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Archive for the ‘Kid Approved’ Category

If you’ve been a morning guest in our home, chances are your coffee was as black as frozen hockey pucks and you’ve thrown dietary restraint to the wind by pigging out on warm, gooey butterscotch monkey bread.

Butterscotch monkey bread

Once in a while, I surprise my lovely friends and their kids and give them monkey bread at hockey games. And if you look closely on the bench by my purse, I even have a little pan for my favorite #6 after his game.

Tracey and kids

My recipe has evolved over the years to include butterscotch pudding mix and more biscuit dough. I’ve even driven 12 miles one way to buy the pudding in the morning because it’s that much better with it.

butterscotch monkey bread

I don’t only make monkey bread for houseguests. It is best eaten when it’s warm so my kids are experienced at dishing it into plastic containers for road food, like today as she headed off to work. Some houseguests, you know who you are Zach, won’t eat any until they’re in the car.

monkey bread before work

No houseguests? Make Flying Solo Monkey Bread.

monkey bread

Gooey forkful wishes,

Staci

Butterscotch monkey bread

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 small box (3.5 oz.) cook & serve (not instant) butterscotch pudding and pie filling

1/4 cup sugar

2 generous teaspoons cinnamon

4 tubes (7.5 ounces each) refrigerated biscuit dough

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease Bundt pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk until bubbly. Turn off heat.
  3. In a separate medium bowl stir together dry pudding filling, sugar and cinnamon.
  4. With kitchen scissors, cut each biscuit into four pieces, letting them drop directly into pudding mixture. Every six biscuits or so, toss pieces around to coat fully and drop into Bundt pan.
  5. When half of the biscuits are in the Bundt pan, drizzle a few tablespoons of the caramel mixture onto the coated biscuit pieces.
  6. Finish cutting all the biscuits. Evenly pour the caramel mixture over the pieces.
  7. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Invert pan onto a large baking sheet and lift Bundt pan off.
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Heavier than a newborn but lighter than a case of beer, two pans of bumpy black and yellow caramel brownies sank my rusty scale to 10.5 pounds.

black and yellow caramel brownies

It was hard not to sneak one before I delivered the hefty box of serve-with-a-glass-of-milk bars to one of my favorite customers. So I did what any self-respecting baker would do. I made another batch to share with my family.

black and yellow caramel brownies

This recipe is a mash-up between two of my easy, go-to bar recipes—Yes! Yes! Brownies and Yellow Bars. Too much of a good thing doesn’t pertain to brownies.

Black and yellow caramel brownies

Brownie & caramel layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry chocolate cake mix, any flavor – milk chocolate, chocolate fudge, german chocolate, etc.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

5-ounce can evaporated milk, divided into two portions 1/3 cup each

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag individually wrapped caramels (about 50 caramels)

Yellow & milk chocolate layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry yellow cake mix

1 large egg

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft

12-ounce package milk chocolate chips

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together chocolate cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, 3/4 cup melted butter.
  3. Reserve approximately 1/4 cup of chocolate batter. Spread the rest in pan and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Scatter 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips onto cake batter.
  5. Unwrap caramels and melt over low heat (stove top or microwave) with 1/3 cup evaporated milk until creamy.
  6. Pour caramel over chocolate chips.
  7. Stir together yellow cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick very soft butter.
  8. Set half the yellow dough aside.
  9. Using half of the yellow dough, roll and flatten small portions in your hand. Lay flat pieces on the chocolate chips.
  10. Bake 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  11. In a medium saucepan or in the microwave, melt milk chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon butter, and sweetened condensed milk together until smooth.
  12. Pour chocolate over yellow cake pieces.
  13. Flatten remaining yellow cake dough into pieces and lay onto milk chocolate. (It won’t cover the whole pan.)
  14. Flatten remaining chocolate cake dough into pieces and sprinkle in places not covered by yellow dough.
  15. Using a small spreader or knife, gently spread doughs but leaving bumps.
  16. Bake 30 minutes or just until yellow parts start to turn golden.
  17. Remove from oven. Cut when cooled completely. Store in airtight container.

Sweet mashed wishes,

Staci

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When your teenage son asks for “more of that spaghetti please,” you know the recipe card should be treasured like a baby blanket in a cedar trunk.

baked spaghetti

In my life, that means it goes on my blog for safekeeping, at least until the Internet craze ends.

baked spaghetti with tiny pepperoni

Baked spaghetti marinara with tiny pepperoni

1 pound ground sirloin or hamburger

1/4 cup finely diced white or yellow onion

1 teaspoon onion salt

2 cloves garlic, pressed OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 pound spaghetti noodles

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 (24 ounces each) jars marinara sauce

15-16 ounces tomato sauce

4 ounce package pepperoni minis

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook ground sirloin in medium frying pan with diced onion, onion salt, garlic and pepper until no longer pink. Stir in 1 cup mini pepperoni.
  3. Boil spaghetti noodles until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Drain.
  4. In a large bowl stir together eggs, Parmesan cheese and cooked spaghetti noodles.
  5. Spread thin layer of marinara in bottom of greased 13×9 pan. Top with noodle mixture.
  6. In a bowl, stir together pasta water, marinara and tomato sauce. Spread over noodles.
  7. Sprinkle cooked beef and pepperoni mixture onto sauce.
  8. Layer with mozzarella cheese and top with mini pepperoni.
  9. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is golden and pepperoni is crispy around the edges, 10-15 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven. Slice. Serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

Sweet keepsake wishes,

Staci

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“Judy! This one’s not done,” squawked the old guy as he handed the sparkly donut back into the kitchen. As he shuffled back to his buddies at the community table, I heard, “There’re three women in there and they still can’t get it right.”

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the conversation about a common Midwest funeral sandwich meat spread made of roast beef (sometimes ham), relish, and mayo led to me saying, “It’s not like you wish someone to die, but you look forward to funeral meat.”

cinnamon sugar donuts

Although I live just a few dusty miles outside of this teensy town (population less than 200), this was my first time attending early morning community coffee at the Verdi Township Hall. We were at supper the night before and Grandma Judy, aka Country Grandma (also the Queen of Gravy), said she was making donuts at community coffee in Verdi in the morning. Her grandson (my nephew) Garritt and I agreed we needed to check it out. I mean, how often does an itty bitty town serve community donut holes?

Verdi Minnesota Township Hall

Like any small town, the ladies in the kitchen had been watching out the window and already had the lowdown on Garritt and me when we walked in the door. They saw him drive up and pull away because Judy and I weren’t there yet. Then I pulled up and sat in my car waiting for Garritt. Judy pulled up and went inside to start the morning’s treats. When Garritt came back, we went inside together. If Verdi had a newspaper, I’m guessing our visit would have made the front page.

Verdi Township old school

I’m not sure of the time details but it sounds like community coffee is available every weekday morning at the Township Hall, which also serves as the School Museum and the Community Center. The building was a schoolhouse back in the day and then it later served as the superintendent’s house.

Judy making donuts

You can grab a cup of coffee from the lady in the kitchen and sit on a vintage school chair (from the deteriorating [closed] brick public school across the street [pictured below]) at one of two round tables. Judy’s son, Will, was in one of the last classes to graduate from the Verdi school.

Former Verdi, Minnesota Public School

Former Verdi, Minnesota Public School

The donuts are a special occasion but people take turns bringing treats each day. There’s a bowl on the table to drop your one-dollar bill to cover the cost of the coffee. And don’t fret if you forget your reading glasses—a community pair dangles from the magazine rack on the wall.

Judy making fried donuts

The lively conversation included a lady talking about excellent meat they sell at a locker in the Belview and Seaforth area, Judy’s addition of shredded carrots to ham and bean soup, and gossip about who owns a certain property in Verdi and some land for sale in nearby Lake Benton.

donut in cinnamon and sugar

It’s good that Garritt and I went to morning donuts because we found out how easy they are to make at home. (Recipe below)

serving donuts

Sure, the warm donuts, hot coffee, sparkly sugar, and old-timer conversation were worth going out early on a cold Minnesota morning. But the real emotion and meaning behind this day was about the blessing of Grandma Judy’s life. Can you feel the happiness radiating from Judy and Garritt in their picture? Judy has NEVER liked having her picture taken (as-in she doesn’t even allow them).

Judy has been a rock and a super special person to her only child’s family (Will, Heidi, Cody, Garritt, and Trav) and to me and my younger sister, Kalli. But Judy had a life-threatening health scare last year that we didn’t think her body, or her deficient will to live, would pull her through. She endured a lot but God let us keep her here with us. She is out doing things and enjoying the free spirit she has again, sharing her sprightly sense of humor wherever she goes. The true blessing is that God breathed beautiful life back into Judy—she can finally feel and believe how much people love her. Prayers answered.

Garritt and Judy

Verdi Township Hall Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

1 tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

vegetable oil or canola oil

  1. Stir cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.
  2. Cut each biscuit into three pieces. Roll each piece into a little ball if you want them to be round.
  3. Heat oil to 350 degrees. You can either use a heavy dutch oven or deep saucepan, or like Judy does, a small deep fryer.
  4. In small batches, drop each ball into the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon.
  5. Roll the fried balls in the cinnamon and sugar and place on paper towels.

Sparkly morning blessings,

Staci

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If my best friend Darya hadn’t been killed by her husband when she was 22, we would have celebrated her 44th birthday last month. She was Lutheran. My Grandpa Elroy died quite a few years ago. He was Baptist. My sisters and I grew up with the teachings and influence of a Protestant church. They both belong to different churches now.

monster cookie bars

 

I’ve spent the past 14 years attending Mass and holy celebrations with Jason and his family. Last fall I decided to convert. This Easter I will be baptized into the Catholic Christian church. As I’ve been attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes, I’ve been thinking about what happens to us when we die. Of course, I want to spend my eternal life in heaven with my family and friends, no matter their Christian religion. I want to be in the presence of Darya’s spirit again. I want to eat hard butterscotch candy with my grandpa. I want to hang out with my kids and my sisters. If we get to kiss in heaven, I want to kiss Jason each heavenly morning. So however we need to live our lives on earth to get to heaven, let’s be there together.

monster cookie bars

What does that have to do with a big batch of monster cookie bars? It was my turn for treat night at RCIA the week of Darya’s birthday. People loved these, especially Father Andrew. I gave him an extra one to take home. It was a compliment that people came back for seconds.

Cookie dough balls ready for freezer

Read about how I got this recipe and how I freeze cookie dough balls in Your IT guy knows how to make monster cookie bars and strips.

Monster cookies and bars

2 sticks softened butter

2-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

2 cups white sugar

2 cups brown sugar

4 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla

9 cups quick-cooking oats

2-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 cups plain M&M’s

Heat oven to 350°. Prepare pans. If you want to use all your cookie dough at once, you can make one 13×9 pan of bars (baking time takes about 20-25 minutes) and at least two dozen large cookies (baking time takes about 12-16 minutes). Or, you can make two 13×9 pans of bars. Or if you only want cookies, you can make at least six dozen enormous cookies, a few more dozen if you make smaller cookies.

  1. In large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream softened butter and peanut butter together.
  2. Add white sugar and brown sugar, beating until well combined.
  3. Add baking soda.
  4. Add eggs and beat well.
  5. Pour in corn syrup and vanilla. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated well.
  6. At this point, you should be able to add at least a few cups of the oats and still use your mixer. But once the dough gets too heavy, stop using the mixer and continue adding oats stirring the batter with a wooden spoon. Use your sexy arm muscles.
  7. Stir in the M&M’s and chocolate chips.

If you are making bars, spread half of the dough into a 13×9-inch pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until nice and golden brown. If you take the pan out before they turn golden brown, the middle will not be done.

For cookies, baking time depends on how large you make them. Place on cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, gently push down the dough a little bit so that they spread out instead of baking in one mound. Bake at 350° for 12-16 minutes, or until golden brown. I like to sprinkle just a tiny bit of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt on mine when they come out of the oven.

Sweet heavenly wishes,

Staci

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Like speed limits, recipes are merely suggestions for when normal conditions exist. But who defines normal conditions? Maybe you never have a box of Chex cereal (or three) in your cupboard when you have the hankering to make traditional Chex™ Muddy Buddies™ so you have to think outside the box. Why not make puppy chow, also known as people chow, with the traditional peanut butter, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar but use your favorite cereals?

people chow puppy chow

In my most recent batch, I folded in Golden Grahams, Corn Pops, and Corn Chex cereals for an even tastier version of puppy chow. I planned to toss in chow mein noodles but I forgot to add them. Did you know that if you store puppy chow in an airtight container in the refrigerator it stays crunchy longer?

hodgepodge people puppy chow

You might also like Corn Pops Clusters

Corn Pops Clusters

If you have a box of Golden Grahams cereal, reserve four cups to make what will become a fight-over-the-last-piece family favorite: Marshmallow Creme Crunchy Graham Brownies.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies square

Of course there’s always a special version of Chex Mix Like You Mean It.

Staci's version of Chex mix

Hodgepodge Puppy Chow with Corn Pops, Golden Grahams, Chex, and Chow Mein Noodles

9 cups of a combination of your favorite cereals and maybe chow mein noodles

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cups powdered sugar

  1. Put all the cereal in a large bowl.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter together. Stir until melted and creamy. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and toss until all the cereal is drenched in chocolate.
  5. Using a 2 or 2.5 gallon plastic zipper bag, dump in 1/2 cup powdered sugar, chocolate coated cereal, and top with remaining 1 cup powdered sugar. Seal bag and shake it like a Boggle game until everything is coated with powdered sugar (everything in the bag, not your kitchen).
  6. Spread the cereal mixture onto a sheet of wax paper until cooled.
  7. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

May your recipes feel like suggestions,

Staci

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It’s not like chocolate and mint don’t go together when the skies are sunny and blue and the grass is tall and green, but there’s something festive about a platter of cocoa mint cookies reflecting the dancing lights of a Christmas tree surrounded by family and friends.chewy cocoa mint marshmallow cookies

If you’re from the Midwest, you can see how these chewy cookies resemble a Minnesota snow pile—our snow gets plowed into towering mounds of snow which melt into piles of dirt and muck (the cookie), school gets called off and kids build frolicking snowmen out of sticky snowballs (teensy marshmallow bits), and then a fresh blanket of snow falls, turning everything into a sparkling winter wonderland (dusting of powdered sugar).

marshmallow mint cookie ingredients

You’ll want to check your grocery store soon for the HERSHEY’s mint chocolate chips because I can only find them during the Christmas season. (If you live in my neck of the woods, I buy them at Hy-Vee. I can’t find them at Wal-Mart.) You can use any mint chocolate chips you want, I just like that these are actually semi-sweet chocolate chips. The Mallow Bits are usually in the hot chocolate aisle. But my local grocery store thinks they are seasonal so I couldn’t buy them there last summer. Small town, one grocery store problems…

chewy cocoa mint marshmallow cookies

I found that if you leave the cookies sitting out, the teensy marshmallows on top get crunchy – just like I like them! You can store the cookies in an airtight container but the marshmallows will get soft. (Only leave the cookies sitting out a day or two or they won’t be chewy anymore.)

Chewy cocoa mint marshmallow cookies

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

2 cups sugar

1-1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

¾ cup Andes Crème De Menthe Baking Chips

1 cup mint chocolate chips such as HERSHEY’S semi-sweet mint chocolate chips

2 (3 oz. each) bottles tiny marshmallow bits, divided

powdered sugar for dusting

Make the cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl beat sugar and softened butter until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir together and then gradually add to butter mixture; beating on low just until combined.
  4. Stir in Andes baking chips, mint chocolate chips, and 1 cup marshmallow bits until distributed into dough evenly.
  5. Roll dough into balls. Flatten balls lightly and press into bowl of marshmallow bits, pressing bits gently into dough so they stick when baked.
  6. Place marshmallow side up on ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake 9 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. The cookies will not look like they are done but they will puff up a little when baking and then they’ll drop when they are cooling. They are soft with a little crunch around the edges.
  8. Cool 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. When cookies are completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.
  9. If eating within a day or two, keep uncovered – this allows the marshmallows on top to get a little crunchy. If you like the marshmallows soft, store in airtight container.

Sweet minty wishes,

Staci

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