Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mom's Refrigerator Dessert

I have been trying to go through a bunch of stuff from my mom's house and sort through it. One of the problems with that is I keep getting sidetracked. This recipe for example, I found this recipe on a recipe card tucked into one of mom's cookbooks. As soon as I read it I was not only craving it but I was remembering all those pot luck dinners that mom took this dessert to.

For a couple of years of my childhood and into my teen years whenever mom was called upon to bring a dessert to a potluck this was what she made. I think mainly because it was easy to make and carried well to these functions.

I really don't know what the real name of it was because she had just titled the card “refrigerator dessert” I don't know where she got the recipe from either. I just know that when I took a bite of it I was right back there at one of those potlucks surrounded by friends and celebrating whatever event the potluck was for.

I know that mom changed up the cake component depending on what was on hand. Sometimes she used angel food cake and sometimes she used a plain white cake or whatever she had handy I think. Feel free to use whatever your favorite plain light cake is.

Mom's Refrigerator Dessert

1 package (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (8 oz) container whipped topping
1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits
a couple of handfuls of slivered almonds, toasted

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cajun Stew

I was really at a loss for what to call this dish, I know what it is not (a jambalaya) but stew comes the closest to what it really is. I came up with this one all because of some sausage I tasted at a demo table at a grocery store several months ago. I needed to just pick up a couple of things and the parking lot at the store I normally go to was a zoo so I went to the store down the street that I don't go to very often. As I was walking through there was a very nice lady offering up samples of a smoked sausage from a company that I was not familiar with. I tried all the varieties and decided to take a package of the cajun spiced one home with me. Now I needed to figure out how to serve. I thought about it a couple of days and decided I wanted to play around with it a bit.

Since I live a ways from the nearest grocery store I always have stuff on hand in the freezer and pantry. When you live out here you don't run to the store at the last minute to pick up something for dinner. There is also no delivery any where near here. I started to think about what I had on hand. I knew there was some chicken breasts in the freezer (these are always in my freezer) and I had picked up some frozen shrimp a few days before. Hummmm.....

I mulled the choices over for a few days and decided to combine the sausages with both of the above meats. I knew I wanted to go cajun style so that meant onion, celery and green pepper. I had all of these on hand so now dinner was coming together. I wanted the chicken and shrimp to stand up to the sausage so I decided to coat these two items with some of my homemade cajun seasoning blend (I'll add that recipe at the end of this post). I knew it wouldn't take much of the seasoning, a little goes along way but it is so good on almost all meats. I had just picked up a bunch of cans of diced tomatoes and I like a tomato base to this kind of dish so that went on my mental list of ingredients. My fresh thyme was doing well at that time too and since there's dry thyme in my seasoning blend I thought that would be a good addition too (I like to add some fresh herbs in wherever I can)

The rest of the ingredients came about as I tasted the dish as I made it the first time.

Now all that being said the day I recorded this I couldn't get the cajun sausage and used some smoked sausage that was labeled Spicy Italian. It worked just as well. If you want to cut back on the spiciness of the dish use a smoked Polish type sausage. Really any variety of pre-cooked (smoked) sausage will work just fine.

We really love this one and it is really easy to make in a larger batch to feed a crowd. Since the different elements are cooked separately and come together at the end just increase it to fill up your crew. The recipe as written is plenty to fill up my son and myself and have plenty of leftovers for lunch.

On the subject of servings and more importantly how many servings my recipes make. That is a really tough question since I am trying to fill up a growing teenage boy. I swear at this age (14) they can eat enough for an army and still pop up for a snack 5 minutes later. He is currently 6' tall and still growing. So how many normal people will this feed?? You will have to be the judge of that one.

Cajun Stew

½ lb large shrimp (peeled, deveined and thawed if frozen)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1 Tablespoon Cajun Seasoning blend
½ lb spicy sausage Cajun style or spicy Italian smoked sausage
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 green pepper sliced
3 ribs celery sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes
a splash of white wine (optional)
3 Tablespoons of a grainy mustard
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cajun Seasoning Blend

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon read pepper flakes

combine and store in a jar in a dark place. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pickled Red Onions

I discovered this little gem just a couple of years ago. It seemed like every time I picked up a cooking magazine or tuned into the Food Network I saw someone making/serving pickled onions. I tried a couple of recipes and we fell in love with this one. I think it is a combination of several I found in different places but I am not really sure. All I have is the recipe scribbled on a partial piece of yellow legal paper. I keep it tacked to my kitchen bulletin board so I can make these regularly. Truth be told at this point I could probably make them in my sleep though.

There is pretty much always a jar with some of these in our fridge. We use them all the time. They are great on sandwiches of all kinds and just as fantastic in a green salad. I have thrown them into almost every recipe that calls for pickles or pickle relish and so far they have been a huge hit every time. I know that both my son and I have on occasion just grabbed a few to eat on their own too. They really are that good.

I like to store ours in a quart size canning jar. I do this for several reasons first off I have a bunch of them around from the canning that my mom, my grandma and that I have done over the years. The jars are easy to clean and can withstand the hot brine solution going in with the onions. Also the lids give a nice seal so the pickly awesomeness doesn't invade the rest of the contents of the fridge.

I like to heat the brine up in the microwave for about 2 minutes. I tried doing them without heating the liquid up and we just prefer the results this way. The brine doesn't need to come to a boil, just get it hot enough to steam a bit and to dissolve the salt and sugar. I use Tabasco in ours but use your favorite hot sauce, after a batch or two you will know how much to use. I use about 3 or 4 good splashes of it and we find it to be perfect.

These really are best after a day or so, the onions need some time to get friendly with the brine and begin to break down a bit. I really don't know how long they will keep because they have never lasted long enough to find out. The brine is a wonderful addition to salad dressings and just about anywhere else you would use vinegar. It turns a very pretty magenta color from the onions and takes on the flavor of the onions very quickly.

Pickled Red Onions

½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cold water
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 or 4 dashes hot sauce (or to taste)
1 large red onion sliced

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stir and Drop Sugar Cookies

This is the very first cookie recipe I remember making as a young girl and I have made them on a regular basis ever since. I love how easy they are, no mixer required, and they still taste wonderful. I can have fresh from the oven cookies ready to serve in a matter of minutes. They have a wonderful hint of lemon but if you don't like lemon just leave the extract out, they will still be wonderful. The recipe makes a small number of cookies, I usually get between 24 and 30 per batch. The only down side I see to them is they do get stale a bit quicker than some of the other cookies I make but since they are so good they seldom hang around long enough for that to be a problem.

If you have never made cookies before these are a fantastic recipe to try as your first exploration of baking. Also if you have a young child that wants to bake cookies this is a good place to start. Adult supervision is necessary for getting the cookies in and out of the hot oven but other than that these are very kid friendly.

If you want to really make them special substitute some decorator sugar in a festive color for the sugar that you dip the glass in to flatten your cookies before putting them in the oven.

Stir and Drop Sugar Cookies

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp lemon extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

more sugar to use while flattening the cookies

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Smooshed Potatoes

Just what are smooshed potatoes you ask? Well, that's the name my kids gave this recipe the first time I made it. They are small baby potatoes that are boiled then smooshed (as opposed to mashed) and then cooked again in a hot skillet in a bit of oil. The result is a yummy and fun side dish that goes so well with any meal. We really like them alongside of any roasted meat dish.

You can use any variety of small round (baby) potatoes. Try all of the ones your store carries and see what your family likes the best. A couple of times when making this for company I have used a variety of potatoes and that makes for a wonderfully attractive presentation. The secret is using the smallest of the potatoes, it is best if you can buy them in the bulk so you can pick through for the smallest. My normal grocery store only carries this size potato in the little mesh bags and there are always a few that are too big to work well. The bigger ones tend to break apart when you smoosh them with the drinking glass. They still taste great they just don't look as nice on the plate.

The other real key to this dish is to use a really hot pan, this will help the potatoes to form a crust quickly and not to overcook. Remember they are already cooked through, we are really just crisping them up.

Work in small batches so you don't cool the pan off and have room to work. Season them really well with salt and pepper when they come out of the oil and keep the finished ones hot in a warm oven while you cook off the rest.

I'm not going to give you amounts on this recipe because you can make as many or as few as your family will eat.

Smooshed potatoes

Small baby potatoes
Vegetable oil

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Corn Dog Casserole

This is a dish I have been making for at least a decade. It is a particular favorite of my middle son. I think the reason the kids love it is because it combines the flavors of several summer time foods all in one comfort dish of a casserole.

The thing I love most about it is that all of the ingredients are things that are easy to have on hand so it is great to serve when you have people show up just in time to expect to be fed.

You can vary the flavor somewhat by your choice of the bottled BBQ sauce and the baked beans, these come in lots of different flavors and the nice thing is they come on sale at great prices often too. Since they are both canned goods they store in the pantry really well. The little sausages tend to come on sale from time to time too and I try to stock up when they do. They freeze really well and I have been known to partially thaw them in the microwave before heating them with the beans and sauce.

The cornbread mix is almost always a bargain and although I rarely make cornbread with it I keep it on had for casseroles like this one. Check the label on your cornbread and use the ingredients called for on it, the ones in the list are what I have found to be pretty standard.

Onions, milk, eggs and butter are always in my kitchen so you can understand why I fall back on this casserole regularly.

I have also doubled this with fantastic results for a crowd, just bake it in a 13”x9” and is will be fine.

Corn Dog Casserole

! (28 oz) can baked beans (any variety)
1 (14 to 16 oz) package of “little smokey” sausages
½ cup barbecue sauce (any variety)
1 small onion chopped

1 (6- 8.5 oz) box or pouch of corn bread mix
ingredients to make cornbread mix:
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

In a large saucepan combine the baked beans, sausages, bbq sauce and onion. Place pan over medium heat until bubbly. Stir the pan frequently while it heats.

Meanwhile combine the cornbread mix with the ingredients called for on the box/pouch.
When the bean mixture is hot and bubbly pour into an 8”x8” baking dish. Spoon the cornbread batter over the beans in the casserole dish spreading as well as you can.

Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The top of the cornbread should be golden brown and the bean mixture should be bubbling up.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chocolate Cake for Sara

I developed this recipe a few years ago for a good friend. At the time her daughter (Sara) was having a lot of food allergy issues and was on a very restricted diet. This is hard for anyone but for a teenage girl whose friends go out for pizza and ice cream is is doubly hard. Her mom asked me if I knew of any kind of dessert recipe that she could make for Sara. Among the long list of other items not allowed were wheat, dairy, soy, and corn (I won't bore you with the entire list) Luckily she could have chocolate as long as the other ingredients were okay. Well, my first thought was a flour-less chocolate cake. The problem was all the ones I could find had at least on ingredient from the list of forbidden foods. I put on my thinking cap and did some experimenting. I came up with this particular chocolate cake that has only 4 ingredients, all on the approved list and it was a hit. Sara and her mom loved it as well as my kids. (Good thing my kids liked it, we ate several versions to get to this one)

This is a very dense, moist chocolate cake with a slightly bitter taste (like that of dark chocolate) so good. It is best the first day or so after it is baked but it seldom lasts very long at my house.

Obviously, if you are making this for someone with allergies be sure to read all the labels on the ingredients you are using. And I can say from personal experience read them every time you purchase. Manufacturers do change formulas sometimes and just because the last one you purchased was fine there is no guarantee that the one on the shelf today will be. When you are trying to work with food allergies you have to read those labels every time not just sometimes.

I based this recipe on unsweetened baking cocoa for a simple reason that is all that is in it. There are no other ingredients (at least my brand) added to it. Many of the unsweetened chocolates have other ingredients and they were not allowed for Sara at that time.

Chocolate Cake for Sara

1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and move the rack to the middle of the oven.
Oil an 8" cake pan
In a mixing bowl combine the cocoa powder and the oil and beat with a mixer until smooth.
Slowly beat in sugar until well combined .
Add eggs and beat well after each.
Pour/ spread in prepared pan
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until  the top of the cake forms a thin skin.
Cool in baking pan for 5 minutes and then invert onto a serving plate.

Serves 8

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I have been working on this bread recipe for several months now and I think I have it just where I want it. My goal was to make a loaf of bread that used the bread machine to do the tedious part of the bread making and still have a normal shaped loaf.

You may have noticed on my blogs in the past that I often refer to my bread machine and my slow cooker as the “hired help” in the kitchen. They really can be if you use them on a regular basis. I love my bread machine and use it a lot. Sometimes I let it do all the work from start to finish but more often I use it like I do in this recipe. I take advantage of the Dough setting and then transfer the bread to a regular loaf pan to finish up.

Since I am home working most days it is convenient for me to do this. I can still get a lot of work done while the machine does most of the work on the bread. Then at the sound of my timer I can take a break to see to the needs of the bread. At the end of a few hours I have a loaf of bread just as good as the ones that my mom and my grandma put so much work into. That being said I do still make bread the old fashioned way that I learned as a young girl. I still enjoy to work with the dough but face it most days I just don't have the luxury of the time it takes.

I want to cover a few things about this bread before I give you the recipe.

I use ¼ cup of sugar in this recipe. I do that for several reasons the first being that it helps the yeast to get maximum rise. The yeast does need sugar to give it the energy and it helps to make this a practically fool proof recipe (as long as you measure carefully and follow the directions) Also with the addition of sugar you get some of the best toasting bread since the sugar is what helps to brown it in the toaster.

I designed this bread to use plain old All Purpose flour. I love that because I don't always have special bread flour on hand, if you want to add some variety and boost the nutrients a bit you might try replacing up to half the flour with whole wheat flour. The resulting loaf will be a bit denser but equally as tasty. Or try your favorite flour and see how it works. I would recommend that you replace no more than half of the flour with another flour.

About 10 minutes after I start the bread machine I like to go and make a visual check of the loaf. At this point I adjust the liquid/flour ratio. When I lift the lid I want to find a nice ball of dough being worked by the machine. If it is too hard or there is a batch of flour that isn't getting mixed into the dough I add just a bit of warm water (no more than a Tablespoon at a time) if on the other hand the dough is too loose to form a good ball I add some more flour (again about a Tablespoon at a time) After the machine has a few minutes to work this addition in I re-check to see if the dough is forming a nice ball, if not I make another adjustment and re-check.

Another way to add some variety to your loaf of bread is to change the liquid you use. You can always use water but why? There's an entire world out there of wonderful liquids to try. I have used many things I think our favorites so far have been various fruit juices (orange is really good and makes fantastic French Toast) and buttermilk. Be warned the juices will allow your bread to raise a lot taller so keep an eye on it while it is rising in the loaf pan you might want to bake it before the hour is up. My nest experiment will be with some broth to see how that works. What can you think of to try?

At the end of the video I share a tip I learned from my mom (and she most likely learned from her mom) and I wanted to pass it on to you. As soon as you take the baked loaf out of the oven and out of the pan brush it with melted butter and wrap it in a damp towel and then onto a cooling rack. This process not only gives the bread a wonderfully flavored crust but it steams the loaf and softens the crust just the right amount. Don't use your best towels for this, you might get some stains from the melted butter and the steam but it is well worth it.


1 cup milk (heated to just warm)
1 egg
2 Tablespoons melted butter
3 ¼ cups All Purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon dry yeast