Monday, November 23, 2015

Cranberry Bundt Cake with Butter Cream Sauce

Today is my Mia's 14th birthday!

Mia loves cranberries. She has devoured pounds and pounds of cranberry sauce in her 14 years--probably way more than the average person consumes in a lifetime. I'm not even joking. She prefers homemade, but she'll eat the stuff in the can too. :)

This cake is delicious. People who don't like cranberries have told me that, so even if you don't, you should still give it a try. If you like to have something besides pie for Thanksgiving, this would be an excellent addition to your dessert table. I've had the recipe long enough that I don't remember where it originated from, but I do know that my version here is half the butter cream sauce of the original, cutting out a lot of fat and calories that it really didn't need. It's very moist and good topped with whipped cream.

Cranberry Bundt Cake with Butter Cream Sauce
serves 16

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained

Butter Cream Sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup half & half

Preheat oven to 350. Combine and sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, oil, almond extract and sour cream until smooth. The sour cream will form lumps at first, but keep whisking and it will smooth out. Pour liquid ingredients into flour mixture and mix on low until all flour is completely incorporated. Fold in the cranberries.

Pour cake batter into a well-greased Bundt pan. Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While cake is baking, prepare butter cream sauce by melting the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in sugar until combined, and then stir in the half & half. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat once it boils. When cake is done and still hot, pour 1/3 of butter cream mixture over the cake in the pan and allow it to set for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, invert cake onto a serving plate and slowly spoon the rest of the butter cream sauce over the cake so it can absorb into the cake. Cool before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

I have a delicious little muffin recipe for you today, put together by yours truly.

Mia needed some muffins for a school thing, so I whipped these up the night before. Let's call them Cinnamon Sugar Muffins.

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins
 makes 10 regular size muffins

1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. milk

1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. nutmeg

1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Stir melted butter and sugar together until combined. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Stir in milk. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and nutmeg together. Add all at once to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into the paper-lined muffin cups, filling about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the tops of the batter. Bake in preheated oven for 15-16 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched lightly with a finger. Remove muffins to a cooling rack.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Chicken Zucchini Casserole

So this stuff. This. stuff.

You MUST try it.  

Even if zucchini growing season is over, go buy a couple. It's worth it. Cooked chicken, diced zucchini, stuffing all combines into an easy, savory casserole that I have made three or four times in the last few months, because it is so good! My whole family loves it. It would even do nicely with leftover turkey come the day after Thanksgiving--I'm definitely going to try it.

This recipe comes from Six Sisters' Stuff, but I slightly tweaked it: dry onion instead of fresh, a slightly smaller pan (I thought the 9x13 was too large), and a little bit longer cooking time at a lower temp. Seriously, give it try.

Chicken Zucchini Casserole
6 oz. package of Chicken flavor stuffing mix (I have used Kroger brand each time)
1 cube of butter
2 small zucchini, diced
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 T. dry minced onion
1/2 c. reduced fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

In a large bowl, melt the butter. Pour in the entire box of dry stuffing mix, and stir til evenly mixed. Reserve 2/3 cup and set aside. To remaining buttered stuffing mix, add the zucchini, cooked chicken, soup, onion and sour cream. Stir until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 11x8 baking dish. Sprinkle reserved stuffing mix over the top. Bake uncovered for 1 hour.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cheesy Beef & Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Lately, I've been using the "save link" feature on Facebook. And you know what? It's a pretty handy way to save recipes you want to try, because it is a cinch to pull them up later on, anytime.

This is one of those saved recipe links, and it comes by way of Alyssa at The Recipe Critic. 

Rarely do I make a straight recipe anymore--I usually adapt it to suit my tastes. The same goes for this one. It needed some onion and garlic, and since my girlies who still live at home would notice that there is cottage cheese in it, I blended the cottage cheese and sour cream together in my handy little Ninja, with the addition of some dried parsley, little lumps of cottage cheese! They had no idea! Sometimes I feel like a genuis, I tell you.

This was a winner. Classic comfort food! Give it a try.

Cheesy Beef & Sour Cream Noodle Bake
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 t. peper
2 T. dry minced onion
1 t. garlic salt
8 oz. package No-Yolks Dumplings (egg noodles)
1 c. reduced fat sour cream
1 1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1 T. dried parsely
2 c. grated medium cheddar cheese 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, brown the ground beef with the dry minced onion; drain. Return beef to skillet and add salt, pepper, garlic salt and tomato sauce. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the No-Yolks Dumplings or other egg noodles of your choice according to package directions; drain.

While noodles cook, run the cottage cheese, sour cream and parsley through a blender or food chopper until smooth. Pour this mixture over the hot, drained noodles and stir to coat. Spread half the hot noodles in the bottom of the 9x13 pan, followed by half the ground beef mixture. Top with half of the grated cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers, and end with cheese. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly and the cheese is browned. Serves 6-8.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Zebra goes Pink

Everyone knows October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In honor of that, Zebra sent me one of their special BCA pink pens to review and share here on my blog.

Zebra sent me their F-301 steel retractable ball point pen. Note that the outside of the pen is steel with pink accents, but the ink is not pink, it is black. The wide pink accent at the bottom is grippy and makes the pen easy to hold on to, it's also light and easy to use.

In short, the F-301 pen is pretty nice. I'm a little bit picky about my pens....I want my ball point to roll smoothly along, which this one does, and the ability to refill it is a bonus. Now, if I can just protect it from sprouting legs and going AWOL in the company of Mr. Nobody, I'll be happy. :)

A personal word about Breast Cancer Awareness--October is just about over, but if you haven't been screened lately, please get your screening done. I had mine a couple weeks ago, and got called back for additional diagnostics because of a "possible mass" on the right side. Gratefully, on ultrasound, it turned out to be cysts. That was a bit of a scary experience, and I find myself thinking of all the women out there who have that scare and it isn't just cysts. (My mother-in-law was one of them). My heart goes out to you! I'm definitely a believer in getting your screenings done.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Family Favorite Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Where there are Jack-o-lanterns:

There are pumpkin seeds.

My family loves roasted pumpkin seeds. Honestly, I could take 'em or leave 'em. I usually eat a few and then I'm done, but everyone else requests them every year. Needless to say, I've roasted my share of pumpkin seeds. I've roasted them several different ways, parboiling them first, not parboiling them first, roasting them at high temperature and at a lower temperature. I've used butter. I've used oil. All the methods will give you roasted pumpkin seeds, but the method that seems to work best and be enjoyed the most, at least by my family, is this:

1. Rinse the seeds really well and get all the orange gunk out (or at least 98% of it). It can take awhile, which is a pain, but worth doing. The pic above shows my seeds after being rinsed a few times by Jeff and then by me. I put them in a colander and stir periodically, pulling out any little bits of orange flesh that come up to the surface. Once most, if not all, of the pumpkin flesh is gone, continue to the next step.

2. Preheat the oven to 400. For every cup or so of pumpkin seeds you have, you want 4 cups of water boiling, and you want a good tablespoon of salt for every cup of seeds as well. It seems like a lot, but the flavor of the seeds will be worth it in the end. Put the seeds in the boiling, salted water, and boil them for 10 minutes. At high altitude, let them go 2 or 3 minutes longer. Drain the seeds well.

3. Some recipes use oil, and some use butter. Personally, I have found a mix of olive oil (which won't burn) and butter (for flavor) is best. Coat the seeds with the oil and melted butter--a total of a tablespoon or so for each cup of seeds. For 4 cups of seeds, add 2 T. of olive oil and 2 T. of melted butter. Add whatever seasoning you like. I usually just stick with a little more salt, about 1/4 teaspoon for every cup of seeds. Some people like to add seasoning salt or other seasoning such as garlic, but we're happy without.

4. Spread the oiled/buttered and salted seeds on a large baking sheet. For even roasting, spread evenly. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until the seeds are a nice golden brown color. Stir the seeds 3 or 4 times during that 20 minutes to make sure they roast evenly.

5. Remove the seeds to a large bowl to cool. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reese's Pieces & Pretzel Popcorn

Exactly two years ago, I saw this yumminess on Pinterest. And because I cannot buy Reese's pieces or Reese's peanut butter chips on a regular basis (unless I want to gain 50 pounds), it was something that simply had to be tried.

My daughter and I made it, and it was to die for. It didn't last the weekend.

In a word, addicting!

Reese's Pieces and Pretzel Popcorn
~slightly adapted from

12 cups popped popcorn
4 cups mini pretzels
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups Reese’s Pieces candies
1 cup Reese's peanut butter chips

In a large bowl, combine popcorn & pretzels and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, honey & corn syrup. Bring to boil, then cook & stir for 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over popcorn/pretzel mixture and toss until it's all coated. Pour onto two cookie sheets that are either sprayed or lined with parchment. Bake uncovered at 250 degrees for 30 minutes, and stir every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately mix in the Reese’s Pieces candies and peanut butter chips. Break into clusters and allow to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Just the other day, I made pork carnitas. It happened to be the day that college-son Jake was home for a visit, so it was the perfect meal. I experimented a little bit, and boy did it pay off. Easy and delicious! Here's what I did:

Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray.
Place a 3-lb. pork sirloin roast in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Sprinkle the roast pretty liberally with sea salt & black pepper.
Add a good amount of garlic powder, but not as much as the salt and pepper.
Sprinkle on about a teaspoon of cumin and 3/4 teaspoon of oregano.
Dump one 4-oz. can of chopped green chilies on top of the roast.
Add 1 T. olive oil to the bottom of the slow cooker and pour 3 T. orange juice over the roast.

That's it! I cooked my roast for 3 hours on high, then switched it to low for another 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the roast, with the chopped chilies, to a large serving bowl, cover with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. After resting time, shred the pork using two forks. There should be approximately 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid left in the bottom of the slow cooker; pour those good juices right over the shredded pork and serve it up.

We ate it in white corn tortillas, topped with shredded cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, sliced avocados, chopped tomatoes, fresh cilantro, sour cream and a squeeze of fresh lime. So yummy! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies--no cake mix & no eggs!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. They are everywhere this time of year. But these are not your ordinary spice cake & pumpkin those, these are egg-less, but they are made from scratch and worth it.

Also, do you have a cookie scoop? Or was I the last person around to get one?! My daughter and son-in-law kindly gave me one for my birthday recently, and boy, do I owe them!! It is the best. thing. ever.

Also, if you see these silicone baking mats at your local Costco {a pack of three for $18.99? Holla!} get them. Like yesterday.

That's all. Enjoy the cookies!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 c. pumpkin
2 c. brown sugar
1 c. oil
1 T. vanilla
4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. cloves
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, oil and vanilla on medium speed. Mix well until smooth and well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices until combined. Add all at once to pumpkin mixture, and stir til incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by cookie scoop onto silicone-lined baking pans. Bake 12 minutes. Remove cookies from pan to a cooling rack to cool completely. Makes about 36 cookies.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Fall comes, and I love pumpkin chocolate chip cookies as much as the next person. But forget about them for a minute.....

Do you like oatmeal cookies? Well, the addition of chopped, spiced apple, cinnamon chips, and chopped nuts will literally take them over the top. They scream, "It's Fall!" These were some of the best oatmeal cookies I've ever made. Loved them! Give them a try--you'll be glad you did.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Gala)
2 T. butter
3 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 t. cinnamon
2 c. flour
2 t. cornstarch
1 t. baking soda
2 1/2 c. quick oats
1/2 c. cinnamon chips (found at Walmart)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Melt 2 T. butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped apple, 3 T. brown sugar, 1 t. cinnamon and 1/4 t. nutmeg. Stir and cook until apples are slightly softened and syrup has thickened. Set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and egg and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, flour, cornstarch and baking soda until combined. All at once, add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir til combined. Stir in the oats, cinnamon chips and chopped walnuts just until combined. Fold in the apples, including the syrup. 

Using a cookie scoop, place balls of dough 2-inches apart on a baking sheet with a silicone liner. Bake 10 minutes. Remove cookies to a cooling rack. See how long they last at your house! 

Recipe adapted from Life Love and Sugar.