Monday, October 31, 2016

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

These cookies were my favorite growing up and remind me of my childhood. If yours don't turn out perfect, adjust the amount of flour by 1/4-1/2 cup. Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, Bridal Edition, "Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies" (page 150.) Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
2.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5-2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375. Combine softened butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until smooth, with hand mixer or stand mixer (fit with paddle attachment). Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add half of dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined, continue with rest of dry ingredients. Gently stir in butterscotch chips. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are just started to brown and there are a few golden spots on top (my oven takes 9.5 minutes). Remove from oven and let sit on tray for 3 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack. Store in airtight container. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

White Bean and Bacon Vegetable Soup

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Bean With Bacon Soup. Tastes like a homemade version of Campbells Vegetable Soup but with white beans instead of alphabet pasta. Pairs well with cornbread muffins! Also, it's a savory dairy free, gluten free, and low carb recipe. Perfect if you need to take a meal to someone with those needs.

2 tablespoons canola oil (or olive)
1 small onion, grated or minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 cups beef broth (1 box)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large carrot, diced*
1 cup thin frozen green bean, cut into bite size pieces* (*or 1.5-2 cups frozen mixed veggies)
2 (15-ounce) cans white northern beans (drained and rinsed) (or 1 can white and 1 can pinto) 
cooked bacon, crumbled

Heat oil in soup pot over medium low to medium heat. Saute onions and garlic over medium- low to medium heat until tender (5-7 minutes). Pour in a enough broth to cover bottom of pot and whisk in the tomato paste. Add rest of broth and bring to a simmer. Add white beans, green beans, and carrots. Simmer covered for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Top individual servings with crumbled bacon.

For thin clear both, leave as is. For thicker broth dissolve 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in water and whisk into broth. Simmer for 3 minutes.

Kid Friendly Variation:
Roughly chop onions and saute as directed with garlic. Transfer to blender and add tomato paste and half of the broth. Blend until smooth. Pour back into pot. Use rest of broth to get any remaining mixture off the sides of the blender and back into the pot.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tool Box Cake

I made this cake for my son's birthday as he is obsessed with Bob the Builder and anything associated with building. He also loves tape measures. I included a picture collage below of how I assembled it. I used a loaf pan for the main cake, froze it, and trimmed the sides off. Then I made the sides of the tool box, the tools, and the tape measure with sugar cookies. I used this recipe which makes a nice firm cookie that will hold up well. I used a sharp steak knife to saw off the ends because they were a little too tall. I free handed the cookie shapes with a sharp paring knife. I used wilton gel to dye the frosting. I used a plastic straw for the handle.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Decorator Cream Cheese Buttercream - 5 variations

I optimized this recipe recently and now I use it for everything from sugar cookies to cakes. I think traditional buttercream is too strong and most cream cheese frosting recipes are too soft for decorating. This has just the right amount of cream cheese and as long as you add the right amount of milk it's also perfect when using a piping bag. I prefer to use a hand mixer with this recipe instead of a stand mixer. It provides better control and you won't have to scrape down the sides. 

Basic recipe below is vanilla (originally posted here), These updated variations include chocolate, peanut butter, lemon, and strawberry (or other freeze dried fruit).

1/4 cup salted butter (room temp)
2 ounces cream cheese (room temp)
1/8-1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (white or dark)
300 grams powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoon milk

In a medium mixing bowl, whip butter and cream cheese together with hand mixer until smooth. Mix in salt and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and mix with hand mixer at high speed until it clumps together and a stiff ball starts to form. Mix in milk in teaspoons or drops to achieve desired consistency. I always check my consistency with a butter knife. Since this frosting has cream cheese in it, it should be refrigerated if not consumed the same day.

Variations (may omit or reduce vanilla, according to taste preference):

Chocolate - Add 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
Peanut Butter - Replace 2 tablespoons of the butter with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Lemon - Add 1/2-1 teaspoon lemon zest and use lemon juice instead of milk.
Strawberry (or any other freeze dried fruit) - Add two tablespoons of crushed freeze dried fruit powder (use a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to crush the freeze dried fruit in a ziptop bag).
Coconut - 1/8 teaspoon coconut flavoring extract

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fresh Blueberry Muffins

The perfect summer recipe during blueberry season!

1.5 cups white flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or grapeseed)
1 large egg
milk (up to 1 cup volume with egg and oil)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 ounces fresh blueberries 
coarse sugar (for topping muffins)

Preheat oven to 400. Mix dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add oil, egg, and milk up to one cup total volume in measuring glass, add vanilla. Stir to mix in egg. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with fork until just combined. Fold in blueberries with a spatula. Spoon into approximately 8-9 muffins cups. Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Slightly adapted from Inspired Taste.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No Cook Vegetarian Taco Salad

This is my favorite summer go-to dinner recipe. Black beans replace ground beef for as an easy and healthy variation. No cooking required! Keeps the kitchen cool and is ready to serve in just 15 minutes!

mixed greens, torn into bite size pieces
1 (15-ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 package taco seasoning mix (.5 oz)
tortilla chips (plain or flavored)
shredded cheese
avocado (sliced or diced)
sour cream
salsa, or catalina dressing

Combine taco seasoning mix with black beans. Top torn lettuce with beans, crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sliced avocado, etc. Serve with sour cream and salsa or dressing. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Easy Restaurant Style Salsa

1/4 small onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno (from jar or fresh)

1/2 tablespoon sugar
2-4 tablespoons RealLime brand lime juice (or fresh)
1/4 teaspoon cumin

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, cores removed and well drained* 
1 cup cilantro leaves (stems removed)
1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, sugar, lime juice, and cumin to food processor and process until everything is well minced. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula a few times. Add the tomatoes and cilantro and pulse about 10-15 times, depending on how chunky or smooth you like it. Salt to taste. Eat or freeze within one week. Best to refrigerate before serving.

*I use a small pairing knife or kitchen shears to cut out the stem ends of the tomatoes. I prefer to use Hunt's brand No Salt Added Whole Tomatoes.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Restaurant Style Salsa.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spanish Rice

2 tablespoons olive oil or canola
1 1/2 cups white rice (jasmine works well)
1 small onion, minced or grated*
2 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed
1 beef bouillon cube, crushed
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce + water up to 3 cups total volume

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium to medium high heat. Add rice and onion. Brown rice and chopped onion until about half of the rice grains are turning light brown. Stir frequently to prevent burning/sticking. You don’t want to burn them but you want them pretty toasted. This is important for the final texture of the rice (slightly dry and not sticky). Add bouillon cubes and water/tomato sauce mixture and stir. Bring to boil, reduce to low simmer, cover, and cook for 18 - 25 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. Fluff rice and serve.

*I like to chop my onion really small in a food processor or grate them with a cheese grater so I get the flavor but mask the texture. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lasagna Soup

This soup tastes exactly like lasagna but you can make it in a fraction of the time and it uses a lot less cheese. Cooking the noodles separately will give you a clearer broth and thinner soup. If you cook the noodles in the soup they tend to soak up too much of the broth. Serves 4-6 people.

1/4 pound lean ground beef, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, grated
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 cups beef broth (1-32oz box)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tsps dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 ounces noodles, lasagna noodles broken into bite size pieces or bowtie pasta 
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown ground beef, drain, and set aside. Bring pot of water to boil for the noodles. 

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic, over medium to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes or until onions are tender and just starting to brown. Add enough beef broth to cover bottom of pan and tomato paste and whisk until smooth. Add remaining broth, entire can of petite diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and ground beef. Add basil, oregano, and sugar and stir well. Bring to low simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile boil noodles, in prepared pot of boiling water, until al dente; drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning in small bowl and set aside. Add noodles to soup, stir, and serve immediately. Garnish individual servings with a dollop of the ricotta cheese mixture and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.

Adapted from:

Monday, February 29, 2016

Chili Cheeseburger Macaroni

Very easy and kid friendly meal. The cellentani noodles are a lot of fun. They are basically a long elbow in a corkscrew shape. Barilla brand makes them and you can find them at Walmart. Serves 4-6 people.

1/2 pound ground beef, browned and drained
3 cups beef broth
1 (15-ounce) can chili style diced tomatoes (do no drain and cut into smaller pieces with kitchen shears)
OR 1 can petite diced tomatoes plus 1/2 T chili seasoning mix. 
1 packet taco seasoning mix (reduced sodium if you can find it)
8 ounces cellantini noodles
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper
sour cream (optional garnish)

Combine cooked, drained, ground beef in extra large skillet with broth, entire can of tomatoes, and taco seasoning mix. Bring to boil and simmer over medium low or low, covered, for 5 minutes. Add noodles and continue simmering, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Meanwhile, in a separate medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk continually over low heat for 1 minutes. Slowly add milk while whisking. Once it begins to thicken add the cheese and stir to melt. Remove from heat and keep covered. Once the noodles have cooked for 10 minutes, add the cheese sauce to noodle mixture and carefully stir until incorporated. Continue cooking on simmer, covered, until noodles reach desired tenderness. If sauce is too thick, you can add more beef broth or water.  Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to casserole dish before serving on the table. Top individual servings with a dollop of sour cream (optional).

    Adapted from Six Sisters.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Indian Curry and Yellow Basmati Rice

Chicken can be substitute for cubed tofu. Spices can be found at Asian and Latin American stores for much cheaper than a regular grocery store. Serves 4-6 people

1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp dried ground ginger)
1 jalapeno seeded and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups chicken broth
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup coconut milk (or cream or evaporated milk)
3 medium chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons butter

Heat oil over medium heat in a deep skillet. Add onion, ginger, and jalapeno. Stir frequently and cook until onions are tender and clear, at least 5 minutes. Add remaining spices and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Scrape entire contents into a blender.

Add chicken broth and tomato paste to blender and blend until smooth, at least 1 minute. Pour back into pan. Add coconut milk and bring to low simmer. Add chicken, salt and pepper, and sugar. Cover and stir occasionally until chicken is cooked and sauce starts to thicken. Add butter and stir until melted. Adjust sugar and salt to taste. Serve over yellow basmati rice (see recipe below) or any preferred rice.

Variation: Replace half of chicken with fresh cubed pineapple.

Time Saver: Use a heaping tablespoon of jarred minced jalapeno instead of a fresh jalapeno.

adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Yellow Basmati Rice

Pairs well with any Indian curry or just as a flavorful side dish.

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups basmati rice
3 cups chicken broth

Heat the butter, turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and salt in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir and heat until the butter has melted.

Add the rice to the pot. Stir constantly and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes to slightly toast the rice and spices.

Add 3 cups of chicken broth. Place a lid on top, increase the heat to medium high, and bring the pot to a rolling boil. As soon as it reaches a full boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer (with the lid in place) for 15-20 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. Check at 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with fork, salt to taste, and serve.

Adapted from

(Rice recipe updated 9-19-16, reduced amount of rice to 1.5 cups)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Whole Wheat Pecan Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cup bran flakes cereal*
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup honey (or 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup loose packed brown sugar)

1 1/4 cup whole white wheat flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional, add into batter or sprinkle on top)

Preheat oven to 400. Crush cereal a little bit with rolling pin or heavy utensil, like a potato masher or ground beef masher. Combine crushed cereal, milk, oil, vanilla, egg, and sugar/honey in a medium bowl. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine with a long fork until no dry flour remains. Fill 10-12 muffin cups. Bake at 400 for approximately 15-17 minutes or until golden brown and inserted toothpick comes out dry. Best eaten within 1 day. To reheat, spray with water and warm in microwave.

*Note: Once the bran flakes are crushed it should be about 3/4 cup. I save the crushed flakes and  crumbs at the bottom of the bran flakes cereal bag in a jar over time, and then use those for this recipe and I measure out 3/4 cup.

Adapted from recipe on back of box of Millville Brand, Bran Flakes Cereal.

Guest posted November 17, 2015 on Unconventional Kitchen.