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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Hash Brown Casserole PlatedOur weather has been incredibly and ridiculously cold the past week or so (although it seems like months!).

The bone-chilling temperatures just make me crave comfort-type food. Something warm and filling.

The other day, in a panic to come up with something edible for dinner before Captain Cavedweller arrived home, tired and hungry, I whipped up a hash brown casserole. Super easy, it proved to be quite tasty.

Simple ingredients

Simple ingredients

Start by giving your baking dish a good coating of non-stick spray.

Start by giving your baking dish a good coating of non-stick spray.

Melt the butter and crush, crumble or pulverize the crackers into the bowl.

Melt the butter and crush, crumble or pulverize the crackers into the bowl.

Stir together until cracker crumbs are well coated.

Stir together until cracker crumbs (in my case, chunks… did I mention I was in a hurry?) are well coated.

Mix together the rest of the ingredients.

Mix together the rest of the ingredients.

Then scoop into your baking pan. If you love cheese, go ahead and sprinkle some on top.

Then scoop into your baking pan. If you love cheese, go ahead and sprinkle some on top.

Finish it off with your cracker crumbs and bake in a 350 oven for an hour.

Finish it off with your cracker crumbs and bake in a 350 oven for an hour.

When it's done, you'll have a crispy ,crunchy golden cracker crust on top of a gooey layer of cheese.

When it’s done, you’ll have a crispy ,crunchy golden cracker crust on top of a gooey layer of cheese.

Hash Brown Casserole

2 lbs frozen shredded hash browns

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1 cup of sour cream

2 cups shredded cheddar (or colby-jack cheese) grated

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. all-purpose seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)

1 tsp. parsley

1 sleeve of Saltine crackers, crushed

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray an 11 x 14 baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter then crumbled crackers into it, stirring until well coated. Set aside.

Mix the remaining  ingredients together, place in prepared pan, and top with 1/2 cup additional cheese, if desired. Top with the cracker crumbs and bake for an hour.

Remove and indulge in the deliciousness!

She Who Should Not Make This Again, but It Was So Yummy

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Kolacky plated

In my soon-to-be-released holiday romance, The Christmas Calamity, the heroine of the story is of Polish descent.

The Christmas Calamity Cover

Alex the Amazing is a prestidigitator who knows her way around the kitchen, when she needs to cook.

She bakes a batch of cookies from a recipe her grandmother shared with her. The hero of the tale, Arlan, falls for her cookies almost as much as he does her.

Since the cookies were important in the story, I decided I better bake a batch of Kolacky.

Originating as a semisweet wedding dessert from Central Europe, Kolacky are especially popular for Christmas.

Oh, my gracious! These are so, so good. I had to practically beat Captain Cavedweller off with a stick so I could have a few.

Give them a whirl. They weren’t hard to make and are incredibly yummy! Here’s a modern version of a delicious recipe.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Start by creaming butter and cream cheese together.

Start by creaming butter and cream cheese together.

Beat together remaining ingredients (except jam!)

Beat together remaining ingredients (except jam!)

 

Until you have a nice bowl of somewhat sticky dough.

Until you have a nice bowl of somewhat sticky dough.

Roll out on a floured surface.

Roll out on a floured surface.

Traditionally, the dough should be cut into squares, but you can use a round cutter or a glass.

Traditionally, the dough should be cut into squares, but you can use a round cutter or a glass.

Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Add dollops of jam to the dough then fold edges together.

Add dollops of jam to the dough then fold edges together.

If you have trouble getting the edges to stick, use a touch of milk or water to hold it in place.

If you have trouble getting the edges to stick, use a touch of milk or water to hold it in place.

Remove from the oven before they start to brown. You want the dough to be just set.

Remove from the oven before they start to brown. You want the dough to be just set.

Top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Then force the other inhabitants of your home to share.

Then force the other inhabitants of your home to share.

Kolacky

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 (3oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup strawberry jam (any flavor works)

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Beat until fluffy.  Add flour then mix well. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Traditionally, the pastry is cut into squares, but you can use a round biscuit cutter or glass if that’s what you have on hand.

Place pastries two-inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Spoon 1/4 tsp. jam onto each cookie. Fold opposite sides together. If you have trouble getting the sides to stick, dampen the edge with a drop of milk or water.

Bake for 12 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks and sprinkle liberally with confectioner’s sugar. It is nearly impossible to eat just one!

Yield about 2 dozen.

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Pumpkin cookies 013

I don’t know how I missed this… but I recently came across a recipe for the most moist, delicious, pumpkin cookies. The best part?

Two ingredients.

That’s right – just two ingredients!

If you can open a box of cake mix and a can of pumpkin, you can make these!

I added a drizzle of cream cheese frosting and some toffee bits sprinkles and that was a delectable decision.

Tantalize your taste buds and make these easy cookies today!

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

Mix a can of pumpkin with a spice cake mix.

Mix a can of pumpkin with a spice cake mix.

Blend until thoroughly mixed.

Blend until thoroughly mixed.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment (or foil when you run out of parchment.)

Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment (or foil when you run out of parchment.)

Bake at 350 for about ten minutes, until cookies are just set. You don't want to overcook them.

Bake at 350 for about ten minutes, until cookies are just set. You don’t want to overcook them.

Some of the cookies, I topped with a pumpkin marshmallow just before they were done. Yum!

Some of the cookies, I topped with a pumpkin marshmallow just before they were done. Yum!

Remove from oven and let cool, then drizzle with cream cheese frosting (nuke frosting in microwave for 10-12 seconds to reach a pourable stage.)

Remove from oven and let cool, then drizzle with cream cheese frosting (nuke frosting in microwave for 10-12 seconds to reach a pourable stage.)

Top with toffee bits, sprinkles, cinnamon, candied nuts or whatever tickles your fancy.

Top with toffee bits, sprinkles, cinnamon, candied nuts or whatever tickles your fancy.

Pumpkin Cookies

1 box of spice cake mix

1 small can of pumpkin pie filling

1 cup cream cheese frosting

toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix and pumpkin until thoroughly blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bake about ten minutes, until the cookies are just set but not yet starting to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Warm cream cheese frosting in the microwave for about 12 seconds, until thin enough to pour.

Drizzle over cookies.

Top with toffee bits, cinnamon, sprinkles or candied nuts.

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

She Who Loves Pumpkin Treats

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Lamb Gyro platedConfession is good for the soul, right?
I must confess that I’m a huge fan of Lamb Gyros. I should further admit my love for these developed from a food booth at the rodeo. I’d never eaten one until a few years ago.
My life shall never, ever be the same.
There’s something about the tender meat, zingy Tzatziki sauce, fresh tomatoes, and tangy Feta cheese encased in soft Pita bread that makes my knees wobble while my mouth waters.
Devastated when the food vendor wasn’t at this year’s rodeo (yes, I only get these amazing treats once a year), I decided to make my own.
The hardest part was locating some lamb. Three grocery stores later, I happened upon a manager’s half-price special or I probably wouldn’t have purchased the meat because it ran a little (okay, astronomically) on the high side.
Regardless of how or where I purchased the lamb, the gyros turned out so, so good. I almost had to beat Captain Cavedweller off so I could have half of the leftovers.

Here’s how we made them:

Gyro ingredients

Gyro ingredients

Cucumber sauce - make and set aside in the fridge while they meat cooks. You can also make it the previous night. Just cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cucumber sauce – make and set aside in the fridge while they meat cooks. You can also make it the previous night. Just cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

There are any number of traditional methods for cooking the meat. I stir-fried mine in a wok.

There are any number of traditional methods for cooking the meat. I stir-fried mine in a wok.

It didn't take long for the meat to brown or the delicious scent to cause us to anxiously begin assembling the gyros.

It didn’t take long for the meat to brown or the delicious scent to cause us to anxiously begin assembling the gyros.

Toast your Pita bread - just until it's warm.

Toast your Pita bread – just until it’s warm.

Then layer on all the delicious toppings and be thrilled you know how to make this at home instead of waiting to find the next vendor booth at a public event.

Then layer on all the delicious toppings and be thrilled you know how to make this at home instead of waiting to find the next vendor booth at a public event.

Lamb Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce

1 lb. of lamb, cooked and sliced into small pieces

1 tomato, sliced  into bite-sized chunks

1/2 cup Feta cheese

1/4 cup Kalamata olives, sliced

Pita Bread

Tzatziki Sauce:

1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely shredded

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup plain yogurt

2 tbsp. white vinegar

1/2 tsp. dill weed

In a medium bowl, sprinkle salt over cucumber and mix well. Let stand five minutes. Drain. Stir in remaining dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

(Please ignore the fact I show sour cream in the ingredient photo because I forgot to get plain yogurt and had to make a little substitution. Ditto on the balsamic vinegar instead of white vinegar. Follow the recipe and you’ll be fine!)

You can use whatever type of lamb you like (or can find). I ended up with a package of lamb chops and cut all the meat off the bones into thin slices. I then put the lamb in a resealable bag with about 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. seasoning. I let the meat marinate overnight. I dumped the contents of the bag into a heated wok and stirred the meat around on medium-heat until it was nicely browned (and filled the house with a mouth-watering aroma).

While the meat cooks, chop your tomatoes and slice the olives then set aside.

Warm the pita bread in the oven for just a minute or two until it’s warm and soft and wonderful.

Layer on the meat, followed by the sauce, tomatoes, olives and cheese.

She Who Could Eat This Once a Week

Makes five Gyros.

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Gingerbread plated

The story I’m currently working on features a hero who loves gingerbread. Since I always include a recipe at the back of my books, I thought it would  be fun to include one for gingerbread.

Only I don’t have a good recipe for gingerbread cake. I have one for cookies and bars, but not cake.

So after drooling over dozens of options, I gave this one a try. It was a very good decision. Moist and flavorful, it filled the house with the most fabulous spicy scent while it baked.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Start by creaming the egg and brown sugar together.

Start by creaming the butter and brown sugar together.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the liquid ingredients into the batter.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the liquid ingredients into the batter.

Mix the dry ingredients into the batter, one cup at a time.

Mix the dry ingredients into the batter, one cup at a time.

gingerbread batter

When well blended, pour into greased pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

When baked, you can top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, caramel sauce, whipping cream, or cream cheese frosting.

When baked, you can top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, caramel sauce, whipping cream, or cream cheese frosting.

I went with cream cheese frosting. I warmed it in the microwave for about 12 seconds until it was pourable.

I went with cream cheese frosting. I warmed it in the microwave for about 12 seconds until it was pourable.

Slice and savor the explosion of spicy bliss on your tongue!

Slice and savor the explosion of spicy bliss on your tongue!

Gingerbread

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

3/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup applesauce

2 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup hot water

Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour two loaf pans, two round cake pans or a 9 x 13 baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together brown sugar and butter.  Beat in egg, molasses, and applesauce.  Spray your measuring cup with a shot of non-stick spray before you pour in the molasses. It will slide right out of it without leaving a big sticky mess behind.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to batter 1 cup at a time. When it is well-blended, add the cup of hot water and stir to incorporate.

If you are using loaf pans, bake for about 50 minutes. If using cake pans, baking time will decrease to around 20-30 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Top with frosting, sprinkle with powdered sugar, drizzle with caramel sauce or dollop on whipped cream. You can finish it however you like!

She Who Loves the Spicy Scent of Fall Baking

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bundt cake platedMy most wonderful mother-in-law is spending the weekend with us.

So I baked a cake.

While it was baking yesterday, I kept thinking of that catchy tune If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve a Baked a Cake.

Since I did know she was coming and I did bake a cake, I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

I love bundt cakes because they are so easy to make and always so moist. I decided to experiment a little and boy was that a tasty idea. Even Captain Cavedweller gave this a two thumbs up.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Mix everything together except the sweetened condensed milk.

Mix everything together except the sweetened condensed milk.

Pour the milk into a thoroughly greased bundt cake pan.

Pour the milk into a thoroughly greased bundt cake pan.

Top with the cake batter. Do NOT mix or stir.

Top with the cake batter. Do NOT mix or stir.

Place it in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for about 50 minutes.

Place it in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for about 50 minutes.

Until it looks like this.

Until it looks like this.

Let cool completely before inverting on a serving platter.

Let cool completely before inverting on a serving platter.

Then prepare to be dazzled as the sweetened condensed milk made the most delicious topping you can imagine.

Then prepare to be dazzled as the sweetened condensed milk made the most delicious topping you can imagine.

Did I mention it was delicious?

Did I mention it was delicious?

As in you just have to have a piece good...

As in you just have to have a piece good…

Heavenly Bundt Cake

1 vanilla cake mix

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup oil

1 cup sour cream

1 small pkg. instant cheesecake pudding

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 and thoroughly spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add in cake mix, water, oil, sour cream and pudding. Beat on medium speed about three minutes.

Open the sweetened condensed milk and pour into the bundt pan. Yes, the whole can.

Spoon cake batter over the milk. Do not mix or stir!

Bake for about 50 minutes, until cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Invert over a serving plate. All that deliciously yummy sweetened condensed milk has made the most glorious topping on your cake and soaked into the top layer.

If you can refrain from eating it right then, chill until ready to serve.

She Who Will Make This Again

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Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone!

To me, this weekend is the last big hurrah before everyone’s schedules settle back into a routine and fall is upon us.

I don’t know about you, but summer flew by at warp speed and I’m not quite ready for it to end. Although I love the fall season, I’d like to put off its arrival for just a while longer.

Here are a few of my favorite summer salad and dessert recipes, to help prolong the fun!

caprese platedTomato Caprese Salad

 

potato salad finishedChunky Potato Salad

butterfly fruit salad finishedButterfly Fruit Salad

watermelon-saladWatermelon and Feta Salad

 

raspberry pie platedRaspberry Cream Pies

 

orange pie finishedOrange Dream Pie

crisp-in-panRaspberry Crisp

blackberry bar finishedButtery Blackberry Bars

banana ice cream bowl 1Banana Ice Cream

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