Plate's Apple Dapple Cake. It turned out so rich and delicious! More like a cake than a bread, and I'm okay with that. :-)

Gooey Apple Bread
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups diced apples (without skins)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon flour

Mix flour, cinnamon, soda, salt and baking powder together.

Beat eggs and add sugar and oil.

Add vanilla and dry ingredients.

Stir in apples.

Mix walnuts in a tsp of flour and add to batter.

Pour into 2 greased loaf pans (or one greased bundt pan). Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. It took about 1 hour 15 minutes in the bundt.

Gooey Sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup margarine (1 1/2 sticks)

Mix and cook 3 minutes after it begins to gently boil, stirring constantly. Pour over hot bread while bread is still in pan. Let bread cool completely before removing.

I just LOVE Fall!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Zaylee's Birthday Cake, Fit for a Princess!

Wow, it's been a while since I posted here. We spent a week visiting family in Idaho, and then I just haven't gotten around to really doing anything special for the food blog. But I'm back, and hoping to get things going again.

While we were in Idaho, Zaylee had her 4th birthday. We had a fun family get-together to celebrate, complete with a fun cake!

This was such an easy cake to decorate, and everyone enjoyed it. I started with a simple yellow cake recipe, making 1 1/2 of the recipe. I made one 9x13 layer, and one 8x8 layer. While those cooled, I made a double batch of one of my favorite frosting recipes of all time. This stuff is so yummy!!!

Cream Cheese and Cool Whip Frosting
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 8-oz. carton frozen whipped topping
1/3 cup sugar (granulated)
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat cream cheese until softened. Beat in remaining ingredients until combined and creamy. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired.

I would have done all the frosting pink (Zaylee is such a girly girl), but I have a nephew who is sensitive to red dye, so we needed to have at least part of the cake with no red or pink at all. I frosted the 9x13 with white frosting, then dyed the rest pink. I stacked the 8x8 right in the center of the larger cake, and frosted it with the pink frosting.

Then came the fun part. We had paid a visit to the bulk section at WinCo and picked out lots of fun candies - lots of pink, but again making sure to get some things with no red dye. We placed four ice cream cones on the corners of the top layer to act as turrets, then frosted them and added pink jelly beans around the sides. Then we just went crazy with the candies! Lots of pink on the top layer, and all sorts of other candies on the bottom. We used chocolate covered peanuts, yogurt covered peanuts, jelly beans, gumdrops, and those little pastel mint chocolate chip thingies.

Four big red gumdrops sat on top of the ice cream cones to hold the candles, and then we were done!

This really is my favorite way to decorate a cake. I have bags and tips for piping frosting, and am fairly decent at it (or I would be if I practiced...) but I really love to just have a fun concept and then create it with things like candies, cookies, and other fun edibles to make a unique and exciting cake that the kids just love! Here's the other cakes in this style that I've blogged about:

Thomas' First Birthday

Thomas' Second Birthday

Zaylee's Third Birthday

And of course, I can't do a birthday post without a picture the little birthday princess. My family gave her several princess dresses as her birthday gift, and she had such a blast trying them all on, over and over again!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Granola Bars

I love granola bars, especially the chewy kind. They're delicious, they're healthy (relatively), and they come in so many fun flavors! They are great for traveling too, since they're easy to eat and don't make a mess when you give them to kids. So granola bars were the first thing to come to mind when we started thinking about what snacks to bring when we drive up to visit my family in Idaho this week. Unfortunately, they tend to be a tad bit pricey. We're super cheap, especially since we're in the process of buying a house (hooray!!!!) and need to save aggressively to pay the down payment. So instead of going out and buying granola bars, I decided to find a recipe and make them! After all, I've started making my own granola, it should be easy and fun to make granola bars too. So I found this yummy and simple looking recipe on and got started. And boy, they turned out so good!

Granola Bars
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ (used wheat bran)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey (used pancake syrup)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, raisins and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges (Reading the recipe reviews, I deduced that this recipe makes kinda crunchy granola bars, so I cooked for only 20 minutes to achieve a more chewy bar). Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

This recipe seems like it would lend itself well to being personalized a bit. You could add chocolate chips, nuts or seeds, coconut, some reviewers used applesauce instead of oil, syrup instead of honey, cranberries or other fruit instead of raisins, one person even said she added canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. I love basic recipes that can be added to in a huge variety of ways! I have a feeling I'll be making granola bars pretty often. :-)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Orange Pear Jam

This is one of the prettiest jams I've ever made! It gets its bright color and sunshiny flavor by using orange jello instead of pectin. The jam was easy to make and has a soft texture common in fridge/freezer jam recipes. I got the recipe from the Taste of Home Cookbook.

Orange Pear Jam
7 cups sugar
5 cups chopped peeled fresh pears
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 packages (3 oz. each) orange gelatin

In a Dutch oven or large kettle, combine sugar, pears, pineapple, and lemon juice. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat; simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin until dissolved.

Pour into jars or containers; cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover and let stand overnight or until set, but no longer than 24 hours. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, or store in freezer until ready to use. Yields about 7 cups.

So bright and colorful! It would be fun to experiment with other flavors of jello as well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chocolate Mush

I was making cornmeal mush this morning and suddenly decided it would be fun to change it up a bit. So I added cocoa powder. It turned out really yummy, similar to chocolate Malt-O-Meal, but at a fraction of the cost. The kids and I just ate it up! It makes a fun change to what has become a breakfast staple at our house.

Chocolate Mush
1 cup corn meal
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water
3 cups boiling water

Combine corn meal, salt, cocoa, vanilla, and cold water; pour into boiling water, stirring quickly.

Return to boil, stirring constantly.

Lower heat to medium-low, cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with milk and sugar (we like using brown sugar).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I used to not really care for snickerdoodles. It's not that I didn't like them, but I've always been a chocolate chip cookie kind of person, and snickerdoodles were a bit too plain and cake-like for my tastes. But tastes change; I know mine definitely have as I've grown older. I've learned to enjoy a great many foods that didn't interest me when I was younger, especially when I try making them myself. Coleslaw, apple pie, pineapple on pizza, and a variety of other things have become much more appetizing to me this way. And now I can add snickerdoodles to the list.

This is the first time I've made snickerdoodles (I know, a travesty!), and I could not get enough of them! I found that I loved them the best about 5-10 minutes after taking them out of the oven - they were warm, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. And sooooooo delicious!

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening, and eggs in large bown with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Mix 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet (Zaylee helped me with this step. It was so cute to see her rolling handfuls of dough into balls and rolling them in the cinnamon sugar. She actually did a pretty good job of it! Thomas helped too. He climbed up onto the table and made sure that we didn't have too much dough. I guess he figured that since Zaylee and I were grabbing handfuls out of the bowl, he should be too!).

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Salsa Verde

Tomatillos were on sale really cheap a while back, so we picked up a whole bunch of them and decided to make green salsa, or salsa verde. We started with a fairly basic recipe from, adjusting it based on how many tomatillos we had and adding/subtracting a few things. The resulting salsa tasted so fresh and tangy - we really liked it a lot! We didn't have any jalapenos or anything, so substituted hot pepper sauce. But a jalapeno or two would have been a really awesome addition.

Salsa Verde
3 lbs. tomatillos, husked
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (adjust according to how spicy you want it, or use jalapenos)
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor (we had to do two batches, we had a lot of tomatillos!). Using the pulse setting, coarsely chop. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

This salsa is delicious served plain with tortilla chips, or used on anything you would use regular salsa for. I made some simple fajitas and we topped them with the salsa verde. It was so good!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Granola-Topped Maple Banana Bread

Wow, it's been a little while since my last post - over a week! I don't really have a good excuse, except that anything I've made in the last week that's worth posting has already been posted, or I just didn't bother taking pictures and writing it down. Oh well, back on the wagon with a delicious banana bread.

This recipe started as simple Banana Nut Bread from the Southern Plate cookbook. But I decided to get a little creative as I was making it, and came up with a fun and delicious variation. I omitted the nuts because we don't have any (but they would have made a wonderful addition), added maple flavoring, and topped it with granola. Yummy!

Granola-Topped Maple Banana Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple flavoring
3 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup granola

Cream margarine and sugar. Add remaining ingredients (except granola) and mix well. Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans. Sprinkle granola on top. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

The granola became browned and crispy, and the bread was so sweet and banana-y, with a delicate maple flavor. I'm sure glad it made two loaves, because one just wouldn't be enough!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie

This morning as I talked on the phone with my sister, she mentioned that she had the ingredients for shepherd's pie and would probably make it for dinner. From that moment on, I started craving shepherd's pie - man, that stuff is so good! It's one of those foods that my mom would make sometimes while I was growing up, and I've always loved it so much!

I wanted to make some for lunch, but by the time it occurred to me to start cooking lunch, it was already after 12, so there wasn't time to make the mashed potatoes and the filling and bake it - it would be far too late by the time it was done and we would all be far too hungry. So I came up with this faster version - serving the meat-and-vegetable filling over top of mashed potatoes. No heating up the oven and taking a long time to bake the pie. It ended up being a delicious alternative to the real thing!

Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion
1 can green beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
Mashed potatoes

Cook ground beef and onion until beef is browned and onion is tender. Add beans, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and heat through. Serve over hot mashed potatoes.

For the potatoes, I just cut up several baking potatoes (I left the skin on because I love it so much!) and boiled them until tender. Then I mashed them up with a bit of milk and mayonnaise (which made it nice and creamy), and salt and pepper.

This turned out so yummy! It had that awesome shepherd's pie flavor that I love so much from childhood, but was so much faster than the traditional version. This little meal is definitely one I'll remember and make again.

By the way, to make this into a regular shepherd's pie, just spread the filling into a baking dish, top with dollops of mashed potatoes (mix in an egg for added sturdiness), and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 until heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

This is a special wheat bread recipe. For one thing, it comes from my Aunt Kathy, who is famous in our family for being absolutely incredible in the kitchen, so you know it's gotta be good. Plus, not only is it made from 100% whole wheat flour, but it's actually soft! It's not dense, heavy, brick-like, or anything like that. It has all the hearty flavor and chewy texture of a whole wheat loaf, but it's soft like a white bread. Best of both worlds!

Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. yeast
1/2 cup shortening
1 tbsp. salt
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or however much you can knead in, I usually can't get quite the whole amount in)

Add sugar to warm (not boiling) water, stir in yeast, and add shortening by spoonfuls to allow it to soften. Cover until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and salt, and knead for 5 minutes. Cover and allow to raise for 10 minutes, stir down (I couldn't stir mine, I punched it), and repeat two more times. Shape into two loaves, allow to rise in tins, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

I'm so glad that I finally tried this recipe. It came with great reviews from my mom, who was thrilled that it wasn't dense like other whole wheat breads. And now I can add my rave reviews to hers - it was soft and delicious!