Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spicy Italian Sausage Vegetable Soup


This is a quick and simple soup. You can easily substitute the ingredients for what you have on hand. I found that I really like soup made with a tomato juice base.

1 lb. hot Italian sausage (or mild, or ground beef)
1 46 ounce can of tomato juice
1 package of Knorr's Vegetable soup mix
2 C. water
1/2 package (about 10 or 12 oz. package) frozen White Quinoa and Barley
1 package (12 or 16 oz.) mixed frozen vegetables
1/2 package chopped frozen okra (if desired)

In frying pan cook sausage or ground beef. Drain off the excess fat. In a large saucepan mix tomato juice with water and dry soup mix. Add the meat and the frozen vegetables. Stir thoroughly. Let mixture come to a slow boil. Turn heat down to medium and left soup simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Use as much of the frozen vegetables and quinoa as you like. I found that half the package of the quinoa mix (about 1 C.), half the okra and most of the mixed vegetables worked best. Some mixed vegetable packs have beans in them which work well. You could also mix in some canned beans. Be creative with the vegetables.

Serve with warm bread or corn bread. For my husband and I this makes about 6 servings. We eat it one day for leftovers then freeze the rest for another time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Deviled Eggs

I recently made deviled eggs for a potluck at the office. They were a big hit. I think we all have childhood memories of them at picnics and potlucks. I know there is plenty of advice out there about how to boil the perfect egg. I will tell you my method which works for me.

Fill a saucepan with water, set in eggs making sure eggs are completely covered and pan is large enough so the water does not boil over. I add a couple of extra eggs, just in case.

Set pan on stove top on med high. Bring the water to a boil, turn heat down just a little bit. Maintain a slow boil for 12 minutes. Remove from stove and drain the hot water. Then run cold water over the eggs. Remove eggs from pan and put in a container and refrigerate until cool.

When cool, peel the eggs. First crack the egg on the counter, then roll it. If you can find the one spot on the egg that has the air pocket start peeling there. That works well. Peel the shell off the best you can. I lay out paper towels. I peel the egg, rinse it off under cold running water, then set it on the paper towel to dry. I peel about 4 eggs at a time, rinse, pat dry, then slice in half. Place the cooked yolk in a mixing bowl and the white halves on your serving platter.

Now for the mix, I apologize I don't have actual measurements. But it's determined by how many yolks you are mixing up. I make mine very simple. I use mayonnaise, a little bit of mustard and a little bit of vinegar juice from pickles, or pickled vegetables. First mash the yolks with a fork, then add the mayonnaise, mustard and juice. You can add the amounts slowly so they are not too runny.

I like putting the egg mixture in my Pampered Chef tool that I use for frosting. It's quick and easy to fill the whites. For this potluck I wanted to be creative so I topped the eggs with jalapeƱos, sun dried tomatoes, cucumber slices, black chopped olives and slices of green olives. Be creative. 

Betty Crocker Caramel-Chocolate Squares

 These are a delicious bar cookie. I find that they are best the day after you bake them. They are also good warm and gooey.

Caramel-Chocolate Squares

1 package (14 ounces Kraft caramels)
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk
1 package Betty Crocker German chocolate cake mix
2/3 C. butter, melted
3/4 C. coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 package (12 oz.) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 C. flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat caramels and 1/4 C. of the milk in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted and mixture is smooth. Keep mixture warm over low heat, stirring occasionally. Mix cake mix (dry), butter, remaining milk and nuts. Spread half of the dough (about 1 1/2 cups) in ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Bake 6 minutes; remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips and coconut over baked layer. Drizzle caramel over chocolate chips and coconut. Drop remaining dough by teaspoonful's over caramel layer; spreading evenly. Bake until cake portion is slightly dry to touch, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into squares.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Treats (or Anytime)

Chocolate Truffles, Coconut Balls, Salted Chocolate Caramels

Easy Dipped Coconut Candy by Elsie Nielson
These took a blue ribbon at the 1978 Idaho Fair

1/2 C butter
14 oz. package Angel Flake coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
4 C powdered sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk (15 oz.)

Soften the butter and mix in the coconut, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir together then pour the sweetened condensed milk over the mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon as best you can. I then take one hand and just squeeze it all together until it's all mixed. It will be sticky. Put in a container with a lid, or a gallon Ziploc bag and refrigerate a couple of hours or overnight. Then pull off small pieces and roll them into balls. You can either dip the whole thing in melted chocolate or just put some chocolate on the top. I then put them in the small paper cups and cover with saran wrap. You could also store in Gladware containers. I keep them in the garage where it's cooler. You can also leave the mix in the fridge for a number of days. These are very delicious and melt in your mouth.


1 C butter
1 pound light brown sugar (2 1/4 C)
1 C light Karo syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk (15 oz.)
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter in heavy 3 quart saucepan. Add sugar and a dash of salt; stir thoroughly. Stir in corn syrup; mix well. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. cook and stir over medium heat to firm-ball stage (245), 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into buttered (or parchment paper lined) 9 x 13 pan. Cool and cut candy into squares. Cut smaller squares if dipping in chocolate. Bigger squares can be wrapped in waxed paper or saran wrap.

The caramels do take a long time to cook, be patient. The recipe recommends cooking to a firm-ball stage but I like to take them off in between soft-ball (234) and firm-ball (245). If you do not have a candy thermometer you can use the cold water method.

Put a small amount of cold water in a small dish, drop a little bit of caramel into the water. Use your fingers to see if the caramel holds together and how firm it gets in the water.

The caramel can also be used for popcorn, cook only to soft-ball then pour over 2 batches of hot air popped popcorn.

Simple Chocolate Truffles

1 C heavy whipping cream
2 C chocolate

Chop the chocolate into small pieces if not already, place in a heat proof bowl. Heat up the whipping cream until just before it boils. Pour over the chocolate, let sit for 2 minutes. Then stir until chocolate is all melted. If not melting or too thick add a little more heated cream. Place chocolate in fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Then spoon it out and roll into small balls. Put these back in the fridge to set. Then dip in chocolate. There are many other things you can add to truffles and many other recipes you can find online.

Cut the recipe in half if you want to just give it a try first.

Candy making requires patience and you will be well rewarded.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Recipe from 1950 Ann Pillsbury Baking Book. I've been making this recipe since about 1971. I always double the recipe.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
(makes about 3 dozen depending on thickness and size of cookie cutter)

Sift together:
1 1/2 C sifted enriched flour
1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 C sugar

Cut in:
1/2 C shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal (I continue to use shortening. I tried it with butter and it still works, but changes the texture a little bit. You can use palm shortening.)

Blend in:
1 egg
2 T milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all together. Using your hands to help mix it all together works great.

Roll out on floured board to desired thickness. Cut with cookie cutter and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake in moderately hot over (400) for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness. The bottoms and sides should be lightly browned. For soft cookies don't let the tops brown.

Remove from oven and let sit a couple of minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack, or tray.

Butter Cream Frosting

6 T butter
4 1/2 to 4 3/4 C sifted powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

With hand mixer cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add about half the powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar (and food coloring); beat in additional milk if necessary to make frosting spreading consistency.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Year Later

If you're thinking I haven't done any cooking in the last year, you'd be wrong. Not only have I done a ton of cooking but I've also taken lots of pictures of food. Today I'll share a modified banana bread recipe that I made today.

I have always baked banana bread in a square cake pan. I like more browned surface and it always is done in the center without ruining a loaf by taking it out of the oven to soon. The recipe I made today I modified to use honey and Xylitol in place of white sugar. It's also a recipe from an old church cookbook from probably the 1970s. I think those are still some of the best recipes.

Banana Nut Bread Muffins
1/2 C. butter
1 C. sugar (or 1/2 C honey and 1/2 C Xylitol) (I think you could also cut the sugar back to 3/4 C without any problems.)
2 eggs
3 mashed ripe bananas
1/2 to 1 C. chopped nuts
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 C. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl mash bananas and set aside. Place softened butter in mixing bowl. Mix butter and add in sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add bananas and nuts. Sift flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients by thirds and mix well. Bake in greased muffin tins, loaf pan or cake pan. Loaf pan takes about 1 hour, muffins about 25 minutes and cake pan about 30 minutes. When done they should be browned. Test center to be sure they are cooked through. Optional topping before baking: melt about 1/4 C butter, add 2 T sugar, 1/4 C uncooked oats, and a few chopped nuts. Mix all together and spoon over batter.

Notes: today I forgot to add the baking powder and they were smaller than normal, but no impact to the flavor. I also used 1 3/4 C white flour and 1/4 C whole wheat flour. Original recipe calls for 1 C mashed bananas, but who is going to measure that out? I always use 3 if I have them.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake from Williams-Sonoma

I like to use these Ghiradelli bars and chop the chocolate up with a knife.


This is really chocolatey and delicious. I wanted to make them into smaller sizes. I used a small Bundt pan and an oversized cupcake pan. The Bundt pan worked best with spray oil and no flour or cocoa powder. Let the pan cool before turning it upside down and let it sit upside down before trying to remove. My ganache should have been just a little bit runnier so that it would drip down the sides. I guess I was impatient. But it doesn't affect the taste.

I'm going to plate some of these to give to friends.

Be sure and read all the instructions before beginning. I used three separate bowls. I do not have a stand mixer but it all worked fine. For small sizes start your timer at about 12 minutes, then check and add time as needed. 

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake from Williams-Sonoma

For the cake:
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting pan
  • 7 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 20 Tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
For the ganache:
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the Anniversary Bundt Cake Pan and dust with cocoa powder; tap out the excess.
To make the cake, in a bowl, combine the 1 cup cocoa powder and the chocolate. Add the boiling water and whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth and blended. Set aside.

Over a sheet of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. (I just used a small mixing bowl.) Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 30 to 45 seconds. Reduce the speed to low, add the brown sugar and beat until blended. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more and stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream and beginning and ending with the flour, beating just until blended and no lumps of flour remain. Slowly pour in the chocolate-cocoa mixture and beat until no white streaks are visible, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter so the sides are about 1 inch higher than the center. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached to it, 60 to 65 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let the cake cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Return the cooled cake to the pan. Using a serrated knife, gently saw off any excess cake that extends over the edge of the pan. Set the wire rack on a parchment paper lines baking sheet. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. (I skipped this step).

Meanwhile make the ganache: In a heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until the melt and the mixture is smooth.
Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, allowing the ganache, to drip down the sides. Let the cake stand until the ganache is set, at least 15 minutes.
Serves 16