Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Message From the Principal

Sometimes I get busy with what's going on in my house and in my head and totally miss things around me that signal change. For example, I'm so disappointed when I miss the awesome sight of my neighbor's ginkgo tree on the day it drops its lovely leaves. I'm also sad when I look up and realize I took no notice when the hummingbirds stopped coming to the feeder and flew away to the south.

Some signs of change make themselves known more abruptly, though. Yesterday I opened my email and read the weekly update from the school principal. He said starting Monday students can no longer wear shorts to school; long pants are required until spring. Really? Is it fall already? Obviously the answer is yes, because when I opened the front door to make the search for my morning newspaper, a gust of cold air hit me smack in the face. I hustled to the end of the driveway to retrieve the paper, and I'm sure my lips must have already been beginning to turn blue before I could get back inside. Checking the weather online, I found that today's low temperature is only 44 degrees. The principal was right -- kids, wear your long pants on Monday.

Well, now I've seen the signs, and I know what they mean. The beginning of cooler weather means making chili at our house. Chili comes in many different forms, and sometimes folks vehemently disagree on how a great pot of chili should be made. We have our own personal preferences, and I'd like to share a few of my favorite recipes today to kick off our cooler weather. If the weather is changing where you live, perhaps one of these could become your favorite too.

Playoff Chili (recipe here)

Savage Chili (recipe here)

Beef and Black Bean Chili (recipe here)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gingerbread Loaf (Starbucks copy)

Trying to make something that tastes just like a favorite food at a restaurant or coffee shop can be daunting. Cooks have tried to duplicate everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts at home, some with more success than others. The recipe I made today is one of those attempts to copy an original. There are different versions of this Starbucks copycat recipe in circulation, but I have tweaked until I have my own version. Getting it just like the authentic coffee shop cake is pretty hard to do, but this one might come close. Even copycat cake can be a delectable treat.

Print Recipe

Gingerbread Loaf (Starbucks copy)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange oil (or substitute 1 teaspoon orange extract)
1 egg
1 cup natural applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 7 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add orange extract and egg; mix well. Alternately add the applesauce with the flour mixture to the butter mixture; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing from pan to continue cooling on wire rack.


4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon orange oil (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
Candied ginger, chopped (Optional)

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla extract and orange oil. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Frost top of cooled cake and sprinkle with candied ginger. Store leftover cake and frosting covered in refrigerator.


Recipe shared at:
Full Plate Thursday

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yellow Pound Cake

This recipe for Yellow Pound Cake is one of those that makes use of a boxed cake mix along with additional ingredients for a richer taste. The recipe dates itself because the size of the cake mix (18.25 ounces) is a thing of the past. Cake mixes are smaller now, so allowances have to be made in recipes such as this one. I recently wrote about my solution for dealing with these downsized mixes. This example from my older recipe collection is one that must be adjusted to bring the shrunken cake mix back to its original size.

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Yellow Pound Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2/3 cup water
1 (8 ounce) carton sour cream
1 (18.25 ounce) box yellow cake mix (substitute 16.5 ounce box cake mix + 1/3 cup extra cake mix)
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add 1 egg at a time and beat well after each. Stir in vanilla and lemon extracts, then add water and sour cream. Beat in cake mix and flour. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 60 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Dust cooled cake with powdered sugar, if desired.

This cake pairs well with fruit. For a different look, the cake could be drizzled with a simple glaze instead of the powdered sugar.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Decorator Frosting

This Decorator Frosting recipe was given to me many years ago when a friend taught an informal cake decorating class in her home. I have used it for countless birthday cakes, and it was my go-to recipe for ages. This frosting spreads smoothly on cakes and pipes easily from a decorating tip, so it is perfect for a beginning decorator or even one with lots of experience.

There are a couple of MUSTS I recommend for best results with this type of frosting --

  1. You MUST sift the powdered sugar. 
  2. You MUST use a stand mixer. 

Sifting takes a little extra time, but it is well worth the few minutes because it will get all the lumps out of the powdered sugar, and the decorator tips will not be obstructed. A stand mixer is important because this is a heavy, thick frosting to mix, and it would probably cause a hand mixer to overheat and go kaput in an untimely fashion.

If you refrigerate this frosting before you plan to use it, you will need to bring it back to room temperature so it will spread easily. Also, be sure to use clear vanilla extract to prevent the white frosting from being discolored.

Print Recipe

Decorator Frosting

1 1/2 cups Crisco shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon butter (or almond) flavoring
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine shortening, salt, vanilla extract, and butter flavoring. Mix at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar a little at a time, mixing at low - medium speed until sugar is incorporated. When the frosting starts to become thick, begin to add the water a small amount at a time, alternating with the remainder of the powdered sugar. After all ingredients have been blended smoothly, beat the frosting for 5 additional minutes at medium - high speed. Frosts and decorates two 9-inch layers or one 9 x 13-inch cake. Keep frosted cake refrigerated.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Don't Miss This Magazine

I hope my friends won't miss the September/October 2014 issue of Christian Woman magazine.

If you subscribe to the magazine, you already know there's always something uplifting and motivational to read in this publication. In this issue you'll even get a bonus - they have included one of my articles!

My article Five Ways to Love Your Mother-in-Law is featured in the September/October issue. I wrote on this topic because I feel the mother-in-law role is often disrespected. Older women have much to offer the younger generation, and the relationship can be strengthened when a mother-in-law feels loved by her child's spouse.

Please let me know your thoughts on the article.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Boxed Cake Mix Dilemma

As other home cooks know,  package sizes often seem to shrink before our eyes in the grocery store. Coffee was once commonly sold in 1 pound bags, but now those bags may only hold 11.5 ounces. Few grocery items are exempt from this shrinkage. In most cases this kind of downsizing just causes us to sigh and shake our heads, but in others it can be downright annoying, especially when it comes to items that can affect the outcome of recipes.

One of those items the food industry has seen fit to downsize is boxed cake mix. The brand of cake mix I currently buy is typically sold in a 16.5 ounce box. This new size is no problem for someone who will strictly follow the directions on the package. Big problem, though, for the person who will use the mix as an ingredient in a recipe that specifically lists an older 18.25 ounce box of cake mix. That much change in the size of any ingredient can negatively alter the outcome of the recipe.

I have a number of recipes that make use of a packaged cake mix, and they can be very convenient on days when I need a quicker version of a good dessert. I do prefer to bake from scratch, but I'm no food snob; I do take short cuts. A person would have to live under a rock to have not been exposed to some great sweet creation that had its beginnings in a box of cake mix. Most of the recipes in my files were written in the day when cake mixes were bigger, so my recipes are no longer accurate. My solution to this issue is to keep a box of cake mix in the freezer to make up the difference when I need to boost the size of these shrunken cake mixes.

Every "new" 16.5 ounce cake mix needs 1.75 ounce from the extra box of cake mix to equal the "old" size. If it sounds like too much trouble to weigh out 1.75 ounces of cake mix to add those supplemental ounces when needed, don't worry. You really don't have to drag out the scales every time, just measure out 1/3 cup of cake mix to approximate the missing 1.75 ounces.

1.75 ounces dry cake mix = approximately 1/3 cup

This addition can prevent changes in the outcome of a recipe and in a worst case scenario, can keep a recipe from being ruined. 

I'm sure there are plenty of other products out there that fall into a similar category where downsized products have caused problems with recipes. Does anyone have one you are willing to share?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peach Cobbler Spirals

Fruits and vegetables are abundant right now, and I am enjoying the freshness and taste the seasonal bounty brings to my table. Peaches are favorites at our house, and some always find their way into a cobbler during the summer harvest. This year I tried a new recipe with peach-filled spirals baked atop more peaches for a bottom layer. The self-rising flour and the sugar syrup in this recipe combine to make a soft, sweet crust for this cobbler.

My dear mother-in-law gave me the peaches I used in this cobbler. Even though her favorite orchard is an hour drive away, every summer she makes her trek there as soon as she hears the peaches are ripe. She is sure to get the freshest of the fresh that way, and she always shares with me.

Recipe adapted from

Peach Cobbler Spirals

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups peaches (peeled and sliced), divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, melt the butter and set aside.
In a saucepan, combine sugar and water. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils, then boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place flour in a large bowl, then use a pastry cutter to cut in shortening until pieces are like small peas. Make a well in the center; add milk and vanilla. Stir just until combined, then knead about 10 strokes until nearly smooth. On a pastry sheet, lightly sprinkle dough with flour, cover with wax paper and roll dough into a 10 x 12-inch rectangle. 
In a large bowl, toss sliced peaches with cinnamon and nutmeg until well combined. Place 3 cups of the peach mixture on top of the melted butter in the baking dish. Spread the remaining 2 cups of peach mixture over the dough rectangle. Starting from the long side, roll the dough into a spiral and pinch to seal. Cut into twelve 1-inch rolls. Place spirals, cut side down on top of the peaches in the baking dish. Pour the sugar syrup mixture around the spirals. Bake for 45 minutes, then cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Peach cobbler spirals before baking

I am strictly a purist and love my cobbler plain, but some may like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with their peach cobbler.

This post was shared at:
Full Plate Thursday