Pistachio Crunch Loaf

The holiday season is upon us and I am getting an early start on my baking for the upcoming Thanksgiving meal.  This week we will be traveling east to enjoy the holiday with my youngest sister and her family.  I have volunteered to bring all of the desserts so I have started baking and packaging some of our family’s favorite recipes.  It’s so much easier to bake ahead of time and then refrigerate or freeze the baked goods until just a few hours before the event.

This Pistachio Crunch Loaf is a long standing family favorite.  The festive green color comes from the packet of pistachio pudding mix added to the batter.  For an extra boost of flavor, try substituting the sour milk with pistachio flavored yogurt.  

It’s always fun to contribute an item (or two) to the family table over the holidays.  But, if you’re one of those people that always forgets your favorite platter or covered casserole dish when it’s time to go home, then here’s a great tip when traveling for the holidays…  

For the last several weeks, I’ve been purchasing decorative holiday tins of various shapes and sizes from local resale shops. (They range in price from about 50 – 75 cents.) I wash and dry them well when I get them home. This way I can pack all of my goodies into festive tins, stack them into reusable bags and conveniently store the tins when arriving at our destination.  When we are ready to bring out the treats, I’ll simply open all of the beautiful tins and lay them out on the buffett for guests to nibble on while enjoying time with family and friends.  The left-overs can be covered and stored in a cool dry place so we can continue to snack throughout the weekend.  No mess, no fuss!  If there is anything left by Sunday, I will leave the inexpensive tins behind without a thought.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Pistachio Crunch Loaf

1 package Pillsbury yellow cake mix

4 eggs

¼ cup canola oil

1 small package instant pistachio pudding mix

1 cup sour milk ( 1 scant cup of milk +2 teaspoons vinegar)

Sugar Mixture:

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 8×4″ loaf pans.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs oil, pudding mix and sour milk. Beat until all of the ingredients are well blended into a thick batter.

Spread half of the batter into the greased loaf pans. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon and sugar mixture over the batter, dividing it between the two pans. Repeat the layers, adding the remaining bread batter and the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Lightly swirl batter with a butter knife (optional).

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean.  Cool loaves completely before removing from pans.

Pecan and Raisin Zucchini Quick Bread

As the end of the traditional Midwest growing season is well past it’s prime, local farmer’s markets are providing customers with an array of cool weather vegetables.  The unseasonably mild temperatures have helped zucchini, beets, and winter squash continue to grow.  

Last week a co-worker filled a basket with end-of-the-season zucchini that she had picked from her garden.  She placed the bountiful basket on the break room table to share with all.  I quickly scooped up an armful so that I could make a few batches of zucchini quick bread.  This is one of my favorite recipes.  It’s moist and flavorful with lots of texture provided by the crunchy pecans and sweet California raisins.  The recipe freezes well so I make quite a few loaves, wrap them and freeze them for gift giving or for a quick morning breakfast accompanied by a mug full of piping hot coffee.

Note: I sprinkle a tablespoon of wheat germ over each loaf before baking.  This gives the loaves a crunchy topping and a boost of fiber.

Pecan and Raisin Zucchini Quick Bread

2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup canola oil

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini 

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3/4 cup raisins

Optional Topping: 

2 tablespoons wheat germ

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9×5″ loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and baking powder; gradually beat into sugar mixture, mixing just until moistened. Stir in zucchini, pecans and raisins.

Transfer to prepared pans. Sprinkle each loaf with 1 tablespoon of wheat germ (optional).  Bake 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool. 

Peanut Butter Bites

For those of you trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar and processed white flour in your diet, this is a doozy of a cookie.  I stumbled on a version of this recipe several years ago when the only readily available sugar substitute on the market was Splenda.  Since then, the options are abundant when choosing sweeteners to add to baked goods.  For this particular recipe, I use a mixture of unrefined coconut sugar and a brown sugar substitute blend to sweeten the batter. The result, an absolutely delicious cookie that everyone is sure to enjoy. Tuck them away in a safe place after they’ve cooled or they’ll be gone in no time at all!

Peanut Butter Bites

1 16 oz. jar natural crunchy peanut butter (no sugar added)

1/4 cup unrefined coconut sugar (readily available in grocery stores)

1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray two cookie sheets w/ cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, sweeteners, eggs and vanilla extract; mix well.  With a small round ice cream scoop, press the dough into walnut-sized balls and place 2″ apart on the cookie sheet.

With a tines of a fork, flatten the cookies in a criss-cross pattern. Bake 9-10 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown.  Wait a few minutes before removing from tray to cool on wire racks.  Store in an airtight container.

(Note: If you prefer a sweeter cookie, double the coconut sugar and brown sugar blend to equal 1/2 cup each.)

Honey and Oat French Toast


This weekend we visited campus to watch our daughter M run in the Purdue Half-Marathon.  The campus came alive early even though the sun hadn’t quite risen and the unseasonably cool air blanketed the town.  After the race began and all of the runners had left the parking lot, my husband and I headed into Lafayette for a bite to eat and to visit the farmer’s market.  We also wanted to cheer on the runners as they made their way to mile eight around the center of town.  

It’s a delight to visit the early morning market in Lafayette.  We made our way around to the booths picking up lots of freshly picked produce, earthy wholesome breads, and enormous honey crisp apples.  Right on schedule, M and others ran along side the market and we were able to get a few good pictures as she made her way back to campus.  

After the race, I shared my bounty with M as she lives in an apartment and always welcomes fresh organic produce for her weekly menu.  I asked her if she would like me to make her some French toast while she showered and changed into comfy clothes.  I had purchased two loaves of hearty whole grain bread that I would cut into thick slices for the dish.  Looking through her cabinets, I found that she had lots of savory spices but none that would work with the French toast.  I have always been a resourceful gal so I opened up one of her peach flavored tea bags (organic peach cobbler) and poured some of the mixture into the eggs.  I thought the peach flavor would pair well with the almond milk. 

 M also had a cylinder of rolled oats on the shelf so I opted to coat the bread to add a toasted crunchy texture.  A drizzle of honey added just the right touch of flavor to the finished product.  

Honey and Oat French Toast

6 thick slices whole wheat bread

4 eggs

2/3 cup almond milk

1/2 teaspoon flavored loose tea ( I used organic peach cobbler spiced tea)

3/4 cup rolled oats


In a shallow bowl or baking pan, beat together egg, milk, and desired spiced tea. Pour the oats into a separate baking pan, set aside. Heat a lightly oiled griddle of skillet over medium-high flame. Dunk each slice of bread in egg mixture, soaking both sides. Then coat the slices with oats.  Place in pan, and cook on both sides until golden. Drizzle with honey.  Serve hot.

M is planning a Halloween Party for her residents as she is a Resident Assistant so we made our way to the pumpkin patch to purchase pumkins later in the day… What a great time we had visiting Purdue this weekend.

Cheeseburger Soup

Years ago, when our children were little, we used to hold an annual fall party for family and friends on our beautiful wooded lot.  We’d elaborately decorate the barn and yard with hay bales and pumpkins, colored lights and corn stalks.  I’d cook large pots of soup, chili, baked beans and bratwurst.  A dessert table always displayed an abundance of tasty autumn treats to satisfy all of the guests.  This cheeseburger soup was always a staple recipe made for the festive backyard party. I would double or triple the ingredients and separate the batch to freeze a portion in serving sized containers.  This way, we had a supply on hand to enjoy during the cool autumn and winter months. 

Cheeseburger Soup

2 pound ground beef
1 cup diced  onion

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

4 tablespoons butter, divided

6 cups chicken broth  (I use chicken soup base mixed with water, as directed on package)

5 cups diced peeled potatoes

1/4 cup flour

4 cups (16 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta), cubed

2 cups milk

1 1/2 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon pepper 

In a large soup pot, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same pot, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt remaining butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir until cheese melts. 

Tip: I make my own croutons to top the soup.  Just cube a few slices of day old bread or leftover buns and sprinkle them with oil, garlic powder and salt (to taste).  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.  Cool; store in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Spiced Pecans (Low Carb)

I’m always looking for a crunchy snack that is low in carbs but high in flavor.  This treat fits the bill. The sweet cinnamon flavor and spicy cayenne pepper make for a winning combination. Throw the simple ingredients together and this recipe takes about 5-10 minutes from start to finish.  The aroma of cinnamon and nuts warming over the heat  is simply devine!  Eat them alone or sprinkle them over a bed of lettuce with sliced berries and a light vinaigrette dressing.  YUMMY!

Cinnamon Spiced Pecans (Low Carb)

2 cups pecan halves

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 packets of Splenda artificial sweetener (or to suit your taste)

4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter and add cayenne pepper. In a single layer, add pecans to skillet and cook over medium heat. Stir constantly just until they begin to brown.  Be careful to regulate the heat as not to burn the nuts or butter.  Stir in cinnamon, salt, and powdered sweetener.  Remove from pan and cool.  Adjust seasonings to suit your taste.

Finger-Licking Pizza Roll

A sheet of Pillsbury crescent dough and a few spicy ingredients make this recipe a snap to pull together for a weekday dinner or afternoon snack. 

I’ve seen (and tasted) a version of this recipe posted elsewhere using a traditional bread dough loaf.  I found the dough to be dense and heavy… Frankly, the “dough to filling” ratio was a bit overwhelming.  

Here, I have used Pillsbury crescent roll sheets to bundle up the tasty Italian ingredients to make this undeniably delicious roll.  I just love the way the traditional filling sits within the light and flaky crust.  This Finger-Licking Pizza Roll recipe is incredibly hard to resist! 

Finger-Licking Pizza Rolls

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheets

1/2 6 oz. package pepperoni rounds

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup pizza sauce 

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Lightly flour counter surface.  Unroll dough.  With a rolling pin, flatten dough evenly to stretch dough to 13×9″ rectangle. Spread pizza sauce over surface.  Layer on pepperoni, overlapping rows. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese. 

Starting with one short side, roll up rectangle; press edge to seal. Place cut side down on cookie sheet.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until roll is dark golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Slice roll into 3/4″ slices. Serve warm with leftover warm pizza sauce for dipping.