Monday, November 25, 2019

Crockpot Beef Stew

I've made this recipe twice in the last month, or so. It is so flavorful, you really should make it! The first time I made it, I used stew meat and the second time, I used chuck roast that I cut into about 1 1/2 to 2" pieces. The chuck roast is so much better, but if you need to use stew meat, it is still very good.

I found the recipe here, at Carlsbad Cravings. Do read through her post if you are able, because it has a lot of good tips and information.

As I've said, I used chuck roast the second time I made this, and I did sear the meat before adding to the crockpot. I think that made a difference, as it adds to the layers of flavor. However, it probably is not necessary if you don't have the time. When I made this the first time around, I used a can of diced tomatoes rather than crushed. The second time, I used crushed tomatoes. I might prefer the diced tomatoes, but use whatever suits your preferences.




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Beef Stew Ingredients
1 tbsp (or more) olive oil
2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
       (Stew meat will work if that is all you have access to)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4-5 medium-sized red potatoes, about 1 pound, chopped (I scrub them and leave the skins on)
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 to 1/2" pieces
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, minced ( I don't like garlic, so I did not add)
1 bay leaf

Beef Gravy Broth
1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes (You can also use a (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes - do not drain)
1 (10.5-oz) can beef consomme (You can substitute low-sodium beef broth, if unable to find)
1 (15-oz) can low sodium beef broth (I use Swanson's)
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I don't care for mustard, so I did not add)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp (or cubes) beef bouillon
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1. Cut your meat into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle your meat with the salt and pepper.

2. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. (I used a cast iron skillet, but any heavy-duty skillet will do) Brown the meat in a very hot skillet and let cook, undisturbed for approximately 2 minutes, or until it has a nice sear on the first side. Continue to brown on all sides, but do not cook all the way through. This will only take a few more minutes. TIP: Brown the meat in small batches, so that it achieves a good sear. I browned the meat in three batches. Place the meat in the bottom of the crockpot, as you brown it.

3.  Add the vegetables and garlic to the crockpot, and give it a good stir. 

4. Wipe out the skillet and add the beef consomme. Do not heat, yet. Add the flour and whisk together until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, while you whisk everything together. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened and the consistency of gravy. Add to the crockpot and give it another good stir. The gravy will thin out as it cooks together with the meat and vegetables. 

5. Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours, or on LOW for 8-10 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are very tender. Discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired. 

Serve with a crusty bread, or biscuits. 






Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Lasagna - Updated

I'm reposting my lasagna recipe, as I've slightly updated it.


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2 pounds hamburger (I use the 85% lean ground beef)
1 (28-oz) can Italian tomatoes*, cut up
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
Add about another 1/2 can of a 14.5 oz can of regular diced tomatoes (You don't have to use the real Italian tomatoes here)
dried oregano leaves, to taste
dried basil leaves, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
8-oz block Mozzarella cheese, sliced, or shredded is fine, too **SEE NOTE**
approximately half  to one whole of a 6-oz container of grated Parmesan cheese
9 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions

Brown the hamburger in a skillet and drain the grease. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add the oregano and basil to taste. I never measure the seasonings, I just sprinkle them in. Cover skillet and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles.

In a greased 9 x 13" pan, spread a little of the meat sauce in the bottom on the pan. Layer on 3 of the noodles, and top with one-third of the mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Spread with more of the meat sauce, then repeat layers in order given. There will be three layers of noodles. On top of the third layer of noodles, I spread more of the meat sauce, and sprinkle more of the Parmesan cheese on top of all.

Bake 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese has melted. Serve with french bread and a nice green salad.


Note: I highly recommend that you use Italian tomatoes, as opposed to the regular canned tomatoes. I don't know if the Italian tomatoes are juicier or what it is, but it does seem to make a difference. You should be able to find them in the same aisle as the regular tomatoes, but they will be down a ways, separate from the other tomatoes. At least in my store.

**NOTE** This is really good with half Mozzarella, and half Provolone cheese - You don't have to be real exact, about 4-6 oz each of Mozzarella and Provolone cheese. Provolone is a drier cheese than Mozzarella, but it has a milder flavor, and adds a lot to the flavor when using both cheeses, along with the Parmesan.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mom's Meatloaf




I've revived an old recipe that my mother always made. The leftovers, should you have any, make for excellent sandwiches.


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1 1/2 lbs hamburger (I find that 80% lean is a good choice)
2 - 3 slices bread, torn into pieces
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
garlic pwd
onion pwd
splash Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs
about 1/4 cup milk
about 1/4 cup ketchup
chpd green pepper, maybe 1/2 to 1 whole - if desired
American cheese, cut into small bits, as much as you want - if desired

If desired, additional ketchup and a few slices bacon for the top

Combine the meatloaf ingredients. Spray a 9 x 13" pan with PAM and put 3 slices bread, side by side, to place the meatloaf on top. This will absorb the grease, and when you're done with them, is a tasty treat for your dog; if he can handle it. Pat the mixture into a large loaf, on top of the bread. Spread some ketchup on top of the loaf, and lay a few slices bacon on top, if you'd like.

Bake 350 degrees for about 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until no longer pink.

How do YOU make your bacon?

I decided that I've been making bacon the wrong way my whole life. I've always pan-fried my bacon, not liking how long it took or the mess it made with the spattered grease, not to mention how unevenly it cooks. I started reading about how well it turns out in the oven, and then started cooking it in the oven a few months ago. I'm telling you, it is so easy, and turns out evenly crisp. I don't think I will go back to cooking it in a skillet again, at least not on a regular basis. Furthermore, it cooks flat in the oven, whereas in a skillet, it usually does not cook flat. I believe there is a big difference in taste between the two methods, with the oven-fried method tasting so much better. Then there is the big advantage in that you don’t have to babysit oven-fried bacon as you do with the pan-fried version. Try it out and see for yourself.

Here are the pan-fried results. These pictures may not reveal how unevenly cooked the pan-fried method is, but it was unevenly cooked.


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Skillet Method:

I don't think I need to tell you how to fry it up in a skillet:




Oven Method:

To make it in the oven is very simple. 

1. You just lay the bacon slices on a large baking sheet with sides. This is a good time to add brown sugar and some spices if you would like it candied.

2. You can line the pan with foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup, but it is not necessary. 

3. You can use a baking rack, or not. Either way, it will turn out great.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, to desired doneness. 

5. It is not necessary to turn the bacon over halfway through the baking time, but I have found that if you don't use a rack, you might want to turn the bacon over halfway through the baking time so it cooks evenly on both sides.

6. After cooking, lay the bacon on paper towel-lined plate to absorb the grease.  







Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes





For some reason, I've never been all that successful at making pancakes. But recently, I've had a craving for homemade pancakes; and since I happened to have both buttermilk and blueberries on hand, I decided to make some for breakfast this morning. I did a short search for buttermilk pancakes, and found this one from Tiffany at the Creme de la Crumb cooking blog. They were very easy to make and turned out great, and tasted fantastic, and I highly recommend trying them out. You can find the recipe here: Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes Creme de la Crumb. You can make these without any fruit, or with chocolate chips, whatever your preference might be.

Below is for a single recipe, but I doubled the it because I wanted extras for leftovers. See my notes at the end of the recipe for tips on making these.






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1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter, melted (I used butter)
1 cup fresh blueberries

oil for frying
extra butter and maple syrup for serving


1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Add the buttermilk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil (or butter) and whisk to combine. DO NOT OVER MIX - SOME LUMPS ARE PERFECTLY FINE. Gently stir in the blueberries.

3. Heat a griddle to 350, or a large skillet over medium heat. Add a dab of vegetable oil (or butter) and spread over the surface.

4. Using a 1/3 or 1/2 cup measuring cup, scoop and then pour the batter onto the prepared pan. Do not touch the pancakes and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until small bubbles appear on the surface of the batter. Flip the pancakes and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until browned on the other side.
5. Top with butter and syrup and serve hot.



NOTES:

  • Make sure you are not over mixing the batter, and that there are lumps in it. Over mixing could cause the pancakes to turn out tough. 
  • Do not overcrowd that pancakes in your skillet. Just make two, perhaps three at the very most, in your skillet at a time. I don't have an electric griddle (but I told my son that if we end up really liking these and make them often, I might consider purchasing one because making pancakes on a griddle is easier than in a skillet). 
  • These will puff up as they cook. Initially, I thought I had done something wrong, or that there was something wrong with the recipe because they started out flatter than I expected. However, they did puff up as they cooked, and turned out nice and thick. As long as your baking powder and baking soda are fresh, these should turn out just fine. 
  • For some reason, I did not notice the step for adding the blueberries to the batter (step 2), so I just added the blueberries to the tops of the pancake batter as they were frying up. I waited maybe a minute before adding them to the tops of the individual pancakes so they would start to cook through. I'm sure that either way, adding it to the batter itself, or to the tops of the pancakes as they are cooking will work out just fine. 



Monday, May 20, 2019

Banana Pudding Poke Cake

This recipe is from a magazine "Southern Living Cakes & Pies " from July of 2018. I've been thinking of banana cream pie recently, and then came upon this recipe and found it interesting. So here it is. This cake serves 16 - 20 people. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed, overripe bananas (about 3-4 large bananas)

Homemade Vanilla Pudding
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
pinch kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (You may use vanilla extract if you don't have vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tbsp butter

Additional Ingredients
4-5 large barely fresh bananas, sliced
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 vanilla wafers, coarsely crushed
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Prepare the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13" baking pan, or spray with cooking spray. Stir or sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for approximately 2 minutes, until well combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating on low speed just until mixture is smooth after each addition. Fold the mashed bananas into the creamed batter and then pour into the prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees in the middle of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake, about 5 across, and 6 down, for a total of 30 holes.

4. Prepare the Pudding: In a large saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Then whisk in the milk. Whisk in the egg yolks until well blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Immediately reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring constantly, just until pudding is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1-2 minutes.

5. Pour the pudding through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Whisk in the vanilla bean paste and butter. Cool, stirring occasionally until the pudding is lukewarm, about 15 minutes. Spread the pudding evenly over the cake. Cover cake with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Chill the cake for a minimum of 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

6. Remove plastic wrap from the pudding. Slice the 4-5 barely ripe bananas and scatter them on top of the pudding. Using an electric mixer, whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. (If you chill the mixing bowl and beaters first, you will yield an even greater volume of whipped cream.) Beat cream until stiff peaks form. Spread over the bananas in an even layer.

7. For the Topping: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the crushed vanilla wafers, melted butter, flour, and granulated sugar in a small bowl. Press mixture together to form small clumps and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Cool completely, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle over the whipped cream topping and serve the cake immediately.

























Sunday, May 12, 2019

Ham and Cheese Croissant Bake


I bought some of those really large croissants at Costco, that were perfect for this dish. I found this recipe on Plain Chicken blog. I love making breakfast dishes for dinner. It is pure comfort food for me. Follow the link for the original recipe. 

This recipe is pretty versatile, so you can use whatever breakfast meat you would like: browned sausage, bacon, ham ... You can easily add some chopped bell peppers and onions if you would like. This is somewhat of a savory dish and if you want more of a sweet dish, you can easily add some sort of berries to it if you would like. In that case, I probably wouldn't add the bell peppers and onion.

I made some tweaks to the recipe and then doubled it, baking in a 9x13" pan. Here is what I did differently:
- I used some deli ham that I needed to use up, so I gave it a rough chop using about 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound in total
- I used shredded Colby-Jack cheese
- I forgot to add the dry mustard. I am not not really a fan of mustard in general, but I will add it to a recipe when calling for dry mustard. Next time I will add it, because in a dish like this, it does give it some good flavor without being too overpowering. However, I might cut the amount in half, since the original recipe is for an 8x8" pan.
- I added the honey, but I thought 4 tbsp would make it too sweet so I only added 1 tbsp of it for the doubled recipe. It gives it a great flavor, so when I do make this again, I will play around with the amount of honey until it has the right balance. 
- The croissants from Costco are huge - larger than 5 inches each, and I ended up using 5-6 of them, which is more than what the recipe calls for if using a 5-inch croissant There is a large amount of custard here, and it worked out just fine. 
- I even drizzled some maple syrup over it at when serving, and it was fantastic.




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3 (5-inch) large croissants
1 (8-oz)  package chopped cooked ham
1 (5-oz) package shredded Swiss cheese
     (I'm not a fan of Swiss cheese, so I used a Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend. Use whatever kind          of cheese you would like, and I'm sure it would be great.)
6 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

Cut up croissants into 10 to 12 pieces. Place in a lightly greased 9x9" deep dish pan. Sprinkle ham and cheese over the croissants. Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, dry mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over the croissant mixture and press the croissants down so they are submerged into the egg mixture. Cover dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, drizzle with maple syrup.

NOTE: I followed the baking instructions but because of the amount of custard, there was still some runny egg mixture on the bottom of the pan. So I bumped up the oven temperature to 400 degrees and baked for an additional 10-15 minutes, and it baked it right up just perfectly. 

** UPDATE:
I made this for a second time recently (again, doubling the recipe), and used the following:

- 5" croissants that you can get from the grocery store, using 10 croissants instead of 6
- 10 eggs, instead of 12
- 2 tbsp honey, instead of 4
- I added 1 tsp of dry mustard, but having tasted it without, I prefer to leave it out all together







Meatball Parmesan

This is another recipe that I got from work. You can use frozen meatballs for a quick and easy meal, or make them from scratch. I'll post some links to some recipes for homemade meatballs at the bottom of this post.





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20 - 25 large meatballs, cooked*
2 (24 oz.) jars marinara sauce (or make from scratch)
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, or to taste
1 - 2 tbsp chopped fresh or dried parsley, or to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place meatballs in a greased 9 x 13" pan. Pour sauce evenly over the top. Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

2. Uncover, and top with the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle evenly with Italian seasoning. Bake, uncovered, for another 15 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and are beginning to brown.

3. Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve as is, over cooked pasta, in meatball subs, or even over warmed garlic bread.

*You can use frozen meatballs, or make your own. If you use frozen, you should thaw them out, first.


Here are some links to homemade meatballs, the first two coming from this blog.

https://thesugarqueenbakes.blogspot.com/2010/05/meatball-subs.html

https://thesugarqueenbakes.blogspot.com/2019/04/italian-meatballs.html

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-meatballs-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-108048

https://dinnerthendessert.com/easy-homemade-meatballs/

https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/homemade-meatballs-505491















Thursday, May 9, 2019

Biscuit Pizza Bake

This is an easy recipe that comes from Taste of Home Biscuit Pizza Bake.

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1 pound hamburger (can use half hamburger, and half Italian sausage)
2 (12-oz each) tubes buttermilk biscuits
1 (15-oz) jar pizza sauce
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (3 1/2 oz.) package sliced pepperoni
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese  (may use all Mozzarella cheese)


Brown the hamburger and/or Italian sausage, and drain. Quarter the biscuits, and place the biscuits in a greased 9 x 13" baking pan. Sprinkle the meat over the biscuits. Top with pizza sauce. Sprinkle on the green pepper, onion, pepperoni and cheeses. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and the cheese has lightly browned and melted. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.


Notes:
 I have notes on the recipe stating that is would be better if it were spicier, but if you like your food mild, this is a tasty recipe. To spice it up you can use Italian sausage, or adding some seasonings to the browned hamburger, such as crushed red pepper flakes. You can also doctor up the pizza sauce by adding Italian seasoning and/or some crushed red pepper flakes to that, rather than the hamburger.




Confetti Squares

This ia a Martha Stewart recipe. I've made them once or twice, and they are real good. The recipe calls for the cereal mixture to be patted down into a 9" square pan. If you use this size, they will be very thick bars. I recommend using a buttered 9 x 13" pan so they will be much more manageable.

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5 tbsp butter
6 cups mini marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3 cups Cap 'n Crunch cereal
3 cups Fruit Loops cereal

Butter a 9" or 9 x 13" baking pan and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt together the butter and mini marshmallows until smooth. Add the cereals and mix until thoroughly combined. Press into the prepared pan and smooth out. If using the smaller sized pan, you will need to pack in the cereal mixture firmly. Store, covered, for up to 3 days.


Fudge Krispies

This is another recipe I made often when my kids were little. They are easy to put together, and very tasty. You can find the recipe at the Rice Krispies website.  This also is a nice alternative to the regular Rice Krispy bars.

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2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
4 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Melt together the chocolate chips, butter, and corn syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted and well combined. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Add the Rice Krispies cereal and mix thoroughly. Spread in a buttered 9 x 13" baking pan. Refrigerate. 

Crunch Fudge Sandwiches

This is a very old recipe, back when chocolate and butterscotch chips also came in 6 oz packages. I used to make these frequently when I was a kid, and then also when my own kids were little. They are a nice alternative to Rice Krispy Bars. Use semi sweet chocolate chips rather than milk chocolate chips, as they do not turn out as well when using milk chocolate. You can find the original recipe at the Rice Krispies website.





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1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
4 cups Rice Krispies cereal

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp water


In a large saucepan, melt together the butterscotch chips and peanut butter over very low heat. May also do this in the microwave in a large mixing bowl. Stir until smooth. Stir in the Rice Krispies cereal and stir until well coated. Press half of the cereal mixture in a well-buttered 8" square baking pan. Chill.

Meanwhile, using the same saucepan or bowl, melt the chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in the powdered sugar, butter and water. Mixture will become very thick. Spread over the chilled butterscotch mixture, then top with the remaining Rice Krispie mixture and smooth out. Chill again until everything has set.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Orange Cream Cake

This recipe can be found at Taste of Home Orange Dream Cake.

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Cake
1 package lemon cake mix
1 (0.15 oz.) envelope orange Kool Aid soft drink mix
3 eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Topping
1 (3 oz.) package orange jello
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water

Frosting
1 (3.4 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (3 oz.) package orange jello
1 cup cold milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (8 oz.) carton Cool Whip

To make the cake:
Combine the cake mix, Kool Aid, eggs, water, and oil. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into a greased 9 x 13" pan. Bake 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and poke holes in the cake all over with the tines of a fork. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

To make the topping:
Dissolve the jello in the boiling water, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the cold water and mix well. Pour over the cake. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To make the frosting:
In a large bowl, combine the pudding mix, orange jello mix, cold milk, and vanilla and beat on low for 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fold in the Cool Whip and mix until thoroughly combined. Frost the chilled cake and serve.

Store the cake in the refrigerator.








Caramel Chocolate Pie Supreme

This recipe comes from an old Betty Crocker magazine but can also be found on the Betty Crocker website at: Betty Crocker Caramel Chocolate Pie Supreme.

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Pat-in-Pan Pie Crust (recipe follows) I would much prefer a different pie crust (recipes follow)
30 caramels, from a 14-oz bag, unwrapped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup pecans, toasted*
2 (3-oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup pwd sugar
4 oz sweet baking chocolate
3 tbsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
chocolate curls, if desired

Pat-in-Pan Pie Crust
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts

For the Crust
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients until a soft dough forms, then press firmly against bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until light brown. Cool completely.

For the Pie
Bake Pat-in-Pan Pie crust. Heat the caramels, butter and 2 tbsp water in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until caramels are melted. Pour into pie crust. Sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate about 1 hour, or until chilled.

Beat cream cheese and 1/3 cup pwd sugar with a spoon until smooth. Spread over caramel layer: refrigerate.

Heat chocolate and 3 tbsp hot water in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted. Cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.

Beat the whipping cream and 2 tbsp pwd sugar in a chilled medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff; reserve 1  1/2 cups. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining whipped cream. Spread over cream cheese mixture in pan. Garnish with reserved whipped cream and chocolate curls. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to firm up, but no longer than 48 hours. Store covered in the refrigerator.

*To toast the pecans
Bake uncovered in an ungreased shallow pan at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Watch closely so they do not overbake.

Variations on the pie crust:

Vanilla Wafer Pie Crust
1  1/2 cups crushed Vanilla Wafers
4 tbsp sugar, granulated or pwd (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted

Mix the above and press into an ungreased 9-inch pie pan. Bake 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

Chocolate Wafer Pie Crust
1  1/4 cups crushed Chocolate Wafer cookies
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted

Mix the above and press in an ungreased 9-inch pie pan. Bake 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust
1  1/2 cup crushed Graham Crackers
1/4 cup sugar, granulated, pwd, or brown
1/3 cup butter, melted

Mix the above and press into an ungreased 9-inch pie pan. Bake 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

This quick bread is very moist and delicious, and keeps for quite some time. You could add some mini chocolate chips or raisins, if you would like.

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Makes 2 loaves

3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 (16-oz) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking pwd
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs. Add the pumpkin puree and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, stirring to mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture alternately with the water. Pour into two greased 9 x 5 x 3" loaf pans. Bake 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, and then remove and cool on a wire rack to cool completely.


Metropolis Bars

A rich cookie base, covered with caramel and then a milk-chocolate coating.
Adapted from A Passion for Baking

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Cookie Base
2  1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
2 tbsp whipping cream or whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel Filling
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
3 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 (4-to 6-ounce) milk chocolate bars, such as Cadbury Dairy Milk or Hershey's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 11 x 7" pan* with non-stick cooking spray, then place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, corn syrup, granulated and brown sugars. Add the butter and pulse to break in the butter until mixture resembles a fine meal. Turn out into a bowl and drizzle over the whipping cream and vanilla. Toss by hand, until you have a slightly damp, sandy mixture. Press gently into the pan. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake 350 degrees, 20 - 25 minutes, or until edges are barely browned. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, prepare the caramel filling. In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar over low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 - 10 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved and is thickened and is about 245 degrees on a candy thermometer. As best as you can, make sure the bottom does not burn. If it does occur, do not stir into the burnt part into the rest of the caramel, and slightly remove the pan from the heat, to allow it to finish cooking. (If it does happen to burn, there is probably only another 1 -2 minutes of cooking time, anyways.)

Pour hot caramel over the warm cookie crust. Gently place the chocolate bars over the caramel. The hot caramel will melt the chocolate. ** Using an offset spatula, evenly spread the chocolate. Refrigerate bars a few hours to allow them to set. Before serving, remove bars from the refrigerator to warm them up a bit before cutting into narrow bars.

*You can use a 9 x 13" pan, but you will have a thinner bar, and you will probably need more milk chocolate for the topping.

**You could chop the chocolate up first, to allow for quicker melting.

Rich Hot Fudge Sauce

I've been going through some of my blog posts that are just in the draft stage and came upon this recipe I started to post back in 2010. I never published the post but I'm not sure why, so I'm publishing it now. It sounds good, as it has both cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate. I've got several ice cream topping recipes on the blog. Check them out by clicking on the labels at the bottom of the post.

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1 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup butter, cubed
1  1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch  salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp light corn syrup
2 squares (1-oz each) unsweetened chocolate
3 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp rum extract

In a heavy saucepan, combine cream and butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add the sugars and salt, and cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly; about 4 minutes. Stir in the cocoa and corn syrup; cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add the chocolate and cook and stir for 3-4 minutes or until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 12-16 minutes or until desired thickness is reached, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in the extracts. Cool slightly. Serve warm over ice cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

Strawberry Fluff

When I first started this blog, I posted a recipe that I got from a friend, but it had no real name. All I could come up with was "Creamy Orange Jello Pudding". Years later, I would find the recipe online, and it was called Orange Fluff. What is nice about this recipe is that you can use any flavor of jello that you like. In the past, I have served this at family gatherings, and it has always gone over well.

I've been making this quite frequently lately, and my favorite flavors so far are, strawberry, lime, and then orange. The lemon flavor is nice, but subtle. The cherry flavor is very tart. I haven't tried any other flavors of jello, but I'm considering trying the grape flavor because I like grape, but I'm curious as to how it would work out.

The recipe is very simple to make, but you do need to plan ahead of time, because it needs a good 8 hours to set up in the fridge before adding the Cool Whip.





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1 (3 oz.) package jello
2 (3.4 oz) packages Vanilla Cook & Serve pudding mixes
2 1/4 cups hot water
Cool Whip (8 to 12 oz) - I use the Cool Whip Lite

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the jello, pudding mixes, and hot water and cook until  it has thickened and become transparent in color, stirring constantly. It will start to boil at this point. Just be sure to continually stir, so it does not scorch. Allow to cool slightly, then cover the pan and chill in the refrigerator overnight, or for about 8 hours. Using an electric mixer, add the Cool Whip and beat until it is fluffy and well combined. I like to "cream" the jello mixture until smooth before adding the Cool Whip just so that it is fully incorporated and there are no flecks of the jello mixture remaining. This keeps for several days stored in the refrigerator.

Notes:
1. You may add fruit to this if you would like. I haven't added anything to the strawberry flavor, but I think sliced strawberries would be nice, or even sliced bananas to your individual servings just before serving it.

2. To the orange flavor of jello, I have added a can of (drained) mandarin oranges.

3. I have also seen recipes online where people have added mini marshmallows. I'm sure that would be good, too.




Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Pizza Casserole

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from http://www.kitchme.com/recipes/pizza-casserole. I've made it numerous times, and you can adapt it however you like to suit your tastes. It's very versatile.  Try adding browned Italian sausage, onion, black olives, cheddar cheese, etc. - whatever you would like.  This casserole is very good. Use whatever kind of pasta you want. I usually use Ziti or the corkscrew pasta. I have another version of this dish that I will post, soon.




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2 cups uncooked Ziti pasta (about 1/2 of a 16. oz box)
1 pound ground beef
chopped green pepper
1 cup pepperoni slices - I maybe use 1/2 of a package
1 - 2 (16 oz.) jars pizza sauce
4 tbsp milk
1 cup (at least) shredded Mozzarella cheese (I've used shredded Mozzarella-Provolone)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, brown the hamburger and drain. Add the cooked pasta, green pepper, pepperoni, pizza sauce, and milk. Stir well. Pour into a 9 x 13" baking dish and top with the cheese. Add additional pepperoni slices on top, if you wish. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cheese has melted and browned.

Notes:
You can sprinkle on Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning on the top of the casserole dish before baking, if desired.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Zesty Meatball Sandwiches

These are extremely good sandwiches. To really simplify this, you can use a jarred marinara sauce in place of the homemade, and/or frozen Italian beef meatballs, in place of the homemade. However, it is worth the extra effort to make these from scratch.

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Sauce
chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 of a (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

In a large skillet, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until tender-crisp. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and set the sauce aside.

Meatballs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp water
4 slices white bread, crusts removed and bread cubed
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
dash pepper

5-6 Italian rolls, or hoagie buns
Sliced Mozzarella or Provolone cheese, optional


In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and water, then toss in the bread cubes. Add the ground beef, parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix together and form into 1 1/2" balls. Place meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking pan with sides. Bake 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. Serve the meatballs on the rolls, and spoon the sauce over. If desired, place a thin slice of cheese over the top. Wrap loosely in aluminum foil and bake 350 degrees, for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.

Note: It is not necessary to bake the sandwiches if you don't want to, but it might be best if you are adding the cheese. Serve with sauce on the side.