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Harriet’s Drag-The-Lake Chili

It was the 4th of July weekend many years ago when my family arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and were welcomed by the chaos of police everywhere.  Earlier that day the neighbor guy was in his boat on the lake, fell out of his boat, and was unable to get back into the boat.  He was also unable to keep his head above water.

The weather was unseasonably cold that 4th of July weekend and the police and divers were chilled to the bone, so what does Grandma Harriet do?  She whips up a potful of chili.

It’s an easy chili to “whip up,” and because this steaming bowl of goodness is associated with that dreadful day at the lake we named the dish Harriet’s Drag-The-Lake Chili.  It seems sort of morbid, but the recipe is made with ingredients you can have in the pantry in case of an emergency feeding situation, morbid or not.  You don’t have to call it by the name its known by in my family, but you might want to make it.

1 pound hamburger, browned and drained (I add a small chopped onion to this)
1 can chili starter (Bush’s Chili Magic is perfect)
1 can tomato soup
2 cans spaghetti
1 spaghetti can of water
2 tablespoons chili powder.

Mix it all up and simmer for 20 minutes.

Husby and I recently had some on a cold winter day with a piece of warm cornbread on the side.  It really hit the spot, reminded me of Grandma Harriet, and there doesn’t need to be a bunch of officials dragging the lake to make it.

Easy and delicious, drowning neighbor not required.

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You know how you go on Pinterest and pin all these decorating ideas, DIY projects, and most of all, recipes?  I’m not huge on the Pinterest scene, but I pinned something a while back and finally decided to try it.  The Salted Caramel Cheesecake.  It got a lot of attention on Pinterest and I think the comments to the original post (published in 2011) have been closed, so I thought I’d post my comment here.

I was a little afraid of this at first because quite frankly the amount of salt in the original recipe is astounding.  I made some adjustments and served the cheesecake at a Father’s Day/Birthday celebration for my mom and dad.  To see the original recipe, click right here.

This photo is credited to The Modern Apron. I forgot to take a picture of my finished product. My caramel didn’t have the deep brown color as this one because I was afraid of scorching it. It was still very tasty though.

Here’s how I made the cheesecake:

Crust

15 graham crackers
3 Tbsp sugar
1 stick butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place crackers in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until they turn into fine crumbs. Put crumbs into a medium bowl. (I crushed half the crumbs in the bag, emptied into a bowl, then did the same to the second half of the crackers.) Add sugar and butter to cracker crumbs and mix until all are combined and the mixture is crumbly.

2. Transfer the mixture to a 10” springform pan sprayed with cooking spray. Pat crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, and up the sides about 2”.

3. Bake crust until slightly brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove crust from the oven and allow to cool completely on a rack.

Cheesecake

3 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 14-oz can dulce de leche*
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature

* Apparently you can find dulce de leche in the Latin section of the grocery store.  I couldn’t find it in my neighborhood store, so I made it myself.  Empty one 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk into a double boiler and cook over simmering water for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  It will turn darker, thick and caramely.  Whisk it smooth and let cool a bit before using it in the cheesecake recipe.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

1.  In a stand mixer beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add dulce de leche and beat to combine.

2.  Add flour and beat to combine, scraping sides when necessary.  Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  There should be no lumps.

3.  Add sugar and beat to combine.

4.  Add vanilla and combine.  Then add eggs one at a time, combing thoroughly after each.  Don’t overbeat as that will cause the cheesecake to puff up too much and cause the surface to crack.

5.  Pour cream cheese mixture into cooled crust and smooth the top. 

6.  Bake at 300 degrees F for 55-65 minutes.  The center will be a little wiggly, but the edges will be puffed up and have a nice golden color.  Cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours.  This allows the cheesecake to become the rich denseness it should be.

Caramel

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Swirl to combine.
 
2. Continue cooking until the sugar turns golden brown, swirling occasionally. You’re looking for something that’s about the color of dark honey.  It should take 3-5 minutes.  Or more.  Keep a close eye on it as caramelizing sugar goes from perfect to ruined in a split second.
 
3. Remove from heat and carefully add the butter, then the cream. Don’t wait until the butter is melted; toss in the butter, give it a whisk, then pour in the cream. It will foam up, seize, and otherwise look like a total failure. Persevere! Add the vanilla extract and salt and continue whisking.
 
4. Return to medium low heat and whisk until smooth. (Added note: if your caramel is too thin, let it cook for a while over a low heat.)  Allow to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
 
5. Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and pour caramel over the top, letting it pool in the middle.
 
6. Return the cheesecake to the refrigerator to let the caramel set, about 30 minutes. To serve, cut in slices with a sharp knife.
 
This dessert was a definite challenge but everyone loved it.  The original recipe has many more teaspoons of kosher salt in the crust and in the cheesecake, but I thought the amount of salt in the caramel was enough for the whole cake.  I can’t imagine having more throughout the cake, but if you’d like to try it out, follow the original recipe.
 
I’ll definitely make it again, for a large group, of course.  This cheesecake will serve 12-16 people.  If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it turned out and how you liked it.
 
Happy baking!

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When I was in seventh grade I took Home Ec(onomics) in school.  I didn’t do so well in the sewing part of the class, but I did pretty well in the cooking part.  In fact, I did so well with making muffins that during the summer following seventh grade I entered my muffins in the county fair.  And won a blue ribbon!

I love muffins.  I mostly love muffins that are plain or have berries in them.  I won’t eat a chocolate muffin, and oaty muffins are wasted on me.  I thought I’d share my recipe for Blue Ribbon Muffins in case you like muffins as much as I do.  It’s a plain recipe, and you can add a cup of berries to the batter if you like.

First of all, grease the bottoms only of your muffin tin.  Bottoms only.  This is very important because if you grease the sides your muffins might not have a nice, rounded top.  Then, whisk together:

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar

In a separate bowl mix together:

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold gently until the dry mixture is completely moistened. Don’t over stir because then you’ll get air holes or “tunnels” in your muffins. The batter should be lumpy.  Spoon batter into muffin cups.  You can use paper liners if you prefer (and you wouldn’t have to grease the tin at all) but I find that makes the muffins drier than if they are baked right in the tin.

This is a good consistency for muffin batter. The wet ingredients are carefully folded so there is no dry flour in the mix, but the batter is still lumpy.

After the batter is evenly distributed between twelve muffin cups, bake in a preheated 400° F oven for about twenty minutes.  It might take longer or shorter, depending on your oven.

A perfect muffin! Nice rounded top.

Let the muffins cool for about five minutes in the pan, and then remove to cool completely.

Like I said earlier, this recipe can take a cup of berries if you want a more fruity muffin.  I like to add blueberries or raspberries when I’m in the mood.  You can mix up these muffins in the time it takes your oven to preheat, so you’ll never have the excuse of “I have no time to bake.”

These plain muffins are divine with a bit of butter.

You can also freeze the muffins for a later date.  I put them in the freezer immediately after they’re completely cool, to prevent them from drying out.  However, I don’t normally freeze them unless I’ve made two batches.  We can eat one batch of muffins pretty quickly in my house.

Who would have thought I’d still be making the muffins I made forty years ago in Home Ec class?  And why wouldn’t I?  They’re blue ribbon winners!

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The plan was to make some clam and pasta soup for dinner.  There was also a plan for snow and slippery roads.  I wondered what I could do instead of going to the store to buy some bread sticks or ciabatta rolls to go with the soup.  Make popovers, of course!

Lots of people think popovers are difficult and complicated.  Guess what?  There are only four ingredients and chances are better than good you have them all in your house right now.  Eggs, milk, flour and salt.  Who would guess these four ingredients would make such a delicious accompaniment to a winter evening soup?  The best thing about popovers is that everyone thinks they’re really fancy ~ only you’ll know they’re the easiest thing you could ever make from scratch.  I love them hot out of the oven with some a substantial amount of butter on them.

I make them in popover tins, but you can use custard cups or even muffin tins.

I use a basic recipe from Betty Crocker.  The recipe offered online is the same as it is in my cookbook, which is about thirty years old.  The classics last forever.

 

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I don’t know about you, but if someone offers me a Twinkie I will not refuse it, and I usually can’t stop at one.  You know Twinkies…”golden sponge cake with creamy filling.”  Remember back in the ’70s when Ann Blyth was the spokesperson for Hostess?  She gave Twinkies and Ding Dongs a little class.  The only problem with the commercial is the kids – they eat like cavemen.  Luckily Ann makes up for it with her groovy hairdo.

But this isn’t about Ann Blyth or the Twinkies of the ’70s. This is about a new way with Twinkies. The 21st Century Twinkies. I got this recipe out of The Twinkies Cookbook.  My pictures don’t look as appetizing at the one in the cookbook, but trust me, this dessert is divine.

Slice ten Twinkies lengthwise and stuff them tight into a 9X13 pan.

Mix 8 oz cream cheese with a 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk. Spread over the Twinkies.

Spoon a large can of cherry pie filling over the cheese/milk mixture. If you want to be extra fancy (which I'm not) save some of the cherry filling to spoon on the top of the dessert to make it look really pretty.

Drain a large can of crushed pineapple and spoon evenly over the pie filling.

Spread an 8-oz tub of Cool Whip over everything. Be sure to make those attractive swirls on top, especially if you aren't garnishing with the reserved cherries.

After you cover and refrigerate for at least four hours (I refrigerated it overnight) be sure you have lots of people over to enjoy it. The cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk kind of soak into the Twinkies, but don’t make them soggy. The cherries and pineapple are a combination from paradise. And seriously, could you find an easier recipe?

I’m always looking for easy but delicious recipes. I’d love to hear what you’re cooking up, or just throwing together. What sweets are you serving this weekend?

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Flour Girl

One of the things I like most about winter is the freedom to turn on the oven whenever I want.  Not that I can’t turn on the oven during any of the other seasons, it’s just that in winter the added heat in the house is appreciated.  Of course I can’t turn on the oven unless I’m going to cook or bake something.  That’s also a good thing, because usually anything that comes out of the oven is pretty yummy.

One lazy Saturday I discovered a couple of pears in the refrigerator that were on their last legs.  They were delicious pears but just too soft to eat like you would normally eat a piece of fruit.  Really, really juicy and pretty soft.  I was sad about the pears thinking I had to to ditch them when it occurred to me to make some pear bread.  So on that lazy Saturday afternoon I chopped up those pears and let the flour fly.

I found a recipe at Smitten Kitchen and made some very minor adjustments.  I ended up with a nicely warmed kitchen and two loaves of incredibly moist and flavorful pear bread, one to eat right away and one to freeze for later.  Husby loved it too!

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup butter, softened, or 3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups sugar

2 cups peeled, cored, and diced ripe pears

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to mix everything well.

Peel and core pears, then dice them fairly finely.  You’ll want two cups total; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, diced pear, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve it as is, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar or drizzle it with a simple glaze made from whisking 3 tablespoons buttermilk, a dash of vanilla and 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar together.

This bread is delicious by itself or with a healthy slathering of butter and tall glass of milk.

What are you warming up your kitchen with these days?

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Delicious And Easy

Who says something delicious has to be difficult to make?  OK, so there are lots of complicated recipes and cooking techniques out there that yield terrific results, but let’s face it, most of us don’t have the talent or time to make this stuff.

At Christmastime I love to bake, and there is one thing I like to make that tastes so good and takes hardly any time to make.  I usually make these right after baking a batch of cookies because I need the oven, but only for an additional two minutes.  Yes, you heard me, two minutes.

What you’ll need:

One bag of Rolo candies (about 55)

Same number of prezel “Snaps”  as there are Rolos in the package (about 55)

Same number of pecan halves as Rolos and Snaps (about 55)

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  This is very important, especially if you don’t want to wash the pan.  If you don’t mind washing a pan this isn’t necessary.

2.  Place the Snaps on the lined pan.  I like to put the salted side up because I’m a little OCD.

3.  Place one Rolo on top of each Snap.

4. Place pan of Rolo/Snaps in a 350-degree oven for two minutes.

5.  Remove from oven.  Take a pecan half and squish it into one of the semi-melted Rolo/Snap things.  Repeat with remaining pecans.

6.  All done.  Let set at room temperature until the chocolate is done being melty.

Once the chocolate is set up you can store them in a cookie tin or sealed plastic container. They’re great treats to take to the office Christmas party or to give as little presents to teachers or neighbors or the mailman.

Oh, and another thing, what if you don’t like nuts? (Charlotte, I’m looking at you.) Instead of topping the melty Rolo with a pecan, top it with an M & M. Nut-free and just as delicious. Enjoy!

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