Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chocolate Banana Jam

4 ripe bananas
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
A few drops almond extract
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon finely ground almonds

In the blender pulse the banana, sugar, orange juice and spices.  Pour them into a pan and stir over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.  Pour over the chocolate chips and whisk until melted and smooth.  Add the vanilla, almond extract and ground almonds. 

When it cools down to room temperature store in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.  This beats the heck out of Nutella Hazelnut spread.  Spread it on toast or homemade bread.   It also makes a great filling for an empanada.  Yum!


An empanada is like a Spanish turnover.  You can fill it with savory or sweet fillings.  Today we’ll fill it with our chocolate banana jam.

3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 egg white
4 tablespoons very cold butter

In a bowl, beat the water, egg, and egg white together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour mix with a pastry blender or use your food processor. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center or again you can do this in the food processor.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but never more than 24 hours.

Tip: If you want to keep the dough longer than 24 hours, you can freeze it.

Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough until it’s 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out four inch diameter circles using either a biscuit or cookie cutter or some other circular object.  You can lay a small plate on top and cut with a knife if you do not have a cookie cutter.  Spoon a small amount of the filling into the center of the disc and fold the dough over until the filling is covered and a semi-circle is formed.  Do not over fill.  Crimp the edges closed with a fork and place the empanada on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Follow the same process for the remaining dough discs and place the formed empanadas in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.

Before the chilling time is done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the top of each empanada with a fork to allow the dough to breath during the baking process (thus forming a flakier crust). You can brush the tops with an egg wash (1 egg and 2 tablespoons of water whisked together) but it’s not necessary. Bake the empanadas for 18 to 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Want to make it easy on yourself?  Buy the frozen puffed pastry and save yourself some work.  Follow the directions on the package.  Just cut them into squares to save waste and have a chocolate turn over instead. 

You may serve warm or cold.  Put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on it if you are serving it warm.  You can also drizzle it with chocolate syrup or sprinkle it with powdered sugar.  See my recent blog for homemade chocolate syrup.  I promise it was easy and delicious. 

Have a super sweet day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

National Cheese Cake Day

Today is National Cheese Cake day.  In celebration and just for fun, I’m sharing cheese cake on a stick.  This is a very simple cheese cake recipe, but you can turn it into a party by putting it on a stick and dipping it in chocolate or you can just make the cheese cake for a great dessert maybe topping it with some fresh raspberries or strawberries. 

Chocolate Cheese Cake

24 crushed Oreo Cookies, crushed (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup  (1/2 stick) melted butter 
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) softened cream cheese
1 cup  sugar
2 tbs. flour
1 tsp.  vanilla
1 pkg. (8 squares) melted semi-sweet chocolate
4   eggs

1 package of chocolate chips
1 package of white chocolate chips
Assorted topping of nuts and sprinkles  

Heat your oven to 325ºF.
Mix the Oreos crumbs and melted butter to make the crust.  Press the mixture onto the bottom of 13 x 9 inch foil lined pan or a round cheese cake pan. Bake 10 minutes.
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla with a mixer until it is well blended. Add slightly cooled chocolate and mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
When baking a cheese cake always put your pan in a water bath to prevent the cheese cake from cracking.  If you are using a cheese cake form pan, make sure you line it with aluminum foil to prevent water from linking into the cake.
Bake for 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours. Use foil to lift cheesecake from pan to cut it into small pieces.  Place a stick in each piece of cake and freeze them to make the dipping process easier.
Melt your favorite chocolate chips and dip the pieces until fully coated and place them on parchment paper to harden.  Melt white chocolate chips.  Put in a small baggie and drizzle the white chocolate over the pieces or while the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle it with nuts or colored sprinkles.  

Have a great National Cheese Cake Day!  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Salads for a Hot Summer's Day

Do you have cucumbers coming in your garden and need something new to do with them.  Try this Thai cucumber recipe.

Asian Cucumber Salad

2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced 
4 Tbsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 c. rice vinegar
1/4 c. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (cut to a pinch if you don’t want it hot)
1/4 cup peanuts, finely chopped
Scallions for garnish

Peel and thinly slice your cucumber.  If your cucumber has large seeds, deseed the cucumber.  This is a great way to use those picked late cucumbers.  Place the cucumber slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. The salt will draw out water from the cucumbers, so let them drain for about 30 minutes. Rinse slices and drain again. 

For your dressing combine vinegar, water, sugar, and red pepper in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool.

Combine drained cucumber slices with vinegar mixture. Chill before serving. Garnish with chopped peanuts and scallions.

Variation -  Try using cashew and/or sesame seeds instead of peanuts.  You may also add shredded carrots and/or red onion for color.  To take it over the top add cold chicken, roast beef or pork.

Cashew Bacon Salad

Now how can cashews and bacon not hit the spot in any salad.  Here is another great salad for these hot days of summer.  You can also add your cucumbers to this salad if you like.  

Curried Nuts 

3/4 cup cashew halves
4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
1/2 medium Bosc pear or Granny Smith green apple, thinly sliced
1/2 cup halved seedless red grapes

Roast cashews slightly in a dry pan.  Only a few minutes.  Watch them so they do not burn. Remove cashews to a dish to cool.

Fry up your bacon strips and coarsely chop it.  Set aside.

Stir together butter, rosemary, curry powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, and toasted cashews. Set aside.

To make the dressing, stir together the white wine vinegar, mustard, and honey. Slowly whisk in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large salad bowl, toss dressing with greens, pear slices, grapes, and bacon, and sprinkle with nut mixture.

Variation – The curried cashews don’t appeal to you, then just toss them in plain and save yourself some work.  It's a salad, so make it your own.  Add or delete anything you like.

Have a great Sunday and pray for rain.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Walk in the garden…it’s what’s for dinner

I just watered the yard to save my flowers and garden from our drought.  It is a daily chore now.  I try to get up early in the morning before the heat and take a stab at it.  So as I did this today, I picked what I’ll have for dinner.  I picked tomatoes, chives and kale.

I cut some small kale which I love.  I prefer it small so I don’t have the large stacks to cut out and it is more tender.  It is one of the best veggies you can eat as far as vitamins and being of German decent, it is bred into me I think.  The area my grandfather came from actually has a yearly festival celebrating Kale.  I wrote a little about it in my Kale blog and shared a lot of kale recipes along with what I’m making today.  I love to just take some cubed ham, kale and new potatoes and cook it until the potatoes are tender.  I cook it in chicken broth (just enough to cover everything in the pot).  I add a little onion powder, salt and pepper and once everything is cooked, I add a pint of half and half.  Once it is simmering, I thicken it with a corn starch slurry.  I check it again for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. 

I picked tomatoes and some chives so there will be sliced tomatoes and I’m making cucumber sliders since I have a large English cucumber, left over bacon and some canned crab in the pantry.  Here is that recipe.

Cool Cucumber Sliders 

8 oz cream cheese (I like the whipped cram cheese)
1/4 cup chopped green onion or chives
12 slices of cooked chopped bacon
4 oz. crab meat
1 tsp fresh dill (you can substitute with dried dill but use ½ tsp.)
½ tsp. onion powder (Optional)
2 large sliced cucumbers
Fresh chives

Clean cucumbers and with a potato peeler decorate the skin of the cucumber by peeling lines on the skin.  Slice your cucumber about ¼ of an inch thick.

Lightly salt the cucumber and let it sit on paper plate or a paper towel.  Use a cucumber with small seeds.

Prep work:  Clean and chop your green onion or chives and fresh dill.  I prefer chives because I have it in my garden all summer and it is more delicate and does not overwhelm the crab meat or cucumber.  Chop your fried bacon (this is a good time to buy that precooked bacon).  I actually use a kitchen scissors for cutting the bacon and the chives.  I have smaller pieces and have a more controlled size.

Mix a package of cream cheese, chives or onions, bacon and crab. Season the mixture with salt, pepper and dill. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture on a slice of cucumber and top with an additional slice.  Garnish with chives and/or dill weed.  I like the dill because it just seems to go hand and hand with cucumbers but I have chives in the cheese mixture.

Variation:  Replace the crab with finely chopped deli roast beef or ham.  You can make an assortment and label your plates and let company sample one of each. 

Enjoy your day and be happy.  May God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gone Fishin'

Just returned from our now annual Yellow River State Forrest camping/fishing trip. Unknowingly, we picked the worst week to go camping and had to battle heat and storms.  I thought I would share with you our brief menu for the camping trip just to show you I not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.

The reason we love Yellow River so much is that DNR stocks the creek with trout.  They stocked it the 2nd day we were there right in front of our camp site.  What a fisherman's dream.  While everything is parched and scorched here, everything was so green and beautiful there.  You sit at the camp site and hear the water running behind you and walk only a few feet to put you pole or feet into the water.  The boys loved to go to the deepest part and swim with the trout.  Water so cold and clear you can see the trout at your feet.  You walk away with a renewed appreciation for everything in your life.

Anyway, back to the menu:

Arrived Monday a little after noon so only had an evening meal but it was terrific.

Monday Night:

Grilled bacon and cheese hamburgers, cantaloupe, baked beans with bacon.

Dessert is a given.... roasted marshmallows and had smores.

Tuesday :


Fresh fruit, donuts, milk, juice and coffee


Taco in a bag.  Kids and adults love this.  The old cast iron skillet gets pulled out and we made up the taco meat, set up a buffet with lettuce, tomatoes from my garden, pepper cheese and/or cheddar cheese, bags of taco chips, and taco sauce.  I think this will be kept on our future camping menus for the simplicity of it and we all loved it.


Trout, fried potatoes, sliced heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes.  It could not get any better than that.  Every one got their fill of trout.   Everyone had a whole trout and a couple people had 2.  Eddie was the master chef and fried the trout with lemon and sliced garlic.  Simple and beautiful.

Before Bedtime Snack

Used pie irons and the boys grilled apple pies with bread and frosted them with vanilla icing.


Brunch (slow to get goin' in the morning)

Pancakes, rope sausage, and homemade syrups (blueberry, strawberry and maple...I blogged them last week and Sal helped me make them).


Due to the heat (105 degrees at 5:00 PM) and predicted bad weather coming, we went into town and had Chinese and discussed whether to stay the night or head home.  We decided to pack up and head home because of what the weather service was predicting.

Hit the road and ran into bad weather all the way home.  I was really glad we had not stayed the night.  Next  year we will not make our reservations so much in advance so we know what the weather might be like.

Thank you God for the rain we needed so badly.

Appreciate nature and her bounty.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chicken Casserole

A friend of mine served this at book club when we had it at her home and I loved it so much, I want to share it with you.   She verbally gave it to me and from memory I made it this way, so if I have forgot something, it sure tastes like hers when I made it.  Of course you can make it your own and add anything else you like.

Sandy’s Chicken Casserole

3 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 package of frozen asparagus
½ jar of green stuffed olives
1 can of sliced button mushrooms
4 cut up roasted chicken breasts
1  8 oz. package of  cooked noodles (You can determine the size)
1 cup of grated Colby cheese
1 tsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Bread crumbs
4 Tbs. butter

Boil noodles until al dente and drain.  Drain asparagus and olives.  Slice olives and asparagus.  Slice fresh mushrooms.  Combine cheese, noodles, chicken, mushrooms, olives, asparagus and cream of chicken soup and put in a 9 x 12 sprayed baking dish.  Spread bread crumbs on the top and put a few pats of butter on top.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until it is gold brown with a crispy crust on it.

Variation – You can replace the noodles with cooked white rice or brown rice but I'd leave off the bread crumbs then and just put cheese on the top.

Have a great Sunday.  Pray for rain.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Microwave Cashew Brittle

Years ago I used to drive up north to an Amish home that had a bakery in their home.  They sold some of the best bake goods but my favorite thing was their cashew brittle.  Of course they did not use a microwave, but I found this recipe and it tastes exactly like theirs and is so simple.  They have moved on now, so I have to make my own.  I thought I would share.  It does not have to be made with cashews, but I love cashews.  You may use peanuts if you like.

Read more about it at www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1929,150177-224194,00.html
Content Copyright © 2011 Cooks.com - All rights reserved.
1 cup salted cashew nut halves
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

In a 1 ½  quart microwave safe dish stir together sugar, syrup, salt and nuts. Microwave on high 4 minutes. Stir well. Microwave 4 minutes more. Stir in butter and vanilla, microwave for 2 minutes longer.
Add baking soda and stir until light and foamy. Immediately pour onto a silpat or spray a cookie sheet with oil.  I love a silpat for this.  Spreading out the hot mixture thin. Let it cool and break into smaller pieces.
They make a great gift.

Be happy and have a sweet day.  May God bless you and yours. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Taco Night

It is taco night.  Set up the taco bar and have everyone make their own.  Here are a couple of ideas for setting up your bar and making baked bowls and shells. 

Unless you are a vegetarian, your taco bar should have at least one meat but two is better:  fish, shrimp, hamburger, shredded beef or chicken.  If you are vegetarian, you can add beans.  The nice thing about a taco bar your guests get to pick what they want.  Here is a list of possible items to put on the bar:  Mexican mix of cheeses, guacamole or avocado, limes, red rice, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, sour cream, peppers, corn, salsa verde, taco sauce and/or a hot sauce.  Here are a couple of ideas for the shells.  Don’t forget the soft shells also. 

If you want taco salad here is a great idea I saw on the internet.  Turn your muffin pan upside down, spray with cooking oil and bake tortillas for 10 minutes at 375F.  Use your smaller flour or corn tortillas.

Another idea for baked corn taco shells that sit flat is to bake them in the oven by draping them over the rack in your oven. 

I've been to wrestling meets where they serve individual bags of chips and add taco ingredients on top making a taco bag to go.  This could be used at a picnic or kids party.  Use the taco flavored chips. Set up the crock pot with your meat and have a selection of toppings along with a bottle of sauce and you are good to go. Break up your chips a little before adding the toppings.  Taco-in-a-bag saves on a mess and makes it fun food.  Just serve with a plastic spoon so they can get all of it. It is great for camping trips also. 

I also put out Scoop tortilla chips and my grandson likes to make mini tacos.  They can pile them high with their favorite ingredients and have super tortilla chips.

Saylor loves to make tortilla chips.  It is something we do most of our weekends together.  He cuts up the corn tortilla with a kitchen scissors and I fry them in the cast iron skillet in oil until golden brown and crispy.  Put on a paper towel and salt immediately.  These are great when they are still warm.  Top them with taco ingredients and they are super. 

I'll share a few recipes for homemade seasoning and condiments:

Taco Seasoning for Hamburger

1 ½ tablespoons of corn starch
4 ½  teaspoons chili powder
½  teaspoon onion powder
½  teaspoon garlic powder
½  teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (add more if you like heat or leave out if you don’t)

To make your own taco seasoning, combine corn starch, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Stir in the paprika, and cumin.  Blend in the onion and ground red pepper.  Stir until all spices are well blended.

Crumble 1 pound of ground chuck into a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the beef. Remove from the heat, rinse meat with hot water, and drain water and grease from beef in a colander.

Return meat to skillet, and pour in seasoning. Stir in a cup of water water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the liquid has cooked away, about 20 minutes.


Use ground chicken or pork using this seasoning or mix your meats while browning for a nice combination taco.  


3 large, ripe avocados, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 finely diced red onion (Once chopped, rinse in strainer with water running through it to take bite out.)
1 ripe jalapeño chili peppers, seeds removed and finely diced (Keep seeds if you like it hot)
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon Kosher coarse salt
1/2 freshly squeezed small lime

You can do this in a molcajete, a blender or processor.

Add the onion, along with the garlic, jalapeño and some salt. Grind them together until the bits have fallen apart slightly, and the mixture looks wet and smells aromatic. Add the avocados and grind some more, until the mixture is mostly smooth, leaving a few avocado chunks here and there for texture. I like chunky guacamole.  Add your cilantro (you may substitute parsley if you do not like cilantro) and squeeze your 1/2 of lime.  Taste and see if it needs more salt.  Add more salt and lime juice if needed.

Homemade Taco Sauce

1 can (8 ounces) unseasoned tomato sauce, preferably no-salt-added
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste (This will determine if you want mild, medium or hot.  For mild, leave it out completely)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Let set for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. (Store in the refrigerator after 2 hours.) Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with your tacos. 

Salsa Verde

1 pound tomatillos, husked
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 serrano chile peppers, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 cups water

Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and chile pepper into a saucepan. Season with cilantro, oregano, cumin, and salt; pour in water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the tomatillos are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.

Using a blender, carefully puree the tomatillos and water in batches until smooth.

Hope I have given you some new ideas for taco night.  Make it special and get everyone involved.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homemade Syrups

When I was growing up, I learned from my mother to be creative when you run out of something.  If we ran out of syrup and with 8 kids, it happened often, she would make her own with brown sugar and water by just heating it.  She would serve it warm over pancakes and I learned to like it better than store bought syrup because it was warm when served. 

So today, I’m sharing making your own homemade syrups. I thought I would become like IHOP and make up a bunch of different syrups.  We’re going camping and making pancakes so I’m going to buy a bunch of plastic bottles or carafes and take a selection of syrups for the boys to pick from. 

Another idea would be to use them to flavor snow cones.  Remember having them as a child?   On a hot day toss the ice in your blender and use an ice cream scoop to fill a paper cup.  Let the kids flavor their own snow cones and pick the flavor they want.

You can also use them to flavor the kid’s milk or yours.  Again, let the kids pick and do it themselves. 

Homemade Maple Syrup

I have goosed up what mom did and given it more flavor.  You can also add butter to it and pretend it is Mrs. Butterworth syrup. 

1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple flavored extract
1 tsp. vanilla

Bring the water, white sugar, and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir in the maple extract; simmer 3 minutes longer.

Store it in the refrigerator, but when serving you can put it in the microwave and heat a bit and serve it warm over your pancake, waffle or French toast.

Flavored Syrup

1 part water
1 part sugar
1 part flavoring ingredient (chopped fruit or herbs or a combination)

Boil all ingredients for five minutes (or long if you want a stronger flavor), let the mixture cool, strain out the solids and refrigerate the liquid. About one quarter of the liquid evaporates in the cooking process thickening it.  The longer you cook it, the thicker it will get.  If it gets too thick add a little more water to it.

Adjust the amount of fruit slightly based on how intense you want the flavor to be and how strong the fruit or herb is.

For a more subtle herb flavor when mixing fruit and herbs, don’t add the herb until the last minute. Then remove from heat and let steep for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on desired flavor. You can even add a sprig to the bottle or jar you’ll be storing it in to show what flavor it is.
For citrus, use the rind as well as the juicy part.  You may also use honey instead of sugar to mix it up!

Homemade syrup doesn’t keep as long as the commercial variety.  Store it in one of my favorite things, canning jars and you can label the lid with a Sharpie or plastic squeeze bottles.

Tested the strawberry and the chocolate today and will be making blueberry and maple tomorrow.   The recipe fits just perfect in these plastic squeeze bottle.  I paid 98 cents for the bottles at Wal-Mart.  I give it a thumbs up!
Possible flavor:

Strawberry basil (toss in a couple of fresh basil leaves to steep)
Blackberry lemon (toss in a couple pieces of lemon rind)
Lemon honey
Peach cinnamon (toss in a cinnamon stick to steep)
Raspberry mint (toss in some fresh mint leaves)
Raspberry strawberry

Chocolate Syrup 

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugars to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and whisk in the cocoa powder, salt, and corn syrup, whisking until all of the solids have dissolved.

Allow the mixture to simmer until it has slightly reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of any lumps and cool to room temperature.

Pour into a squeeze bottle or canning jar and refrigerate. Use it to make chocolate milk, pour over ice cream, or even in a recipe calling for chocolate syrup.  I tested this syrup and it is a real close copy to the Hershey's Dark Chocolate Syrup and is high in antioxidants so good for you.  You can't beat that. 

I have to use dairy free for my grandson and this in almond or soy milk is delicious and I’m assured that it is safe for him.  If a product label says artificial flavor, you never know what that means.

It’s always more fun if you do it with someone.  Make some homemade syrups with your children or a friend.  Then share and sample your creations as a reward for your work.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grandma Elaine's Cake

I’m sharing a very old recipe with a bit of a twist on it.  It reminds me of a fruit cobbler/coffee cake/bread pudding/dump cake.  It is all those yummy cakes in one. You can pick what flavor you want.  My sister gifted me a bag of rhubarb yesterday so I think I’m going to make a simple syrup (one part water and one part sugar) and make a Grandma’s rhubarb cake and take it to mom today.  You could do this with any fruit you like or use canned fruit as the original recipe calls for.  Then you can then own it and put your name on it.

Canned peaches or apples would be great.  I’d add a bit of cinnamon if I used either of them though.  The original recipe called for pineapple, but I don’t care for it as much as other fruits, so tweaked it a couple of times.  It also called for margarine and I’ll always use butter over margarine.  It had an incredible amount of sugar in it, so I also took out some of the sugar and you will not notice it.  I’ve tried to note where I cut or changed ingredients in case you want to go with the original recipe.  Make sure you read the entire recipe completely before proceeding.  It hopefully assures you that you will not fail in the making the dish.

It made the house smell incredibly good.  I tested it to make sure my tweaks improved it before placing it on my blog.


1 cup sugar (called for 1 ½ cups in original recipe)
2 cups  flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 lg. (20 oz.) can of fruit of your choice in its own juice (including juice)*
1/2 cup brown sugar (called for 1 cup of brown sugar in original recipe)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional, depending on your fruit choice)

Milk Topping

1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar (original called for 1 cup and I would cut it in half or use condensed milk)
1 stick of butter (I cut to ½ stick of butter)
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the sugar, flour, salt, soda, eggs together (see my note below).  Add your fruit last so you do not break up the fruit.  Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar and chopped pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Cook the evaporated milk, sugar, butter and vanilla until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Here is a tip.  This is basically the recipe for condensed milk.  You can use a can of condensed milk and save some work.  That is what I did.  Heat a 14 oz. can of condensed milk and butter for 1 minute in the microwave.  Stir in the vanilla.  You make the decision based on what you have in your pantry or cupboard.

After the cake has been baked and still hot out of the oven, pour the milk mixture over the entire cake.  Then refrigerate the cake. This is an extremely sweet, dense, and moist cake.  It would be great over coffee or tea with friends.  

*Using Your Own Fruit and Not Canned

2 cups of fruit
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar

This should really be step one if you are using fresh fruit so it can cool before making the cake.  If you are making fresh apples or peaches add a tsp. of cinnamon.  Make sure when you heat the simple syrup that you do it just until the sugar melts.  You do not want to over cook the fruit and have it fall apart.  You may want to throw the fruit (if it is small like raspberries) in at the last minute.  You can use frozen fruit also.  Make sure that it has cooled when you add it to the batter with eggs or you will scrabble your eggs.  Make sure you add the delegate fruit like raspberries after you have the batter completely made and fold in carefully to keep the berries from dissolving.

What fruit do you want to use?  They all sound good:  raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, apples, peaches, cherries, or pineapple. 

Note:  I made mine in 2  9 X 9 inch pans so only cooked it for 25 to 30 minutes.  I also used condensed milk rather than make the original milk mixture.  I heated the condensed milk and butter in the microwave for 1 minute and then stirred it to incorporate the butter.  I added the vanilla last and poured over the 2 cakes. 

One cake is for mom and the other one is for my returning son and his family who got home from vacation today (less one piece because I had to taste test to make sure it was edible).   Aren't they beautiful?  By the way they are very edible.  I'll be making this again.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Homemade Refrigerator (No Cook) Pickles

Is there a better pickle than a Claussen kosher dill pickle?  I don’t think so.  Do you want to make a great pickle with a crunch like the Claussen pickle, also called a refrigerated deli pickle or a Lithuanian half sour pickle?

To get the crunch you can’t cook the pickle which makes it easier on you.  There are only a few steps to follow:  stir brine together, clean and cut the cucumbers, and stuffed into a jar with garlic cloves and spices.  And then you wait for a couple of days.

Let’s try them together.  The recipe is quite large so you can cut it down if you like.  I was gifted some cucumbers and going to try these with my wonderful gift.  Thank you Cathy.

35 to 40 small to medium pickling cucumbers
1 gallon cold water
1 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices
2/3 cup Kosher salt (Do Not use iodized salt!)
4 cloves garlic or more, to taste
4 fresh dill heads or 4 tablespoons dried dill seed (Not weed! I used dried dill seed.)

Wash cucumbers but do not scrub them.

Trim 1/8 inch from the blossom end of each cucumber and slice in half lengthwise or into quarters, depending on how large your cucumbers are and how big you want them to be when they're done.

In a wide mouth jar or crock (any wide-mouth, food safe container) layer the dill heads or seed, garlic cloves and sliced cucumbers.

In a separate pitcher or bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients until the salt is dissolved.

Pour the brine over the cucumbers, taking care to make sure all of them are fully submerged. If needed, place a plate or mug or other non-reactive heavy item on the cucumbers to weigh them down and keep them under the brine!

Cover lightly with a lid just perched on top to keep off any fruit flies.

Leave out of direct sunlight on the counter for two to four days, or until the cucumbers taste like pickles throughout.  Sample them after 2 days.

Put into jars and put on your lids and chill. These can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months provided you keep them covered with brine and don’t drink the pickle juice.   I love dill pickle juice.

If at any point in the proceedings foam develops on top of the brine, use a spoon to remove it. If there is fuzz attached to any of the cucumbers, remove the ones affected and be sure the others are still fully submerged.

This is a super diet food.  You can always reach for a dill pickle and never have to worry about the calories.  Any time you are serving a sandwich, put one on the plate.  If you have a large get together planned make sure to pull them out.  Put out a tray of them with your veggie tray and proudly let everyone know you made them yourself.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

National Tapioca Day

July 15th is National Tapioca Day

Well it is another national food holiday.  Today is National Tapioca Day so of course, I have to celebrate it because it is a food day. 

It is an old fashion food that I grew up on.  So you can call me old fashioned, because I love it.  Not everyone likes the texture of tapioca.  My sister Doris hates it and since she was a little girl has refused to eat it because she says it like eating little eyeballs.  I like it for the very reason of its textures as it rolls around on my tough.  So I hope you like it and are willing to celebrate today with me.

Because my inquiring mind has to know I had to do a little research and found out some things I did not know.  I did not know that it was grown in Puerto Rico along with other Caribbean islands and South American.   Tapioca is a staple food in some of these regions and is used worldwide as a thickening agent.  Tapioca is gluten-free and I’m always looking for that.

Tapioca Pudding    

3 cups whole milk  (You can also use soy milk or almond milk for dairy free)
1/2 cup quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir together the milk, tapioca, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 5 minutes longer.

Whisk 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs to temper them and add 2 tablespoons at a time until incorporated.  This prevents the eggs from becoming scrabbled.  Stir the egg mixture back into the tapioca until well mixed. Bring the pudding to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer until the pudding becomes thick enough to evenly coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. The pudding may be served hot or poured into serving dishes and refrigerated until cold.


  • You can add raisins, cinnamon, and/or nuts to it.
  • In serving it, you can top with fresh fruit like strawberries or raspberries.
  • You can also melt in ½ cup of chocolate chips and make a chocolate pudding. Add them after you have incorporated the eggs.
  • You can flavor the pudding with lemon for a lemon pudding.  Add some orange extract and grated orange peel for orange tapioca. 
  • Serve with whipped cream or a chocolate drizzle on top or both.
  • You can put a meringue on it and put it under the broiler to put a golden brown on your meringue.
  • You can dust it with sugar and put it under the broiler to add a thick crust on it like Crème Brûlée.
  • Add mint extract and a little green food coloring and maybe some mini chocolate chips for a chocolate mint tapioca pudding.

Me and my little jelly jars, I’m always looking for another use.  Fill them up they make a conversation piece when you serve them.  They also make a great lunch snack in the lunch box.  Put them in the refrigerator for a quick gluten free, healthy snack for the kids.  
I also like to use it as a thickener for pies.  When a recipe calls for flour in your fruit you can replace it with tapioca instead.  It adds a little more texture to that fruit pie and makes a great thickener.

Butterscotch Tapioca

6 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups small pearl tapioca
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 stick butter
2 tsp. vanilla 
8 oz. non dairy whipped topping
3 Snicker bars (Optional)

Bring water and salt to a boil, add tapioca and reduce heat, cook until almost clear. Stir often. Remove from heat.

Add brown sugar, cover and let set for approximately 10 minutes.

Beat the eggs, evaporated milk and sugar and add to tapioca. Put back on heat and bring to a boil. By this time the tapioca should be clear. Remove from heat again.

Brown the butter being careful not to burn it and add to hot tapioca, stir in vanilla, cool.

When the pudding is cold, fold in the whipped topping as well as the Snicker bars.

Tapioca Blueberry Pie

3 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
1/4 cup tapioca
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

Pie Dough
1 cup sweet unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon sugar mixed with a dash of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine blackberries, tapioca, sugar and butter.

Stir together and mush up some berries so mixture is juicy but still chunks of butter in mixture.

Combine butter, salt and flour then cut flour into butter. Rub mixture through fingers until cornmeal consistency.  The process is much easier if you have a food processor.   Add water turning mixture so it comes together in a ball then chill at least 2 hours.  This is a time you can also use the store bought rolls of pie dough and save yourself some work.

Divide chilled dough into 2 portions with one portion being slightly larger than the other. Roll larger one on floured surface into 12” circle then place dough on 9” pie plate.  Dough should be about 1/2" longer than top of plate then pour in berry mixture.  Roll out second portion of dough and cut it into 1” strips.  Place 5 strips across pie in one direction then weave in second set of strips. Fold bottom layer over top of lattice edges and crimp then sprinkle sugar over top.

Bake on bottom rack for an hour at 350 degrees F. or until it is golden brown.

You can use almost any fruit or berry and thicken it with tapioca using the above recipe. 

Hope you have a wonderful Sunday and National Tapioca Day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Frozen Fruit on a Stick

Frozen Banana on a Stick

Wants an easy and delightful frozen dessert for the warm days of summer?

When I lived in California, one of the pleasures was vendors selling frozen bananas on a stick.  Rather than ice cream on a warm day, you could have a sweet and healthy frozen banana dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts.   If we went to the Zoo or Disneyland, I always had one. 

You cut the banana in half and put in on a stick.  Melt your favorite chocolate chips (you can also use white chocolate if you like or even a mix).  I usually melt my chips in the microwave or over a double broiler.  If you are doing it in the microwave do 30 seconds, stir and then another 30 seconds.  Dip the banana in the chocolate and roll it in your favorite nuts.  I love pecans.  Lay on a piece of parchment paper or a silpat and put them in the freeze until they are frozen.  Wrap them with plastic wrap and keep in the freezer until ready to serve or let the kids reach in and help themselves at snack time.  Make sure you have nice ripe, sweet bananas.

You can do this with more than bananas.  Try kiwi, pineapple or strawberries or put 2 or more on a stick and dip or drizzle in chocolate.  

You decide what size you want.  In California you got a whole banana.  You can make small lollypop size or like a kabob. 

After dipping in chocolate, you can also roll the fruit in sprinkles, mini chocolate chips for a double whammy, your favorite cereal, or coconut.  Let your imagination go wild.  Let the kids get in the act and make their own frozen dessert on a stick.  Set up stations with several different coatings and let the kids play with their food.   It is a great family thing to do on a hot summer day.

You do not need to dip the fruit; you can drizzle the chocolate or mix the chocolates.  Make a beautiful long kabob on a long skewer.  Freeze your fruit first in this case.  Put your melted chocolate in a small baggy and cut the tip of it and drizzle back and forth over the frozen fruit using both chocolate and white chocolate.  When hardened, turn over and do the other side.  

If the fruit is frozen, you can also buy the chocolate shell in a jar that is in your ice cream department.  This is a nice alternative because  you will get a thinner shell.  Which ever you prefer or is easiest.

If it is on a stick, it makes it more fun and easier to eat.  Great for kids or even a grown up party treat.  
Hope this give you some ideas of a fun snack or dessert for the kids or for yourself this weekend. 

Tomorrow is National Tapioca Day so I'll be sharing tapioca recipes with you.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

My second favorite pie is Lemon Meringue.  In the summer, it is my favorite because it goes well with a hot summer day.  I have to take a dessert to book club today so I made a lemon pie. I thought I’d share it with you.  Again, I’m going to have to go with the store bought crust to make it simpler though.  


1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 large lemons
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 baked 9 inch pie crust


6 egg whites
6 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and bake your pie shell as per directions on the package.  My package said 400 degree, but I baked at 350 for 10 minutes taking care to stick the crust with a fork before baking to prevent the crust from bubbling up.  Pull out as soon as it is lightly golden brown.

Separate your egg yokes and egg whites.

Juice and zest your 2 lemons. 

Lemon Filling

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture to temper the eggs so as to not cook them. Whisk the tempered egg yolks back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat.  Pour filling through a strainer to make sure you don’t have any cooked eggs or lumps.   Pour filling into the baked pastry shell.


In a large glass or metal bowl, whip the egg whites until they are foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.  If you like to really pile on the meringue, use more eggs whites.  I added 2 more to get the high meringue shown above.

Put the oven on broil and put the meringue pie under the boiler.  Do not walk away.  It browns very quickly and you don’t want it to burn.   It will only take a few minutes for the meringue to turn golden brown.  Let the pie cool on your counter.  If you refrigerate, the meringue will sweat. 

The house sure smells good.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

June 12th is National Pecan Pie Day

Cocoa Pecan Pie 

I could sit and look through old cook books for hours.  It is safer to look than to cook sometimes.  

What is your favorite pie?  Mine has to be pecan and today being National Pecan Pie Day I’ll share my favorite pecan pie recipe.  This very old recipe stirs up a lot of great memories for me. 

Mom used to make pecan pie for all of our get togethers.  Each member of the family was responsible for their “special dish” and mom was responsible for bringing the pies (she needed to bring more than one) so we could all say the same thing over and over again, “Maw, that sure looks like good pie!” If you like pecan pie, you’ll love this because I’m using a store bought crust again to make it really simple and I've added chocolate. 

9 inch unbaked pastry shell
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
3 eggs
¾ cup dark corn syrup
¾ cup cream
¼ cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup of chopped pecans

Combine the sugar, cocoa, flour and salt in a small bowl; set aside.  Combine the eggs, dark corn syrup, cream, melted butter and vanilla in a large mixing bowl; add the dry ingredients, stirring until smooth.  Stir in the pecan halves.  Pour into pastry shell.  Bake at 325 degrees for 60 minutes or until the center is firm to the touch. 


If you really want to take it over the top with chocolate, you can add some chocolate chips to it or drizzle it with melted chocolate on the top.  The pie is so rich, you will only be able to eat a small piece.

Pecan pie brings back some awful sweet memories.  Mom is 87 year old and doesn’t bake any more, so I have to do the baking myself and I take her the goodies now.  This is honor of you mom.  I love you.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Key Lime Pie

Here is a very easy recipe and great for this warm weather.  The secret to this is we are talking Key Limes, not limes.  The key lime is a true type of lime with a distinctive flavor which is kind of an orange/lime flavor. They are tart but not as tart as regular limes. If you can find them, they are smaller than regular limes and a little more expensive. A true key lime pie would not be one without using the key lime, it would be just a lime pie.  You can decide if you are making a key lime or a lime pie.  Each will taste great!

Tip:  Don’t use the bottled lime juice.  Most of the bottled is citric acid, water and lime flavoring.

Key Lime Pie


1 Pkg. graham crackers
6 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In food processor, process graham crackers until fine. Add melted butter and sugar and process until it makes a wet dough. Press into 9" glass pie plate, bake for 20 minutes until browned and firm. Allow to cool completely. Turn heat down to 325 degrees.

Or you can buy the store bought crust.  For the cost, I usually go with the store bought unless I already have graham crackers in the house. 


2 Cans sweetened condensed milk
8 Egg yolks
1  1/3  Cups key lime juice
Several drops green food coloring (optional)
Grated lime zest

Mix together and pour into pie crust.  Bake 20 to 30 minutes.  The pie is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out lightly coated.  The top of the pie should be custardy in appearance and stick to your fingertip when pressed lightly. 

Allow the pie to cool.   Place pie in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Whipped Cream

Heavy cream
Sugar, to taste
Lime extract, to taste

Beat all ingredients until cream is firm. Add heaping spoonful of whipped cream to each slice of pie; garnish with sliced lime.


Meringue topping instead of whipped cream is another option.  Use your egg whites from the 8 eggs you used to get your egg yolks from making the filling and whip them until they are stiff.  Add several tablespoons of sugar and whip. 8 whites will give you a very high meringue on top.  Put on top of cooled pie and put under the broiler watching it the entire time until the stiff peaks are golden brown.  Do not walk away from it. 

Decisions, decisions, you’ll have to pick which way you would like it.  I have to go with the meringue so the egg whites don’t go to waste.  I also would not use the food coloring making it a little less attractive.  Because the key limes are so small, you may need more than a dozen of them, so you will need to decide if you are talking lime pie or key lime pie. 

No matter what you decide, I know that you’ll love the pie.  Tomorrow is National Pecan Pie day, so I'm sharing my favorite pie, pecan.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strawberry Pie

There are some beautiful strawberries in the stores right now and the prices have been reasonable.  It is time to make something with fresh strawberries.  Since this week I’m going old school here is another old recipe.  This is a vintage old recipe like Grandma used to make except she made a real pie crust.  I’m making it simpler by using a store bought crust. 

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
4 Tbs. corn starch
1  3 oz. box strawberry Jello
1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
1 baked pie crust

Follow the instruction on the pie crust and bake fully.

Whisk sugar, water and corn starch over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.

Stir in a package of strawberry flavored gelatin until incorporated.

Chill mixture in refrigerator until cooled, but not hard-set.

While mixture is chilling, clean the strawberries; fold them into sweetened half set gel.  Pour the mixture into you baked crust. Refrigerate until it is hard set, about 1 hour.

Top with whipped cream and garnish with a whole strawberry.

In this heat, this will really go over very well.  Tomorrow another pie recipe.  Lemon or Lime?  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.