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Here’s a [short] story of oat-packed, honey-sticking, fall-spiced energy balls.

They didn’t get made in time for the girls varsity state hockey tournament, but since the ingredients were already in my pantry, they made their way to sisters shopping trip. OK, so the hockey players needed the energy more than we did but I don’t know a mom who can’t use a tiny ball of get-up-and-go.

pumpkin spice energy balls

The recipe for spiced pumpkin energy balls is from Wholesome Magazine & Community. I substituted sliced almonds for the walnuts and due to availability, I substituted dry roasted sunflower seeds for the raw pumpkin seeds.

I’m not sure if this would help keep them together better but I would add an extra tablespoon or so of honey because the chilled balls fell apart when we ate them (luckily in the hotel parking lot). An easy solution to the crumbs would be to serve them in cupcake papers.

As they aren’t supposed to be, these aren’t sweet except for the dried cranberries. Next time I might ruin the healthy thing and sneak in a few mini semi sweet chocolate chips and dried cherries instead of cranberries.

Sweet & healthy shopping,

Staci

Earlier this week I was passive-aggressively called heartless, rude, and arrogant by a grandmother and her (adult) daughter. Their Facebook pity party began with what was a concise, grammatically correct response from me to a text message. In the swift, and still puzzling response to me, I thought at first it wasn’t even intended for me. It was almost as if her finger had already pounded out the hateful words and her finger was on the trigger before I even responded. And her mother, well it only took THREE minutes before she took to Facebook to (passive-aggressively) attempt to demean this HEARTLESS, RUDE, and ARROGANT person (me) and express her wishes about bad KARMA on this nasty person (me).

plum cake

And you know what, it only took SECONDS for people to agree, comment, assess the situation which they knew nothing about, and help these two bullies stir their big, insecure, pot of disdain. Was it the swift and concise manner in which I responded? Or was it the proper grammar? In my experience as a communications professional, using phrases such as, “…as I was the one who…” can be perceived as being arrogant by circles of people who commonly use phrases like, “…ain’t no one told me.”

IMG_3806

Anyway, I am trying to think positive thoughts and not let this hurt me, but who’s kidding? I’m not offended by these two women because they are the kind who gossip, talk about people behind their backs, complain about bullies but are ones themselves, and will tell you anything you want to know about someone’s personal lives – who’s sleeping with whose husband, who is battling depression, whatever you want to know. But when people you know innocently rally around your haters, it’s going to sting. I even thought about posting the word-for-word text conversation that led to this bitterness so that people would truly have the opportunity to judge, but I tend to be one who (not easily) refuses to lower myself to levels such as this. So I’ll just take this as a good reminder that we shouldn’t be too quick to help stir other’s pots of hatred. We never know what heartless, rude, arrogant people are behind their pitiful campaigns.

So instead, I came home and enjoyed a delicious piece of plum cake that my friend Tracey made for me last week. Here’s the positive story I want to share with you – Quite a few years ago, I met this crazy fun Southern girl. (She uses words like “commode” and “cellular unit.”) We instantly bonded when we realized that we had the same childhood love for a certain plum cake made with BABY FOOD. For reasons only he knows, God brings people (and sisters!) into your life who bring you joy and true, honest friendship. People who are constant cheerleaders for all your dreams, friends who can have thoughtful conversations that don’t include gossip and bad-mouthing others. People who will bake cake for you. Keep those friends.

friends at hockey

Surround yourself with THOSE people.

sister

Stir their pot of goodness until it runneth over.

Kalli

Plum Cake

(As given to me by my mother, Linda Moe)

Cake

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons red food coloring

2 small jars plum baby food (If you can’t find plum, Tracey used plum/banana/apple or something like that as a substitute.)

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Icing

1/4 cup margarine

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

pinch of salt

  1. Mix oil, sugar, eggs. Add vanilla, food coloring, and plum baby food. Mix well. Blend in dry ingredients. Stir in nuts.
  2. Pour into a well-greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean.
  3. For the icing: simmer margarine, sugar, milk, and salt for 3 minutes. Drizzle over cake while warm.

Sweet karma wishes,

Staci

I welcome positive comments on this post. Negative comments will be deleted. 

The weather outside is never frightful when it comes to youth hockey season in the Midwest, especially when one of our teams has a two-week lull in their game schedule. And luckily for these guys (and their little sisters), their parents are as passionate about hockey and having fun as they are. So the First Annual Lake Campbell Winter Classic was established this January. And don’t be surprised if, after these kids are off to college, you’ll find us parents keeping the icy tradition alive. (Yes Ann, I just invited us to your house every January for the rest of our lives.)

Lake Campbell Lake Hockey 2015

First Annual Lake Campbell Winter Classic 2015 Photo courtesy of Ann Park

What does hockey have to do with chili? (Because I know you aren’t asking yourself what this has to do with beer.) Ann, our hostess, shared a scrumptious pot of chili at the party and even though I had to eat and run my daughter to hockey in Watertown, I kept thinking about how good it was to have a steamy bowl of chili topped with cheese, sour cream, and crunchy chips. So when I made a batch of Once a Month Beer Chili Spaghetti the next week, I eyed that meat mixture with beans and corn chips on my mind.

beer chili

 

Sure, I could have made my old staple, Make-it-your-way Rainy Day Chili but there’s just something about this addicting meat sauce.

Beer Chili

Recipe for beer chili spaghetti and/or beer chili meat mixture (makes approximately 4 cups):

2 pounds ground sirloin or lean ground beef

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons salt

1¾ teaspoons paprika

1¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 tablespoon onion powder

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

¼ cup chili powder

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 12-ounce beer

If you are making a meal of beer chili spaghetti and a few meals of beer chili, make 12 ounces of spaghetti noodles and add some of the hot pasta water to the meat mixture and then use some of the leftover meat sauce to make chili. If you are making this meat sauce to make all chili, you’ll need to at least double the beans and tomato juice below. You only need to add pasta water to the portion you are using for spaghetti. 

To make the chili (very imprecise directions):

Take a cup or two of the beer chili meat mixture and add:

1 or 2 (15-ounce) cans red beans (drained)

1 or 2 (15-ounce) cans chili beans in chili sauce

Chili powder to taste

Cumin to taste

Tomato juice – I used part of a 46-ounce bottle. It depends on how much meat sauce you are using and how thick or juicy you like your chili.

Chili Toppings:

Sour cream

Corn chips

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Heat together the meat mixture, beans, and tomato juice. Add the additional chili powder and cumin if desired. When hot, serve with sour cream, corn chips, and shredded cheese. Store leftover chili in airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you are more in the mood for BBQs, make  BeerBQ Joes and put corn chips on top.

Icy & spicy wishes,

Staci

Popcorn is a healthy snack option; not the way movie theaters douse it with hot, greasy golden liquid mimicking butter, but remove the blanket of grease and it’s a guilt-free food to mindlessly munch while watching the latest Hollywood flick. Of course every savory snack should be balanced with a sweet snack so why not pair it with caramel popcorn?

red hots smiley

If you’re watching from your couch, not a germy reclining theater chair, skip the seeds and hulls by making your own sticky sweet and salty mix using puff corn cereal. And toss in hot tamales or cinnamon Red Hots® candies.

caramel cashew corn pops

If you go out for movie night, this brings up a moral question. Is it OK to bring a bag of homemade caramel cashew corn puffs into the movie theater if you buy an extortionate $12 box of hot tamales or Red Hots from concessions?

Caramel Cashew Corn Puffs

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

7 cups corn puff cereal (I use Corn Pops®)

2 cups salted cashews

1-2 cups red hots candies or hot tamales candies (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 225°.
  2. Mix cereal and cashews in a large bowl.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup; boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Drop in baking soda and stir well.
  5. Pour caramel mixture into cereal and cashew mixture. Stir to coat thoroughly.
  6. Spread cereal mixture onto two baking sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
  7. Bake at 225° for one hour, stirring around every 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and cool the caramel corn on sheets of wax paper.
  9. Stir in hot tamales or cinnamon Red Hots candies. Store in airtight container for one week.

Sticky blockbuster wishes,

Staci

Leftover baked potatoes can come back the next day as baked potatoes. But when there’s a fried solution to getting them back on your plate, let’s take the road to crispy town.

loaded fried baked potatoes

The recipe isn’t precise and other than the butter, olive oil, and the potatoes you can modify these smashed vegetables to taste.

Melt the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic powder and onion salt OR the chopped onion and garlic. Place the potatoes in pan. Using a potato masher or thick wooden spoon press down on the potato, flattening to approximately ½ an inch. Dust with salt and pepper.

smashed baked potatoes

Fry, covered, on medium heat until crispy and then flip potatoes to crisp the other side and add a pinch more salt and pepper.

fried baked potatoes

Remove from pan and cover with grated cheese, bacon, and a dollop of sour cream.

Smashed and fried baked potatoes

Olive oil

Butter

OR butter with olive oil

Garlic powder

Onion salt

OR chopped onion and garlic

Baked potatoes

Salt

Pepper

Shredded cheese

Sour cream

Crumbled bacon

  1. Melt the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic powder and onion salt OR the chopped onion and garlic.
  2. Place the potatoes in pan. Using a potato masher or thick wooden spoon press down on the potato, flattening to approximately ½ an inch. Dust with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry, covered, on medium heat until crispy and then flip potatoes to crisp the other side and add a pinch more salt and pepper.
  4. Remove from pan and cover with grated cheese, bacon, and a dollop of sour cream.

Add eggs, toast, and a slice of ham or last night’s leftover steak and you have a hearty man-breakfast.

Crispy, starchy wishes

Staci

Another year leaves us with a trail of flour dust and kitchen memories. We’ve read enough “Top 10 recipes of 2014” articles to set our Pinterest boards on fire. Maybe you want to know my most popular recipes for the past 12 months but for now, let’s have fun with the 24 most curious and amusing search terms that brought people to Random Sweetness Baking in 2014.

The searches that made me laugh. 

I’m guessing the following searches brought people to my second most popular recipe in 2014, I was a better than sex cake virgin:

  1. “How long does better than sex cake last in fridge?” In my house, a day if we’re all home. At the office, within minutes of an instant message announcing its arrival. But I suppose it could last a couple of days in the fridge before it would get soggy.
  2. “Better than whatever cake” Clearly, this person already knew there are multiple names for better than sex cake.
  3. “Is there a recipe for virgin cake or is there a virgin cake recipe like the better than sex cake?” I’m so confused.
  4. “Virgin first time sex” I hope this guy’s wife doesn’t look at his Internet search history. Maybe he should spend more time in the kitchen baking cake.

Better than sex cake

The next one made me laugh AND tell my sisters:

5. “Why do old people like bran muffins?”

6. “Bran muffins for elderly”

Bran muffins aren’t just for old people and raisins ruin everything probably didn’t answer their questions because I didn’t talk about the benefits of fiber.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

My third most popular recipe in 2014 drew in a lot of people from searches for buffalo chicken dip with ranch, chilled buffalo chicken ranch dip, chicken wing dip with ranch, buffalo chicken dip for 16 people, buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese, and many others like:

7. “Can you make buffalo chicken dip with dark meat?” Yes, of course you can!

8. “Blue cheese dressing without blue cheese in it” Since I don’t eat blue cheese dressing, my suggestion is to just make the dressing but don’t add the crumbled cheese. Or seriously, don’t eat it at all.

9. “I want to make buffalo chicken dip but I don’t have any ranch dressing” Oh bummer! Then you can’t make my version but here’s a recipe from Food Network for buffalo chicken dip with blue cheese and no ranch.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

10. “Make celery sweeter” I’m not a dietician but celery is a vegetable. Maybe add peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want it sweeter? But here’s how I use celery in my simple tuna salad sandwich, my kids’ favorite homemade chicken noodle soup with healing powers, and crunchy ex-in-law broccoli ranch salad.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

11. “Random shit you can bake” Ha ha! I’m picturing a sprightly redhead sitting at the nail salon waiting for the paint to dry on her toes, passing time on her phone and suddenly deciding to bake something when she gets home.

12. “I want to bake something sweet” Me too, me too! I’m glad you found me and I’m hoping you found some random sweets you can bake! How about making the #1 recipe on Random Sweetness Baking, Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies?

Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies

13. “Can kids have tequila lime chicken?” I won’t laugh because I’m sure there’s a concerned parent out there who didn’t know that alcohol burns off in the cooking process.

14.  “How do Mexicans make chicken street tacos?” I don’t know but this is how Minnesotans make chicken street tacos with cilantro and red onion.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The searches that hopefully led to answers.

15. “Hershey’s Kisses won’t melt turned hard” It sounds like you passed that crucial melting point where the Kiss got hard and then there’s no turning back. Read about it in my recipe for mint pretzel Kisses.

mint pretzel Kisses

16. “If you bake a Hershey’s Kiss in a cupcake does it turn hard after cooling?” I’ve never baked a Kiss in a cupcake but I’m certain it would turn hard when it cools.

17. “Can you make cream cheese deli meat wrap a day in advance?” You certainly can. And in my recipe for crunchy deli wraps, I suggest that you can store the wraps in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to 12 hours. That’s why they are terrific for camping or picnics.

veggie and deli meat wraps

18. “Can I put baking dish from fridge into oven?” It depends on the pan. Never put a glass dish from the refrigerator directly to the oven or you risk the potential for the glass to shatter. But I think metal or stone would be ok. For example, if you prepare smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole ahead of time, you could put it in the oven from the refrigerator if it’s in a metal or stone pan.

19. “Only like the Chex cereal in the mix how to just use the cereal” Then by all means, substitute Chex cereal for all the mixed nuts and pretzels in Chex mix.

Staci's version of Chex mix

20. “Cookies chocolate island” If you found a chocolate island that serves cookies, I want to GO! All I can do is give you chocolate island mint bars.

Chocolate Island Mint Bars

21. “Hershey’s skillet cookie for 1″ How about something even better – bake this giant chocolate chip skillet cookie, slice into triangles, eat a few, and freeze the rest.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

22. “Chocolate stringy brownie cookie” What exactly is a stringy brownie cookie?

23. “Casserole for boys” The most requested casserole from the boys in my family is hot dog casserole.

24. “Cook slice hot dogs with chips on the side” See #23.

And that’s a wrap on 2014! It’s been a fun and fast year of sharing what’s going on in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. There’s nothing better than getting an email from you asking about a recipe or seeing you in the grocery store and you telling me you have ingredients on your list to make something from my blog. Or when you stop me at a hockey game and tell me that what I wrote made you laugh. It’s just you and me kid.

Hoping to see you around Random Sweetness Baking on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers to a new year!

Sweet & bubbly wishes,

Staci

Decorating the tree and tucking presents snuggly under the branches brings joy to those of us who celebrate Christmas. I know I’m excited to open the box that was delivered from Tiffany & Co. this week. But as I’m prancing around the kitchen this morning, I’m thinking about what gifts I really want to give and receive.

Santa and baby Jesus

1. If I could give my children and loved ones the gift of seeing themselves as others do, I’d never buy wrapping paper again.

ornament from 1973

2. True inner peace and happiness for my children and family members. The kind of peace that comes from having faith in God.

kids in 2004

3. That my loved ones are here this same time next year.

in memory of Maui ornament

4. Hope for the future. Each year I put my hope ornament at the top of our tree – a reminder of the year I bought it with some of the last dollars in my pocket.

hope ornament

What are some Christmas gifts that you want now that you are older?

Sweet Christmas wishes,

Staci

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