Archive for the ‘Recipes & Preserving’ Category

October is apple month and with it comes many fall festivals, bake sales, craft shows and the beginning of the cooking season.  This morning I spent whipping up (literally) several dozen of these little gems. Only problem I kept running into was resisting the urge to stop licking the frosting in the bowl.

This recipe might sound complex, but it really isn’t.  The ingredients used are pantry staples aside from apple cider and apples which are in abundance this time of year.

Apple Cider Cupcakes (15 full size cupcakes, 30 mini cupcakes)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 2/3 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup apple cider

2 eggs

1 cup apples, diced

Combine all ingredients in bowl and stir until well mixed.  Pour into greased or lined cupcake or mini cupcake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes for traditional cupcakes and 10-13 minutes for mini cupcakes.

*If you take this recipe, minus the spices and fruit, and replace cider for water you have the basic recipe for cupcakes and cakes.  Add your own ingredients and flavorings and you can make an abundance of tasty treats anytime.*

Maple Cinnamon Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar

1 stick melted butter

2 tbsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Place in bowl and beat with hand mixer or use stand mixer until consistency desired for piping or spreading.  Add more confectioner sugar if needed to gain desired texture.  (This frosting is great on sugar cookies, molasses and spice cookies also.)

Caramel  Streusel Topping

1 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp caramel ice cream topping

Use fork to combine ingredients until crumb texture.  Sprinkle on top cooled and frosted cupcakes.

I’m going to admit it, keeping this blog has been a challenge for me.  I am one of those people who cook by sight, touch and taste rather then measuring.  This blog has forced me to keep track of how much of what I put in recipes which probably is a good thing as I now have recipes to pass down to my children.  I still will go by sight, touch and taste at times however.  The frosting recipe being one such example. I find every time I make it, it might require more powdered sugar, or more liquid then the recipe did the time before to get same results.

These have been a fall hit  a few years running now.  I hope you enjoy them also.

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I love, love, love plums.  They to me are the fruit of the gods. For the holidays however, or really anytime, dressing them up a bit is a pleasant surprise and what better way then with maple syrup and whipped topping?  I’ve served these with pancakes and French toast for breakfast, pork for supper, or just as a side dessert with holiday turkeys and ham. To make them is extremely easy but yet they go over quite big.

Wash and cut your plums in half removing pit.  You can leave them halved or slice them up, however you prefer.  Place them in a casserole dish or cake pan and drizzle with maple syrup to coat.  Bake 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until insides are soft.

You can either serve these as is, or add a vanilla whipped topping to them.  To make the topping, simply stir a cup of Cool Whip style topping in a bowl with 1/4 cup of confectioner (powdered) sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Spoon over top…simple, easy and delicious!

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There was a question posed by a friend about what to do with apples that had lets just say lost their beauty quality.  Either being older and wrinkled, bruised, rodent nibbled or gotten a few worms.  When I was growing up, these apples were the norm and often found littered under my grandparents apple trees. Other then the store bought ones I don’t remember very often seeing what one would deem a “pretty” apple.  Few of these apples however went to waste.  Today I use the same logic and lessons taught me then with my own apple tree harvest.  Nothing goes to waste…and by this I do truly mean nothing.  The good flesh is sliced, diced or mashed to make into pies, pie fillings, cobblers, muffins, pancakes, fritters, cakes, donuts or applesauce.  The skin peeled away and some taken out to the chickens to eat.  Extra skin, seeds and rotten parts get thrown into the worm compost to be turned into good useable soil.

Easy Apple Cobbler

5 cups apples, peeled and sliced

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tbsp vanilla

1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup apple cider

Combine in bowl and pour into greased 8×8 cake pan.  In bowl combine following:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Stir together to form a thick (muffin consistency) batter.  Spoon over top of apples and spread out with spatula to cover.

Cook at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Check with toothpick test.

**If batter to thin, add more flour…if to thick, add more milk**

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With temperatures peaking today at 98, of course I decided to slave over the stove.  My targets, 20 lbs of carrots, a bag of orange and yellow bell peppers and banana peppers, and half a bushel of cucumbers.  The carrots were just canned normal style, the bell peppers I roasted and packed in oil, banana peppers got pickled in a sweet brine while the cucumbers were done bread and butter style.


Canned Roasted Peppers In Oil.

Clean your peppers, removing stem and seeds…then cut into thick slices and arrange on cookie trays skin side up.

Rub skins with oil, season with any flavoring you desire but salt, pepper and garlic work best and are the traditional compliments.

Place peppers under broiler for 15 minutes, or until skins become blackened and charred.

Remove peppers,  place them in Ziploc bag and seal bag for 30 minutes to allow steam to help skins slip off easily.

After 30 minutes, remove peppers and pull off skins.  Pack in jars.

Combine Olive Oil and minced garlic in sauce pan on stove.  Saute garlic until tender and translucent.  Pour the hot oil mix over your peppers in jars.  Add 6 drops lemon juice per jar.  Seal and process 25 minutes at 10 lbs pressure.  (Some recipes say you do not need this step, however I feel more comfortable putting it through the pressure canner due to acidity levels.)



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While out picking the plums today, I figured I would stop and gather some of the last of the tomatoes in the garden as well. I plan to start a fall garden with hope of getting a better yield now that the scorching heat of this past summer is with luck behind us…so green and red tomatoes came into the house in the basket.  As most of the tomatoes were from the Roma plants, salsa was the best use for them I figured.  The jalapeno plant having some peppers remaining, it sealed the deal of their fate.

Fiesta Salsa

Half-bushel of tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup cilantro, diced

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced fine

4 tbsp lime juice

5 tbsp cider vinegar

4 – 6 jalapenos, diced  ( I don’t remove seeds but if you wish less fire to your salsa, remove the seeds and inner membrane)  DON’T FORGET TO USE GLOVES!!

2 tbsp sugar

Add all ingredients into a pot on stove.  Stir well and bring to boil.  Boil for 5 minutes to incorporate flavors.  Ladle into pint jars and seal.  Hot Water Bath jars for 35 minutes.


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I know I’m partial, but I must state that my son is the most amazing photo taker.  Many photo’s in this blog have been taken by him. A dear friend of his turned him on to using the camera to capture his world, and use pictures to help speak for him where he struggled.  Through this he also found a way to across distance share his life with another.  My son took the camera with a passion, it’s almost rare to not see it near him no matter if he’s sleeping, at computer, outside or somewhere in the house.  Granted this also has been a bit interesting for his mother, as he is very skilled at sneaking up on me at those “just the wrong moment” occasions.  I don’t mind, he’s found a way to communicate and share what’s important to him with someone important to him….and lets me use his photos for this blog to share with all of you.

Now, on to the topic at hand.  As most everyone knows this has been a really harsh year on crops for us down here in Texas.  Many of my fruit trees took a bad beating and while I didn’t lose any…thanks mostly to a lot of bailing and carrying grey water from tub/shower, dishwasher and washing machine…the fruits produced were smaller then normal and many fell off the trees before fully ripened.  The wildlife suffering as much as we were, I left them for the fallen ones for them to eat and figured I could make due just fine with what remained on the tree branches.  Last night decision was made it was time to harvest what I could from the Damson Plum.  All in all it wasn’t a bad harvest, it offered me enough to make six freezer containers of jam and left enough fresh fruit for us to nibble on for a treat later.

Though the years I’ve pared many flavors with plum in jams.  Lavender-Plum, Lemon-Plum, Thyme-Plum, Rosemary-Plum, Orange-Plum, Mint-Plum, Cinnamon-Plum…plum is just one of those flavors that is complimentary to a lot of herb.  Depending on what you wish to use it on, can make a big difference in your personal choices for your parings.  For example…Rosemary-Plum is delicious spread on poultry such as chicken or turkey. Thyme-Plum is more complimentary to pork products such as ham or chops.  Orange-Plum is delicious as a plum sauce with duck or pheasant.  I know few people consider adding herbs or spices to their jams, stores teach us to keep with a solid flavor, thankfully home canning allows us to be more creative.

Ginger-Plum Freezer Jam

2 lbs plums, pitted (leave peel on)

1/4 cup grated ginger root

1/4 cup water

5 cups sugar

1 pkg sure-gel

I will be honest, I don’t pit my plums right off bat.  With more freestone varieties I will, but Damson Plums are often difficult to get off the pit.  I cut the plums in half and put the whole lot into the sauce pan with the water.  I then heat them until the flesh “melts” from the pits and fish the pits out.

Add your sugar once you have removed all the pits from the flesh.

Most recipes will tell you to add your box of sure-jel to additional water and bring that water to a boil.  I find this sometimes causes the jam to not set properly.  Rather I just add it directly into the simmering jam on the stove and stir it well as the mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Continue to boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Ladle jam into clean, dry freezer containers leaving 1/2 inch head room for freezing expansion.  Seal containers and let cool at room temperature for 24 hours.  Store in freezer until opened.  They will last 3 weeks in refrigerator. *Mine never make it past a week if lucky to last that long.*

** This jam is naturally light colored, however with pear and peach jams and other such light colored fruits in my freezer already I opted to use a natural food dye to alter it for easier visual identification**

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This is an extremely simple dessert to create yet it has big taste sure to please at your next party, holiday gathering, church function or simply the dinner table.

S’more Pudding Dessert.

1 pkg graham crackers (broken with hammer to crumbs)

1 lg package chocolate pudding (or homemade pudding)

1 sm jar marshmallow cream

Layer all but 1/2 a cup of your graham crackers in bottom of baking dish, cake dish or pie pan.

Over top of this spread your pudding.

Gently warm your marshmallow cream until “puffy” and able to be easily spread.  Spread atop the chocolate pudding.

Sprinkle rest of your graham crackers on top and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

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Spring rolls are a food I’ve grown to love, it was not love at first taste for me to be certain.  There was something about the texture of the cold wrapper that just got to me, but I was determined to grow to love it as much as it’s cousin the egg roll.   An egg roll is essentially a spring roll, deep fried.  They are amazingly simple to make and friendly to a variety of fillings.  This happens to be my personal favorite, though a bit nontraditional.

Homemade Spring Rolls.


1 1/2 cup coleslaw (thick cut and minus the dressing) ….this means basically cabbage, carrots, sweet onion thick cut.

1 cup Shrimp or imitation crab, diced

2 tbsp basil or cilantro

4 green onions, fine cut

2 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 oz rice noodles

1 pkg spring roll wraps

Prepare your rice noodles per instructions,  mix up your filling ingredients (including rice noodles) and add lime juice and soy sauce in a bowl.  Taking a fry pan, place water in bottom and heat to boiling, remove from heat and add your spring roll wrappings to the steaming water 3-4 wraps at a time.  Steam in water for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.  Set the wrappers carefully on counter or cutting board.  Be very careful doing this as they are rather brittle, I found using a spoon better then tongs or other methods for lift from water to counter.   Add your filler ingredients.  Fold one edge over ingredients, then fold up both ends inwards towards each other, finally wrap the top edge firmly over top.  Serve with soy sauce or spring roll sauce.


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It finally rained yesterday and is raining again today,  to celebrate this long awaited occasion I baked up several batches of these bar cookies.  One nice thing about these cookies, they use prepackaged cake mix to prepare (or if like me, you use your own MYO prepackaged cake mix).

1 box yellow cake mix. (or your own homemade)

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 – 1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2-3/4 cup water (this is where you need to use your eyes. You want a consistency that is not as stiff as drop cookies, yet not as thin as cake batter.)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Prepare a greased cookie sheet.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.   Pour batter into cookie sheet and using spatula spread until it covers the bottom of the sheet (don’t worry about it looking to thin, it raises as it bakes a bit.)  Bake for 20 minutes and check center with toothpick, if  not ready yet, continue to cook at 5 minute intervals.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly and cut into bars.


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As everyone knows, things down here have been extremely hectic with the fires blazing in my County as well as two adjacent ones, another between Austin and Houston as well as those to the North of us.  So many people are evacuated from their homes and so many firemen and emergency personal haven’t been able to go back to theirs.  The out pouring of the people of the Community to pull together and pull up from their bootstraps to get things done, help and assure everything is being taken care of  in this Community has been amazing. People came from all over, not just our County but others as well to donate their time and services where and how they could.  Trailers and vehicles stuffed full of supplies have filled parking lots.  Not from known corporations or Government, but from your “Good ole’ Joe” who heard and wanted to help.  I could not be more proud of so many.

But, that experience is another story.

This weekend I made a bunch, and I do mean a bunch, of Pork Dumplings.  Most Chinese restaurants have these on their buffets and my children love them.  They are easy to make and highly forgiving on ingredients you choose to put inside.  Chicken and Pork are the traditional, however you can also use sea food such as crab.

Won-ton wrappers are amazing, they can be filled with chicken, pork, rice, beef, crab and seafood, cream cheese, cream cheese and crab, pepperoni and pizza sauce (I know not traditional but oh so good).   You can boil them in water or fry them up in oil.  Cut the wrappers into strips and fry in oil, delicious over salads.  My children even like them cut in strips, fried and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. The options are numerous.  Made larger they are what are used to wrap egg rolls in.

Another wonderful thing about these little packets of goodness, they are easy on the pocket book.  Oh, and did I mention also extremely low in calories?

To make Wonton Wrappers.

1 egg

1/3 cup water

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1.) In medium bowl beat egg,  gradually add water and beat water into the egg mix.

2.) In large bowl add flour and salt, mix together and create well in center.  Add your egg/water mix to well and mix.  If to crumbly gradually add water a small dab at time until mixture forms a pliable dough.

3.) On lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic.  Cut into two separate balls and cover each with damp towel for at least 10 minutes.

4.) Cut each ball into four equal pieces.  Roll out each piece into a 10 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch square (approximately).  **if you have a pasta machine, this works perfect to get it thin enough, if not…it’s good old fashion hand rolling**.   Cut each square you rolled out into nine 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 inch squares for wontons….for egg roll wrappers you want 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 inch squares.


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