Monday, November 23, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Let's talk muffins.  I love them.  Do you?  But you know one thing I Dis-like about them?  I don't like when they have fake flavoring in them.  Fake blueberry, or strawberry or apple, fake anything for that matter.  That being said, I think you will find these muffins to be the most fresh tasting muffins you have had in a long time.  A combination of fresh apples, added two ways, and some cinnamon, make these simple, a little sweet, and a lot delicious!

I had been over at my sisters house to pick up a few things she had left for me and along with it was a bag of apples.  Not sure if they were from her yard or someone elses but, SCORE, fresh apples are always a good thing!  I kind of love to play with muffin flavors and since I it had been awhile since I had done so, I knew the first apple recipe on the list was going to be muffins.  Now, I will admit, when you get to mixing fruit flavor, to a girl who isn't wild about fruit, it gets a little creepy for me.  So I decided to go with just a simple flavor, of ONE fruit, and complimentary flavors that were NOT fruit.  I am actually sitting here chuckling at myself.  Is it obvious I am not a fruit lover.  Just a few I will eat, odd, I know.

I think these would be perfect for any morning, I think they will freeze like a dream, and I think you should make a double batch because of the obvious reasons listed previously.  Obviously I think Thanksgiving morning would be the perfect time to try them out since they can be made ahead and just yanked from the freezer the night before.  Nobody will know you weren't up all night slaving away for their holiday enjoyment.

Make sure to follow the apple directions, it makes the flavor more intense, makes the muffins SO moist and face it, it makes the dang muffin what it is! HA!

You will need:

3 medium apples (directions below)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup veg oil
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup instant oats

Preheat your oven to 375.  In a bowl combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk to combine and set aside.  In another bowl or your mixer bowl, combine your oil, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon.  Whisk to completely combine.  Add in flour mixture, and quick oats and mix until JUST combined.


Now for the APPLES.  Peel your apples, and use 2 of them to dice into about 1/2 inch pieces.  Use your third peeled apple to GRATE into the batter.  This will create a flavor and level of moistness you won't want to miss out on!

Scoop into muffin liners.  Fill them a bit fuller than cupcakes so you get that classic "muffin top".  Trust me it is better on muffins than me!  I got about 15 muffins.  Bake for 20-23 minutes.  Just do the toothpick test and make sure they are done.  They will carryover cook a bit out of the oven as well.

Now get ready to NOM NOM NOM on these babies!

PS.  I realize these muffins look like "nothing special" but the fresh apple flavor just can't be beat, and I hope you give them a go for yourself!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mom's Mac and Cheese

Hiya!  Been spending a lot of time walking down "food" memory lane with my mom and one of my sisters recently.  We were talking about our favorite foods that mom made.  Every year on our birthday we got to pick our meal, and I always picked her spaghetti and meatballs.  She made meatballs about the size of her fist, and sauce that cooked all day, with her homemade tomato sauce, etc.  I am guessing I was 20 years old before I knew spaghetti COULD be made in under 12 hours. HA!

ANYWAY, my sister was speaking about my moms mac and cheese.  Now, to be honest, I only remember having it a handful of times, on special occasions.  We grew up without a lot of money and so we didn't get to indulge in boxes of mac and cheese like many other kids, or anything really that wasn't truly homemade.  When I think about it now, it was awesome, at the time, I just wanted what other kids had!  My sister, #1 (first practice child) still makes her mac and cheese this way which I had no idea about.  OK, well not exactly the same but I wanted to make it just like my mom did.  I used every processed thing she used, and do NOT feel bad!  So for some of you this recipe may be out the door before it even starts, for some of you, it may be your dream, for me, it was an awesome step back into my childhood.  I don't think any other food of my moms that I have eaten, literally made me close my eyes and say, "OM-GOSH, this is like being a little kid, in Ord, NE, eating mom's food". This did.  While I love that about it, and while I enjoy it, I don't make macaroni and cheese on the regular like this.  But once in awhile, when I am missing my mom's cooking, this will cure all that ails me!

Thanks mom for the food memories, thanks for all the birthdays you made spaghetti and meatballs when you probably didn't want to and thanks for laughing now about all the things you had to do to stretch a buck.  I will never forget 32 ounces of macaroni with 1lb of hamburger in it for goulash, or your canning pot full of chili with 2 lbs (on a good week) of hamburger and 20 cans of beans.  I love you for all those things and thankful in hindsight that we grew up like that, but mostly that those days are so far behind you.

Now, make sure when you cut up the cheese you cube it in perfect squares, tiny squares, because if my mom finds out you didn't, she is NOT going to be happy.  Oh yes mom, I love you for your OCD and thank you for passing it on to me! HAHAHA

Here we go!

16 oz. cooked elbow macaroni
16-18 ounces of Velveeta cheese, cubed very small (my mom is watching)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 T melted butter
1/2-3/4 cup of milk

Breadcrumb Topping
1 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned or not) I used my homemade
3 T butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Boil your macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and let cool.  This is the one time I won't be mad if you rinse it with cold water.  Stop the cooking and separate.  Do that right away and then before adding to your bowl.

Now prepare your breadcrumb topping.  In a small skillet, melt your butter, add in breadcrumbs and toast up for 2-3 minutes, when they are golden brown and the butter is absorbed, turn off and set aside.

In a large bowl, add cream of mushroom soup, milk  and melted butter.  DO NOT add salt.  I repeat DO NOT add salt.  Do you KNOW how much is in that soup and cheese?  OK.  Good.  Mix to combine, now add in rinsed and drained macaroni and the cubes of cheese.  Mix just until combined.

Pour into buttered 9x13 or any casserole dish it will fit in to, and smooth the top.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs like toasty, buttery rain and bake for 30-40 minutes.

There you go.  This is how my mom made baked mac and cheese.  While I make it different for my family, this turns back the clock to happy memories as a child.  I hope you enjoy as well!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Caramel Apple Dump Cake

Good evening my favorite people!  I hope this finds you all enjoying some nice fall weather and pretty colored trees!  It is definitely getting chilly here in the Midwest and I could NOT be happier if I am honest.  I am not a heat girl.  I like hot weather for a week or so, and then I am ready to not sweat and get dirty.  I prefer getting my dirty on in the.........KITCHEN.

So this cake, which may be familiar to some of you, was not, to me.  My friend "Coop", who btw, is an amazing singer.  If you are in Ohio, and you haven't driven to hear her sing at any number of Opry Houses or the like, you should.  Ask her to sing you some Patsy Cline.  You can check her out on Facebook!

You won't find a harder working, honest, mother, wife, grandmom or woman around.  She has been a friend for years, though we have never met in person we "met" on a step-parenting website probably 12 or 13 years ago!  Anyway, she had posted that her and her son, Chad were making this cake one evening.  She had me at "caramel apple".  I mean seriously, nothing can be bad if it contains those 2 ingredients.  I made her send me the recipe, and have made it twice...BUT, so have my kids, so, I don't feel so bad.

This is definitely a shortcut cake.  It uses apple pie filling and a box cake mix.  No judgement, just listen to me this time and do it.  I need to make it again, (haha, right) and dump a spoonful on top of some ice cream.  Oh yeah!  Now I was directed to dot the butter on top, but I found melting it and drizzling it on worked better for me AND, I used more than I was supposed to.  You are going to FREAK when you see the amount of butter I used but I only did it, after my son said he did it and I felt like I had to try it because, well, I mean, he can't make it better than me.  NOT going to happen.  Read me?  So freak out, if you want, you can even leave me freak out comment on my social media, I won't care because I know the joy this baby brings to her family and how good a spoonful is when you wake up in the middle of the night hungry.  I mean, IF that happens to you.  Again no judging.  HA!

Heeeere we go!

2 cans of apple pie filling
1 jar of caramel ice cream topping (I used more of this as well so about 1 cup)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 yellow cake mix
2 sticks or 1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350.  I sprayed my 9x13 pan with some nonstick cooking spray.  Dump in both cans of apple pie filling and if you are like me the entire jar of caramel sauce and cinnamon.  Mix it right in the cake pan.  Now sprinkle the yellow cake mix over the top and then carefully drizzle the butter on top of that, covering every bit of it you can.  The original called for 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter and to dot it on top.  I found melting it, just made it better for me.  Now bake for 55-60 minutes, I went a full 60 because The Real Housewives was on and I wasn't missing the last 5 minutes to grab the cake.  Priorities people.  The caramel will bubble up through the top in some places and it will be hotter than the sun, so please let it sit a good 15 minutes before you even consider how good it might be warm. 

I am not responsible for the burning off of tongue or mouth skin if you don't follow my directions.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chicken and Biscuits

Hello again!  I have been so busy, working on crafting for a couple of big shows coming up and not spending as much time in the kitchen as I need or like to.  That will be changing soon!  I promise!

I was at my son and daughter in laws the other day and decided I would test a new recipe on them.  It was a hit and among the moans and groans my grandson blurts out, "NONNA, dat mell dood"!  It was priceless.  I can't believe he and his sister will soon be 2.  I don't know where the time goes!  Wait, yes I do, it has OBVIOUSLY been walking all over my face, because what else would be leaving all of these new lines?

ANYWAY.... with the arrival of fall, is the arrival of comfort food.  It is almost like that fact that it is fall makes it OK to indulge regularly.  At least semi-regularly.  No excuse needed, it is just fall, it is what is done in the fall.  The gym?  No that is for spring and summer, fall is for comfort food!

Enjoy this as much as my family did and I hope someone in your life hollers at you and says, "MMMM, da melll DOOD"!

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
3 lg chicken breasts, cubed. uncooked
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups diced carrot
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 can of 8 over sized buttermilk biscuits

In a large pot add in your butter and oil.  When the butter has melted add in the chicken, poultry seasoning, onion powder and salt.  Stir often and cook until chicken is cooked all the way through.  This will depend on the size of your chunks of chicken but I would guess 5-7 minutes.  When it is done, remove from the pot, leaving all of the liquid behind.

Now add in your carrots, celery and onion.  Saute for about 4-5 minutes, until they are tender crisp.  We aren't going for mush, we want a little bite to them veggies, but we want to cook them so they are a bit more tender.

When they are at your desired level of tender crisp, add in flour, and stir, coating the veggies for about 1 minute.  Now add in chicken stock and cream/or half and half.  Stir to get the flour dissolved, add the chicken back in,  and bring to a boil, let simmer heavily until your mixture begins to thicken.

Pour into a greased or sprayed 9x13 pan and place your refrigerator biscuits on top.  Bake according to biscuit directions.  Let sit 5 minutes before serving.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Brownie Chews

OK, let's be honest with each other.  Some recipes are made from the best mistakes ever.  Some mistakes, turn into beautiful, chewy, decadent, better than s...well a lot of things, brownie chews.  Some recipes just do that.  Here is my story....

Many of you know we just went through a horrible life situation and while my son was in the hospital, I took a walk and found myself in the hospital gift shop.  Do hospital gift shops have the CUTEST stuff or is it just me?  I find myself actually excited to visit someone so I can go to the gift shop.  Sad.  But true.  Anyway, I needed some chocolate and FINALLY was able to pick up a bag of Sheila G's Brownie Brittle.  As it turned out I got 2 pieces while my son finished off the bag.  Undeniably, they are awesome,  really.  And while I am not a "crunchy edges" kind of girl, they were just the bomb.  (I am the chewy stuff inside girl)  So I set out to make my own version.  I didn't want to use a box brownie mix, (pats self on the back).  I found a recipe for it at  I tried this recipe, and it burned.  So the second time I tried it, I decided to experiment.  Lord help us all, because it worked.  I decided instead of double baking them, I was going to back them one time.  Their recipe calls for putting them in the oven a second time and I just didn't feel like I wanted to do that.  So I didn't.  Just thank me now if you want.  If you are the chewy stuff in the middle kind of person, just THANK ME NOW!

So while these ingredients are the same as the recipe, the method is very different and outcome is even better I think that you can imagine.  Let me share with you my happy experiment, wait, or was it an accident?

You will need:

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg white
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
 3/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
mini chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a standard size cookie sheet, by spraying with nonstick cooking spray, laying a piece of parchment over it and then spraying again with nonstick cooking spray.  OR, use a silicone mat.   (SILPAT people feel free to send me a nice one)

I melted my butter right in my mixing bowl in the micro, then add sugar and vanilla, mix until combined.  Add in your egg white, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and pinch of salt, whisk until smooth and whisk lickable.

Now pour on to your prepared pan.  Spread it out a LITTLE bit, maybe 8x11 maybe 10x12, no bigger, remember it will spread in the hot oven.

Bake for 14 minutes, remove from the oven, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, any amount you deem acceptable and let cool completely.  You can cut with a knife or use kitchen shears like I did.  They will be chewy, and perfect.  I have no more to say, just make them, please.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Grandma Smith's Meatloaf

I call her mom (OK sometimes Ethel or...OK, maybe even pirate hooker once or twice), everyone else calls her Grandma, Mema, Nana Moo, and "ama".  Let me tell you a bit about my mom.  She grew up in the town they still live in, her father the county attorney and her mother a stay home mother.  She had 2 sisters and 2 brothers, all of whom have sadly passed away.  She had a cow.  She milked it AND rode it around town.  Yes, they lived in town with a cow.  And people shake their heads at society today?!? HA!  (had to mom)  She went to school, and college, she was a ready for this?  Lingerie model for a few years, can you say HOTTIE?  Or should it be more like "scandalous"?  She fell in love with a tall, dark, handsome soldier from a foreign land, Philadelphia.  He was her boyfriends roomie in the hospital! WHAAAT?  He was stationed at the Army-Air Force base in Lincoln, NE.  She was a teacher, she intended to be a lawyer, but, life had other things in store.  Ten "other" things to be exact.  During her 82 years of life, and probably most of that as a mother, she became famous for her meatloaf.  Seriously though, I should call and make sure she isn't pregnant, the woman obviously doesn't know how it happens, and I want my info to be accurate....

Anyway, a fun little briefing on my mom.  Marlene is her name.  Actually, her name is Mary.  There was a typo on her birth certificate, and so, she is Marlene who was supposed to be Mary.  Her stripper name.......oh nvm, I forgot I wasn't going to tell that part.

Btw for anyone who is going to tell me that last comment was disrespectful, has NO idea the relationship I have with my mom.  She would shake her head and say "CAH-RIS" yes in 2 syllables and then just laugh..  So no worries.  My mom and I butt heads on a regular basis, but at the mature age of 83, even on the phone I can tell when she wants to say something, but just knows to zip up.  I do the same.  ALTHOUGH I am a bit more persistent, hopefully by the time I am her age, I will have matured.  I love her with all of my heart, and I will embarrass her, make her laugh, make her wonder if I was really switched at birth and her biological child is out there somewhere, and hug her and did I mention love her, forever!

As a kid and young adult I hated meatloaf.  I swear, if it wasn't meatloaf it was roast every Sunday.  And God bless you mom but those roasts, were so dry, even the poor bay leaf on top was screaming for a drink.  Her recipe doesn't call for ketchup but I was sure she always used to put it on top.  I also think she used to triple this recipe because there is no way one loaf pan of meatloaf would cover 12 mouths!  One of my sisters, #3, had her write her recipe out and  then gave each of us kids, a towel she had the recipe printed on.  How cool??!?!

This meatloaf has only a few ingredients, and it may be close to some of your recipes, or seem like it would be a little blah, but it has great flavor and even if it didn't, it is my moms, you better love it too!  My brother Jimmy,  dreams about this stuff, he is coming next weekend and I think I will surprise him with a meatloaf!

Easy as it is, here it is!

3 lbs ground beef (I use VERY lean since the sausage has a lot of fat)
1 lb pork sausage
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups saltine cracker crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  She says to basically mix it all together, being careful not to over mix, making the meat mixture tough.  I say saute your onions first, you do what you want.  Toss it all in a bowl, and get your hands in there, just like my mom did.  Mix to combine, place in a loaf pan and bake 1 hour.  I actually think mine took about 20 extra minutes.  Like I said I swear she used to put ketchup on top but, it isn't in the recipe.

So, from my mom's 7X10 kitchen to yours.................enjoy this special recipe that she nourished us with for years and years.  Love you ma!


PS,  Phone verification, yes, she did put ketschup on top.  I KNEW it!  I don't like it that way so, no harm over there!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

BEST Taco Salad

Let's talk taco salad.  I mean, most are about the same old same old.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE taco salad.  I have a few stipulations.  No beans, no onions and no beans, in case you already forgot.

Oh wait, HEY everyone!  How rude of me to not greet  you properly, this taco salad just gets me all confused inside, and I can't think straight.

OK, but seriously, other than my daughter in law joining our family and the beautiful twin grand littles she carried and birthed, this taco salad is right up there with the top reasons I love her so much.  She is kind and has a heart the size of Texas and all that mushy stuff to, but this salad.  Have I mentioned I LOVE her taco salad?

She made it for me yesterday.  A lot of it.  Which is exactly how much of it I ate.  This is not your ordinary taco salad, or, at least to me it isn't.  It is the BEST which is why I named it that!  It has a couple of unexpected flavors that just work beautifully.  You might think to yourself, "really, in a TACO salad??" and the answer is yes.  Just do it, try it, now!

Here is what you need:
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 head of lettuce (this will obviously vary so just close your eyes and pick one)
1 medium cucumber
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 bottle Catalina dressing
1 lg back of Nacho Doritos

Get out a large bowl, you are going to need it.  Chop your lettuce and slice your cucumber.  I like to slice the cucumber in half rounds.   Cut your tomatoes in half and toss them in as well, add in meat and combine.  Add in 1/2 cup shredded cheese and mix again.  Start adding in the Catalina dressing a little at a time until you reach the amount you think you want. (usually about 10 ozs)  Now crush up half the bag of Doritos and add them in along with the rest of the cheese.  Let chill about 2 hours before serving.  NO, it does not get soggy.  I know someone is going to ask, so just to clarify!  And don't skip the cucumbers, they are divine in this.  I think grilled chicken or ground chicken would be fantastic too!