Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Brunch, holiday, holidays

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.

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Desserts

Applesauce Spice Cake

Family Day at Purdue University brought us down to campus for a weekend of fun and football.  When looking over recipes to serve on the tailgate table, this applesauce cake caught my eye.  As many of you that frequently bake might testify, I rarely follow a recipe as it’s written.  I am constantly checking my stash of leftovers to see how they can be transformed into deliciously satisfying baked goods.  This week, I adapted an apple cake recipe that I found in an old community cookbook to create this moist, dense cake. I had made applesauce earlier in the week and I was looking for ways to use it up before having to freeze it.  This cake fit the bill and everyone enjoyed its apple and cinnamon spiced flavor.  The recipe is especially good with a cup of hot tea or coffee on a cool fall or winter day. 

Applesauce Spice Cake

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups applesauce (chunky or homemade style)

1 cup canola oil

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup whole oats

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray, with cooking spray, a 13×9 inch baking pan.  In a medium bowl, mix first six dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine applesauce, oil, and eggs; mix well.  Pour dry ingredients into applesauce mixture and combine until well blended.   Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle batter with oats and nuts. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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.

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

Easy Cake Mix Apple and Banana Nut Muffins

I’ve been fooling around with cake mix recipes for years.  I often have extra fruit ripening on the counter or parked in the fridge for too long so I keep a stash of cake mixes on hand to whip up a batch of breakfast muffins. The cake mix and fruit combine easily for a quick and easy twist on the classic fruit muffin.

This week I had two bananas and a bit of homemade applesauce to add to the mix. The ratio usually requires the standard mix, 1/3 cup of oil, 3 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of a overly ripe or wet fruit.  I’ve often mixed in flavored yogurt as well.  Play around with your favorite flavor combinations and see what you come up with.  I’d love for you to share any of the cake mix combos that you enjoy.  I love this quick and easy method of baking in a semi-homemade way.

Easy Cake Mix Apple and Banana Nut Muffins

1 box cake mix, white or yellow

1/3 cup oil

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup mashed overly ripe bananas (2 medium)

1/2 cup chunky applesauce (I use homemade applesauce)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Old fashioned oats or brown sugar topping, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously spray 2 muffin pans with cooking spray or line with paper liners. In large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.  Divide batter evenly between muffin cups.  Sprinkle with a handful of old fashioned oats or brown sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of loaves comes out clean and inside of cracks do not look wet. 



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, 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

IMG_4722
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.