Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Desserts, Food, Kids in the Kitchen

Holiday Mayonnaise Cake

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Happy Halloween!
Here’s a moist and flavorful recipe that is sure to put a smile on your face for the holiday! One of the main ingredients is mayonnaise. I have made this cake for years and it’s one of my most requested recipes. You can find the full recipe here. For this cake I used cream cheese frosting and holiday sprinkles but you can use anything that you like. Enjoy!

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Posted in breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, Food, Grilling, Main Dish, Skillet Meal

Homemade Savory Breakfast Sausage

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There is a small neighborhood grocery store not far from my home. It carries an assortment of staple groceries for local families needing a few things, without having to travel into town for a big shopping haul. After a late Friday work meeting, I stopped in to buy some milk and eggs for the weekend.
As I headed to the back of the store, I was lured in by the selection of fresh cut meat the butcher had displayed in the meat case. For a small market, this grocer always carries a wide variety of cuts that are quite reasonably priced. I purchased some chicken breasts, ground beef, and a few pounds of freshly ground pork.
This butcher incorporates just the right blend of pork cuts to make the perfect homemade sausage recipe. I knead lots of ingredients into a big bowl of ground pork and shape the mass into several round patties very similar to the familiar pre-packaged, national brand, sausage patties found in the refrigerator case in a typical grocery store. These homemade patties far exceed the flavor and tenderness of store bought sausage. Add your own ingredients to suit your family’s taste…

Homemade Savory breakfast Sausage Patties

2 pounds ground pork
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine the sage, salt, ground black pepper, marjoram, brown sugar, crushed red pepper and cloves with ground pork. Mix well with your hands and form into patties, if desired. Sauté the patties in a large skillet over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes per side, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees and meat is no longer pink.
Note: You can use the bulk sausage to make this delicious Savory Sausage Crescent Braid recipe too!

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Desserts, Food, Gardening, Gifts, lunch box

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

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This recipe is from an old cookbook that I have used for years. When my children were little, we lived one block away from their grade school. For school parties, I always made a basket of lollipop cookies reflecting whichever festive holiday season the classroom may be celebrating…sunflowers for the early fall, ghosts and goblins for Halloween, colorful leaves and turkeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas trees and snow people for the winter parties. I’d pack a festive bucket or basket with floral foam, push the lollipop sticks into the foam, wrap the whole thing in cellophane wrap and tie a pretty bow to the outside of the package. Everyone’s eyes would light up as I entered the classroom with my package of goodies.
What I like most about this recipe is that the cookie dough is simple to make with just a few ingredients and that the dough doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling it out. (When I start a project, I want to get it done quick… I have no patience waiting for the dough to chill and harden for an hour.)
Adding food coloring to the dough is also a time-saver…no need for icing. This recipe has always been a holiday favorite in my house!

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(Extra Supplies)
Flower cookie cutter
Yellow icing color
1 pkg. 8″ lollipop sticks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour. Tint cookie dough with icing color. Pinch off a small amount of dough, make twelve to eighteen 1/4″ balls. Place balls, 3″ apart on cookie sheets. This will serve as the cookie base. Press lollipop stick into each ball; flatten slightly. Roll remaining dough out at 1/4″ thick. Cut dough, dipping cookie cutters in flour before use. Place cutout cookie on each stick, press lightly to attached cutout to cookie base. Add chocolate chips to each cutout center. Bake for 8-12 minutes until slightly golden around the edges. Cool completely before carefully removing from cookie sheet.

(Adapted from Wilton Gifts from the Kitchen Cookbook)

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, lunch box

Bread Machine Cinnamon Raisin Bread

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A few weeks ago, as I was looking through my old recipe notes, I came across a recipe that I haven’t made for some time. Lately, my bread machine has been working double time to provide lots of loaves for school lunches. In the last two weeks, I’ve probably made this recipe 3 or 4 times. It makes a sweet, light, loaf that slices easily for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or for a hearty slice of toast. By the end of the week, when the loaf is nearly finished, I cube the end of the bread up to be used in a Saturday morning cinnamon toast casserole so that nothing is wasted.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 cup water
2 tablespoons Butter or Margarine, softened
3 cups Bread Flour
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons Bread Machine Yeast
1/2 cup Raisins

Place all ingredients, except raisins, in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. For best results, raisins can be added during the first kneading cycle so that the become well incorporated in the dough. This should be about half-way through the cycle.
Select Basic/Light cycle on the bread machine. When finished baking, remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Desserts, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box, No-Bake

No-Bake Oat and Honey Snack Bites

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If you like peanut butter, you will love this no-bake treat. I’ve made several variations of this recipe over the years but this one is so simple and produces about 36 rounds of goodness. After parking these in the fridge for about 30 minutes, I pack them in a Tupperware container so I can tuck them into lunch boxes all week long.

No-Bake Oat and Honey Snack Bites

2 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Combine peanut butter, honey, and maple syrup; mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in the oats and chocolate chips. Use a small ice cream scoop to shape dough into individual 1″ balls. Place on a cookie sheet and chill for 30 minutes. Pack into air-tight container. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Beef, Dinner, Main Dish

Copy Cat White Castle Sliders

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My mother-in-law gave me this recipe when I was a newlywed. She had served these delicious mini-burgers for a friendly gathering and I was hooked the minute I tasted them. In the Chicagoland area, there is a fast food restaurant that serves these bite-sized burgers in large quantities. It’s fun to make a load of these for tailgating finger food. I often pack the foil wrapped, pre-cooked burgers in the crockpot to stay warm at the tailgate party. They are always a crowd-pleasing hit!

Copy Cat White Castle Sliders

2 pounds ground beef
1 (1.25 ounce) envelope onion soup mix
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
24 dinner rolls, split
1/2 cup sliced hamburger pickles, drained

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef; drain. Mix the onion soup mix, mayonnaise and cheddar cheese into the ground beef mixture. Cover, remove from heat. Lay the bottoms of the dinner rolls on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to completely wrap and seal in the burgers. Spread the cheese and beef mixture on the bottom half of each roll. Top each burger with two pickle slices. Replace the tops. Cover and completely wrap the burgers with the aluminum foil. (The idea is to steam the burgers enclosed in the foil.) Bake until the burgers are heated through and cheese melts, about 30 minutes.

Below, I’ve included a few step-by-step photos….

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baking, breakfast, Gardening, lunch box

Chunky Homemade Applesauce with Simple Granola Topping

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We spent a beautiful afternoon at the local apple orchard last weekend. I had my mind set on making several batches of homemade applesauce while the fruit is in abundance and is reasonably priced.
When we first moved to our current home, J and I planted several apple trees on the back portion of our property. That was 13 years ago and we have not been able to harvest one single apple since then. We planted them in an open area beyond our woods which must be the perfect spot for all of the local deer to munch on whatever fruit begin to grow on the miniature trees.
In our area there are several great orchards so taking a trip to purchase bulk fruit and vegetables isn’t too much trouble. We picked up lots of apples, sweet potatoes, cider, fresh apple donuts, and chestnuts.
I’ve been making this particular applesauce recipe for years and years. The addition of vanilla makes a world of difference, adding an extra layer of flavor. If you own an apple peeler/corer, it will make this recipe super quick and easy to assemble.

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Chunky Homemade Applesauce with Simple Granola Topping

8 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes; while stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Mash apples to desired consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Simple Granola Topping

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins or dried fruit, if desired

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto parchment lines sheet pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to achieve an even color. Add raisins or dried fruit if desired.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food

Ken Williams Orchards Apple Slices

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Many years ago, we traveled from Chicago up to a beautiful apple orchard in Three Oaks, Michigan called Ken Williams Orchards. After a day of picking and picnicking, we headed to the counter to pay for our bushel of apples. On the counter sat a sheet of paper that was entitled, “Favorite Apple Recipes” and listed five of the orchard’s favorite recipes. I asked the clerk if I could have the sheet and she said, “Sure, take one, they’re free!”
Well, I have used this recipe sheet over and over for the last 16 years…our favorite recipe of the bunch is something called Apple Bars. I have changed the recipe a bit and I call them apple slices. It really doesn’t matter what you call them…they will always be delicious! This is definitely the best apple slice recipe I have ever tasted.

Ken William’s Orchards Apple Slices

2 1/4 cups flour, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine
2 egg yolks
4 cups sliced apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Combine 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until crumbs are the size of peas. Stir in egg yoke. Press half of the mixture in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking pan, and reserve the rest. Combine apples, remaining flour, sugar, and cinnamon; place apple mixture over crust in pan. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool and drizzle with thin icing of powdered sugar, vanilla and milk.

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Posted in Baked goods, Chocolate, Desserts, Food

Westhaven Date Cake

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As I was rummaging through my hand written recipes this morning, an odd shaped piece of paper brought back memories of Aunt Nance. She was Jim’s Aunt, and a very special person. She would often bake this cake and bring it along to family gatherings. The chopped dates in the recipe are undetectable after baking but they are essential as they add great flavor and moisture to the cake.
Years ago, I asked Aunt Nance to share the recipe with me and this is the piece of paper she slipped in my hand as I was leaving the gathering.
When I finally got around to baking the cake, I noticed that mine wasn’t as dark and chocolatey as hers was. After investigating further, I realized that she had forgotten to include 2 tablespoons of cocoa in the recipe. The cake was still quite delicious so I make it both ways and it’s always a crowd pleaser.

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Westhaven Date Cake

1 (8 oz.) package dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
chocolate chips
nuts
powdered sugar

Over chopped dates, pour 1 cup boiling water; let cool. Add baking soda and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Pour date mixture into dry ingredients, mix well. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cool cake before serving.

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Posted in Dinner, Food, lunch box, Main Dish, Soup

Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup with Rice

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During the fall and winter months, I am always looking for creative ways to fill lunch boxes with nutritious, mid-day meals. On Sunday evenings, I try to prepare lots of options for the kids to enjoy during the school week. M loves to bring a thermos full of soup to school as she often feels that her classrooms are cold and drafty. She usually requests some kind of vegetable soup to carry in her lunchbox. Currently, her favorite selection is my Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe. Adding rice or noodles makes it a bit more hearty and filling. After making the soup on Sunday, I divide it up into small plastic containers and pop it in the fridge. Every morning, before the kids head to school, I heat up individual servings then pour the piping hot soup in the thermos. (Below, I’ve included my secret to keeping rice balls for a week’s worth of soup.) There’s nothing like a bowl of good old fashioned comfort food to fill the tummy at lunchtime.

Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup with Rice

1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli
3/4 cup water
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped onion or 2 tsp. onion flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
2 cups Velveeta Shredded Cheese (melts really well)

In a medium sauce pan, mix water and broccoli; bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until bubbly. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Add broccoli (with water) Heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until completely melted.

To make rice balls:

This is the kind of rice we buy. It’s called sushi rice.

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Cook rice according to package directions. After rice has cooled a bit, use a small ice cream scoop to make 2 inch balls of rice. Wrap each ball individually in small pieces of plastic wrap.

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Place wrapped rice balls in a freezer safe bag and store in freezer until ready to use.

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Unwrap rice balls and heat in the microwave before placing them in soup dish.