Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quick & Easy Carmel Popcorn

I don't think I have ever made carmel popcorn until recently.  And since discovering this method of cooking it, I have made it multiple times.  This recipe is nice because it tastes great, and instead of baking it for an hour and a half, it takes 4 minutes of cooking in the microwave (with some shaking in the middle of that time).  And then your clean-up is a snap!  Just throw away the paper bag!  Not only that, but it is delicious.  Perfectly carmel-y and crispy and so easy.  In fact, it was so easy that I made it for neighbor treats, teacher treats, and family treats!

Quick & Easy Carmel Popcorn
adapted from:

1/2 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
5 quarts popped popcorn

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter.  Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and stir it constantly until it starts boiling.  Reduce the heat to medium low (make sure it stays boiling) and let it boil for 4 minutes without stirring it.  Remove it from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla.  Stir it until it is a pretty golden color (like carmel!).  Pour it over your popcorn and stir it gently to coat.  I found that using two bowls for the popcorn worked the best.  Don't worry if it isn't perfectly evenly coated on your popcorn.  It will all get coated well in the microwave.  Pour the popcorn into a large paper bag.  If your bag isn't really big (not all store paper bags are the same size), use two bags.  Cook it in the microwave for 4 minutes, shaking the bag every 30 seconds.  When it is done, lay the bag on the counter and using scissors, cut it open and lay it flat.  Spread the popcorn a little if you need to.  Let the popcorn cool and then break it up.  At this point, you can drizzle it with chocolate and then sprinkle it with peppermint, or sprinkles, or other fun things.  I sprinkled Christmas sprinkles on it right when it came out of the microwave to give it a little color.  Then I put it in little paper bags and tied them up with ribbon and a bow to look like a little gift!  Slap a tag on it and there is the easiest neighbor treats I've ever done!  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smooth & Creamy Coconut Cake

I made this for a Christmas party this weekend.  It is a delicious cake, even if you are not a huge coconut fan.  The coconut flavor is mild and creamy and by only lightly sweetening the topping, it is a great compliment to an already sweet enough cake.  Plus, it looks so snowy and festive with the coconut all over it!  It is a great Christmas-y cake.

Smooth & Creamy Coconut Cake
adapted from:

1 white cake mix
1 15 oz. can cream of coconut (not coconut milk-you find this in the mixer section of the grocery store)
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. powdered sugar (maybe a little more-to taste)
1-2 c. shredded sweetened coconut

Bake the white cake according to the package directions in the pan of your choice.  I used a 9X13 pan, lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray.  While the cake is cooking (or cooling) pour the heavy whipping cream into a medium bowl and beat it on high speed with an electric mixer, for 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat it until stiff peaks form.  Put it in the fridge until you are ready for it.  When the cake is done, cool it completely, then slice it in half for a layered cake (or leave it as is, or if you have 2 round cake pans, ignore this instruction).  Place one layer, face down, on your serving platter.  Using a fork, gently poke holes all over the cake, but don't poke all the way to the bottom of the cake.  Pour 1/2 of the can of cream of coconut on the top of the cake, and using a knife, spread it and kind of work it into the holes.

Apply a thin layer of your prepared heavy cream.  Lay the other layer of cake on top of that one and poke holes all over it, also being careful not to go all the way through the layer.  Now do the same thing with the second half of the cream of coconut.  Spread the rest of the heavy cream on the top and sides of the cake.  Using your hands, gently press coconut all around the top and sides of the cake.  Store it in the fridge and serve it chilled.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

4-Layer Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting

I had a birthday.  And I wanted to make my own cake.  I've never done that before, but it may be a new tradition that I've started.  I picked a cake that I thought sounded delicious, but that I knew none of my other family members would let me make for their birthdays.  And doesn't a 4-layer red velvet cake with cream cheese whipped cream frosting sound lovely?  It was lovely.  And, as a side note, not one of my children even tasted this cake on my birthday.

4-Layer Red Velvet Cake
adapted slightly from:

2 1/2 c. sifted cake flour (I used a little more than 2 c. flour and a little less than 1/2 c. cornstarch as a substitute)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk
2 Tbsp. red food coloring (I did not use this much)
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two round pans with wax paper or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  I actually used my 9X13 pan and when the cake was done I cut it into fourths.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt and cocoa.  In another bowl, beat the butter for 1 to 2 minutes.  Then add the sugar and mix it for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add each egg, mixing it well after each one.  Add the vanilla and beat it all until it is light and fluffy.  In a measuring cup, mix the buttermilk and the red food coloring.  Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture in three additions (you better not make it four, or else! :).  In a small cup, stir together the vinegar and baking soda and let it fizz.  Then fold that into the batter.  Quickly pour the batter into your prepared pan(s) and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  When the cake is done, cook it completely, then gently tip it upside down and dump it out of the pan.  Carefully peel the wax paper off, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for an hour.  This will make it easier to frost.  While that is in the freezer, make your cream cheese whipped cream frosting.

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting
adapted slightly from:

16 oz. softened cream cheese (pop it in the microwave for about 1 minute and it will soften)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. cold heavy whipping cream

With a mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat that until it is smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the heavy cream and beat it on high speed until it thickens and is spreadable.  If needed, add more sugar or cream to get the right consistency.  I actually thought the frosting could have been slightly sweeter, so taste it and add a little more sugar if you think it needs it.

When the cake is sufficiently frozen, remove it from the plastic wrap and slice it in half, horizontally.  For the 9X13 pan I cut it in half lenthwise, then cut each half in half horizontally.  Place one layer upside down on your serving platter and frost the top with the frosting.  Continue to layer and frost each layer and then frost the tops and sides of the cake.  If it is a little lopsided (like mine was), don't worry too much.  It will have four pretty layers when you cut a piece. Just don't show anyone the whole cake. (You'll notice I have no whole cake pictures on here :).  Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lawry's Coconut Banana Cream Pie

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is putting our pinterest to good use and choosing delicious pie recipes that make us drool as we browse the endless sea of "so good!", "the best!", and "delicious!" that pinterest has to offer.  This is one of the (4) pies that we made this year!  It was my favorite for sure, and the favorite of many of our family members too.  The direct quote (that I kept because I'm too lazy to change what other people write when they pin it) from when I pinned it is: "Heads up coconut lovers, this pie is amazing, totally decadent, and the coconut crust is absolutely awesome. The crust takes it from ordinary to sublime."  Okay, if a recipe has amazing, decadent, and absolutely awesome in its description, it's got to be good.  No one would be that liberal with their choice of words unless it was true...

Well, luckily for me it was true.  How embarrassing to make a pie at Thanksgiving that is only "really good".

This pie was pretty awesome.  Absolutely awesome, if you will.  The coconut crust almost made a cookie or macaroon-ish crust that was so yummy.  The homemade vanilla pudding was great too.  If I ever want to make this pie in a crunch (most of the time comes from letting things chill before putting it together), I will just do a boxed vanilla pudding, although it wouldn't taste quite as yummy. 

So, thanks to Jan Can Cook, who took the time to scout out this recipe from L.A. Food Times, we can all enjoy "absolutely wicked awesome decadence" in the form of this pie. (You can quote me on that.)

Lawry's Coconut Banana Cream Pie 
adapted from Jan Can Cook

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 2 hours chilling 

Coconut Pie Shell 

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, plus more for pie plate 
3 cups sweetened flake coconut 

Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate and set aside. 

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat and brown the coconut flakes, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. They should be golden brown. Press the coconut firmly and evenly in the pan to form a shell. Chill the crust 30 minutes before filling. 

Pie Filling 

4 egg yolks 
3/4 cup sugar, divided 
3 tablespoons cornstarch 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup flour 
3 cups half-and-half, divided 
Yellow food coloring 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
2 bananas 
1 cup whipping cream 
1 tablespoon powdered sugar 

Combine the cornstarch and flour.  Pour a little at a time into a tightly sealed container with 1 cup of the half-and-half.  Shake vigorously until there are no lumps.  Continue to add the remaining flour/cornstarch mixture until no lumps remain.  Combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add the half-and-half mixture and whisk.

Combine the remaining 2 cups half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a 3-quart saucepan and bring just to boil over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook and stir until the mixture returns to a boil and thickens, about 1 minute. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in 2 drops of food coloring and the vanilla. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool. 

Slice the bananas into the pie shell. Pour the filling into the shell. 

Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until stiff. Spoon in dollops or pipe with a pastry bag around the edge of the pie. Chill 2 hours before slicing. 

*Notes from my experience: 

It seemed like the coconut was going to be way too much to fit in the pie pan as a crust.  I got wax paper and pressed firmly until it resembled a crust.  This worked but it was a little hard to cut into afterwards.  Some readers from this website, Jan Can Cook, said the same thing, but others didn't have a problem with that.

Also, I changed the directions slightly to make the pudding recipe.  It said to mix the egg yolk with the dry ingredients, two of them being cornstarch and flour, which I did, then to mix them into the cup of half-and-half.  It wouldn't mix in with the liquid at that point.  It just made egg yolk clumps at the bottom of my bowl.  I had to scratch that and start over.  It worked well to mix it first with the cornstarch and flour, and then add the other ingredients. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Creamy Dreamy Pudding Pie

I had to give this an exciting name, because although this is the best way to make a pudding pie, you can't tell from this picture.  Just trust me.  Once you make this switch, you will never go back to regular, pasty pudding pie. I'm not sure where this came from, maybe the back of a pudding box years ago, but it is the only way I ever make a pudding pie now.

Creamy Dreamy Pudding Pie

1 small box of instant pudding, any flavor
1 1/4 cup milk
1 8 oz. carton cool whip
1 prepared pie crust
shaved chocolate, mini chocolate chips, toasted coconut, bananas or whatever you want to garnish your pie with

In a large bowl, mix the pudding and milk until well mixed.  Add approximately 2/3 of the cool whip to the pudding and stir it gently.  Pour it into your pie crust and smooth it out.  Spread the remainder of the cool whip over the top.  If you would like, sprinkle something yummy on the top of the pie.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Roll Pancakes

Heaven.  Given that pumpkin rolls are my favorite dessert, you can imagine my excitement to try these pancakes on for size.  And, as Our Best Bites say themselves, they're not as dessert-ish and unhealthy as you might think.  I even tweaked the recipe a little bit to make them even more healthy even less unhealthy:)  

If you can believe it, I had never tried real maple syrup until this year!  In all honesty, at first I didn’t think I liked it in place of my oh-so-familiar imitation-flavored maple syrup on breakfast foods; however, I had it with these, and in combination with the cream cheese topping it was so amazing!  If you can, I would definitely recommend splurging for the pure maple syrup.  It just adds decadence to the pancakes.  (Can pancakes be decadent?  Yep.)

Pumpkin Roll Pancakes
Idea completely credited to the wonderful minds of Our Best Bites (Thank you so much!)
Recipe slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon applesauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream
4 ounces cream cheese (low fat is fine, no fat free)
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream (heavy or regular) whipped until medium peaks form


4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Lite Cool Whip*

Pure maple syrup for serving

*(I folded in starting with about a cup until I reached the desired consistency and sweetness.  Remember this topping is meant to be less sweet than typical Pumpkin Roll filling; it makes it feel more breakfastyJ)

Prepare whipped cream by beating cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Take 1/2 of the whipped cream (that you already whipped) and beat it in until smooth.  Add the rest of the whipped cream and use a spatula to gently fold in (do not beat).  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.   

Prepare pancakes.  Whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  Make sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, vanilla, oil, eggs and pumpkin.  Combine wet ingredients with dry and gently combine until mixed.  Do not overmix.

Heat a nonstick griddle to medium heat.  When hot, use butter or nonstick spray to coat the pan.  Drop 1/4 cup pancake batter to form each pancake and cook until edges set (if you wait until they bubble, it might be just a bit too long).  Flip pancakes and cook remaining side.
Serve warm pancakes with a dollop of cream cheese topping and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Makes 12-14 large pancakes.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Perfect Pie Crust

This is the perfect pie crust.  I know because the recipe told me that it was.  And then it said something in French.  So it must be.  And I have to say, it was the best crust I have ever made.  And when you see how much butter is in this, you won't be surprised at how flaky, buttery and delicious it is.  It would be worth trying this with a little less butter (Nicole, I leave that to you).  For the purpose of my Relief Society Pie Making Class that I taught, I kept all that artery clogging deliciousness in it.  After all, I wouldn't want to mess with perfection!

Perfect Pie Crust (double crust recipe)
adapted from:

2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
6-8 Tbsp. ice water

A tip that the above website gave was to cut the butter into cubes and then freeze it for at least 15 minutes. I read on multiple websites that very cold butter is a key to a successful pie crust.  I did that, then combined the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl.  When my butter was chilled, I dumped it into the flour mixture.  I followed directions very closely on this recipe (which I rarely do, but I really wanted this crust to turn out right).  I followed the ingredients exactly, but it was suggested to do the crust in a food processor.  Mine isn't big enough, so I did it the old fashioned way, which I prefer anyway, and used a pastry blender and some muscle to cut in the butter until the crumbs were pea sized.  A tablespoon at a time, add the ice water.  In between tablespoons, using a fork, squish the water and the flour mixture together until it forms a ball.  Another key to a successful pie crust is to not add too much water.  When you have enough water that you can form it into a ball (even if it is still flaky) that is enough.  Place the dough ball on the table and smash it into two discs with the palm of your hand.  According to, this will flatten the butter between the layers of the flour and make your crust extra flaky.  Kind of like some people I know...  Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.  After an hour, take out one disc and let it sit for a few minutes.  Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface into a 12 inch circle.  Place the crust into your pie tin and gently press it onto the bottom and sides.  Add your pie filling.  Roll out the second disc into a 12 inch circle.  Lay it over the top of the pie and pinch the edges to seal it.  And then you can try to make it look pretty.  However, it is really unnecessary to do that because this pie is so flaky and yummy that it won't matter if you made it look pretty, or not.  You will want to make sure and either poke some holes with a fork in the top, or make a slit or two, to release the steam while it cooks.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Thanksgiving Turkey

I cooked a turkey.  That deserves it's own sentence because I think I've only done this one or two other times.  I am right smack in the middle of a big family, so I am never in charge of the turkey at Thanksgiving.  Pies, yes, sweet potatoes, yes (the day we ate this turkey, I nearly burned Jen's house down while roasting the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes).  For this turkey, I wanted to try something different.  Something daring.  Something involving bacon.  Actually, I found this recipe on allrecipes and it got amazing reviews and I happened to have what I needed, so it was the winner.  It is called Sherry's German Turkey Recipe.  Maybe they eat turkey this way in Germany?  If you are German, let me know.  I prepared it the night before, which was lovely.  And it was good.  Very good.  It was deliciously moist and flavorful.  So if you happen to be the turkey maker for Thanksgiving, give this one a shot.

Bacon Wrapped Turkey
adapted from: (Sherry's German Turkey)

1 whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
1 onion, cut in half
1 large carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 stalk celery (I didn't use this)
1 apple, stem removed and cut in half
1 orange, yes, you guessed it, cut in half
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 tsp. Lawry's season salt
1 pound sliced, smoked bacon
1 turkey oven bag

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.  Shove the carrot, celery, onion, apple and orange into the cavity of your bird.  Think of this like a puzzle.  You may have to move things around to get it to work, but it will all fit in there.  Rub the oil all over the outside of the turkey and then sprinkle the salt, pepper and season salt on the bird and rub it all over as well.  Put the turkey into an oven bag (follow your oven bag's directions at this point.  Mine said to shake flour around inside the bag before putting the turkey in.  Just be obedient to the directions on the oven bag prep.)  Set the turkey (inside the oven bag) in a roasting pan.  Lay the strips of bacon all over the outside of the turkey.
One pound is a lot of bacon, so I was able to cover the turkey and then cover it some more.  Right now, you can either cook the turkey, or if you are doing this the night before, put it in your fridge until morning.  If you are cooking it, tie up the bag and make slits in it (again, follow whatever directions come with the bag).  Roast the turkey for about 4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees (taken at the thickest part of the thigh).  When it is done, let it rest for 20 minutes, or so.
I didn't take any pictures of the finished product, but it looked just like this except the bacon was cooked!
Fruliche Geburtstag tsu dier!  (That actually means Happy Birthday to you, because I don't know how to say Happy Thanksgiving.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Chops and Potatoes

Is it gross how I tend to post pictures of my half eaten food?  Just know-it is a good sign because it means that it was so yummy that I forgot to take a picture until it was almost too late!  That was definitely the case with this meal.  This is an easy twist on a regular pork chop slow cooker meal.  It had more zing than your usual cream of mushroom soup pork chops and I may never go back to the old way.  It was also nice to have the potatoes in with the pork.  Not only did they taste amazing, but it was a one pot meal.

Slow Cooker Pork Chops and Potatoes
adapted slightly from:

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. water
1 onion, sliced
1 can sliced mushrooms
4 potatoes, cut into chunks
4 pork chops

In your crock pot, mix together the mushroom soup, onion soup mix, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and water.  Add the onion, mushrooms and potatoes.  Then add the pork chops and stir it all together.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quinoa Sloppy Joes

One day I bought a bag of quinoa because Monica told me that it is good for me and because I am easily persuaded.  In a six month period, I used it once, cooked it incorrectly which made it a little hard, and hadn't used it since.  But then one day, I went to make sloppy joes for dinner, and only had a half pound of ground beef.  I had Monica's voice ringing in my ears about how she uses quinoa in place of meat in enchiladas, so I decided to try it.  I used half ground beef and half quinoa and totally tricked my kids!  I followed the directions on the back of the bag very carefully, so my quinoa cooked correctly, which made all the difference on my opinion of it (amazing how following directions makes a difference!).  I am happy cooking with it because it is so good for you.  Also, I am always looking for ways to eat less meat.  In the end, this recipe is going to be more of a tip than an actual recipe.  

Quinoa Sloppy Joes
by: Carolyn (and Monica's influence :)

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 c. quinoa
1 packet (or can) of your favorite sloppy joe seasoning
hamburger buns

Cook the quinoa according to the package directions.  In a large skillet over medium heat, brown your ground beef.  When the beef is cooked through, add the sloppy joe seasoning and whatever else it requires (for example, mine needs a can of tomato sauce).  Add the cooked quinoa and mix it all together.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve over toasted hamburger buns. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pumpkin Bread With Cream Cheese Icing (& How To Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree)

This week I pureed one of the pumpkins from my garden.  I was so happy with how easy it was and how great the flavor was.  I used a medium sized pumpkin and got about 11 cups of puree!
With the fresh pumpkin, I made a couple of loaves of pumpkin bread.  Pumpkin is one of my favorite flavors, especially for this time of year.  This bread was delicious and moist.  The cream cheese icing added a little more sweetness, but you could definitely eat the bread without it.  Either way, it will make you think of Autumn!

Pumpkin Bread With Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from: Better Homes and Garden

1 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
1/3 c. shortening
1 c. flour (again)

For the icing:
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk

Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan and set it aside.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves and stir it well.  Add the pumpkin, milk, eggs and shortening and beat it on medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Add the 1 cup flour and mix it until it is blended.  Pour the batter into your loaf pan and bake it for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  In the meantime, make your icing by mixing together the softened cream cheese and vanilla until well blended.  Stir in the powdered sugar and then the milk and mix it well.  Drizzle the icing over the top of the hot bread, or slice it and then drizzle it.

How To Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree

I consulted a number of websites, trying to figure out the best way to puree my pumpkin, and they were all very similar.  I will give the quick version of how to do this.

First: Wash your pumpkin, cut off the stem and cut the whole pumpkin in half.  Scoop out the seeds and pulp.

Second: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Rub a little canola oil on the cut surfaces of the pumpkin (inside).  Place the pumpkin face down on a cookie sheet (one with sides, in case it drips a little).  Roast the pumpkin for anywhere between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.  Mine cooked for almost 90 minutes.  When you can easily stab a fork into the top (outside) of the pumpkin, it is done.  Let your pumpkin cool for 10 minutes, or until you can handle it.
Third:  Peel the skin off of each half of your pumpkin.  I was able to do this using my fingers.  A knife helped to start the peel, but then it peeled away pretty easily.

Fourth:  Puree the cooked pumpkin in a food processor or blender until it is smooth.  Most websites said to strain some of the water out using cheesecloth.  Store the puree in airtight bags in the freezer, or make some yummy pumpkin bread right away!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Coconut Crusted French Toast

When Nicole visited last April, we thought it would be fun to make something different and delicious for breakfast on Easter morning.  At that time I was going through a coconut phase (still am, a little bit) and so this was an obvious choice for me.  It has taken me a long time to post it, but I have actually made it a couple more times because it is so delicious.  It definitely works best with a thicker bread, but is also yummy with regular bread.  We served ours with buttermilk syrup and fruit.  Mmmm. (P.S. this is Carolyn posting :)  

Coconut Crusted French Toast
adapted from:

3 eggs
3/4 c. coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
6 slices french bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices (texas toast bread would work great, too) From the pictures, you can see that we used a thicker, regular bread, but I have also used french bread.

Heat a griddle or frying pan.  In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, vanilla and salt.  Pour the shredded coconut into another shallow dish.  Dip both sides of the bread in the egg mixture, then dip both sides into the shredded coconut (to coat the bread).  Place the bread onto your griddle or frying pan and then drizzle a little of the egg mixture over the top.  It will take a little more time to cook than usual.  When it is done, serve it with syrup or fruit, or both!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

5 Minute Artisan Bread

I grew up on homemade bread, but somehow I completely missed that talent.  I have never been able to bake very edible bread.  I heard about this a while ago and how easy and foolproof it is, and have been wanting to try it.  I finally decided to, yesterday, but didn't have enough time!  Don't let the name of this fool you.  It actually is going to take you a few hours, initially.  The work itself probably only totaled about five minutes, but there is time needed to let it rise.  And a great thing about this is that you can make it, one loaf at a time, and then keep the rest in the fridge for another day.  You can have fresh baked bread daily!  And it is super delicious!  Next time I'm going to try it with whole wheat flour and honey, or oats on the outside.  I'm sure if you know anything about bread (which I do not) you could come up with some creative ways to make this recipe (cinnamon bread?).

5 Minute Artisan Bread

3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt or other coarse salt
6 1/2 c. flour

In a large bowl, combine your water and yeast and stir it a little.  Don't worry about it getting completely dissolved.  Then add the salt and flour, all at once.  One tip that said was to not press down into the flour as you scoop, or you'll throw off the measurement.  Gently scoop it up.  I went ahead and believed them, as I have not had a lot of success in this department.  Mix it with a wooden spoon or with a kitchen aid type food processor until the flour is completely mixed in.  FYI: This took a few minutes and when it was done, it was pretty moist, not at all dry.  Next, cover your bowl loosely and allow the dough to rise until it is about double in size, anywhere from 2-5 hours.  Mine pretty much quite rising after 2 hours, even though I left it another hour.  At this point, you can use the dough or put it in the fridge for another day.
When you are ready to use the dough:
Prepare your baking apparatus.  I used my baking stone and was really happy with how it baked.  Sprinkle the top of your dough with flour.  Grab a large handful of dough (about a grapefruit sized amount) and cut it off, using a serrated knife.  Holding that dough in your hands, add a little more flour to the outside surface so that you can handle it better.  Form this dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough and turning it a little at a time, while you bunch up the dough on the bottom (Does this make sense?  If not, go to, as they have a very detailed description of this step).  Rest the dough and let it rise on a baking sheet or on your stone for about 40 minutes.  After about 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  When your dough has had sufficient rest, wake it up by first dusting it with flour and then using a serrated knife to slash it across the top, multiple times (hmm, that ended up sounding a little creepy.  Sorry.).  Then put it in your hot oven.  Also put in a roasting pan (or something like that) with about a cup of hot water and quickly close the oven door.  This will make it nice and steamy while it cooks.  Bake it for about 30 minutes, or until it is a nice golden color and firm to the touch.
The rest of the dough can be refrigerated for up to two weeks and when you want fresh bread, just follow the "When you are ready to use the dough" instructions.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

No Bake Cookies, or Haystacks

These cookies are filled with memories for me.  I know them now as "no bake cookies" but I grew up calling them "haystacks".  I remember eating them with school lunch.  I never made them at my own house because my mom is completely anti-peanut butter (and even though these don't even taste like peanut butter, if she knows it is in a recipe, we never made that recipe!).  I do remember making them at my best friend Julie's house, however.  And when I pulled out my recipe card, it is written in Julie's handwriting!  How fun for me.    

Haystacks (No Bake Cookies)
adapted from: Julie and

2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. peanut butter
3 c. oatmeal

In a large saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, cocoa and milk, stirring constantly.  Bring it to a boil and boil it for 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and peanut butter and stir it until it is smooth.  Add the oatmeal and mix it well.  Drop it by tablespoon full onto wax paper and let it cool and harden.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Citrus Marinade

Lately, I haven't wanted to cook very much, unless it is on my grill.  I don't know if it is the heat, or just wanting to enjoy the last few weeks of summer.  But because of that, I have been able to try out some new marinades.  This one was delicious.  A little citrus-y, a little mustard-y.  The recipe said to marinade it for eight hours.  I never remember to do that, so this got about 30 minutes.  And it still tasted great.  I marinaded chicken, but I bet this would be great with pork, too.  Sorry that the pictures aren't great.  I keep forgetting to take pictures until the last minute, or we've cleaned up dinner, or all I have clean is a Blue's Clues plate.  Don't let that deter you from this recipe.

Citrus Marinade
adapted from:

1/4 c. cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. mustard
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 lime, juiced 
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. oil
pepper, to taste
chicken breasts or pork chops

In a shallow bowl, mix all the ingredients together.  Marinade your meat for up to eight hours.  Then grill it until it is cooked through.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Easy Chicken Teriyaki

Dustin made this for our family on a Sunday evening.  It was delicious and pretty low maintenance.  (Actually, very low maintenance for me!)  

Easy Chicken Teriyaki
adapted from:

2 chicken breasts, cut into thirds
1 Tbsp. oil
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp. ginger (we used slightly less than 1/2 Tbsp)
2 cloves garlic, minced
vegetables, sliced 

Pour the oil into a large skillet.  Add the chicken and cook over medium heat until it is no longer pink in the center.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.  Pour half of your sauce over the chicken and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Add the sliced vegetables to the pan and the rest of the sauce and cook it all until the vegetables are tender.  Serve it over rice.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chicken Roll-Ups

My mom made these a lot when I was growing up.  Then I had them at a church function a few years ago and liked the changes that the lady made.  They felt a little more "adult" to me.  I like the added mushrooms in the chicken and especially like coating the rolls in something crunchy.  I also doctor up the sauce quite a bit.  They are still a chicken stuffed roll, so most of my kids will eat them (I usually end up leaving mushrooms out of half of them).  They have a really "homey" taste to me (not like gangster homey, but like comfort food homey).

Chicken Roll-Ups
adapted from: Elaine from my old ward in Logan and my mom, Lynne'

3 c. cooked, shredded chicken
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can drained sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
dash curry powder
dash onion powder
4 Tbsp melted butter
1 package stuffing, crushed (or italian bread crumbs or panko)
2 cans refrigerated croissant rolls

Sauce (to pour over)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 can water
1/2 can milk
salt and pepper to taste
dash garlic powder
dash onion powder
dash parsley flakes

In a large bowl stir together the softened cream cheese, garlic powder, curry powder and onion powder.  Add the mushrooms and chicken and stir it to combine.  I cook my chicken by cutting it into large chunks, covering it with a paper towel and then microwaving it, a few minutes at a time, until it is no longer pink in the center.  Then I stick it in the fridge until it is cool enough to handle and then put my kids on the task of shredding it.  This has saved me immense amounts of time on boiling my chicken for shredding.  You can also use canned chicken.
Separate the rolls and lay them flat on a baking sheet.  Spread the top of each with about 2 Tbsp of the chicken mixture.
Roll up the rolls with the mixture inside, starting at the bigger end of the roll.  Try to seal off all edges.  This will keep the insides contained a little better.  Dip the rolls in the melted butter, then roll them in the stuffing crumbs (or whatever you are using).  Bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  While they are baking, in a small saucepan combine the cream of chicken soup, water, milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and parsley flakes.  Stir while cooking it over a medium low heat until it simmers.  Then reduce the heat to low.  Serve it over the cooked chicken roll-up (let each person add their own sauce).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Easy Maple Granola

I found this recipe from Alton Brown, on the Food Network. It is an easy granola, and was really crispy, light and sweet.  It may become my new favorite granola!  Nicole just happened to make the same granola the other day and also loved it.

Easy Maple Granola
adapted from: Alton Brown (

3 c. rolled oats
1 c. sliced almonds
3/4 c. shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. maple syrup (I used homemade)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 dashes nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  In a large bowl combine the oats, almonds, coconut and brown sugar.  Stir it well.  In another bowl, mix together the maple syrup, oil, salt, vanilla and nutmeg.  Combine the oil mixture in with the oat mixture and stir them well.  Spread the granola evenly onto two cookie sheets.  Bake it for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring it every 20 minutes.  When it is done, let it cool completely before putting it in a zip lock bag.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mango Sauce (2 Versions, Sweet and Spicy)

One night we had 3 ripe mangoes, sitting, beckoning to us to eat them.  I love mangoes.  They are my favorite fruit.  We looked online for a main dish involving mangoes and ended up finding two great ideas!  Dinner and dessert, for the price of the same mango!  We found a chef on youtube who taught me how to properly cut, squish and dice a mango (see pictures below).  Then I looked at his food blog and adapted the spicy sauce from that website.  
Here is the way to finely dice your mango.  First, peel it, using a peeler.  Discard the peels.  Then continue to peel the actual mango onto your cutting board.  
Next, using your fingers, squish all that mango juice onto your pile of mango slices.  A lot of juice will come off of that mango.  I was a little surprised.
Now take a large knife and finely dice your mango.  If you puree it, according to the youtube guy, it will throw the universe off.  So don't do that.  Just dice it.
Now you are ready to add the other delicious ingredients.

Sweet Mango Sauce
adapted from:

1 large, very ripe mango, finely diced
1/2 can coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 c. brown sugar (plus a teeny bit more)

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and heat it over low heat until it is warm.  And that is it. Split the sauce in half and reserve one half to put over vanilla ice cream.  Mmmm.

Using the other half of your mango sauce, make this recipe to put over grilled chicken:

Spicy/Sweet Mango Sauce
adapted from:

1/2 recipe sweet mango sauce (see above)
1/4 tsp. minced garlic (actually, just a slightly less)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig cilantro, chopped

In a medium sauce pan, combine all the ingredients and stir gently.  Serve over grilled chicken.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken Milano

I have made this recipe many times.  I was going to make it for a church dinner, but couldn't perfect it in the slow cooker.  Needless to say, we ate it almost every night for about a week.  In order to avoid an uprising from my family, I waited a few months before trying it again.  And it was just as delicious as I remember (I never could get it to work right in the slow cooker).  The original recipe calls for heavy whipping cream (that is how you know it is going to be delicious).  I didn't have any this last time that I made it, so I used evaporated milk instead and it still tasted great!  So, if you are in a pinch, substitute and try different things.  I have served mine with steamed red potatoes or fettuccine noodles and it is great either way.

Chicken Milano
adapted from:

1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 c. chicken broth, divided
1 c. heavy whipping cream (or evaporated milk worked, too)
1 lb. chicken breasts, cut in thirds
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (or a sprinkle or two of dried basil)

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and saute' the garlic for about one minute, on medium-low heat.  Add the sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms and 3/4 cup of the chicken broth, bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook it until the tomatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the heavy whipping cream and boil it gently until it begins to thicken, or until it will coat the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.  Pour the oil into a skillet and cook the chicken until there is no more pink on the inside.  When the chicken is cooked through, pour the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth over the top and let it simmer.  Pour the cream sauce over the top of the chicken and stir in the basil.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vanilla Pudding Sauce over Blackberry Pancakes

This was amazing!  I wish I could eat this every morning, or evening, as was the case today.  It was amazing over blackberry pancakes.  Doesn’t that just sound incredible, Vanilla Pudding Sauce over Blackberry Pancakes.  It was as good as it sounds.

Vanilla Pudding Sauce
Adapted from Creations by Kara

2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla

Mix cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk together milk and egg thoroughly and gradually stir in. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till mixture comes to a boil. (Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat; if it gets hot too fast, the egg will cook.) Boil for at least 1 minute, still stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm or chilled.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Leek Macaroni and Cheese

I went to a coworker’s house a little while ago and she had this awesome macaroni and cheese dish for us to try.  I was just going to have a little, as I was eating dinner with my husband later, but somehow couldn’t help asking for a little more, and then a little more.  My husband had to eat dinner by himself that night…  Anyways, I couldn’t wait to make it myself.

A few notes about this recipe.  The original recipe called for chanterelle mushrooms, which were really good when I first tried this; however, my husband is more of a meat-lover rather than squeaky-vegetable-lover so I used sausage instead.  You could use any sausage but I used and love Hillshire Farm’s Chicken Apple Sausage with Gouda Cheese.  Mmmmmm.

Also, it called for milk white cheddar cheese and the first time I made this I used a mild yellow cheddar and it did not have enough flavor for me.  So this time I used a sharp white cheddar and it was awesome!! 

Oh, and I think my favorite flavors in this are the leek and ground pepper.  Who knew?

Leek Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from A Chow Life

1 lb. macaroni pasta (large elbows)
4 cups whole milk
6 tblsp. flour
4 tblsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika
1 chicken (or other) sausage, sliced (see note below)
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (green part only)
kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
8 oz. sharp (or other) white cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain. Rinse. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring the milk to just a boil in a heavy saucepan. Set aside.
Melt the butter in another pan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat for about 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from the heat.
Add the butter mixture to the milk and whisk well to get rid of lumps. Add 1/2 tsp of paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Return to heat. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until it’s smooth and it thickens. About 5 minutes.
Add mixture, sausage, and leeks to the pasta and stir until well coated and mixed. Spread the grated cheese over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle the top with the remaining paprika.
Cover the dish in foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil, place dish under the broiler (about 4 inches away from heat) and cook for another 3-4 minutes until slightly golden.