Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Tonight's dessert was supposed to be a regular coffee cake - until I realized that the only instant pudding that I had in the house was pumpkin. Since we all love pumpkin cake, I used it in place of the vanilla pudding that the recipe called for.

The original recipe, Mish's Coffee Cake, comes from Mish @ The only changes that I made to her recipe was the swapping of instant pumpkin pudding for the instant vanilla pudding and the addition of raisins.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake
1 package yellow cake mix
1 small instant pumpkin pudding
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanillia

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts
1 C. raisins
4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix ingredients together for 6-8 mintues at high speed. Grease bundt pan well. Layer cake in thirds with filling between each layer. Bake 40-45 min. at 350 degrees. Cool for 5-8 min. before removing from the pan. Drizzle with glaze if desired.

The cake looked beautiful when it came out of the pan. It is very rich so I would advise tasting it first before covering the whole thing with glaze or icing.

My tips
Use a heavy duty mixer to mix this. I had to transfer the batter to my Kitchen Aid mixer because it was too thick and heavy for my hand mixer.

Spray or grease the pan really well so that the cake does not stick.

Keep the sugar filling in the middle of the batter. Do not allow the sugars to touch the outside or inside of the pan. The sugars can start to burn on the pan before the inside of the cake has finished baking.

Keep a close eye on the cake once it has baked for 40 minutes - do not overbake it. My cake baked for 44 minutes.

I think that you could safely omit the white sugar from the filling for a less sweet cake.

Store in a sealed container to keep it moist.

"Take it easy" Lasagna Casserole

Traditional lasagna was on the menu tonight until a flu bug hit me last night. I was way too achy today to stand in the kitchen assembling the real thing. This casserole is much faster and easier to put together and although it will never replace the real thing, everyone was ok with eating it.

Lasagna Casserole
1 lb. wide egg noodles, cooked al dente
1/2 hamburger
1/2 hot sausage
1 medium onion, chopped fine
Your favorite spaghetti sauce - I used
about 4 cups
4 - 8 oz Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 -2 C. shredded Mozzarella cheese
Italian seasonings
garlic powder
red pepper flakes

Brown hamburger, hot sausage and onion together. Drain of any grease and set aside.

Cook noodles and drain well. Pour hot noodles into a 9x13 dish.

Stir in meat mixture and 4-8 oz Ricotta cheese -- amt. depends on what you like. I used 8 oz. Sprinkle seasonings, as desired, over the top. Add a little red pepper flakes if you want to spice it up a bit --depending on how hot your hot sausage really is.

Stir in sauce and mix well. Sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese over top of the sauce, and then stir it into the mixture. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese to top things off.

Cover with foil. Bake at 350* for 40 minutes. Remove foil and slip the dish under the broiler to brown the cheese.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February Cookie Carnival - Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Toffee & Dried Cherries

I was happy to see the Cookie Carnival come back into action this month.

This month we made Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Toffee & Dried Cherries.

These chocolate cookies were full of melted chocolate pieces, toffee bits and dried cherries. They were incredibly good when eaten right off the cookie sheet, while they were still warm - although I would've liked to have tasted more flavor from the cherries and toffee.

From In The Sweet Kitchen
by Regan Daley

makes 40 large cookies


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup plump, moist, dried sour cherries
8 oz. bitter or semisweet chocolate chopped into chunks about the size of the cherries
1 cup English toffee pieces for baking such as Skor Bits


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two heavy baking sheets, not non-stick, with parchment paper and set aside. sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla. stir in the flour-mixture in 3 additions, blending just until the dry ingredients are moistened. I find this part of the job easier with a wooden spoon, rather than a mixer, as I can see better which parts of the batter need more attention without overmixing. Stir in the chunky ingredients and mix until they seem evenly distributed. (the dough may be frozen at this point for up to 4 months: wrap the dough securely in plastic wrap, then in a plastic freezer bag. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator without removing its wrapping before portioning the cookies and baking.)

2. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets and place them in the center of the oven. If you have a large, evenly tempered oven, place the 2 sheets in at once, onto racks positioned close to the middle of the oven. Switch the position of the trays once during baking. If your oven is small, or tends to have hot or cold spots, bake one tray at a time so the cookies bake evenly.

3. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes, or until barely set in the center and just firm around the
edges. Rotate the sheets once or twice. Cool the cookies on the tray for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before storing. (feel free to eat them at any point.) Run the hot tray under cold water to cool it, dry thoroughly and repeat with remaining dough. Store the cookies in airtight containers, layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper for up to 5 days.

My Changes:

I cut the recipe in half because I knew that my kids wouldn't eat them because of the cherries in them.

To make the cherries a little more plump, I soaked them for 5 minutes in boiling water and then drained them well before adding them to the mix. I subbed light brown sugar for the dark brown sugar.

The recipe is very simple and easy to follow. It's a plus, to me, that this cookie dough can be frozen. It's also great that this recipe is very versatile. Once the chocolate dough is mixed up, you can just about any "extra" to the batter to personalize it.

I didn't have any parchment paper so I lightly sprayed my cookie sheets with cooking spray and then proceeded to place the scooped cookies onto the sheets. I used a large ice cream scoop to scoop out 9 cookies. My cookies baked for 16 minutes. They do spread out quite a bit so be sure to leave plenty of room between the cookies when you are placing them on the trays.

Once I took them out of the oven, instead of allowing them to cool on the trays as in the directions, I immediately removed the cookies from the trays to cooling racks.

I ate another one for dessert --it's still chewy and the chocolate is still soft. YUM! They go great with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee. My kids don't know what they are missing. ;)

TWD ~ Caramel Crunch Bars

It's been a while since I've made a cookie bar like this that everyone in my family has really liked. Finally, the Caramel Crunch Bars that Whitney of What's Left on the Table chose for this week's TWD, hit that mark. Everyone enjoyed them.

The mix of chocolate cookie with the crunchy topping was a nice combination. The fact that it was easy to make was a great relief this week.

Check out what the other TWD bloggers had to say about these yummy cookie bars.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chicken Tacos - Cooking with Alicia and Annie Contest

I was looking for a simple meal for today since I had a lot of computer work to do. This chicken taco recipe from Annie's Recipes was perfect since the chicken cooked all day in the crockpot. All I had to do was shred the chicken and then assemble the tacos when it was time to eat (we made burritos instead of tacos). I served Spanish rice to go alongside.

Easy Chicken Tacos
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package taco seasoning packet
1 cup of water

Mix ingredients together in crockpot. Cook for 6-8 hours on low.
Shred chicken with until evenly shredded.Put mixture in hard or
soft tortillas, and put shredded cheese, hot sauce, black beans,
tomatoes, sour cream. (We used shredded cheddar cheese, sour
cream and salsa.)

This chicken mixture is very good and very versatile. It can be frozen as well.

It's a keeper in our house!

This is another entry into the Cooking with Alicia and Annie Contest.

Monday, February 9, 2009

German Chocolate Cherry Brownies - Cooking with Alicia & Annie Contest

Tonight's dessert had all of my favorites in it--chocolate, cherries, and coconut pecan frosting. German Chocolate Cherry Brownies are from Annie's Recipes.

The brownies turned out to be more of a cake. It was very rich, almost too rich to eat in the size of a piece of cake. Also, because it is so moist, it's very hard to cut a piece of it and serve it without it falling apart. In my opinion, this recipe would be much better suited for cupcakes. I would top them with a chocolate ganache instead of the melted chocolate chips. That would be the perfect size for this rather strange -but oh so good!-combination.

German Chocolate Cherry Brownies
1 pkg. German chocolate cake mix
1 can coconut - pecan frosting
1 can cherry pie filling
1 egg
4 tbsp. butter or oleo

Put all ingredients into medium size bowl. Mix well with wooden spoon, until evenly mixed. Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and pour 1 cup chocolate chips on top. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then spread chocolate chips evenly over brownies. Let cool completely before cutting.

This is an entry into the February Cooking with Alicia & Annie event. Be sure to check it out if you don't know about it!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sweetheart Lollipops

You're sure to win over all of your Valentines with these sweetheart lollipops! Flavored with sweet Cherry or spicy cinnamon, there's a favorite for all ages.

What You Need
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
6 TBSP water
candy thermometer
food coloring
cinnamon or cherry flavoring
lollipop sticks
heart shaped candy molds
ribbon (optional)

What You Do
Prepare the lollipop molds by lightly spraying with vegetable spray. Place lollipop sticks into the slots in the molds.

In a medium pot, combine sugar and light corn syrup, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once all of the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and continue to cook until it reaches a temperature of 300* on your candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, then stir in food coloring and flavoring.

Pour the hot syrup into the molds. Allow to cool thoroughly before removing the lollipops from the molds. Tie ribbon around the sticks to decorate.

Makes 8-12 lollipops depending on the size of the candy mold.

Conversation Heart Cookies

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without Conversation Hearts. I've created a way to express your feelings in a BIG way by making these conversation heart cookies. Don’t hold back…show your Valentine how you really feel!

What you need for cookies:
1 roll of refrigerated sugar cookie mixor your favorite sugar cookie recipe**
Heart-shaped cookie cutter

What you need for icing:
Red, yellow, green, blue and purple paste food coloring
4 cups powdered sugar
4TBSP water

Making Cookies: ** See Tami's favorite sugar cookie recipe below.**

Roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to a 3/8-inch thickness. Cut out hearts and bake as per directed on the package or follow the directions in the recipebelow. Cool completely before icing.

Decorating Cookies

Mix the powdered sugar and water in a bowl until smooth; adding more water, if needed, a few drops at a time. Divide into 6 bowls for pink, yellow, green, blue & purple and leaving one bowl to color red - it will be used to write the words on the cookies. Color the icing using the paste food coloring. **Tip - you only need just a dab of the food coloring to get a light pastel color for the cookies but you will need to use slightly more red for a nice, deep red writing color. Ice cookies following the outline of each heart, stopping short of the edge of the cookie.

Add the red icing to a plastic baggie. Push the icing into one corner of the baggie. Snip off the very end point to make an icing bag. Print Valentine’s Day words and sayings onto the cookies. (Refer to the cookies in the picture above for ideas)

To store these cookies, line a baking sheet with wax paper, then lay cookies in a single layer onto the paper. Freeze. Once frozen, the cookies can be stacked on top of each other. To thaw, place cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate—do not thaw cookies while they are stacked together or the icing will stick to the other cookies.

**Tami's Favorite Soft Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup shortening (part butter or margarine)

1 cup sugar1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional) - I leave it out for white cookies

1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix shortening, sugar, egg, & vanilla thoroughly. Blend dry ingredients. Add to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.

Divide dough; roll out on a well-floured board. Cut with cookie cutters (metal cookie cutters w/ open tops are the easiest) You can make these as thick as you want... the thicker, the chewier.

Place cookies on lightly greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar unless you are going to ice them. Bake 7-8 minutes or until very lightly browned around the edges. Makes 3-4 dozen but I never get this many because I make mine thicker.

If you use the nutmeg in them, you don't even need the icing but it will give your cookies a slight off-white appearance if they are left un-iced.

If you like chewy cookies, roll them out a little thicker. If you like thin, crispy cookies, roll a kind of thin but not real thin or you wont be able to remove to them from cookie pan.

This dough is very easy to work with too! I always double it because I like the thicker cookies.

Exciting news - More awards!

Happiness filled my inbox when I read that Barbara from Barbara Bakes had given me 3 awards for my blog! Thank you so much, Barbara! My blog will wear them with pride!

If you haven't checked out her blog, be sure to do's awesome!

I will be working hard during the next few days to share the love of these awards with others!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies - Cooking with Alicia & Annie Contest

We like cake mix cookie recipes for the convenience and ease of making after dinner during a busy week. This recipe for oatmeal cookies is simple enough that you can get the kids involved, too!

Although this recipe will never take the place of our family recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies, they were really good as a quick dessert. My kids took them in their lunch boxes the next day, too.

You can find the original recipe here.

In my version of the recipe below, I used 2 C. of raisins instead of raisins & nuts. A good tip for soft, chewy raisins is to soak the raisins in very hot water for at least 10 minutes. Make sure to drain well before adding the raisins into the batter. I used light brown sugar instead of dark brown because that's what I had on hand and they turned just fine.

Oatmeal Cookies
1 pkg. spice cake mix (2 layer)
2 1/2 c. uncooked rolled oats
2 eggs
3/4 c. cooking oil
1/2 c. milk
1 c. raisins
2 c. chopped nuts
1/4 c. light brown sugar


Combine all ingredients and mix well. Drop from
a teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.

This is other entry into the February edition of the Cooking with Alicia & Annie contest.

Second photo deleted while I try to find out what I did to have it violate Photobucket's policies. I'm at a loss on this one. I uploaded it like any other photo.

Broccoli Rice Casserole - Cooking with Alicia & Annie Contest

This is my first entry into the Cooking with Alicia & Annie Contest -Feb. edition.

It's a simple side dish made with rice, broccoli and Velveeta cheese. I don't normally have Velveeta on hand but I happen to buy a big box of it for a Superbowl dip, so this dish was a perfect way for me to use up some of the leftovers. I would make this again. This would also travel well if you were in need of a side dish for a party.

You can find the original recipe here.

My version is below. The only thing I did differently was to leave out the onion and celery. To me, it would be out of place in this recipe. Everything else stayed the same. At the end of the cooking time, I stuck the dish under the broiler for two minutes to brown it a bit--this step is optional.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's Cream of Broccoli Soup
1/4 c. milk
1 c. diced pasteurized process cheese spread
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
2 c. cooked rice

1. In saucepan, in hot oil, cook celery and onion until

2. Combine soup and milk; stir in celery-onion mixture,
cheese, broccoli and rice. Pour into 10x6 inch baking dish.
Sprinkle with paprika.

3. Conventional: Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes or
until hot, or microwave: Microwave on high 10 minutes or
until hot, rotating dish halfway through cooking.

Serves 8.

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