Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Buttery-Toffee Cookies

This is my mom's recipe, but she suggested I post it on here. I love these cookies!

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips (though semi-sweet work, too)
  • 1 cup English toffee bits (like Skor or Heath)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamed (3 to 4 minutes). *Anthony & I did this by hand and it still worked, it just hurt our arms more. Reduce speed to low *whew!; add flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat mixture, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. *We've actually found that for our oven and pans, using grease makes these cookies flat and burnt on the bottom; so instead, we just use dark non-stick cookie sheets and forget the grease spray. It works.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes *Our oven needs 12 to 14 minutes , or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute, then remove from cookie sheets. *This is important to do just 1 minute later, because if the toffee pieces cool for too long, they will stick to your pan - especially when you don't use the grease spray. ENJOY!

Anthony's Chicken Pablano Soup

This soup is absolutely DELISH! Anthony is AMAZING and figured out the increments for all of the ingredients by pure experimentation! He got the basic recipe from the Cannon Center. The Cannon Center calls it Pablano Soup, and even though we figured out there aren't actually any pablanos in it, we're keeping the name. Tastes like a southwestern soup. Yummy!
  • 2-3 large carrots
  • 1/3 to 1/2 of a medium onion
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper
  • 6 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 medium chicken breast
  • 3 boullion cubes, or enough chicken base for 3 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp of oil or butter (for sauteeing the the chicken)
  • 5 tbsp of flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 3/4 tbsp cumin (or taco seasoning)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 small can of diced green chilies
  • 1/2 can of corn
  • 1/2 can of black beans
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese
On medium heat, chop and sautee onion, carrot, and red bell pepper until carrot is tender (sautee in the 6 tbsp of butter/margarine).
Add 3 tbsp of flour. Stir in flour until thick, then add all the seasonings and chicken base. Stir together, then add 3 cups of water and let simmer on lower heat, stirring occasionally.
In a separate skillet, sautee diced chicken breast in 2 tbsp of oil or butter. When chicken is done, add 2 tbsp of flour. Stir until thick, then add one cup of water. Stir up and add to vegetables. Melt in cheese and add all cans as measured.
Stir together, let simmer 5-10 minutes. Add seasonings for desired spice/taste. Serve and enjoy.
Serves 2.

Kristen's Chicken Salad

Anthony got this recipe from a co-worker who's a chef at the Cannon Center. It's not pictured above, but the Sweet BBQ Sauce that you put on the salad absolutely makes this dish! It is delicious!
  • lettuce
  • carrots, chopped into small pieces
  • manderin oranges
  • chow mein noodles
  • chicken, cut into small strips
*Use as much as is needed for your family size.
Sweet BBQ Sauce**:
  • 2 tbsp apple sauce
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, NOT packed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
**Sauce is enough to cover about 3 good-sized bowls of salad. May need to double for larger family.
Make the sauce first to allow for cooling time. To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe container. Mix together and then microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds, or until brown sugar is dissoved. Put the sauce in the refrigerator to cool - about 30 minutes.
Cook the chicken in a skillet using a small amount of oil. While cooking the chicken, you can choose to flavor it - Anthony used some salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder the last time he made this recipe.
Arrange lettuce, carrots, manderin oranges, chow mein noodles, and cooked chicken in a bowl or on a salad plate. Use the Sweet BBQ Sauce as the dressing for this salad, and then enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Erica!!

Erica's birthday was yesterday. I made her a carousel cake using a yummy poppy seed cake recipe. Here's the picture and recipe. (We had to wake Erica up for supper, so that's why she looks a bit sleepy in the picture.) By the time we got around to blowing out the candles, she had perked up considerably.

Lion House Poppy Seed Cake

(July 2nd -- I thought I'd update this by saying that I made the recipe exactly as written for the first time for London's {my niece} birthday party and we decided we like it better with the changes I had made previously because they were the ingredients I had on hand.)

1 yellow cake mix
1 pkg (3 oz) instant vanilla pudding (I used white chocolate)
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1 tsp rum flavoring (I used almond)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend with beaters on low speed. Beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Pour batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Cool 15 minutes. Turn cake out of pan onto a cake rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Cupcake Fun

Today Valerie came over to teach Paige some cake decorating techniques for Paige's 4-H project. So Alyssa, Joshua, and Paige had a great time making "monsters" and "pies". Here are a couple photos of the fun. Bryn got involved at the tail end of the activity. Maybe Alyssa will post some of the close-up shots of the cupcakes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Granola Taste Test

I made 4 batches of Granola today, all different recipes.  I do not like sesame seeds in my granola, so I always replaced that ingredient with flax seeds.  I also do not like sunflower seeds, so I replaced that with either almonds or chopped pecans. I always leave the fruit out for individual add-in when serving.

#1:  Valerie's Recipe:  The Perfect (Clumpy) Granola
Mix together in a large bowl:
4 cups (14 ounces) rolled oats
1/2 cup (2 ½ ounces) rice flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped nuts
1/2 cup (1 ½ ounces) coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a medium-size bowl, mix until smooth:
1/2 cup (6 ounces) honey
1/2 cup (4 ¾ ounces) peanut butter
1/2 cup (3 ½ ounces) oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and mix very thoroughly. Spread onto a big cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees in increments of 10 minutes. Check every 10 minutes but do NOT stir. If you make a double batch, switch your top and bottom baking sheets after each 10 mins. Bake until golden. (Mine took about 25-30 minutes--but it might take up to 40 minutes or so). Let cool completely and then turn onto a sheet(s) of wax paper. Break up the clumps as desired. Store in an airtight container.

RESULTS: You have to like peanut butter to like this granola. Luckily, I LOVE peanut butter, so I absolutely love this granola. This granola also had the best clumps! This was also my neighbor's favorite!

#2:  Homemade Granola (from a Macey's class)
3 cups regular rolled oats
¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup sesame or flax seeds<
1 cup roughly chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
½ cup coconut
½ cup nonfat dry milk
½ cup water
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ cup vegetable oil
½ T. salt
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
¾ tsp. flavoring of your choice (almond, maple, coconut, etc.)

In a large bowl combine the oats, flour, seeds, dates, raisins, coconut, dry milk and nuts.  In a blender, mix the oil, salt, brown sugar, honey, water, vanilla and maple flavoring.  Pour mixture over oats and stir well.  Divide and place on 3 cookie sheets.  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or longer if needed.  Stir 2-3 times during baking time to evenly dry granola, mixture should be still soft and moist when removed from the oven.  It will dry more when it is removed from the oven and cools off.  Place in a plastic container with a tight lid to store.

RESULTS: This was my least favorite recipe because it didn't have as much flavor as the other recipes, and it also made the most mess on my cookie sheet. Also, it took the longest to cook. But it did have more of a chewy texture, and because it had so much liquid to dry ingredients, it does make great granola bars (press them into pan, and then cut as soon as you remove from the oven) and granola bites (shape them into balls before cooking).

#3:  King Arthur's Maple Granola (altered slightly by me)
3 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup almonds, sliced or broken up
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped or broken up
¼ tsp. salt
3/4 cup real maple syrup
6 T. vegetable oil
½ T. vanilla extract
½ tsp. maple flavoring
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Combine the oats, coconut, wheat germ, nuts, seeds, and salt in a very large bowl.  Mix well, In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil and vanilla.  Pour the syrup mixture over the dry mixture stirring and tossing until everything is very well combined; it’s probably easiest to do this with your hands.  Spread the granola over 2 large baking sheets with rims.  Your cleanup will be much easier if you line them with parchment paper.  Bake for 2 hours, stirring the mixture after 1 hour or so.  Remove the pans from the oven and let cool completely.  Transfer the granola to a large bowl and mix in the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

RESULTS: The slight alteration by me was adding 1/4 cup maple syrup (it originally called for 1/2 cup) because the mixture seemed a little dry. I also added the maple flavoring because I thought it needed just a little more "punch." It turned out fabulous! My neighbor voted for this one as her "close second" favorite.

#4:  Sister's Cafe My Favorite Granola
3 ¼ cups Oats (Old Fashioned or Quick—any combination)
1 ¼ cup white wheat flour-freshly ground if possible
1 1/3 cup shredded coconut
¼ cup flax seed (optional)
1 cup or more coarsely chopped almonds and/or pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter (I used 1/2 cup oil and 1 tsp. butter flavoring)
1/3 cup water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
Preheat oven to 300. In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, flax seed, coconut and nuts. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, and water and heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together until smooth, and then stir in the salt, vanilla and spices. Pour mixture over the oats mixture and stir will to coat. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Spread mixture on a large baking sheet, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between clumps for the hot air to circulate. Slide it into the middle of the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir to break up the mixture into medium sized clumps. Return to the oven and bake again for 15 minutes before stirring again. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the granola is uniform golden brown and completely dry—this usually takes me about 45 minutes . Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

RESULTS: The cardamom and cinnamon in this granola give it a more "woodsy" flavor. The neighbor girl voted this one as her favorite. I think it tastes very similar to #3, and I really liked it.

I asked Jesse to vote, but he just kept trying each one and saying, "I like that one." And then he'd try the next one and say the same thing. So I'd say all the recipes are keepers, although I will probably find myself making #3 and #4 most often.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gingerbread Pancakes (from BHG)

I checked out a cookbook from the library called "Pancakes and Toppings" that was published by Better Homes and Gardens in 1996. I love the recipes so much that I purchased a used copy of the book. Alyssa and I made these pancakes for breakfast this morning with the Lemon Syrup. We all loved this breakfast!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, molasses, water, and oil. Add to flour mixture. Stir just until combined but still slightly lumpy.

Heat lightly greased griddle over medium pancake. For each pancake, pour about ¼ cup batter on the hot griddle. Spread batter into a circle about 4 inches in diameter.

Cook over medium heat until pancakes are golden brown, turning to cool second sides when pancake surfaces are bubbly and edges are slightly dry (about 1 to 2 minutes per side). Serve immediately or keep warm in a loosely covered ovenproof dish in a 300°F oven. If desired, serve with Lemon Syrup.

Makes 16 pancakes.

Lemon Syrup

This syrup is fabulous with gingerbread pancakes. I'm sure it would be great with buttermilk pancakes as well. And blueberry. And orange-cranberry. And whole wheat. You get the idea.

¾ cup sugar
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 drop yellow food coloring (optional—but recommended)

In a small saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, and nutmeg. Stir in water. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon peel, lemon juice, and food coloring. Serve warm. Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Kaysen's favorite muffin used to be blueberry. . . until he tried these muffins last night.  He couldn't get enough!

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt (I used buttermilk), and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in bananas and chocolate chips.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full (a scant 1/4 cup).  Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks (the chocolate chips will stick to the pan if you don't wait; I know because I couldn't wait!).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Miss Hilda's Baked Beans

These baked beans are very different from the canned version. It's a fun variation to try.

Recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

1 pound dried navy beans, picked over and soaked overnight in water to cover
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper (I recommend using less than this--about half)
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound salt pork, trimmed and cubed
4 ounces chopped bacon
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 1/2 cups reserved bean liquid
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry (powdered) mustard
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Drain the beans and put them in a pot with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, salt, and the bay leaves. Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and set aside. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the salt pork and bacon and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the ketchup, 1 1/2 cups of the reserved bean liquid, onions, celery, sugar, mustard, garlic, black pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon cayenne. Cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the beans and stir gently to mix. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer the beans to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 2 hours (mine were done a little early--so check them early just in case). Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Spicy Black Bean Soup

This soup is nice and thick. It’s great with chips dipped in it—or just by itself. If you don’t want it spicy, just cut out the cayenne.

4 carrots, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups beef broth
½ cup long-grain rice
2 (16-oz) cans black beans with liquid
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, cook carrots, onions, and garlic in oil over moderate heat until softened, about 3minutes. Stir in cumin, cayenne, and coriander; cook 1 minute. Add broth, rice, and beans; bring to a boil and then simmer 20 minutes, or until rice is soft. Cool slightly, then using a blender, puree half of mixture; return to pot. Stir in salt and pepper.

Garnish as desired (we used green onion, pepperjack cheese, and avocado tossed in lime juice).

Pepperjack Cornbread

This cornbread recipe from King Arthur Flour is “awesome” according to Alyssa (she stated that several times while eating it).

1 ¾ cups (7 ½ oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 7/8 oz) cornmeal
¼ cup (1 ¾ oz) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 oz) shredded pepperjack or other cheese of your choice
½ cup (1 1/8 oz) sliced green onions, white and green
1 ¼ cups (10 oz) milk
½ cup (1 stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square or round pan, cast iron skillet, or 12 muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the cheese and scallions.

In another bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, melted butter, and egg. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour mixture, stirring quickly and gently until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, or scoop into the muffin tin.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges just begin to pull away from the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 5 minutes before cutting; serve warm.

Yield: 12 servings.

Chocolate-Berry Oatmeal Brulée

We love oatmeal that has delicious ingredients added. This version is a keeper!

3 cups water
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
Pinch of salt (about ¼ teaspoon)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup dark brown sugar

In medium saucepan, bring water to gentle boil (watch carefully); stir in oats and salt. Return to boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook 5 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in butter, berries and chocolate chips. Combine cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl. Butter 4 ramekins and scoop oatmeal mixture into them. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon mixture on top of each. Place under broiler and broil under brown sugar starts to bubble (watch closely). Serve hot.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

This is a fun way to serve a pulled pork sandwich. Usually I toss barbecue sauce with the pork. This recipe lets the pork take center stage.

1 boneless pork shoulder (4-5 lb)
Salt and black pepper to taste
½ Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups chicken broth
½ Tbsp liquid smoke
4 hamburger buns

Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cut the pork into 2 or 3 big pieces and season with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan and when hot, sear the pieces of pork until thoroughly browned on the outside. Remove the pork and place in a slow cooker.

Add the vinegar to the hot pan and deglaze, scraping any bits of browned meat stuck to the bottom. Pour the vinegar over the pork, then add the broth and liquid smoke. Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 4 hours, until the pork falls with gentle pressure. Remove the pork from the liquid and shred. Toss with a bit more vinegar and serve on top of warm buns with coleslaw.


The two colors of cabbage make a fun presentation for coleslaw.

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp canola oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
½ head green cabbage, very thinly sliced
½ head red cabbage, very thinly sliced
3 carrots, cut into thin strips
1 tsp fennel seeds, if desired

Mix the mustard, mayonnaise, and vinegar in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the cabbages, carrots, fennel seeds (if using), and dressing in a large bowl. Toss so that everything is evenly coated and season with more salt and pepper.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Scones (aka Fried Bread)

This is Mom's White Bread recipe, cut in half. We love turning the scones into a main dish by making Navajo Tacos. Just put your favorite chili on top of the scone, add shredded cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and olives if you want them. The scones are also great with a little butter and jam.

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm tap water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons dry powdered milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Vegetable oil for frying

Make the bread using any method you like. This is the way I usually do it.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm tap water. Combine in mixer bowl 3 cups of flour, sugar, dry powdered milk and salt. Add the dissolved yeast & water mixture and the vegetable oil to the flour mixture. Mix together. Add more flour if needed. Mix until dough forms in an elastic ball in the bottom of the bowl. Knead dough until it is smooth and satiny and small blisters develop just under the skin of the dough.

Put dough into a plastic bowl with a lid and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet until hot. Pull off pieces of the dough, flatten the dough in your hands. The dough will be thin in the middle and slightly thicker on the edges. Put the flattened dough into the hot oil. Watch carefully, turning the scone when it is lightly browned and then cooking the other side.

Put the scone on a plate covered with paper towels to drain.

Serve any way you'd like to. Some ideas: butter, jam, honey, cinnamon and sugar mixture or as a Navajo Taco.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the chocolate chip cookie recipe that I have made for years. We think they deserve a spot on the yummy yoo-hoo!

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (2 cups) chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugars, butter and shortening until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until light brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Capellini al Pomadoro e Basilico

(Angel Hair Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil)

5-6 slices pancetta or prosciutto
1 onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can peeled diced tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound package capellini (angel hair spaghetti) or thin spaghetti
1 bunch fresh basil
1 cup bite-size fresh mozzarella balls, optional

Dice pancetta or prosciutto into small pieces. Dice onion. Heat oil in skillet and cook pancetta and onion for 2 minutes or until fat has cooked off pancetta and onions are softened.

Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, start water boiling in pot. Salt water and add pasta. Cook as directed according to package.

Add basil to sauce. Stir. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Drain pasta in colander. Place in serving bowl. Toss with pasta sauce and mozzarella. Garnish with additional basil if desired.

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a delicious, creamy soup. It is thick enough that you could even serve it in bread bowls or a small loaf of bread.

1 large butternut squash, roasted and pureed in blender (we used 4 cups of squash puree we had in the freezer)
4-6 strips bacon
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1 green apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 cups chicken broth
Chopped chives and sour cream for serving, if desired

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and reserve. Add the onion and ginger to the hot pot and cook until the onion is translucent (but not browned), about 3 minutes. Add the apple and cook until soft, another 3 minutes or so. Add pureed squash. Puree mixture in blender, adding some broth. Process until very smooth and return to the pot. Stir in the remaining broth and bring to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg. Garnish with crumbled bacon, chives, and sour cream if desired.

Cupcake Pops

This recipe comes from Bakerella’s blog. She has a bunch of cute ideas on how to decorate cake pops. Bart wanted to bring a treat in to work for a co-workers birthday. I had just recently shown him the cake pops on Bakerella’s blog, and he asked if I could make that. Luckily, I had a 12-inch round chocolate fudge cake in the freezer (from one of the recent wedding cakes I made). I decided to use that cake along with some ganache as the filling for the pops. It worked great! I had a lot of fun making these, and I am excited to try different decorations in the future.

1 13x9-inch cake, baked and cooled
Frosting (Bakerella uses one can of cream cheese frosting; I used homemade chocolate ganache)
1 package chocolate bark (or use chocolate candy melts)
1 package white chocolate bark (or colored candy melts)
Lollipop sticks
Block of styrofoam

Crumble up the cake into a large bowl (you can use a food processor if desired to get finer crumbs). Add frosting or ganache and mix together until well-mixed. Portion into scoops (I used my cookie scoop). Roll into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for several hours (or freeze for about 15 minutes).

Begin to shape into cupcakes using a small flower-shaped or round cookie cutter. Roll the ball into an oval and slide into cookie cutter. Push it into cutter until about half fills the cutter and the rest sticks out of the top in the shape of a mound. Then push the shaped cupcake carefully out of the cookie cutter from the bottom. Set right side up on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining balls.

Once shaped, cover and return to freezer for 5 to 10 minutes (or covered overnight in the fridge).

Melt chocolate brown chocolate bark as directed on package. Dip bottoms of cupcake-shaped mixture into the melted chocolate—just to the point where the mounded shape starts. Remove from chocolate, turn upside down and wiggle so that the excess starts to slide down slightly. Then lay on wax paper upside down. Insert lollipop sticks while the chocolate is still wet, dipping end of lollipop stick into melted chocolate before inserting into chocolate bottoms. Continue with rest of cupcakes.

Dry completely (15-20 minutes), then dip tops of cupcakes in pink or white chocolate. Turn right side up, add sprinkles and a mini M&M if desired to top of cupcake. Let them dry in a Styrofoam block that you have already poked holes into.

When completely dry, cover the lollipops with small plastic treat bags and tie with a ribbon.

Makes about 50 (I got 60 this time).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pesto Gnocchi with Green Beans and tomatoes

I should know better than to try to cook when I’m half asleep. Bart prepped all the ingredients for this dish, including making the pesto. All I had to do was put it together. I didn’t read the recipe carefully, and I accidentally added too much pesto. Then I forgot to add the mozzarella which I had sitting right on the counter. Oh, well—the pasta still tasted great. Next time I make it, though, I’ll add the correct amount of pesto (as indicated in the recipe below)—the amount I used was a little too much this time.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh green beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 package (16 oz) potato gnocchi
½ cup pesto (homemade is preferred)
1 cup bite-size cubes of fresh mozzarella
Freshly grated Parmesan

Set a large pot of water over high heat. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and green beans to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes, then toss in the tomatoes and continue to cook until the green beans are tender (but still crisp) and the tomatoes are browned on the outside. Remove from the heat.

Salt the water after it reaches a boil. Drop the gnocchi in and cook until they float to the surface (2 to 3 minutes). Drain and add the gnocchi to the pan with the green beans and tomatoes. Stir in the pesto and mozzarella. Divide among 4 warm plates or bowls and top with a bit of grated Parmesan.

Blueberry Cheesecake Pancakes

Yesterday morning Bart had these pancakes ready for me as I walked in the house from work. They were so delicious that I gobbled them up without taking a picture. I begged him to make the pancakes again today so I could take a picture and post the recipe. The yogurt and cheese in the pancakes contribute to the light, moist texture of the pancakes (and they add extra protein).

2 cups frozen wild blueberries
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese or ricotta
3 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup all-purpose or white whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt

Mix the blueberries, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until the blueberries begin to break apart.

Whisk together the yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, and lemon juice in a bowl.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl. Add the flour to the yogurt mixture and stir just until blended.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Coat with nonstick cooking spray and add batter in large spoonfuls (about ¼ cup each). Flip the pancakes when the tops begin to bubble, 3 to 5 minutes, and cook the second side until browned. Serve with the warm blueberries.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sheet Cake with a Marshmallow Peanut Butter Frosting

Bart made this cake for us today. It’s a yummy, moist and tender cake that is easy to serve. The hint of cinnamon and touch of peanut butter are a welcome surprise to what looks like a chocolate cake.

For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Sheet Cake:
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder (preferably natural cocoa powder)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups buttermilk (regular or low-fat but not nonfat)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Marshmallow Peanut Butter Frosting:
¾ cup creamy standard peanut butter
1 cup Marshmallow Fluff or Marshmallow Crème
¼ cup milk (preferable low-fat or nonfat)
3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or spray with Baker’s Joy) a 13 x 17-inch jelly-roll pan.

Whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Use an electric mixer to beat the peanut butter and eggs until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla; beat until smooth. Remove the beaters and stir in the prepared flour mixture with a wooden spoon (or KAF dough whisk) until smooth but perhaps still a little grainy—there should be no white streaks of flour visible but overbeating will stretch and align the glutens and render the cake less tender. Pour this batter into the prepared jelly-roll pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely, about 2 hours.

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff in a large bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the milk, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the confectioners’ sugar in 1/3-cup increments until a smooth, creamy frosting forms, one that can hold its shape when scooped onto a knife or icing spatula.

Place small dollops of the frosting all over the cake, then use an icing knife or an offset spatula to smooth the frosting evenly over the cake.

Amish Baked Oatmeal

We love oatmeal for breakfast topped with chocolate chips, coconut, nuts and sometimes even ice cream. This baked oatmeal, however, tastes just like a warm oatmeal cookie. It’s great served just with fresh fruit sprinkled on it and milk poured over it!


• 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Warm milk (or cold--whichever you prefer)
• Fresh fruit and/or brown sugar, optional


• Combine the first eight ingredients; mix well. Spread evenly in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.
• Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately spoon into bowls; add milk. Top with fruit and/or brown sugar if desired. Yield: 6 servings.

Peanut Butter Waffles

What a great idea—put the peanut butter directly IN your waffles instead of just on top of them! These are yummy—the traditional waffles are reminiscent of peanut butter cookies while the Belgian waffles are more like peanut butter cupcakes. If desired, you can add ½ cup mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts to the batter (add to the dry ingredients first).

1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons (7 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup peanut or vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups milk (preferably low-fat or nonfat)
½ cup (4 ¾ oz) creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter and maple syrup for topping

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, if using, in a medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk the eggs and oil until uniform, then whisk in the milk, peanut butter and vanilla.

Grease and heat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a wooden spoon just until moistened (the batter should still be a little lumpy—the trick to tender waffles is to get the flour incorporated without setting up any of its sticky glutens).

Pour a scant ½ cup of the batter (or amount as needed for your iron) into the heated waffle iron, close the lid, and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve at once with butter and maple syrup, or place the waffles on a large baking sheet in your oven, set it to 170°F, and continue making more, keeping the prepared ones warm in the oven in one layer on a large baking sheet.

Swedish Meatballs

Alyssa and Bart made these delicious meatballs the other day. The fresh dill really adds great flavor to the tender meatballs. A 1 1/4-inch ice-cream scoop makes it easy to form these cocktail-sized meatballs. Or you can make them a bit bigger and serve them over noodles or rice. If you are keeping the meatballs warm in step 4, do not fully cover the slow cooker or the sauce will break.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions, minced
4 slices caraway-rye bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
3 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound 90-percent lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onions until softened, about 8 minutes; transfer to large bowl. Add bread, 1/4 cup broth, 1/4 cup sour cream, yolks, allspice, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to bowl with onions and mash with fork until smooth. Add beef and pork and knead with hands until well combined.

2. Form mixture into 1 1/4-inch meatballs (you should have about 60 meatballs) and arrange on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

3. Melt remaining butter in large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in remaining broth, bring to boil, and transfer to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours.

4. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce from slow cooker to small bowl. Whisk in remaining sour cream, soy sauce, and dill; gently stir into slow cooker. Serve. (If desired, meatballs can be held in slow cooker on low, partially covered, for 1 to 2 hours. Stir meatballs occasionally, adding up to 2 tablespoons water as needed to thin sauce.)

5. Make Ahead: Meatballs and sauce can be prepared and refrigerated separately for up to 3 days. To finish, transfer meatballs to slow cooker. Microwave sauce on high power, stirring every 30 seconds, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Pour sauce over meatballs and heat with slow cooker on low until heated through.

6. Make It a Meal: These tiny meatballs can also be served as a main course. To turn the Swedish Meatballs into a main course, in step 2 simply roll the meat mixture into 2-inch meatballs (you should have about 35 meatballs) and proceed with the recipe as directed. When spooned over hot buttered egg noodles or steamed white rice, these larger meatballs will serve 6 to 8.

PB&J Chocolate Bars

We found this recipe in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine. It’s a great variation on peanut butter candy. The jelly layer really adds a fun flavor, and the crunch from the crackers and peanuts in the base is great.
Recipe courtesy Sarah Copeland for Food Network Magazine

For the base:

• 1 stick unsalted butter
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 1 sleeve saltines (40 crackers , regular or whole wheat), finely crushed
• 3/4 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
For the filling and glaze:
• 1/4 cup grape jelly
• 7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
• 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
• 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
• 4 ounces semisweet chocolate , chopped

Make the base: Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, extending it over the sides. Put the butter in a medium heatproof bowl; position the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Once the butter melts, stir in the sugar and cocoa. Whisk in the egg; cook, whisking, until the mixture is warm and the consistency of hot fudge, 6 minutes. Remove from the heat; mix in the saltine crumbs and peanuts. Press the crust into the pan. Set aside the saucepan of water.

Make the filling: Spread the jelly over the crust in the pan; place in the freezer for a few minutes. Beat 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter, the peanut butter and confectioners' sugar with a mixer until light. Spread over the jelly layer; return to the freezer while you make the glaze.

Place the chocolate and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a heatproof bowl; set over the pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat; stir until smooth. When cool but still runny, spread the glaze over the chilled peanut butter layer. Freeze for another 30 minutes.

Use the foil flaps to remove the bars from the pan; cut into squares while still cold. (I found it worked best to take my time while cutting the bars—if I used a gentle “sawing” motion the bars were able to be cut without the chocolate shattering.) Serve cold and keep leftovers refrigerated.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

I made this for Jaret's graduation/18th birthday party this weekend.  I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman, and I'm proud to say that my cake looked exactly like hers (which is why I'm posting HER pictures, besides the fact that I didn't take any pictures!).  Plus, I was proud that I actually made a cake from scratch (thanks for the motivation, Valerie), and it actually turned out! You must make this if you're making a Mexican-themed meal.  Everyone will love you!


  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 5 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Sugar, Divided
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • ⅓ cups Milk
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
  • ¼ cups Heavy Cream_____
  • 1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar (I thought 5 Tablespoons + 1 tsp. vanilla tasted better)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.
Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.
Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.
Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries (Gross!  I hate maraschino cherries; but if you like them, go ahead!). Cut into squares and serve.