Bacon Ranch Dip

This Bacon Ranch Dip is one of those easy recipes that is quick to put together and is made from ingredients that are often kept on hand. This dip will please almost everyone whether it is served with chips or with a vegetable tray.

Bacon Ranch Dip
1 (16 ounce) carton sour cream
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry Ranch salad dressing and dip mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup real bacon bits

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and the dry Ranch mix. Add the cheese and bacon bits; stir until blended. Serve with chips or assorted raw vegetables.

The ingredients you will need for this dip are sour cream, Ranch dressing mix, cheddar cheese, and real bacon bits.

Stir all ingredients together. The measurements are not an exact science. If you like more cheddar or bacon bits, add more.

Serve with chips or any raw vegetables, yummy.


Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Everyone at my house has a favorite dish for the holidays. This Hash Brown Potato Casserole has been my daughter Susan's favorite for a number of years. She doesn't care what else I make as long as this is part of the menu. This casserole is really easy to make, so there's no reason to save it just for holidays.

Hash Brown Potato Casserole
1 (30 ounce) package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
1 (8 ounce) carton sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8 ounce) package shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups crushed corn flakes
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place thawed hash brown potatoes in prepared dish. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, melted butter, soup, chopped onion, salt, pepper, and cheese; stir until blended. Pour mixture over potatoes; mix slightly. 
For topping, mix crushed corn flakes with melted butter and layer over top of potato mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes.

Place thawed hash brown potatoes in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Pour the mixture of ingredients over the hash browns.

Mix all slightly with the potatoes.

Combine the melted butter and crushed corn flakes for a topping.

Spread corn flake mixture in a layer over the casserole, then bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes.

This casserole is a side dish that goes well with ham, turkey, or any other meat you might be serving.


German Chocolate Caramel Brownies

This brownie recipe is one that is made like a bar cookie in three layers. Several years ago I made this brownie as a dessert for my daughter's rehearsal dinner before her wedding. These German Chocolate Caramel Brownies were also on my dessert table for Thanksgiving this year.

German Chocolate Caramel Brownies
1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 cup chopped pecans
1 (11 ounce) bag Kraft caramel bits
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by greasing and flouring. In a medium bowl, mix cake mix, melted butter, and 1/3 cup evaporated milk until well blended; add pecans.  Press 1/2 of this mixture into prepared baking pan; bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Melt caramel bits and remaining 1/3 cup of evaporated milk in double boiler or microwave oven. Spread over cake layer, then sprinkle chocolate chips over caramel layer. Crumble remaining cake mixture on top of chocolate chips; press lightly. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

German chocolate cake mix, caramel bits, evaporated milk, and semi-sweet chocolate chips are some of the ingredients in these brownies.

Press 1/2 of the cake mixture into the prepared pan.

Spread the melted caramel layer over the baked cake layer.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel layer.

Crumble the remaining cake mixture over the chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Cool brownies in pan on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

The melted caramel and chocolate chips in the center between the two layers of German chocolate cake are wonderful.


Happiness is . . . A Spice Drawer

Finding the spice bottle that I needed was once a frustrating experience for me in my kitchen. I would open the cabinet and start picking up bottles and jars, reading labels, and often it seemed I was picking up the same jars over and over again. For a while, I tried writing the names of the spice on top of the jars. This helped some, but did not solve the problem of too many spices stuffed together in the cabinet. I still couldn't find what I was looking for quickly. Recently I had the idea to use a large drawer for all my spices.

What a difference the drawer has made. I can now see every label clearly. I used the same type of little baskets to lay the jars in the drawer that I had used to stand them up in the cabinet, but the labels are so much more visible now.

The cabinet above that once was crowded with all the jars of spices now has enough breathing room for the salt, baking soda, flavorings, and other baking essentials. A little organization makes any cooking project go better. This spice drawer has made me happy. I'd love to know how other cooks organize spices in their kitchens.


White Chocolate Lemon Streusel Bars

White chocolate chips, fresh lemon juice, and toasted pecans combine for a blast of flavor in these yummy treats. This recipe adapted from the Hershey's Recipe Collection cookbook is one all lemon-lovers will want to add to their treasury of lemon recipes.

White Chocolate Lemon Streusel Bars
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups (12 ounce package) white chocolate chips, divided
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon shortening

To toast pecans: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread pecans in a thin layer on a shallow baking pan. Bake for 7 - 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until golden brown.

For bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish by lightly greasing. In a medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest; set aside. Measure out 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup white chips; set aside. Add remaining white chips to lemon mixture.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and brown sugar together until well blended. Stir together flour, oats, pecans, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture, blending well. Set aside 1 2/3 cups of butter/oats mixture. Add egg to remaining oats mixture, blending until crumbly; press onto bottom of prepared pan. Gently spoon lemon mixture on top, spreading evenly. Add reserved 1/3 cup white chips to reserved oats mixture. sprinkle over lemon layer pressing down lightly.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on wire rack. Place remaining 1/4 cup white chips and shortening in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 30 seconds or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Drizzle over baked bars. Allow drizzle to set; cut into bars.

Some ingredients you will need for these White Chocolate Lemon Streusel Bars are sweetened condensed milk, quick cooking oats, white chocolate chips, and fresh lemons.

These bars are made in three layers - a crust layer, a filling layer, and a streusel layer.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Make an icing drizzle from white chips and shortening for the top of the bars. I had to use a little more shortening than the recipe indicated to get my chips thin enough to drizzle.

These White Chocolate Lemon Streusel Bars are sweet and lemony with that wonderful added flavor of toasted pecans.


A Thanksgiving Bread Basket

I always make my Mother's Yeast Rolls for the Thanksgiving meal, and this year the tradition will continue. Using an old bread basket liner as a pattern, I made some Thanksgiving liners to use on the table this year. These took very little fabric and a short amount of time to whip up.

The liner is almost a square piece of fabric - 16 x 18 inches.

The sides were cut out forming 4 "arms" that fold in.

I bought a small piece of seasonal fabric and cut the turkey shapes out, then fused them on the "arms" of the liner. I also stitched around the shapes and zigzaged around the outer edge.

That was an easy project. The bread baskets are ready. Now I only have about 299 more things to do before next week.


Health Nut Blueberry Muffins

This is another of my many blueberry muffin recipes that I have collected over the years, and it has a lot of yummy ingredients. This recipe is an adapted version of one I found at Allrecipes

Health Nut Blueberry Muffins
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or use paper liners. In a large bowl, stir together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, flax seed, oats, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently stir the blueberries and walnuts into the flour mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, buttermilk, egg, oil, and vanilla; mix together. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling cups all the way to the top. Bake for about 18 - 20 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly touched. Makes 12 muffins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, filling muffin cups all the way to the top.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 18 - 20 minutes.

Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer muffins to a cooling rack.

These muffins have a bit of a banana bread taste, but so much more.


Oreo Cheesecake

Oreo Cheesecake is an easy, no-bake dessert that needs to be made ahead to chill. The crust is made from crushed Oreo cookies, and there are more chopped Oreos blended into the cream cheese filling. This simple recipe has been adapted from the Kraft Philadelphia Classic Recipes cookbook.

Oreo Cheesecake (No Bake)
1 package (18 ounces) Oreo Sandwich Cookies, divided
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tub (8 ounces) Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed
Maraschino cherries for garnish, optional

Prepare a 9 x 13-inch pan by lining with foil, allowing ends of foil to extend over pan. Chop 15 of the cookies coarsely; set aside. Process the remaining cookies in a food processor until finely crushed. Mix crushed cookies with melted butter; press firmly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate crust while preparing the filling.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until well blended. Gently blend in the Cool Whip and chopped cookies. Spoon over prepared crust; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm. Cut into squares to serve, garnish as desired.

Simple ingredients - Oreo cookies, cream cheese, and Cool Whip.

Coarsely chop 15 of the cookies and set aside for the filling.

Crush the remaining cookies in a food processor for the crust.

Spoon the filling over the crust and refrigerate until firm.

Cut into squares to serve and garnish with maraschino cherries, if desired.


Jalapeño Corn Casserole

Jalapeño Corn Casserole is a side dish that I have been making for a number of years, and the recipe is one that is often requested when I serve it. I had family visiting from out of town over the weekend, and I served this along with Baby Back Ribs, Southern Baked Beans, Coleslaw,  Deviled EggsYeast Rolls, a Vegetable Tray, and Oreo Cheesecake.

Jalapeño Corn Casserole
1 cup rice
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 (14.75 ounce) cans cream style corn
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped

Prepare rice according to package directions; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt butter in a skillet; saute onion, green pepper, and celery. Combine the cooked rice and sauted onion, green pepper, and celery in the prepared baking dish. Add salt, sugar, corn, cheese, and jalapeño peppers; mix well. Bake in preheated oven for 40 - 45 minutes.

Chop onion, green pepper, and celery; saute together in butter.

Mix rice, onion, green pepper, celery, salt, sugar, corn, cheese, and jalapeño peppers together in prepared baking dish. This will make a nice big casserole to serve a crowd, and if you need to stretch it a little farther, just add an extra can of corn.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes.

This Jalapeño Corn Casserole is a versatile side dish that can be paired with a variety of meats. My family loves it.


In answer to questions about the casserole dish size, here's the 9x13-inch dish used for the recipe.



How Do You Make An Eggplant?

I don't need to COOK an eggplant, I just needed to MAKE one recently. I got an email from my friend Judy a few days ago, and she said that I always tell her to "ask" if she needs something, and her email said, "Well I need something."

All the teachers at her school had been assigned to dress as a fruit or vegetable for a "produce parade," and Judy was to be the eggplant. I really didn't know where to begin, but it sounded like fun to me. Judy had already bought two inexpensive purple bath towels and two green hand towels in hopes of somehow putting an eggplant costume together with those.

So how do you transform a teacher into an eggplant? Probably not many will be needing this tutorial, but you never know, so I thought I'd make a few notes for those who might someday get called upon to impersonate an eggplant.

I cut both ends off the hand towel to make the neck band and sewed the pieces together. I made this wide enough so that I could fold it over.

Using the rest of that towel and part of the other one, I cut six "leaf" shapes.

I then stitched the top of the sections together and zigzaged around the outer edge.

I sewed the leaves to the neck band, folding the band over and stitching again to finish it. I then used two pieces of velcro to fasten the ends in the back.

For the body of the eggplant, I simply stitched the two bath towels together up the sides, leaving an armhole on each side. I used the towel hems that were already in place for the casings at the top and bottom for elastic. Because the towels were soft, Judy stuffed them a little for fullness when she wore the costume.

Judy took the rest of the second towel and wrapped it around some cardboard and attached it to her "stocking cap" to make her stem.

She was quite a feisty eggplant on stage.

The whole gang posed for a group picture. Can you find the squash, grapes, bananas, mushroom, watermelon, peach, corn, cauliflower, cucumber, strawberry, carrot, cabbage, red pepper, celery, or olives?


There is a reason for all this taking place at school. The teachers and principal were showing appreciation for receiving USDA grant money for the children to have fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks at school. They also combined a timely pitch for being drug free as part of an overall good health plan. I am so thankful that this kind of food has been made available to the children in our community, and I'm very glad to have been a part of making an eggplant for them.