Sunday, May 10, 2020

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie

It appears that spring is not quite ready to make an appearance, so this comforting meal is perfect for these cooler days. I recently found this recipe and only wish I had found it sooner. If you are a fan of chicken pot pie, then this is the dish for you. This filling can quickly be put together and placed in the crockpot in the morning, and dinner should be ready by the end of the day. This recipe calls for canned biscuits, but I thought it would be really nice to try baking up some packaged puff pastry, cut into squares, and there you have your top crust. This was made where I work, and everyone loved it. The first time I made this, the gravy was somewhat thin, so I thickened the gravy with a slurry of flour and half milk/half water, which gave the gravy an extra richness. The second time I made this, it was not necessary to do so. You may also add some heavy whipping cream for a creamier gravy. See recipe below for directions.

The original recipe can be found at https://pipandebby.com/pip-ebby/the-best-slow-cooker-chicken-pot-pie/ I made a few changes, which I'll spell out in the recipe below.






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4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
yellow or sweet onion (Vidalia onion), chopped (The original recipe calls for a whole onion, but I only had half an onion, plus, I normally cut back on the amount of onion called for in most recipes.)
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (I used 1 tbsp dried parsley)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (I used 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp black pepper (I found this to be too peppery, and I love pepper, so I cut down to 1/2 tsp the 2nd time I made this.)
8 ounces low sodium chicken broth
2 (10.5-ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (Canned peas can be used if that is all you have on hand.)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (I did not add the corn.)
16.3 ounce can of refrigerated biscuits (As noted in the notes above, you can bake up some puffed pastry, but the biscuits are good, too.)

OPTIONAL:
For a creamy version, you may add 1/2 to 1 cup of heavy whipping cream


1.  Place the cut chicken breasts and sprinkle with the parsley, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper in the liner of the crockpot. in the liner of a crockpot. Add onion, carrots, and celery. In a large bowl or saucepan, combine the chicken broth and cream of chicken soup and pour over the chicken. Give it a stir and cover. Set crockpot to LOW and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

2.  Thirty minutes before the end of cooking time, add the peas and corn, mix well. If you want to make a creamy version of this, this is the time to add it. Cook, covered, for another 30 minutes. (I have not added the whipping cream when I've made this.)

3.  Bake the biscuits or puffed pastry and serve over the pot pie filling.
























Pizza Sliders

I made these tasty and easy sandwiches for work. Everyone loved them. You can easily make whatever sort of adjustments to the recipe that you'd like. I added some chopped ham over the pepperoni that needed to be used up. You can add or substitute browned Italian sausage, and drained pineapple bits, for a Hawaiian flair, or for more variety, add chopped onion, green pepper and sliced mushrooms.Though not necessary to line the pan with foil, if you do, just be sure to either use Easy Release foil, or spray it with cooking spray, because the sandwiches will stick.  I found the original recipe here at Rachel Cooks.






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1 package (12-count) King's Hawaiian buns
1/2 cup (or more) pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
sliced pepperoni

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves, or Italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Spray a glass (11 x 8 inch)n pan with cooking spray. Cut entire sheet of rolls in half widthwise, separating the tops from the bottoms, being careful to keep the rolls connected. Place the bottom half of the rolls in the baking dish.

3.  Spread the pizza sauce over the rolls and layer on the pepperoni over the sauce. Sprinkle on the Mozzarella cheese and place the top half of the rolls over the pepperoni.

4.  In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, garlic powder, parsley flakes, dried oregano leaves, and Parmesan cheese and mix well. Pour evenly over the sandwiches. Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray to prevent sticking and cover the dish.

5.  Bake the sandwiches covered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

6. Uncover and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the Parmesan cheese is melted and lightly browned.

7.  Cut and separate the sandwiches and serve.

























Sunday, January 19, 2020

Scalloped Potatoes

This is an excellent recipe for Scalloped Potatoes from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook that I've been making for decades. It's my go-to recipe, and I don't think I've made any other recipe, other than to use a box mix. (Those box mixes are good, but don't come close to the real thing!) You can also find the recipe online, but the online recipe calls for one more tablespoon of butter in the sauce than the one listed in the cookbook. Here is the online version of Betty Crocker Scalloped Potatoes.

Scalloped Potatoes are simply potatoes baked in a white sauce without the addition of cheese. While this recipe calls for chopped onion, I do not add it. It's just a personal preference, is all. You can easily adjust the oven temperature and baking times. I will list that at the end of the recipe. This will come in handy if you are baking something else at the same time, such as a ham, or a meatloaf.


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2 pounds potatoes (about 6 medium, or about 4 cups of thinly sliced potatoes) I use Russet potatoes
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup) I do not add
an additional tbsp of butter for the top


You can either peel the potatoes or leave the skins on. If you are leaving the skins on, scrub them and remove any "eyes". Cut them into quarters or eighths and thinly slice them, measuring about 4 cups. Place them in a bowl of cold water while you are doing this to prevent them from browning while you prepare the white sauce.

To prepare the white sauce, in a heavy saucepan, heat 3 tbsp of butter over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in the milk. Increase the heat and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and spread in a greased 2-quart casserole or a greased 9 x 13" pan. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and cut the additional tablespoon of butter into small pieces and spread over the potatoes. Cover pan with foil and bake in a preheated oven 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake another 60 - 70 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.


NOTE:

Alternatively, you may choose to bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered, and then uncover and bake another 60 - 70 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Alison Roman's Salted Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies






I stumbled upon this recipe touted as "The cookie that broke the internet". Intrigued, I decided I'd give it a try, as I like shortbread, and I've been intending to make chocolate chip cookies lately. So given these are a combination of the two, why not test it out with the rest of the world? I'd never heard of Alison Roman before, but it seems that everyone else has. I found a video of her making the cookies on Youtube. I watched it a few times, and found it helpful.

It looks like she only uses 2 cups of flour in the video, while the recipe on the NY Times website calls for 2 1/4 cups. Her dough looked softer than what mine turned out to be. I don't actually own her cookbook, so I just followed the recipe found on the NY Times website (you can find it elsewhere, too). 

Here are some of the changes I made:

I used:
- Godiva 51% semi sweet chocolate chips, instead of chopping bittersweet chocolate, because that is what I had on hand
- Turbinado raw sugar, instead of Demerara sugar, because that is what I had on hand
- coarse sea salt, rather than flaky sea salt

It makes for a crispy cookie that is a nice combination of salty and sweet. I think it will become a favorite that will be made often. You need to chill the dough for a couple of hours, so plan accordingly.


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Ingredients


1 cup plus 2 tbsp (255 grams total) of salted butter (2 1/4 sticks), COLD butter if using a stand mixer, room temperature if using a hand-held mixer, cut into 1/2" pieces

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (55 grams) light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 (325 grams) all-purpose flour

6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped (not too fine, you want chunks, not little shards)

1 large egg, beaten (this is brushed on the outside of the cookie dough, not actually put into the dough itself)

Demerara sugar, for rolling

Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (I used coarse sea salt)



Directions

1)  Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and vanilla on medium-high until it's super light and fluffy, (3-5 minutes for a stand mixer or 6-8 minutes for a hand-held mixer). Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and with the mixer on low, slowly add the flower, followed by the chocolate chunks, and mix just to blend. If necessary, knead the dough by hand to ensure the flour is totally incorporated. At this point, the dough should be smooth and feel like Play-Doh with no pockets of flour. 


2)  Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic wrap over so that it covers the dough and prevents your hands from getting sticky. Form the dough into a log shape; rolling it on the counter will help smooth it out. Each log should be about 6" long and 2 to 2 1/4" in diameter. Chill the dough until totally firm, about 2 hours.

3)  Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the outside of the dough with the beaten egg and roll in the demerara sugar (this will make for really crisp edges)

4)  Using a serrated knife, carefully cut each log into 1/2" thick rounds. If you hit a piece of chocolate, slowly saw back and forth through the chocolate. If the cookies break or fall apart, just piece it back together - the dough is very forgiving. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, about 1" apart (they won't spread much). Sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt. Bake 350 degrees just until the edges are beginning to brown. about 12-15 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before removing to cool thoroughly on a wire rack. 


Other Notes:

1.  The cookie dough can be rolled into logs and made ahead of time and tightly wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to one week, or in the freezer for one month.

2. Store baked cookies in plastic wrap in an airtight container for up to 5 days.










Monday, December 23, 2019

Classic Cake Doughnuts 2019

It's time to update my annual doughnut making for 2019. You can see my original post from 2010 here.

I'm not able to get together with my family as I have to work once again this year, Last year I made these for work, and I'm making them for work this year, as well. Normally, I have off Christmas Eve, and that is my big Doughnut. Making. Day. (Actually, after all these years I've got it down to where it only takes me a few hours now- even to make a triple or quadruple batch.) This year, however, I work both Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, and all the way through the weekend. Sigh. So I decided I would make these the weekend prior and I'd serve them on the 24th and the 25th.  No harm, no foul.

For years, I have been searching for a good, thick  vanilla frosting recipe, rather than the thin almost clear glaze, that I've been able to find. This time, I finally found one, or at least one that I decided to trust. The picture looked exactly like what I was looking for! It's not too different than what you would use on cookies, if you were frosting, say, sugar cookies. I am very pleased with it. Also, I can't believe that I haven't posted the chocolate glaze recipe on here, and that every year I have look it up online. So I am finally going to post it here so everything is in one place.

Something else I did that is new this year ... I used sprinkles. I'm not real fond of them myself, but I know that there are those where I work that would enjoy them, so I gave it a try. I sent out my son to pick some up at Michael's while I was making the doughnuts and they didn't have a lot of colors to choose from (it being so close to Christmas and all). All in all though, I think they still turned out rather nicely.

First the pictures, then the recipes. (Sorry about the quality of the pictures, I packaged them up to take to work, so that is why they are in  foil containers.)



Chocolate Iced




Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles





Vanilla Frosting with Sprinkles





Vanilla Frosting with Sprinkles





Vanilla Frosting with Sprinkles





Plain Doughnut Holes





Sugared Doughnut Holes




Glazed Doughnut Holes






Classic Cake Doughnuts 

This is for a single batch and makes about 30 doughnuts


4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten

oil for deep frying (I use canola oil)


In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the oil for frying, just until the ingredients are moistened. If desired, refrigerate the dough for easier handling, about 20 - 30 minutes, or so.

Fill a large heavy-duty saucepan, dutch oven or electric skillet, 2/3 full with oil. Use a candy thermometer to regulate the temperature and heat to and maintain 375 degrees. Remove a portion of the dough (half of the dough would be a good amount) and on a floured surface, knead the dough for 1-2 minutes, or until it no longer sticky. Roll out to a 1/2 " thickness, ensuring that the surface is floured underneath. You don't want too much flour, however, as the flour will end up in the hot oil and will just burn.

Use a doughnut cutter and cut the doughnuts out. Ideally, you will also have a small cutter for just the doughnut holes, too. Slip the doughnuts into the hot oil and fry 1/12 minutes on each side for a total of 3 minutes, until they are deep golden brown. You want to turn the large doughnuts over halfway through the cooking time, but the doughnut holes, you will probably want to turn over frequently throughout the cooking time.

I like to roll out the dough and have everything cut out, placing the doughnuts cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. I then cover them with waxed paper and chill them until ready to fry them. This speeds up the process considerably. If it's cold enough outside, I have the trays outside, then bring in one tray at a time, allowing the doughnuts to warm up a few minutes before frying them. This is not necessary, and totally up to you. It is just something that I have found over the years that has saved me time when making such huge quantities of doughnuts.

Carefully remove the doughnuts from the hot oil with a slotted spoon that has a long handle. Drain on paper towels. I like to line a large roasting pan with a paper grocery bag, then place several layers of paper towels on top of that to absorb the oil.

If you are going to roll the doughnuts in granulated sugar, you will want to do that while they are still very warm, so the sugar will adhere to the doughnuts.

If you want to roll the doughnuts in powdered sugar, allow them to cool completely. I would even suggest waiting until the second day so they can dry out some and the powdered sugar will not absorb any of the oil from the doughnuts. But powdered sugar is very good on these doughnuts, especially when warmed up in the microwave.

If you plan to glaze or frost the doughnuts, allow them to cool, first.


Chocolate Glaze

This is the chocolate glaze that I've been using for years. It is Alton Brown's recipe from Food Network. It is excellent, and although it involves a few steps, don't let that deter you. This is just the way I do it, only to make it easier for me to dip the doughnuts from a larger bowl.

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tbsp light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups powdered sugar

In a saucepan, combine the butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla over medium heat until the butter has melted. Decrease the heat and add the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate has melted. Turn off the heat. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until very smooth. Either place the saucepan over a larger saucepan (if it fits snugly) that has WARM water in it. OR transfer chocolate to a large bowl (this is what I do, so I have room for dipping) and place the bowl over a saucepan that has WARM water in it.

NOTE: You don't want to use boiling water, just very warm water. And, you don't want to the water to touch the bottom of the saucepan or bowl. The idea is to just keep the chocolate warm and liquidy enough while you are dipping the doughnuts in it. Just dip the tops of the doughnuts, and gently shake the excess chocolate off. Place on a wire rack with paper towels underneath to catch the drips and allow the chocolate to harden before serving or storing.

You want to work quickly so that the chocolate doesn't cool and that you have difficulty getting it to adhere to the doughnut. If you find that it is cooling off too quickly, you could empty that water and add some warmer water, but that is not a guarantee that it will work real well.


If you are adding sprinkles, do so immediately before the chocolate sets up and dries.



Vanilla Frosting

This is based upon a recipe found here at this website Chocolate, Chocolate, and More for Chocolate Cake Donuts with Vanilla Glaze. What I did differently was to add some corn syrup so the frosting would harden and not be sticky. I also used clear vanilla extract, so it would remain very white, and not change color from the regular vanilla extract, but you can use whatever you have on hand. it will not affect the taste either way.


2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Stir the vanilla, milk and corn syrup into the powdered sugar to create a thick glaze. Add any additional powdered sugar, if necessary, if you need it any thicker. Dip the tops of the doughnuts into the glaze or spoon the glaze over the doughnuts over a wire rack with paper towels underneath to catch the drips. Allow the doughnuts to dry and harden.

If you are adding sprinkles, do so immediately before the chocolate sets up and dries.


Doughnut Glaze

Another Alton Brown recipe from the Food Network. This actually gets better as it sets up and dries. It gets a little crunchy, which is something I like.

1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract ( I used clear vanilla to help maintain a white color, but you can use whatever you have on hand)
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat over low heat until warm. (SEE NOTE 1.) Slowly stir powdered sugar into milk mixture until well combined. Remove from heat and set over a bowl of warm water. (SEE NOTE 2.) Dip doughnuts in glaze one at a time, and set on a rack with paper towels underneath to catch the drips and allow to harden before serving or storing.


NOTES
1. I start off cooking this is a saucepan, combining the milk, vanilla, then finally adding the powdered sugar. I transfer that mixture to a large bowl and place it over a saucepan of WARM water, ensuring that it fits snugly over the saucepan. This way, I have plenty of room to dip the tops of the doughnuts and I am not cramped for space as I would be if I were dipping them from a small(er) saucepan.
2. Do NOT allow the water from underneath the bowl to become too hot. This will break down and melt the powdered sugar, causing it to become more of a clear glaze, rather than an opaque glaze, which is what you want. Also, you do not want the water to touch the bottom of the bowl. You don't need that much, just enough to keep the glaze warm and liquidy.



A look back through the years .... (just a few photos of many)


Please indulge me and allow me to become sentimental.

My father passed away two years ago around this time of the year, and finding these photos on my phone has brought back many bittersweet memories, especially since these photos were taken at his home and he loved decorating for the holidays. Of course, I can't fail to mention my mother, who passed away in 2008. She was the one who started the tradition of doughnut making way back when. I always think of her when I make these. I've mentioned in earlier posts that I started out helping her standing by her side when I was very young, then I took over making them at some point.

I remember it very well, even down to the pan we used. It was an old pressure cooker pan. I remember it because of how small it was and that we could only fry up just a very few doughnuts at a time. (I don't think electric deep fryers were around back then.) We fried them on the stove melting Crisco, and using a candy thermometer to regulate the temperature, but it never was all that reliable. We would always quadruple the recipe and back then it TRULY WAS an all day affair. We used a different recipe back then, until I found one that we liked better. We made them every year at Christmas, but my mother was always very patient, God bless her!. We had the best mother when it came to nurturing and patience, and you couldn't get much better.

Not only did we make doughnuts every year, but we made dozens and dozens (and dozens) of cookies!  It was a good thing my dad had a sweet tooth, because my sisters and I so enjoyed making those cookies and making sure we helped mom. Thanks to our mother, we still do to this day, just maybe not in the same quantities. I was just talking to one of my sisters last night, and she was talking about how she is trying to carry on this tradition with her own daughter and our niece.

We had a very large family, and with 7 kids, it was a loud rambunctious crowd. You should have seen our living room with the Christmas tree and all the gifts and stockings that ran all along the mantle. I even remember one year my dad placing gifts up on top of the curtain rod above the large picture window, because he had run out of room. As we all grew and had families of our own, the stockings ran along the mantle of the living room all the way out into the dining room. You can see that in one of the pictures below. Not only did they run along the mantle, but they were hung above the cupboards above the counter in the dining room, as well. It made for a happy and lively crowd.

After my mom passed away, a couple of my kids and I moved in with my dad and we spent a number of years there. He continued to decorate for the holidays in every year in memory of my mom and it always looked beautiful. My sisters would come over and put up the tree, and decorate the mantle, and they would go all out. My dad, however, was usually was the one to put up the stockings, even when he was almost 90 years old. We had numerous sets of placemats and dishes he had quite the knack for setting the table for all the holiday meals.

You can see the snowman if you zoom in. My dad really liked that thing. You can also see a picture of my mother next to the snowman if you zoom in closely enough. The family home has been sold now to a young family with a boy who was very excited to have a forest in his backyard. There were many happy memories made in that house growing up, but it is bittersweet knowing we will never be able to go inside again. I'm confident the family living there will have the same experiences our family has had as their family grows over the years to come and makes their own happy memories.

2015











2016





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.




Print


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.





Print

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.

Print

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.