Monday, December 29, 2008

NY's baby blanket

Just finished and sent off to the States to be mailed: a baby blanket for our soon-coming new nephew, ML's youngest sister's third child.

What you can't see in this picture...(sorry, old family joke) is that there is a star in the middle of each square. It's much more obvious in real life.

It is based on the same pattern that I knit from for ML's middle sister's youngest daughter's blanket. I "just" worked out the star pattern to replace the heart one ([u]not[/u] an easy feat, although it sounded simple enough to begin with).

Again, I used Caron Simply Soft yarn. This time, though, I chose 1) Light Country Blue, 2) Country Blue, and 3) Dark Country Blue with the first section being knit with 1 & 2 together, the second 1 & 3, and the third 2 & 3. I was worried that this was going to make the blanket too dark (there was a Soft Blue I could have made the lightest color and dropped the Dark Country Blue), but ML's sister was able to look at the yarns before they were brought to me (when ML's parents visited), and she loved them (I also knew that a darker blanket would look dirty less easily). She even used those colors as a basis for the quilt ML's mom will make, as she does for each grandchild.

The other main difference is that I alternated the knit and the purl each time the pattern repeated across, thus making it squares, not just strips. I wanted it to have a bit of a quilt-block look, and I really like the way it turned out. I will definitely keep this as part of the pattern for future renditions.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

His Cunning Hat

Okay, so only fans of the entirely too short-lived TV series Firefly (which I can recommend to Sci Fi fans, minus a few certain scenes) and, specifically, the wrap-up movie Serenity, will appreciate this, but I made a special hat to put in ML's stocking this year: a Jayne Cobb Cunning Hat.

I was blessed to find a crochet pattern, since I don't have circular knitting needles, and it actually went together quite smoothly. I only had to take out the first inch or two of the body of the hat once when I determined that it was going to be too small, and I had to re-do the earflaps after he tried it on and we discovered that they were too large and actually came over the very edges of his eyes (oops; the perils of making a piece of clothing for someone without the benefit of them being able to try it on).

So, without further ado, ML in his new hat (with added background by the man himself :-):

Oh, and I had to use muted colors, because the yellows available here were too pale and the orange was too pink, but I like the way it turned out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Washington Cheesecake

When we got married, ML's mother photocopied most of their family recipes and his sister cut them apart and glued them to recipe cards for me (and made a set for herself and their other sister at the same time). The notation on the card for this recipe said, "ML's favorite." I took the hint and learned how to make the cheesecake before we even left the States.

To me, it is simple. Plus, it's saved me from ever having to bake pies. My ex-pat friend, whom we've been with all our years overseas, and I decided there was no reason for me to learn to make pies, if I would just make cheesecake, and no reason for her to learn to make cheesecake, if she would just make pies. We specialized.

makes about 12 servings
from a seminary friend of ML’s mother

• 1 C graham cracker (or petit beur) crumbs
• 3 T sugar
• 3 T butter, melted
• 1/2 t cinnamon
• 1/3 C finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

• 3 8oz. packages cream cheese
o or 41 “Laughing Cow” cheese triangles
o or 33 “Kiri” cream cheese squares
• 3/4 C sugar
• 2 T flour

• 3 eggs

• 2 T milk
• 1 t vanilla

• 1 C mini chocolate chips or chopped baking chocolate (optional)

• 1 can pie filling (optional)

1. Combine crumbs, sugar, butter, cinnamon and nuts and press into bottom of spring-form pan. Bake at 325* 10 mins.
2. Increase oven temp to 350*
3. Combine softened cream cheese, sugar and flour, mixing at medium speed until well blended.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
5. Blend in milk and vanilla.
6. Stir in chocolate chips/chunks.
7. Pour mixture over crust. Bake at 350* 30-40 minutes or until cake is set except for a 1-2 inch circle in the center.
8. Loosen cake from rim of pan (with table knife). Cool before removing rim completely.
9. Serve topped with pie filling, if desired.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Several people mentioned this cake on SL a while back as an option to use canned pumpkin. Since I discovered how easy it is to make my own pumpkin puree', I tucked it away as a good option. It sounded kind of like dump cake, only with pumpkin, instead of pie filling.

Wouldn't you know, though, there were no yellow cake mixes to be found in-country. Cake mixes are available at every little corner grocery here (and every corner has at least one grocery), but all of the sudden, none of them had yellow cake mix. Every other flavor under the sun. But no yellow.

I'd looked at all of the big grocery stores in the capital, even, as I happened to be in them over the course of a couple of months. About a week ago, I stopped at a slightly-larger-than-small grocery store to pick up a lunch option for the kids on my way home from a friends' house. Guess what they had? Yellow cake mix, of course. In our city. In a little grocery store.

And I happened to have a pumpkin that needed baking and pureeing. And friends coming over for a Numb3rs-watching evening. What a perfect combination of circumstances!

The cake was a hit, to understate the reaction. It is delicious, and I will definitely be making it again.

(And don't anyone dare plug this into any kind of nutritional calculator. Or, if you do, I do not want to know. I'll stick my fingers in my ears. I will. It's a dessert. It's a treat. I don't want to know.)

• 1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
• 1 egg
• 8 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), melted

• 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
• 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (1 3/4 C)
• 3 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 8 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), melted
• 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar (2 C)
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer.
3. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
4. To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth.
5. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together.
6. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well.
7. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. (Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.)
8. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

• For a Pineapple Gooey Cake: Instead of the pumpkin, add a drained 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple to the cream cheese filling. Proceed as directed above.
• For a Banana Gooey Cake: Prepare cream cheese filling as directed, beating in 2 ripe bananas instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.
• For a Peanut Butter Gooey Cake: Use a chocolate cake mix. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese filling instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

About those crafts...

In case anyone's wondering, yes, I remember that this is supposed to be a craft and recipe blog. It's just that all three crafts that I've been working on recently have an element of surprise (or are completely a surprise) for the end user, so I'm waiting until they're given to post pictures.

I'm planning to start a pair of wool soakers for ZL within the next day or two, though (with the hopes of venturing back into the realm of nighttime cloth), so there should be something new to oooh and aaah over soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spinach Casserole

My mom found this recipe in the Dallas Morning News kids' section when I was in elementary school. I guess it was supposed to help kids like spinach. I didn't have any trouble with that beforehand, but this didn't hurt.

It's one of my favorite dishes. Ever. I've been known to eat some of the leftovers for breakfast.

It was one of the dishes we chose for our "traditional" family Christmas meal when my mom had us pick something, since we always got the turkey-and-fixins meal at a grandmother's (or two). Yum!

• 1 sm onion or 1/2 onion, chopped
• 3 pkgs. frozen spinach, 10 oz. each, thawed
• 8 oz. cream cheese
o or 7 Laughing Cow cheese triangles
• 1/4 C milk
• 1 1/2 C cheddar cheese, grated

1. Steam the chopped onion with a teaspoon of water in a small microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap vented just a little to allow steam to escape for two minutes. (You can skip this step if you don't mind onions a little crunchy in the finished product. It's especially helpful for little kids with texture issues, though.)
2. Mix onion, cream cheese and milk with a mixer or by hand.
3. Squeeze excess water from spinach and spread into baking dish (3 qt. or 9x13).
4. Spread cream cheese mixture over spinach.
5. Top with cheese.
6. Bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe is from a sweet older lady who was in our small group when we first got married. We had a LifeGroup Thanksgiving dinner before everyone headed off to their family celebrations, and she made this. It was delicious. ML absolutely loved it. I now bring it to all holiday meals. I think I would end up a single parent, if I didn't. :-P

• 3 lg sweet potatoes (or yams), cooked & mashed
o or 2 large/3 medium cans, drained
• 1/4 t salt
• 1 t. vanilla
• 1/2-1 t cinnamon
• 2 T margarine
• 1/2 C brown sugar
• 1/2 C nuts, chopped
• 1/4 t nutmeg
• 1 bag marshmallows
o or 1 jar marshmallow cream

1. Add all but marshmallow to sweet potatoes & mix.
2. Spread into 9x13 baking dish.
3. Top with marshmallow.
4. Broil 1-2 mins.

Corn Pudding

One of our traditional holiday dishes. From The Four Ingredient Cookbook, a cookbook my mom gave me right around the time I got married. The ladies who wrote it (them, actually; there are several) are from my hometown, but it became kind of a national phenomenon. You may have seen it on an infomercial. :-) They're wonderful for cooks just starting out. And I need to go back through them soon for some inspiration, too.

Wow. I just looked up the cookbook to link it. It's gotten fancy. Mine is an old spiral-bound copy, and they're either hard-bound or at least bound paperback now. And looks like it's still selling well. Cool.

• 2 cans (16 oz. each) creamed corn
• 1 pkg (6 oz.) corn muffin mix
o or 1/2 C flour, 1/2 C cornmeal, 1 T sugar, 1 1/2 t baking powder, 1/4 t salt, mixed
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/2 C butter, melted

1. Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 2 qt. casserole dish.
2. Bake 45 min. at 350*.

Simple, but yummy. A good compliment to a laden table.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apple Cracked Wheat (CP)

Mamamin6 posted this on a Sonlight thread on crockpot oatmeal. I was delighted, because we can't get non-quick-cooking oats here. (Well, there are the imported little bags of Bob's Red Mill, but one of those would feed my kids maybe one meal. And we'll not even talk about how much it costs.) Quick-cooking oats done in the crockpot are paste (ask me how I know). Yay for cracked wheat.

• 2 C cracked wheat or bulgur wheat
• 4 C (1 l) apple juice
• 4 C water
• 4-6 T honey
• 2-4 T unsalted butter
• pinch of salt
• 1 t cinnamon
• 1/2 t cardamom
• 1 C chopped apples (2 medium apples)

1. Put the cracked wheat in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until you can just smell the aroma, about 5 minutes.
2. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours, or overnight, until tender (the cracked wheat will take longer to cook than the bulgur, which is parboiled).
4. Stir the cereal well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon.
5. Serve with milk, cream, or soy milk, if desired.

mamanin6 says:
• To make plain cracked wheat, use 1 C wheat to 3 C water. We've also cooked steel cut oats with apple juice in the crock-pot, and that tastes good, too.
• If you like crock-pot cooking, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook is a great book. Lots of great recipes, and tons of great info about crock pots, how to convert oven recipes to crock pot, etc. It is one of my most used cookbooks! They have a delicious tapioca pudding recipe that you make in the crock pot.

I haven't had more than a bite of this (my goal is to eat raw for breakfast, and I've been pretty good about keeping to it), but the kids like it, MS especially. It's going to for sure be a regular in our repertoire.

Oh, and I skipped the toasting step the second time, and the kids didn't seem to mind, so I don't think I'll bother with it in the future.

Stuffed Mexican Cornbread

My mother used to make Stuffed Mexican Cornbread when I was growing up. Our first year overseas was rather unadventurous culinarily speaking. Lots of scrambled egg sandwiches for the adults and mashed bananas for MS. At some point, though, I managed to recreate this recipe from memory with what was available. It was one of my first cooking successes (and if you doubt that, ask ML about some of the failures).

It is still one of ML's favorite meals and usually what he wants to break his fasts with. I know. But he has an iron stomach.

serves 4-5

• 1 lbs. ground meat
• 1 med. onion, chopped
• 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
• 1 pkg. taco seasoning (approx. 2 t)
o plus water according to directions
• 3 med. tomatoes, chopped
o or one can tomatoes, partially drained & chopped
• 1 can diced Rotel, partially drained
o or 1/2 – 1 C salsa
• 1 can kidney beans
o or 1 can/1 1/2 C refried beans
• 1 can whole kernel corn
o or 1 1/2 C frozen corn, thawed
• 1 C shredded carrots (optional)
• 1 recipe cornbread batter (see recipe below or mix 2 Jiffy mixes according to package directions)
• sour cream, for topping
• extra salsa, for topping

1. Brown meat and onions (and garlic).
2. Drain (if you live somewhere where animals are fatty enough to require this step).
3. Add taco seasoning and water and simmer according to directions.
4. Transfer meat, onions & garlic (if using) to 9x12 baking dish.
5. Add tomatoes, Rotel or salsa, kidney beans, corn and carrots (if using). (If using refried beans, stir other ingredients first, and spread beans in a layer before topping with cornbread batter.)
6. Stir to mix.
7. Top with cornbread batter.
8. Bake at 425* for 20 - 25 mins. or until cornbread is golden brown.
9. Top with sour cream and salsa when serving.

This recipe is very flexible. Add, substitute, leave out as you please or as you have available.

For instance, when we had this last week, I had ground beef and onions already cooked in the freezer, so I stirred the taco seasoning in with the other ingredients. We had fresh tomatoes, jarred salsa, and canned corn, so that's what I use. We really prefer the taste of refried beans to kidney beans, so I made sure we had some UnRefried Beans from the freezer to use. MA and ZL are allergic to carrots, so we don't use those these days, although I like what it adds nutritionally, so I'd use them again someday, if I can. And JW is allergic to garlic, so we're not using any of that these days, either. Oh, and, of course, I used the flax seed egg substitute and whole wheat flour. Even with all of the changes/substitutions, it's still one of our favorite meals.


• 1 1/2 C flour
• 1 1/2 C cornmeal
• 3 T sugar
• 1 1/2 T baking powder
• 3/4 t salt
• 3 eggs
o or 3 T flax seed, ground whisked with 9 T water,
• 1 1/2 C milk or water
• 1/3 C oil

1. Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, & salt.
2. In separate bowl beat eggs, milk & oil together.
3. Add to flour mixture.
4. Stir just until smooth.

(What I use for cornmeal is actually labeled “Turkish Semolina.” We have wheat semolina here, too, and the Turkish not labeled as corn, but it tastes like it in cornbread, so you might find some variation of that elsewhere.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hot Chocolate Mix

I originally found this recipe in one of The Tightwad Gazette books. Again, it's a common enough recipe that I don't think it's copyrighted. It's ye old standard homemade hot chocolate mix recipe. It's yummy, though. :-)

• 10 2/3 C dry milk
• 6 oz. creamer
• 1 lb. Nestle Quick
• 1/3 C powdered sugar
• 1/2 bag mini marshmallows (optional)
• 1 C crushed peppermints (optional)

1. Mix with whisk.
2. Store in airtight container.

To prepare, add 1/2 C mix to 1 C hot water.

I use one bag of full cream powdered milk (which is actually 10 C) and leave out the creamer, since this recipe was written for the non-fat dry milk in the States. And now I don't even bother with the powdered sugar, since the Nestle mix is sweet enough, so, yes, to make hot chocolate mix, I just dump a bag of milk and a box of chocolate milk powder into a container and shake. But, hey, it's a hit at my house all winter, both with the family and with guests. Oh, and I do usually put in the optional marshmallows. If I have them.

You can add instant coffee for a mocha mix, but I’ve never done the calculations for the whole recipe (just for gift containers I used).

Applesauce Muffins

There was a monster post-your-favorite-muffin-recipe thread on Sonlight a while back from which I gleaned several recipes. It's wonderful to just go to the recipes folder on my computer and look up muffins and have lots of options to choose from. I've even recently begun to make use of the ability to color code file names, so I mark all recipes I've made and we liked as green, all that I want to try in purple, and all that I've made and we were so-so about in yellow (if we absolutely don't like them, I just delete, so need to mark in red). It's so nice to be able to remember at a glance what we liked and what I've been wanting to try.

At some point, I had applesauce and a desire to make muffins at the same time, so I tried these. We loved them! They have kind of a gingerbread taste to them (thanks to the spices) and are just so yummy (I know that I say that about lots of things I post here, but if it weren't, I wouldn't post it, so...).

This time, I tried modifying the sweetener to be 1/2 honey (rule of thumb: use 1/2 the amount of honey for the sugar you're replacing). I didn't want to do all honey, because I was afraid it would change the texture too much, but I might try that next time, anyway. I also used the flax seed egg replacement. Oh, and I think I've said this before, but I only use wheat flour, so any time it calls for flour in my recipes, know that you can use wheat. What I have is often a white wheat, but sometimes it's stoneground organic whole wheat, so pretty much any of the above should work.

I served these for the guest ML had last night (mini ones), saved some out for the kids to have for breakfast this morning, and froze the rest. I'm actually stocked with muffins in the freezer for kids' breakfasts again. Yay!

from Magistra

• 1 C butter, softened
• 2 C sugar
o or 1 C sugar + 1/2 C honey
• 2 eggs
o or 2 T flax seed, ground + 6 T water
• 2 C unsweetened applesauce

• 3 t cinnamon
• 2 t allspice
• 1 t cloves
• 1 t ginger
• 1 t salt

• 4 C flour
• 2 t baking soda

1. Cream butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs one at a time.
3. Mix in applesauce and spices.
4. Stir in dry ingredients.
5. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.
6. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.
7. Yellow scoop (#20) makes 30 muffins.

This made 15 large muffins and 24 mini muffins for me, but I was pretty generous with the batter in the large muffins.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Taco Macaroni Skillet OR Homemade Hamburger Helper

I have had Hamburger Helper (or probably the generic store brand) maybe 3-4 times in my life, when we were early married, and ML encouraged me to make some. For him, however, it is reminiscent of many, many, many meals throughout his college years, and it is comfort food.

When I picked this recipe, it was just because it was in my recipes folder, and it looked good. When I served it, though, I noticed its similarity to Hamburger Helper, commented on it, and discovered that ML was already reveling in the fact. I think we'll be repeating this recipe. :-)

Actually, it may very well join Sloppy Verna's as an option for a meal to make on the day that I'm browning large amounts of ground beef to freeze (although at almost $20 for four pounds this last time at the store, that won't be happening again any time soon; =-o I'm more motivated to pray for MA to be healed of her soy allergy, so we can go back to TVP :-/).

All that is to say: it was yummy!

(Makes 4 servings)

• 12 ounces extra-lean ground beef (2 C cooked)
• 2 cups water
• 1 can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
• 1 can Diced Green Chiles
o or 1/4-1/2 C salsa
• 1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
o or 2 t taco seasoning
• 1 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni
• 2/3 cup Evaporated Milk
o 1/2 C powdered milk + water to make 2/3 C
• 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

• Additional shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Cook beef in large nonstick skillet, stirring frequently, until brown; drain.
2. Stir in water, tomatoes with juice, chiles, and seasoning mix.
3. Cook until mixture comes to a boil.
4. Add pasta; return to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low; cover.
6. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 14 to 16 minutes or until pasta is tender.
7. Stir in evaporated milk.
8. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 cup cheese.
9. Sprinkle additional cheese over top.
10. Cover; let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Buttercream Icing

And our traditional icing. It was the first really tasty icing recipe we’ve found that is actually smooth enough to use with decorating tips.

Buttercream Frosting

• 2/3 cup butter softened (no substitutes)
• 1/3 cup shortening
• 1-2 tsp vanilla
• 2-3 TBSP milk
• 4-4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Mix butter, shortening, vanilla 1-2 TBSP milk with blender on med.
2. Gradually add p. sugar and rest of milk until desired consistency.
3. Start
4. with blender on low and move to med once mixed.

Can add coloring to make desired color for decorating.

I just use 1 C of butter, instead of 2/3 butter and 1/3 shortening. It's easier, but as I think about it, it's also healthier, too.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

• 1 cup butter softened (no substitutes)
• 1 cup cocoa
• 6 cups sifted powdered sugar
• 4 tsp vanilla
• 4-5 TBSP milk divided

1. Mix butter, vanilla and 2-3 TBSP milk with blender on med.
2. Gradually add cocoa and p. sugar and rest of milk until desired consistency.
3. Start with blender on low and move to med once mixed.

Rumbaugh Cake

This is our traditional cake that the kids have for their birthday parties. They get to pick the cake mix flavor that is used as the base (although we have forever vetoed mango after MS's 5th birthday, I think; yuck!). It is super rich, moist and delicious. I don't even want to know how many calories it has in it.

Named after the ex-pat friend I got the recipe from.

• 1 box cake mix (flavor of your choice)
• 1 box instant pudding (flavor of your choice-4serving size)
o or 4 T canned custard powder
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 cup sour cream
o or 3/4 C leban or lebaneh
• 3/4 cup oil
• 3/4 C water
o or 3/4 C hot water + 4-6 T instant coffee granules (with a chocolate cake mix for a mocha cake)
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup choc chips
o or small choc block chopped into small pieces (big ones will sink to the bottom)

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
2. Mix powder cake mix, pudding mix (or custard powder), and sugar in a bowl.
3. Add sour cream (or yogurt), oil and water. Mix on low speed until moistened.
4. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
5. Fold in chocolate chips.
6. Pour into greased bunt pan, 9x13, or two rounds.

7. A bunt takes approx. 50 minutes to bake.
8. 9X13 usually 45.
9. And two rounds 35.
10. Or until golden brown and set in the middle.

Possible variations:
*chocolate cake/choc pudding/choc chips
*choc cake/choc pudding/choc chips or mint flavored choc chips and add peppermint flavor
*french vanilla cake/white choc pudding/white choc chips
*french van cake/ choc pudding/assorted frozen berries in cake and on top or fresh (usually do strawberries here in Jordan but can do pie filling too)--also punch holes in top and pour sweetened condensed milk over before adding berries--yummy
*butter cake/choc pudding/ choc or peanut butter chips and do peanut butter frosting

You can come up with all kinds of variations. I have noticed white choc chips don't melt as well and tend to stick to the bottom of the pan so better to use it for cakes you want to serve directly out of the pan and it is fine--NOT good for bunt cake style or ones you want to invert and decorate!


Nanny's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

This is not my own Nanny's cake. I got this recipe from Kmama on the Sonlight boards in a healthier desserts thread. I told her I had my own Nanny (my father's mother), and when we compared notes, we discovered lots of similarities between the two: older (as in 95ish), still living alone, very independent, etc. So, I like to think of this as a tribute to my Nanny, even though it's not her recipe.

from kmama

• 1 3/4 cups boiling water
• 1 cup oatmeal

• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup sucanat (or regular sugar)
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour – pastry
• 2 tablespoons cocoa
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 12 ounces chocolate chips
• 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan
3. Mix boiling water and oatmeal, let cool 10 minutes.
4. Cream honey, sucanat, butter, eggs and vanilla.
5. Beat in oatmeal mixture
6. Add dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa).
7. Add 1/2 of chocolate chips.
8. Pour into prepared pan (greased and floured), sprinkle with remaining choc. chips and nuts.
9. Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

"My version of my favorite cake recipe from my grandma...modified to use healthier ingredients"

Traditionally, our kids' birthday cakes are a variation on a boxed cake mix that they get to pick the flavor of. It's delicious (I'm posting that recipe next), but not the most nutritious. I decided that Z wasn't old enough to know the difference yet, so I made his birthday cake (for his party yesterday) a slightly more nutritious version.

And, rather than using double the egg yolks as I do normally for baked goods, since ZL & MS are allergic to egg whites, I used the ground flax seed equivalent (1 heaping tablespoon of flax seed, ground + 3 tablespoons water, whisked together). It works perfectly, and I like the fact that it makes the recipe even healthier.

And it's even a nod to my own Nanny, because I learned from my dad that she was the one who tipped him off as to the health benefits of flax seeds. :-)

Chocolatier Brownies

After GfG's remark on my last brownie recipe post (which did not offend me at all, just got me thinking), I decided to think a little outside the box, and venture into new territory: I tried a new brownie recipe for the first time in 12 years! I even tried it out on company. But they are close friends, so I knew they would forgive me and still be my friends, even if they didn't turn out well. Turn out well they did, though, so I thought I'd share.

I can't tell if they're supposed to be Chocolatier Brownies, as in some one who makes chocolate, or Chocolaty-er Brownies, as in brownies that taste even more chocolaty than others. I think the former sounds fancier and more exotic, so that's what I'm going with. :-P

from MomGardens

beat well:
2 C sugar
1 C Butter (no margarine)

add and mix well:
3 eggs
1 t vanilla

mix in:
1 t salt
1 C flour
3/4 C cocoa

Bake in greased 9 x 13 pan for 30 minutes at 350. Cool in pan before cutting.

The verdict: yummy! Rich, moist, kind of the perfect mix of cakey and gooey. The only thing I would change, which I noted above, was to add salt. The recipe I'm used to has salt, and I like the effect.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

When life gives you pumpkin puree, make pumpkin muffins (or pumpkin butter, but we were already stocked up on that, or pumpkin pie squares, but I didn't have a yellow cake mix).

Okay, so life didn't just hand me pumpkin puree. I made it myself, but I still had to figure out what to with it, since all of my medium-sized tupperware seemed to have disappeared (the plan had been to freeze it in 2C portions for later baking, but you know what they say about the plans of men).

We hadn't had muffins in a while, so I dug around on the SL forums for a pumpkin muffin recipe. I came up with several, but this one was what I ended up using due to availability of ingredients. I, of course, tweaked it a little, but that's just the nature of the beast in my kitchen (and somedays...).

from Cindy in GA

it's not overly sweet, uses whole wheat flour, and makes 24 muffins. My dc love them! (The batter will seem pretty stiff, but the muffins come out wonderful.)

Combine the following dry ingredients:
4 C whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
or 1 t cinnamon, 1/2 t ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/4 t cloves
2 C sugar
or 1 C honey

3 eggs
1/2 C canola oil
2 1/2 C pumpkin

Mix well. Bake @ 350 degrees for 21 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

I love the fact that the recipe says to bake for 21 minutes. :-P It's probably a type-o, but it made me smile, so I left it.

Corn-dog Casserole

A recipe from the SL boards from "Becca FL," who apparently isn't on the boards anymore (I looked to try to link to her profile or her blog, if she had one, but she's not in the member list).

It's comfort food, and not particularly healthy, but I do make it with whole wheat flour and the hot dogs here are halal (which is similar to kosher).

Due to allergies, this time I made it with four egg yolks instead of 2 eggs and water instead of the milk. It was a little stiff, so I added probably 1/2 C more water. We eat it with mayochup (like I said, it's comfort food).

One thing I find funny about the recipe is that the note at the bottom says "This is the only corndog casserole that I've had that actually tastes like a corndog!" Um, I'd never, ever heard of corndog casserole before seeing this recipe. It most be a regional specialty. Somewhere.

• 2 pkgs (8.5oz) corn muffin mix
o or 1 C flour + 1 C cornmeal + 2 T sugar + 2 1/2 t baking powder + 3/4 t salt
• 2 T brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1 can corn, drained
o or 1 cup frozen corn
o or 1 can cream corn (casserole will have a corn pudding-like texture)
• 1 pack of hot dogs, sliced

1. Combine the cornbread mix and brown sugar.
2. Add milk and eggs, mix well.
3. Stir in corn and hot dogs.
4. Pour into a greased 13x9 inch pan.
5. Bake for 25-30 min at 400 degrees.
6. Slice into squares.
7. Serve with ketchup and mustard.

My sister says she added about 2 tbsp of diced onions to kick it up a notch. She says she bets shredded cheese on top would be good too. This is the only corndog casserole that I've had that actually tastes like a corndog!

Pumpkin Crockpot Granola

I have been wanting to teach MS how to do more in the kitchen, both for his own sake and for mine. Thanks to the idea from my sister-in-law (MKH), I have started MS off with things he can cook in the crockpot. We have a gas stove and oven, and he's a little skittish about fire (guess I should be happy), and while he's going to have to get over that and soon, the crockpot has provided a way to get him cooking without crossing that bridge quite yet. He can make a roast, and he can make applesauce and apple butter so far.

Since breakfast is the bane of my existence, I decided a breakfast option would be a good thing to teach next. So, I planned to teach him last night how to do overnight crockpot granola (using the recipe I'd previously posted). School kind of went long yesterday, though, and we wrapped up read-alouds at 9:30 PM, just in time for MS to go to bed. :-/

This morning, we were doing kitchen-school, so I could get some dishes washed and bake some pumpkin muffins while the pumpkin puree I'd made earlier in the week was still good. Noticing the butter we'd put in the crockpot to thaw yesterday (don't worry, it's cold here already, so the butter was fine), the wheels started turning in my head. Hm, I've started using applesauce in place of 1/2 of the butter for the granola recipe...I bet pumpkin puree would substitute perfectly...I was wondering what I was going to do to use up the puree that I didn't need for the's not even going to be enough to be worth would be just the right amount, though, for granola...

So, MS's home ec for today was Pumpkin Crockpot Granola, recipe as follows.

Crockpot Granola
• 1/2 C oil or butter + 1/2 C pureed pumpkin
• 1/2 C honey + 1/2 C molasses
• 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t ginger, 1/4 t nutmeg, 1/8 t cloves
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1/2 tsp. Salt
• 6 cups of oats - not quick cooking (more like 10 C, if it’s quick cooking)

1. Make sure you keep the cover of the crockpot cracked or off. Cook on low for 5 hours or until brown, stirring occasionally. The more frequently you stir, the finer the consistency. If you prefer clumpier granola stir less.
2. Add raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips...whatever you desire after the granola is ready.
3. This is delicious as a hot or cold cereal, as a snack, a topping for yogurt or made into granola bars.

If you put the lid on directly/completely, you run the risk of cracking the crock (this has happened to someone who tried this recipe).

I put the butter in with the crockpot on high as I prepare to make the recipe and do a few other things. Once it’s melted, I add the other ingredients, except the oats. I stir them until they are mixed and then add the oats (and sometimes the coconut).

Recently, I chopped up several apples and put them in with the ingredients the night before. In the morning, we had dried apple bits in our granola. I’m going to try this with different fruits in the future to see what other options work.

We're planning on putting raisins in once it's done cooking. We'd love to put in roasted pumpkin seeds, but we don't have any. :-(

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

From our dear pediatrician (dped?), Dr. Angie S., by way of RR. Very quick to throw together and very yummy. I have taken these to ML's English students many, many times.

I usually use baking chocolate that I've chunked in my food processor, as chocolate chips are expensive (imported) and hard to come by (larger grocery stores in the capital only).

These can be made as bar cookies, as well. They take 20+ minutes to bake at that point.

A cup of nuts can be added. White chocolate with macadamia or hazelnuts (what's available here) is a great option.

The cinnamon is my addition as a nod to Tweety Cookies of Camp Mystic fame (not that I had them at Camp Mystic; Tweety's son used to bring them on debate and Mock Trial trips, but I'm sure they've been encountered by far more people via the camp). Out of curiosity, I googled Tweety Cookies, and sure enough, check out the first thing that came up (after that it was all about you-know-who and Sylvester cookie jars and shaped cookies, in case you were wondering). Too funny. I had no idea that they were so famous until a college friend mentioned them one time. A college friend who wasn't even from my home town. Turns out she'd been a Mystic camper and counselor, so I got to hear about the massive baking Tweety did each session.

• 2 1/2 C flour
• 1 t salt
• 1 t baking soda
• 1 t cinnamon

• 1 C sugar
• 1/2 C brown sugar
• 3/4 C oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 t vanilla

• 1 C chocolate chips

1. mix 2 groups of ingredients separately
2. add group 1 to group 2
3. stir in chocolate chips
4. bake until desired consistency
5. 350 @ 10 mins for drop cookies

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bek's Brownies

A staple among our group of ex-pat friends from, well, from since before we were ex-pats. ML and I first had these with CP & RR at their house on Lasker before we all began this great adventure.

serves 4-6

∑ 1 C shortening
∑ 6 T cocoa
∑ 2 T butter

∑ 4 eggs
∑ 2 t vanilla
∑ 2 C sugar
∑ 1 1/2 C flour
∑ 1 t baking powder
∑ 1 t salt

1. Melt shortening, cocoa and butter together either on the stovetop or in the microwave in a large enough glass bowl/pan to add the other ingredients.
2. Add other ingredients to the melted mixture in order, stirring/mixing after each addition (can be done by hand or with a mixer).
3. Bake at 350* for about 20 minutes (don’t overcook).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sloppy Verna's

Courtesy of Speedy Mom from the SL boards.

We did not have sloppy joes that often growing up, but ML's mom would ship over cans of the sauce as a treat for their family. It was one of the first meals I ate with them when we went to visit when we were engaged (guess I was considered worthy of a treat). We had sloppy joes every 2 weeks or so during our early married years, but once we moved overseas and did not have access to canned sauce anymore, it fell out of our repertoire. I tried several different recipes, but none duplicated the taste of canned. Until Sloppy Verna's. Okay, so it's odd that we searched for years for a recipe that tastes like the canned option, but, hey, we're odd, and we're okay with that.

• 1.5 lbs ground beef
• + salt, pepper, garlic powder - all to taste
• 1/2 onion, chopped (optional)
• 1 jar tomato sauce (16 oz.) or equivalent mixture of tomato paste and water
• 2 T vinegar (apple vinegar to gives it a nice sweet taste)
• 1/2 T mustard
• 4 T brown sugar
• 1/4 cup water (optional, depending on sauce consistency)
• salt, pepper
• paprika (optional)

1. Brown and season ground beef (and onions, if desired).
2. Mix together remaining ingredients.
3. Pour over beef.
4. Simmer 30 min.

This can be heated/simmered in the crockpot, as well.

Until we discovered MA's soy allergy, I would make this with TVP, and it was a super easy meal.

Before that, though, this was my go-to meal when I would brown 4-5 lbs of ground beef to freeze in meal-sized portions. I would use some that night for Sloppy Verna's. I'm back to that option now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lemon Icebox Pie

The kids and I had this pie last summer at ML's parents house before he arrived in the US for my brother's wedding. I insisted that my mother-in-law serve it again after ML joined us (totally selflessly, since he was eating with them by himself), because I *knew* he would love it (not that I had to twist her arm; it's very simple to make, especially with a prepared pie crust, and they love it, too).

It's very rich, though, so be sure to cut small slices. Plus, that way, you can go back for seconds more easily.

From ML’s mom, MHK
Summer 2007

∑ 1 C graham cracker (or petit beur) crumbs
∑ 3 T sugar
∑ 3 T butter, melted
∑ 1/2 t cinnamon
∑ 1/3 C finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

∑ 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
∑ 1 C lemon juice

1. Combine crumbs, sugar, butter, cinnamon and nuts and press into bottom and sides of pie pan.
2. Bake at 325* 10 mins.
3. Cool in freezer.
4. Meanwhile, combine sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice with a mixer on slow and then medium speed until combined (and continue until whipped slightly, if desired).
5. Pour mixture over crust. Freeze at least 2-3 hours.
6. Slice and serve.
7. Store in freezer.

***Late breaking news from ML's cousin, CCG, who got it from her mom, who probably shared it with my mil: the recipe came from is from Orrana Felix, who's husband, Bud, farmed Granny K's wheat farm. They later moved next door to Granny K and looked out for her as she aged.

If that doesn't make it a family recipe, I don't know what does. I love that we're getting this stuff documented while we still have the info.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

UnRefried Beans (CP)

Bethany's awesome, restaurant-quality, much-better-than-canned, actually-doable-where-we-live UnRefried Beans:

- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 3 C dry pinto beans, rinsed or a mixture of pinto beans and black beans
- 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 t minced garlic
- 5 ts salt
- 1 3/4 t fresh ground black pepper
- 1/8 t ground cumin, optional
- 9 C water (or chicken broth plus water to equal 9 C)

1. Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high.
2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency (the beans absorb the liquid very quickly as they sit, so make it soupier than you will want the end consistency).

Modifications and Tips:
- I soaked the beans overnight in water with baking soda to, um, decrease the impact on our digestive systems. I kept the cooking time the same.
- I used a stick blender to mash the beans after draining them.
- The first time I cooked these, I used the broth I made from the fried turkey bones and skins we had at Thanksgiving. I had this in the freezer and had made half of it as soup, but it was too spicy for the kids. In the beans, though, with the added water it took to made the 9 cups (I had about 5 cups of broth), it was perfect. Not that everyone has fried turkey broth in their freezer, but if you make a soup too spicy, this might be an option, plus I thought people might find it interesting.
- Now that I've found dried black beans (read: Rob & Steph found them and pointed them out to me), I make these with 1/2 pinto and 1/2 black beans. I soak the black beans for less time than the pintos, and the black beans add to the creaminess of the final product.
- This makes enough for two meals for our family. We have it on a tortilla-type bread that we can get here with cheese, sour cream, salsa and anything else that sounds good. :-)
- If you do not mash or blend the beans, they are very similar to the El Charro beans served at many Mexican food restaurants (at least in Texas).
- I will often cook 1-2 chickens in the crockpot to use the meat in recipes. When I cook them, I add onion and maybe seasoning salt and fill the crockpot to the top with water. After they are cooked, I will use the broth to make the UnRefried Beans. It adds to the flavor.

Alternate spices:
2 t seasoned salt
2 t salt
1/2 t crushed red peppers
1/2 t cumin
1 t onion powder

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


stuffed cabbage leaves
serves 8-10
from my friend, "Debra," who makes this often because of its "simplicity" (it really is the simplest Arabic dish I've heard of), Spring 2001

∑ 2 med. heads cabbage
∑ 3 C rice
∑ 1 lb ground meat
∑ 1/2 C vegetable oil
∑ 1 t salt
∑ 1 t Arabic spices
∑ 1 t cumin

1. Soak rice 15 mins. Drain and rinse.
2. Separate cabbage leaves. Rinse. Boil large pot of water.
3. Place several leaves at in the boiling water for two minutes.
4. Remove and repeat until all leaves have been boiled.
5. Combine rice, meat, oil, salt and Arabic spices.
6. Remove the large vein from the middle of each cabbage leaf.
7. Place the veins in the bottom of a large pot (this way, if anything burns, it is the vein and nothing else).
8. Cut larger leaves in half.
9. Place 1 to 1 1/2 T of meat/rice mixture between two of the smaller veins on a cabbage leaf a little ways up from the bottom.
10. Roll the bottom of the leaf over the meat mixture.
11. Continue rolling until the leaf is completely wrapped around the mixture.
12. Place in pot on top of veins.
13. Repeat above until all leaves are gone or until the meat mixture is gone or until the pot is 2/3 full (either continue with another pot or save the rest for another time).
14. Add water to the pot until it is visible between the rolled leaves in the top layer, but do not cover completely.
15. Sprinkle with cumin (this helps reduce the gas-producing properties of the cabbage) and salt.
16. Bring to a boil.
17. Reduce heat until water is simmering. Simmer 45 mins.

Hint: This makes a lot, and can get old after a meal or two, so you might want to divide the recipe, unless you're serving a crowd.

Mharrat Bandoora wa Koosa

A recipe from a friend in the West Bank. It's been forever since I've made it, but I remember it being relatively simple and very good.

3-4 lbs. fresh tomatoes (peeled*) or equivalent amount in canned, peeled tomatoes
3-4 tsp. Arabic spices
4-5 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. pepper
2 lbs. green squash (may substitute yellow squash)
2 lbs. potatoes
1-2 large onions
6-8 cups cooked rice** (optional, if using recipe as vegetable side dish)
6-8 chicken pieces, cooked and de-boned (omit, if using recipe as vegetable side dish)

1. Chop the peeled tomatoes and place in a large pot (at least three or four quarts in size).
2. Cover with about one inch of water.
3. Add Arabic spices, salt, and pepper. Stir. Cover.
4. Bring mixture to a boil and continue boiling while preparing remaining vegetables (thirty to forty-five minutes), stirring occasionally.
5. Remove tops and bottoms of squash and discard. Slice squash into 1/4-inch circles, and slice each circle in half.
6. Chop potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces.
7. Chop onions into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces.
8. Add squash, potatoes, and onions to tomato mixture. Stir.
9. Bring back to boil, covered.
10. Continue to boil forty-five minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally.
11. Uncover as needed to allow excess water to boil off, depending on desired consistency.
12. If serving as main dish, add cooked chicken pieces and allow mixture to re-heat.
13. Serve over rice.

* To peel tomatoes most easily: after washing, bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a pan on the stovetop. Prepare a several inches of water with a tray or two of ice cubes in a separate pan or bowl. Spear each tomato with a fork or hold with tongs and dip it into the boiling water for several seconds and then place it in the ice water. From experience, I have found that leaving the tomatoes in the ice water for a minute or two makes them most easy to peel. Alternately, you can boil the tomato pieces with the skins on and skim as many skins as you can from the top.

** If serving recipe as main dish, cooking the rice in the water in which the chicken was cooked adds to the overall flavor.

Spinach Dip

A favorite of my family's growing up and one I've brought to the next generation. It's only caught on with MS so far. He, however, likes to have it at his birthday parties.

from the Knorr website.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours

1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 container (16 oz) sour cream
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 package (1.4 oz) Knorr® (or other) Vegetable Soup Mix
1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
3 green onions, chopped

1. In medium bowl, combine spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, soup mix, water chestnuts and green onions.
2. Cover and chill 2 hours to blend flavors.
3. Stir before serving.

YOGURT SPINACH DIP: Substitute 1 container (16 oz) plain lowfat yogurt or lebaneh (yogurt without the whey) for sour cream.
SPINACH AND CHEESE DIP: Add 2 cups (8 oz) shredded Swiss cheese with spinach.

- I can buy frozen spinach here, but you could cook your own and use that.
- I use a local vegetable soup mix, and I leave out the green onions, just because I don’t like them.
- It’s good with pita bread and with crackers, best with Fritos, but we don’t get those here.
- I can get water chestnuts, because of the stores that cater to the Asian house-help here, but I’ve also made it with chopped walnuts and with slivered almonds, instead, too.

General Dip Tips:
- Check out your local grocery store for dry soup mixes. I’ve found several that make good dips when mixed with sour cream or lebaneh (yogurt without the whey) and mayonnaise, 2 parts sour cream/yogurt to 1 part mayonnaise. Specifically, I use vegetable, onion and a great curry vegetable.

LEH's blanket

At some point during ML's middle sister's fourth pregnancy, I decided to knit her a baby blanket. I don't remember any particular fanfare as to why, just that it seemed like a good idea. And as with all good ideas I have, I went to Sonlight to ask for help in the execution. I got yarn and pattern recommendations and went to town.

Unfortunately, there were a few false starts on the way to town. I didn't know much about yarn weight, and what I ordered (brought from the States) was too thin, not substantial enough to be knit into a blanket. I also did not like the way the lightest of the three colors I had chosen looked when knit. I know the original pattern called for "Barbie Pink," but there is a reason I didn't buy the yarn the pattern recommended. (I still have the bright pink blanket I ended up completing waiting to be given to a local friend, who will dearly love it.)

So, in a moment of brilliance (or, more likely, desperation), I came up with an idea that solved both of my problems: knit with two strands of different colors. It dulled the brightness of the pink and provided the bulk I needed. And the end result is pictured above.

One of the Sonlight ladies said she often knit a baby blanket with a heart in reverse stitch. The closest she could find on the internet was this pattern. I liked the smaller hearts even better than one big one, so that is what I did. And I knit it in Caron Simply Soft: 1) Soft Pink, 2) Victorian Rose and 3) Plum Wine. The first section is 1 & 2, the second 1 & 3, and the third 2 & 3.

I am knitting essentially the same blanket in blues with stars for ML's youngest sister's son due in January. Pictures forthcoming.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Leigh Anne's BBQ Sauce

The best BBQ sauce in the world. One of the reasons why I love Leigh Anne (okay, one of the many, many, many reasons, but it's still one of them). I use Pampered Chef BBQ rub spices.

1 C ketchup
1 t mustard
2 T Worcestershire
1/3 C honey
1/4 t liquid smoke, optional
BBQ or Cajun spices
salt & pepper


Spices are “to taste.”

Mexican Lentils and Rice

I first found this recipe in one of the Tightwad Gazette books when we were early married. It seems like it's enough places out on the 'net that it's not unique (and, therefore, not copyrighted, and okay to post). Most recently, I was re-introduced to it by my friend LatteMom from Sonlight, and I've included her comments, as well as my own.

3 c broth (chicken, beef or veggie)
or 3 t powdered bullion + 3 C boiling water
3/4 c uncooked lentils
1/2 c uncooked brown rice
3/4 c chopped onion
or 2 T dried minced onion
or 1 t onion powder
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp each thyme, oregano and garlic powder

Blend all together in a casserole dish. Bake, covered, for 1.5 hrs at 300 degrees (or 1 hour at 350). Top with shredded cheese last 5 mins. or serve with shredded cheese.

LatteMom: This is one of our very favorites. In fact, I make two of them at the same time. One we eat with homemade flour tortillas topped with lettuce, salsa, sour cream, etc. Then my dh uses the second one to make what our family affectionately calls "Daddy's Yee Haw Cowboy Dip Dinner" (which is the lentils & rice stirred up with salsa and sour cream to make a dip to serve with tortilla chips)...sometimes we'll do that for a dinner, but more than not, it's a great snack. I've also used the leftovers in a salad...a scoop on a bed of lettuce with tomatoes and Italian dressing.

Mideastmom: This can be made up as a dry mix ahead of time and stored in ziplock bags. You then just dump the contents into a dish, add boiling water, stir and bake. To do this, you would use powdered bullion or cubes and dried minced onion or onion powder. Our family can squeak by on one of these at this point, but any larger family/family with older kids would need two, probably. We most commonly eat this in a bowl, topped with grated cheese, sour cream and salsa, dipped with tortilla chips

Sweet Mustard Dressing

from my mom
makes about a cup and a half
great on spinach salad or just about anything else (it makes salad, with chicken, an acceptable meal at our house)

1/2 onion
1 t salt
1 t celery seed
1 T vinegar
2 T mustard
1/2 C sugar

1 c oil

Whirl first group of ingredients in blender

Slowly add oil

Tip: do not add the oil all at once. It takes a very long time to blend, if you do. Ask me how I know.

Hint: this recipe can be made without the celery seed. It changes the taste, but it is still good.

Granola (CP)

This is an amalgamation of two different recipes, one from a former Sonlight poster, TaminAZ, and another from I prefer Hillbilly Housewife's granola, but it is more time consuming, so, in a pinch, I make it Tam's way, in the crockpot. Most often, these days, I make it in the crockpot.

• 1 cup of oil or melted butter
• 1 cup of honey
• 1 tsp. Cinnamon
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1/2 tsp. Salt
• 6 cups of oats - not quick cooking
• 1 cup of coconut (optional)

1. Make sure you keep the cover of the crockpot cracked or off. Cook on low for 5 hours or until brown, stirring occasionally. The more frequently you stir, the finer the consistency. If you prefer clumpier granola stir less.
2. Add raisins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips...whatever you desire after the granola is ready.
3. This is delicious as a hot or cold cereal, as a snack, a topping for yogurt or made into granola bars.

I leave the cover off and cook overnight on low. If you cook it on warm (which my crockpot doesn’t have) you should probably put the lid on cracked/caddywhompus.

If you put the lid on directly/completely, you run the risk of cracking the crock (this has happened to someone who tried this recipe).

I put the butter in with the crockpot on high as I prepare to make the recipe and do a few other things. Once it’s melted, I add the other ingredients, except the oats. I stir them until they are mixed and then add the oats (and sometimes the coconut).

Recently, I chopped up several apples and put them in with the ingredients the night before. In the morning, we had dried apple bits in our granola. I’m going to try this with different fruits in the future to see what other options work.

Baked Oatmeal

• 3 C rolled oats or 6 C instant oats
• 1/2 - 1 C brown sugar
• 2 t baking powder
• 1 t salt
• 1 t cinnamon
• 1 C milk
• 1/2 C butter, melted or 1/2 C applesauce
• 2 eggs
• Additions: carob or chocolate chips, dried fruits, nuts, etc.

1. Mix together.
2. Bake at 350 for 35 - 40 minutes. (Or cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.)
3. Cut and serve warm (some people pour a little milk over each square).

Due to food allergies, our version is made with coconut milk, egg yolks only (2 for each egg called for), and applesauce. And, yes, it still tastes good.

Pumpkin Butter (CP)

I had no idea there was such a thing as pumpkin butter until someone mentioned it on Sonlight a few weeks ago.

Then again, it wasn't until last year that I had more than a vague idea as to what apple butter was or how simple it was to make, so I guess that's not surprising.

Of course, I had to try it out. I love it. The kids, not so much. I think they think of pumpkin more as a vegetable than a condiment. Weirdos. I'll win them over. Until then, all the more for me. And my in-laws, who are visiting and at who's insistence I am sharing this recipe. :-)

• 5 quarts pumpkin puree (approx. 1 jack-o-lantern-sized pumpkin)
• 2 T ground cinnamon
• 1 t ground cloves
• 1/2 t allspice
• 1-2 cups sugar or 1/2-1 C honey

1. Make unsweetened pumpkin puree. (You can use store bought pumpkin puree, but the pumpkin butter won't taste nearly as good.) See directions here: how to make pumpkin puree.*
2. Fill the crock pot to within 2 inches full with pumpkin puree, mine takes about 5 quarts.
3. Add the spices and sweetener.
4. Set the crock pot on medium or high heat.
5. Cover it loosely (with lid ajar) until the liquid begins to simmer. You don't want to seal it tightly because you want the steam to escape so it can reduce in volume and thicken.
6. Once simmering, remove lid. You can use a splatter guard, if it is making a mess.
7. Cook for 6 – 8+ hours. How long depends on the size and power of your crockpot, and how thick you like it.**
8. If the pumpkin butter cooks down too much or is too thick for your liking, just add a little bit of apple juice and blend it in.
9. If it is not thick enough, just let it cook some more, with the lid off so the steam can escape. It will thicken some, though, as it cools.
10. Fill jars or other containers. Cool the to near room temperature (a couple of hours) and store in the fridge or freezer.
r freezer.

*I used a large, jack-o-lantern-sized pumpkin and baked the 1/4’s in the oven for a little over an hour at 350*. I scooped the pumpkin meat directly into the crockpot and pureed it with my hand blender there.
** Mine took more like 24 hours, because I have an older crockpot, and it’s run on a transformer.

Original recipe found here.

Apple Butter (CP)

• 2 K sweet apples, i.e. not Granny Smith (approx. 4 1/2 lbs)
• 1 t ground cinnamon
• 1/4 t ground cloves
• 1/4 t ground allspice (or omit and increase cloves to 1/2 t)

1. Core and slice apples (peel, if preferred) and place in crockpot with spices.

2. Cook on High overnight.

3. In the morning, stir to break apart apple pieces. (You can use a hand blender at this point, if you’d like a smoother finished product.)

4. At this point remove lid and leave off. This allows the excess liquid to bake off, achieving the desired consistency.

5. Stir every few hours.

6. The mixture should reach desired consistency before bedtime of the second night. At this point you can remove to containers to chill or freeze (or can).

7. If for some reason, the mixture still has too much liquid, cook on Low overnight, and chill or freeze in the morning.

Because it's the cool thing to do

Recently, more and more of my Sonlight Forums e-maginary friends are creating recipe blogs.

The idea began to grow on me. Not because I have all that much to share, but because, as I explained when I was looking for a blog title, I find recipes that people like and serve them over and over and over again.

Consequently, I am frequently asked for the same recipes. Similarly to my "regular" blog (and I use quotation marks because the it depends on which definition of regular you're choosing as to whether it is regular or not; I'm thinking "regular" as in "plain," not "regular" as in "consistent"), this will be a place for me to link to when people ask and for the brave few who can put up with my inconsistency to browse (love you, GfG).

As for the title, I got several suggestions off of Sonlight and Facebook. Although the blog title is not directly from any of them, they all helped me brainstorm. An old high school/youth group friend's suggestions of "Cara's Blog of Girly Stuff" inspired the final choice. My parameters were that the blog was going to include recipes and pictures of crafts that I complete, but that the title couldn't be cheesy.

My problem is that, although I am a homemaker and really enjoy doing things like cooking and baking and homeschooling and knitting, I'm not completely comfortable with that. :-l For the record, I don't wear denim jumpers, nor have my crochet projects ever included a toilet paper cover. I'm hanging onto the last vestiges of hope that I'm not completely uncool (I'm typing this on a black MacBook; does that help?). So, that meant that a title like "Yarn and Yummies" (one of my own ideas) was out.

What I chose what a compromise based on a long-standing joke that ML and I have. When he gave me a bread machine for our first anniversary, and I couldn't have been happier, nor thought of anything else I could have wanted more, we decided I was completely domesticated (yes, I know it "domestic," not "domesticated;" that's the joke). When I have a good day at home and accomplish a lot, particularly in the kitchen, I'll tell him I'm feeling very domesticated.

So, I guess this blog is the ultimate proof, domestication at its best. But hopefully still somewhat cool.

(Oh, and the color theme will most likely not stay. It's a little mono-chromatic for my tastes, but I couldn't resist given the theme of the blog.)