Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

I made these Strawberry Cupcakes today to wish myself a happy birthday. The recipe came originally from Paula Deen and was called the Best Strawberry Cake. When the recipe was first written, cake mixes were still sold in 18.25 ounce boxes. Because cake mixes now come in a standard 16.5 ounce box, it takes an additional 1.75 ounces of cake mix to bring the size back up. One way to adjust a recipe like this one is to take the extra needed from a second cake mix. The amount to make up the difference is equal to about 1/3 cup. The remainder of the second cake mix can be stored in the freezer until the next time a recipe needs that extra 1.75 ounce boost.

Another adjustment I made was in the packages of frozen strawberries required for the recipe. Strawberry puree is needed in both the cake and the frosting. The cake calls for a 15 ounce package and the frosting calls for a 10 ounce package, although only 1/4 cup of puree is used in the frosting. I found it to be easier to buy one 23.5 ounce package of sweetened strawberries, puree all of them, then measure out 15 ounces for the cupcakes. Of the remaining puree, I used 1/4 cup for the frosting.

Print Recipe

Strawberry Cupcakes

1 (18.25 oz.) box white cake mix
1 (3 oz.) box strawberry gelatin
1 (15 oz.) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare pans for 24 cupcakes with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spoon into prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10 oz.) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
7 cups confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup strawberry puree and the strawberry extract. (The remaining strawberry puree is not used in this recipe. It can be saved to use in smoothies or as a topping on ice cream.) Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth. Spread frosting on tops of cooled cupcakes.

Making recipe adjustments is a lot easier than adjusting to all these birthdays.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Minny's Chocolate Pie

Since I am such a chocolate pie lover I don't know what took me so long to get around to trying the recipe for Minny's famous chocolate pie from The Help. Of course, there was that secret version of the recipe, but Minny will never divulge that one. This original version comes from Lee Ann Flemming and was printed in Food and Wine. It was reported in the magazine that Ms. Flemming made 53 chocolate pies during the filming of the movie, so she must be some baker.

Now I would never intentionally do anything to disrespect a baker with the experience of Ms. Fleming or Minny because they both obviously know their way around the kitchen, however, I made a minor adjustment to the recipe simply because I wanted to use less sugar. A girl like me has to save those calories anywhere she can, so I lopped off a half cup of sugar from the original. This recipe couldn't be easier to put together, that is, unless you should happen to leave an ingredient out of the filling, then you might have to start over, but who would do that?

The pie was simply wonderful, even made with less sugar, and I recommend you bake one as soon as possible.

Print Recipe

Minny's Chocolate Pie

1 package pie dough crust (or make your own)
1 cup sugar (original recipe uses 1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pie crust in a 9-inch plate. Crimp edges decoratively and prick the crust lightly with a fork. Blind bake the crust by lining with parchment or foil, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and weights and bake for about 5 more minutes. Crust should be dry but not browned.

To make the filling -- Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir in butter, eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla until smooth. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for about 45 minutes. The filling should be set around the edges but a little jiggly in the center. Halfway through the baking time cover the crust with strips of foil. Cool on wire rack before cutting. Serve with whipped cream. This pie can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.

Spilled Milk Tip #29: When you pour the filling into the baked crust, if you should then notice the evaporated milk is measured and still on the counter and NOT mixed in the filling with the rest of the ingredients, no matter how well you scrape the filling out of the crust, you're going to have to bake a new crust and start over again.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two Books for Young Children

Today I was invited to one of my favorite places -- a school. A dear teacher friend of mine asked me to come to her classroom and read to the children, which was an offer I wouldn't refuse. I worked for many years in the school district I visited today, but today was very special because my friend Tammy has a classroom in a newly built primary building that didn't exist when I retired a few years ago. I was able to visit my friend, see the new building, and read to the children, a pretty big visit all rolled into one.

The classroom I visited was a four-year-old preschool, and I needed books on that level that followed the theme of dogs or cats because the children had been learning about pet adoption. I found two books I thought would be perfect, and I believe the children were in agreement.

The two books I read were Charlie the Ranch Dog and Charlie Goes to School, both by Ree Drummond. There were twenty children in the group, and the books held their attention. After I read, they had no problem at all answering the question about Charlie's favorite thing to do, which is, of course, to take naps. 

One thing, other than the character Charlie, the children loved was the recipe Ree includes at the end of each book. We talked about how she is famous for her cooking and her cookbooks, and some of them knew their parents had watched the Pioneer Woman's cooking show on television.

These are delightful books with beautiful illustrations I think most any young child would enjoy. In fact, I believe these children must have liked reading the books because I received a message from the teacher tonight that said the children had talked about Charlie all day after I left.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Generations Before and After

Recently I was notified by Kyran Pittman that I had won a giveaway prize 
on her blog Planting Dandelions

Now I love any kind of prize, and I can get pretty excited about a gift card 
for pizza or a new cookbook, but this prize really blew me away! 

My prize was a full year's membership to

A few of my relatives have done some family research, and I have lists of names they have compiled, but I have never done my own research before. I feel the gift I have been given goes in two directions. I not only have received the gift of being able to research into generations of my family that have come before me, I can now leave this heritage for the family members that will come after me.

My dad passed away almost 20 years ago. He served as a mechanic in WWII and was a dairy farmer afterward. My tiny grandson who was born just this year will grow up almost 100 years past my dad's childhood. When I'm no longer here to tell my family members about my dad, I want to be sure his name is not forgotten. 

Now to get started and see just how much I can discover about all the family ties I have - somewhere.

Thank you, Kyran and for an exceptional giveaway!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Two of my good friends met today. My lifelong pal Simple met my favorite friend Tasty, and they really hit it off. A perfect example of how they feel about each other is this wonderful Cranberry Orange Muffin recipe. These are the most simple muffins ever to make because of the ingredients like self-rising flour, but ever so tasty because of the cranberries and the fragrant orange zest. I certainly hope Simple and Tasty will be seeing a lot of each other in the future and will inspire other great recipes like this one.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

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Cranberry Orange Muffins

2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan with paper liners or use cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cranberries, and orange zest; make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, combine milk, oil, and eggs; mix until well blended. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling 2/3 full. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until golden. Makes 10 muffins.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Scalloped Cabbage

There's nothing fancy about this casserole, unless you count the taste. This is just a plain cabbage side dish, but it is good enough to serve to company. The ingredients are basic staples, and the prep is minimal, so it's the kind of recipe I put stars by in my cookbook. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a favorite of mine, Southern Living. I have slightly modified the recipe to my liking.

Scalloped Cabbage

2 cups crushed cornflakes
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (10 oz.) package finely shredded angel hair cabbage
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced, root to tip
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of celery soup
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the crushed cornflakes and butter. Spoon half of the cornflake mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Place cabbage and onions on top of the cornflake mixture in the baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together milk, mayonnaise, and soup; pour mixture over cabbage. Next sprinkle with cheese, then top with the remaining cornflake mixture. Bake for 1 hour. Makes 6 - 8 servings.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Shamrock Plant for Good Luck

A houseplant that I've had very good luck growing is the Shamrock Plant (Oxalis). This pretty plant likes a window with indirect sunlight and only needs watering about once a week. I've had my Shamrock Plant for 2 years, and it has outgrown its small original pot and now occupies a large floor-sized pot.

The Shamrock Plant gets it name because the leaves look much like a clover plant or "shamrock." These plants come in greens, purples, reds, or in different combinations of the colors.

My Shamrock Plant has green leaves with purple undersides.

Shamrock Plants also produce delicate flowers, like this white one from my plant. Other types of Shamrock Plants may grow pink, yellow, or red blossoms.

One thing that I find very interesting about my Shamrock Plant is that is goes to "sleep" at night by folding up its leaves. When I first got my Shamrock Plant I didn't understand this, and I thought something was wrong with the plant, but this is just a normal process. The leaves open up in light, but they fold up at night when it gets dark.

This would be the perfect plant to give as a good luck gift to someone for any occasion because of the association of the shamrock with luck. Mine has been easy to take care of, has grown quickly, and is very colorful. With a plant like this one, a person can keep good luck growing all the time.

"May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go."
                                                                                                      --Irish blessing