Posts Tagged ‘Food’

There is no better fall smell than filling your home with the comforting scent of spicy pumpkin, especially when the cozy aroma wafts from your oven, not a candle or an outlet. Before your house smells like turkey and scorched potatoes, start your Thanksgiving festivities with pumpkin streusel coffee cake.

A few years ago I baked this cake to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. After I got strange looks from people that morning, I found out I was supposed to have brought treats the day before; but once we sliced into the soft, warm-in-the-middle cake, they quickly forgave me. See, look at those beautiful, forgiving smiles.

The recipe is from VeryBestBaking.com., a website on which I have a recipe box overflowing with homestyle goodness. But here’s what sends it over the top — instead of using plain nuts in the streusel, I tossed in Praline Pumpkin Seed Crunch from King Arthur Flour. I don’t think they sell it anymore, but you could use any praline nuts like pecans or cashews and crush them up.

Cozy cake wishes,

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Pull up a bar stool. Or an office chair. Maybe even a reclining Adirondack chair by the pool. Because no matter where you indulge in these margarita cupcakes, you’ll be transported to a dreamy beach lined with sandy towels and sun-baked flip-flops.

Just hope no one steps on a pop-top and has to head on back home.

If you like margaritas, you’ll enjoy these light little cakes spiked with tequila and a twist of lime. Top them with a generous helping of the tart, salty frosting and it’s like licking the rim of your icy margarita.

The recipe is new to me. A fellow blogger from the Minneapolis area, Michelle Hals, shared it with me at Minnesota Blogger’s Conference. The recipe comes from her parents who got it from her dad’s cousin when he made the treats for a high school reunion. Michelle just started a new blog at http://www.michellehals.com so stop by and say hi. She also blogs at http://shelbellescraps.blogspot.com.

Thank you for sharing this family recipe with us, Michelle.

I lovingly call Minneapolis the big city because I live on an acreage in southwest Minnesota. I used to live in the Twin Cities and I love it there.

Margarita Cupcakes

Makes 18 regular-size cupcakes with generous frosting for each.

1 box white cake mix

7-1/2 ounces original margarita mix

2 ounces tequila (or triple sec if you prefer)

1/2 ounce orange juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, add all ingredients and beat on medium-high until fluffy. If you prefer, use triple sec in place of the tequila. The important thing is to use a total of 10 ounces of liquid. Line a regular cupcake pan with papers or grease with non-stick spray. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack.

Simple Lime Syrup (optional)

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I am not a huge fan of cupcakes because they aren’t usually as moist as I like. I found these cupcakes to be a little drier than I like, but an easy solution is to add the following simple syrup:

1 cup fresh lime juice

1 cup sugar

Combine the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Bring it to a boil and continue to boil for 3-5 minutes until it becomes a golden color. Cool. Poke holes in the cupcakes with a toothpick. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the syrup over the tops of the cupcakes. Let soak in for 10 minutes and then frost the cupcakes.

Salty Lime Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

5 cups powdered sugar

3-4 tablespoons lime juice (use 3 and add more if needed for spreading consistency)

1/2 teaspoon salt

couple dashes of green food coloring if desired

In a medium bowl, cream the butter. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lime juice and salt, beating until desired spreading consistency. Add small amount of green food coloring if desired.

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Do you like your margarita rim salty or sweet?

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Since a few of you don’t jump up and down drooling for peanut butter and chocolate, I made you a peanut butter-less version of Reese’s P.Bitty Bars. You get the same gooey chocolate middle and crumbly oatmeal layers, minus the peanut butter. Besides, I really needed to use up a bag of red and green M&M’s before I bring home Halloween candy.

Candy-coated Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Creamy chocolate filling:

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla

Oatmeal Dough:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

2 cups old-fashioned oats, or quick-cooking oats are fine too

1/2 cup M&M’s mini baking bits (You can use regular M&M’s, just chop them up.)

Preheat oven to 350. Line 13×9 baking pan with non-stick foil, letting ends extend over edges. Or, simply spray baking pan with cooking spray.

Over low heat in a small saucepan, slowly melt chocolate and sweetened condensed milk, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 minute, then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside to cool while you make the dough.

In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Beat until fluffy. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating just until combined. Stir in oatmeal. Mix will be crumbly. Firmly press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan.

Spread the chocolate filling evenly over the dough.

With a pastry blender or with your hands, mix M&M’s baking bits into the remaining dough and then sprinkle over the chocolate. Lightly press the mixture into the chocolate so that once baked, the topping doesn’t fall off when you cut the bars.

Bake 25-30 minutes until lightly brown. Cool completely. If you used a foil-lined pan, pull the bars out and cut into squares on a cutting board. Otherwise, cut bars in pan. Store in an airtight container.

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I was married once. And just like everything in life, something good can come of a less than ideal situation. For instance, my two ex sisters-in-law, Deb and Sue, are lovely women who served some of the best down-home food from their Midwest kitchen tables. Many of their creations, like Deb’s Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad and Sue’s Snickers bar recipe, found their way into my arsenal of recipes.

This weekend, my some-day sister-in-law, Betsy, and her family came to visit and we grilled bacon burgers and hot dogs. Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad was the perfect vegetable side dish to serve on a warm summer evening.

In the morning, Gracie and I whipped up fluffy Cake Batter Pancakes and a new-to-us-recipe for ham, cheese, and egg bake made with Stove Top stuffing. (After 10 years with Jason’s family, I think Grace and I are grandfathered in as Aunt and Niece.) She mastered the “flip” of the pancake so she just might take over the morning spatula when they get back home.

You can make this salad with whichever raw veggies you want. The recipe card that I copied from Deb is fairly vague. I wrote garlic and dill weed but I didn’t write amounts. If you’re not fond of some of the vegetables, just switch them out for something you like. Check your garden before you hit the market.

I tossed in a handful of diced red onion. If you like cashews, sliced almonds or sunflower seeds, they would add a nice salty crunch.

Bacon would take it to the next level.

According to what I wrote, the number of servings makes “a big bowl.” My guess is, it makes 12-18 servings.

Broccoli Cauliflower Ranch Salad

1 bunch broccoli

1 head cauliflower

4 sticks celery

1/4 cup diced red onion (If you prefer, use green onions.)

1-1/2 cups frozen peas (The petite ones are nice.)

1 cup mayonnaise, NOT salad dressing

8 ounces sour cream

1 (1-ounce) packet dry Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix – NOT the dip mix

1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (Or use a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.)

Wash and chop the broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and red onion. Add the vegetables, including the peas, to a big bowl of salted cold water. A couple of tablespoons of salt is fine. Let the veggies soak in the water for 10-15 minutes. Drain the water well so the salad doesn’t get watery. Toss the vegetables into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the Ranch packet, dill weed and garlic powder. Stir to mix well.

Add the Ranch mixture to the vegetables and stir until they are evenly coated with the dressing. Chill at least one hour. Serve cold. You can refrigerate it overnight and serve the next day. Refrigerate leftovers.

Do you have a favorite recipe from an ex-family member? 

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Although the names and variations of this caramel cake are as broad as Pink’s hair color, the dessert has been a family tradition for some people for so long they can’t imagine there are people trying it for the first time. For me, it was only a few years ago. My friend, Caitlin O., shared it with us at work and even though I was “cake reluctant,” I slid my fork in it and with one sticky bite I was hoping not everyone in the department knew we had cake = more for me.

The recipe graces pages of community cookbooks, from fundraisers, employee-submitted, family heritage, etc., but to find Better Than Sex Cake in a church ladies cookbook, you’ll find it under a discreet name like Better Than Anything (or Almost Anything) Cake, Better Than Whatever you Wanna Call It Cake, or Heath Cake.

I know, I know – some of you have been reading my blog long enough to know I don’t like cake. Especially the kind you poke holes in and pour in Jell-O or pudding. But this is different. It’s sweetened condensed milk and caramel. You use your favorite caramel ice cream topping. (Like the butterscotch one I drink from a shot glass when I make Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake.) Are you with me?

Better Than Sex Cake

1 box (13 x 9-inch pan size) German chocolate cake mix, and ingredients to bake the cake

1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk

1 jar (approximately 17 ounces or so) caramel ice cream topping

1 tub (8-ounce) whipped topping, thawed

1 package (8-ounce) chocolate toffee pieces (I use Hershey’s Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits)

Bake the cake according to package directions.

As soon as the cake is done, pull it out of the oven and poke holes in the cake with the handle of a mixing spoon. (I use a long-handled lemonade-stirring spoon.) Immediately pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the cake and repeat with the caramel topping.

Let the cake cool in the refrigerator until completely cool. Top with whipped topping and put back in the fridge. Immediately before serving, generously sprinkle the toffee bits on each slice. Store in the refrigerator.

Plan to share this cake because it’s best within 24 hours.

Will this be your first time eating Better Than Sex Cake? Do you have a different name for it?

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Having a love affair with baking means trying new recipes. But by no means does it mean you will like everything you bake. Has this ever happened to you?

You find a recipe that has you dashing to the store to pick up items you don’t keep on hand, (for me that’s whole milk and buttermilk), you spend a few hours in the kitchen gingerly assembling what you think will have you and your family fighting over the last slice, only to take the first bite and remember you don’t really like cake anyway. So what made you think THIS one would be so special?

It happens to the best of us. I chalk it up to “practice makes perfection” in the kitchen. My most recent incident happened with chocolate peanut butter layer cake. I don’t really like cake because I think it’s usually too dry, but this recipe had me at nutty peanut butter mousse layer. As it turns out, that was the only part I liked so I ate it out of the middle and tossed the extra calories in the trash.

If you like cake, peanut butter, and chocolate, there’s a good chance you will savor this extra sweet treat. Click here for Paula Deen’s Lipsmackin’ Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake. The recipe was published in Paula Deen Best Desserts 2009.

I really liked the nutty peanut butter mousse (using creamy peanut butter instead of crunchy), so I may use it as a filling for my heavenly chocolate cupcakes with snow frosting.

Since Jason was crunching on celery while I was digging out the middle of the cake, he spread some of the mousse on his celery. That’s what’s so fun about working in the kitchen, you can go from chocolate layer cake to a new version of ants-on-a-log. And it’s ok, and probably healthier, not to like everything we bake.

Nutty Peanut Butter Mousse

1/2 cup peanut butter morsels

1-1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (the recipe calls for crunchy but I like creamy)

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt peanut butter morsels and 1/4 cup whipping cream. Stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in peanut butter and let cool.

In a small bowl, beat remaining 1 cup of whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. It works best if you use a glass or metal bowl that you’ve chilled in the freezer along with the beaters. Add the confectioner’s sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled peanut butter mixture. Cover and chill. Use as filling for cupcakes or celery.

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What’s something you couldn’t wait to bake and it turned out you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would?

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You may not think a big bowl of salsa makes a meal, but you won’t be able to stop eating this hearty condiment until your belly is full. If you have a garden, run out and pick a few tomatoes, green onions, and as many varieties of peppers as you can. Sauté a pound of chicken seasoned with Mexican spices, throw a few beers on ice, and in 30 minutes you’ll have a perfect summer meal.

Our favorite sidekick for scooping up this salsa is a big bag of Margaritaville Sea Salt Tortilla Chips. (Thanks to my sister, Kalli, for the recommendation a couple of years ago.) For those of you in the Midwest, you can purchase the chips at Hy-Vee, Fareway Foods and Schnucks.

Of course, no meal is complete without something sweet so we topped off this spicy summer meal with a light and creamy, no-bake dessert — Summer Breeze Lime Pie.

Chicken and Black Bean Salsa

1 – 1-1/2 pounds unbreaded chicken breasts, cooked, diced and seasoned with Southwest Seasoning Mix or any combination of Mexican spices

3 large tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or lime juice from a bottle), to taste – you may want to add more to make it juicier

1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped just past the white part

2 (15 oz. each) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

1/4 tsp pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced pepper (red, green, orange, yellow, whatever kinds you like)

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

Sauté the chicken until fully cooked.

Cut up all the vegetables, cilantro, garlic, and stir together in a large bowl with the salt and lime juice. Drain and rinse the beans and add to the vegetables.

When the chicken is done, stir it into the vegetable and bean mix. Serve with chips. Store in the refrigerator and serve leftovers cold.

Happy summer!

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