Pumpkin Spice Cookies

>> Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We have found a new favorite to add to the cookbook. This evening my daughter headed to the kitchen to try out a cookie recipe she had tasted. It turned out to be as good as she had hoped! Definitely appropriate for the season. Tastes like pumpkin pie in the shape of a cookie.

OVEN: 350 degrees

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream together:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar

Add ...
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat until creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a non-stick cookie sheet.

Bake 15-20 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients and cream until smooth. Use a generous amount to frost each cookie.

YIELD: 2 1/2 dozen cookies



>> Sunday, October 10, 2010

We woke up this morning to the first frost of the season. Definitely a good reason to pull together a cold weather favorite. Baked macaroni and cheese is a family favorite that seldom leaves left-overs. But on the rare occasion that there is some left, it tastes even better the second day!

This recipe originated with my mom ... we never ate mac-n-cheese from a box when I was growing up. It was a staple when I was first married, and has evolved over time. It became even easier to make with the purchase of our first microwave.

OVEN: 350 degrees

2 cups favorite meat ... use ham, sausage, or kielbasa. Cook meat until tender and cube. Set aside. (I prefer to use kielbasa)

2 cups elbow macaroni - cooked 'til tender to bite in boiling water with a bit of cooking oil. Approximately 10 minutes. Drain and rinse macaroni. Set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt 4 Tablespoons butter. Whisk in 4 Tablespoons flour until smooth. Slowly whisk in 2 cups milk. Cook on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and whisk thoroughly. Cook for another 4 minutes, stopping to whisk after each minute. Mixture should be thick and smooth. You may need to cook another 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave.

Shred 1/2 to 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese into the milk mixture. Whisk cheese in until melted. The amount of cheese will depend on personal taste. I use a very sharp cheddar (5X) from our local farm market.

Stir macaroni and sausage into cheese mixture. Pour into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Crush Cheez-It crackers (White Cheddar is our favorite) until you have 1 cup of cracker crumbs. Sprinkle over top of macaroni and cheese mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes until cracker crumbs begin to brown.

YIELD: 5-6 servings


Potato Cheddar Soup

>> Saturday, October 9, 2010

I very rarely cook from a box. Creating from scratch is far too much fun, and in my own opinion, often tastes better! However, now and again I come across a quick and easy, delicious treat in a box. I recently ordered Potato Cheddar Soup mix from a friend's Tastefully Simple party. While I happen to think my own potato soup is pretty good, it would sure be wonderful to mix up a quick and hearty pot of soup without all the chopping and mixing and simmering.

We were all cautiously optimistic 30 minutes after I popped open the box. None of us was disappointed! Six cups of water and the contents of the box mix ... with 4-5 slices of bacon crumbled in (optional) ... and we had four bowls of creamy, cheddary, potato soup.

So this is a non-recipe, recipe perfect for one of those cold fall or winter afternoons when you need something delicious in a short amount of time. And while the soup is simmering for 30 minutes, you'll have just enough time to mix up some Apple Walnut Muffins to serve warm with your soup. Your meal will still have that made from scratch touch!


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes

>> Sunday, September 19, 2010

The occasion is the birthday of a special friend. What could be more appropriate for a school teacher than cupcakes?! Not being particularly fond of cake, I have just a few favorite recipes in my possession. This one is my "go to" whenever I need traditional chocolate cake or cupcakes. Everyone seems to wince when I mention mayonnaise as one of the main ingredients, but tasting is believing. No dry, crumbly cake here. Just moist, yummy enjoyment!

OVEN: 350 degrees

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2/3 cup baking cocoa
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into cupcake pans lined with muffin papers. Bake 20 minutes. Cool on rack. Top with your favorite icing ... peanut butter, mint, etc... YIELD: 2 dozen.

Or ... pour into greased 9x13" pan and bake 30 minutes.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

>> Thursday, September 16, 2010

Warm, chewy chocolate chip cookies with cold milk ... who can resist them? These will taste especially good at our bonfire this weekend. Easy to make and a nice variation on a favorite cookie choice.

OVEN: 350 degrees

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Stir in flour until well mixed. Fold in chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Press into 15x10" bar pan. Bake 20 minutes. While slightly warm, cut into squares.

YIELD: 24 bars


Chewy Granola Bars

I love baking this time of year. The cooler temperatures and beautiful colors in the trees seem to beg for yummy goodies full of oatmeal, raisins and walnuts. We're having a group of friends over this weekend for a bonfire and BBQ. These should taste awesome!

Note: You can change these up in a number of ways. My mom makes this recipe and tosses in 1 1/4 cups of Rice Krispies. It makes for a nice "crunch". You can also add chopped nuts in addition to or in place of the raisins. Lots of ideas for "finishing" these as well -- drizzle with simple vanilla icing, or honey or maple syrup. The possibilities are endless.

OVEN: 350 degrees

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Stir in:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups quick oats
1 cup raisins

Press into a 15x10" greased bar pan. Bake 10-12 minutes. While still slightly warm, cut into squares.

YIELD: 2 dozen squares


Cappuccino Balls

>> Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I have to admit, I really don't like coffee in any form. But I do love the smell of it perking! So this recipe is for a friend ... made by another friend. Both of whom love coffee and love sharing baked goods.

I also hear tell that these freeze very well, so you can make them ahead and save for later. And no oven needed!

1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
2 Tablespoons cold coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup finally chopped nuts of choice (use a food processor)
Additional sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add cocoa, coffee and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in oats and nuts. Chill. Shape dough into 1" balls. Roll in additional sugar and store in your refrigerator.

Enjoy ... and I won't even ask for any!!


Back in the kitchen ...

>> Saturday, September 4, 2010

I've been on somewhat of a hiatus from blogging this past summer. A crazy summer of traveling for work, a 50th anniversary celebration for my parents, and our oldest daughter's wedding pushed cooking and blogging to the bottom of the list!

But the summer is now behind us, cooler weather has arrived and canning tomatoes appeared at the market this week. So back to the kitchen I headed today to stir up my homemade spaghetti sauce to can for the winter.

After years of experimenting, I've decided that a combination of Roma tomatoes and canning tomatoes (likely a Big Boy or Beefsteak tomato) makes the best sauce. Two bushel of tomatoes (one of each) will produce somewhere between 35-38 quarts of sauce. Using chopped, fresh basil and garlic cloves really gives a fresh taste to enjoy over the winter.

Tools make all the difference when you're spending a long day on your feet processing tomatoes. Some of my favorites include my Pampered Chef garlic press, an awesome stock pot that cooks evenly and is easy to clean, my trusty pressure canner, and my least expensive but much appreciated long-handled spoons. No kitchen should be without some!

By the end of the day my feet were tired and I had handled enough tomatoes to last a lifetime, but oh did my kitchen smell delicious. And the rows of shining jars of spaghetti sauce on the counter are a promise of wonderful dishes to come this winter!

What smells yummy in your kitchen this weekend?

Blessings ...



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