Thursday, November 8, 2012

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake

I've been making the littles some apple muffins lately, which they love, but I've been wanting to make something with pumpkin instead.  However, I've been stuck in a rut and just haven't found a recipe that I've wanted to try.  Sure, I have my stand-by recipes, but I wanted something new.  I can't believe I hadn't checked one of my favorite baking books (Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan) before now. 

A quick look at the index, and I found what I was looking for, All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake.  It really does have it all:  pumpkin, apples, fresh cranberries, and pecans.  Perfect!  I even had all the ingredients, since I had picked up some cranberries on a whim at the grocery store this week.  I decided to let all the kiddos help me, and they were excited to.  Let me warn you though, I would prep the pecans, cranberries, and apples ahead of time if you're going to be making this with kids, especially young ones.  They got bored with this part fairly quickly.  Let me also say that I really wish I had a better space for having all the kids help me at once.  But that's my kitchen's problem, not yours.  :)

Anyway, this is one of my new favorite cakes.  I loved all the flavors in it!  If you're not a fan of ginger, you might want to scale back the amount called for, but I thought it was great.  The Munchkin tried one bite, and didn't really care for it (no surprise there, but he did try it!).  The Sprout liked it, but Squirt loved it, and I mean he loved it

Now, things don't always go as planned.  This is a life lesson that has been thrown at me a ton this year, no doubt about it.  Yesterday was no exception, as my cake totally stuck to the pan.  I'm going to blame it on the pan and not my buttering skills, as I've had trouble with the last couple bundt cakes I've made.  ;)  No matter, it tasted wonderful anyway! 

This recipe was originally posted to the internet through the baking group Tuesdays with Dorie (I participated for a brief time).  I was going to link to the recipe through that, but it seems that the blog that was allowed to post the recipe is no longer in existence.  But, I did find the recipe on Serious Eats, so I'm just going to link to it there, since I didn't change a thing!  Click here to find the recipe.  Or just go buy the book.  I'm serious, anyone that loves to bake should own this book (and no, I'm not an affiliate anywhere, so I don't get any kickbacks!). 

Enjoy!  :)

Today, I'm participating in Food Bloggers Support for Sandy.  I have several friends that were in Sandy's path, and while they were all fortunate enough to have their homes spared, some of them are still without power, and now facing a winter storm.  I hate being so far away from them, unable to help directly.  Hopefully by participating in this I will be able to help just a little bit more.  I'm thinking of you Chris, Julie, and Sher!  And you too Michelle, even though you've moved away I know you're a NY'er at heart, and your hometown has suffered.  And my other Michele.  And everyone in the area.  I truly cannot imagine what you have all been dealing with. 

I'm also linking up to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosting by Brenda of Meal Planning Magic.  Check out what everyone else is sharing! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hello Dolly Cookie Bars

Several years ago, my mom gave me an old cookbook, it was hers but I'm not sure she ever used it, Favorite Recipes from Southern Kitchens:  Desserts.  I love this cookbook!  I thought it would be great to go through it and pick a recipe or two to use for this year's 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats series. 

For this week, I chose a super easy one, Hello Dolly Cookies.  I have absolutely no idea where the name came from.  I'm really not sure I've ever eaten one before, though the ladies I shared the finished product with knew about them!  I did an internet search too, and it seems they go by a lot of names, including Magic Layer Bars. 

Honestly, they are so easy to make.  There's no mixing required.  Kids could absolutely help with these.  The cookies smelled divine while they were baking, and I barely waited for them to cool before trying one.

At first I thought "these taste almost like German chocolate cake", then "or definitely like a candy bar" and finally "damn these are good, I want the whole pan!!"  :)  But I didn't eat them all.  The kids loved them, and so did everyone I shared them with.  This is a definitely a keeper. 

The original recipe just called for butter, and I used unsalted butter because that's all I had.  It seemed to work just fine.  I do think that next time I make these I will add just a tad more graham cracker crumbs and see how it does.  It's not that it was bad, but I felt like a couple more tablespoons of the graham cracker crumbs would have soaked up the butter better. 

Hello Dolly Cookie Bars
from Favorite Recipes from Southern Kitchens:  Desserts

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 (15 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350'F.  Melt butter in a 9x9x2 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle in the graham cracker crumbs, then the coconut, chocolate chips and nuts (you just layer it all in, one layer of each).  Pour the condensed milk over it all, then bake for 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan, then cut into 16 squares.

*I used an 11x8 pan because that's what I had readily available.  It worked just fine. 

Enjoy!  :)

I'm linked up to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted by Meal Planning Magic.  See what everyone else is making!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites {12 Weeks of Christmas Treats}

Let's take a moment to look at the calendar, shall we?  Let's see, yep, it's still September.  I tried buying some Halloween baking products today, but the stores were already sold out and replacing them with Christmas items.  And I complained about that on Facebook.  Yet, here I am, talking about Christmas treats.  According to the countdown on my phone, there are 89 days left until Christmas day. 

So, in that spirit, I've joined Brenda of Meal Planning Magic again on her Twelve Weeks of Christmas Treats blog hop.  That's right, me, the Queen of Procrastinationland.  ;)

This week, I made a pretty easy treat:  Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Bites.  I found the recipe through Pinterest (where else these days, right?) and thought they would be a great treat to make!

Instead of using the individual caramels, I decided to try the caramel apple wraps found near the apples in the produce section of the grocery store.  They made these babies a breeze!  I cut each wrap into 6 pieces with my pizza cutter, wrapped them around the pretzel nuggets, and then dipped in some Ghirardelli dipping chocolate that I'd picked up at Sam's a while back. 

My apple wrappers had 5 in the package, so that yielded 30 treats.  I sprinkled different things on top, and none of my Christmas sprinkles looked as good as the mixture I had of chopped toasted pecans and toasted coconut, in my opinion. 

By the way, these are goooood.  :)  They have this great combination of sweet, salty, crunchy and chewy.  And they're bite size! 

Check out the original recipe here, and be sure to check out the blog hop and see what other Christmas treats are being shared!  Oh, and there's a Pinterest board too!

P.S.  I think I'll be making some of these with Halloween sprinkles too...that is if I can still find any!

Enjoy!  :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Maple Syrup Snow Candy

Hard to believe, but a little over a week ago we had snow on the ground.  Today, it's 66 degrees and windy!  Snow never lasts long around here. 

Ever since the Munchkin read "Little House in the Big Woods" a couple of years ago, he begs to make maple syrup candy whenever it snows (it's snowed 3 times this winter; that's a lot for us!) and this time I finally gave in.  Needless to say, he was thrilled.  And when the other two heard "candy" they were thrilled too!

I found some instructions on Shelterrific that looked good, and off we went.  I got the syrup to boiling, and Munchkin got his coat on and waited {im}patiently by the back door to collect the snow. 

I did make one mistake.  I didn't let the syrup cook long enough.  I didn't take the time to make sure it had gotten to the hard ball stage before taking it off, and in fact I'm pretty sure it didn't even make it to soft ball stage.  I should've checked, because while the end result tasted good, and the kids certainly had fun, what we had wasn't technically candy.  What we wound up with was more like a maple syrup snow cone!  I'll know next time, though I need to restock my maple syrup supply. 
Try it some time.  It's really not that hard, and it will thrill young and old alike!
Enjoy!  :)

P.S.  Have you noticed the new look of the blog?  I decided it was time for a change.  Although I've always loved the old design, there were a few things that I also always wanted to change:  I thought the background would be better if it was white or a lighter color, and the lines on the background sometimes made it hard to read.  I don't know how permanent this new look will be, but it will be here for a bit, while I work out exactly what I want the blog to look like.  :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins {healthier}

Okay, so after my last post you're probably going to be shaking your head when I tell you that I've joined another cooking group.  :)  Brenda of Meal Planning Magic has revived her Eating the Alphabet, series, and since it kind of gets back to the "roots" of my own blog, I couldn't really pass it up.  ;)

So, while I do complain a bit about Pinterest, I have actually gotten some good ideas from there!  One of the recipes that caught my eye last month was these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins from Skip to my Lou.  I made them, with some changes, and they were a hit.  While trying to decide what to post for the A or B month, I thought these would be perfect.

Hey!  That's Sprout swiping one while I'm trying to take pictures. 

Yes, I know, banana chocolate chip muffins are not earth-shattering, but I healthy-fied these, and that made me feel much better about the fact that we were all popping these little bite-sized tasty treats into our mouths at an alarming rate.  Seriously, while I wouldn't classify them as health food, they are definitely healthier than versions I've made in the past.  I should also tell you that while the Munchkin looked at me with one eyebrow raised when I said "banana" and "chocolate chip" in the same sentence, he did actually try one, he didn't spit it out, and he ate the whole thing.  Progress, people, it's progress.  These were great in lunches that week, by the way. 

Squirt kept asking for more, or "Mo! Mo!" in Squirtese.

Healthier Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
by Katy | Alphabet Soup, adapted from Skip to my Lou

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup demerara sugar
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2-3, make sure they're good & ripe)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350'F.  Line mini muffin pans (enough to make 3 dozen muffins) with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, ground flaxseed, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix together bananas, egg, vanilla extract, oil and milk.  Stir wet ingredients into dry and blended, being careful not to over-mix.  Stir in chocolate chips.
Fill muffin cups until 3/4 full.  Bake until tops are golden, and a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean (a little melted chocolate on it is fine!).  **Katy's note:  ok, I stink.  I forgot to write down how long these took to cook, but I want to say it was about 15 minutes.  When I make another batch I'll take better notes and edit this recipe.  Until then, just keep an eye on them when baking -- you know your oven better than I do!

Yield:  36 mini muffins

Enjoy!  :)

I'm linking up to Eating the Alphabet at Meal Planning Magic

I'm also linking up to Mingle Monday on Add a Pinch!

Monday, February 13, 2012

She said what I've been thinking


Like half the people on the planet, I've recently become addicted to enamoured with Pinterest.  I've been gathering quotes I like, and while I managed to not pin this one, it went something along the lines of "when we compare ourselves to others, we lose a little bit of our own awesomeness."  I've been struggling lately.  A lot.  And with things I don't really want to bother you with.  Trust me, I'm not good at sharing my burdens with others.

Anyway, through Pinterest, I was led to this post by Adriana of Just by Living.  I'd never read her blog before, but this post hit home, in so many ways.  One of the things she says in her post is "My life isn't pretty enough for Pinterest."  I want to hug her, give her a high five, and cry on her shoulder because that is so how I feel.  I've lost a lot of my own awesomeness lately by comparing myself to way too many others. 

I didn't start blogging to become an internet superstar or household name.  I don't blog to make money.  I blog because it's fun and a I like it.  But....there are those days, when I haven't blogged in a while, and just don't have the time or energy to do anything about it, that I think "why bother?"  I say I don't want to be a big-name blogger...then why am I comparing myself to those same big-name bloggers??  Because we are often harder on ourselves than anyone else is.  Because I don't want to let anyone down, but in the meantime, I don't meet the overly high expectations I put upon myself. 


I found all these super cute ideas for making Valentine's Day cards for the kids to give out at their parties.  I even spent time using my scrapbooking software to work on them.  And what did I do?  I ran to CVS this afternoon to grab some cheap boxes of cards instead.  And I'm ok with that.  Mostly.  :)  I do this a lot though:  get delusions of grandeur and then have to take a step back and regroup.  I need to go back and read my own post about the Supermom cape, I know. 

We don't have a spotless house.  I'll never have time to make all the crafty ideas I find.  When I made my own graham crackers, someone that my husband works with said that I had too much time on my hands.  Seriously.  After I picked myself off the floor from a fit of laughter, I vowed not to go to his office for a while to keep myself from drop-kicking her.  Nope, I don't have too much time on my hands.  That's far from the truth.  But I make choices with my time, and sometimes those choices are letting the laundry and clutter be, and making memories with my kids instead.  Those are my choices, and I refuse to be judged by them anymore.  The food pictures on my blog may stink, but the intention behind them is beautiful -- I love being in the kitchen, and I want to share that with the world, even if the "world" is only one reader, who happens to be my best friend.  :) 


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stocked Up {Freezer Spaghetti Sauce}


Yes, it's been a while.  I'm not going to apologize or give excuses.  I've just been dealing with a lot lately, and as usual when that happens the blog takes a hit.  That's!  :)

Earlier this month I cleaned out my pantry, which wound up being more of an undertaking than I had planned, but it definitely needed to be tackled.  I couldn't believe how chaotic the pantry had gotten!  This weekend, I decided to tackle the freezer, and restock it as well. 

I know I am lucky to have a stand alone freezer.  I've had it for years and it is such a wonderful asset!  Like the pantry, sometimes it gets disorganized and I have no clue what's even in there!  I try to do a deep clean (I also have to defrost it...unfortunately it's not self-defrosting, lol) at least twice a year, and take an inventory, which I then print out and stick on the front of the freezer.  I don't always keep the inventory updated as I use/add things, but at least it's a starting point.

Anyway, I thought I would use some of the meals posted over at Once a Month Mom to fill my freezer.  We have activities every weeknight, and I have become a reluctant meal planner.  I've always said I wasn't good at it, but I've learned that with our busy schedule if I don't have a plan, we eat horribly!!  I'm hopeful that having meals in the freezer ready to go will help on those hectic nights.

Because I can't leave well enough alone, I actually combined a couple of the menus from OAMM.  No offense to Tricia or any of the others that work so hard to put the menus together; I just have a pretty good idea of what my family is willing to eat and adjusted accordingly. 

Needs a bit more organization, but look at that stockpile!

Now, check this out.  I used quite a few ingredients that I already had on hand, shopped some sales, and spent $39.68 for additional ingredients on what would turn out to be 9 meals.  That's less than $5 average per meal!  That's pretty awesome.  Granted, I did have to pay for the ingredients I already had on hand, but it wasn't an additional cost just to make the meals.  Did that make sense?  It did in my head.  It also obviously doesn't count sides, but still!  Then, I decided to whip up a batch of my freezer spaghetti sauce that I've been making for years (recipe at end of post) using only ingredients I already had in my pantry.  Sweet, right?

So, here's the info on what I made:

From the 5 Day Mini Menu - January 2012:
  • Ranch Chicken Parmesan - I used 1.5 lbs chicken tenders; I did have to increase the breading amounts considerably to have enough.  After breading, I placed them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and flash froze them.  Then I placed them in a foil baking pan, with foil between the layers, then covered with more foil, labeled & put back in the freezer.
  • Teriyaki Honey Chicken - used 1.5 lbs chicken tenders (hey, they were on sale for a great price!) and adjusted the recipe accordingly.  Also, I used grated ginger instead of ground ginger.
  • Easy Pleasing Meatloaf - I used 1.7 lbs ground beef and divided the mixture into two loaves.  Also, instead of buying stuffing mix, I crushed up some croutons I had that needed to be used.
  • Mexican Shepherd's Pie - I followed the recipe, except I used two boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix instead of making my own cornbread (this time anyway).
From the 10 Day Mini Menu - January 2012:
  • Noodle Heaven - Only change was mixing the cream cheese mixture and the noodles together and layering that with the meat sauce. 
  • Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas - I'm partial to my own recipe (well, duh) but decided to give this one a whirl.  I made two pans with 5 enchiladas each.  I know it doesn't seem like much, but while I love them the kids aren't big fans, so I figured smaller portions would work better, and the kids can have bean burritos that night if they don't want enchiladas.  :)
  • Creamy Sausage and Tomato Pasta - this looks really good.  I used chicken Italian sausage. 
General Notes:
  • The mini menus are awesome, especially if you haven't done any freezer cooking before or don't have a ton of space or time.  So glad they are providing these!
  • Not counting the spaghetti sauce & the final clean up (which I'm currently avoiding by blogging) it took me 4 hours to prepare all this.  I did my shopping yesterday.  However, the kids were not home, or it would have easily taken twice as long.  ;)
  • Read, read, read the recipe ingredients and instructions!!!  Especially if you are preparing several items at once, it's easy to skip a step. 
  • Random, but I love to listen to music when I cook.  Alt Nation was my station of choice today.
  • Nitrile gloves are my friend.  They really help my super dry hands.  And thick gloves for washing dishes.  I still washed my hands a lot, but the gloves help a ton. 

Freezer Spaghetti Sauce
Katy, Alphabet Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb bulk Italian sausage, optional
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
3 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
2 cups water
1 heaping Tablespoon Italian herb mix
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 dried bay leaves
1 tsp kosher salt

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and sausage, if using, and saute 5-7 minutes (if using sausage, cook until meat is no longer pink).  Drain if needed.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, being careful not to burn garlic.  Transfer to a large crock pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low 5-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.  Remove bay leaves.  Taste and season with salt & pepper as desired.  Divide into desired portions, let cool, label and place in freezer.  To use, thaw and heat to a simmer. 

Makes about 12 cups sauce.

A few notes:
  • I use tomato puree for a smoother sauce; use the crushed tomatoes if you like more tomato chunks.  Personal preference.
  • I've also used the very large cans of crushed tomatoes from Sam's Club, mine was 6 lb 6 oz, and just omitted the tomato paste.  Still works well.
  • I usually omit the sausage unless I just happen to have some handy.
  • Ever notice how many recipes call for "one 28 oz jar of your favorite tomato sauce"?  That happens to be 3 1/2 cups.  I usually portion my sauce into 4 cup containers for freezing.  Handy, huh?
Why yes, I have quite a stash of girl scout cookies....your point???
Enjoy!  :)