Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blueberry French Toast

Holy cow! Until I came over here to find the recipe for my Blueberry French Toast, I had no idea that I'd failed to put it here! Well, it's too late now for the blow-by-blow photos, but I do have the most important part--the end result, so I'll just cut to the chase with the recipe.

[update: A year later, I added the pics :)]

This is the perfect recipe for morning company, 
as you can easily prepare it the night before
 and just throw the rest of it together 30 minutes before breakfast.

8 oz. French bread* (preferably a little stale)
6 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cornstarch
2 12-oz frozen (or fresh) blueberries
2 tbls melted butter

Slice the bread 3/4" thick. I use this amazing saw-type knife that I picked up at my local farmer's market from a guy selling them for $20.  I wish I had bought several, as this thing is a beauty.  

Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, and baking powder and dip the bread slices into the mixture. 

Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and set in fridge overnight.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch and set aside. 

I usually do this the night before, 
so it's ready when I need it in the morning.  
This is especially nice for us, because we always eat this on Christmas morning, 
and I and throw it together quickly.)

In the morning, grease a 9 x 13 pan. Rinse berries 

and toss with sugar. 

Spread blueberries in the bottom of pan. 

Place bread pieces (wettest-side-up) on top of the blueberries, cutting pieces to fit if necessary. 

Brush with melted butter. 

Yes, I know; what was I thinking, just pouring the butter over the top?!
 Don't worry--I spread it around with the back of a spoon.

This was also the point when I remembered reading a review of Mrs4444 Cooks,
in which the reviewer said that everything I have hear is loaded with fat/sugar and horrible for you.
(Yes, I'm paraphrasing.)
Anyway, I remembered her statement when I was pouring the butter,
and I thought to myself, 
"Take that!"haha

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Serve with powdered sugar (but be careful--It's easy to accidentally inhale powdered sugar! 
Keep a drink close by!haha).

Serves 4

*If you wait til Christmas eve to buy the bread, you might be in trouble; French bread is in high demand for the holidays; don't be afraid to shop early. Stale French bread works the best, anyway.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wow. I've eaten some cookie dough in my day, but the cookie dough I ate tonight may well go down in history as the best I've ever eaten.

I'd never heard of Nutella cookies before reading a post from Jene (at The Original Bean), and I'm very glad I did, because these cookies are delicious! (raw or cooked!)


1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature (I used salted.)
3/4 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 cup of Nutella
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup of chopped hazelnuts (I added a whole cup because 1/2 cup didn't look like enough)

As you may have noticed, the recipe called for chocolate chips, of which I had none, so Mr.4444 kindly took out his trusty kitchen knife and wacked up some Bakers chocolate that I had.  Like Jene says, I finally found a use for the other end of my Pampered Chef measuring thingy...

First, cream the butter until its...well....creamy.

Then, add the vanilla, sugars, and Nutella. Mix well.


Add the vanilla and the eggs (one at a time, mixing 30 seconds between each egg).


Put the flour, baking soda, and cocoa....wait a minute! 
What flour?! Dang it--Sorry, I forgot to put the flour in the ingredient photo. Here you go!

The recipe said to sift the dry ingredients, so I did what any resourceful cook would do:


What?! Yes, it's time-consuming and a little annoying, but you can't argue with the results
(or the directions, which remind you that cocoa stays in chunks if you don't sift it):

Mix well.

Fold in the chocolate chips and the nuts.
The recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I made an executive decision on that one, too; 
since hazelnut coffee makes me gag, I went with walnuts.

Now here's where I muffed up the recipe and you should not. (Like my mom always said, "Do as I say, not as I do!"  Chill the dough for ten minutes or so. I didn't, and the result was kind of disasterous; so bad that I can't show you a pic (Just kidding--I did take a pic, but I lost it, so you'll have to use your imagination. Picture big, flat cookies all run into each other on the pan.)

If you haven't eaten all the dough yet, put it by rounded spoonsful (I used the big Pampered Chef cookie scoop) onto  parchment paper and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, allowing to cool a bit on the pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

While my cookies came out flat as pancakes and badly misshapen, I'm happy to report that they tasted fantastic and got rave reviews from Kendall and Mr.4444. They were all gone within two days.

I can't tell you how many this makes, since eating have the dough skewed my end result. (Jene said that they're too rich to eat too many, but you can see what a liar she is.) If you make them, let me know what you come up with, if you can resist...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Aunt Mary's Bailey's Irish Cream

3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 can Eagle Brand Milk
3 tbls Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 pint cream or half-and-half

1 cup whiskey (Irish, or whatever you have)

Blend all but the whiskey in a blender. Add the whiskey and mix again.  Pour into bottles and refrigerate.  Keeps a long time and is great in coffee with whipped cream on top! (Makes a nice Christmas gift!)

Homemade Hot Chocolate

"Oh, Mom--This is amazing," declared my college daughter just now as she sipped from a cup of this seasonal favorite. (And she doesn't even have marshmallows in it!)

This recipe is so simple! It makes a huge batch, and creatively wrapped, makes a perfect little Christmas gift.  Every year, I package it up for my Difference Makers kids. Since they absolutely LOVE when I serve it after "Ding-Dong-Decorate-and-Ditch," they are always tickled to receive some more to take home.

Four Simple Ingredients:

1 8-qt box of powdered milk (no, Matty, you cannot substitute the liquid variety, haha)
1 22-oz Cremora (some people say they use the flavored kind, but I just keep to the plain stuff)
1 box of confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 2-lb box Nestle's Quick

Just dump it all in a BIG container and mix it up!  I'll warn you that it's not cheap to make, but it really does make a LOT. I couldn't even fit all of mine in my largest mixing bowl--I dumped it all into a huge stockpot to mix it. The powdered milk was $13.00, but it was twice what I actually needed, so I'll be making another batch, which Kendall plans to give to her friends as Christmas gifts.

Use 1/3 cup mix per cup of hot water or just mix it to-taste.

This is really a treat. For the adults on your list, you could also make my Aunt Mary's Homemade Bailey's Irish Cream.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sweet Stuff! ($50 CSN Stores Giveaway!)

I recently received a copy of the book Nonna Tell Me a Story for review, and I'm happy to report that's it's lovely. Written by "one of the most-loved chefs on television, a best-selling cookbook author, and restaurateur," Lidia Bastianich, the book encourages families to share holiday memories of old and create new ones through baking and decorating together for the holidays.  Laura Logan did a wonderful job with the heart-warming illustration that accompany the sweet story of multi-generational holiday sharing in the first half of the book.  In the second half, Chef Bastianich shares her recipes for a number of favorite holiday cookies, from Almond Butter Cookies to these babies:

 Photo found at

You can find this hardcover book many places on line, priced anywhere from $9.32 to $15.

If you buy this book, you might need cookware to bake all of the deliciousness. Want a little help? Enter to win a $50 CSN Stores gift code. Not a baker? You will be amazed at the incredible number of products offered  by CSN Stores' 200+ sites. Win this, and you could put a nice dent in your holiday shopping.

To Enter, visit this link and give me the link of something you'd love to own (money is no object)! [This is a required entry.]

For extra entries:
*Enter my $100 CSNStores giveaway on Half-Past Kissin' Time
*Tweet this giveaway and include the url for your tweet. (Worth 2 extra entries)
*Include a link to this giveaway in your December 10th Friday Fragments (or any post, I suppose) and let me know in a comment here. (Worth 2 extra entries)
*Share a link to any Mrs.4444 Cooks post on your Facebook page and let me know here (or email me a screenshot if we're not FB friends). (Worth 3 extra entries)

GIVEAWAY ENDS Sunday, December 12TH at 10pm and will be announced in my Friday Fragments post on December 17th.

[UPDATE: The winner of this giveaway was Dee! Thanks for entering, Everyone! :) ]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Some day, I just might be brave enough to cook with yeast. Until that day comes, I'm gonna just put this recipe here for safe keeping; these rolls were a big hit at Thanksgiving this year :) (Thanks, Mary!!! And Thanks, Geri, for the recipe!)


2 tsps active dry yeast
1 1/2 C warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 1/4 C canned pumpkin
1/2 C butter or margarine, softened
1/3 C sugar (or Splenda)
2 eggs
2 tsps salt
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
4 1/2 to 5 C all-purpose flour

These are delicious, a pretty color, and do not really taste much like pumpkin.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add the pumpkin , butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and whole wheat flour; beat until smooth.  Stir in enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough (I use 5 cups). Turn onto a lightly-floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, until doubled (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down. Turn onto lightly-floured surface; divide into 3 portions.  Roll each portion into a 12" circle; cut each circle into 12 wedges.  Roll up wedges from the wide end and place, pointed-side down, 2 inches aprart, on greased baking sheets.  Curve ends to form crescents.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Move to wire racks. Yield 3 dozen

Nutritional Analysis: 1 roll = 134 calories, 3 g fat (2 saturated), 19 mg cholesterol, 161 mg. sodium, 23 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.  Diabetic exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat. 3 Weight Watchers pts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CSN Stores Giveaway!

Children's Luggage, pet products, cookware that would make Chef Ramsey kiss butt for; these are just a few of the many, many products you can find on the CSN Stores website. Seriously--The have 200+ stores!!  I'm excited to tell you that very soon, I will be offering you a chance to spend your very own CSN Stores gift certificate! Stay tuned for your chance to enter!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Two New Favorite Kitchen Tools!

[note: Photos/Links originally included in this post have been removed by the CSNStores site, which was later purchased by WayFair]

Last summer, I bought a piece of crap B&D blender and have had to return it not once, but twice, because it can't handle the power demands required to blend a banana smoothie! It starts to blend and then has a cardiac arrest and cannot be revived. Very frustrating!!  It's back in it's box again, and I'm happy to say that I will be returning it permanently this time, because I have found a new friend in, surprisingly, my new Oster blender, which I got to pick as part of a CSNStores offer.

I don't really know why I've not bought the Oster brand before, but it was within the budget allowed to me by CSNStores, so I went for it, and I'm really happy I did--It's perfect! I especially noticed that the motor on my 12-speed Oster blender was relatively quiet; I made smoothie at 8am without waking Mr.4444, who slept peacefully just a room away. It effortlessly tore through frozen strawberries like a champ. The 5-cup pitcher  size is perfect for our smoothie making needs. For you gadget fans out there, this blender even has "clean" mode (which kind of cracked me up). I'm really happy with our new blender and look forward to using it often.

I also chose the West Bend Electronic Stopwatch for my holiday baking, and I'm thrilled with it.  Every year, I make Norwegian Krumkake (see my post, When Kaka Means Yummy!). When you make krumkake, you can only make two at a time, and they have to cook for about 80 seconds. As a multi-tasker, I often burn some, because I can't be bothered to stand there and watch them cook. My new timer is going to make burned krumkake a thing of the past :)

The timer is the perfect size (numbers show up nice and big) and it's a very basic, timer, which makes me very happy; I don't need all kinds of complicated buttons--just let me count up or down and I'm happy.  The West Bend timer that I got can be displayed three different ways--it's magnetized to put on your fridge, you can clip it to your belt, or stand it up with an easy flip of the stand on the back. It beeps loudly, which is perfect for me, because I can be doing things in the next room and still hear it.  I'm really looking forward to doing my holiday baking with my new timer.

My experience with CSN Stores has been wonderful. I've reviewed three of their products and very much look forward to having a CSN Store Giveaway very soon, so stay tuned!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spiced Apple Cider

CSN Stores has gifted me with a gift certificate to any one of their 200 stores on-line, where I look forward to shopping for whatever I want! I'm excited to choose from a bar stool, to a blender, to a blanket. Really, the choices are endless, but I think since I broke my crockpot this weekend, I'll be looking for one of those (which I could actually use tomorrow, when I take this wonderful cider to share at work)!

You know how, at work, people are expected to bring treats in on their birthdays? Well, I boycott that; it's against my principles to have a commitment on my birthday! That said, I do like to bring in a treat now and then during other times of the year, and when Kendall said she was in the mood for my mom's Spiced Apple Cider, I figured I'd make some. The recipe makes a ton, so I should have plenty to share all around.

2 2-inch long cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 1/2 quarts water
1 cup sugar(dang! just realized I could have used Splenda!)
1 gallon of apple cider of your choosing
1 12-oz can frozen orange juice (we buy it with pulp)
1 12-oz can frozen lemonade

I threw my 5-year old cinnamon sticks away and bought new ones. 
The cloves smelled wonderful.

 First, take the first four ingredients and simmer them on the stove for an hour.

Obviously, the water will be clear at first.

After a little while, it will look a little cloudy.

After an hour, it will be a beautiful, golden hue.

Strain it into a large pitcher...

...or, if you have a huge Tupperware bowl, strain it directly into that. 
The entire batch fits into the bowl, 
where you can gently stir it with the apple cider, lemonade, and orange juice.

Carefully fill the apple cider bottle, using a funnel.

The recipe makes a gallon and a half.

It also makes for a wonderfully-flavorful drink on a cool, autumn day.

For what it's worth, it also makes a fantastic accompaniment to leftover pumpkin and spice cake! 
(and can you imagine it with a shot of amaretto?!)


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Carol's Slow Cooker BBQ

Now I'm no Rachael Ray, but I definitely wouldn't call myself a "slow cooker," so let's assume that Carol here is referring to a crock pot in the title of her recipe for delicious barbecue. I got this recipe from SparkPeople, a website for helping people reach nutrition and fitness goals. So far, it's given me the structure and guidance that I needed to lose 6.5 pounds. I was looking for a recipe that had molasses in it (it's got lots of vitamins, People!) and found this and a recipe for low-carb homemade barbecue sauce. Both are relatively healthy but full of flavor. [If you'd like a more heart-hateful recipe that is sure to please, check out my Barbecued Beef for a Crowd.]

I'll warn you ahead of time that this is not a difficult recipe, though it will taste like you worked on it for hours (which, of course, you will, if you are the crock pot.) If you want to milk this for all it's worth, splash some water on your face, mess your hair up a bit, and smear a little sauce on your shirt. Then grab your favorite book and spend some time reading in the kitchen, but keep a cookbook handy, in case you have quickly switch. (Make sure it's right-side up, of course.)


4lb boneless beef chuck, arm, rump or pot roast (yes, I know I forgot to photograph it. More on that later)
2 large onions, sliced into thin strips
4 stalks celery, sliced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1.5 cup catsup (or ketchup, if you're a stickler!)
1 cup BBQ sauce (I made this!)
1/4 cup Grandma's Molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or your choice of other kind
2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard your choice of type
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper

Confession Interjection: As you may have guessed, I was about out of molasses 
and turned it upside down to try and get every drop out.  
I ended up having to go borrow some from my sweet neighbor, Wendy.  
Also, because the barbecue sauce recipe reviews stated that it had a lot of kick,
I only used a sprinkle of the black pepper and chili powder this recipe calls for.

Anywho, all you have to do is whisk the sauce ingredients together til they are a nice, caramelly color... 

I followed this recipe backwards, mixing all of the "gravy" ingredients first, 
because I put off touching the meat until as late as possible; 
Mr.4444 usually cleans/cuts the meat for me, and he wasn't home. 
I don't know what it is about me and touching raw meat, but I find it quite disgusting.

I'm very proud of myself for preparing the meat all by myself; I didn't even gross out once!
(But don't tell Mr.4444, because I think he likes being my meat-prep hero :)

Put the veggies and meat into the crockpot..
The recipe said to put the meat in first, but you know what a rebel I am; 
I put it in second and mixed the stuff up a little.

Pour the sauce all over this culinary promise...
and fire up the crockpot on Low. Leave it alone for 8-10 hours.
Remove the meat from the sauce, and remove any fat you see.

Fork the meat apart, and return it to the sauce.
Refrigerate overnight or serve right away on your favorite rolls,
with some yummy potato salad and veggies, of course! :)

Per Carol: 
This recipe has so much flavor, no one will notice the Worcestershire sauce and the salt were deleted to reduce sodium (Shh! Don't tell Carol there's Worcestershire sauce in the barbecue sauce I made! It'll be our little secret!) Using molasses, instead of brown sugar and Worcestershire, gives a depth of flavor and authenticity, while reducing sugar and sodium.  (Don't worry--Mine didn't take fake at all.)
It is great to take to picnics, buffets, or tailgating. Freezes well. 

P.S. The potato salad was AWESOME and made with the following: red potatoes, pickled green beans, celery, hardboiled egg white, Miracle Whip, and mustard.  And BTW, that is a salad plate and a dinner roll, so don't go thinking I've been eating like a horse. This is just one of many healthy, reasonably-sized meals I've been eating since I turned over a new leaf (and lost six pounds!!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Low-Carb BBQ Sauce

 I've been making healthier decisions lately, when it comes to eating and exercising, and I've found that using SparkPeople helps. I found this recipe there this week and decided to try it. It was great!


1 c tomato sauce
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T cider vinegar
6 packets Splenda
1 T chili powder
2 t Tabasco sauce
2 t garlic powder
1 t pepper
1 t liquid smoke

I happened to have some Splenda packets on hand, but I don't always, so I measured them out for you and found that 6 packets is about a teaspoon and a half.
I only used 1.5 tsps of Tabasco, since one of the reviewers said the recipe was not for the faint of tongue.

Simply mix the ingredients and "cook" them 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning the heat down when it starts to boil.

I made this sauce for Carol's Slow-Cooker Barbecued Beef, and it was wonderful.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Personalized Omelets for a Crowd

Saturday morning, at our family reunion, I'll be helping facilitate the making of breakfast, which is really fun!  I highly recommend it! (stay tuned for pics!)

Eggs (2-3 per person)
Various diced ingredients: onions, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, pre-cooked sausage, ham, turkey, shredded cheese, etc.
1 quart-sized Ziploc bag per person (must be quart)
permanent markers
large container of ice water
large pot(s) of boiling water
salsa (if you like)

This is a fun and easy breakfast that gets everyone involved. Great for company or even for camping! Here's where the fun starts: Give each person a bag and a marker and have them personalize their bags with their names (some will be more creative than others, which is half the fun.) In pairs, help each other crack 2-3 eggs into your bags, and "squish" them to mix up the eggs. Then add whatever ingredients you like, plus a teaspoon of water (unless you added tomatoes, which add enough moisture). Submerge each bag (just to the zipper) in the ice water, to force the air out, closing the top carefully. When everyone is ready, place the bags together in boiling water 10-12 minutes for 2-egg omelets, adding a couple of extra minutes for a 3rd egg. One time that we made these, we did not have the right bags, so we used gallon-sized bags; YIKES! They were so big, they flopped over the edges of the pan and melted to the sides. While it all worked out, we learned our lesson. Use the quart-sized bags, which are smaller than the gallon size and more durable than the sandwich size. Most importantly, have fun! Serve with salsa on the side, if desired.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer's Harvest Breakfast

It's that time of year; strawberries, other fresh fruit.  It's the perfect time of year for this delicious breakfast concoction I came up with a couple of years ago.  Looks yummy, doesn't it? Read on if you love fresh fruit and a healthy breakfast... (and sorry to you anal folks out there who are really bothered by that spoon not being straight. Just keep reading, and you'll forget about it.)

One of the things I love about summer (and no school) is that I have time to make breakfast for the kids (if I feel like it, haha). When I made this favorite for Kyle and me recently, I decided to share it with you. In classic Pioneer-Woman style, I took a photo of the ingredients. (That's where she and I part, though; this recipe is so simple, there is no need to lead you by the hand through every single step.)

The beauty of this "recipe" is that you can use whatever fruit you have available, and since summer has so many fruits to offer (think blueberries, mangos, necterines, grapes, etc.) the sky's the limit! For this batch, I used about 1 cup each of the oatmeal and the yogurt. This yogurt is vanilla, but I've used strawberry before, and it was great, too. If you can't tell, those are sliced almonds (Kyle and I like their nice crunch, but I keep them out for Kendall.)

Start by washing the fruit. I am grossed out by the thought of eating fruit that's been grabbed by Lord knows how many dirty hands. And at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I'm going to add that I LOVE this product for washing fruit:

It's 100% natural, smells like citrus and gets the waxy coating off of fruits and vegetables beautifully. The store I first found it at doesn't sell it anymore, so I buy it on line. For $20, I bought a 32-oz bottle of concentrated product that makes EIGHT bottles like this (16oz) one, so I'm sure it will last me at least a few years.

Next, cut the fruit into small (cube-sized) pieces. I have to share my all-time favorite Pampered Chef product, too, because I love it for taking strawberry tops off and digging the top out of tomatoes. (It's also a gem for scooping out bad spots of any fruit or vegetable.) I call it a "doohickey," and I own two, because one is always dirty.

Put the fruit in a medium-large bowl and top with oatmeal, yogurt, and almonds. Then, just stir it up and eat it! This batch made two large, full bowls for Kyle and me.  It doesn't keep forever, but that's okay; we eat it too quickly to have any leftovers anyway :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Barbecued Beef for a Crowd

I'm surprised it's taken me so long to post this recipe, as we've been making it for years, and it's always a big hit. As usual, it's a very easy recipe, so I think you'll be impressed. [I'm not sure how much this makes, but we serve it at our Halloween party every year, and I know it makes a ton. Count on feeding around 40 with this doubled recipe, and you should be good.)


10 pounds beef *roast
2 small bottles of ketchup
2 small bottles of chili sauce
3/4 cup of mustard
7-8 T brown sugar
2 T of vinegar
4 T worcestershire (pronounced woostesheer, BTW)
4-5 diced onions
2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the meat in a large roasting pan.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the meat.

Cover the pan tightly with foil, and put it in the oven. Bake for 4 hours.  (If you use the amounts here, increase that time about 30 minutes; the four hour time is for a single batch.)  When the meat is ready, you should be able to fork it apart with ease. This is a team effort in our house. Use a sturdy tongs to take a hunk of the meat at a time to a plate and fork it apart, removing the fat, and returning the meat to the pan. Continue until you've removed all of the fat solids and have the meat back in the sauce. Keep warm in a crock pot at your event. It works fine to make the night before, too (Mr.4444 and I will be shredding beef at midnight tonight! (For Kyle's graduation party tomorrow!!)  Any leftovers freeze perfectly, so don't worry about making too much.  Serve on potato rolls (our favorite) or whatever rolls float your boat!

By the way, this barbecue goes great with Theresa's Beans!

Hungry yet? 

*When choosing the roast for this recipe, look for some fat marbling throughout; that gives the best flavor. Too much fat and,'ll have too much fat and not enough meat. Not enough fat, and you have tough meat that doesn't pull apart easily.  So heed this warning, because nobody likes having to spit stuff in their napkin! :)

Easy Pasta Salad

Is there really such a thing as a difficult pasta salad? I actually thought twice about posting this one, because it's so easy, but then I figured that not everyone is an experienced cook, so I figured it's worth a post. This salad is a nice accompaniment to any summer meal. We're serving it with barbecued beef sandwiches (and ham, and guacamole, and taco dip, and....) for Kyle's graduation party.

Pasta of your choice (I used rotini this time, but you can use any kind, including spaghetti.)
Veggies of your choice (cukes, Vidalia onion, celery, green pepper, red pepper, tiny tomatoes)
Cheese (optional) Note that I didn't think to add mine til after I took the photo
Olives (optional) I actually changed my mind and left these out (Mr.4444 said, "People hate green olives."
1 bottle of Italian dressing
1 bottle McCormick Suddenly Salad seasoning (not pictured)
pepperoni (optional)
shredded Parmesan (for guests to sprinkle on top)

(Note:  Although this recipe lists the ingredients for one batch, I actually doubled it, so you'll see a lot more at the end of the post.)

While you're cooking the pasta per box directions, dice your vegetables. (Of course, I washed that dirty celery!)  I took the next photo to show you one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools. You know how you get invited to Pampered Chef parties but hate to go for fear you'll spend too much?  Well, I highly recommend that you buy one of these babies, as it is worth it's weight in gold (about $10).

I've had mine for about ten years, and it will still take a finger off if you're not careful. When we're peeling potatoes for booyah, I can peel at least three times as fast as anyone with a old-fashioned peeler (and I don't have the waste I get with a knife.) But I digress, just like I did when I became enamored with this gorgeous red pepper and took this shot...

And now, back to the show!  When the pasta is done, be sure to rinse it in cold water (in a colander, Matty) right away (it stops the cooking and keeps it from getting mushy). Drain thoroughly and put in a large bowl. Add the vegetables, and pour the dressing over all.

Stir. Add salt and pepper if you want.  Chill for several hours, and don't be afraid to stir now and then to mix the dressing through.

 Off to make another dish for the party!!

[Update: Today, when I tasted the salad before serving it, I decided it needed something (it was a little too tame. My sister Mary brought some sliced pepperoni to add, and we also added a bunch of McCormick Suddenly Salad seasoning and some more Italian dressing.  That gave it the kick it needed.]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Devil's Sex Cake

For the background on the name of this cake, read What IS the Devil's Favorite Food, Anyway?!

This is one of the easiest cakes to make, and it really is sinfully delicious; 
Everyone who gets a piece is satisfied.


1 devils food cake mix (or German chocolate, if you prefer)
(ingredients referred to on the cake box: oil and egg)
1 large container of Cool-Whip (the small is pictured, but I wished I had had a little more)
1 bag of Heath bits (or 4-5 Heath bars, chopped small)

 First, bake the cake per directions on the box.

As soon as you take the cake out, use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes in a regular pattern all over the cake. Do NOT poke the holes all the way down to the bottom; just do it half-way. (But remember, you can still get pregnant going half-way.)

Put the caramel topping in the microwave (without the lid) and microwave long enough to heat it up for pouring (about a minute at half-power, depending on your microwave). Stir. Pour over the cake, taking care to fill the holes as evenly as possible.

Allow cake to cool.

When the cake is cooled, spread the Cool-Whip over the top. 

Sprinkle Heath bits over the Cool-Whip. 

Chill, smoke a cigarette, and then go clean up.

It was good for me. Hope it's good for you, too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Snickers Bar "Salad"

Who am I kidding? It's a dessert. And seriously; it's so easy, a whole post about it would be ridiculous.

And it's so quick, I forgot to take a photo of the ingredients:

6 Snickers bars, chopped
1 big container of Cool-Whip
6 large granny smith apples, cored and sliced

This is all I've got for you (just before the big stir!)

And it's so good, I have no photos of the leftovers.

Really; it's that good.

And tune in next time for the promised "Devil's Sex Cake!"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Apple Dumplings, Simple and Delicious

If you've never had The Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings before, you are really missing out! They're one of the easiest things to make (Yes, Matty, even for you.) I've been making them for years, as they are the favorite of everyone in my house and beyond, and to prove it, I'll tell you that Kendall requested Apple Dumplings for her "birthday cake" when she had her birthday sleepover tonight. (That reminds me--while they're in the oven, I'd better find some candles!!)


2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 granny-smith apples
2 pkgs Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
cinnamon (enough to sprinkle as pictured below)
a few ounces of Mountain Dew soda/pop

(As you may have noticed, this recipe is not for the calorie/fat conscious. If you must be health conscious, simply close your eyes while you eat it; I've heard that cuts the calories and fat in half!)

Ready? First, put the two sticks of butter in a 2-quart saucepan to melt on low. While it's melting, cut and peel the apples however you like to do it. I use the fun apple cutter...

but I suppose it would have been easier to simply peel the apple and then cut it. It's a horse-apiece, I guess.

There are eight dinner rolls per package. Sixteen dumplings fit nicely in a cake pan (two per person.) The apples I bought today were very small, so I used about a slice and a half for each one. Simply set them at the wide end, roll them up, and place the apple-filled crescents in your cake pan.

By the time you've finished, the butter should be melted.

Add the sugar, and stir, but not too much; it should still be grainy. Remove from heat and add the vanilla (Or not; I've accidentally left it out before, and it turned out fine.)

Pour butter/sugar mixture evenly over all.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Now for the odd part. Carefully pour some Mountain Dew down the rows and around the edges.

I would guess that you only need about 1/4 cup. If you use too much, they'll be swimming in liquid. When that happens, I just take a turkey baster and suck some of the juice out, so that they don't get too soggy.

[BTW, if you're especially observant, you will wonder why in the world these apples are now in a ceramic pan, instead of metal. (If you did notice, I'm very impressed!!) The reason is that I made two pans worth for Kendall's party, since I had to feed 14 girls.]

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until they are nice and brown and you are drooling.

Remove from oven and let stand for a minute or two, or you won't be able to use your tongue for a few days (which might be good, what with the week's worth of calories and fat you'll be consuming.) Serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

Here's the birthday girl enjoying her "cake."

For the record, the girls loved the apple dumplings. In fact, one of them inspired a new name for them, when she asked, "May I have another piece of heaven, please?"

Need I say more?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Glazed Meatloaf

I think I know what meatloaf heaven is like; I was there again tonight when I ate a plate of leftovers (Is there anything better, really, than meatloaf leftovers?) The recipe for this wonderful meatloaf, which has a delightfully-sweet taste, came to me via my second cousin, Sara Olson. Sara is a Mennonite, and if you know anything about Mennonites (besides the fact that they wear dresses and cute bonnets), you know they can cook. (Or is that just a stereotype?  I'm sure someone will let me know, haha.) Anyway, Sara's meatloaf is to-die-for, and it's unlikely that I will ever use a different recipe, now that I've tried hers, so it's only appropriate that I share it.

Ingredients:2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed saltines (about 30)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 tsp salt (we like kosher)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 T mustard

First, prep your ingredients. Think about how artistic food can be. Is it just me (a Wisconsinite), or does this cheese look gorgeous next to the carrots

And speaking of carrots, why is it that every time I peel carrots, I think of women's legs?

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl...

And then, be very, very brave, and mix it with your bare hands!!

I'm shocked that I did that, actually (Usually, I wear sandwich bags on my hands when I tough raw hamburger, cuz it grosses me out).

At this point, check on your rice.

Did I catch you with that one??  Only kidding; there is no rice in this recipe; it was for the sick dog.....

Yeah, you know your dog is sick when he won't touch a peanut butter sandwich.

Pat the meatloaf into a 9 x 13 baking dish. What?!! I packed it all into a bread pan, obviously...

no wonder it overflowed a little bit and took forever to cook. (Still, I'd do it the same way again.) Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Mix glaze ingredients....

and pour over meat.

Allow me to interject here to insist that you never, ever, ever skip this glaze part, as it is the most wonderful part of the recipe (next to the cheese and carrots inside the meatloaf, of course.)

Bake 10-15 minutes longer. (Add a half hour or more if you cook it the way I did; in a stone loaf pan.)  I wonder if Martha Stewart shows pictures of her cooking messes or just pretends they all turned out perfectly?

Be sure to use a meat thermometer if you aren't sure. 170 degrees is good.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

FYI, my photo is missing a vegetable...

because I got impatient with the cooking time and ate the broccoli long before the meatloaf came out of the oven.  One might think I spoiled my appetite by eating a ton of broccoli, but thankfully, I did not; I ate every single bite of my supper.

And then I went to stuff an Imodium tablet down the dog's throat....