Valentine’s Day: 3-in-1 Cake Surprise

For a special Valentine’s Day treat, a nice homemade dessert is filled with love!

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take all day.  All it takes is a cake mix, a few little ingredients you probably have on hand, and a lot of love.

Whether it’s for your sweetie, a friend, or your kids, you can create a triple surprise on a shoestring budget.  I made these little surprises for my sweetheart (my husband), and my children and grandson.  I had a red velvet cake mix which I thought would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's heart-shaped cupcakes

Valentine’s heart-shaped cupcakes

Valentine’s 3-in-1 Cake Surprise

1 Red Velvet Cake Mix (or your favorite or what you have in the pantry) – bake as directed

Ingredients as directed (3 eggs, 1 c. water, 1/3 c. oil)

1 container of prepared frosting (or homemade if you have the time!)

Directions:

Prepare 3 different pans for baking.  I used 1 8″ heart-shaped pan, 1 miniature bundt pan and a silicone heart-shaped cupcake pan.

Heart-shaped cupcake and mini-bundt pans

Heart-shaped cupcake and mini-bundt pans

Spray each pan with cooking spray and add a little flour to prevent sticking.

Mix cake batter as directed and pour some batter into each pan.  Fill up to 1/3 or 1/2 of the pan or cupcake section with batter.  If you overfill, the cakes will be rounded when you turn them over to frost.  If that does happen, just trim the excess and frost anyway!

After cooling each cake or cupcake, frost with your choice of frosting.

For my Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes, any of these flavors would work well.

——White Cream Cheese Frosting (leave white or add red food coloring)

——White Vanilla Frosting (leave white or add food coloring)

——Any kind of Chocolate frosting (after all, the Red Velvet cake is chocolate!)

1 – Frost a large heart-shaped cake and decorate as desired.  I used the chocolate fudge frosting. and added a white heart and “Luv U”.  I then sprinkled the heart with a little powdered sugar.

Heart-shaped Cake

Heart-shaped Cake

2 – Frost the heart-shaped cupcakes with small frosting hearts and red sprinkles.  I added “I-L-U” on one for my sweetie.

Valentine's Cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

Valentine’s Cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

3 – Frost the remaining mini-bundt cake with a drizzle of chocolate frosting.  I softened the frosting for 5-10 seconds in the microwave, added to a disposable piping bag, and drizzled the thinner frosting back and forth over the top of the little bundt cake.

Mini-bundt red velvet cake

Mini-bundt red velvet cake

TIP:

I used one cake mix for all three surprises, but the amount of batter from just this one cake mix could be further divided to make:

—-6 more cupcakes, or

—-1-2 more mini-bundt cakes, or

—-1 more heart-shaped cake layer to make a 2-layer cake (with slightly thinner layers)

This was a treat for Valentine’s Day, but you can use the same idea to make multiple treats for any occasion, birthday, or family gatherings.  Use any cake mix or frosting, and use your favorite pans!  An ordinary cake mix can create several special treats!

 

Snow, Beautiful Snow — Snow Cream Treat!

After such a warm winter in the mountains of North Carolina last year, we were all a little spoiled by the unusually warm weather.  We also missed out on any significant snow.  Good for safe traveling, but no chance for snowballs, snowbuilding or snow cream!

Snow Cream!

Snow Cream!

Yes, Snow Cream!  For anyone who has not tried this tasty treat, it is so easy and so  much fun for kids and adults alike!  As a child, my mother and grandmother made snow cream every winter.  We used to have several good snows each winter.  Lately, it’s been small amounts of snow every once in a while.

We used to help make snow cream in the winter and put some in the freezer to have in the summer.  It didn’t usually make it to the summer because we would raid the freezer and eat it up by spring!  When our kids were little, we made snow cream maybe once or twice a winter.  Some years there wasn’t enough snow to make it.

I save up freezer containers (which I haven’t used for the last few years!), and use a couple of large bowls to gather the snow.  Once there’s a few inches, take a large clean spoon and bowl outside and scoop in “Clean” snow.  Or, leave a couple of large bowls outside in a clean open area where clean snow can fall naturally.  Less scooping!

Snow Cream!

Large bowl of snow

Sugar or splenda (yes, splenda’s okay)

Milk, cream (evaporated milk)

Vanilla flavoring (real or imitation)

Large spoon, Freezer containers

The old original method was adding a lot of sugar and whole milk and vanilla.  Over the years, I used whatever type of milk or cream I had available.  As long as you have the vanilla and sweetener, it will all taste good!  Use your preferred sweetener, something like Splenda-type sweeteners should work.

When our kids were little, I learned to adjust to a little less sugar so they didn’t go bouncing with too much sugar!  There are no magic measurements for snow cream. You learn as you mix.  Snow must be clean, no contaminants, no sticks or leaves, etc!

If the snow is light and fluffy, it’s perfect!  It’s harder to get good snow cream if there is sleet or ice in the snow.  When gathering the snow, spoon about an inch or so above the bottom so it’s cleaner.

Setting out the bowls to gather the snow

Setting out the bowls to gather the snow

2 Bowls of snow ready to turn into snow cream

2 Bowls of snow ready to turn into snow cream

 

Don’t pack the snow, just scoop it into the bowl.  Then sprinkle on sugar.  For a large bowl, you could use about 1 cup.  If you like it sweeter, go for it!

Stir gently and quickly so the snow doesn’t melt.  Then pour a couple of teaspoons of vanilla over the top of the snow.  Pour milk a little at a time, just until the snow is the consistency you want.  It tastes great if it’s a little damp, but not melting wet.

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla into the snow

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla into the snow

We like to fill the available freezer containers first, and get them into the freezer before they melt and get soupy.  The snow cream freezes better and is easier to eat when you take it out.  Then the “chefs” get to eat what’s left in the bowl.

Snow Cream ready to eat or freeze for later!

Snow Cream ready to eat or freeze for later!

If you have a large snow, you might make several batches in a day!

Tips:

For a chocolaty treat, sprinkle a pack of hot chocolate mix and stir it into the snow.

I have seen recipes for using sweetened condensed milk. I’m sure it’s heavenly, but it may be a little difficult to stir and mix. Remember the touch of vanilla!

 

 

Family Recipe – Daddy’s Thick and Hearty Vegetable Soup

One journey finished, another started!  I have not posted in a few weeks because I have been busy shifting the focus of my life!  I have now retired as a full-time teacher and am spending my time taking care of my little grandson and my family.  Except for some part-time work, I am re-visiting my daily routines, and catching up on some cleaning and busy work I have not had time for.

Teaching and working with young children has been a blessing in my life, and my students will always have a special place in my heart.  Now we are blessed with our own little boy who needs lovin’ while his parents work, and I’m blessed to be able to provide that.

The support of my loving friend of over 32 years, my husband, has been a blessing during this transition.  Leaving behind over 32 years of students, education and training, planning, and colleagues has been harder and more emotional than I expected, and he has provided his shoulder when I needed it.

This month, for example, he has helped with dinner while I began my new job or while I was caring for the little one!  Tonight, he made his wonderful beef and veggie soup that he has made for years, and it is especially tasty on this cold winter night with a winter storm approaching!  We will have leftovers for a couple of days — it stretches out the food supplies when bad roads rule!

Hot Soup - Easy and Hearty

Hot Soup – Easy and Hearty

Perfect snowy day for a hot bowl of homemade soup!

Perfect snowy day for a hot bowl of homemade soup!

Thick and Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 to 1 lb. of lean beef (1/2″ cubes)

2 cups water

1-2 Tbl. red wine vinegar

4-5 small-medium potatoes (diced)

3 carrots (diced)

1/2 rib celery (minced)

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 cans tomato sauce

1/2 – 1 tsp. chili powder

2 cups chicken broth

1 small onion (minced)

2 green onions (diced)

1 Tbl. minced garlic (optional)

1/2 cup broken spaghetti

Boil meat and water for 5 minutes.  Skim the fat off.

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces...

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces…

Meat in the pot, skim the fat...

Meat in the pot, skim the fat…

Add vinegar and cook 1 minute.  Add the broth, vegetables and garlic.

Veggies for the soup...

Veggies for the soup…

Diced veggies

Diced veggies

Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes longer.  Let stand about 10 minutes.  After standing, add the broken spaghetti pieces.

Veggies in the pot ready to simmer for 1 hour...

Veggies in the pot ready to simmer for 1 hour…

Adding tomato sauce for final 30 minutes...

Adding tomato sauce for final 30 minutes…

Ready to serve with your favorite bread!

Ready to serve with your favorite bread!

Serve with your favorite biscuits, rolls or garlic toast. Makes enough for a family or 2-3 meals for 2!  And the leftover soup can be frozen for a later meal!

Tip:

Adjust amounts and ingredients according to taste.

Optional ingredients:

1 small green pepper (minced)

1/4 cup turnip (diced)

parsley

bay leaf

 

 

 

 

Family Recipe – Daddy’s Christmas Candy – Now the Cocoa Fudge!

Okay, my last post detailed the recipe and method my Daddy uses to make his Brown Sugar Fudge (tastes so much like pralines, my mouth waters just thinking about it!). Now I want to share his recipe for his Cocoa Fudge!  This is the deliciously chocolate fudge that is made with real cocoa powder, and can be made with or without the nuts!

Family Recipe - Daddy's Christmas Cocoa Fudge

Family Recipe – Daddy’s Christmas Cocoa Fudge

Daddy has always used pecans in his Cocoa Fudge, but I’m sure you could use walnuts or other nuts if you prefer!  He has a couple of grandchildren that also love the Cocoa fudge without the nuts, so he likes to please all of us and makes some without just for them!  It is heavenly chocolate either way!

What follows is his recipe for his Cocoa Fudge as he has made it for the last 30 or 40 years, along with the pictures he let me take while he made it this year.  I needed to watch and learn his methods, because they work!  For those of you who are practiced at making candies, this may seem easy, but to me, I needed the extra tutorials from my Daddy, even if I’m 54!

Remember, these are his little tricks and tips, including adding newspaper or some type of covering to line the stove and floor around the bubbling chocolate to make for easier clean-up!  Just make sure the cover you use is not near the hot burner! He also recommends using a long-handled spoon since this chocolate fudge can bubble and pop more than the brown sugar fudge he makes!

Cocoa Fudge

Daddy's Cocoa Fudge - Very Heavenly Chocolate!

Daddy’s Cocoa Fudge – Very Heavenly Chocolate!

3 cups sugar

2/3 cup cocoa

1/8 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

4 1/2 Tbl. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

Place buttered platter in the fridge to chill while cooking the fudge!

Place buttered platter in the fridge to chill while cooking the fudge!

Butter a large platter and place in the fridge to chill.

Add cocoa and salt to sugar in a very large cast iron pan

Add cocoa and salt to sugar in a very large cast iron pan

Mix cocoa, sugar and salt

Mix cocoa, sugar and salt

In heavy large cast iron pan, room temperature, add sugar, cocoa and salt.  Stir to combine all the dry ingredients. Use a long handled spoon to stir since the mixture will pop and splatter!

Evaporated milk added to cocoa mixture

Evaporated milk added to cocoa mixture

Add milk and stir thoroughly to combine well before placing on the stove.

Cocoa mixture will pop and splatter, so this is how Daddy covers the area to make clean-up easier.

Cocoa mixture will pop and splatter, so this is how Daddy covers the area to make clean-up easier.

Daddy recommends covering the areas of the stovetop and floor with some newspaper to make the splatter clean-up easier.  This fudge can boil and splatter over a foot away!  You might want to put the newspaper on the floor and foil on the stovetop around the burner area.  Make sure no flammable material is near the actual hot burner.

Stirring the fudge!

Stirring the fudge!

Heat over medium heat (Daddy uses “6” of 9 setting) bringing to a boil and stirring constantly.  Do not leave the mixture!

First steps of stirring constantly

First steps of stirring constantly

The cocoa mixture can scorch a little on the bottom of the pan, but will be fine, just don’t scrape it up off the bottom. It will expand to the top of the large pan while boiling and then decrease again when it is almost ready.

Keep stirring! Filling up the pan!

Keep stirring! Filling up the pan!

Check for soft ball stage...

Check for soft ball stage…

 

Continue stirring until it reaches the soft ball stage.  As in the brown sugar recipe, have a cup of water nearby to test when the fudge is ready to cool.

Fudge settled back down and about ready to cool.

Fudge settled back down and about ready to cool.

Fudge is ready to set off the heat and cool...

Fudge is ready to set off the heat and cool…

When it reaches soft ball stage, remove from the heat and place on protected counter to cool.  Add the butter and vanilla and let mixture cool until able to stir and it starts to thicken.

Add butter and vanilla and let sit...Do not stir yet!

Add butter and vanilla and let sit…Do not stir yet!

Remove chilled buttered platter from the fridge and set it near the pan of cooling fudge.

Stir quickly and pour (nuts or no nuts!).

Stir quickly and pour (nuts or no nuts!).

Pour cocoa fudge onto chilled buttered platter!

Pour cocoa fudge onto chilled buttered platter!

 

If adding nuts, make sure they are at room temperature so the mixture doesn’t cool too quickly. Stir nuts into the fudge and pour quickly onto the platter. If not adding nuts. Just stir the butter and vanilla into the fudge and pour out onto the platter.

Cool fudge until ready to slice into squares and store in covered container!

Cool fudge until ready to slice into squares and store in covered container!

Let the fudge cool until able to cut into squares. Don’t wait until it is completely cool, because it will be too hard to cut!  My father uses a sharp buttered knife to make cutting easier.  Place pieces into a covered container and enjoy!

See last post for Pecan Panocha (Brown Sugar Fudge) for more tips and the similar process to this fudge process.

 

Family Recipes – Daddy’s Christmas Candy – Brown Sugar Fudge and Cocoa Fudge

Every year at Christmas time, our Daddy makes his Brown Sugar Fudge and Cocoa Fudge. The brown sugar fudge, called Panocha, is a praline flavor fudge and if you love pralines of any kind, this is the fudge for you!  You could probably leave out the pecans and make a brown sugar fudge, but these are really good!

The chocolate fudge uses real cocoa, and can be made with or without pecans or other nuts. We have some in the family that like plain chocolate and some that love the nuts, so our Daddy, “Granddaddy”-“AnDaddy”, has always tried to make special batches for each.

Brown Sugar Fudge - slicing and preparing to eat!

Brown Sugar Fudge – slicing and preparing to eat!

He is a husband of 57 years, a father of 2 girls, grandfather to 4 grandkids and their significant others, and now great-grandfather to a baby boy. He’s a very busy man, though retired, continues to work in his family business, and still makes time for his family, trying to do special things for all of us.

Just before Christmas, he spends a day or two making several “runs” of fudge candy and packs it into Christmas tins and containers, labeled for all the kids and grandkids. He passes it out on Christmas Eve, and we have it to enjoy as long as it lasts!

Recently I tried to make his fudge from his recipes and it didn’t turn out well, so he let me watch and take photos of his process so I could really see how to do it right!  It really isn’t that hard, but his tips really helped to know “when” to take the next steps. Following is the recipe for the Pecan Panocha Fudge along with pictures of him, his fudge, his process, and his tips!  I enjoyed spending this special time with my parents, even if I am only 54!

Happy Cooking!   Next blog post:   Cocoa Fudge

Pecan Panocha Brown Sugar Fudge Recipe

Pecan Panocha – Brown Sugar Fudge Recipe

Pecan Panocha  (Brown Sugar Fudge) 

1 box (3 cups) light brown sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

2 Tbl. butter

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (room temperature!)

Large Cast Iron Skillet, large buttered platter, long handled stirring spoon

Large platter, buttered to receive the final fudge

Large platter, buttered to receive the final fudge

Before beginning, take a small amount of butter and coat a large platter where the final fudge will cool and be sliced. Place the platter in the fridge to cool while fudge is cooking.

Ingredients ready for Brown Sugar Fudge

Ingredients ready for Brown Sugar Fudge

Pouring evaporated milk into brown sugar

Pouring evaporated milk into brown sugar

Brown sugar mixture on cool stove, then turn to medium heat and stir constantly until ready. Do Not leave alone!

Brown sugar mixture on cool stove, then turn to medium heat and stir constantly until ready. Do Not leave alone!

In a cool heavy pan (cast iron), dump brown sugar and pour in evaporated milk. Stir until blended evenly, then place on stove.

Brown sugar and milk, stirring constantly, starting to bubble

Brown sugar and milk, stirring constantly, starting to bubble

Bubbling, getting closer, but not yet....

Bubbling, getting closer, but not yet….

 

 

Spoon - halfway through, not ready yet, keep stirring!

Spoon – halfway through, not ready yet, keep stirring!

Stir continually over medium heat (Daddy places it on “6” of 9). This process of stirring and bubbling takes several minutes until the mixture reaches “soft ball” stage.

Just about ready, check for soft ball stage

Just about ready, check for soft ball stage

If you are familiar with candy making and candy thermometers, you understand. If not (Daddy doesn’t use one), continue stirring until the candy coats the spoon more evenly and when dropped into cup of cold water, forms a soft ball of candy. Daddy tests it 2-3 times to make sure it is ready.

Drop a little into a cup of cold water to see if it creates a little lump or ball...

Drop a little into a cup of cold water to see if it creates a little lump or ball…

Touch with fingers to see if the candy is forming.....it will still be soft....

Touch with fingers to see if the candy is forming…..it will still be soft….

 

At that point, take off the heat and set on a heat proof counter. Slice butter into smaller piece and drop onto the candy, but DO NOT stir.

Ready to set off the heat.

Ready to set off the heat.

Cooling, with butter, NO stirring...

Cooling, with butter, NO stirring…

 

While the candy is cooling, chop nuts if not already done. Make sure they are at room temperature so they do not cool the candy too quickly when mixed.

Cooled enough to stir with butter, set out the chilled platter and be ready to pour!

Cooled enough to stir, set out the chilled platter and be ready to pour!

 

Let sit until cooled slightly, add vanilla to the butter and fudge, and you are ready to stir the butter and vanilla into the candy. It should not be too runny.

Stir with butter and vanilla....

Stir with butter and vanilla….

Add pecans, stir quickly to pour onto platter.

Add pecans, stir quickly to pour onto platter.

Pour and spoon fudge onto chilled buttered platter.

Pour and spoon fudge onto chilled buttered platter.

When fudge is starting to cool, but still “stirrable”, stir in the chopped nuts and quickly pour out onto chilled platter and spread to make an even layer. Done! Let cool slightly until you can score or cut pieces of fudge. If you wait too long, it will be hard to cut. Store fudge in covered container.

Fudge on the platter, ready to cool for a few minutes.

Fudge on the platter, ready to cool for a few minutes.

Slice fudge with buttered sharp knife, while still slightly pliable, before it is too hard to cut.

Slice fudge with buttered sharp knife, while still slightly pliable, before it is too hard to cut.

Tip: Daddy uses a buttered sharp knife to slice the fudge into cubes.

Enjoy!!!!

Next Post:    Daddy’s Cocoa Fudge (with or without nuts!)

 

Family Recipe – Holiday Cranberry Surprises – Salad and Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Cranberries!  One of those foods that we love to use around the holidays, and seem to forget the rest of the year!

I forget about them until I need a dish to take to a gathering or lunch meeting.  Then the first dish I think about is the one I found by accident while looking through a collection of recipes.  It was one of those books of recipes made by a church or community that I don’t even have anymore.  Among the congealed type salads, with mostly fruit, nuts, maybe cream cheese, I saw a salad that combined cream cheese, pecans, whipped cream and cranberries!

I thought it was too good to be true, but it has a great combination of flavors that I look forward to every year. As a teacher and for family reunions, I have had lunch meetings, pot-luck meals, where I needed to find some kind of dish to take that wasn’t chips and dip or mac and cheese.  We were all trying to eat healthier, but wanted something tasty and festive for the holidays.

I have adapted this recipe a little, using low-fat options where possible, and a sugar substitute. Still tastes fantastic!  And it looks colorful and pretty, too!  And as a special treat, I use a little of the cranberry in my blender to make a Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie!  For more smoothie ideas, check out my post Healthy Smoothies from 6-3-2013!   Enjoy!

Cranberry Surprise Salad

2 bags of cranberries (rinse and discard stems and bad berries!)

1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute (I use Splenda-type sweetener)

1 small can crushed pineapple (drained)

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 8 oz. block softened cream cheese (low-fat Neufchatel works fine!)

1/2 tub low-fat (or no-fat) whipped topping

 

Rinse and pick through cranberries.

Rinse and pick through cranberries.

Rinse cranberries and check for stems and bad or soft cranberries. They should be hard and firm. Place good cranberries in blender or food processor (I have a Ninja that works well).  Pulse a few times just until cranberries are chopped, but not pureed.  Place the cranberries in a bowl with sugar or sugar substitute. Stir and let sit for a few minutes to let the sugar create a little juice.

Rough chop in blender.

Rough chop in blender.

Crushed pineapple, cream cheese, and whipped cream

Crushed pineapple, cream cheese, and whipped cream

Cream cheese and pineapple in.....Then add pecans and whipped cream!

Cream cheese and pineapple in…..Then add pecans and whipped cream!

 

 

Add softened cream cheese, pineapple that has been drained, and pecans.  Stir until well blended with cranberries.  Then stir in the whipped cream.  Cover the bowl and chill in refrigerator overnight or a few hours until the cream cheese and whipped cream have firmed up a little and flavors have blended.

Finished Cranberry Pecan Salad ready to take to holiday gatherings!

Finished Cranberry Pecan Salad ready to take to holiday gatherings!

Extras:

1.   If you have extra time and want to make individual hand-held treats, place a spoonful of cranberry salad into bought bite-sized pastry shells.

2.  Now that I have made this for over 20 years, I add extra pecans, less sugar, less whipped cream, and adapt to my tastes.  Still tastes wonderful!

3.  While making today’s salad, I realized I wanted a smoothie, so I held out about 1/3 cup of the chopped cranberries and used them as the base for my smoothie!  Ingredients follow:

Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Chopped cranberries, banana, yogurt, base for Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie!

Chopped cranberries, banana, yogurt, base for Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie!

1/3 cup chopped cranberries

1 banana

1 cup vanilla light soy milk

1/2 cup Greek vanilla yogurt

1/3 cup blueberries

1/3 cup frozen spinach

Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Place all in blender and mix!  Ready to enjoy!

More Smoothie Recipes on my post from 6-3-2013 – Healthy Smoothies!           .

 

 

 

 

 

Family Recipes – Grandma’s Fruit Cobbler – Rhubarb or Blackberry

When my father-in-law was growing up, he was surrounded by a large extended family. His genuinely strong sweet mother raised him to be a caring family man. She had a large family and they spent a lot of time with her sisters and brothers.  He remembers many visits to his Aunt Elsie’s home when he was a child. He visited and played with cousins while his mom (our “Grandma”) would visit with her brother and sister-in-law.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, they grew food on their farm, including rhubarb. When they visited Aunt Elsie, she always tried to make a rhubarb cobbler for her nephew. Closer to home, his mom, my husband’s Grandma, made cobblers with rhubarb and other fruits that were available or in season. It was a special treat when they had fruit.

Grandma continued cooking and baking until she was near 90, and when she passed away at the age of 91, I began to hear more stories of the special memories Dad had of his times with his mom and aunt.  Loving rhubarb myself (my grandmother also grew rhubarb), I began making the rhubarb cobbler for the family reunion and other times of the year. I was blessed to know Grandma for 12 years, and she immediately loved me as one of her own. I learned many recipes from her, but more importantly how she lived so honestly and unselfishly.

This recipe for Rhubarb Cobbler can be used with any fruit, fresh or frozen. If using frozen fruit, let it thaw so your baking time is about the same and the fruit is completely cooked.

Baked until bubbly and golden brown! Ready to serve!

Grandma’s Fruit Cobbler – Rhubarb or other favorite fruit!

 

Rhubarb Cobbler – or Blackberry, Peach, Strawberry, Berry, or Apple

Chopped Rhubarb (3-5 cups) – or other favorite fruit

1 cup sugar or splenda-type baking sugar substitute

Pats of Butter (I use 2-3 tablespoons)

1 cup biscuit mix (like Bisquick)

1/2 cup milk (adjust to make thinner than biscuit dough)

Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.  Mix rhubarb with sugar or sugar substitute (more or less to taste).  Let the mixture sit for 30-60 minutes. If fruit is frozen, let sit longer until fruit is not frozen and has created a little juice.  Place in casserole baking dish (sprayed with cooking spray) and cover with pats of butter. Mix biscuit mix and milk to make a crust batter and spoon on the top. Leave some space to allow juice butter to bubble up in the crust. Bake until crust is browned and rhubarb (fruit) is bubbly.

 

 

Blackberries ready to top and bake...

Blackberries ready to top and bake…

Top fruit with pats of butter...

Top fruit with pats of butter…

Top with dough made with biscuit mix and milk....

Top with dough made with biscuit mix and milk….

Baked until bubbly and golden brown! Ready to serve!

Baked until bubbly and golden brown! Ready to serve!

When rhubarb is back in season, I’ll update with photos of the actual rhubarb cobbler!

TIPS:

*Rhubarb can be hard to find, so you have to check with produce staff at grocery stores to see if they are getting any in. Check for the rhubarb to be crisp and not soft. The thinner stalks of rhubarb are usually the most tart. I like to use a combination of thick and thin stalks so the cobbler is not too tart for others. But if you like the very tart taste (I do!), you can decrease the sugar and add more rhubarb, especially thinner stalks.

*My grandmother used to make a rhubarb-strawberry cobbler, which combines the tart and sweet flavors. Just as berries can be mixed for a tasty cobbler, you can experiment with fruit mixtures you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Recipes – Mama’s Scalloped Tomatoes

One thing I have not had the time to do is create a family garden, other than a few porch containers where I have tried over the years to grow a few favorites. Mostly herbs like basil and sage were successful, but the tomatoes I have tried in various containers and methods, just haven’t cooperated with me.

I know I have not been good at the consistent watering, or how much to water. I like to blame crazy weather patterns that either steal the moisture (drought in the summers) or flood with unnecessary rain water (definitely this last year!). No matter how I water, there is either a drought or a flood on the tomatoes and other plants, so they don’t grow well or for long!

I love tomatoes and have always loved salads and dishes with tomatoes. As children, my sister and I used to help my father grow several vegetables in our family garden, including a few tomatoes. We grew up eating a variety of vegetables, and our mother has always been a great cook, and prepared vegetable dishes for every supper.

One of the only “casserole” type dishes that my father liked, and one that I still love today was the Scalloped Tomatoes that my mother made. This baked dish only had one main ingredient, the diced tomatoes, and the rest was seasoning and topping. This is the dish that I make now just for me (my husband’s not a fan of tomatoes), and I have enough leftovers for a couple of days. It’s a great lunch just on its own, or as a side dish for supper. And of course, it’s quick and easy!

When I had an abundance of tomatoes and squash, I realized that the squash would be a great addition, so I added equal parts of tomatoes and squash and prepared the same dish. It was better than I expected. I like squash casseroles, too, but this was a nice light dish with just the tomatoes, squash and seasonings and topping. Perfect without being too heavy.

Mama’s Scalloped Tomatoes

2 cans diced tomatoes ( or 3-4 freshly diced tomatoes)

2 slices of buttered toasted bread (or) 1 cup bread crumbs

1 small chopped onion

1/4/ cup sugar (or equivalent sweetener like Splenda)

2 Tbl. flour

Mix tomato, onion, flour and sugar.  Top with buttered bread (that has been cut into cubes) or bread crumbs.  Bake in 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.

Important tips:

***The butter from the toasted bread adds a lot of the great flavor, so if you are using panko or other bread crumbs, I would suggest you add a little melted butter before topping the tomatoes.

***The amount of tomatoes (especially if using fresh) is flexible, up to you. Just remember to add the flour, and adjust accordingly if you have especially juicy tomatoes!  The flour helps to thicken the tomato juice and it’s pretty thin if you don’t add enough flour or thickener. Still tastes good, though!

***I had leftover garlic toast from the previous night, so I cubed up 2 pieces of garlic bread and used that to top the scalloped tomato mixture. Tasted fantastic!  I may start adding that regularly!

Family Recipe - Mama's Scalloped Tomatoes (with Squash)

Family Recipe – Mama’s Scalloped Tomatoes (with Squash)

For the Scalloped Tomatoes and Squash:

2 diced tomatoes (or 2 cans of diced tomatoes)

2 diced squash

1 small onion (chopped)

2 slices buttered toasted bread (or) bread crumbs

1/4 cup sugar or equivalent

2 Tbl. flour

Mix tomatoes, squash, onion, flour and sugar. Top as before with buttered toast (cubed pieces) or bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.

 

 

Family Recipe – Sausage or Bacon Overnight Casserole

Time for the holidays!  And no time to spare!  Whether it is Christmas morning, a morning when you have guests to feed, or just a morning you want to relax and eat well, this is a great way to do the prep work the night before.

Throw a few items in a bowl, and let it sit overnight to absorb the milk and flavors, then pop in the oven the next morning.  Job done!  These are two versions of the overnight sausage casserole that has spread like wildfire over the last few years and is so simple to create and make yours!

I was first introduced to this sausage casserole when we travelled to visit good friends for the weekend. My best friend and I were talking for hours, and she browned the sausage and mixed the dish while we had a chance to visit.  The next morning, all she had to do was put it in the oven and we had more time to chat and catch up.

Baked until golden brown. Ready to serve!

Sausage Casserole.  Ready to serve!

For many years, my sister has spent part of her Christmas Eve preparing two versions of the casserole and brings them to bake at my parent’s home when we all gather Christmas morning. She doesn’t have to cook on Christmas morning, but she provides a wonderful feast for the whole family! And it’s pretty big family now!

These are our 2 different versions of the same dish, and it is easy to adapt to your own preferences and tastes.

Sausage Overnight Casserole  (serves up to 4 or 5)

5-6 slices of bread (white or wheat)diced into cubes

1 lb. ground sausage (I like sage flavored)

5-6 eggs

1 cup milk or cream (your preference)

1 Tbl. mustard

1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to your taste (I usually add a sprinkle of pepper, but no salt)

Spray bottom of baking dish (9 x 13 or approximate) with cooking spray. Brown sausage and drain grease. In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, mustard, pepper.  Add cheese and bread cubes and stir gently to combine. Add slightly cooled sausage slowly and stir to mix. Pour into baking dish and cover with foil. Place in the fridge until the next morning.

Bowl with eggs, milk, mustard, bread and cheese

Bowl with eggs, milk, mustard, bread and cheese

Brown and drain sausage

Brown and drain sausage

Stir in sausage.

Stir in sausage and cover until the morning.

 

Before baking, let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes to bring to room temperature. Bake covered for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Then uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes until top is nicely golden brown. Ready to serve!

Baked until golden brown. Ready to serve!

Baked until golden brown. Ready to serve!

This version is the one my sister makes with sausage or bacon! The bacon version is amazing!

Sausage (or Bacon) Casserole  (my sister’s recipe)

6-8 slices of bread (crusts removed)

2 lbs. sausage (or bacon)

6-7 eggs

salt and pepper

1 pint half/half

1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican style flavor)

Spray bottom of 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Layer slices of bread in bottom of pan.  Brown and drain sausage and layer on top of the bread.  Mix eggs and half and half, with salt and pepper to taste, and pour over sausage and bread.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and place in refrigerator overnight.  Before baking the next morning, let sit for 15 minutes bringing to room temperature. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tips:  For either version, adjust baking times depending on different amounts or ingredients. I sometimes only use 1/2 lb. of sausage or add extra cheese.

 

 

Hot Apple Cider

During family get togethers, one of the hardest things to do is make time to visit with family, and not be totally consumed with cooking and making sure the table is ready, food is ready on time, and everyone has something to drink.

I like to make sure everyone has something they like, so I found that most of our family loves hot apple cider.  Our son was born in the winter (on my birthday!), and our daughter was born a week before Christmas!  Two wonderful blessings!  Every year, for birthday parties or Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, I pulled out my crock pot, and had a great hot cider ready to serve and making the house smell amazing!

This hot cider recipe can be put on 2-3 hours before you have guests coming, or let it simmer all day!  There are other combinations out there, but this has been a staple for us to serve, and it is so relaxing on a cold winter’s day!

Hot Apple Cider

1 gallon apple cider

1 red apple

10-20 whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

Set the crock pot on high, and simmer the following ingredients for 2-3 hours, then on low for the rest of the day while serving guests.  Pour cider into crock pot, leaving enough room to place the apple. Place whole cloves in the apple, and add to the cider.  Place cinnamon sticks into the cider and heat.

Crock Pot Hot Apple Cider

Crock Pot Hot Apple Cider

After cooling completely, save any leftover cider in the fridge and you can heat a cup at a time for yourself the next day.