Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Desserts, Food

Quick Fix Brownies



We spent a beautiful day in Chicago on my brother’s boat yesterday. I volunteered to bring along some munchies so I turned to my favorite brownie recipe to add to the collection of appetizers and desserts.  These brownies hold up well when traveling and they slice into dense dark chocolatey squares, perfect for a family outing.  A regular cake mix is used for the brownie base.  This is a quick and easy recipe that is sure to please all of the chocolate lovers in your life!

Quick Fix Brownies

1 (18 1/4 oz) devil’s food or dark chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

1/3 cup brown sugar 

1/4 cup water

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Set the oven rack to the second-lowest position.  Spray with cooking spray a 13×9″ baking pan.  In a large bowl mix all ingredients except chocolate chips (and walnuts) until smooth.  The batter will be quite thick.  Add chocolate chips and walnuts, if desired; mix to combine. Spread batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes (do not over bake).   Cool completely before frosting with a frosting of your choice.

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Desserts

Easy Blueberry Upside Down Cake





This time of year, there are plenty of local blueberry farms lining the county roads throughout the Midwest.  In early July, rustic hand painted signs announce the arrival of a new blueberry crop at many of these farms.  Last Sunday, I stopped at one such farm to gather a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.  To my surprise, there were “slim pickings” available for sale. The unprecedented soggy, Midwest rains and cooler summer temperatures have made a bit of a mesh of things.  When I asked if they had any blueberries for sale, the owner expressed her disappointment as she said the crop was a bit overripe and the berries seemed uncharacteristically  soft.  I usually bring home a 25 pounds box, but instead, I purchased only two pints.  Hopefully, I can visit another stand with a bit more success.

For a quick summer treat, I assembled this incredibly easy recipe that is sure to tantalize your taste buds.  It’s much like a traditional upside down cake that usually includes pineapple.  Instead, a few cups of berries are used to top the tender butter cake.  I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try. It seems the flavor grows as the cake sits for a bit.

Easy Blueberry Upside Down Cake

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 package yellow or butter cake mix + recipe eggs, oil, and water

1 teaspoon almond extract

Coat the bottom of a 13×9″ baking dish with butter; sprinkle with brown sugar and blueberries. Prepare cake batter according to package directions.  Add almond extract, mix well.  Evenly spread the batter over the blueberries.

Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate. If desired, serve warm with ice cream.  

Posted in Cake, Chocolate, Desserts, Food, holiday, No-Bake

Oreo Ice Cream Cake

  
This weekend, we had the pleasure of visiting my sister and her family for the July 4th holiday. One of the activities that we enjoy most is remaking recipes that have become a tradition in our family. This no-bake cake is a winner. The July 4th weather is usually warm and breezy so the ice cream cake is a refreshing treat after a long day of grilling, baseball, and fireworks. Just pop the finished cake into the freezer at the start of the day and it will be waiting for you when you want to sit down and enjoy time with family and friends. What a great, no fuss, dessert!

Oreo Ice Cream Cake

1 package (20 oz.) Oreo cookies

1/4 cup margarine, melted

1 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

1 package (8 oz.) Cool Whip (thawed)

1 jar (16 oz.) hershey’s hot fudge or chocolate syrup

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup mini Reese’s peanut butter cups or your favorite chocolate candy, optional

Lightly spray, with cooking spray, a 9×13″ pan. Crush cookies in the food processor or put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Add melted butter and mix thoroughly. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Carefully spread the softened ice cream over the cookies. Evenly layer on the Cool Whip. Warm the fudge or chocolate until pourable in the microwave and drizzle over the Cool Whip. Sprinkle nuts over the entire cake. (Add the mini candies, optional.) Freeze for at least two hours or until firm. Enjoy!

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Desserts, Food, Kids in the Kitchen

Cranberry and Pecan Glazed Donuts



For the longest time, I’ve wanted to try making baked donuts. This past Christmas, I ordered two donut baking pans to put under the tree as a gift to myself.  (How many moms out there have done that before?)

I did my homework before ordering the pans…  I wanted something that was non-stick and had no seams in the donut bed so that the batter could lay evenly without getting trapped in the metal seam.  I found the perfect pans at Norpro.  

This past week, as my oldest daughter celebrated a birthday, I decided to make a tray of donuts in lieu of a traditional cake. She was scheduled to have back surgery the afternoon of her birthday and I wanted to bring a special bite-sized treat along so that she could nibble on a mini-birthday-donut the morning of the procedure.  

As I scoured my cookbooks and kitchen files for a suitable recipe, I spied a boxed muffin mix that carried a small picture of a basket of mini-donuts posted on the back of the package.  To my surprise, the recipe posted beside the picture was for baked donuts.  I thought…well, let’s give this a try.

So after a few alterations, I came up with this recipe adapted from Krusteaz Guilt Free Baked Donuts.





Sweet Cranberry and Pecan Glazed Donuts

Donuts:

1 package Krusteaz Cranberry Orange Fat Free Muffin Mix

1 can cranberries (enclosed in the box), drained and liquid reserved

3/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Reserved cranberry liquid

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray with cooking spray, the donut baking pans.  For the donuts:  In a medium bowl, carefully stir together the muffin mix, cranberries, orange juice and extract.  Combine just until blended.  Place the batter in a gallon-sized sealable bag (or a pastry bag). Snip the plastic bag 1/8″ from the corner.  Evenly pipe the batter into the mini-donut baking pans.  Bake 8-12 minutes or until donuts spring back when touched.  Cool and remove to wire rack.  

For icing:  Place all icing ingredients (except nuts) in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle or dip donuts into the icing then sprinkle with chopped nuts.  

Note:  I also used the regular sized donut baking pan for this recipe.  Alter baking time by adding 10 minutes or until light golden brown and donuts spring back when touched.









Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Cake, Desserts

Strawberry and Pecan Tea Loaf



As the early spring weather brings the hope for a bumper crop of beautiful berries, green speared asparagus, and long stalks of leafy rhubarb, I’m always reminded of this recipe for Strawberry and Pecan Tea Loaf…

Years ago, when my children were young, I owned a home daycare that would serve the purpose of caring for neighborhood children (along with my own) and helped to bring in a little extra money in the process.  I must admit, the days were long and the children were often more work than I expected but every day brought with it a new set of rewards and cherished experiences.  

One early evening, just before a holiday weekend, a parent arrived late to pick up her only son.  She apologized for her tardiness and placed a cellophane wrapped Strawberry and Pecan Tea Loaf on the kitchen table before leaving.  She had presented it as a token of appreciation and as an Easter gift.   

That evening, I sliced the loaf and placed it on our dinner table to be served with our Good Friday meal. I served the loaf with a big pot of tea and was delighted with its moist and flavorful texture as the loaf was chocked with plump berries and crunchy pecans.  I quickly made a note to ask this parent for the recipe.  She obliged and I’ve cherished it ever since.  


Strawberry & Pecan Tea Loaf

2 cups fresh strawberries, diced

3 cups flour

2 cups + 2 teaspoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray, two 9 x 5″ loaf pans. Place strawberries in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with 2 teaspoons of sugar; set aside.

Combine flour, remaining 2 cups sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl; mix well. Mix oil, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, mixing until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in chopped pecans. Divide batter into pans.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of loaves comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out onto wire racks; cool completely before slicing.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Cake, Desserts, Food

Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Cake

I have to admit, there is nothing healthy about this delicious cake but I sure love the ease at which this recipe falls together and it’s not difficult to make a healthier version, if you’re so inclined.

One can easily substitute the white flour for a mix of whole wheat or oat flour,  cutting the sugar really wouldn’t be a problem for the integrity of the end product, and substituting the sugary topping for a honey glaze or adding a sprinkle of whole oats would certainly satisfy most.

I found three golden apples at the bottom of the produce drawer this morning.  Usually  I bake on Saturday mornings, but I was out of town yesterday reading to a group of young children, as we were promoting the importance of literacy and introducing young parents to some really great children’s books.

So… Today is my baking day.  I am crafting this post as this delicious cake continues to rise and brown in the oven.  The smell of the cinnamon-sugar and vanilla mixed with the golden apples is simply irresistible.  After chopping the apples, I realized that I had prepared enough for two cakes so I will keep one and share one.  I’m sure the lucky recipient will be happy to take one of these sweet treats off of my hands (#care-package)!

Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Cake

Batter:

1½ cups brown sugar

⅓ cup oil

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2½ cups flour

1½ cups chopped apples

Topping:

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray, a 9X13″ baking pan.  Mix batter ingredients in the order listed.  In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients, cutting butter into sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Evenly sprinkle topping over batter.  Bake for 45 minutes or until center is set.

A few quick pics of the cake baked in a slightly different pan…

To top each of these cakes, I used a combination of whole oats and a honey glaze.  Cheers!

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Cooking In Disney World, Desserts, Food

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

After vacationing this past week, I wanted to share a great recipe that I often make when I’m traveling. As I’ve mentioned before, my family frequently travels to our Disney Vacation Club time share to rest and relax.  I often pack a bag full of munchies, packaged mixes, peanut butter and jelly and a tin of homemade cookies for the road.  This year I put a box of angel food cake mix and a can of crushed pineapple in the food bag, along with all of the other essentials needed for a week’s worth of meals.   I was anxious to whip up this tasty treat for a late night dessert with the family. You’ll find this cake to be light and airy and full of flavor.  The tiny bits of pineapple are barely seen in the finished product but they pack a flavorful punch.  Unbelievably, the recipe includes only two ingredients (with the exception of an optional sprinkle of powdered sugar for a bit of pizzaz). Pair the cake with a handful of sweet berries and you’ve got a winner!

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

1 (16 ounce) package angel food cake mix

1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray a 13X9″ baking pan. Simply combine cake mix and entire can of pineapple in a large bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool before topping with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or whipped cream.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Desserts, Food, holiday, holidays

Pineapple Sheet Cake

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I had high hopes for baking one of my husband’s favorite cakes for Valentine’s Day. Pineapple Upside Down Cake is rumored to be at the top of his list. But, as fate would have it, the weather outside today is horrible and we are currently under a blizzard warning. Getting out to the grocery store to pick up maraschino cherries and pineapple rings just wasn’t going to happen today.
So, I searched through the pantry for the can of crushed pineapple that I had purchased last week and remembered my recipe for Pineapple Sheet Cake that would surely act as a close second to the highly favored upside down cake. While this cake is delightfully simple to assemble, over-mixing can make the cake a bit rubbery, so take care to use a spatula to combine all ingredients completely without over doing it. A light, homemade cream cheese frosting usually completes this cake. Today’s bake is topped with a canned version of the original. Once again, the weather conditions would hold me back and I had to settle for ingredients that I had on hand.
I nibbled a sliver of the cake just before plating it, and to my delight, it turned out wonderful. Not too bland, not too sweet…just wonderful. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

Pineapple Sheet Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13×9″ baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, mix until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan, spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until center springs back to the touch. Cool completely. Frost cake with cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle chopped or ground walnuts over the frosting. Optional: Omit the frosting and lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Cake, cookies, Desserts, Food, lunch box

Plain Jane Blondies

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My daughter called last week and asked if I still had this simple blondie recipe in my kitchen library. It had been so long since I had made them, I had to search through some of my old magazine clippings to find the recipe she was referring to. It’s modeled after the recipe used in the Nancy Drew Movie about the teenage detective in the series of mystery novels that we often read as a child. In the movie, Nancy used these treats as a tool of bribery to gain information and solve her latest mystery. When the Nancy Drew movie came out, my youngest daughter became so enamored with the young mystery sleuth that she asked me to make the popular Nancy Drew shoulder bag with lots of room for gadgets and note taking materials specifically selected for her make believe adventures. She took the bag everywhere. She especially enjoyed showing off all of the clever gadgets tucked neatly inside the mystery solving bag. A couple of years ago, I donated it to Good Will Industries, but now I am wishing that I would have kept it for future generations of mystery sleuths.
The original “Nancy Drew Blondies” were much thicker so I’m assuming her recipe was baked in a 9X9″ pan. In the movie, Nancy entices others when she opens a cute, round, stainless steel tin and inside sits a perfectly shaped, moist and scrumptious looking blondie. Well, my recipe isn’t quite as famous, but we sure enjoy the taste. That’s why I have named my recipe…Plain Jane Blondies.

Plain Jane Blondies

2 /14 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in the flour mixture and the nuts until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 35-45 minutes. Cool completely and cut into bars with a sharp knife.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Cake, Food, Gifts, holidays

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

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Over the years, it’s been a holiday tradition in my family to prepare lots of holiday loaves to be given away throughout the season. This year we chose the Cinnamon Swirl Loaf to pass on to others. It’s the perfect loaf for the busy holiday season. Most years, I spend hours in the kitchen rolling out a cinnamon yeast loaf that is delicious but a bit time consuming. This year, to save time in the kitchen, I made a semi-homemade loaf that uses a cake mix for the base. If you love fresh baked cinnamon rolls, then this loaf is for you! As a bonus, the recipe makes two loaves at once. This really speeds up the baking process helping to make more loaves to give away for the holidays!

Wishing you the very best this holiday season. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

1-15 oz box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two loaf pans with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients. Pour half of the batter into both loaf pans. Thoroughly combine the cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle half of the dry mixture over the batter in the loaf pan. Pour the remaining batter into each pan, carefully spreading evenly into the corners. Finish by sprinkling the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter. With a butter knife, swirl the cinnamon mixture throughout the batter making large swirls with the knife. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.

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