Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Never make brownies from a mix again!

I have to share this recipe with you. It is super quick, super delicious, and super easy! I have been making these brownies for years, and they have never let me down. (I can whip these up in less time than it takes my oven to preheat!)

Fudge Brownies
(aka "Never buy a brownie mix again" Brownie Recipe)

Mix together in mixing bowl:
1-1/3 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4- 1 cup cocoa powder (I am usually pretty generous with the cocoa!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add desired Mix-ins (optional).

Optional Mix-ins:
1 cup chopped nuts
or 1 cup chocolate chips
or 1 cup M & Ms
or 1/2 cup pecans~ Then drizzle melted chocolate over baked brownies and sprinkle with coconut and more pecans.
or 1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts~ Then drizzle melted caramel sauce over baked brownies and sprinkle on more peanuts.
Basically, you are only limited by your imagination!

Using two-cup measuring cup, mix together:
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 t. vanilla & 1 t. almond~ yum!)

Add to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Spread into 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until center starts to look crinkled... Just be careful not to overbake!

I would love to hear what your favorite combination is...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

RED flowers!

My garden is sighing with relief as the temps have gone from brutal to beautiful! I love how the flowers kick back in at this time of year, and thought you might enjoy seeing them too!

Do you have fun fall flowers you look forward to seeing every year? I would love to hear about what you have in your flower bed!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Food Memory Maker~ literally!

Sixteen years ago, just days after our honeymoon, I was able to convince my BHE (Best Husband Ever) that it would be well worth it to use some of our wedding gift money to purchase a Kitchen Aid mixer. Skeptical, he agreed, I am sure just to please his pleading bride. Promising to love and cherish my new mixer, we spent the money and brought home my new treasure... And have never looked back.

This mixer has been witness to almost 6,000 days of our lives, and been included in the making of most of them, in one way or another. From beating up pizza dough to whipping mashed potatoes, folding in egg whites to "hooking" the bread, this sweet little machine has working its magic in all of my kitchens. Hardly a day goes by that I am not plugging in this wonder tool to assist me in my cooking creations. Just today, we made a chocolate cake and a cinnamon roll cake together, and there is still frosting to look forward to whipping up!

So does my BHE regret the purchase? Sometimes... when he is helping out with dishes and has to wash that silver bowl and then wash it again... and again. Sigh~ that's love, huh?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Food Memory Day~ Paulsen Pizza

One favorite wedding present we received 16 years ago appeared to be a very simple gift. Along with a brown paper bag, there were two round pizza pans, a pizza cutter, a bag of "Pizza Seasoning," and a card on which was written the recipe for Paulsen Pizza.

This gift has brought us years of delicious memories... We have made it a practice to have homemade pizza every weekend. We have shared our love of homemade pizza with many. Our kiddos now beg to make "individual pizzas," and this is great food for a gathering with lots of people, as everyone likes what they put on their own pizza.

What started this lovely journey? Growing up, I would be invited out to play with Kris and Kelly at the Paulsen home. Mrs. Paulsen always made bread on Saturdays, and she would make enough extra dough to use as pizza crust. This meant that supper would be pizza! Spending delightful hours inhaling that amazing aroma of baking bread, chased by the tantilizing tastes of pizza made for Food Memory Days. Always served simply on a paper bag, that pizza consumed around the round kitchen table was more than just a meal. It really was a memory of love.

And that is why that simple wedding present has been so precious to us for so many years. We were given a gift of love, and we have been able to pass it on to so many...

Enjoy with those you love!

Paulsen Pizza

Dissolve together in mixing bowl:
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm water
Once yeast is bubbly, stir in:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. oil
Mix well. Knead. Cover and let rise until doubled. (I usually stick the dough in the microwave, as it proves a good proofing box... just don't turn it on!)

1- 8 oz can tomato sauce
1- small can tomato paste
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp. oregano
dash cayenne
1 T. oil

Top with desired toppings and cheese. Bake in preheated 450-475 degree oven- 10-12 minutes trade from bottom to middle rack halfway.

Makes 2 round pizza, serves 4-6.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes being resourceful doesn't work out so well...

So I have this cookbook, The New York Times Cook Book, published in 1990. I realized the other day that I really haven't used it much. There is no particular reason for this. I love New York. And just look at the cover, the gold label glistening in the fading light of another busy day. It is a beacon, calling to me to make use of its tempting treasures within... Yes! I resolve to answer the call and make this my new "go-to" cookbook.

Following thus stated resolution, I probed the pages of my pristine cook book this afternoon, seeking inspiration for a quick and easy supper. Just needing a soup recipe to go with the fresh bread I baked. Oh, and it is Wednesday... In our house, Wednesday Night is Soup Night.

Okay. Easy, quick, and using what I have on hand. Guess that will eliminate 95% of the recipes-- (Note to self: Go grocery shopping!)

But wait! Page 64 offers a feasible solution! Quick Cold Beet Soup. (Well, it was hot here in TN today.) Pantry Check~ Beets: yes. Onion: yes. Salt, pepper, lemon juice: yes, yes, yes. Mashed potatoes: yes --leftover from the Baconfest, needing to get used up! Chicken stock , sour cream, ice cubes? Yes, yes, yes. I have it all!

Happily I follow the easy directions, and process everything in my food processor. Oops, that went a bit above the liquid line. I guess that line is there for a reason... Well, it is a pretty shade of... PINK. Uh-oh.

Those who know me realize that this may present a small problem in my male dominated household. Little Miss doesn't even care too much for pink, and it has never been my favorite color (with the exception being outside in my front flower bed, of course!).

Wow, that isn't just pink. It is PeptoBismol pink. This may be one of those times when being resourceful is going to result in... a simple bread and butter supper. Hmm. Bread: yes. Butter: yes. It's all good.

We learn from the things that don't always turn out as planned, right? Any lessons you want to share?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Perfect Red Bed... or not!

My favorite color is red.

When planning the front bed of our home, I decided I wanted to have a classic red bed, with red Double Knock Out rose bushes. My sweet children and BHE gave me five of them for Mother's Day. I went ahead and filled in with barn red day lilies, deep purple cone flowers for contrast, and red verbenum. These would all surround a beautiful white Natchez crepe myrtle tree, and be softened by a row of boxwood behind. Doesn't that look beautiful in your mind?

Hmmm, funny how with gardening, things don't always go as planned.

The red roses bloomed... a deep hot pink. "That is not red," I thought, "But I guess it is okay. They are really pretty and profuse with blossoms. I can work with those..." The cone flowers, while more of a pale purple-pink, had a nice reddish center. "Different than I expected, but definitely doable." The verbenum just kept blooming and blooming little red flowers, but a true red, so they didn't clash with the hot pink roses. "Huh, think this might all be okay!"

Ha, ha~Foolish me!

Because then the day lilies bloomed. Barn. Red. Oh, no.

I can live with some things, but I was just not able to look past that garish red flower with the bright yellow center against the hot pink. I just couldn't do it.

Oh, I tried! I waited a year, and then another. I left some of the day lilies there~ moved some to the backyard ("Red Bed," take two!). I planted some pink fountain gaura, and some Autumn Joy sedum, along with some red and pink bee balm, and red and pink Oriental lilies...
And then one day, I couldn't take it anymore. I went out with my gardening shears, and I cut off every single barn red blossom on those day lilies. The greens left behind now provide a pretty filler in amongst the pinks. And all those day lilies? They made a lovely bouquet in my home.

This fall, I plan on transplanting the rest of those pretty barn red day lilies out by the new pavilion at church... where they will be able to bloom in all their magnificent barn red glory!

Anyone else have garden growing stories they'd like to share? I'd love to hear how you have grown with your garden!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A 10th Birthday Baconfest!

Son Three has always been an adventuresome eater... He loves to try new things, but has definite favorites, too. For example, every year for his birthday meal, he requests Glazed Meatloaf, Mama's Mashed Potatoes, and broccoli. (Yep, every year since he has been old enough to make a request!)
This year, being his 10th birthday, he decided to branch out and try something new.
Oh, he still requested Glazed Meatloaf, Mama's Mashed Potatoes, and broccoli, but for this celebration, he also proposed that everything made for his birthday include BACON.
Not one to turn down a challenge, I accepted.

10th Birthday Baconfest Menu:

~Buttermilk & Bacon Pancake Sticks~

~Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf ~
~Mama's Supreme Mashed Potatoes with Bacon~
~Broccoli with Bacon~
~Garden Tomatoes with Bacon & Basil~
~Bacon-Garlic-Rosemary Bread~
and the piece de resistance? (You knew this was coming, right?)

~Bacon-Laced Chocolate Cake~

(Recipe conveniently provided by Vosges Haut-Chocolat's Katrina Markoff
in the September 2011 issue of Better Homes & Gardens~ Thanks, Katrina!)

Do you have special traditions/meals you do for birthday celebrations in your home? I would love to hear about them!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Now on to the twigs...

I realize that most of my "twigs + loaves" posts have dealt with the "loaves." Cooking and baking does seem to take up most of my time these days, especially with the heat we have been having... Even I don't want to be spending a whole lot of time outside gardening. Sadly, my plants are not looking their lushest. (Hmmm, could those two sentences be read as 'cause and effect'?) I will even admit to having some less-than-alive plants in pots (My apologies, sweet neighbors!).
But the good thing about this time of year is that we are now in the months with an "r"... which of course means that I can begin trimming up my trees! (Is everyone but me familiar with that little mnemonic device: "You never trim a tree in a month without an 'r' ?" Thank you to Jon M., for sharing that tidbit with me!)
Last spring we planted a Forest Pansy red bud in our front bed. We were told it was a slow grower, but the promise of delicate purple flowers every spring and the glossy purple-green of the new foliage was appealing. Perhaps we misunderstood the bit about the slow-growing part... The tree has doubled in size! Not that we mind... It is a lovely tree, but with it growing up so quickly I found myself chomping to give it a bit of a trim. Patiently I waited through May, June, July and August... and promptly took up the saw in September!
Even in the trimming, this tree just keeps on giving me joy. After stripping off the leaves, beautiful twiggy branches were revealed. I think they look lovely in my living room...

Don't you think they will look pretty with ornaments at Christmas time, too?
And so my love for trees and twigs continues...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Once-a-Year Triple Chocolate Cake

Looking for a delectably moist, seriously "chock-full-of-chocolate" chocolate cake? This cake is not for the casual chocolate eater. This is not for the faint of heart (or those watching their calorie intake~ *DISCLAIMER: FEW OF MY RECIPES ARE!!*). This Triple Chocolate Cake recipe isrecommended for a once-a-year "WOW!"... perhaps a birthday celebration or a Cake Bake Off. (Yes, this is the cake recipe that won the Beautiful Savior Golden Cake Pan Award.)

If you just can't imagine a whole year going by without another taste of this cake, you can always skip the frosting and Ganache, and just dust it with powdered sugar... or eat it plain... on a weekly basis. Enjoy!

Triple Chocolate Cake

2 c. sugar

1-3/4 c. flour

¾ c. baking cocoa

1-1/2 t. baking powder

1-1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

2 eggs

1 c. milk (whole is best)

2 t. vanilla extract

½ c. vegetable oil

1 c. boiling water

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (I like to put parchment circles in the pans to ensure clean removal.) Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large mixing bowl. In separate bowl (I use my 4 c. measuring cup) mix together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Add to mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. (I use the same measuring cup then and put 1 c. of water into microwave for that two minutes.) Stir in boiling water (Batter will be thin. Make sure to scrape up the bottom of the bowl as you stir the water in.) Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (You will know by the smell that it is done!) Cool 10 minutes; remove to wire racks and cool completely before frosting.

Fluffy Chocolate Frosting

*Frosting comes together more easily if butter and milk are at room temperature.

8 T (1 stick) butter, room temperature

2/3 c. baking cocoa

3 c. powdered sugar

1/3 c. whole milk

2 t. vanilla extract

1/4 t. salt

Place the butter and cocoa in large mixing bowl. Blend with electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Put in the remaining ingredients and beat with mixer on medium speed until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add more milk if too thick or more sugar if too thin, 1 T. at a time.

*For Mocha frosting, add 2 t. instant coffee to the milk.

Chocolate Ganache
¾ c. heavy (whipping) cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 T. liquor (Kaluha!)--optional

Place cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring.Place chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in liquor.

To use as frosting, let sit at room temperature for about 4 hours or chill until it thickens and is spreadable.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

I will be taking the weekend off of writing to gather ideas and pictures for upcoming blogs.

Just to give you a sneak peek at what is coming, we are busy here planning a Bacon Birthday Bash for Son Three. That is sure to be fun...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Schmidt's Bacon=Liquid Gold!

Bakin' Bacon Cookies

Making that delicious Schmidt’s bacon the other evening resulted in a lovely amount of liquid gold, a.k.a. Schmidt’s Bacon Drippings! This may not appeal to everyone, but when times were tough, people made do with what they had. Surely they would not have wasted this precious gift from the bacon?
I did a little research in an inherited cookbook, The American Woman’s Cook Book from the Culinary Arts Institute, copyrighted 1938. (Belonged to BHE’s Great-Aunt Aggie—I love it!) Ruth Berolzheimer edited the book, and regarding my question she wrote: “Lard and meat drippings for shortening and cooking date from the time when all fats were prepared at home.” Her thought was that bacon fat was too highly seasoned for any but limited use… and that is where I stopped her. With the ongoing fascination for flavoring everything with bacon, this liquid gold is going places in my kitchen!
Several years ago, I came across a recipe for Molasses Cookies that used bacon fat in place of butter. I have tried in vain to relocate that recipe-- future blog: organizing my recipes!-- and so instead did a little googling, and came up with this:

Ingredients : 1 c. bacon grease or lard 1 c. sugar 1 egg, beaten 4 tbsp. molasses 2 c. flour 1 tsp. salt 2 tsp. soda 1/2 tsp. ginger 1/2 tsp. cloves 1 tsp. cinnamon
Preparation : Sift dry ingredients together. Stir in bacon grease and egg. Roll in balls. Roll balls in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

My kitchen smells amazing right now! Two of my kiddos just tried them... "These taste like bacon!" exclaimed Baby Girl. "This is kinda weird..." Son One (13), "I think I like them better with butter." Say what they will, I think I have hit upon something here. Kinda crazy, but I'm bakin' Bacon cookies! (The dog is confused... It smells like bacon, but there is no bacon treat for him?)
Melinda and Jess, upon hearing about my endeavor, volunteered to be tasters-- Thanks gals! ;-) Both of them agreed that the molasses made for a better cookie. (Good thing I remembered to put it in... eventually!) Jess commented that the molasses and the bacon flavors were well-balanced. Melinda has decided to put their Saturday morning bacon drippings to good use, too!

I love and respect the resourcefulness of those who came up with this recipe. They inspire me to be more resourceful. Who knew they would be such "green trendsetters," those Depression-Era survivors?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New twist on old favorite: Sour Cream Coffeecake

I have been making a version of this coffeecake for years... My earliest recollection of making it was when I was about 10 or 11, and my aunt and uncle were coming to visit. Mom had asked me to make coffeecake, and left the recipe out on the counter. I was very excited to be able to showcase my baking abilities, and eagerly proceeded to follow the directions exactly... except for mistakenly putting in "cream cheese" instead of "sour cream." Though it tasted fine, the cake was more dense, and not quite right. Disappointed, I did learn a valuable lesson regarding making a recipe your own... or was it to read the directions more carefully?!
Originally this came to me as Pecan Sour Cream Coffeecake, but my kiddos don't go for the pecans, so I have made some adjustments. Today's version includes blueberries and a little kick of ginger for fun. Enjoy!

Blueberry-Sour Cream Coffeecake

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, cream together:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Also measure out:
1 cup sour cream

Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, making about 3 equal additions of each and blending well after each addition.

Fold in:
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Spread into lightly greased 13x9 in pan. Sprinkle evenly with topping (see below).

Mix together in a small bowl:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Scratch and Sniff Blog Post

My friend Ann asked the other day if it was possible to make the blog edible... Today I wish I could make this a scratch-and-sniff blog. (Anyone out there with Willy Wonka-ish tendencies and know-how?)
In my quest for uses for lavender, I decided to try using my dehydrator --a thoughtful gift from my BHE, sadly just gathering dust on garage shelf-- and see if I couldn't speed along this process of drying the flowers.
Gathering up a big handful of lavender, I spread it out in single layers on each tray of the dehydrator. Soothed by that distinctive lulling lavender aroma, I waited.........................................
About 2 hours later, turned off the dehydrator and allowed the trays to cool. Then gently pulled off the lavender buds. Don't they look pretty in that silver bowl? They smell pretty, too!
Found a clean empty jar with a lid, filled it 3/4 full with granulated sugar, sprinkled on about 2 tablespoons of lavender buds, tightened on the lid, shook well, and now I wait some more!

Coming soon: Lavender Sugar Cookies.... and I will be revisiting that Schmidt's bacon. (Just too good to leave alone!) 'Til tomorrow!

Monday, August 29, 2011


Several years ago, I decided I wanted to try to grow lavender from seed. I was told that it was difficult, so I went all out and bought two packages of seeds instead of just one. I tucked the seeds in next to the sidewalk leading up to our house, and waited. What was meant to be a pretty little border has grown to be an explosive perfumed hedgerow! (Perhaps it would have been wise to have learned first that lavender is a relative of mint and that it grows up to four feet tall?) The bees and moths and butterflies are delighted; the hummingbirds diligently peruse each tiny purple cup... but my BHE is slightly dismayed. I think he wants the sidewalk back!
In doing a little research, I have learned that lavender is known as the "herb of love." That does seem to explain a bit... I love brushing by it as I come and go. I love gathering huge bundles to bring into the house and to share with friends and neighbors. I love the soft aroma it emits. I would love to do more with it... Came across a recipe for lavender cookies, using the flowers, though other sources consulted commented that the "bitter pungency" of the leaves and flowers make this an herb better suited for sachets.

Anyone have any suggestions as to what to do with an abundance of lovely lavender?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Grilled Pork Chops

YUM! In searching for an easy grilled pork chop recipe, my BHE (Best Husband Ever) came upon this healthy version from Kalyn's Kitchen:

We enjoyed these with some luscious mashed potatoes and squawk* last night~ a simple summer supper that lets the whole neighborhood enjoy that great charcoal grill flavor drifting through the air. Isn't that a tantalizing aroma?

*Squawk is our family's name for a combination of sauteed zucchini and summer squash, with chopped garden tomatoes tossed in and mozzarella cheese sprinkled on to finish. Sometimes we include sauteed onions, too, though Son One was delighted last night that we didn't.

Let me know if you try these pork chops and what you think of them... I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls= Expression of JOY!

Just in case you weren't convinced about those cinnamon rolls, here are some visuals that may get you salivating... Feast your eyes on these delectable delights!

By the way, this recipe makes a lot of cinnamon rolls. We have eaten 2-1/2 dozen, and still have two more dozen in the freezer! (Just to be clear, "we" is a crowd of 8-- my family of 6, along with my visiting brother and sister-in-law... and then there are the four rolls that I gave to Kari and James for their anniversary.) Granted, I probably could do a fair amount of damage on a dozen of these babies all by myself... not that I would. Just sayin'~ they are that good!