Sparkling Christmas Jam

Around the holidays I love to make special “gifts from the kitchen” for friends and family.  Most times, I make batches of cookies, breads, candies, or snack mixes.  This year, I made brown bread loaves and Sparking Christmas Jam for everyone.

I was doing a major house cleaning and I had stumbled upon a few boxes of cute little jelly jars.  I was in the mood for a major cleanup and I was trying to get rid of anything I hadn’t used in a while.  This wide mouth batch would work just fine for gift giving jars. I remembered that I had loads of frozen strawberries and cranberries in the freezer that I could use for the intended mix, so I quickly scrubbed the jars in warm soapy water and began to prep the recipe.  Here are the instructions that I used.  

I must admit, the recipe is not very precise and of course, canning is a precise science. When processing for home preservation where items are to be stored on shelves, I only use tested, reputable recipes. Therefore, I processed the jars as instructed but I asked those receiving a jar to KEEP IT IN THE FRIDGE for safety purposes.  I gave them cold, refrigerated jars to remind them where they should be stored. No need to get anyone sick via an oversight when canning! 

This is a scrumptious recipe.  Great with bread and butter or tea and toast… I’ve already gotten a few requests for another jar next year. The beginning of a tradition…?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Let’s make this a good one!


Sweet Irish Brown Bread

I was recently given a collection of old community cookbooks.  The “giver” was doing a house remodel and was cleaning out her kitchen for a more updated look.  She had too many cookbooks and was looking to send a few of them my way.  Naturally, I was thrilled.  I love looking through old interesting recipes.  I stumbled across this brown bread recipe that looked quite tasty.  The ingredients reminded me of one of my favorite Irish bread recipes, with perhaps a bit more sugar that I am used to.  I quickly baked up a few loaves and my family was pleasantly surprised.  A simple loaf with a sweet, mellow flavor.  A great base for butter and jam.  

The Brown Bread recipe is pictured below…

The flavor was so wonderful, I baked up a load of loaves for Christmas gifts and packaged them with my Christmas Jam.

Easy Peasy Pound Cake

This week marks the beginning of the official holiday season.  Like many of you, my calendar is filled with holiday commitments, most of which require a carry-in dish or baked treat to bring along to the party.  I really enjoy this time of year and I do my best to take advantage of a few stress-free tips that can really simplify things.  One such tip would be to choose recipes that are easy yet flavorful.  The recipe below includes ingredients that are nearly always on-hand in my kitchen. It’s adapted from a recipe that I found in an old community cookbook many years ago.  This one’s a no brainer for me… It always turns out perfect.  A few simple ingredients bake up a moist and flavorful, good ole’ fashioned, pound cake.  

Easy Peasy Pound Cake

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups butter

6 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract

3/4 cup milk

Grease and flour a Bundt pan (take your time with this step, getting all of the softened butter and flour into all the nooks and crannies). DON’T PREHEAT THE OVEN.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla/almond extract and continue mixing well.

Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Beat until smooth batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Place cake into the oven, set the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 60 to 90 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Back To School Blueberry Bread

It’s that time of year again… Back to school!   This is a great quick bread loaf to bake in quantity and pop in the freezer for lunchbox treats throughout the year.  We recently visited our daughter who has started her clinical year at a hospital in Illinois.  I brought along an assortment of quick breads that I carefully sliced and individually wrapped for the freezer.  This way, she can take out one slice at a time and pack it into her lunch bag for a morning snack or a lunchtime treat. As I think back to all of the blueberry recipes I’ve made for the family, this one is surely a winner!

Back to School Blueberry Bread

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons grated fresh lemon peel


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar or 1 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture alternately with milk, beating well. Fold in the blueberries, nuts and lemon peel.

Transfer to a greased 9X5″ loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Continue to cool on a wire rack.  

Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely before slicing.

Classic Pancakes for a Crowd

During the summer months, when our children are home from college, I am often amazed by the amount of food that passes through my kitchen.  While we all have a responsibility to report to work every morning, the never ending supply or food provided for breakfast, lunch, and dinner amazes me.  We are not a family that chooses to eat “out” very often so packing or making quick meals can be a challenge. The weekends are used as a time to prepare foods that can be reheated during the week for a quick start to the day. We’ll make a crockpot full of steel cut oats that will be divided up into serving sized containers for a week’s worth of breakfasts or sometimes I make omelette muffins for a handy, bite-sized meal. This recipe for Morning Glory Oatmeal is devine. This weekend, I made Pancakes for a Crowd that would feed the group during our Saturday morning breakfast with leftovers for a “re-heat” during the week. 

I love the ole’ fashioned tradition of actually gathering around the kitchen table for a home cooked meal.  We all have busy schedules but this ritual  is incredibly important to me.  It gives us a chance to catch up, talk about our week, and come together as a family.  Then, it’s out the door and off in our separate ways to tend to our busy lives…

This recipe is adapted from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook that I have had for over twenty five years.  I triple the ingredients to make enough pancakes to feed a family of five with about ten left over.  I make sure to have on hand a small jar of homemade maple syrup from the trees on our land.  During the week, a full breakfast is a bit much so I notice the children will spread a dollop of peanut butter or homemade strawberry jam on a flapjack, roll it up and head out the door with a hand held meal for the road.   A healthier version of these pancakes can be found here.

Pancakes for a Crowd

3 egg, beaten

3 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour

3 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cup milk ( more or less for a thinner/thicker batter)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

In medium bowl, stir  together ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be slightly lumpy); do not overmix or pancakes will be tough. 

Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat; use cooking oil if necessary. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly on top and dry around edges. Turn; cook other side until golden brown.

Pack up extras after the meal for leftovers during the week…

Semi-homemade Scones

Well, another school year is over… Yesterday we made our annual trip down to campus to load up the car with dorm room accessories and furniture that will be stored away for the summer. Packing and unpacking can make for a long day!  Sometimes it’s hard to find a break to stop for a meal as parking is limited and the anticipation of the heavy traffic on the return trip home makes everyone anxious. 

Having said this, I was prepared for the worst as I loaded up a goodie bag with scones, yogurt, cold pizza, bottled water, sandwiches, homemade applesauce and a few energy bars as we started out on our daylong voyage.  I have a recipe that combines just a few ingredients to make a batch of tasty scones so I got up early to prepare them for the trip.  I must say, I had to slap a few hands as I took the scones out of the oven for everyone wanted to nibble on the treats before leaving the house. I quickly covered the tray with a light tea towel and told everyone to find something else to eat.  These little gems were to be packed in with the other goodies we would eat after a long day of packing and pitching.  Here’s the recipe for the tasty 4-ingredient scones.  They are made using a muffin mix which is super convenient, quick, and easy!  I had an egg white left over from another recipe so I brushed the tops of the scones and sprinkled them with a bit of sugar before popping them in the oven.

Semi-Homemade Scones

One 18-ounce box of cranberry-orange muffin mix. 

(Krusteaz or another brand with canned berries included)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

2 tablespoons water

Extra flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use non-stick spray to lightly coat a cookie sheet.

Pour the muffin mix into a large bowl.  Add egg, yogurt and water. Stir to mix batter. Batter will be thick. Rinse and drain the cranberries that come with the mix and stir into batter. Pour mixture onto a lightly floured surface on pat together to make a flat round about 1″ thick.  Add flour if needed.  Cut the round into 8 triangles by slicing in half, then fourths, then 8 triangles.  Carefully place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.   Bake for 15-20 minutes. Slightly cool; remove to a baking rack to cool completely.

Amish Snack Cake

Jeepers creepers, it sure is busy around here…

This happens every December as the temperatures drop, the snow starts to fall, and holiday celebrations begin.  

I recently attended an early morning co-worker’s meeting.  We only meet four times a year and our December meeting is more like a meeting/potluck lunch.  We discuss business during the morning hours and then celebrate the upcoming holidays with a carry-in lunch in the afternoon.  As a special breakfast treat, I had volunteered to bake a few items and run to a local coffee shop for a box of hot coffee for the crowd.

Well, to my dismay, it started to snow heavily the night before the event and I knew the snow would hamper my trip to the donut shop the following morning.  I decided that I would get up really early to throw my baked goods into the oven so that I could travel into town and onto the meeting in a timely manner.  I wanted to make an uncomplicated recipe with only a few ingredients to speed up the process so I grabbed my recipe file to look for a recipe that had appeared in the newspaper many years ago.  I had clipped it out and tucked it away for just such an occasion. For this simple recipe, I used a box of spice cake mix and a can of apple pie filling for two of the ingredients.  The addition of three eggs was all that was needed to finish off the batter.  I threw in a handful of chopped walnuts to add a bit of crunch.

Below you will find the basic recipe.  The addition of nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, etc. will certainly add to the flavor and texture of the cake.  I’ve added a note with some classic flavor combinations if you would like to change things up a bit… Enjoy this moist and flavorful cake!

Amish Snack Cake

1 box cake mix, any flavor (I use spice cake mix)

3 large eggs, beaten

1 can pie filling, any flavor (I use apple pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13×9″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs and pie filling. Stir together until well blended.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or test for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake.  Cool completely before icing (if desired).

Other variations:

  • Chocolate cake mix with cherry pie filling and chocolate chips
  • Butter pecan cake mix with apple pie filling and nuts
  • Yellow cake mix with peach filling and walnuts
  • Pineapple cake mix with blueberry filling and coconut
  • Yellow cake mix with cherry filling
  • Spice cake mix with apple pie filling and walnuts