Recipe: Valentine’s Blondies

I made these blondies for our Valentine’s photo shoot and they are so good, I had to pass along the recipe from Baked Perfection. So good, so easy. I made only two changes. I used an 8.5″ x 11″ pan. I also let them cool slightly, then cut them with a heart cookie cutter. Yum-o.

Brown Sugar Blondies

adapted from Allrecipes.com

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup to 1 1/3 cup M&M’s

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

 Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Melt 1/3 cup butter. Add 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar and mix well. Cool slightly. Add egg (beaten) and vanilla and blend well. Add flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing well. Mix in 2/3 cup M&M’s. Spread in 9 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Sprinkle 1/3 to 2/3 cup M&M’s on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Store in airtight container at room temperature.


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Recipe: Popcorn Marshmallow Balls

The popcorn marshmallow balls that I made for our New Year’s Eve Block Party were so good, and so easy, that I wanted to share the recipe with you. I wish I could take credit for it, but that goes to Kori H. who submitted the recipe to AllRecipes.com. I did a few things differently, so here is my take on the recipe.

Popcorn Marshmallow Balls

Ingredients

  • Bag of microwave popcorn
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 5 cups miniature marshmallows (this is less than one bag)
Directions
  1. Pop the popcorn.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
  3. Stir in marshmallows and cook until melted, stirring constantly.
  4. Add popcorn to melted marshmallows and mix with spoon to coat evenly.
  5. Let mixture cool slightly.
  6. Smear butter on your hands or spray with non-stick cooking spray and form popcorn into balls.
I made my popcorn balls on the small side and added a popsicle stick to make them easier to eat. Yield: 15 popcorn balls.
Enjoy! Jennifer

Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning and Christmas Day Menus

Every year, I get my December issue of Southern Living and see terrific new recipes to try for Christmas, and I never make them. I just keep coming back to these menus because they are reliable and I can do much of the work ahead of time. Everyone likes them, so why mess with success?

Here are the menus and recipes or links to recipes.

Christmas Eve Menu

  • Ritz Carlton Turkey
  • Pecan Cranberry Wild Rice
  • Strawberry Salad
  • Allen’s Green Beans (open the can and heat on the stove)
  • Bread
  • Red Wine
  • Pecan Pie
  • Vanilla Ice Cream

Christmas Morning Menu

  • Paula Deen French Bread Casserole (Three notes: 1 – I don’t do the extra syrup because this is plenty sweet without syrup. 2 – There also is a “light” version if you are horrified by the calorie count. I say just don’t look at the calories once a year. 3. Use the super skinny French bread because it’s easier to completely cover with the cream mixture.)
  • Leftover strawberries
  • Bacon
  • Mimosas (OK, I’ve never actually made Christmas morning mimosas, but a girl can dream.)

Christmas Day Menu

  • Lasagne
  • Caesar Salad
  • Leftover Bread
  • Leftover Wine
  • Leftover Pie

Here are the recipes.

Ritz Carlton Atlanta Slow Cooker Turkey

(I have modified this one slightly. It’s a favorite and we also make it at the beach. LOVE this turkey, especially because you can put it in the Crock Pot in the afternoon, go to Christmas Eve services and come back to dinner already made.)

1 boneless turkey breast, about 5 pounds

Coarse salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Madeira wine

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon honey

Remove netting from turkey and rinse turkey. Cut off excess skin. Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Place plastic liner in oval slow cooker. Place breast side up in slow cooker. Pour Madeira over the turkey; add onion, thyme, garlic and honey. Seal with lid and cook on high heat for 3 to 4 hours, turning once.

Remove turkey to a cutting board and drape with tin foil. Let turkey rest before slicing. Pour broth into a fat separator or remove grease with a spoon. Strain the broth into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

When ready to serve, thinly slice the turkey, then spoon Pecan Wild Rice onto the plate. Place turkey on top of rice and spoon over some of the reserved warm broth. Serve immediately. (It was suggested that you serve with Persimmon Creek Riesling, $22.99.)

Ritz Carlton Atlanta Pecan Wild Rice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups cooked white rice, such as basmati

1-1/2 cups cooked wild rice

1 cup chopped pecans

1/4 dried cranberries (optional: add apricots and currants also)

Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat until melted. Add rice, wild rice, pecans and dried fruit. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serves six. You could make this ahead of time and reheat it.

Lasagne

For lasagne, I just follow the recipe on the back of the Barilla no-boil lasagne noodle box, but I make my own sauce. Here’s the recipe.

Spaghetti Sauce
1 28 oz can tomato sauce (I use Hunt’s w/o Italian spices)
1 can tomato paste (again, Hunt’s, no Italian spices)
1/2 medium to large Vidalia onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t basil
1/4 t thyme
1 bay leaf
1 t garlic, diced
splash of Worcestershire sauce
splash of cooking wine (or the real stuff)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Over medium heat, in large skillet (that you can cover) or pot, saute onion in olive oil til onion begins to brown. Add meat and brown, segmenting meat as you go. Pour off grease. Add tomato sauce, most of tomato paste, and then all other ingredients.Turn heat to low, cover, and stir periodically.

Jack Daniel’s Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

Pecan pie with a kick. Warn your tee-totaling family members.

3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup dark corn syrup

¼ cup whiskey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1 cup whole pecans

1 10-inch pie crust

Combine eggs, sugar, butter, syrup, vanilla and whiskey. Mix well, then strain. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the bottom of the unbaked pie crust; cover with pecans. Pour filling over chips and pecans. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out clean. Set aside for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Shopping List
My favorite part of using the same recipes each year is that I don’t have to make a new shopping list. Please note: this list assumes you have staples like spices on hand.
  • White rice
  • Wild rice
  • Dried cranberries
  • Chopped pecans (2 cups)
  • Whole pecans
  • Vanilla
  • Red wine
  • Madeira
  • Honey
  • Evaporated milk
  • Eggs (2 dozen)
  • Brown sugar
  • Dark Kayro syrup
  • Light Kayro syrup
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Stick butter unsalted
  • 5 lb. boneless turkey breast
  • Vidalia onion – 2
  • Red onion
  • Dinner bread
  • Refrigerated pie crusts (the kind you unroll) – 2 packages
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Jack Daniel’s whiskey
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Allen’s green beans
  • Arugula or bag of spring mix lettuce
  • Sliced sugared almonds or chopped walnuts (for strawberry salad)
  • Strawberries
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 lb. sweet potatoes
  • 1.5 lb. Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Half & Half (2 cups)
  • Heavy cream (3 cups)
  • Loaf French bread
  • Bread crumbs
  • 28 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 pound hamburger
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Barilla no-boil lasagne noodles
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Home Made Easy Bake Oven Cake Mix & Mason Jar Packaging

There will be an Easy Bake Oven under our Christmas tree this year. It is one of those toys I always coveted as a child and I’m excited to be able to give it to Grace, who loves to cook and bake. And while I got a good deal on the new oven, I had to draw the line at the $6 mixes for itty bitty cakes. Thank goodness for Google because there are PLENTY of DIY Easy Bake Oven recipes out there.

So last night I made up several batches: Jeweled Tea Cake, Cookies & Cream Cake, Pretty in Pink Cake, French Vanilla Cake and Lemon Cake (not pictured). (Can you tell that Grace is not a fan of chocolate? I have no idea what’s up with that.)

I packaged the mixes in the smallest canning jars I could find (half-pint size). Then I topped each jar with a 6.5 inch circle of fabric cut with pinking sheers. (There is no magic to the 6.5 inch size; it’s just the diameter of my smallest mixing bowl that I used to trace the circle.) A little ribbon and a tag made in Word using the font “Sweetheart Script” and I was done.

Some of the recipes say to combine some of the dry ingredients, add a liquid, and then add the rest of the dry ingredients. I just ignored all that, combined all my dry ingredients, and am guessing that will be just fine for Easy Bake Oven purposes.

I believe I paid $7 for the jars and $2 for the ribbon; everything else I had. So, total cost =$9 for five mixes instead of $30. Go me!

The sites I used for my recipes are Squiddo.com and Budget101.com. Here are the recipes I used.

French Vanilla Cake

6 tablespoons flour

4 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons shortening

3 tablespoons French vanilla pudding; mix only

Frosting of choice

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Add vanilla extract, milk and shortening. Stir until batter is smooth. Add pudding mix. Pour batter into two greased and floured Easy-Bake Oven cake pans. Bake each layer in Easy-Bake Oven for 12 – 15 minute or until sides separate from pan. Remove cake and cool. Makes 2 layers.

Source: http://www.squidoo.com/Easy-Bake-Oven-1

Pretty in Pink Cake

5 tablespoons cake flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 teaspoons red sugar crystals

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

8 teaspoons milk

Stir together cake flour, baking powder, salt, red sugar, vanilla, oil and milk until the batter is smooth and pink. Pour 3 tablespoons of batter into a greased and floured Easy-Bake Oven cake pan. Bake in Easy-Bake Oven about 15 minutes. Repeat for second layer. Makes 2 layers.

Source: http://www.squidoo.com/Easy-Bake-Oven-1

Children’s Lemon Cake Mix #2

1 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon Kool-Aid

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Spoon 1/4 mixture into about 12 sandwich bags. Zip it up and store it on the shelf in the pantry. It will keep for about 6 months. To make a cake: Mix 1 package of mix with 1 tablespoon of water. Stir well until smooth. Bake in greased pan in Easy Bake Oven until slightly brown.

Source: http://www.budget101.com/frugal/easy-bake-oven-mixes-187/

Oreo Cookies & Cream Cake

6 tablespoons flour

4 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons shortening

3 tablespoons Oreo Cookies ‘N Creme Pudding; (mix only)

1 teaspoon coconut; shredded

Frosting of choice

Grease and flour Easy-Bake Oven pan. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Add vanilla extract, milk and shortening. Stir until smooth. Add pudding mix. Pour into Easy-Bake Oven cake pan. Bake each layer 12 to 15 minutes or until sides separate from side of pan.

Source: http://www.squidoo.com/Easy-Bake-Oven-1

Jeweled Tea Cakes Mix

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons margarine

4 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoon multi-colored cookie decorations

Mash together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and margarine until dough looks like medium-sized crumbs. Slowly mix in the milk. Form dough into a loose ball and divide it into 4 pieces with a spoon. Place a few dough pieces on greased sheet or pan. Sprinkle with cookie decorations over the top of the dough and push them in with your fingers. Bake 20 minutes. Makes 4 tea cakes.

Source: http://www.budget101.com/frugal/easy-bake-oven-mixes-187/

Recipe: Spiced Almonds

I’m always on the hunt for Christmas food gifts that mail well. These spiced almonds fit the bill. I’ve made them for years and *think* the recipe originally came from an advertisement for Season-All Seasoned Salt. Yum.

(And by the way, have you picked up a copy of Better Homes and Garden’s Food Gifts? Great photos and 150 holiday food and packaging ideas. I can’t stop looking at it.)

1 large egg (white part only)

3 cups whole almonds

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Allspice

1/2 teaspoon Season-All Seasoned Salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Beat egg white until foamy. Add almonds, tossing to coat. In a small bowl, combine spices, then toss with almonds to coat.

Spread almonds in a single layer on baking sheet well-greased with Crisco. Bake in 250 degree oven for 1 hour. Cool slightly and break apart. Cool completely and store in airtight container.

Recipes: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here’s a freebie for you: a recipe from our Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Party Plan. (To purchase the plan for just $19, visit our Etsy shop.)

My mother makes these each fall and they are coveted by all. (I believe my brother still receives a batch in a care package at least once a year.)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups (1 can) pumpkin

2 cups sugar

1 cup Wesson oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup golden raisins

Mix all ingredients together. Drop onto cookie sheet. Bake each batch at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cookies will be soft and cake-like. Yield: 8 dozen.

Recipes: Grandma’s Apple Pie

Hands down, Grandma’s best. I’ve seen many apple pie recipes that are more involved, but why mess with simple perfection?

Grandma’s Apple Pie

4 cups sliced apples

1 cup sugar

5 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 pie crusts

Line pie plate with pastry. Mix sugar, flour and cinnamon together and sprinkle about two tablespoons on bottom of crust. Mix remaining flour, sugar and cinnamon with apples, coating apples thoroughly. Put apple mixture in bottom crust, being sure that apples are evenly distributed and are lying flat around the edges. Apply top crust that has been slotted four or five times.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees until done, 35 to 40 minutes.

Grandma’s Pie Crust

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup butter-flavor Crisco

¼ cup boiling water

1 tablespoon milk

Sift flour and salt. Blend with Crisco until small lumps appear. Poke holes in dry ingredients and add water and milk. Mix until dough forms a ball and sides of bowl are clean. Quickly knead dough slightly and divide in half. Roll out each half between sheets of lightly floured wax paper. Makes two pie crusts.

Recipes: Hot Apple Cider

Perfect for warming up in the fall or with Thanksgiving dinner. (And if you haven’t tried the FREE Instagram app on your iPhone, it’s tons of fun to try out the filters on your mobile photos.)

Spiced Cider

2 quarts apple cider

1 quart cranberry juice

2 – 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 lemon, sliced

4 tablespoons brown sugar

Pour cider and juice in percolator. Place remaining ingredients in basket and perk.

Recipes: Grandma’s Apple Cake

Here in Georgia, we’ve entered apple season. Our family will be heading soon to Ellijay to pick our own apples. And when we come home, the girls and I will make my Grandmother’s apple cake recipe. Enjoy!

Grandma’s Fresh Apple Cake

Mix and beat until smooth:

1 ¼ cup Wesson oil

2 cup sugar

2 eggs

Stir into above mixture:

3 cups chopped apples (about 3 apples) – I use Granny Smith (the green ones)

1 cup walnuts

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Sift together:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

Stir flour mixture into batter in four or five portions. The batter is extremely thick and you may find it difficult to use a hand mixer except for beating the eggs, sugar and oil.

Spoon batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours. Let cool thoroughly before removing from pan. This is a rich, moist cake and needs no frosting.

(Florence Albers Williams and me, 1970)