December 20, 2015

Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

How about a great brownie recipe for your Christmas baking?  These brownies are awesome covered with chocolate ganache.

Pretty and shiny and sprinkled for Christmas.

They make a great gift for neighbors or to share at work.

I really, really like brownies, and this is my "go to" recipe.  This recipe is quick and easy to make.  I don't mind a boxed brownie mix and have made brownies from a box more times than I can count, but if you want something a little special, or you like to bake from scratch, this recipe is perfect.


4 semi-sweet chocolate squares
1 stick margarine - melt with chocolate
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Bake at 350 degrees in an 8 x 8 baking pan lined with parchment paper for 20 to 25 minutes.  I baked my brownies for only 20 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache:

  Over low heat on stove, melt one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with one-half cup of half and half, stirring pretty much constantly until melted and shiny.

Pour and spread the ganache over brownies.  (I refrigerated the brownies for a time before cutting them.  After cutting them, I placed them in a cookie tin and kept them in the refrigerator.)

December 12, 2015

Opry at the Ryman

So the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Hubby and I went to the Opry at the Ryman.

We live approximately 150 miles north of Nashville; so, it's a pretty easy trip.

I have wanted to go for years, but just never "got around to it".    Sometimes the holidays can be a bit stressful for me; so, we decided to do something we have never done, and that's go somewhere for Thanksgiving weekend.

After dinner on Thanksgiving Day with my folks and Friday evening and Saturday morning spent with my son, daughter-in-law, and sweet little grandson, we took off midday for Nashville.

We stayed downtown,  just a two minute walk to the Ryman Auditorium and a two minute walk to a restaurant for supper before the show.

We were in the very last row, but luckily on the aisle, which is good for Hubby because he can use the extra space and could get up easily during commercial breaks to stretch.

We had a great view of the stage even though when I called to purchase the tickets the lovely lady I spoke to told me it was a limited view of the stage; however, we saw everything just fine.

The Ryman Auditorium is an old church, and it has pew seating.  The show lasted a little over two hours, and the time flew by!

It was a wonderful show and a wonderful experience.  If you haven't been, well, you should go.

It is a live radio show, with breaks for live commercials.  

It is a truly uplifting, toe-tapping good time.  It made me laugh; it made me cry; and it made me feel patriotic.

So  . . . these two can check The Grand Ole Opry off their "bucket list"!

December 4, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Cookies are my favorite.  If I could take only one food with me to a desert island, it would be chocolate chip cookies.

A few years ago, a friend/co-worker of mine made me some chocolate chip cookies for my birthday.  I remember they were packaged so perfectly.  This person pays attention to every, single detail.  And the cookies were wonderful!!

If I'm not mistaken, I think he said it was the Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  You know the one where the woman is charged an extra $250 on her lunch bill for asking for and getting the recipe.

He made copies of the recipe and handed the copies out to those of us who wanted it.  I absolutely do not know what I did with it, but I remembered the cookies were made with oats and a milk chocolate candy bar.

These cookies are absolutely scrumptious.  Really impressive right out of the oven - just cooled enough not to burn your tender little mouth.

They would be a great addition to your Christmas cookie list or a cookie exchange!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup of butter - at room temperature
1/2 cup of butter-flavored Crisco
2 eggs - at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups of oats (I used minute oats) finely ground in a food processor
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of self-rising four
1 teaspoon of baking soda
A pinch of salt
12 ounces - semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 - 4.4 oz. Hershey Candy bar (coarsely chopped)

Whisk flours, oats, soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream butter and butter-flavored Crisco until light in color.  Incorporate eggs first and then both sugars.  Turn mixer speed down to low and add dry ingredients one cup at a time until just incorporated.  Using a spatula, stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips and coarsely chopped candy bar.

Cover and refrigerate cookie dough for at least one hour.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop onto a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 11 to 12 minutes.  If you like crispy cookies, they will need to bake a bit longer.

I keep the cookie dough in the refrigerator for a few days and make a half a dozen at a time.  That way they are always fresh and not too much temptation!!

Serve to family and friends.  They will love you for these wonderful cookies!!


November 30, 2015

Crazy A$% Kit Kat Cake

It is truly fun to find these types of cakes on the internet.  I mean, who knew??

I was reading one of my favorite crochet blogs last week, and this cake was right there begging me to make it!  So, I did.

If you're like me and can't resist a fun cake like this, it is easy to do, and according to my sweet mother, the best cake she had ever eaten!

You will need:

1 box of cake mix.  I used a Pillsbury Moist Supreme White Cake Mix.  Just make the cake following the directions on the box.  I substituted 1 cup of milk for 1 cup of water.  I baked the cake batter in two 8-inch round cake pans that I "greased" and dusted with flour.  I baked the cakes according to the directions on the box.

Let the cakes cool completely and remove from pans.  I torted the cakes so they didn't have a dome on them.  I frosted the cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting.  I then placed Kit Kat candy bars all the way around.  (I think it took eight candy bars).  I covered the top of the cake with semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Tie a ribbon around the cake, and there you have it!

Crazy, right?

November 22, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Tarts

I am sitting at my kitchen table while cupcakes are baking in my oven.  Cudjoe has an event that he needs to bring a dessert to. Seriously, I couldn't be happier to oblige!!

I made these little pumpkin pie tarts last week.  I adapted this recipe from a Cherry Tart recipe that I have had forever!  It is typed out on a recipe card and placed in a recipe book that contains all of my "back-in-the-day" recipes.

As I made these tarts, I was reminded about how we used to share recipes when I was a young wife and mother.  If I went to a party at a friend's house, at playgroup, sorority, supper club, a church potluck, and there was something there that I wanted the recipe for, I would just ask, "could you give me that recipe"?  

Oftentimes I would just jot it down on a scrap piece of  paper or on the back of a bank deposit slip!

We always had recipe cards, too, and many an obliging friend or acquaintance would later write down the recipe for you on one of their recipe cards and bring to you later.

One Wednesday morning this past summer while at Lady's Day Golf, one of the ladies had made raspberry and blueberry cookie bars that were made with oats and homemade preserves that another one of the ladies that belong to our group had made and given to her.  I asked for the recipe, and the lady (who made the cookie bars) said she got it from the Pioneer Woman's blog!  So, there you go.  

Several years ago, I gathered all my scraps of paper, and newspaper cutouts and typed them all onto recipe cards and placed them in one of these binders.  Just recently, I had used my "back-in-the-day" recipe binder so much that it fell apart.  This is a brand new one,  and I still refer to these recipes often.

I very much enjoy searching the internet looking at all the wonderful food photography and reading all the delectable recipes out there; however, I really like to taste something first and then decide whether it is something that I want to spend my time, money, and effort making.  So, hopefully these will be a keeper for you!

Pumpkin Pie Tarts

For the Crust:

1 Cup butter  - room temperature
6 oz. Cream Cheese
2 Cups flour

Mix like pie crust.  Chill for two hours.  Roll out dough and cut with a round scalloped cutter.  Place in tart pans.  

For the Pumpkin Pie Filling:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Fill crusts with pumpkin pie filling.  Bake in a 350 degree F preheated oven for five minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes more.  

The tarts are done when the filling is set.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.


November 13, 2015

Me Oh My I Love Pie

Food can evoke so many feelings and memories of time shared with loved ones, and many of my memories of food, cooking, and baking are tied directly to my grandmothers.

I was blessed with two of the very best grandmothers that a girl could every ask for.   I will forever be grateful for the many, many blessings they brought to my life.  

  My two grandmothers were the very best people I have ever known.  Loving and kind, and filled with joy.  They loved me and showed me how to love in return.

Pie reminds me of my sweet maternal grandmother.  She was the very best pie baker.  The first thing I ever made was a chocolate cream pie, and I learned from her.   I was barely able to stand up to the stove when she walked me through the process.  She always made pumpkin pies, chocolate pies. lemon pies, and banana cream pies.

I am honestly not sure what recipe she used for her pumpkin pie, but the one pictured here tasted just like hers.  (And she always, always wore an apron1)

(By the way, if you accidentally buy sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk like I did, don't panic.   You can substitute cream, half and half, or milk.  It will work perfectly.  I promise.)

So in memory of my beautiful grandmother, I give you this pumpkin pie recipe:

Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) 100% pure pumpkin
12 ounces of half and half
1 package refrigerated pie crust

Mix sugar, pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl.  Beat eggs in a large bowl.  Stir eggs into pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture.  Stir in half and half.

Place one of the refrigerated pie crusts into a deep pie dish.  Press top of crust with fork tines and poke bottom of  crust with the same fork.  Pour filling into pie shell.   Using a pumpkin cookie cutter, cut out pumpkin shapes from the second pie crust and place on top of pie.

Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F  and bake for 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for two hours.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

(This recipe was adapted from Libby's Pumpkin Pie Recipe.)


November 10, 2015

M & M Cookie Bars

Halloween candy was half-price at Kroger the day after Halloween, and I couldn't resist buying a bag of mini packs of 
M & M's.  I really like M & M's, and I really, really like the peanut butter ones.

This bag of M & M candy was my inspiration for these candy-filled, buttery cookie bars.  But by the time I got around to making them, there were only six mini bags left :(  Yes, the two of us had eaten most of them before I got around to making the cookie bars.

Luckily, I had a large bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the pantry!

Making cookie bars is easier to make than individual cookies for obvious reasons.   You spread the batter in a cake pan, place in right into the oven, and you've got yourself a dozen cookie bars.

These are definitely best right out of the oven while the chocolate is still warm, gooey, oozey, and if you get so lucky to have a bite of a peanut M & M, well, that's just decadent.

If you want to make these sweet concoctions, please do the following:

M & M Cookie Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup of butter - room temperature
2 eggs - room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies
And as many varieties and amounts of M & M's as your heart desires

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  Whip together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Whip  a bit more.  Add in dry ingredients one-third at a time and mix on lower speed of mixer until all ingredients are just blended together.

Line a brownie pan with parchment paper and spread cookie bar batter on top of paper.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until desired doneness.  I like mine more chewy than crunchy.

Serve to family and friends.


November 5, 2015

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

My favorite cupcakes are yellow cake with chocolate buttercream, white cake with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream.   I like very traditional flavors.  What are your favorites?

I made these cupcakes for a small Halloween "party" at our house.  I was watching Cupcake Wars recently on the Cooking Channel, and Cudjoe said that he thought that the cupcake craze was slowing down.  Perhaps that's true, but don't we all love a good cupcake?  There's just something about their size and "cuteness"!

Yes, these cupcakes are made from a mix.  Please don't judge.  I like to use mixes.  However,  I do make a few changes to them (think Cake Doctor).

Here's the sweet lowdown:

For the Cake Batter

1 box Pillsbury Cake Mix
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup of milk
2 eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together on low on stand mixer (or handheld mixer).  Turn on high and beat for two minutes.

Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop batter into cupcake liners placed in a cupcake pan.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.  (Check at 15 minutes.  If they're not done, bake for a few minutes more.  You don't want to over bake them.)

Chocolate Buttercream

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
4 tablespoons of cocoa (sifted with powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream

Whip butter on high with mixer for a couple of minutes.  Add powdered sugar in batches (so you don't make a mess).  Add vanilla, and then add cream until you reach the desired consistency.

I piped my frosting on using a large piping tip.

For the Fondant Cut-Outs

I purchased Wilton's prepared fondant at the Hobby Lobby.  It was already tinted orange.  Roll fondant out to desired thickness.  Using a small leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves and place on each cupcake.  Easy!

Serve to family, friends, and yourself!!


November 2, 2015

Giant City Lodge & Restaurant

Giant City Lodge & Restaurant is located in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest near Carbondale, Illinois.

Last Friday night, we ate supper there.  On Friday nights, they have a fish fry, with all-you-can-eat catfish, coleslaw, old fashioned fried potatoes, and hushpuppies.  The catfish was delicious.

If an all-you-can-eat fish fry isn't your thing, you can order off of a full menu.

Giant City Lodge & Restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat barbecue dinner on Thursdays.  All other days of the week, they serve an all-you-can-eat fried chicken dinner.

The dining room is completely surrounded by windows; so no matter where you sit, you will have impressive views of this beautiful setting.

From the front entrance or back entrance, you enter this fabulous, rustic lobby. 

Friday night, we were able to be seated without a wait; however, Sundays during the month of October when the foliage is at its most magnificent boasting colors of yellow, red and orange; and southern Illinois weather is still rather mild, reservations are recommended.  

This water tower is located behind the parking lot.  It's probably a good idea to climb to the top before eating!  At the top of the tower is an observation deck.  The view of the Shawnee National Forest is breathtaking.

And here are the cabins that are available for rental.

You can read about the lodge's history here.  

If you have seen the movie Gone Girl, part of it was filmed inside Giant City Lodge & Restaurant.  When I watched this movie, the scenes featuring the lodge especially stood out for me since we have eaten their many, many times.

If you ever find yourself in beautiful southern Illinois, this is a must do.  You won't be disappointed!

October 26, 2015

A Quick Trip to Versailles

Cudjoe and I went to Versailles, Kentucky, to visit family last week.  It was a quick trip over there and back.  Just 24 hours there.

We went to Wallace Station for supper.  This restaurant is located in an old house, in the heart of Bluegrass horse country.  There are lots of beautiful horse farms to see along the way.  It is also near the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The deck has picnic tables for eating, and there are also picnic tables in the "yard" area, as well,

This old barn is located behind the restaurant, and right in front of it is an area for children to play.

It was a truly beautiful evening for eating outside.  We have to enjoy this weather while it lasts!

I didn't even think to take pictures of our food, but I had Cream of Mushroom soup, which was very good, and a Greek salad.  It was good, as well.  Their menu is on their website complete with great pictures of their food.

If you find yourself in the area, it is worth a visit.

October 20, 2015

Easy Pot Roast

Life is busy enough without having to spend tons of time in the kitchen.  I like to cook, but after I spend time cooking, I'm pretty well done with being in the kitchen and sort of dread the clean-up.  And I'm a messy cook.  

I've always heard "a messy cook is a good cook".  

I am trying to do better and clean up as I go. 

But getting back to my first thought, I believe you can make good food without spending hours doing it.  

This pot roast is a perfect example of doing just that.

This pot roast takes three hours in the oven at 350 degrees, but you can put it in a Crockpot in the morning before you go to work, cook it on low all day, and it will be ready when you get home.   I have done this many, many times.

This is so easy, and it is really delicious.

Easy Pot Roast

1 - 3 lb. Chuck Roast
1 Package of Lipton's Onion Soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup

Place roast in a dutch oven.  Sprinkle the Onion Soup Mix on top.
Add can of Cream of Mushroom Soup and water to cover roast.  Bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours.  Roast will be fork tender.

You can thicken the juices to make a gravy; however, if you need to save time, you can skip this step and just use the juices from the roast and soups as gravy.


October 10, 2015

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I interrupt my binge watching of Game of Thrones to bring you these carrot cake cupcakes, which are delicious!  Seriously.  

Carrot cake is one of my favorite cakes.   They are the perfect dessert for autumn.  I frosted them with cream cheese frosting because, really,  is there any other way to frost a carrot cake?  

Back in the day, I used to belong to a sorority in my hometown, Delta Omicron, Beta Sigma Phi.  We would meet monthly, and each month, a different hostess would host us in her home.

I honestly do not remember any other desserts that were served except one January, the hostess served a carrot cake with Coca-Cola or coffee to drink.

I didn't drink coffee way back then.  But, oh, I loved to drink Coke.  I swear nothing tasted better to me than that wonderful carrot cake and that ice cold glass of Coca-Cola.

(I'm thinking maybe I was pregnant at the time!)

These cupcakes are very moist, really just perfect.   They are even better the next day!

Carrot Cake

2 cups sugar
1 & 1/4 cup Canola Oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 - 1 cups chopped nuts
3 cups raw shredded carrots

Place cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.
Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.  Beat sugar and oil.  Add eggs and cream well.    Add the dry ingredients to the sugar, oil, and egg mixture.  Mix until just incorporated.  Fold in carrots and nuts.  Using a large cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake liners.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.  

Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.  Frost with cream cheese frosting.

This recipe makes between 18-24 cupcakes.  

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
3 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 to 3 tablespoons of milk 

Cream butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl.  Add in powdered sugar in batches.  Mix in vanilla and milk.  Whip until light and smooth.


September 29, 2015

White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Last week, we went to Destin, Florida.  It was a spectacularly beautiful five days!!

Here's the view from our condo.  We were celebrating our birthdays.  Such a wonderful way to celebrate!!

We had "post-card picture perfect" weather with the exception of one day where the skies opened and poured heavy rain for quite awhile.  I had stopped off to get a pedicure, and just as I was leaving, it started pouring rain with a thunderstorm.  So, I ducked into a couple of shops and looked around while I waited for the rain to subside.  

One of the shops was a Olive Oil and Vinegar store, and I bought a cookbook there.  The cookbook is Southern Scrumptious Favorites by Betty Sims.  It has a lot of recipes that immediately caught my eye, and I plan on trying many of them in the near and not-so-near future!!

An interesting thing about this cookbook is it has absolutely no pictures of the food.  I love pictures of food.  Don't all food bloggers??

I found my inspiration for these cheesecake bars from this cookbook.

If you like chocolate sandwich cookies, cheesecake, a hint of lemon and white chocolate, you are going to like these!  I promise.

White Chocolate and Lemon Cheesecake Bars  

7 ounces of white chocolate, chopped
20 chocolate sandwich cookies
1/2 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
Juice of two lemons
White chocolate curls for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place white chocolate in a small metal bowl.  Melt over barely simmering water in a saucepan until smooth, stirring constantly.  Remove the bowl and set aside.

Place cookies in a food processor and process until ground.  Add two tablespoons of white chocolate to cookie crumbs and stir together.  Press ground cookies firmly into the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking pan.

Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add sour cream, three tablespoons of sugar, 1 egg, and lemon juice.  Continue to beat with mixer being sure to stop mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl so that all ingredients are well incorporated.  

Spread on top of prepared cookie crust.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and leave in oven for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely on countertop and then place in refrigerator.  Remove from refrigerator and cut into bars.  Garnish with white chocolate curls.

Serve to family and friends!

(Cheesecake bars should be stored in the refrigerator.)


September 16, 2015

Praline Apple Bread

WOW!  This bread is delicious.  We had to run up to Lowe's on Sunday to buy a new washing machine.  For me, this was a bit of an emergency, as my machine went out with loads of laundry left to do.   It used to be you could have an appliance for 15 to 20 years.  This one only last around six years.  What up with that?

On our way back home from Lowe's, we stopped to buy apples at this local farm stand.  I was actually looking for gourmet caramel apples.  I made caramel apples last year, but the caramel kept sliding off.  I really like caramel apples; so, I think I'll try again.  It's a bit work intensive.

I really wanted to try their apple bread or apple dumpling.  I've had their apple pie.  It's delicious!  But . . . I wanted to make apple bread myself, and I didn't want to eat it twice.
As I have said here many times in the past, this particular area in southern Illinois grows the best fruits and vegetables in the Midwest.  
Driving through most of Illinois, it is flat, and you will see many fields of corn and soybeans.

But here in southern Illinois, the prairie turns into rolling hills, and it is truly quite beautiful and lends itself to growing grapes, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, squash, among several other fruits and veggies.  A true abundance that not only supplies all area local Farmer's Markets but the Midwest.

Cudjoe loves apples and so do my two doggies.

You know the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  I doubt seriously this apple bread can boast that sentiment!

It is yummy; truly more like cake than bread.  What makes it so moist and unique is the sour cream that is used - no oil, no butter.

And the praline topping, well, enough said!

Why not try this delicious bread this weekend?  I'm pretty sure you will love it!!

Praline Apple Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
8-ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup of peeled and chopped Golden Delicious Apple (I used one large apple)

Praline Topping

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a mixer bowl using an electric mixer, beat sour cream, sugar, and eggs until well blended.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat until just blended.  Stir in apples.  Spoon batter into a greased and lightly floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let bread cool in pan and remove from pan.

Boil butter and brown sugar together in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in pecan pieces.  Remove from heat and spoon over bread.  Cool completely before eating.

Serve to family and friends!!