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Orange Autumn Cake

29 Oct

Have you every bumped into someone you went to school/grew up with…

(P.S. We won’t discuss how old I must be to even be asking that question)

Maybe at the grocery store…

or Target…

or Facebook…

Because let’s get real that’s where 99% of us are catching up with people.

I love catching up with old friends.

Except on days when I run out of the house and I really needed to wash my hair.

You KNOW that’s when you are going to run into someone.

The minute you step out of the house lookin’ like a hot mess.

BAM…there they are!

I’ve had several of these encounters recently.

Luckily I’d washed my hair and looked presentable each time.

It’s nice to see where people are and what they’ve been doing.

So in honor of catching up with old friends I made us some cake.

Cake makes it clear that my waste line looks absolutely nothing like

it did in high school.

This cake uses zest and juice from fresh oranges.

It’s bright, citrus-ey, and reminds me of  fall holiday flavors.

It also reminds me of that giant box of band fruit my mom used to buy around this time every year, but that’s a conversation for a different day.

I suggest you share with friends.

Orange Autumn Cake

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 C sugar
zest of 4 large oranges, reserve 1T. for frosting
4 eggs
1 C sour cream or yogurt
1/2 C orange juice
3 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
2 T orange extract

Pre-heat oven and prepare 2 8-inch round pans with cooking spray such as bakers joy.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add sugar and orange zest. Using your fingers or a pasty blender, blend the sugar and zest together. This will infuse your sugar with more of the orange flavor. Add butter to the bowl and beat until creamy. About 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time until just combined. Mix in sour cream and juice. Add flour and mix until just combined. Bake until cakes are golden or a pick inserted come out clean (About 30-40 minutes). Allow cakes to rest in pans for approximately 10 minutes. Turn out of pans and immediately wrap in double or tipple thickness of plastic wrap and place in the freezer to cool. This will lock moisture into your cake. Once cooled split each layer through the middle to create 4 layers.

**A few notes. I used sour cream, but for more orange flavor feel free to replace it with orange flavored yogurt.

I made candied oranges using this recipe with the intention  of pouring the orange syrup over each layer as I was frosting the cake.  I totally forgot that step.  Feel free to do it and let me know how it turns out.  Or leave out this step all together.  The cake is wonderful without the syrup & candied oranges.

Frosting

To your favorite Cream Cheese Frosting Add:

2 T. Orange extract (replacing vanilla)
1/4 C. brown sugar (if your recipe doesn’t call for it)
1 T. Orange zest.

If you don’t have a favorite cream cheese frosting try this one.

I may or may not have eaten some of the leftover frosting directly from the bowl  because it was so good.

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Caramel Apples

19 Oct

I love this time of year.

The air is crisp.

The leaves are crunchy.

I can break out the jeans, sweaters, and hoodies.

Pumpkins and apples dot the produce section at my grocery store.

And the kiddo is trying to decide what to be for Halloween.

Growing up Halloween and Trick-or-Treating was a fun community affair.

Our church had a fall festival…and we actually dressed up!!

…and guess what?

No one took issue with it.

It was fun! Period.

Trick-or-Treating also meant lots of homemade goodies gathered door to door around the neighborhood.

Things were safe then.

The little grandmas on my street weren’t trying to slip razor blades into their candy apples.

It wasn’t a successful candy haul if one of these didn’t show up in the treat bag.

One of the perks of being all grown up is that I can make these whenever I want.

A Halloween themed Bunco night gave me the perfect opportunity to indulge.

Caramel Apples

1 (14 oz.) Bag caramels, unwrapped
1-2 T. Milk
6 apples, I like mine refrigerated
Chopped chocolate, candy bar, etc. to garnish (I used a Skor bar)

Prepare a baking sheet or jelly roll pan by lining it with wax paper that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Prepare apples by removing stems and inserting popsicle or sucker sticks into the top. Unwrap the caramels and place them in a bowl with milk. **I used 2 T. and the caramel was a bit soft, but still set up nicely when refrigerated. You may want to start with less and add more if needed. Out of the package my caramels were softer than the ones I normally use. If your caramels are soft I would suggest starting with less. If you caramels are firm go ahead and add the full 2T.** Microwave for 2 full minutes without stopping. Stir until caramels and milk are incorporated. Dip apples into caramel. Place on prepared pan and immediately sprinkle with garnish.  Refrigerate to set caramel.

Granola Goodness

29 Sep

Some days I just feel fat!

 

Let’s face it.  I’m a girl who LOVES to bake.

So it’s pretty much inevitable I’ll have those days.

Lately I’ve been trying to eat better.

Be more conscious about the foods I’m putting into my body.

This has lead to a slight obsession with granola.

Now people usually love one of two types of granola.

Granola chunks that cling together or individual granola pieces perfect for sprinkling.

I live in the second camp.

I don’t want big chunky pieces.

I want to be able to sprinkle my granola over yogurt.

Or pour milk over it and eat it like cereal.

Even grab a handful as a snack.

I want you to enjoy some granola too!

Granola

2 1/2 C. Whole Wheat Quick Cooking Oats
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Ginger
1/2 C. Honey
1/2 C. Walnuts (feel free to substitute your favorite or mix several varieties)
1/2 C. Oil
1/2 – 1 C. Dried fruit (I used cranberries, use what you like)

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Leave enough foil on the ends to allow you to pick the foil up off of the baking sheet once baking is complete. Pre-heat your oven to 350. In a large bowl mix nuts, spices, oil, and honey. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Stir frequently during baking. The edges will brown very quickly. Remove from oven and lift the foil from the baking sheet to stop the baking process. Allow granola to cool. Stir in fruit. Sore in an airtight container.

Pear Cranberry and Walnut Pie

20 Sep

It’s coming….

Can you feel it?

Fall.

There’s just a hint of it in the air.

It teases me as I take my son to the bus stop every morning.

I feel it nipping at my legs as the sun sets.

I see it in the random crunchy leaf on the ground.

And my stomach is craving the warm filling foods it will bring.

Are you ready?

I know I am.

Pear Cranberry and Walnut Pie ~ (adapted from this recipe Family Circle Nov., 07)

For the Crust

2 1/2 C. All-Purpose flour
1 C. Butter (I used salted)
Ice Water

For the Filling

3 T. Butter
4-5 Pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 C. Brown sugar, packed
1/4 C. Dried cranberries
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Lemon juice
1/4 c. Chopped walnuts
1 Egg white
1 1/2 tsp Milk
1 T. Cinnamon sugar

**You’ll want to prepare your crust in advance as it needs time to rest in the refrigerator before it is rolled out.

To prepare the crust place the flour and butter in the food processor. Process until it resembles coarse peas. Gradually add ice water a tablespoon at a time until a ball starts to form. Avoid adding to much water and/or handling the dough to much. Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 5 hours or overnight.

To prepare the filling add the butter to a nonstick skillet. Using medium heat allow butter to melt, add pear slices and saute’ until tender and beginning to brown. Stir in the brown sugar, cranberries, and cinnamon. Turn the heat to low. Cook until the sugar is dissolved. In a small bowl mix the corn starch and lemon juice. Stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook for about a minute until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add the walnuts.

Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and divide into 2 equal pieces. Return one to the fridge while you work with the first. Roll out into a 10″ circle. Place in the bottom of a 9″ pie plate. Shape into the bottom and up the sides.

Pour pear mixture into prepared crust. Roll out the other half of the crust. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes in the center of the crust, if desired. You can use your shapes to garnish the top of the pie. (If you don’t cut out shapes you’ll need to cut slits into the top crust in order for it to vent.) Place over the top of pear mixture, trim edges if required. Crimp edges to seal. Mix egg white and milk. Brush over the top crust and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Garnish with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Mexican Lasagna

13 Sep

The other night I dreamed about my Grandaddy.

In my dream we were at the ball field.

Just outside of the dugout.

I looked across the crowd and he was just standing there….

taller than everyone else.

and when I went to look for him he was gone….

Maybe I’ve seen one to many pictures of kids at the ball field and it has me all nostalgic.

Maybe I’m just missing my Grandaddy.

Maybe I know my sweet Granny isn’t well and is really missing him too.


Whatever the reason having him on my mind makes me feel closer to him.

I know if he was here he’d give me a hard time about not visiting enough.

Then he’d tell me how proud he is of me.

and that I should keep sharing yummy things with you.

this picture ran in our local paper. this was a church softball game. my grandaddy was actually there with the other team. he told me later even though he was there with the other team he always wanted my husband to do well. even if he was playing for the opposing team, lol.

You wanna know how to make this Mexican Lasagna?

I think Grandaddy would approve.

Mexican Lasagna ~ (adapted from Woman’s Day)

1 lb. ground beef
2 poblano chile peppers, seeded & diced
1 sm. onion, diced
2 T. chili powder
1 pkg. taco seasoning
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (15oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (10oz.) can enchilada sauce, mild
1/2 C. cilantro
4-6 flour tortillas
2 C. tortilla chips, crushed
1 C. cheddar cheese
1 C. mozzarella cheese

Prepare your casserole dish by spraying with cooking spray. I used a 2.5 qt. dish. Set aside

Cook beef, onion, and peppers in a skillet until beef is browned, onions are slightly translucent, and peppers are tender. Stir in the chili powder and taco seasoning. Cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, and enchilada sauce. Allow to simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Start by adding a tortilla shell and crushed tortillas to the bottom of your baking dish. Top with some of the beef mixture and cheese. Continue until fully assembled. (You can also divided this into two dishes and bake one now and freeze one for later. Will keep wrapped in plastic wrap and foil for 2 months.) Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

Breakfast Cookies

30 Aug

I’m not typically a breakfast kinda person.

Normally when I roll outta bed you shouldn’t approach me or talk to me for at least 30 minutes…possibly an hour if you want to be safe.

See I’m not really awake when I stumble outta bed.  I’m just pretending to be a functioning adult trying to get her child off to school so she can come home, sit on the couch for a few minutes,  drink a giant cup of iced coffee, and begin to feel like a human person again.

I’m fortunate that my son also shares my morning zombie affliction so we usually get along just fine most mornings.

We usually don’t do breakfast either.

Seriously….Who can eat when they are still half asleep??

but when I stumbled upon this recipe for cookies using cereal….

Portable breakfast!!!  Genius!!

These cookies use flax seed.  I’d never used it in baking before and let me tell you.

I am in LOVE.

It gives them a nutty quality and even though they spread more than I really wanted them to (I don’t think I crushed my cereal flakes enough) it kept the cookies chewy in the center which is a cookie must for me.

I must warn you though.  These cookies will call to you from the cookie container every time you walk by.

**Update ~ I made these cookies again crushing my cornflakes until they resembled the size and consistency of the oats.  They didn’t have as much spreading and held together nicely.**

Breakfast Cookies   ~ (Adapted From Family Circle)

1 C. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. flax seed meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 sticks butter, soft
1 C. white sugar
1 C. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 C. corn flakes (crushed with your hand. They should resemble your oats)
2 C. quick cooking oats
optional ingredients
1  C. chopped toasted walnuts, pecans, or other nuts
1  C. raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, or other fruit
1 C. coconut
1 C. chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 325. Combine the flour, flax seed, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium/high until well combined and mixture is pale and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Next add the vanilla and eggs to combine. Mix in the flour. Stir in the corn flakes, oats, and any optional ingredients by hand.

I used a slightly overfilled 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop out my  dough onto the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Let the cookies bake for about 12-15 minutes.  They should be set and have a slightly golden tint.  Cool cookies for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Store in an air tight container.  I also like to put a piece of loaf bread in the container after the first day to help the cookies keep their chewiness.  Just change out the bread as it dries out.

Blueberry Freeze

24 Aug

It’s hot here.

Not just hot.  Miserable.  Baking in the sun.  Steaming in the humidity.       H.O.T

Comfort food is not what I’m craving right now.

Cooling and refreshing is what I want.

Baking in this heat has me longing for cool fall days.  Sweaters and blue jeans.

Roasted marshmallows by a fire.  Pumpkins and Jack-O lanterns.

Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies.

I’m ready to turn my oven back on people.

Until then I made us something cooling and refreshing.

It only requires a small bit of oven time and even more freezer time.

Which makes for frozen deliciousness.

**This recipe uses a boxed cake mix for the crust.  I typically don’t use those, but I was feeling lazy so I went ahead with it and doctored it a bit.  Fill free to replace the cake crust portion with your favorite vanilla cake**

Blueberry Freeze   ~   (Adapted from Ladies’ Home Journal)

1 box white cake mix (I used yellow because that’s all I had)
1 C. Sour Cream
1/2 C. Vegetable Oil
3 1/2 C. Blueberries, more for serving if desired
2/3 C. + 1/8 C. Sugar
2 T. lemon juice
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 Jar Marshmallow fluff
3/4 C. + 1 1/2 C. Heavy Cream

Pre-Heat the oven to 350.   Prepare a 9-in springform pan by spraying it with baking spray that contains flour. In a mixing bowl, mix the cake mix, sour cream and vegetable oil.   Pour about 2 1/2 cups of batter into the prepared pan.  (Fill free to use the rest for cupcakes)  Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling clean your springform pan.  Once cool return the cake to the pan placing it in top side down.  Use a long strip of wax paper or parchment to line the inside edges of the pan.  You’ll want this to extend past the top of the pan about 2 inches.  Make sure it fits tightly around the cake.  I actually placed my cake onto the bottom portion on my spring form pan, wrapped my parchment tightly around the edges of the cake; securing it with scotch tape, and then placed the side of my springform pan back into place.  Once your cake is wrapped in it’s wax paper/parchment sleeve place it in the freezer while you prepare the next step.

Process blueberries, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup of sugar in a food processor or blender until smooth.  In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add marshmallow fluff.  Mix well.  In an seperate bowl whip 3/4 cup of heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Stir the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Stir in blueberry puree, gently.

Remove cake from the freeze and spread blueberry mixture over the top.  Return to the freezer until set, about 8 hrs or overnight.

Before serving,  whip 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream with 1/8 C. of sugar until slightly stiff peaks form.  Dollop or spread over the top of the blueberry cake.  Re-freeze.  Remove cake from freezer and allow to come to room temperature for about 15 – 30 minutes before serving.

Garnish with additional blueberries and confectioners sugar if desired.