Friday, October 23, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

I am blessed to have a beautiful great-niece and she loves to cook with me.  Tonight, we made pumpkin cupcakes and iced them with cream cheese frosting that we tinted orange.  We added some of those sugar cupcake decorations for halloween.  What a blast.  The best part was licking our fingers!

We will bring these to the family reunion (or family unit as Ali calls it).  She will be very proud to serve her fancy cupcakes. I can't wait until my granddaughter Leah is old enough to cook with me!

 Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
1 Can Solid Pack Pumpkin (I like organic)
3 Eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. nutmeg

Place all ingredients in large mixer bowl.  Mix on low speed to combine.  Scrape down the bowl and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners.  Fill each liner ¾ full.  Place in a preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 8oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
½ Cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
4 Cups Powdered Sugar (sifted)
½ tsp. almond extract
2 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. grated orange rind (optional, but great)

Cream the butter and cream cheese for three or four minutes.  Add extract and orange juice, mix to combine.  Add sifted powdered sugar all at once.  Turn mixer on low speed to combine mixture.  Turn mixer to high and whip until frosting is light and fluffy.  This recipe will generously frost 24 cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Cranberry

My crew loves homemade cookies.  While browsing through the October/November issue of Taste of Home magazine, in an advertisement, I found this recipe.  Of course, I had to modify it a little bit, but the result was a soft, chewy cooky.  The sweetened dried cranberries are more flavorful than raisins and the white chocolate and almond extract flavors compliment the oatmeal nicely.  Even my chocoholics raved about these cookies.  Oh yeah, there was "chocolate" in the title.  Bake of a batch, crack open the milk jug and enjoy.  We certainly did.

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce package sweentend dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add almond extract and combine.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to creamed butter mixture and combine.  Add sweetened dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoons full on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cooky is just done.  Remove from baking sheet right away and cool.  This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cream of Tomato Soup

When I was growing up, it seemed like grocery shopping night was the soup and sandwich night.  There is something wonderfully homey and comforting about a warm bowl of tomato soup and a perfectly toasted grilled cheese.  I loved it when I was a kid and my family loves it today.  Except, I no longer open a can of tomato soup.  I  created this recipe for tomato soup and it is the new favorite.

Dawn's Cream of Tomato Soup

2 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes
½  cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Strain the canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Puree with a hand-held immersion blender  or in small batches in a blender until smooth.  Strain mixture (if you want to) and return to pan, add cream.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwich.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pretzel Rolls

Do you remember when bread machines were all the rage? I do. Back in the 1990s, I bought a cheap, no frills bread machine. I loved it so much that I made bread about every other day for my kids school lunches. I never acquired that knack of making homemade bread from scratch, so the bread machine did all the work, and I looked like a great cook. One day, I picked my kids up from school and they asked if they could have the skinny, good bread like the other kids. Imagine that! So, I complied and the bread machine gathered dust. Until last week. I dug the machine out, washed it off and turned it on. A little bread flour, milk, butter, yeast and soon the house filled with the aroma of fresh baked bread. My now grown children flocked to the kitchen, grabbed butter out of the frig and devoured the warm loaf of bread.

This recipe is versatile. You can make traditional pretzels or shape the dough in rolls. The rolls are great with grilled brats or chicken salad. Today, I shaped the rolls in a round sandwich roll and filled it with a homemade chicken salad.

Bread Machine Pretzels

2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1egg white, slightly beaten
coarse salt

Place all ingredients, except salt and egg white,  in bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle and press start. After the machine has completed the cycle remove the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 parts. Shape each part into a round roll. Place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise, uncovered, until puffy, about 20 minutes. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine 2 quarts of water and 1/3 cup baking soda; bring to a boil. Lower 1 into the saucepan; simmer for 20 seconds on each side. Lift from water with a slotted spoon. Return to greased cookie sheet. Let dry briefly. Brush with 1 egg white slightly beaten. Sprinkle with course salt or sesame seeds or leave plain. Bake at 425°F for 6 minutes; then turn cookie sheet around and bake 6 more minutes.

This makes 4 large rolls.

For pretzels:

Divide into 4 parts. Divide each fourth into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Shape rope into a circle, overlapping about 4 inches; from each end, leaving ends free. Take one end in each hand and twist at the point where dough overlaps. Carefully lift ends across to the opposite edge of circle. Tuck ends under edge to make a pretzel shape; moisten and press ends to seal. Place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise, uncovered, until puffy, about 20 minutes. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine 2 quarts of water and 1/3 cup baking soda; bring to a boil. Lower 1 or 2 pretzels into the saucepan; simmer for 10 seconds on each side. Lift from water with a slotted spoon. Return to greased cookie sheet. Let dry briefly. Brush with 1 egg white slightly beaten. Sprinkle with course salt or sesame seeds or leave plain. If you leave them plain, after they bake dip into melted butter then in cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake at 425°F for 4 minutes; then turn cookie sheet around and bake 4 more minutes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Apple Pie and Ice Cream

Recently, I had some unexpected time on my hands. So, my niece, great niece, and my daughters headed to the apple orchard. We picked apples, enjoyed the cool brisk air, and laughed. Nothing better than the great fall weather to get you in the mood for home cooking.

This recipe for Apple Pie is one that I created after doing lots of research and testing about different techniques for the filling. I wanted to eliminate the space between the crust and apples after the pie is cooked. The apples are compact yet still in tact. The bottom crust is tender and flaky, the top crust tender yet crunchy. Yummy! And, what goes better with Apple Pie than vanilla ice cream. Needless to say we pigged out!

Now, I am thinking about a pumpkin pie. What can I do to be creative with pumpkin?

Apple Pie

Begin Filling

8 to 10 Medium Apples (I like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp)
1 Cup Sugar

Peel apples. Cut apples into wedges. Place in large bowl and add sugar. Toss to combine. Place apple mixture in a colander and then place the colander into a large bowl. Let rest for about 1-½ hours.

Double Crust Pastry

3 Cups Flour
2 tbls. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Nutmeg
½ cup Crisco Shortening (well chilled)
½ cup Butter (well chilled)
¼ cup Ice water

Place all dry ingredients in the food processor. Pulse 5 or 6 times. Add chilled butter (I cut it into small pieces). Pulse 5 or 6 times. Add shortening (I cut it into small pieces) and pulse 5 or 6 times.

Drizzle half of the water and pulse fix or six times. Add remaining water and pulse until mixtures in course crumbs. At this point, I test the pastry to see if it hold together well. If it is not moist enough add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide dough in half and shape into disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Back to the Filling

1 Cup Sugar
1/4 cup Flour
1 tbls. Cinnamon (more or less according to taste)
½ cup Apple Cider

Put apples back in a clean bowl. Reserve liquid that drained from apples. Mix apples with flour, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside

Place reserved liquid in a saucepan along with apple cider in a small saucepan. Reduce until you have a thick syrup.

Roll piecrust and place in a 9” pie pan. Place apples in pie crust. Roll and top with second piecrust. Cut three vents in top crust. Brush with reduced syrup.

Place pie in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 1 hour or until pie crust and golden and the apple are fork tender.

Cool completely before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla Ice Cream

8 Egg Yolks
2 cup Sugar
2 cups Half & Half
4 cups Heavy Cream
4 tbls. Vanilla Extract
10 Pounds Ice
Ice Cream Salt or Rock Salt

Combine eggs yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined and a light yellow color. Pour Half & Half in a medium saucepan. Heat milk until it bubbles gather around the edges of the pan. Do not boil. Gradually add the warm milk to the egg mixture, stir while adding to prevent eggs from cooking.

Return mixture to saucepan, cook over medium heat, until thick. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes. Chill mixture in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour. I usually cool it overnight.

Just before your ready to freeze the ice cream, add the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Stir until well mixed. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according the manufacturers directions.

This recipe makes 2 quarts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It is back to school time and I want some quick and easy breakfast treats and snack options. I have a big bowl, I fill with fruit, nuts, granola and other healthy snacks. Everyone can grab and go as they please. But, I get in a rut and before you know it, no one is grabbing snacks.

My mission, find some good snacks. This recipe is for a homemade granola. I tested several recipes and developed this one. Everyone in my family agreed that it was the best one I have made to date. The best part, it can be eaten dry as a snack, with milk as a cereal, or layered with fruit and yogurt as a parfait.

I like to divide it up into serving size plastic bags, into the big snack bowl and we are good to go.


8 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on two baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 15 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Remove from oven and add coconut. Cool, then stir in the cranberries.

Store in an airtight container.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beer-Braised Pork Chops

Today marked my official return to school. Although it is difficult to get back into the routine of working, and mothering, and being a wife, I also enjoy getting back to family dinners. Tonight, I created my own recipe for pork chops. My crew gobbled them up, so I think it was a success. The best part, my husband loved them so much, he is cleaning the kitchen. What a great guy.

Beer-Braised Pork Chops

6 Thick-cut boneless pork chops
1 cup Flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound sliced baby portabella mushrooms
12 oz. can beer
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 bay leaves

Combine flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a resealable plastic bag. To dredge pork chops, place them in the plastic bag and shake. Add olive oil and butter to large skillet to melt. Add chops and brown on each side. Combine beer and maple syrup. Pour in pan, add bay leaves and bring to simmer. Place sliced mushrooms over pork chops, cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Remove chops and bring braising liquid to a hard boil. Reduce by half. Turn heat off, add one tablespoon of butter to sauce and stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over chops and serve.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm Back

I have been checked out for a little while. I am getting ready to return to work after the summer off. Over the summer my family welcomed a new member to the family, a beautiful baby granddaughter. Ready, set, cook!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Mayonnaise

Summer has officially begun. One of our favorite summertime activities is swimming at the pool with Aunt Sheryl and Uncle Dale and eating burgers. One of our favorite burgers is a turkey burger jazzed up with apple and celery. Uncle Dale fired up the grill and cooked my special burgers and it was great. This is similar to a recipe that Rachel Ray published. We tweaked a few of the ingredients and put them on the outdoor grill. My favorite way to eat these is on toasted english muffins, but when we are grilling out, a toasted hamburger bun is great. By the way, the cranberry mayo is so good, I serve a straw with my burgers and cranberry mayo!

Turkey Burgers with Cranberry Mayonnaise

2 pounds White Meat Ground Turkey
2 Granny Smith Apple (chopped)
2 Ribs Celery (chopped)
2 Rounded Tablespoons Ground Sage
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently, shape into 6 patties. Grill over a medium fire until done.

To serve, place a cooked patty on a toasted hamburger bun or sourdough English muffin. Garnish with Cranberry Mayonnaise.

To prepare Cranberry Mayonnaise, mix 1 cup good quality mayo (I like Hellman’s) with 1 can jellied cranberry sauce.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Each week I receive a delivery of organic produce from Door to Door Organics KC. It is great, on Sunday, I receive an email telling me what will be in my order. On Friday, my order arrives. For the past two weeks, broccoli was included. So, I found a couple of recipes for Broccoli Cheddar Soup, tried them out and here is the best of the two. It is actually, a combination of several recipes. My whole family loved it. I doubled the recipe and only had one bowl left for lunch the next day. I served the soup with a loaf of crusty french bread - we love to dip our bread in our soup.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock or bouillon
1/2 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup carrots, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar

Saute onion in butter. Set aside. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add the half-and-half. Add the chicken stock whisking all the time. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender for 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Put small batches in the blender and puree. Return to pot over low heat and add the grated cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in the nutmeg and serve.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Buttercream Icing

Several weeks ago, the prom committee at the high school I work at, asked if I could help prepare cupcakes. I love to bake, I love the kids, so of course I was happy to help. The added bonus, I got to spend a day baking with my two beautiful friends, Carrie and Mary. Carrie, an avid food blogger, took theis picture. My two daughters attend the same high school, so I learned what a huge success the cupcakes were at prom. Very impressive displayed on a stacked cake plate!

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup shortening (I prefer Crisco)
1 pound powdered sugar - sifted
1 teaspoon flavoring (almond is my favorite, but lemon and vanilla work well)
2 tablespoons water or milk (I use water so the frosting doesn't have to be refrigerated)
2 tablespoons meringue powder

Cream shortening, water and flavoring. Add sifted powdered sugar and meringue powder. Mix until blended. Add additional water until you reach the desired consistency. Stiff icing is good for some flowers, I like the soft consistency for icing cakes and a medium consistency was great for the cupcakes we made. If you want really white icing be sure to use a clear extract. Regular vanilla extract makes the icing off white.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Peanut Butter Cake

To me holidays are all about family, friends and good food. I usually host gatherings at my home and I love every minute of it. I spend lots of time finding the perfect recipes and use my family a guinea pigs, so to speak. One of the big hits this Easter was a Peanut Butter Cake. As a matter of fact, I made three cakes and the Peanut Butter Cake was the first to disappear. It does use a box mix (not my usual style) but it sure was easy. My husband and one of my girls are peanut butter freaks and I earned high praises from both of them. I topped this cake with chopped peanut butter cups and drizzled with a chocolate ganache to make it look extra special. I saw a picture of a cake decorated like this and thought it looked very beautiful.

Cake Ingredients

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 yellow cake mix – butter recipe
2/3 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

Frosting Ingredients

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. Cream 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, mixing well after each one. Add vanilla. Add cake mix and water. Mix until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until cake tests done. Allow cakes to cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

4. To Make Peanut Butter Frosting: Cream 1 cup peanut butter, and 1/2 cup butter together until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner's sugar. Mix in enough cream to make the frosting of a spreading consistency. Apply to cool cake.