Saturday, July 22, 2017

Easy Apple Cinnamon Cake



This cake isn't made with fresh apples. This cake isn't "scratch". This cake eater doesn't care!!!
Seriously, it's an easy version that really is moist and delish. Give it a try sometime!







Here's how it happens:

Cake Batter Ingredients:

1 15.25 oz. Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 21 oz. can apple pie filling
Optional: 1 cup (divided use) chopped pecans or walnuts

Whisk the first 3 ingredients together in a large bowl to mix well.


Combine the next 4 ingredients together in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir to combine before mixing with a hand or stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Pour the apple pie filling into a bowl and, using a knife, cut the apples up into smaller pieces.


If using the optional nuts, take 3/4 of a cup of them and add to the batter along with the pie filling.


Stir the nuts and apples in by hand until evenly combined. The batter is done.... time to prepare the baking pan. I'm using my favorite tube pan today, but a large bundt pan will work just fine too. To prepare the pan, spray it generously with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.


In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Stir to combine and pour into pan, coating well.



Pour or spoon batter into pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean from the center.


Remove the cake from oven and allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Because of the type of pan coating I chose to use, which creates a slightly crunchy exterior on the cake, I've chosen to leave my cake top side down, but if you're using a tube pan, you can glaze which ever side you want! Next, use a wooden or metal skewer, or chopsticks work well too... and poke holes in the top of the cake. Toothpicks are too small to do this with effectively. You can skip this if you want, the cake is plenty moist inside thanks to the pie filling.



While the cake is cooling for the 10 minute period, prepare the glaze.


Glaze Ingredients:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Push the confectioners' sugar through a strainer to eliminate lumps, into a medium bowl.


Add all the remaining glaze ingredients and whisk together until smooth.


Spread the glaze evenly over the cake as shown below:


If using the optional nuts, sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of them over the top of the glaze. I like to finish this cake off with some clear edible glitter, just to brighten up the presentation a bit. Totally optional!!



And now there's nothing left to do but EAT CAKE!!!! Yippeeee! This is my favorite part!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hashbrown Crusted Breakfast Pie



This is so easy and "change-up-able", and it's often enjoyed for dinner at my house rather than breakfast.  I really enjoy foods traditionally served at breakfast time for dinner.... all of them..... I just love breakfast stuff!  You need to use a deep dish 9 inch (1 qt. capacity) pie plate for this.  Here's what you need to throw this together:

For the crust:
3 cups frozen shredded hashbrown potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon flour
Salt & pepper

For the filling:
4 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 (4 oz.) can fire roasted chopped green chiles, drained
1 cup fully cooked ground pork sausage
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt & pepper
Smoky Sweet Paprika (optional)

I've been asked if fresh potatoes or non-frozen grated potatoes would work with this instead of frozen ones, and yes, they will.  I use frozen ones because if I keep them stocked in my freezer, I never have to worry about having to run to the store to get potatoes if I don't happen to have any on hand.  Whatever potato choice you make, the important thing is to make sure you get as much moisture off of them as possible before you add the melted butter and press them into the pie plate. I also use Jimmy Dean fully cooked sausage patties, which I get at Sam's and keep stocked in my freezer.  They come 4 patties to a package.  One package is the perfect amount for this.  I just defrost it in the microwave and crumble it up with my hands.  Just get a tube of your favorite ground breakfast sausage and crumble it up and brown it if you don't used the fully cooked version.

I just spread them out into a separate pie plate to microwave them for thawing.

Here, I've patted them dry and added the flour, butter, salt and pepper, mixing with my hands.


To make the crust, defrost the potatoes in the microwave at 40% power for a few minutes at a time, stirring in between, until fully defrosted.  Press paper towels over the top to absorb any excessive moisture, then mix around and repeat once more.  Sprinkle the flour and salt & pepper to taste into the thawed potatoes and mix well.  I just do all the potato mixing with my hands.  Add melted butter, making sure all the potatoes are well coated before moving on to the next step.

There's actually no need to spray the pie plate with non-stick spray before forming the crust, but I can't stop myself, I always do it anyway.  You don't have to! Don't be like me!!!!  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

After pressing the potatoes into the dish with my hands as evenly as possible, I smooth the surface.

Put all the potatoes right into the pie plate and begin forming the crust with your hands, trying to keep a consistently even thickness on the bottom and sides. Once I have it pressed in by hand, I smooth out the bottom with one of my measuring cups.  Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.  While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

   


Whisk the eggs well in a large bowl. Add the cheeses, green chiles, cooked sausage, cream, milk, and salt & pepper.  Mix it all up well. Remove the crust from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 415 degrees.

Here's what the crust should look like when ready to add filling - just starting to brown around the edges.


   
Pour the filling into the crust - you may have a "pile" in the center... just level it out with the back of a spoon. 

   

This is the Smoky Sweet Paprika I like so much.  You can use regular paprika or none at all, but it adds color to the top, and because the center is somewhat bland looking, I like to add it.


Return to the oven, now at 415 degrees, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set.  Once it's done, the center of the pie should not be cratered inward, it should be lifted level with the edges, and it should be nicely browned, with a very slight jiggle, if any. 





Here's what the bottom looks like.

 The potato crust will be soft along the inside, but should be crispy on the outside.  It should cut nicely and hold together well.  Let the pie sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

If you keep with the volumes I have used here, you can switch up the ingredients any way you want. Use different cheeses and meats.  Omit one of the cheeses and add some caramelized onions.  Put some sliced cherry tomatoes all around the top.  Add a little Tabasco or Cajun spice blend if you want to.  Make it your way! 

I have also used muffin tins for this instead of a pie plate, but it's waaaaay more time consuming!

No Ads Here, Ever!!

Because my blog's intended use isn't for earning money, you will never find ads within it.
It may seem a bit boring when you arrive... no flashing, no pop-ups, no brightly colored and sometimes amusing titles to lure you in, but I'm happy about that.

I don't enjoy it when I'm on a mission to find out about more about something or read a recipe that looks interesting and I get bombarded with a gazillion ads and pop-ups that I have to click on to close before I can move forward to the whole reason I went there in the first place. 

If I want to buy something, I can assure you, it won't be due to the fact I saw it on a flashing ad in someone's blog.  I never click on them, ever.  I'm flat-out irritated by them, so this is my quiet place where no ads will ever be.  I've even been to blogsites that have so many ads, it takes forever for them to load and I've had to wait for what seemed like an eternity before I could even get to what I wanted to look at.

I'm not a career blogger like many are.  Don't get me wrong, there are many, many food blogs and DIY blogs out there I love to visit and I have an appreciation for all the work they put into it and the content they share.  I even have a "Blogger's Best" cookbook I put together of recipes I have found and tried from other food blogs that are worthy of keeping and using, but I never enjoy the ads and pop-ups while I'm there.

So, if you are here, all you will find is content that I have personally posted, and that's the way I plan to keep it!


Monday, January 30, 2017

I Finally Did It !!!!

What, exactly is it that I finally did, you may ask....  well, I'll tell you!  I have mastered the art of making my own beautiful wooden spoons!  Back in July of 2015, when I was just starting my blog, I wrote about all my beloved wooden spoons, and about how I wanted to make my own someday.


Here they are, my first three spoons!!

I've wanted to work with wood for years now, and I found a place close enough to my home that offered classes, so I took basic woodturning and a cutting board class and totally fell in love with all of it.  I proceeded to buy a nice middle sized lathe and some basic woodturning tools, and along the way have been trying to get all the tools I think I need to get started on some projects into my shop.  I still need a good band saw, a planer, and maybe a drum sander, and I think I'll be happy for now.

Anyway... there was also a wooden spoon class that was scheduled I was hoping to take, but it was cancelled, and after I thought about it, I decided it wasn't the way I wanted to go with my spoons anyway.  They were making them by using a jig on the lathe and doing spindle work on the handles first, then using the jig to secure the spoon in a different way so you could gouge out the business end of the spoon with a bowl gouge.  It works fine... I saw pictures of some of the spoons.  They were beautiful, but too perfect.  I don't want perfect!  I can go anywhere and buy a perfect wooden spoon.  I have LOTS of them already.  I want my spoons to be handmade, not machine made.  I want them to look somewhat rustic and like they've been around a while.  So, in the end, I decided that class wasn't really what I wanted. 

That's when my brain went into the "how am I going to make it happen now" mode.  I figured it couldn't hurt to just use my common sense, apply the basic knowledge I already have, and be brave enough to try.  The worst that could happen is some big disappointments and wasted wood and time.
I went for it.

At a local woodwork supply store, I found some beautiful Ambrosia Maple and Cherry that I thought would make strong, beautiful spoons.  I took it home and used some of my own wooden spoons as templates, the ones I love the shape of and look of the most.  

I cut them out with my scroll saw since I don't have a band saw yet.  After that, it was lots of hand work.  LOTS!!! My hands have never been so tired.  I had 7 cut out ready to finish, but I could only get three of them done before I was done in. 
They are all made out of Ambrosia Maple.  The small one is 6 3/4 inches long, the medium one is 9 inches long, and the big one is 11 1/2 inches long.  I was really pleased with how they came out, and I'm relieved to know I can actually do this without someone teaching me.  I can only get better at it as time goes by.  These have already sold.  I have wood to make about 18 to 20 more, which is exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I have time to get them done, because I need some for ME!  I also want to use some of the scrap wood to make some spreaders... for jams, butter, soft cheeses.  That will be another challenge.  I don't know if I can do that or not, but I'm determined to try!

The problem with all this is... it's all I'm thinking about right now.... it's all I want to do!  But I have other things that demand my attention and I can't do this 24 / 7 like I wish I could!
Balance... it's all about balancing things out.  I can do it, I can.... I can....

Creamy Chicken and Dumplings

Oh, yum! 

I really enjoy a big steaming cup of chicken and dumplings.  Now, I know there are plenty of ways to make this, and plenty of people who like them plenty of different ways, but I like mine simple and creamy.
I don't want a clear broth, and I don't want onions or carrots in it... I just want chicken and dumplings swimming in a thick and creamy pool of deliciousness!

I've been making chicken and dumplings almost this way for over 35 years.  When I first learned how, I made it good and proper, boiling a hen, deboning it and using the broth from it as the starting point, but now I just create my own broth and use rotisserie roasted chicken I get from Sam's Club. They're huge, delicious, and only five bucks each and I use half of one each time I make it.

For the dumplings, I combine 1 1/2 cups of  Pioneer Baking Mix, 1/2 cup milk, 1 heaping tablespoon of dried parsley, and some black pepper together in a bowl. 

I mix it all up with a spoon until it sticks together and then finish forming it into a dough with my hands, shaping it into a ball as it comes together.  Here, I'm showing what I use to cut them out so they're all the same size.. so they will all cook at the same rate in the broth.  You can make them bigger, but the bigger they are, the longer it takes them to cook and the fewer you will get out of the dough.  You can always double the dough recipe and put twice as many dumplings in if you want to, which I often do, but today I was in a hurry.

Next, I press the dough ball flat on my cutting board.  I don't flour the board or anything, it never sticks...

I cut them all out and put them aside in a little pile.  Once I've cut out all I can, I just pick up the scraps and form another ball, press it flat, and do it all over again, repeating this until I've used all the dough up.

Once I have them all cut out, I cut each one in half...

and roll it into a ball, then press on it to flatten it a bit.

Here's one next to a quarter so you can tell how big they are.  You don't have to cut them in half if you don't want to, I just like them to be the perfect size to fit in my spoon. 

I cover them with plastic wrap so they won't dry out while I get the broth going.

I use 2 (32 oz.) cartons of reduced sodium chicken broth...

and 1 container of Knorr's Homestyle  Chicken Stock.

This is on high heat because I want it to come to a boil.  I'm adding a heaping tablespoon of dried parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and some coarse ground black pepper.

While I'm waiting on the broth to start boiling so I can add the dumplings to it, I get the other stuff ready that still needs to go in.  This is 1 can of Cream of Chicken soup and 1/2 cup of whole milk.


Beat vigorously until the soup is creamy and the only lumps you can see are the chicken in it.

Then I give the chicken a rough chop,

and whisk 2 egg yolks in a bowl with a fork.


When the broth comes to a good boil, drop the dumplings in one at a time.

They grow and get fluffy, and then they get denser as they cook and shrink some. Once they're all in there, reduce the heat to a moderate simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring gently a few times to move them around in the broth.

After 10 minutes, I like to fish one out with a spoon and test it for doneness.


Then, using my wonderful handy-dandy slotted Kitchamajig I've had for a million years, I remove them all from the broth and threaten my husband with something, anything horrible I can think of, so he won't eat them before I can get them back into the pot!

Next up, drizzle the egg yolks in while stirring the broth, same as you would if you were making egg drop soup.

Once that's done, add the soup/milk mixture in.

Then the chicken goes in....

and finally, the dumplings go back in.  Yes, they survived and I didn't have to kill my husband.

Give it a good stir, let it simmer for about 5 minutes so the chicken can get good and hot,

and it's ready to eat.

I like to put lots of black pepper on mine right before I eat it. 
I recommend tasting it before you add any salt.  I never add any extra salt, even using reduced sodium chicken broth, but go right ahead and add some if you want it saltier after tasting!!